Saturday, August 23, 2008

Agility Class

Last class, we worked on handling skills just with jumps. I think Katrin called it double box jumps? Something like that. I know there were jumps arranged in squares.

The first sequence had a switch in there. Switch is still the hardest thing for me to get. Direction changes, lead changes, treats, hands, dogs, my own two feet...

I'm pretty sure there was a front cross in there somewhere after the switch, but Iris and I never got that far. Iris had no problem taking the first three jumps but after the third jump, she was spinning around to the right instead of turning toward the left. Actually, I think she should have started turning left before the third jump, which was part of the problem. She had to turn right after the second jump and just continued that motion over the third. Sandy and Sadie went after us, and I tried to really watch what she was doing with her hands. I know that's where I was losing Iris. She just didn't know what I wanted. I think I have a better idea of what I should be doing (so much easier to say than do!) I keep meaning to set up Iris' jumps to practice, but I've been a lazy trainer this week.

Next we worked on front crosses. A front cross is when the handler's path crosses the dog's path in front of the dog (until recently, I thought it was when the dog crosses in front of the handler, so there's my clarification). It wasn't pretty, but we did pull it off. The handler's path in these diagrams is really generalized, but you get the idea.

The last sequence was almost the same as the second, but the hander had to stay on the outside while the dog did the jumps in the middle. Katrin held Iris at the start line not because Iris has been breaking her stays, but because I worry too much about her breaking her stays. And I was not cooler than dirt that night.

So we started. Iris did all three of the first jumps perfectly. And then I stopped. And Iris stopped. Katrin says, "You have no idea where you're going because you didn't think she'd do it." Nope! I didn't bother to plan ahead because I really thought that Iris would come in towards me, and we'd end up working on that. Serves me right! My good girlie.

I did, however, manage to go the entire class without being told to deliver the treat with my other hand.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Herding Lesson

Sat was Iris' first herding lesson! We went with Julie and Honor-Bug, who also had a great lesson. Bug went first, and I had Iris lay down and watch him. I don't think she took her eyes off the sheep the entire time.

When it was Iris' turn, Colleen had me walk her around the outside of the pen and asked her to stay in each of the corners. Iris was pretty interested in the smells, but didn't seem to notice the sheep yet.

Then I asked Iris to down-stay, and I walked up and touched a sheep. She held her stay next to Colleen (which was awesome for Iris! I've never asked her to stay with a stranger and walked away).

Now to see if Iris was actually interested in sheep. Colleen came in the pen and we walked up toward the sheep.

The sheep moved away and Iris really tuned on. It was so cool. She does herding at full speed, but she does circle to the outside instead of running straight toward the sheep.

See how she's making a wider arc than the sheep are? Good girl!

Herding for Iris was done in short bouts of full speed interspersed with sniffing. I think the sniffing was a combination of interesting smells and stress sniffing. Even though she thought the sheep were cool, she wasn't quite sure what I expected of her.

Then it was my turn with the rake. The rake is a kid's garden rake, and it's used to guide the dog and get the dog to change directions. It really just acts as an extension of your arm. Sort of the same way I'm supposed to use my arm to guide Iris around the agility course. Colleen commented that Iris is pretty pressure sensitive, which doesn't surprise me given how sensitive she is to my body language in general.

Figuring out the rake is hard! The idea is to keep it near the dog's girth to get the dog to move forward and to move it in front of the dog to get her to change directions. I had a tendency to keep it too far forward which was confusing Iris.

Look at that stay while Colleen was explaining to me how to use the rake. Such a good girlie.

Iris and Bug both got to rest in their crates, andJulie and I got to practice our handling skills with Colleen's Belgian Tervuren, Hannah. Hannah quickly figured out that Julie and I are softies! I was lucky and Julie had already tired her out a bit before I worked with her.

I think Iris had a good time, and I definitely enjoyed it. Iris was a completely different dog than she the first time I introduced her to livestock. I think it was a combination of a less stressful environment and me being in the pen with her. Colleen noticed that Iris was more relaxed when it was just me in there with her. She certainly doesn't look like a dog who's afraid of sheep, does she?

We have another lesson at the beginning of Sept, and I'm really excited about it. I can see how herding could be addicting! In the mean time, we're going to be practicing down in various locations. I realized that while Iris will down very reliably at home and at agility class, those are the only places I've really practiced it with her.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tues Night Agility

We switched to the Tues night agility class for this session, and it was a night of "firsts" for Iris. There are three other dogs in class - Makin the Vizsla who's been in class with us from the beginning, Sadie the Aussie who we've had a couple of classes with (and that means her Aussie puppy "brother" is there too!), and also someone we haven't met before with her two dogs (the dogs will be alternating weeks, this week we met Misty the Aussie). Me and Iris, and Neil and Lael with Makin are all new to agility. I'm so glad I'm not the only new kid! Sandy with Sadie and Misty's owner (I learn dog names so much faster than human names) have been doing agility for longer. I think we've got a pretty good mix in our Aussie dominated class.

Katrin set up a 19 obstacle course. When I went to walk the course, Iris stayed in her crate and she was so quiet. Ok, she did get in a couple of woofs, but no crazy barkbarkbarkbarkbark like she sometimes does.

Iris jumped 20" for the first time in class. She did more obstacles in a row that she has in a long time (ever?). She did contact obstacles for the first time since March. She did weave poles for the first time in 6 weeks because I don't have my own to practice with. When I got home from work on Wed, my sister said Iris is so much quieter during the day after agility. No wonder!

Iris was awesome. The weave poles had cages only on one side. She missed the entrance on the first try and got it right on the second. She was so proud of herself when she got it right. I was proud too! When we got to the dog walk, Iris remembered how to run up and across, but she completely forgot that she's supposed to slow down on the way down. Slow down? Crazy Aussies don't slow down! Then she started being really goofy, which made me laugh, which made her more goofy. We decided not to try the teeter with Iris right then since I'm sure she had every intention of flying off. Plus, Iris was starting to tire herself out. I think I need to start running again with Iris during the week. Both of us need better endurance, and I don't think it would hurt Iris any to lose a little bit of weight.

Later, we decided to just work on the dog walk and teeter. We kept Iris on a leash initially and after she did "wait" a couple of times, she figured it out. She says, "Oh, that's what you want!" Then she was happy to do both the dog walk and the teeter without a leash. I also learned that I don't really have to yell "wait." I can just say it and Iris will still hear me, even if sometimes she does try to convince me that her little witch-hat ears are too full of fluff to hear a word I'm saying.

I also realized that Katrin hasn't been asking the other dogs to leave the barn while Iris is off-leash, and Iris has been really good. It only took me weeks to notice. I think my crazy red dog is really starting to enjoy this agility stuff.