Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Back to Training

After taking a bit of time off so I could get over a sinus infection, Tessa and I got back to working on her Freestyle training tonight.

We warmed up and practiced Tessa's jumping, and her circles, and her leg weaves.

Then we took some time to focus on her heework.  One thing that I am really working on with Tessa is teaching her to stay up in position and drive with power as she moves on the outside of a circle.  I started out using peanut butter on a spoon, but it got her mouth too gummed up and she kept stopping to finish the peanut butter!  So, I changed to hot dogs, and that worked better.

It occurred to me that it would be best if she would drive toward a target stick, so after we did some practice with the hot dogs, I worked on teaching her to drive to the target stick.  That was fun.  At first I just c/t for her touching the star at the end of the target stick.  Then I started holding it behind my back and presented it to her so she could start to drive to it.  Finally, I tossed a treat and then held it out so she could run back to it and touch it.

I plan to continue with that until she is driving to it enthusiastically and then I will incorporate it into our heelwork.

It was a good session.  We have just over a month to fine tune her routine before the next competition.  It should be good.


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Onward . . .

Yesterday evening we began our training to improve our routine performance.

I started with some moving position work.  We didn't do a whole lot, but I had my arms behind my back and c/t when Tessa moved into position.  As we work on it, I will begin to c/t duration more than moving into the position.  We are supposed to have some practice time on a full ring this weekend, so we will work a lot of moving position.

We worked on the switches.  We did them stationary, only moving a few steps after the switch.  By the time we finished, she was going on verbal off of one side.  The other is going to need more work.

To introduce something new that we might incorporate at some point, we did some backing in heel/side work.  We went into the kitchen and she was between me and the cabinets.  I backed up a step, let her offer the backing with me, c/t.  She started to get it, so we stopped.  I will be interested to see what she does with it when we go back to it.

Then we did some pivot work.  I pulled out a laundry basket and worked pivots around it - c/t for her rear end movement.  I'd really like to have pivots ready to add to the routine by May.  I'll see how they go over the next couple of weeks and add them if appropriate.

Finally, we did just a smidge of hind leg work.  We will take that slow, but I'd like to get her to offer the "up up" on her hind legs and reach up to touch my hand with one of her paws.  It would be such a sweet move!!

It was a great training session.  Tessa was very eager to work.  I think she is really understanding what this kind of training is for now!

Not to neglect her Agility, we did a little bit of one jump work, as well.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

First Freestyle Competition

Yesterday Tessa and I went to her first Freestyle competition, and it was a success in every way!

We enjoyed the long drive out to the competition together.  We had gone a bit late because we were scheduled to perform later in the competition, so when we arrived, I went in to see where they were at.  We had plenty of time.  There were still a couple more performances before the lunch break, and then we were the 4th team after the lunch break.

So, I brought some things in and then brought Tessa in.  I elected not to crate her because I wanted to watch the performances, and the crating was in a different room.  Instead, I let her hang out on her mat at my feet.

Later in the day I would take Tessa's traditional "Tessa on her mat" photo.

During the lunch break, I took her into the ring to let her check it out.  That is allowed in WCFO Freestyle.  During any breaks, handlers can go into the ring - with or without dogs - to warm up, practice, etc.  No food is allowed.  Toys are, but Tessa doesn't play with toys in that context yet.  So, I walked her through some pieces of her routine and then we ran out together for her to get a treat.  After a bit of familiarization, we went and hung out by my chair again.

As the lunch break started to wind down, I started to get ready.  I went in the back and got my costume on.  After that, I took Tessa into the warm up ring in the other room to have her practice her leg weaves with my skirt.  We had been doing that all week, and I didn't anticipate a problem, but I figured it would be smart to run through it once in the new setting.  Food is allowed in the warm up ring, so I had her do the weaves and reinforced her well for the.  She had no problem.

I also set her jump up in the open area and let her practice a few of those.  All was good.  I got her purple bandana on her and we were ready to go!

Ready to go perform!  This was before I put her purple bandana on her - those are the uprights of her jump behind her.

I was very interested to see what was going to happen in this performance.  Tessa and I had never actually done the whole routine in an open ring before.  We had been practicing the pieces at home for a couple of weeks, but we had never done the whole thing, complete with jumps.

