Patience

Rio’s seesaw is still progressing, but not quite as fast as I would like. She’s just not confident on the first attempt, although she gets faster and more confident with each subsequent approach. E nicely shouted at me on Tuesday, and reminded me to stop being impatient. (She wasn’t as blunt as that!)

Daisy has hit the awkward part of the V-weaves, where they’re upright enough that the channel is gone and suddenly it’s got more difficult. She’s still looking good and working hard, just needs to control her speed some more. I haven’t been able to work on her weaves as much as I’d wanted – maybe twice a week? – but she’s getting there.

Both girls are at Dig It on Sunday. All I want is happy, confident girlies. I would like Rio to nail her weaves and for me to get my timing right, and it would be nice for Daisy to get a course where she picks up all the obstacles right off the bat. But those are bonuses! Rio is at Wyre on Saturday as well, because I want to see how she gets on at Myerscough. Could go either way, she’ll either love it, or it will blow her mind.

Both Rio and Dylan are looking lovely at flyball; I’ve finally got the stride regulators where I want them for Dylan, and he’s getting much better rotation through his turn. Rio has also reached a stage where she needs regulators, but she’s getting her three strides now and getting less distracted on her changeovers, thankfully.

Daisy needs more work … she’s making lots of progress in some ways (other dogs!) but her ball obsession is back so she’s failing to engage her rear on the box and her turns are incredibly … over-rotational. This is where our brand of Phantom-perfectionism comes in, because I spent a good ten minutes today explaining to my team members that her turn sounded wrong and could they watch more closely? A few more turns and we get the consensus that she’s driving off her front and not her rear even though her paw, head, and body placement is perfect. I actually suspect she’s probably double hitting with the ball in, hence the driving off her front, because as well as basically back-flipping off the box, she’s driving up instead of down and forward, which is a classic double-hitting symptom. But she’s only got little paws, so it’s hard to tell by eye.

Anyway, it’s all because she’s ball-obsessed, so I need to do more training with that. Handler-enforced lead tension is a major stress for her so I can’t use that as we usually do (to prevent her to re-engaging with the ball), so I need to figure a way around that as well otherwise I’ll make her lead-shy. Such an awkward little terrier.

Flyball Homework

Rio’s hits on the box are looking good and she’s ready to move on to turning with a ball in the box (untriggered). Unfortunately she can’t seem to get put the turn and the ball retrieve together. Box = Turn, in Rio’s mind!

I seem to have taken a mildly ball obsessed Rio and turned her into a dog who has a total lack of interest in the ball. Not quite what I was aiming for. We’ve worked back up and she’ll retrieve on the flat now, but she wouldn’t retrieve from the box during our recent sessions.

Our homework is to try and combine the two. At training, she would show some small interest in the ball – correct head placement to snatch, but not actually getting the ball, nose touching, occasionally displacing the ball. Increased interaction with the ball = decreased chance of turn. She can’t concentrate on two things at once!

We’ve done two homework sessions and she’s now turning AND retrieving maybe 50% of the time, and of that, maybe a third of her turns are actually good. This is partly because I took her a stride further away from the box, to encourage her to retrieve the ball, and so I’m not positioned where I should be next to the box. This will be easier to work on when the team is present!

I’m so happy with how she’s going. This is the first “setback” we’ve had, and it isn’t so much a setback as a slightly slower process. It’s also the part that Kelly and Aaron said would be the most difficult! It’s also been fantastic to see Rave do his first full runs this week, very inspiring. Hopefully if we can get this bit sorted, then we can look at progressing to full runs before Christmas.

I Only Blog When It's Going Badly

I have a tendency to be naturally suspicious of anyone who writes glowing, exciting blog posts when their training, handling, or competing is going perfectly, and skips over anything that isn’t fitting in to that. Especially those who then say things like “It didn’t go well, I’ve learnt a lot” and then utterly fail to explain exactly what went wrong and what they learnt.

Having said that, this isn’t a “thing are terrible” blog post.

Daisy

Daisy did her first sends over an agility jump this week. I need to work on her wait (she doesn’t have one) but she drives to her toy with great enthusiasm. She is 100% ON when training, and she’s all terrier feist and killing things. She’s also going to start learning her contact position this week. Tempting as it is to try running contacts, the same applies to Daisy as applied to Rio. I have no room and no access to equipment, so she’s going to do 2o2o and she’s going to do it well.

