For the past four days, Sivia has been hosting seminars at PBH. This is her second trip to our club, her first was March of ’08. I attended her Novice Handling seminar at that time with Miles and the poor guy was so overwhelmed by the auditing crowd and her difficult sequences that he could barely even jump. What a difference 1 1/2 years can make! It’s always nice to be able to look back at something like this and remind yourself just how far you’ve come. Not only have I improved as a handler, but Miles’ improvment in attitude and skill level is just incredible. This time I signed up for 3 days worth of fun: Advanced Handling for Miles (wanted to do Masters, but T-day traveling conflicted with that), Contacts and Weaves with both dogs, and Young Dog Experienced Handler for Rue.
All day Sunday was the Adv. Handling seminar. Silvia actually gave us some pretty difficult European style sequences…I definitely didn’t feel like we weren’t challenged. Miles really aced all of the sequences and Silvia even said that he was fast, wow! I think he was the only dog that hit every single weave entry too…and they certainly were some zingers. Not much else to say about the day really. It seems the last couple of seminars I’ve been to with Miles (Daisy Peel’s and this one), neither one had much to say about him other than how good he is at following my motion and how I make good handling choices for our team. He’s such a good boy 🙂 I know I definitely have more work to do with him, but it’s comforting to hear these folks saying such positive things about us.
We got a 2 hour break after the daytime seminar before returning for the Contacts and Weaves workshop. I took the dogs for a short woods walk and grabbed a quick bite to eat on my way back to PBH. Silvia spent some time talking about her methods for teaching running contacts, 2o/2o contacts, and weave poles. She then wanted to see each dog perform the dogwalk with and without turns in order to figure out what we might need to work on. Rue was the only dog out of seven with running contacts, so she wanted to see her first. I was excited to show her off, but also a little concerned as there were folks lined up on both sides of the dogwalk which would definitely add pressure to Rue’s performance. Amazingly, lil’ Rue came out of her crate ready to play and tugged vigorously with me despite the close proximity of the crowd. Her dogwalk performance at first was less than full speed, but she she was doing the correct striding although hitting high. After several more reps, she extended enough to start hitting nice and low and then we showed off some turns. All in all I thought she did a fantastic job considering the environment. She worked probably for 10 minutes all for a tug toy, woot! Miles got to go last and I really wanted to get Sivia’s opinion on his dogwalk and how I could speed it up. She actually said to me as I brought him out for his turn, “do you have any problems??”, ha! I explained that I wanted to find ways to increase his speed and ideally get him cantering the length of the obstacle. She relayed that he actually already was quite fast even though he was trotting. She said that I could start playing with him on the contact board, like how I started with Rue’s running dogwalk, and see what I get. If nothing else, it should help his confidence with running on a narrow board. For the rest of the workshop we were able to pick to work on the aframe, teeter, or weave poles. I chose to work the teeter with Rue because I wanted Silvia’s opinion on her conflict between that and the dogwalk and whether I should be keeping a stop on the teeter. Of course, I hoped that Rue would do the teeter at all! She again was a tugging fool when she came out of her crate and had no issues doing the teeter both alone and with the tunnel to start. Silvia thought her performance was good…she was driving to a good position on the board and then running off the end. No need to keep a stop unless I need a place to “catch my breath”, but I think I’m fast enough to be able to handle all running contacts with her 🙂 Rue also showed off her aframe performance and weave poles (both just one rep) and she thought they were great. With Miles, I again wanted Silvia’s opinion on his teeter. She suggested that I continue to reward low in practice and also possibly say “contact” while he’s performing it to break his stride just like I do on the dogwalk. I tried it and it worked 🙂 She also gave me some ideas to try to proof his “running” aframe (running a bit ahead or a bit lateral) so that I might be able to have a little more freedom there. I left feeling very proud of both dogs, but particularly excited for Rue. Not only was she able to work through all that pressure, but she did it enthusiastically and for a toy!!
