This past weekend we entered a new mid-winter NADAC trial here. Usually we have a break from agility competitions from either Oct to late March/early April, or New Years to late March/early April. It was nice to get a chance to trial, though I knew going into it we’d be rusty on various skills (especially skills I know Zora needs a lot of practice to maintain, like her ability to drive off a start line away or past me on a go line) since we don’t train much agility in the winter due to the weather and frozen ground, but all in all I was pleased with how the trial went. We ended the weekend with qualifiers in 14 out of 16 classes, our 2 NQs being runs where I shifted into training mode. We played around with a number of bonus box and distance challenges, and certain skills went better than I anticipated and some I’ve added to my practice list once the yard thaws.
Skills that went well:
Elite Regular: from the distance challenge box I actually cued and drew successfully the line for Zora to turn away from me on a 180 then drive away from me up a line of jumps/hoops, switch on a pinwheel away from me to the dog walk!!! This correctly drawing and cuing the drive up a line away from me then switch turn away from me has been something I’ve struggled with doing properly in a trial setting. And I did it TWICE!! Very pleased with myself!
Weaves: the amount of distance and commitment we were able to get on the weaves all weekend I was very very happy with. Zora it seems in the past year has really decided what weave footwork is most comfortable for her and is able to replicated it reliably. I think this was the first weavers run I even attempted a bonus on and we were able to do over 90% of the course with me in the box. Very happy with that. And super pleased with her weaves in the chances courses.
Skills to continue to build and practice:
Driving off the start on a go straight line with me layered between an obstacle (especially a tunnel) and then she has to drive past me up the line. This got us in both jumpers and the start of weavers where she veered in pulling toward me and the tunnel draw. I know this skill for Zora is one that to do with any chance of reliability it needs near constant maintenance. In the winter that doesn’t happen, so it’s clearly still a skill that needs near constant maintenance and come spring will once again be a weekly part of our training practice.
Start line stays: the end of last season I noticed she was occasionally releasing off my motion or my turn to look at her once I was in position not my verbal cue. This weekend it was more pronounced. I ended up training it in the ring a couple of times, and after that she was back to solid on the verbal only release. But I need to monitor this and ensure we both stay honest to the stay and release criteria.
Timing of cuing turns: OMG I was sooooo LATE with my turn cues this weekend!! So many wide wide turns. It was bad. I need to practice cue before the turn, trust my dog, and cue reliably the same with my verbal, my hands AND my feet.
Switches and gos out of tunnels where I’m behind or blocked by a tunnel: this has been an on going skill that needs more practice. Need to commit to dragging the tunnels out and practicing this if I want it to improve and be reliable. And again make sure my feet, verbal and hands all say the same dang thing!!
Dog walk contacts: she’s usually really (I mean really) solid with her contact behavior, but 2 runs she launched the contact. The touch n go run I didn’t realize until I rewatched the video. The regular run, we went into training mode, and on the next round her trained response was solid (running contact). So not sure if it was a brain blip (since these were the first time she’s ever missed a dog walk contact in competition), but best to add it to the review list to make sure criteria maintains.
Wraps at a distance: Ugh, wraps at a distance. Something that occur on courses that I’m not the biggest fan of. Still they need training if I want my dog to clearly understand them and their cues. I started do some concentrated wrap practice and skill building the end of last season, haven’t yet trained it to a cue or clear understanding for my dog. Hence our super wide “wrap” turns this weekend.
So some things to celebrate, some things to practice, and now for some snow today!