Daily Archives: June 12, 2014

CPE Nationals Commentary

I questioned it even as I did it. Would it be worthwhile to go to Nationals, a 30-hour (more-or-less) drive each way for 9 runs for each dog? 60 hours of driving for 18 minutes (actually, less) of agility?

Herewith, the answer.

Yes: it was a great training goal. I worked on so many things to get ready for Nationals: I started running. I trained everything to a fine point. I loved taking first and third in Jumpers (24″ level 5) with Rush and Dancer, respectively; it was especially gratifying when the judge (Dorris Wigglesworth) said she’d been told it was the hardest jumpers course ever at a CPE Nationals. It was made more gratifying by our struggles with jumpers, which has been the class I have found most challenging with Rush.

No: it was a terribly long drive and very tiring for me and for the dogs. I didn’t sleep well because of nerves and unfamiliar beds and too much bad food. It was hard to find the kind of food I’m used to–fruits and vegetables. Bread was easy and I ate too much of it. I hadn’t thought through just how much I hate running in heavy rain. Wait… I didn’t expect 3″ of rain to fall in less than two hours–I certainly have never before run in rain like that. That rainfall was why I ended up skipping two runs with each dog that day.

Yes: I learned something about myself. I’ve wondered if I want to try for more national-level competition with Rush, and right now I think the answer is no. I get too nervous, too easily, and I don’t enjoy it.

No: I wish I hadn’t asked Rush to perform when his ears hurt like that. It wasn’t kind. But by then I had too much invested, psychically and financially, to turn around and go home.

End-of-run–what now?

When I was just beginning to train Rush, I happened to set bars in the Novice ring at a trial, and saw dog after dog duck the leash at the end of the run. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t allow Rush to do that, and I trained a come-to-your-leash recall. It worked really well until Rush got an ear infection in early May, and suddenly he was scared of his leash, because I hurt his ears putting his leash on. My apologies were useless; suddenly I had a dog that was running out of the ring instead of getting his leash on. That’s behavior that judges and other competitors really don’t like, and justifiably so. If there’s an aggressive dog or a nervous dog waiting to run—well, the results are not good.

That weekend, I got a different leash, a slip lead opened to the biggest possible circle, and I worked all weekend–12 NADAC runs–to reinstate my come-to-leash behavior with that leash, but the behavior fell apart again at the CPE Nationals, when Rush developed another ear infection and I hurt his ears with the leash again. He left the ring entirely at the end of our 8th run of the weekend (snooker), and I didn’t dare enter him in our last run, so I skipped that.

I spent most of the thirty-hour drive home from Minnesota (and some of the midnight hours when I couldn’t sleep) thinking about what behavior to train next. I want an incompatible behavior with a strong cue, unrelated to the previous come-to-leash behavior. What’s an “incompatible behavior”? It’s a behavior that makes the unwanted behavior impossible. For example, if you don’t want a dog to jump up to greet you, train the dog to sit to greet.

I’ve been working on using the leash as a target, but what then? I decided I wanted Rush to go to his leash, put a paw on it, and sit down next to it or on it. Kind of a backward start line stay. It’s an end-run-sit.

I spent barn time today asking Rush for two or three obstacles, then sending him to his leash and instantly asking for a sit, then rewarding with a big fat treat (one of his favorites: chicken liver treats). After thirty rounds of that, he was going to his leash from ten feet away, then sitting without the verbal cue. It’s a start.

Snooker Rerun

Adding to the annals of weird-things-that-only-happen-to-Rush, in our CPE Nationals Snooker run, my plan was red-teeter-red-double-red-teeter… but when we got around to the teeter the second time, the up-end was stuck down in the mud. We got a rerun… but I hurt Rush’s ears taking off the leash at the start of the rerun, and when he got to the teeter, he looked up and left the ring by the gate, right in front of him. That was the end of our weekend, as I scratched his last run after that.