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.

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.

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.

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!

Rolling On

Everything has started again for 2014; we’ve been back to agility training and done two flyball sessions now. Dylan and I also went on a Maintaining the Canine Athlete workshop with Veterinary Physiotherapist Hannah Michael, which was excellent. Would highly recommend! I learned loads and I’m trying to make changes now, which isn’t as easy as I had hoped (in terms of exercise). My dogs do a lot of free running but not much structured exercise, but I need to change some of that to get them as fitter.

As we did the muscle and joint checks, it was clear that Dylan was sore in his “usual” places; shoulders and lumbar. It doesn’t confirm my decision to retire him – that was comfortably made – but it makes me feel happier about it. He really enjoyed the stretches we did on the workshop too, he got very relaxed and comfortable about it all.

Dylan’s retirement day is this weekend at Wilmslow. I’ll still run him despite the soreness, which sounds terrible. It probably is, but I feel ok with it. It’s the kind of minor tension which doesn’t merit pain for a dog, just means they won’t run at 100%, and I don’t want him to do that anyway. He’s not quite 8yrs old but I am absolutely sure retirement is the right decision for him. Just as I was with Kim! I’m finding it very hard to explain why this is, but I feel very content with the decision. It makes me feel that our relationship is a good one, that I can see the very small things in my dogs which tell me that they are reaching the end of being able to physically give what is required.

He will carry on doing flyball. We trained on Sunday and he looked great, smoother and more confident than he’s looked for ages. I hope he has a team to run with over the summer but it’s not looking promising right now. We don’t have enough height dogs as we pulled Daisy from training.

Speaking of Daisy … she is learning to control herself around the other dogs again, and we’re going through her socialisation all over again. It’s frustrating at times, especially when some family members make small errors which set us back, but we’re on the right road. Right now it all seems worse because she’s in the dramatic teenage phase as well, which amplifies all the other issues. She is learning to trust us again, and we work on changing her stress responses. She is turning on the box now, without a ball, and she’s learning her agility foundation. She’s got her first class this week, although it’s just a environment introduction. She’s a dog who needs a job, and hopefully my Intro to Agility class will work for her. Rio is her biggest problem right now, because she can’t handle Rio’s energy levels.

Which nicely leads on to Ri! I love this dog, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that. Her joy is infectious. She’s triggering the box with the ball comfortably now, and did her first session of jumps to the box last week. No problems, although toward the end she started clowning around. She has a sense of humour, that’s for sure.

This week we started her Robbins Recalls, which didn’t go quite so well. Lots of ball spitting! Nothing we didn’t expect and we are making progress. Her striding and turn held up well, and she’s collecting the ball from the box at least. I think this will be the hard bit for her, she likes RUNNING and ACTION and that means glossing over the small details. We’re back on to using a toy instead of food though, and her focus and enthusiasm and drive is fantastic.

We still need to do some more work at agility, I’m starting to find the best handling options for her now. We need to do a bit of work on her jumping again, she’s a little bit hit/miss with take off points. Similar to above, Rio likes to GO, and thoughtful gets thrown out of the window. Instead of thinking, shortening, putting in an extra stride to find the appropriate take off, she just launches. K called it “bambi jumping” and that’s pretty much it. She’s like a deer, springing over things. We should probably do some of the extension exercises which would encourage her to skim the pole but most of them involve pole-knocking, and I fear it would be all too easy to have Rio think pole-knocking is the aim of the game.

Dogwalk and seesaw are still the mission. She does not like the seesaw, even with the RunAway game. I need to build her confidence on the dogwalk. It would be nice to run some agility classes before her 3rd birthday!

We Can/We Can't

Rio did her first set of 12 weaves last week. I can confidentally say that even if I can’t train anything else, I can train awesome weaves. All my dogs have great weaves, and Rio is no exception. Her drive and action through the weaves is fantastic, she loves weaving, and she’s weaving in sequences with no issues. We’re getting distance and independence, entries are looking great, really just smooth sailing.

I really do love the 2 sets of 6 > 12 option, that’s by far the best thing I got out of the 2×2 method. Rio did a few sets of 6 and then had absolutely no problem with 12, perfect. She’s also decided that weaving on my right is something she remembers doing before, which is nice! We didn’t try 12 weaves on the right. We literally did one run through on the left, and partied.

Speaking of things I can’t train … contacts. Rio has a nice Aframe, and her dogwalk is ok, but it’s not really what I wanted. With hindsight, I wish I hadn’t clicker trained Rio’s contact position. She is just being very thoughtful and precise, much as she was with the weaves. I need to figure out how to stop her being quite so … thoughtful about contacts.

She had her second session on the seesaw last week as well, it’s going to be a slow process. She just isn’t a fan.

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.

Rio's Agility Update

A selection of brief notes based on training in the past 2 weeks.

Rio AframeRio is relaxing and enjoying training again. Her focus is great, and I’m using a mixture of food and tug, and regularly scheduled breaks. Doing some single-jump reward work has helped her engage faster on course.

When I cue appropriately and in time, her wing wraps at Standard are wonderful. It makes my heart happy and amazed when she wraps so tightly and neatly. When I fail to cue appropriately and in time, she sails off and does what she pleases. That makes me laugh. Everybody wins!

She’s weaving 6 uprights at home, but not anywhere else just yet. She was weaving before, but then we had 4 months of no weaving and she’s gone a bit backwards. No surprise there, more homework needed. She really really LOVES weaves now, it’s all 100% all the time, lots of speed and barking and go-go-go. Could do with more thoughtful Rio for weaving.

I am going to stick with a running Aframe. She is at 100% hits with no RC contact training, and if her percentage drops I feel comfortable and confident that we can revert to a 2o2o. Her dogwalk is underconfident and I’m not sure how I’m going to address that right now, so I need to make a plan. Up/Down planks are fine, it’s the flat plank that she isn’t sure about running on. Could be due to apex adjustments?

Must start seesaw work soon. Have plan, need to figure out seesaw access. Other things left to introduce: spread? Is that it?! Wall? Need to proof Tyre/Long Jump/Cloth tunnel a bit more.

Her jump confidence and take-off-points are improving at Standard/Large, as expected. I think this will continue to improve, I don’t want to mess with it too much at this point.

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!