Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

I have been thinking about the meaning of Qs lately (qualifying runs, which for us, are perfect runs with no mistakes in NADAC Elite.)  I have been feeling a little discouraged lately in our quest for a second agility championship in 2 different venues.  We need 9 more Qs in NADAC Elite Chances.  We got our first 3 last year and only 1 so far this year.  Wyatt is 8 so I wonder if we will ever make it.  I try to just run for the fun of it but the quest for this title is a motivator for me.  I would not feel as discouraged if I had not been working on it so much with daily practice and also taking some classes specifically for distance this year.  Changes was next to impossible today.  No dogs qualified in Elite or Open and only 1 qualified in Novice. 

I got a reminder today of why I do agility.

After a rough start feeling out of sync with both dogs this morning, that magical something kicked in and we got 5 Qs in a row, all firsts.  Wyatt had a really nice, fast jumpers run as did Patriot.  Then Wyatt really rocked Elite Hoopers.  These courses have been getting much harder and today was not exception with a bunch of complicated numbered tests.  We went right down to the end with Wyatt going right ahead doing all 4 test hoops pretty much on his own.  We then executed a complex 6 hoop test, which was basically a figure 8.  We then did a pretty easy 4 hoop U and ended with a 4 hoop serpentine.  I was able to connect these tests into a course with good flow and minimal distance. 

Wyatt is good at Hoopers and it reminds me of CPE Snookers, which we also used to like.  He was the only dog to qualify and there were no bobbles or restarts.  It was a thrilling ride.  Wyatt next rocked Elite Tunnelers with a blazing run and one where we were perfectly in sync.  Patriot also had a nice tunnelers run.  The difference between Wyatt and Patriot is in the speed and handling.  While Patriot moves along on a good run, Wyatt's drive, speed, and responsiveness makes it an exhilarating experience when everything is working right. 

So what I got today was it is not the Qs themselves that are important but the feeling you have everything is flowing.  That's what it is all about, at least for me.  I don't expect it all the time and I always strive for it and appreciate it when it comes. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Distance Work With Wyatt

I am still working distance with Wyatt and I think I have discovered a few things.  I stopped going down to our lower lawn where the dogwalk used to be.  He still associates that with getting hurt.  He had a few falls off the dogwalk.  I redid the dogwalk planks but he was still slipping so I just took it down.  Even though there is a tunnel there now, he was still hesitant to go in the tunnel area so I just took it down. 

I have been using the upper lawn with hoops, tunnels, and jumps.  I am working to getting Wyatt to go ahead of me without looking back.  Once again, it appears to be a number of things, rather than one thing that makes it work.  I have found that I need to do the following.

1)  "Paint the line" about 2 feet ahead of Wyatt.
2)  Use multiple verbals (such as "Go Ahead, Tunnel") and repeat as needed.  However, don't yell at him so much he stops.  Keep the tone pleasant and fun.
3)  Keep moving.  Nothing stops him faster than me stopping.  Moderate my footsteps so they are smaller.  If I run out of space, I kind of jog in place. 
4)  For tunnels especially, look at the tunnel opening. 
5)  Use our "switch" command when turning him and sending him out such as shown below. 




We'll see how it goes this weekend.  We did have some good practices with me basically totally outside of the mini-course.  Sometimes, Wyatt did not want to practice. It seems to be related to temperature, amount of exercise, and time of day.  I am trying to just accept it when he does not want to play and not get nervous about it and not try to coax/bribe either but to try again at a different time.  He used to always want to play agility so it may just be part of working with an older dog. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Letting Your Dog Lick Your Face

Wyatt tends to wants to jump up on me and lick my face when waiting for an agility (or obedience/rally run.)

I have, for a while, not let him do this.  Usually, I stay standing up.  I have felt that he can sense my "nerves" by changes in my scent that occurs due to ring nerves.  Now, I am not particularly nervous before a run but there is some adrenalin, especially before runs I really want to qualify in.  I also chew an Altoid before a run to disguise any scent changes. 

I don't know if there are any studies on this but I have observed some changes anecdotaly.  During last weekend's trial, I felt relaxed and had Wyatt out a little early and was sitting down.  I let him lick my face.  I still felt fairly relaxed for our NADAC Regular run.  Sure enough, he was super anxious in the run, having weave entry troubles and barking at me there.  Also, he did his classic leap off the dogwalk, which I rarely see these days. 

It makes me wonder how many problems could have been avoided in the past by simply not letting him lick my face. 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Difference Between Q and NQ

Wyatt had a very nice jumpers runs yesterday but ran around one of the last jumps.  I was thinking how different we treat a Q and NQ in our minds when the reality is that they are almost exactly the same in some cases.