Monday, August 29, 2011

A-Frame Groundwork

Today Jonah and I were back to work with our groundwork with the A-frame box.  First I had just the box, slightly elevated.  He was excellent.  Next I built the jump grid.  My jumps were small (about 8").  The first was 4.5' from the second, and that jump was 9' from the far end of the box.  That made for three bounces in a row, the first being a 4.5' distance, the second about 6', and the third about 3'.  That's pretty big adjustability in my mind, but Jonah handled it very well.  I started with the box elevated, then dropped the front edge down to the ground and finally had the whole box flat on the ground.  I worked the grid with a lead-out and running with him, varying my distance and speed.  Overall I was very impressed.  He wasn't always 100%.  If I wasn't next to him sometimes he would curl towards me.  A few times when I was running fast he'd leap over the whole box.  As we worked, though, he just kept improving.  For the last phase (we did 4 short sessions throughout the day), I set up the grid on the A-frame itself, laid flat on the ground.  He was excellent and thought it was much more fun to be on equipment, even if it was only a few inches off the ground.  I had Dave video us:

I also put the DW back up after the storm and Jonah had a little trouble remembering his 2o2o.  I'm glad he's actually having trouble with it at home so we can school it.  We drilled it a few times and then here is one of his decent repetitions.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Running A-frame: The Beginning

Due to being stuck inside thanks to the storm, I did the online view of Rachel Sanders' Reliable Running A-frame video from Clean Run.  My internet was apparently not good enough to get great picture quality, but it was really good to have the full review of her method.

It's a well done video and I'm excited about the method, although there are some tweaks I may make for Jonah.  I definitely recommend the video.

I wasn't going to go do shopping, but I did grab the PVC base from our table.  After some cleaning, I brought it inside and began some of the ground work.  Jonah's become pretty good at shaping and we got so he would go in the box very easily.  One of the things that i found difficult about Rachel's system is the step from shaping 4 paws in the box/walking through the box to getting a consistent 'pounce' bounce through the box.  She did suggest that, if it wasn't going well, you could elevate the box.  We did that (about 8"), and at that height Jonah was excellent.  Now we're in the process of slowly lowering the box.  We've gotten down to about 4", but at the lower height he starts to break down into just trotting through.  Thus, I've had to go back and forth a little on the height.  That said, it's only our first day working with the box.

Moving forward, Rachel suggests waiting to move to the grid until the dog is consistent bouncing through the box.  I'm thinking the grid may help solidify the box performance, so I may move to that sooner.  We'll see how things go!

Hurricane Report

Well, it's still raining and windy but the worst of the storm has passed.  We're all safe and sound.  It would NOT have been fun to be trialing outside today, though, so we made the right decision.  Even knowing about the sunk cost principal I hate 'losing money,' but we'll move on and forget about it.

There's still time for more limbs down, but so far we've got three trees down on the fence outside.  The first is a small one that we'll be able to move off with two people.  There's minimal fence damage from it.

The second is probably about a foot in diameter and has pulled the fencing completely off the posts and crushed it, but the posts appear solid.  It will require some chain saw action and a lot of wire bending if we can get the fencing back into shape.  If not, we'll have to get some new material to patch the fence.

The third tree, though, is the biggest concern.  It fell near a post and twisted the post pretty well.  I don't think we'll be able to get the post back into shape, and getting new posts in is always a pain.  At least the ground is wet.  Anyway, this tree came into the agility area and landed straight across the weave pole base!  Luckily it was the top of the tree and only maybe 9" diameter (the base is close to 2'), and it fell nicely between the attachments for the poles, so the base appears to be unharmed.  I'm glad I pulled the poles down so they weren't broken.  Phew.  I had hoped that if anything would fall out there it would be the leaning tree in the agility area, but it's still standing strong.

By tomorrow it's supposed to be lovely and sunny again, so it will be time to get things in order.  There are lots of blown leaves and small sticks to pick up, and we'll have to get the fence back in shape, put the dogwalk, teeter and other equipment back up and assemble the A-frame!  This is going to be lots of fun.

Irene: 1; Us: 0

When I woke up this morning it was actually pleasant outside.  It wasn't raining at that point, and the wind was quiet.  The website didn't say the trial was cancelled, so I packed Jonah into the car even though I thought it might be crazy.  We've been officially advised by the police not to leave home because of the hurricane, but it hasn't reached us yet so I thought maybe we could get a round or so in before it hit.

About 5 minutes away from home, it started pouring.  A gust of wind moved the car across the road.  I said to myself, "Well, I'll drive to the next turn and if it hasn't stopped I'll turn around."  About a minute later a small branch broke off its tree and landed right in front of it.  There was no damage, but it was enough for me to know that we wouldn't have fun playing agility in this weather, so I turned around and now we're safe and dry back inside the house.  It's too bad, but we'll get over it.  Next weekend we get to try USDAA again!

Gemini Trial

Jonah and I woke up early on Saturday morning and drove out to Gemini.  They had space for day-of entries, so we filled out the form and got ready.

The first round of the day was fullhouse.  I had a hard time finding a nice, flowing and high-point course.  We began with a lead-out to a tunnel and then looped right back into that same tunnel to get our circles.  I don't like doing back to back obstacles, but somehow this felt better because it was like going around in a big circle rather than stopping and going right back.  After the tunnels we were able to pick it up a big.  He got his first A-frame contact nicely, we did the DW twice and he slowed but was messy and didn't have a clear 2o2o.  Then I directed Jonah back to the A-frame and the whistle blew.  He was committed so I didn't want to pull him off, so he finished it with another nice contact and we went to the table.  Unfortunately we took 6 seconds to get there with doing the A-frame, so we lost one of our points but we still got 33.  One person got 36 so we were second out of 8 dogs.  If we'd been just a few seconds faster and had gotten 5 more points for the A-frame we would have won.  Nonetheless, I was pleased with the run, and now we're half way done with Fullhouse Level 4.

Round 2 was Standard.  I did a lead out because it started with a long line of jumps and i was afraid he'd get ahead of me.  I think it was not a good decision.  Even though he's very obedient with lead-outs, he really does not get his enthusiasm up.  So, he did the opening line slower than I would have liked, and he didn't get to be all excited and barking.  Anyway, we got down the line and he slowly picked up steam.  Again, his DW was messy but not close to missing.  Then we went towards the A-frame.  He wasn't going super fast and I did a FC at the base of the frame, but he still lept and blew the contact.  Oops!  The rest of the course ran well.  He got the A-frame contact the second time over it, and his closing line with weaves was phenomenal.  He really kicked it into gear and it was great to end on such a positive note.

There was some chaos in our class. The class was mostly BCs and Aussies, but a lab went before us.  I watched the round and it was very slow and consistent.  I thought to myself, 'well, not a winning run, but he's getting the job done.'  It turned out that it was the only clean run in our class, so it was a winning run!  One other dog had a bar, but then we were third out of eight dogs, even with the blown contact.  Yikes, but I'll take the ribbon :).

I was disappointed to have missed the Q since that's the one I really wanted to get, but it's nice to know that our A-frame is currently inconsistent, but we have one waiting for us at home and we'll get better!  After our round, one of the more experienced CPE handlers sought me out and specifically complimented me on my ability to stay positive even when things don't go according to plan.  She said we were so much fun to watch.  It was a nice thing to hear, and especially from someone I really respect as a handler (sometimes I'd think 'you look like you're having fun' could be code for 'you're really not good at agility, but at least you're having fun' but I don't think that's what she was trying to say).  I have so much fun with Jonah and I'm glad we're fun to watch, too.

