Thursday, September 29, 2011

Fast and Fun Class

Today when we got ready to go to class it was absolutely pouring.  As a result, the roads were slow and everyone was late.  The first course was quite simple aside from a tough, tight weave entry, but for some reason or another people had problems.  Jonah had a beautiful run but pulled a bar, other dogs had trouble with a seemingly straight forward line of offset jumps, and some struggled with the weave entry.  It looked like this:
I did a blind with Jonah in the tunnel and pushed to the weaves, but other people had trouble getting there in time and handled the weaves with the dog on their right.  Both ways could work, but it was certainly tricky.  I was pleased that Jonah hit his entry every time, and he weaved faster than he has been lately, too.  Grace made us do it three times to prove it wasn't a fluke.  She said your timing had to be very good to get it done, and apparently our timing was indeed good.

We ran the course a second time and I overcorrected for the pulled bar, pushing him off the jump altogether.  The first time I had decelerated hard before the jump, and startled Jonah into bringing the bar down.  The second time, I was so worried about not getting too far ahead of him that I forgot to cue the jump at all.  Oops, bad handler.  The next time the line ran beautifully and the bar stayed up.

By the time we'd gotten through this course twice, class was almost over, so we only did part of the second course, and Jonah did it beautifully.  The only issue was that the first time he came at the A-frame he had so much pace that his footwork got screwed up.  He only did one hit on the downramp.  He cleared the apex fast enough that the hit was at the very top of the yellow, but it was not what we're looking for.  The second time over he corrected himself for a beautiful running A-frame.  All his other times over the A-frame looked great, too.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Yikes! Practice

My mom has started taking her dog to an obedience class at DogStar.  After her first lesson she talked about how good Molly was at class.  Then she asked if Molly could come watch Jonah's class.  I told her no because it was too crowded, but I told her about run-thrus and suggested that she could come with us then.  Well, I didn't realize that Molly would be so crazy.  The minute we walked in the door she was howling and growling and barking and whining.  It got Jonah riled up, too.  Anyway, I was super stressed about the whole situation (and I'm sure mom was too).  I'd been so excited to try these courses again, but the stress got to me and I couldn't focus as well as I would have liked to.  Here are my scattered thoughts about our runs:

I'm worried about Jonah's DW contacts.  He's just not driving down to the end like I want him to.  Either he is moving fast and can't stick the 2o2o or he slows way down and gets the position.  I'm glad we got to practice, but I'm a little stumped about a plan moving forward.  'Luckily' he has started missing sometimes at home, so at least I can practice more trial-like experiences and make sure he realizes it's a problem when he blows it (as in, I can not finish a course and give him the silent 'punishment' of not continuing).

I need to work on a more independent teeter.  When I tried to get distance, I made Jonah fly off.

I should trust our RCs more.  I often try to avoid them, but he's quite good at them and sometimes they're a great option.  We also did some on the flat that worked beautifully.  It's fun to cue the obstacle and take off in another direction while he goes and does it and then comes flying to catch up with me.  What a star.

Our backsides need more baby-sitting than I'd like. I started working on putting a "back" command on cue.  It was only one session, but Jonah was doing really well.  I'm hoping that this will help give a little more independence on those questions and allow me to move on ahead where I like to be.

Aside from the stress of having Molly and mom around, I had a great time at the run thrus.  Between rounds I got to chat a little bit with Grace, and she's just lots of fun.  I don't really get to talk agility with many people but I can with her and I value her opinions hugely.  The really great thing is that she at least makes me believe that she values my opinions, too.  I still think of myself as so new at agility, but she gives me confidence that, while I might be crazy with some of the things I try, I'm usually at least crazy in the right ways that would work if I had the dogs with the skills I'm asking for :).

Next time we'll leave the girls at home and it will be an overall great experience.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Late Update

Sorry I've been so quiet of late.  Things with school have been super busy, and it's been raining a lot so our agility practice time has been minimal.  Sorry, Jonah.

