Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Gambles, Tunnels, Weaves and Contacts

It's starting to really feel like winter.  By the end of our session today, I could barely feel my fingers.

I setup a pretty basic sequence, but there were lots of varieties and it kept us busy.  Here's what we had:

So, I practiced a few ways.  For each exercise, I made sure to put myself behind each of the lines to work him from both sides.  First we tried this:

Then this:

Then this:

And finally this:

With doing each sequence on both sides, that's 8 different gambles with one setup.  Nice.

In general, Jonah was excellent.  He was great at finding his entries when I sent them out to him when the weaves were first, and he never missed those on either side, including the 90ish degree on-side entries that he's had trouble with before.

He missed a couple of the entries out of the tunnels at various points.  I don't know that either entry was really harder for him, he would just come out of the tunnel handler-focused and then not have time to judge his entry correctly.  Most of the time, though, he was great.

The only other thing he had some trouble with was the 'out' to the far end of the tunnel.  He had more trouble with it in the last setups (where I sent him across the line to the far entrance) than when I pushed out of the poles.  I guess going right past the closer tunnel end was just too tempting!

We mixed in some contact and table work and he was perfect.

Then, after I was done with the gamble, I set up a discrimination.  I had the tunnel closer to me, next to the DW.  Jonah had a bit of a case of DW suck, but once he went in the tunnel the first time he was 100% after that.  It was like he just didn't see it at first.

All in all, a good day's play.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Back to Basics

Today for our first session back Jonah and I did a very basic but fast and fun practice.

The setup was basically just a speed circle...or square.  On one side was the table and a set of 6 poles.  The next side had the DW.  The teeter was on the third side, and the A-frame on the fourth.

We started at the table, then headed for the weaves, DW, teeter, A-frame and then he got his reward for a fast down and stay on the table.  It was working very well and his obstacle performance was generally excellent.

I did notice that he was close to flying off the teeter a few times.  Apparently my efforts to speed up his teeter have now gone to the other extreme.  Anyway, I started just staying with him a little bit more and had him do a 2o2o a few times.  Then I would let him run off the end but reward him right away for a correct performance, giving him a cookie right as he ran off the down side.  It seemed to be working well.  I also put the teeter up to full height, and he didn't seem to notice at all.  Maybe our teeter concerns are over.  Of course, he's only ever nervous away from home.  We'll see what happens at our upcoming trials.  We didn't end up doing the teeter at all at our last trial.  Maybe next time I'll make an effort to do the teeter in games when I have a chance.

Looking ahead, we got into the ADG January trial, and I'm pretty sure I only signed up for 3 classes but the confirmation is for 4.  I guess I'm just so used to doing all the classes I did that again.  It's not really a big deal, we're just ahead on Fullhouse and I thought it could be a good chance to come home early since it's the last class of the day.  I still haven't heard if we got into the Riverside trial in January.  I hope so.  I'm also considering going to a Sunday USDAA trial in January and running Gamblers (the first class) and Pairs (the second) so Jonah could actually have his SAD title (or do people just call it AD?  I'm a little confused about the titles).  Just thinking about it makes me nervous, but I think he would probably be fine at pairs, just maybe a little bit barkily rude.

Merry Belated Christmas

Ah, it's good to be together as a family.

Dave and I got back last night from spending a few days with my mom's family.  We had a great time, ate a lot of truly delicious food, and got to have quality time with my grandmother, my cousins, my aunts and uncles and my parents.  It was lots of fun.

That doesn't mean, though, that we weren't excited to come home and get Jonah!  He stayed with Romeo and it sounds like they had a great time.  When we got there to pick him up he was so happy to see us and the room was alive with wagging and leaping and spinning and sneezing (Jonah does that when he's excited).  It was quite the picture.  Once we got home Jonah had to do a thorough run-through of his yard to make sure everything was in order.  Romeo is a small, low energy dog, so I don't know how much running Jonah did while he was there.  He certainly did enough for a few days last night!  It was great to have him snuggled up on the sofa with us and then it was a treat to drift off to sleep with a warm dog curled up at my feet.  It's a good life.

The one negative report we got was that Jonah was barky at cars and bikes when they took him for walks.  We're going to have to work more on that.  It's not a safe habit.

So, this week we'll be back here and hopefully we can have some good agility and socialization time.  DogStar is closed so we don't have class, but we'll have to improvise.  Should be fun!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Discrimination Practice

Yesterday Jonah and I did some discrimination practice, and he was super.  He missed twice out of maybe 30 tries.  Both of the misses were where the contact was farther away, and he took the closer tunnel.  The time it was the DW, it was pretty understandable, as we don't have enough space to run at a DW/tunnel discrimination straight on, so he was turning towards the discrimination and couldn't even see the DW ramp when I gave him the command.  Overall, though, he was great.  His contacts were excellent.  We're running out of time before the contacts come inside, so I need to get practice in now!

Also, I'm pretty sure I saw a bald eagle today.  I've never seen one around here before, but apparently there have been some local sightings.  Very cool!  Add that to the list of hawks, owls, and other wildlife we have.  It makes me feel very lucky.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Over the Hump (?)

I just did the math.  Today we earned our 61st Q (really 62nd, but one leg didn't count because you couldn't move up between classes at that trial).  To get a CATCH, starting from level 1 like we did, you need 120 Qs.  That means that, as of today, we are officially more than half way to our CATCH!

That's pretty awesome.  We'll have to see how things work out over the next year.  We may slow our progress if I do more USDAA trials, and we're so uneven that lots of trials will probably offer runs we won't need while we'll still be lagging behind in other classes.  Nonetheless, I think this is quite a milestone.

Good work Jonah!

Last Trial of 2011

One year ago, Dave and I went to Riverside to watch the trial we competed at today.  I remember we watched a nontraditional Jackpot and it took us quite a while to figure out what was going on.  There was a line down the center of the ring, and if you were on the opposite side of the line from your dog as the dog did an obstacle, you got double the points.  Anyway, I remember watching and having no clue why obstacles were sometimes one point value and sometimes another.  Eventually we figured it out, but it seemed a little crazy.

