Weekend training update

We were traveling this weekend, but I managed to get in some good training time before we left on Saturday and then had a private lesson with both dogs when I returned yesterday so all was not lost.

On Saturday morning, I worked both pups on our channel weaves with a 1″ gap.  I cut my poles down to 20″ and decided to try leaving their food reward at the end of the poles instead of carrying it.  It seems both dogs’ heads were still too high, so this was an attempt to focus the head downward.  I also tried a quick session using a ball for Miles.  He seemed a little more frenetic when it came to the ball session and I think his head was even higher than normal…silly boy!  Both dogs looked better using the food reward “target”.  Rue was so cute when she realized she had messed up…she actually started to take herself back to the beginning before I even gestured for her to go back.  I was afraid she’d try to go eat the reward anyway, but she was very good about correcting herself 🙂

I also had time to raise her board to 38″ and do a quick session.  Once again, she was 100%!!  I can’t get her to mess up!  I need to start teaching her turns and/or fading the food target next…just need to pick which one to tackle first.  No video for this session because we were in a rush to pack up and leave town.

Last night I met Melanie for a 1.5 hour private with both dogs.  For Rue I wanted to talk about transitioning her to a real dogwalk as well as what to work on next with her board (turns vs fading the lure).  I also wanted help on rear crosses and ways to increase speed/drive in our handling.  With Miles, my goals were to try different ideas for his weaves (ie. food target vs rolling ball with the channels as well as possibly restraining him by the collar to build drive and using his rear to push through the poles).  I also wanted to brainstorm ideas about his table stress and help with discriminations.  Much to my delight we got to each and every topic!

I’m proud to announce that Rue did her first real dog walk at full height and absolutely smoked it!  There were a lot of things that were different for her….slats, height, distance running on the board, a flat board on top instead of just my little “skinny aframe” contraption…but she was a trooper.  We started with Melanie restraining her half way down the downramp and me running with her to the target and then back chained her to the top of the down ramp and then did the whole thing.  Each rep was faster with better striding and lower hits.  I think we did about 4 or 5 full reps and called it a night.  Both of us were in complete shock that she handled it with such grace and ease.  I’m going out to PBH to practice with a friend on Tuesday, so I’ll be able to get it on video then!

We then worked on Miles’ weaves with different methods.  It’s at 1″ that he starts to want to hop instead of single step so that’s where I’ll stay for a while.  We had him chase his ball with and without handler movement and it seemed that he was able to single step for 2/3 of 12 poles if I ran alongside of him with the ball in my hand on the ground and then rolled it when he was at about pole 9 or 10.  We also used the ball as a stationary lure after 6 poles at 1″ and had him pull me through them while I held his collar.  He didn’t want to pull too hard because I think he thought he was being naughty.  I plan to use a harness for this at home, but had forgotten to bring it to the lesson.  I think he’ll feel better about pulling in his harness than he does in his collar.  Either way, we got some good forward drive with that experiment!  I’m psyched!

Next for Rue, we set up a big figure 8 and worked on rear crosses.  She was great with rears to the right, but didn’t read them well to the left which could be either a weak side for her or for me.  We will work twice more turns to the left than to the right, but I was excited to see her catching on to the idea.  We then worked on the “race ya to the toy” game that Wendy Pape uses.  The point is to show the dog that he/she has “permission” to drive ahead and that it pays well to drive ahead.  So we’ll play this at home and hopefully that will help with her moving out ahead in our handling.

We finished the night working on tunnel/a-frame and tunnel/tunnel discriminations.  Basically, Miles tunes out my motion when it comes to discriminations and tends to go for the contact obstacle regardless.  So I came home with some new ideas on how to handle these and also to reward the tunnel with higher value rewards than the contact obstacle for a while.  We also talked about his table issues at trials and she gave me a couple thoughts that I will try out at the trial this weekend and see what happens before we make any major decisions.

Yay for a great night!

Off to Concord for 3 days of AKC on Wednesday 😀

Training update 6/25/09

What we’ve been working on this past week….

