Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Back in the Game!

Monday was the day…back on the contacts! I’ll admit I was really nervous, super nervous. Seeing as I hadn’t kept our retraining a secret, I think this added the pressure of my peers being able to witness first hand my ability as an agility “trainer”.

It was a huge project, one which I ended up only putting about 80% of the effort I should have in to. But let’s face it, agility is not my life; I am not retired, I work full-time, commute, go to school part time, commute, a one day a week part time job, commute, other doggie activities (tracking, obedience, hiking), have a husband-family-friends, commute, hobbies to keep me sane, and a teeny-tiny back yard that fits either 6 weave poles or a teeter. Plus, I try to blog about all my shenanigans. Hardly the ability to put 100% effort into anything. I’m happy with the 80% effort – it is still more than most others would be able to do.

Now I’ll explain the basics of our retraining the 2-on-2-off (2o2o) contacts. There were two separate “lessons”. First, build the dogs value for being “on” things and specifically the end of the contacts. Second, build value for a nose touch. When you put them together you should get a stellar nose touch off the end of the contacts. The reason you teach them separately is that if the dog is over-excited, then the nose touch weakens, but the value for the end of the plank should remain.

So how did it all play out…

Let’s start by saying that the people at Guides Canins know how to run an agility trail. I ran in 6 back-to-back events that started at 10am and we were in the car by 2:15pm…that is unheard of. Now, there weren’t that many people there, but there were still 20-25 dogs in each event – pretty impressive. We will defiantly be going back there! There is nothing I hate more than lots of down time during/between events – there are some venues that could take a lesson in time management and organization from these people!

Indie ran in 3 steeplechase – a first for both of us. Now, my memory isn’t the best, and competing in two different organisations (AAC and CKC) with two different sets of rules, two dogs in two different levels and [technically] 9 different “games” classes is a lot of rules to remember. So to keep everything straight the goal is just to run perfect and if we don’t, we just check for a Q on the score sheets later.

Indie’s first and third runs were spectacular. He nailed his contacts three times with a solid end position on the a-frame.

His second run did not go quite as well. His contacts were still great, but along the back of the field was the 12 weave poles. Some nice competitors were packing up quite close to the ring side, making lots of noise. Just as Indie was part way through the poles they shook out a blank. Indie stopped dead, but didn’t bark, but didn’t manage to forget that we were in the middle of a run. When Indie loses his focus it is hard to get him back to his A game quickly – he’s still a green dog. I started the poles over again but then he ran past the next jump in the sequence. After that the run was great. No Q because we were over time.

Just as a side note – it appears as though we were the only team doing a stopped contact in steeplechase. I am not sure how many dogs were doing a true, trained running contacts though…seems like a lot of “cross your fingers and pray the dog hits some yellow” training. Many dogs were hitting high on the contact as opposed to low where you’d expect with trained running contacts.

Travis ran in three master standards and earned 1 Q. There would have been a second, but he ran past the last jump earning us an E. Well, I earned us and E because I stopped handling him on the 180. My bad. His times were also EXCELLENT! His fastest in master standard ever…a good 5-10 seconds under SCT. Usually we’re around 1-2 seconds under time. I attribute it to Val’s flowing course design…still challenging (more decoy, obstacles discrimination type challenges) than twisty turn-y course which really slow Travis down.

His contacts in the first two events were solid, but he did half slip off the dog walk, but got back on to end position. The judge didn’t fault us for this – not sure what the rules say about that anyway. His last event was a disaster. I think he had 3 refusals and 3 really, really, off courses by obstacle #10. He was simply not interested in participating and barked at me relentlessly. He never barks at me – ever. I tried playing with him to get his mind back in the game (I grab him in a bear hug and growl at him – he loves this) but he just wasn’t having it. It was so weird. I pulled him out about half way through – no sense me getting upset (he is really sensitive to my moods, which don’t seem to faze Indie at all) and he is just practicing being wrong again and again. The first words out of my husband were “…that was weird”. Good, it wasn’t just me. I asked him if it seemed like I was handling badly and he said that it really seemed to be Travis not listening to me.

That was the last event of the day, so we packed up and headed home. Travis was himself by the time we got home, doing tricks and obedience games. We figured it was the heat – or the pressure – maybe he crumbles under pressure. Maybe it was my mood too – I was a little frazzled from things going so fast, running two dogs in two rings and 6 events. Maybe he knew something I didn’t.

We’re at All Dogs on Saturday – hope things go just as well, or better, there too! I am really happy with the boys contact training.

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