This will be a shorter entry than the last as we haven’t been doing nearly as much agility training as we have been herding. This is mostly because I have access to sheep, and not to an agility field! I also worry that I will lose my access to sheep any day now. I originally had been granted access to the sheep in exchange for training the owner’s new dog. But the dog never materialized, so now I’m working sheep without earning my keep, and I expect that will come to an end at some point. So I am trying to squeeze in as much training as I can while it lasts!
Regarding agility, I really want to start competing with Hannah this fall. Herding trials end in October, but agility trials run through the winter. There is a trial local to me in November and my instructor suggested that would be a good place to start. So I have been actually working at agility training at home in preparation. I only have 4 weave poles and one jump, so there’s not a whole lot I can do. But I have taken Susan Garrett’s 1-Jump seminar so know quite a few things we can do with that, and until yesterday, Hannah was not doing 4 poles in a straight line yet. She’s now weaving 4 poles very well, and her rear-crosses are getting to be really spectacular! We’re also working on contacts, although I think she’s got those down fairly well.
I’m also trying to get Mira up and running. She’s 20 months old now and it’s really time to start to push her. She can take it. So I’ve got her started on poles and also doing a bunch of the jump exercises. She’s extremely athletic, which is a good thing because she has to jump Hannah’s jump height and is several inches shorter! I’ve been doing rear crosses with her this last couple of evenings and she’s got them down fairly well too (not 100%, but getting there). Her enthusiasm for agility is really great and I think she’s got tons of potential. What I need with her is discipline!
During our last agility class, I made the mistake of lamenting that Mira was ‘stubborn.’ That earned me the sweetly but firmly delivered lecture on how dogs are not ‘stubborn’ but rather the problem was in my handling: all problems boil down to one of three things: criteria, reward and timing. It’s up to me to figure out where I’m going wrong and to fix it, and then my dog will no longer behave as if she is ‘stubborn.’
She really has a point, although Mira certainly is willful, if I can get away with using that adjective. She is a very tenacious little thing and definitely has a mind of her own. But my instructor is right in that she is not stubborn. She will do whatever I ask as long as I am clear and she is sufficiently motivated to do so. So I have to work on being really clear with my criteria, much more black and white than I need to be with Hannah. I can be grey with Hannah and she will still know what I want – she seems to read my mind, which I have become accustomed to. Mira is a very honest dog and reflects my handling much more clearly than Hannah does. Hannah make me look good; Mira makes clear every mistake I make. Hannah has been a great first agility dog and has built my confidence and made the sport fun. Mira, on the other hand, will make me a more precise and self-aware handler.