Thursday, September 23, 2010

No agility...

There has been no agility since DIN (August), and this is why! My wonderful sister has gotten married to David Coles, here we are gathered on the big day with nephews and neice (I'm the girl in purple on the right!). Of course before that there was the hen party and arrangements to be made... so a busy but very happy September.

Interesting training

Thought this was an interesting little exercise, which I have been doing for short periods over a few days now.

I wanted to increase Zazzy's drive to a static ball. I have been working on tugging and chasing a thrown ball seems like forever, but 'dead' toys are of little interest to her. If I put a ball down, Deece or Kaydee run to the ball and get it, and they think that's fun. If I call them they bring it back to me, and sometimes we then play with the toy. Or I reward that, or we might move on to something else and use the ball as a reward.

If I put down a ball for Zazzy, she just looks at me. I decided to use treats to reward interest in the ball. She looked at the treats and offered a down, a wave, and a number of other behaviors. I put the ball down close, and rewarded her for moving vaguely towards the ball, then upped my criteria so that she would run to it and touch it. But sometimes she stopped briefly to look back at me before running to it. At first I just waited until she touched the ball, marked and rewarded, then thought that I didn't want her stopping, I want her to go fast and direct. So I called her back when she stopped, to try again, but in that split second she had already turned back to touch it... grr. Reward or ignore? I ignored that and asked her to try again. She stopped, she went to go, she stopped again, she came back. So I put the ball in my hand for her to nose touch from a close distance, but now she thinks this is a nose touch exercise, when what I want to do is get her to find running to the ball rewarding. I tried to move the ball away from me but she just offered loads of other behaviors again instead of going towards it. Hmm. Got Deece out, held Zazzy and let Deece go get the ball. She seemed excited by this. Held Deece, let Zazzy go to get the ball..... she stopped, looked round, lay down, whined at me. ... oh my. If you have a dog that is easy to reward, rejoice and count your lucky stars!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Catch up

Results have been.... mixed. The Lake District holiday was fantastic, fabulous, and fun. Zazzy won two grade 4 classes at Lune Valley, and her first grade 5 class seemed to arrive very quickly after that, at the Rugby show. Unfortunately, following a (to other dogs maybe!) fairly innocuous incident, Zazzy had a few weeks during which she left the weaves early (all it took to spook Zazzy was a judge cutting across a cloth tunnel travelling towards her while she was in the weaves, while rushing to get into position to mark our up-coming A-frame). So in training I upped her rewards for weaving, and then proofed them by stopping and starting, waving my arms, and generally running about erratically. Then I got some friends to run up and down alongside her in the weaves as well. Good girl she coped with that. So that took us up to Rugby and her first g5 class. At Rugby I was horrified when she emerged from the van on three legs half way through the weekend. I packed up and went home, full of dread and worry, to find her pretty much sound again when we got home. After careful searching I found what looked like a sting on her foot. Poor Zazzy, but at the same time, phew! Glad it wasn’t anything worse! We went to the UKA Nationals and I judged and trained Zazzy. At the Agility Club show we had an Olympia novice qualifier, but were a second off the lead and came 6th. At Burridge we were very close to the lead time, just like last year she came 4th (top 3 qualify). But this year we were lucky! Sharon had already qualified, so we were through to the semi!!! Wooo hoooo!!! I enjoyed the the KC International Festival, I had a much better camping spot not too far away and that made a huge difference. On the ring where I was helping, I really felt for the ring manager who had to contend with people offering his garden fence to their dogs for them to pee up, plus people leaning on and denting his van, and some other really really rude people. Zazzy’s performance was a bit erratic, she came 2nd in one class, but was slow in others, however she did qualify for the novice cup final. We had an awful run in the final, in the main ring, she didn’t want to move towards the edge of the ring and missed out parts of the course…. Oh dear! Around that time she began missing weave entries regularly and I didn’t know if this was due to a physical reason or another ‘thought process’. I took her to a chiropractor, who found something and did an adjustment, and after that she could weave again… how guilty did I feel! Always worth getting your dog checked out! At the same time, however, I had been very quick to say 'weave' followed by 'yes' when she entered the weaves, and so she had been wrongly told she was correct a number of times for getting the weave entry but then skipping the next pole. So I made sure I said 'weave, weave' and waited until she completed them before telling her she was good. So maybe that was a large part of it as well. Anyway, next it was Dogs In Need. Again Zazzy got trophies in some classes, and was not so good in others, but she qualified for the finals (video already posted in the last blog). She doesn’t normally hit poles, and in fact I think the one she hit in her final run is only the second she has knocked this year! She did look very tired by the end of the week though. Some dogs seem to get fitter the more they compete, and I am a little worried that she looked so tired, after all it is only 9 runs in total over the week. DIN was our last show, so just the Olympia semi to go. Zazzy had one week off, and one week with minimal training before ‘The Big One’. So the day arrived, and we had a warm up run first, where I thought she ran quite well, and she came 2nd. Out of 36 competitors, 16 get through to Olympia, so we pretty much hope that a clear round will be enough. However, it was not to be. Zazzy missed the weave entry (OK it was quite a hard entry from a tunnel), and just to make sure we didn’t scrape in on 5 faults, hit the long jump on the run home too. Oh well never mind, I’m pretty pleased with her for getting there. We can all have 20/20 vision with hindsight, and it’s clearer to me now that she runs a notch down in competition compared with training, and that she feels any pressure, and is affected by anything she doesn’t like (rain, heat, other people or dogs moving or making a noise, strange looking objects…. Etc etc) so I think that continuing to work on motivation, drive, looking more to me for reward, and counter-conditioning as many distractions as I can, is my way forward over the winter. And more weave training (after a thorough check out!!) of course!!
Very slowly and gradually Kaydee has been doing more agility. It has taken all year, but she is now doing full height jumps and all the equipment. I was over the moon, my optimism was beginning to grow, and I arranged for her to start training at North Downs, which has a superb surface in an indoor school (just what she needs for winter training, I want to avoid any slipping!). She was due to start in about half an hour.... but a couple of days ago I took her for a run, and she was pacing rather than trotting. This flags a potential problem, it could mean that she is uncomfortable. So I booked her in to see an osteopath tonight instead of starting her first agility class in two years. I can't see anything so want a professional opinion. Would you believe it, the clutch has gone on my van, which means we are not going anywhere tonight. Boooo.
Deece has just turned a year old. He is really gorgeous, a lovely friendly, happy soul. He is keen, motivated, loves toys, switches easily from toys to food and back, we have done lots of foundation work (crate games, shadow handling, co-ordination and balance, cone games etc.) and I am really looking forward to starting some equipment with him. Well he has already met a plank, tunnels, small jumps. Will try and get some video of him.
Well, she is fabulous (and noisy) as ever. We are still having fun, doing some bits of agility, but now that she is approaching 11 I am not thinking of doing agility competitively any more, although she certainly still enjoys coming out to play. Everything now is just for her enjoyment. Yes with little 'serious' training she is becoming even naughtier in her old age! But she certainly owes me nothing and deserves as much fun as she can have.

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