Last weekend’s competition didn’t go so well. I was competing with Roo and Šče and things just went really wrong in almost every run. The initial response was a bit of self-pity and disappointment, but than it hit me – I am simply spoiled. Šja, Šaj and Kiša have reached the level in training, where we mostly understand each other really well, their obstacle performance is really solid and we just need to train not to get too rusty. Of course that could not be said for Roo and Šče, my youngsters. The competition revealed some serious cracks in their training. Not surprisingly, since there has hardly been any training at all in the last few months due to my traveling and bad weather.
So I pulled myself together, diagnosed our biggest problems and decide for a training plan.
So here it goes:
Little Roo is definitely the queen of all the maniacs. With tons of nervous energy and great speed there is just not much time to think in between. I am used to dealing with a furious, thin nerves, high energy dogs, but this one does not live with me, so there are bunch of stuff I normally do with my dogs that I never did with her and it shows.
She is absolutely crazy for food and for toys, but has difficulties switching from one reward to another. The rewards and games I use in my start up routines affect her work more than I have ever experienced with any of the other dogs I trained. Tugging makes her really nervous and hectic, resulting in start line stay and contact problems. Food makes her a tiny bit more willing to please, but at the same time she gets too much handler focused and tends to miss some obstacles now and than. Just fetching the ball actually works the best, she blows off some steam and somehow that makes her very (sometimes even a bit too much) obstacle focused
The problem is that ball throwing is really not convenient on competitions, especially when you are about to start. There are just too many people and dogs around trying to concentrate on their own run that really do not appreciate a screaming terrier running full speed in between their legs.
Another problem I have experienced with her is that she cannot handle repetitions well. The more I am trying to correct something, the worse it gets. She just gets completely nervous, shuts down her brain and just frantically throws herself at anything on her way. Improving her weave entries seemed totally impossible task, not to mention avoiding the wrong tunnel entries.
But the bottom line is – all her problems originate from her state of mind and I need a better way to manage that. So right now I am working on her ability to easily switch from one reward to another, which will hopefully help her switch from one state of mind to another. I am starting my working sessions with some ball throwing, followed by some warm up tricks and our new start line stay behaviors. (Seeing how well it works for Silvia’s Le, I have decided to teach her to wait and than back up until release) She has no problem switching from ball to food, but she needed some training before she was able to perform her “living room” tricks in the agility field as well. The real problem starts at the next stage. I don’t want her to transfer her food induced obsessive handler focus into the course, so I strictly reward her with ball throwing while running a course. She needs some encouragement before she is able to focus on balls again, but I hope that consistency will help.
I have also instructed her owner to do some homework with her. I want her to do 2on2off every single time she gets excited – before it is feeding time, walking time,… I basically just asked her owner to ask for 2on2off position on a little box every time before she goes out or get’s her meal.
She only needs to do it once, and does not get any special rewards, just a release and than she can go do what she was looking forward to do. I want her to channel her excitement into the 2on2off position.
And last but not least, I have been dealing with her agility issues as well. I am teaching her weave entries, obstacle discrimination and second tunnel entries with Dalai Lama like patience. I make several short sessions in one training, dealing with different problem each session. My key motto is not to allow her to make any mistakes what so ever. Starting from totally easy approaches, making tiny little changes towards more difficult stuff. It feels slow and boring, but I can actually see progress in just two trainings so I am quite sure I am on the right track!
So as you can see I have lots of work with little firecracker. But even more with my giant puppy šČEne. Poor šČe is experiencing some troubles because of her size. She is not only very big, she also “runs big”. She only knows how to accelerate by making her gallop strides longer and longer and longer, but unfortunately there is not much room for that in agility. So when there is a chance for her do develop speed (straight or semi-straight lines) she will accelerate, but start avoiding obstacles, because she just does not have room for take-off anymore. So I am working on some basic set ups with big distances first, so she can work on running full speed but still manage all the jumps. At the moment she has the biggest problem with mild turns, so I give that extra attention.
Also there has been a set back on her running contacts. She became very stubborn about making the DW in 3 strides which becomes very problematic because she also thinks a good way to do so is to make sure you get to the middle plank with just one stride – therefore she jumps the up contact big time. After some consideration and a good advice from Silvia, I started to use stride regulators on the ground before the dw. I am using 2 at the moment, the plan is to remove the one closest to the DW first and after a while also the second one. It is an experiment so more on that when it actually start working!
Of course she decided it is a good time for an A-frame crisis as well. Sometimes she flies over the top a little bit too much, starts to fall head down, panics and makes an emergency landing with all 4, right above the contact. Not only that this brings us faults, it is also dangerous and unpleasant, so we need to do something about it. I am still trying to figure out what to do with it exactly…
And last but not least – her 2on2off sucks. She started to do it trotting, which had nothing to do with the usual contact “anticipation freeze” thing. She simply does not know how to collect well, so she figures trotting is the best way to do it. In order to at least try and teach her some collection skills I have started to teach her running contact turns. I am working separately on the plank, teaching her to wrap around the stick almost at the end of the plank. So far after just 2 sessions things are not looking so bright.
Even with her sky high motivation and drive she goes to a fast trot as soon as she hits a plank, because she simply does not have the motoric program to do it differently.
When I see her run, she kind of resembles a wrecking ball, when it gets going it gets going… I will try to think about some other tricks that might help her with collection, continue with what I do now, and see what happens…
Soo… I better get going, seems like I have tons of work to do.