Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Post Trialling 2013 - Christmas Time

Our trialling year is now officially over for 2013 with our last trial on the weekend. They have tacked on an extra ANKC agility trial on 28th December but Cassie is having an agility holiday and Colin is taking me to Cavalia that night.

Santa's Little Helper
 We had an interesting last two trials with some papillon challenges thrown my way by a certain little pappy pants. She is not one for letting me rest and think that all this agility training is easy! I entered her in an ADAA trial a fortnight ago as I thought she was pretty much ready to try her first ADAA agility class and give the full size see-saw a go. Her first run for the evening was Intermediate Jumping. She was a bit fidgety on the start line so I went back to settle her but next thing I know she takes off over the first jump. I took her back and restarted for a super faultless run however the restart meant a DQ. The next run was the Jumping without Weaves class and it was almost dark with the lights now on. She was running OK but definitely slower than her first run. After missing a jump I took her back and a couple of jumps on she took off badly and hit a jump quite hard bringing her up very short. She seemed OK and we did continue but her jumping was all over the place (one jump she jumped high enough to clear a 400 height jump) and she ran past the last jump. I gave her a cuddle afterwards as always and waited for our next run which was Intermediate Agility. I had decided to do it as NFC as I wanted to help her with the see-saw for the first time. We actually didn't get that far. She did not want to run at all and when I released her at the start line she took off back to Colin. I brought her back and she did about five obstacles before taking off again out of the ring. I was really unsure about what was going on for her so I put her away for a break and got her back out for her next run Open Jumping. Again I took her up to the start line and when released she took off hiding under the scoring table. I tried once more but she didn't want to know about it. So that was it for us for the night. I can only assume that knocking the bar really upset her. She wasn't showing any of the standard stress behaviours, so no licking lips or scratching and she was happily tugging and doing tricks while we waited although in agility she was sniffing the ground at one point. Cassie has always been her own little lady and if she doesn't want to do something she won't. Before we left I did pop her over a spare jump and rewarded her a few times. However I can safely say that I won't be going back to those grounds if it's a night trial as I'm pretty sure that she struggled with the lighting and I'm not putting her through that again.

I decided the following week that I was only going to have one training session with her and not overdo it. I needed to make sure she was still feeling happy about her agility and fortunately where I train is where the weekends trial was going to be. As I suspected she was perfectly fine at training and was being her normal wacky self. I didn't do anything fancy, just lots of rewarding and fun, fun, fun. The day of last weekends trial was crazy hot, something like 39 degrees during the day. I wasn't overly worried about Cassie after the jumping incident but I was wondering what would happen when I put her on the start line.  Plus even though it was evening it was still very warm and not really optimum trialling conditions.

As it happened the first run was great and we got a Q to give us her third pass in Excellent Jumping from the last four trials. She is certainly handling like a dream. Next up was Excellent Agility. She looked to all the world that she was focused on the start line but just before I released her she looked back behind us (Aunty Kriszty had just arrived to watch) and then when I released she ran straight back to the crowd. Mmmmmmm..... I got her back and we took off as soon as she was in position but her brain wasn't quite in the game and she ran past the third jump. Such a shame as she nailed the rest of the course like a pro and was absolutely flying on the second half. Our last event was Open Jumping and I knew that the distance challenge would be too hard. As it happened it was rather a mess and included a pappy zoomie but she was with me and did some super fast weavers that I was very happy with. At the end of the day I really just wanted to make sure she was having fun with no pressure. 

Papillons are such strange little creatures. Cassie is just a mass of contradictions. She is a total mummy's girl but can be fiercely independent and will never do anything that she doesn't want to. Once I figured out what made her tick (generally food) I have found that the majority of training issues I've encountered can be over come with piece of roast chicken.   But sometimes she gets a bee in her bonnet about something and I can forget it. My plan has always been to give her a break from agility over the summer with her first trial back on 31st Jan next year. But I need to sort out her start line confidence so I will do a little bit of work building drive off the start line to one of her favourite things in the world, the Manners Minder. Nothing speaks to her better than a remote food dispensing machine!  The other thing I will try when we return to trialling is not waiting on the start line.  I want to be able to put her on the start line and just go.  I wonder if I'm leaving her for too long.  It is interesting that when I watch some of the top paps in the world compete the handlers never wait with them.  The pretty much drop and go.  We can't do that as such because we must have our hands off the dog before the judge will ask if we are ready.  So I will have to think about how I'm going to manage that.  Ahhhhhh, love my pappy challenges! 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Going the distance

Only two trials to go till the end of my trialling year.  We've had our first two evening trials which have been pretty successful for Cassie with one Q in Excellent Agility, one in Excellent Jumping and the biggest surprise of all, one in Open Jumping.  Who would have thought she would be able to do distance work already!  

I do think we've been pretty lucky so far and I don't think we've had an overly difficult Excellent course as yet.  I remember last year when we were still in Novice seeing some of the Excellent courses and really worrying about how we were going to manage when we got there.  Some of them looked harder than the Masters courses I was running with Sonic.  In saying that some tricky courses are probably what we need.  They are the ones that flush out the weak spots!  Saturday nights trial was a good example of that.  In agility there was a tyre right next to the entry of the weave poles.  It took Cassie three attempts to find what would normally have been an easy entry for her, I'm assuming because the tyre changed the picture for her.  So guess what we'll be working on for the next few weeks....

The see-saw is still a work in progress.  I'm trying hard to get her to listen to the verbal and not assume which is the dog walk and which is the see-saw.  I'm not sure I've been that successful yet.  It definitely needs a lot more work.  I can still remember Sonic taking a while to get the hang of the difference.  I've entered her in her first agility classes at ADAA this weekend which is why I've been focusing on the full height one so much.  Although I'm still hoping it won't be too much longer before the ANKC one returns to it's former full size glory.  Lets hope she listens when she goes charging up the plank!

Poor Sonic is resting from agility for the rest of the year.  I haven't been happy with is lower back.  So I decided that it would be better to just rest him and then slowly build him up for the Nationals next year.  I'm still optimistic that I can get him there sound and ready to go.  It would be such a shame to not take him and I want to have at least one more with him but I guess we shall see.  I have a full exercise plan in place to have him as physically ready as I can.  I miss trialling him so much.

The WAO try-outs for 2014 have been and gone.  I did feel a pang of regret that I didn't try out this year but at the same time I know it's the right decision and having my own dogs right for the Nationals is more important.  It will be hard when the time comes and the team heads off knowing what I'm missing.  I guess we can't always do everything.  As of February 2014 the quarantine restrictions mean that dogs only have to stay in quarantine for 10 days when coming into Australia.  Does that mean that we can consider taking our own dogs next time?  Wouldn't that be amazing.  Competing with my own dogs at a world agility event is something I thought I would only ever dream of.  2015 maybe....

Back to the real world, my focus for the rest of this year and early next year is to work really hard on my handling.  We are fortunate here in WA to have some amazing international seminar presenters come and work with us.  I have booked a couple of slots with Dave Munnings when he is here in April/May next year.  I feel like I'm getting a lot more comfortable with changing things to a more European style  but I have a long way to go.  Certainly the move from most is the European handling which is funny when you think about it.  We've always been so influenced from the UK and USA styles but even they have shifted to European handling.  If you can't beat them join them perhaps?  We are also very lucky having our own agility local Megan Bell Jones having recently come back from a Lisa Frick and Tereza Kravlova seminar.  Very much looking forward to continue working with Megan and learning more about being the best handler I can be for my dogs.