We had run throughs in our utility class tonight instead of the usual training since several of us are entered in trials this weekend. It was interesting - in that I can see improvement in some areas, and am thinking maybe some things we've been doing lately in practice are paying off. Run throughs are good opportunities to train since I tend to get some of the same behaviors in these as I do at trials - things I don't normally see in practice.
I was pleasantly surprised that his heeling was improved over what I usually get in trials. There was very little lagging and he stayed close. I've been keeping a light string on his collar lately in practice because as soon as I take the lead off, he's not as attentive and I get the occasional lagging. With the string, I can remind him to pay attention and keep up. I'm thinking that may be what has helped his heeling. Signals were good. He trotted in and gave me a good front, but his finishes left something to be desired. The 'around .... and run' game that we've been doing to speed up his finishes evidently hasn't kicked in yet. We've only done it a few times in practice so I'm still hopeful it will help his finishes eventually.
The article exercise went very well. No circling at all : ) He worked the pile fairly quickly and picked up the correct articles. I sure hope we're over that circling hurdle. He's still slow out and back - and slow with the finishes too.
The directed retrieve (gloves) exercise was good. And, he trotted back in with the glove (usually walks when in a trial) with a nice front. The moving stand was good, as usual, although slow on the come to heel.
Then there was the last exercise - the directed jumping. Go outs were good - straight and brisk all the way out. However, the slooooow sits showed up again. Hmmmmm... I wish I knew what he was thinking when he's out there and I give him the sit command. He stands there looking at me like he's just not sure what I want him to do, but then he always ends up sitting even if it takes him forever to get his butt on the floor. After the sits, he consistently takes the correct jumps and his speed coming over and to front from the jumps is getting much better. I just need to figure out what to do about those slow sits.
So, overall, I was happy with his performance tonight, and really hopful that it's an indication that some things we've been doing in practice are sinking in -- and that those things will stay with him in the trial Sunday : ) If not, at least we'll still have a benchmark as to where we are with training and what we need to really work on this winter.