Monday, 23 June 2014

Finn Learning See-Saw

Recently we have been working on contacts.  I started with a bit of wood in the garden...

I called this position "see-saw", and kept putting the wood in different places and asking for the behaviour, before throwing the ball for reward.

The video shows what happened as we transferred this "see-saw" command from the wood to our training see-saw in the garden.  (It was made for terriers, so narrower than ideal for Finn.)

I have a barrel under the end of the down slope, to make a more distinct difference to the end of the contact.  I am aiming here for all 4 paws to remain on the see-saw before releasing him.

Anyway, he learns quickly and subsequent sessions have resulted in the correct behaviour almost every time - and also with me in a variety of positions away from him.

Very pleased with my boy.

...and doesn't he know it!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Agility for ALL - Dogs for Disabled Demo

Philippa Armstrong has been an inspiration to many who have had to deal with challenges affecting their ability to do agility in the conventional sense.

Recently Philippa ran an agility demonstration ring at the Dogs for Disabled Show.  She produced this video of the dog and handler combinations who took part.

I was very flattered to have been invited to take part in this, but the dates fell right in the middle of Shona's A2 exams so a trip to England was not going to work.  Perhaps next year Philippa?

In the mean time plenty of inspiration here for all of us, no matter how we handle our dogs.  Thank you Philippa.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Not a Velcro Dog!

Today there was a Fun Day at our training grounds.  The first class was just jumps and tunnels so most of the beginner class entered.

I entered Finn for medium height, and told the judge that we weren't going to attempt the whole course, as we don't yet have the skills to follow the correct route.

However - I am SO proud of him because, although we did a totally random course:
- he did a fantastic "wait" at the start for me
- he was really enjoying the course
- he wasn't distracted by the spectators in tents all up one side, nor the judge in the ring, nor the big wide open barley field beyond
- he was thinking about what I was asking him to do - we just haven't perfected a common language yet.

We attempted two equally hectic rounds...

.... but I was so pleased with him, just for trying so hard to please!  

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Success? What is it anyway?

It's easy to recognise the outright success of champions... 

..... but in my view "success" is much less tangible than simply winning, and considerably more widespread than ribbons for places.

So what IS success? 

Perhaps it is simply a moment where some part of our dream is realised?

This is Patsy completing our first ever NOT ELIMINATED round!  A moment of success I will always cherish.

So it seems "success", is actually more to do with context, than with winning.  

In training, we aim to keep our dogs succeeding so that they are not discouraged. And, when a task is too difficult, we help them succeed by making the task simpler. Parents do the same for their children.

As handlers, I think we should be equally considerate to ourselves.

So, just like we do for our puppies, we need to set ourselves up for success.

This includes ensuring that, no matter what our dreams, our interim goals are attainable, achievable and constantly re-evaluated.

Viewed this way, "success" becomes a journey of many, ever-changing little successes, and not an ultimate destination!

Every dog, every show, every judge, presents different challenges - and the challenges we each face, to get our moment in the ring, are not equal either.

Likewise our perception of success is coloured by our own personal expectations and aspirations.

So whilst my "success" - as traditionally measured by ribbons - is confined to a few rare, and surprising, moments . . .

. . . I regard my agility journey as an adventure of many small achievements.

And success, however we define it, is born of all the little things that we do every time we play with our dogs . . .


Note: This post has been written as part of  the 

Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day on the topic of "Success".

Links to other posts on the same topic can be found here:

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Finn - Training Update

Training sessions have now been moved to Tuesday nights, which means that the "puppy" class no longer has the training grounds to itself.

Of course for Finn this meant a whole new level of excitement!

Louise started us off with the soft tunnel, gradually lowering the fabric with each turn, and then a little bit of work on contacts at the end of the see-saw followed by a few jump and tunnel exercises, culminating in the sequence below.

Finn's first attempt was all over the place.  He managed the first four jumps in a line before heading off on a large circuit of the grounds doing random tunnels and jumps as he pleased.... ooooppps!

However when it came to doing the whole series at the end, things came together.

I set him in a wait and parked the scooter up at the first corner (facing as shown by the arrow) and then I gave arm signals and verbal instructions.

And JOY of JOYS... he seemed to understand every word and to complete the sequence perfectly!

This time, I used the word steady as he was taking off for the fourth jump.  I had only ever used this when walking him on the lead before, and so was delighted when he slowed on landing.  He then came to his name and was easily sent on over the next two jumps and into the tunnel.

All in all, I'm feeling pretty chuffed tonight!