Rio has done a lot of single jump work this week. I wanted to play around with motion-based motivation, and I also wanted to build her drive off the line. She was super, of course. She is very good at getting out of the car and working immediately, it’s when we have to wait that I tend to lose her.

She did some ball retrieves on the flat at flyball, and then did her first hits with the ball in the box. This went about as well as expected! Some nice hits, but without the ball. Some attempts at grabbing the ball, but no hits. Some hits with sort of touching the ball, but not actually fetching it. This is the hardest part of box training this way, when two things get combined, and all in all she did well. She made an effort to turn and made an effort to grab the ball as well, it’ll come together soon. Pleased with her!

Lost in Lens Flare

Dylan’s flyball training is continuing to look good. His agility training looks great, as always. The Agility Nuts results went online and really, his times are so slow. I knew they were, but it’s worth seeing it in results order. He’s generally the slowest clear in the class (although interestingly, usually not the slowest to get around the course) and we have no where to go now in a competitive environment. He can’t reach his AW(G) collecting clear round points – we’re about 150pts short – and we’re well out of the placings.

If the courses were continually challenging, it might be worth entering for the variety, but they’re not. In terms of training skill, Grade 6 is easy for us. Partially, I’ll admit, because Dylan is slow, but also because Dylan has a high skill level when it comes to the things which are currently popular, like push-outs, independent contacts, tunnels-under-contacts, weave entries/exits. There are also two popular things which don’t suit Dylan at all, and make me worry; A) Aluminium contacts, and B) the long-jump-to-nowhere, which seems to be cropping up a lot in course designs and which Dylan struggles with physically.

So, Dyl will do Wilmslow in November, and Wyre in December, and then he retires from KC competitions. And my show diary for the winter now includes lots of unaffiliated shows for Rio.

Killer Terrier

Flyball Training

Flyball is a lot of fun at the moment. We’re focusing on individual skills work rather than teams; this is mainly because our dogs all need skills work, but also partly because not all our dogs are team-ready yet, and we haven’t made any decisions regarding lineups for next season. That will happen soon (I have my coloured post it notes at the ready).

Dylan is really improving, I’m so happy with him. He got to do his first full singles runs this week and he was awesome, great turns (great for Dylan, anyway) and really driving back to his toy. He’s going to be 8 by the time he competes again but I’m already psyched to be back at flyball tournaments with him, in a consistent team he’s really going to make a contribution and fulful the potential he has left. His fastest years are behind him now, unfortunately, but I hope he can still creep under 5s and maybe run in a sub-20s team again. Of course, all the pressure is now on for us to find a few decent height dogs!

Speaking of midget dogs, Daisyface did her first two jumps this week! A jump and a stride regulator, actually, but it was more about testing her striding then anything else. She started off on a 7ft gap and it gradually increased to 10ft, which she bounced comfortably. For a little dog she has a big stride! We’ll probably leave it at 8ft gaps until she gets to four jumps, just to really drill in the bounce strides, and then start extending it slightly. She’s still over 3″ puppy jumps anyway. She’s also started learning her paw targets this week, it’s adorable and she’s great at it.

Rio didn’t get to play this week as I want to make sure her pad is fully healed and unbreakable before she starts hitting the box again. She did get to play some CU games around the equipment, and because she did well with that, she also got to play some ball retrieves. We’ve been working on this as she was reluctant to spit last time we did it at training, and apparently we’ve now gone the other way; she won’t hold the ball, she just jaw-touches and then grabs her tug. This also makes me happy. It’s a lot easier to work with tug obsession over ball obsession!

Melting Hot

There were times when I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but it is nice to be back to flyball!

Dylan and Rio have done their first power jumping session at our new venue, and both looked good! I wasn’t sure Rio would be up for 8 jumps but apparently that’s not an issue. And Dylan loves power jumping, it’s his favourite kind of training; no brain activity involved, just go-go-go!

Rio skipped the session this weekend as she came up a little bit lame on Sunday morning, and I didn’t want to risk anything. Dylan worked and did well, his first time on the new box and he wasn’t too shabby. He’s never going to have an amazing turn, but he’s doing well with the transitions.

Daisy came too and did a few flat recalls. She does look cute when she’s running through the slightly too-long grass, but she’s a secretly a monster. She loves her tug and thrashes around at the box when she hears her ready-set-go, I’m going to have to work on training her not to do that! She starts her flyball course at the start of September so we’ll start training her target soon as well. She is getting slightly more operant!

