Asher is just not a graceful, coordinated dog – though he has no end of enthusiasm, he’s kind of like a bull in a china shop. Jumping has not been particularly natural or easy for him, and in fact he can have downright terrible jump form sometimes (especially if he’s feeling less confident). So I haven’t pushed it, we’ve been keeping the jumps low, working on one jump exercises and letting him grow up. Last week I tried raising up the bars to 16 in some sequence work and, good lord, he just looked awful. And it was discouraging, and also puzzling as we’ve DONE some sequencing work at 16 inches and he didn’t look like that at all!
So I sat down and logically made a plan to work on his jumping, breaking it down and just focusing on confidence and jump form. I knew he COULD jump, well, at least decently – it was just finding a way to help him do it consistently. Once again, the one jump exercises looked pretty good, even adding in speed and going in and out of a tunnel. Optimistic, we moved to more multiple jump exercises … and, good lord, could not seem to get him to NOT jump like a weirdo. So broke it down more, tried different approaches – but was not happy at all with what he was doing.
That was discouraging and disappointing, all dogs have issues, but jumping is kind of an important one for agility. If Asher can’t jump comfortably agility is kind of a non-starter. So I moped for a bit and took a break from our jump training and worked on contacts and weaves – which always need work! We got our training mojo back and, just for fun and to get some video of his jumping so I could devise a better way to approach it, I ran him through some wide open sequencing at 20 inches. And his jumping looked totally fine. Not perfect, but he WASN’T jumping like a total spaz.
So, huh. While we have done plenty of one jump work at 20 inches, we had never sequenced at 20 inches before. We’d barely done 16 and that was months ago. So I was amazed he was making such good jumping decisions, his jump form looked fairly good, he looked pretty confident and happy – and he kept almost all his bars up. Huh. Apparently the right way to train jumping is to just suddenly throw your dog into sequencing with full height jumps.
As to WHY this worked, I can only think that he was not really THINKING about jumping when we just started doing some sequencing. Everything I had been doing had been microfocusing on jumping, and maybe that was just making him think TOO much about it. With sequencing he’s just thinking about ‘agility’ and he could finally just run without having to worry about doing it ‘right’ – as at that point I just wanted to study the video to see what he was doing, so I EXPECTED him to jump like a weirdo and didn’t really care what he did.
I don’t know entirely know what the reasoning, I’m taking it. And we’ll continue to look at jump training, but I think with more jump grids where he’s driving ahead – and with height. And someday we should probably, uh, work on collection. It was really fun to run Asher in the sequences, we actually got to put things together (you know, eventually)! But, yeah, he’s a freight train like Navarre, turning and collection is not his thing. I never expected it to be though, just look at that dog, he just wants to GO. Let it be said, his sister collects very nicely. And jumps like a gazelle. Asher is definitely the red headed step child of the family!
So that was a bit of an emotional roller coaster of a week, we went from my puppy that can’t jump anything to my puppy looking remarkably grown up and actually being able to sequence things (eventually). Asher does have very similar issues to Navarre, he tends to run around jumps and not very good at coming in or collecting. Luckily I’m used to that. We’ll still work on the collecting though, I haven’t given up. I don’t think he’s as drifty as Navarre though. At least, not yet.
And after getting to put that together, and having him suddenly jumping 20 inches, I feel like we can put that away and focus on the Justine stuff. We’ll be working on sequencing forever, but his obstacles are looking good, even jumping … sometimes. And if we work at it, we can string things together. My baby dog is officially a baby agility dog. It is kind of a magical moment when you actually put ALL then things together – and it felt really good to get there.
As for what I’d like to focus on now – it’s get out to new places on different equipment. He’s definitely showed me gets insecure in new places and his obstacle performance definitely weakens (and sometimes breaks!). We need a chance to see if he can actually give me the same performance on his contacts in other places. And, of course, can he actually jump like a normal dog in a new place. We are ready to take this show on the road. If only there was somewhere to go …
Oh, speaking of taking shows on the road – Asher is entering his first USBCHA herding trial when we go out to Idaho in October. Assuming we get in we’ll give it a go. I don’t expect anything, but hopefully a positive experience and it gives us something to shoot for. We definitely need to look at lifting off other people, and, of course, finding sheep in new places. In addition to the actual herding skills. I have his whistles practiced, just need to actually train them to Asher. So the hope is to have those started by the time we head out. With everything being on fire and the aftermath we haven’t done any herding at all, and the little sheep camp was cancelled as well. So not the herding October I had anticipated, but I’m just happy everyone is okay and eventually we’ll hopefully get back to practicing regularly.
Heidi is going with to Idaho and we’ll get to road trip with her new puppy, Asher’s little sister! Really like that little pup. We got to see Asher’s new siblings last weekend when they were five weeks – their first time outside because of all the fire and smoke. They did great, so fun to see their little personalities. And I was really curious, yes, Navarre has the same reaction to this litter that he did to Asher’s litter – my dog that is nuts about puppies of all sorts barely gave them the time of day. So weird! Asher just scared the hell out of them. The puppies were totally relaxed with Navarre, but they all ran in hid as soon as Asher entered the enclosure – Asher is just, well, a lot. And this was him just on a downstay – he has a quality to him …. He was really happy to see his mom and Heidi though.
Still hoping to find a girl puppy to add to our household, no litters on the ground yet though. I have a few options I’m looking at, but it all depends on who actually gets bred, does it take, are there enough girls, and is there the right girl for us. We shall see. We may do some puppy raising in the meantime, see what the boys think of that. We need some more girl energy around here, I’m outnumbered six to one. Still can’t believe Bright is gone, I still expect to see her, still miss her every night. She was such a big part of all our lives.
Haku continues to age into a completely adorable old dog. I wish that he could be one of those that didn’t really start to age until later, but he’s getting cloudy eyes, slowing down, arthritis and all the signs of aging. He’s just the happiest little soul ever though, always has been. Still doesn’t want to give up the toy, still is right there with me and continues to be my perfect boy. Life has been so much better with Haku in it, and continues every day. We try to do lots of ‘Special Haku Time’ things, and he loves that. He loves running around with the other boys too though.
Now Navarre’s mohawk came back in full force during the smoke lockdown. I have no idea what that means but he now has more of a mohawk than he ever has had before. Sigh. I do think it’s a little calmer then it was last week, but I don’t know what brought it on and what I can really do about it at this point. He is peeing longer again, and his back is ‘twitchy’, the inflammation is back. Now, if you ask HIM he says he’s perfectly fine. He’s not acting at all reluctant do anything, I ran him in agility at 20 and he looked normal. He’s stretching equally front to back, I don’t see any sort of obvious injury or imbalance – but clearly something is going on. So, yeah, as we’ve already seen all sorts of experts across the spectrum, I’m a bit at a loss. Basically just going to let him live his life and wait and see what happens at this point. Either he’ll get worse and we’ll have something to point to, or he won’t in which case he can just keep doing his thing. Other than on the flat running and some agility we haven’t done anything particularly strenuous, no hiking until I find somewhere new to go. Still looking to find our routines again.