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.

UKA Sutton Weavers

This show was really for Rio, who obviously sliced her pad and therefore couldn’t go. Next year, she’s wrapped in cotton wool pre-Champs.

Very very nice show, great setup at one of my favourite flyball venues, Sutton Fields. The ring plans didn’t quite work out (one ring was finished at lunchtime, another didn’t finish until 4pm) but it was great. I will go again! Classes were tiny but there were a lot of entries on the day, so Dylan’s classes had around 8 dogs, and Rio’s would have been 20+. Still tiny, but bigger than the 1 pre-entered dog, ie. Dylan.

Dyl’s first run was the Senior Agility, and he set off very well, until he got to the seesaw (#7). The number was still sitting on the seesaw, from course walking. Dylan was already on the seesaw when we both realised and panicked. The judge immediately stopped us and told us to re-start, but the damage was done … Dylan refused the seesaw and then had a minor wobble on the dogwalk as well. Cue internal screaming and wailing and some very good and supportive students (hey, aren’t I supposed to be supporting you?!)

Senior Gamblers was the class we really needed to do well in (Dyl really need the Games points!). I had an awesome plan, no seesaw, lots of dogwalks. Dyl’s dogwalks were great, we clocked about 24 points in the opening. However, the gamble started with the dogwalk and in my over-paranoid anxiety about ensuring he was supported on the dogwalk, I was then miles away from where I needed to be to handle B to C. Oops, big E. More internal screaming.

Senior Jumping, where we very much do not need points, we aced and came 2nd. Big big open course, lots of running and lots of space. Course time was 50s, which should give a clue as to how big!

Only one Steeplechase class this time. I drastically forgot where I was going and we scraped through by the skin of our teeth, it wasn’t pretty. Big 1st anyway, so Dyl has 16pts toward his CSC. I’m not holding my breath, we’re never going to reach 60 points, that would require 8 more wins. Which would require 8 more classes, to start with, and even if I crash Field of Dreams at Bakewell for a day, that’s only 3 opportunities before the end of the year. And Dylan is getting slower and slower, it’s never going to happen!

Not really sure what to do with Dylan now. He hates aluminium contacts and I don’t have the resources to build his confidence. He has dramatically slowed down in the past 12months and we aren’t competitive at Grade 6 by any stretch. We scrape by at UKA because the classes are so small in this area. I love running Dylan when he’s happy and confident, but he’s not 100% happy and confident 100% of the time. I think this winter is his last season.

Judging

digitjulyjumpingI judged at Dig It’s club competition this Friday, my first “judging appointment”! It was actually a lot of fun, but also exhausting, and it was only a 2hr stint. Judges, I have a new found appreciation for your skills.

This was my course, just in case anyone is interested. It was supposed to be a fast and flowing 1-3 Jumping, and it seemed to run reasonably well! Lots of 5F rather than Es, and feedback was good. It was really great to see a lot of baby dogs doing so well!

Because it was a fun club competition, once we were done, I was able to get Rio out for a bit of a play on the course. I went back to a toy rather than treats due to the location, and I had absolutely no goals other than to get Rio engaged and focused. Mission accomplished? Rio was super focused, jumping brilliantly, crazy for her toy, and raring to go. I’ll admit I cannot figure out what I did differently, and cannot take any credit for her awesome attitude. I didn’t ask her to weave, but she ran the rest of the course perfectly.

Which is making me think … I’ve been very focused on doing a lot of drive forward work with her, and actually her drive forward is great. I always say she’s independent and impatient, and I think this is the “problem”. She wants to GO, she wants me to stop slowing her down for turns etc, so we need to go back and do some more rewards for responding to handling. She also doesn’t like waiting, ie. queueing (waits as a task are fine).

Lincoln 2013

Haven’t done this show in a while. Kim won out of G1 here back in 2007, and last time we competed there Dylan was G3. It’s still nice, such a lovely showground, and it was the EO qualifying weekend which was actually one of the reasons I entered. It’s always fun to see the top dogs and handlers running!

Dylan’s first run was in the C6-7 Agility (super course). I thought when walking that the dogwalk might be a problem, there was a tunnel underneath again and the sun was shining directly on to the up-plank. Dylan had a huge meltdown, absolutely refused to move, and I had to lead him over the dogwalk in the end. That was … mildly embarassing, if I’m honest, but more importantly, really worrying.

