This last month has been all about building motivation for Ve and enjoyment for the obstacles. His understanding of the handling is amazing and I couldn't be happier with what he knows and how well he responds. But now I want to see him feel confident enough to start letting loose out there on course. At the beginning of July we had a trial at Cloverdale, our first in what felt like forever. Perfect weather for once which was awesome. He was a really good boy and went clear in his first attempt at Excellent Jumping and also his first attempt at Open Jumping. So close in Novice Agility with just a fumble on the dog walk costing us a Q. But it was so slow for at least the first half of each course which was a bit frustrating. He is so much faster than that and it felt like pulling teeth. I'm not really sure if it was lack of confidence (he's been to those grounds only a couple of time before) or he's just trying so hard to be correct. On the positive side he was only two seconds behind first in XJ and one second behind first in OJ. If he can go that slow and still be within range then there is hope, I hope! What it did though was make me realise that it's time to let him know he can let his hair down out there. His skill work is awesome so time to learn to run and love what we he is doing. So I needed a plan to let the boy stretch his wings. I threw out the complex sequences with fifty backsides and turn, turn, turn. In its place I have built a tunnel and contact racecourse which is all about running fast and stretching out. There are still rules, like hitting contacts and driving straight lines, no shifting in. But other than that its all about how fast can you go. I only put wings in, no actual jumps so the work we are doing on wings is about wrapping and driving out fast without having to worry about bars.
We had a couple of weeks to play with the speed circuit at home before we headed to our next trial which was in Geraldton. Unfortunately Kriszty's Red had injured herself so I had to suffer the long and very boring drive by myself for this trip. But we had a good time and came away with two more Excellent Jumping passes, a "so close" Open Jumping pass and two very close Novice Agility runs. The last few novice agility classes we've competed in has had a turn after the dog walk. There is nothing wrong with that but it would be so nice to have some straight exits for a change! I think I've seen more straight lines in Masters than Novice of late. I would just like Veto to have the opportunity to develop some confidence in the ring before things get hard and that is really what Novice is meant to be. I'll keep working on his turns off the dog walk, quite clearly they need improvement. But I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we might get some straight exits in upcoming trials. That is when I'm actually competing and not judging of course. The most promising thing about Geraldton though was that Ve was much, much faster. Still not back to the speed he was showing in March but the improvement was definitely noticeable. I figure that as long as they are improving then you have to be happy. I still want to see more from him yet and I know he is much faster than that. But it's a step in the right direction.
The plan for him now is to continue with some more work on the speed circuit at home. I'm going to keep working on building drive away from me and build increasing value for the obstacles. I would also like to build excitement before he goes into the competition ring so he starts to find it a more interesting and less formal place to be. Because he can be really reactive I have to be really careful that the excitement isn't redirected to reacting at other dogs. So I'll be choosing my timing and make sure we have plenty of space around us. I do have a couple of sequences that I'd like to try with him over the next few weeks but I'll be avoiding any dull repetitions and focusing on drive between a couple of jumps at a time with loads of rewards and maintaining excitement. I've also re-started work on the see-saw because I think it will be quite valuable to enter him in some Open Agility runs to give him more experience in the agility classes. It's the contacts that he needs the experience on and he's not going to get that in Open Jumping. His see-saw is going reasonably well but probably needs another few weeks work before I consider him ready to do one in a trial.
I feel like I'm making some progress with Cassie. She came up to Geraldton and rather than try and run the full courses with her I decided to run them all as NFC. She had four runs so I started out doing only three obastcles and built up to about twelve or so over the two days. She was much better than last time and I think out of the four runs she engaged happily in about three of them when I was warming her up although it sometimes took a few minutes to convince her that I wasn't going to torture her. She had a couple of hesitations on course when coming out of tunnels but she worked through it and then I would make sure that her jackpot was only a couple of jumps after. So we'll keep moving forward with small steps at a time. I've also signed up for another Fenzi Dog Sport Academy course called Hidden Potential. It's designed for dogs who train really well but don't cope in the competition ring. It's been a while since I've done one of these courses so I'm looking forward to building on what I've already learned around this stuff and seeing if it might give me and Cassie some other strategies to help her in the agility ring.