I think last class was the first week I have skipped a post about our lesson in the whole time this blog has been up--yikes!  Anyway, it was a good lesson but Jonah was super wild and didn't settle for quite a while.  Once he did finally catch a breath he was good, and his courses only had minor mistakes due to my bad handling.  Grace made us try blind crosses with jumps and it was scary, but potentially a good tool to have.  Jonah dealt very well with it.  In general, though, I'm not a fan of blinds except in tunnels and sometimes weaves.

Yesterday we went back to class.  It's hard to believe that it was the 6th of our 6 week session.  I think everyone's going to continue into the next session, though, so next week won't really feel any different except I'll hand over a check.

I have managed to get the reputation as the 'crazy gutsy one' in our class.  I guess I see class as a place to take risks that I wouldn't take in the ring at a trial.  I also think it's a sign of my growing trust for Jonah, so I'm happy cueing something and getting out of the way where other people like to stay closer to their dogs.  It's a bit of a high-risk strategy for me, in that we have some more mistakes than other people in class at various points, but when we get things right they're really right.  I enjoy seeing different handler philosophies in action.  I also look at courses and sometimes I just think they're daring me to try something.  I know there's an easy way to 'get it done,' but I want to strive for the cleanest path for the dog where we can be moving as much as possible.  Sometimes my attempts create crash-and-burn effects that are worse than the 'easy' option, but sometimes it's really great.

Anyway, our first course I tried to layer the dogwalk with a jump.  The jump was about 4 feet away from the down ramp of the DW, and he was supposed to come down the DW and do a 180 back to the jump.  My layering worked, and he got his contact, but then I didn't pull him out enough to get the jump and he ran right by it.  Oops.  After that, though, was one of my fun moments.  I had to send him out to a jump (2), then turn to a straight tunnel straight to another jump followed by a 90 degree right turn with a wrap in the other direction:

So, one way to do it would be to wrap right after 5, but that wasn't the best line.  A RC at 5 worked and that was probably the most successful strategy that other handlers did.  I thought this was one of those questions, though, that was daring me.  I had to try a FC between 4 and 5.  Well, I booked it and I got there in time to cue the turn.  It was really fun and really fast, and Jonah ran well.  The only issue was that I had to be moving so fast to get there that I couldn't slow down as fast as would be ideal, so I put some pressure on him and his turn from 5 to 6 was not as tight as it could have been.  The next time through Grace had me try a blind and it got the job done but was still a little messy.

The rest of the course had some other challenges, including a back side of a jump to the straight tunnel to another back side of a jump.  We got it done, but it's just a tough challenge, as our backsides are not super independent.  I'm curious about putting "back" on cue so I could have a little more distance.

Our second course was a fun course but we only got one go at it and Jonah was just a little bit wild.  There was a serp-like question that he just totally blew, and I still have no idea why.  It wasn't an especially difficult question, but he just blew right past me, went behind my back and jumped the wrong side of the jump.  Oops.  Then there was a hard DW/tunnel discrimination that we missed.  Finally there was a long line of jumps that Grace dared us to do a blind on.  It was one of our nicer blinds and it worked, but once again I'm not sure how much I like it.  I'm glad to be practicing them, but I don't think they're a tool I'll use too often in the long run.  Yet, if Grace keeps challenging us, who knows what will happen!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Easy Practice

I didn't have a ton of time today but I wanted to do some agility.  It seems like Jonah's been getting a little bored of simple obstacle practice, but last month I got carried away with courses that were too complicated.  I wanted him fast-fast-fast, I wanted the course fun, and I wanted it short.  Here's what I came up with:

Yup.  I know it's really easy, but it hit the spot.  Jonah was great and fast and didn't put a foot out of place.  Good boy.  I want to keep the serp up for a few days and keep practicing.  It's not difficult and he doesn't have any trouble with it, but for some reason I don't feel like we've been seeing them much lately.  We'll also be able to play with some threadles and distance work with this setup.

Jonah's weaves have been spot on lately.  I've been giving him some tough entries and he hasn't missed.  His speed through the weaves is not as fast as he can do, but he's still moving pretty well.  I may put a jump after them to get him driving away.

