This is quite late, sorry :) Our last class was over a week ago, on Saturday December 11.
At this class we each went through a full course twice.
I think our runs went well. Our instructor commented on how much Wall-e's sits have improved since we began the class. They're not perfect yet, but her ideas of improving his sits have really been working for us!
What I really liked was that after the first time we finished the course, we had to say one thing that we liked about the run; and after the second time we finished the course, our classmates had to say what they liked about the run. I think this is a great idea.
Another thing was that there was a dog in heat in the class. I was totally fine with it, but I wasn't sure how Wall-e would react. Thankfully, he barely payed any notice to the bitch in heat and was as focused as ever during our runs.
Yesterday we began a new adventure; fostering a cat.
The story began at the end of October, when an orange tabby cat was dumped, in her cage, in the parking lot of a local vet hospital. She was covered in poop and had to have parts of her tail shaved to remove the mats. I'm doing a co-op at the vet hospital, and I was given the job of caring for the cat daily. She soon earned the name of "Montana."
In the past two months I have gotten more and more attached to Montana. Both the vet hospital and I tried to find a home for her, but it seemed that nobody wanted her. You see, Montana is declawed, and she bites when she feels she needs space; after all, since her claws are gone, she has no other defense other than her teeth. Nobody wants a cat who bites. And if we had brought Montana the the humane society, it was almost guaranteed she'd be euthanized because of her biting.
Last week, I offered the possibility of fostering Montana. And yesterday, after school was out and the Christmas holidays began, we went to the hospital and brought her home.
We're keeping her in a separate room until we're absolutely certain that she'll be fine with Shadow (our cat), Mika, and Wall-e.
She's already met the dogs. First we introduced them, one at a time, while she was in her cage (I realize now maybe not the best idea because she probably felt trapped). Mika wasn't that interested and didn't get too close, but Montana was hissing and growling at her. Then Wall-e got to see. He went right up to the door of the cage and Montana whacked her paw against the bars. It made a big noise, and Wall-e got scared and ran away. I guess that's a good time; I want the dogs to respect Montana and not bother her.
Later in the evening, when Montana was out of her cage (but still confined in the room), my mom brought Mika in and held her, while Montana got to choose how close she wanted to get to her. Mika was nice and calm, and stared at me almost the whole time. (She got some treats for her great behaviour). Montana was very interested and walked closer, and eventually sat down staring up at Mika. She didn't hiss or growl, though.
Montana will probably be re-introduced to Wall-e in the same way today, and sometime next week she'll meet Shadow too.
Now I guess all we can do is try to find a home for her and, in the meantime, see what happens.
I figured it was time for me to post another sleeping photo.
I'm not sure why the two beds are on top of each other, but what's amazing is that Mika actually lay down in the donut bed after Wall-e was already sleeping on the rectangular bed. Mika usually isn't THAT fond of Wall-e to actually lie down so close to him, but this time she had no choice since she wanted to sleep in her donut bed.
At class today, we learned the last of the Novice exercises. Next week we'll spend the hour running a full course. (Do you say "running" a course in rally? I don't know the terminology!)
Halt - Side Step Right - Halt Halt - 1, 2, 3 Steps Forward Halt - 1, 2, 3 Steps Backward (only in CKC Novice rally) Halt - Turn Right - 1 Step - Halt
The least difficult exercise for us was the last one. We didn't really have any problems with that, but the other exercises were tough for me! I found it hard to concentrate on my shoulders, arms, and feet all at the same time. It's like starting agility all over again.
The instructor had a good suggestion of using both hands to reward for the front in the Halt - 1, 2, 3 Steps Backward exercise (holding the treat in both hands to reward, instead of one hand). Since the dog is supposed to be in the middle of the handler in the front position, using both hands to reward will prevent the dog from sitting towards any one particular hand (because dogs orient to where they're getting their rewards). The sequence (or rather a course, because there were a lot of stations) was Start, Fast Pace, Normal Pace, 270 Degree Right, Halt - Sit - Walk Around, 360 Degree Left, Straight Figure 8, Spiral Right - Dog Outside, Halt - Call Front - Finish Right, and Finish. Even though Wall-e was a bit tired because we'd done a lot of training this class, he was happy and eager to do the course.
