Sunday, January 30, 2011

Riverside Day Two

I thought I'd timed my drive so that we'd have 15 minutes before the briefing this morning, but when I got there it had already started (oops!), so my day started with a mad rush to come up with a Fullhouse plan so I could walk it right after the briefing.  I walked a plan and then, after the walking period was over, I decided to run a different plan that I thought would be faster and get more points.  So, I hadn't walked the course I ended up running, but that was alright.  Honestly, I think I get to know the course better from the map than from walking it.  The walking helps to see what the angles are really like in real life, and sometimes the course is set up slightly different from the map.  After walking the course once, though, I usually confirm my thoughts and am ready to go.

When I set Jonah up, he was a little funny and started wiggling backwards.  I sort of grabbed him and repositioned him straight and then released him and started running.  In all that awkwardness, I ended up on the wrong side of him and he was headed towards the table, which was live, so I just told him to wait, and we basically restarted our run after the first jump.  I'm not sure what that was all about, but we recovered well.  I still don't have a good sense of how long things take him, so we got all our points and finished the main course I'd planned before the buzzer sounded.  I figured we'd just mess around with the jumps and tunnel right around the table until the buzzer.  Well, my lack of planning beyond that point must have been evident to Jonah because he went to the table instead of playing around for points around the table.  So, we finished before the buzzer even went off, but we had 27 points out of a needed 21.  One other dog in our class had gotten more points so we ended up with a Q and second, but I was pleased with the run.  He was moving along quickly and made nice tight lines through a pinwheel.

Our second run was jackpot.  It was a (dare I say 'very') non-traditional Jackpot.  Of course, I don't have a lot of experience with this so I don't know what options are for Jackpot, but this didn't have anything to do with handling at a distance at all.  The deal was that you had to do the A-frame successfully the first time you tried it to 'get' the gamble.  When you did the A-frame, assuming you did it successfully, then the previous three obstacles' points were doubled.  So, the best strategy for the gamble was to do three 5 point obstacles and then the A-frame.  The two possible 5 point obstacles were a 2 jump combination and the teeter which were, of course, on opposite sides of the room (and you can only do any obstacle twice for points).  Anyway, I thought we'd give it a try.  We did a simple line of jumps which got us to the combination.  Then Jonah went nicely across the room without trying to do any other obstacles, he did the teeter nicely, and then we went back across the room, again without any trouble.  He did the combination nicely, even doing a beautiful rear cross at the second jump.  Then I called him to the A-frame but he decided the weave poles were more fun.  He realized that I was calling him to the A-frame at the last second, so he went between the first and second poles and then came to me.  Oops.  I'm pretty sure entering the weave poles like that counts as 'committing,' so we went back, did the weave poles nicely and then went to the A-frame in the opposite direction from how I'd planned to do it.  So, we had a doubled 5-5-3, which certainly isn't bad, but now my plan was all messed up.  I think I did a pretty good job thinking on my feet and we went back to the teeter and did a line of a double jump, a tunnel and weave poles again, all of which were 3 points.  The buzzer sounded and we ran to the table for 51 points (we needed 36), a Q and 2nd place again.

The dog that beat us both times was a very athletic young aussie with an experienced handler.  We have a good ways to go before we could be competitive with that dog.

Our third round of the day was Jumpers.  I thought the course was pretty basic, and my only slight concern was how to handle an offset line of jumps at the end.  I didn't know if I should just handle it all on one side or try to rear cross one of the jumps.  In the end I decided to stay on his right the whole time. When I set Jonah up, he did the funny wiggling again.  Both times we had to wait a while for a bar to be set and he didn't like the waiting.  I held him again, got him pointing the right direction, released him and started running.  This time I stayed on the correct side of him and he took of like a rocket.  My heavens, he has never run so fast in agility.  The course flew by like light speed, and I barely got my crosses in while he was in the tunnels.  As we came to the last line, he locked onto the last jump and ran straight past the offset jump, but luckily I caught him before he jumped the last jump, called him around and we finished the last two jumps easily.  Our final time was 21 seconds, and I'm sure the fixing of the offset line had to have taken close to 5 seconds since he stopped fully and it took him a little bit to get back to me and turned back around.  Man he was fast.  Anyway, our fast clean run gave us our 6th Q of the weekend and a nice blue ribbon.  The other dogs in the class all dropped bars.  I'm not sure what their times were, but I have to think we were covering ground as fast as the aussie.

I was thrilled with the ending of the weekend because he was so enthused.  I was totally exhilarated, too.  A woman seeing us come out of the ring said, "Wow, he's really fast...and so are you!"  I really hope we can have more runs like that in the future, because it was the most fun I've had doing agility, I think.

It is slightly frustrating that, even though he didn't officially get any faults today, he also didn't have any truly clean rounds--in each one he did something I hadn't planned on.  He had the official off course in Wildcard yesterday, too.  I'm not exactly sure how we fix off courses.  They're all different sorts of issues.  Anyway, that's a clear sign that we need more training.

We did have a bunch of highlights, though.  Clearly getting all our Q's is big--he's 12/12 Qs.  Finishing our Level 1 title is great, too, and we got a very pretty ribbon.  He had no trouble with obstacle performance this weekend.  His teeter was great with no sign of a flyoff.  His A-frame was slow but his contacts were good.  His weaves were good.  He didn't drop any bars.

The biggest problem is that we're once again going to have to change our instruction plan once again.  My school schedule this spring doesn't mesh well with All Dogs Gym or Riverside, so we're on the market again.  Hopefully we'll find something good.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Riverside Trial Day One

It's amazing how much less stressful today was than the Saturday of our first trial.  Most of it was just because we'd done it before, but the day was also a lot shorter and it was warmer so we hung out with Jonah in the car rather than having him in a crate.  He seemed to prefer that a lot, and I was able to actually get some work done.

We got there and got measured right away.  Jonah was still nervous about the process, but he stood up tall enough that he did measure over 20", so I didn't feel so silly jumping him 20".

Our first run was snooker, which was the round I was most nervous about.  I'd never done snooker and I knew that if we didn't Q we wouldn't get our level 1 title this weekend.  We'd have two shots at fullhouse, the other leg we needed.  Anyway, the setup wasn't too bad, although it still took me a few minutes to figure out a course that flowed well.  We did 2-7-7, so it was 5 points short of the highest possible score, but I really just wanted to qualify.

