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.

Waiting on Winter

Dylan has been lame. No particular reason for his lameness, he just came up sore one day. Left fore, I think carpal, hence a slow recovery. He is bored. Tough cookies, old man, you rest. I miss having him around. Dylan and I have been embarking on all kinds of adventures this summer. Not super-exciting-jetset adventures, but normal-dog adventures. We explore new places. We go to Good Citizen Dog Scheme class. Dylan passed his Bronze and Silver on the same day, in September. We’re working toward Gold. We started class and I realised I’ve never taught Dylan normal-dog stuff like loose-lead walking. Or how to be normal in a class full of other, normal, dogs. Normality is new for us.

Hey Daise

Daisy is cheerful. I want to practise ball retrieves but we’re on our flyball break until the end of October, and I want to enforce that. We have been working on agility instead, but not as much as I had wanted to. Sheep, in our field, ruining plans. Weaving is next on the list, after minor things like getting her KC registered, and major things, like getting her measured. Measuring is the next big hurdle, since it combines Daisy’s biggest fear, strange people reaching over her and blocking all forms of escape. Hopefully I can minimise this to me reaching over her and offering her exits if she wants them, but we shall see how generous the measuring folks are feeling. She’s an obvious Small, which should help.

Squirrel Watcher

Kim is Kim. Increasingly deaf, and therefore both more and less noisy. She looks like an old dog now. Not so much muscle mass, gets a little bit confused by simple things like how to turn around. But she is still sound, still hungry, still demanding, still opinionated. She still does her normal walks, although it’s at a slightly slower pace. Sometimes she still wants to chase birds, and does so. This is not particularly good for her old bones. She’s getting a little wiser about squirrels, and just watches them with narrowed, thoughtful eyes.

Squirrel Hunter

The squirrels have it hard. Rio is a mighty huntress (in her mind).

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

UKA Osberton – Judging

I judged for Agility Antics at Osberton in October, which turned out to be a gorgeous warm day with no rain at all, perfect! I had a big ring on lovely flat ground, mostly even, and the grass was cut! There were some very very old remnants of cowpats, but not a single dog stopped to sniff so wasn’t an issue. We were finished just after lunch, my Ring Manager was very efficient and we were pretty strict on course-walking etc.

Course plans are all below. Nursery and Casual ran over the same course as Beginners (with missing seesaw/weaves as appropriate!). The only real change I made was getting rid of the long-jump after 3 classes (Novice, Senior, Champ). It was a complete pain to change after every height level and I got fed up. The second tunnel (on the left of the course plans) in my Steeplechase courses was rotated slightly to allow a better entry/exit, but no other changes.

Unfortunately I forgot to make a note of all the course times! I can remember the Champ Steeplechase II because I set it a second or so faster than the matrix suggested (controversial, oh my!). All the clears were under by a few seconds, so I think it was fair. It was a very fast, very open course but I didn’t want to encourage anyone to go for a lazy, easy Q. Steeplechase should be about speed! The Novice II also ran well, with just a few unfortunate run-bys catching out the fastest dogs.

Mixed results for Agility; I didn’t mark many missed contacts, so that’s a plus! I wanted to set courses which challenged the handlers rather than the dogs, giving them optional paths depending on their dog’s strengths and weaknesses. I don’t know if it’s acceptable for me to comment, but I’ll do it anyway? By far the best at this were the Novice handlers! They tended to discuss the course with each other/their trainers (?) and really worked to find the best routes to give their dogs the clearest information. The Beginners handlers were the worst (sorry Beginner handlers). I think they were all caught out by 13-15 and forgot the start of the course! I anticipated the majority of Beginners running up the left-hand side of the Aframe, and then rear-crossing at the tunnel. Almost nobody did, and so tons of dogs got refusals at the tunnel, or picked up the wrong tunnel entrance. Everyone did great at 13-15 though, so I think it was a case of not seeing the more subtle challenges in the course. I will bear that in mind for the future.

Agility Wrap: A Summer of Hope

I could have said A Summer of Despair, or A Summer of Frustration. A Summer of Hard Work and Lots of Training. A Summer of Going Nowhere. A Summer of Going Somewhere.