I was able to talk to various people over the course of the day and get some input, and I’m honestly not sure how to fix this one. Aside from the tunnel-underneath-dogwalk part, Dylan’s issues with the dogwalk are limited to the First Contact aluminium-frame rubber-surface dogwalks. This is either due to the aluminium being sightly different underfoot OR due to the very very shallow slats, which can’t be seen at all in bright sunlight (and therefore making it look like a seesaw) OR a combination thereof. The tunnel underneath the up-plank exacerbates the issue, presumably because a tunnel beneath what looks like a seesaw is terrifying (understandably). Unfortunately, First Contact supply the majority of the shows we attend*, and because the aluminium contacts are so expensive, nobody actually trains on them.

I’m honestly not sure whether First Contact provide non-aluminium contacts anymore, but the wooden/aluminium differential isn’t specified on schedules anyway (just wood/rubber surface). If I have to cut out all First Contact supplied shows in the future, then thats what I’ll do (although I’ll have a seriously reduced diary!), but if anyone actually has some aluminium contacts I can come and train on please let me know?

*First Contact is a GREAT equipment supplier, by the way. My agility club buys most of our equipment from them. This problem is specific to their aluminium frame contact equipment.

Large G6-7 Agility, Lincoln 2013Dylan had the slowest clear in the G6-7 Agility. I knew when I walked the course that I had to sacrifice handling the last part of the course to make sure he took the dogwalk, and that’s what I did. I also held his Aframe contact and took him the long way round off #4. No worries, he nailed the weave entries and ran really well. He hesitated but didn’t bail on the dogwalk (although it was very slow) so that was an improvement.

Dylan ran well in both his jumping classes, we got caught out by a fractious queue in the G6-7 Jumping (and the tough weave entry) and then I made a silly handling error in Brenda Tenton’s nice C6-7 Jumping. Oops!

Hare'n'Hounds Easter 2013

Dylan Rosettes Coldest weekend ever. Possibly even colder than the Cold Easter of ’10, and that was also really damn cold.

I could have entered 7 runs per day, but I chose to limit myself to 5. I am not fit enough for 21 runs a weekend! I also didn’t want to mentally tire Dylan, especially after such a long break. We haven’t competed since the beginning of December, and so with four months off from competition and nearly seven months since our last outdoor competition, I wasn’t expecting a great deal from Dylan. He was struggling so much in the last few competitions we’ve done, and I just wanted him to be happy and relaxed.

We had four split class runs each day, and then an Open class; Pairs Jumping on Friday, and then an extra agility class on the Sat/Sun. With hindsight, I should have picked an extra jumping class, since Dylan’s contacts were too slow this weekend and it let us down in a few classes, but it was still useful.

Friday

Our first run was Pairs, and it was a bit of a collective shambles; Emma forgot the course with Diva, and Dylan was really slow and cautious. I think we both wrote that one off! It was a nice introduction back into things though, on an easy course.

The Large G4-7 Agility was a very flowing course, but with plenty of challenges throughout. Dylan ran it reasonably well; he was slow, but he wasn’t stuttering or looking uncomfortable in his movement, and that was encouraging. We got E’d as he ran past the seesaw (my fault!) and I elected to take him back. Everything from the seesaw onwards was encouraging however, he looked confident and smooth.

Large G5-7 AgilityLarge G5-7 Agility was the kind of course you have to work from start to finish, definitely a 5-7 type and one I enjoyed running. I was actually very happy with Dylan’s run, it was by no means perfect and was pretty slow, but there were glimmers of hope as his jumping was again fluent (if slow), and he seemed to be gaining in confidence. He actually placed 10th but with 1 time fault, which was really frustrating for me. The course time was 40s and it was just very very tight, considering the length of the course and the generous ring sizes. There were only 12 dogs that got under the course time and clear out of the 176 dogs that ran (eight G6 dogs, four G7 dogs). Hmm.

Large 5-7 Jumping had a last minute change of judge, so props to the poor guy who stepped in at the last minute to take on his first judging appointment. I liked the course and I was very happy with how Dylan ran, but we lost the plot half way around. Dylan got the difficult weave entry and then decided to miss out a few jumps and add a few different ones. It was the first course where I had the feeling of running my old dog though, the happy confident one, and so it was easy to stay optimistic.

Large G4-7 Jumping was a fantastic course, I was a bit smitten. Quite hard for a 4-7 but with lots of handling options and different tests, and just the kind of thing that Dylan enjoys. Dyl and I had a minor argument about a 360 wing wrap, which lost us time, and we finished out of the placings in 32.186 with the winner about 28s, I think.