I previewed Wildcard, but I had to leave before the third round.  Dave and I did a Spartan race in the afternoon, which is why I hadn't originally entered Saturday's trial at all.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane Happenings

As we learn more about the hurricane, things are not looking good for Sunday.  The trial is currently still on but they're saying they may cancel Sunday.  Luckily our plans for tomorrow morning have fallen through and the trial allows day-of entries, so I'm going to take Jonah over there in the morning and we'll try to get a few runs in before Dave and I run our warrior dash in the evening.  Quite a day :).

Anyway,  here's a look at what we'll do tomorrow.  Who knows what will happen on Sunday.

Round 1:  Fullhouse Level 4
     Fullhouse is always a nice way to start a day.  We'll try to run a nice, fast, flowing course.  I learned last time that bigger loops may actually be faster than smaller ones because he can really open up closer to full speed.  If the dogwalk is up, I'll try to school that.  There are currently four dogs in level 4 for 20", but I expect some change with people not showing up or entering in the morning.

Round 2:  Standard Level 3
     This is the run I'd really like to get in this weekend if I could only get one, since you need so many standard Qs.  It's a 3-4-5-C course, so should have some real challenges, but I'm sure we'll do well.  If we did get to run this AND Sunday weren't cancelled, we might be able to finish our Level 3 standard title this weekend!  This could be a big class--there are already five dogs before us.

Round 3?:  Wildcard Level 3
     I'll probably enter Wildcard but I don't know if I'll get to run it.  I have to leave by 1:00 and I don't know how quickly the trial will move along.  If we do get to do it, it would be our second wildcard level 3, and the course would probably be pretty straight forward.

Anyway, we'll see what happens when we wake up in the morning.  Jonah was a little gimpy earlier this afternoon.  He looked fine when I took him out a little bit ago, but I'll definitely check him again and if he's at all off I won't take him to the trial.  I got stung by another bee today and I think that's what happened to him, too.  He had a little spasm and then was licking his leg, presumably trying to get the stinger out.  That's the leg he was lame on a little bit later.  

The A-frame is pretty much done now (it just needs hinges and the chain), but I'm holding off on setting it up.  In fact, I took down most of the agility equipment to prepare for the storm.  The dogwalk and teeter are disassembled with the planks stacked a few inches off the ground.  I took down the weave poles, gathered all the jump bars, tied them all together and nestled them down between some logs so hopefully they won't blow all over the place.  The tunnel and chute are inside.  The only thing that's currently up is the table.  Now the area looks quite bare, but it will be fun to set it all back up in a new arrangement when the storm has passed.  Plus, it will have the new A-frame addition!

Trial Preview??

Well, so far the trial is still on for Sunday despite the impending hurricane.  We'll make the call as to whether or not we'll go once we know more about the path of the storm.  If we get there and it's bad, we'll just go on home.

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 3
     I'd REALLY like to get a Jackpot Q.  It would be our first at Level 3, and we've had some close misses lately.  I hope it's a doable challenge and that we get it done.  Levels 3, 4, 5 and C are combined for it, which might not be a good thing for us, but we'll see what happens.  There are three Level 3, 20" dogs entered, but who knows how many people will come and they also allow day-of-show entries.

Round 2:  Standard Level 3
     This would be our 5th of 6 level 3 standard Q's.  It's also a 3-4-5-C course, so it could be challenging, but I have confidence at this point that we are up to any challenges a CPE course would put in front of us for the standard round, so bring it on!  There are four 20" level 3 dogs in this class.

Round 3:  Colors Level 3
     We haven't had a colors run in quite a while, and this would be our first Level 3 Q for colors.  They're not usually too hard, though.  We are, once again, with levels 4, 5 and C but I know we'll be up for the challenge.  There's only one other 20" level 3 dog.

Round 4:  Jumpers Level 4
     This will be our second Jumpers run at level 4.  I have to say I quite like jumpers courses.  They're fast and fun!  There are three dogs in our class.  Part of me, though, would be surprised if we stayed to the end of the day to get this run in.  I'd love to get the other Qs, but we're already in level 4 for jumpers so I might not stay unless things are moving fast and Jonah's having fun.

Overall, there aren't too many entries in the trial.  Add that with a bunch of people who are likely not to go, and it could move quickly.  Of course, if the weather's really bad we won't go either.  I don't want Jonah to have a bad time with agility and I need to make sure I put his enjoyment first rather than my own desire to get Q's.  That said, I'm hoping the weather isn't miserable because I like this weekend's judge a lot and the venue is really close to home.  It's a great trial because it's just so easy for us.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thoughts on Handling Philosophy

A little while ago I tried to outline a handling philosophy.  Today I had some thoughts to add to it.

I've been reading on blogs lately about different methods to make jump wraps really tight.  Notably, the Ketschker is becoming trendy.  Now, I realize that I'm not at a point where the tightness of Jonah's wraps ever really make a big difference for us.  At CPE, if he runs fast he almost always wins, without too much hassle from me.  That said, I worry that a lot of these methods jam the dogs with over-handling.  It's a lot like a late FC where the dog just has nowhere to go for a minute.  The handler is in the way and the dog doesn't know where to go next.  I know I can be guilty of this sort of FC (I was tonight in class), but I try hard to avoid it.

So, my thought is:  why not handle less and get moving?  This sounds oh so simple, I know, and I know there are many situations where it doesn't work for various reasons.  Most likely I'm naive and just don't fully understand what I'm reading about.  It does seem to me, though, like sometimes in these situations it would work to send your dog out to the jump and then just get the heck out of their way and move towards the next obstacle.  In Jonah's case, when I do that he busts his butt to catch up with me as fast as possible.  It feels a lot more natural to him, too.  It's not that I'm limiting his path, but just that I'm playing a game and challenging him to find the fastest way to catch me.  He knows his body better than anyone else--why not let him figure out what the best path is?

Feel free to disagree with me on this one.  I fully admit I'm a novice handler and I really only know my own dog.  In my own handling philosophy at this point, though, I want to avoid 'over-handling' and see how far I can get with challenging myself to get moving ahead and trust my dog.

Class Session 2

I don't think I could have a more fun dog.  He's the best!

When we got to class Jonah walked in happily and didn't bark at the dogs leaving from the previous class or entering for our class.  Good boy!  He did bark some while I walked the first course, but after that he settled really well and didn't seem to even really notice the other dogs around him.  It gave me hope that there could really be improvement.

The first course started with a fairly un-motivating jump sequence which required a lead out and send.  It's not the sort of thing that Jonah especially likes because he cues a lot of his enthusiasm off my running and I basically didn't do any for the first four obstacles.  Nonetheless, his lead-out was solid and he drove out nicely in the send.  Then we were off to the races.  His table was not immediate, but his weaves were speedy and independent enough that I could move laterally and not go to the end so I could get a FC in over the next jump.  Later in the course there was another send where I told him to go jump and then I was able to take off in the other direction to get to the bottom of the A-frame in time for another FC.  Jonah was eager, took the cues perfectly, and we executed a moment of brilliance!

