Friday, February 4, 2011

Dogs! Learning Center

Today Jonah and I went to Dogs! Learning Center (DLC) for our first lesson there.  Jonah was fairly timid going into the new building but we had some time to get comfortable before we really started class.  For the first fifteen minutes we just walked around the arena and did individual obstacles.  We were the only dog there for about 10 minutes, which was a nice quiet way for Jonah to relax.

Jonah was happy to work pretty much right away, even if he wasn't fully comfortable.  We popped over little jumps and did the table and then I took his leash off and did the contacts, chute, weaves, tunnel and tire.  In general his obstacle performance was good.

His contacts were dead on all night.  He was tentative on the dog walk and never cantered across it.  That was a little funny since neither it nor the A-frame were full height, but I guess it was just a new enough place that he didn't trust the equipment.  He was also very wary of the teeter.  He ran past it a couple times, and once he got on, he turned around and got back off.  In the end I lowered it slowly with my hand, and he never did it fully alone.  That concerns me for when we try to go to a trial at a new place, but since we don't have to deal with that just yet, I won't be too worried.  I don't really know what we could do to work on it other than making him extra comfortable with the teeters he has access to and then trying to get him to see as many teeters as possible, but that could be difficult.

Jonah was great with his down on the table all night.  I've been worried that the CPE table mentality will screw up his down, but apparently not.

His weaves were accurate but medium speed.  He was jumping through but he can go a lot faster.

Anyway, we did a course that included a motivating first line, a serpentine, a long line of 5 jumps to threadle, the table and weaves to another serpentine to the teeter.  I was a little worried since we've never been 'taught' threadles (other than by!), and I certainly haven't done them since we were jumping outside.  In one of our classes with Laura she said we shouldn't really have to worry about them unless we were competing internationally, so needless to say they haven't been a real focus for me.

We ran the course clean, but it wasn't always especially smooth.  The threadles were pretty unmotivating for him and he slowed down a lot.  Then the last serpentine needed a rear cross turn to the teeter and it got us kind of disorganized.

After doing the course once we walked and ran it again.  The second time, we weren't supposed to use verbal cues, but we were supposed to only use our body cues.  Other focuses were to get our 'off' hand out of the way and to keep our bodies upright.  Honestly I can't say I was able to think about everything as I did it.  By dropping my verbal cues Jonah and I were really thrown out of the loop for the threadles. He kept trying to serpentine it.  When I was using my voice I was able to catch him before he locked onto the backside of the next jump, but without my voice he just took what he saw.  After a couple mistakes, he got the idea and the line went smoothly.  I think it was a good exercise for us and highly illuminating for me.  I need to clean up my cues so my voice isn't the main 'safety valve.'  We'll still have that when we need it, but it won't be the foundation of our handling.

One more general issue was that he was barking at one of the other dogs.  Annoying, but he stopped after he'd been there for a while.  I don't know what his deal is when he doesn't like certain dogs.  If I know he's in that mode I can generally distract him pretty well, but I wish it weren't an issue at all.

As a whole, Jonah was very good but he never got to full speed, or really anywhere close to full speed.  I liked Carolyn and it was a nice facility (although we've gotten spoiled with size!).  We're looking forward to getting back to it.

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