Tuesday, February 17, 2009

agility update! Fun!

Long agility update! I'm a bit behind on writing about agility. So, here goes. (It's kinda choppy. I wrote this post over many school lunches of doing homework at the same time as typing.)

On Sunday two weeks ago, Wall-e had his second agility class. Same things as last time, except this class the dogs learned how to bang down the teeter (a 2" drop) and 12 weaves with guide wires instead of 6 without guide wires like last time. The dogs were also introduced to the Hit It! board and the Touch It!, both of which are available at http://www.cleanrun.com/

Since Wall-e is already an expert at banging down the end of the teeter with a 2" drop, the instructor had me do something a bit more advanced with him -- she placed a milk crate under one end of the teeter so that there was about a 12" drop at the end, and I placed him at the halfway point of the teeter and had him run to the end to eat treats from the target. He was great!

Mika finally got to do agility two weeks ago! She hasn't done agility (well, except for teeter games and a bit of jumping in the basement) for a month and a half, but I rented the arena yesterday so that we could get some practice in. I've never seen a dog so happy -- When we walked into the arena, her face just lit up and she started racing around in circles and wagging her tail, looking at me as if to say, "FINALLY you take me here! Now lets do some agility!"

We practiced the dog walk (I decided not the use the PVC contact hoop, and just see how she did without it, and she hit the contact really nicely right in the middle!), the A-frame, and speed circles. The speed circle first started out with six 10" jumps. When she could do the whole circle at a good distance, I replaced one of the jumps with 6 weaves. The first time, she didn't collect herself quick enough and entered at the second pole, but the second time she nailed her entry. When she could do this, I made the 6 poles into 12 poles, so we could work on Mika staying in the poles and not popping out. She did pop out the first time (at the 11th pole), but the second time she stayed in. Good dog!

One amazing thing that Mika did was the TEETER. To really appreciate the enormity (I think that's a word!) of this accomplishment, let me tell you what happened two years ago in late March 2007, when Mika had a bad experience on this exact same teeter at the same arena. To make a long story short, basically I told her to do the teeter twice even though it was a loud metal teeter and we'd been training on our wood teeter at home, and Mika was terrified of the loud bang made when the teeter hit the ground. She ended up running away from me to the other end of the arena when I told her to the the teeter a third time (dumb, dumb me...). It took over a year to fix this new problem with the teeter -- Mika was very scared of the teeter bang, and she associated the bang with all teeters, so she was unconfident and nervous even on teeters that barely made a bang.

Also, this bad experience caused her to be stressed and nervous about agility in general, and it caused her to lose all of her trust in me. This stress problem took us a lot longer to overcome, and we've just recently beaten it (the end of last summer was probably about the time that I can say that we completely solved the stress problem). It just goes to show how one mistake can change everything, even more so in an extremely sensitive dog like Mika...but, she's made an amazing comeback and we've fought this problem together.

I was EXTREMELY happy at the practice because she did the teeter full-height for the first time ever since her bad experience! I was soo happy with Mika, and so was she. She was very proud of herself!!

Wall-e came too and got to start his A-frame training (3' high). He has a beautiful, natural running contact!

Wall-e had another agility class last Sunday (it was his third class). He totally impressed me with his A-frame performance. It was the first time doing the A-frame in class (he's trained on it once before, at the arena two weeks ago). The instructor added a stride regulator at the top to help the dogs jump over the apex, and Wall-e understood right away, soaring over the apex confidently and hitting the yellow!

I've been doing lots and lots of teeter games with Wall-e. We worked on jumping on the up end of the teeter to do a 4-on wait at the end, and progressing to jumping on the teeter from the down end to do a 4-on wait.

Looking forward to Wall-e's next class. I'm going to make sure to watch out for missed contacts on the A-frame, since he did miss a contact last class (he landed really deep and long when jumping the stride regulator and landed about an inch from the yellow, it wasn't comfortable for him to take an extra stride to hit the yellow so he just jumped off).


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