Devon is entered in her first outdoor trial next weekend. It's a 3-day trial, and she's entered in Open JWW and Novice Standard all three days. She only needs one more NA leg, so my goal is to get her out of Novice Standard and maybe a leg (or two!) in Open JWW. She was running really well this winter and the only reason her Q rate was low was a weave pole issue. We've fixed that problem, and she's working 12 poles easily now.
This run thru was going to be a good test of her confidence on equipment she's never seen before, especially the teeter. Devon has only been to one trial on completely new equipment to her, and she did a great job. However, we haven't trialed in three months, so I didn't know if she was still that confident.
I have learned during the last several classes that Devon wants me to run with her from the start. I can't lead out even to the first jump or she goes around the first jump. This is something I plan to work on, but I'm not ready to do it just yet. I do believe it's just a confidence issue and with more trialing and experience it will fade. Unfortunately with field work and VST ahead of her, she won't have an opportunity to be "immersed" in agility for at least another 6 months.
Below is Devon's very first run. It was a straight-forward Novice course. I decided the two potential problem areas would be the dogwalk and the teeter. The dogwalk is from Affordable Agility and has a PVC base. Devon is very environmentally aware, and she notices anything new or different with equipment especially the dogwalk. The teeter of course has been a problem area in the past, and it was a new teeter in a new place.
I worked hard to make this a trial setting. I packed up last night and this morning. I packed special jackpot treats (tripe and blueberries). We got up early and she only had a half ration of breakfast. I used our same trial pre-run routine: trotting, stretching, tugging and finally food right before our run. For food, I stuck with hot dogs from my right pocket. After thinking about the potential stressors of the dogwalk and teeter, I decided to put three pieces of steak in my left pocket. That was the side I would be on for her contact performances, so I put them in my pocket if needed but didn't show her in any other way I had them.
Devon knew the dogwalk was early in the run when I set her on the start line. In fact she almost went around the second jump because I made an assumption she'd take it. She committed to the dogwalk just fine, but I knew she because a little hesitant on the way up because of the PVC bases. There was also a U shaped blue tunnel under the dogwalk which caused her to slow even more on the middle.
At this point I decided she had been extremely brave and deserved a reward for the dogwalk. It would let her know I had food, but I felt she did work hard and I should reward it. When she came down on the dogwalk, she was all ready for the tunnel, and the little bit of steak caught her completely off guard. She was thrilled, though!
The rest of the course was very nice, including the teeter. I knew when she hit it and went up she'd be fine. I rewarded her with two more pieces of steak and her tail shows how pleased she is! I did realized that when I praise her at the end of a run I shouldn't grab at her. She didn't like this and showed stress, so with later runs I asked her for an "UP" or just cheered her as we moved to the leash.
On Devon's second run, I selected the same course. She was much more confident through the whole thing and much faster. However on the start line, she looked for her videographer. When she didn't see him she looked around like, "Mom, we can't start until my videographer is here." You know how this girl likes a crowd!
Below is Devon's third run. I tried a different course and asked Leslie to act as judge. I thought I'd try a lead out, but it didn't work. I wasn't sent or confident in my presentation, so it wasn't all Devon's fault. I just have to accept right now we aren't going to get it.
The rest of the run is very good except the from the tire to the double. We were running down hill and Devon started to curve into me after the tire toward the A frame. I did push her out with my left hand which she seemed to read, but at the last minute she started to come in again and I was slightly behind her. At this point I had to slow down and stop because I would have run into her and/or tripped over her.
I work hard not to show Devon when there's a mistake on course, but this one I couldn't help. The resulting stress caused Devon to jump on Leslie (who I don't think was expecting all 60 pounds of Devon full force on her). Once I got her collected, she finished the run very well.
I had planned the third run to be Devon's last, but I didn't want to end on that note. I decided to do that course one more time. Devon was very confident again knowing where she was going. I had decided to "give her" the A frame on this run, but she was also being considerate of me! She decided to run straight at the double even though I did cue the A frame. I adjusted in a split second and supported the double and she ran confidently onto the teeter and finished the course.
The only thing I saw I didn't really like was a deterioration of her table performance. She is supposed to have an automatic down on the table, but it fell apart. I'm going to have to work the table more and reward the auto down.
Overall Devon had a great day; and because of this run thru I'm confident going into the trial this weekend. She's a great dog who works very hard to do the right thing for me.
Ian also played in a couple of runs. I ran the master's course they had set. Here is his first run, and you can tell we are really rusty as a team. He broke his start line, then went around the first jump when I lead out. Now in fairness I didn't give him the best direction, but he's a pretty seasoned dog and should have read it. There were also several tight turns, and I can tell I was a little late in cuing them and he wasn't reacting quite as fast as if we'd been working regularly.
Because it was getting warm and I had to work harder on Ian's runs (since the course was harder), I got pretty wiped out running him. I was there more to concentrate on Devon's runs, so Ian only got two times out in the ring. I think he enjoyed himself, and he was very willing to do more. He howled and screamed from the van when I was running Devon (the cacophony probably drove everyone batty for a minute!).
I should take a minute to talk about Page, who was a real trooper. She did some barking in her crate and not always when the other dogs were barking. At one point I told her "quiet" and she was. I let her wait a few seconds, then I tossed a piece of steak into her crate and told her it was a good quiet. I was waiting for her to bark again just so she could get a quiet and piece of steak. I've been reluctant to reward with food because I didn't want to "train" the problem. However, she continued to be quiet, so a minute later I tossed another piece of steak in and told her good quiet. From then on she only barked when the other dogs threw a fit (which was when I was running Devon).
Page also showed some "shyness" at a new object for the first time. This was extremely mild, but enough for me to notice. Thank goodness we have a nose touch! She shied at a short metal trash can with a plastic bag in it. I said, "Isn't that the funniest thing?" in a really high voice, and Page started to wag and go near it. I praised her, and she investigated it, most of the fear gone. I encouraged her toward it, and she offered a quick passing touch of it with her nose - and out came the hot dogs! That was it! She continued to nose touch it and even gave me a paw on it. The fear was gone and she had a good experience!