We ran around outside for a few minutes, jumped the warm-up jump a few times and then headed in.  Jonah was much more relaxed than I'd anticipated.  He was actually wagging while we waited to go in.  I went in, took off his collar and leash and off we went.  Jump-tunnel-jump-A frame-jump-A frame, course of 2 through 7.  His A frames were slow again on the way down.  I rushed his contacts a little because once he was in the yellow I felt like we needed to get going and he was just walking down.  Bad me.  I was getting too competitive at the sake of his training.  Other than that, things went well until the 6 obstacle, which was a tunnel I had to rear cross.  There really wasn't a good way to get a front cross in, so I figured he'd front cross alright since he hasn't had trouble with that in a while.  Well, he didn't go in at first and I had to bring him around so I wouldn't rear cross.  Then he went right in, and he was on the way to the A-frame (7 obstacle) when the buzzer went off.  He was already committed to the A frame, so he went up, down, into a good 2o2o, and then went nicely to the table.  So, we ended up with 39 points and we only needed 26 to qualify.  Q and first place.  Also finished our CL1-S title.  We need to work on rear crossing a tunnel and speeding up the A frame, but other than that he was great.  I wouldn't say he was full speed, but he was running nicely except in those two problem spots (A frame, tunnel).

Our second run was wildcard, our level 2 debut.  The first option was a straight tunnel or an A frame.  I chose the straight tunnel since he was being slow on the A frame.  This class had 5 dogs in it and so I wanted to be a little bit competitive, hoping for a ribbon (first-fourth place).  Then there was a pinwheel, which Jonah did well.  The second option was a tunnel, one end was the 1-point obstacle and the other end was the 2-point.  The 1-point actually worked best with a rear cross, which I knew he'd had trouble with, so I did the 2-point where I could front cross while he was in the tunnel.  He took that fine.  So, everything was going great until he came out of the tunnel and latched onto a jump behind me.  He shouldn't go behind me and I don't know what was so enticing about that jump.  Anyway, that counted as an off course.  After he had done that he came back and we finished the last line easily.  Overall, most of the run was great except for that one incident, but I wasn't too happy with it because I don't know what I did wrong.  I'm sure I did something, because I'm a firm believer in the 'it's never the dog's fault' philosophy, but I can't put my finger on it.  Anyway, that was frustrating.  We still Q'd, and another dog had more faults than we did, so we got a fourth place ribbon.  It wasn't our greatest run, but I guess we got the job done.

Our third and final run was full house.  It was my first time doing full house, and the biggest challenge was that I just don't know how to judge how far he'll be able to go in a certain amount of time.  We had 30 seconds before the buzzer and then 5 seconds to get to the table.  Anyway, I made a plan, changed the plan, and then changed it about three more times before I ran.  In the end I chose to do a loop with the weaves and tunnel twice, along with two lines of jumps, a tire, a tunnel and an A-frame.  He did a slightly faster A-frame, but then when he got to the weaves there were funny noises on the other side of the wall (that's where the grill was set up) and he stopped dead in his tracks, looking at the wall.  After I shook him out of his funk he weaved fine, went into the tunnel and then came back to the weaves and cruised through them.  It was funny, and ate up a good five seconds or so, but he had a legitimate reason for concern.  We finished the last line and I was going to start a loop around some jumps near the table when the buzzer went off, so we went to the table to stop the clock.  It was 27 points and we needed 19. It was a Q and second place.  I think we would have won if it weren't for the nervousness at the weave poles the first time.  Anyway, it was a good run and nothing to be concerned about.  As he gets used to trialing he'll get more used to different environments.  This finished his CL1-F title and his CL1, full level 1 title.  There was no one at the awards table to ask about the CL1 ribbon, but I think we will get one.  I'll ask tomorrow.

Overall, it was a very good day.  I'm proud of Jonah and I'm looking forward to tomorrow.  Here's to three more Q's!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Happy Friday

I got home nice and early today so Jonah and I spent a good amount of time outside.  It was a little bit warmer, so I shoveled off part of our backyard again and I pulled out the weave poles for the first time since they've been painted.  Unfortunately the ground was a little icy, so he couldn't really go full speed, but we were able to practice some entries.  We also popped over the teeter a few times and I pulled out the table and did some sends to the table.  He was great with the sends, doing up to about 20 feet.  So, overall, I'm feeling pretty good about this weekend but not like we're fully primed.  I guess we won't be able to get the kind of preparation I'd really like until spring.

There was an option of going to the trial tonight to set up crates and get measured, but the traffic getting up there would be horrific (we'd probably be there 20 minutes but the driving I'm guessing would be more than 3 hours round trip), so I'm just going to go up early in the morning.  We're not in the first class so there will be a lot of waiting, but I'd rather have waiting than rushing.  I'll get a chance to plan my courses for the day, so that should be good.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pictures!

Today was an exciting day:

1)  It snowed a lot.

2)  I found out I'm going to Greece and Turkey in May.  Not so much good for Jonah's training, but I'm really looking forward to it.

3)  We got our digital files from the professional photographer at the All Dogs Gym trial.  Here they are:

(Jonah in his first run:  Saturday, Standard Level 1)

I think this picture is an illustration of success:  our very first run and he looks focused, fairly relaxed, and most of all, happy.  He's taking a nice tight line, jumping near the stanchion.  Note how he pushed off his left hind.  In this case, that's normal because he's turning left, but curiously the one picture taken of him turning right was awkward looking.  It could definitely just be an unlucky picture, but I'm suspicious since his right hind is his weak leg.  I'm going to keep an eye out for that.  



(Jonah in his great Colors run)

He might look a little less happy here, but he's very focused and again he's taking a nice line, jumping near the stanchion and he's on a reasonable angle.  Again, he's jumping of his left hind leg but it's appropriate here, as well.  He's a little less relaxed here, but I still think it's a good shot.



(Jonah's leaping landing gear in his Jackpot run)

I love this shot.  He looks like a little sheltie, his legs are tucked up so high they look really short.  You can also see the pads of his feet that he's showing off to the camera.  He got on the table just in time on this run.  I'm not good yet at judging the clock, and if we'd been a second later we wouldn't have qualified.  He looks like he's having a blast, though!



(Focused smile in Sunday's Standard run)

I think his form is great here.  (And my only standards for judging form are horses, so if dogs are different I don't know what I'm talking about.)  He's really jumping up through his shoulders with a nice arc.  In the jumps where his head's up more, he can't get his back arced as well.  He's taking this jump straighter, so his hind legs are more even.  He's very tidy up front, too.  You'll notice in some of the other shots that he starts to cross his front paws a little, but here they're straight next to each other.  Then the expression on his face is happy but highly focused, ears pricked and looking ahead to what's coming.

So one thing I noticed while looking through proofs is that some dogs jump with their front end curled in like Jonah does while other dogs just reach their front legs straight out from their shoulders.  I prefer the appearance of Jonah's style, but I wonder if there's a 'better' technique, or if it's breed specific or what.  If anyone reading this knows, I'd love to hear.

Thank you to Donna Kelliher Photography for catching such great moments.  They're great memories and I can learn a lot from them.  Of course, I might analyze his form but I don't know too much about how to actually improve it.  Gymnastics, maybe.

