Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Adventures in Spotty Agility

Peyton & I just finished week 4 of agility class and it was an interesting one...not one of our better weeks, but not one of our worst ones either. I decided to bring the video camera along to get a couple of our runs on tape. I like doing this for two reasons; first, as a handler I often think I'm doing one thing, but when I see it on tape I'm not always doing what I think I'm doing. And second, it helps me to see exactly where things start to go wrong...or right, depending on the situation.

I think I say for certain that maintaining a connection with Peyton from the start is key. If I lose that connection, I tend to lose him to the environment - he either runs off to see his best bud Riley or he gets a case of wild zoomies. Either way, it's not pretty. :)

The other challenge I have is how to handle when things go wrong on-course. In the video you can see in the first two clips there was a challenging tunnel to tunnel sequence. Because of his speed, I couldn't get to where I needed to be to provide him with clear direction - so he took the off-course jump. And while I didn't correct him for going off-course, I think he perceived my stopping as him being wrong. And that break in connection was enough to send him to spotty zoomie land. In hindsight, I think I probably should have gone ahead and had him taken the jump and teeter and then make our way back on-course.

In class last night I got some really good thoughts and suggestions (thanks Dan & Lisa!) on how to maintain our connection on-course. One that I hadn't thought of involves his start-line stay. Peyton has a really good stay, but perhaps it's providing an opportunity for disconnect that we might not have if we try running from the start. I don't think he stresses too much in a start-line stay, but it might be giving him just enough time for his spotty brain to start wandering and thinking about things other than me. I definitely think it's worth some experimenting, although long-term I think I'm really going to need that stay to keep up with him. :)

So that's our update for this week! Peyton sure is a challenge, but he's also a lot of fun. I often compare him to a flashy little sports car that just happens to be a manual when I'm used to driving an automatic. I'm hoping one of these days we'll figure all of this out, but in the meantime, I've got my hands full. :)

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