Lil’s big weekend at TOPS!

Lils winningsLil had a perfect weekend in every sense of the word. QQQs both days at TOPS  (Terriers Only Performance Summit).  I was blown away by how much fun she had running every single course.  Not too shabby considering we have not done AKC for over 3 years.   Her course times were off the charts too!  SCT for Exc Standard was 81 seconds both days: Lil ran the course in 46.65 seconds on Saturday and 45. 20 seconds on Sunday.  In T2B her times were 33:32 on Saturday and 30:21 on Sunday.    I have always sensed that Jumpers courses are her least favorite but I think adding Weave Poles like they do in AKC helps break up the monotony of jump jump jump jump jump..YAWN… and maybe a tunnel before jump jump jump jump jump.  She ran both Exc JWW with good speed (15- 17 seconds under SCTs).  🙂    Following her 100% Q rate in Excellent, she is now in Masters Standard and JWW.

Other highlights were meeting all the Australian Terriers and their people.  What a lovely group of dogs and people (very friendly too)!  Icing on the cake was Lil earning the distinction of “Highest Scoring Australian Terrier.”   I could not be more thrilled to have a partner like Lil!   Her kennel name “Just for a Thrill” couldn’t be more perfect!  Here are videos from this weekend.

(above) Lil’s T2B Winning Run on Saturday, August 22

(above) Lil’s T2B Winning Run on Sunday, August 23

I loved both T2B courses.  The crowd gets into cheering everyone on, which makes it even more fun.

(above) Lil’s Excellent Standard Qualifying Run on Saturday, August 22

I love the variety of Standard Courses.  Lil had no issues performing obstacles she has rarely even seen the past three years, like the Table, Teeter, and Spread Jumps.

(above) Lil’s Excellent Standard Qualifying Run on Sunday, August 23

(above) Lil’s Excellent JWW Qualifying Run on Saturday, August 22

Its a bummer that the videographer lost Lil during the trickiest part of this course.  She ran that part beautifully!

(above) Lil’s Excellent JWW Qualifying Run on Sunday, August 23

 

 

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Takoda’s first exposure to pinwheels, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Beginning Set up, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Beginning Set up, May 18, 2015

Everyday I try to come up with something new to do with Takoda.  Today I decided to expose him to a pinwheel of hoops with props to help him be successful without me needing to babysit.

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Over the course of one day, I gradually moved the Expens away from the left and right hoops but left them close to the OUT hoop.

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

(above) This video is of a couple of reps with Expens helping Takoda seek out all three hoops.  I used toys for some reps and mark buckets and food for other reps. 

(above) Over the course of one day, I gradually moved the Expens away from the left and right hoops but left them close to the OUT hoop.  By the last set of reps, there was just a sliver of an Expen near the OUT hoop.  I was very pleased with how well he drove through the hoops.  I also varied my position.  In this video I tested rear crosses, which he read very well.

The forecast is for RAIN, RAIN, RAIN, so it will be a while before Takoda sees any more hoops or pinwheels.  It will be interesting to see how much sunk in today but I am guessing he will remember what he experienced today because it looked like he was having fun and feeling really good about his success.

50 Shades of…. Play (HA HA)

Since attending Sharon Nelson’s workshop last summer, I’ve been keenly aware of my dogs’ energy/ arousal levels.  Since Takoda enjoys tugging at a wide range of energy levels, I’ve been using the game of tug to explore Energy Matching with him.   Energy Matching while tugging would not work with Jake, who IMO tugs like a typical terrier… “all or nothing.”   He looks and sounds like he is trying to kill the toy, growling and intensely tugging with me.  Its fun to tug with Jake like this but if I bring my energy down a notch, Jake will immediately drop the toy.  Over the years I’ve had a number of people ask me what cue I’m giving my terriers to get them to release the toy since they both go from “all to nothing” in a heartbeat.  My only cue is that I lower my energy level, which they read as disengagement and they both immediately drop the toy in response.

