Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our First Whole Course... Well, Almost :)

Today was our group class. The course we worked was a former World Team tryout jumpers course. I'm not sure what year or round, but it was tough! There were lots of places that required front crosses--not my strong point :) Since Cedar's weaves are currently still broken, we didn't even attempt them. But that is the only part we didn't do :) Luckily, the weaves were at a logical "break" in the middle of the course, so I decided to just split the course in half and treat it as two different "sections." My idea ended up working out well and Cedar really impressed me :). We managed to cross in the right places and Cedar was listening very well most of the time. A few times she blew me off and went off course, but I probably was telling her to go that direction somehow :). And I didn't fall over doing any of my crosses!

Tomorrow, we're going to work the same course again, so maybe we can get some more finesse. We're starting to figure it out :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

3-2-1 Contacts!

I know it seems like I've only been blogging about agility lately, but, well, we've been doing a lot of it :)

We went out to Mary's last night for a private lesson, and worked on a whole bunch of stuff. We started out on the teeter and A-frame, because we haven't worked contact equipment *that* much, and she still wasn't fully confident... or so I thought! WOW! She did so well! We worked each contact obstacle at full height, and she showed no hesitation and fantastic contacts! I was particularly proud of her on the teeter. I think maybe she's really understanding now that she has control over the motion. Her 2 on/2 offs were great on every obstacle. What a good girl she is. She is so much fun in agility because she is so smart, enthusiastic, and naturally uses her body well.

Next, we worked on a jump grid. I think it was out of a Clean Run exercise book... but I'm not sure :) The first three obstacles were a jump, tunnel, and weave poles... in a straight line! It was a challenge figuring out where I needed to be in order to get her to make the weave entry. We did pretty well :) After the weaves, we had to make a sharp left turn to make a jump, then do a big serpentine for two more sets of jumps. It was an interesting challenge trying to negotiate a smooth rear cross in the middle :-P But we figured it out, and did quite well, I thought. Cedar, as always, thought it was AWESOME. She had the biggest grin on her face the whole time.

After that, we took a break and did some more jumping, working on one end of the grid in a kind of square pattern. I worked a lot on using my body position (not just my arms, haha!) to set her up for success in making really tight turns. We did some pretty challenging stuff :)

Cedar's weaves are still broken :( We had to go back to basic 2x2 foundation work to get some success. Frustrating.

We worked on the dog walk a little bit at the end, and she did very well with it, too. Great contacts, and she attacked the obstacle with confidence that is really nice to see. I love this dog.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Here's a short video of Cedar and I at our agility lesson today:

I scheduled another private with Mary to work on some things: mainly, Cedar's confidence issues with the A-frame and weaves. We lowered the criteria on both to give her a better chance of success. She did great, as usual. I just love working her in agility.

First, we worked on a lowered A-frame on strengthening her contacts and getting her to realize that she can control her momentum on the down side. I think she figured it out... after a few tries, she was using her body very well and hit her 2 on/2 off contacts like a champ, even if I ran past her. You'll see that in the video :)

Next, we worked a little on weaves. She's been popping out on the last pole, and I couldn't figure out why. After watching her, Mary noticed that Cedar's footwork was getting messed up at around the sixth pole. So, at home, we may go back to doing two sets of six poles to build up her confidence a bit, and gradually move them together like we did before when I first started training her to do twelve poles.

Anyways, after a few failures, we left the weaves and did some jump sequences, which amped her up and gave her some confidence. On returning to the weaves, we were able to get her to do the twelve poles once each direction, which was awesome! The second time, we managed to complete the weaves mid-course, with a pretty difficult entry :).

I was very pleased with how well Cedar listened to my body language today. Perhaps I'm just getting better, but we seemed a lot more in sync than usual. Progress!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Plans for the future

I figured while I still have some time to devote to this, I should make some plans for training Cedar to get ready for obedience, rally, and agility trials. There are a bunch coming up this fall that I'd like to go to, and Cedar is getting pretty dang close to being ready :) There are also a few arena herding trials this fall that I'd like to do with her, depending on how much time on stock we can get in. I'm not sure if we're quite ready for the distance required in ASCA Open. Even though it's not much, I want to be really, really confident before taking that step :). Maybe I'm being too cautious?

Anyway, here's some short "plans" for how I plan to get us ready for action in the fall:


What we know: Basic heelwork, sit, down, stay, etc.

What we need to learn/practice: Serpentines around cones, more reliability and confidence, solid knowledge of heel position, finish right.

Proofing: Work just as well under distractions, get used to signs, get used to having a judge walk beside us.


What we know: Basic obedience commands

What we need to learn: More solid heelwork (her basics are good, I just want more commitment, style, and reliability), solid stays, stand for exam under distraction, practice figure 8's. Straight sits, both at front and in heel position.

Proofing: Work everything extensively under distraction, get her used to strange dogs in the stays lineup, teach her to find heel position from a variety of places. Polish dumbell retrieve. My goal is to have her trained and solidly proofed through Open before entering a trial... or at least Graduate Novice :) I want to have at least an 8-10 minute long sit and down, under distraction. I just can't stress about that anymore! It's the only exercise I have failed, and I think I have a complex about it, as I can't seem to actually finish a CD title on any of my dogs!


