Agility Puppy

So I held out for six months, but Asher is now doing ‘agility’. And, oh my, he’s a quick study at it!  It was just kind of an accident, I was setting up for classes and the dogs were running around like normal and Asher brought me the toy as I was unbagging a straight tunnel. So I held him back, threw the toy and he raced through the tunnel to get it … and that was it, he was all about tunnels after that. Considering he has never done a tunnel, I was pretty amazed how he just immediately was sending, finding blind entrances, doing curved tunnels – pretty much without any training whatsoever. He is one smart little puppy, I must say.

Then we were working on generalizing his bucket sends at the arena and it seemed perfectly natural to do work on wraps to tunnels since he could do them now … and suddenly he was sequencing like he did it all the time. It just felt very natural and easy, and another one of those things that he was doing that I have never actually trained, but he does it anyway. So that kind of cracked me up, from zero to sequencing in one day with no real foundation work.

We did have some fall out though, as we did skip all the steps his multiwraps then went to hell. Why do multiwraps when sequencing is so much fun? So we went back to shaping that and insisting that, yes, multiwraps can be fun too, even with toys. Back at the arena I happened to ask him Asher to wrap around a jump wing, then he was offering THAT all over the place. Good lord, you do one tiny piece of ‘agility’ with that puppy and suddenly he’s taking it and doing all the things. So we started working figure eights and proofing wraps and other things I had absolutely no intention to introduce him to for months. Dangerously fun, as he really doesn’t need to be doing this kind of thing yet, big goober puppy. Asher is a fan of agility, and he is FUN – looking forward to it, but we need to go back to foundation flatwork.

Now, things that we HAVE actually attempted to train, such as bringing the toy to my hand, that takes like five minutes of him dropping it, running back and contemplating it, flinging it across the arena, bringing it five feet, dropping it, finally getting it near me and flinging it 20 feet behind me … yeah, THAT part needs work. He seems to think this is someone else’s job. So we are working on that, and have done a few shaping sessions with rewarding for targeting the toy to my hand (where he still seems rather perplexed that the toy does not just magically levitate its way back to me without him). I think what made the biggest difference was just working on tugging, releasing, backing up and inviting him up on to me to tug again. He is so funny, he’ll still spit the tug and then launch himself on me and look all perplexed where the toy went. He’ll make the connection one of these days. We have also been attempting to be a bit of, well, mindless border collie fetching. I usually only throw toys in training, it’s not something I think dogs need to do a lot of. We do the aerobee frisbee at the park for exercise, but it’s very easy to pick out of the air and continue running without a lot of joint impact. Asher isn’t ready for that, but he can do frisbee rollers, which he can still pluck it out of motion and continue running, so we’ve been working on that and that, well, fetch is fun.

He has suddenly gotten big, like dog-sized. When he jumps up on me and I’m not paying attention, I can’t tell who it is anymore. I think he’s surpassed Bright in height, it’s hard to tell. He’s definitely heavier! He’s only 6 and a half months old, I’d like him to be older so he can stop growing! He’s going to be a big boy. Hard to tell if he’ll be a big beautiful boy yet, he’s still so super awkward. He’s got time though, plenty of time.

Navarre and Asher continue to become really good friends, they now play way too much out in the yard, tearing up the lawn chasing each other around, and they wrestle inside as well. Navarre still has very strict rules, but he’s obviously thrilled with his ‘new’ playmate. Bright still thinks Asher’s super fun and they play together all the time too. Asher is now well loved and it makes me very happy.

We checked out a Mondioring ‘Obedience Only’ workshop. I was intrigued as it sounds a lot more fun than traditional obedience where nothing ever changes and it’s so sterile. I had planned to stop doing obedience after finishing Navarre’s CDX, at least until he got older, but we may play with this if it seems like something that would be convenient to practice. It’s obedience but if you added a ton of random environmental distractions and challenges. While the core exercises remain the same, how they are performed can change from trial to trial. Like a position change exercise may be done while you’re in a chair and people are dancing around with swords. Heeling may be done going over garbage bags or jumping barrels. The retrieve could be any item (with some restrictions) and one of the exercises is ‘food refusal’ where people are throwing food at your dog. Just really fun and challenging exercises that change every time, and that’s something that has always bugged me about obedience, is how it is the same at every trial. The variety is way more fun for me, and apparently for Navarre, he seemed to enjoy this.

