Thursday, June 24, 2010

Shh . . . it happens!

Ain’t no rhyme or reason
No complicated meaning
Ain’t no need to overthink it
Let go laughing
Life don’t go quite like ya plan it
We try so hard to understand it
The irrefutable, indisputable, fact is
Shh . . . it happens

— Sugarland —

That pretty much sums up our agility runs last weekend. After showing steady improvement in handling and teamwork over the last year, Phoenix and I had an absolute trainwreck of a weekend on the agility course.

Not only did we go 0 for 4, we weren’t missing the Q by just one little thing. Oh no. It was many, many things. BIG things. Multiple big things. It was a flashback to the days when we first started running in Excellent and were all over the place. He did multiple tunnels in spite of clear instruction to do otherwise, had a spectacular teeter fly off, biffed weave entries, sent bars flying, ignored me in general and quite honestly ran amuck.

After ranting and raving for awhile, I realized a couple of things:

1) I have gotten sloppy with maintaining his 2o/2o contacts. I work heeling 4-5 times a week but the only time I really worked contacts was once a week at class, in spite of having a lovely contact trainer sitting in my back yard. The result: fly-offs, run-throughs, self-releasing and the let’s-stop-half-way-down-the-dog-walk-and-act-like-I-don’t-have-a-clue-where-bottom-is behavior.

2) I have allowed him to ignore me when I call him at home, which undoubtedly fueled the fire for his 48 tunnel-sucking off courses. Okay, maybe there weren’t that many. Maybe there were only 28. If I have given him permission to ignore me at home, why should he listen during an agility run?

3) You mean we need to practice weaves?

In other words, BAD HANDLER! As our teamwork had improved, I made the mistake of getting over confident and not backing it up with training to maintain obstacle performance. I would never do this with obedience, where I work to maintain every exercise no matter how sure I am that he’s “got it.” But obviously I didn’t transfer this to agility. Duh!

In order to reduce the chances of having another amuck-amuck episode at our next trial in two weeks (over the 4th of July weekend in a non-air conditioned livestock area, so it may be too hot to be naughty, we’ll see) here’s the solution:

Train the dog.

No, wait, it’s never that simple. Problem solving requires a specific plan.

1) I drug my contact trainer around the house to the back gate where it is easily accessible from the dogs’ yard. That way, I’ll actually use it, not just look out the window at it.

2) Phoenix is on a modified “work for your meals” plan. Contacts and/or weaves for breakfast (this is new). Obedience for supper (this isn’t). There’s power in food if the handler has the dedication to use it.

3) Recall boot camp: Phoenix WILL come when he’s called. Every time. No second chances. Ever since the Farmer has been trapping critters in the machine shed, Nix has been obsessed with critter hunting in there. Never mind that he hasn’t caught anything, he’s still hunting. And when he’s hunting, he’s “deaf.” So I need to fix my recall in real life before I can expect to have a good one in agility.

I love training dogs. There’s always something to do.


  1. I love Sugarland! I have the same lyrics on my sidebar!

  2. Agility is all about being Manic-Depressive!! You were Manic at Ames, Depressed at Davenport. Ain't agility GRAND!! G

  3. Even tho he might have been a "little bit" naughty, he did it in style thinking all the time that HE should have designed the course. Silly dog.

  4. This hits home with me, too. Orbit is a "natural" agility dog -- so I shouldn't have to train her day in and day out the way I did with Lucy in order to stay on top of our game, right? Umm, 'fraid that's not the way it works.