Wilmslow

No training this week because snow. January. Coldness. Snow. Disappointing.

Trekked all the way across to Myerscough for 2 Jumping classes and an Anysize run for Dylan.

C1-7 Jumping P1 was A+ for good use of space, lots of running with some tight demanding sections, well pitched. 12 weaves, no problem. Ri’s jumping was pretty terrible, lots of early takeoffs, so she had a pole. Lots of wide turns, and then she wrapped the pull-thru like a badass, obviously. She’s not responding terribly well to static front crosses, so we need to work on that. She would have been placed without the pole, which is pleasing.

C1-3 Jumping was much too difficult for the grade. Sort of the opposite of the C1-7; too many obstacles crammed in to the space. Removing just two of the jumps would have made the course lovely, by giving the dogs chance to extend and removing a few of the more awkward traps. The C4-5 Agility preceding it was also very challenging for the level. Not sure what that was about, but the course was not my favourite. Our run was a shambles, oops. For some reason I decided to do a wait start, totally forgetting that Rio stresses about being left with lots of unpredictable dogs behind her (ie. a situation that is never more evident than at Myerscough). She set off and then fell over and scratched (yay stress). Weaved nicely, decent pull-thru (still slow on the static front cross), then flew off down the line and did the last jump, then came back through the tunnel, tried to bounce the jumps at the top and then brake (fail, pole!). Nice flick-flack, then waaaay too much acceleration down the line, missed the turn and then missed the pull-thru as well. SHAMBLES. Not sure if that was due to the ridiculously long queue, or just the poor course. Maybe she was just fed up of boring pull-thrus and wanted to run some. Her jumping was better in this course, so I’m not sure what was going on with the early takeoffs in C1-7.

Dylan’s Anysize course was theoretically really nice, but actually too much accel/decel for the old dogs. We got E’d pretty early so we made something up, and Dylan had a great time, so it was a win nonetheless.

Slowly and Clearly

Some days I really feel I should apologise to Rio. She has spent three years telling me to let go of my expectations and to just focus on being awesome, and I’m just not getting the message. Whatever, she tells me. Get hung up on these small details, your criteria and your goals. I’ll be over here doing my amazing fun stuff.

In all seriousness, over Christmas, I decided to change my approach to Rio’s seesaw training again. One of the best tips I got from the first ever Rocket Relay seminar was that if a plan isn’t working, change the plan. So I changed the plan.

The new plan is called Simplified (and lower your expectations). Forget the classic seesaw criteria. I just want a seesaw behaviour. Any kind. Any speed. Throw out everything except Rio tipping the seesaw. She tips it, she gets a reward. Actually, she gets a party, called snuggles with me whilst she mauls my hand for a sausage, but I’ll take that.

Our last training plan has not gone to waste, because Rio’s confidence coming off the seesaw has dramatically improved, and she’s not bothered by the tip-back. That’s a massive improvement.

The Simplified Plan worked! We essentially shaped the whole thing, from basic paw touch, to jumping on the pivot, to moving the board. Always with the focus on Rio controlling the action, and controlling the pace of training. At the end, we had a basic seesaw behaviour. Ri walks up the plank, tips the board, gets cuddles and treats, and exits. It’s not fast, it’s not pretty, it’s got a long way to go.

Lots of blogs about seesaws in the near future. Grade 4 by the end of the year means Rio needs to do a seesaw. Can’t not do a seesaw in Grade 4.

Dig It Dec (Daisy & Ri)

Goal with Rio was weaves. The Intermediate Jumping course was lovely, but I trained it anyway. Rio was … consistent in her errors? She is hitting the entry and then skipping the second-third pole and continuing. This is still a too-much-speed problem, and she is learning to control it. Slowly. She’s gone up a couple of gears in competition and is attacking those weaves now, and we just need to work on controlling it a little more.

Agility was more weaves, more Aframes, all easy. Training training training, but we made the most of it. Maybe eventually Rio will be able to do dogwalks and seesaws as well.

Daisy’s two jumping runs were on a lovely straightforward course. We had fun with it! One little pull-thru that she rocked so we rewarded that. She was picking up obstacles really nicely, driving on to tunnels beautifully, we just need to work on the drive to the finish. She knocked a couple of poles, but her jumping judgement will improve as we go (I hope!). Her confidence has improved dramatically, and we’re developing a start line routine that I’m reasonably happy with.

