Focusing on distance and forward sends with my new fake “gate”

The following video is from a few different sessions.  Lately Jake and Lil have been racing around the backyard chasing a woodchuck and other wild life.  As a result, Jake is not looking quite right, nothing major but his running motion looks a little off, so I am not doing much training with him.   I think I’ll try to limit Jake’s running for a few days and see how he looks.   Of course that means not chasing the woodchuck…which means leash walks vs. just letting him out in the yard but I think it will be good for him.

My main focus in recent sessions has been to present different “pictures” of a very new and unusual looking obstacle, a NADAC Gate.  I don’t have a real gate, but my lattice wing jumps look very similar when set up side-by-side so I think they will do the trick.

The deal with gates is they look VERY different depending on their orientation.  I have heard some dogs will try to weave a gate if all they see is a side view, which looks like weave poles (if poles are set up completely straight).  Gates can also look like panel jumps to some dogs, including Jake who tried to jump a gate the first time he approached one head-on.  The gate tipped over and Jake was totally unaffected.  He proceeded to run around the gate without incident but I felt terrible about it and decided I needed to show my dogs a gate in as many different scenarios so there would be no confusion about “what to do” when this obstacle shows up on an agility course.

My other recent focus has been on Forward Sends because both of my dogs are not as confident about running ahead of me as they are with lateral distance.  Our biggest challenge seems to be forward sends from a straight tunnel.   If I am not visible (out in front of the tunnel) when they emerge,  both dogs tend to either slow down or head-check vs. continuing to drive forward even when I’ve clearly indicated the path continues forward (to the best of my abilities).

This might be something they will never feel 100% confident doing and I’m fine with that but its good to practice so I know what is reasonable to ask of them.    I think I pushed Lil almost past her limit the last 3 reps so the next time I will not attempt to send her forward 40 feet out beyond a gate to wrap around a barrel, both of which are newish obstacles to her.  She has a great work ethic but I could tell she was not confident running that far ahead of me towards those particular obstacles.

I’m having so much fun incorporating these new ground obstacles and love the speed both dogs are generating on their own, even when I’m just walking.  And even with Jake having a minor Ouchie, I thought he ran very well.. just a little slower compared to when he is feeling 100%, which I think he will be back to after taking a few days off from chasing that woodchuck!

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Follow up on EGC workshop and handling the path vs. the obstacles

I had so much fun, I forgot to video tape some runs at the EGC workshop as I had planned.  So all I have is a description.  What a great group of people and dogs.  It was so much fun to watch everyone run and to run my own dogs… and we all had some good some laughs..like when I sent Lil out AROUND a barrel and instead of going around the barrel she raced out another 20 feet and ran through a yellow tunnel… 3 times in a row.  HA HA HA.   Apparently she did not recognize Lynn’s larger red and white barrels as being something to go AROUND.   Jake, on the other hand, saw the barrel as something to go AROUND and ran around it… the wrong way but WHO CARES!  🙂

We had  a very diverse group of dogs: 1 Border Collie, 1 Aussie Shep, 1 Pug,  1 Border Terrier, 1 Golden Retrieve, 2 Australian Terriers (mine), and 3 Mixed Breed dogs.  It was really fun to see dogs taking advantage of opportunities to let loose and RUN while also meeting the challenges Lynn presented us with.

Lynn saved the best for last… Extreme Hoopers.  Looking at the set up, you’d  think it would be extremely difficult but dogs seem to GET it without any formal training. Below is a video of Amanda Nelson running Extreme Hoopers since I can’t possibly describe this game with words.  🙂

Yesterday showed us all how great EGC obstacles can be for pointing out flaws in our handling.  This is because well-trained, experienced dogs will cut handlers quite a bit of slack if they KNOW the obstacles.  So by using new obstacles,  handlers had to be very clear in “showing the path” or their dogs did not seek out the new/ unfamiliar obstacles.

The two most popular 🙂 handling flaws were sending a dog towards an obstacle with an arm flick followed by a drop of that arm, and ceasing forward motion once the dog was out in front of the handler.   These techniques tend to work OK most of the time with experienced dogs and familiar obstacles but it was great to see how sensitive ALL the dogs were to what the handler was doing (or not doing).. .even when the handler was directly behind the dog.

