Back to Agility

Well, you don’t just jump right back into agility with Asher, who couldn’t wrap wing with a low bar to save his life this week. OMG, he is just a basket of flailing teenage goober at the moment. Nor could he even hold a sit with a lead out, he’d just collapse into a down, and couldn’t do his position changes around equipment AT ALL and, well, was a giant puppy. So, yeah, we have our work cut out for us, but the good news is he did get marginally better with the wing wraps, and we now have something to work on with our position changes in different environments. That’s our agility homework at the moment and he’s been having fun using the manners minder to look at it at home. Dual purpose of looking at generalizing position changes and getting him ready to start looking at running contacts. I do kind of get the feeling like I should be working on more with him, but he just doesn’t feel ready.

What he COULD do is now bend to pressure with a stock stick, which is new. Anne got me a lovely fancy stock stick for Christmas and we’ve been using it to learn to bend to pressure around toys for both Navarre and Asher. They are coming along! Asher regularly just dives straight to the toy though, so still figuring it out. The hope is to work towards getting at least his herding vocabulary on him with toys, which I know doesn’t teach him anything about sheep, but helped Haku a lot in listening to what the flanking cues mean and helping with stops. Asher does think ‘there’ means ‘go get the toy’ but at least finally is figuring out ‘walk’ with the toy. He doesn’t do inside flanks yet, but we will work on it. He REALLY likes working on it with the border collies, I think it helps him understand what I want as he follows the other dogs, and when I finally release him to the toy he loves to grab the toy and run like a crazy dog, so it’s a really good reward for ‘listening’ to the all hard stuff. We’ll see if it makes any difference with his baby herding, you never know.

Meanwhile, I’m a glutton for punishment and entered Navarre in obedience again in a couple weeks as long as we’re going to an agility trial at the same venue. It’s been long enough since our last attempt that I’m all optimistic again. However, I do think I’m also more realistic now.  I definitely felt frustrated because, well, I really thought he could do it without a problem because he just coasted through his first 5 obedience attempts. I no longer have that expectation, and being frustrated is silly. So we have a day of agility with both Bright and Navarre and we’ll sneak in an Open run and see what happens as well. He’s never competed at this location, so all the more reason to have low expectations.

Then continuing with my low expectations, his winter of herding trialing with Ian is over and I’m glad Navarre had a chance to focus on learning about competition. I’m very happy with what he did and I think he enjoyed it. The plan was I wasn’t even going to attempt to work him again until that was over. So, now it’s over and it’s time to, once again, see if I can find a way to effectively work with Navarre. He most definitely will still be working with Ian and Dave, but it’s possible with his recent change of heart maybe he’ll be open to working with me now. Or maybe it will be worse. Who knows. But we have a herding weekend coming up where it’s just going to be Navarre and Asher and focusing on seeing what we can do. It will also hopefully be a fun roadtrip with the WonderGoobers again.

I did attempt to work Navarre with Dave this week. We never even made it to the first gate before I was ready to strangle him, so I passed him off. The good news is that he seemed much less angsty about working with Dave, though still confused. He was trying though and this was working in the smaller arena, where I think it’s harder for him. Dave does seem to think if I just commit to really inserting myself into the picture that I could run Navarre. Which doesn’t sound fun to ME, but, hey at least it’s a vote of confidence.

Navarre may also have looked better because I think he’s feeling better. I had been using the Assisi Loop on him while we are driving to and from the arena every day and I think that helped. We saw Maddy again and it seemed like he was much more comfortable with his shoulders (where I had been using the loop), but still uncomfortable with his lower back. Maddy pointed out he had a weird cowlick there, and it’s true I don’t recall that being there before. Navarre was SLIGHTLY less annoying for his massage this week, but that’s not saying much. We’ll see her again in a couple weeks, and work on using the Assisi loop on his back until then.

As for Asher, I went back in with the obnoxious leg leaning sheep at Dave’s – only they never so much as touched me this week. Dave seemed quite certain they were the same sheep, but the difference seems to be using the stock stick with Asher, since he wasn’t being quite as obnoxious to them they weren’t gloming on to me like they were before. So, yes, now that Asher knows what the stock stick is for, it seems to make a big difference! And we need it, Dave said Asher is now an ‘addict’ for sheep. Which is perhaps not the most positive description I would use to describe my puppy, but he’s definitely really into sheep these days, even not very exciting knee-knockers. Dave says he sees a lot of similarities with Asher and Navarre, so the goal is to start Asher off right so I don’t get into a constant fight with Asher.

I did think Asher was listening, but he has definitely gone up a level of intensity and I’m not super great at knowing how to handle his new pushy enthusiasm. I try not to ask for a lie down often, as he may not do it and I don’t want to stop and fight for that, so I can’t stop and it’s hard to think about my best move when Asher is just all over the place. What we were trying to do is change directions if I didn’t like what he was doing. So if he sliced a flank or tried to rush past me or was too close it’s change direction and see if we get something better. Then trying to tell him he’s a good boy and keep the sheep moving when he is correct, which I could actually do since I wasn’t being trapped by sheep this time. Once we got past the initial chaos, I was happy with a lot of what we did. And Asher still freakishly drops them immediately when I say we’re done, which continues to weird me out. He’s also happy to just lay there and stare at them while I talk to Dave without trying to sneak off. Yes, he’s pushy, but I don’t at all get the feeling that I do with Navarre on sheep. At least, not yet …

On Ian’s sheep, uh, yeah, that continues to just be total chaos. We worked with a larger group and one of Ian’s dogs helping and just couldn’t get Asher to slow down for anything – not me or Ian. Certainly no lack of push in Navarre’s relatives, which people continue to tell me is a desirable quality. Asher COULD cover the sheep once he stopped scattering them in all directions, but no concept of not running me over with them. Ian said we need to go work in a round pen and look at stopping. Heh. I do think it’s important to practice in much more controlled and helpful situations, and that’s my goal. If nothing else, I now have no worries that Asher isn’t going to like herding. And not much sign of that sensitive side all of the sudden …

Navarre was shedding! It seemed like he had the lightbulb moment of what shedding is all about and he was a definite fan. That there is a dog that was born to come right through the middle of sheep, and it shows. Once he knew that’s what he was supposed to do he was SO HAPPY. It was funny to see him go back to driving after that, you could almost see him rolling his eyes about keeping them together. I don’t know why suddenly he decided he could shed, but it was fun to see. I’m sure he’ll have a lot more work ahead of him, but a fun start. Still sucks on his comebye outruns and always lots of arguing about him slowing down and stopping, but him and Ian looked good today. With my new schedule he won’t get to do as much herding, so hopefully he doesn’t regress.