In the end, I was very happy with how it went.  I can tell that it was an unrehearsed performance, but taking that into account, it went extremely well.  Tessa did an excellent job.  The only moves she missed were moves that I knew she was still rather weak on to begin with.  And she did make some things up herself in a few places, but she didn't know the routine completely, so that wasn't really a problem.  In fact, I am happy about the fact that she was making things up along the way.  It shows that she was thinking about what we were doing.  She is trying to get a handle on what this game is all about, and she is enjoying that process thoroughly!!

Here is the video of our routine:

I love, love, LOVE Tessa's attitude!  She has her whole head and heart in it.  She really has potential to be an excellent performer!  I love the way she moves, the jumps were lovely, and she nailed the ending!!

And her attention is phenomenal!!

Some things I'm taking away to work on:
  • We need to practice more duration heel and side work.  Honestly, we haven't done very much.  Tessa is not really lagging per se, but she is often a bit behind me because she hasn't quite worked out where she is exactly supposed to be.  Now that warmer weather is coming soon, I plan to start to work with her on that out in the yard.  When she gets the idea it is going to be gorgeous!!
  • We need to continue to work on the switches.  I am going to start working on putting them on verbal.  I think that will strengthen them for both Freestyle and Agility.
  • Apparently Tessa wants to start hind leg work.  And so, we shall!
  • Start a regular Freestyle practice schedule. 
  • Add something concrete in that little section of music where I kept losing her because we didn't have a clear game plan (just before the Figure 8 jumps). 
  • I need to practice with Tessa to develop a smoother, more elegant handling style that brings out the best in her.  My handling in this performance was choppy - partly because I hadn't rehearsed this routine enough, but also because I haven't found my handling style with Tessa for Freestyle.
Of course, we also need to continue to work on new moves.  In particular, I'd like to get backing, laterals, and pivots going.

I was very happy after the performance.  I didn't even remember that it was a judged performance and that we actually had a score coming until about 15 minutes later!!

There was still a bit of the competition to go, and we hung out and watched most of the routines.  I also picked out pictures to order from the photographer who was there.  Unfortunately, those are prints only, no digital files were available.  But I ordered a few prints for Tessa's scrapbook.

I put Tessa in the car while I picked out photos, and when I brought her back in, I think she thought we were going to do another "run", as we do in Agility!  She seemed very eager to get back out there.  I was sorry that we couldn't!  Maybe by fall she will be ready to do both Freestyle and Heelwork, and then we could do two performances.

Shortly after the competition ended, we got our scoresheet, and the results were very, very good!!  We scored 7.9 technical and 7.8 artistic!!  To qualify in Beginner, you need 7.3 in each category.  Those are the highest Beginner scores I've ever gotten, and I don't think I've ever scored higher technical than artistic!!  The comments were good, as well.

So, Miss Tessa has her very first Freestyle Q!!

And, at the end I found out that we also got first place!!!  Out of four dogs (it was a pretty small event) in our class, all qualified, and we got first.  That was very exciting - for Tessa to do that well on her first time out is just perfect!!!

Our Q ribbon.  I used Tessa's bandana as the background for these.

And our First Place medal.

That wasn't even the best part, though.  We also got an award - one that means more to me than the Q and placement ever could.  We got the award for Most Bonded team!!

Remembering where Tessa and I started and every step by step by step by step that it took to earn both her affection and her trust, that we could get to the point where we would be chosen for a Most Bonded award is incredible!!

She is definitely a very special girl.

And here she is posing with her first place medal in a classic Tessa pose, offering me both a front and back paw!!

Congrats to Miss Tessa on her very first Freestyle Q!!!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting Close!!

I am so excited about Tessa's first Freestyle competition as the time gets close!

The only thing I still need to do is cut the PVC for my shorter jump bar and wrap the jump in the shiny purple streamer stuff.

The routine is done and is as practiced as it is going to be.  I will probably give Tessa a chance to practice weaving with the skirt tonight and tomorrow, and then that's it!

Music is cut, skirt is made, Tessa's collar is made, I have shoes and everything I need, and I am eager to go!

Can't wait to spend the day at a Freestyle competition with my girl!