Thanks also to Dave for giving the blog a facelift.  It looks great!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Open Practice

Today Jonah and I ventured up to Riverside for open practice.  We're supposed to get yet another foot of snow tonight, so no one else showed up, and we had the whole ring to ourselves! 

When we first went in Jonah was nervous and wanted to leave.  As soon as I got him away from the gate, though, he picked up.  I did a bunch of stuff on leash first:  a few basic lines of jumps and the dogwalk.  These were just to get him motivated and his blood flowing.  He was cruising across the dogwalk and taking the jumps at good speed, too.  I think, as much as the leash is a hassle for me over any turns, he responds quite well to it, and I need to make more of an effort of staying with him when he's off-leash.

We worked a bunch of serpentines, which I handled on either side, with front crosses and with rear crosses.  Overall, his rear crosses today were great.  He was happy driving out in front of me for the jumps.  His front crosses were a little weaker.  They always 'worked,' but he wasn't very responsive off the cues and was making wide, sweeping turns instead of quick, sharp ones.  I'm not going to worry too much about this, but it's something I'll keep my eye out for in the future and maybe ask Joan about in a lesson.

Jonah's weaves were good tonight.  He popped out twice at about the 10th pole, but he was really pushing the pace and I think he just lost his footwork when he popped out.  Again, something to keep an eye out for, but I'm not too worried for the meantime.  We'll only see 6 poles this weekend, and I have confidence that someday we will get our new, beautifully painted poles outside and he'll be a pro through the poles.  We didn't have the chance to practice too many tough entries tonight, but again, that's just something we'll have to look for in the future.

I need to support the chute more than I think.  Jonah was great with distance work tonight, taking jumps at lateral distance and sending out in front of me.  With the chute, though, I thought he would drive ahead to the next jump, but I do really think he gets a little disoriented in there, and he missed the 'out' to the jump.  My fault, and I just need to remember that in the future:  when he comes out of the chute, I need to be there to help him find the next obstacle. 

His contacts on the dogwalk and teeter were super, but he ran down the A-frame a few times without stopping in his 2o2o.  The A-frame used to be his favorite obstacle, but now that it's full height he looks a little worried coming down the steep ramp.  I'm curious about teaching him a running A-frame contact because he needs a little encouragement to come down confidently, and I think the stopped contact is unmotivating.  Anyway, it's probably safest to have a stopped contact first, but I might do some reading about a running contact.

One funny thing about the teeter:  Jonah performs the teeter great.  He looks happy, goes right up, tips it, and goes into a beautiful 2o2o.  Great.  But, then he was stressed about the noise of the teeter returning back to its normal position.  He doesn't blink when he tips it and he's on it, but the noise of it resetting is somehow troubling.  I guess maybe he knows when to anticipate the first bang, but the second he's often not watching the teeter and it comes as a surprise.  Anyway, we did a little bit of noise-sensitivity stuff with me just manually banging the teeter and feeding him each time it made a noise. 

Overall, I'm feeling good about this weekend.  We're going to go on Friday to get measured and then we won't have to be there as early on Saturday.  I'm still feeling less than 100% confident about Snooker, but I think the rest of things should go pretty smoothly.  Hopefully I'll be relaxed enough between rounds that I can get homework done...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Looking Forward to Next Weekend

I just moved Jonah up to level 2 for next weekend's Wildcard, Jackpot and Jumpers runs.  Exciting!

I did some scouting work again.  Before move-ups, here are the sizes for Jonah's classes.  I didn't look up Fullhouse for Sunday because I don't know if we'll be in level 1 (if we don't qualify on Saturday or they don't do at-trial move ups--the premium doesn't say) or level 2 (if we do qualify on Saturday and they allow move-ups).

Saturday:
Snooker-Jonah and two other dogs, one of which is the dog that was in all our classes last weekend.  I found out that this dog hasn't moved up to level 2 and is working on getting his 1000 point title at level 1.  I guess he's getting pretty close to that point because his handler was talking about potentially scratching him from some classes at Riverside because they don't give a ribbon for the 1000 point title.  Anyway, the dog has a lot more experience than a typical level 1 dog.  I'm a little concerned about snooker because there is basically no room for error.  It's also the one class that we have to Q in if we want to get our CL1 title next weekend (we have two shots at fullhouse and have to get one of them).

Wildcard-Our first level 2 run!  There are four other dogs in the class.  That means he could actually qualify and not place, but we'll just do our best and see how it goes. 

Fullhouse-Jonah will be one of three dogs in this class, one of whom is the 1000 point dog.  I have to say I'm not too worried about fullhouse.  I don't think we'll have too much trouble qualifying.  I'll just try to make a nice flowing course with a reasonable number of points and we'll go from there.

Sunday:
Jumpers-Our second level 2 run.  There's one other dog in the class.  Levels 1 and 2 run the same jumpers course, and I don't think it will be too bad.  There won't be any contact obstacles to distract him.

Jackpot-Our third level 2 run.  Again, Jonah is one of two dogs.  As with last time, I think Jackpot will really just depend on what the distance challenge is.  This might be the area he is least prepared in, so we'll see.  The level 2 challenges should still be pretty straight forward.

Fullhouse-I don't know which level we'll do or how many dogs there will be in the class, but again I think we'll be pretty good at fullhouse.  It will probably take me a handful of rounds to get to know the timing well.  I think that will be our biggest challenge.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Quiet Class

Jonah and I headed up to All Dogs Gym today for what may be our last class there in a while, thanks to my new school schedule.  There were only 5 dogs there, so it seemed very quiet. 

Jonah was really good, with only minor things to work on.  His speed was a little better, too.  He let me rough him up before starting, and he got really excited and happy, which was good to see.

In our first sequence, there was a little pinwheel in the corner of the arena, where the first jump was only about 6 feet from the wall.  It was a very easy question if I front crossed before the pinwheel (coming off the dogwalk), but I wanted to push a little bit, so I tried to rear cross instead.  Well, apparently jumping into a wall is not something Jonah especially likes, and coming off the stopped contact he didn't really want to drive ahead.  I would have liked to practice this a few times, because I know we could have gotten it, but Laura told us to front cross it.  When we did that, it was easy and he did it great.

In our second sequence, there was a tough weave entry which Jonah missed at first.  I used to think weaves were one of his strengths (well, considering only one other dog in our class can do them without guides, I suppose they still are a strength for where he's at).  After our failure to get the entry from distance at the trial, and two classes in a row where we didn't nail entries, I think it's time to get back to work on weaves.  Again, it's tough given the weather conditions (and we're supposed to get another 6 inches of snow tomorrow), but I've gotten to work painting our weave bases.  I'm thinking that just putting out a set of 6 poles and working on different entries should be good for us.  I know he can do 12, and I'd like to work on speeding him up on the new set, but that might have to wait for some thawing...or until I do some more shoveling.