In other news, I put the A-frame up to 5'3" which is the CPE height.  He's still nailing the box 100% of the time, so I'm very pleased.  I don't want to put it up to USDAA height very often because I still want him getting a lot of repetitions and I think 6'3" is pretty heigh.  I don't want extra stress on him.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Riverside USDAA

Jonah kicked some butt.  Funnily, our results don't really look that great on paper, but it was one of our best trials and I couldn't be prouder of him.

First off, we got there for measuring.  He hopped right up on the table and actually didn't look especially nervous.  Good boy.  As I've come to expect now, he measured under the cutoff of 21" and even under 20".  To our surprise, though, the judge was a CMJ!  That means that we're probably done with measuring!!  She said I should go ahead and send it in to USDAA and they'd most likely give me my permanent card.  There's a chance he might need another measurement after he turns 3, but she said it's unlikely since his measurements aren't right at the cutoff.  Awesome.

Round 1:  Starters Gamblers
     My goal was to make a better plan this time.  I might have been a little better, but I still screwed the poor boy up.  We had a lovely opening.  He nailed his weaves entry and flew through them, raced through a chute, happily tipped the teeter and was generally racing around all the obstacles.  Yet then, when the whistle blew, I was not where I wanted to be and I sent him right past the first gamble obstacle.  I was able to call him back and get him through the gamble, but the second whistle blew right before we took off over the last jump.  When I checked scores, I confirmed that we were really only one second away from the Q.  Anyway, I take full blame.  We still finished third, and we had the same number of points in the opening as the winning dog.  So close!  Still, though, I was very happy with Jonah.  He did his job very well and his handler just screwed him up.

Round 2:  Starters Standard
     This was a nice course for Jonah and he did it very well.  It started with a chute to weaves which were a little tricky because he came racing out and didn't have a lot of time to judge his entry.  He had no trouble, though.  I think I was the only person who ran the weaves on my right, and I think I was the only person whose dog got the entry (at least of the 22" dogs).  Curious.  Handling them on the left was the inside line, but it meant the dogs were turning away from the weaves and didn't see them until even later.  Anyway, he cruised all the way through the weaves and flew through a line of jumps and tunnels.

I was glad we'd practiced straight tunnels in class last night because we had lots of them today!  They were another curious thing.  Similar to the chute, people didn't seem to consider which way the dog would turn out of the tunnel.  I ended up rear crossing the tunnel so Jonah would turn towards me and the next obstacle when he came out, but lots of people went the other way and nearly collided with their dogs.  One woman actually collided and twisted her ankle.  A few other people did RCs, though, and their dogs still turned the wrong way.  I guess I'm lucky that Jonah has a good sense of where I am.

Anyway, then we got to the table.  This time Jonah hopped right up on the 24" box.  Then he stood there.  Eventually he sat down.  It felt like an eternity before he lay down.  He suddenly got his scared face on and wouldn't make eye contact with me.  He looked around at everything outside the ring.  I hope he gets over this soon.  Once he was down, though, he stayed down.  Five seconds later we were finally done with that.

The rest of the course ran nicely.  He got a discrimination, had a nice A-frame contact and then...DID HIS 2o2o ON THE DOGWALK!!!!  Luckily that was the second to last obstacle so I got to party pretty immediately after his contact.  This was the first time in trial he's done his DW contact correctly since June.  Yikes!  I'm hoping it's a trend, though.  I need to keep being strict with my criteria, but it's nice to know that he was not scared today and he still can get his 2o2o in a trial setting.

Here's the real kicker...we were the only dog to qualify on this course...which meant we got FIRST PLACE.  Against real BCs.  Us.  I didn't think we would ever win a USDAA class because the competition is so stiff.  But we did it!  This also means he earns his Starters Standard Agility title for 3 Qs.

Round 3:  Starters Snooker
     I think we probably could have gotten 51 points, but I really wanted to qualify, so we did a more flowing opening of 2-7-7.  Jonah was a little hot and thus not his sharpest, but I kind of like that in Snooker.  He was attentive and obedient even if he wasn't full speed.  The whole course flowed well.  He stopped on the peak of the A-frame for a second, but that meant he came down more slowly and wasn't even close to missing the contact.  He had a lovely RC weave entry that wasn't easy.  We finished a full 20 seconds under the course time.  Good boy.  Ready?  Time for another kicker...yup.  Another Q and 1st.  Amazing.

