My awesome trigility team
We have t-shirts and everything. For once I'm actually looking forward to trigility.
My focus over the past few weeks has been proofing weave poles and handling turns, especially 180 flips to a tunnel, off the dogwalk/A-frame. I've been trying to get Strum out to different places with other high drive dogs working and to that end Morganne kindly invited us out to her digs last week. Strummer was remarkably calm for being in a completely new place and working with a very high drive dog so either he's finally starting to calm down and learn how to work in exciting conditions or for some reason the environment wasn't as challenging as I thought it was and he was simply having a good day. We worked on some challenging handling exercises, you can see them here. We did exercises 5 and 6 with 5 being the harder of the 2 for me. Lots of sending to backs of jumps. I struggled with the #3-#6 jumps because that's not something I practice all that often but using deceleration from #4 to #5 was the key. Seems lately that deceleration is the key to everything and I need to remember to take better advantage of it. #7 to #13 was interesting as well, I was sure I'd get a front cross in between #9 and #10 but while running it I couldn't quite pull of the front but found that a rear worked perfectly anyway. I did get a front in between #12 and #13 though. Exercise #6 was easier for me and the only issue, aside from forgetting the course and running it wrong the first time, was a wide turn from #10 to #11. Calling his name while he was in the tunnel tightened that up no problem. I also worked some short weave sequences at the start of the practice session while he was fresh and Strum was near perfect, even with having to run towards a barking dog and make a turn to get the weave entry then weaving into a wall. I didn't drill him too much and I think he got all but one entry. Very encouraging.
Last night was mayhem agility with my other training partner and her high drive, barking dogs. It was noisy. So noisy that a neighbor started complaining. And Strummer was perfect, not a single bark or lunge out of him the entire night and the course was built out to the extents of the yard so we were standing very close to the action. He was a little wound for the first run and he kept dashing behind me at the first few jumps which were very far apart. That sort of thing is rare but something he does it every once in a while when he's wound up and unsure of what I want. I did a call to heel in extension at the start line, held back a bit instead of trying to race ahead and made sure I was clear about where we were going and he finally settled down and ran it properly. I have a bad habit of not using verbal obstacle names with him and assuming he knows where we're going like he's a masters dog or something and I don't support things and much as I should for him. I'm always in such a rush to get ahead and it's not always necessary and sometimes counterproductive.
We had lots of difficult weave entries and he did so well, I couldn't believe it. My training partner noticed a huge difference as well. I'm hopeful this will transfer to the ring.
The 180 turns off the contacts to tunnels seem to be a mixed bag these days. For a while at the start of the training it seemed like he had it on a verbal and was fairly solid. But now results are mixed. I had a few practices out at the practice field where he seemed like he had it by the end of the sessions. Then yesterday I remembered I had a practice tunnel and decided to try some turns off my table/plank set-up and he clearly had no clue. I'm going to try a few quick sessions today but clearly I can't expect to see perfection in the ring this weekend. Strange thing is he has a fairly high success rate in the ring. Hopefully it'll all come back to him this weekend when he's in the ring.
As far as goals for Champs go I'm not too sure what to expect. He's only had a couple of runs in masters in a trial so even though he can easily handle the masters courses in practice he hasn't had much experience in the ring with them. I'd love to make the finals in at least one of the events (jumpers or standard) but that may be a stretch goal given our lack of trial experience at this level. I could have intentionally kept him back at the lower level (intern) but at this point in our training I'd rather have the challenge of a masters course even if it means our chances for a ribbon or running in the finals are lower. As far as reachable goals, I'd love to see him get his weave entries on the first try and I'd love to see me handling in a calm, clear fashion. Deceleration, deceleration, deceleration. And using my words. Calling his name while he's in a tunnel when appropriate, calling out obstacle names, calling out 'Jump' when my motion doesn't support it (that was something Daisy Peel pointed out at her seminar). No crazy flying arms unless I'm trying to send him way out somewhere. Holding back and supporting jumps where it's appropriate rather than racing ahead. I'll try to drill this all into my head while I'm driving to Grand Junction.
I'm looking forward to the trial, I had a great time at DOCNA Champs 2 years ago and I'm thrilled to be back again. It'll be bittersweet for me though because I won't be running Lola. I had really really hoped she'd at least make it to DOCNA Champs again before I had to retire her but it wasn't meant to be. She seems to be doing fine as far as her possible ACL tears in her rear knees are going. After the laser treatments and rest/rehab her P.T. noticed a large reduction in Lola's pain response in her knees when she does the little test they do. But any twisting/turning motion in those knees is bad for her and could make the tear worse (if there is a tear) or possibly cause a tear for real that would require surgery. So even though she has no obvious signs of lameness and I'm sure she'd run fine if I let her I can't take the risk. She's done with agility and hopefully this will mean she'll stay sound well into her senior years.
I'll try to post updates while I'm at Champs depending on internet connections and my energy level.