It's funny to me that we so often have clean, qualifying runs at trials but in class we seem to make an error here or there on most courses the first time we run them.  This first course, though, ran clean the first time.  Some reasons I can think of as to why we do 'better' at trials than at class:
  • Courses at class are harder.  I think the courses are typically supposed to be more towards Masters level courses, and we're not there yet at trials.
  • The arena is smaller at class, so all the obstacles are closer together.
  • Jonah runs faster at class, so there's less room for error.
  • I'm not in competitive mode, so I'm more willing to try things.
  • I don't walk the courses as thoroughly at class, since I like to get to the running!
  • I don't get to watch as many dogs run before me, so I can't learn what spots are sticky.
Anyway, we ran the first course again and this time it was even smoother and still lovely and clean.  His A-frame contact was close, but he was super fast and I'm not going to worry about the A-frame right now since I know we'll have plenty of time to school it soon!

The second course gave us a few more challenges, but Jonah was still fantastic.  This time the opening involved lots of running from me (although it still needed a lead-out), which we both really enjoyed.  After the opening, there was a jump after the A-frame positioned so he was looking at the side of the stanchion as he was coming down the ramp.  He was supposed to take the near side but I crowded it and he went to the back-side.  There was a tricky line from the teeter to a jump and into a 180 degree turn to a weave entry.  I was worried about it but he nailed it and flew through his weaves.  Then the closing sequence involved a push to the backside of a jump and then a pinwheel.  He pushed nicely but then I tried to get a FC in on the landing side and Jonah went behind my back.  Somehow after going behind my back he proceeded to finish the pinwheel correctly without being cued.  Apparently I am a completely superfluous handler :).  

One of the dogs wasn't there tonight so we got to run the second course again.  The second time through I was able to clean up my handling and the course ran beautifully.  As he came down the A-frame, I moved laterally, dropped my close shoulder and made eye contact to draw Jonah into me and he nailed the correct side of the jump with a tight wrap.  For the backside jump into the pinwheel I pushed to the backside and then stepped back out of Jonah's path and did a RC into the rest of the pinwheel.  It was much tidier and Jonah seemed to be able to flow rather than being jammed with his mother's poorly placed FC.

Another exciting thing about class was that one of the other people brought a camera and had me film her.  Next week I'm definitely going to try to remember to bring mine, and then we can switch!  I'd love to be able to watch more footage of my handling and Jonah's running.  I'm so excited with this evening class.  I'm making friends and learning a lot AND Jonah's doing great with the other dogs.  So great!

A-Frame Construction Continued

As I had predicted, painting is going slowly.  This morning the sand coat was mostly dry but slightly sticky, so I flipped the frames over and painted the bottom.  I found a nice green deck paint that my parents had stuck in the basement and they said I could use it.  It's a thick oil coat which made a big mess but looks great.  Again, though, it took a long time to get on and even longer to dry.  Right before I left for our lesson it was finally dry enough to flip back over and I used the green to paint the contact areas.  Tomorrow I'll move the tape and paint the rest of the top, and then we'll be done painting!  All that will be left will be attaching the hinges, the chain and then setting it up.  I'm definitely thinking I'll wait until after the hurricane, though.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A-Frame Construction Part III: Painting

Painting always takes a really long time.  The plans I'm roughly following ( call the A-frame an afternoon project.  The construction zips along pretty fast, but I always find that sand painting takes forever.  Not something I can do in an afternoon.

I primed everything before I started construction.

Next I put a coat of primer on the top and sprinkled sand liberally on top.  I did this section by section so the primer was nice and wet to grab the sand.

Then I let that sand and primer dry.

Once the paint was dry I brushed off any loose sand.

Then I sealed the sand in with another coat of primer.  This coat takes a lot of time and a lot of paint, because it has to get in all the little nooks and crevices between each grain of sand.

It takes a long time for this layer to dry.  I'm currently waiting for it and giving it overnight.  I honestly won't be too surprised if it's not dry by morning.  On the dogwalk boards, I rushed the next coat of paint after this sand-sealing-layer, but my advice is WAIT!  It's worth it.

When it's finally dry you can apply the colored paint.  It may take two coats depending on the paint and how dark you want the color.  I'll let you know how that goes for ours tomorrow.

On another note, we're supposed to get a hurricane this weekend.  I'm not sure if I want to wait until after the storm to assemble the A-frame or not...

A-Frame Construction Part II: Framing

Today I finished the construction of the two halves of the A-frame.  Here are the basic instructions:

1.  Lay out two 9' 2x4s parallel to each other, and place four of the 33" cross beams (2x3's for me) between the 2x4s.

2.  Measure out the right spots for the cross beams.  One should be at the very end (this will be the top), one should be under the seam of the plywood (12" from the other end of the 2x4s), and the other two should be evenly spread between those two.

3.  Screw in the two three pieces that aren't at an end.  Or, if you're using 2x4s instead of 2x3s, screw all four cross beams in.  Make sure they're flush with the 9' pieces so the ply will lay flat on top of the frame you're constructing.

4.  If you're using 2x3 like me, flip the frame over and screw in the top piece.  It will be flush with the opposite side of the 2x4 from the other three support pieces.  I really recommend having a 2x4 for this top cross bar.  I found a 1" stake that I have wedged in the gap of mine so the plywood has support.  Just using a 2x4 would be much easier.

5.  Flip the frame back over if necessary, so you have the crossbeams flush with the side supports, all facing up.  Then screw the plywood onto the frame.

6.  Cut the moulding to 36" lengths.

7.  Measure out the spots for the moulding.  I wanted one moulding strip across the seam of the plywood, and then I did every 15" from there on up.  I haven't actually checked what the specs are for the venues about how far apart these should be--I just eyeballed it.  If you want it exact, I'm sure you could find out what they do (it might be every foot, needing 8 strips per side?).

8.  Glue the moulding to the plywood.

9.  PRE-DRILL the moulding holes (one on each side).  I thought I could just tack them down with a nail, but they were brittle and cracked.  When I pre-drilled, I never had a problem.

10.  Tack down the moulding strips.  Screws are probably better, but I just used nails.

Pretty good, eh?  It's not conceptually difficult, but I definitely did come across some challenges with the cracks in the moulding and warped boards elsewhere.  In the end, though, things came together pretty well.  I haven't put the hinges on yet, but that shouldn't be too hard.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A-Frame Construction Part I: Preparation

It's official--we're going to have an A-frame!

Yesterday I got all the supplies:
  • 2 sheets of 3/8" plywood (but if I were doing it again I'd get 1/2")
  • 4, 10' 2x4 boards
  • 4, 8' 2x3 boards (but I'd do all 2x4 if I were doing it again)
  • Hinges
  • Chain
  • 6, 7' by 1" moulding strips.  I found some with nice rounded edges and they're even pre-primed
And I already had:
  • Screws
  • Wood glue
  • Paint and primer
  • Sand

I had the wood cut at Home Depot.  Here is the cut list:
1.  Rip 1' off the width of the plywood so the boards are 3'x8' rather than 4'x8' [cuts 1 and 2]
2.  Take one of the 1'x8' sections of ply that you just created from step 1 and cut two 3'x1' sections out of it (the result will be a 2'x1' piece of scrap) [cuts 3 and 4]
3.  Cut 1' off each of the four 2x4 boards so they are 9' long [cuts 5-8]
4.  Cut the 2x3 (or other 2x4 boards if you're doing my suggested improvement model) into 33" sections.  You'll need eight 33" lengths.  The rest is scrap. [cuts 9-16]

That's a total of 16 cuts.  Home Depot did 2 for free and then charged 50 cents per cut beyond that.  For me, it was well worth it, but if you have the right tools set up at home you might want to do it yourself.