Large Steeplechase for Rio was a really straightforward course, very appropriately fast and flowing! We got E’d, because I didn’t cue the sharp left turn at the end of a row of four jumps early enough. Rio was in full forward mode, and overshot the turn completely. She nailed the rest of it though, beautiful running. Love handling her when she’s in full flight, it’s epic.

Daisy’s Steeplechase course was awful, however. Pull-thrus and push-outs on an Open Steeplechase?! I trained it and we did our own awesome run instead. Nailed all the rear crosses, she was demanding and driving and we stopped halfway for a play. She set off again and got her speed up and then we nearly had a happy-zoomy moment … the little nubbin tail got tucked and ears back and the silly smile, but then she contained it and kept focused. Very proud of her, moreso for zooming than anything! I want her to feel joyous and happy at agility.

My only grumble for the day was Oblivious Small Dog Handlers. I had to run interference for Daisy in every queue, and twice had to take her out completely. Daisy will snap at dogs in her space, which yes, not appropriate and not good. However, I had her focused on me in each instance, totally engaged in a calm manner (rewarding for sits/downs, playing Look at That, etc), and I kept a 5-6ft distance between us and the next dog. Or I tried to. In every queue, the other people found it totally acceptable to either a) watch their dog walk up to Daisy and sniff her, or b) totally ignore their dog and let it wander at the end of the lead. Really frustrating! It was nice to see some of our non-agility training pay off, as Daisy initiated Look at That a couple of times, and also asked to leave the queue (in search of space) at one point.

Rio’s First Wyre

Went all the way to Preston for 2 jumping runs. I’m that desperate for agility competitions. Rio had C1-4 Jumping and G3 Jumping. I really wanted to see how she’d handle the atmosphere at Myerscough, because I wasn’t sure if it might be a bit overwhelming for her. Didn’t want to enter anything else there if she found it too much!

I loved the C1-4 Jumping course, just Rio’s kind of thing and exactly what I’d been hoping for. Unfortunately I was really late in the running order and so didn’t go to run until they were calling to the end. Apparently this was not appreciated by the ring party, who were pretty rude and demanding about my running NOW NOW NOW. I didn’t have time to warm Rio up properly, or to even look over the course before I ran. And so I made a total shambles of it! Rio was awesome, she bailed me out the whole way around and ran it beautifully. She hit the weave entry too hard and popped, and then I didn’t reset her again properly, so we picked up 10f. Oops.

G3 Jumping was a very uninspired course, exactly the same as the Small/Medium 1-2 and basically the same as Medium 1-7/Juniors. The spacing was minimum distances and the judge didn’t use all the space available. I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm and promptly got in Rio’s way, so she had a pole down, and then forgot to turn her for the weaves so she missed them completely. Took her back and she got the entry beautifully.

Super happy with Rio’s attitude and focus through the day, just those weave entries that scuppered us, and it’s something we’re working on.

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.

Operation Seesaw

Christmas Collar!Operation Seesaw is going so well I’m all for dancing on the way home from training. Theory into practice, and the new reward structure works! We haven’t worked on it for a few weeks, but the seesaw was out at training this week. Ri’s first attempt as a little hesitant, but after that she was fast, confident, and driving right to the end. Beautiful! Even better, she’s really getting excited about this game, pulling out of my hands and stalking/targeting the seesaw. She’s not freaking out about the movement behind or around her anymore, and is actually now staying on the seesaw end for longer than she needs to, to get more treats. We did six reps, all faster and better than the previous.

Our training group did quite a bit of work this week on obstacle avoidance and timing of cues. Rio and I are definitely finding a rhythm now; I am still hopelessly late at times, as Beans is so much faster than Dylan and has a very different style of running and jumping. I trained with Sarah McLean a few months ago and she told me that I need to get braver and work harder to get to where I need to be. This is partly down to laziness (mostly. I’m really lazy!) but also I’m more wary running Ri, and less likely to race to position, because she has no qualms about taking me out if I’m in the way. So I’m lazy and a wuss as well, not a good combination with an Aussie. I’m trying.

Weaves are still looking super, she’s controlling the speed better and we just need more competition practise. That will come! I’ve been working on her picking up entries with me in front and behind, she’ll recall through six now and drive on with me 6-10ft behind her. I’ve added in some more rear crosses, and she’s also getting much more consistent on the right. I could have done all that 12months ago, but there was no need and she’s so much more confident now. Aframe is also looking great, and hopefully dogwalk will come once we’ve got this seesaw confidence back. We’ve got another competition at Dig It in December, and a couple of jumping classes at Wyre, and then we’ll wrap up until January. I have to decide when to enter her back into Agility classes – probably Easter? It’s going to depend a bit on Daisy!

