Ice’s first 9 months of competition

It’s been an interesting 9 months – there has been lots of progress and as you would expect the journey has not been a straight line.  There have been some significant setbacks but on both occasions Ice was able to bounce back stronger.

The biggest surprise was just how consistent his performance is, he might not yet be running at full speed but he hardly ever makes a mistake.  We made it through to Master’s in both Jumping and Standard in 10 days of trialing.  Since qualifying for Masters he got 4 double Q’s and 8 Standard Q’s.  The main reason why he’s not got 8 double Q’s is because occasionally I’ve deliberately scratched him from his second JWW run.

Ice has also had success in USDAA – he’s only had 3 runs but he Q’ed in 2 of them earning a Grand Prix leg and a Master Challenge Jumping leg.

Some observations of our first 9 months:

  1. Ice is not the most confident dog.  He’s very sensitive to his environment and this can (and does) affect how quickly he runs in the ring.  To counter this I’ve started to put a lot of effort into a consistent ring side warm up routine.  The goal being to increase Ice’s arousal state before we enter the ring making him less concerned with all the noise and activity going on around him.
  2. Ice does not like to knock bars – he’s only ever done it a handful of times and I don’t thinks he’s ever been hurt, but it destroys his confidence.  The net result of this is Ice makes doubly sure he’s going to clear the bar and the way he does this is to add extra strides prior to takeoff.  This of course slows him down.
  3. Ice always seems to be quickest on his first run of the day.  I don’t really know why this is.  I’m pretty sure its not because he tired.  At first I though it was that he didn’t like JWW courses. Then one day the schedule had us running JWW and he ran significantly quicker on that run than previous JWW runs and he slowed down for Standard.

Here’s a video of Ice’s latest AKC run – which was also his fastest ever Standard run.

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First Trial

Well today is labor day and summer is almost over.  On Saturday Ice ran in his first real AKC agility trial and he did great.

I had entered him in Novice FAST and Jumpers.  But I planned to use FAST as a warm up event and would only attempt the bonus if I thought it was something Ice could do safely.  There was no way I was going to attempt any contact equipment in the “send”.

When I arrived at the trial venue I could see the course builders staking out the pink ribbon around a jump and See-Saw.  That confirmed it, there was no way Ice was doing his first Teeter in a trial 8 feet away from me.

Here is a video of his FAST run.

I think Ice could sense my nerves because after be missed my FX on the third jump he ran off into a corner of the arena.  I called him and he came straight away (which was good) but this was the first time I’ve ever lost his focus during an actual run.  After he returned I continued on my planned course.  I got too far in front of Ice cuing the A-Frame and he bypassed it and ran to me.  I put him back in the tunnel and waited for him to emerge before cuing the A-Frame and moving forward.  This time Ice did the A-Frame, but he put in 3 strides on the down ramp rather than his usual 2.  He made the contact but clearly his drive was lacking a little.  The buzzer sounded before we completed the course but I decided to complete it anyway as we were nearly home.

Things that went well.

  1. After the initial loss of focus Ice stuck with and reacted appropriately to my cues.
  2. Ice performed the weaves first time with no hesitation.
  3. Ice made the A-Frame contact, although I’d prefer it if he’d done it in 2 strides rather than 3.
  4. Ice was not distracted by the judge or ring crew even though the leash runner was someone he trains with regularly.  Ice was also not bothered by the pink ribbon on the ground, the judge calling out numbers as we took obstacles or the sound of the buzzer.
  5. At the end of the run Ice was happy for me to put the leash on him.

First Real Run

As I said above I had not planned to attempt to Q in FAST if I was not happy with the send bonus.  So Jumpers was going to be our first real run.  The course was straightforward enough and I was confident Ice would not have any problems.

Ice ran the course clean and placed 3rd overall.  He was beaten by the current AAC National Champion and another dog run by the same handler – neither of these dogs could be classified as “Novice” :).

A video of the run is below.

Thoughts on the run:

  1. Ice was happy for me to lead out and waited on the start line until I released him.
  2. Again he had no problem reading my cues and he maintained focus on my throughout the entire run.
  3. Another set of perfect weaves which were followed by the tunnel.  This is significant because Ice likes the tunnel and I was a little concerned that he’d leave the weaves early to get to the tunnel.
  4. He ran the course at 5.34 yards per second which is not too shabby for a baby dog.  He was certainly faster than Sky in his first JWW run and Ice ran it clean whereas Sky had a refusal.
  5. I think Ice is adding at least one extra stride between obstacles than is needed, so he has the potential to run the course a lot quicker.  Probably 1 yard per second quicker.
  6. My front cross after jump #2 was intentionally late, I needed to make sure that I could run jump #3 without doing a zig-zag movement.  So I held off do the FX until after Ice was committed to the jump.

Overall I am very pleased with Ice’s debut performance, he ran quicker than all the other dogs (all jump heights) with the exception of the two “ringer” dogs – good boy Ice.

Training update September 3, 2015

Ice continues to perform well – his focus me is also getting better.

There are a couple of things that still need some work, he’s not running as far to the end of the Teeter as I would like and his dog walk performance is beginning to get a little lacks, which is something I’ve probably caused.  I need to be much stricter only reward average or better runs.

In a bid to increase his speed, drive and motivation I’ve sign Ice up for a long distance learning class with Katarina Podlipnik – class starts next Monday and lasts for 12 weeks.

I’ve also decided to train Sky and Ice in the same class at IADW on Wednesday evenings – ultimately this will mean one less trip to Sumner each week but for now Ice will continue his Monday classes.

Here is a video of Ice running this years EO large dog finals course.  He did a pretty good job of this considering how old he is.

Training at home August 26, 2015

Today we continued training on the same course that we used yesterday.  There were two major differences on today’s session compared to yesterdays.

  1. I recorded the session and posted it below.
  2. I used a squeaky toy as a reward, more on this below.

The squeaky toy did two things.  It speed up Ice’s overall performance and this led to really nice Dog Walk performance.  The faster Ice runs the better he seems to be hitting the yellow contact zone the way I want him to.

The other effect was to cause him to either come off the teeter early or stop short, in the yellow, but too high for my liking.

Tomorrow I’ll go back to a tug toy as a reward and play a few rounds of the bang game.  Hopefully that will be sufficient to get him running all the way to the end of the Teeter again.

Training at home August 25, 2015

Today’s training course had 3 different mini courses all designed to test Ice’s contact criteria.  The course map is shown below.

Training8-Aug-15

We alternated between running the White and Black courses.  The purpose of this was to proof Ice’s understanding that the Teeter is different and requires different performance (4 feet on stopped) to the Dog Walk (running through).  Ice did pretty well at this, he clearly understands the difference between the two obstacles now and is performing the Teeter quickly and more importantly, safely,

I’m still a little concerned with his Dog Walk performance when there is an obstacle next rather than the Manners Minder.  He’s making the contact 100% but most of the hits are a little higher than I’d like and probably would miss a USDAA dog walk.

Tomorrow I’m going to introduce the grey course and also start doing some FX’s at the end of the Dog Walk.

Training at home August 22, 2015

Course22-Aug-15

Just had a great training session with Ice.  Here is the course we ran.  I started with a warm up exercise (not numbered) which was tunnel over the Dog Walk to the Manners Minder which was placed adjacent to the #1 jump.  Ice did great at this which was good as this is a pretty easy challenge for him now.

Next we ran the sequence #1 through #3, this is a lot harder for Ice as he likes the tunnel so much he will often forget his Dog Walk criteria in his urgency to get to the tunnel.  We did 3 reps of this and Ice aced the contact on all 3 runs.  I marked the contact hit with “yes” and rewarded him with a thrown tug toy after he exited the tunnel.

We then moved on to the Teeter, which is at full height but I put 3 plastic blocks under the “up” end which raised the up end 9 inches and subsequently lowered the “down” end by the same amount.  I sent Ice into the #3 tunnel and cued the Teeter.  The first time Ice slide off the end of the Teeter, he knew he had to stop but forgot to control his rear end and momentum carried him forward.  The next 2 runs were perfect, Ice waited in position with all 4 feet on the Teeter.  I rewarded him with cookies for remaining in position and then released him over jump #5 to a thrown tug toy,

Observations on the session

Ice was very enthusiastic to go to the training field, he ran across the grass and bounced up and down by the field gate.  This may have been because I was carrying the manners minder which he loves.

Once on the field Ice remained very focused on me, he didn’t lose interest and go off sniffing like he does sometimes.

He loved the warm up exercise over the Dog Walk to the manners minder and he liked it even more when we ran the Dog Walk the other direction and he got to go in the tunnel.

Finally I was very pleased with his performance on the Teeter, he clearly knew the Teeter was not the Dog Walk even on the first run when he couldn’t quite control his rear end enough to stop on the board.  Ice was also very keen to chase the tug toy again which is a relief as this is my primary motivator.

Overall I was very pleased with his efforts today.

Fun Run at Argus Ranch August 20, 2015

This evening Ice had his second “Fun Run” at Argus Ranch.  This time we ran both Standard and Jumpers courses although I did bypass the Teeter on the Standard course because I’m not confident yet of Ice’s performance on this obstacle when taken in flow – he sometimes confuses it with the Dog Walk.

Both courses were way beyond anything he would encounter on an AKC Novice course.  The Jumpers course having a “Threadle” and the Standard course having the weaves go right into a wall.

Things that I liked about the runs were:

  1. Ice did all 12 poles on both courses including the challenging weaves into the wall.
  2. Ice has happy with me performing a front cross after weaves on the Jumpers course.
  3. Ice did a really nice wrap at the end of the Jumpers course, his foundation flat work really paid off here.
  4. Ice was focused and he stayed connected to me on both runs.
  5. His A-Frame was nice.

Things that could have gone better were:

  1. I really did not like his Dog Walk performance that much – he was slow and although I was pretty sure he made the contact on course I’m not so sure after reviewing the video closely.
  2. I did a poor job cuing the weaves on the Standard course and that is why Ice missed the entrance.
  3. He was not moving as quickly as I would like, I didn’t rev him up with a toy prior to the runs, maybe that was the reason,  Also, there weren’t many people or dogs present and their presence usually gets Ice more excited.

In conclusion, if these were Novices courses at a trial Ice would have Q’ed on both of them.  He stayed on course, didn’t knock and bars and I’m pretty sure he made the contacts.