What can I say about mine and Sonic’s “attempt” at agility at last weekend’s trial? Cause it was a bit of a disaster to say the least. I finally forced myself to watch the video a couple of nights ago. I spent the first viewing cringing constantly. After I’d settled down from the initial visual trauma I was actually able to find some positive aspects from our runs. Firstly I think his weavers are getting faster. Secondly, he does have stretches on a course when he is really driving hard. Thirdly, the speed on four out of the six contact obstacles was pretty good.
So where are we going wrong at this point in time? He is as a general rule, training OK. I’ve been working pretty hard on improving his weaver entries and increasing his speed on the dog walk. I’ve had varying success with both. I’m being very picky with what performance I reward on his dog walk in that unless it’s fast we try again. If he gives me a good one he gets a high value reward. His weaver entries seem to fluctuate. His weakest side is near side entries where if he’s on a diagonal line he will often go into the second entry. Then I’ve been racing him through them to build some speed, which I think is working. One thing I do want to try is restrained recalls through the weavers.
I’ve been attempting to do a fair amount of jump drill work to build on our handling skills. He does have a pretty sound understanding of all the handling manoeuvres but as the sequences have gotten harder he has definitely struggled more and we make a lot more mistakes. I suspect that would be mainly attributed to more choice of obstacles and far less margin for error.
So, the million dollar question, how do we manage all this to get Sonic through this stage as unscathed as possible? The last thing I want to do is upset him and turn him off agility. One of the things I love about him is his love for agility and the joy in him when we are working together. I have contemplated pulling out of the Masters classes for a while. I have already entered the few remaining trials for this year, plus one is an ADAA event where he is only eligible for the less complicated classes so I will finish the year off as is. But next year perhaps entering Excellent and Open classes in the Not for Competition category may be the way to go until I can see that he is getting around a whole course full of confidence. Then put him back into Masters when he’s ready.
I think back to my first two dogs, Murphy and Soda. Both were very successful agility dogs, Soda in particular. I had no idea what I was doing so their training was pretty average and our poorly trained contacts haunted me their entire careers. It took me over a year to title both of them in Novice and another year and a half to get their Excellent titles. By the time they made it to Masters both were confident in the ring and we had a pretty good understanding of each other. In fact it wasn’t until Soda was five that she started winning on a regular basis. Poor Sonic made it to Masters within four months of entering his first trial. I thought because he had done it so easily that he would adapt to Masters really quickly, but that’s not the case at all. He is the youngest dog in the Masters class by about six months. I’m starting to believe that a dogs maturity plays a really big part in being a successful agility dog and we are so far from that right now it’s not even a blip on the horizon. I thought that as he ran in more Masters classes he would gain confidence but that is definitely not happening and clearly I made a wrong choice in what was best for him. So time to try something new!