Another busy few days, but finally a few minutes to catch up.  Friday I took the dogs to my instructor’s agility arena to do some training.  I am going to do that once a week for the next little while and see if I can get Hannah ready for a trial in April.  She was ready to start trialing when we put agility on hold for financial reasons last fall.  I’m still struggling just as much with money, but I really want to get back to agility.  Had I know earlier that I could rent this arena, I would have done so!  That said, it’s a 30 minute drive each way, plus time to load dogs, set up and break down, and unload dogs.  So it takes about 2.5 hours for me to get 1 hour of training in.  I look forward to having some space to train at home!

At the arena, I pulled out my car crates and lined up the dogs.  I kept three in crates and one out to train, and rotated through them.  Hannah is the only one really using equipment right now, so I mostly worked her.  I trained her for about 10-12 minutes, then put her up and pulled out Mira.  Mira worked 5-7  minutes, then I put her away and pulled out Ross for 2-3 minutes, then Kess for 2-3 minutes.  Then back to Hannah.  I trained for exactly one hour, and by the end of it, I was quite burned out!

I think this break down worked well, although I need to have a very carefully planned session to make the most of it.  By this I mean I need to know exactly what I want to focus on with each dog.  On the way home I picked up a 5 subject notebook and will use one section for each dog (and the 5th for general notes or whatnot).  This way I can plan in advance and have a lesson written down prior to arriving.  Since I pay by the hour, I want to make the most of that hour!  And I’d like to keep it at just one hour for now.

Kess and Ross were both extremely stimulated by the arena and I wasn’t able to do much with either.  I will bring a head halter for Kess next time and see if I can get her to focus better.  Ross wouldn’t even take treats.   He has never been in an arena before, and the smell of many other dogs plus horses was clearly overwhemling to him.  But with repeated trips he’ll get used to it.  I love having a place like this to train on my own!  I’ll be able to do a lot with the dogs.

More on Kess in another post, but she really needs a lot of work!  She gets easily overstimulated and then her brain is nowhere to be found.  I can always call her to me, which is wonderful, but she has no understanding of working with a partner or really doing anything other than sniffing and exploring.  I will continue to bring her with me to the arena because the exposure is very good for her, but the only training she’ll be getting for the next few weeks is basic focus and attention and maybe some shadow handling.  In other words, stuff that doesn’t need any equipment.  As a result, I will only give her two or three, 3 minute sessions for now.

Ross will be doing Rally-O, not agility, so mostly I want him to learn how to focus on me in a stimulating environment.  He’s never been in an indoor arena before and I need him to get used to such an environment if we’re ever going to trial (which we may never do).  At the least I’d like him to be comfortable so he can come with me when I trial the others.

Mira did fairly well in terms of being confident and enjoying herself, but what I need to work on with her was apparent right away.  She clearly finds no value in the obstacles (other than the tunnel) and only goes over or through them in order to get the reward.  Hannah has learned to value the obstacles in and of themselves.  She will happily do as many obstacles in a row as I ask her to before we play tug or whatnot.  Not Mira.  Mira goes over one jump and then skirts around any others and runs to me to get her reward, as much to say “Ok, I did the stupid jump, now where’s the tug!”  She has not yet paired the tug with the obstacles,  so I need to work on that.

I also need to work on her impuls control (surprise, surprise) to get her start lines and contacts solid.  It nearly kills her to have to hold a stay as I walk away and it can take 10-15 tries for me to just step around one jump.  This is a very interesting problem that I’ve had with her since day one.  I’ve written before about how much of a struggle I’ve had to get her to hold her stay at the door.  The same is true on sheep.  She has no stop.  It’s like she’s incapable of understanding the concept.  I’ve done literally thousands of repetitions to get her hold her stays at the door or a jump, and done hundreds of downs on sheep, and she still doesn’t get it.  It’s just weird!!

I wonder if doing more crate games would help.  I keep meaning to order the DVD, but that financial struggling thing keeps getting in the way.  It’s not much money, but it’s a lot for me right now.  I know what crate games are about and can do them without the DVD, but the video will likely give me a better refresher, not to mention inspiration.

In sum, Mira needs to play crate games, practice her startline stays, and do a lot more shaping around jumps and contacts.  Not very sexy!!  And all stuff I can do at home.  I should make a point of doing 5 minutes with her, twice a day.  Kess can do the same things, and so can Ross for that matter.   That would mean 15 minutes of training, twice a day.  I think that will be my goal for this week.

Just to touch on Hannah, I would really benefit from taking lessons to advance her.  She’s running about as far as I am able to take her on my own, although I can do a lot of grid and box work with her to smooth our handling and jump sequences.  I have plenty of notes from previous classes, so that’s what we’ll be doing at the arena for the next few weeks, until we start classes again in late March.  At home I will work on contacts and review the basics, although she really knows them cold.  She will still enjoy the review.