We are all baking in the meantime. I don’t want to complain about the amazing weather but it is occasionally a bit warm even for me. If we could keep the sun and maybe stay around 20degrees, that would be super!

Weaves and Things

Rio is still learning to weave! I love weave training, I think it’s the piece of equipment which teaches us the most about our dogs (or re-affirms the things we already know). Weave training is reminding me that Rio is an Action Girl, she likes to just go, no waiting around! Dylan and Kim both tended to stalk toward the weaves, until they heard the “go-weave” command; Rio stares at me and barks and then spins on the spot and hurtles toward them. She knows where they are, no worries. This approach means her entries are getting tested, but they’re pretty good. We hit the entry every time today.

She does not respect those poles though, hit ’em hard enough and they’ll move. I am working to change her mind on that one. So although she hits the entry, she often bouces right off the second or third pole and ends up popping out.

We’re getting there, however. The V’s are now about 1-2″ apart at the top, which must seem like we’ve gone backwards considering she was weaving 6 uprights a few months ago. I don’t regret taking the step back and picking up with a different method though, she’s now attacking the weaves and her speed is brilliant. I’m happier, she’s happier, and we’re maintaining her speed throughout her progress.

Flyball went really well this week too. Her recalls continue to look good, although she usually needs one to warm up before she really shifts into gear. I started to warm her up with the target on the wall for front-paw hits, but she tried to turn off the wall so we quit that game. Her hits on the board were good, much snappier and she’s slowly learning to push off with emphasis. Her hits were lower but considering how high on the board she was last time, I’m not concerned. She’s in the right place. K tells me her hind is still hitting higher than her front too, which is also good. She’s not really hitting the target anymore, but as she’s maintaining her position and the hits look good, we’re letting that slide a little bit.

I did play some ball-swaps with her later, with K’s expert eye to guide me. I’m putting too much pressure on her to tug, we need to go back to basics. We’ve done two sessions since and there was a noticable improvement, although I’ll admit I’m prioritising weave training at the moment!

Oh, and I did my UKA L1 Judging Course last week. Got two invitations to judge on the day, although one was for next year and the other I had to turn down as I’m running Rio at that competition. Anyway, I’m on the Judges List now so we’ll see if I get any appointments!

Training

Trekked up to County Durham again for some training. I really wanted to work with Dylan on his striding again, but he also really needed a down day after our busy weekend at Wigton and then a long walk on Monday. As we have a little houseguest in Alfie again for two weeks, I wanted Dyl to have his quiet day before Alfie arrived, and that really left only Tuesday. I’ll take you next time, Dylan!

I have mixed feelings about Rio’s training, and it’s mostly about me, not Ri!

She came out much more focused initially, when we worked on flyball. Her recalls were good! She’s striding nicely (a little short, but she hasn’t done full recalls for a long time) and she’s targeting her tug really nicely. She looks slow compared to the Whippets and Rave, but then I have realised today that most things look slow compared to the Whippets and Rave. When I watch just Rio’s recalls, she is faster than I thought, and I’m quite happy!

I wasn’t very happy with her agility. She came back out and wasn’t as focused. Having sat in the car and watched the others work, she had gotten herself worked up and was basically in overload again. I should never add pressure in that situation. So what did I do? Asked her to tug with someone other than me, something I know she struggles with at the best of times. Cat suggested using food and we did a few drives to a food bowl, and she didn’t look bad, but I stopped the session.

I feel a bit conflicted about this, four days later! Rio was learning, and Cat is a great teacher (so part of me just feels bad for stopping Cat from teaching us!). But I wasn’t happy and could feel myself getting upset and frustrated; I expect Rio to tug and play with me when she’s doing agility, and when she doesn’t, it’s a signal that she’s overloaded. I ignored that and compromised by using food, which she will work for even when distracted (although she’s still ‘fairyhead’). I didn’t formulate any of these thoughts at the time, by the way, all I knew was that I wasn’t comfortable and I didn’t want to carry on.

rio2

I got her out again a little later and asked Cat and Katie to sit at the other side of the field and let me work her by herself. I don’t know whether this was for me or her, but it worked, and she did some nice little bits of agility before she blew out again.

I am not overly concerned about this happening in competition, although it might. Rio’s stress comes from over-excitement/over-arousal which is mainly brought on by watching other dogs work. We’ve overcome this at our usual Tuesday training; she can stay focused the whole session, and is now getting to the point where I don’t need to be 100% focused on her during our down time. At a different venue, outdoors, where she can see the training involves dogs and people that she loves (including, all importantly, me and not her), she reaches a certain point and her brain switches off. This obviously won’t happen in competition!

