Sheryl's Alaskan Malamutes - Sebastian - Agility
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Sebastian - Agility - Next Level
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Sebastian - Alaskan Malamute
photo by Ray Baycar - MeadowQuest Flat-Coats

Fall 2007 - Agility Classes
September 3, 2007
Sebastian is now taking classes at Orchard Hills Training Center with Beverly Melcher.

We had class at 9am today because of the holiday. Bev combined the advanced class with our novice class and then made an event of the morning by serving venison burgers, hotdogs, chips and sodas at the end of our runs. There was a total of about 20 dogs.

Before class started I headed inside with Cinnabar (to the mournful wails of his brother) to practice on the indoor dogwalk, teeter and A Frame. He completely accepts the A Frame and ran over it without any undo urging!!

She set up an open course that was used by an event over the weekend.

We went by jump heights, with advanced going first. Novice didn't do as many obstacles as advanced. We jumped with the 22" group for Cinnabar.

After everyone, advanced and novice, did their runs, I ran Sebastian through the course, bypassing all the contact obstacles. His jumps were set at 24" and he did great, very focused. He looked spectacular on the triple jump. I got my venison burger and then ran him through again.

Sebastian - Alaskan Malamute
Sebastian sailing over the doublejump
photo by Ray Baycar - MeadowQuest Flat-Coats

Sebastian - Alaskan Malamute
Sebastian hurdle
photo by Ray Baycar - MeadowQuest Flat-Coats

Sebastian - Alaskan Malamute
Sebastian final hurdle
photo by Ray Baycar - MeadowQuest Flat-Coats

Next class in two weeks for both of my guys.

September 17, 2007
Sebastian started with basics:

Hand touch - he got treated everytime he touched his nose to my hand, and then I would move my hand around. He's being treated for good decision making. He did fine with this and then showed Bev his most excellent decision making, he ran around behind me and grabbed a full hot dog out of my back pocket.

Balance board - it's 2 feet square with half a ball under it. He got treated every time he put a paw on it, more with two paws and the big baby even got all four paws on it twice. Bev said she saw the light bulb go off for him when he realized why he was being treated, and enjoyed watching him as his mind was working.

All of this was very good, considering how tasty the sheep were looking to him. Took a few minutes to get his focus on me instead of them, which he did well considering he was in a Mr. Hyde mood last night.

September 24, 2007
We worked on the wobble board again. He was very intune with why he was being treated and glady put two paws on it. He wasn't eager to get 3 paws on it, but he did. And twice he got 4 paws on it.

We then worked with small 6" hurdles about a foot apart. He needed to go through stepping through each without jumping them. He quickly realised what we wanted when I said "easy". He knew exactly for what he was being treated.

Then we switched to the ladder, which is a narrow version of the above. He's always like the ladder and had no issues going through it, except that he likes to skip a rung or two. If I slowed down with him he pulled off early looking for a treat, if I went too quickly he skipped more rungs. We did this for a bit and got him through several times stepping through each rung.

Next, we did a small tire at ground height. He had to bend down to get through. He had to whine about it because it touched his back. He's such a big baby, but he did it. He attempted to show his excellent decision making ability again by going for the hotdogs in my back pocket (trying to lift up my shirt to get to the covered pocket).

While waiting for Sebastian's class to start, I watched a private lesson being given. The dogs were obviously quite advanced and the lesson was on very specific things (body positioning for the handler and evaluation of the dogs' strengths and weaknesses). The trainer was very good. During Cinnabar's lesson Bev spoke to the trainer and called her Mary Ellen. I asked if that was the famous Mary Ellen, and it was indeed Mary Ellen Barry of KineticDog. She encouraged us to continue our foundation work with our dogs as you can't get to advanced without the foundation work.

October 1, 2007
Warmed up on the wobble board, the ladder hurdles. He got all 4 feet on the wobble board about 4 times.

With Bev, we started with the weave poles - just 2 of them. Him being treated whenever he went through. He got that very quickly and was going back and forth. Then we did tire and barrel which he did immediately. Then we went inside and worked with 2 tunnels and a hurdle in between. He did ok, but would lose motivation by the 2nd tunnel, so I had to work with him more excited. He got that fine, but was I sweating as the tunnels were at either end of the ring :) Then we went outside to the 3rd outdoor ring and worked on 6 hurdles setup closely together, in alternating heights from 6" to 12". He did great on that - going through them quickly and adjusting his jump height. In the same ring there were 4 jumps setup in close to a semi-circle - heights from 6" to 12" (one side of each jump almost touching each other, the other side fanning out). He did great going in one direction, but not so good the opposite direction. Bev said he wasn't seeing them the same, so we started him out farther out on the one side and he did better. I've got to work on standing straight, I've evidently got a habit of bending down toward them and need to be straight up to give the right signals.

October 8, 2007
We worked on getting him to get his paws on the teeter. The down end was jacked up so that the up end was 4" off the ground. We wanted him to get his paws on it and used to banging it. He quickly got a paw on it and got treated. We could see the light bulb go off and he kept putting a paw on it. Unfortunately, he got a paw on it and brought it down on his other paw and wasn't happy about it. He did very gently get another paw on it twice more.