Half Dog Discriminations

I did another short session that lasted as long as the half of the hot dog I brought out.  It turns out half of a hot dog can actually go pretty far.

For setup, all I did was pull out the tunnel and put it right next to the dogwalk.  It was straight, just parallel to the DW the whole way.  I knew the DW would be more enticing, so I started on the side of the tunnel and asked for the tunnel.  I got the dogwalk.  I brought him back and started him on on an angle closer to the tunnel.  I released him and asked for the tunnel.  I got the dogwalk.  Not wanting him to fail too much, I set him up right in front of the tunnel and asked for the tunnel.  He raced through it, came back wagging and got a few pieces of hot dog.  Then he never missed again.  I worked the discrimination from both sides and from all sorts of angles, and he nailed every one, whether I asked for the tunnel or the DW.  Good boy!

Since he was being so good and I still had hotdog, I drilled some weaves, tables and teeters as well.  I'm not too satisfied with his weaves right now.  He's having trouble finding entries, so I think I need to rethink my strategy.  The problem is he'll only weave fast about 5-6 times each session and then he slows down, so I guess I just need to weave frequently but only a few repetitions each time.  It's tough because I like to start easy and slowly get harder, but I just can't get too hard if I only have 5 tries.  Maybe I can start medium and work towards hard.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Short Practice

I heard the thunder and I thought, "Let's see if we can get in some agility before the storm comes."  It turns out we were unable to beat the storm, but we had a great session, anyway.

I just cut up half of a hot dog and said we'd work until that was gone.  Well, Jonah was super excited as soon as he smelled the hot dog and he ran out there and was ready to work.  We did some distance weave work, some DW contacts, a few distance teeters and some table practice.

Jonah's weaves were mostly excellent although he did pop out at the 5th pole (of 6) when I got too much lateral distance.  I just have to keep drilling that he needs to independently go to the end.  He was good about getting his entry from all sorts of funky angles.

His dogwalk contacts are, as usual, phenomenal at home.  It doesn't matter how far ahead/behind/lateral I am, or how fast he's going.  He just nails them.  Now I need to get that sort of response away from home, but it's hard when we see a DW so rarely away from home.  There was no DW at class last week and there wasn't one at the trial on Friday, either :-/.  Hopefully this week.

Jonah's table was very good today, too.  He was just really pumped to be working.

I loved the short session and I need to do more of that.  I'd like to have more of a plan before I do it, but today's weather necessitated fast action.  It was pouring by the time we were done, but luckily the leaves keep it a little bit dryer out there.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pet Peeve: Hating on CPE

CPE doesn't have a lot of respect among the broader agility community.  In part, it was CPE's reputation for relaxed, less competitive atmosphere that made me select it to begin with.  As I've been to lots of CPE trials this year, though, I've come to like it a lot.

The other day I watched a dog in AKC open.  It was a lovely dog with a positive handler doing her best to do everything right.  They're a really nice pair.  They're not an experienced pair.  There are lots of dogs about this level in CPE.  Typically they're in Level 1, Level 2, and occasionally you'll see a dog like that in Level 3.  Don't get me wrong--everyone starts inexperienced and there's nothing wrong with that.  I was just surprised to see that this dog was in the intermediate level of AKC, which the general agility world would tell you is so far above and beyond anything that ever happens at CPE.

...but that handler wasn't making any comments about CPE.  She didn't know I compete in CPE. today's trial there were lots of people who don't typically trial in CPE, and they were very vocal about how much better they were than all the rest of us.  In light of my experience this past week, I found this language rather frustrating.  Yes, some of these people who were talking the talk had nice dogs and were good handlers, but they were not in a league of their own.  They were among the best handlers, but their dogs didn't always win their classes or even always qualify.  Quite simply, they fit in as upper level CPE competitors.

One of these people made a big deal about how inappropriate it was that someone had written 'Reactive' on the gate sheets.  She said, "Here we go again.  DON'T ENTER."  I was rather taken aback.  I guess CPE might be more reactive dog-friendly than other venues, but I hadn't really thought about it before.  However, I did notice how many fewer All-Americans there were at USDAA, and I could imagine AKC has even fewer.  My initial reaction to this woman's comment was, admittedly, rude.  I thought to myself, "Well, some of us didn't spend thousands of dollars to get the perfect puppy that we were able to socialize from the minute we brought it home."  I've never seen a bad experience at CPE.  Sometimes there are a few barks here or there, but that's about it.  Some of these reactive dogs clearly LOVE agility and are very good at it.  It would be a real shame, in my opinion, if they were not able to play.  Needing the dog after you to wait until you have your collar on just doesn't seem like a big sacrifice.  I know I'm biased having a 'sensitive' adopted dog.  Yet in our case, I have a dog who was always good around other dogs until he was attacked.  Should the dog who attacked him have been allowed to be running in class?  I don't know.  But I know that now I have a dog who will bark if another dog gets to close to him while he's doing agility, and if someone told me that my dog's barking was unacceptable and I could no longer do agility, I would be very angry.

...Sorry for that rant.

The main theme I came across is, if you really don't respect CPE, don't come.  Or if you do, at least manage to keep your mouth shut around the rest of us who find CPE to be a valuable venue.  And for those of you who don't respect CPE, I would hope you might reconsider.  There are good dogs and good handlers at CPE, even if overall it is not as competitive as the highest levels in other venues.  It's also a great place to start.  There's a place for everyone at least for everyone who can manage to give it a chance.

American K9 Country Trial Results

This afternoon Jonah and I drove up to Amherst, NH for our first trial at American K9 Country.  It's a nice facility and we had a great time.

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 4
     When Jonah first walked into the building, he was clearly very nervous.  As soon as he made it into the main ring and realized that he was there to do agility, he let out an enthusiastic bark.  As much as it's distracting for a dog to bark in the ring, I was so happy to see his response.  It was clear proof that he's come to really love agility!  He's usually tentative in new indoor facilities, but not this time.
     I had to lead out to get the line I wanted.  When I took off his collar Jonah barked, but then as soon as i asked him to sit he did and he stayed quietly.  He was even fast and enthusiastic as soon as I released him.  The whole course ran beautifully.  There was an off-side tunnel entry that was causing many off courses.  However, anyone who could get a front cross into the jump line before it had a great line into the tunnel.  The problem was that you had to trust and leave your dog for some sizable distance and be pretty far ahead to get the front cross in.  Well, I thought I'd take the risk and I got there in time.  I felt like I was in a tornado I had to get the cross done so fast, but Jonah's line was great and he roared into the correct side of the tunnel.  The rest of the course was done in a blink of an eye.  Q and 1st.  This was our first Level 4 jumpers Q.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     There weren't too many smooth options for this snooker, but I picked a decent 5-7-7 opening.  The 7 was an A-frame with a tunnel under it for a discrimination.  I took the discrimination for granted the first time and we got the tunnel instead of the A-frame, but I was pleased with my ability to adjust and get a better red coming out of the tunnel.  We got the A-frame on the second attempt, and when we got to it in the closing we nailed the discrimination in the same direction that we'd missed it earlier.  Jonah was enthusiastic and running pretty fast.  His contacts were solid both times.  We finished the full closing for 45 points and another Q and 1st.  This was our second level 4 snooker Q (half way done!).

