Monday, December 3, 2012

LaMesa & The Weaves...Again

If you've been reading my blog, you know that LaMesa has been progressing in agility, but there's always been one thing holding us back from finally getting that elusive Excellent Q...the weaves.

It's hard for me to really pinpoint exactly what it is, but she doesn't focus on the weaves at trials. When we're practicing at Sandra's, she can nail them. Back yard? Nails them. But at trials, even when the weave entrance is almost tailor-made for her, she doesn't focus on the entrance--most times running past the weave poles. I've been told she's "handler-focused", but even if I'm perfectly in the spot I need to be in, doing everything I need to be doing, she'll run past them. I'll call her back, and she'll dive into the poles. Once she ever nails the entrance, she speeds through them. It's not that she hates the weaves--she just drives through them, bending them like a big dog can. It's baffling!!

Once she gets that entrance and is focused on the weaves, there's no
stopping LaMesa. If only we can harness all of that.
So after finally deciding enough was enough, I started looking at some articles online and looking for videos to help. That's when I called in the big guns and asked for the opinions of my friends Merinda and Melanie. (Merinda has worked with Porter to overcome the weave pole deamons and is very knowledgeable when it comes to training a difficult dog. Melanie has trained multiple dogs and very knowledgeable in all things dog agility. I look up to both of them when it comes to agility.)

Merinda gave me a virtual kick in the pants via a 4-page long email of what I needed to do: Quit practicing and start training. Get her out and train everywhere. Throw in distractions. Don't stop improvising and testing her.

What does she mean by "stop practicing"? She means to stop working LaMesa in circumstances I know she'll succeed in--she's not learning anything new. Train in new environments, because I don't do agility trials in my back yard or in Sandra's building. Separate her from Dally (she's very attached)--she doesn't run a course with Dally within sight.

Getting her out: Pack up my stick-in-the-ground weave poles and hit the road with LaMesa. Go to as many different places as possible with different distractions. This is going to be difficult as the sun has set by the time I get home from work (that is, if I don't go to the gym immediately after like I do most nights), but Merinda challenged me to think outside the box and find places with lights so I can work in the evenings, and not just on the weekends during the day (no more excuses).

Throw in distractions: I'm having Matt come with me to be a distraction--he's been tossing his football in the air, walking past her while she's working the weaves, etc. I'm running next to her, then thru the weaves behind her, etc. I'm trying to not add too much at first--we want her to succeed at least 80% of the time, and succeeding is the best praise.

She's getting big rewards of her tennis ball, extra cheerleading from me, and extra attention. "Tennie" is her ultimate reward (though my mom says attention from me is her ultimate reward--she is a momma's girl), so when she accomplishes a hard entrance or weaved all 12 during a hard distraction, I'll throw it forward to get her to drive forward after the weaves. I'll mix it up with treats, vocal/physical praise, and tennie.

So, this December we're tackling the ultimate Weave Pole Boot Camp. My goal is to try to get LaMesa's weave poles more solid by the time we go to the Dawn Weaver Foundations Seminar the first part of January, and definitely have a fighting chance to nail the weaves (all 12, the FIRST time) at our first trial of 2013 in Nashville at the end of January. I'll do my best to keep a journal on here so everyone can track her progress. Too bad I have to use Matt as a distraction, because it'd be great to have some video to watch, but hey...we can't have everything.

To steal from Merinda's blog post on Zig Ziglar: "If you learn from defeat, you haven't really lost." & "Success is dependent on the glands--the sweat glands."

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