In contrast, Takoda appears to enjoy tugging at a variety of energy levels that range from “a polite conversation between friends” to “YAHOOEEE!” but it never feels like he is trying to kill the toy.   When tugging like “a polite conversation between friends” we are both very low-key and the style of engagement is soft, like two little girls playing with dolls or Breyer horse models (my favorite kind of “doll” when I was a kid).  Takoda and I each hold one end of a tug toy and move it gently this way and that way while maintaining eye contact for the most part.  Takoda can tug this way forever and its a nice relaxing way for us to interact when I don’t feel like doing anything.  Its a perfect evening activity while I sit on the sofa with Takoda at my feet or in the morning when I am drinking coffee and not quite ready to start my day.

Takoda also seems to enjoy tugging at a medium arousal level which works well for loose leash walking around distractions (people, bicyclists, traffic…).   When we engage in this type of tugging, he is holding one end of the tug toy lightly in his mouth and I am holding the other end lightly with my hand (we use a long tug toy so I can remain totally upright).  There is just a slight amount of pressure on the tug toy and his leash is entirely loose.   In this situation, I think the tug toy pretty much functions like a head halter in that I can redirect Takoda by moving the tug toy but he generally does not need to be redirected when we use a toy in this manner.   He seems perfectly content to walk a little ahead of me, beside me, or a little behind me while holding one end of the toy in his mouth.  When the distraction is too great, he might drop his end of the toy but quickly reorients and grabs the toy again.  When this happens, which is not very often, I tend to increase our energy levels a little more for a few seconds of active playing/ tugging before continuing to move forward.

The thing I like about using a tug toy with Takoda when out on walks is that tugging is a duration activity and it is easy to match his energy level and then increase or decrease it based on what is happening and what I want to have happen. Treats worked really well for Lil, even when she was a puppy, but she has always been highly food motivated.  Takoda will take food when out on walks but that is because its the first thing I trained him to do…. take food when offered.. sort of like how my ATs were trained to always tug when a toy is offered… due to training vs. natural inclination.

So far, Takoda does not love food enough for it to be a jackpot when confronted with the range of distractions we encounter in the 2 block radius around our house.  You name it, we have it…. runners, bicyclists, kids, dogs, loud trucks, buses, cars, etc.  But when I have a tug toy, which BTW is tucked under my arm when not in use, 99% of the time Takoda quickly reorients to me (and the toy) and then I am able to match his energy level until the distraction is far enough away that it is no longer a distraction.   Its actually very fun to go for walks like this and it generates a lot of smiles from passers by because who doesn’t like to watch a puppy having fun and an adult acting like a child.  HA HA

The past few walks we’ve started going back and forth between a minute or two of obedience style heeling (with frequent kibble rewards) and a moving game of tug played at a moderate energy level (as described above).   I love the way this combination feels because its all about teamwork.  Takoda is focusing his attention on me when heeling and then he gets rewarded for all that great impulse control (not being distracted by what passes by) by playing tug.. with ME.  But just so no one thinks walks are 100%  all about ME (HA HA), I let Takoda do his own thing for short periods of time, which for him means trotting along at an easy clip with his nose lowered to take in all the interesting ground scents.

Since I don’t have any video of the above, I thought I’d share a few short videos from last week.

(above) Group Mark Session.  The reason I set up this “test” was to see if Takoda would be able to stay on his Mark while  Jake and Lil moved from Mark to Mark.  He did pretty well but it was interesting to see how much greater a challenge Jake’s motion was compared to Lil’s in this session and others as well.  I plan to practice this now and then as I believe it will help Takoda learn that he doesn’t NEED to bound towards Jake and Lil whenever they are in his sight.

(above) Takoda running between 2 Marks with a hoop in between.  We have only played around with hoops once before but since the hoops  were still out in the yard after Jake and Lil’s session, I figured it would be fun to see what Takoda would do.

https://vimeo.com/127947460

(above) I was so pleased with his performance with one hoop, I moved the Mark further away so there were 2 hoops between the Marks. I also added more handler motion and ran a little beyond the Mark to see if he would stop…. which he did!

(above) another rep with more distance and me driving slightly beyond the Mark.

