January 17, 2006

Summer Camp

Last weekend was the three day Summer Camp at Le and Keith's. It has become our way of getting back into agility after the hot weather / holiday activity break. This year lived up to all expectations - great activities and top company and weather conditions that challenged our survival skills. I coped by mainlining icypoles.

Thommo, I had signed up for the 'handler focus' and 'obstacle focus' classes over the three days. These classes were designed to help us develop consistent body language to indicate discriminations and distance work, and to give our dogs practice in reading that body language; and to develop skills in doing set pieces such as serpentines and pin wheels so that the dogs did not have to be micromanaged through these. The challenges increased over the three days, and most of us developed in skills in a similar fashion. Not to say that we didn't have Le rolling on the ground in laughter at frequent intervals - but we persisted and took away lots of training ideas and things to work on to improve our teamwork. Under the revised ANKC Agility Rules
the Open Agility Class and the Open Jumping Class must contain a distance handling challenge, and much of what we did at Summer Camp was a rehearsal for this new class.

Dusty was signed up for one-on-one lessons to introduce her to the equipment. The way Camp was structured we were able to have a short lesson, take a break and then practice on our own for a while, before coming back for another lesson. This suited us perfectly. Dusty never got to the point of being hot, tired or distracted. Keith and Le saw the goal of the sessions as building speed and confidence. We have been working on particular performance criteria away from the equipment, and will ask for those behaviours at a later date. For the introductory sessions the goal was to get her to see obstacle performance as fast and fun. We also looked at getting me away from her while she did the obstacles: staying behind while she did the broad jump, getting her to come to me across the dog walk, and sending her through a right angled jump chute while I cut the corner - building independent performance from the beginning. She loved it.

She still demands my attention if she can see me. I could see my neighbours horrified looks as I walked away from her crate and she shrieked in that way that only cattle dogs can - but as soon as I was out of sight she settled into silent resignation.

Our final session of the camp was particularly spectacular. We had an inch of rain in twenty minutes and were unable to count 'one little second' between lightning flash and thunder clap. Kelly, Ben and Thommo were unperturbed - I think they already knew their people are mad.

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