Again, we had the opportunity to work with Stuart at our club. This time, he offered private seminars, which were great since we had a lot of specific contact questions to ask.
We started with Lexi, and I'll explain our issues and his comments below.
1. Slow 2o2o. Recently Lexi has developed a bit of a creep down the down side of both the dogwalk and the a-frame. She is able to eventually find her position, but it is slow. I was very worried that we would end up with what Bentley had (that led us to his running contacts).
His thoughts were that Lexi is slowing down because when she misses the contact, our reaction was to pick her up and put her back into position. She's interpreting that to mean "you're running too fast". Stuart compared her thought process to the idea of a person getting a ticket for speeding. After that, you're a little gun shy, and you don't drive as fast.
The first extremely interesting bit of information that Stuart shared is that he would recommend that we go to a running contact with her. His words, "if I wanted to just do well locally, I'd do 2o2o. If I want to compete nationally, I need the running" (even with a quick release, you lose time with a 2o2o). Also, he thinks her stride might be pretty conducive to running, even more so than Bentley because she's smaller.
But, he said that if we want to teach 2o2o, we have to let her blow through a contact. So, if she misses it, we let it go. If we stop and mark it, she will slowly creep down the next time. Obviously she doesn't get a reward, but we can't mark it as a mistake. According to Stuart, "we have to let her blow through it and miss on occasion, because the alternative is that she'll creep the next time to get it done". Stuart said that we'll take our lumps initially with a running, but in the long run it will be worth it.
If we want to teach a running, she has to learn to focus, and still move. That means she'll blow a few at first.
We decided to work on speeding up her 2o2o for the next couple weeks. Stuart will be back in February, so we'll re-evaluate at that time.
We ran our first dogwalk, and it took Lexi 4 seconds. Not great. We have to first learn to ignore mistakes, and teach her to speed up. To speed her up, we added a secondary target beyond the first (behind another jump not too far away). Also, we kept the energy up the whole run, encouraging Lexi to go faster. On her second attempt, it took her 3 seconds. On the third attempt, she was easily under 3 seconds.
2. Barking/Herding in between runs: Lexi has a tendency to bark and jump around my feet while I'm walking from obstacle/sequence to sequence. I always interpreted it as bad, and asked Stuart if I should discourage it. His answer in short, "no". She just thinks we are running a sequence and is asking me for information.
3. Lexi's crazy "go go go" attitude: Lexi loves agility, and she often can be seen barking or going nuts up at the field. Also, everything she does is fast (sometimes at the sacrifice of details). Several people in our club have mentioned this, and we do have a few people in our club with crazy second dogs. I have been very worried that Lexi is going to turn into a dog that forgets to focus when she's in the ring. So, I asked Stuart if he saw that in Lexi, and if so, what should we do about it.
He asked us what we do at home, and I assured him that we work on control all the time. Lexi has to wait for everything: dinner, treats, leash, going outside, playing with a toy. He agreed that this is extremely important. He said that the tendency for people with slow first dogs is to cut the second dog a lot more slack, and to allow them to get away with things and to be a brat.
He said the key is that we need to be in charge of the pace of things. He set up a short sequence ( a circle with 3 jumps and a tunnel) where I was to run the circle at full speed, and then on the second pass, slow down and have Lexi slow down as well. Lexi's so cute...because Stuart was just going to show me as an example, but she started to run with him, and performed correctly. She immediately slowed when Stuart did and looked to him for further instruction. Lexi allows us to dictate the pace, which indicates that there isn't a problem. According to him, "you need the drive to win, but you need the control to qualify". If she's missing turns or floating wide, it's probably us.
4. Teeter: As I posted previously, Lexi has now gone through 2 periods of fear when it comes to the teeter. Stuart believed this is because Lexi understands everything about the teeter except what makes the teeter move and more importantly, what makes it stop moving. He recommended lowering the teeter and putting a target at the end. It is her job to run from one end to the other. We are not supposed to say anything, especially if she slows down or starts to look confused. We will continue to slowly move the teeter up.