Takoda is different than Jake and Lil in many ways but they are all so much fun to work and play with due to their differences.. and similarities.. the biggest similarity is they all seem to really enjoy working!

Takoda doing a little Mark practice at 13 weeks old.

(above) Takoda running to a Mark bucket on a flat DW plank.

When we returned home Sunday evening after Takoda’s first outdoor trial I decided to do a little training with him since he had been such a good boy all weekend long while spending a lot of time just hanging out.  A DW plank was sitting there so we did some Mark practice.  Apparently between the last session and this session, Takoda learned HOW to collect and “stick the landing” on small Mark buckets.   He must have learned it while he was sleeping because the last session he was not running nearly this fast (I always leave speed up to him).   I love how well he appears to understand he should keep his front feet on the bucket and his rear feet on the plank, even if I am behind him.  You can see him turning his head waiting for me to catch up vs. spinning his rear feet around to face me.  Good boy!

I didn’t plan to run him in the other direction but it was fun to see how he targeted the first bucket with his front and rear feet, and then how he ran to the very end of the plank vs. leaping off.  I think this was because I started with Mark buckets at both ends of the plank.   I’ve written about the Mark buckets in previous posts.  They are the most amazing training tool I’ve ever come across.  The way I’m using them is based on Sharon Nelson’s foundation training.

Lil earned her NATCH2 this weekend

Lil's NATCH2 photo with cooler-than-cool Judge Sunny Williams

Lil’s NATCH2 photo with cooler-than-cool Judge Sunny Williams

(above) video of Lil’s NATCH 2 Jumpers Run.  This was our sixth run on Sunday at the end of a 3 day trial.  I was so thrilled at Lil’s enthusiasm and energy level.  She got the job done with great pizzazz.

(above)  Lil’s Tunnelers Run.   I loved this run.  Lil was fast and her turns were super tight.  Her YPS were over 5.50.   I think she loved this run too.

(above) one of Jake’s Touch N Go runs.  NQ due to crossing the plane of the barrel and then circling it in the other direction but I was beyond happy I didn’t lose him at that point.  This was his first outdoor trial of the season and something was clearly tempting him in the grass.  Good boy for staying in the game.

I’ll be uploading more videos of Jake and Lil’s runs.  There were so many really nice runs, I can’t decide which ones to post.

Lil and Takoda hanging out ringside at the trial.  Jake was in the RV with Bruce at this time.

Lil and Takoda hanging out ringside at the trial. Jake was in the RV with Bruce at this time.

IMG_3535 I was so blown away that Takoda was so relaxed and quiet at his first outdoor trial and you can see how close our doggie neighbors were.  He took it all in stride like he has always hung out at trials.  He also did some amazingly precise heeling through oodles of dogs and people waiting to run.  I was shocked he was able to remain focused in such a distracting environment.   By Sunday he was playing and tugging with me as well at the trial as he does at home.  This little puppy is so darned adaptable!  So are his litter mates who were also at the trial.

 

 

A few of Jake and Lil’s runs at Sharon Nelson’s Seminar and Fun Raiser in Moab, Utah

(above) Lil’s Touch N Go Bonus Box run, April 17, 2015

After 3 days running Jake and Lil during Sharon Nelson’s Seminar, I was curious to see how they would run on the 4th day in a row, especially Jake since I am thinking about running him at Champs which is a 4 day event and he has never done four days of agility in a row.  He did very well at the seminar.  The couple of times he lost focus he quickly got it right back.   However, at the Fun Raiser Trial (day 4), he lost focus and did not come right back.  This was very disheartening for me because we have been working on this issue on and off for most of the 8 years Jake has been part of our family.  I think four days in a row played a role in his not coming right back but I think having more open space around the courses during the Fun Raiser contributed too.   During the seminar, participants tended to sit close to the action to be able to hear Sharon’s feedback.  Once the chairs were removed the arena looked noticeably larger to me and I assume it looked more expansive to Jake as well.  Since Champs is held in a HUGE arena, I am still on the fence about whether I think Jake will be able to stay focused or not at Champs.