We started at Easter. Rio did not like competing. Competing was stressful, overwhelming, and pressurised. She could do a few obstacles at best, and then she would come unstuck. She went into classic avoidance; refocusing her attention to judges, spectators, anyone but me or the equipment. She did not want to engage with competing. Persistance, says I. This happens, we have never competed outdoors. It may take a while. Inside, I panic, because Rio was my confident, sassy puppy. I have broken her somehow.

We persisted. We don’t improve in any noticable way. Her jumping classes are very slightly better than her agility classes. Everyone nodded doubtfully when I told them that. And then she encountered the aluminium equipment at Wigton and very promptly said No More Agility. She said, I hate this with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. I hate seesaws and dogwalks, I can’t trust them any longer. Her last agility class at Wigton was jump > dogwalk, and she refused to break from her wait. Sat and looked at me patiently, and said, I don’t know what that is, and I’m not doing it.

(I don’t know how I create dogs who hate aluminium equipment, but so far I’m 2/2.)

Racing

So, by the end of Wigton show, I have a stressed Aussie who doesn’t want to know. There are small moments of brilliance; half a course, a short sequence, which is fluid and focused and fast. Small, tiny glimmers of hope, like sparks for a fire.

We started again after Wigton. New plan; dramatically lower expectations, quit agility classes, and reward. Reward reward reward. I finally started doing all the things I tell my complete beginner class to do. I went into the ring in July and aimed for 6 obstacles. If we did 6 obstacles with full focus and drive, it would be counted as a win, regardless of how the rest of the course went. I stuck, rigidly, to the plan. Next show, I wanted 8 obstacles, next show, 10-12. And so on. One day, I remembered what it was like with Kim when we started. She did this. We did this, the stress and pressure thing. We worked though it, and we can work through it again.

Posing

The plan worked. I entered Dog Vegas, a Monday in July. Nobody I knew was going. No distractions, just me and Rio. And Dylan. I entered Dylan in Anysize because a) he misses agility, but mostly b) I need to remember what it was like to like agility. Not necessarily love it, just like it for 30s whilst Dylan was easy and reliable and comfortable. He won the Anysize Agility and got a shiny rosette. First shiny rosette for over 12 months, and I needed that bit of positive reinforcement (thanks Dylan). This was our turning point show. Two runs for Rio, and we finished the course both times. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t clean but it was focused and driving and working.

And now we’re in October and Rio is catching fire. We have a two clear rounds under our belt (and two 5th places, respectively). Every course is a full course, focused and driving from start to finish. No more stressy Beans. I love running her, she loves to run. We’ve got the joy back.

It’s not all awesome, of course. We’re still only running jumping courses. Our wait has … diminished. I have a new theory that is germinating, about waits and seesaws, and the desensitising process begins this month. That’s for another day. Today you get a whole blog post reducing six months into 628 words.

 

Hello Again

The all-new shiny-woofs Those Noisy Dogs blog.

I finally got my act in gear and sorted out my hosting. Old hosting = gone, new hosting = currently working.

It is nice to be blogging publically again. I’ve missed it! I have been noting things down all summer, and I will update TND accordingly, but generally I’ve been away from writing regularly about the dogs. Although I have been running the blog at Phantoms Flyball so I’m not completely out of touch!

Rio & Dylan

So, what have we been doing? Kim is still being her usual Queenly self. Dylan has been back in Anysize, because I miss running him. Rio is competing in G3 Jumping classes only, because she hates seesaws. Daisy is back in training for flyball and making superb progress, and is at her first agility competition in a month. And that makes it all sound so easy …

Hare’n’Hounds September

My wild child is finally starting to get her confidence in the ring! There isn’t a suitable word for the joy that comes after months of worry. I get to just love on her for this post.

First run was the G1-3 Jumping, fun course by Hannah Grantham! Nice and flowing with some handler challenges (two tunnels together!), but a lovely straightforward start. Rio ran a super clear, just a slight hesitation at which tunnel I wanted (my fault). Gorgeous drivey weaves, a little wide on some turns, but I didn’t want to push her. Amazingly she finished 5th, made my weekend right from the start!