I’ve been working on breaking both of those habits as part of the goal I set for myself in terms of handling which is: To speak to my dogs in the language they understand best …..MOTION and to use verbals as a secondary form of support.

The concept of handling “the path” vs. “the obstacles” can sound strange to people who are unfamiliar with the terminology… but I think this concept lies at the core of every handling system out there, and works equally well on every style of agility course yet it is often lacking in terms of actual handling.  I think we’ve all seen handlers doing all the right moves but if they are not also supporting their dogs’ path, their dogs lack fluidity, drop a bar or two, pull off an obstacle,  or run slower.  I find it so interesting  that the inventors of the most popular “systems” in the USA are great at supporting the path with their personal handling.  Perhaps this is something that needs to be learned from the “inside out,” or maybe it is just too difficult to communicate through videos and books in a way that people are able to implement it, or maybe it is because people cannot SEE how other people are or are not supporting the path until they know what they are looking for.

I think a great way to train your eye to SEE handling better is to watch videos.. but instead of focusing on the handler, focus on the dog and watch the video a couple of times.  Make a note of every time the dog looks at a WC obstacle, knocks a bar, adds an extra stride, or head checks.  Then go back and watch the handler in the moments leading up to each bobble.  I find this method of watching videos to be very enlightening in terms of SEEING what is really happening, including how well the handler is supporting her dog’s path.

On a final note, for the past year I’ve been focusing on letting my dogs know it is OK and even  GREAT for them to race ahead of me when I send them to GO ON.  Yesterday Jake and Lil definitely “won the race” every time I sent them ahead, while I continued to support their paths with motion even if I was just walking.

Extreme Game Challenge Workshop with Lynn Smitley

I joined Skyline Agility Club last week and at the meeting I learned that members can organize seminars.  The new Skyline facility is amazing.  The agility ring is in a HUGE horse barn that is only used for agility (so no horse poop) and the footing is great.  Both of my dogs run incredibly fast and confidently on it.

There happened to be an open weekend March 16-17, so I offered to organize a NADAC EGC workshop with Lynn Smitley followed by EGC run thrus.  The board acted swiftly and approved my proposal, which totally impressed me because I have worked with volunteer-based organizations (in the arts) in the past and there always seems to be at least one person on every board whose mission in life is to put a stop to all good things.  Apparently there is no such person on the board at Skyline.  WHOO HOO!

My experience interacting with Skyline board members has been spectacular and as a result of everyone’s ability to act swiftly, the morning workshop is already half full which is great since  information about the workshop was just posted on various dog agility sites yesterday afternoon.

If you’ve never heard of EGC, below is a video of one of Jake and Lil’s  first sessions running around a barrel, which is one of the obstacles found on EGC courses.  This session took place in my kitchen and living room since my backyard was covered with melting ice and snow.   

What I’ve learned about barrels so far is they can be handled like C-shaped tunnels in that there are 2 entrances/ directions.  However, barrels are different from tunnels in that there are an infinite number of exits 🙂 so barrels are great for practicing pre-cueing “the path” after the barrel, before the dog runs behind the barrel and   loses sight of the handler for a moment (like they do while in a tunnel).   Due to limited space in my house, I only worked on wraps in this session but once I am able to move the barrels outdoors, I will be mixing in GET OUTs, GO ONs, and WRAPS to practice the body language necessary to show my dogs the continuation of “the path” before they run behind the barrel.

The main reason I am using a manners minder (or a tossed toy in other sessions) instead of rewarding from my hand, is to encourage forward focus.  About a year ago, I realized I had spent way too much time training my dogs to come to my hand and not enough time balancing that with GO Ons.

ABOUT EGC: Contrary to popular belief, EGC is not about Extreme Distance…. although it can be.  I am finding EGC obstacles are great for practicing my timing and handling  without having to worry about contacts, weave poles, or jumping plus they seem ideal for increasing my dogs’ abilities to work at greater distances.

Basically, EGC tests the handler’s ability to give directional cues to the dog, and the dog’s ability to respond to those cues, while the dog is running at full speed.  Since EGC courses are comprised solely of ground obstacles, dogs get to run as fast as they want to, which makes EGC Extremely FUN for both dogs and humans!

EGC is comprised of four classes: Barrel Racing, Chances, Gaters, and Hoopers.  Handlers have the opportunity to test their skills on fast and flowing courses consisting of tunnels, barrels, hoops and gates.  Since no jumping is involved, EGC games are perfect for practicing handling skills and timing with minimal wear and tear on dogs.