As you can see in Lil’s Bonus Box run above, she ran very well on Day 4.  She loved the firm dirt footing in this horse arena.  I did too!   Lil has had a very reliable running A-Frame for a few years now.  The reason I am asking for a stop (4on) is because this A-Frame is 8′ vs. 9′ and she does not automatically adjust her striding so lately I have been playing around with stopped contacts sometimes and running contacts other times (like when the A-Frame is 9′).  So far she does not appear to be confused by mixing things up.

(above) One of Lil’s runs at Sharon Nelson’s Seminar.   Handlers got to pick their own Bonus Box positions.  It was great to be able to look at the course challenges and to determine where I wanted to be to meet those challenges.

(above) One of Jake’s runs during Sharon Nelson’s Seminar.   He had been running  full courses up to that point without losing focus.  But since I wanted Sharon to see what he looks like when he does lose focus, I asked if we could run the course again, which I thought might him to lose focus.  The video shows what Jake typically does when he loses focus.  The feedback I got from Sharon was similar feedback I got from Sue Sternberg many years ago… that Jake is not stressed or demotivated by anything I’m doing.  He was just distracted by something that caught his attention.  If I had to guess what he is thinking it would be something like: “I know where we are going next!”… then “Whats that?”… then “I know where we are going next!” then  “But what was that?” then in this case  “I know where we are going next!”

The thing I need to figure out is how to change my emotional state when he loses focus and does not come right back.   If I can remain emotionally neutral, he responds better than when I stress out about it, which he picks up on and makes the situation worse.  Sharon gave me some good solid advice about what to do when Jake loses focus and I will be doing my best to “keep my head” so Jake can “keep his head.”  Time will tell if I am successful.

(above) Lil running Extreme Barrelers at the Fun Raiser the day after the seminar. She earned a 15 point Q (points are based on the dog’s speed) which earned her Novice Title with an extra 5 points to spare.   Lil has always turned incredibly tight.  You can see how she makes 90 degree turns out of each tunnel and also how tightly she turns around barrels which cut her yardage significantly.

I love running more than one dog.  Jake is a total blast to run when he is ON but its great having a dog like Lil who is ON 99% of the time and super fun to run too.  Lil helps me keep everything in perspective.

Takoda’s first RV Trip to Moab Utah

Moab_pano_4_15_3381

We spent the past week in Moab, Utah, participating in a three day workshop led by Sharon Nelson followed by a Fun Raiser (trial).   Its the second time I’ve had the good fortune to work with Sharon in person and learned a ton.   What a great group of people and dogs.  It was as much fun to watch other teams run as it was to run Jake and Lil.  Over the coming days, I’ll be transcribing my notes to make sure I remember every single DIAMOND Sharon shared with the group.. and there were plenty.

I’ll be writing a separate post about Jake and Lil’s experiences in Moab including Jake’s highs and lows (there were plenty of both) and Lil’s fantastic runs both in the workshop and Fun Raiser, including a Bonus Box Q.  But this post will be mostly about Takoda, who will be 12 weeks old tomorrow.

dogs_in_moab_4_15_3457

This was Takoda’s first long trip in the RV and he was a very good puppy.   He traveled well and was perfectly quiet unless his antler fell out of his crate, which I later realized he was pushing out intentionally to engage me by putting it back in his crate.   He started doing this the previous week at home but I didn’t put it together until I watched him methodically push the antler through a small opening on his crate door as soon as I had pushed it back in.  HA HA.  The joke was on me!

In terms of potty training, throughout the trip Takoda let us know when he needed to go potty and he didn’t have a single accident.  I had set up an elaborate Expen area outside the RV to make pottying a breeze for all concerned.  At one end was a 4 x 6 feet area with artificial grass which was the designated potty area (the grass had been previously “seasoned” at home).  The adjacent area was 6 x 21 feet and covered with interlocking rubber matting to provide a non-slip area to play and work on.   The only bummer was the weather was so bad most of the time, we barely used the matted area but Takoda certainly made good use of the potty area, which drained well and was rinsed off by rain so it remained neutral in terms of scent (for humans).  It was so nice to be able to say GO POTTY and watch Takoda walk down the ramp and potty on his own without me having to go with him especially during the massive sand storm with wind gusts so powerful they moved the Expens, or during the day and night of pouring rain.  He was a real trooper.

