Thursday, July 7, 2011

Good Jonah, Bad Me

Today's class was good but I just didn't bring my A game.  For some reason I couldn't sleep last night, and before I knew it the sun was up and it was a new day.  Now I'm exhausted.  At least I got a bunch of work done over the night.

Anyway, we got to DogStar for our lesson and Jonah gave a few initial barks again but then settled in and didn't mind the other dogs and people.  I think the group class will end up being a comfortable place for him.

The first course started with a tight jump sequence.  In the first four jumps I did three front crosses!  After that the course opened up and wasn't too bad.  On our first attempt, we got it all done without any faults, but it was not our sharpest work.  Jonah was not motivated with all the wrapping and looping at the beginning, and then I let him make some wide turns elsewhere on course.  On our second try, Grace had me handle differently, but somehow the result wasn't much better.  She wanted me to wrap left instead of right as I had done, but even though I was just pulling Jonah around to the left, he decided to turn right.  I can't tell why he did that other than that he'd been patterned (once) to turn right.  Anyway, the course still started unmotivated and a little messy.  Honestly, though, I'm not sure that opening would ever be fast and flowing.  I know we could improve it, but it was one of those cases where you just couldn't really get going.  The opening was fun to watch because all three of the handlers chose to handle it differently.  One strategy seemed rather unorthodox to me, but then it ran really well, showing me that I need to think more outside the box and shouldn't assume I know what will work best, especially when it's not my dog.

The second course also had a winding start, but not quite as stuffy as the first.  Instead of a threadle there was a 270.  I walked the rest of the course and it seemed pretty straightforward.  I was done walking sooner than the others so I thought, "How could I challenge myself?  Is there any spot I could do as a distance challenge?"  And there was.  In the middle of the course (although labeled here starting with 1), there was a section that I figured I could try to handle from farther away than I normally would.  Here's what it looked like (using the new Course Designer software!):

Everything actually ran pretty well.  We always got the jackpot done, although a few times AKC would have called us for refusals.  The tire proved difficult, which I suppose makes sense since it was the farthest away.  A few times he would head towards the tire but then second guess himself before he took off and circle back around to look for reassurance from me.  Once he wrapped the tire to the right.  I managed to get him over the jump alright and it was a tighter line and thus potentially a better decision on his part, but it showed me that we need to work on straight sends.  It's tough because he can't see me well and thus my cues have to be extra precise when he can see me.

Numbers three and four went smoothly.  For number five, I admit I stepped over the line (but there was no line in class, so it didn't look bad :)).  The problem was that, even when I exaggerated my cue, Jonah was turning right after the tire, which made the entrance to the A-frame difficult.  It took a few tries for him to turn left and run that part nicely.

Anyway, it was cool that we got the job done on that, and I would think it was harder than what we'll likely see this weekend.  It was good to push myself.

One more thing that I tried with the second course was a slingshot start.  I had been doing lead-outs all class, and Jonah had been doing well, but I know he prefers it if I can run with him.  I had to be ahead for a front cross at the third jump, so I just started Jonah with a send to the first jump while I ran a straight line, and I thought it worked great.  Here's a diagram:

After this 'jackpot' section, the course continued and there was just one more tricky place with a threadle.  I handled it the first time with a front cross between the two jumps and I thought it ran quite well.  Then Grace wanted us to try it with two front crosses and I felt like a total clutz.  We got it done, but I was too worried about where my feet were going to be encouraging to Jonah, who slowed dramatically.  That's something to work on.

Overall it was a good lesson, but I just felt like I was rough around the edges, and Grace commented on it as well, so apparently it was visible.  Jonah was great and I just wasn't mentally there 100%.  Hopefully I can be more together on Saturday for the trial!

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