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 4
     I thought I had more time than I did as I brought Jonah into the ring.  We walked in and we were next!  I think I was a little flustered and as a result I didn't give Jonah the best handling I could have.  He missed a weave entry where he just didn't have much time to see it coming (but once he got the entry he weaved super fast), and I tried to handle a jump line with increasing lateral distance in order to get in a front cross, but instead I pulled Jonah off a jump.  I was not very good on my feet and struggled to come up with a good back-up plan.  The buzzer sounded much sooner than I would have liked.  Somehow we managed to get enough points to qualify, but it was the lowest point total in our class.  There were only three dogs, so we got a yellow ribbon, but I was just happy with the Q.

General thoughts:
     CPE trials can go so long!  Jumpers went really fast, Snooker moved along, but then Fullhouse dragged on, and then I think it was probably a full hour after the last dog ran before scores were ready.  I don't mean to complain--I've never volunteered in the scoring areas so I don't know what goes on behind the scenes.  Still, I'm starting to think about not entering all the rounds in a day.  It didn't help that this trial didn't start until afternoon, but I just don't like getting home at 9pm.  I'm ready for bed!

     This trial showed me that we could benefit from going back to skills work.  Lateral distance, discriminations and weave entries caught us today and I know we could improve them.  Working on skills is fun because it's fast and can be high reward.  I just need to make plans and execute them, even if it's only a ten minute session.

     Volunteering is good!  I don't usually like leaving Jonah alone for a long time, especially since it was very hot today and there were thunderstorms.  However, it was fun to be in the ring watching lots of dogs.  I enjoyed the leash running, although I really had to move during Snooker because people often dropped their leashes in the opposite corner from the exit gate.  I think ring crew is my favorite job, but leash running was good, too.

     Jonah and I saw a snake.  I don't like snakes.  Jonah didn't seem to care.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

First Day of School

Today was our first session in our new class.  We're in the 7:00 Competition Agility class on Thursday night.  Grace had said that she had to move another student out of the class to make room for me, but only 3 other dogs came, so it wasn't as crowded as I'd expected.  There's still a noticeable difference between having 3 and 4 dogs in a class, but I thought we got a lot out of it and I'm glad we have five more weeks!

Jonah was excellent with the new dogs.  We got there early and got to watch the previous lesson.  There was a lab who stared at Jonah and barked repeatedly at him.  Jonah growled softly a few times but eventually ignored the dog.  What a good boy!  When a new dog came in for our class he barked once at it, but didn't lunge and focused right on me.  When I tied him to a hitch to walk the course, another woman walked her dog with her and Jonah didn't blink an eye when the dog walked right past him (maybe 4 feet away)!  There were times where he was generally excited and would bark a little bit, but it was just general barking and I didn't mind.  A+ for social skills (at least using Jonah's scale of comparison...for other dogs it might have been an A-, but even that's not too bad).

I'm really excited for our class because the dogs and people seem so great.  Not that our last class was any different, but you're always a little concerned when you're starting something new.  We had a fast, good but slightly nervous Whippet, a sweet, slow, fluffy dog and a miniature aussie whom I've admired at trials we've been at.  All the dogs are right about our level and I can learn a lot by watching them.  The people seem great, too.  I'm excited to have a few more friends!

As for the agility, Jonah was good and fast and I couldn't always keep up, causing us some errors.  That's definitely the kind of problem I'd like to have, though.  He did have some trouble with a 90 degree on-side weave entry, but with support he was fine.  There was a tricky sequence that never flowed beautifully.  The first time I pulled Jonah too far off the chute and we nearly collided.  After that we got the job done but it wasn't pretty.  I tried to FC the bottom of the A-frame once and it was messy.  Best to wait and RC the chute.  Here's what that sequence looked like:

1 to 2 was the weave entry that he missed repeatedly.  Have to keep working on that...

I did both FC and RC between 2 and 3.  I preferred the FC because when I did the RC he curled back in to me coming out of the tunnel.  With the FC I could get ahead so he saw me as he exited 3.

Jonah was great with a send out to 4 so I could get moving to the A-frame.  He never missed the discrimination.

5 to 6 was just cruel, in my opinion.  The first time Jonah came down off the A-frame, turned towards me and just ran right past the chute entrance.  I think the FC at the bottom of the A-frame could have been nice if I could ever get there in time, but I'd have to get a lot faster to do that.  No matter what you did, the dog had to decelerate.

Running the chute with the dog on the left gave a bad line to 7.  You had to be on the left so they curled towards you coming out of the chute.

The rest of the courses ran pretty smoothly.  There were certainly things to fix.  For example, I pushed too hard on a RC that made for a wide turn instead of wrapping tightly.  Jonah's table was excellent 2/3 times and weak the other time.  Still needs work.  He missed one A-frame contact.  Other than those things, though, I was very pleased with him.  We should be in good shape for tomorrow.  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

American K9 Country Trial Preview

On Friday Jonah and I are going to American K9 Country for three runs of a CPE trial.  It will be a new facility for us and our first indoor trial in quite a while.  Hopefully it will go well.  The catalogue doesn't specify what level the dogs are in, so I don't know exactly how many dogs will be in our classes.  Here's what I do know:

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 4
     This is our level 4 debut in jumpers.  I really like jumpers courses, and I think it will be a great way to start the day.  We won't have to worry about contacts and we can just go run fast.  My goal will to have him be enthusiastic and quick while I give him smooth, confident handling.  There are 17 dogs jumping 20", which is split between levels 3, 4, 5 and C.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     If we qualify here we'll be half way done with Level 4 for snooker!  That's hard to believe.  Of course, we also know that snooker is easy to screw up.  Depending on how focused and eager Jonah was in the first round, I'd like to plan the highest point total that flows well.  I don't want lots of wraps and demotivation, but we can push ourselves a little bit if he's feeling good.  There are 14 dogs jumping 20", again split between 3, 4, 5 and C.

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 4
     Fullhouse is a good time to just kick back and have fun.  We'll try to collect lots of points by running our butts off in a hopefully smooth fashion.  There will probably be some contacts out for Fullhouse so that could give us a little practice.  If the dogwalk is out, I'd like to drill it a little bit once I know we've collected enough points to qualify.  There are 15 dogs in Fullhouse jumping 20", split between all levels.

I will also be volunteering for two classes, and I'll get to try a new job:  leash running.  I think I can be a good leash runner from what I've seen.  Everything is more complicated once you're doing it, though. It will be nice to stay on my feet, at least.

I'm hoping we have fun.  This venue hosts lots of USDAA trials, too, so if we like it we could go there regularly.

Pinwheels and Bees

Today I set up a pinwheel in the backyard.  This was an attempt to do an easy exercise at high speed, work on distance and have high rewards.  It was generally successful.  Jonah was excited and fast, and I brought out the food tube with applesauce and peanut butter for tasty rewards.  The distance had mixed results.  If I stopped and didn't push into the pocket, he would not drive out to the middle jump, and he'd just take the first and third more like a serpentine.  I did a quick session and then took a break.  When we came back he was better.  With an "out jump" command, I could stay a few feet away from jumps 1 and 3 and he would drive out to the middle jump.  If I hustled, I could get an FC in on the landing side of the last jump.  It's an exercise I'd like to set up again and keep working on.  At the same time, I've only had to do a few pinwheels in trials.