Saturday

First course was Large 4-7 Agility and I can’t remember anything about this course, I think because we were lazy and didn’t get to the showground in time to walk the courses, so I just watched a few people and then made it up. I had to go and check on the video for what happened, and it was an ok run until the very end, when Dylan popped the last 2 poles in the weaves (sequence was jump-weave-jump/finish). I’m honestly not sure why, since his weaving was solid in every other class, but we re-attempted twice and popped every time. Eh, discard run.

Similar sort of story in Large G1-7 Agility, which was a very appropriate course for the Open level, but not very exciting. Dylan placed 13th in the end but his contacts let us down, he was not particularly creepy, just slow.

Large G6-7 JumpingLarge G6-7 Jumping was my favourite course of the day. I thought it would suit Dylan and even with the obstacle-avoidance, we should have a decent chance of getting round. We nailed it, finishing 6th, and I am really proud of that placing! Dylan was happy and smooth in his jumping and I felt like I actually made some good handling decisions, and we ran as a team.

The other Large 6-7 Jumping was also a very nice course, and I dithered and dithered over how to handle 11-15 when I walked the course. As it turned out, being unable to make up my mind got us E’d! I remember making eye contact with Dylan on the crucial turn and he had a very quizical expression, obviously wondering where to go. Oops, must try harder!

Large G6-7 Agility, last run of the day. Nice course, another 360 wrap which are really not my favourite thing, and lots of obstacle avoidance (theme of the weekend!). We picked up 5f somewhere, plus 1 time fault, still placed 13th. Again, it was frustrating to take time faults on a course where Dylan was working well and running fluently. I know he’s not the fastest dog and he’s never going to be challenging for the win on a G6 course, so my goal with him is just to have fun, run as well as we can, and hopefully go clear, so getting those time faults it just disheartening. Unfortunately I didn’t get this run on video either so I have no idea what the 5f was for, I assume we missed a contact somewhere but who knows.

Sunday

First class of the day was G6-7 Jumping, another super course (Ring 5 were winning on the nicest courses, they had lovely judges with excellent courses all weekend!). Unfortunately I ran quite early and the ground was still defrosting, making it quite slippy underfoot. Dylan ran well but was definitely erring on the side of caution, and I don’t blame him. We got E’d right at the end, oh well. Not a bad start to the day, and it maintained his improvement over the weekend in terms of general confidence.

Large G4-7 Agility was another flowing course, with just a challenging weave entry and a few push-outs to bump up the difficulty. All the 4-7 classes this weekend were nice! We went clear and finished 13th, but again, sloooow contacts.

A really straightforward course in the Border Collie C1-7 Agility, no seesaw and just 6 weaves on a very fast course. I decided to try handling the start a little differently to how I would usually have approached the box-type sequence and it worked really well, and we had an uninteresting and unplaced clear.

Large G6-7 AgilityOur last agility course was what I believe to be the easiest G6-7 Agility ever. Admittedly, it was nice to run a very straightforward course. Sort of like going back in time to G3, except I think this was easier than the G1-3 Agility that Diva ran immediately before this course, so maybe it was more like going back to Elementary. Either way, Dylan had a super run, nice and fast and clear. I didn’t wait to collect his time, there’s no way he’d get placed on a course like this! This was a course where a tight course time was absolutely appropriate, and it was set at 35s.

Large G6-7 JumpingWe finished the weekend with a lovely run in the G6-7 Jumping. Dyl and I had a minor disagreement over turning at #9, and got E’d, but it was fun course to finish with.

Really pleased for all our friends who won classes this weekend. It was a high standard of competition at all levels and there were some very very well deserved wins.

Flickr set here: http://flic.kr/s/aHsjEyAGk3

SUMMARY: A weekend of very nice courses and very slow contacts but really fluent jumping and really happy Dylan. Next few weeks are going to involve LOTS of dogwalk training.

Shut Up and Drive

Dylan is sound as a bell now, although I didn’t push our luck by taking him training. He is still being lead walked and if he continues to remain sound, he’ll return to normal life on Friday. Now I’m feeling more confident that he’s not crippled, I’m rolling my eyes a bit since of course he went lame this past weekend. We haven’t competed since December and won’t compete again until March, and I didn’t intend to take four months off.