Miles is busy retraining again on the weave poles using channels and shortened poles.  Right now they are at shoulder height (23.5″) but I may need to make them even shorter.  He is showing great style with the channels 3″ apart using the short poles, but it might help him to lower his head even more if I take them down a few inches more.  I also need to add end caps to protect his eyes!  I will video him from the side tonight, but here are his last two sessions.  The first is with 30″ poles at 3″ space and the second is with the 23″ poles at the same spacing. 

Rue has been concentrating on weave poles as well, but we’ve also squeezed in some board sessions, and started jump grids.  Her weaves are going pretty well, but we had some confusion when I changed to the 23″ poles and closed the gap to 3″ at the same time.  I will stay at this spacing tonight to see if she can get closer to 100% before closing it even more.  Right now we’re still following Joe Canova’s system, but my instructor wants me to try revving her up and sending her to a food target or a thrown toy.  I’m hesitant to do that just yet as I’ve noticed that she does better working through something at a bit slower speed and then gets faster when she understands.  Since weaving requires SO much thought I think I’m going to finish up getting her to 6 straight poles with this system and then try opening them back up to maybe 2-3″ and work on speed.  We’ll see how it goes.  Here are a few recent sessions first with taller poles at 4″ then with short poles at 3″…the conversion quality is poor on the second video unfortunately:

Her board work continues to be stellar.  We’ve done three sessions at 32″ and she’s been 100% across all of them!  I plan to do another one tonight and if she’s 100% again, we’ll go up!  Of course this poses a little issue with my set-up, but I’ll try to make it work safely.  We get our real dogwalk in a week!!

One thing that still remains a point of frustration for me with Rue is that it is difficult to get her really excited and revved up, at least in ways that I’m familiar with.  It is almost as if it puts too much pressure on her when I try to get her to go faster that she just trots along in response to the pressure.  Either that or she just really is a thinker and needs to do things slowly first until she understands.  I need her to want to go out ahead of me more during sequences as well as extend out in a straight line.  I did a jump grid with her the other night with the spacing starting at 5′ and growing to 7-8′.  She bounced each jump (no strides) for two reps 🙂  I only did those two reps in that session, but I will continue to work on this and try to get some on video.  I also bought her this crazy pheasant pelt dummy retrieve toy for her birthday.  I used it in class on Tuesday and she was beside herself as to what to do with it.  I have to say though, she sure did drive away from me to retrieve it!

We’ve got private lessons scheduled for this Sunday to work on turns off the board and handling for Rue as well as handling for Miles, yay!

Training update 6/21/09

Lots has been going on here, but I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had much time to update.   So here’s the last week or so in summary 🙂

Miles:

Still pretty much on an agility break aside from weekly classes and some brief training here and there.  We have a trial coming up in 2 weeks at the same site as where the AKC Nationals were held this year.  Although the Nationals were run on dirt, we will be running on astro turf.  Neither of us has ever run on turf before….do I need special shoes?  Guess I’ll find out!  The cool thing is that I’m picking up my new dog walk at this show, yay!

My major goals right now with him are:

1.  Increasing overall speed – he’s getting much more comfortable and is automatically running faster but I still see him adding extra strides often and I need to continue to work on my handling so that he’s confident where we’re going all the time.  I also need to trust him more so I can get further down the line to better show him where to go.

2.  Increasing weave pole speed – we lose a lot of time here.  Miles has never single-stepped despite several different training methods.  I am restarting Joe Canova’s program using channel weaves with him this summer and then I may experiment with a Weave-a-Matic.  I have the little arm things to make a WAM, but never used them.  I’ve also shortened the poles to wither height in an attempt to get his head lower.  I videoed our first session this morning starting at about 6″.  He’s such a goof 🙂

3.  Table – lately he’s been stressing here at trials.  In reality, he’s really only just started having to do a table in trials as we’ve just been entering Standard classes since April.  It started at the trial in W-S in the beginning of May when he had to “down” on the table and was very stressed due to other things that led up to the table.  Since then he’s even been having problems with a “sit”.  My instructor suggested that I start having him do a couple of tricks on the table that he can do without me touching him (ie. spin, wave, speak, etc.).  I will start trying this in practice to see if we can add fun and more value to this obstacle.  I may also start feeding him his dinner for doing different positions on the table.

