After much heated debate between the many loud and varied voices in my head I decided to pull Strummer from his Standard runs in the DOCNA trial that is coming up in just 2 weeks. Part of me feels like 'don't be such a chicken, he's going to be crazy in his first few trials no matter how hard you prepare. Suck it up and get it over with'. The other part of me is still nervous about his dogwalk and A-frame and doesn't want to overface him. Both will be perfect by the April USDAA trial, I promise, and then he can have his big Standard debut. I wanted his Standard debut to be in DOCNA and at this particular trial for a number of reasons but none were good enough to override the fact that I don't feel his contacts are well trained enough for trialing. I hate going to the line feeling unprepared. Sure he's probably going to have his share of baby dog craziness but that's different from not being reasonably proficient on an obstacle. This is the first time I've had such a disparity between levels of training between the different obstacles. Strum's well ahead of the game with handling/jumping, can run masters level courses. Weaves, table, teeter are good, at least good enough for Novice, but those contacts are lagging behind because I switched horses mid-stream. I don't regret the decision but I have to live with the consequences. I'll still run him in Gamblers and Jumpers and hey now I have $40 extra to go towards the April entry.
The major factor driving this decision is the A-frame. I've been taking it for granted that the A-frame will come along with the dog walk, don't need to train that separately. That's what Sylvia says, anyway. Well, Strum is hardly one to follow the crowd and as it happens the A-frame is turning out to not be such a gimmee. Sylvia recommends running them over the low frame for just a short time then raising it up fairly quickly because the lower heights supposedly encourage jumping. Strum did fine with the lowered frame (nearly flat) but when I raised it to a decent height his chosen method of performance was to leap over the apex of the A-frame and then off the frame from the top third. After I recovered from my heart attack I thought, 'Oh, that was just a fluke' so brains here had him do it again and of course he gleefully leapt off the top of the A-frame again. So that was the end of that and that was on Friday so you can see why I'm skeptical that I'll have a decent A-frame in 2 weeks. On Sunday I lowered the frame again to flat and after a few repeat performances of leaping as far as he could he finally settled back to running. But who knows how long this will take. That A-frame isn't light either, I nearly put my back out and gave myself a hernia trying to lift it while it was flat.
The good news is that I'm finally seeing a bit of success on the 4', full length dogwalk at the practice field. On Sunday I back-chained it a bit then set him up at one end and let him run the full thing. It was a thing of beauty and a nice solid hit. Gave him boatloads of treats and ended there, no need pressing my luck. Thought I'd at least enjoy a couple of days of thinking I'm a dog training genius before that fantasy gets shattered by another session. I'll try again tomorrow, hopefully something will have stuck in his fuzzy little brain and we'll have nothing but perfection from now on.
Class last night was something else. Poor Strum was crawling out of his skin with excitement and poor me had to deal with him for an hour and a half. It's important for him to learn to work in a class situation with all the distractions but an hour and a half is way too long for him to have to be exposed to other dogs running. Or rather it's too long for me to have to deal with him. I'm thinking the strong winds last night had set him more on edge than usual because he seemed to be backsliding in his ability to control himself from previous classes. He was great during our runs though but 3 runs in 1 1/2 hours is not enough for a dog like Strummer. We had to wait 40 minutes in between 2 of our turns and at this point in his training that's way too long. We have one more class and then there aren't any more offered anyway so I'll be on my own until Joy gets back and starts lessons up again. When you figure out how much instruction in minutes I get per dollar for regular classes with 8 teams per class vs privates with Joy there is no comparison, those regular classes are a false economy plus all that standing around trying to entertain an overstimulated Border Collie drives me crazy. Then there is the issue of handling systems/consistency which did come up last night. This teacher is easy going and lets me do what I want but who knows how another might respond when I say I don't want to do something a certain way. Will be interesting to see how this pans out in the agility world in general but I suppose that's a topic for another day.