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 areas...so 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...