Saturday, March 27, 2010

Go Go Agility Rangers!

Cedar and I had agility this morning for the first time in a few weeks. As always, it's like she never took time off. She was fabulous! The weather was gorgeous, too.

The first thing we worked on was a short jump-weave-jump sequence. I've really been working hard on getting Cedar to be able to find her weave pole entries from any location. She tends to go so fast that she just blows by the weaves and doesn't even see them. So I worked on getting my body position just right to set her up for success. By the end we were doing pretty dang well! We still have a long ways to go before our weave entries are solid, though.

Next, Mary helped us work on a figure 8 jump exercise. The goal of the exercise was to work on distance/obstacle commitment, as well as working on front and rear crosses. We managed to do pretty well with it, successfully completing it twice, but I really need to make sure to work on the "turn" command this week as she's not quite sure what to do.

After that, I went over to the dog walk to work on contacts. She did pretty well, but I need to work on getting her to do it more independently. I tried to stay out of heel position to make her find the right 2on/2off "spot" and for the most part she could do it, but her body was crooked most of the time (pointed at me). I need to figure out how to fix that.... hmmm.... Hopefully my dad can get my contact trainer built soon so we can have an actual obstacle-like thing to work with. The mini teeter is too small, narrow, and low to the ground to be of much use.

Finally, we all did some sequence work. The course was a bit challenging today, consisting of a single jump, then a three-jump serpentine/threadle, two more jumps, a chute and tight left turn to another jump, then a broad jump, weaves, and a triple jump. It was all in a curly "triangle"-like shape. Cedar did awesome on the first part of the course, and totally rocked the threadle (we've been practicing those at home :D) but we ran into problems after the chute. She came out of that obstacle facing/running the wrong way, so we lost some momentum trying to redirect. As a result, I was too far behind her and pulled her out of the weaves. We practiced on that part a bit and got it better, even though she still was having trouble with the entries. I need to practice the jump-weave-jump exercise more to get her thinking and driving forward with control. Oh well, just more to work on I guess!

Since I didn't get any pictures today, here's a cute one of Cedar the day I brought her home at 8 weeks. You can already see the attitude, eh? :D

Lag Time

I'm really bad at actually posting on the same day that I work my dogs :-P

I went out Tuesday to Dianne's to work Cedar and Moss. Cedar is in heat, so she was kind of a dingbat. The sheep had run back to the pens before we even got to the field, so our first task was to collect them and bring them out to the field to work. Cedar has had problems with this in the past; there's a lot of pressure and she has to make decisions in very tight places. To top it off, in order to get in the correct position, I have to flank her around a pretty big pond with a hill in front of it. This freaks her out because she loses sight of me for a few seconds, so tends to stop short and come back to me instead of finishing the flank and getting behind the sheep.

Thankfully, I was able to work with her that time around the pens without getting too frustrated :). It took us a few minutes, but we eventually managed to get the sheep out to the pasture to work. She was a little insecure and clingy on the drive, but I attribute that to being in heat because she's been doing really well with driving in the past few months. I changed things up a bit and started working immediately on inside flanks; having her drive in different patterns (and to varying, precise locations) around the field. She did pretty well with inside flanks, I think she's starting to get used to what I'm asking. It's so cool to see her doing things that I thought she would never be able to do :).

I worked Moss also. I made a point to only use my whistle with him on Tuesday... it was simultaneously harder and easier than expected :-P. I think I'm starting to get the hang of it, although my tones are slightly different than Dianne's so I think Moss has a hard time figuring out what I want a lot of the time. Most of the time he guesses right, though, LOL. I'm pretty solid on the away, walk up, and that'll do whistles. I'm not so good at come bye. I'll get it eventually, though.

Moss did pretty well. He definitely thinks that he knows more about this than me, which is true. Unfortunately, he doesn't always take my commands. I worked a lot on getting him to be really precise in his driving, and did a lot of driving to locations we hadn't gone to before (different areas of the field). I think it was good for both of us; we've gotten a bit lazy about just working the little mini "course" that Dianne has set up (two sets of drive "panels" :-P). His outruns were good, too, as always. I only walked up about ten feet or so this time, and it didn't even phase him. He's such a natural. We also worked on getting some more finesse at the lift; while most of the time he naturally has a very good, intelligent lift, Dianne still wants me to have the ability to stop him at the top and whatnot. So we worked a bit on that, and getting him backed off. By the end he was very respectful and doing just what I asked. He's such a nice young dog. He turned 15 months old yesterday :)

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I Guess It's Not A Fluke :)

Took Cedar and Moss out to Dianne's on Sunday. Both the dogs were really good... but as usual, my handling (and whistles) left something to be desired. I really wish that Moss could send ME away for training! :D

I worked my boy dog first. He was rearin' to go after two weeks off and was really strong at first (at least for him, LOL...even when he's bad, he's not horrible). It took me awhile to get my head back in the game, but eventually we got everything sorted out. Jaenne held sheep for us and we ran a little practice course thingy in Dianne's field. Moss didn't even notice her; he's never actually minded the set out people which is a good thing! I practiced staying further away from him and not babysitting him on the drive; he can do all this stuff, I just need to learn how to guide him.