So we switched to putting the big table under the down end, and the medium table under the up end (about 3" of play on the up end). Well, getting him onto the medium table with all 4 paws became the real assignment. We ended up setting up 3 tables in a row, the low height, medium height, and tall table. No issues getting on the low table, and then 2 paws on the medium. Lots of work with treats and verbal encouragement from us both and he got all four paws on the medium table. It was very rewarding to see him gain confidence in that and consistently jump onto the medium table. Whew, what a work out. We agreed to not push him into getting on the tallest table at that point. We ended on a good note.

October 15, 2007
We've got him jumping onto the medium table and staying on it like he's been doing it his whole life. The tall table, well he's getting paws on it and one time actually got 3 paws on it.

We took a break from that and did the channel weaves (the weave poles are in pairs side-by-side and then lined up so there's a channel between them), and he ran through those without issue and unasked ended up jumping on the medium table at the end. Bev then angled the weaves so that while there was still a channel through them the space was less. No big deal to him. She angled them further and again not an issue. So we put a little course together for him. Tunnel / hurdle / tunnel / weaves / table. No problems. We tried to get him to jump onto the tall table from the medium table on the run at the end of the course, but no, only two paws on it.

She had me take him to the other end of the ring and run some tunnels over there so he couldn't see what she was doing. We came back and did the same course, but she'd switched the positions of the tables so that he had to jump onto the tall table. Nope, no go. Two paws on it.

We added the tire and another jump to his course and switched the order and he did fine, but only getting two paws on the tall table. He'll get it eventually.

His attention was a bit distracted as there were four walking dinners on the side of the hill. We call them deer, he calls them dinner :)

October 22, 2007
In warm ups he got on the tall table 3 times, straight jump up to it, he won't step up to it from the medium table. When Bev got there he wouldn't do it for 10 minutes, just kept putting 2 paws on it, then he did it again about 3 times for her. We put a course together, a couple jumps ending with the table, but nah, he was having none of it. We switched to working a small course with channel weaves, tunnel, hurdles. He did great. Tried the table again later, but no. I told her that he can be quite contrary when he wishes. She said, "like I didn't notice". She's happy to be patient with him as long as I am. She wasn't sure how quickly I wanted him to progress. At his pace is really the only way to obtain results. Her philosophy and mine is that it must be fun for them, so we'll do it at his pace.

However, a major victory getting him on the tall table!

October 29, 2007
Well, well, well. That big tall table ain't such a bad thing after all. He jumped up on that thing like he's been doing it his whole life. Sitting on it is fine, too. We had him jump up on it about 10 times. Then we moved it under the upside of the teeter, with the medium table under the downside of the teeter. This gave about 4 inches play for the teeter to bang onto the tall table. He got treated for putting his nose over the teeter at first and then for touching it. Then we laid treats on it enticing him onto it. He managed to get the treats as far as his long neck would allow. Then Bev started banging the teeter down every time he went for a treat. He jumped back, and eventually off the table. On the ground he went for the treats, but it got banged everytime then. He started to get less and less jumpy around the noise, but trusts that thing about as much as he trusted the tall table initially. We're making baby steps of progress :)

November 12, 2007
We started out with channel weaves, just two of them while we moved around in a semi-circle but no matter where we moved, he had to enter at the correct point. Then on to the teeter. Still with the tall table under the up end, and the medium table under the down end. We were inside and this tall table is different than the outdoor metal table, a tad wobbly. He didn't trust it, but within a few minutes jumped onto it. He was very skittish if the teeter moved. We just kept treating him for putting his head over the teeter, and did the same at the other end. We moved the small table under the down end so that there was much more play at the up end. I worked with him to desensitize him. I kept the teeter moving up and down and had a treat near it on the table. If he wanted the treat, he had to deal with that moving and slightly banging teeter. After awhile, he was taking the treat off the top of the moving teeter. Minute baby steps, but progress :)

November 26, 2007
We warmed up on the wobble board, jumping on the table and getting treated for putting his paws on the down end of the teeter.

Then we put tables under each end of the teeter so that the down end had two inches of play. He got treated for any touches of it while I was banging it down. His flinching at it is now incredibly decreased.

Then we worked on channel weaves. He loves this. The weaves had a wide open channel between them when we started and he barreled through. We kept closing the width of the channel and he kept going through. At the end, he was essentially weaving through them, first one way and back the other. He wasn't going to quit because there was a treat on the target tray at each end.

We went back to the teeter. At this point he won't put his paws on it from his position on the table, but a major breakthrough for him, he had both forepaws on it from the ground and kept pawing at it for more treats. Coolness.

December 3, 2007
We warmed up on the wobble board, tunnels, jumps, table, paws on bench, weaves.

We used the long ramps from the 4' dog walk flat on the ground to get used to walking back and forth on it, stopping at the end. At the beginning we concentrated more on him walking on it, than stopping at the end for target. He went back and forth on it, and it wasn't still, it moved a bit and wobbled at the end of it, but he just kept walking back and forth on it. I was very proud of that progress.

Then we did a small run, hurdle, tunnel, hurdle. First from the left side and then the right side. Then a different small run - hurdle, chute, hurdle and after a couple runs added the tire at the end. He did great. Once he's in his sit/stay he's very good about not breaking it, and he didn't disappoint.

Our last class for 6 weeks.

10 month old Sebastian - down/stay with hand signals only
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