A year later, I feel like a pro at these trials.  We have a regular schedule, we know what to expect, and I feel like we have the skills to do any course CPE throws at us.  We're in the upper levels for every class, and I think we're among the better performers of those upper level dogs.  I'm really proud of Jonah's progress.

Maybe I'm just on cloud 9 because we had another fantastic day, but I am truly proud of him no matter what our results are.  Here's a recap:

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 4
     We got to do another nontraditional Jackpot, and it was one of the easiest Jackpots I've ever seen.  There was no distance element at all.  We had 25 seconds in the opening to collect as many points as possible, and then when the whistle blew, if you did three obstacles and then the table you got 20 points and if you did four or more obstacles and then the table you got 25.  It didn't matter what the obstacles were--you could do just single bar jumps if you wanted.  The only catches were that if you had a fault on any obstacle your 'gamble' was negated, the table was live after the whistle blew, and if you exceeded the 18 second time limit after the whistle it was an automatic NQ.  A few dogs did screw things up for various reasons, but in general the Q rate was quite high.  Jonah ran well.  He did peak at the judge on his first time over the A-frame and as a result he put in an extra chip stride on the down ramp, but he was well into the yellow.  Then he had a slight sniff attack where he saw something on the ground and decided he had to momentarily check it out.  Once he got over that, though, he was off to the races.  His second A-frame was lovely.  We were in the middle of the weaves when the whistle blew, and then we finished a nice pinwheel for the 25 point gamble and plenty of time to spare.  I was pleased with my plan and the flow of the course.  We ended up with 57 points.  I'm pretty sure if he hadn't done that sniffing he would have gotten the jump he stopped in front of and finished the weaves, so we could have had 61, which would have been one of the highest point totals in the whole trial.  57 was pretty high as it was.  One fast small dog (so 7 more seconds) in level C managed 67, which was by far the leader.  Anyway, Jonah's 57 was good enough for a Q and first with a 6 point buffer between him and any other dog in level 4.  That's our first level 4 jackpot!  woo!

Round 2:  Wildcard Level 3
     This was kind of a funny course in that all three of the 'B' obstacles were easier than the 'A's.  My plan was to go for the third A, which was a hard pull to a tunnel entrance, where the other side of the tunnel was straight ahead from the previous jump.  The beginning of the course ran beautifully and Jonah was super speedy.  Then, perhaps fortunately, he slowed and looked at something on the floor again.  It gave me enough time to get a FC in between the jump and the tunnel, so we got the job done easily and he raced for home, still finishing with a fast time despite his little 'episode.'  It would have been a good test for us if he'd been running at it at full steam and I think he would have gotten it without much trouble, but I'll take the Q.  It was still a fast enough time for 1st, too.  Now we're done with level 3 wildcard.  When we finally get to run colors and pick up 2 of those Qs we'll be done with level 3.

Round 3:  Snooker Level 5
     This was our snooker level 5 debut.  Getting three 7's was possible, and I think 3 dogs did it, but it was not flowing at all.  I decided to go with 7-6-7, which was a much smoother course and only shorted me one point.  It still took a lot of handling, as he had to do a lot of running between obstacles to pick up his reds and get from the 7 to the closing, but Jonah handled it great and his motivation stayed high the whole time.  His weaves (part of the 7 point combination) were great, and I gave him some tough entries.   It was fun to get to the closing--it was a lot easier than the opening!  This is good practice for some day when we'll need super Qs in USDAA.  We were definitely the top 15% of our class, and got another Q and 1st.

Round 4:  Jumpers Level 4
     This course was causing a fair amount of problems for people.  It's a small space (65x80.  They can't even run standard courses there it's so small), so lots of off-course possibilities were always right on top of you.  Before the run I made an extra effort to get Jonah hyped up, and he went tearing down the first line.  Then he did a pinwheel nicely, but they always demotivate him a little bit.  Then I trusted him a little too much coming out of a tunnel and over-handled an off-course that I'd watched bite a lot of people, and I pulled Jonah right off the jump in his path.  Bad me.  He didn't take any other obstacles so we turned around and continued on our merry way with no faults, but I felt stupid for breaking his rhythm.  Luckily he picked right back up and had a fantastic finish to the course.  Again, even with the little bobble his time was fast, so we finished the day 4/4 with Qs and blues!  Good boy Jonah.

To add to all the fun, the trial flew by and I was picking up my last ribbons at 2:30.  That might be a record.  It's nice to actually have a free evening, and Dave and I were able to go grocery shopping and make a nice dinner.  A great end to a fun day!

In more somber news, I had sad news from a friend I've made at these trials.  Her one dog, who started at about the same time as Jonah, has been injured for a while, and when I asked how she was doing she said that she is still injured and now also has a partial intestinal blockage, and they don't know the prognosis.  Her other dog's liver is failing, too.  It's just a reminder that we need to be thankful for the times we get to run with our dogs and enjoy the fun we have together, because we never know how long we'll get to share those experiences.  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ribbon Wreath

So this is a lesson in what you're NOT supposed to do when you're only one paper and one final away from vacation, but it's no use after Christmas and this was the last time we'd be at DogStar before the holidays.

I'd come across ribbon wreaths originally when we were planning the wedding, and then this website reminded me of it when I was thinking of things to do with old ribbons:

I wanted a look that would use the headless ribbons, though, so I modeled mine more after this:

In the end, I made a foam circle out of a pool noodle, angled the ends, stuck a pen through the hole in the middle and duct taped the connection.  Then I wrapped the whole thing with ribbons, just pinning them in place on the back.  Once that was done I cut ribbons in half or thirds, made little loops of them and stuck them in on the front side.  It was quite easy and took a little more than an hour.  I left a section at the bottom and made a bow.  I thought of using a regular ribbon with a head as a bow, but I thought it looked kind of silly and really brought attention to that one ribbon, which is from another local venue and thus a competitor of DogStar.  I only had one red ribbon with a rosette, apparently.  Anyway, the bow I came up with looked fine.  Overall, I thought it was a quick and easy way to get rid of a lot of ribbons in a good looking way that made a nice Christmas present.  Everyone seemed to think it was pretty cool.  Here are a few shots:

From a distance, it gives the impression of a real wreath, huh?

Closeup of the bow.