Here's what it looked like:
The double dashed line was about the distance I was able to get on a good attempt, after some practice.  I'd like to be able to improve that.  In general, it's not too much of a problem to push into the pocket, but it would be good if I didn't have to.  When I tried to put in the FC on the landing side of the third jump, it became obvious that more distance would be beneficial--I really had to move to get the cross in time.  Another option would be to put an FC between the second and third jumps.

I always approached the pinwheel straight ahead, like the vertical arrow in the map (of course, I switched sides).  I'd like to get to the point where we could also run it laterally, more like the diagonal arrow on the map.  This would require a RC at the first jump and a strong 'out' to get to the second.  We're not quite ready for that yet, but I think it's a good goal.

In other news, I tried to push back one of the edges of our agility area today, and when I moved a log I disturbed a bees nest.  I felt the first sting and backed away, but a few followed me and I ended up with five stings.  It could have been a lot worse, and most of them didn't even hurt that much.  One on my right knee had the stinger stuck in it.  Even after pulling it out it was stinging a lot, and within minutes my knee was swollen almost as big as right after my ACL surgery.  I was going to bike into school today, but it hurt to bend my knee and so I wussed out and drove instead.  Sorry, environment.  When I got back I went to look for the nest but I couldn't find it.  I'll see what I can do tomorrow.  I was excited about having a bigger space, but bees aren't the greatest thing to have in your agility area...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I've gotten so excited about our new agility area that I've been doing a lot of coursework lately.  That's a good thing, of course, but I realized that I hadn't tested a lot of our skills in a while.  So, I'd like to focus on doing skills in between courses.

Today we worked on distance with the 'specialty' obstacles.  Here's what we did:

  • Table work.  I sent him out straight away from me and also worked on lateral distance.  He was good with the distance, but his downs are not as fast as I'd like.  We'll have to keep working there.
  • Weaves.  It was funny that we had trouble with an angled weave entry in our course, because Jonah was fantastic in this skills session.  I sent him out at about a 45 degree angle for the entries, and he nailed every one and weaved super fast.  I was about 20 feet away.  Not bad, considering we haven't done weave distance work much at all lately.
  • Teeter.  There is a big tree right next to the teeter which added the additional difficulty of Jonah not being able to see me while I crossed on the other side of it.  It didn't probe to be any problem, though, and he drove out to the teeter at about a 20 foot distance.  
  • Dogwalk.  Since Jonah loves his dogwalk, I was able to get a full 30 feet away and he still nailed his contact every time.  If only he would do that at a trial!
So, I thought that was a good session of skills.  I want to work on discriminations, as well.  I should also make sure I do some short sequences rather than full length courses.  Tough jump lines of 3-4 jumps are good exercise, too.  I want to keep our sessions at home highly motivating, so shorter is better.

Course of the Week

Here is the course I set up today.  It's still pretty wet so I didn't want to get out the chute and tunnel.  I thought it was a pretty easy course on paper, but it provided some challenges.  Here's the map:

  • 1-3 ran smoothly, as you would expect.  
  • I handled 4 and 5 with him on my left the first time through and it ran smoothly.  Then I put in a FC while I rewarded his lovely 2o2o, picking him up on my right for 6.  
  • The second time through I put a FC at the end of the teeter and pushed for the dog walk at 5.  It worked but it was not as smooth.
  • I did 6-8 with double RCs and double FCs.  Both worked well.  With the FCs, I sense that Jonah gets a little backed off because he sees me stopped for a minute and he doesn't know where the next obstacle is.  I need to work on getting my cross in faster and starting my movement toward the next obstacle more quickly.  With the RCs, I had to hang back a little before 8, but it worked nicely.  I was worried the RC would make a tougher weave entry, but I told him 'weave' while he was in the air over 8 and he drove out nicely to the entry without curling back to find me.
  • 10 was problematic.  He wanted to just run around the backside of it.  Actually, when I came back inside I realized that I'd mapped it with him jumping the backside.  I wish I'd done that.  We got it done the second time, but it needed me to hold back, get his attention out of the weaves, and give a firm verbal command once I had set his line.  It was harder than it looked.
  • I layered 11 just for fun (stayed on the outside of 7), and Jonah's contact was beautiful.  Good boy.
  • Given a tree that's not on the map, wrapping left after 13 was the most feasible option.  He was good and took a nice short line, but he did lose motivation.
  • 14-15 ran well, although we could have had a faster down on the table.
  • I thought we were home safe at 16, but Jonah had trouble with the entry for some reason.  In real life it may have been a bigger angle than the map shows, but even so i was surprised.  He entered at the second pole instead of the first.  Anyway, I just had to support a little more than I thought I would have to.

Overall, it wasn't a bad course.  It never flowed as well as I was hoping it would, but Jonah was excited and happy to be doing agility.

We tried a new reward system today:  the bait sock.  Our bait bag is in the car which is at work with Dave, and I was wishing I had another.  So, I took one of Jonah's socks, tied a knot in the toe so the hole (the reason why it's Jonah's sock) wouldn't leak cookies along the way, and then filled it with cookies.  Yum!  It worked well and Jonah liked to shake it so the cookies went flying, but it did get pretty nasty in the wet dirt.  Oh well, he certainly didn't mind.  Also, the velcro belt clip on our bait bag is a nice feature.  After our first course I realized the sock had jumped out of my pocket along the way and I didn't have it to throw as we finished.  Oops!

Checking In

We're not dead!  Sorry I've been slow in posting of late.  We were all away on vacation last week, so we don't have much agility news.  It was a great week, though, and Jonah got to go on lots of walks, hikes, swims and some camping, too.  Then, it's been raining nonstop ever since we got back.  I walked back to the agility area and picked up a branch that had fallen, only to grab right onto a slug.  The branch was covered!  Anyway, I'll try to get a course together and run it as soon as I feel it's safe.  When it's wet, Jonah has been known to slip off the dogwalk, which is not something I want him to have many memories of.

I did try to take Jonah to a run-thru at a new facility last weekend, but I didn't write down full directions--only the address.  I plugged it into the GPS but it took me to a dead end road where there was clearly no dog facility.  Oh well.  We went to a dog park instead and Jonah was great with the few other dogs that were there despite the rain.

I had a moment's panic when I realized I hadn't moved Jonah up for this weekend.  I checked the final move-up date on the premium and it had past!  It would have been too bad if we couldn't get credit for two of our three runs at the trial.  When I looked closer, though, the final move-up date (3 weeks before the trial) was earlier than the regular closing date (a week and a half before the trial).  That seemed odd to me, so I went ahead and emailed to see if I could move Jonah up.  The secretary sent me a lovely reply and moved him up!  I was glad I'd done it, because I was worried she would be upset for a request that didn't comply with the premium.  Phew.  I'll send a trial preview once I get the schedule.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Muddy Paws

Well, I don't know what the deal was last weekend at our first USDAA trial, but Jonah was awesome this weekend back in our CPE comfort zone.