If she goes up to Durham again (which I’m sure she will!), I need a plan. It may be that she only gets one session and then gets some chill-out time instead of another working session. I’m not sure yet, but a plan we will have.

See Me Learn

Dylan & Rio

Rio is continuing to surprise me at flyball training. She was introduced to the hit-it board for the first time this week, and was pretty fab. We initially introduce the dogs gently and don’t ask for a turn, just build their confidence and see how they adapt to the board. Rio had a couple of normal target moments and then offered a proper turn! Very happy with that, she’s hanging on the board a little and is very high, but we’ll refine that in the next few weeks.

I’m also ramping up her weave training, although it’s somewhat frustrating as I don’t have car access during the day anymore (the problems of car sharing!) and I can’t train at home. So I have 2-3 evenings a week when I can trek to the park and set up the weaves, providing the weather is suitable … which it hasn’t been.

Mr HandsomeNevertheless, we managed to fit in a good half hour alternating between Rio and Dylan. Rio is learning, the Vs are a couple of inches apart and she’s showing a good action. I’m happy with her entries and she’s driving to the end well. Interestingly she’s having a similar problem to Diva, in that if I race the entry she has a tendency to hit the first poles way too hard and pop. I can send her to the entry and then run to catch up without an issue, it’s just that initial drive in if I’m running alongside. I didn’t really test this theory as I didn’t want her to hurt herself, but it’s not a big issue anyway.

Dylan did some pretty awesome weave entries that I wish I’d filmed, just to prove how incredible his entries are! He’s not usually confident enough in competition for me to push him to the level I do in training when it comes to weaves, but he really is very good. This is why I’m not too concerned about Rio having weak entries at this point in her training, since Dylan was the same and he turned out ok.

Meanwhile, I’m working through my KCAI APL (that’s the Kennel Club Accredited Instructor Assesment of Prior Learning, for those of you who didn’t want to know) and I’m drowning in paperwork. I’ve been encouraged to go for my KCAI and I have to admit it’s really excited for me to be back at school, I love having an excuse to go out and read all the books and attend all the seminars! Hopefully I’ll eventually be accredited in agility, although accreditation for agility is really tough when you’re not a Judge (which I’m not). That part of the module is letting me down at the moment, as although I enjoy setting courses and assessing our club dogs, judging isn’t something which has really appealed to me before. I don’t have the patience! I’m being pushed out of my comfort zone however, as I am attending a UKA Level 1 Judging course, which would give me the opportunity for judging experience without the 8-9hr days and 300 dog classes (at least in our area). The APL should hit the postbox this week and we’ll see what happens!

Oh, and I helped found a new flyball club for our area recently! Check out phantomsflyball.co.uk – it’s been a lot of fun so far.

North of the Wall

K and I headed up north on Friday to train with Cat. We’ve been talking about venturing up to do a little flyball training for ages, so we did!

rio1

I took Dylan and Rio, although Ri was an afterthought. She got to play a little bit of agility but I didn’t expect a lot, and I didn’t get it! She’s never trained outdoors, hasn’t trained for nearly 7 weeks, and being with all her favourite dogs as well pretty much blew her mind. She couldn’t focus for longer than 30s and was just overloaded with information. She did do some nice work and it was fun to run her again, if nothing else! Plus Cat took some beautiful photos of her, bald as she is right now. (I can’t tell you how much I love this dog, seriously).

Dylan was there to give me something to do, but as it happened, we made FatBoy work for his supper. K decided that the time was ripe to start tackling Dylan’s striding issues in flyball; he has always had a tendency to take off too early for the first hurdle, and so although he does take three strides from box to hurdle, it’s not pretty or efficient. We put a stride regulator in and stripped him right back to two strides into one hurdle, and rewarding for hitting his take off point. His poor little brain was working overtime; he found it really hard work! Maybe in time he’ll actually get the hang of it.

Rio also started flyball training again. She’s working her target really well, but we have to do some more work on ball swaps. Rio’s ball swaps are great when she’s alone, but if she’s in an environment where either she’s reaching adrenalin threshold or she’s surrounded by other dogs, she struggles. She has a tendency to want something in her mouth when she’s really excited anyway, and it becomes hard for her to spit in that situation. I suspect it’s also a little bit of resource guarding in the case of the other dogs; she’s reluctant to let go of something that the other dogs regard as valuable.

I have work to do!