Below is a video of Jake and Lil running through hoops, which are found on EGC courses as well as some NADAC courses.

It’s funny because I have overheard people complaining that “hoops are not fun for their dogs.”   I don’t think it is an issue with the inherent “fun factor”of hoops but rather that most dogs have not seen nearly as many hoops as they have seen jumps, tunnels, weave poles, and contact obstacles.   I used to think Jake didn’t like hoops, but that was before I started substituting hoops in place of jumps when practicing handling.  Jake appears to like hoops very much now that he has seen them a bit more.  Plus I love that I can practice handling without asking my dogs to JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP, JUMP!  🙂

I can’t remember who said this, but it rang true for me:  “Dogs have only so many jumps in them so use them wisely.”

This new bigger box feels good!

I love open-minded, expansive thinking, which could also be described as out-of-the-box thinking. The coolest aspect (in my opinion) is once people fully grasp the concept, they are able to not only SEE the box they are in, but they are also aware that breaking through one box places them in a bigger box vs. being free of all boxes.  This never-ending process of continuously searching for the next box to break out of is what expansive thinking is all about. For me this is the most exhilarating aspect of life, art, and dog training!
Yesterday I broke out of a dog training box.  This past week, I’ve been noticing that I have been feeling 100% trusting of Jake and thus letting him run off leash with Lil during our walks in the woods and I knew with absolute certainty that he would not run off.  But until yesterday, I didn’t know what had changed. He was still acting as high as usual, as rambunctious as usual, and even had that look on his face of “Go ahead, take the leash off, yeah, yeah, yeah, take it off, come on, you can trust me  ;).”  But yesterday,  I realized  what had changed.  Without realizing it, I have been playing the ultimate recall game all winter long.  It’s the GET OUT game, which puts running away ON CUE and by playing the game in a circle, Jake has been getting a ton of practice running away from me and then running back… full throttle!  The two big breakthroughs for Jake have been “Out-of sight-no longer means out-of-mind” and “Run away and keep running away until the cue for GET OUT changes to either WAIT, or HERE” which essentially keeps Jake mentally engaged with me while running ahead.

too bad I was still fussing with my phone when Jake raced away but I captured the recall!

With the distance training, I am using both verbal and motion cues.  The motion cues involve me walking slowly in the direction of the GET OUT, even if just taking tiny steps, with my body facing the dog’s path and arm extending forward.  When Jake and Lil are running away from me, either on the doggie racetrack or in the woods, when they check in visually, they see my motion which continues to support their path. My verbal cues are GET OUT followed by GO…. GO…. GO….
The 2nd Doggie Luge of the season is more like a racetrack due to bare grass.

The 2nd Doggie Luge of the season is more like a racetrack due to bare grass.

Above is a photograph of the current Doggie Racetrack.  The black mesh table on its side in the foreground is there to block off an icy patch (or puddle depending on the outside temp).  Each morning, I walk around the path to make sure there is no ice that would cause Jake or Lil to slip since they run super-duper fast around the racetrack.
Its funny, until yesterday, I thought we were only “working on” distance skills with the GET OUT games but now I am convinced the distance training is entirely responsible for Jake’s new-found love of running ahead of me off leash in the woods and then turning around BY HIS OWN CHOICE to either run back to me if I cue HERE, or to pause if I cue WAIT, or do a 180 turn and continue running away if I cue GO GO GO.
I love this new bigger box…Its so much roomier!  HA HA.   I can’t wait to begin figuring out where the walls of this new box are so I can break through those as well.   ps–The post preceding this one includes videos of a couple of  GET OUT sessions in the backyard.   Since those videos were shot, Jake is running faster than ever due to his increased understanding that the faster he runs away from me, the faster he can run back to get his reward.  How cool it that?

Improving my handling mechanics for GET OUTS and TURNS

The snow finally melted on my doggie luge, so I got to see how well Jake and Lil understand my new ways of handling GET OUTS and TURNS.

Above is a video from Day 1.

This following text is from an email I sent to a friend who has been helping me understand how and why NADAC-style handling and training differs from USDAA / AKC-style handling.  I’m finding it all very interesting and fun to incorporate.  Plus  Jake and Lil are responding beautifully and quickly to my new way of doing things, which makes me think this style of handling is easy and natural for dogs to follow.

