Friday, June 24, 2016

Agility Games with Archie

I gave Archie a few days off from the weaves, and a full day off from agility training. That doesn't mean we don't do any training--at CircusK9, even play is a training exercise. Archie has finally learned how to retrieve and is starting to become rather enthused about the game. His drop it is getting much better too since he's connected that with the retrieve game.

So how did Archie do on the weaves after his short hiatus? Bloody fantastic! This is what I set up in the yard this morning:

The jumps in the pinwheel at the far end were more widely spaced than he'd seen before, although still not as widely spaced as he might encounter in a novice course. I worked that station for a bit to get him used to that pattern so I didn't have to babysit the middle of it.

Archie likes the tunnel. I initially thought about sending him away from me to the far end of the tunnel but decided to use it to work on our start line stays instead. Tunnel to pinwheel was fast and furious.

And the weaves. I always work both sides, though like most dogs he performs one side better than the other. Today, my goal for him was to practice entering the weaves at speed. Jump to weaves, then pinwheel to weaves--both went pretty well.

But the most exciting thing he did was tunnel to weaves. That's a fast, difficult weave entry. At this stage in his training, I was at the exit of the tunnel. Eventually, he will need to execute this move without my being there, that is, he will need to learn how to read my signals that tell him he will be doing the weaves even before he enters the tunnel. 

The dog has to make two 90 degree turns in quick succession and still have enough control to stay in the weaves. Archie nailed the weaves in both directions! I was floored, started capering about and giving him handfuls of treats and telling him what an amazing puppy he is. 

Mimi got to run the entire thing as sequences. There are some fun crosses to be done in the middle and some long sends. Even Azza got to do the pinwheel to tunnel sequence. But as I mentioned earlier, I am really trying to keep Archie's training short and focused. He is certainly able to do most of the same sequences as Mimi but I think that, at this stage, he gets much more out of skills work with its shorter bursts of activity and much higher rate of reward. He's coming along nicely. No need to rush.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Agility Games with Archie

CircusK9 waiting somewhat patiently for something to happen. Yes, that is the top of a side table resting on Archie's crate. There isn't room for both a table and his crate.

I had a little talk with my agility instructor after class on Thursday. Oh, not what you are thinking, not at all. I told her that she needed to keep reminding me that Archie was just a baby and that we had plenty of time to get him ready for this agility game.

See, he's amazing, really amazing. He clicks onto new concepts so quickly it can leave me a little breathless. 

But that also means that my expectations are getting pretty high for this little guy. And I don't want to screw it up. 

So what if he decides to buzz off and check the end of the Aframe instead of holding his stay at the start of the sequence? The magic target is empty, he won't get any reward--the mistake has no other consequences at this point in his training. I'm learning that the best way to handle him is to call him, once, and wait. He already knows that the game is played with me. We have to let him work the various angles of this on his own. And that's really hard for me to do, to let him make those mistakes and wait him out. I can see how quickly it pays off with him, so I was asking my agility instructor to keep reminding me that I need to be patient.

In class, we continue to work skill stations for half the class and the other half we get to run short sequences. The really fun skill stations show up again in the backyard. Right now, he's totally rocking a station comprised of three cones set in an L-pattern. The idea is to send the dog around a cone and either pivot so you pick him up on the same hand, or cross so you pick him up on the other hand. And the handler should stay more or less in the middle, so the dog has to independently go out to the indicated cone. And the distance between the cones slowly gets larger. I am not entirely sure why he likes this particular exercise so but I get amazing speed and focus out of him with it. 

Archie is a chill little dude.

Oh, and he did six regular weave poles this morning for the first time, both sides (on-side and off-side). I knew he was close to this important milestone but I had been working three poles pretty intensively for the past couple of weeks. He needs to understand how to get into the poles on his own. And the turn from the second to third pole is in fact the hardest one, the place where many dogs pop out of the weaves. While we still need more work on the skill of entering the weaves at speed and from any angle, I am now sure that he understands the point of that complicated obstacle. That's such an important accomplishment--and just think, he's still a baby!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Diary of a Second-Year Vet Student

Final grades for this quarter have at last been posted--there was some sort of computer snafu that delayed this for several days--and I'm pleased to report that I did very well. I am most pleased that I pulled out a B- in gross anatomy. It was looking kind of grim for me as we headed into the final exam, as in I might, just might, not pass the class. But I didn't give up and really buckled down on the studying. It's not like I wasn't studying before, but I went at it even harder. 

Right before the final, I found out that our sheep dissection team got full points for in-lab quizzes. I am eternally grateful to my lab partners for reviewing past material every day before starting new dissections so that I was able to pass those quizzes. And we got full points for our dissection itself. We had the only sheep, so there was a bit of pressure on us to do it well. Both of those things boosted my total points up quite a bit.

Even so, I found it a real challenge to prepare for the final exam. I told my friend McKenna that I have never taken a drug that emptied my mind faster and more completely than walking through that lab door at exam time. She laughed, then said, wait, how many drugs have you done? I said, all of them.

On the second midterm (don't get me started on how stupid that is; there aren't two midpoints to the term), I missed EVERY SINGLE lab exam question about nerves and veins and arteries in the thoracic cavity of large animals (horse, cow, goat, sheep). My consistency was most impressive. I study that material. I draw up charts and diagrams and make lists and repeat them out loud and rewrite them from memory. But as soon as I walk through that door, I forget it all. It's like I never studied it.

But since this has now happened to me many times in succession, I prepared for it. I knew that the instructors graded rather generously, so instead of putting a bullshit answer I knew was wrong, I wrote, for example, "a more distal branch of the femoral artery". While this was not the answer they were looking for in that case, it would be technically correct and get me 0.25 points on a 1-point question. Hey, it's a strategy. Don't judge until you have to learn the fiddly details of the anatomy of ten species on nine months. Anyway, it worked.

That week of finals ended rather anticlimactically, as I knew it would. We were all zombies by the fifth exam--stumbling, bloodshot eyes and rumpled clothes, barely able to talk. It was pathology, a difficult course graded with no mercy by a terse Canadian. Those pathologists, I swear they prefer dead things over the living. Such difficult people to deal with. I swam my way through that exam, well enough prepared that I knew what I did and didn't know. By that point, I was utterly done with this first year. 

And so I am in fact done with it. I am now officially a second-year vet student. 

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Diary of a First-Year Vet Student: It's Almost Over

Finals begin tomorrow. Five finals, one per day. I hope that this is my last post in this particular series.

If all goes well, by noon on Friday I'll be 25% of a vet.