07 August 2012

The Agility Diaries - Mina meets the A Frame

It's fair to say that my agility training isn't going quite to plan!  The wettest April, June and July have dampened my spirits and as Mina doesn't *do* rain, it's somewhat hampered our agility training sessions.

Now, I knew that training a 10 year old greyhound/lurcher would not be without its challenges.  Firstly, the main one is to keep Mina injury free (so far, so good); secondly, I needed to make sure she was fit enough to do this (she is & has been ok'd by the vet); thirdly, I need to get my coordination working (sometimes my brain doesn't seem to communicate to my feet what I want them to do) and finally (and this is the biggie) I need to maintain Mina's focus.

I have no illusions over my agility training with Mina. I have absolutely zero plans of competing with her - it simply wouldn't be fair to expose her to the stress/excitement levels that an agility competition would bring.  I need to pass my practical module for university and I want to have fun along the way for both Mina and me.

Thankfully, we have a great agility instructor - Bob Sharpe, from Field of Dreams. He is very patient with me (especially when my coordination goes to pot) and is full of practical advice.  However, the biggest thing that has both of us stumped is finding the prime motivator for Mina.

Motivation's the name of the game...

Unmotivated? Me? I'm just taking a break!
Mina can switch from being motivated to completely un-motivated in a nano-second.  She can have been enjoying a sequence, a set of grids - getting food rewards, tug & toy rewards - and then; hey presto! Zip! It's like an invisible magic wand has cast a 'unmotivated spell'!  I have had some great advice from Jennifer of Never Say Never Greyhounds, who runs her greyhounds in agility competitions in the USA, and I'm reading 'When Pigs Fly' - a great book by Jane Killion about training the more 'challenging' breeds. Despite all this, I'm still struggling to find that elusive top motivator (or motivators) for Mina.  I'm now considering a rabbit skin and will be hitting ebay/amazon/online retailers to see if I can find one.

Anyway, today's agility session was all about sequences and contacts.  I've already mentioned how lousy my coordination can be and today just proved it. I was doing some simple sequences and attempting to get a front cross executed correctly. For some reason my natural reaction is to do a blind cross and whilst this may still work with a seasoned agility dog, it's not ideal for Mina.

I ran Bob's dog for this and was doing well until my splendid lack of coordination struck - I either tripped or slipped and ended up doing a less than graceful swan dive to the floor, twisting my ankle in the process... ouch! Despite that Meg still made the jump, however it did mean I had to rest up and not do any more sequences.

So, we moved our attention to the A Frame. Due to Mina's age we'll be running a course where all the obstacles are at reduced height. When Mina was younger she used to amaze me and my hubby with her mountain goat like tendencies.  Where we used to live was a very steep escarpment that Mina regularly ran up and down at lightning speed. After several repetitions on lead, we moved to off-lead and she really enjoyed it, as the video shows.

She may have missed her contacts but at this stage I just want her to enjoy going over the A Frame.  We'll finesse her contacts in forthcoming sessions.

In the meantime, my ankle has started to swell up, so I think it's time to put my feet up, apply a bag of frozen  peas, have a cuppa and start searching for that rabbit skin.

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