Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Comeback Kid

A few weeks ago, I took Pico to a "Show and Go" which was held at Medina Swarm Agility Club where we have attended many trials. A 'Show and Go' or 'Run Through' is a practice event which is set up like a real trial and is very useful for new dogs or dogs with issues especially because treats and/or toys can be used in the ring. We attended this event primarily to work on Pico's Weaves and his Teeter.
I expected this event to be smaller and quieter than a regular trial. I was correct on the former and way-off on the latter! Many of the dogs had never been to this building before or to a trial of any kind. It was definitely  a louder environment than normal.
The first run was Jackpot and there, way off in the distance, were the Weave Poles! It was pretty much a given that if Pico wouldn't Weave by my side, he certainly wouldn't weave 2 miles away... and he didn't.

During our second event, we had a light bulb moment! Pico initially refused the Weaves, looking at them as though he'd never seen them before. I brought him back around, presented my hand containing a large chunk of chicken, and could see the recognition cross his face. He Weaved like he does in practice. This continued throughout our runs that day and it occurred to me that the treat in my hand had become part of the Weave sequence for Pico. If the treat wasn't there to start off the sequence, then the process of Weaving never started.

I already knew that fading was a training weakness of mine and here was proof positive that it is a huge problem area. I realized that I need to fade the treat if we ever hope to have solid Weaves (and we do hope!)

In this video, it's clear  that Pico can Weave. It's also clear  that he is looking for the treat between each pole rather than driving ahead to the end of the Obstacle in order to earn a treat:

The good news is that this is all fixable! Our new class session started last week and we have already started working on  proofing stronger Weaves.

On Saturday February 15, 2014 we had an official CPE Trial at Medina Swarm Agility Club where we were entered in 5 events: Full House 4, Standard 2, Jackpot 3, Jumpers 3, and Colors 3.

I always appreciate starting with Full House because it's a nice way to get out in the ring and run with your dog without a lot of stress (at least now that Pico no longer runs straight to the table!) Off courses are just additional points which relieves a lot of stress! Pico did a nice job out there and got enough points for a first place Q. This was our first-ever Level 4 course so I felt good about life.

Next up was Standard 2 (aka our nemesis):

Pico was a little squirrely at the startline and missed the Dog Walk. I thought maybe this was because it looked like a Teeter to him. Jeanne, however, thought that my line pulled him off. I brought him back around and he had a nice, speedy dog walk. At the Weaves, I dramatically presented my hand as if there were a big chunk of chicken in it, and Pico Weaved beatifully! The Teeter however, caused our usual issues. Pico mounted the Teeter, moved to the pivot point, hesitated, and bailed off the side giving us a major fault of 15 points. He finished the course well and I was just thrilled that he Weaved! To my delight, we didn't see another set of Weaves all day :)

Jackpot was Non Traditional but still contained distance work:

I wasn't concerned looking at it on paper, but it got much more difficult once we walked the course! After taking the initial starting jump, I chose to send Pico into the small square Tunnel off of my right. I then turned and ran to the Jump in the small square and cued it with my left as I was running toward the tunnel. Pico was fantastic and focused which earned us our Jackpot and 15 points! I continued behind the tunnel and called him as he exited. I cued Jump (1), A Frame (5), Jump Combo (5) and then turned him around for Jump Combo (5), A Frame (5), Jump (1), Double Jump (3){Here the first whistle blew}, Table (5) for a total of 46 points and a First Place Q! Some teams attempted all three boxes which was very fun to watch.

Our Jumpers course looked intimidating (to me) on paper:

I not only planned a Rear Cross on the Flat (RCOTF), a Front Cross (FC) on the landing side of 7, a Pull from 9 to 10, a FC after 12 and after 15 but I did them all! And best of all, Pico was watching and responded appropriately for the entire course. I really believe that this was our best run to date.

All of that focus and flow must have worn out my little teammate because he definitely wasn't 'on' for our Colors Run:

After breathing a huge sigh of relief that there were no Weaves or Teeter in sight, I chose the Circles course. Pico ran wide twice and just didn't seem to be in the game. It could have been me too though as trial days are long days! My timing seemed off and we didn't flow. We did somehow manage to eek out a first place Q though!

We are not slated to trial in March and will use that time working out the kinks in our Weaves and Teeter. We are in a good place, my little dog and I.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Agility Underground Winter League 2014

Once again we had a great Winter League at Agility Underground! We had 9 teams of 3 dog/handler teams.
This year's schedule was:

Team Relay

All events were run with a Judge, Scribe, and Timer as in a 'real' trial setting.

I remember during last year's League Play thinking, "By next year's League, Pico will be Weaving". I was right and wrong... He is weaving but only at home and in practice. Because of this, our results were less than stellar for our team, 'Flat, Rat & Gnat' (Jack, a Flat Coated Retriever with Toni; Henry, a Rat Terrier with Marilyn; and Pico who can be gnat-like)

Our last run of the season was Team Relay and Marilyn was out of town which meant that Jack & Pico would have to carry the team. Luckily, Kelly is a thoughtful Judge and designed one of the 3 relay courses without Weaves or a Teeter!

The courses looked like this:

Jack & Toni were kind enough to run the Open Circles (1) and Dark Circles (2) courses and Pico and I ran the Open Squares course (3). I was surprised to hear some people avoiding the (3) course because their dog did not like the A-Frame. It seems that many dogs have obstacles they don't prefer.

While walking the course, I planned keep Pico on my left and do a Rear Cross One the Flat (RCOTF) After Jump 6 so that I could forward send him to the Tunnel at 7.
I changed my plan after watching a few runs before ours. One team did a Forward Cross on the Landing side of Jump 5, sent the dog over Jump 6 off of her right and into the Tunnel 7. I immediately started practicing this move in my head.

Another team did my original plan with RCOTF after Jump 6 and the dog went straight into Tunnel 2.

Thanks to Linda's filming and editing talents, here is our run:

I felt great about the run and I was thrilled that a few people said that Pico looked really happy. When I watched the video though, I could see I need to work on maintaining my line (8 to 9), my FC (after 6), and on trusting Pico (9 to 10)!

Looks like Linda's got her work cut out for her when our lessons begin in 2 weeks :)