Daily Archives: September 9, 2012

Training and Testing, part 2: Rush

I’ve been working on specific pieces of equipment with Rush–contacts, weaves, collapsed tunnel, tire jump. I’ve been working on his startline stay. Coming to his collar and slipping his head through. Paying attention to me when there are other dogs around. Going where I send him instead of turning back and jumping at me. Being more tolerant of me being slow and fat and sometimes late with cues.

Saturday, after the day’s NADAC runs, there was a demonstration fundraiser of several NADAC EGC games. I entered Rush in two runs of Barrelers, which is a bizarre handling course where you send the dog around barrels (set up in a line of two barrels) in the correct direction (clockwise or counterclockwise) and then on to the next barrel, and so on. It begins and ends with a hoop.

First run, Rush held his startline stay and did the first two barrels just fine. He then proceeded to jump at me, spin, bark, and in general behave like a maniac as we struggled through the rest of the course. After the last hoop, I ran with him to his leash, and he slipped his head through it and left nicely, running with me to his treats. As we waited for the second run, in a loose aggregation of about twenty dogs also waiting to run for the first or second time, he was calm and mostly focused on me. Fifteen minutes later, we ran the same course again, and once again he held his startline stay. He did much better this time, and we made it through about seven barrels before he decided I was too fat, too slow, and not giving him cues quickly enough. When he jumped at me and barked, I asked him to sit, and he sat nicely, immediately!, and I released him and we finished the course. I asked him to sit again, picked up his leash, then released him to come and slip his head through, which he did beautifully.

He will be sixteen months old in two days. He still has his testicles, and I can tell that his hormones are not making his life easy. I have to say that I am very impressed with how well he did in this exciting and new situation. It will be a challenge to compete with him, I can tell; he’s not going to make it easy!

Training and testing part 1: Dancer

I’ve been working on Dancer’s attitude toward agility. A year ago, when she left her ring to chase down a dog in the next ring (behavior which earned us a warning letter from NADAC, as it should have, saying that I needed to “work on off-leash control”), I realized that she’d been showing some fairly stressed behaviors for some time. That led Dancer and I into Control Unleashed work. (Control Unleashed is a book outlined the CU program; classes in CU techniques are available in many places. They teach not only techniques for canine stress relief, but also observation skills for dog behaviors in general.)

After our early August CPE trial, when I felt like Dancer was just not that enthusiastic, I decided Dancer needed a break from agility training and I did very little agility training with her, mostly just long walks and some silly games, for the next three or four weeks, then had one brief session for contacts last week.

This weekend was a NADAC trial, two rings but pretty small, up at the Ridgefield arena. In June, when we were there for the CPE trial, Dancer was slow and I felt a bit like I was dragging her around the arena. Not this weekend. She was fast, excited to be there, calm about other dogs (hooray for the CU work!), and did pretty well. Of course we had issues with contacts, but really I can’t complain. She got a Jumpers Q and a Weavers Q on Saturday, and a half-Q (meaning slight time faults) in Regular today.

Now, I just mentioned that CU taught me a lot about observing my dog, which is how I started to realize that I needed to work with Dancer on relieving her trial stress. What I saw this weekend, right up to halfway through her Jumpers run today, was a calm, relaxed, happy dog. Then she came around a jump and when I sent her back, she just didn’t look happy. She looked deflated. I asked her if she wanted to leave, and she still looked deflated, and we left the ring. As we walked back toward the car, a puppy got a bit close to her, and she turned and gave one bark, quite sharp, then turned back to me. What I thought then, and saw then, was that Dancer had spent a day and a half giving it her best, and suddenly it was all too much. We scratched the last two runs and headed out.

To me the most useful concept from the CU course has been “information gathering.” This is the idea that sometimes Dancer isn’t simply distracted but rather she is gathering information about what’s happening around her. Dancer worries, which leads her to want a lot of information about her environment. I’ve learned, over the last year, that she does best if we walk around a lot before her first run so that she can see what people and what dogs are at the trial. Also, when she gets to the top of the a-frame and stops to look around, she is gathering information. She knows how to do the a-frame, but the vantage point is too valuable to pass up! If I encourage her to look around, the next times over the a-frame are free of perching. I used to yell at her to come down when she did it–but my understanding of her information gathering behavior has made that unnecessary, and so her stress is less, and so she stops there less.

Chances, NADAC’s distance game, continues to eat us alive. I despair of getting another Chances Q, ever. This weekend’s Chances runs both began with jump-to-frame. Dancer did the first jump and the first half of the a-frame beautifully. She stopped at the top, lost her momentum, jumped off the side because I was so far away, and things went to pieces from there, both times. Oh well. Maybe next time?