Thanks for sharing, Karen. Very cool that you and Kodi were featured!
What engagement tips do you have for Shama and me?
Although we've continued to attend both obedience and agility classes, we haven't attempted an agility trial since last August when we had our "moment of glory" (first qualifying run in AKC) at the Havanese National Specialty. At a given agility training session, she'll have moments when she seems to be really into it AND moments when she doesn't seem to be the least bit interested in the sport.
If anyone is interested in seeing Shama's moment of glory, click on the second video at the link below. (Also, can someone please let me know if the link still works?)
Shama's moments of "disengagement" look very much to me like Kodi's "stressy" moments. I've seen them in some of your videos. It's not a quick or easy fix. And MOSTLY it was ME learning a completely new way of communicating with him, and waiting for him to push ME for work. I did this starting by taking Denise Fenzi's "Engagement" class at gold. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. My brain hurt. It also helps that my instructor at home is a Fenzi instructor, so she was able to help me too.
Once I had the basics, the next hard thing was sticking to what I KNEW I had to do, in spite of the "helpful advice" from everyone at training places. So I'd go to a run-through, leave him at the gate, go to the starting position and invite him to set up. If he came and set up happily and quickly, we'd heel three steps, have a party and leave the ring. (the agility equivalent would be to invite her to the start line, and maybe jump one jump, then have a party) If he showed any reluctance. We had a cuddle and left anyway. No cajoling, no begging, no luring. ALWAYS his choice.
When he was reliably setting up for the first exercise, we would go to run-throughs and go from exercise to exercise, having the judge call the commands as if we would do the exercise, then NOT do it, "exercise finished!" and move the next spot. No cookies for any of this, no cajoling, just personal play and praise between exercises. If he didn't want to do it, we went home. When he was breezing through all the set-ups, we would throw in ONE random exercise. He never knew which one. Then when he was not stressing about that we added a couple, etc, until he could do an entire obedience routine without any signs of shutting down, sniffing or disengagement.
The biggest thing I learned was to honor his feelings about what was going on. I think that is especially true with a small breed dog working off leash with large breed dogs all around them. THEY don't know that they are safe. (to be honest, WE can't guarantee that they ARE safe...) It really is no wonder that they get stressy. The wonder, when you think of it from their perspective, is that they do it at all.
It looks to me like Shama's individual obstacle skills are fine, but she's still not secure in reading your handling, and you're not secure in your handling cues. This is not surprising. You are both new at this... And DON'T judge yourself against Sophie... THAT girl is a natural. I've NEVER seen anyone pick up handling skills so quickly and naturally, AND she was lucky to also start with a really, REALLY drivey dog, who is totally in tune with her body language too. Your trajectory is not that unusual!
It looks to me like Shama would benefit from shorter sequences, where she could finish the sequence successfully and "reward/party", rather than trying to finish long courses, where she almost always CAN'T finish without having a problem somewhere. Maybe ask your instructor if you could break the course into 3 segments and do those parts in between the other people who want to run the course all in one piece?
...Oh, and your link still works! I watched it again. She's so cute... she's very tentative about the new place at first, but then she gets into is and does an absolutely lovely job, and so do you! (but this is actually an easier course that many of the courses I've seen you do in class videos. (which I understand, because we do harder courses in class too)