I’m not entirely certain, but I don’t think I’ve been to a seminar since the Justine seminar last year. It’s been a busy year. Turned out to be just a lovely weekend with perfect weather, beautiful property, fun people, and lots of fun agility. The dogs did great, Bright was on her best behavior, only one tiny ‘blonde moment’, and even then I think I’m the only one that noticed. Navarre was also a star, including running for Tammy once, which he’s never done before (as I wanted to get pictures of him!). Was hilarious, for whatever reason he was just barking and sassing at her when they were running, and then afterwards she took him to cool down and he still would not shut up. Running with Tammy makes for one loud Navarre, apparently – but they did great together!
I was really happy with the dogs’ skills, when Bright is not being an airhead she is still so easy to run – and she really was on her best behavior over the weekend. And Navarre was not being too wide and goofy, but a very good baby dog. We just ran jumps and tunnels for the exercises in this seminar, which is where the handling happens, so that’s nice. I like the Justine stuff, it suits me very well, and I think it makes complicated courses very straightforward. So many seminars in the past was all about getting that exact right timing, too little and the dog would pull off, too much and the dog went wide – with trained cues you have so much more room for error, I can just focus on moving down the line.
So the big takeaway from the weekend for me was Justine describing her handling as a ‘chase based system’, which I had never heard her refer to it in that way before. And obviously having the trained cues lets the handler stay ahead. The realization was in my placement of rewards. I’ve been rewarding almost exclusively with a thrown toy, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it’s the laziest method to reward and the dogs really enjoy it. However, what is my biggest issue with Navarre? Going wide, running around things, and it was quite clear on one of the proofing exercises that he does not consider ‘chasing me’ to be the goal of agility. Which is not surprising, this is the dog that thought restrained recalls were stupid even as a puppy. So we rewarded with what he likes when he was a puppy, and we did a LOT of frisbee rollers. Away from me. And we DO tug all the time … when he brings me back the toy. So take away, I need to go back to that foundation behavior and reward chasing me, not throwing the toy – oh so hard to break that habit.
Navarre is growing up, and he is more flexible with toys than he used to be, but what he has really liked the most, by far, is frisbees. He doesn’t like balls, he doesn’t like squeaky toys – well, I mean, he will play with them, but not with nearly the same interest. However, for whatever reason, the dog that doesn’t like balls or squeaky toys became infatuated with Hi-Fi’s red squishy squeaky ball, to the extent that he wanted it OVER THE FRISBEE. This is huge – and unheard of! And so weird. And apparently they don’t sell those balls anymore – ha! So that was interesting to see that change in him, and he was all kind of confused about his toys at the seminar, as he’s the sort of dog that will stop working to go find the ‘correct’ toy if he feels you didn’t bring the right one. As we were using frisbee, tugging frisbee, draggy toy and new red ball – he’s tiny brain was confused as to which one he wanted at any given moment.
So that was the last of our agility, we’re now on summer break until the Summer Cup. Looking forward to tricks and hiking and trips to the beach. Next weekend is Special Haku Weekend as we’re off to an obedience trial. Though I think he thought last weekend was Special Haku Weekend already, he got to stay home with Heidi – and he LOVES playing with Heidi. Bright and Navarre were, of course, good travelers on our trip. I just take it for granted these days, I’m so spoiled with these easy dogs.
Funny story, the other day I was teaching and someone casually mentioned that my dogs were so well trained I didn’t even need to shut their crates. Whoops, apparently I had put Haku and Bright in their crates in the car and didn’t shut the doors, but they stayed in there anyway for an hour before I knew about it. And this was down in Brooks, so they could see and hear the agility going on, but they are such good dogs they just stayed in there, patiently waiting.
Knock on wood, no more issues with Navarre’s shoulder. We had been taking it easy all around, which has been driving Haku slowly insane – and made everyone really fat (as I didn’t change their food intake). But we’ve done enough since then without any issues that I feel we can go back to full activity again. All the dogs will be very happy.