Training update 8/31/09

Rue and I have been busy working on our turns off of the dogwalk and I think we might be getting somewhere!  I’ve been solely working on this using our board contraption and so far I’ve been able to progress to the jumps being at about a 45 degree angle from the end of the ramp.  I’m now just working on turns to the left and have slowly made the jump parallel to the board, but in the same position as it was in at the 45 degree angle.  I will now slowly bring it closer back towards the board and then eventually start rotating it perpendicular to the end of the board like a 180.  From there I will bring it further and further back.  From Silvia Trkman’s blog:

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I also intermix a “go go” command so that she can start learning the difference in verbals as well as my location/decel/converge/diverge for turns versus straight exits.  I haven’t gotten any video of this process yet, but plan to do this soon! 

Otherwise, we’ve been working on handling various sequences.  I also reintroduced some walk handling as I really like what it does for both of their understanding and obstacle independence.  I don’t give any obstacle commands, the dog takes what I’m indicating with body position and turning cues.  Rue was raised with this foundation, but it’s still fairly new for Mr. Miles as you’ll tell from the videos.  Here are two short videos of walk handling:

We also went to Friday night run-throughs at our club where they had an Advanced Standard course set up.  I ran both dogs at 22″, but since I got there late I didn’t have time to walk the course except once during the jump height change for 22″!  I ran Miles first since he’s much more forgiving of my blunders 😉  He did well, but our turn was kinda wild with some wide turns and a dropped bar due to late cues on my part.  I got it together for Rue’s run and she did fantastic!!  She was a bit slow on the dogwalk, but cantered the whole thing.  Unfortunately, her stride was shortened so her hit was pretty high.  I did go back and just work the dw after our turn and she gained more speed and had better hits.  I’m pretty sure it was due to there being a tunnel under the up ramp as she deliberately looked down at it on her way up.  It was also dark out and misty so the contacts were slightly damp (not slippery though).

That’s all for now.  Miles and I have 3 days of USDAA on our home turf this weekend!

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Dogwalks

Rue and I had our private lesson Sunday morning regarding her running dogwalk.  The lesson was held at a new place for her and was on a new dogwalk which led to some confidence issues and an overall slower performance.  Right now my instructor thinks that I need to not be as concerned with speed and striding on the dogwalk, but instead just focusing on rewarding good hits.  She needs to know that no matter what she does on the dogwalk that what’s important is that yellow piece at the bottom and that she can adjust her striding to hit it no matter what she does leading up to the down ramp.

So the plan for now is to simply work on turns after the dogwalk by gradually moving a jump along the exit arc starting with turns towards me and then eventually turns away.  As slow as she was at her private, she certainly had all but 1 perfect hit!  Most of her stress was on the middle plank as that’s where she trotted, but she did adjust to gallop down and hit well.  I do agree that for Rue, speed comes with understanding and confidence.  And in the end, if I push her for speed now it’s just going to stress her out more which is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. 

Here are my latest sessions at home.  Here she’s showing great confidence and drive across the dogwalk and her hits are worse.  Only a couple of misses, but I am not rewarding high hits.  In our first session, her success rate wasn’t very high so I spent most of the time varying my position and what I said to her to see what made the difference.  I also tried just starting her at the dogwalk vs sending her through a tunnel to start.  That didn’t seem to make much of a difference, and I couldn’t really tell much of difference in this session if I hung back and ran with her or if I was ahead of her.  I think I moved the jump too far too quickly as well….

Our next session was much more successful.  I started with just jump standards directly in front of the down ramp and placed her food target just past the standards so that I could get a baseline and build on success.  I then quickly put the bar on and removed the lure and her hits remained good.  So I moved the jump to the 1 o’clock position without a lure and her hits started to degrade.  Her last 2 reps I put her food lure back and she hit well.  I think I’m just going to have to go slowly with this and make sure that her success rate is high enough before moving the jump further.

I think what I may do is put her board contraption back out and work on turns with that so that I’m able to move my dogwalk around and set up different courses for Miles to use.  I can also do sequencing with Rue on the dogwalk as well, but keep the turn teaching to the board for now.  We’ll see how that goes…..

Here’s a little clip of Rue running a standard course from this year’s European Open competition that we set up for our club’s Friday night run-throughs.  I thought she did just brilliantly!  I unfortunately pushed her into an incorrect weave entry, but I was proud of her for allowing me to restart her without stressing her out 🙂  Her first dogwalk performance was a total leap, but her second was a beautiful low hit and a gorgeous turn into the chute!

Dogwalk and handling revisited 8/19/09

I think I’ve figured out at least part of the issues we were having in class last week.  Rue seems to be conflicted if there are dogs nearby or if someone is standing close or behind her while she’s working.  Since that class, I haven’t seen any issues with our handling and her speed except for a minor glimmer last night when our instructor was standing behind her at the startline.  She still performed really well, but there was a brief moment reminiscent of last week there. 

It’s also interesting that she is happy to tug and work with me for the tug at home in the grassy area of our yard, but if I bring her into the agility area tugging is too much pressure.  Weird, huh?  I can literally be tugging with her outside, then go into the area and lose her and then go back out and reingage her.  Guess I’m going to have to ping pong that and see if I can get her motivated to tug inside the agility area.  I think it’s quite helpful actually that I can reproduce her tugging stress at home as this can only help us elsewhere!  It also may not have anything to do with that area, but maybe more with what we’ve done in there in the past or what I’m about to do.  For example, perhaps I’ve inadvertantly put too much pressure on her in the ring by asking for things that she was unsure of whereas outside of the ring we’ve done more simple things (ie. jump grids, jump/tunnel sequences, board work, beginning channel weaves, etc.).  Inside the ring I’ve probably asked for either more sequencing, longer sequencing, or tougher training (ie. teeter, dogwalk, weave sequences, etc.).  Further, she *never* leaves me when working outside of that area, but inside she’ll frequently go off and eat weeds or do some other kind of displacement behavior.  My plan is to make easier training plans for use inside the ring and see if I can eventually work up to using toys.  In the meantime, I will try to make some more difficult exercise outside of the ring and see if she maintains her tug drive there.  It’s not that I *need* her to tug, but I do think it’s a really good guage on how confident she’s feeling and in the end, tugging really does excite her more than food 🙂

Here’s us working on a sequence over the weekend in the grassy area of our yard.  You can see how excited and drivey she is with the tug toy.

Alternatively, here we are working on weaves in a simple sequence using food inside the ring.  You can see her displace to weed eating in the beginning until she gained confidence.

Last night in class we did some sequences based off of one of this year’s EO Jumpers courses. 

I’m really digging the international style and both of my dogs really seem to like it too.  Good news is I get to run the actual course tonight in Miles’ Masters class 🙂  Anyway, Rue was amazing!  If I could have videoed it I’d say she looked like she did in the first video above.  Confident, fast, extended, and happy.  I did not have a chance to work on toy play during class last night as there were very few students so there wasn’t much down time.  I am hosting our club’s run-throughs this Friday so I will get a chance to play with her then and also run both dogs on the course.  Hopefully I can convince someone to tape us!

On the flip side, the running contacts stuff is frustrating me.  I went back to a food lure with a macaroni tunnel start and put tape at the 30″ mark.  She was PERFECT!  Nice and low hits every single time. 

So I tried the tunnel dogwalk tunnel game and it started to fall apart again.  Leaping from high in the contact or missing it all together.  Granted I did put a jump in between one of the tunnels and the dogwalk and it was at a slight angle…maybe 30 degrees.  Interestingly, her hits with the turn and jump were way better than the hits on the tunnel only end.  Even if I tried to really cue extension and tell her “go tunnel” while on the middle plank, she was leaping off of the down ramp 😦  I also tried taking the tunnel away and putting another turn in at that end, but that didn’t work either.  So back to the food lure I went and gradually her hits improved.  Sigh.  We have a private lesson on Friday before the run-throughs and it will be totally devoted to the dogwalk.  I think I really need a good systematic approach to this thing…what to change first, etc.  Thankfully, when I go back to the food lure, she’s able to easily get back to her nice hits so I know all the training didn’t just go away, but just gets muddied when I try to change something.

Tarheel Weimaraner Club AKC trial Sanford, NC 8/16/09

A quick trial run-down from the weekend.  We got drawn for one run on Sunday only, but it happened to be what we needed most…Exc. A Standard so I was very excited that I got in for that!  I convinced my husband to go with me since it was only one run and I thought it wouldn’t take forever…ha!  We were there for almost 2.5hrs before I ran and we got there as they were building the course, gah.  What’s worse is Doug somehow missed our run completely because he was confused and didn’t realize that I was taking Miles into the ring a different way after warming him up and he was waiting for us to come back through the other way 😦

Enough about that anyway.  The course was really tough…the most difficult course that I’ve ever seen in a trial.  I kept watching the small dogs trying to figure out how to handle the opening as it was going to be really tough without a leadout.  Miles will stay, but it’s very stressful for him so 99.9% of the time I start with him.  I obsessed about the opening all the way up to the big dog walkthrough and then through the walkthrough and through the 20″ dogs.  I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do for sure until I stepped to the line.  Honestly I have to say that my mental game has greatly improved in that respect.  I knew that I needed to do what was best for my dog and not what was going to be the flashiest or the fastest, so we started together 🙂  That unfortunately made me have to do 2 rears in the opening including a rear at the teeter.  I was definitely a bit concerned about that, but we’ve done it in practice 100s of times and he’s comfortable at this facility so we went for it and he was totally fine with it!  The rest went by perfectly despite my inattention to it in the walk through and we came in 1st for our first leg towards our AX!

