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.