Jonah flew through the last sequence without any trouble, but Laura pointed out that his contacts are dependent on me stopping with him.  We worked a little on me going ahead while he stops until I release him.  I definitely agree that he should be more independent with his contacts, and we were working on that with our dogwalk before the snow came, but it's a little tougher now.  I think I'll work some more on our mini-ramp in the coming weeks. 

At one point Laura said he was looking really good and we should think about competing if we hadn't already.  Of course, we went to our first trial last weekend, but it was nice to get an official nod that he deserves to be out there.  She also does the tougher venues (AKC, USDAA), so her standards are higher than CPE. 

I found out that, actually, all but one of the dogs in our class have trialed at this point.  The one dog who hasn't is the one other dog who can weave.  I have to say I was surprised that one of the other dogs had trialed--she doesn't seem to be able to do any of the sequences we do in class.  Oh well, I guess that's up to her owner to decide.  Not surprisingly, that dog hadn't Q'd at her trial.  I'm glad I got Jonah a little farther along before I put him in the ring.

Exciting other news:  The professional photographer posted pictures from this weekend, and there are a few great shots of Jonah.  I bought digital copies of a few of them, and as soon as I get the files I'll upload them here!

Traffic, and a Lesson

I left for Riverside today in what should have been plenty of time.  The lesson was at 5:00 so I thought I'd mostly beat the traffic.  I was really, really wrong.  We arrived at 5:35 for our 5:00-5:30 lesson.  Joan was a total saint, though, and let us do a few runs then. 

We worked through a pretty basic course, and Jonah was a good boy.  The one thing he had issues with was a jump to a 90 degree turn left to weaves, so an off-side entry.  His weaves weren't great.  Joan wants me to be right next to him, egging him on, but this really seems to distract him more than motivate him at the moment.  I eventually found a middle ground where I was next to him but otherwise left him alone, and that was better.  He'd start pretty slow and then pick up speed as he went on.  As for the entry itself, he just didn't seem very interested in weaving (whether this was general or because he was uncomfortable with me so close to him, I'm not sure).  We'll have to work on that as time goes on.  I really need to get our weaves painted.

The main highlight in my mind from the course was beautiful rear crosses.  Out of the weave poles, there was a jump and then the dog walk.  He'd get moving in the poles, and he knew the dog walk was coming, so I could rear cross the jump really well.  It was so cool!  He really moved forward to it beautifully.  It was pretty textbook, if I do say so myself.

Other than that, his obstacle performance of everything was great--solid contacts, immediate down on the table, more distance from jumps, etc.  The general problem was that he was just slow.  He's still nervous there, which translates to him poking along.  In a lot of ways this makes him easy to handle because I have time to think about things, but I'd really like him to pick it up.  We ended with an outside loop with him on the leash, and I was still ahead of him the whole way.  I might be above average fast for a handler, but I should not be beating him in a race! 

I feel a little stuck on the speed problem.  When the snow melts, I think I'll be able to get lots of space out in the yard and just sprint over obstacles with him so he gains confidence at more speed.  Until then, though, we're stuck in the small area I shoveled and a class or so a week.  The nice thing is that his speed shouldn't keep him from any Qs.  He's doing great in everything else, so I probably shouldn't worry too much.  I guess I'm just a little anxious. 

For now, though, we can enjoy the snow and I need to paint the weave bases. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our First Trial--Full Recap

I'm well rested now and I've had some time to put together my thoughts from the weekend.  Overall, I am just so very proud of Jonah.  We've had him less than 7 months, and when we first got him he was too scared to go up and down the stairs.  He was afraid to go through doorways.  On his first day of class I thought we might have scarred him for life when he was absolutely terrified of the clicker.  Our first agility classes were so frustrating because he would just try to drag me to the door and wouldn't do anything I asked.  He wouldn't sit, he wouldn't make eye contact, he wouldn't eat treats, so you can imagine how much he wouldn't do any agility obstacles.  That was August.  Now it's January and he just had a fantastic first trial with a 100% Q rate.  And that doesn't even mention the fact that, after he was doing great, he got attacked just before Christmas and had another big confidence setback.  That's not to say there's not a lot to improve on, but looking back at how far we've come it's kind of amazing. 

Some of this may overlap the last two posts a little bit.  This will be the more complete version.

Run 1 (Saturday), Standard:  This run was less enthused than some, as he was still a little unsettled in the new place.  The most stressful part was that I went in, took off his leash and the electronic 'go' never happened.  I'm not sure what the problem was.  I should have told them this was Jonah, but they had said in the briefing that we didn't have to.  Anyway, everyone was confused and I was getting stressed, but eventually it got straightened out and we got started.  The first jump was a little awkward but then he got moving.  He was slow down the A-frame and didn't go right into his 2o2o, but it wasn't bad.  I'm not sure I should have front crossed out of the tunnel.  I got in his way and slowed him down a little.  If I were doing it again I'd front cross the down ramp of the dog walk, but someone had told me that wasn't a good idea.  As the weekend went on, I got more and more comfortable following my intuition instead of just doing what other people were doing.  Anyway, the front cross wasn't awful, it just could have been better.  The last line of jumps was a little less flowing than it could have been.  That's something I would like to work on.  This round was clean for a Q and second place.  Thanks to Dave for the video!
video

Round 2 (Saturday), Wildcard:  This was the round that really knocked me out of my comfort zone.  Jonah flew off the start line so fast I was left in the dust.  What dog is this?!  As I said in Saturday's post, I was late with my cues since I hadn't expected Speedy McSpeederson Jonah, so he took a tunnel instead of the double jump I'd planned, but I was able to adjust at the next wildcard.  It was a beautiful, fast run but unfortunately he dropped a bar at the second to last fence.  It was a straight approach, so I'm wondering if he was just a little confused on his footwork since he hasn't had much practice at warp speed, either.  It was the only bar he dropped all weekend and I'm not going to worry about it.  It was enough to knock us out of first place, though, even if we were 20 (!!) seconds faster than the first place dog.  Oh well.  Still a much deserved Q.  Sorry, no video for this round.

