Keltic and I went to a Daisy Peel Novice/Advanced Seminar on Thursday. It was a day long seminar and boy were we tired when we got home, well at least I was Keltic was still ready to play with Beckett.
We learned four exercises to do on the flat for a pull, a push, a front cross and rear cross. They will be good to work with over the winter. If I can figure away to make my notes into decent exercise diagrams, I'll write a separate blog post about them.
The rest of the day was spent on sequences, one for the front on the flat and the front cross with a lateral send and one for a front cross with forward motion. The last sequence of the day was for rear crosses. I think Daisy had intended to also do a sequence for the blind crosses but with 10 working dogs, three sequences was all we had time to get through. Daisy provided a lot of advice for the handlers and dogs on issues that they were having that were related to the exercises, start line stays and obstacle commitment were two issues that many of us struggled with. Keltic didn't have much problem with start line stays but obstacle commitment is still something we need to work on.
A few things Daisy said stuck with me. The first was: "Do what works"; so many people stick with a system so they won't try something different until one of the agility gurus says this is the way to do it. I go to seminars to take away things I think will help me work through problems I am having but I don't necessarily go back and retrain things that are working just because of a "system". The second thing was that we need to reward jumps as much as we reward weaves and contacts. Our dogs will do far more jumps in agility than any other obstacle and we ask them to do so many behaviours associated with a jump that in her view they are one of the hardest obstacles for the dog. She also said we should reward commitment to go on without us to take an obstacle even if we didn't get the behaviour or even the obstacle we wanted as we are trying to teach our young dogs that they can be independent that once we've told them to take an obstacle they should go do that obstacle regardless of what we are then doing.
The video shows a few minutes of our seminar time where my handling actually communicated to Keltic correctly what I wanted him to do. What a good boy, he tries so hard.
One thing I'm not sure of though is that she said we should build obstacle commitment by initially rewarding a dog for offering a jump (or any other obstacle I guess) when we are not giving any cues, no verbal, no arm, no motion. For me, the teamwork I want to build with my dog is based on cues, be those cues motion, arm, hand or verbals, whatever works the best. But when I haven't given a cue and am standing still I don't want my dog to take any obstacle just because it's close to me. I'll have to think about that a little more. Maybe what turned me off that idea was that without having ever seen him, she said Beckett's spinning was a lack of obstacle commitment. I don't think that's true, it's a lack of clarity on my part and a gap in our skill set but I don't think it's a lack of commitment. Anyway I'll try to build Keltic's commitment to take a jump when I move away either laterally or behind him by working on some of the sequences and exercises we did during the seminar.
We had a good time and have a lot of homework. It was fun to see all the young dogs coming up and just starting their agility careers. Tomorrow, it is Keltic's first agility trial; we are going to have fun.