Up close, you can see the ribbon rolls.

Another close up.

A view of the side, showing the wrapping of the pool noodle.  Unfortunately it shows through in a few spots...oops!

Dave decided to torture Jonah.

Really Dad?

A (badly lit) view of the back, where you can see the pins.

The other side.

If you've got a lot of ribbons sitting around, I recommend this.  You can buy a foam wreath if you don't have a pool noodle ;-).  Wreaths of other colors could look good too, as could mixtures of ribbons you've won with regular store bought ribbon.  It's an easy craft and I was impressed with the outcome (enough that I wasn't embarrassed to give it away!)

Class Dec 15

Today's class was fun but I think the fact that I'm within days of finishing school meant my mind was not 100% there.  Jonah was really talkative from the second we walked in the door.  He did bark at other dogs, but mostly he just barked at me and was generally impatient.  It was kind of a bother.  His barking was bothering another dog, so when she ran we had to leave the ring.  Poor thing--I felt bad for her, and I wished I could just have the magic to make Jonah relax between runs.  Oh well.

Aside from that, our runs were pretty good.  We had one issue where Jonah just didn't seem to see a tunnel entry.  It looked like this:

The first time Jonah wanted to take the DW and nearly ran me over trying to get there.  The second time he just stopped and looked confused, and then the lightbulb went off and he found the far entrance to the tunnel.  The third time he actually got it right.  I have no idea why he didn't see it/was confused/whatever happened.  Those first times I was doing a FC on the landing side of 3 to a RC in the tunnel.  The second time I ran the course I had him on my right for the whole thing and just pulled around to the tunnel.  That ran quite smoothly.

Aside from that little confusion, the courses ran well.  He jumped onto the table so fast he almost knocked it over, but I won't really fault him for that.  Once he got back on his downs were good and he held them.  None of the nonsense from last week.  His A-frames looked good despite some tough approaches.  His DW contacts were pretty good but slower than they are sometimes.

Now we have to have two weeks off from lessons for the holidays.  We'll have to do some extra work at home.  I'm hoping to do some discriminations before we have to bring in the contacts for the winter.  It's getting cold enough to snow but so far there's nothing significant in the forecast.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Riverside Trial Preview

It's been quite a while since we trialed at Riverside, and we're ready to go back!  It can be a little hectic getting in and out of the ring, but at least I don't have a lot of the new trial nerves I had the first couple times we were there.  Also, it shouldn't be bitterly cold and there shouldn't be too much ice or snow around.

The judge is John Raymond, who I like a lot as a judge.  We had a great trial under him last time at Muddy Paws, and hopefully this will be another good one.

Here's what we have to look forward to:

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 4
     The exciting news is...we get to do a non-traditional Jackpot for our Level 4 debut!  The original confirmation letter had said levels 1 and 2 were running separately from 345C, but the final order of go has them all together, so that's good news!  I've never had a non-traditional with this judge before, but his traditionals aren't usually too bad, so this should be doable.  My goal is just to not get too over-ambitious, as screwing up time management in Jackpot can be deadly.  Last time we only made it by .03 seconds, and I'd like to have a little more room for error this time.  Jonah is one of four dogs in the class.

Round 2:  Wildcard Level 3
    This is our only Level 3 run of the weekend, so I'd really like to get it.  I think Wildcards are usually pretty doable, but I'll have to be careful and think through what he's likely to 'bid' for while I'm walking the course.  We don't seem to get too many shots at Wildcard, so we need to make them count.   I won't be taking handling risks to try to shave off a fraction of a second.  This would be our last level 3 wildcard, meaning we'd just need 2 more colors runs to get the level 3 title.  There's only one other dog in our height and level, but it's run by a professional.

Round 3:  Snooker Level 5
     This is our level 5 debut with snooker--only our second level 5 run overall.  Snooker was our first level 4 run this summer, and we're still ahead in it.  If 51 points is possible, I might like to make a go for it.  I definitely will want to do a relatively high point total.  Riverside is pretty small, so it's easy to get around the ring in a quick amount of time.  Jonah is one of three dogs in the class.

Round 4:  Jumpers Level 4
     If we get this Q we'll finish our first level 4 title, which I have to admit sounds pretty cool.  I like Jumpers courses a lot and I think we're usually pretty good at them.  We'll have to see how things go, but I'm looking forward to a fast run at the end of the day.  Jonah is one of three dogs in the class.

It should be a lot of fun.  We'll let you know how things go.  First, though, we get to go to class tomorrow!

Wagging Wednesday

This morning I took Jonah out and had him try the 90 degree weave poles (see yesterday's post--it's two sets of 6 poles set at a 90 degree angle from each other, about 8 feet apart).  He had no trouble at all.  I was pleasantly surprised.

Then, this afternoon we had another lesson with Grace.  It was great!  We did a lot in half an hour.  Here's a bit of a recap:

-Revisiting the line from last week's course of a 180 to the A-frame (see the videos and map from earlier posts).  We didn't have the A-frame set up, so it was just the 180, but I got a good set of practice with timing my blind crosses.  It was rather eye opening, really.  I tend to wait for him, but if I gave a verbal "jump," he would go take it, I could get out of his way, and his line was greatly improved since I wasn't in his way.  It was super cool and a big improvement.

-Adding a tunnel to the 180 blind cross.  The setup looked like this:

Now if I were just looking at that map I'd say I'd just handle the whole thing with him on my right, but the whole point of the exercise was to do a blind on the landing side of 2 and then pull into 3.  The first time Jonah took the far tunnel entry, but after that we got it.  It was a good challenge.

-Threadles!  This is what took the bulk of our time and it was hard!  I worked on three techniques.
     The first was just single sided--sending him to a wrap, hanging back and then sending him back out to the next jump.  It worked, but was sometimes awkward.
     The second method was to get in a front cross between the two jumps.  This was the smoothest method...when it was just one threadle.  Then Grace added another, so there were three jumps, and at that point it was harder to send to the backside and then boogie enough ahead to get there for another FC.  We got it done a few times, but it wasn't pretty.
     The third method, which I call the "Grace" method, has potential but we need lots of practice.  It involves picking up the dog on the landing side, bringing the dog through the gap with you, and then opening up your arms and shoulders to the jump once you're on the correct take-off side of the next jump.  Here's my attempt at a diagram:

So I would pick Jonah up on my left, run through the gap with him, and then turn my shoulders towards him, opening up the second jump as we got to the correct take-off side.  Even though the diagram shows 2 crosses, he's really always on my left and I'm just rotating towards him as he takes the second jump.  Then we're also ready to do it again if we had to.  Needless to say, we need practice on threadles.