Round 3 (Saturday), Colors:  This was the beginning of the dogwalk craze.  I was one of only a few people to pick the course I did.  It required more in the way of crosses, but it had a nicer flow, and since I want to encourage Jonah to keep running fast, I decided to go with it.  Plus, it had a dogwalk, which I knew he liked.  I just didn't know quite how much he liked it.  I front crossed while he was in the tunnel and then was waiting next to the jump when he came out.  I guess he saw the dogwalk first.  Maybe he thought this was layering practice?  I don't know, but before I could stop him he was already on the dog walk.  I didn't want to call him off it, so I went to the end, asked for a contact (which wasn't even great), and then we ran all the way back to the jump right next to the dogwalk.  After that the course went nice and smoothly.  We made it in time for a Q and our first 1st place.  It didn't seem fitting as our first blue ribbon--I much prefered both of our other rounds, but oh well.  I'm thinking that Jonah may push better than he pulls, and maybe I should have had my back to the dogwalk when he came out of the tunnel.  Good lesson learned.  Thanks again to Dave for the footage!
video

Round 4 (Sunday), Jackpot:  This was our worst run of the weekend by far.  It was a non-traditional Jackpot where you could do any of the 3 gambles at any time.  Since it's hard to see the tape in the video, the 15 point gamble was the red tunnel to the jump and back to the red tunnel.  The 20 point was green tunnel to weave poles to jump (we try this in our round but can't get the weave entry).  The 25 point gamble was that same sequence backwards--jump to weaves to far end of the green tunnel.  There was no way Jonah would get that far tunnel entry, so we didn't even try that gamble.

Our round started out with Jonah high tailing it towards the dogwalk (again, maybe I should have been on the other side to push him off it) instead of jumping the two jumps to the teeter.  From the dogwalk, there were only a few feet to the jackpot line, so I was worried that, after the stopped contact, he wouldn't have enough 'umph' to drive ahead of me to the tunnel.  Well, he did indeed.  I had been so worried about the jackpot when I was planning my course, but that was the relatively easy part of the course (although we didn't have nice flow from the jump back into the tunnel).  It was the other point collection that screwed us up.  Other than the distance weaves in the second gamble (where I cued him late and probably shouldn't have tried anyway), I thought Jonah's weaves were great--the first time he'd done weaves in a trial.  Good boy.  The teeter was another story.  I don't know what happened there other than that he was just so excited he didn't want to slow down to tip it, or he wasn't thinking that it was a teeter at all.  Whatever the reason, that's not something we want to make a habit.  Next time he does a teeter in a trial I'll make sure to slow him down before it and name it "Teeter" a few times.  Then he was going so fast up to the table he couldn't stop to 'down,' and he hopped back on after he basically fell off.  Another thing to work on.  Overall, this course just didn't flow well.  Partly my bad planning and execution, partly the dog walk incident at the beginning.  Somehow it still managed to be a Q.
video

Round 5 (Sunday), Standard:  This was one of our better runs.  It was clean, flowing and relatively quick.  Actually, it was the fastest round on this level 1 course, out of about 20 dogs.  I look a little awkward at points, and the final line is jerky, but overall it was a nice run.  Thanks so much to Dave who was at the trial all day Saturday and most of Sunday, and to my Dad who was there most of Sunday.  The video is really helpful, and Jonah was so pleased to see you!
video


Round 6 (Sunday), Jumpers:  We had another nice clean run.  It was not our fastest, but it was good enough for a Q and first.  I don't have video of this round and there's not much to say about it other than I did our only lead out of the weekend and it worked well. 

- - -

It was a fantastic weekend, but very long.  If you happen to be reading this because you're preparing for your first trial, I would strongly suggest not doing two full days your first time.  We were there more than 12 hours on Saturday, and about 9 on Sunday.  There's a lot of down time, but I wasn't able to get much work done, and it was somewhat stressful for Jonah just to be there.  Of course, every dog is different.

Another general observation is that a lot of people didn't warm their dogs up very much, if at all.  I took Jonah outside to potty and then jogged him around for a few minutes.  When we went inside we jumped the practice jump a handful of times.  Most people never went in the warm-up area, and I never saw anyone else jogging outside.  Clearly these people have a lot more experience than I do, but a lot of dogs dropped the first bar on course.  Sometimes this was because they were set up way too close to the first jump, but maybe sometimes it was because they just weren't warm.  I liked our warm-up routine and I'll do it again.

General Points:
I'd like to improve my handling style so I'm not so jerky.

Jonah cross-canters at a few points in the videos.  It makes me think some sort of physical therapy really could be good for him.

I used a slip collar when we went into and out of the ring.  It worked well and I didn't have to be pulling on his face to get a real collar on and off.

With the Qs we got, Jonah got two titles: CL1-R and CL1-H.  Cool!

I think that's plenty.  Moving forward, I'd like to get our weave pole bases painted this week, but I'd have to do quite a lot of shoveling to be able to use them, so we'll see how much good the painting does.  I have more time now, though, than I will after classes start next week.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day Two

I've realized that trials are long, exhausting days!  Today was a lot better than yesterday in terms of stress and my headache, but I'm still just going to do a short post today, and then I'll fill in some gaps tomorrow.

If you look at the negative light only, we had some real mistakes:
-In Jackpot, I set Jonah up in front of a jump and when I released him he ran right around it and halfway across the room to the dog walk.  Talk about tunnel vision.  Good thing there's no such thing as off course in Jackpot...
-One of the Jackpots (it was non-traditional, so there were 3 gamble options) was a tunnel to 6 weaves at a distance.  I think he could do weaves at distance, but the entrance out of the tunnel proved to be too much for him, and we didn't get it done.
-Jonah flew off the teeter!  I guess he was just so excited that he didn't register that it was a teeter.  I was shocked.  He normally is very cautious on teeters.  This is just one example of how I was not handling my normal dog this weekend (but usually, unlike in this case, that was a good thing). 

However, there were so many wonderful things that we come away with an overwhelmingly positive feeling:
-3 more Q's!
-We got a Jackpot!  It was a tunnel (had to rear cross) to a jump pointing RIGHT at the dog walk (gulp!), back to the tunnel for another tunnel rear cross.  I did not know if he would do it, but he did, with no hesitation.
-I told you he had trouble with the weaves at a distance, but there was another set in Jackpot and he did them twice, and he was fast!  Those are our first in-trial weaves, and I was super pleased.  Not as fast as he can be, but he hopped right through.
-So, Jackpot had major problems but we Q'd and second place.
-Our standard run was our best run of the weekend.  Fast, clean and flowing.  I front crossed a tunnel and almost sent him to the wrong jump out of it, but luckily I found my bearings before he came out of the tunnel.  First place, fastest dog in level one, 30 seconds faster than the second place 20" dog!
-I did a nice, successful lead-out in Jumpers. 
-Jumpers went smoothly, although it was not his fastest and most motivated course of the weekend.  Still a big success, and another Q and first.
-Jonah got LOTs of compliments all weekend!  'Very talented,' 'lots of potential,' 'so cute,' 'this is his first trial?!!'  etc.  He made me proud.

Ok, that's enough for now.  Video tomorrow (where I look really silly but he's mostly good), and some more complete thoughts on the weekend.  Jonah is exhausted and it's about time for me to head to bed, too.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day One

We survived day one of our first trial!

I'm exhausted from the day and have quite a headache, so I'm just going to give the digest version now and I'll fill in the details in the coming days.