Gosh I really wish there was video of this run because it really was a great one!  Not only was the opening brilliant, but he layed down immediately on the table and allowed me to lead out a bit from there, he had an awesome weave entry that I rear crossed and he continued to weave into the corner (something that would have been very demotivating for him in the past), had great contacts, and read my pushes very well twice 🙂  I’ll try to scan the course map later today….

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Up next:  USDAA on our home turf over Labor Day, another local USDAA trial the following weekend then one day of AKC locally at the end of September (also should be Rue’s debut if things are going well).  Following that, back-to-back AKC for all of October….YAHOO!!

Rue training update 8/14/09

Whew, it’s been a while!  Life’s been just a bit crazy since getting back from vacation and am finally getting time to update everyone on what Rue has been up to 🙂

Dogwalk: 

Had a bit of a set back right before vacation due to some confusion between it and the teeter.  I want a stop on the teeter and her dogwalk is running, so after working on the teeter stop she started getting confused as to criteria on the dogwalk.  She started slowing down and changing her striding to almost walking down the down ramp 😦  Here’s a video taken of the dogwalk right after a teeter session….

So I went back to her board to try to just build drive back there and then progressed back to the dogwalk and started from square one….

I then progressed to adding the dogwalk into sequences and started getting some really poor hits.  I don’t know whether there’s still an element of confusion on her part or if she’s now realizing that we don’t always go straight off the dogwalk and to our food target or what.  I also know that I’d been rewarding any hits in yellow regardless of how good they were and unfortunately she’s trended towards leaping and just getting her rear feet high in the yellow.  I’m trying some different things to get her confidence back and her striding back as it seems she’s still possibly in conflict on the down ramp.  Here’s recent video of us playing the tunnel-dogwalk-tunnel game to work on speed and confidence.  Low hits were rewarded with food,  verbal rewards were used to mark other hits, and no reward was used for misses.

Here are some videos shot last night at Bon-Clyde, and indoor facility that we rented.  The contacts get VERY slippery here due to the sand.  She’s fallen off of this dogwalk before, so she’s a bit slow to start.

My plans at this point are to go back to the food target for a few sessions and add tape at the 30″ mark on the contact.  That was where my mark was on her board and I think that *I* need that in order to be more consistent in my criteria.  I’d like to see her trending back to the nice low and consistent hits I was getting before the teeter confusion.  More to come….

Teeter:

Finally mastered the stopped contact!  She’s now very reliable stopping at the end, but I still need to work on building value for the release as I occasionally lose her focus at that point.

Not understanding the stop –

Teaching the stop with the bang game –

Showing her mastery of it in a short sequence last night – and

Weaves:

She is now proficient on 12 straight poles with a wide variety of approach and exit angles as well as with different crosses before and after.  Her speed comes and goes with her comfort level and level of understanding and motivation.  In the above videos she’s a little slow and a bit tentative with her striding which may have been the surface or just the fact that it is a new location for her.  At home she’s one speedy little weaver!  As with everything, I know she’ll get faster as her confidence increases.  I’m also excited to add that I’m getting a set of 24″ weave poles this weekend, yeah!!  My poles at home are only 20″, so this will be a huge difference.  I hope it will allow both dogs to stretch out more and get more comfortable single-stepping.  Plus it’s WAY better on their bodies 🙂

A-frame:

Boy I’m just adding so much equipment lately!  One of my friends ended up moving to an apartment and offered me her a-frame which I graciously accepted and picked up last weekend.  I started Rue on it right away and set the apex to about 4 1/2 feet tall.  We did about 6 reps and that height then raised it up to about 4’10”, did several reps and then moved up to about 5’2″.  She’s now at full height and showing great form, so I’m pretty much done with that except for in sequence now, yeah!!

Sequencing/Handling:

For the last four weeks we’ve been taking a class called “Jumps and Tunnels” which is a sequencing class for beginner dogs.  There are no contacts/weaves/table in these sequences and they’re all relatively short.  We have been doing a lot of walk handling in this class as well as running the sequences.  Rue has typically been very very proficient at these exercises.  We had sort of a bad night this week where she just did not seem to be motivated at all.  I felt like I was dragging her around the course.  Part of that was because I was trying to use a tug as her reward and I think that put too much pressure on her and she just shut down.  Once I went back to food, she did better.  We’ve struggled with speed, drive and motivation since the very beginning especially when it came to any handling.  I won’t be putting that kind of pressure on her in class again, but I intend to work on toy play during class time just not as a reward for sequencing yet.  At home, she loves toys and will happilly tug as a reward.  I’ve had a few amazing sessions in the last 2 nights both at home and at Bon-Clyde.  I have some ideas now on what I need to do for her, so we’ll see how this plays out.  I did go ahead and enter her in a local AKC trial on 9/25 for JWW and Standard.  If we’re not ready, then I’ll pull her but I’m hopeful that we’ll have fun!

