Monday, March 28, 2016

Fifteen Months

This month has been as much about the return to my own conditioning program as it has been about the dogs.  Its been a while since I've been inspired enough to go running, not helped by my work running buddy thoughtlessly off on maternity leave having a child.  But she is back at work and with Nationals inching ever closer it was time to get off my butt and get active again.  Our favourite running haunt Jacob's Ladder is currently closed "for maintenance".  While I'm sure it does require some work, it's a pretty old and dodgy looking structure.  It is hard not to be suspicious that this will be the excuse that the City of Perth need to close it for good with long standing unhappy multi-million dollar apartment owning resident's nearby.  So our new destination at least for now is Kokoda Track a 150 step 62m vertical rise torture track near the Mounts Bay Road Brewery that works its way up to the top of Kings Park.  It's a 2km run from the office (which is almost twice the distance of Jacob's) and has a wonderful mismatch of stairs and steep inclines to enjoy.  My goal is to be able to run and speak for a whole masters agility course... bit of work to do just yet but I'm getting there.

Veto has reached fifteen months of age and is doing some really cool stuff, but first and foremost this month feels more like it should be a celebration of Cassie.  Last month was pretty sobering with our start to the trialing year being not the greatest.  Thankfully the following weekend I was thrilled to have her happily run in events over two nights at the Western Classic and then to continue the next weekend with a super happy run in Masters Agility on a tough course which she followed up with a brilliant clear run in Masters Jumping on the same night.  Right now I'm just happy with a happy pappy on course so to get a Q is such a bonus.  I still have no idea what the future brings but we are the closest we've ever been to where I hoped we'd be leading up to a Nationals.  Having a happy miss pappy pants has always been my number one goal so now that we seem to be there I'm going to keep working away and try to build some better handling skills in to help get us round the masters courses.  Fortunately it is easier to get a fast small dog around a course than it is getting a fast border collie around and you can definitely get away with more but the masters courses can be so hard that you have to have at least some reasonable skills to get clear rounds.

In a mere month I will be able to get Veto measured and in another three months he will be old enough to trial.  All pretty exciting.  He's progressing really well on his agility path and some things I've been surprised with how well he's getting it.  The A-Frame has been pretty straight forward, I'm assuming thanks to his running dog walk training.  Buy one get one free?  He's happily weaving through 12 poles but I wasn't overly thrilled with his striding.  I am determined to not end up with another bouncer.  Rather than than cross my fingers and hope for the best I have opened them up again.  Obviously I closed them way too quickly so now that he is back to single striding on the open weavers I will very slowly this time, close them again  Plenty of time before he's in the ring so I figure I might as well try and make it the best I can. 

The only thing that I'm finding is a bit perplexing is his still lack of control when it comes to being around other dogs.  He sees another dog and just looses it.  Clearly I haven't spent nearly enough time working on that so I guess I'd better.  Otherwise I'll have a dog with a great skill level that I can't trial with because he wants to share himself with everyone.  There are plenty of games I can play it's just too easy to do other more interesting stuff and just quietly I had hoped he might grow out of it.  More fool me... in saying that, if that is the biggest issue that we have then it's probably not that bad.   

Friday, March 4, 2016

Forteen Months

The weather has been playing havoc with trying to get any decent training done for a lot of the last month.  We had apparently the biggest heatwave ever recorded with like seven days over 40 degrees or something ridiculous.  So doing anything with the dogs other than sit inside in the air conditioning was almost impossible.  But that's a Perth summer for you.  The ChillyBuddy coat (otherwise known as "The Spacesuit") I got for Veto has had a pretty good workout as the only time I could do anything with him was early in the morning before work when it was coolish but even then the sun was still blaring down on us.  It's made a huge difference and we managed to make a good start his 2 x 2 weaver training. It is really starting to feel like he is becoming an agility dog :)

His running dog walk is actually going way better than I expected.  I'm a bit worried about admitting that in case it all falls in a heap which still isn't out of the question.  He rarely misses completely but does sometimes hit higher than I'd like.  What I'm happiest about is watching him adjusting his stride over the dog walk to hit.  That has been my biggest goal and I'm really pleased to see it happening.  I had started to introduce a few handling challenges after the dog walk but I decided not to get too carried away with those until I've gone further with the H360 work.  The time will come when he needs to have challenges after the dog walk but he needs to actually learn the handling first.  So instead I'll work on proofing the running dog walk in other ways but keep the handling challenges easy.  I've abandoned his 2o2o training for now as I'm not really happy with how it was going and I couldn't seem to make it any better. I will come back to it later and have another go.  

Handling work has been interesting.  He could do most things quite well at a steady pace but as soon as you put the tunnels at each end and build speed into it everything changes.  I couldn't for the life of me get him to respond to my threadle arm after doing a tunnel and three jumps in a row to do an off entry tunnel.  He just barreled past me into the straight tunnel entry without even a glance my way.  So I ended up back chaining it from one jump.  Then when I thought I had it and he was coming off really nicely to my arm and verbal I tried to do a straight line again and he almost took my legs out from under me trying to it was back to the drawing board!  I think we have it now though thank goodness.  I'm quite fond of my knees and would like to keep them. 

I have my A-Frame all resurfaced and ready to go and a new See-Saw base for the new 900 height.  I probably need to get onto the AF first and at least kick off that new learning curve.  Hopefully it will be less time consuming than the Dog Walk now that he understands the running contacts process but who knows.  Even if I do end up with a 2o2o on the Dog Walk I don't plan on ever having a stop on the AF. 

I'd like to say the Cassie journey is getting easier but that would be untrue.  We've had good training sessions and bad training sessions but overall I think that she is quite comfortable with the rewarding out of the ring game.  The trial scheduled for the end of January got cancelled due to bad weather (it rained ALL day) so our first trials ended up being on the same weekend at the end of February.  The Saturday night was hot.  Cassie was not happy all evening and I ended up scratching her for three out of the four runs she was entered in.  I could not get her to engage for love nor favourite foods.  There is obviously still stress in the trial environment for her as she is rarely like that at training.  In the end I ran her in a Masters Jumping class which was a nice open course without loads of turns and while we had an off course tunnel it was a super run and she was flying.  Sunday night we had the rescheduled trial for January and it all started off really well.  She was high and happy.  She started off slower than normal in agility but got going really nicely.  But then I left her to do the new height see-saw and she flew off the end.  Looking back I should have supported her more but she had shown no issue with it at training at all so I thought she'd be OK.  Flying off gave her a really big fright and she totally shut down.  I got her back with hand touches and she appeared physically unharmed, just rattled.  So when she reconnected with me we ran the last few jumps home to her jackpot and she seemed happy.  But later on when I went to do the Masters Jumping course with her she didn't want a bar of it and left the ring when I tried to release her off the start line.  That is the first time she's done that since I've been doing the rewarding outside the ring.  Two steps forward, three steps back but we shall persevere none the less.  At least until after the Nationals anyway.