Soleil will be five months old this coming Tuesday. I can't believe how fast the time is flying. Upon returning from Nationals, I've ramped up our training. Up to now, I had spent a lot of time building tug drive and shaping lot's of behaviors such as position, box work, targetting, etc. followed by restrained recalls and chase games out in the field. Random recalls have been ongoing.
This week we started turns on the flat, conework, continued building value for her release cue (which also incorporates impulse control) and increased duration of stays.
1. Circle work both directions (acceleration/deceleration)
2. Front cross on the flat
3. Extension Recall to Heel
Conework turning both directions. She is so cute. The second time we went outside to train, she saw the cone and immediately started interacting with it ;-)
Next week I'll add rear crosses on the flat, basic recall to heel, and figure eights in our circle work. I also took the legs off the pause table and we'll be playing tug on the table top.
A friend of mine who is a VMO measured her for me at the last trial. She was smaller than I thought (12 3/8" tall). I measured her last Tuesday and she was roughly 12 1/2" tall. I've been having to redo her ears every two weeks because they've grown out but it's going on three weeks now and her ears are almost the same. So not much growing these last three weeks.
She will go on her first hike tomorrow. A fairly flat trail that is perfect for puppies.
It's been a busy week at work and I've just gotten a chance to give a short update on Nationals. It was six long days in Louisville, KY. The first three days we only had one run a day which created a LOT of downtime. I am hoping they shorten it to just four days next year. The venue was ok. However there was a lot of dust which made it uncomfortable to watch in the stands for very long. USDAA is aware of the dust problem so I'm sure they will remedy that problem next year.
Summit ran VERY well. He was awesome! We had nice runs in all the team events and were sitting above the cutoff for team finals until a bobble during Team Snooker by a teammate. However, we still ended up 39th out of 205 Championship teams. Not bad for a young dog team.
I made a handling mistake in both the Steeplechase semi-finals (pulled him off a tunnel) and in Grand Prix quarterfinals (I failed to see a potential line to an off course tunnel at the start). But other than my handling errors, Summit ran very well in both tournament classes. The best part is he only dropped one bar (European Standard) and would have placed 4th but for the bar.
I am not happy about the handling errors. Especially pulling him off the tunnel in Steeplechase since I did the exact same thing three weeks ago at a local USDAA trial during the steeplechase run. After making that mistake at the national semi-finals, I don't think I will do that again. MUST SUPPORT ALL TUNNELS!
I also came home with a couple of training goals and a realization.
2. Recalls to heel
We have both the above skills but I really saw them applied at a very high level at Nationals. Especially during the Steeplechase Finals. Both of these skills create tight turns and efficient lines. All the teams who made the finals were very skilled - good handlers and fast dogs. However, it really came down to who had the tightest turns and set the best lines.
Ok, so not a total surprise but again, I was reminded that running a local trial just to be clean to qualify (or get a double Q), does not prepare one for competing at a national event. Not even close.
So my plan is to incorporate more agressive handling in our local runs in order to push myself to handle at the next level.
Soleil was the perfect puppy! Nothing fazed her! She handled the environment at nationals like a pro. She relaxed in her crate (indoor crating area was noisy), she tugged outside, inside in the stands overlooking the rings, and ringside. She slept through the night in her crate in the hotel room. She met lot's of people including children, other dogs and puppies. She pranced around the venue like she owned the place. I got to see several of her relatives run (including one who is on the US World team and one who is on the Canadian World team) and met her half sister who travelled all the way from Mexico to compete at the Nationals.
Here is a quick video of her running around the backyard yesterday. She does not ever stop moving so it is hard to get a video.
I plan on videoing some of our training sessions this weekend.
Edited to include GP Quarterfinals course map and analysis.
Summit went into the tunnel after wrapping #2 (wrapped to the inside). I was out of position and didn't see the line to the tunnel until afterwards. The rest of the run was clean and fast. Many teams faulted in the box (took the wrong course #18 after #15). Other common WC's were the wrong end of the tunnel after the triple, tire after the teeter (instead of weaves) and tire after the #10 Triple. And a few dogs with running contacts took #11 tunnel after the dogwalk.
It was a fun-filled exhausting three days in Fountain, Colorado for USDAA. I drove up Thursday night after work and spent the night at a friend's house in Colorado Springs (Fountain is 15 min. South of the Springs). Friday was DAM team only. Summit had nice runs but dropped a bar in the first three classes (Team Snooker, Standard, and Jumpers). I was a little concerned and planned to take him to his chiropractor to get adjusted before Nationals. The last two classes (Team Gamblers and Relay), he did not drop any bars. Our team won the relay and we ended up 4th place overall (cutoff line for qualifying was at 13 teams).
Saturday was titling classes and GP and Steeplechase. Summit had a nice Standard run and placed 2nd which was the last leg he needed for his championship (SACH). He also took a tumble off the teeter which I never saw as I was already moving away towards the next obstacle. In Gamblers we had a nice opening and I got to proof several a-frames but the Gamble was not something we would be able to do so we left after the buzzer went off. Next was Steeplechase and I pulled him off of the tunnel at the beginning and he went up the aframe (elimination) but the rest of his run was nice. Grand Prix we placed 4th (holding dogwalk contact), Jumpers... again I pulled him off an obstacle at the beginning by not supporting the second jump long enough but the rest of the run was nice. Then we had Snooker at the end of the day. Now that there is no pressure for those Super Q's, I've decided I quite like playing Snooker. So I planned a nice flowing course that would give us a Q (remember, I don't care about SQ's anymore). We did a 5combo, 7combo, 6combo, 5combo and then finished the closing. I liked this plan also because I got to practice threadles. Well wouldn't you know, that was 4th place and a SQ!!! ... go figure. It was also the last Snooker Q for his Snooker Championship title (SCH).
Anyway, not a single bar dropped on Saturday.
Sunday Summit Q'd in Standard (4th place), Jumpers (6th place), and Gamblers (1st place) and earned his GCH, and in Snooker, we never made it to the first red (I recalled through the other end of the course and he took a jump on the way to me. Again, no bars on Sunday.
I can't believe we are leaving for Nationals on Monday. We have a three day AKC trial Friday-Sunday and I almost cancelled our entry but then decided it would be good to get some practice on dirt before Nationals. So this week will be very busy getting things organized and packed up for Nationals. Sage will not be going since I did not even try and qualify her this year. Soleil will be accompanying us to Kentucky. This will be her first BIG event. I will try and get pictures taken of her this week to post before we leave. She has grown so much and her coat is changing. She also lost a couple of teeth. She looks like a lean leggy racehorse and she runs like one too. She is one fast girlie!
Saturday's standard run. 2nd place and championship title. Yikes! I didn't get to watch this until Monday. I can't believe he was able to recover enough to clear the jump bar. He saw the Chiropractor on Monday and got adjusted. His right hip and neck were out of alignment. But he's good to go now.
Steeplechase. Bummer about the tunnel. I just did not go in far enough and moved laterally way too soon.
Grand Prix. 4th place. Wide turn at the end of the chute. All of the fast dogs had a wide turn here. It was difficult to get up there to cue the FC. The offset angle of the jump made a RC not ideal.
Sunday Standard - 4th place. We lost time going from the chute to the tunnel. I got behind him and panicked and called his name (too strongly) while he was in the chute to avoid the wrong end of the tunnel which he really wasn't headed for anyway and he came into me too closely and I had to push him back out again. Can't see it as the a-frame is in the way.
Sunday Gamblers - 1st place and championship title