-DW proofing.  I did a few runs over the dogwalk and Jonah's contacts were excellent.  I threw in a bunch of rear and blind crosses and he didn't blink an eye.  Great!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Outing and Practice

This morning we went on a nice walk at Willard's woods.  It started out a little bit stressful--they've put up new signs that the narrow path to the park (maybe 50m long) is a leash zone.  I think it's a good idea, as it keeps unleashed dogs out of the street, but it was a little hectic for us.  There was one dog who started barking at Jonah as soon as he saw us, and that dog's owner was trying to bag some poop and didn't have a good hold on her dog.  So, there wasn't much room to go around the dog and Jonah was jazzed up.  There was some barking but it wasn't terrible.  Then two more dogs came down the trail.  We sat Jonah off to the side but he was so brimming with energy that he still barked and had trouble focusing on me.  Oh well.  Then we got to the field, let him free, and he had a grand old time.  He met a nice flat-coated retriever and they instantly hit it off, running all around the field and getting so tired that they decided to go to the stream, which now has ice in it.  Then we had two wet and cold dogs.  Silly.  Luckily Jonah didn't go in very far.  Anyway, on our way out we passed a dog and Jonah was perfect.  Apparently he just had to get the jitters out.

Then, this afternoon we did another cheese worth of agility.  The setup currently looks like this:

I realize it looks like there's a whole lot of empty space out there, which there is, but remember we have lots of trees to work around, and now big piles of leaves, too :).  

Anyway, I worked a bunch with the two jumps in the middle, coming at them from all different angles and doing 180s and threadles.  I'm still not very smooth with my threadle handling sometimes, but the 180s were great.  He wasn't jumping wide, and we could do 1 sided, landing side FC and landing side BC with no trouble.  It was good practice for both of us, and I worked on really running both before and after, so he could get repetitions with collection and then extension.  

The other project of the day was the weaves.  I thought it was a different look than he'd ever seen, but it didn't cause him much trouble.  He did miss the entry on the second half once going 'up' on the map, but otherwise he was great.  After our session I moved the 2 sets to a 90 degree angle so we'll try that soon.  

His table and contacts were all great today.  He was actually close to flying off the teeter once he was running it so fast.  Hopefully that doesn't become a problem, but considering how at our last USDAA trial he was afraid to tip it at a walk, I'm hoping we'll have a happy medium.  His teeter looked good at class and run-thrus last week.

We have a private session tomorrow, group lesson Thursday and then a trial Saturday.  Fun week!

Also the great horned owls are hoo hoo-ing right now.  One is in our yard and the other must be down the street, but they're having a good conversation.  Awesome.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Cheesy Practice

It was getting dark when I got home this afternoon but I felt like Jonah and I should do some practice.  We weren't out there for long (one string-cheese worth with high rewards), but he was super.

We did:
blind crosses after the teeter
blind crosses after the A-frame
blind crosses after the dogwalk
90 degree weave pole entries
table practice

He had no trouble anywhere--hit all his contacts, made all his entries, and his table downs were fast and he stayed down.  If only every day could be this good!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Run Thru Videos

Jonah and I had a great time at run thrus today.

I was very pleased with how our first course went:

The second course provided two problems that we hadn't had yesterday when we ran the course clean the one time we did it.  Today, Jonah had NO interest in holding his down on the table.  This clearly needs work.  Also, the tunnel/A-frame discrimination was difficult for us today.  Sometimes I had too much pressure and he took the tunnel.  Sometimes I pulled too hard and he ran right by the A-frame.  I cut most of our mistakes out, but it showed that we really need some work on these discriminations.

Here are the videos.  His weaves are pretty good, eh?

And here's a compilation of our A-frame contacts:

Thanks to Dave for videoing!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Great Lesson

I should really be working on my paper right now, so this will be brief, but it was so great I had to record it.

Jonah was super tonight and we had so much fun!  He only made two mistakes all night, and both were my fault.  On the first course, one section looked like this:

I decided to do a blind on the landing side of 4, and I was so concerned about getting there that I didn't fully support Jonah after 2.  Some dogs took the off course teeter, and I'd considered that, so I just sent him to 2 and got out of there, I guess hoping he would read my mind about the tire.  Having boogied out of the way, I didn't really notice, but Grace said he did a beautiful wrap of 2 (we've been practicing!), and before I knew it he was pretty much on top of me at 4.  Confused as to why I was so in the way, he wiggled around me, jumped the backside of 4 and then turned around and barked at me like, "Mom, you're late.  Where do I go now?"  On our second try I paid enough attention to the tire and gave a verbal cue.  Not only did the tire jump nicely, but I got my blind in and it worked awesome!  He didn't even blink at the tunnel, which bit most of the other dogs.

We did this sequence a few times, and there were a few concerns.  The second time through, I got a little relaxed with my line and pushed too hard towards the A-frame, and we did buy the tunnel.  The third time we got the discrimination but he 1-hit the A-frame.  He did get in the yellow, but I found it odd.  Usually he's tempted to 1-hit if he approaches with a lot of extension, but this was quite the opposite; it was a tight turn on the approach.  Grace thought maybe he was really digging in to compensate.  Who knows, but it was rather surprising.

Our second course opened with a tight threadle, which Jonah totally aced (once he finally calmed down enough to sit so I could lead out).  I don't think we're usually very good at threadles, so it felt good to nail it.  We also nailed another tunnel/A-frame discrimination, this time straight on with a long running approach.

Oh, one more thing.  Today Grace referred to Jonah as 'bold.'  I bet I never would have expected to hear that a year ago!  Puppy's growing up.

Oh fine, one more.  One of the members of our class has Keeshonds, and one of her girls has puppies, now 5 weeks.  So. much. fuzzy. cute.