I am starting to get the feel for using more dramatic body movements, like stepping forward to push my dog’s line, or pulling my dog towards me by rotating my body and  shoulders away and stepping away from the line to increase the strength of the pull when necessary for discriminations.   Its starting to feel a lot more natural and I can see how well it works for pre-cueing TURNs and GET OUTs when my dogs are out in front of me with forward sends.

Lil seems to have totally figured out when I  pre-cue a turn before she gets to the obstacle, it no longer means to turn NOW but rather to turn after taking the next obstacle.. and to not necessarily turn tight.. but to base the tightness of the turn on my motion…. and to look for the next obstacle in the direction I am supporting.   Jake is also figuring all of this out… but not quite as fast as Lil is, which is totally fine with me.  The biggest improvements I’ve seen with Jake since adding hoops to the Doggie Luge this season, is that he is driving well though hoops and rarely  jumps them like they are 8″ jumps anymore.   GO JAKE!

Above is a video from Day 2:  I think both dogs are doing a super job running through various hoop sequences without snow barriers to help them stay on course.

In my opinion, the biggest difference between NADAC-style handling and USDAA / AKC style handling (and training) is that in NADAC you want to be able to pre-cue much earlier, especially when working at a distance. And earlier cues appear to increase a dog’s speed and fluidity of motion since the dog know where he/she is going with enough time to take more gradual turns, which has to be easier on a dog’s body.  I think it was pretty clear when I was late with a couple of cues, that my dogs changed directions abruptly rather than turning in a natural and fluid manner.

I think this year’s addition of hoops to the doggie luge really helped with training both dogs (and the human) by allowing me to pre-cue earlier than I knew I could without pulling my dogs off the next obstacle…while the dogs continued running on the grass path towards the next hoop.  It didn’t take long for them to begin to shift from what they were originally trained to do, which was when I cue a turn, to turn NOW.  That was a necessary skill to have for USDAA and AKC courses, since what looks to be the next logical obstacle to the dog is often NOT the correct obstacle. Plus the ability of a dog to turn NOW comes in very handy for playing Snooker, since success is often based on a dog’s ability to bypass numerous obstacles while running fast.

Below is a link to the January 19 post with a video of Jake and Lil running the 2013 Doggie Luge:

https://artanddogblog.wordpress.com/2013/01/19/jake-and-lil-running-the-doggie-luge-2013/

A note to subscribers: WordPress emails no longer contain links to videos for some strange reason.  Click on the Title to go to the blog site if you want to watch the videos.

How I trained a running dogwalk without having access to a “real” dogwalk

The following  train of thought popped up in an email conversation about running contacts with a friend who is in the process of training her amazingly fast and talented mini-poodle to do running contacts.   I’ve always heard that you need access to a real DW in order to train the final stages of  running contacts.  I didn’t intentionally set out to disprove that premise but since I don’t have access to a rubberized DW, I ended up training Lil’s entire running DW performance on a 12′ plank angled off my back porch, which is only 34″ high.   I eventually added a second 12′  plank on the porch that connected to the angled plank so I sort-of had 2/3 of a DW.  I think adding the second plank was important because Lil was able to practice a specific striding pattern over the apex to the down ramp. So far, it seems to be working out very well in practice and at trials! 🙂

Running contacts are so much fun to train, I figured I’d give it a shot with Jake.  With Lil, I used Dawn Weaver’s method but with Jake I modified it a bit so that it is more of a “moving contact” than a true “running contact.”  I really like the way this feels with Jake and I think it might be better for NADAC courses than true running contacts because it gives the handler a moment to connect and direct the dog to the next obstacle vs. having to rely on verbal cues such as GO ON, RIGHT, and LEFT if the handler is very far behind the dog. I believe this will come in handy as I add more and more distance skills to Jake’s tool box!   Since I had already trained Lil’s running contacts prior to switching over to NADAC (and she is doing so well with them), I’m leaving them as is.  I think it will be fine with Lil since she responds so well to verbals (most of the time).  🙂

Below is a 20 second video of the angled dogwalk ramp.

I leave the plank angling off the porch over one of two sets of stairs most of time.   I can close the gate at the top to block access if there is snow or ice on the plank.   Although since the rubberized surface is black, snow melts very quickly plus NADAC rubber is amazingly non-slippery, even when wet.

