Well, I haven't been writing about it, but I have indeed been training my dogs lately. I'm getting back into a schedule of sorts, trying to get Lucy ready for the Fall trialing season (when I really hope we can get that ADCH!) and making some progress with Pinky so that maybe a year from now she can make her agility debut. It's hard for me to believe she's almost a year old already!
I've also started the ball rolling on acquiring some equipment for my new backyard training space. I started with a couple of jumps (I'll be adding more very soon). My friend Barb made the jumps using the Clean Run jump cup strips and sold me a couple at an amazing price (I think it may have been the "friend" price, so I'm going to keep it secret). She calls them the "Blast 1000" jumps, a play on her border jack's name (Blast) and the fact that she thinks the jumps are much better than the Max 200 ones (I agree). I only had one (not very good) jump before, so it's really great to be able to do more than single jump exercises.
Pinky has made a lot of progress lately. We've been taking a class called "Focus and Motivation Stations" taught by Melanie Miller. It's an interesting format: We pair up with another handler and go to different stations to work through various agility foundation exercises. One person works her dog while the other takes notes and/or helps out. Then a timer beeps (I'm not even sure how much time we spend at each station ... a minute, maybe? It's not a lot, at any rate) and the first handler puts her dog in its crate while the second gets hers out to work at the station. We do this until we get through all the stations (usually six) and then debrief/evaluate at the end of class.
I think Pinky and I both had a hard time adjusting to the crazy class format, and at first I felt like we were not making any progress at all. Pinky tends to be slightly nervous in new or strange situations, and she would get a little stressed in the class and not want to work. But over the last two weeks her stress level has decreased and she seems to be getting into the exercises a lot more. One telltale sign is that she's gone from willingly hopping back into her crate when the exercise is done to not wanting to go in at all. This indicates to me that before she felt weirded out by the situation and wanted the security of her crate, but now she's having a good time in the exercises and would rather not go back to the boring crate. Or maybe she's just suddenly gotten bratty about the crate and I have a whole new problem to work on ...
Based on the couple of Stuart Mah seminars I've been to (there will undoubtedly be more in my future), I really want to work more obstacle focus with Pinky than I did with Lucy. From what I understand of the way Stuart and Pati Mah train their dogs, I need to find ways to get Pinky to think that the obstacles themselves are rewarding and fun, not just something she has to do to get her tug or treat. I'm not sure exactly how to do this, but I've started playing a game ... lets call it "Any obstacle is a winner" ... in which Pinky gets a game of "mom will act like an idiot and tug with you" (one of her favorites) no matter which obstacle she chooses. There are no wrong answers in this game, although Pinky always, always takes whichever obstacle my body is turned toward (I don't indicate an obstacle or even say "go" at this point ... It's very much a shaping game where I wait for her to decide). Right now we're only playing with a few cones and my three jumps, but I'm hoping to add a tunnel to my equipment collection very soon. If nothing else Pinky seems to be having a lot of fun with the game, and so am I.
(Just in case anyone who reads this blog doesn't already read AgilityNerd, Steve recently attended a Stuart Mah seminar and has posted his take here. And also, try out Steve's new Googility search tool if you haven't already. Oh, and the AgilityNerd empire now includes a store. Please help Steve finance his expensive agility habit ;-) I wonder if he'll make me a rubber wristband that says "WWSD" or, "What Would Stuart Do"?)
In other very exciting news, I'm expecting word that my channel weaves will be ready for pickup sometime this week. I really want to work more weave entries at distances and odd angles with Lucy because it's something we almost never do successfully when it comes up in masters gambles.