Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Niche and Handler Hilarity

Since Ike is still recovering from his stomach bug, Katrin let me run her Flat-Coat Niche in class yesterday. Wow, Niche is a great teacher, almost as good as his mum!! I felt like I learned a lot. I find running Niche incredibly difficult - he is the exact opposite of Ike. He's big and he likes to move!

First thing that became apparent – if I am inconsistent with my flailing limbs, not only is Niche going to look at me like “huh?” - he’s also going to leap to “touch” my hand. After all, a random hand flailing about? You must want to play “Touch!” It makes perfect sense; painfully obvious, wonderful sense in fact.

Second thing, I am so used to waiting with Ike that I wasn’t giving Niche nearly enough information in a timely fashion. He must have felt like he was in slow motion underwater.

Third thing, I yell my cues. Now with Niche, if my body were moving correctly, I probably wouldn’t even have to say the darn cues! The yelling cues is odd. I think it is, as I get excited, the cues come out louder, I do this with Ike too. It’s a good thing to be aware of and try to work on.

When Niche runs with Katrin, he is fast and relaxed. Running with me, Katrin said he looked out of control. I totally do not know how to “drive” (using the car analogy) a dog that has distance and speed. For me, I was trying to keep up with Niche which just pushed him further out or confused him more. I could just see him shaking his head, “Stupid human, you’re okay for treats but I don’t know about you, me, and this agility thing.”

I found the course very challenging for me, as a handler, and the work we did will definitely pay off with Ike.

I had a lot of trouble with the sequence of obstacles 8 (curved tunnel), 9 (winged jump), 10 (double jump), 11 (jump). After the double, if the handler isn’t paying attention your dog could very easily take the dog walk, since that could be considered the next obvious obstacle to the dog. I messed poor Niche up quite a few times. Katrin had us look at the course from our dog’s perspective (which we should be doing all the time, I know!) – coming out of the tunnel, the dog is headed between the wing jump and the double. You need to push your dog out for them to take the wing jump and then pull them back after the double.

The obstacle sequence 13 (teeter), 14 (tunnel), 15 (jump), 16 (jump) was similar in some ways. Your dog comes out of the tunnel and his forward propulsion is taking him between jumps 5 and 15 – if you aren’t giving your dog information they are going to miss both jumps or take the wrong jump.

The other place I had trouble with was after the dogwalk, obstacles 3 (jump), 4 (jump), 5 (jump), and 6 (tunnel). You need to send your dog over two jumps and then pull them back in to take a jump and send them into the tunnel. I stayed inside the radius of the jumps multiple times and it was awful, just super clunky. Katrin had me do a front cross on the landing side of jump 5 and it went SO much smoother.

Like, I said earlier in the post, I learned a lot running Niche. It amazing what a dog that knows his job can teach you! I have lots to think about – I particularly like the front cross on the landing side of jump #5. Thanks, Katrin. Now poor Niche has the stomach bug. Hopefully he will bounce back quickly.


ann & partner said...

Wow! I don't know much about agility but reading your post I can feel the excitement. Your enthusiasm and energy are what grab me first, your writing style are what hold my interest. Your a fire cracker, Julie!!!

Katrin said...

Niche says- Bounce back?! Bounce?! I can bounce!!

hehe. Yeah he's well on the mend.

And you're right, running Niche is a lot like driving a race car (not that I have ever driven a race car, but I am guessing).

I think you did very well with him! He seemed to have fun (better than staying home in the crate he says!)

As I say- Niche will definately keep you honest.

JULES & IKE said...

Yes, he can BOUNCE alrighty! ;-P

I hope your boy is feeling better.

Thanks, Ann. You'll have to check out an agility trial this spring/summer. It would be a good training experience for Partner!