Rue:

I think the little miss is going through some adolescent times right now, hehe.  I’m seeing some issues arise that haven’t been problems for a while now…leaving me in class, sniffing and eating grass, running away from me in the middle of a session at home, etc.  Guess I need to batton down the hatches a bit for her again and be a little more structured with her everyday life.  Wendy Pape gave me a really great handout when she was up here  on “Building a Working Relationship” which is not unlike Susan Garrett’s Ruff Love program, but maybe not as strict.  The handout really is great, unfortunately I cannot post it here, but it has some good ideas in it on how to create a relationship with your dog that’s built of respect and fun.  It’s a 6 month program and I have to decide if I am ready/willing to do it as it’s “all or nothing”. 

In Rue’s defense, there has been a lot of weird wildlife stuff going on in our neighborhood and backyard.  It all started with our run-in with a pack of coyotes a few weeks ago at our regular hiking spot.  However, lately we’ve had everything from a fox that killed a neighborhood cat behind our house, to a week-long battle between hawks and crows in our backyard.  Rue also got to chase a bunny in our front yard when she got out of her collar last week and the folks in a couple of houses down just got 4 Guinea Hens that are roaming into everyone’s property.  So to say that she’s been distracted may have something to do with all of this!

Anyway, here’s what we’re working on as well as our goals:

1.  Board/running contacts – we took the week off since I was trying to figure out the best way to raise it up again.  I decided to just add longer pieces of pvc to the stand and hope that it was still sturdy enough.  So yesterday I cut some longer pieces and ended up raising the board 8″ so we’re now at 32″ yeah!!  It still needs to go up another 16″ before it’s regulation which hopefully I can used this stand to get it up another 8″ and then transition to my new dog walk.  The other option once she’s comfortable at this height is to force myself, despite all of my triathlon training, to get out to PBH several times and use a lowered dog walk, like 40″, for several sessions and then transition to my full-height dog walk.  We used the new height this morning for the first time.  She’s been working for her breakfast for the past month and often her dinner as well.  As is typical, she is slow and calculating the first few reps at a new height and then gets her rhythm and starts rippin’ 🙂

2.  Weaves – we’ve gone through all the steps of Mary Ellen Barry’s twist on 2×2’s and she is now able to do 6 straight poles at any entry angle.  I videoed her last session where we got the 6 poles and worked on adding handler movement.  Her footwork is not good and she seems to be watching me when I’m walking next to her despite me throwing her reward.  So I’ve decided that this is a good time for her to start Joe Canova’s program as well.  We started at 6″ with her this morning as well.  Please excuse my butt being right in the camera for the first few reps!  It’s a great video because you can see her figure it out.  At first she was trying to do the poles like they were 2×2’s and was thrown off.  I had to start by straddling the poles really close to her, but quickly progressed to doing the full recall plus some work on the sides.  Miles had done this program before and he’s just more seasoned in general, so her progress is going to be much slower than his if you watch them back to back.  The first video is her last session of 2×2’s followed by her first session with channel weaves.

3.  Teeter – she’s now doing it unassisted as of Thursday!  I’ve been decreasing the amount of time I was holding the board until I was pretty much not holding it at all, but just waiting until I felt her weight on the board so I knew it was time.  I would like to see her driving more to the end, but that may come with more experience.  She’s certainly not bothered by it at all!  I will continue to work on this in different sequences.

