Took Strum and Lola up to Powerpups again for another fun match. This time the weather was cooperating so we were able to run a course and there was a fair bit of a crowd to provide the necessary distractions.
Strum did mostly well while waiting ringside. Had a few outbursts and ran off of the practice jump as the dog in the ring zipped past. Luckily the arena is fenced and once he figured out he wasn't going to get in he came back and worked nicely with me. Usually I won't let him off leash at the practice jump unless I know the distraction level is such that he won't leave me but since we were at a practice match and I knew he couldn't cause any trouble I wanted to push him a little. Both his runs were a bit crazy from a handling perspective, he was running wild, not collecting, knocking bars, running past obstacles and several times I had to stop and call him back to me to remind him uh, hey buddy, remember me? I had him repeat small sections of the course until he was focused on me and collecting and then we'd move on. I'm glad I chose to run him on the masters level course, I can't imagine the carnage we would have had on the novice course. I also stopped to reward dogwalk, weaves, teeter and table so that caused some break in the momentum of the runs as well. The good news is that he was something like 80-90% (8 or 9 hits out of 10 or so reps) with his dogwalk and I was thrilled about that. Teeter and table were nice too though he didn't get his elbows down right away on the table, he was so excited to get moving. That's the first time I've seen that so we'll have to go back to including more tables in sequences. The weaves were after a slight turn after the dogwalk and I stopped to reward all dogwalks so getting him back and lined up for the weaves was a bit awkward and he missed a few entries. Once I got him in they were beautiful though except the last set of the last run where he popped out about midway through because frankly I think by that point his poor brain was melting. 90 seconds is a long time to be running full tilt. Tonight I take him to Boulder County Fairgrounds for the last run through of the season and my plan is to work small sequences, maybe even put him in a sit in between sequences to settle him a bit and keep things from getting too crazy out of control. Also I'm going to go back to using more control type focus exercises to warm him up. I tried using a tug toy during his warm up at the fun match to see if he was ready for that and I'd say the answer to that is not. He sure had fun out there though and as I came out of the ring a friend who's never seen him run before said I'd better put my running shoes on, he's so darned fast.
I brought Lola along to work on her table issues. I've been working on this away from agility and even away from the table and on the one hand I wasn't quite ready to be putting her on a table during a course but on the other hand fun matches are so few and far between that I wanted to take advantage of being able to reward her on the table. Luckily the table was in a central location so I was able to redo it several times in a row then carry on with the course then come back to it again and redo it some more. The first run I rewarded her for the first time she got on the table then withheld reward the second time then rewarded the third time. She was hesitant to get on the third time but she did it. For the second run I didn't reward her the first time and she put up a bit of a fuss getting on the second time. I pulled her off the table because I didn't want to reward her for balking if she did eventually go down. Then I gave her another chance and she went down, got lots of treats and was fine for all other reps. I wish USDAA would do away with the table, what a stupid obstacle. Sucks all the fun and flow right out of the run.
She did a great job on everything else for both her runs-perfect contacts and weaves, followed my handling beautifully, lots of sassy barking. I'd say she was having some big fun as well. She's a dream to handle compared to crazy wild man Strummer, I'll tell you that. I didn't realize how good she was until I had to go back to novice with a crazy wild green dog.
Strum had his first perfect practice (10/10, 100%) on the full height dogwalk out at the practice field on Saturday. Of course I'll need to see it a million more times before I'll believe it's for reals but I was so happy for that one good practice. Then his good showing at the fun match gives me even more confidence that we're going to pull this one off. I'm going to see how solid he is this week and if things go well I'll reintroduce the A-frame next week. I think (hope) my mistake was introducing it too soon before the dogwalk behavior was solid enough. My yard's a bit muddy right now but once it dries out I'll go back to working on turns on the plank/table set-up.