Uma and Malcolm just turned two and a half years old. What this means is that Uma (not Mal, who took a long long break) has been competing in official trials for exactly a year. Her first official trial was and ASCA trial in November 2006. Looking back on our year in the rings, it's a bit difficult to evaluate progress, because of the multiple venues we've competed in. Since there's no ASCA here in Poland, obviously we stopped competing in ASCA once we moved back. We also did a bit of USDAA in the US and stopped one Standard leg short of her AD jusst a week before I moved back here. She has all her open and one elite title in ASCA and just recently moved up to A2 in FCI, which I consider to be the biggest achievement so far, because FCI courses are a lot more difficult than even the Elite ASCA courses. But all in all, it's hard for me to evaluate progress on the basis of titles.
What has really helped me to see the progress was watching a couple of our runs from about a year ago. I can see how handler-dependent her contacts were and how she'd slow down on the descent ramp. But what really really stands out is how fluent and able to work at a distance from me she has become. It's experience and trust and just A LOT of work that has gone into this.
Here are a couple of our runs from an unofficial trial in the "0" class in Poland, taken last July. We've come a long, long way since then.
I had the feeling recently that she has really sped up recently and, after watching these clips I think this is indeed the case. Admittedly, it has cost me a few off-courses here and there as she is not a forgiving dog and if I'm late with a cue, then we do get an off-course. But I think it's still worth it. I really feel like we're on our way now and ready to do anything.
Me adjusting my timing will now be the most important thing for me to work on, as that's were we lose most of the runs we lose. And we still have that weave pole technique issue to (hopefully) solve. And our dogwalk down contact which tends to break down after several runs in a row... But we're on our way.
Meanwhile, Malcolm is a different case and requires a post of his own :-)
And what's up with Eden?
Well, Eden is happy being a puppy. I am happy teaching her all the little puppy things which she should know, like sitting politely and waiting and not jumping up on me. Of course, there is a bit of agility stuff that I just cannot resist NOT doing when I'm in Pecice with all the dogs, but basically I just work on her attention and recalls while she's there. OK, and I couldn't resist doing some tunnels ;-)