Pawprints!It feels too early in the year yet, but Rio’s new Christmas collar arrived today as well, and it’s so pretty! Even has a tiny little Christmas bell. Love the little details on the packaging as well, A+ from the Dog Co. Handmade Collars from Facebook. Love it! Unfortunately Rio was a bit muddy for modelling today. Red isn’t really her colour, but it’s impossible to get orange or brown Christmas collars! Collar shopping is still ongoing, since Rio has been running in her bat-collar this year, but I actually want it to be her everyday alternate with tags on etc. So she still needs a competition collar! I’ve been eyeing up some really pretty leather collars, and a few more tweed ones, but there is Daisy to buy for as well. Can you tell I’ve got a bit of spare cash for once?!

Weaves, weaves, weaves

Weaves! I hate starting weave training because it’s such a hassle, getting weaves and taking them round everywhere. However, I do like weave training and I like my method, it’s nothing revolutionary but it works, and it’s been adapted through a whole host of dogs so I feel reasonably confident about it now. Requires only V-weaves, reward placement, and timing. Easy.

So, Daisy started weave training this week! So far so good, she actually has a much better grasp of what is required than I had expected for this stage. She struggles to sometimes even see the weaves, sometimes it’s just Daisy running, but when she gets her head down and concentrates, she’s super. Fast, low bounce action. Efficient, I like it. So far, we’ve also done weave training in three different places, and she’s looking nice and consistent.

Hopefully will continue like this, and we’ll be weaving six uprights in a few weeks. Optimism!

Dig It November – Daisy’s First Show

My only goal for Daisy was to ensure she was confident, happy, and had fun. I also wanted to figure out our immediate weak points so we can get to work training for December.

She was a little freaked out on initially entering the arena, particularly when she thought people were going to try and touch her. (If you ever see me with Daisy, please do not try to touch her. Ignore her. She will be ever so grateful, and so will I.) She settled within 5 minutes and began to offer behaviours in the queue, so that was cool. Her response and then recovery time from Scary Things has improved dramatically, but it’s always good to see it happening in a demanding atmosphere.

Obviously all Daisy’s runs were NFC, so we did lots of tugging on the line and through the course. First run, she had no clue we were then going to do agility as well, and took ages to clock the first jump. She was very underfoot, uncertain about the tunnels, but we had some nice sections, particularly a nice drive to the finish jump. Second run at the same course, about 10-15minutes later, and much improved. Still quite clingy, but driving on to jumps and she was beginning to get the idea that we were actually doing agility. Nice wing wraps!

Third class was Steeplechase, and a lovely big, open course. Daisy set off before I was ready, which wasn’t ideal but I like that she’s beginning to understand the routine and the game. She did some really nice sections of work on this course, skipped out on a few jumps but did a fantastic drive down the last, very stretched line of jumps. Potential, we’ve got it!

First things to work on … startline routine. She has no wait, and I don’t particularly want a wait, but I do need some kind of set up which will allow us both to start at the same time. Second thing is obstacle focus, particularly coming out of tunnels. (Third and fourth and fifth things are weaves weaves weaves. WEAVES.) I also need to do a bit more training without the toy in my hand. We have been working on this, but I need to bump it up in priority.

Rio had a nice day too! I trained her jumping run (waits and weeeeeeaves) and she was happy bouncy Rio. I’d always intended to train that run, but I thought the course was waaaay too hard for Intermediate, so wouldn’t have run it anyway. Much too hard for Rio anyway, not something I’d ask her to do at this stage (but it reminded me that we do need to do some work on flick-flacks). I also trained her two agility runs, which she found very confusing (because the start jump and the Aframe were at opposite ends of the arena). Still, really, really nice Aframes! Waits were generally great in all runs too, nice and happy and not freaking out.

Steeplechase was a nice Rio kind of course, not as nice as Daisy’s but still nice. Unfortunately just as we were getting to the front of the queue, there were some fireworks outside. Rio isn’t especially bothered by fireworks, but she was a bit perturbed (and the stalls were packing up too, which she found a bit worrying). She set off very slow for the first few jumps and then picked up speed, very wide into the first tunnel but then rocked the rest of the course. Including some layering, which we haven’t done at shows before! She finished up 4th in Intermediate Large, pipped by a couple of G4 dogs.

Next time I’ll probably run her in Steeplechase and Jumping, and train her Agility runs again. We may attempt a seesaw, but I’m not sure yet.

