Saturday, May 22, 2010

Not a lot going on....

It's been a crazy couple of weeks and we haven't had a lot of practice time in since our last trial. Mostly we have taken advantage of having the weaves and some jumps set up in the yard when the weather has been nice. It's been my routine to put a good size handful of Yummy Chummy treats in my treat pouch and head out to the yard with Vegas for a few minutes of training when we can fit it in. I mention the treats because they are a really great training choice. They are soft so you can break them into small pieces, healthy because they are made with salmon, and fragrant so they are super appealing to the dogs. Both Vegas and Leo got a little nutso when I bring them out so I'm pretty much making them designated training treats. Another good thing is I can buy them at Costco now in a huge bag and they're pretty darn cheap ($13.99).

Okay, so we've been using our own yard off and on since our last trial which was heartbreaking and disappointing. The results have been great. Since we're limited on equipment and on space, I've mostly just been working on sending and recalling through the weaves. While I know we probably won't ever have to perform in a situation where I need a recall on the weaves, and Craig would probably say, "Why train what you won't do?" I have been doing it to gain independence on the weaves for Vegas. I want and need her to know she can do them on her own so I'm not always right there if I have to be somewhere else. I also just want her to have the confidence to find her entry and complete all 12 poles. She's been doing great and our goal is to get through whatever treats I brought out and call it a night. Most of the time that means she has weaved around 25 times. That sounds like a lot but I'm sending, recalling, and she is going over jumps, sometimes playing fetch with a ball after a run, and we're having fun! All of this is accomplished in about 10 minutes of focused training time and that's it - lots of treats, lots of praise, lots of positive reinforcement even when we have to "do over."

Thursday night we went to our practice session for the first time in a few weeks. Three great courses were set up, two of which were pretty much jumpers courses, and one that was a standard. The first jumpers course was around 12 obstacles but only occupied around 1/3 of the ring. This meant a lot of tight handling and me being on my toes for directional queues. It went quite well! In fact, everything we did that night Vegas did like a complete rock star. She was so happy to get out and practice and her strides were long and her speed amazing. I would love to get that kind of energy from her in a trial and maybe I just need to think of it like practice and I will.

Then Friday night we went to the practice barn for open barn night. The weather was atrocious so we had the barn to ourselves. We have not been there in a couple of months and I was really anxious to see how she would do in yet another environment after our last trial. I keep saying this because I did not know if my angst and frustration and despair had set her off in any way. The true test will be next weekend's trial, but I am encouraged so far. She did great! It's always amazing to me how quickly I can tire her when we are practicing by ourselves. We spent about 40 minutes and I need to make a mental note to keep it to about 25-30 max next time as I think she was done before we really left and I had continued to push a bit more so that we ended on doing something well for a positive finish.

Here are some pictures of the barn layout - I rarely go in and change anything because I can almost always find sequences to work on that help us.
If you can tell from any of the pictures, one of the sequences we found worked for starters was the tire to the a-frame then the jump to the dog walk. This also gave me a chance to try to work with her on obstacle discrimination (tunnel versus dog walk). We definitely need to work more on that and I'll have to use my body to be in front of something like the dog walk for now if we encounter it as she'll choose the walk over the tunnel. However when it comes to a-frame, she chooses the tunnel. Interesting...I'll have to ask some questions about that of some more experienced people. I find it a bit strange especially since Vegas has taken quite a few falls from the dog walk and none from the a-frame.

We worked the teeter a bit on good solid contacts. I know I can mostly count on Vegas to touch her contact but I am trying to get her to hold it instead of run through. The only one I had taught a running contact on was the a-frame and now I regret that because I ultimately support her all the way down or that is the one piece of equipment she will leap on and blow her contact. That said, it never hurts to keep reinforcing so I'm really trying to so we don't make mistakes in trial such as missing a contact.

And of course, the lovely table is always something we have to focus on. Vegas as even good enough to pose for a couple of pictures.

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