So now, instead of the dogs running up and down the stairs to and from the backyard, they now mostly run up and down the plank.   At first, if they saw a chipmunk or something, they would leap off before reaching the bottom of the plank.  But that was WAY BETTER than the way they used to  leap off the porch if they saw a chipmunk, bypassing the steps entirely, which always made me cringe re: the impact onto the blue stone slab below.

Surprisingly, training running contacts on a plank placed over the stairs helped both dogs generalize the behavior to the stairs as well and now they tend to run all the way to the bottom of the stairs too.  At this point, when they run all the way down in route to the backyard, I praise them and when they occasionally leap I say OOPs.   That is the extent of the feedback they get outside of “official” training sessions.  But I think it has had a significant impact over time and its rare that either dog leaps off the plank OR the stairs.

Thoughts about jump heights plus new videos from last weekends trial

For me agility is the most fun when my dogs are running courses super fast and like most dogs, my dogs can run faster with lower jumps.   I am not suggesting speed is what makes agility the most fun for other teams.  I also must admit that I enjoy getting Qs but I’d take a fast and fluid NQ over a jerky Q any day!

I recently learned that AKC is now allowing the transfer of points to Preferred so teams don’t have to start all over again in Novice if they want to lower their dog’s jump heights.  YEY for that!   I hope this results in more people moving their dogs to Preferred if they feel their dog’s current jump height is too high based on either structure or age.

I have given jump heights a great deal of thought over this past year and over the past 6 months, I have only been competing in NADAC, where my Australian Terriers can jump 4″.   I may never raise their jump heights back to 8″, even for Lil who looks quite good jumping 8″.  My thinking is that when Lil jumps 8″ she often does a little butt flipping action over jumps, which a lot of BCs, who barely skim over bars, also do.  Granted it looks a lot more elegant when a long-legged BC butt flips, compared to my long-backed Australian Terrier, but regardless I suspect any repetitive motion like butt flipping could cause discomfort or undue wear and tear if done repeatedly for many years.  This thought is based on what I learned from an orthopedic specialist, whom we took Jake to see in July for an on-again, off-again NQR issue.  The vet didn’t find anything wrong with Jake but said that he had a little arthritis in his lower back which was VERY NORMAL for an agility dog to have at the age of 7….and he sees a lot of performance dogs.


Here are a few of Lil’s runs at a NADAC trial, December 15-16, 2012

There are two reasons I may not raise Lil’s jump height back to 8″.  The first is because she can run agility courses faster jumping 4″ and appears to be having more fun as a result.  The second reason is that she rarely butt flips over 4″ bars and I’m guessing that will be better for her long-term well-being.   I am not suggesting that everyone should lower their dog’s jump heights.. but just hoping to bring awareness to the choice we all have to jump our dogs lower in the USA.  Plus as far as I know, dogs don’t care about titles or jump heights. 🙂

The reason I will not likely raise Jake’s jump height back to 8″ is because of his rather unorthodox style of jumping, which I suspect is caused by his tendency to run and jump with his head held high.   I think it will take many months for him to fully adjust to jumping lower bars but at home he is now able to jump 4″ bars with ease so I know it is possible for him. I anticipate that over time, he will jump with more and more ease and  consistency at trials too.


Here are a few of Jake’s runs at a NADAC trial, December 15-16, 2012.  Unfortunately, what may have been Jake’s best run of all times, Touch N Go on Saturday, was not video-taped.  😦  It was super fast and super fun with awesome NEW running contacts!

I suspect there are other obstacles like weave poles and contacts that could contribute to the development of lower back arthritis, as well as day-to-day activities, but it also seems logical to me that the arching of the lower back to flip rear legs up high enough to clear bars over hundreds of jumps every year could result in arthritis or perhaps soreness at times, since there are so many jumps on most agility courses.  ps– One of the many things I am loving about NADAC is that many classes don’t have jumps and even Standard courses have a combination of jumps and hoops, so by the end of a full day of trialing (even running 6 classes) my dogs have jumped far less than they would have in 2 classes in other agility venues.