Given the rough weather, I felt very lucky we had the RV for playing games like “This one is getting away!” which involves me rolling a donut toy on the floor and while Takoda runs after that toy, I bang the other donut toy on the floor, which brings him back with the first toy so I can say “This one is getting away” and roll the second toy.  An RV is so much nicer than say…. a bathroom for playing games in contained spaces to keep a puppy from running off with toys.   We only played it a couple of times but by the time we got home, his understanding about bringing toys back had improved considerably in the kitchen.

We also played the game “Put the spoon in the bowl” in the RV, as well as outdoors on the matting when the weather permitted, and inside the arena.  I was shocked Takoda was able to play this complex thinking game in such new and distracting environments.  Smart puppy!  We also did some short heeling sequences and Mark bucket work outdoors and in the arena. He did well as long as there were no dogs or people in the vicinity.   However, when there was ANY activity within 50 feet, he became totally distracted and wanted to “Go Say Hi.”   I saw some modest improvement by the end of the week but clearly his desire to “Go Say Hi” is the other side of the highly social puppy “coin.”  So while its been fun watching Takoda joyfully interact with every person he sees, its time to move on to Phase 2, where we’ll take a break from interacting with everyone who wants to meet him and then only allow him to interact after he is able to sit calmly until released to “Go Say Hi.”

Agility people are great for this type of puppy training.  They wait patiently, avoid eye contact, and act aloof until the puppy has met criteria and then quickly swoop down to interact before the puppy has a chance to jump up out of the sit.  So for Phase 2, Takoda will only be meeting people who know how to greet a puppy in the manner described above, which is not going to be happening very often in the coming weeks.  I think the timing is perfect to take a break from meeting a gazillion more people because as Sharon and Sue both pointed out, Takoda and his litter mates are very well socialized and do not need to meet more and more people and dogs at this point.  I have Heather to thank for that.  She did a great job raising and socializing this litter.

Takoda spent a fair amount of time in a crate during this trip and I decided to take advantage of his positive experiences in a crate by removing the Expen I had set up in our kitchen.  Previously I had a crate inside an Expen, which was in our kitchen that had dog gates to keep Takoda from wandering around the house.  The Expen took up way too much space for long term use but the triple containment system worked perfectly for the first couple of weeks because it allowed three different levels of freedom based on how much attention I was able to give him at any given time.  He was only in the crate when I was totally preoccupied with something else or elsewhere.  He was in the Expen when I was sort of watching him but busy doing something else in the vicinity of the kitchen where I could still see him.  He had full run of the kitchen when he had my undivided attention.   This kept undesirable behaviors to a minimum while also beginning to work on being quiet in a crate and Expen, which has been quite challenging so far.

Takoda also spent time in the arena crated next to Jake and Lil during the workshop and he did fairly well except when I worked Jake or Lil.  He also tended to vocalize when he heard people praising their dogs or when the entire group WHOO-HOOed for dogs with higher pitched tones, similar to the tone I use when praising.  I plan to experiment with shifting my praise tone to a lower-pitch because I think the higher pitch creates more arousal which is not a good thing for a puppy who is quite vocal to start.  Time will tell if teaching Takoda learn to remain relatively calm and quiet around other dogs and people is going to be a huge challenge or a moderate one.  I remember Lil going through a phase of vocalizing in agility environments.   It was so annoying but I don’t think it lasted very long.  I hope the same will be true with Takoda.

A New Scientific Study: Canine Jumping

There is a new scientific study re: Canine Jumping.  The last sentence in the Abstract below, regarding obstacle spacing, is of particular interest to me because it makes sense that obstacle spacing, relative to a dog’s size, will have an enormous impact on a dog’s jumping style, which in turn will affect how much wear and tear repetitive, agility-style jumping will have on a dog’s body.  Fantastic there is now REAL science to back that up.

