Friday, June 24, 2011

Last Private for a While

Today we headed back to DogStar for another lesson.  This time Jonah's enthusiasm and focus were much better right from the start.  In fact, he was already restless in the car before we even got there.  I pulled him out of the car, brought him inside, and he was instantly ready to go.  He ran the first course beautifully, handling lots of wraps, a tough off-side weave entry, and a push around a tunnel to an initially-hidden table.  There were some turns I could have tightened up, and he could have been a little faster at points, but in general it was a super course.  His weaves were super speedy--a huge contrast to last week!

Grace had me handle the table with both a push and a pull.  My push had worked fine the first time, but he was focused enough that the pull worked great, too.  When I first walked the course I was unsure if he would get that discrimination.

There was a threadle on the course which we got the first time with my typical handling of sending and waiting for him to come back towards me before cueing the next jump.  Next Grace had me front cross between so I was then pushing to the backside of the second jump of the threadle.  It was a really neat option, and one I want to get more comfortable with.  The first time I did it we got the job done, but I had to run so fast to get in position in time Jonah didn't get the collection cues, so his turn was very wide.  The next time I got ahead but then was just waiting there with my shoulders pointing at him and it was enough pressure that I pushed him off the first jump altogether.  Oops.  So, that's something I want to practice.  When I could get to the front cross, the second jump of the threadle was much smoother.  Now I just need to be able to get there reliably.

We broke the second course up in two parts and practiced the shorter parts before doing it all together.  In the first part, I didn't support an offset, angled jump enough and he missed it, but other than that he was fantastic.  Again, Grace had me run the sequences a few times in different ways.  I put front crosses in different places, did post turns and rear crosses all over, often in places I wouldn't have even considered doing them.  Each kind of handling worked, though.  We didn't miss any more jumps.  It was only a matter of how tight the turns were and how confidently we were moving.  I really like this style of having to try different handling methods.  I know our toolbox is getting much bigger.  Even though at this point I usually like a basic front cross over a lot of other options, I know there will be times where it's hard to get to that spot and we'll need another method.  Now we'll have confidence that we can do things other ways than we're used to.  Yay for learning.

So, Jonah was back to his great normal self for our lesson.  In fact, we're getting so comfortable in this setting that we've decided to change things up!  Starting next week, Jonah and I will be going to a group class so Jonah can get more relaxed having other dogs around while he's doing agility.  Since this is one of the most stressful parts of our trialing experiences, it will be good to have practice without trial stress.  I love our private lessons and I would like to go back to them if Jonah gets to the point where he can do agility with other dogs around and not be stressed, but for now I think this will be a good learning experience for us.  We've come so far in all the other aspects of agility!  It's funny because when he first started he didn't mind other dogs at all, but those few experiences of having on-course dogs come at him in our previous group classes seems to have made a big impact on him.  I certainly can't blame him.  I just hope we can get through it.

As an aside, I'm just really proud of how far we have come.  We'll be in Grace's most advanced class--competition agility.  It's only been around 9 months since we started playing the agility game, and he's gotten (in my opinion) pretty good.  I know we're only in the middle levels of the least competitive agility venue, but when I look at USDAA Masters and AKC Excellent courses, I know that we could get through a lot, if not most of them, right now with the skills we have.  We might not be the fastest team out there, but I'm really happy with where we are, where we've come from, and where we're headed next.

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