Ima Dog, Ima Workin’ Dog, Ima Hard Workin’ Dog…

Yesterday was the Jennifer Crank seminar.*

It went well, and our biggest victory—massive amounts of handling progress aside—was Forest’s perfectly charming, well-behaved, and all-day-long willingness to stay in the game. He was a complete champ. I lost him just a bit at the very end of the day when we tried to tack on some weaves to the jump drills, but I elected not to push it as he was running on fumes at that point. Overall he gets a solid A for the day.

Jennifer has worked for many years with Linda Mecklenberg, so that is her “system” of choice. I have to say, it made loads of sense to me. I’d definitely like to learn more about her handling. Jennifer broke down agility into two segments which I completely identified with; “training” and “handling.”** Two very separate pieces of the puzzle, but both are needed to be successful. My first year-plus of agility was 95% training. “Here’s how your dog should do the table.” “Here’s how you should do contacts.” “These are the rules for agility.” There was almost zero discussion of handling. Other than “Yes, you should do a front cross between those two jumps.” No one actually explained how to do a front cross to me until a few months ago. So, while I feel we’ve progressed leaps and bound since starting with Laurie, we learned a LOT yesterday.

I very much liked that this style of running is motion-based, and that she broke all the cues/ways you are communicating with your dog into two categories, with six cues in total. In the Natural Cues are Motion, Location, Shoulders and Eye Contact. In the Trained Cues are Hand and Voice. The Natural cues will get you further, but at times you will need to lean on the trained cues.

We did probably 8 or 9 drills/sequences throughout the day. We focused on directing the dogs path with body positioning and motion, and I have to say it worked really, really well for us. I felt by the end of the day, I had so much more confidence directing Forest, and actually being able to send him away from me—not huge distances, but further than we have ever accomplished before–was really exciting. He’s got a bit of velcro in him and likes lots of info from me, so I feel that this method—or at least its foundation—will work really well for us.

I am also coming to learn that Forest is one of those “Nice dog, shame about the handler” dogs. Jennifer said yesterday, “He is a very athletic little dog with tons of potential.” Not bad for a pound dog from someone who has been on the world team and grown up breeding purebreds! She also said that in the 16″ class, that where we will really excel and have the chance to win is in his ability to perform very tight turns. So, that was exciting. Now if I can only get my crap together…

My minor disappointment for the day was our weave regression. At the end of the clinic I went back to the weaves and did just 4 repetitions of isolated weaves and he did each perfectly. But still I am a bit worried about the trial next weekend. We have class tomorrow eve, so maybe I’ll make a special request from Laurie that we work on our weaves.

But, hey. If nothing else, I have learned about agility that my problem today may be a thing of the past tomorrow, and we’ll be on to the next brain explosion…

Good dog.

* One of these days I’ll get off my butt and start taking photos, but meh, dont hold your breath.

** Personally, I’d add in my own third category; behavior. I understand that to be efficient things need to be simplified, but knowing your dogs own personal behavior issues is incredibly relevant and crucial to even begin either of the two other categories. That’s another post I should draft for another day.

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