Sunday, November 16, 2008

Walking dogs

Riot & Sonic (otherwise know as high & low maintenance!)

It's been a busy couple of weeks with owning my big fluffy border collie Riot feeling a bit like having a pre-drivers licence adolescent, as I drive him to in store appearances at Better Pets and Gardens and to dates with a very pretty border collie girl who has come all the way from Tasmania to hopefully have his pups.

In between running around for Riot's social life I have been focusing on some good old agility fun with the Sonic. I am very pleased to announce that I no longer "hate" Sonic's dog walk! Yes, we appear to have managed to conquer the trotting down on the descent ramp issue. Last week at training after about four reps on each side with the jump bar in place I took it away and he ran the whole thing. It was a very gratifying experience. I knew he was feeling confident as he had gone from cautiously taking the jump on the way down to leaping it from a distance (obviously a good sign), but to actually have him run down minus the jump was great. I will still keep the jump bar in for a few more weeks before totally phasing out just to make sure the behaviour is well and truly established. Interestingly enough this training method never worked on Riot.

The A-Frame is still on its way up. I will probably hold off raising full height for another month or so. He can do 12 weavers but I hate his style, if you could call it that. So after some consultation with others who have been teaching weavers recently I will break them back down and see if I can get a better action through them. I'm not sure how long it will take but I don't see the point in continuing and hoping that they get better as they are.

The jumping grids are going well and I'm contemplating running him in Novice Jumping at the Agility Club's members comp this week. I'll check out the course first and if I think it's nice and simple I will give him a run. It's going to be quite a while before we attempt Novice Agility so we might as well do some jumping in the meantime. Sonic loves stretching out over his jumps so hopefully it will be a nice open (easy) course.

I am pleased to say though that my puppy is still a total nutcase. At 15 months I thought there was a possibility that he may have started to grow up and be a little more "settled" or slightly boring even. Oh no, not Sonic. I still can't sweep in the house without closing the blinds because Sonic wants to kill the broom, he still destuffs all his cuddly toys for evening entertainment, loves to jump on our bed in the morning to play "kill the hand", belches loudly at any given opportunity, digs holes to China in my poor grass, turns going in and out of the dog door into a life threatening experience for every other dog in the house who is silly enough to try and use it at the same time and finally, turns a pleasant walk around the local streets into a crazy throw yourself at the passing car thrill ride... And I wouldn't want him any other way :-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Derrett's are back!

Greg & Laura Derrett have been invited to Melbourne and Sydney in January 2009 and I'm extremely happy to announce that Sonic & I have secured a working spot in Melbourne. We get one day with Greg and one day with Laura. I put us in the Intermediate group as that is the most appropriate level for him at this stage of his training. It is going to be a dash in and dash out trip as we arrive on the Friday, do the seminar on Saturday and Sunday, then back home on Monday. I am really looking forward to it and I think it will be a great experience for both of us. It is still the only handling method that I have any interest in using and the more I watch some of our Perth handlers who use the USA methods the more I feel like I've made the right choice! Sonic has shown me (as did Riot) that if you handle with consistency and use your positional cues well they eat it up like childs play, unlike the mistakes and confusion that is caused by some of the other styles.

As exciting as our first big trip together will be I reacon there is a good chance he is going to chuck the biggest paddy ever when it comes to his first plane trip and I have no doubt that everyone in the freight area is going to know about it too. I also have my reservations that he is going to very happy about sleeping in the car by himself at the hotel where we are staying. However he is going to have lots of travelling on his agenda over the next year when we start competing so he is going to have to get used to it whether he likes it or not! Past experience has shown me that is doesn't take long for them to figure out that it is not that bad.

Training is still rolling on well. We have established fairly solid weavers if I stand in certain places and don't move outside those have now broken them back down to three and am teaching him entries so he can start to find them for himself without my body position being of any relevance. Once again the clever puppy has picked this up in a matter of a couple of sessions, although I will spend a good couple of weeks on it before we move on. Then I need to work on him driving through to the end with me being behind him, etc, etc, etc.

The A-Frame is coming along pretty well and we are not too far from hitting the full height. He is following a really similar pattern in that whenever I first move it up another notch he slows back down again and then over a series of nights builds back up to a nice speed. It has definately shown me the importance of making the effort to raise it up slowly and how much better the end performance is likely to be. I see so many young dogs creeping down the AF and I really don't want that when a bit more effort can make so much difference.

The Dog Walk had still been bothering me and I have been giving lots of thought on how I can break him out of that horrible trot down the descending ramp. Then I remembered being shown how you can put a jump bar in to force the broken stride. So over a series of sessions I introduced an upright set up about halfway along the down ramp and away we went. Everytime I've increased the size of the dog walk he has slowed back down but once he feels confident I am getting a run across the whole obstacle and into 2o2o position. I will most likely leave the upright there for the next couple of months to help build the behaviour and leave it there while I continue proofing changes to my position. But I feel really confident that once he gets the idea that he can run down the ramp and not trot he will be happy to do so. I was just so paranoid that the trot would become a behaviour that he was really comfortable with and it would be impossible to get him out of it. Such a small thing can win or lose you a class these days. I am very happy with his 2o2o now and he is going into it with no apparent hesitation or confusion.

I have decided that I am going to enter Sonic in the 2009 Western Classic which is in the beginning of March next year. At this point it would be his very first trial. I have little doubt that he will be ready for the jumping classes but we will see how agility goes. The entries for the Classic close in December and I don't want to not put him in if he is ready. If he's not ready then I can scratch him on the day. Kriszty and I have discussed the possibility of putting them both in the Masters and Apprentices team on that weekend as Simone will be away in Canberra for the National Border Collie Show so if we want to run the team it's our babies or nothing!! The team has really just been the Masters for the last couple of years so with Secret and Sonic joining Terra and Riot it would truly be the Masters and the Apprentices again...