Our first round was Jackpot.  We'd missed two in a row and I was really hoping we could get things together this time.  Well, it wasn't meant to be.  Jonah entered the ring excited, barking and leaping like his usual agility self.  He bolted down the opening line and kept his speed up the whole time.  I was bad and released him early on his dogwalk contacts, but he was great.  We had a very high point opening that ran smoothly.  Actually, I finished what I thought we'd be able to do in the allotted time and didn't really know how to spend the rest of the time before the whistle blew, but I found some extra obstacles and soon enough we heard the whistle.  Then we raced towards the first jump, and Jonah lept it and charged across the gamble line into the tunnel beautifully.  Next I ran into position for the A-frame, and Jonah surged up it happily.  He ran back down and flew over the last jump beautifully.  Then I realized that I'd heard the judge yell 2 and 4 but not 6 or 8.  This judge tends to call all close contacts, and this was one of them. Jackpot Q, but it was a beautiful round except for that missed contact (which was really, really close), so I was pleased.  We still ended up in 4th.

Round 2 was standard.  It wasn't an especially difficult course but I was worried about the contacts.  I slowed Jonah down on both the A-frame and dogwalk to make sure he hit yellow, and it worked.  Overall, he wasn't quite as fast as he can be but he was very good and accurate.  He hit his weave entry easily and weaved confidently--a big improvement from last weekend.  The round was good enough for Q and 1st.  Good boy.

Round 3 was Fullhouse.  I still wish I were a little better at judging how long things will take us, as once again on the day we finished my plan before time was up.  Of course, that meant that the beginning went very well.  He was fast-fast-fast.  Dave said it was the best run he'd ever seen us do.  We practiced our A-frame contact and it was looking much more solid.  From my brief look through the scores, we had more points than any dog in level 3, and I only saw one dog with more points in the upper levels.  So, another set of blue and green ribbons.

The last round was jumpers.  When I walked it, I thought the course was a little de-motivating.  It started with a pinwheel, then had a tough wrap a few jumps later.  Anyway, Jonah didn't seem to mind a bit.  The trial was really slow (a 14 hour day!), so the judge was trying to speed it up at the end.  We went in on time and set up while the previous dog was finishing the last line, but then that dog hit two of the last few jumps, and it took a while for the ring crew to get things set back up.  This isn't an ideal situation for Jonah because he walks into the ring with a lot of enthusiasm but that excitement fades the longer he waits.  Once we got the ok, though, I reved him up a little and he was hot to go.  He cruised the whole way home for a third Q and 1st.  I was so proud of him.

So, I guess we're back :).  I still don't know what happened last weekend, but it's good to know it's not permanent, whatever it is. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

(Incomplete) Trial Preview

Well, I haven't received any emails from this weekend's trial since I got the confirmation of our level changes 3 weeks ago.  Slightly disconcerting, but I'm not going to stress too much about it.  We know what time things start, at least.  As a result, though, this trial preview will be a little light.

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 3
     This seems familiar.  The last time we competed at Muddy Paws in Vermont we started the day with Jackpot.  That time we didn't bring home the Q.  Hopefully this time we can get it done.  Not having seen the schedule, I don't know if it's traditional or not, and I haven't had this judge before so I don't know what we're likely to see.  We haven't been doing much distance work lately, but I have my fingers crossed that we'll be able to do enough to get our first Level 3 Jackpot 3 tries.  It's not a good record for us!

Round 2:  Standard Level 3
     Nothing unusual here.  I don't have any specific concerns, so we'll just have to wait and see what unexpected challenges pop up.  I hope Jonah remembers how to weave.  Luckily there won't be a pause table in this one.  Plus, if there is a pause table this weekend it will be at a nice low height that Jonah understands (Grace says she does have tall legs for her table so we can practice the 24" table before our next USDAA).

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 3
     I'm excited for Fullhouse.  We haven't done it since the first week in April, and it's nice and easy.  If we get this Q, we'll be done with Fullhouse Level 3 and we could have our Level 4 debut in Fullhouse at our next trial.

Round 4:  Jumpers Level 3
     Jumpers is usually a good class for us, and it's been even longer--the last time we did a Jumpers course was March 12!  I'm hoping we can run a nice fast, clean course and get our last Level 3 Q, which would also finish our CL3-F title.

Hopefully we'll have a nice fun day.  It's supposed to be nice weather, at least.

Group Class #6

Today was the last class in our 6-week session.  In many ways it was great.  In other ways it was not.

The minute we got there Jonah was super excited.  Like, really super excited.  Grace asked how our trial had gone and he just started barking.  Not at her, not at me, not at another dog, just barking because he was so excited.  I'd get him to stop and then a minute later he was barking again.

Then we got to go warm up and he settled with the general barking, but he and the Standard poodle started barking at each other.  Once they ran towards each other but nothing bad happened--both are just excitable.  Still, it was a bit of an adventure.  I'm not sure we're quite up to working with two other dogs working in the same ring.  Talk about over stimulating.

Anyway, once we actually got to run a course Jonah was spectacular.  He was flying, and accurate too.  His lines were tight and he nailed a tough weave entry even though he had a lot more speed than he often does.  All around, it was a great run.

The second time we ran that course he was still super fast but Grace had me handle the weave entry differently and he had more trouble.  Here was the entry:

The first time we ran the course I had done a landing side FC at 2.  There wasn't a lot of space and it ended up being pretty much a 90 degree entry.  I was a little bit surprised he nailed it so well.

The second time I tried keeping with him on the right through the poles, but he entered at the second pole.

Next I tried a RC on the flat into the poles.  He went in the correct entry but then missed a pole, weaving back to the right at pole 3 rather than pole 2.  Grace suggested that he was having trouble collecting since he was coming to the poles with such speed, and then he couldn't gather himself for pole 2 so he thought he'd just try pole 3!  Jonah's apparently petitioning for 48" weave spacing :).

Finally I tried keeping him on the right again, but this time I was careful not to push too soon.  I waited until he had landed off 2 before moving towards the poles.  That way he came into me and had a second to get straightened out before hitting the entry.  This worked really well.  Good boy, and thanks to Grace for identifying the problem.

After working through that we walked the second course.  Grace was talking us through a tricky spot when the door opened and in walked a handsome smooth collie with its three people.  Jonah was tethered at the other end of the ring.  I wasn't quick on my feet, but as the dog walked in I thought, "Hmm, Jonah doesn't like to meet other dogs on leash, and he doesn't like being tied to the wall.  I bet he won't like this dog walking right past him."  So I head over to him.  But I was too slow.  Right as I'm pulling out some string cheese, the two dogs make eye contact and Jonah lunges.  Snap.  Suddenly his collar is in pieces on the floor and he's loose, hopping up and down and barking at the dog.  It's not like he attacked--he was probably never closer than four or five feet from the dog, but it was an incredibly rude punctuation for the lesson.  Grace helped me rig up a slip collar out of his leash and I took him back with me to finish walking through the course.  Once it came time to run the course, we had to go near the  collie to start, and Jonah's hair stood up on his back, but he got down to business.

He ran pretty well despite the drama.  We had a wide turn from the A-frame to the tunnel right beneath it, but otherwise he was fast and flowing, until we got to the table.  Then he had no interest at all in laying down, and he kept looking over in the direction of the other dogs.  I read somewhere that down is a submissive position and I wonder if that's what his concern was.  I don't know, but it took quite some effort to get him down.  Then he pulled the next rail, clearly still flustered.  The rest of the course ran fast and fun.

Of course, between rounds we had to go wait with the other dogs, including the collie.  It seemed like running had gotten his little issue out of his system, and he never had another bit of a problem.

