Agility Spaz

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Revenge of the Weave Poles

Viva and I are lucky to be living and training in a part of the country that happens to be an agility hot spot. Scads of trials, fabulous instructors, and plenty of seminars during the off-season. Given that Rachel Sanders was here in January, our weave pole entries ought to be flawless. After all, her seminar was brilliant, plus I'd dutifully worked through the Julie Daniels "Fix It" weaves protocol last year, to the extent that Miss V. was pretty much nailing her entries from any direction. Oh, wait -- did I mention that was without any other obstacles involved? And only when I was running with her? Whereas Sanders specifies seven exercises for every starting position, and advocates using a jump to precede the weaves. (No wonder Trump is a weaving maniac!) We did fine with Position Zero (heading straight into the weaves) during the seminar. Our "send" is a little weak, but we're working on it. I figured we'd get around to the rest of the package as soon as Viva's contacts were more reliable. Several months later, the agility gods reminded me that we still had work to do when the Clean Run May issue featured a Sanders article on weave entries. Yeah, yeah, we'll get to it.

Then the agility gods intervened again. Viva managed to complete the Clean Run Ultimate Weave Pole Challenge this summer, setting a breed record (easy when you're the only dog of your breed to have attempted such a thing), and recalibrating my perceptions of her abilities. Viva's success also recalibrated other people's perceptions, because now I show up at trials and am asked whether my dog is "the one that did the sixty weave-pole challenge." Yes, she is, and no, that doesn't mean we've got our entries down. Still, three trials replete with that question combined with some rather messy entries were enough to get me to set up the weave poles, pull out my seminar notes, grab my copy of Clean Run, and start over at Position Zero, this time with a jump involved.

Position Zero still rocks. Even with the jump. Viva took a little coaxing when there was a send involved, but decided being a Velcro ® dog was overrated once her beloved Toss 'N' Treat flying disc got into the act. Then came Position One. Position One kicked our butts. For three days. For those of you who haven't yet seen Rachel's article, Position One is to the left of Position Zero. Not to the right, where your dog can run directly towards the space between Pole #1 and Pole #2, but to the left, where your dog can run directly towards the space between Pole #1 and Pole #2 from the wrong direction. That was pretty much what we did on Day #1. I would recall Viva to the weaves, she'd come charging towards me with a big ol' doggie grin on her face, enter incorrectly, and bark at me when I didn't reward. I went back to my notes. Nothing there on how to convince your dog to enter the weaves the way she's always been asked to enter the weaves. I went back to the article. Nothing there either. Apparently, Position One is not supposed to be any more difficult than Position Zero. Hmm. I resorted to luring, which worked fine as long as the lure was present but got us nowhere when I tried to fade it. It occurs to me now that I could have gone back to the touchstick I used last year (coated with peanut butter, after watching Stacy Peardot-Goudy use that trick with a scent-hound last summer), but since my brain tends to fall out when Viva barks at me, and she was barking at me as though I was the Queen of All Small Rodents Out To Get Her, I didn't think of that particular strategy at the time.

Day #2 of Position One found me backchaining -- sort of. I figured since I could lure Viva into the correct entry if she and I were both close enough to the first two poles, I could gradually move her farther away, still holding a cookie in my outstretched hand to coax her into position. This worked roughly as well as the luring had on Day #1. Which is to say not so well at all.

Day #3, Position One (because I am nothing if not persistent) -- I exchange proximity for lateral distance. Starting Viva back at Position Zero, I move her inch by inch to the left. And it works! Within four or five attempts (all successful), Viva is entering correctly from Position One. We have kicked Position One's butt! At least for the purposes of recall. Running-with and send turn out to be fairly innocuous challenges once the general concept of curving around Pole #1 to enter penetrates Viva's neurological circuitry. I forget to try the rear cross, but there's always tomorrow.

P.S. Position Two is so much easier than Position One.


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