Woohoooooo! Miles is on a roll as we got two Q’s in two consecutive Jumpers runs yesterday!! ASCA stands for Australian Shepherd Club of America and they have their own agility rules which pretty much follow old NADAC rules. There are only two ASCA trials held here each year, Spring and Fall, at the APS in Mebane, NC. Last March we participated in this trial and things were not so hot. It was our first time trialing away from where we train, so that was tough for both of us. We had entered two Jumpers runs last year and Miles was obviously stressed. He would stay with me for a few obstacles, then go off and sniff, then reconnect, then sniff. All in all considering the new location, however, I didn’t think it went that bad.
Fast forward to this trial and what a difference 6 months can make! Miles’ confidence has improved exponentially. I measure this by several things: speed, lack of (or extremely minimal) sniffing, ability to celebrate with me in the ring after our run, ability to do tricks on the start line, and desire to play with me near the ring. We still have a long way to go, but each and every time we have a success like this weekend it puts more weight into the confidence bucket.
The first run yesterday was at 8:45am…I arrived at 8:40…ahhh! It’s always a crap shoot when you try to guess the start time. I got there just as they were walking the Novice course and missed the Judges Briefing. Good thing because the judge at this trial was less-than-pleasant and it probably would have made me too nervous (he was in a rush to catch a plane, apparently). Anyway, the course seemed flowy enough. All wingless jumps, no tunnels or anything. I was having a difficult time with the first part because it was going to require a rear-cross as I couldn’t find a smooth way to do a front. I’ve lost him to sniffing before when I’ve had to do a rear-cross at the end of a line of jumps. I planned to start with him and try our PB&J (push back and jam) to see what kind of response I got. In practice this really fires him up and it held true here too because Miles’ took off like a rocket. Jump, jump, jump, jump, uh oh rear cross and I push him around the jump–dang it! Slight bow of the head to sniff but I get down low and say “haha!” and he comes right back to me and we finish the course fast and clean. Q and a 2nd place by .3 seconds (darn the rear-cross).
During the break, I worked on playing with Miles and his ball in different areas around the ring. I’m trying to ping-pong the distances to slowly get him used to playing in all locations. We actually were able to play in the warm up area about 20ft from the gate–yay Miles! Of course he was much more interested in the pepperoni I was carrying. I tried Melanie’s advice of working on some more difficult tricks, but it didn’t go so well as we were probably too close to the ring for that yet. So we did easy ones–nose touch, kiss, high five, shake, other one, etc. I tried to get him to “saddle up” which he did but I had to lure him. Not bad.
The second run was similar to the first. Open and flowy with all wingless jumps and no good place to do a front cross, ugh. Oh well, Miles seemed to be moving out fast enough that I thought the rears might be okay as long as I cued them well enough in advance. Once again I was rushed into the ring, but I tried to remain calm and took my time getting MIles set. We started together again with the PB&J and off he went like a shot! Completely perfect for the whole run. Fast and happy, he played with me as we collected his leash and headed out to give him the rest of his breakfast and to find his ball. Q and a 1st place by 4 seconds….yeah!! When I got home I calculated his yards per second for each run and his second run was 4.75yps. The best he did on the flat that’s been measured was 7.9yps and with 5 jumps 6.1yps. Must continue to work on speed, but I’m definitely happy with these results! Here are some pics from the trial–there are only 3 and notice Miles hamming it up for the camera in the second photo! Photos.
Oh and not to go without mention, Rue did perfect too. She was an angel in her crate and happy to come out every time. We worked on attention heeling and simple tricks. She still wants to visit every dog she sees, but she’s getting better about asking (sitting and giving me eye contact). I didn’t get to play any tug with her near the ring because everything was going so quickly that I just didn’t have the time. We did play fetch with her frisbee in the adjacent field which was surrounded by barking shelther dogs though 🙂
Next up: AKC at Teamworks November 7th and 8th and NADAC at PBH November 9th.