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.

A Mini Break

A mini break for Dylan, anyway.

Since he’s retiring in a few months — just two shows left! — Dylan isn’t really training any more. He has all the skills he needs, and none of his behaviours are going to dramatically change over the next six weeks in time for Wilmslow. Trijem Poppin Candy

It does give me chance to focus on Rio, although I am kind of throwing her in at the deep end. She’s gone from the Beginners group straight into the Competition group, and has missed our Pre-Comp class completely. The drawbacks of actually teaching agility, no time for your own dogs. She has done really well, her focus is improving dramatically and she is handling most of the challenges without much of an issue. The biggest problem is me, I have some lazy-ass habits from running easy boy Dylan. Baby dogs are hard work, with the supporting obstacles and the having to time your cues appropriately and stuff.

I could watch her move all day though, she is incredibly athletic. Being awed by your own dog is not conducive to the aforementioned handling skills. We are still a bit hit and miss on weaves, getting better but not quite there. Her dogwalk is bugging me, she’s still convinced she’s going to fall and die if she goes fast (melodrama!). Her confidence builds every time and therefore so does her speed. Still need to do some running on the board on the flat, I think. She also did her first seesaw tips last week, and as predicted, she’s not thrilled with it, but not nearly so WTF IS THAT THING when she’s on it rather than watching it. Melodrama, again. Pretty sure she’ll get over it soon enough.

I’ve entered her first solo show, in December (or will have when I find my chequebook). We’re going to crash down to Dig It’s unaffiliated show and she’s got 5 runs, 2x agility, 2x jumping, and a steeplechase. Probably train all the runs but she’s in Beginners so no weaves and no seesaw, it’s all about the confidence.

I don’t feel bad for Dylan. I think he misses agility – he really loves training – but he’s still going to do bits and peices. We run three times a week together, he loves his runs too.

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.

Big Steps

Big steps in both directions with Ri this week at training. Backwards and forwards we go!

Firstly, her tug drive has really diminished. It has been frustrating since she has always had tons of tug drive, but after her season she lost interest, and with hindsight, I have made it worse (albeit accidentally). Because I got worried that she had stopped being driven to what had previously been her primary motivator, I started putting too much pressure on her to tug, especially in situations where she was over-stimulated. She’s also much more sensitive to “failure” when her tug is her reward. If her tug is withheld for a failed attempt at something, she immediately loses interest in it, and this has been a change from her behaviour before (pre-season?).

So, this week we swapped to food rewards and Rio’s switch was flicked. She was super focused and offering behaviours, and happy to “fail”. I have to come up with a plan now, because our arena is sand-floored and not suitable for treats, in general.

Not all negatives this week however. Ri did her first big-girl Aframes! I haven’t taught the Aframe this way before and so Rio was the trial run, but I am really, really, happy with how this experiment has panned out. I’ve done no backchaining or target training at all. I taught her the 2o2o stop position as a separate behaviour, and then we did restrained recalls over the Aframe, raising it a little every time to a top height of about 3-4ft. Rio was allowed to run/jump/whatever on her restrained recalls, all I was interested in was speed. Today we put the Aframe up to (almost) full height and included it in some sequences. I didn’t ask for a stop, and fully expected her to run it. Rio was rewarded after the Aframe every time before continuing the sequence. She did two running Aframes and then started offering a 2o2o stop, holding position until released.

Honestly, I was not expecting her to progress this quickly. Rio has done restrained recalls over the Aframe maybe 4-5 times total, and the plan was to continue with running Aframes for at least another 2-3 sessions before beginning to ask for a stop. I will jackpot any stops at the moment, but if she chooses to run, that’ll get a reward as well for the time being. I’ll start tightening criteria if she maintains her current speed and confidence. I’m going to train the dogwalk in exactly the same way, starting this week. Then I need to figure out a plan for the seesaw … hmm.

Dylan was on top form as well, really driving and actually had a few poles down as he was flattening out a little much. Beautiful Aframes and just generally super, I do wish I could get that super Dylan at competitions! We’ll see how he does at Lune Valley this weekend.

A Quiet May

May is usually my extremely busy flyball month, so of course this year I forgot to get my act in gear and actually enter any agility shows. I’m taking Dylan to UKA Dig It this weekend, mainly to support some of our newbie competitors from training, but also to get Ri measured.

Dylan is working really well in training with the dogwalk, so I’m hoping that will continue to this weekend (where we’ll be doing lots of NFC runs!). I’ve done every confidence-boosting training method I can think of, including component parts and restrained recalls. There’s a good chance it will all fall apart when faced with a strange dogwalk, but at least I’ll be able to see where we’re at.

