Now that I've finished trialing for awhile (my next trial won't be until mid-January) I'll have more time to focus on training my dogs. I have lots of plans for each of them.
I really want to re-work Devon's A-frame and dog walk. I think it's too late to teach him a true running contact since he's been doing a stopped one for so long, but I do want him to run through the yellow on his a-frame and possibly his dog walk, too.
To do this on the A-frame I'm going to throw a toy out for him as he comes over the top and use a stride regulator to help him relax and extend as he comes over the top. If he does that, he'll land further down the down ramp which will mean that if he takes just one more stride he'll hit right about in the middle of the contact zone.
For his dog walk I'm going to just encourage lots more speed and drive and not give his "touch" command until he's just starting the down ramp. If he doesn't stop at the bottom, I'm not going to mark it much, just ask him to wait while I lead out and then start running from there. That plan will have to change if he starts leaping off but hopefully he won't get quite that carried away with himself :-)
I'm going to change the teeter from a 2 on/ 2 off to a "go to the yellow, ride it down and come off straight when it hits". That's sort of what he does now except that sometimes he pops off the side, especially if I try to front cross it. I'll be practicing a lot of crosses, both front and rear as well as pushes since those are the easiest for me to do.
I'm also going to be doing some jump grids with Devon in an attempt to help him with his ETS on spread jumps. I also need to work on being able to send him further to tunnels. Because of all the AKC courses we've been doing, he's gotten used to being able to run very close to me which will be a problem on USDAA courses and also means he can only be as fast as I am which ain't that fast :-)
I'm sure I'll think of other things as well, these are just the things that stand out the most. My goal for Devon is to have him running a good bit faster by this Spring. I want to increase his Standard yps by at least 1.5-2.0 seconds right now he's very slow because of his stopped contacts. His Jumpers yps I'd like to increase by 1.0-1.5 secs. If I can get him to work away from me more, I think that should be within his capabilities.
My goals for Zodi are to continue to train her weavepoles so that she's doing 12 and single stepping. She's already doing 6 poles with all kinds of entries, crosses and even allowing me to layer jumps while she weaves. I can't believe how easy and quickly this has been to teach her. I can only assume it has to do with the method I used (Mary Ellen Barry's version of Susan Garrett's 2 x2 method) because this is the first time I've used it and I've never had a dog learn so quickly or well.
I also plan to do more jump grids with her. She really needs a lot of help figuring out where to put all those legs and how to collect. She's very good at extending, though, that shouldn't be a problem. I also need to work more on teaching her the turning cues. She's not bad but it takes her so long to get going in another direction that she's going to need to get those cues pretty far in advance. I'm guessing that learning how to collect will need to go hand in hand with this so that once she knows the turning cues, she can respond appropriately.
I think Zodi should get more trial exposure, too, in easy peasy classes like AKC Novice. I want it to be so easy that she has nothing but fun and positive experiences so she'll learn to love trialing. I may intentionally send her off course just to prevent her from qualifying into Open too soon. It's too easy, in my opinion, to wind up in Excellent with a dog who just isn't ready to be there and that can take a lot of the fun out of it for the handler and the dog. I think it's better to take the time to teach the skills they'll need in Excellent/Advanced/Masters while you're still trialing somewhat below the dogs's abilities.
I'm really looking forward to this break from competing. It's really taken a lot of energy to keep going to trials every weekend on top of a full 40 hour work week plus teaching plus household duties. I know some people who thrive on competition but for for me it's more fun to only trial about once a month. And if I'm not enjoying it, how can I expect my dogs to have fun? So we'll be doing stuff like hiking on the weekends which is my favorite winter activity.
I know many people who get depressed in the winter but for me it's a time of rejuvenation and relaxation. A time to reconnect with family and friends after the busy Fall. I find the cool air exhilarating and love coming in to a warm house after a brisk hike on a cold day. And with fewer trips and trials, there's more time to spend just enjoying the company of my dogs and my thoughts.