This week the Three Dog Blog is down to only one dog since Meg has been away on holiday, and I haven’t had a lot of spare time to find a fill in, so this will be a shorter entry all about Lexi.

Before we begin, some reminiscing. This weekend would have been the Agility Club show, one of my favourite competitions in the season, and a place that marked a real turning point for me and Lex last year. We were at a bit of a standstill and really struggling to get our act together and then at Agility Club she won two classes, had the fastest time in a couple of others, got her first clear round in a Champ class, qualified in 1st place for the Crufts team, and came 7th in the jumping round of the International Tour Heat. I was always a little bit concerned about going into Grade 7 and champ classes but being unable to win, or meet the high standard of the other competitors, so that when she gained these places and wins at one of the largest, most popular shows in the agility calendar, it gave me a real boost in confidence that I think carried through to our later success at a very washed out KCI.

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say I am sad to be missing Agility Club for the first time in years, possibly since birth in my case, but I look forward to next summer when we can all get back to it and hopefully replicate some of that success from 2019.

Back in 2020 and we are still doing a mixture of home dog gym sessions and short sequencing, with focused agility skills at the field. Lexi often gets stuck in, what I describe as, ‘predictive dog mode,’ meaning that once she has an idea in her head, it can be quite hard to persuade her that there’s possibly another way to go about things. This has made things like contacts quite difficult, since once she had decided that she could creep and leap, encouraging her to drive down to the bottom was nearly impossible, and having a fast two on two off was basically out of the question. This is my third attempt at building her a proper running dogwalk and we are finally making steps in the right direction. In previous attempts she would always revert back to her old ways once the dogwalk was back at full height and couldn’t get past her own head. Now she is driving down and through the contact, with 50% of her hits having really good split legs. My next step is to try and bring the mat back in, to encourage some lower, more accurate hits, but potentially she may go back to jumping over it instead, in which case I’ll carry on as I am.

At home, we are still going through a variety of split leg games and rear end control exercises, in an effort to keep building confidence and core control. Occasionally, when she’s doing a full dogwalk, her new speed confuses her and she loses awareness of her legs and then over corrects the stride on the down plank to compensate, but this costs us the good rhythm and natural pacing that she needs. I’m hopeful that as she gains more understanding of each limb, she’ll be able to engage them more and maintain better balance as well as speed.

In terms of sequencing, I am trying to build up a clear distinction between verbal commands and hand signals. When I started introducing the threadle wrap, alongside the slice, she couldn’t differentiate between the two. In general, she slices better than she wraps anyway, so building her understanding of my position and the new word was essential, and she is now able to go between the two quite effectively. Elsewhere, I am just continuing to build drive into certain obstacles, getting her to work away from me and then give chase, while not deciding to make up her own course along the way. Lexi remains a dream to work with and her new found listening skills are only making our sessions better and better.

Next week, Meggy will be back and working towards her second practice competition on the 2nd of August, so that will be my primary focus. Fingers crossed that all will go to plan.

Thanks for reading, and see you next week.