River is nearly 9 months old and this past weekend we had some time to work short jump sequences with the bars on the ground in a 50′ x 60′ area. We had another handler out with their 5 month old puppy working on the other side of the ring. It was a great way for both of us to test our focus with the pups. River and I had done some work with two jumps and a tunnel, but the majority of our playing had been with just one jump. We kicked it up a notch and went with four jumps and a tunnel, giving us 6 to 7 obstacles to run in sequence. Thank you one jump foundation work…
Merlin had to deal with me having high expectations and wanting him to be perfect. He had to deal with my upbringing as the son of an Army 1st Lieutenant / Accountant – where things were either right or they were wrong. There was very little grey area when it came to dealing with my father. There was a spreadsheet for everything and diabetics don’t get cookies. Thankfully Merlin’s a very forgiving boy, and we continue to work on fixing my mistakes.
River is a very different dog and thankfully I’ve grown as a trainer. I can only imagine the disaster that would be our house if Merlin wasn’t here first. From an agility perspective we took a much different approach to our foundations. One jump work became her love, and we celebrated everything. Daddy’s little girl could do no wrong. Sorry Merlin, it sucks being the first one.
While playing with different sequences we worked for a total of maybe 3 minutes over the course of 15 minutes. She was absolutely brilliant. While working she had zero interest in the other puppy and it was all about running with me. She was reliably sending to jumps (fronts and backsides) from 12′ away and from all sorts of different angles. The more we played, the happier she was. Our foundation work had paid off.It became very clear to me that I had done such a good job reinforcing her jump work that she only knows one speed when it comes to playing the game – OVERDRIVE! She has figured out how to work and keep focused on me while amped up out of her skull. Without realizing it I had been sprinting with her the entire time, which left me hands on knees exhausted by the end of it. I felt slow and out of shape. It’s a feeling I can’t stand and will need to adjust my own workout programming to keep up with her – who would have guessed that?!?
I couldn’t be happier with the way we are progressing as a team. As I change my approach with handling River, it helps me make better adjustments to my training with Merlin. They will never run the same way, and I’m ok with that. When I push Merlin too hard for speed, bars tend to fall or off courses are taken – our connection gets lost. He doesn’t enjoy the extra push. River seems to thrive off going as fast as f’ng possible all of the f’ng time. Running her reminds me of watching chase scenes out of movies like Transporter, Fast & The Furious, Days of Thunder & Gone In 60 Seconds. It’s pedal to the metal and you better hang on to the oh shit handle.
As I continue to focus on making clear motion based cues I know I will make mistakes along the way, but she can do no wrong and will reap the glory of the tug, cookies and hugs as a reward. My mental focus & physical conditioning are both going to need some extra training to keep up with her. Each session we work will push me, and I couldn’t be more excited.