Round 4:  Starters Jumpers
     This was a fast, easy course.  I took Jonah to the kiddy pool before the run to try to cool him off and get him excited.  It worked, but I timed it poorly so he peaked a few minutes too soon, but he still barked and was enthusiastic at the start.  A few obstacles in I could tell he wasn't as fast as he sometimes is (although he wasn't slow, he was still moving along), so I thought I'd take a handling risk.  I sent him hard to a straight tunnel and then busted my butt and managed to get a clean blind in at the end of the tunnel.  Woo!  I think he saw me and picked up the pace a little bit.  Then there was a pinwheel into the closing line.  He was pretty confident if not full pace, so I trusted him in the pinwheel and got out of there once I had cued it, racing down the last line encouraging him verbally.  Well, he dug in and cruised after me, but I guess I pushed a little too hard because he pulled the second to last bar.  Again, we were really, really close.  He had the second fastest time in the course (the fastest, curiously also pulled a bar) by 2 seconds.  If he'd been full speed I think he could have shaved 2 seconds.  I don't worry about the dropped bar with him because it's so rare, but I have to say it was a little disappointing to not get a Q.  We're so used to CPE where a good run with a bar down is still a Q.  Anyway, our fast time meant we were fourth so we at least got one ribbon for the class :).

Overall it was a super day and I'm very proud of Jonah.  It seems funny that we only Q'd in 50% of our runs, but I'd rather have nice runs that aren't Qs than Qs that are messy.

Crazy Class

I was really tired last night.  School is just taking a lot out of me.  I'm ready to just get settled into a regular schedule soon.  Anyway, I didn't bring my best handling with me to class.  Unfortunately, Jonah didn't bring his most forgiving self, either.  It was an interesting day.  Thanks to all the rain, he hasn't been getting as much exercise (although we did run 5 miles on Wednesday...), and it seemed that all that energy had to expose itself in our one hour class.  As soon as he saw other dogs he just started barking his head off and being generally rude.  It took a good ten minutes for him to finally settle down.

Our class didn't even get through both of the courses because there were so many problems.  At least we weren't the only ones.  It made me realize how far we have to go, though.

The first course actually started quite nicely for us.  Jonah cruised through the first sequence of jumps and a tunnel.  His down on the table was immediate.  Every step of his dogwalk was perfect, including a great 2o2o.  Then things got harder.  We had trouble with this weave entry:

For some reason he was entering at the second pole.  I did a FC to a post turn, as it was best to handle the weaves with him on my right for what came after this section.  He was not wrapping 2 very closely but was running wide and then running at the weaves from an angle.  I had to actually stop (which I always have trouble doing) and wait for him to come back towards me before telling him to weave and driving forward.  

After the weaves, Jonah picked back up well and cruised for a while until we missed a discrimination.  Then when I fixed it he blew his A-frame contact.  I'm still not worrying about the contact, though, especially since we haven't been able to practice at all this week thanks to the rain.

Here was one question spot:

The first time through I sent him to the tunnel so that I could be on the landing side of 2 when he came out of the tunnel.  I cued the jump, pushed a little for the tunnel and then got out of there so I could be there to push to 4 (Grace wouldn't let us run with the tunnel on our left).  It worked.  The second time through, Grace suggested that I go closer to the exit of the tunnel and run with him more to give him a more motivating run.  It also worked, but the FC was messy and he came out of the tunnel before me, making the approach to 4 messy.  I liked Grace's idea, but in practice I think it's overall more motivating if I can keep things as tidy as possible.  Good skill to have both ways, though.

On our second course Jonah was good except for missing another tunnel/A-frame discrimination.  We'll have to get a tunnel out soon and work on discriminations.  The practice session we did a few weeks ago was excellent, and I know he can nail discriminations so long as the skill is sharp.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Riverside Trial Preview

Well, it's been raining non-stop for three days now, so we've been doing minimal agility.  Luckily it is supposed to clear up for Friday, when we will be going to Riverside for our third USDAA trial.  I'm really looking forward to it.  There are a lot fewer people entered because it's a Friday, so things should move along pretty quickly, and classes will be a little bit less competitive.

First things first, we'll have to get measured again.  I looked at the instructions again and it says we need three measurements, one of which needs to be from a Certified Measuring Judge.  This will be our third USDAA measurement, but none of the judges were CMJs.  I'm not sure if that means we shouldn't get the third signature on the card or what.  Hopefully they'll know what to do.

Round 1:  Starters Gamblers
     This past weekend Jonah was great for Gamblers.  The gamble was pretty easy and he was happy to work away from me.  Hopefully this will be a similar course.  Our only problems last time were in my mistiming the opening.  Last time he did 12 obstacles in 25 seconds.  If we have 25 seconds for the opening again I'll have a better sense of how to plan things.  Of course, I never know how fast he'll be once he starts so it's always a bit of a guessing game.  It would be nice if there were some obstacles near the beginning of the gamble that I could loop around until the whistle blows.  So, the goal will be for me to plan a good course and help Jonah have lots of fun.  There are 5 dogs in this class.

Round 2:  Starters Standard
     It would be great to get this Q because it would finish our starters standard title, but we'll see how things go.  Our A-frame contact is still inconsistent.  I'm hoping for a faster up and down on the table this  time (i.e. he needs to recognize that the huge box is a table, jump up on it, and then lay down--many steps!).  Nailing the weaves would be nice, too.  He hardly ever has trouble with the weaves in CPE, even when there are 12 poles, so I've been surprised that he's had so much trouble in our USDAA trials. The goal for standard will be a steady, accurate round.  I won't be really pushing to shave seconds off.  Again there are 5 dogs in the class.

Round 3:  Starters Snooker
     I'd like to get snooker this time, as we've missed the last two.  I'll plan a low risk, flowing opening and just hope we get through it.  Jonah's usually pretty good at snooker, so I'm optimistic that things will go right for us this time.  There are only four dogs in the class, so at least we'll get a ribbon.

Round 4:  Starters Jumpers
     I love jumpers courses and I'm sure we'll be able to handle anything that will be thrown at us at the starters level.  Here's a course where I might try to push it a little.  Dad won't be around to distract him this time.  I've been pleased how he's dealt with me getting some distance from him and just trusting him, so if he's been having a good day I may toy with that a little bit more.  There are 5 dogs in the class and we should be able to beat one for a ribbon if things go right.

I'm looking forward to Friday.  It should be a great day for us!  First, though, we have our class tomorrow night.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Completed A-Frame

I know I've given some sneak peaks of the A-frame, but here are a few pictures of the full thing.  I'm pleased with it overall.

How quickly things get dirty!

The cross beams are more evenly spaced than this image shows.

From the side, at low height.

The gap, complete with pool noodle.  Not perfect, but it works.

USDAA Take Two

Today was our second USDAA trial, and I can happily report that it was much better than our first!

This morning, it was great to be able to sleep to a reasonable time and go pretty much right around the corner to the trial (25 mins--the closest trial to us of any venue, I'm pretty sure).

Once we arrived Jonah got measured and the reading was just under 20".  If he gets one more under 20" he won't need extra measurements, which I know he would like.  He was pretty good for measuring although he wanted no part of being right up next to the device.

Round 1:  Starters Standard
     Jonah was excited to start the day and ran a nice course.  His A-frame contact was solid, although he trotted down the back side rather than using big strides.  I was worried about the chute because it had a little doghouse around the barrel, which he had never seen before.  It also looked awfully small.  Anyway, he wasn't full speed, but he went right in and had no trouble.  Unfortunately our great 2o2o on the dogwalk on Thursday did not show up today and he trotted through the contact zone.  Our table performance this time was much better than last time:  he did run past it the first time but then he jumped right up.  Once he was up there he realized that there was another ring right next to him and he looked a little nervous.  It took him a few seconds to lay down, but once he was down he stayed nicely.  He nailed a weave entry at speed and was flying along until something distracted him and he popped out around pole 9.  The second time through was fast and clean and he flew down the closing line.  So, certainly not a perfect round, but not a half-bad round, either.  Q and 4th.

Round 2:  Starters Gamblers
     We had a 25 second opening and then the closing line which was a jump to a tunnel/A-frame discrimination to two more jumps.  The closing discrimination wasn't especially challenging, although the A-frame did draw a few dogs off-course.  Anyway, last weekend Jonah did 11 obstacles in 30 seconds so I planned a 9 obstacle opening for the 25 seconds, and I was thinking we might not get through it.  Well, we got through my 9 obstacles before the buzzer sounded so I had to do some creative handling to waste time and pick up three more jumps before I finally heard the sound.  Then he raced down the line without a bobble.  What a good boy!  Q and 3rd.

Round 3:  Starters Snooker
     Something just didn't go right with this round and I'm still not quite sure what it was.  Warming up, Jonah just wasn't high energy.  When we went in the ring he did his usual excited bark, but it didn't last for long.  We jumped the first red and then Jonah just stopped and looked around.  I got him over a color and then he stopped again.  We found another red, he jogged to another color and then locked in on another color and I didn't have the heart to pull him off since he was so demotivated.  So, that was our 12 point snooker.  Only 25 points short of qualifying :-/.  I've never seen Jonah so shut down in a run at a trial.  I still have no idea what was bothering him.  It just wasn't meant to be.

Round 4:  Starters Jumpers
     I didn't do a very good scientific method for this round (whereby I would have only changed one variable)--I did everything I could think of to get Jonah enthusiastic for his last run.  Dave had arrived and took him for a jog down to the lake.  I hosed him off.  I gave him lots of cookies and had him do active tricks right to the last minute.  When we got the go, he was off!  We both ran hard over the first half of the course, until Jonah stopped and looked for his Dad.  Luckily he snapped back into focus fairly quickly and he finished the course fast again.  It was a silly moment, but aside from that it was a great course.  Q and 4th.  I think he would have been 2nd if it weren't for his oops moment.  Thanks to Dave for the footage!

So, overall it was a pretty good day.  We didn't have any perfect runs and we had one pretty awful run, but there were moments of brilliance.  I'm looking forward to our third USDAA trial on Friday!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Video Update

Dave kindly did some video work for us this evening.

Here's a look at how the running A-frame is going on the low frame.  I'm quite pleased.  He's not full-drive, but it's nice to see that he can hit the striding while he's that relaxed.  Sorry for all the 'down time' in the video:

Here's a look at our dogwalk.  He breaks his stride a few times over the top so that could be faster, but he looks happy and confident.  I don't like that he turns towards me in the 2o2o.  I'll have to keep an eye out for that.

And, finally, here's a peak at our weaves.  As always, they could be faster, but it's not half bad.


September Goals

September is here now and school has started, meaning I will have significantly less time going forward.  We had a great month in August, though, and I'm very optimistic about what we have going forward into the fall.

Here were our August goals:
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.  
     Yes.  Jonah was excellent and enthusiastic at Muddy Paws, very brave to run fast in a new facility at American K9 Country, and then he was good in his two runs at Gemini.  We missed 2/9 Q's thanks to blown A-frame contacts, which is pretty bad for us, but now we're on track to have the A-frame in much better shape.  I'm pleased that his attitude was excellent for all three trials, even with a number of lead-outs and un-motivating starts to the course.  He started fast, stayed fast, and usually got even faster for the closing lines.  Good boy.
2.  Make weave poles really, really exciting with good cookies and lots of praise.
     I have to say that this could still use more work.  Jonah often seemed to be slowing down the more we would weave, no matter what the reward, so I haven't been drilling them much.  It's a bit of a balancing act for us--I'd like his weave entries to be better, but practicing too much slows him down.  We'll keep toying with the line.
3.  Keep all training sessions short, do-able, and high reward.
     A few times I was too ambitious and pushed to hard, but in general we've been doing a good job with this.  I have been bringing out good cookies (cheese, hotdogs and peanut butter at home rather than cookies), and it's going well.
4.  Decide how to proceed with lessons at DogStar, whether group or private.
     Yes.  I'm thrilled with our group lesson.  Jonah is getting significantly more comfortable doing agility with other dogs around, I'm learning from watching my peers (and I love their company, too!), and we get a full hour of learning for less money.  Seems like a good deal to me!  Now I just need to remember to bring the video camera next time and I'll be able to learn after the lesson, too.
5.  Set up one new, full course each week in our backyard area.
     Well, no.  I think we set up 2?  One week we were out of town and then the hurricane came when we took down all the equipment.  The biggest thing, though, was that I wanted to keep sessions short and high reward (see #3), so full length courses just didn't fit well with that.  
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?

     Yes, yes, yes!  We now have a beautiful A-frame at home and we're working through the Rachel Sanders method.  Jonah is making super progress, but it's just going to take some time.  That means that we may well miss some at trials for a little while, but I feel like we're taking the right steps to get better and I have confidence that we'll get there.  Exciting!

And here is a look ahead toward September:
1.  Attend two USDAA trials where I work to be more relaxed and help Jonah have a good time.  It would be great if we could get two more standard Qs and finish our Starters Standard title, but with our A-frames where they are I'm not going to count on it.  

2.  Progress towards a running A-frame!  I'm not sure how the timing will go on this, but I'd hope that I could start fading the box by the end of the month.

3.  Maintain DW 2o2o criteria in all settings.  He may not be perfect when he's high/nervous at a trial, but I need to do my part.

I'll keep things short and do-able this time since I can't think of anything else at the moment!

Trial Preview-ARFF USDAA

We're going back to USDAA this weekend.  This time I have to say I'm much less nervous.  This trial is really close by and we're going to know a lot of people, which will be fun.  I also know now that USDAA people aren't mean and evil :).

The day will start with dreaded measuring.  Last time it wasn't bad at all, though, so we'll hope to repeat the pattern.  We'll also hope that maybe, somehow, he will measure under 20" again so he won't have to get extra measurements.  So long as he measures under 21", though, I'll be happy.

Round 1:  Starters Standard
     This will be a nice way to start the day because I like Standard a lot.  Of course, I'll have some stress about the A-frame contact, but I'm going to try my best not to worry about it.  If he blows it, he blows it.  Grace suggested that I not try to 'handle' it--as in slowing him down and getting him to shuffle through the yellow.  I will try to keep a nice, big stride and hope he hits some yellow!  I'm also going to try really hard to demand a 2o2o on the dogwalk.  He always looks nervous coming down the DW at trials which is why I've been a little lax, but last night at class it was clear that he could nail his 2o2o away from home, so now we just need that at a trial.  There are 10 dogs in this class (but only 3 BCs), so it's pretty big compared to what we're used to (although the masters standard 22" has a whopping 40 dogs!  yikes!).  I'll be really happy with a Q, and whatever happens with placement happens.  Hey, we may very well not get the Q anyway if we blow the A-frame!

Round 2:  Starters Gamblers
     I have no idea what to expect for this gamble and we haven't done much distance work lately, but we'll give it our best go.  He's certainly capable of most starters level gambles if he's in the mood, so my job will be trying to get him super excited and confident so he'll drive right over the line when the time comes.  I'm guessing we'll need a bunch of points in the opening, so there might be more pressure there than we're used to, but I'd think it would be a doable requirement for us.  We'll have to see.  There are 9 dogs in this class.

Round 3:  Starters Snooker
     I have to say I've come to like Snooker.  It's really easy to screw up, yes, but when it goes right it can be a lot of fun.  I'd very much like to pick up a Q, so I'll plan a relatively quick and flowing opening that will give us a good shot at getting through the closing.  Anything can happen, but we'll try to take fewer risks and have a nice, motivating course.  We'll have 10 dogs in this class.

Round 4:  Starters Jumpers
     It will be fun to end with Jumpers.  There are no contacts to blow and we can just run fast and have fun.  Jumpers is becoming one of my favorite classes.  So, the goal here will be to give Jonah the smooth handling he deserves and run my butt off!  Again there are 10 dogs in the class.

Usually I pretty much expect to Q in all our classes.  Lately our Q rate has been dropping.  In USDAA especially, I'm ok with not acing every round.  We'll just do our best and have fun.  I would like to collect a few Qs, but what happens happens.  We've got another shot at USDAA next weekend, anyway.

Class Time

Last night Jonah and I headed over to DogStar for our weekly lesson.  He was, as usual, great.  I'm so impressed with how well he is settling down with the other dogs around.  It's wonderful to see.  That said, there's still lots of room for improvement.  Every time a new dog comes into the room he barks.  It used to be that he would bark at the dog.  Now he just turns to me and barks general excitement.  He also doesn't particularly like being tied to the wall, and sometimes if we're talking for a long time I have to go get him and bring him with me.  With that in mind, though, he has gotten totally comfortable with the dogs in his class being around him once he's over the initial excitement.  Last night he walked out to the car right with another dog and he was completely relaxed.  Another came and sniffed his butt last night while I was videotaping and I panicked when I realized what was happening, but Jonah didn't mind a bit.  It's a great change.

Anyway, as far as the actual agility goes, I almost jumped up and down when I saw the dogwalk up!  Not only did we get good practice, but Jonah was dynamite with his contacts!  There was one time when he was trucking so fast that he couldn't hold the 2o2o, but he legitimately tried.  Every other time was dead on the money.  Woohoo!

The first course was an example of motherly disorganization.  He started off great and then I dropped a cookie while rewarding his excellent DW contact.  Of course he had to find it before moving on.  He picked right back up into full speed, though.  Then later on I dropped another cookie which pulled him out of the weaves.  I guess we still have some proofing to do, but luckily this is not a trial-realistic distraction :).  Despite those two bobbles, Jonah was superb.  There were some tricky off-course possibilities but he was very attentive, took my cues and managed to maintain good speed and confidence.

We did the first course again and I didn't drop any cookies.  The only trouble that time was a blown contact on the A-frame, but I'm well aware of the fact that I can't expect solid contacts yet since we just haven't gone through all the work.  Grace and I decided that, since we haven't gotten to a full-height A-frame at home with the box method, we shouldn't bother with the box last night.  So, it was just a naked A-frame and Jonah missed the contact zone with room to spare.  Oh well.  He was having fun!

Jonah did great with the second course as well, although it provided a tough spot for us.  To begin, though, I did a lead-out and he broke the stay!  I'm pretty sure that is the first time he has EVER broken a stay away from home and outside of my proofing efforts in the backyard (where I burst into a sprint or say 'ready...ready,' etc).  He has a great stay, but he nonetheless broke it last night.  Luckily it was practice and I was able to take him back to the start and try again.  The second time, of course, he was perfect.

The tough spot of the course for us looked like this:

(also, can I just mention how much I love the CleanRun Designer software?!)

Anyway, course 1 had us do jump 1 to the weaves without jump 2, which Jonah nailed well.  I tried to send out to 2, and he went out well but didn't have enough collection, so I had to pull him way back to get a good entry.  I totally screwed up any semblance of flow.  Bad handler.  Grace told me I had to trust him and let him find the entry himself.  So, the second time I sent him to 2 and just said "weave."  He entered on the wrong side.  On the third try I stood completely still when I sent him to 2 so he would not jump with extension, and that time he got it.  Phew.  It was hard work.  None of the other dogs had any trouble with that spot.  My guess is that it's because they are smaller and not as drivey (wow, I never thought I would call Jonah drivey...he's come a long way.  I'm sure this weekend when I watch the BCs I'll think he's an unmotivated sloth again, but he is more motivated than the other dogs in our class).  Of course, these are also well schooled dogs and they probably have better weave entries than Jonah.  It was a tough question for us and one we'll have to revisit at some point.

That's about it for this week.  Next week I'm going to try really hard to remember to bring my camera so I can have video!