Here are a couple of sequencing videos…the first is at home and the second was at her very first Show ‘n Go at a facility brand new to her. 

BTCA AKC Trial Sanford, NC 8/1,2/09 – Miles earns his AXJ!

I definitely felt a little rusty going in to this trial.  Miles and I had not trialed since Concord the first weekend in July and really hadn’t done much sequencing work due to missed classes and being on vacation.  On Tuesday night before the trial, I did manage to force myself down to Bon-Clyde (same place as this trial) for a drop-in class and I’m SO glad I did.  Not only did we have some dust to blow off of our handling, but Miles got to work through a minor teeter issue.  Both were invaluable experiences!  On top of that, I got the opportunity after class to work Rue on the dogwalk.  That was really fun and very important for her to do.  She’d only ever been on my dogwalk and one of the dogwalks at PBH, so to get on new equipment and especially with the sand surface was crucial.  Her hits were all perfect to top it all off 🙂

So despite that, I was still feeling odd heading down to the trial on Saturday morning.  Plus we had moved up to Excellent Standard and I knew that class was first, so that created a bit of anxiety as well.  However, as soon as we got there, those feelings abated.  The course was fantastic with lots of flow and not too squished in.  I planned the beginning with having Miles on my left over the dogwalk to use me as a buffer between him and the crowd which worked great.  He did sneak a peak at the judge, but didn’t slow down.  All was going great until I miscued a turn after the tire and then he decided to look at something and misjudged his take off and knocked the first bar of the double.  The sand surface certainly doesn’t help in those situations either as it’s definitely tougher to correct a poor jumping attempt than it would be on a better surface.  The remainder was fantastic and he had a great weave entry with good speed.  I can tell his head is lower in the poles too…yay for all the work I’ve been doing with the baby poles 🙂

Next we had Excellent JWW and I only needed one more leg for our AXJ.  I thought the course looked great and I made a good plan.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t prepared for the rocket speed that Miles brought out for this run and I fell behind by the 4th obstacle and never did catch up!  I should have changed my plan and gone for a rear, but busted it to try to make the front cross.  Well I made the front but when I finished my rotation I was right up against the jump….oops.  That caused Miles to go around the jump earning a refusal, dang it!  But we finished strong and again had another amazing weave entry!  No video for this run…somehow there was a technical failure 😦 

On Sunday, the schedule was reversed so we started with JWW.  By now I really really wanted that Q so I chose to handle a little more conservatively and chose rears in several spots that I probably could have pushed for a FC.  It was a tight course with lots of room for errors in my big striding dog, so I felt this was the safest, albeit slower option.  Well it worked and we turned in a 5yps time for a 1st place and our AXJ!!

Last was Standard.  It looked fun with a couple of tricks, but I was feeling confident that I had a good plan.  Again I chose to start with him on my left to buffer the dogwalk which forced me to have to push out to the poles and then push again to get the tunnel entry.  I thought it might be risky, but I would rather risk that then him getting a refusal on the dogwalk from croud pressure.  Well, it worked great.  I could tell the monkey wasn’t going to stop in his 2o/2o so I just drove in to push and he brilliantly hit the weaves!  Then I had to go and mess it up by telling him “Milesy go box” as he was taking off for the panel jump and caused a dropped panel.  Argh.  Everything else was great except I messed up on my push off of the teeter and we couldn’t quite get the tire, but in any case I was most pleased.  I thought this was the best he’s ever run a Standard course to date.  Very fast and happy and confident.

So we were 1/4 this weekend, but I couldn’t really ask for anything more from my formerly indoor phobic, teeter phobic doggy!  He really was amazing and I have no doubt that we’ll get these Q’s quickly now that we’re in sync again 🙂  Plus we got the most important Q we needed for our AXJ.  One thing I learned from this weekend is that it seems that Miles goes fastest if I give him minimal warm up time and pretty much take him from his crate to potty then have enough time to do a few tricks before entering the ring.  Something to experiment with for sure.  So now I just need to gather up my Standard Q’s in short order so that we can start trying for the 6 QQ’s needed for Nationals.  We don’t have a ton of time and I’m totally fine with not qualifying, but I thought it would be a fun goal to see if we could achieve it this year.  If not, there’s PLENTY of time next year 🙂

Up next:  Show and Go locally to run Rue and maybe Miles this Saturday.  Then I managed to get 1 Excellent A Standard run by random draw back down at Bon-Clyde in 2 weeks!