Regardless of the validity of my previous statements, why would I not want to lower my dogs’ jump heights if I have the option to do so?  All of the Australian Terriers I know are great agility dogs but agility specs are not designed with this particular breed in mind… and why would they be?   That said, I know several great running ATs who jump 8″ with  ease.  All of these dogs have good ground speed and good handlers and they look totally fine jumping their current height.  I am certainly not trying to suggest all ATs jump 4″.  It’s just a choice I’m making for my particular dogs and who knows, I just might end up raising their jump heights back to 8″ over time.

I do think there is a reason so many BCs and Shelties compete and win major competitions with full-height jumps though.  I will go so far to say that I think obstacle specifications suit these two breeds particularly well.  YEY for most BCs and Shelties out there!  GO GO GO!  As far as dogs whose structures are not perfectly suited for current obstacle specifications or jump heights, why not jump your dogs lower for a while and see how they look (and feel) if you have the option to do so?

And how about this radical thought? Imagine what agility trials in the USA would look like if a huge number of people decided to lower the jump heights for their dogs.  I’m guessing YPS would grow exponentially and make agility far more exciting to run AND to watch.  And perhaps American agility enthusiasts would start to feel better about what the USA has to offer in terms of competitive agility vs. always comparing our courses to European style courses and feeling that we are falling short!

Another super fun NADAC trial!

Last weekend, we went to a local NADAC trial and totally lucked out in terms of weather.  No rain at all… and this was just one day before Tropical Storm Sandy was due to hit our area.

Highlights for Lil include BRILLIANT running contacts all weekend long.  🙂   She had incredibly low hits on the A-Frame and her new running dog walk looked better than ever!  She also ran her first ever Elite Weavers course (3 sets of 12 poles) at 4.14 YPS and even did one set of poles 20-25-ish feet away from me (no video :().   Lil is now running ELITE in all classes except for Touch N Go, where she needs just one more Open Q.   This is pretty remarkable considering she only did a couple of days of NADAC when she was 18 – 20 months, and just started doing NADAC again in June 2012.

Jake also had a great weekend.  It was very windy on Sunday, which makes him higher than a kite, but he kept his head and ran well and fast both days.  Highlights include his fastest Jumpers run to date at 5.14 YPS.  🙂  He also had a lot of really nice moving contacts, which I am very pleased with since we have just begun playing around with them vs. 2o2o.  The thing I’m most proud of is that I was able to call Jake back around to take a few missed obstacles and he stayed totally engaged and happy.   I used to have to keep on going or I’d lose him.  Jake’s resiliency has really skyrocketed this past year. 🙂   We also had a funny moment after Jake’s 4.27 YPS Weavers run when a friend complimented me on how great Lil always runs.  I had to point out to her that it was Jake, not Lil!  YEY Jake!

I could not be prouder of Jake and Lil!  🙂

Jake and Lil’s NADAC trial last weekend at Sugarbush Farm

Jake is back! 🙂  after taking a few months off due to a soft tissue injury.  He ran incredibly well and his focus was unwavering the entire weekend.  I could not be more proud of him.   His jumping style started off looking a bit YAHOO 🙂  but by the time his Standard run rolled around on day 2 (the 3rd run on the video) he had settled into a nice rhythm  and was jumping efficiently (like he does at home).

A few of Jake’s runs:

Lil had another spectacular weekend.   She is in Elite in most classes now and her YPS are continuing to increase so its more fun than ever to run with her.   Her Elite Standard run on Saturday was 4.46 YPS (with 2 A-Frames) and on Sunday it was a whopping 4.78 YPS.  Too bad I didn’t walk the closing on Sunday and thus did not support the last hoop.  I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again!

A few of Lil’s runs:

Some of Lil’s runs at NAE’s NADAC Trial last weekend in Dummerston, VT

The weather was less than ideal but we still had a great time.  Lots of rain on Friday and Saturday and then hot and sunny on Sunday but Lil ran beautifully all weekend long.  13 of 17 Qs and 4 new titles, impressive YPS and a nice consistent performance with her NEW running dog walk.  After just a few weeks of training on a plank, she did not miss a contact all weekend long and most of the hits were nice and low in the contact zone.

I also experimented with more rear crosses and Li really seemed to enjoy them.  I also see that I don’t need to rush and race her to the finish line as that causes her to feel rushed and her jumping becomes less efficient as a result.  As the weekend progressed, I felt I was handling more and more in a style that truly supported Lil’s ability to do her job well.