Tuesday, January 17, 2012


This past weekend, Maebe and Django were entered in a CPE trial.

On the Thursday before the trial, I was printing out the running order and noticed that the last class of the day on Sunday was Jumpers Level 1/2, and that there were only five dogs pre-entered in that class. 

IMG_2286I casually mentioned this to Lowell, and that they were taking Day Of Show entries.  Cadence has had several very good weeks of agility class in a row, and the judge at this trial was one that we know, and who I knew I would feel comfortable under if anything goofy happened.  Somehow, this comment led to discussions with him, our agility instructor, and a friend, who in the end persuaded me to sign Cadence up for his first agility trial run on Sunday.

Coincidentally, the next day a gift arrived for me in the mail – a t-shirt with paw prints and the word “Breathe” printed on it, my mantra whenever I am working Cadence.  It was meant to be a Valentine’s present, but its arrival turned out to be perfectly timed.  It was something I knew I was going to have to remind myself to do many times that day!

IMG_2290 On Sunday, we arrived early, dropped off Cadence’s entry form and had him measured, and set up our crates in a relatively quiet location.  None of our dogs particularly like to be crated at indoor trials, as they don’t care for the noise, crowds, movement, and barking, and I wanted Cadence especially to stay calm throughout the long day of waiting.

I was delighted that Cadence actually was the most relaxed I’ve seen him in a crating area.  Throughout the day I took him out several times, and he was happy, attentive, and eager to play tug games with me.  We did the practice jump a couple times to make sure he could focus in that environment.  I was prepared as I was going to be.

As if to ease my stress, Django ran great all day.  He ran clean and fast, and placed in each run.  I was very proud of my veteran dog.  It seemed like he was telling me that whether or not the baby dog was ready to start trialing, not to worry because he wasn’t retiring yet!

IMG_2291 Finally, it was time to walk the course.  I put on my headphones, which I often do for walk-throughs, and listened to Coldplay’s “Yellow.”  I reminded myself of how much I love my dogs, and that no matter how the run went, what really mattered was the relationship Cadence and I have formed.  I pictured looking down at Cadence on the start line, taking a breath, and us taking off together.  I pictured us running the course, and then us playing together at the end.

And the run itself?  Well, I was very happy.  Video is below, and you can see that it is far from perfect, and not pretty all the time.  But I see a lot of good things, that make me feel very good about how far we’ve come.  The clip begins after we’ve started, but after taking his harness off, he sat nicely and focused on me.  I was able to stand up, take a step forward, take a breath, and release him (I didn’t try for a big lead out, but did want him to hold a sit for a moment, which he did).  Unfortunately, after the second jump, he was directly lined up with the timer, scribe and judge, who were grouped in the far corner, and so he had to go see what was going on over there.

He came back to me, and I was able to direct him in to the next tunnel.  He came out, and while still generally following my motion, he did go wide around the next couple jumps, I think noticing the bar setter in that corner.  I didn’t worry about those obstacles, and kept moving down the course, waiting for him to come down enough to realize what we were doing.  Which he did, and we finished the end of the course completely connected.  He even followed me when I directed him to an off course tunnel!  The best part – and what I had been most concerned about – was he came over that last jump focused on me.  We ran together to his leash, and tugged and celebrated as we left the ring as a team. 

Cadence has been an amazing dog to train, and while we still have a ways to go, I am pleased with how far we’ve come and how much we’ve learned.  He can amaze me with his brilliance, and he has also challenged me to become a more skilled trainer.  He has a very strong desire to chase motion, even more so than our other border collies, and this has been, and still is, our biggest obstacle in working off leash in a high state of arousal (like, say, in agility . . .).  So, while some may see him being distracted initially by the ring crew and the trial environment, what I see is his ability to come back to me and start thinking again despite that distraction, and that is something that I don’t think he could have done several months ago.  To me that is huge, and it gives me confidence that we are moving in the right direction. 

So, more training ahead, and I am thinking we will do this again – another end-of-day Jumpers run – at the end of March and see where we are at that point.  I’m looking forward to it.

Have I mentioned how much I love this dog?