Spryte and I will be going to Luxembourg in September for the Agility World Championships, representing Canada in the medium division. As you can imagine this means most of our training in the last few months has been for agility. In this sport it feels like there is always something that needs improvement, and always a new skill that needs to be mastered.
As always my frustration lies in my contacts. I deeply regret training a 2 on 2 off behaviour on my contacts. It was great and fine in the beginning when I wanted to Q and didn't need to push my dog too hard. It was safe and resulted in a high "Q" rate in our early agility career. Then I wanted more. Spryte was fast, and it made me dream big. I dreamed of having a world level dog. Suddenly stopped contacts just wouldn't cut it anymore. To keep this short and avoid a lot of rambling I will sum it up to say that I tried retraining my aframe to a running, I ended up with a dog that consistently hit within the top 1" of the yellow resulting in a low Q rate and a dog that then thought it would be fun to jump ALL the contacts on course. So now we are back to stopped contacts on everything.
We are also working on our handling skills. This is much more fun :) The team was given three drills to work on to improve mental and physical stamina, as well as technical skills. The courses all consisted of 30-34 obstacles. The idea is to see if we can stay just as focused and just as fast on obstacle 32 as obstacle 3! If we made a mistake during the course we were to keep moving and save it as much as possible, not starting again from the beginning. Saving it is such an important skill. It's amazing how much people want to start all over again when a mistake happens. But in reality at a show you can't just stop and you can't let it affect you. The run isn't over until you cross the finish line! These drills gave us a chance to practise continuing on after a mistake and staying mentally focused for the whole run. It also tested our ability to remember a long sequence of obstacles. I really enjoyed the drills and plan to start running longer sequences a lot more often.
Spark and I are mostly focusing on agility skills right now. We dabble in obedience and nose work when we need a mental break from agility. After reading my rant above it will come as no surprise that Spark is learning running contacts from day one. I am thrilled with our progress and after only a month of training I have her on full size equipment. The Aframe we do sparingly (she has had only 3 sessions on it), most of the training is done on the Dogwalk. I now need to start working on turns off the contacts and anticipate this might go a bit slower. Below is a short movie of Spark's contact training.
I am also waffling on breeding Spryte one more time on her next heat. I LOVE having puppies and I so
miss raising a litter. I love caring for and nurturing the puppies. Helping them develop into confident and outgoing dogs. And I love matching the puppies with loving homes and watching them become a team together and accomplish great things. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done and it gives me so much purpose.
Originally I was not going to have a litter this year. I didn't want to take my top competition dog out of training and showing again for 4 months. It doesn't sound like a long time, but it does make a difference when you are trying to stay at the top of your game. But I miss puppies. So I waffle. Puppies, no puppies. It will also depend on when Spryte comes into season. It could happen when we are in Europe or shortly after we return. In Europe would be a problem. When we return home could work. But if its too late into the fall then it would mean missing Try Outs for next year. Which would mean no chance at world's for next year. So it comes down to what I want more. Puppies or international competitions. Big choices. For now I will waffle and wait to see when Spryte decides to come into season again. Decisions, decisions ;)