Monday morning I woke up to pouring rain and the prediction that it was going to continue until the afternoon. This was Rue’s day for handling and I was sad that we’d have the weather obstacle on top of everything else. Normally she doesn’t mind the rain and has trained with me in it before, but I was curious what she’d think about an agility seminar in the rain…would it be too much pressure? The fields were already still soupy from the deluge we got two weeks ago, so this was just making things worse. They moved the equipment to the top of the big ring in order to try to preserve the grass in the “real” agility area. As is Silvia’s style, the sequences were all quite challenging for baby dogs if not used to the European style….lots of tight turns, threadles, pushing out to the back side of jumps, etc. I’ve certainly worked on all of these handling moves with Rue, but I can’t say that she finds that kind of thing particularly motivating. Her first sequence was quite good and she handled it with good speed and had decent dogwalk performances. She also worked enthusiastically for her tug toy. I was feeling good about things after that until we tried our second sequence. This one started with a jump heading towards the dw, but you were to push them to the backside of a jump that the dogs couldn’t see off the startline. Lil’ Rue seemed a bit put off coming out of her crate…like she didn’t want to step in a puddle (odd), but tugged well for me and ran off the line headed for the dw. She realized quickly that we weren’t going that way and managed to do the sequence well, but you could tell someone had let the air out of her balloon. She managed a couple of jumps and then went off to visit the crowd. On our second attempt she was even slower and again visited the audience after the same jump. I really think she thought we were going to the dw, then realized she was wrong and then slowed herself down so she would have time to be right. The added pressure of the surrounding audience, the rain, the mud, and the tug toy didn’t help either. It was obvious that her interest in the tug was waning, so I switched to food. She was able to think through the sequence better, but was still slow. Silvia suggested that I give her lots of rewards for situations like that where there are choices and she needs to follow me. She needs to learn that following me is rewarding and that she doesn’t need to search for obstacles as much. Also Rue probably needs more rewards for turns she thinks. Silvia also suggested that if she’s going slowly to just not run her for that sequence and work Miles instead (like in class) so that Rue only does one speed in agility–fast. One other idea that Silvia had was that if she wasn’t that into running to maybe start with something that she loves (ie. dogwalk or aframe) several times to get her going and then start adding more sequencing in to “trick” her into running the whole thing faster. The third sequence was even more abysmal. It was raining much harder and Rue really didn’t want to come out of her crate at all due to the mud puddles surrounding it. Once out I did get her interested in a different tug, but as soon as I attempted to start the sequence, she was very slow, took a wrong course, but then sped up for a nice finish over the dogwalk. Unfortunately when I tried again, she didn’t even run 😦 I tried to get her to play but then she left the ring to pee. I thought maybe that was her issue, but I never did get her back into wanting to do the sequence. I got a few jumps out of her and rewarded, but still kept losing her focus. Silvia suggested that I just have her run back and forth over the aframe, but she was still not very interested, so we ended there. I’m hoping that a lot of the issues were mostly exacerbated by the heavy rain and muddy conditions. After lunch, we moved inside the arena to do some jump/tunnel sequences. I elected to just stick with food for her and much to my surprise she was much happier to run even with the crowd inside and the formerly very distracting wood chips 🙂 The last two sequences we did were not so good though, but I really think she was just fried. It was a very long day for her with a lot of distractions.
Overall I think this was an awesome experience for me and the dogs. Silvia offered some different perspectives and I’m going to just take all of this in for Rue and work on the things that I can work on (ie. turns = fun, only running her when she’s running fast, and/or starting to integrate sequences in after running some dw’s, etc.). I’m going to continue to use her tug toy as I really think this is the best way to motivate her for speed. Thankfully we have a bit of a break with Thanksgiving this week, but I am taking her to a drop in indoors somewhere new on Saturday. I look forward to seeing what we can do there to help her. I will certainly work Miles if I need to 🙂
Miles is signed up to work in a Masters seminar with Carrie Jones in a couple of weeks, but I think I’ll split the time between both dogs. Seeing that I don’t seem to get much individual attention when I work Miles, it might make it more worth while to give Rue the opportunity to work in yet another new place with yet another big crowd. We’ll get there……