Monday, May 25, 2009

It's winter

Another weekend and another trial. Winter has finally arrived in Perth. It was a bit like summer to winter in 24 hours. Friday and Saturday was wet, windy and generally very unpleasant after weeks and weeks of mid to high 20's. I'm sure my garden enjoyed all the rain though. Sunday however was a magnificent winters day with beautiful afternoon warming sun on the skin. My favourite trialling weather. The trial was OK for us. Sonic got his first Excellent Agility qualifyer after a really nice run. We started the afternoon with the Excellent Jumping class. Sonic managed the first half well but unfortunately ran straight across my body to take the off course tunnel entry. Not something I was expecting but that's the joys of a novice dog for you.... As it happens he knocked the last jump after attempting to bounce from the jump before. Good on him for giving it a red hot go but he didn't get high enough out of the bounce and went straight through the bar.

Next up was Open Jumping. It was a lovely open course with lots of space between obstacles. We didn't manage a particularly good run this time round. He missed the weaver entry and then couldn't find the tunnel entry. Once again all baby dog mistakes.

Then we were onto our best class of the day. It was pretty much straight after his Open run which I think actually worked in our favour as a bit of a warm up. He handled the course really well. There was a perfect set up for him to take an off course jump but we've been working pretty hard on fixing that issue and he came around with my shoulder like a pro. His dog walk and AFrame was nicely done. His see saw was so-so. Most definately still on the list of "needs a lot of work". After his Geraldton weaver melt down he looked confident through the weavers which was a relief.

So overall I was pleased with the days events. I'm hoping that I will start to see a bit more drive off the ground from him as he gets more experience in the ring. I've had the joy of experiencing what he's capable of at some of our training sessions but I just can't seem to get him to reproduce it regularly in a trial. As everyone keeps reminding me he is just a baby, but if I want to be truly competitive with him here in Perth then I need to start seeing the power that I know is in him. I'll certainly keep breaking things down with him and keep up a nice high reinforcement rate. I also think I've neglected some of the little things, for example, speed onto the table. Something I never work on at training and I noticed that from the AFrame to the table in the agility course he was really quite slow. All those things are costing time on course and with some of the speed demons we have over here you just can't afford to throw that kind of time away. Ahhh, more things to add to my "needs a lot of work" list!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Road Trip

Sonic has now been on his first road trip for a competition following a weekend of agility at Geraldton. I feel like we had a successful weekend away but the success was definately not due to lots of qualifying cards coming our way... Sadly we managed not one single clear round thanks to a combination of bar knocking, missed weavers, see saw overzealousness and off courses.

Thankfully there were loads of positives after the weekend, not least that he travelled really well and coped without any problems in an unfamiliar environment, running over unfamiliar equipment and competing straight after spending about six hours in the car. The weavers were quite an issue and I think he only managed to do a whole set at the first attempt twice in eight events. Geraldton still have stick in the ground weavers that move around quite a lot after a couple of dogs have been through them and it is not uncommon for even the experienced masters dogs to have problems so I wasn't overly concerned. I have no doubt that those issues will resolve with time and experience.

A couple of the jumping courses were really tight with jumps all on top of each other. Keeping him close to me after he's taken an obstacle is one of the weaknesses I'm still trying to conquer so I wasn't in the least surprised when he swung away from my shoulder and took the off course jumps. We had a couple of lovely runs on an excellent agility and excellent jumping course but unfortunately bars came down. His contacts are still holding up extremely well in competitions and his dog walk is staying nice and fast which is great to see.

We have quite a few competitions coming up over May and June including our first ADAA weekend of competitions. So lots to practice and work towards. I still need to do a heap of work on the see saw but it will still be double box grid work first on the list to try and strengthen this peeling away from me problem. If we can't handle tight excellent courses then there will be no hope for us in masters!

So here are a selection of runs from the weekend.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Drills and skills

Sonic - he's a happy boy

Sonic displaying his Riot-worshipping skills

Didn't I just see this handsome face on the Garden Gurus??

Soda showing her new shaved eye punk look

Battered and bruised after surgery, but doing OK - Poor Noodle!

It's another weekend free of agility trials for me and Sonic and I'm enjoying some more time to catch up on other things. There is a trial down in Bunbury tomorrow but with the long trip to Geraldton the following weekend I elected to give it a miss. I've always really enjoyed the Bunbury trials but I'm so busy at work right now that I'm feeling rather possesive of my free time. A trip to Bunbury is a 5am to 7pm day with the 2 hour drive to get there so it makes for a very long day.

Last Thursday "The Noodle" went under the knife to have a lump in her eye removed. When we first discovered it she was on antibiotics for four weeks. They helped the inflammation go down but unfortunately the lump was still there so the vet thought it best to remove it. Soda is in great health so I felt really confident that she could handle surgery. She had bloods done and all her levels where within the normal range which was pretty good for a twelve year old. But then she's always been a tough little nut. She wasn't real happy for the first couple of days post surgery but she seems back to her normal self now. We head to the vet for a check up tomorrow so she can make sure that everything is healing as it should.

The last couple of weeks of training has been good. True to my word the double box grid has reappeared as the most important part of our evenings training. I've also put a much greater emphasis on reving Sonic up and making it super FUN! Not that it's not normally fun, but it can get a bit regimented in my quest to get his behaviours exactly how I want them. So far I've worked back through the four front cross exercises and I've been thrilled with how he's done them. It's very satisfying for me as a trainer seeing how well he understood them and how easily he did them as I haven't done any double box training in at least six months. By running faster with him he hasn't even looked like not coming around with my shoulder and doing a wrong jump. I think I do often spend time standing around on course for him as we're going around a turn so it was interesting to see the difference when I complete a front cross and then get going immediately I've turned. Something I must get into the habit of doing ALL the time.

I've been doing some contact work with him as well but it has taken a back seat to our handling work. His contacts are going well. If I rev him up too much he sometimes goes too fast to be able to hold his A-Frame which is quite funny. I've tried to include the stride regulator on the down ramp of the dog walk again to help maintain it but it's not always easy when you're training with lots of other people as I have to keep taking it down when I've finished my run. I thought I might do some weaver training in the backyard this weekend as I've been neglecting those of late. The see saw is still a work in progress but I'm happy that he's got the idea and is picking up the verbal cue. He's still not as confident as I'd like and he does it much better when he doesn't realise it's the see saw until the last minute...

Next week I'll move on to some different double box exercises. I'm determined to focus on drill work again for quite some time. It's so easy to get side tracked into running courses or sequences all the the time because that is what most people want to do and it's what gets set up at training week in week out.

I was musing to myself the other day about how any athlete/sportsperson who reaches greatness, focus on drill type work more than anything else in their quest to be amazing in their given sport. Where I train we tend to set up what we would see at a competition every week and just run our dogs over it again and again. We may call them sequences but they'll end up being 20 odd obstacles worth, which lets be honest, is a full course. For some reason drill work is something that most people do only if nothing else is set up. We've actually just had a big name American agility person here to do a seminar so there is a little more motivation than normal to work on improving the little things. That normally only lasts for about two weeks though until everyone gets bored with it and goes back to what they were doing before (no, I absolutely did not go to big name American's seminar!) Not surprisingly the dogs performances tend to stay the same. I rarely look at a dog and handler combo and think that they've improved. It's just the same performance from training to a trial.

So I will strive to follow my own path and stick to what I believe in. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't but I have faith that Sonic and I have the potential to get there.