USDAA–aka “Patience We Never Knew We Had”

Our first USDAA trial went off last weekend without any major hitches. In fact, it went quite well. We had three classes both days and ended up with 3 Qs. But, even better was Forest’s attitude. He was a rock star, completely in the game for the whole trial.

I was worried first thing when I saw the “fenceless” setup–just electric poles stuck in the ground with tape. A year—hell 6 months ago—that would have sent us packing. But, I took a deep breath and sucked it up, and all was just fine.

While we definitely still have more than our fair share of training issues—contacts on the A frame are still iffy, and for some reason we were having some teeter and up-side dogwalk aversion—but I really feel like my handling skills are finally coming together. At least enough to get us around a reasonably easy course. One of our Q’s was in jumpers, which while in USDAA there are no weaves, I now feel like we are ready to Q out of AKC Open JWW. All of his weaves were perfect(!), so for the time being, its time to focus on contact equipment. Lucky for me Laurie is having a special contacts class—aka the Crack of Dawn session—so I have no excuse not to be working on them.

I had a frustrating Sunday morning, entirely due to the aforementioned contact equipment and was talking to some friends about the ups and downs of agility. One made me laugh when she said, “Agility has shown me my patience I never knew I had.” How true.

I only got video of two classes, of course both NQs. So, I may or may not get around to editing and posting those. I’ll probably hold out until next weekend’s AKC trial and hope for something upload-worthy then.

Now that I know how USDAA works, and that there are more trials down here than I thought, I look forward to entering more of them. I really liked the vibe overall, people seemed really nice and there was a lot less screechy-stressy-aggro running going on, at least that I noticed. And, I also became even more hyper-aware of how lucky I am to have found Wags and the people who train there–both students and teachers. Everyone is so positive and warm with their dogs, and are all great trainers in their own right.

I am still catching up on posting, but the next one should be very interesting. I may have some big news to report… It all hinges on Pete and his willingness to humor my ongoing insanity. Wish me luck!

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Time Warp Post

We haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, but we have been moving. And without internet. I am writing this bit offline in the hopes that we get back up and running in the semi-near future.

So the new place is sans ocean view, has a single tiny bathroom and the kitchen counter space leaves much to be desired, but, there is a real yard. With grass. The dogs think it is quite marvelous, especially Forest. He has been camping out there and wandering aimlessly. And stalking neighborhood cats and squirrels. Diego just leans up against the fence and enjoys the sun. Dog Heaven, almost.

On the agility front, we have three upcoming trials, the next which will be our first-ever USDAA go. I am looking forward to 3 classes a day and starting over in Starters. We’ve finally got back on schedule in practice and have been working on contacts quite a bit. I feel good about our dogwalk—still 2o2o—but the Aframe is definitely a never-ending work in progress. We had been working on the running contact with the box. The box part was not a problem at all, but since we had started off our Aframe training many moons ago with 2o2o, he would run up the upside, stall out over the apex, tippy-toe down the top half then stomp into the box and go on. It wasn’t very efficient. So at this point, we are just working on getting him to run all the way over the frame, contacts or not. I have no idea where we’ll be with this by next weekend, but, whatever. If the biggest problem at the trial is a few missed contacts, I’ll be thrilled.

And Diego has been quite busy as well. He is currently taking Level 1 Obedience, Level 2 Obedience, and Control Unleashed all simultaneously as part of my apprenticeship training. He has been a star. His biggest issue is stimulus control. If I have treats and a clicker in hand, he’ll throw out every behavior he knows at me. If we are at home in the bathroom and I ask him to down, he sits and looks at me like I have two heads. So, we need to work on that. But at this point I am pretty confident he’ll pass his CGC. He did have a minor meltdown last week in one class when all the students went around the room to greet each dog and ask for a sit. He wasn’t crazy about the first guy who was older and a little awkward, but the next lady who moves even more awkwardly due to some physical issues sent him over the edge. So, we’ll need to make an effort to work on meeting some more random people and see how it goes.

Lastly, since I have been so neglectful in my blogging as of recent, I am pretty sure I completely neglected to mention that I go to go to Clicker Expo. It was right in our back yard and work helped offset some of the cost so I figured I had no excuse not to go. The general content I didn’t really find too mind-blowing, but I did go to all three presentations and a lab by the two Swedish agility trainers who wrote Agility Right from the Start—Eva Bertilsson and Emelie Johnson Vegh. They were just plain awesome. I loved, loved loved how organized and straightforward they were, yet they were completely warm and approachable. They were just lovely and I really enjoyed their integration of clicker training into agility. I will be using their theories and foundation work for sure when I get my next dog/puppy. They split, split, split behaviors and do it in such a way that makes so much sense. Long before the dog ever gets to the teeter, it not only works on a wobble board, but even beforehand gets rewarded for making noise and movements on its own with a wide variety of objects and situations. They have a great methodology for start line stays and building drive, as well as a ton of other great stuff. The book isn’t cheap, around $40, but I’d very much recommend it if you are looking for great foundation work. I splurged on it at the conference and am working my way through it.

Next post, USDAA recap.