Highlights:
-Got up before dawn, got up there and got settled in the crate area
-When I showed up to the briefing (a minute late--oops!)  someone alerted everyone that it was my first trial and everybody clapped. 
-Jonah was very nervous about measuring.  He never stood fully upright, and the woman declared him just under 20".  I decided to run him in 20" anyway because I'm pretty sure he's over 20 when he stands up.
-We weren't in the first class so we waited more than 6 hours before our first run.  Jonah was pretty relaxed, but I wasn't!
-Our first run was standard and Jonah was great.  A nice, clean run although a little slow.  I wouldn't say he was especially nervous but he wasn't excited, either.  We got our first Q and were second by less than a second.
-Our second run was wildcard.  I set Jonah up and when I said ok he just exploded over the first jump, full speed!  I'd been so worried about getting him excited enough that I wasn't prepared for the fast Jonah I haven't seen since we were at Four Paws.  He bid on a tunnel at the first option, which wasn't my plan, but I was able to adjust easily.  Unfortunately he dropped the second to last bar (I was surprised--the last three jumps were in a line so he had a nice straight approach.  I don't remember the last time he pulled a bar.  Oh well.)  As we came out the gate, a nice lady came over and said, "Wow, he's fast!"  I never thought I would hear that, especially this weekend.  We were more than 20 seconds faster than the other dog in our class (and faster than all other dogs in other height categories), but thanks to the dropped bar we were second again.  I was so amazingly proud of this happy, fast, enthusiastic dog!  Q number 2.
-The last run was a little more creative.  It was colors, and I picked the more flowing of the two courses.  He was going super when he came out of a tunnel and ran right past the jump right in front of him and got right back on the dog walk that he'd just done.  It happened so fast that, before I knew it, he was half way up the dog walk.  Oops.  Anyway, I figured I should just pretend it was exactly what I wanted, he had a beautiful contact at the end and we ran back to our course, which he finished beautifully and quickly again.  Q and first (we were the only dog in our class), even with the off course. 

So, 3/3 Qs ain't bad!  I'm so proud of Jonah.  Now I need to rest up so we can get up early again in the morning. 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Here we go!

It's time!  Tomorrow morning we will be waking up extra early, getting in the car by 6:15, and going up to All Dogs Gym for our first trial. 

We just did our last training session, which was quite short considering that, with wind chill, it feels like single digits and of course the fact that we have a total of about 2 feet of snow on the ground.  I did not get a chance to shovel off a training area in the back yard after this storm.  Maybe next week...

So, instead of being able to practice much handling, we just did the teeter and I brought out the chute.  His teeter is looking awesome.  I can be a solid 10 feet away and he hits his contact beautifully.  I actually hope it's an option for us in our games this weekend, because I think he likes it and he's faster at it than the dog walk, if not the A-frame as well.

I pulled out the chute because there hasn't been one out in our last few lessons.  He hasn't had chute issues in a long time, but I figured it was good to just let it be nice and familiar for him.  Well, I probably gave him reason to have chute problems.  I just put it out on the driveway which has about 3" of snow on it.  I didn't stake it down, which was a huge mistake.  He ran right in and got tangled up in it, having to come back out the entrance.  Bad me.  Anyway, he didn't seem the least bit concerned and went right back in with me holding it still.  We did that 7 or 8 times, went back to the teeter for a few more repetitions, and called it a day.  Good boy.

Now our last part of training before the trial is him getting a rawhide in his crate so he thinks the crate is a happy place to hang out.  I really think the most stressful parts of the trial will be the non-competing moments in the stressful environment: measuring, crating, etc.  I do feel like we've done our homework pretty well.  While there's always more preparing you can do, I think we're ready for the challenge. 

Here's for three Qs tomorrow!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Noises

I had been wondering if Jonah might be nervous about the sounds that the electronic timers make.  I think Steve read my mind.  Here's a link to his blog, where he posted mp3s of the sounds.  I played them for Jonah and he didn't blink an eye.

http://agilitynerd.com/blog/agility/equipment/farmtek_timer_sounds.html

Private Lesson

Today Jonah and I had a real treat:  a private lesson at Riverside!  We got there a little early and were able to warm up on our own, which was quite nice.  I popped him over some jumps, through some tunnels, through the weaves a few times, and then a couple reps of the dog walk and once over the teeter.  He was nervous (which equals slow), but started to warm up nicely. 

When Joan got there we started with the weaves, and just did them back and forth a bunch of times.  When he got to the end, I'd throw a cookie in any direction, let him go get it and then send him back into the weaves from whatever entrance he was at.  He was very accurate.  He never popped out and he never missed an entry.  While he was never full speed, he was definitely running/hopping through.  I worked him from both sides and varied my position to him.  Sometimes I'd be ahead of him, sometimes a good distance lateral from him, and then we tried having me right next to him, tapping him along to encourage him as he went.  Again, he never got quite to his full speed, but it was a huge improvement.  I'd say he might have even been faster than he was at home with our new set the other day.  The poles were 22".  Joan says she likes to have dogs do the shorter distance first and then spread them out to 24". 

Next we did the dog walk.  I'd bait the end and then we'd play with sending him over in different ways.  First I'd run right next to him.  Next I'd sit-stay him at the base and just stay in the middle while he independently did the whole thing.  Then we worked it into a mini-sequence, with a jump to a tunnel to the dog walk.  A few times he actually cantered across the top, which he's never done before.  He still slows down for the down ramp, but I'm pleased enough with the improved speed up and across.  We'll get the down speed.  His contacts were great--he never missed one.  He wasn't driving into that position, but I'm not worried.  When we had our dog walk up he was doing that faster, so I know that once we get it back out in the spring he'll improve on that quickly.  While that doesn't really help for our upcoming trials, I'm sure that his slight slowness will not keep us from any Qs, even if it might mean the difference in a placement ribbon.  I'm alright with the idea that we just won't be at our full peak in the winter.

Next we worked on a sequence with a discrimination of a tunnel under an A-frame.  Jonah was great.  He was kind of slow through the jumps in the sequence, but he got the discriminations beautifully. 

One thing we talked about a bunch is that it's demotivating for Jonah if I get too far ahead of him.  That means that, even though he's very good with lead-outs, it may not be the best strategy for us.  Even with the jumping, he likes it when I'm right with him.  This sort of gets at what Grace was telling us about how I should let Jonah 'win' more, because if I'm just ahead all the time he doesn't think he can actually catch up. 

To work on this, Joan had me do some sequences on leash.  I felt super disorganized, especially when there were any crosses involved, but I do think it was helpful.  His on-leash dog walk was one of his best, and he generally felt comfortable with me right with him.  I will definitely have to work on that, again making sure my own competitive nature isn't shutting him down.

When we got to the teeter, Jonah was super.  He's never done that teeter without concern, but he didn't blink an eye today.  Good boy.  I guess his worry last week was largely due to the teeter being right next to the other dogs. 

We did a few longer sequences, and Jonah was good.  As Joan says, he almost never makes a mistake (if something goes wrong, it's my fault), and the only thing holding him back is his lack of enthusiasm which stems from his nervousness.

All in all, I'm feeling good about the weekend.  My hopes are pretty low about the speed he'll display, but even when he's nervous and slow he shouldn't have a problem qualifying.  That's my goal:  Qs.  The high placements will come as he gets comfortable and starts really running.  As I've said before, Jackpot will be a toss up, but I think the other classes will go well.  I can't believe the time has come.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Four Days to Go...and Snow!

It probably isn't ideal planning that I'm taking a January course that ends the day before our first trial, so I had to be on campus a bunch more than I do even in the regular semester, meaning I have less time to practice with Jonah.  The days are short and it's been really cold, so I have to admit I've been doing a lot more school homework than Jonah homework.  Also, we're supposed to get a big storm starting tonight, meaning that I don't know how much we'll be able to do outside for the rest of the week, thanks to at least a foot more of snow that's expected. 

This afternoon, I'd just gotten home from from class and was checking my email when I heard a truck outside.  It could have been any truck on the street and at first I didn't think anything of it, but maybe five minutes later I realized I was expecting something.  Being lazy, I checked the tracking number online rather than just walking downstairs, but I saw that our package had been delivered.  Our weave poles are here!

I had half an hour until I had to leave again, but I wasn't going to pass up an opportunity for a quick turn with our poles.  It took me a while to wrestle the box open, but once I did, they look great!  Of course, they're not painted yet so I really probably shouldn't use them at all, but I figured 10 minutes outside wouldn't do them much harm.  I just brought out half (6 poles) to save a few minutes and also because Jonah won't see 12 this weekend anyway (The maximum he could see would be 8, but 6 is probably more likely.  Also, at level 1, weaves will always be an option for us, so we won't have to do them no matter what).

Jonah was really good.  He popped out once in the whole session when I'd sent him from the far side at full speed and was about 10 feet away.  Otherwise, he was very honest through them.  He was hopping (2 feet each side), but he was moving through quickly.  Not the fastest he's ever weaved on our set of stakes in the backyard, but considering this was his first time at home with a new set, and the first time at home with 24" spacing, I'd say he was very good.  This was definitely the fastest he's ever weaved on a 'real' set that's not our stakes and flowerpots in the backyard.  Good boy.

We mixed in some teeter work with our weaves, and that's looking great, too.  I'm not sure why he was nervous about the teeter at Riverside last week. 

On Thursday we're having a private lesson at Riverside, and I'm very excited for it.  It will be neat to see if, with a few repetitions, he'll start speeding up his weaves there.  I'm also hoping we can get him comfortable with their teeter.  Some good contact work could do us well, too.  Of course, the number one priority is for him to be relaxed and have fun.  I'm sure we'll learn a lot, too!

Overall, I'm feeling pretty good about the coming weekend.  I think Jackpot will be the big question for us.  At home he'll work at reasonable distance, but I'm worried that he'll need more support in a competition setting.  It will just depend on what they set up.  I'm pretty sure it will be non-traditional because all the levels are mixed in together.  Who knows what we'll get.  Luckily we'll get another chance at Jackpot at our second trial if the first one doesn't turn out for us.  I'll probably be more nervous on Friday, but at this point I think we'll have a good weekend.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Two Gold Stars for Jonah

Tonight Jonah and I went back to Riverside, where he got attacked last time.  As we pulled up, we saw one of our buddies from Four Paws, who is now going to Riverside, so it was nice to have a friend.  We were there a few minutes early and there weren't many dogs.  I was impressed that Jonah didn't seem too nervous.  Then other dogs started showing up and he started to melt down a little bit.  There was a jump out of the way that I tried to warm him up over, but even when I set it at 14" he didn't want to jump.

When it was our turn to go, I was worried that he wouldn't get going, so I put the first jump down to 16" while the rest of the course was set at 20".  Most people were leading out, but I decided to try to rev him up and run with him to get a little extra energy.  Even with my running with him he lacked enthusiasm, but he did everything I asked of him.  It was a fairly simple sequence of 12 obstacles including jumps, tunnels, dog walk, tire and weave poles.  He did the weaves slowly, but found the entry and went right through.  Most dogs would do the sequence twice to get it down, but after we did it the first time, I just decided to do a flowing outside loop of jumps and the dog walk because he likes those obstacles and I thought they'd give him some more confidence.  He was still worried when he was done, but I was proud of him for just digging in and doing what I asked.  It was a lot better than last time after the incident.

Our second course was very well suited to our style.  It was lots of jumps on angles but generally flowing and just running, not lots of little turns and crosses.  A lot of dogs were struggling with the angles, especially in the corner near the off-course dogs.  Jonah was great, though.  There were places where I had to push him out, but I knew I had to support him a little bit more than usual because he was nervous.  I had to be very purposeful keeping my hand out but also staying a little closer to the jumps than I'd have to if he were more confident.  Anyway, we had a nice clean run and, while it was still slower than normal Jonah, it was a good step better.  The only real concern was the teeter, which he was very slow on.  I guess we're not over the teeter hump, but it's nice we have one now to practice on.  The teeter was right next to the other dogs, so it may have been more of a location problem than an actual equipment issue, but we'll be sure to keep practicing.  I'm not really sure what to do differently at home other than just get more and more repetitions on it.

We did the course a second time and this time he was close to his normal self.  Before we ran, I batted him around a little and he was actually excited about it rather than just shying away.  He drove ahead into the first tunnel, cruised through the jump lines, did the teeter better the second time, and was generally much more confident.  When we finished the course, his tail was up and wagging and he looked at me with the biggest grin you could imagine.  It nearly melted my heart, knowing how nervous he'd been just minutes before.  It made me feel like there's a good reason we're doing this agility stuff--he loves it once he's comfortable.  It might take him a little while sometimes for him to relax, but I think he'll get there.  I'd guess that he'll be a little nervous again when we go back to Riverside, but I count this as a huge success.  Next week we have a private lesson there, and then we'll see where to go from there.  It's nice to know we can work through anxiety issues and that there will be lots of fun on the other side.

In equipment news, our weave poles shipped today.  It's supposed to snow tomorrow, but I hope we can get the weaves set up somewhere this month.  He's still never been fast with a 'real' set.  We'll have to change that :).

Trial News

I just got the schedule for next weekend's trial.  I know I'm getting ahead of myself and I should just be trying to compete for Q's, but I'm curious about our competition.  Here's what I learned.

On Saturday for Standard and Wildcard, Jonah is one of two dogs in level 1, 20". 

In Colors, he is the *only* level 1 20" dog in that class, so if we get a time, we'll win :).

