My agility club's seminar was the weekend before last and since Ruby is barely doing obstacles there wasn't much we could enter. But there was a Foundation session and a Contacts session so we got to play in new more formal surroundings and learn a bit.
I figured the Foundation session would have us sending to curved tunnels, doing tight circles around cones and wing standards, short sequences and who knows what else. I was totally wrong. For us and most of the folks there it was all about extension. The more advanced folks got the start of teaching soft turns and a front cross. But Ruby wasn't sequencing at all before the seminar and I hadn't even tried running at a single jump with her. It was all me standing next to the standard and rewarding her for taking the jump. I was thankful to have such high level help with moving on to the next step. Such a simple step and yet so big.
I used her Lotus Ball for reward and Dudley placed it a few strides after the jump while I sent her from a restrain through the standards with no jump bar. Eventually we added another jump and then some bars at 4". Then a third jump by her second turn. Then a straight tunnel to 2 jumps. Pretty sure it was 2 jumps. It took her a couple of reps each time we made it harder but she caught on pretty quickly. So happy with the little smidge. She had a good time too, didn't seem at all worried about making mistakes or the other dogs or the strange surroundings and Dudley did a great job of keeping things fun and light. Our homework is to get up to 4 jumps (or jumps/tunnels) straight in a row before trying to work on turns. My other homework is not to use my handling to keep her from running past jumps. I found myself running into her line to get her to take the jumps and not only did it not work but Dudley rightly pointed out that I don't want to have to do that in the future. Better to manipulate the training environment than your handling. I regretted this with Strummer, using my handling to make up for holes in foundation so I was thankful to have that pointed out. I'm to put down a leash or rope parallel to the line of jumps to use like a Gamble line to keep me from crowding her and I'm to move the leash further and further out to get lateral distance. All obvious stuff but it's been so long. And Strummer needed so much work with collection, we didn't spend too much time on extension. In hindsight we could/should have spent more but yeah, hindsight. It's more obvious that Ruby will need more work with extension. Small dog, small stride, not super fast, at least not yet, extension makes more sense.
Some training from yesterday. Jumps and mini tunnel (my old chute barrel) are close together due to the size of my yard but it's a start.
I think she's refusing that third jump because she's trying to figure out how to adjust her stride too late. Or maybe she's still learning how to physically jump. She doesn't have the best build for jumping with that long back. Jumps are at 10" and competition height will be 12". I did build up to this, had a few sessions between the seminar and this taped session.
One of Dudley's training techniques that I like is that you should always start with something you're sure the dog will do. I did this on previous sessions and she was easily handling the 3 obstacles in previous sessions so I felt confident starting out with them. Another training technique she (and many others) have is that you don't make it easier after the first failure. So I tried 3 obstacles again and when she failed the second time I went back to 2. I don't have a lot of room to get lateral distance so that part will have to wait until I feel good enough to take her to the training field. My training partner offered up her yard and I may take her up on it.
The Contact session was very interesting, again not at all what I was expecting. Dudley teaches a running A-frame with stride regulators and a running dogwalk using a foot target. The interesting thing is that she starts with a foot target the length of the contact zone and the only criteria is that the dog hits it. Doesn't matter if the dog leaps off of it because as long as the dog adjusts stride to hit the contact on the full dogwalk it doesn't matter to her if they leap off of it after they've hit. She also teaches a 'stop' on the dogwalk by teaching the dog to paw the end of the target board and eventually the end of the dogwalk. These cues are on a verbal eventually. Similarly for the teeter she trains the dog to paw the end. And she uses the 2 table method to teach the dog to run the teeter separate from the end behavior. I've been watching a DVD from Jen Pinder ('Sizzling Seesaws') that also uses 2 tables for the same reason but for 4 on she teaches the dogs to stop at the end with front feet not allowed to go off the board.
Ruby had a few turns at running the foot target and again I was crowding her to get her to run on the board. She'll avoid obstacles to get to the treats more quickly. I was using a small tupperware container filled with good treats this time rather than the Lotus Ball to save the time of her ripping the ball open. She did well with it, again seemed happy and not worried by mistakes.
When I came home I tried to find some videos of Dudley's dogs doing the pawing thing in competition because I was having a hard time envisioning this. She didn't have a demo dog so we had to imagine what the final behavior looks like. In the end it looks like her dogs don't really paw the end in an obvious way, not the way I was picturing anyway, but she does have nice contacts. I like the idea of a foot target for dogs that are big strided and don't have a consistent performance on the dogwalk (ie Strummer). I'm not thrilled with the idea that it's o.k. for them to leap, maybe all those years of watching for it and considering it an important criteria. But for Ruby so far she's showing no signs of leaping and is doing really well with striding on the full flat board. I elevated the board for the first time yesterday and she still did great.
We'll see how it goes but for now I don't see a reason to bother with a foot target. I'm using the Manners Minder gizmo rather than a thrown toy though. It's so much easier for me, that Lotus ball was causing all kinds of issues. Not sure it makes her run any faster either. I might bring it back, we'll see. I know thrown toys are a big part of Silvia's method but for now it's a complication and I don't see much value in it for her. But I'm keeping an open mind about it all.
On the 'Search for a Second Dog' front I've decided a good way to connect with good working dog breeders is to go to a herding trial. A quick search of the USBCHA site (the one and only herding venue that's considered a good place for testing herding ability that is worth breeding for) showed a trial up in Nunn (about 1 hour 20 minutes drive) on March 12. Unfortunately I couldn't find the arena on Google Maps so I emailed the woman putting on the trial and got a very quick response. She also sent me a better link for local trials and there's also an outdoor trial in April and another one down in Monte Vista which is sorta kinda on the way to Cortez/Mancos/Dolores area so maybe we'll take a little trip down there for more house hunting. I'm excited to go, the only herding I've seen in person was at the National Western Stock Show down in Denver many years ago. It was fun to watch but the whole Stock Show thing was a nightmare of crowds and traffic way back then, I can only imagine the hassle of it now and I haven't gone back since.
That link also lists 'Resources' for lessons and the only instructor listed is the woman I took both Lola and Strummer to for Instinct Testing. Lola was a definite no go but Strummer showed some promise, he was too young and over the top but the instructor, Cathy, said he maybe just needed to grow up a bit and try again in a few months. I did let him try again a couple of years later at USDAA Nationals and he seemed much better, the guy doing the instinct test spent loads of time with him and he was much calmer. They were using goats rather than sheep and the goats seemed calmer. The guy gave him a certificate but they were giving certificates to pretty much everybody who's dog showed even the slightest amount of interest in the goats. I dug it out and it was from the Arizona Herding Assocation and a quick Google search shows that it's under the auspices of the AKC so yeah, not very rigorous requirements. Which is fine for encouraging pet and agility folks at USDAA Nat's. to try herding for fun and something else to do with their dogs. But I never pursued it beyond, too expensive for lessons on top of agility and too far to drive. Cathy's place in Ft. Lupton was about 1 hour 10 minutes back in the day, who know what it is now with the crazy traffic we have now. But I don't know, maybe if I get a Border Collie that shows interest I might consider trying it again. Because I need another dog sport right now. Sure I do.