That's really it now.  We're planning on going to run-thrus tomorrow so hopefully I can get some videos up.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Plan

Yesterday Jonah and I met with Grace to get some good ideas about what we should be practicing, and we developed a list of 'to dos.'

Our foci:
  • Forward sends to wraps, both with and without FC's
  • Putting pressure on Jonah's landing to get him comfortable jumping closer to the stanchion rather than swinging wide and sometimes going behind my back
  • Serpentine practice with different handling options
  • Serpentines with tempting off-course pinwheel jumps (first placed reasonably far away so as not to set Jonah up to fail, and then moving them closer)
  • 'Around the clock' lead outs to blind crosses
  • Blind crosses with contacts

We've done some practice on the jump work and it's going really well.  The only thing is that Jonah understands when we're doing that work with tight wraps and things, so he isn't in full course excitement mode.  I might have to set up those more technical questions in a sequence rather than just by themselves as drills.  I think we're going to meet with Grace again for another few private sessions while school is lighter.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Practice, Practice, Practice

For some reason we haven't been doing much agility in the last few days.  Somehow whenever I think of it and am home it's dark out.  Luckily in less than 3 weeks the days will start getting longer again.  Anyway, today Jonah and I did some basic practice.

We're in a funny state of motivation:  he gets most excited about the stick (rather than food), but if I throw the stick as the reward he won't chase it because he just wants food.  So I can rev him up with a stick, but then the reward needs to be food.  Of course, either one alone works, too, although only having food lacks the super excited state.

Jonah's contacts looked fantastic today.  All three of them.  His DW was fast and solid into the 2o2o, his teeter was speedy and confident, and his A-frame was consistent no matter what kind of an approach I gave him.  Sweet!

The big focus of today was working on on-side weave entries, since those are hard for him.  He missed quite a bit.  I'm a little bit unsure of whether I should be letting him find the entries very independently and move the angle of entry progressively more difficult or if I can try any angle and just help him more with the tougher entries.  I think I'm erring on having him find the entry independently, but I do push the line a little bit at times.  The best thing about all this was that he was never losing enthusiasm even when he missed and had to try it again.  I tried to keep rewards really high when he got it and not be negative when he missed, and it seemed to be working.

Jonah's table was also great today, even though it's been a little shaky lately.

I think we're going to meet with Grace on Wednesday to work on developing a long term training plan and learn some good exercises to do at home.  Should be fun (as always)!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Goals

November was a little crazy what with being away for 9 days.  Anyway, some good things did happen.  Here's a review of our goals:

1.  Put the A-frame up to USDAA height with the box to get some good muscle memory at that height.  
     Yes.  It takes a little more momentum for Jonah to get the contact easily, and our space just isn't huge for a big approach.  I just need to get him running at trials.  For now though, I like keeping the A-frame lower so we can have more repetitions with less stress.  We're really focusing on CPE right now, anyway.
2.  Practice the 24" table.
     Yes.  Thanks to Grace for getting it out for us.  Of course, then the Grand Prix course didn't have a table.  Oh well.  Jonah was great with it.  At home, though, he hasn't been too interested in a down.  I think I'll clean off the table and bring it inside for the winter so we can practice a lot.
3.  I want to keep myself calm and in a good mood for the USDAA tournaments this weekend.  I was really stressed the last time we ran Steeplechase and I think it impacted Jonah.  I want to handle the courses fairly conservatively and make sure Jonah has as much fun as possible.  I don't want to fix mistakes--I want to keep running if he misses something (but I want to do everything I can to make sure he doesn't miss anything).  It would be really exciting if we could get a tournament Q (we'll need 5 if we ever get to an ADCH), but I'm not really counting on it this time.
     Yes!  Well, we didn't get either Q, but I was completely thrilled with Jonah.  We didn't have any mistakes to fix (can't do anything about a blown contact!).  The only issues other than the A-frame that one time were episodes where Jonah got nervous and stopped to try to identify a scary sound.  He always got back moving quickly, though.  Mostly I was just pleased that both of us were relaxed, excited, running fast and having a great time.  Maybe we'll get a Q in January.
4.  Our other trial this month has some potentially big runs which could allow us to:  1)  finish level 3 standard and get our CL3-R title, 2) get our first level 3 colors Q!  3)  finish level 3 jackpot and earn the CL3-S title, 4) finish level 4 snooker.  I'm going to be really ambitious again and hope for 2/4 Qs, like I did in October.  I think that should be reasonable, but we'll see.  
     Yes yes yes!  This was Jonah's first perfect trial where he Q'ed and won all of his classes.  He didn't have any major problems at all:  just a few DW contacts that were a little messy/slow (but never even close to a blown contact), and he was a little low on enthusiasm in his colors run.  Anyway, we finished Standard Level 3, got our first Colors 3 Q, finished Level 3 Jackpot and finished Level 4 Snooker.  I couldn't have asked for anything else.

5.  Develop a long-term plan for 'stepping up our game.'  I'll let you know the thinking behind that one soon, but we have big things ahead of us, and I want to make sure we're ready!
     Well, no.  But I did just email Grace to initiate her help on developing a plan.  

So, now we can think about what we want to accomplish in December.  Here are my thoughts:
1.  Develop a long-term plan for 'stepping up our game.'  We didn't do it last month, so now's really the time.
2.  Take Jonah on a social outing at least once each week.  I have no excuses not to since I don't have school.
3.  We only have one trial this month, CPE at Riverside, where we'll have shots at Wildcard, Snooker, Jumpers and Jackpot.  We'll have shots at finishing Wildcard Level 3 and Jumpers Level 4.  It would be our first Snooker Level 5 and our first Jackpot Level 4 Qs.  I 'd like to aim for 3 Qs.  For Snooker, since we're in Level 5 now, I'd be inclined to go for a more ambitious plan if it's reasonable.  
4.  I want to improve our on-side weave entries.  I think we just need lots of practice.
5.  I hope to have the teeter back up to full height and have Jonah still racing over it happily.

Great Class

Tonight's class was lots of fun.  Jonah was super excited, but in general he was able to handle himself with few problems.