Rio is back on walks now with the rest of the gang, although I’m deliberately walking in the woodland to try and reduce the amount of head-to-head racing she and Dylan usually do. They can’t resist the siren call of a beautifully trimmed golfing green! I’ve been working on her core strength as well, and she’s not yet allowed back on the road-walks that Dylan goes on.

Rio starts flyball training again on May 18th, although it’s just target work and recalls, but in a class setting which will be useful for her! Especially because she’s had two bad experiences in the past few weeks, both due to other people being totally irresponsible. In the first case, somebody left their dog in their garden whilst they went out, and the dog escaped into our garden. The dog made it’s own way out the first time, but the second time was rampaging around, so my dad opened our door to try and help it escape, at which time it ran into our house and attacked Rio. Unfortunately I wasn’t home at the time but Rio wasn’t injured and my parents were able to kick the dog out and then corral it and return it to it’s original garden (leaving a note for the owner, which they obviously haven’t responded to).

Second incident was when I took Ri and Dyl out to Digley for their first swim of the season. A huge Lab appeared from where multiple families were picnicking and attempted to flatten Rio – not maliciously, but just out of control. Rio hightailed it out of there, and eventually managed to circle back and hide between my legs, where I could bodyblock the Lab from getting to her. Eventually it got bored and bulldozed another dog in the distance. Again, nobody claimed responsibility for that dog either.

Thankfully Dylan at least wasn’t subjected to either dog – he was out with me for the first incident, and for the second, he did me proud by choosing to circle away to keep his distance. He was wary and clearly uncomfortable but chose to react by sniffing and moving away, not by defensive behaviour.

Contacts

We did some Aframe work this week at training, either in full or in bits. Rio hasn’t yet seen a full Aframe, but I don’t expect that for a while. I am beginning to backchain her 2o2o on a sloped Aframe board and she is doing really well. Her drive into position is sometimes very enthusiastic and sometimes a little bit more thoughtful, but it’s nothing unusual for her. She tends to spend some time testing the boundaries of her criteria, and that involves some slower work where I can see her thinking about things!

She is very happy to tug in position, and is making a big effort to stay in the 2o2o even if I try and get her to slide off. I’m not trying too hard yet, but I’m pleased that she understands this game! This is something I could never get Dylan to do, he doesn’t like tugging in position as it’s too pressurised.

Speaking of Dylan, he did some lovely Aframes as well this week. We also worked on some more complex courses and I tried to handle more assertively, including a few more blind crosses than I would usually attempt. Providing I get my timing right and cue it clearly, a blind cross works just fine for Dylan and I. I’m pleased with how we’re working right now, I hope we can carry it through to the weekend!

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.

Miss Rio, 10 Months

I think skipping agility class for a few weeks is a good idea. I needed to scale back a bit, and focus on getting her working attitude when we’re working together in the park, or at competitions in the exercise area, and of course at flyball training. Well, she’s always focused at flyball, it’s all running and no thinking right now. Rio’s favourite kind of game!

Once I feel like she’s focusing and working when I ask her to, regardless of where we are, we’ll head back to agility. I sort of missed this step out, and went from home to agility class. I’m feeling a little pleased with myself for spotting it though, and for taking the action to correct it before we got any further down the wild unfocused puppy path.

Rio is 10 months old now, and although I occasionally panic and think we haven’t done nearly enough for her age, I’m actually really happy with how she’s going. Ri’s foundation has held up, and so far nothing has really phased her in training terms. Everything feels like a very natural progression, and it’s such a relaxing process for both of us.

Rio Stacked 10 Months

Her contact training is also going great! She’s offering the 2o2o position whenever she sees the board and we’re just having fun with it. I’m not touching her or moving her into position, it’s about her making the choice to rear-paw target to the board and get into position. Very little movement yet, I’ll start adding that in soon, but I am very happy with how it’s looking so far. I will film it soon!

Training: Jumping Woes

Dogwalk was variable. Check box on independent, because it always has been, and I really did push this to extremes this week running all over the place and in every direction. But independent doesn’t mean it’s the same speed every time. Sometimes it is fast, sometimes it is slow, and this does not seem to depend on where I am, but on the approach. If Dyl has taken a jump and only has 1/2 strides before the dogwalk, he is slower. More strides = faster.

Which leads me to jumping, sadly. Early take off almost all the time now, and the jumping just looks uncomfortable. Stride regulators correct early take off but don’t improve the way Dylan is jumping (it still looks awkward) which is part of what makes me think this is a physical issue.

It is probably worth mentioning that although I have obsessed forever about Dylan’s jumping, this is not his “usual” over-cautious jumping. Really quite worried now. Vet check booked for next week (couldn’t fit him in before).