The main reason I am attracted to NADAC agility is because I enjoy distance work. I was pining for a border collie long before I attended NADAC Championships in 2009, but seeing "Super Stakes" for the first time in person really made me long to have a dog that would be capable of doing the "big distance." The vast majority of the dogs succeeding in Super Stakes seem to be border collies, so it seemed obvious that this was the way to go to achieve this long term goal.
As we all know, dogs have minds of their own and I completely shelved this idea as Secret progressed in her training. Building her motivation and drive has been a long journey and she more or less seems to prefer close handling (she LOVES front crosses).
Over the last couple of months I have noticed her growing comfortable with an increasing level of distance. I suppose I worked a bit more on these skills because I knew they would be required at Champs. Perhaps her overall level of confidence is just increasing to a point where she doesn't need me right by her anymore. Maybe none of my dogs want me anywhere near them for some reason (I shower, I really do!). ;o)
Anyhow, I'm very happy with Secret's continued growth in her distance training, especially since I more or less wrote that skill off for her. I didn't think she'd ever in a million years be a NATCH dog, but I'm starting to change my opinion on that.
While Luke is most definitely not a border collie, he HAS turned out to be quite the distance dog. After our super inspiring bonus line attempts at the trial this past weekend, I decided that maybe it was time to actually start to train some specific skills needed to be successful (instead of just setting normal exercises and doing them from further away).
I set the above quickie exercise in the yard last night. While simple, it covers quite a wide variety of skills such as the straight on send forward, layering, turning away and pushing out against the dog's path (maybe it's still a switch, but it doesn't feel like it...).
With Luke I handled everything from behind the first hoop -- It was traditional NADAC spacing, so the tunnel/back hoop were 60' to 80' up the yard from me. It was an educational session. As I learned at the trial, I really need to teach a "back" cue. In this case it's used when they come out of the tunnel and take the hoop straight ahead of them, then come through the pinwheel and back up to the rightmost tunnel entrance. To me it just doesn't feel like a "switch," but maybe that is the proper term to use? Honestly, I never tried it. I made the decision to start teaching "back" to all of the dogs.
I didn't have super high expectations for Secret, especially following her less than enthusiastic showing this weekend. I decided to just make it a play session with the Chuck-it and see what happened. I figured she's more apt to run like a loon for the Chuck-it than if I were to try and use a tug toy or something.
She really surprised me. I started out with straight on sends into the tunnel and threw her ball as she came out. I began by doing a lead out to the third hoop and she quickly progressed to me standing back by the first hoop. I'm sure it was largely pattern training, but it's a good step for her and she was shooting down the line like a little (okay, a tall) bullet.
It wasn't that hard to progress to getting the out hoop after the tunnel, as she would just come shooting straight out of the tunnel looking for her ball. It took a couple of attempts to get her to take the turn out of the tunnel to the bottom hoop in the pinwheel, but once she got it we had an easy "switch" to the top hoop and back into the tunnel.
I mixed it up a lot to vary the pattern and Secret did pretty awesome. I also started using the "back" command with her to send her back up to the tunnel and she seemed to catch on quickly. In general, baby dog gave me some pretty impressive distance last night.
Maybe she'll be a bonus line dog one day after all. Who knows. But I think we both had lots of fun with our little drill last night --- So as long as I'm working Luke on these things, I figure she may as well benefit as well. If nothing else, these types of drills are good for her speed work, too. She goes ga-ga when she sees the Chuck-it.