So tonight was Kipling's first real NOMAD practice. He's been to run-throughs a couple of times over the winter - you know when I've been home on a weekend AND I wasn't oncall. In those situations I've primarily worked Teller and he's done one or two obstacles at a time. He's been the only dog working and I've kept it super easy and super short. NOMAD practices are a little chaotic, there are usuallly three dogs working at a time in three separate sequences, divided by logical grouping (no physical barriers). The dogs and handlers not running their dogs are lumped around the outside of the sequences, some in crates, some on down stays, some tugging, etc. This is a hard environment for a lot of dogs because there is just so much going on.
Teller has done well at these practices because the other dogs get him 'up' and he is inclined to make some mistakes (as in come off contacts). It's been a great environment to proof obstacles and to get a lot of working time in (figure 12 dogs in groups of 3-4, rotating through three sequences for about two hours - there's a LOT of equipment time). There's also a lot of variables - some dogs will leave their mommies, some dogs don't like other dogs in their faces, some dogs will correct other dogs for coming too close while their working. Perhaps its because everyone trials their dogs and trains their dogs well - but the dynamic is a super stable working pack. We all respect each other's space and it just works. Sometimes dogs will go greet other dogs or other people, but it works. The variable is green dogs - you don't know what you're going to get from a young dog or a baby dog - when there is that much excitement and energy anything can happen.
I know that Kipling has matured a bit in the last few weeks. We've worked really hard at working for ME - not for the cookie, not for the toy - FOR ME and WITH me. Kipling is one of the smartest dogs I've ever worked with, but his biddability is all over the place and some of his sessions have certainly felt like we're going sideways instead of forward. So what were we going to get tonight at practice?
No suspense here. Both boys were absolute rock-stars. Teller my consistent and dependable partner. He ran beautifully and I got to work exactly what I wanted to work with him tonight. Some weaves, some dogwalks, a couple of a-frames and he was done.
Kipling was the big surprise to me. I expected some distraction, I expected some "hey, I know you! You have cookies too". I expected to spend (and would have been absolutely happy to do so) a lot of time playing the look at me game. Come, turn, wait, etc. What I got (and make no mistake - this is what I rewarded as well) was attention on me and obstacle focus. I had startline stays, I had nice 2o2o's on all of the contacts, I had tunnel-aframe discriminations, I had rear-crosses, front crosses, blind crosses and sends. Kipling saw his first real broad-jump (he'd only seen my obedience version once), he remembered what the tire was, let me rear cross the a-frame (didn't even look for me), got a great turn-tunnel. He was pretty fast and he kept all of his bars up just like a little pro! Oh and did I mention that Kippie's last turn it was POURING (and I do mean POURING) rain?
Now, make no mistake, the next time we go out it's a whole new game (and I'll have to bring more chicken - and more silly voice), but I'm thrilled with the breakthrough and the progress. Maybe next week I'll be able to get some video footage!
Here's what Kippie worked tonight: