Normally I can't find a fun match to save my life but this weekend there were not one but two within 50 minutes drive. Saturday was outdoors on grass up at Powerpups. It was a beautiful sunny day, perfect practice conditions for Nationals. The course was the first round of the Grand Prix from the Texas Regionals. It had some challenging bits, including a tough weave pole entry which was great to practice. Both dogs got the entry on both their runs which gives me a good bit of confidence that their weave skills are improving with the drills I'm doing. The main thing I wanted to work on though was contacts. Cody started off running through the A-frame down contact but not stopping. He collected himself like he's supposed to but released himself at the bottom. If I could trust him not to start launching I'd love this to be his contact behavior because it's so much easier on his shoulders than coming to a full stop bu t I know from experience that he'll soon be launching if I allow this to continue. So everytime he ran through his contacts I had him redo the obstacle until he stopped then he got a big high value reward. It didn't take too long for him to figure it out and by his second run he was having a pretty high success rate. Lola's contacts were slow & creepy but she hit every one which I suppose is something. She had some nice dogwalks toward the end though despite falling off during her second run.
Overall Cody's runs were wonderful. He was fast, focus, motivated. His first run was clean and his second run was nearly so but for a handling bobble on my part. Lola on the other hand had an o.k. first run then shut down at the start line for her second run. Near as I can tell the reason was that I was yelling at Cody to shut his piehole because he was barking incessantly. He pitches a fit when I leave him behind to run Lola and normally I just ignore him because yelling at him only reinforces the barking. But Powerpups is in a residential neighborhood and I didn't want to get the place in trouble with the neighbors so I was doing what I could to shut him up. Lola was cringing every time I yelled at him since yelling is not something I normally do, esp. right before an agility run. I could tell from her body language on the start line that she wasn't happy and when I released her to start the run she immediately started stress sniffing and refused to start. The last time I remember her doing anything like this was at Nationals last year during the Grand Prix Semifinals where I think the tension of all the other handlers & dogs really got to her. It's probably just as well she's not entered in it this year. Anyway I put my feet right under her nose, got her attention back on me and ran with her off the start line right into the first jump. Literally. I managed to bring the whole jump to the ground, luckily before Lola tried to jump it. She was o.k. once I got her going until we got to the dogwalk toward the end and she got her feet tangled up in themselves and fell off. I put her right back on and she nearly fell off again but managed a couple more reps without incident. It's likely she was trying to keep up with me as I raced her to the end and she lost track of her feet. In any case this had me really worried. Was she stressing because her injury was resurfacing? That was my big worry. On the other hand she's stressed like that at this location before though it's been over a year since that's happened. Also it was getting hot and the sun was beating down with no cloud cover, something else that sometimes shuts her down. I had her signed up for a fun match the next day and decided to try her on one run to see if it would happen again and pull her from her second run no matter what happened.
Sunday's match was inside on dirt and the weather was horrible-cold, windy, snow coming down sideways, boy was that drive to Golden in the slushy snow not fun. I brought some of Lola's favorite treats and spent plenty of time warming her up and keeping her happy before her run. And she was fine. In fact she was the best she's been since her injury. Her contacts weren't as fast as I'd like but everything else went great. If she runs like that at Nationals I'll be thrilled. My plan is to run with her right off the start line at Nationals if I notice her stressing the least bit, something I haven't had to do for quite some time but I'll revert to it if I need to to keep her comfortable. I kept my word and pulled her from her second run figuring it was best to quit while we're ahead. Later I noticed her licking her foot and discovered her dew claw pad was healing from being a bit torn. It's been so dry, her pads often crack in the fall/winter so it's possible her pad was torn on Sat. and that's why she didn't want to run. I usually put Vitamin E on all the dogs' paws in the winter but I'd forgotten all about it during the summer.
Cody's runs were beautiful, I think he held every contact, may have run through one though can't quite remember. If he runs like that at Nationals I'll be ecstatic. I'm planning on resting Lola this week, maybe she'll have a quickie practice on Sat. and Cody's having a lesson with Joy tomorrow then he's off until maybe Sat. as well.
I'm supposed to be laying off my own tri training this week so I don't run myself ragged before Nationals but yeah that's not working out so well so far. Had a fantastic long trail run (1 hour) on Sat. then ran yesterday and this morning then master's swim practice tonight after a grueling massage at the chiropractor's. It's going to be in the 70's tomorrow, how can I not go for a lunch time bike ride? Oh well, plenty of time to rest during the 13 1/2 hour drive to Scottsdale.