Lil Jumping, fall 2012Highlights

• In contrast to equines, canine sport science has been poorly studied.

• As the distance between consecutive upright hurdles increases, so do the take-off and landing distances.

• Take-off and landing distances further alter with the dog’s skill level.

• There are greater differences in jump kinematics when the distances between consecutive hurdles are shorter.

• Apparent joint angles alter for level of skill, with beginner dogs showing greater differences than advanced dogs.

Abstract

Canine agility is a rapidly growing sport in the UK. However, there is a paucity of scientific research examining jump kinematics and associated health and welfare implications of the discipline. The aim of this research was to examine differences in jump kinematics and apparent joint angulation of large (> 431 mm at the withers) agility dogs (n = 54), when the distance between hurdles was altered (3.6 m, 4 m and 5 m apart) and to determine how level of skill impacted upon jump kinematics.

Significant differences were observed for both the take-off (P < 0.001) and landing distances (P < 0.001) between the 3.6 m, 4 m and 5 m distances. Further differences were observed when level of skill was controlled for; take-off (F[3,55] = 5.686, P = 0.002) and landing (F[3,55] = 7.552, P < 0.001) distances differed at the 3.6 m distance, as did the take-off distance at the 4 m hurdle distance (F[3,50] = 6.168, P = 0.001). Take-off and landing speeds differed for hurdle distances (P < 0.001) and level of skill (P < 0.001). There were significant differences in apparent neck angle during take-off and landing (P < 0.001), lumbar spine angles during take-off, bascule and landing (P < 0.01), and in shoulder angles during the bascule phase (P < 0.05). The results indicate that agility dogs alter their jumping patterns to accommodate the spacing between hurdles, which ultimately may impact long term health and welfare due to altered kinematics.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090023315000933

Lil earned her Versatility NATCH at Mountain Dog Sports Trial, February 27, 2015

Lil's V-NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.

Lil’s V-NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.

(above) Lil’s Versatility NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.   It was cool that Lil earned this Championship Title under a judge who knew us from the East Coast.

I didn’t feel any pressure about this run being for Lil’s V-NATCH, because Lil runs Weavers courses well.  The only reason we lacked Elite Weaver’s Qs is I tend not to enter this class when it is offered late in the day on Sundays, which seemed to be fairly common on the East Coast (this is not a complaint though). I just personally prefer to run Elite Weavers (3 sets of 12 poles) with a fresh dog.   But since moving to Colorado in July, I’ve found many trials offer Weavers on Fridays, so we were able to get 8 needed Elite Weavers Qs (for a total of 13) over the past 6 months.

(above) Lil’s Versatility NATCH run at Mountain Dog Sports on Friday.

Elite Weavers was the first class of the trial.   Lil was acting tentative outside the ring so I ran this course with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, thinking Lil would appreciate feeling that type of energy to avoid feeling bogged down by the soft, deep dirt or feeling concerned about the environment which smelled strongly of horse poop and pee (Yucko).  Lil got her Boogie On about half way through the first set of poles and finished well under SCT.  She ran incredibly well all weekend long, Q-ing 11 of 14 runs and as usual the few NQs were due to handler errors.  I was (and am) so happy because this was the first trial at this site where Lil felt like her confident little self.  🙂

(above) Lil running Elite Touch N Go on Saturday

By Day 2 of the trial, Lil felt entirely confident when entering the horse arena. The tentativeness I felt on Day 1 and at previous trials at this site was gone.  I loved how tightly she wrapped the hoop and barrel. If you watch her wrap the hoop, you can see she was so tight, she had to hop over the timer foot.  🙂

(above)  Lil running Elite Regular on Sunday

This is one of my favorite runs of the weekend BECAUSE we NQed early on.  The turn after the dog walk seemed so easy on Round 1, that I took it for granted on Round 2. I guess I forgot it was easy on Round 1 because I handled it vs. stood there facing the tunnel while watching Lil run into it. Duh!  But as a result of this early off-course tunnel, I decided to run the rest of the course from a self-imposed handling box. Lil aced it…and she looked like she LOVED the distance.  🙂

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 1 on Sunday

Having recently participated in Paula Goss’s Advanced Distance workshop, I knew exactly how I wanted to handle Chances courses this weekend.  I knew WHERE I wanted to be, and WHEN I wanted to be there to show my dog the correct path ahead.  I handled Round 1 and 2 the same way with Lil and Jake and both dogs ran the course beautifully.