We ended up chatting a bunch at the beginning of class instead of having our normal 'warm-up' period, so we jumped right into the first course.  It started with a tunnel to the DW.  Jonah was barking and leaping like mad, flew threw the tunnel, raced onto the dogwalk and then...I don't know what happened.  My classmates said it looked like he put his back left foot off the edge.  As I looked over, I just saw him scrambling like mad and then falling.  I stopped stunned but he landed on his feet running and took the first few jumps he came to before racing back to me and barking at me like, "Mom, come on, why'd you stop?" We started over and he showed no hint of nervousness at going back on the DW.  After that the course ran fast and fun.  He was great and attentive, racing through the technical sections with tight lines and good speed.

The second time through the course we were supposed to change our handling techniques.  My different handling generally worked but it was a little messier.  I started by layering the tunnel and DW with a tire and jump, so I was about 15 feet away.  No problem at all.  Next was tackling this section:

The first time I had sent to the the chute, picked him up on the landing side of 2 on my right, pushed to three, and then rear crossed seven.

The second time I went to the takeoff side of 2, picked him up out of the chute on my left, invited him in over three, handled him on my left through the weaves, blind crossed the end of the weaves and then did another blind between 5 and 6.  I was worried about getting ahead enough to give him space to land off 3 and shape his path to the weaves, and I almost pushed him past 3 altogether.  It was enough to make him drop the bar at 3.  Oops.  The rest worked well except the blind before 6 got him so excited he '1-hit-wonder-ed' the A-frame.  He did get in the yellow, but just barely.

The A-frame is funny.  At home, extension is good.  At the USDAA trial with the high A-frame, extension was good.  With the lower A-frame at CPE and in class, though, when he's really hyped up extension is not necessarily good; it can make him just do one hit on the down side, which can lead to a missed contact.  I have to keep working on it.

Our last course was just a speed circle, as we were short on time (2 weeks away from agility is too long! There were lots of trial brags to share :) ).  Jonah was great.  People commented on how fast his weaves were.  Good boy!

Trip Recap

Sorry I've been quiet of late.  Dave and I were away for a while and when we got back it's been time to jump right into the last push for school.  Today was the last official day of class for me, although I'll have to go back in for a few various things in the next couple weeks.  At this point, only 3 papers and one final exam stand in my way of vacation!  That will mean more time for Jonah, so hopefully the weather cooperates.

First off, here are some pictures of our trip.  Dave and I added three new states to our lists:  Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.  I've now been to 32 states.  Someday maybe I'll get to them all.  My father-in-law has done 45...that's pretty good in my opinion.  Anyway, here's some of what we saw:

There's a lot of land in Oklahoma, so if you want a new house you just build a new one.  And leave the old one right there to fall apart.

Things were flat.  And dry.

This was in a big salt lake that was mostly dried up thanks to the big drought.  I guess the water got too shallow for this guy.

Beautiful bluejay on the tree.  Too bad my zoom's not better.  Of course he flew away when I went closer.

Cool red-clay cliffs on the edges of the salt lake.

A salt plain.  They actually gather salt here and sell it.  Yummy?

As we drove west things got less flat.

...but they were still dry.

I decided this is where I would want to live if I were a mountain lion.

We went to the alabaster caverns.  Dark, but cool.  The caverns were over a 1/4 mile long.

We went to a windmill museum.  How cool is that?

A 1900 General Store at the windmill museum.  Quaint, eh?

1901 homestead house at the windmill museum.



Back in Oklahoma at the Glass/Gloss mountains.  Luckily for them, it rained (they need it)!  Unlucky for us, as the picture quality isn't good.

View from the top of the mesa.

Another mesa.

Cool shape.  How does nature do that?

After this trip we went up to Philadelphia for our actual Thanksgiving meal, and then we got back home to a very happy and excited puppy.

In agility news, I've spent most of my outdoor time raking the agility area.  It's in good shape now.  Jonah's been doing well, but we haven't done anything too difficult.  I have everything on the edges now for raking, so we do big speed circles:  weaves on one side of the square, DW on the next, then the teeter and then the A-frame.  He loves it.  I'm especially pleased with his increased speed and independence on the teeter.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

Perfect Puppy!

Jonah was awesome today at Happy Tails.  Awesome.

It was a very well run trial.  The courses were fun and we got in five runs in one day while only having one ring...impressive.

As for thoughts on the venue, there was no real parking lot so we were parked on the street about 100 yards away from the building, which meant it was a bit of a hike back and forth.  If I had gotten there earlier I could have gotten a closer spot.  It was only a bummer because most of the people parked closer were crated inside and not working out of their cars, so it seems like there could have been a more efficient way of organizing parking, but oh well.

Inside, they had a different in and out door which made the traffic flow really nice.  There was also a room outside the ring where you could wait your turn, and it was much less crowded and hectic.  Very nice.  The ring itself was nice rubber matting and nice and big.  Again I only have a slight organizational mention which is that by the time I got there the whole watching area had chairs set up and there was no room for more.  All the chairs were people's private chairs, but most of the time the people weren't even there.  So, whenever I wanted to watch I had no place to sit and there wasn't really good standing room either.  Once I sat in someone else's chair, and she promptly came over and asked me to leave.  Sigh.  I volunteered for four classes, so at least then I got a chair :).

So for the actual agility:

