Friday, September 21, 2012

100 things #28: Wipe your paws!

Dahlia says "I wiped MY paws!"

Sony A580 | Tamron 18-200mm | f/3.5 | 1/100 | ISO 1600 | 18mm

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

"Just not right..."

Two years, three months ago I started agility classes. We started with crate games and foundation training (mostly shaping) and Dahlia didn't get it.  At all.  I spent most of the class with her staring at me confused.  The other dogs picked it up right away.  That first class I went home from and thought "Maybe I shouldn't do this.  My dog just isn't right for this."  But I had signed up for a "puppy camp" that happened on a couple weekends and so I went back.

Two years ago we were just starting to transition out of our foundations classes.  We began our 2x2 weave training (just 2 poles at this point) and our instructor got out the wobble board, a round flat board with a ball on the bottom that "wobbles" around with the dog on it.  Dahlia was having none of it.  She was too afraid of the noise it made.  She didn't like the movement.  She would daintily put two paws on it and then leap off like she'd touched a hot stove.  I still kept thinking "My dog just isn't right for this."

A year and a half ago we were working on jump grids and pinwheels.  Dahlia was going around all wing jumps and we had to work hard to get her to do even a straight line over a series of wing jumps.  Pinwheels were next to impossible.  She stopped before each jump, looked at me, and waited to make sure I really really wanted her to go over it.  She was slow.  She was worried.  She couldn't weave 4 poles yet no matter how hard I tried.  I remember pulling my hair out in frustration on some days thinking "My dog just isn't right for this."

A year ago we were into our "tweeners" class and starting to do short sequences.  We had just learned crosses.  Dahlia was still going around jumps.  And she was starting to hesitate going into tunnels.  But every once in awhile, she would pick up speed and really just do it.  Our instructor said she would continue to pick up speed as she gained confidence.  I scoffed.  But when our instructor suggested we sign up for a CPE trial in November, despite my having started agility without any intention of ever going to a trial, I did so, though with a lot of trepidation.  I remember thinking "I don't think my dog is ready for this.  I'm afraid we're going to embarrass ourselves."

Six months ago Dahlia had gotten her first fairly minor agility title (CTL1-H), but had still not gotten on a contact at a trial.  She was struggling with the teeter and she could barely weave on my right side.  We were starting to get into harder sequences and Dahlia, while no fast dog, was starting to get them.  She was rocking her A-Frame as we had put a lot of practice into it for an upcoming trial.  All I could think was "I think Dahlia is starting to get this."

Three months ago Dahlia was still struggling with tunnel hesitation. I spent a lot of time in class rewarding her for taking tunnels.  We discovered at this time if I say "GO!" Dahlia is much more likely to take the tunnel.  It had become a sort of cue for it and so I started to use the word at tunnels more often.  For the first time I found myself thinking "She's starting to look like an agility dog."

One month ago Dahlia had received her second CPE agility title (CTL1-R) and had been to her first AKC trial where she successfully did a teeter, weaved, and got a send in a trial situation.  She was moving quickly and not refusing obstacles.  Her tunnel hesitation was almost gone.  She still struggled with weaves on the right side but she could complete them.  She was starting to do rear crosses and starting to work a little bit further away from me.  We were staying connected and she was becoming more accurate and sure of herself. I finally said to myself "Dahlia is a real agility dog."

Last night Dahlia weaved 12 poles on both sides, did brilliant teeter work, rocked her 2on/2off contacts on all contact obstacles, kicked ass on her A-Frame, and just blew me away.

My mellow, sweet, silly mutt really is an agility dog.  Sometimes I look back on this progression and it's hard to believe I walked into an agility class over 2 years ago with no intention of going to a trial and never imagining we would make it this far.  Yet here we are.  Going to trials, having a blast, and I watch Dahlia's confidence and joy continuing to go up each and every week.  She's so smart and just such an amazing dog.  I feel very lucky to have started off my agility career with a dog like this.  I couldn't be happier with her.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pictures from the AKC trial!

When I decided to sign up for the AKC trial I was very hopeful that there would be a photographer there.  I've gotten a handful of decent photos of Dahlia from previous trials but I always want more.  And not only that, but she's looking faster and more excited.  I wanted to see what she looked like.

Lucky for me, the good folks at Pet Proof Photography were there taking photos.  Our first run was in the pouring rain and while I saw them out there, I suspect they didn't take many photos of our runs.  Bad luck for me!

They did, however, take several photos of our second (FAST) run and I was so pleased with them, I bought downloads of three of the photos.

This first two are of Dahlia actually taking the send!  As I mentioned in my last post this was huge for us.  Absolutely huge.  Dahlia is a "Velcro Dog" (she reminds me a bit of Needy Dög) and it amazed me that she got the confidence up to take a jump that I couldn't get within 6 feet or so of.  This may not be a huge deal to most folks, but it sure was for us!



You can probably figure out exactly where I was by following her gaze!  For the record, she did indeed take the tunnel that followed this but only after heading toward me and then going back out to it.  It was still an impressive feat for my girl!

The last photo is of Dahlia's first time ever taking a panel jump (they have none where we train).  I'll let you look at it for just a moment.  I hope it makes you laugh.


Just how high did she jump anyway?  Here's the thing: she jumped huge to make it over the jump (compare her jumping in the one above).  Not long ago this dog would have simply gone around it.  The first several times she saw wing jumps she went around them.  So here she was in a trial situation taking a jump she had never seen before and she did it.

It was a beautiful run.  Had I just kept moving forward and taken the last two jumps, we would have gotten our first AKC Q.  But because I'm a green handler (who cannot count) I made a stupid mistake and cost us 6 points in overtime, putting us down to 45, 5 points below what we needed to Q.

It's ok though.  She still looked great!  And these trials are not about winning for me.  They're about having fun with my dog.  And they're an assessment of our training.  Here I learned to trust my dog and to not second guess myself!  I hope it helps at our next outing later this month!