Our second time through the course was also good, but I wasn't able to clean up the wide turn from the A-frame to the tunnel.  Not sure what the deal was with that.  The second time I tried handling one part differently.  Here was the sequence:

Grace suggested pushing to the backside of 2 and then putting in a FC on the landing side of 2 to push to the far tunnel entry.  I have difficulty with pushing to the backside and then putting in a FC.  That's where he pulled the bar our first time through the course.  The second time through, I just sent to 2 and kept him on my right.  I didn't say "tunnel" until we were clearly past the first entrance.  I pulled him a little bit farther out from the off-course entry than I needed to, but it worked and the bar stayed up.  I'm not sure one handling method is definitively "better."

Jonah was moving so fast through his courses today it was really a blast to handle him.  I got moving pretty good, myself!  He was very drivey.  There was one point where we went from the weaves to a tunnel 20+ feet away, driving past an off-course jump.  Right from the weaves, I lined up his path so the jump was not in the way and I just said "tunnel" and gestured with my arm.  He flew over there at light speed, with me left in the dust.  It would have been an impressive gamble!  Then the closing line was a jump to the A-frame to another jump.  He caught major air over the A-frame.  I think he came pretty close to jumping clear from one contact zone to the other.  Luckily he did land in the contact zone on the landing side!

So, despite some embarrassing socialization drama, the agility part of our lesson was excellent.  I wonder why we didn't have any of the same enthusiasm at the trial last weekend, but I don't think I'll ever be able to psychoanalyze Jonah.  He's a puzzle and that's part of what I love about him.  At least we'll have another try at a trial this weekend.

I'm not sure if I want to continue with a group lesson or go back to privates, so I've asked Grace for her preference.  Privates would allow us to more tailor what we want to work on and Jonah would be more comfortable, but the group is potentially good practice for him in a crowded, doggy environment.  If we do the group, we would be moving to the evening class which already has 5 dogs in it--quite the crowd! Anyway, we have next week off from lessons and then the following week would be when we'd start into the new session.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August Week 1 Course

I set up a full course in the agility area today and it was great!  Actually, we had some real challenges with parts of it, but Jonah's enthusiasm was super high and he stayed excited even when we made mistakes.  It was great!

Here's the course:

Some trouble areas:
1.  Coming out of the chute, Jonah was a little discombobulated and missed the teeter once.  After he knew where he was going that was no longer a problem.

2.  Weave entry at 5.  I tried handling the whole way on my right, but then the 10 jump was a tempting off course and Jonah entered at the 2nd pole rather than the first.  If I handled like that and more sent out to the tire, he got the entrance, but he was weaving fast enough that I didn't have time for a cross after the poles, and handling the line of 6-7-8 with him on the right was not ideal (I did that once and he missed the discrimination).  The best option for us was for me to send to the tire at 4 and then RC the entry to the poles.  Then 6-7-8 ran beautifully.

3.  The last time through the course I was taking yesterday's sequence (8-13) for granted, and I didn't support 12, so he ran right past it.

4.  Jonah got the discrimination at 14 the first time, but the second time he took the dogwalk.  If I led out from the table so I was between the two and called him over my right shoulder, we had no trouble.

In general, Jonah was running super.  We never actually got through the course perfectly (always a different trouble spot), so I may get the tunnel and chute out again on Friday and see if we can do it without error.  That said, I was very, very pleased with Jonah's running.  He was as keen as ever.  He even had me breathing hard at the end of it :).

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Project High Reward is a Go.

I will set up a whole new course each week, but in between that I'd like to do a bunch of short sequences.  Here's one I set up today.  My trial of the Course Designer software ran out, and I decided that I like it so much I have to buy it.  The result:  you can see the map (it's so easy--I love it)!

Jonah never made a mistake on this line, but he was not full speed the first time through.  The semi-threadle from 2 to 3 is not super motivating.  I handled it:
1.  With Jonah on my left the whole way.
2.  FC between 2 and 3, RC 3, 4 and 5.
3.  Combinations of the above.

Jonah ran best if I just kept him on my left and ran hard.  He gets enthusiasm off my movement, so waiting behind him for the RCs slows him down.  Also, he's low momentum when he begins the line with the stopped DW contact, so I have to try to generate speed out of nothing.

I thought this was a good, quick exercise that had a bit of challenge to it but wasn't frustrating.  Jonah got lots of cookies.  He's weaving super fast and his obstacle performance has been excellent both today and yesterday.

Monday, August 1, 2011

August Goals

August is a fun month because this Friday will mark the one year anniversary of this blog.  It's hard to believe how far we've come in a year.  When I started the blog, I was thinking it would be good to record our experiences and potentially helpful to others starting out.  I desperately wanted to read more about people's first agility classes and trials, so I hoped that I might be able to give someone else a sense of what they had ahead of them.  Now here we are, a whole year later.  Even though the progress can be up and down, we've had a lot of progress overall and I'm proud of what we've done and the possibilities we still have ahead of us.

Here's a look at our goals from July:
1.  Enjoy our first experience camping at a trial next weekend at Sugarbush.  Hopefully collect some Q's and have a good time at a new facility.
     Yes!  We had a wonderful weekend at the trial and camping at Mout Greylock.  The trial wasn't our greatest and we did miss one Q in Jackpot, but we also got our first Level 4 Q, our first 51 point Snooker, we won our Standard class with a nice clean run, and we had a good, fast Wildcard run, too.  So, there was still a lot to be happy about.  The hiking and camping were very big successes and we're looking forward to getting back out for more fun soon.

2.  Maintain solid DW contacts away from home.
     Mmmm...sometimes.  Jonah has still never blown a dogwalk contact.  He always touches the yellow.  That said, the 2o2o has been a little shaky when we're not at home.  Luckily I've been able to drill it some in class and that seems to be helping.  We'll have to keep working on this one, but progress may be slow because he's always so perfect at home and we don't get unlimited opportunities to practice on dogwalks away from home.

3.  Attend our first USDAA trial and have a positive overall experience.  Hopefully we get through the measuring!
     Well, we got through measuring easily.  Overall it was certainly not a negative experience, but it wasn't especially positive, either.  I really need to work on lowering my expectations and not putting pressure on a nervous dog.  We'll be back to more USDAAs where I can try to redeem myself.  I hope Jonah manages to have more fun, too.

4.  Continue to work on manners on and off leash with other dogs and humans both in our group class and away from home.
     Yes.  I think we're making real steps forward, but they are always slow steps and sometimes we step back before going forward again.  This is going to be a long road but I'm glad we're on the road and trying.

5.  Hopefully this month we can have our agility area up and running, without stumps or leaning trees.
     It's up and running!  There is still a leaner, there are still 3 large stumps, and there are still some cut logs that I need a hand moving out of the way, but it was so very exciting to set up a full length course last week, map it on the computer, and run it out there without worrying about tripping.  It's a great space and we are so blessed to have it.

So, July was a great month overall with less excellent trialing.  Here's a look ahead to what I'd like to accomplish in August.  Hopefully we can have a great month on all fronts this time!
1.  Have excited, happy trials at Muddy Paws, Amherst and Gemini (all CPE).  My job will be to make sure Jonah has fun, no matter what the result is.  

2.  Make weave poles really, really exciting with good cookies and lots of praise.

3.  Keep all training sessions short, do-able, and high reward.

4.  Decide how to proceed with lessons at DogStar, whether group or private.

5.  Set up one new, full course each week in our backyard area.

6.  Discuss an A-frame strategy with Grace.  Do we need one at home?  What can we do in class and trials to make him more consistent?