Tuesday, August 28, 2012

International Style

For some Friday fun, Jonah and Nika and I went up to Laura's to run an international course.  I'd looked at the map ahead of time and it certainly had challenges, but I thought we could do it.

It didn't take long to burst my bubble!  The opening line was like this:

So, I decided to lead out.  I got him really reved and then just had him stay in a stand, and tried to get to my spot ASAP to release.  It actually worked really well, and he started good and fast.  I decided to handle 1-3 as a serp with him on my right.  That would have worked, but the gap between 2 and 4 was really not big, and I had to look where I was going and took my eyes off him.  My discombobulation meant I didn't give him a good line to 3 and he gallantly jumped straight through the stanchion :(.  Bad handler.  4-5 went really nicely, though (I put a landing side front after 4 and was able to get sufficient distance such that I didn't crowd the weave entry).

Ok, time to try 1-3 again.  This time he took the off course at 4.

And again.  Now I tried staying on the take off side at 2 and doing a backy-upy (still keeping him on my right, but just turning my shoulders back to cue collection over 2).  This actually worked really well and we got through it clean.  Laura suggested this from the beginning, but I always feel like it's good for me to try things the way my gut tells me, so I actually see when they don't work.  After all, I won't have Laura at most trials telling me what to do, so I need to learn from my own course-reading mistakes.

The rest of the course actually ran well, except for a few silly flaws.  The ring is kind of mixed footing, and as he was finishing the weaves I tripped in a sand patch and he popped out and went flying into a tunnel.  Oops.  I'll take full credit for that, though.  

There was a cool section where you had to be way ahead to get some front crosses in, and Jonah did that really well.  He's so awesome.

Then there was a tricky jump sequence: back side to 180 to 180 to threadle.  It was demotivating and tight, but he did well.  He did pull a bar on a double where I gave him a big slice line.  Laura said that she would kick dogs a little wider unless they were really extra athletic jumpers.  I think he's pretty athletic, but in deep sand I think she was right--I didn't give him a good enough line.

So all the other dogs in our class ended after two thirds of the course.  I did our second sequence (the second third), and he did it clean except for that bar, so Laura said, "Ok, do it again and then go through the end."  Well, I had looked at the map but I hadn't walked it.  I sent him to one off course obstacle, but then we flew through an awesome running ending sequence and he was fantastic.  That was cool.  It was a thinking-on-my-feet-running-really-fast moment.  What a cool dog.  

So:  I have to work on jumping into heel position in tight sections, and I need to make sure I give a good line for spread obstacles on tight turns.  Otherwise, though.  He's awesome and I just need to keep up!

Blogging Catchup

Sorry...I've been really bad about posting.  Here's my effort to catch up with a post about Jonah's class at DogStar on Thursday.

We left the puppy at home and it was lovely to have time alone with my big dog.  He's so great.

[Here is the point in my post where I get to exercise my memory capacity and remember the course from almost a week ago.  I usually do remember, it just takes me a minute...

...ok, now I've got it :)]

The first course went alright.  He started well and was the only dog to read a tough turn correctly through a tough section.  He just wasn't especially snappy--kind of dull.  Maybe I was making it up.  I commented on it and Grace kind of rolled her eyes like, "Really?  You just got through that tough spot and you're complaining?!"  Anyway, the course continued and he made some nice tight lines.  His table was good.  There was a tricky weave entry where he jumped a jump and had to turn 180 into the weaves.  I didn't help him at all to see if he would get it.  He didn't.  Next time with a little support he flew in with no problem.  Then, for the closing line of the course I wanted to send him into a tunnel and then book it across the ring to get in position to push to the back side for a threadle.  Well, I was so worried about getting there that I didn't support the tunnel enough.  Oops.  Needless to say, without that tunnel the threadle ended up pretty messy.  We did get it done, but not pretty.  Our second time it worked nicely.

The second time we ran the course I also handled the opening as a big gamble.  It had some layering and then a 180 degree rear cross that had caused trouble for other dogs (they read it as a slice).  Jonah was a little slow again, but he got it.  He sometimes surprises me with his distance skills.  What a good boy.

With Jonah a little on the less enthusiastic side, I tried to over handle the opening line in extension.  The result was a big wide turn that I should have expected.  Oh well.  He was running fast.  The middle of the course didn't pose any real challenges.  Good boy.  Then the end looked like this:

The first time I handled the whole thing with him on my right.  The 180 felt so good.  We came at it with a lot of speed.  I don't know why, but the deceleration of chopping my feet, shifting my weight, and accelerating in the other direction with him following effortlessly just felt magical.  He was pretty amped at this point, and he came rocketing out of the tunnel at 3.  It was not the most efficient line, even though I called him in the tunnel and he knew to turn left (Grace laughed.  She watched the dogs coming out of the tunnel.  The other dogs turned right, not knowing their handlers were on the other side.  She said Jonah definitely knew he was turning left, since from the moment she saw him he was looking left.  She surmised that it would probably be faster for him to look where he was going, but at least he knew which way to turn :) ).  

The second time I did a landing side front cross after 2 and then picked him up as a serp on my left after 3, pushing him ahead to 4.  This worked much better and we got an excellent line.  Cool.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Beginner Obedience Class 1

Last night Nika got to go to DogStar for her first lesson of her own (not just tagging along with her big brother).  She was excellent, but Dave was the total star of the show!  He's going to take the lead handler role for her, at least through her obedience classwork.

First off, I love DogStar.  After having just finished puppy class at Gemini, there was such a difference.  Our class at Gemini was really good--we got to meet tons of puppies, which was the point.  But it was just plain crowded there (as many as 16 dogs in our class, in a small space), and the instructor was just not able to keep track of everything that was going on.  At DogStar, even though the ring was split in half, there were only 5 dogs in the class and two instructors.  One dog was reactive so he had a gate to keep him a little bit separate.  The others just found corners around the ring.  It was also much quieter at DogStar.  And I like Grace a lot.  It was kind of fun to see her in a different context.  She did a good job, but this is a much less demanding class than our agility sessions.

This was the second week of class (we missed last week), but Nika was still at the head of the class.  The exercises were really basic:  sit, down, loose leash walking, stay and recall.  The only new thing Nika did was "stand."  It was not a problem for her, and she caught on quickly.

I had so much fun watching.  Nika was great, but it's neat to watch the others, too.  There was a cute 8 year old girl with a 5 month old puppy.  Watching her, her puppy and her mom together was just so fun.  Grace and the assistant did a great job with them, too, I thought.

Then there was a little terrier mix, a labradoodle (guessing--might have been golden doodle or something), and the reactive dog was a shelter dog.  Each had its own difficulties.

Nika's difficulty was boredom.  This stuff was way easy for her, so whenever Dave would stop challenging her, she would bark.  Thus, he basically had to keep her going the whole time.  He was great, giving her some tug breaks, throwing in other tricks, and working on making the exercises harder with voice/hand cues only, distance, duration, etc.  Grace and the assistant gave him some good ideas, but I was really impressed by his creativity.  Plus, he'd stayed home sick and wasn't feeling well.  I give him an A+.  Nika gets an A (if she wouldn't bark and would just settle she could have an A+, too).  In sum, it was a great success.

I do kind of wonder if we have to do advanced beginner obedience...I looked at the course description and it's all the same exercises, just with distractions.  This is largely why Dave is doing this.  I get so impatient.

Late Class Post

Well it's taken me six days to get this post written.  Oops.  See my last post for a sense as to why I've been so busy.  Now I'm catching up, though.

On Thursday we all went to DogStar for Jonah's class.  I set up the crate, but Nika was being kind of a jerk.  She would scream the whole time, she didn't want to go in, and she was being a pain and very needy when she wasn't in the crate.  After 45 minutes when she barked at a soft dog on the table right next to us, I just took her back out to the car.  I think that may have been the last time I bring her to Jonah's class.  Time to grow up, girlie.  (In other news, I crated her while I had a conference call today. I was impressed she was quiet, but when I went back to get her after the meeting, she'd gotten out!  It was one of the soft crates, so I guess from now on I'll have to put her in the hard crate.  She gets out of the ex pen now, and when I left her in the hall she started chewing the moulding and the stair railings.  I'll be happy when the teething is over.)

As for Jonah, he was good as always.  The first course started with a really de-motivational jump sequence in a box setup.  I started him with a slingshot that gave him lots of motivation but he got going enough that he peeked at the teeter as he was coming around a 270.  A name call did the trick and his line was still pretty good.  I think it was a pretty good trade off--a lead out would have gotten a slightly tighter path, but I would have had no dog after spinning around in circles.

The next challenge was a serp: a jump to a tire to the weaves:

The first time I handled the whole thing with him on my left, but I didn't wait enough between 2 and 3 and I pushed him past the entry.  We tried it again and got it when I was more patient.  I also tried a front on the landing side of 2 and then I tried a blind between 1 and 2.  That was my favorite way to handle it.

Then our second course was much more challenging.  It had three threadles, the first two of which were right in a row.  We got those done the first time, but then the third tripped us up--he read it as a 180.  He got a lot of other tricky stuff though--hard weave entries, discriminations, etc.  The second time through I handled the first line of threadles differently (pushing to back side rather than staying on the take off side), and it worked significantly better.

Overall, it was a good lesson.  I'm looking forward to tomorrow when the puppy stays home, though :).

Monday, August 20, 2012

The times, they are a changin'

We've had a big week.  Dave and I have been looking at houses for nine months now, and we finally found one that fit our criteria.  It's a nice split level house with 3 bedrooms, a newly redone kitchen and bathroom, and comfortable space.  Perhaps most important, it has a lovely big yard with a (only slightly trapazoidal) area for agility.  The location is excellent: the town over from where we've been living and where Dave works, great schools, a quiet residential street, and the house's property backs up to a nice little conservation area that's dog friendly.  We went to its open house on Sunday, knew pretty quickly that it was a good fit, and got right to work with next steps.


Now we've gone back and forth and agreed on a price.  Friday we had the inspection, and it went pretty well.  Some things came up, but nothing especially serious and we're hopeful that we'll be able to negotiate them with the seller.  Crazy.  The closing date is the end of September.  It's all very exciting.

Right, so we're buying a house.

Also, I got a job.

I didn't think my second interview had gone that great, and I was bummed about it because I thought the job would be a great fit.  I hadn't heard from them in a few days, which I assumed was a bad sign, but then on our way home from agility class on Thursday I got a call and they offered me the job!  So, I start after Labor Day, which will be here before we know it.  I'm really happy about the job, as the search process is just a real time drain and bad for self-confidence.  I know I'll learn a lot in this position and I'm ready to be working.  Having paychecks when we have to pay mortgage payments will be nice too.  The only negative thing is that I'll have to leave the dogs during the day.  That's been the plan all along but we still have to figure out what our plan will be--dogwalker? daycare? Dave coming home at lunch?  dogs staying with my mom?  We haven't decided yet.

In other craziness, we have a college friend staying with us for a couple weeks while he's between apartments.  Jonah barks EVERY time he comes up the stairs or out of his room.  He's fine with Winston when we're all together, but it's a real hassle to have him barking so much.  I feel bad for Jonah since he's clearly upset, but at the same time I just wish he'd get over it.

This weekend we were at a frisbee tournament.  Nika came each day.  She learned how to jump out of her ex-pen, so she had to hang out in her crate while we were playing.  She was a little yappy at times but mostly settled and napped.  When we weren't playing she got to play with lots of kids and meet lots of other dogs.  She had lots of really great interactions with new dog friends, and was very playful.  The best thing of all was:  she actually met another English Shepherd!  So cool, and unusual.

So, sorry for the rambling, but that's a bit of the news from around here.  Never a dull moment :).

Thursday, August 16, 2012

ARFF Practice

Jonah and I went to ARFF practice last night.  It was super quiet--I'm not sure why more people weren't there.  The weather was pretty nice.  The course was a gamble from the NE USDAA regionals, and it was hard!

I got there and helped set up while Jonah hung out in the car.  By the time I went to get him he was excited and happy.  He barked not at anyone in particular but just at the prospect of doing agility.  Good boy :).

I brought his crate and set it up.  He stayed there while we waited for our turn.  One dog came flying right at his crate and he barked, but otherwise he was pretty good and settled.  When it was time for us to run, I walked him once over the dogwalk to start with.  He'd had a lot of trouble with it the last time we used it.  It has really big slats, and I think it throws him off.

Then we were off, and he was fast!!  We did a jump and then the dogwalk, which he nailed with a nice jackpot.  Good boy.  He weaved speedily, too.  Then we did a little serpentine back to the dogwalk.  This time he lept.  Oops.  Next it was time to head to the gamble.  It was like this:

He went in the tunnel and I didn't hang back enough to get a good turn, so he went out and took the tire.  Really it was the only thing he saw thanks to the bad line I set.  Oops.  Then he went to the teeter but he bailed off it when I started going around the tunnel.  We did it again with me on the close side of the tunnel, and it was no problem.  I thought we'd have a chance getting this gamble, but I guess it's a little bit beyond us.  I think he would do it at DogStar.  Anyway, I played with it a little bit, getting so I set a good line out of 1, over 2 and out to 3.  He just didn't want to do a teeter 25 feet away from me yesterday, and that's alright.  25 feet is pretty far.  I guess teeter performance at distance should be on our list for improvements, but even after this I'm not convinced it needs to move to the top of the list.

I also schooled the dogwalk a little bit more and he got it every time.  Honestly I don't mind that much if we have a leap from time to time, as long as he still understands the criteria.  I'd rather have an exuberant miss than a nervous hit.

His table performance is looking good at home, too.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Jonah was awesome today at the USDAA trial.  Just-stinkin-awesome.  Here's how things went:

We got to have a pretty normal morning rather than waking up earlier than usual and skipping our normal routine.

The drive was easy.

We weren't running in the first class, so I had some time to check out the space.

I decided to actually crate him indoors, which I haven't done since his very first trial.  He hated it then, but there was a ton of space today and there was AC inside, so I figured I'd give it a try.  I never saw him actually sleeping, but he was mostly restful.  He could see the ring from his crate, and when I was working I could sometimes see him watching me.

Being crated so close meant I didn't have to take him out super early in fear of missing our turn.  The gate stewards were awesome all day, too, and weren't rushing us into a line.  We all got there on time like mature adults :).

Round 1, Advanced Gamblers:  Well, if anyone who didn't know us was watching this run, it probably looked like a disaster.  But it was the greatest disaster I could possibly have hoped for :).  Jonah was alert and focused on me and was barking and leaping like crazy when we were waiting.  We got the "go" and we were off...but he was handler focused from me revving him up, so we missed the first jump I'd planned to take.  No matter, we went racing on to the dogwalk.  And he ran it!  He's never run full speed on a dogwalk ever in a trial I don't think, until today.  I thought he got his toes in but the judge called a "0."  Whatever, I didn't care.  We did a loop of jumps and he was flying.  Then we came back to the dogwalk with the exact same result--full speed happy dog who was close to the top of the contact zone and got called for a "0."  Honestly, though, I don't care.  I know he's good with his contacts in training, I haven't been drilling them much lately, and I know this is a super trainable issue.  We'll get there.  Next we went to the weave poles.  He missed his entry.  I just kept running.  We did a tunnel and came back to the weaves, and he flew through them as fast as ever.  Then back to the dogwalk, since we hadn't gotten any points for it yet.  I knew we were going far away from the gamble, but since we didn't need the Q anyway I figured I'd get some training out of it.  Well, the whistle blew on the down ramp, but he was definitely in the yellow that time.  We raced across the ring and got the gamble (a layered teeter) easily, and just in time.  It turned out with all the missed dogwalks and missed weaves we only got 19 points in the opening.  We needed 21.  I was so super pleased to have him running full speed, though, that I really didn't care one bit.  We had a huge party afterwards and even got to go swimming in a pond.  What an awesome comeback.  The fastest he'd run in a trial in a really, really long time.

Round 2, Advanced Standard:  Jonah was maybe a hair less enthusiastic off the start line for this run, but he was still very fast.  He got his dogwalk contact with no trouble.  Then at one point the judge (a taller man) was a little close and he got distracted for a few seconds.  I got him back going and he was up to full speed.  He ran down his A-frame rather than having clean 2-hits on the down, but he still looked happy.  He missed his weave entry again, but it was a little tricky (a tight turn to it, and I don't think he saw them in time).  Once he was in he was speedy again.  When we got to the table, he wasn't interested in the down.  He wouldn't give me eye contact and he was licking his lips, clearly stressed.  So, after asking for the down a few times we just went on.  He finished the rest well.  Again, we had a huge party.  It wasn't perfect, but the fact that he bounced back from his nervous episodes was very encouraging.

Round 3, Advanced Snooker:  The course I walked was a little tricky right off the bat, but I wanted to give it a try.  It was a 6-7-7 opening.  I was starting with a red that was a ways from the start line, so we started just running together.  Then I sent him to the back side of a jump which then led into a serpentine.  If he'd been nervous, this would have been ugly.  But, he came out happier and more exuberant than even our first run.  He flew through the tricky jump sequence and we were on to the rest.  The A-frame was the 7 point obstacle, and he still wasn't clear with his striding, but he was clearly in the yellow.  On one approach I had to bring him through a gap.  He nicely came to handler focus but then I didn't give him the cue for the frame early enough so he started following me right past it.  We adjusted, though, and it was fine.  The closing ran beautifully.  I remember when he was in a tunnel (the 4 point obstacle), I was thinking "we're almost there."  And the rest flew by.  A bunch of people cheered for us when we finished, and I was so thrilled with him.  It was a beautiful 50 point snooker run, and even a Q!  My dog is back.  We won the class, too :).

So, I am so incredibly relieved.  I was honestly wondering if his trialing days were over because he seemed to be hating it so much.  Now I know there's hope.  He was loving it today, and so was I.  I feel like this phase has gotten a lot of my competitive edge out of the way, and I think I'm a better handler for it.  Who cares about the Qs.  I know that I have to give my dog the best possible run I can manage, or I'll pay for it later.  I need to be ready to change plans, to really read Jonah well, and to not care what other people think.

Take away points:
1.  Jonah ran well 3 times, but then was totally passed out on the way home.  I think I'll limit our entries to a maximum of 3 runs a day for a while.

2.  The difference between being inside in the AC and outside in the heat was huge.  I think the weather really does affect him more than I'd realized.  I need to be mindful of that in the future.

3.  Crating isn't necessarily a bad idea, given the right situation.

4.  There's hope for us!

5.  It's not time to take our dogwalk for granted yet.  I'd like to school it, the A-frame and the table more.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

RI USDAA Trial Preview

So I just looked at the catalog for tomorrow.  I love competing.  As I look at the list, I scour it for the other dogs, thinking, "great, there are only a few dogs in our classes, and I know we can run with them."  It's just so exciting opening up that document.  It's a little piece of what's to come, and it's always a thrill to me.

Then I remember that it's perfectly possible, if not likely, that it will be all I can do to get Jonah to lope around and take some obstacles.

I've wanted to compete at this venue for a long time.  It's on turf, which in my mind makes it like a 'real sport.'  I like real sports.  I like to run fast.  I like to kick butt.

But then I remember that Jonah gets really nervous.  He's not sure he knows what a 'real sport' is.  When he's stressed, he doesn't like to run fast.  His version of kicking butt is probably closer to barking at another dog than running a flawless run.  Hmm, I think we have some priorities to straighten out :).

So, here's a look at our schedule for tomorrow, and a brief idea of how I might try to make it the best possible experience:

Arrival/Pre-runs:  For USDAA you have to check in before the general briefing, so we'll be there nice and early.  However, we're not entered in the first class at all.  Last week at the match I took Jonah into the facility before we ran and just let him chill.  We just sat there.  I gave him some cookies, but my goal was relaxation.  This time I'm going to try something different.  I'm still going to take him inside to see the place, but tomorrow I want to try the message, "This is a really fun place where we work together and it's awesome" rather than "There's nothing to be scared of.  This place is boring."  So, I'll go in with cookies and we won't spend a lot of time inside.  We'll go in, walk around and do a bunch of tricks.  I'll try to make it a whole big party, and hopefully he'll want more when it comes time to run.

Round 1:  Advanced Gamblers:  We don't need this Q, but I find that gamblers can be a great way to have an easy, confident run.  Knowing that I don't need the Q, I'll try to make big, fast loops.  If the dogwalk is there I'd like to give it a try for training.  I honestly wouldn't even be opposed to leaving the ring early if he's running well--I don't want him to ever slow down.  There are 5 dogs in the class and I know we could be competitive with a bunch of them, but I'm not focused on that at all.  This will be a win if Jonah goes in and is happy and focused.

Round 2:  Advanced Standard:  We still need 2 standard Qs for our AAD, but I'm ok if that takes a little while.  I know we can do anything on an advanced standard course, but I also know that if he's not running well we wouldn't Q even if he goes clear.  I'd love to have a clean round and a Q in this run, but after last week I know I can't count on it.  Fun, fast, and focused is the goal.

Round 3:  Advanced Snooker:  We also need one snooker Q for the AAD, but snooker can be tough for a demotivated dog.  I will NOT go for a high point count (If I hadn't tried for 58 points that one time we wouldn't need this Q!!).  I WILL look for the smoothest, most flowing course possible.  Jonah can be really good at snooker and I have really enjoyed the 51 point rounds we've had, but this is a time of rebuilding trialing confidence.  I wish we'd never lost it, but life happens.  I just really hope we can get the old Jonah back.  Tomorrow may not be the day, but hopefully it will at least be a tiny step in the right direction.

Monday, August 6, 2012

New Graduate!

Today Nika graduated from puppy play school.  We're sending her paper work in, and she'll be an AKC Puppy Star.  Yay!

She was generally very good tonight.  There were fewer dogs this week, which was quite nice. She played beautifully with all the other dogs.  Her training was excellent.  She's growing up!

The one issue was that one puppy came and crawled in my lap while I was holding a big piece of cheese.  She saw this and came and let out a quick snarky noise.  She didn't really go at the puppy, but it was a clear, "I don't like that.  Go away."  It worked, and the puppy left.  She was fine after that.

After class, our teacher said that we're really going to want to watch that.  It, of course, really stresses me out because I really don't want her to be reactive.  The teacher says it may be more of a resource guarding thing than typical reactivity, as she plays great and meets other dogs really nicely.  Anyway, she recommended "MINE!" the book, which I just downloaded.

I hate having these 'problems' that are difficult to train.  I think I'm a pretty good trainer when it comes to tricks, agility, etc.  When Jonah just won't run at trials, though, and when the puppy snarks when another puppy tries to steal her cheese, it's hard to regularly recreate these situations.  I want a quick fix, but there isn't one.

This morning we went to Beaver Brook and she was very good with lots of other dogs.  She's never showed any unkind behavior anywhere except at Gemini.  She's usually just a little shy.  I guess it will be interesting to see if she grows less shy as she gets bigger, and if that corresponds with her getting a little more rude.  We'll just have to keep on top of it.  For now, she's still my good girlie, and a Puppy Star!

"He clearly loves the sport"

"He clearly loves the sport."  That's what Laura told us on Friday, as we were discussing why he gets so stressy at trials.  It really meant a lot to have someone like her say that, after all the world class dogs she trains with.  I think he likes agility, but after his poor trial performances lately I've come to wonder if maybe I'm making him do what he doesn't enjoy.

Well, the match on Saturday was our worst performance ever, and my highs from Friday have crashed.

When we got there, before the trial started, I just took Jonah in the building with some cookies so we could get used to the environment.  I was pleased, because he seemed pretty relaxed.

Our first run was gamblers.  I knew we were two dogs after another dog who trains with Grace, so I was just starting to get him ready when she was in the ring.  Then, it turned out there were scratches and we were next.  Yarg.  So, when we went in the ring I hadn't reved him up at all.  I pushed him around a little before we started, but unsurprisingly he got going pretty slow.  He trotted down the A-frame, came out of the chute looking a little sleepy, and then trotted all the way up-over-and-down the dogwalk.  So much for a 'running' dogwalk.  We did a loop of him just being kind of lackadaisical and ended with another dogwalk that went about the same.  If he'd been a foot farther along he would have gotten points for it, but instead the buzzer rang while he was midway down the down ramp.  Humph.

Then we went to the gamble, which was really quite easy.  It was a jump, pull towards a tunnel entry, and back to the jump.  The line was close.  The only trouble people had been having was the dog not pulling to the close tunnel entry, and going out to the far one.  In an effort to prevent that, I gave a "here" cue as he was approaching the jump.  Well, he came and ran right around the jump.  We went back and got the jump (I probably should have just kept going).  Then he came back to me instead of going in the tunnel.  Very unusual.  He sent out to the tunnel and finished, but it turned out we were 3 seconds over time.  I was kind of embarrassed to not qualify on that easy a gamble.  Of course, Qs don't matter in a match, but my pride was hurt.

Then came round 2, standard.  The course once again was easy.  This time I prepared him for the ring well.  He was happy going in.  But then when I took his leash off he started coughing.  I let him stop and then we got going, but he coughed a few more times, going really slow.  I figured he'd get going, and he did stop coughing, but he proceded to literally *walk* through the weave poles.  Then he ran past a jump right in front of him.  I stopped, thanked the judge, and then tried to get him going--I sprinted full speed towards the out gate.  Normally that would have been really thrilling, but he just loped behind me, running past the jumps in the closing line that I ran by.  Something was really not right.

Maybe he was hot (it was over 90).

Maybe he was really choking on something, although he didn't cough any more, and that wouldn't explain the first run.

Maybe his leg is still bothering him.  He looked a little stiff later in the day.

What I know is that it wasn't any fun for either of us.  We're entered in a few runs at a trial on Friday, and we'll give him another chance.  It's in AC, at least.  I thought a break from trialing would do him well, but it doesn't look like it worked.  I want an answer--a plan--a theory--anything to give me hope.  I don't want to come to the conclusion that Dave has concluded:  that he just doesn't like trials.  I have all these dreams for him.  I know he could get his CATCH, and I really think an ADCH is possible for him if he runs like I know he can run.  He's run really well in trials before, so I know it's not totally past him.  But are those really just my own desires?  Is it fair to push him if he just wants to do it?  Or can I find a way to reduce his stress so that he enjoys trials as much as he loves practice.  After all, he clearly loves the sport...

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Goal Deferred

One of my goals for August was to audit a seminar today.  Well, I didn't.  A 9-5 day with an hour of driving each way was just too much time for me to take off, so I bailed.


I went out to Laura Dolan's house for a lesson this morning.  She lured me in by sending the course map by email last night, and it looked like too much fun to miss :).  It was her 'homework' for the worlds team--a fun international style course from the Spanish championships.  There were a few points where she'd made easier options if we wanted, but Jonah and I went for the real thing.

I really like how Laura does class.  Instead of running a whole class, we run shorter sequences and really focus on each part.  It also means you run more often and have shorter down time between runs.

The first sequence included this:

I handled 1 and 2 with him on my right, wrapped him left with a FC, and kept him on my left for 3-6.  It worked.  His wrap at 2 was not as tight as it could have been, as he was really excited and was jumping big.  He got it done, though.  I did a name call at 5 and he didn't look at the off course jump.  Good boy.

Laura suggested doing a FC on the landing side of 5 just so I could keep moving more, which is motivating for him.  I had thought it was just an extra cross, but she was definitely right.  Neither Jonah nor I like it when I'm standing still.

The second sequence had a 270, where I put a FC on the landing side of the second jump.  It went well.  Then there was the dogwalk to the backside of a jump.  Laura's dogwalk is wood with slats, like the one at ARFF he didn't like that one time.  I walked him over it before we ran, just so he'd have an idea of the feel.  Then, when we were running, he was PHENOMENAL.  So fast.  I get a little nervous when he gets out ahead of me, but there was no way I was keeping up.  He was getting his contacts, too.  Yay!  The first time I just rewarded after the dogwalk, and the second time I went ahead and did the backside, which worked well.  He had so much momentum coming off the dogwalk that I just had to run straight rather then turning towards the jump.  Then, when we were a stride or so away I gave the "back" verbal, pushed with my arms, chopped my feet, and he did it beautifully.  I was really proud of that.  

When we got to the weave poles, he was going really fast but there was a dip in the ground at pole 10, which made him pop out.  He very rarely pops out, and Laura said she knew that if she fixed the poles he'd get it, but that it was good practice for him to see something unusual.  He popped out one more time but then he got it and did it nicely for the rest of the day.  That was a good training experience, I think.  He got a little bit stressed about having to redo them, but once he got it he was really proud of himself.  

The next line that I thought was fun looked like this:

Yes, the weaves were that close to the edge of the ring.  That probably contributed to Jonah popping out as well as the uneven ground.  Knowing that he was not fully confident with the weaves, I was a little nervous pulling off to be on the landing side of 2, but we did it.  I stayed near the end of the weaves a second longer than I would have if he were weaving well, but I got to the landing side in time and was able to push nicely to the back of 3.  It was a lovely threadle, and Laura praised it.  Then after the teeter I was careful to keep sight of him, as he has been known to duck into closer tunnel entries.  He was right with me, though.  What a star.

The rest of the course was a big running closing line, which we both loved.  Laura helped me maximize my running by having me run farther--going right up to the stanchions and changing direction rather than just fading away and getting too far ahead of him.  It made a big difference.

I was excited with the lesson.  Laura was really great.  She says really nice things about Jonah and she seems very invested in getting him more motivated in trials.  We got some good advice.  I will definitely try to go back for another lesson later this month.  Next week we'll be at a trial, but after that we'll see what's going on.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Class of Highs and Lows

Jonah and I had a great time today at class.  It included some really great moments...and some epic fails (by me!), but every minute of it was fun-fun-fun!

The first course we ran started with a jump to the dogwalk, with a 180 degree flip to the left to a tunnel (see map below).  To start, I wanted him to slice the jump, but he was so excited to start that he was more handler focused and he didn't see the jump in time.  He crashed right through it!  Oops.  What a start :).  Anyway, we put the jump back together and tried a straighter line.  This time he got it and flew across the dogwalk with a lovely contact...but he completely ignored my shouting "left! left! tunnel!" and ran straight ahead to take two extra jumps before coming back and continuing on with the course.  Goof ball.  He was just *really* excited!

Later on the course there was a wrap of a jump and a turn back to a tunnel/A-frame discrimination (numbers 4-6 on the map).  Well, the jump was that same jump that pointed towards the dogwalk.  He took the jump and ducked behind my back to do the dogwalk again, with that off course jump again, too.  I don't think we were really together.  He got back on track, though, and did a lovely threadle, fast weaves and a nice fast down on the table at the end (other side of the course, not on the map).

The second time through the course, considering how much we screwed up the first time you would think I would have tried to handle normally again to get things right.  Nope.  Gambles were staring me in the face everywhere I looked.  I peaked at one spot and Grace told me I was crazy (the tire at 11).  So, this was my plan (I started with a lead out from 1...sending to the backside might be beyond us still):

He was AWESOME!  He never blinked, and stayed full speed through the whole thing, which he did flawlessly.  Everyone laughed and said I'd been trying to make things too easy in the first round by actually being close to my dog.

By the time we got to the second course Jonah was pretty focused, but I totally floundered in a line of two threadles in a row.  It was like this:

The first time we got it done, but it was really messy.  I stayed on the tunnel side, and had him turn right after 3.  The second time I turned had him left for the longer line, but it was much smoother.  Then I played with that line again from the other side so I could push, but then he took the off course after 3, taking the 2 jump on the way to the tunnel.  He did that a few times, actually.  I guess it just got programmed in his head and he was oblivious to my name calling and body position.  As I said earlier, it wasn't his most focused of all days.  The last time we did it was really nice, though (I went back to handling on the tunnel side), so we are in fact capable of doing this line.  I think I'll set it up at home soon and practice since it stumped us a little bit.

Nika came along with us and she did pretty well.  She barked while we were running, but otherwise she was a good girl.  She got to meet some dogs and she walked one of the courses with me.  She even tied Grace in a knot!  

In other news, Nika met the tunnel for the first time yesterday!  She thinks it is pretty excellent.  Video to come soon.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Match Preview

On Saturday we're going to SureFire dogs, a pretty new facility that just got approved for USDAA trials.  They're hosting a match, which means runs won't count as qualifying.  I entered because I was hoping it would be a little lower key than a lot of trials.  There are only 30 dogs entered in total.  Plus, if Qs don't matter maybe I'll put a little less pressure on us.

We're just doing 2 rounds:  Gamblers (first) and Standard (second).  My goals are entirely to get Jonah comfortable and hopefully running fast.  Then, I'd love to school the dogwalk if it's available in Gamblers.  We'll at least get a shot with it in Standard.  We'll see how our table work has been going, too.

There are 8 and 9 dogs in our classes, but there aren't placement ribbons so it doesn't matter!  I love competition, but hopefully this will make me really prioritize Jonah's enjoyment rather than our performance.

August Goals

August is here already, yikes.  I've been amazed at how busy I've been and at how much time the basic dog stuff takes (feeding, going outside, making sure appropriate toys are available, etc), leaving less time for socialization and training fun.  Oh well, we just keep going.  Here's how we did this month:

1.  Get exercise.  On a non-dog related note, I'm hoping to break 1:10:00 in my triathlon later this month.
     Yep.  I've been pretty good about this.  I did the tri in 1:04:12, which I was very pleased with.  I'm also now on my marathon training plan, and my first few long runs have gone well.

2.  Make sure I don't let the puppy take over my life to an unhealthy amount.
     Sometimes it feels like she's taking over my life, but I guess if I'm getting the time to exercise I'm staying healthy...physically at least :).

3.  Keep giving Jonah tons of love and attention.
     There's never enough love and attention for the big dog, but I certainly haven't been ignoring him.  We've been doing our share of training, fetch, walks, runs and other fun.

4.  Ensure that the dogs stay happy and healthy.  Watch Jonah's lameness, keep both dogs brushed with toes clipped, get them to the vet for vaccinations, monitor good eating habits, keep them cool in the heat, etc.
     Yep.  I was at the vet twice this month for vaccinations, toes have been clipped twice, we've stayed cool, everyone is eating well, etc.  We've got 2 happy and healthy dogs, check. 

5.  Read the Control Unleashed book once it arrives.
    I started it, but I haven't gotten through it yet.  There are some good ideas, but it hasn't been the most thrilling reading thus far.

1.  Enjoying agility, making sure every time he does it is fun fun fun.  
     We've done pretty well with this.  ARFF last week he wasn't especially thrilled, but he did his job and was happy at the end of the run--he just didn't get amped up to run full speed.  We'll keep working on it.  It has also been better when I only take him to class and leave the puppy.  Good to know.

2.  We're only entered in one trial this month, and only 2 runs (in line with our 'break from trialing after nationals').  I want to make a good decision about whether or not we go.  If we do go, I want to make it super enjoyable and spend time with him getting comfortable in the environment before/between/after runs.
     We didn't go.  They moved the location so it was almost 3 hours away, and I wasn't excited about 6 hours in the car for 2 runs.  I was also pretty busy with work, so I knew I wouldn't be able to give Jonah my all.

3.  Work on heeling and car distractions.
     Yes.  He's doing pretty well.  Always room for more improvement.

4.  Go to ARFF and work for happy, fast and positive sequences, not pushing to long courses unless he wants to.
     We went to ARFF.  We didn't really get "happy, fast and positive sequences."  He was speeding up towards the end, though.  It's hard for me to stop early unless he does something really good, but I'll keep working on shortening sequences when possible.  Honestly I had forgotten this was a goal this month.

5.  Keep dw contacts in good shape (above 90%), assuming his lameness merits agility training.
     Yup.  I worked some hard entries and exits yesterday and he's still rocking it.  Good boy!

1.  Have a positive experience starting school (first class is tomorrow)!
     Yes.  The starting was great.  I'm finding myself a little stressed the last few weeks when she gets singled out as being a bad dog.  I really don't think she is.  In fact, I'm quite pleased with how her socialization is going.  Now that she's just bigger and more energetic than a lot of the other puppies, she's outgrowing this class.  Next week is the last week.

2.  Be on a regular and reliable potty schedule.
     Yes.  She still leaks sometimes when she gets really excited, but otherwise things are going well.  Nonetheless, my mom is worried about the odors/stains, etc, which is making Dave and me feel pressure to buy a house sooner rather than later.

3.  Sit (with voice and hand signals alone, no lure).
     Yes, she's doing great with this.

4.  Down (with voice and hand signals alone, no lure).
     Yes, this is great, too.

5.  Stay (goal of 20 seconds, with handler up to 20 ft away).
     No!  Stay is *really* hard!  We can do 20 seconds (usually, and with treats a few times throughout those 20 seconds), but 5-8 feet is about her limit.  We'll keep working.  She's just so excited and busy that staying is not very high on her list, especially when there's food around!

6.  Come (fast and excited, with distractions).
     Yes, come is very good.

7.  Walk on a leash, working towards loose leash heeling with focus.
     Yes, this is coming along quite nicely.

8.  Know how to do simple shaping exercises.
     Yes, we've done a handful of shaping games and she's done well.  It's fun to watch her figure things out.

9.  Meet LOTS of people.

10.  Meet LOTS of dogs.

Wow, these goals posts are getting really long.  Let's see if August can be more condensed:
1.  Jonah:  Give Jonah great experiences at the SureFire match and at the trial next weekend.  Both are in new places, but we'll see how comfortable I can make him.

2.  Jonah:  Work on table performance.  We have USDAA events coming up, and so a fast down would be really nice!

3.  Jonah:  Go to ARFF and try to work through nervousness.

4.  Nika:  LOTS of socialization.

5.  Nika:  Positive experiences starting Beginner Obedience at DogStar.  Hopefully we'll be well on our way with sit-stay-down-come-loose leash walking by the end of August.

6.  Me:  audit a seminar with Tori Self on Friday.  I'm super excited!