Thursday, April 16, 2009

When it's hot, we're NOT

Yesterday was the first really warm day of Spring here in Eastern Ontario... Some might not think that 15 celcius degrees is THAT warm, but a certain brown beardie boy just wilted after a short play! Sorry buddy, but you better get used to it! :-)

Interesting that Mick doesn't seem to have the same heat sensitivity. Both are quite sensible and will stop playing when they're too hot, so watching for overheating isn't a problem. We take frequent water breaks and the boyz are both quick to seek their special shady spots in the yard when they've had enough. I generally stop whatever we're doing when I see the first signs of slowing down so that they're keen to play next time.

That said, the sessions were very short yesterday :-).
Criteria for the session: Take the first steps to changing up the weaves to make things a bit more challenging. Also, to reinforce the down of the dog who's not working.
Environment: 15 degrees, Sunny, no wind
Time: 4:45 p.m. Immediately after work, played ball/frisbee in the front field for about 20 minutes to warm up and release some energy.
Reminders: Hold my ground! Get a bit more animated.

So let's see how we did! For the first session, I just wanted to get Bryce into his comfort zone with the weaves by picking up where we left off the previous day.
Observations: He was fast -- got 100% of his entries from all angles. When I brought myself into the picture and ran beside him, he got the entry but popped at pole 10. I rewarded with food (the "thanks for coming out" reward) instead of his toy (the "OMG!!! I adore that thing!!!"). He was suspicious the next set, but went through on his own.

During the second session, we set up 2 sets of 6 in a speed circle thanks to a wonderful suggestion (thanks, Sue!).
Observations: Bryce got all his entries and was driving harder with each successive circle. I'll run with him next time to add a bit of challenge. I noticed him starting to slow in the second round because he was getting hot. I cut the session off after one, as I don't want to reward slow weaves! :-) I'll start with this tomorrow...

The third and final session for the day involved moving the weaves to a more challenging position. I'm also adding a little more lateral distance with each set just to see how far we can get.
Observations: I'm still not animated enough and should remember to get a bit more amped myself :-). Bryce was getting hot again, even after a fairly good break, so I'm curious to see what he'd do if this was first and he was fresh. Hmmmm..... We ended on a positive with a simple send through that he did with vigor and enthusiasm!

Poor Mick! He managed to keep his down, with play breaks between each session, but serenaded us with his squeaky frisbee and even managed to bark WITH the it in his MOUTH! :-)

We ended the day with dinner and a nice 5k walk on our quiet country road to watch the sun set. Gorgeous!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Day 1: Weaves, Table and Obedience

Criteria for the session: Fast, independent weaves with Bryce driving for the poles from different entry angles.
Enironment: 5 degrees, Sunny
Time: 4:30 p.m. Came home from work, played some ball/frisbee with both boyz, then started immediately while they're still pretty amped.
Reminders: At no time will I engage in a verbal battle. I will stand my ground and offer the cue.

The first session started with running off side weaves from a 90 degree jump entry.

Observations: I'm pretty sedate compared to what he sees at a trial. I think I need to push harder and build up to running faster to simulate MY behaviour at a trial. I suppose I wanted him to succeed after such a step backwards at the last trial :-).

In the second session, I introduced a second jump and a rear cross before the weaves. I also briefly worked Mick on the table as he's not ready for 12 weaves and I didn't have the second set of 6 in the yard at this point.

Observations: What the heck was that with Bryce shooting out in front of Mick!? The rules are that when one is working, the other is in a down out of the way, in their spot. Hmmm... Looks like I was too focussed on the working dog and I need to either take a session or two and rework the down of the non-working dog or put them up. I was also facing the table when I sent him-- should remember to turn to avoid confrontation.

The rear cross threw Bryce, but not enough for him to bail and not finish the job! We need to increase this, as this is a skill I want to have in my pocket :-). Again, I need to jazz it up a bit to push and not worry about mistakes. I think I'll move back to 6 poles for this in the next session.

The last session was just a quick obedience session with Mick. It reminded me just how much he LOVES obedience. I suspect it's because the rules are clear. This was the first outdoor practice with no snow and the distractions are HUGE :-). I'll move to the obedience yard and work them separately tonight :-)

The power of intention

Well, I've made the committment to fill the foundation holes in Bryce and Mick's agility training before we move much further along with any goals for competition. My intention is to continue to gather as much information as I can and then apply it in the context of each of the boyz. This information comes from seminars, expert eyes in training sessions, and feedback from video training sessions.

Training with both boyz is a big part of our lives.... It's such a joy as they're highly motivated just playing the game itself -- it's completely infectious! So what I need to do now is focus less on the outcomes and examine the actual experience from their perspective.

Bryce, for the most part, has a fairly good set of foundation skills, and learns extremely quickly! He's a hard worker and such a wonderful mixture of sugar and spice :-). So wouldn't it be nice if we could both relax and feel confident going in to the ring at a trial? These are the things that are preventing that from happening:
  1. Confident, independent weave poles.

  2. Solid obstacle recognition.
  3. Performing at a distance.
Mick likes to make sure things are going to be fun. He'll invent the fun if I don't keep things rolling. The environment can be overwhelming for him at times, but he can operate on "auto pilot" long enough at a trial to relax and enjoy the game. At seven years, he's had a LOT of experience rehearsing behaviours that are detrimental to moving forward.... Of course he's had a LOT of help in that respect from me :-). So here's the laundry list of items that I would like to change to help us "team up" and maybe achieve our potential (whatever that is):
  1. Staying clear about what teamwork means in the ring and at practice.

  2. Reinforcing consistent contact behaviour.

  3. Confident, independent weave poles.
It's not going to happen overnight, but I'm hoping that recording our progress will help keep the human half of the team honest :-).Away we go!