Looking back over all the exercises we've learned, I think the cone/pylon exercises are our best exercises. (And of course, the stationary exercises are our worst :)
Next week we'll spend the hour running a full course. (Do you say "running" a course in rally? I don't know the terminology!)
Note: I should mention that when I talked about Wall-e's crooked sits at our last class, I didn't mean that he actually sits crooked, but rather than he sits at an angle to me instead of parallel to my body. He sits with his butt far away from me instead of tucked in. Sorry for the confusion! Again, I don't know obedience terminology :)
The year is drawing to a close and our club's agility field has been closed for almost two months. It's time to start thinking about our competition goals for next year and how we're going to get there.
I love setting goals and working towards them, even though the goals that I have right now are not really that big of a deal to me. The only goals that have been important to me at all were getting a title, qualifying for Nationals, and running in Superdogs (this was a huge accomplishment for us because of Mika's reactivity). Mika and I have accomplished all of these goals together and now we're just enjoying the ride, but I still think it's fun to have big goals to work towards.
My big long-term goal for both dogs is to get their ATChC (Agility Trial Champion of Canada) titles. To keep us on track for this goal, we also have the smaller goal of achieving at least one title each full trialing year. (Wall-e's first full trialing year will be next year, since he only started trialing in June this year.) Mika and I got our MADC (Master Agility Dog of Canada) title this year and next year the most likely title that we'll get will be our MJDC (Masters Jumper Dog of Canada) or our SGDC (Starters Games Dog of Canada). Wall-e didn't get any titles this year because he barely did any runs, but we may get his ADC (Agility Dog of Canada) or SGDC (Starters Games Dog of Canada) next year.
I'm still working towards getting Mika's SGDC because we only started trialing in Starters Snooker this year, although we're in Masters for all the other classes. (The SGDC requires two Q's each in Starters Jumpers, Gamblers, and Snooker.) Mika and I only ran in two Snookers this year and didn't Q in either of them due to my handling! The reason I've waited so long to do Snooker is because I wanted to make sure that Mika was completely confident in the ring before trying a potentially stressful class. (It turns out that since Mika is a Masters-level dog, she's used to twisty courses and didn't find Snooker stressful in the least!).
To accomplish the competition goals, we need to have agility training goals/plans as well.
Contact/tunnel discriminations. Since I've rewarded hundreds of contacts over the past four years of regular training (3-4 times a week, 6 months of the year), and barely any rewards for tunnels, Mika loves contacts, and when presented with a tunnel/contact discrimination, will choose the contact every time, no matter which contact it is. The first step will be to do lots of rewards for tunnels to raise the value of tunnels. Then, we'll train discriminations.
Angled dog walk entries. This is long-overdue. I never properly trained Mika to safely straighten her body to take angled DW entries, so we just avoid them; if we see an angled DW on course, I over-handle her so that she enters it straight. However, we saw two gambles this year that involved DW entries at an angle. In both cases, I modified the gamble so that either Mika didn't take the DW or that she took another obstacle before the gamble to allow her to take the DW straight on. If I hadn't modified the gambles, she likely would have slipped and fallen off. But the thing is, Mika has awesome DW's at a distance (other than hitting the contact!) and those gambles would have been great for us if I had taught Mika how to straighten herself out. That's why teaching angled DW entries is an important goal for us. I'll be using jump wings to condition Mika to straighten her body by muscle memory, since muscle memory works really well with her.
Handling sensitivity. This is the only training goal I have for Wall-e (other than my goals of reducing his fears, which apply not only to agility but to everyday life as well). This year, Wall-e has gained a ton of drive, but his sensitivity to my handling has decreased a bit. I also need to learn how to handle this very fast dog. I'm getting Moe Strenfel's foundation DVD for Christmas and we'll use that to refresh our understanding of handling!
Goals are a fun part of agility and I'm looking forward to start working towards them next year. Of course, what we're all really looking forward to is doing any agility at all; we're taking a big break from agility this winter. Other than renting one of the agility buildings a few times, we won't be doing any agility training at all to rest the dogs' bodies. As you can imagine, we're dying to get back to our sport!