Seesaw

I have been dabbling with the theory that Rio is just weird when it comes to her seesaw issues, and thankfully I have good friends to observe and clarify those theories with me.

Her biggest issue is that the seesaw moves behind her when she gets off. She doesn’t like things happening behind her, it has always been a worry for her. This also ties into why her wait has been suffering; she doesn’t like dogs in the queue behind her. Her best waits have been when we queue with Diva, presumably because she knows it’s Diva behind her and not some unpredictable unknown dog.

Because I’ve been rewarding at the end of the seesaw, she’s become really aware and suspicious of the tip-back. Which means her reward is de-valued. De-valued reward is less motivating, and we enter the spiral of Nope.

This week, I had someone else rewarding her at the end of the seesaw, and holding the seesaw in place to ensure it didn’t tip-back. I then called her forward to reward her 20-30ft away. Thankfully it worked! By the end of the session, she was actively seeking the seesaw and we had no avoidance. Her confidence isn’t there yet and we won’t be doing seesaws elsewhere for a while, but I finally feel like we have a plan I’m happy with.

Daisy’s seesaw is going to be the next challenge. She could go either way; it could be terrifying or it could be awesome rocket launching. We’ll see; I still have to teach her to weave. One day, I promise.

UKA Osberton – Competing (etc)

Osberton

I elected to go NFC in Beginners Jumping just so I could reward Rio’s weaves, which have been awesome recently. We have no weave problems, but I thought it would be nice to let her know how good she is. Of course, she promptly blew her mind with excitement and broke her weaves. First run of the day and she was away, no waiting, all barking, too fast for weaving. All my baby dogs (in fact, all young dogs that have trained with us) go through a phase of overpowering the weaves, where they get too confident and too powerful and too fast, and inevitably either a) pop the last 2 poles or b) pop out at weave 2/3. Rio did both! Not concerned, I’ll reward when she’s right and she’ll learn how to control it.

Steeplechase was … really boring. Accel – decel – pinwheel and repeat. Minimum spacing straight lines, no curves, no tunnels (!). Not my kind of course and definitely not Rio’s kind of course. It didn’t start well anyway as I dropped her toy behind her, assuming someone would pick it up, and they did not. So Rio released to her toy, oops! That messed up our start and then we added in some extra jumps, missed a few others out, knocked a few poles off … eh. Steeplechase II was the same course but one straight line of 2 jumps had been replaced with a straight pipe tunnel. More boring! Sorry judge; I do feel extra bad when I criticise courses now, but this was not my idea of fast, flowing Steeplechase.

For the Agility class, I just did a ton of Aframes. I’m adding the stop back in and wanted to get some aluminium Aframe experience under our belt. Rio nailed it, beautiful drivey Aframes with a lovely low stop. No worries on the aluminium either! Maybe one day we will be able to do agility classes again.

DylanDylan got to play in the POTD Triple-A, he blew his first contact and we had a short discussion about contacts, so he got the others. He has decided that after eight years of being a good boy, he doesn’t need criteria anymore. He had fun, so it’s cool.

Daisy also got to play! For a few minutes, anyway. There was a practice ring set up after Power & Speed finished, so Daisy and I went to play on the Jumping section. She was very excited but did apply her agility skills to new equipment and in a new environment successfully, so it counts as a victory. She also did great with fake-queuing. We just need to work on control and timing. There will be no “small-dog-handling” with Daisy, I need to be cueing early, or she’s off, taking whatever she sees. (Maybe I should get on with teaching her to weave, then she can do proper shows.)

We were all done with agility by lunchtime! It was a small UKA show and the scheduling of Rio’s classes meant we were done and dusted pretty early. But Osberton had the Horse Trials running and Saturday was the 2* Cross Country day, so we took Rio and Dylan to watch the horses doing their stuff. I love my horses and the weather brightened up to lovely late September sunshine, so we had a good trek around the XC course. I’m going to have to do this show again just for the horses, it was great!

Dylan didn’t care at all for watching the XC, but Rio couldn’t get over it. If she could have had a jaw-drop moment for the first horse she saw jump the big XC fences, she would have done! She didn’t bark, lunge, or generally act inappropriately, but she was fascinated and would definitely have done a little chasing if allowed. (It wasn’t!)

Daisy did do some wandering around the show, but it was all a bit busy and overwhelming for her. She did much better on the XC course proper, where there was loads of room. She is a hooligan for barking and “chasing” horses on the TV, so was quite entertaining to see she is a bit wary of horses in the flesh. Sensible choice, especially coming from Daze.

XC