Dash, and last night’s fun run

When Bud leaves me in charge of setting a course for our fun run night I generally have little training sets that are my favorites, and I incorporate them into sequences.

Last night I set a 20-obstacle course which included Bud’s opening line (see his blog from Tuesday) which was a bit of a dog-legged straight line.

From that opening line I had them go into the front cross minuet exercise. From the minuet we skipped and layered a jump on our way to the pause table. The layering was so obvious, and NOT layering so difficult, that everyone chose to layer the jump — successfully or not.

These skill sets were all nested in the course and were followed by a back-cross to the dogwalk exercise, a pre-cue-to-a-flip exercise, an a-frame contact with a tunnel between dog and handler exercise, and a run for the finish.

Students struggled a little bit with the front cross minuet, mostly because of poor handler movement or the use of advanced handling on less-than-advanced puppies.

There were two youngsters who disallowed the layering of the jump choosing, instead, to do all the work before them just in case it was right.

All in all I was pleased with everyone’s ability to walk and assess the challenges of the course.  Our new student, having trained elsewhere (and mostly on her own in her backyard), is missing some of the strategy we introduce in our intermediate class.

I decided to run my Dash on the course. Dash is my 9-1/2-year-old aussie, and the dog for whom the 2-Minute Training protocols were developed. He’s a non-confident, food-driven, low-motivation dog.

More importantly, Dash is OCD. He will repeat a skill in the manner to which he was first introduced to it — forever. Once he learns something he does it the same way every time. If I suddenly alter the way something is cued or presented he freezes, licking his lips, filled with self-doubt and anxiety — or jumps around barking.

By working through the 2-Minute Dog Training protocols with him I was forced to vary the presentation of obstacles, adding to his skill set. Do not, however, think for a moment that he is thinking outside the box and developing solutions on his own.

He’s simply digging into his reference library and asking himself, “what is Mom asking me to do this time? Oh yeah, that’s an optional presentation of a jump.”

He’s a fascinating, bright boy. I probably spent more time on foundation training with Dash than I have with any other dog I’ve trained.

His fear of new things is partly his nature but he lived with an idiot and her 2 young daughters from 8 weeks to 5 months, so Dash’s natural fear of new things was magnified 100 times by the time I rescued him.

Last night, when everyone was finished walking the course, I said, “I’m going to run Dash on this course. I haven’t practiced this course with him, and haven’t worked him much in the last couple of years. If we nail it I’ll expect all of you to nail it too.”   HAHAHA

Running a course with a trained, willing partner is poetry. It is the spiritual connection with a dog that brings us back to this sport again and again. When I thought I’d not be able to do agility again it was the loss of this magic that depressed me the most.

I ran Dash mostly silently. When I signaled, he followed. I didn’t have to tell him anything, just showed him the way and turned him loose. True, honest movement received his response of true, honest work. It was so sweet. He nailed all his contacts, never missed a beat in the minuet, was attentive and respectful on the pause table, and was the ultimate canine agility partner.

Trialing with Dash has been depressing in the past few years because the pace I’m able to set is overtime in AKC’s Excellent-level courses. Overtime by fractions of a second. Really depressing, over the course of a weekend, to have beautiful run after beautiful run busted by the time-keeper.

Watching Dash last evening sealed the deal for me — he’s moving to Preferred, jumping 16″, and continuing to enjoy the game wherever we can play it. He’s just too marvelous a partner to be left at home.

In other news — today I’m going to fire out a bunch of e-mails and see if I can’t build some interest in our fall 2009 agility camps.

September 29-October 2, 2009 — four-day teacup agility camp, followed by 2 days of agility trial, followed by our departure for the Petit Prix in Wisconsin.  We’ve got 4 spots filled in this camp (one by my Hazard) and, if I can’t add more dogs, we’re going to be exhausted at the end of 4 days. I’ve got a guestroom in the house and a whole cottage available to accommodate someone wanting a great little vacation for themselves and their teacup dog.

November 15-18, 2009 — four-day standard agility camp, these dates were moved forward a bit to accommodate Bud’s acceptance of a last-minute judging assignment. Campers will arrive on Saturday, November 14, and camp will run Sunday through Wednesday. Group meals will be provided all 4 days, and you have 6 hours a day of instruction. Campers may work on equipment before camp starts, during our mid-day break, and after dinner. I have 2 guestrooms in the house and a whole cottage available for someone wanting a cool-weather training experience. This is our last camp of the year and we’re always blessed with beautiful weather in mid-November.

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