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 4
    The course looked harder on paper than it did in real life.  It ran fast and fun.  The only area that was slightly messy for us was the closing serpentine.  I put a FC in between the second and third jumps and his turn was a little wide.  It wasn't bad.  It just could have been cleaner.  I watched a beautiful run (one of only 2 dogs that ran faster than we did...both were in level C with great handlers) and the handler handled the whole serpentine at more distance, putting in a RC on the flat between the second and third jump.  I don't know if that would have been the best way to handle it with Jonah, but I might set up the same line again and try it, because it was much smoother than ours at least as this dog/handler managed to do it.  We finished with a Q and 1st.  We were the fastest dog in level 4, and faster than all dogs in level 5.  Now we only need one more Jumpers Q in level 4.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     This course was very spread out.  I had planned a 6-7-7 opening, but almost none of the small dogs I watched got all the way through the closing, so I changed my plan to 6-7-3.  Jonah ran it beautifully.  His weaves were fast and I was able to leave him a little bit to get a FC in afterwards.  His DW was a little shaky, as he looked at the judge when he was coming down the ramp and didn't have a clean 2o2o. Then his closing was as nice as any I saw.  There was a tight zigzag and it was just very constraining, especially for the big dogs.  I managed to get 2 FCs in where most people just couldn't get there in time.  My first was very effective and then my second was a tad late, but nothing like other attempts I saw.  Jonah didn't have to slow down, he just had a slightly wiggly line.  Anyway, he hit a tricky-for-him almost 90 degree weave entry on the entry side, and his second DW contact was perfect.  We got through the end with 10 seconds to spare, so I probably could have done 6-7-7, but oh well.  The bummer of this round was that when I picked up my score sheet I saw that they had recorded it wrong.  They said I did 6-7-2.  I can understand it was tricky because there were two tunnels (the 2 and 3 obstacles) right next to each other and they were on the far end of the ring.  A lot of dogs were doing the 2 tunnel, so the scribe probably just misheard the judge or couldn't hear and thought the 2 was right because that's what other people were doing.  Anyway, I know I did the 3.  I knew I could talk to someone but it didn't seem like it was worth it--we still Q'd and I didn't think it would matter for placement.  Unfortunately it did matter--if we'd been recorded as getting the 3 we would have won but another dog got the same point total that we did (but 1 more than we were recorded as doing), so that dog 'won.'  We were more than 5 seconds faster than that dog, so in my mind we won.  It was definitely a Q, though.  Next time we do Snooker we'll be in Level 5!

Round 3:  Colors Level 3
     I didn't rev Jonah up very well in this course so he was a little less enthusiastic than in his previous runs.  He was still very obedient and had a lovely clean course, it just lacked the edge that he can have.  It was a pretty easy course and we finished with a Q and another 1st.

Round 4:  Jackpot Level 3
     This was our one 'interesting' run of the day.  I had waffled a lot about what plan to run, but I decided to go do the jackpot early (it was nontraditional and we could do it at any time).  There were two gambles:  it was a jump and then a choice of two tunnels next to each other (one closer, one farther away), and then depending on which tunnel you did you took a different jump (again, one farther and one closer), and then go back into the closer tunnel to finish.  I didn't think it was likely Jonah would take the farther jump in the more difficult gamble, so I just planned on doing the easier, closer one.  Well, the first time we came to the gamble Jonah was in the far tunnel before I knew what was happening.  As I expected, he didn't get the far jump, so we had to try again.  I called and pulled hard for the closer tunnel, but again he cruised into the far one.  We got the job done on the third try, thankfully, but now I was in a total tizzy and didn't know how many points we had.  I thought we needed a lot more so I embarked on an ambitious loop for big points.  He did it really well and picked up on my urgency by running full speed.  I figured after we ran that we must have been over time, but when I picked up my score sheet I was relieved to see that we'd just made 0.03 seconds!!!  Talk about a close one.  The silly thing was that I had 9 points more than I'd needed.  If I'd only been able to do math on my feet I wouldn't have had to take so much risk, but I thought I was way behind on points.  The risk paid off though, so we got our Q and another 1st.  Now we're done with Jackpot level 3!

Round 5:  Standard Level 3
     I didn't think this was too hard a course.  There were some off-course opportunities, but Jonah was very tuned into me and didn't blink an eye at any of them.  His DW contact, teeter, weaves and A-frame contact were all excellent.  In fact, the whole course was excellent.  He was hyped up again and ran fast and happy.  Another Q and 1st.  That finishes our Level 3 standards.  Now on to level 4!

Phew!  Now that's what I call a good day!  We're tired but very happy.  Too bad there aren't many upcoming trials.  We just have one next month.  I can't wait!  Of course, most trials aren't like this!

11/17 Class

I have lots to do tonight so this will be short, but here are some highlights from our class last night:

1.  When I do a blind cross while Jonah's in a tunnel, I should think about what he can see.  I got one in yesterday, but his line out of the tunnel was facing towards where my feet had been running to get the cross done, rather than straight ahead as I had wanted him to do.  Thanks to Grace for pointing out the fact that he can only see my feet while he's in the tunnel.

2.  I put in a blind cross between two jumps where there was an off-course option right ahead.  Jonah got it done, but when I did the same section with a front cross it was cleaner and he had a better sense of where he was supposed to go.

3.  I tried layering the weave poles with about a 15' send.  He got the entry but then popped out like, "Mom, why aren't you coming?"  We'll have to keep working on that.

4.  His table was a little weak.  He doesn't want to lie down immediately.  I hope it was just a fluke day.

5.  Jonah's DW contacts were good but not perfect.  A few times he was going so fast he couldn't quite stick the 2o2o, and other times he stopped with all 4 feet on the end of the board, only stepping his front feet down with encouragement.  A few times he was excellent, but I would like it to be more like all the time.

6.  In our first course Jonah let me leave him in the weaves and get in place for a FC after the next obstacle (about 12' away), but in the second course he popped out and I had to stay closer to get the job done.  We had a threadle out of the weaves and, because I couldn't leave him entirely, our line was wider than I would have liked.  Project number next:  work on more weave independence.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Petco Trip

This isn't much of a post, but I just took Jonah to get a new bag of food, and he actually wanted to go inside.  I know he's gotten to the point where he's excited to go into agility venues, but Petco has always been far behind.  He used to be terrified of the automatic doors, but this time he led the way straight inside. There were even other dogs there for grooming or something and they barked a lot when he walked in, but he was completely unfazed.  He was rewarded for his brave behavior at the cash register, when he got a few cookies :).  It's fun when I get to have a moment that so clearly shows how much more confident Jonah is than he used to be.  I'm glad he is in a happier place and doesn't have as much to be afraid of.  We've had him close to a year and a half now, and he's a very different dog.  I'm so proud of him.

Trial Preview

Tomorrow Jonah and I get to trial in a new state:  Maine.  It looks to be a nice facility, but we're going to have to wake up really early to get there.  I also have some stress because our car is in the shop and the crate is in it.  We used to drive with Jonah loose in the car but now I like the safety of the crate.  I think I might borrow Molly's crate, but it's really too small for him and I know he won't be happy about it.  Oh well, once we're there all things will be better.  It's going to be a fun day!  The judge is the judge who did our very first trial and it will be nice to have her again.