G1-7 Jumping was a bit trickier, a tricky pull-thru which I didn’t think we’d get and then right-handed 12-weaves, which are Rio’s weak point at the moment. She clipped a pole out of the tunnel as I got in her way, but she nailed the pull-thru and I was so surprised I was late to the weaves, so she circled back to shout at me. We repositioned, I ran them as left-hand weaves instead and she finished nicely.

G3 Jumping was another nice course from Hannah Grantham, really needed a wait start so we gave it a shot. Rio did wait but she isn’t driving off the line from waits, so it was a slower start. This is something I need to train at UKA next time, I think. She nailed the weaves again, super run, and then I miscued her coming out of the tunnel – I front crossed awkwardly and she read it as a blind – so we picked up a refusal. She recovered and we finished nicely. Her recovery on errors is so much better, staying relatively focused and not worrying as much.

Fourth and final run was the lovely ABC C1-7 Jumping, big open course with that still required control. Rio was flagging for this one, she was tired but there were still some nice moments. I forgot my plan at the end and it was a scramble, and even though she was tired, for the first time she bailed me out when I messed up. Clever, honest girl. Clipped the last pole, but her time was only a few seconds off the G6/7 dogs, so pleased.

Our first run on Saturday was a lovely G1-3 Jumping, super spaced out and Rio reverted back to reckless speed, which is joyous but not very controlled. We missed a few jumps out and she nearly ran over the judge, but she was so happy and her weaves were beautiful. She did manage to steady up for a nice turn on the one tight section, and I managed to cue the rear-cross flick nice and early (+1 for me) but then a long spacey curve of 5 jumps was just begged for her to accelerate and she did, but too fast to actually get the curve and do the jumps. We’ll keep working on it.

Her second run was our best run of the weekend, in the G1-7 Jumpathon. We screwed it up because I didn’t step back off the box at the top, but she was responsive and fast and argumentative. Did all the tricky angled jumps, she really worked to find all the takeoffs and turn, and then just added in an extra jump to get the E. I got in her way on the weave entry and pulled her back to try again, so she shouted at me. I couldn’t stop laughing at her; more of this, Beans, more being impatient with me and telling me off for not being good enough. I will try harder, next time, I promise.

Her one space-out run was … well, most importantly, it ended well. She was able to mentally recover and find her focus midway through the course, and we finished it with a nice drive down the last line. She was anxious before running because of some noisy dogs playing behind us in the queue (oh the irony! Rio is the noisiest bounciest queuing dog once I ask her to warm up), and then a passing dog behind me did something to upset her. I didn’t see the other dog’s behaviour, but was aware of it passing behind me, and then Rio reacted as she would to another dog telling her off. So, I assume it snapped, but not sure.

This was a good show.

May

Rio has the most potential of my agility dogs thus far, and we are going nowhere. And it’s so frustrating!

When she is on and focused, she is fast and wonderful and astonishing. When she is not, she is really, really, not.

At the moment, environment is playing a huge part in her ability to work. Hare’n’Hounds was a disaster, she literally looked as though she’d never done agility. She strung 4 obstacles together at best, otherwise she was ducking under jumps and around jumps and just all over the place. We left the ring early in every single run. Anything which wasn’t running in a straight line was too hard. There was too much going on, too much to take in. She was distracted by everything. Nightmare.

UKA Agility Antics was better, but not great. I trained 4/5 runs, and the one competitive run … she set off really well, until she saw the large group of spectators, when she reverted back to drifty, distracted Rio.

What is getting me through this? Her weaves. Oh, beautiful, wonderful weaves … she nailed her weaves in every single class. Hit the entry, drove all the way through, fast and powerful and beautiful. I’m not sure how I’ve trained my dog to have such wonderful weaves that she understands and loves even when she’s distracted and overwhelmed. Weaves are supposed to be the hard bit, the stressful bit, for baby dogs, aren’t they? But I’m dreaming of courses consisting entirely of weaves.

The other thing getting me through? When we have a good run, we fly. We’ve had one good run from 10 so far, and it was an NFC run, but it was a single shining moment where all the training and potential came together and there was a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Rio was driving down lines, working her turns, actively seeking obstacles to take, confident and fast. I know that eventually, every run will be like that, and I just need to be patient. And train more, because guess what? I’m shoveling UKA shows into my diary like it’s going out of fashion.