For Sunday there are two level 1, 20" dogs in Jackpot, Jonah is the only in Jumpers, and Standard is not listed. 

Anyway, I see some blue and red in our futures if we can get around the courses...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Injury Update

Last week when we got back from vacation I told you that Jonah was looking gimpy.  Well, as you might have guessed, he has looked much better since then.  By the next morning he was running happily without a limp.  I have become extra attentive to his movement since then, and I've noticed some inconsistencies.  The right hind is the leg that was broken before we got him, and he doesn't like to use it completely.  When he goes down stairs, he will often tripod on his three other legs.  Once he's moving, he looks fine, but he prefers his left lead.  Then, when he stops quickly he will carry his right hind out to the side in order to not put as much weight on it.  It never seems to bother him, but he has developed ways to change his movement around it.

I did a quick search about dog physical therapy, which does in fact exist.  A lot of it is swim based, but I'm not sure that's really what he'd need.  It would be good exercise, but I feel like he could be compensating for his weakness swimming just as well as he does running.  Also, you need a referral to get dog physical therapy, and I don't think this is enough of a concern to merit a new visit to the vet.  He has to go back next month for shots, so I'll ask about it then. 

In the meantime, I wonder what I could do on my own.  I'm thinking of trying to develop some exercises where he has to run in clockwise circles where he has to be on his right lead.  It's not uncomfortable for him to be on his right lead, but by choice he's more likely to choose the left.  If I get him to build the right lead muscles, maybe that could help.  Of course, I need to be careful not to go too far and make him imbalanced, so I'd have to watch that. 

The other idea I had was that, the time I got out the ladder for him, he would use all 4 feet at a slow pace, but when we picked up the speed he would tripod, keeping weight off his right hind.  I'm thinking I should get the ladder back out and work on slowly increasing the speed while using all four feet.  I think this could be a good use of the clicker.  The only problem is that I think I'll need Dave to help me at least at first so we can make sure he's using all four feet while regulating his speed.  If only the days were longer...

Overall, I don't think his weakness is really a problem for him now, but it's possible that as we start wanting to really shave seconds and make sharp turns, it could become an issue.  It's probably better to start addressing it as soon as we can. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goals

It's a whole new year and time to look at our goals.

This is what we wanted to accomplish in December:
1.  Attend a trial without competing
2.  Get our new teeter set up
3.  Get Jonah happily and confidently  navigating our teeter and sticking the contact, even if not at full height and even if padded to muffle the 'bang'  (Goal for January:  full height, full noise teeter)
4.  Proof staying the contact position--letting me walk away and have him stay until released
5.  Rear cross at full speed.  Hopefully we can get outside to do this or work on it in class.

Let's see how we did:
1.  Attend a trial-YES!  I still have some questions about how things will be set up at All Dogs Gym, since we went to Riverside, but I have a much better sense of what a trial feels like.  That doesn't mean there aren't tons of unknowns ahead, but I'm very glad we went.  Overall, my take away is that, even if Jonah has a bad day, chances are likely that he won't be the worst dog there.

2.  Set up teeter-YES!  It looks fantastic!

3.  Using the teeter-YES!  I do still have towels under each end, but it's more to protect the board than to muffle the sound (it still bangs pretty good).  It's full height, and Jonah looks actually excited to get on it.  He'll do it without me even telling him to.  AND, he happily did the teeter at All Dogs in class last week.  What a great success!

4.  Proofing the contacts-There's always more I can do, and now our dog walk is inside for the winter, but I think his contacts are pretty solid.

5.  Full speed rear cross-The snow has hampered this a lot, but we worked on rear crosses today and he was very good.  The whole 'full speed' thing just isn't possible in our current weather conditions.


I'd say that was a pretty good month!  Here are my hopes for January:
1.  Keep performance of teeter, weaves, chute, and table sharp.
2.  Attend our first and second trials, where we have safe and happy experiences.  I hope to pick up some Q's, but most of all I just want to be able to assess where we are and get some good feedback about what we need to work on.
3.  Get Jonah happily using his crate.  We're working on this at home so that, at a trial, I can leave him to go walk the course, etc.
4.  Work on playing leash tug so we have a motivating game before our runs and an immediate treat after our runs.
5.  When weather permits, work on distance handling.  I think Jackpot may be the hardest game for us right now, especially since Jonah becomes more of a velcro-dog when he's nervous.

11 days until our first trial.  This is going to be a big month!

New Years in the Poconos

Jonah, Dave and I went out to the Poconos for the New Years weekend.  Romeo stayed with my parents where he was pampered with love, a bath and hours of grooming.  He looks like a new dog!

I had thought the weekend would be basically agility-free, but there were some unexpected situations that offered unique training opportunities.

On Saturday we went for a nice walk at the Mill Pond.  The pond was frozen and Jonah ran around on it happily, although he wondered why we weren't quite so brave.  Later on, we came to a spot near a little waterfall where the water was not frozen and there were two beavers swimming around.  It was a neat treat to see them.  Further along the trail there was a set of bear prints in the snow.  I'm not sure I've ever seen such a clear set of bear tracks--they were quite impressive.  You could see the pads clearly, and then the sharp claws.  In all, each footprint was at least 6 inches.  I thought bears hibernated, but apparently this one was out and about.  I'm not sure what Jonah would do if he saw a bear, but I'm guessing it wouldn't be good.  The last point of interest on our walk was less impressive:  deer poop.  Jonah had run ahead of us and started rolling in the snow.  Before we realized what was happening, his whole white neck was brown.  When we got back, we gave him a bath in the basement sink.

After the bath, it took Jonah a while to dry off enough to go upstairs.  We had limited towels, which quickly became wet, and Jonah would only tolerate short periods of hair dryer.  In between, Dave and I worked on getting Jonah happy and excited in a situation where he was naturally scared and unhappy.  It would take a little time, but enough running around would get his ears perked up, and then he would start to play tug with his leash.  This was great because we don't usually have a way to replicate situations where Jonah is nervous, since the only time we usually see that behavior is at class around other dogs.  Anyway, we'll see if there's any carry over to agility, but every bit of information we can get about how to shake off his nervousness and get him happy is useful.  Maybe next time it will take a few seconds less time, and the next time a few more seconds, until we (hopefully) someday have a technique that can help him get ready to roll even when he is uncertain of his surroundings.

This is not agility related, but we went on another walk yesterday, and Jonah was happy and friendly to everyone he met along the trail...except for a pair of hunters.  They came out of the woods with bright vests and carrying guns on their shoulders, and Jonah was immediately growling and barking at them.  He didn't approach them to attack or anything, but I just thought it was interesting that he reacted that way.  Who knows what experiences he had with guns in TN.  He was terrified of loud noises when we first got him, and now this...Good thing we hardly ever see guns at home!