Cedar was good, too... especially considering I've only worked her a few times this year. Maybe she just needed some time off to mature? I dunno. It seems to work well when I work Moss first and then her, so that I'm warmed up and ready for Cedar. At first, she was acting really insecure and not wanting to get behind the sheep to drive them out further in the pasture. She kept trying to come to me, so I just kept flanking her around and walking in a bit of a crooked line to get her more confident. By the time we got far enough out in the field, she was pretty good. We practiced some outruns to get her loosened up, and then I had her drive the sheep to the first set of "panels" (two white buckets, haha). This was a good opportunity for us to practice our inside flanks... she proved that last time wasn't a fluke by actually taking my commands and swinging out square and with as much precision as I wanted. The only times that she felt the pressure too much and dove in were when I got too close to her. So that was my fault. She's really doing well... I'm so proud of her.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Just One of the Mossimo

After a bath and a blow dry yesterday:

He's 14 months old now :)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I've said this for three days in a row...

It's the world's most beautiful day outside! Oh my gosh... so nice out. 60 degrees and sunny. It was the perfect day to go work dogs! I went out to Dianne's at noon, and worked Cedar and Moss. Jody R, Jaenne, and Katy were also there. We had a great time. Everyone's dogs worked really well.

I started using my whistle with Moss today, and it went pretty well. Considering my general lack of tone control, Moss seemed to know what I was asking him for the most part. I still need to practice off-stock a bit, though... just to get more consistent. But I really do like using a whistle as opposed to yelling all the time :). We did a lot of driving/cross driving, and working on inside flanks and precision today. His outruns are coming along nicely, too. He is developing a lot of feel and I don't have to say a whole lot to him most of the time... just let him know where I want him to take the sheep. He's such a good boy.

I hadn't worked Cedar on stock in over a month, so I wasn't expecting much when I took her out to the field. She listened well on the walk out, though, which gave me hope that we'd have a good run. I started off by having her do an outrun on the "away" side and fetch the sheep to me. I had to stop and kick her out a few times, but I think she got the message because she listened to my "get back" commands really well for the rest of the time. Then we drove the sheep to the other end of the field and did a "come bye" outrun. She was pretty good. We did some more driving after that, and then I got brave (or just forgot that I wasn't working Moss, LOL) and asked her for an inside "come bye" flank. She did it! I was so impressed. After that success, I spent the rest of the time working on inside flanks with her. She was awesome!!! She listened to me, kept her head, and didn't dive in when the pressure got too much. I think I'm getting better at handling her through tough spots, though, which helps. Dianne says I've gotten a lot calmer with Cedar since I started working Moss. I also have a lot higher expectations of her since I realized what she "could" be doing :D Cedar has really matured a lot mentally in the last six months, and seems a lot more capable of handling the pressures of stock work. I'd like to think that I've played some part in her progress :). I am planning on doing a couple arena trials with her this year... and maybe a USBCHA Novice trial or two, along with agility trials (when she's ready). I think we're going to have a lot of fun this summer.

Well, I have thirty student papers to grade before tomorrow (ugh)... ciao!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Agility practice, 3/6/10

Today at class we worked on a lot of fun stuff. First, Cedar and I did some short jump/weave sequences, working on getting her to drive forward through the weaves without looking back at me, as well as finding weave entries when I'm not close to her/guiding her to them. She did great!

Her weaves are really coming around... she's doing 6 straight poles reliably now, on both sides. She can find the correct entry with a jump in front, jump after, or both, which I was happy about! She tends to go too fast sometimes and not think about what's ahead of her.

Next, we worked on contacts. I've been pretty lax about working her on contacts during our "off" month from classes. However, she did pretty well. We worked on the A-frame first, and she remembered "spot" almost right off the bat. We still have a lot of work to do in this area, however. That became clear when we went and tried the dog walk for the first time. She didn't want to have both of her hind feet on the board at the same time. Mary says this is because she's cow-hocked and her feet tend to be wide apart anyways. So I'll work on that more at home with the tippy board (it's the same width as a teeter/dog walk board so it's ideal for that. I just set one end on the top of the stairs and it works just like the bottom of the dog walk. Good stuff.

Next, Mary helped us with the teeter. Like I said before, Cedar tends to go so fast that she doesn't think about anything else. As a result, she scared herself on the teeter once so we had to back track and do some clicker work with it. By the end, she was doing pretty well. We're still not up to full height on the teeter. I need to work on not always being right next to her so she doesn't depend on me to find her contacts. Gives us something to work on I guess :)

After the teeter, I put Cedar up for a few minutes and all of us strategized on how we were going to run our dogs through a short "start line challenge" sequence of jumps and tunnels.

The first sequence was a candy cane shape with three jumps and a tunnel. We had to get our dogs to go into the end of the tunnel that was not in a direct line with the first three jumps (if that makes sense). So, I tried a big lead out with her (walked between the second and third jump) with the intention of doing a front cross between the third jump and the tunnel. We accomplished that, but apparently I didn't direct Cedar hard enough, because she took the wrong tunnel entrance. When we tried again, I was much more exaggerated with my cues and she took the correct entrance.

Since all of us managed to successfully complete that sequence, Mary made it harder by adding a few more turns, weave poles, and two extra jumps and a tunnel at the end. The sequence was like this: jump, weaves (and a left turn), three jumps, a tunnel, two more jumps, and another tunnel in kind of an "s" shape.

The biggest challenge was the opening of the first tunnel. Since Cedar is so fast, and I had no hope of catching up to her to make the front cross like I did the first time, I had to hang back once I got to the third jump to get her to decelerate and look at me for tunnel directions. We nailed it on our first try!

Over all, it was a really great class. Cedar did awesome considering how little I've worked her this month (been SO busy with school and teaching). I can't wait to see how far we can go in agility! She definitely has what it takes... now I just need to learn how to handle her :-P