Thursday, May 10, 2012

Deposits in the Agility Bank

I was on a trip back east with my son recently and had a chance to catch up on a fair amount of agility reading--Clean run, reviewing foundation articles, and a few small books.

One of the books that made an impression on me was "Click and Play Agility", by Angelica Sneinker.  She had a lot of really good information in there in general, but one concept hit home.  Now, I don't remember if it was something very specific that was said, or just one of those concepts that rang other bells in my head. Or if it was a combo of all the things that I read on the trip.

 It was the concept of 50% of your trials should be training trials.  That is, you are true to your criteria (startlines, contacts, dropped bars) and don't let things slide.  You take the opportunity to proof what you train (huge lateral motion away from the weaves).  You make "deposits" into the agility bank and a solid foundation.

I have been practicing this concept for a couple of weeks now.  I was at a trial this past weekend where I did just this all weekend.  Let me tell you, it actually feels great to walk a course, plan ahead exactly where you are going to test your training and do just that.  It feels even better when your dog holds up his/her end of the deal :)  But if they don't you are perfectly prepared to handle it well. 

Startlines - At the trial I worked several start lines.  1) put my dog into a sit-stay, started running away and then released  2)  sit-stay, walk out and then walk back and reward (only with praise in the ring)  3) stand-stay, lead out a fair distance, turn around, smile and talk to my dog, then release.  You never know when all of these skills come in handy and one thing I have learned in agility is you want to be confident that you have the skill when you need it.  This is by far the most challenging skill for Tip and Split (startline stays).  I didn't push either one to the point where I KNEW they would fail, I just took it to the edge.  Tangle, who has a solid stay, got tested much more.

Weaves - I sent to the weaves, I charged full speed (that is, I didn't collect even though my dog had too), moved away laterally, and rear crossed weaves.

Dogwalk - All my dogs have a 2o2o contact performance.  I ran past the end while they stayed, I let them get ahead and arrived late (testing Independence).

It is amazing the pride that you feel as your dog begins to show you that your training has held up!  The one item that was a challenge for all three dogs was a dogwalk with a tunnel as the next obstacle.  Of course they can resist the tunnel in the backyard, but not at the trail.  All three dogs broke once and I had the opportunity to take them back and train the criteria (NADAC).  The next dogwalk and then tunnel, all three stayed!  Good dogs.

Just as a side note to all of this, I once took a seminar from Carry Jones who said that she proofs the weaves in all sorts of ways, however in competition if it is a tough entry, she always helps her dog get the entry.  This made sense at the time, but now I am not sure that I agree.  If the dog knows that you are always helping under difficult situations, isn't that training the dog that you will always help?  Don't you want your dog to be independent no matter what?  That way, when you really need the skill you can depend on it being there?

As another side note to this topic, I worked this idea in class last night.  I found that I needed the work, not the dogs.  There were certain things that I didn't have a solid skill or muscle memory to depend on when working these skills.  One in particular was leaving the dog in the weaves and recalling laterally over an odd angle jump.  Not hard to learn, but I had to think too much about it.  My point being, proofing builds skills in the dog and YOU! 

Just do it!  Put deposits into the agility bank, you WILL need to make a withdrawl later when it really counts!