4.  Handling – doing great, but really need to work on speed and driving ahead of me.  Melanie thinks that she thinks she’s not supposed to go past me which very well may be the case.  I think it’s probably a combination of that plus lack of confidence in her job.  I don’t think she’s totally sure what she’s supposed to be doing with the jumps yet…and maybe that’s because I’ve never been totally sure what I’m doing starting with the cones many moons ago.  One thing’s for sure, she *loves* to turn and to wrap those standards really tightly!  That’s definitely a product of her foundation work with the cones.  What I think I need to do is to start rewarding her for going straight and driving ahead.  I stopped using a toy in practice with her because it seemed I was losing her more often that way.  She was drivier with a toy, but more thoughful with food.  I think I need to reintroduce toys into our handling training.  My plan is to start setting up some jump grids and work on getting her to extend more and go straight ahead to either a food container or a thrown toy.  I’m also going to incorporate some of the exercises I did in a “speed ’em up” class that I did with Miles last summer.  The great news is, I’m assisting that class next session so I’ll be able to have first hand knowledge of what to do, yay!  Also, Rue has “graduated” out of her foundation class, “Focus and Motivation Stations” and will be taking a handling course with just jumps and tunnels next session.  She’s going to be 1yr old on Monday, wow!

That’s it for now……

Training update 6/14/09

We had a great weekend off from trialing.  I think Miles enjoyed “being a dog” by going hiking twice, being a lazy slob in the house, and doing some training here and there.  Yesterday I met up with a couple of friends and built the Large Team Standard course from the FCI World Championships from last year.  We all had a blast running this course!  Miles had a couple of little issues the first time through, but generally ran very well. 

Miss Rue is blowing my mind!  Since we were out at PBH I figured I would work on a couple of things that I don’t normally have access to or just don’t take the time to do at home.  I worked on rewarding her for her head being low coming out of the chute as she’s come out almost leaping in the air before and I don’t want her to injure herself.  She seemed to get that very quickly.  I also lowered the jump bars to 16″ and “walk handled” most of the course (except for the contacts and weaves).  After walk handling, we ran it and the little miss did fantastic!  It’s unreal how well she understands what I want her to do…serps, pinwheels, and threadles are no issue for her.  I did also take the time to work on our rear cross which I think she’s finally getting, sweet!  Oh and one of my friends helped to restrain her for some teeter work which I’m dropping from full-height and decreasing the amount of time that I’m holding the board.

Rue was very busy because also over the course of the weekend, she can now weave 4 straight poles and is allowing me to do rear crosses, front crosses, and pushes!  I only added the second set of 2×2’s on Friday night!  I will add another 2×2 in front of the 4 poles this evening 🙂  I’m actually using a little twist on Susan Garrett’s method and instead following something that Mary Ellen Barry published in the April issue of Clean Run Magazine.  I retrained Miles with SG’s method last Summer and really liked it, but wanted to try this out for fun.  I’m amazed at just how fast she’s learning.  Here’s her latest video:

Her board has still been at 24″ for the weekend, but I changed her approach.  She’s now getting on the board by way of another 2×12 that’s 6′ long which is less of an angle from what I had with the 3×4′ board.  I didn’t want to increase the height and change the board all at once, but she’s now had two very successful sessions with the new set-up so I’ll need to raise it up again tonight.  In the last two raises we’ve gone up 6″ and 8″ respectively.  I plan on going up about that same amount again this time.  I think I’ve also convinced my husband that I *need* to buy a real dogwalk!  Here she is from her first attempt at the new set up yesterday.  A little slow on the first rep because I think she’s figuring it out then she just flies!

Oh and a photo of what this contraption looks like now:

DSC00064

Rue board 6/7/09

Here’s a clip from Rue’s board session last night.  This was her third attempt at 24″ and she makes it look easy!  Only jumped once and the rest were low multiple foot hits.  I’ve changed my board set-up completely now that it’s higher and added a 3×4′ ramp for her to get up onto the board.  This is working great for now as it’s about at a typical a-frame angle, but I’ll need to attach a longer board if we go up significantly again.  What I love is that we are seeming to be able to raise the board by a bigger and bigger percentage each time.  We spent what seems like eternity at 2-4″ and now we’re just sky rocketing!  I am now at 50% of a normal dogwalk height so the other cool thing is I can start working her on the down ramp of  a lowered dogwalk at PBH 🙂