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 1

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 2

(above) Jake running Open Chances Round 1

I made the same mistake with Jake both rounds and pulled him off a hoop but I was so happy with how well he ran this course both rounds.  This was a tough weekend for Jake.  He found the temptation of huge mounds of horse poop along the one side and the back of the arena to be too much to resist on about half of his runs.   But on Sunday, I only lost him to horse poop on one run.

(above) Jake running Open Chances Round 2

(above) Lil running Elite Chances on Friday

The Chances course on Friday was one of the most challenging courses I’ve encountered.  There was only one Q in the entire Elite class.   Lil didn’t Q due our only missed dog walk / tunnel discrimination of the weekend, but I loved how well she ran the uniquely challenging portions of this course.  The coolest thing for me was that I knew exactly WHERE I wanted to be to send her out to 2 jumps after the second tunnel….which was as far away as possible from the tunnel exit when she emerged.  My plan worked beautifully.

Another challenge I felt really good about was the left turn after the first tunnel.  Once again, I knew WHERE I needed to be.. and WHEN I needed to be there in order to pre-cue that left turn before Lil ran into that first tunnel.  Plus she totally aced running through the “box” in the center of the course twice.  The first time was straight through 2 hoops to the far entrance to the purple tunnel.  The second time was from the exit of the purple tunnel OUT to the jump.

(above) Jake’s Open Chances Q on Friday

Jake Q-ed this very challenging Chances course in Open, which was particularly challenging for him due to the proximity to huge mounds of horse poop in that area of the ring.   I almost lost him twice.  The Q was saved by the Open line having a narrow channel in which the handler could walk in front of the tunnel, which helped me coax him back into “working mode.”

Jake’s contacts were PERFECT all weekend long.  So were his tunnel/ contact discriminations.  There were many things to feel good about which helped balance out numerous Es due to Jake wolfing down huge mouthfuls of horse poop.   SIGH.  Good thing we don’t need no stinkin’ Qs.   HA HA and true!

A few of Lil’s runs at Paula Goss’s Advanced Distance Workshop in Phoenix, AZ

(above)  a few of Lil’s runs plus Jake’s run during a lunch break from Paula Goss’s Advanced Distance Workshop.

Paula Goss is a fantastic agility instructor.  She has a great eye and set up challenging courses that could be worked from a variety of distances so each team was challenged yet not over-faced.  She also shared some great tips for training and course analysis.  I left the workshop with fresh ideas for what I want to practice at home.

I really don’t know how she kept going and going and going….like the energizer bunny for 3 days straight…. especially because it was HOT and SUNNY.   Amazing!  Plus her vibe is so upbeat and fun AND her demos of handling moves are inspiring to see and then try to mimic.  Paula’s handling is precise and graceful, yet totally punchy and dramatic when it needs to be.  I have a long way to go before I will be capable of handling anywhere close to Paula’s level but I am totally jazzed about trying.

Enough about me!   Lil was a real trooper.  She approached every course with great energy and speed and gave it her all.   I was thrilled to see how much her distance skills have improved this past year.  What used to be a GET OUT is usually now a simple GO ON and she appeared to be 100% confident working at HUGE distances.   But as we all know, agility is a game of balance, and as Paula pointed out on numerous occasions, Lil’s COME INS/ Turns towards me, especially to the left are a bit weak right now.   I am confident we’ll regain our balance as a team and in the mean time I’m 100% fine having some off-courses when working at a distance since the benefit of having developed such a solid GO ON far outweighs a few lost Qs!    Qs…. Shmoos is what I say.  🙂