Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Elusive Q Card

I've been having a bit of a play with the blog. I just wasn't inspired by the template I picked after the New Year. Every time I checked it out it seemed to be lacking something. I did go briefly to green but apparently that wasn't met with great joy by some of my blog readers....

You have no idea how hard this photo was to get...

Agility, agility, agility. Been lots of it lately. Training has been positive and for the first time in ages I've been coming away feeling like I've achieved something good. I jumped Sonic on 600 last week with ADAA on the weekend and I thought he handled it really well. Certainly it seems to make him think about his jumps a lot more. He only knocked one bar at the ADAA trial where as last time he knocked at least one in each run. There had also been some great little sequences set up where I was able to challenge some of the handling that needs to improve.

The last couple of trials, both ANKC and ADAA have delivered me a few qualifying cards. The old Q card had been somewhat sparse on the ground for a while. Sonic managed to get his very first Snooker and Gamblers passes at a rarely seen Games Trial hosted by Gosnells Dog Club. Most clubs in Perth seem to have an aversion to running Games trials so if I'm lucky Sonic may achieve his games titles by the time he's about ten. Not that I'm a huge games fan. More often than not I find that I may have a great opening sequence and then right at the very end I blow it. So it seems a lot of hard work for very little. I do think they are a great opportunity to fine tune skills though. Then the ADAA trial I went to on Friday night provided us with another two Q cards which means that he now has achieved his very first ADAA title.

The fact that we got Q cards makes it seem that we must of had some good runs but there was some rather naught stuff going on through the process. Not so much at the Games Trial but at ADAA some of Sonic's runs were nothing to celebrate. It all started when Lloyd high tailed it along side us to check Sonic's down side dog walk contact. Sonic just powered on through it and then all subsequent AF and Dog Walk contacts from then on quick releasing every time. I tried to use Gamblers to get them back but failed dismally. With Nationals four weeks away it's a little disturbing. His focus for the first three or four runs was pretty good but the last couple were atrocious. He was either screaming at the dog running before him and then completely unfocused or if I could keep him with me at the start line he then vagued out in the middle of the course. Sonic also got up or shuffled his skinny little butt at almost every start line. I do have to accept some blame doing my usual late front crosses for some crappy turns AND I should have put him back on every single contact that he blew me off on. I am definitely guilty due to my desperation to get some Q's. Boy do we both have some stuff to work on... My plan this week will be to break his contacts as much as possible to try and reinforce some good ones.

Last weekend saw the last of the Better Pets and Gardens dog training workshops. They seemed to be very well received and most attendees were dead keen to get home and try some of the things that I showed them. It does surprise me how little the average person understands about why their dogs do what they do. All kudos to those that came to the workshops to try and improve the relationship that they have with their dogs but I have to wonder about how the hell they got where they were in the first place. Especially with the amount of information available with the click of a button over the internet these days. People seem to think that you have to be a dog trainer to have a well behaved dog. There was certainly a lot of surprised faces when I showed them how simple stuff could be as long as you used something that is reinforcing to your dog. Sonic and Riot were my assistants and showed everyone how easy it is to teach your dog to work to earn rewards instead of working to avoid punishment.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Twelve Months On

As of the Western Classic weekend it was officially twelve months since I started trialling with Sonic! It has been a very interesting first year of our competition journey and although we've come such a long way, we have a loooong way still yet to go. I'm loving the fact that he is getting confident and powerful around the course but it is like we are two individuals when we are out there. It always feels like I'm on a knifes edge every run that we do and the run could go either way. I need to work really hard on us being a team and getting a much better feel for him. I'm still really happy with all three of his contact performances but his weavers have slowed down again. At the Classic and on the weekend at the teams event he wasn't pushing forward like he has been. So for the next month I'm going to focus very much on handling, handling, handling with a small splash of weaving thrown in to see if I can bring back the drive. At the seminar Lynda talked about working on your weaknesses and not over doing the things that you are stronger at so that is what I shall dutifully do!

It's been an incredibly busy couple of weeks since I returned from Melbourne. Last weekend I did my first ever dog training workshops for Better Pets & Gardens which was really fun. I actually feel really lucky to have the opportunity to try and get across positive dog training methods to the Average Joe. Most people just don't know anything about the philosophy of reinforcement builds behaviour and after both sessions I got fantastic feedback from the attendees. Hopefully they will go away and try some of the things that I told them about and their dogs will certainly be better off for it. A few people mentioned some of the other methods they'd been told to try on their dogs and it seriously made me cringe. I have two more workshops to do this weekend. Sonic and Riot were my very capable and well behaved assistants who managed to provide some very enthusiastic demo's showing how much enthusiasm and joy you get from positively trained dogs.

And how can I not mention, it was Soda's THIRTENTH birthday last Friday! I cannot believe another twelve months have past again in my old girls life. Soda is still as gorgeous as ever and celebrated in style hosting her own birthday party for one in my walk in robe while I was at work where I had inadvertently left my dog training backpack on the floor. By the time I got home she had thoughfully removed every dog single training halter and harness from the backpack in her treasure hunt to find her special birthday present (treat bag FULL of liver treats) that she no doubt thought I had left specially for her. Firstly I stumbled across empty butter menthol wrappers, followed by the training gear, then the clicker that was attached to the treat bag which was nestled amongst Colin's shoes, and some dog treat wrappers. But where was magical treat bag? It took a bit of searching but I eventually found it, very empty, tucked up in the back of Riot's crate. What a lovely birthday surprise!

Soda - thirteen years young