Friday, September 3, 2010

Grass Addiction

That's grass as in the stuff growing to make my lawn where I like to play agility, not the other kind. The addict is Brynley, who may henceforth be known as "he who eats everything, all the time".

Brynley made his agility debut this past weekend. No big deal really, just a couple of classes at a local USDAA trial in performance to get an idea of how our training is coming along and how my ankle will hold up to running at a trial. Over all, it went well. I think the best part for me was that I did not walk out to the start line with jitters about running with Bryn for the first time. It just felt like something we've always done.

Of course, it wasn't perfect. I came home with a list of things to work on before we trial again. (which is coming up quickly, yikes!)  The biggest thing for me was that Brynley occasionally stopped to grab at the grass during a run. (that dog will eat anything) Yeah, I've seen it before. Usually when I correct a behavior, most often marking a problem in the weave poles and calling him out of them. So I can't say it surprised me.

This required hours of analysis, pouring over the 90 seconds worth of video from each day. I mean, oh my God, what am I to do?! Should I be running over to stop him every time this happens? Oh crap! He's not focused on me, a sin, a crime, we should be forever banished from agility trials! What to do? What to do?

Oh yeah, back to the videos.   So, the first and most obvious conclusion. It only happened in standard, not in jumpers (the only 2 classes I ran him in). Hmm....   So it doesn't happen when he's running fast and confident? Back to looking at video, frame by frame. Hmm... it only happens when I get behind him. Ok. Well, he's a fast dog, that's a bit of a problem. 

Back to videos, focus on the handler. That's me. Hmm... handler is slow, out of position, and usually late with cues (except when I'm early and he follows me off the jump, good boy!).  Well, that puts a bit of a different wrinkle on the issue.

Conclusion: the problem is 80 percent poor handling, primarily bad positions and timing, 25 percent a need for further training and practice, and 15 percent  just being a young, inexperienced dog acting out his frustration and insecurity. ( I know, it doesn't add up to 100. Just want to emphasize how much of the problem I think is my handling).  The good news, it's totally curable with more training and practice. There were some other bobbles on course this weekend, but they also were also mostly due to my problems with being in position and giving well-timed cues.

So, we're heading back to the grass for more practice. We'll work on Brynley's confidence to work away and in front of me and his understanding of going on to the obstacles. And weave pole entrances, didn't see that in practice, that's why you got to take to a trial. For me, well, I'm going to work on getting in to better positions and figuring out how to improve my timing even when I can't be in an ideal position. Lots to do, but I love spending time playing with my boy!  And, I should add, he did get his first Qualifying run and first place!