Thursday, September 19, 2013

The New and the Deja Vu

My goodness. Between keeping Hokey's agility skills up and prepping her for a few trials, getting Ollie and Poppy prepared for their upcoming nose work trials, and working on Sprout's foundation training, I feel like I do nothing but dog stuff whenever I'm not at work. Not that I'm complaining!

Hokey's running dw has become pretty consistent

The New 

On Labor Day, Hokey and I went back into the ring for the 2nd time after a few months break since her successful first trial at the end of May. I decided to give UKI a try. I like their jump height cut-offs and A-Frame heights for my little dogs. Also, since Hokey has some issues with the table (the down seems uncomfortable for her, probably because she is deep chested and has no hair or body fat for padding), I like that the table is only an optional obstacle in Agility (aka Standard) and, when it is used, it's a no-count down and go. Seems like a fair compromise. UKI courses are international in flavor and somewhat technical, except for the Speed Stakes class, which, as the name indicates, is supposed to be more about speed. I like challenging courses, so really like what UKI has to offer as a possible alternative to USDAA. I also like that you can go into the ring with a toy and, at the startline, declare your run to be "Not For Competition" and then just use your time in the ring to train and have fun with your dog. I have a feeling I'll be taking advantage of that with Sprout in the future.

Sprout - proud serial decapitator of Kongs
Like I mentioned in my previous post, Hokey has some distraction issues to work through. Her first class was Speed Stakes and that went pretty well. Just one small distracted bobble at the 4th jump, but I was able to bring her around easily and continue on. Definitely not her fastest run, but it was pretty good considering how green she is and that she hasn't worked in distracting environments very much. It was good enough for a Q and 1st place. 

Next was beginner Jumpers (with weaves). It had moments brilliance and moments of not-brilliant-at-all due to her getting distracted. It didn't feel good at the time, but when I went back and watched it, it wasn't as bad as I thought. 

Her last run was Agility (standard). It was a pretty nice run. Much better than I thought it would turn out looking at the course on paper. She stayed with me the entire time right up until the last jump, where she left me for a second. I got her back quickly, but in UKI running past the last jump is 5 faults (refusals don't count at the beginners level at any other obstacle except the last) and you need a clear round to qualify. She was a little tentative on the contact equipment, but again, that's just a matter of getting her out and experience.

Overall, I was pretty happy with how she did her 2nd time out. 

Here is a clip of Hokey and I practicing this past week. The hard rear cross and table performance weren't her best of the night, but at least she hit her A-Frame contact, which is something she'd been very naughty about during her previous runs and her teeter performance looked pretty great too.


The Deja Vu

It seems like I just went through all this foundation training stuff with Hokey. In fact there are many posts from over the past year that chronicle her progress. Now I'm doing it all over again with Sprout. The difference is that Sprout is on the accelerated plan. I can't stress enough how important taking the time to build a solid foundation is in agility training. This dog is exceptional. He has lots of drive and learns everything so quickly. 

Sprout demonstrating that he has *a little bit* of drive

This is a demonstration of what an eager worker he is. Here he is before I got into position for some one-jump work and then after I finished the exercise. He is far too eager to begin and certainly isn't ready to quit. Every time I let him out in the yard these days, he's out there taking jumps of his own accord. It's hard to believe that when he came to me just 2 1/2 short months ago, he wasn't even interested in passing between a set of jump standards with no bar set. 

I decided I might as well teach Sprout to weave. 
He went from this first introduction to a single set of 2x2s:

To 6 poles:

To 12 poles:

All in exactly 2 weeks. (See my back-to-back posts on weave training for a step-by-step account of the training method used to accomplish this).
And here he is working serpentines for the first time and then incorporating them with his newly learned weave skills in a layering exercise:

I'll be starting Sprout's contact training soon. I've already begun working his end behavior on the teeter. (For a more detailed explanation of "The Bang Game", refer to my post on Hokey's teeter training). Soon he'll be ready to start working the teeter as an obstacle.

So that's the report from here. I have Hokey entered in 3 runs at a CPE trial this weekend and then the following Saturday is Ollie's big day - our first nose work trial! I just received the information on the location (they don't send the actual location to you until a week or two before the trial) and the run order. I'm not entirely happy with our position in the run order - last in our group. In order to prep for this, I've been putting a few hides out in the morning and letting them sit all day. Then, when I get home from work, I immediately put Ollie in his harness and have him search. So far, so good. He's a little slower at the elevated hides that have been out all day, so we'll continue to work at building his speed. I've had a couple of odor swabs cooking in a box for the past 2 days. He's lightning fast at finding that, so I'm encouraged for the container search part of the trial. I think his weakest element is interior searching, so we'll be working hard on that one for the next week. Poppy's  nose work trial is at the end of October. Wish us luck! I'll be writing about our experience soon. 

The nose work dogs resting up for their big trial debuts


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