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 4
     This will be our attempt at our third Level 4 jumpers Q.  I couldn't ask for a better class to start the day.  I love jumpers courses!  Fast and fun.  It won't even be too competitive--there's only one other dog in the class.  Also, if you remember from our November goals, it's the Q I care the least about at this trial.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     If we get this Q we'll be done with Snooker Level 4.  Of course, it's always easy to screw up a snooker run, but hopefully we can get the job done.  Jonah will be one of four dogs in the class.  This is the Q I care second-least about, since we're pretty far ahead on it.  Yet, the ability to screw Snookers up means that it's probably good to be a little bit ahead.

Round 3:  Colors Level 3
     Well, this is our first try at colors level 3, and in fact only our fourth time ever doing colors.  I don't know why trials don't usually have colors on Saturday.  Anyway, I don't think the courses are usually very hard but it would be great if we could get this Q since it's where we're most behind.  There are 2 other dogs in the class.

Round 4:  Jackpot Level 3
     If we manage to get this Q, we'll be done with Jackpot Level 3, and showing good progress away from our 'issues' with it earlier on this season.  We've been doing distance work lately, so hopefully it will pay off.  To make things even better, it's a nontraditional jackpot, so if the level 1 dogs can do it, we can do it!  When I did Jackpot with this judge before she had three possible gambles out and you could do as many as you wanted.  That might be my favorite kind of Jackpot, so we'll see if she does the same thing tomorrow.  This will be a bigger class for CPE; Jonah will be one of 5 dogs.

Round 5:  Standard Level 3
     I have my fingers crossed for this one.  Jonah is the only dog in the class, so he has a good chance of winning, but what I really want is a Q.  This would finish our level 3 standard title and it's especially important because a lot of our trials this winter will be at Riverside and they don't offer standard there.  So, we'll have chances to get ahead on games but Standard will lag.  Plus, you need twice as many standards as other things.  For example, to get a CATCH we'll need 19 standard Qs, but only four more fullhouse Qs.  Hopefully we can get the count down to 18 after tomorrow!

I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pinwheel Gamble Take Two

Today I set up another pinwheel to practice gamble work, and it proved difficult.  This time we approached on a different angle (you can see last time's in the previous post, where the jumps shifted 45 degrees.

This time:

Anyway, we could do it but it was a stretch and Jonah often just curled after the first jump, taking the last jump without having gone out to the middle two.  Sometimes he would take jumps one, two, and then skip three and go right to four.  It's good we're starting to work on these gambles might take until June before we can do them well!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Gamble a Day

I want to improve our distance work, so today I set up a gamble and we got some good practice.  I'd like to keep setting things up a few times a week.

Here's what I did today, from
Enlarged view of image

I only set up the gamble, not the whole course.  Jonah did well.  The first time he didn't drive out to 2, but the next time I pushed a little harder and he cruised right out.  Jumps 2 and 3 were about 15 feet away from me.  Jonah didn't seem to be any better or worse in one direction, which I guess is good.  I was also pleased that he was running fast through the pinwheel.  Usually they slow him down a lot.

Also, since Jonah's been a little stickier on the teeter lately I put our teeter down a little bit and just had him run across it full speed a few times.  He seemed much more confident, so I may keep it down for a little while and slowly move it back up, trying to maintain confidence and speed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Boredom Project

It was pouring the other night but Jonah had tons of energy.  I took him outside but he wanted right back in.  So, this was our solution.  This was actually our second round, and he had started to develop a technique.  The first time he really didn't know what to do at first.  Anyway, I think it's pretty cute, and afterwards he finally settled down.

Class and Run-Thrus

Jonah and I got to go to DogStar twice this week--once for class and once for run-thrus.  The courses were pretty tough and we had some real challenges.  Rather than write all about it, you can see some video footage that Dave took on Friday.  Curiously the things that we did well on Thursday were troublesome on Friday and vice versa.  You'll see me trying some different handling techniques...some work and some don't!  Also, I was doing a blind cross off the A-frame and it seemed to be unsettling his contacts--they were poor and once he missed entirely.  We'll have to keep working.  The videos are rather discouraging in that we had lots of off-courses/missed weave entries, etc, but I still think they're helpful.

He had no trouble with that weave entry on Thursday, but it needed a lot of support on Friday.  Same with the tire to the A-frame.  I think I take things for granted after I know he can do them correctly.  It's a pretty discouraging video, eh?  :-/

I like seeing this video.  In class on Thursday I just did the rear on the flat between the second and third jump of the serpentine, and it worked well.  I wanted to try some other ways, too, and I met mixed success.  Also here you can see the poor A-frame contacts (and one blown).  I'm still not totally sold on the blind crosses, but it's good to practice them.

We could definitely tighten up our line.  The Ketschker works, but I feel like I have to be so on top of it that I'm not actually sure it's faster for us right now.  Oh well.  Oh yeah, and that discrimination at the end (he's supposed to take the frame) is another thing we nailed last night with no problem, but Friday I forgot to decelerate hard, so I take credit for buying the tunnel :).

So you probably can't tell from watching this video, but it was our attempt to practice handling more at a distance.  As you can see, the pinwheel was a bit of a challenge, and I'm really not ever very far away!

Bloopers!  As in, a lesson in why you should pay attention to your dog while you're listening to your trainer.  I love the yawn.  Jonah says, "Mom, you are SO boring.  Can we please play agility now?!"  And then the last clip of the little bear who turns his baitbag inside out.

We've got lots of room for improvement, but it's nice to see video footage every now and then!

Day at the Beach

Dave, Jonah and I went to the beach today and we had a super time.  There's an off-leash area where Jonah got to meet lots of other dogs.  He didn't run as much as I would have hoped, but he was well behaved.  His only issue was when other dogs had toys he would bark at them.  Jealous.

Aside from spending some time in the leash-free area, we went for a nice, leashed walk and Jonah was fantastic walking past other dogs, children, people, etc.  He didn't even bark once!

Here are some shots: