A Little Faith

I had a plan for training this week and it didn’t quite work out. Not in a negative way, I just had a short list of things to work on and … we worked on other things instead.

We worked on weaves in sequences for a while and that was nice! Rio is working for the entry now and driving right to the end … on the left, at least. She is finding the entry and weaving six poles on the right, but she isn’t quite going right through on 12. Not sure why but it will come, we’ve only practiced on 12 a few times.

We did some work on the dogwalk and I asked for the stop position again this week now that she’s driving over with confidence and speed. I’m so happy with how this has worked out, she’s moving into position with much more enthusiasm and with much less thought.

Thumbs up for Rio, she’s doing well. I really do need to work on her response to front crosses as well. On a tight turn it’s not so much of a problem, but the middle gears are hard. She can either turn tightly or not at all, apparently. Definitely need to get that worked out before we do any more competitions.

A Daisy Update

The munchkin is learning, but slowly.

I haven’t really blogged a lot about Daisy, mainly because we’re still in the not-fun part of training. Daisy has issues, primarily with the way she handles stress (both kinds of stress). Her terrier wiring means that she is predisposed to go into “kill mode” when she experiences stress anyway, but with her initial eight months involving little actual training, her wiring is now pretty jumbled up. It’s the only way I can describe it! She doesn’t try and actually kill anyone on experiencing stress anyway, but in the past she was simply given a tennis ball (or had one anyway?). This has meant that tennis ball = calming, and without her tennis ball*, she struggles to find a way to calm herself down.

*None of our dogs are allowed tennis balls; they’re a high value item which are awkward to control.

She also has issues with fear and being restrained/restricted. This means that managing her stress responses in the house is difficult, mainly because I only have so many hands and four dogs to juggle. Her stress responses are also making her confusing to the other dogs, who aren’t sure how to deal with her sometimes. 80% of the time she wants to play and relax and run zoomies with Dyl and Rio, the other 20% of the time she doesn’t want them near her because they’re big and stressful and scary. Dyl and Rio don’t understand why some times are different to other times.

Mainly, what it all means, is that we put her in high-stress situations like flyball without understanding how it would add to her confusion. She’s been pulled from flyball and is learning some low-key agility, because she needs something to occupy her brain. I honestly don’t know if she will ever flyball, because the atmosphere is incredibly amped. I don’t know if she will ever do competitive agility, because I don’t think she can be measured and I don’t know if I trust other people to keep their dogs out of her space and under control.

However, all this makes Daisy sound terrible, and she’s not. She’s a confused girly who is starting to get to grips with the world, and to learn appropriate social reactions. She is learning how to bring herself back under threshold, and eventually she’ll learn that she doesn’t need to get above threshold in the first place. She is sweet and clever and funny and she loves her frisbee. She is learning how to swap a ball for a tug and is doing great box turns, and she can do jumps and tunnels. We do lots of BAT and LAT and shaping, and she comes to small shows and walks around the car park. Last time she got to walk past the entrance and she stayed very calm and relaxed the whole time, and sniffed the walls before we headed back to the car. I’m proud of how far she has come, but she has a long way to go yet.

Goals for 2014?

I need goals for 2014. This is for me, because if I don’t, I get lazy. If I’m not improving my handling or training skills, I don’t really even maintain. I slip into bad habits. Lazy lazy lazy.

My goal for this year is simple: be as good as Rio needs me to be. That means running faster, handling with more clarity, and making the most of each training session to improve. In terms of tangible results, I want a clean clear round by the end of the summer season. I’ll take a scrappy clear round but I would like a good, connected, clear.

It’s hard to make flyball goals, but obviously I’d like Rio to be running clean, full runs by the beginning of summer, and finding some consistency by the end of the season. As a goal to push for, I want a sub-5s singles time on the board before we go back into winter training.

For Dylan … whatever he wants to do is fine. For Daisy, I’d like her to be focusing her energy appropriately and running sequences by summer. It’s really all about Beanie this year though.

Back

The blog is finally back online.

Dylan isn’t getting a lot of extra love now he’s officially retired; he isn’t coming to agility training any more, although hopefully I will have some new equipment to play with shortly so perhaps he can come and demo a few things for my outdoor classes. He is still doing flyball, and is finding his feet again, but disappointingly he won’t have a team to run with this year. We have only got one height dog now Daisy has been pulled from training, and we won’t run a team without a height dog. Dylan just isn’t fast enough for our first team, so I’ve pulled him from the lineups. Flyball is a team sport and our club was established on that premise, so it would be hypocritical of me to demand he gets to run just because I’m me! It is disappointing but it’s one of those things. I’m not holding out much hope for 2015 as Dylan will be 9, and should be starting to ease back from flyball competition anyway at that point. With what amounts to three years off, I’m a little doubtful he’ll even get on to the starting lineup at 9yrs old, but we’ll see!

We are going on a Working Trials day tomorrow though, although I’m not sure if I’m going to work Dylan or not. I already know that he will physically struggle with the Agility elements, but I’ll see if there is anything he does enjoy. One of the perks of working for a dog trainer, getting to crash seminars and workshops on a whim.

Daisy is both improving and … not. She has been doing very well with her agility training, but we had an unfortunate incident this week where she was “shut down” by another dog at training. It was an unfortunate circumstance where Daisy ran past a tunnel just as the other dog (let’s call her E) was turning off a jump. E is a little fear-reactive but as long as other dog’s respect her space, she is fine. Daisy ran up to E a few weeks ago and scared her, so E thought she was doing the same again and got in a pre-emptive strike. Neither dog was hurt but Daisy took a long time to stop hiding. She only really came back to normal-Daisy once the arena had cleared. Whilst I’m glad she didn’t react in any other way than to be scared, I’m a bit worried about how long it took her to bounce back. Another thing to work on.

All the dogs had a quick boxwork session this week (including Daisy!). Dylan is looking sharper, although he has a tendency to fall back into old habits and go wide, especially on full runs. It was nice to work on some close up stuff with him. Rio is looking excellent, we’re continuing to build on the Robbins’ Recalls and she’s slowly getting the hang of it. She’s swapping the ball for the tug fantastically though, I’m so proud of her! Daisy also did well, she stayed reasonably calm and worked hard. She always works hard, it’s the calm that’s tough! We’re chilling out this afternoon and watching some of the Winter Olympics.

February Kind of Day

Rio’s beautiful running Aframe has disappeared, and I’m pretty sure it’s because I’ve been rewarding the launches on the dogwalk. Oops! Still, time to test the theory and see if I can put the stop back in. So far so good, we only did a few reps this week at training but she’s getting the idea. Just hasn’t quite controlled the speed yet.

Which is the story of our training at the moment! Controlling the speed is tough, and I’m finding it hard to get the timing right. It’s also hard to get the “bubble” right; Dylan had a big personal space bubble and he didn’t like me up in his face, whereas Rio just doesn’t care. Her bubble is smaller than her body, judging by how willing she is to run into me.

12 weaves are looking good, and her entries are coming now as well. We need to do some more work on building her independence, I’m not sure she’ll stay in if I run ahead and leave her. No rush, the weaving plan is working well so far.

I’m also quite excited because I’ve got a training day spot provisionally booked! My first training day with Riobean! I haven’t really been confident enough to take her anywhere before now, because maintaining her focus for extended periods has been tough. But she’s been doing really well lately, and this isn’t until the summer. I’m also very picky about which trainers I want to learn from!

Rio Dig It Feb

No video, because I’ve misplaced my video camera. Really do need to find it for next time!

There is an option to run both the Agility and Jumping twice, but the format didn’t work for me last time. All the dogs at the jump height ran, and then ran immediately again before the height changed. Rio was just fine with this, but I wasn’t. I wanted time to think over the previous run and make appropriate adjustments in the next run to get the most from the training. I can’t do that when I come out of the ring and immediately start queuing again, when I need to focus on what’s happening in the queue and managing Rio’s space etc.

So I only entered one run in each class this time. My agility criteria was basic: dogwalks! Rio has only trained on the dogwalk 5-6 times in training now, but I need to start getting her on to new equipment. I’ve removed the stop criteria, all I want is for her to run over the equipment (she can jump the contact if she wants) and build her confidence. We ran 3 dogwalks in the agility class, and Rio increased in confidence each time. The last one was approaching speedy, and I’m pleased with her progress. I’m sure I looked very weird to anyone watching, as I rewarded my dog for launching off the dogwalk, but so far I’m much happier with this plan, and I’ll bring back the stop later.

Jumping was a nice course but without anywhere to really stop and reward. I decided to just run it and see what happened. What happened is that my timing is terrible, and Rio is a bit late in responding to front cross cues. She also has a tendency to drift as she gets faster, and this is something we need to work on as it came up in the Steeplechase as well. She can turn tightly or she can drive down a line of jumps, but sweeping pinwheels are tough. This is what I need to re-do and reward next time. She needs to work harder to jump,even when she isn’t getting the line quite right. I also need to think about her drive off the start; she isn’t slow out of her wait, but she isn’t really starting to motor until 3-4 obstacles in.

She’s definitely gone up a gear or two though, and her confidence and focus are improving dramatically. As we got on to the line in Steeplechase, there was a hold-up as the judge needed to speak to the previous competitor. Rio has never had to deal with that before, and I wasn’t sure if she could hold her focus. I broke her wait and we played some games until we got the OK, and then went back into a wait. Rio did great! She stayed focused and maintained her wait regardless.  Her waits were great all day and I felt … confident about it? It’s very weird to be able to turn my back and walk out on to a course and know she will be where I left her. Nice, though!

Mollie: Loss and Memory

I took a long time to write this post. I couldn’t get the tone right, and I’m still not sure if I have.

The usual expression when we lose a pet is to make some vague allusion to the Rainbow Bridge. This makes me uncomfortable, just as it does when people mention God in relation to death. I’m an athiest and my heart belongs to science. I don’t believe in an afterlife. I appreciate the sentiment, especially from friends, but it doesn’t comfort me, or make the loss any easier to bear.

I marvel instead at the unprompted connections my brain will make; a dog barking, and for a second some unconscious process prompts me to look up, because it’s Mollie. Or we’re coming back from an evening walk in the dark, and at the bottom of the hill where I put the leads on, Mollie is waiting for me. Or I glance over my shoulder and I see her padding down to us. I like that, it makes me happy. I am far more comforted by knowing that my eyes see a shadow and my brain finds something to fill it, and the ‘it’ is Mol. I am pleased that of all the tiny electrical connections my brain has sourced, it’s the connections with Mollie that seems right for that situation and that endure.

Mollie thinks there is nothing better in life than thisI do miss her, a lot. Oddly enough, it’s the feel of her I remember most, especially the way her fur over her shoulder curled softly around your fingers. You could sink your hands right in and scritch her with the fur tickling the back of your hands. I miss the feel of her forehead against mine when she hugged, the heavy solidity of her broad face pressed against skin. Feelings very unique to Mollie. People talk about smell and emotion, but it’s non-specific touch that I recall with clarity, apparently.

This is Where We Are

Rio has moved on to Robbins Recalls in flyball, which she finds really tough. We haven’t really got to proper RRs yet, since I can’t run in the opposite direction to her, I can only walk. Running is Rio’s favourite thing, she will always choose running over box turns and definitely over stupid tennis balls. She is spitting a little early but it’s coming together now.

Agility was fun this week too. Our Aframe has been out of action as the top bolts weren’t co-operating, but we’ve finally got some new pin bolts and so there will be lots of Aframes in the future! Rio couldn’t even remember what an Aframe was initially, and then she did, and she was awesome. I love having a dog with a running Aframe again. We tried a single tight turn and she still hit the contact, and that shouldn’t really come up at G3 anyway.

I don’t want to say Rio reminds me of Kim, because that’s not quite right. Rio is very different to Kim, but they share some of the same beliefs. Just like Kim, I know that if Rio’s not barking at me on the line, she’s not ready to roll. And the running. Both Kim and Rio get a lot of joy from just running.

We also did some driving lines and she was super, she’s going up a few gears now and really running on ahead. Her jumping is looking more consistently clean as well, although she does launch hilariously sometimes as well. After having seen Dyl stutter into the long jump for years, I can only smile when I see Rio clear it from 6ft out. Not the most economical, but she’s learning to adjust and find her take off points.

We need to work on turns at speed a bit more though. She can turn very tightly and very neatly, but sometimes its wide and messy. Quite often I’m just late with the cue, but sometimes she does a silly launching jump and can’t control it through the air. Definitely on the list of things to work on. Dogwalks are currently top of the list, and that’s this week’s plan!

Wilmslow 2014

I am so glad I entered this show. Dylan had a great time; he was so excited and enthusiastic to be running, I can’t imagine a better retirement show for him.

G6-7 Agility first thing was a nice course, nothing horribly challenging but some interesting handling options. I tried to flick Dylan away from me at the bottom of the Aframe, and Dylan interpreted this as … go take a jump 20ft away. Oh well! We had fun finishing up. His contacts were great, nice and confident. The difference between his performance on aluminium vs. plastic/wood is really amazingly different.

C6-7 Agility was ok. Not really my kind of course, although apparently lots of people loved it. We got E’d early on when Dylan bounded off to add in the jump after the weaves (he was all about offering jumps this weekend). I also didn’t like the tunnel-under-dogwalk discrimination, mainly because the course didn’t give me room to handle it appropriately. That’s a very specific Dylan problem though, he has a big “bubble” and to pull him off the tunnel I needed to be much further away than the course-design allowed. And the weave entry/weave-tunnel discrimination was something we’ve seen all over the place recently, so we’re getting pretty good at that.

Large C6-7 Jumping Wilmslow Jan 2014Got both those classes run by 10:30, and then had to wait until 3pm for the Jumping. Which was the most boring course ever (sorry, judge). I’m all for giving the dogs a nice blasty course occasionally, but there was a C1-7 Jumping on as well which I didn’t enter because I wanted something challenging. I did not get challenging with this course. Having said that, we got E’d, so … ! The E was a result of my being lazy however. Let that be a lesson to me, just because I don’t find a course interesting or inspiring, I shouldn’t be lazy about handling it. Dylan actually ran it fantastically, his jumping was smooth and free and he didn’t even stutter going into the double. Hasn’t managed that for years!

We had a good day; Dylan was happy and confident, and we got E’d in every class because he was feeling brave and offering obstacles. His jumping was fluid, his contacts were great, and his weaves were perfect. I can’t ask for more. He is now officially retired from KC competitions. He might do a few UKA shows here and there, depending on whether they’re using aluminium contacts or not.

A Lack of Direction

Rio and I were a bit hit and miss at training this week. I wasn’t really feeling motivated, and that showed. The only run I felt motivated to do was a sequence where I could try a blind cross. I have been reading a lot recently about blind crosses and decided I needed to at least try if this was something I should be using more often. I talked to my G1-3 group about how and why we might use a blind cross, and then borrowed super cute Bichon x Poodle Rosie to demonstrate. Rosie is a little speed demon and I had to run, but we nailed it and thankfully did a good demonstration! My group tried it and hated it though, everyone got too anxious to commit fully, and therefore felt it slowed them down too much. With time to get confident with it they thought it might be useful, but for now they aren’t really seeing the point.

Obviously I had to give it a go with Rio in the G3+ class. She’s never done a blind cross before, but it was fun and she got it perfectly. It’s something I do want to try and take advantage of whilst running Ri, she likes to race me and her jumping skills are good enough that I can trust her to get on with that whilst I move into position. Although you wouldn’t necessarily think her jumping was good, we had quite a lot of launching and throwing herself over jumps this week. I’m not entirely sure whether to work on this, or just to let her work on finding the take off points herself (and rewarding as we go). We’ll see if she makes any progress over the next few weeks, and then make a decision.

We also did a little bit more seesaw work. Another thing I’m not entirely sure how to tackle without regular access. If I had a seesaw at home and a couple of tables, we could do it by the book, but I have access to a seesaw once every few weeks in a class. It’s not ideal. Rio is not a fan, and although I think her confidence is growing, it’s not where I’d like her to be at this stage. The seesaw is my least favourite obstacle, have I mentioned that recently? It causes the most problems and I’ve never been exactly sure what it’s supposed to test. The dog’s bravery? Stupidity? Self-control? It’s a mystery.