Rio is getting her back to her fiesty self, although we’re not quite there yet. Still missing a bit of her edge. She was sassing me at agility this week, with the barking and the body slamming, which was a relief and an improvement. We worked on some more difficult jumping sequences Grade 3-5 type this week and she rocked it, including the layering. Fun stuff! Need to remember that Rio does not require cheerleading, I really need to just shut up and run. I’ve also been sneaking her up to Standard height and it’s looking pretty good, she’s jumping confidently and extending/collecting really nicely. It is nice to have a dog who doesn’t freak out when they knock a pole too; Rio is an efficient jumper, she doesn’t add unnecessary height and as she’s still learning how to adjust her stride, she does sometimes clip the poles (especially now the height is creeping up). Unlike Dylan, Rio just carries on without a second glance. I love that.

I really need to do some contact training with her at some point however, Rio still hasn’t been introduced to the Aframe or the seesaw, and we’ve only wandered over a dogwalk once. I’m not feeling much contact motivation right now. We’re just having so much fun playing with jumps and tunnels, and she still feels like such a puppy. Maybe she’ll be good to go for some Jumping classes at the end of summer. Maybe.

Rio Contact Training

This was Rio’s third time on the board, and this is her whole session. She’s maybe done 10-15minutes total, at this stage? No luring, no targeting, no physical placement from me. I’m happy!

I added a lot more movement in on this session, so we had a lower success rate, although I’m not particularly fussy at this stage about how she’s stopping. I’ll start tightening up criteria slightly on our next session.

Easter at Duncombe Park

Five runs a day on not-so-flat ground has killed me, I am going to have to get my running shoes on and do some training this summer as well. When I am not flailing around behind Dylan, I can actually handle him well. This was as much a surprise to me as to Dyl! As I am finally beginning to accept and admit that Dylan doesn’t really have a wait anymore, on a few courses I really struggled to get to where I needed to be.

This was our first Grade 6 show outdoors and at fitness, and although Dylan and I were flagging by Sunday afternoon, we generally did much better than I expected. Our training held up, we both have the skills we need to handle the courses, and when we got it right we were getting top-10 placings. I expected us to be outclassed, or at least out of touch in terms of speed, but surprisingly we really weren’t. Our major weak point was contact speed, which may be down to the rubber contacts and Dylan’s cautious nature when faced with something new. I don’t think he feels completely comfortable or confident on the surface yet, but we have no where to train on rubber contact equipment so I will have to hope it improves as we go. His Aframe and Seesaw were fine by the end of the weekend, but the dogwalk still needs a lot of work.

G6-7 Agility, Hare'n'Hounds Easter 2012We also had one big weakness, called Taking Off Early for the Last Obstacle. From watching the videos, this is my fault; when I slow down on the second to last obstacle (a contact or weaves) and then accelerate, Dylan takes off early. He can get away with this on a single jump perhaps, but unfortunately he crashed through the second part of the spread on our first run of the weekend, and then again on our final run of the weekend he had a fairly horrendous tyre crash. I will post a video of his tyre crash later this week, when I can bring myself to watch it again.

The courses all weekend were generally challenging, particularly on Friday. We had a fair split of 4-7, 5-7, 6-7 and Open classes, but barring the C1-7’s, the others definitely erred more towards G7 than G4/5. Lots of push-outs, obstacle avoidance, and required independent contacts in the course designs all weekend. Is that this year’s trend?

I think we generally either went clear or got E’d, with two 5F runs that I can remember. I trained all the 1-7 classes and held Dylan’s contacts, as they were very straightforward up-down courses where we were unlikely to get places anyway. We got one rosette on Friday, a 6th in the G5-7 Jumping, a really tough course for 4-7 and despite a dither at the beginning Dylan ran it really well. I think we could have been faster; I’d just walked out of another ring and then straight on to the line for this class, and at the third tunnel (obstacle 12) I had to choose between speaking and breathing, so we ran the rest of the course with minimal vocal commands (or forward motion, because there was also an option between running and dying of exhaustion).

G5-7 Jumping Hare'n'Hounds Easter 2012Saturday was marginally more successful, a 13th in the Garry Smith’s very nice G4-7 Agility and then an unexpected 10th in the G6-7 Agility. I thought the agility was a very easy course so I held Dylan’s Aframe contact whilst I got into position, but apparently there weren’t many clears. I can only assume everyone else thought it was easy and trained it as well! There was a particularly evil G6-7 Jumping on Saturday which was at least fun to watch, even if Dylan and I got E’d immediately.

Sunday we had no clears at all, oops! We had a really super run in the G6-7 Agility in Ring 1, Dylan didn’t come through for the pull-thru at 3 so I took him back, but he ran the rest of the course perfectly. That one was a bit frustrating! The very final class of the weekend had a really difficult pull-thru at the start, I wasn’t sure I could get there, but I’m very pleased that I did and I’m even more pleased with how I handled it. Unfortunately I then attempted to fall over a jump so we got E’d. Nobody’s perfect.

Rio had a good weekend. She’s Miss Sociable at shows, she really adores Cat and Tracy so they get regular face washes but she’s happy to sit and snuggle anyone given the opportunity. She was also very polite with all the dogs, although she was a little bemused by the 15 week Bernese puppy who desperately wanted to play. Considering the Bernie was already as big as she is, I can see why she was puzzled! We played lots of games around the rings, mainly a game called Sitting Calmly, which Rio is very good at. She showed some interest for the first time this weekend and watched a few dogs run, but it was very relaxed and she got lots of praise. On Sunday, as she’d done so well, I took a tuggy and we tugged ringside for a while, which she loved. I don’t foresee any problems with her wanting to engage and play ringside so this isn’t really a priority to work on, but it’s nice to know she will if asked. I’m more concerned with keeping her non-reactive to the other dogs working, and so far so good.

Rio's First Class

Rio attended her first Foundation Agility Skills class yesterday!

She has been through a puppy-tunnel a few times, but has never seen the proper heavy duty pipe tunnel. She thought it was pretty easy though! We did a few recalls through a straight tunnel with lots of tugging, and then did some tunnel, wrap around a pole, and back into the tunnel. I was way too nervous and messed up a few times though! The exercise included equipment but was actually nothing she hasn’t done before, (a recall and then a turn around a pole to a toy).

The class is 30mins long and she was losing her ability to concentrate by the end; she tried very hard, held her wait, but she wasn’t focussing on what was happening so I just rewarded her wait and called it a night. I fully expected this and was actually surprised she lasted as long as she did!

I’m mostly pleased with how focused she was. When we were working she was concentrating on the job in hand, and nothing else. During our downtime whilst the other dogs worked, I tried to make sure she got the opportunity to say hi to everyone in the class (it’s a tiny class, just four dogs). She was polite and when she indicated she was done saying hi, we moved away. I tried to make sure she for the opportunity to sit and watched the other dogs working but she was more interested in engaging with me since I had kibble. Apparently if you have an early tea it doesn’t even count as tea, and she was starving, don’t you know?

Tailwaggers February

This was 300x better than Hare’n’Hounds last week.

Novice Plus Tunnel Troubles was a straightforward course, but I’d already decided to train Dylan’s run. We played tuggy a few times and he seemed to enjoy himself, his jumping was miles better than HnH but difficult to judge as it was a jump turn into tunnel – back out to jump kind of course.

N+ Agility was a really easy course for the level, and Dylan was fab. He finished 9th but I held his contacts so I’m not surprised, but I was so pleased with how he worked. His jumping was excellent, his Aframe was great, his seesaw was really confident. Dogwalk was a little slow but I can’t have everything. I ran off and left him in the weaves and he worked right through without popping … it was just like running Dylan from 12 months ago!

Uncomfortable though it is for me to watch, I’ve also uploaded a video. I hate uploading videos of Dylan looking terrible. I’ve picked the video of his Novice+ Jumping run, because this was probably his best and worst run. For the more complex sections (weaves – 13) Dylan was actually running nicely, jumping well and wearing his happy face (despite the dither from 12-13 which was completely my fault). For the straight 14-18 finish, it all goes badly downhill.

My handling is not good on this video, I was late, misjudging, and panicking because he was going a little faster than anticipated. It was one of those courses I wish I could run again though, there were some interesting bits in there.

N+ Speed and Power was another fun course, a reversal on Power & Speed where you did the speed course first, and if you went clear you could continue to the untimed contact section (which we did!). For each correctly completed contact you had 5s deducted from your Speed time. So Dylan’s final placing was 5th in 4.96s. I think the winner was 2.??s, it was a very big stretchy course. Seesaw and Aframe were excellent, 1-3 on the jumping was fairly poor but he picked up and ran the rest of the course reasonably well.

Rio had a fun day with one or two incidents that were caused by oblivious or just rude owners of other dogs. Particularly annoyed with the person who thought it was acceptable to encourage their 2 dogs to race each other around the small exercise area. Rio did set off chasing but I haven’t exactly prepped her yet for two collies racing past 3ft from us. On the other hand, if it had been Dylan he would have had a panic attack, so maybe it’s better I had Rio with me! I was fuming on that one.

Hare’n’Hounds again this coming weekend and I have lovely Bails to run! I’m very excited to be running a Medium again, even if it’s just a one off.