He did great retrieving weird objects of all shapes and sizes. And position changes are always fun to train. It was a fun workshop and I’d play again if the opportunity presents itself. Very different methods of training though, all those malinois and high drive belgian breeds! The ‘Obedience Only’ portion of the ringsport is open to any breed though. My border collies would certainly have no interest in bite sports!

We ended up not doing any herding for several weeks, poor Navarre. He was a bit of a dork when we came back. Which is not great timing, as his 2nd attempt at pro-novice is this weekend. My expectations are super low, as usual. Navarre was pretty cocky about being to lift sheep off of Haku and I though. Would have been better if he didn’t just run straight up the field at us the first time though (which is what he did at the last trial!). Doesn’t really matter that he did it right after that, it’s only the first time that matters! Oh well, as long as he has fun – and, oh, he’ll have fun. And Haku very much enjoyed getting to help out. Oh my is he getting hard to get him to drive these days, I have to practically beg him to do it!

We hadn’t seen Dave for like a month or so either, so we had a chance to practice Navarre lifting off Haku and me AGAIN, but he was still being pretty flaky about the whole outrun thing. I’m not encouraged. But he had fun, Haku had fun, and even Asher had a little fun. He hadn’t seen sheep for maybe a month and he went out with Dave. Well, first he went out for about 20 seconds with me and I didn’t want him to practice sheep everywhere, so then he went out with Dave. And he thought it was very interesting, would circle, knew it had something to do with the sheep but he wasn’t entirely sure what. Compared to Navarre and Dove’s introduction at six months he was super thoughtful and trying to be good, so I’ll take it. I really need a dog that is going to be willing to make this a team sport, and I think I got my dog. Going to try to do things right with Asher, and he’s still not quite ready yet. No rush.

Navarre’s 2nd attempt at ProNovice actually went pretty well … relatively speaking. It helps to have super low expectations, but my biggest worry that he wouldn’t be able to figure out the set-out crew again didn’t happen. His outrun was okay, too tight at the top and his lift was rough, but these sheep were HARD. I swear to god Navarre got the same individual sheep that Haku did at his first ever trial, which is this big dark colored bastard that just immediately made a break for it all the way back down to the field, abandoning the other sheep and running like mad. When it happened to Haku, I just let her go as I wanted him to have a good experience. Navarre actually caught her … multiple times. OMG, such a troublemaker. And then when she WAS with the other sheep that just caused all of them to bolt and run and it was super hard for Navarre. And he was TRYING, it wasn’t because he was being a bad dog or too close, it wasn’t because he wasn’t listening, it was just really hard for him to be successful, and when sheep are running full out regardless of what the dog is doing, it makes it super hard to do anything.

Despite all that, they got a score! It wasn’t even remotely a good one, but I think there should be an asterisk next to it indicating that he heroically ran that field from one end to another multiple times catching that damn sheep. It was interesting to me that he had an air maturity about him, like having the more difficult sheep made him actually concentrate and try to fix it rather than just doing his own Navarre thing. I give him a hard time sometimes about how he is around sheep, but I was super proud of him today. He may not have been the best herding dog out there, but that was a dog that was trying his hardest. And he had a GREAT time, even if he is terrible about waiting his turn.

The good news, I think he’ll get a chance to do it again, monthly, for a while, actually. Ian is having his winter training trials in Dec, Jan and Feb, I believe. I’m hoping Ian will run him again, I’m all optimistic that if they do get some kinder sheep, they may actually be able to improve. Or maybe not. Time will tell, but Navarre will always, always have a good time.

Haku wanted to be out there, and when I see how close the Pro-Novice driving is I’m always like, “Haku could so do that!” But I don’t want to practice those long outruns, and driving isn’t Haku’s favorite thing, we will just pretend he would have won had he entered.

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