What we know: Jumps, front/rear crosses, tunnels, chute, tire. Table basics (needs work), Weaves (solid on 6 poles, working up to it on 12). Contact basics (still needs confidence)

What we need to learn: Solid weaves (12 poles from almost any entry), Confident contacts with 2 on/2 off position no matter where I happen to be on the course. And, she needs to learn how to collect herself! We'll be okay on more open courses, and at a distance, but in the tight World Team Tryout courses we've been doing in class, she tends to go too fast and not think about her body. The ability to collect will also help her with table and contact work. So, we'll be focusing really hard on teaching that skill this summer and fall.

Proofing: Practice on different contact equipment. Work under trial-level distractions.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Blog

Check out my new blog, Cedes of Change! It has a bit of a different focus than this one, and I'm having lots of fun with it. I'm hoping to eventually switch over to that one exclusively, so stay tuned :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

3 Days in a Row?!?

Yes, it's true. I went out to Mary's for agility today... for the third day in a row. We are really on an agility kick right now. The reason I went was to get a jump on Cedar's contacts. Since I haven't had them at home, it's been hard to train consistently and I don't really know how to do it... so I went to the expert for help!

We worked on the A-Frame first. Cedar still doesn't totally understand the value of 2 on/2 off position, so we worked a lot on really making it worth her while. We introduced tugging instead of a treat reward; letting her tug while in 2 on/2 off position as long as she kept her back feet on the contact zone. That seemed to help her out some. I need to practice more on making her a more enthusiastic tugger. She loves her toys but doesn't tug very hard. So we'll be working on this in the next couple weeks. We also did a little jump exercise to break up the monotony of contact training, starting in 2 on/2 off position on the A-Frame and doing a short sequence of jumps in a tight circle. She aced it.

Next, we went to the teeter. Since we hadn't trained the teeter in about a month, we started easy with the teeter significantly lowered. Cedar didn't even bat an eye at the motion and easily found the 2 on/2 off position. We gradually raised the teeter up over the course of the session and she did great! She still needs lots more reinforcement, though. It still makes her nervous. However, she learned today that she can control when the teeter tips, so I think that helped her. She was a lot more confident after that.

We worked a little on the dog walk, which highlighted just how much work we need to do to solidify Cedar's contact behavior. :) She was unsure what exactly I was asking, but we worked through it and I did a lot of reinforcing the correct position.

Last, we did a few weave drills. Mary was very impressed with how well Cedar weaves. She does an excellent job with rating her speed and hitting the correct entries, even with obstacles before and after. What a good girl she is!

It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work training (in the heat) for the whole hour! Cedar was pretty exhausted by the end, but tried her hardest to the very last exercise.

A few photos:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

I'm so glad I dragged myself out of bed this morning and went to agility again. I slept through my alarm but woke up a few minutes later, and briefly considered going back to sleep before I realized how stupid that would be. We need to practice!

The same course from yesterday was set up, but we ran different parts/different paths. Cedar did GREAT! Much better than yesterday... but I think my handling was better, too. I really focused on making sure my body language pointed her in the right path. If paid off because we were able to run about half the course--a big improvement from yesterday. I was able to get some nice wraps from her (without her blasting off wide when I needed her to come in tight to make the next jump)and she showed me that she is able to take obstacles at a distance, which is great.

I also had the opportunity to work on her dog walk today. Considering how little we've been able to practice contact obstacles, her 2 on/2 off is coming along nicely. She can do the whole thing at full height now with me on either side :)

I also managed to score a free set of weave pole bases, so now I don't have to use stick-in-the-ground poles anymore. Yay!

Cedar has a great mind for agility; she's very serious on the course, (mostly) listens well, and is responsive without being clingy. She has the confidence to work far away from me and close in. She's sure a lot of fun, and is accumulating quite the fan club <3 It sucks to not be able to work sheep as much as I'd like right now, but we've been having a blast in agility!

Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What's New? Not Much. But I took some pictures.

It's been pretty slow around here lately. The summer heat is kicking in, making both me and the dogs pretty lethargic. However, the gang still enjoys a game of fetch or too during the day, especially if that means some pool time afterwards :)

Today was our first time in the advanced/excellent-level agility class.... and boy were we in over our heads! The course we practiced on (we only did segments) was a World Team Tryout course from last year... and was (understandably) very difficult, non-intuitive, and full of interesting challenges. Overall, Cedar did well, but it showed me just how much practicing we need to do before we're ready to compete! She is so fast that she tends to blow by me before I can say anything or get her pointed to the right obstacle. It's mostly my fault... my timing is horrible and I wasn't giving her enough help and direction. We were able to get in several really nice moments... including a particularly brilliant (okay... it might have been accidental) rear cross.

What we need to work on most:
Weaves (Get 12 poles reliably... she's not quite there yet)
My body language (I'm slow and not expressive/direct enough)
Tight Turns and Serpentines

Here are a couple photos from today:

Have a good one!