What I learned from last weekend and what I’m doing about it….

Me:

I’ll start by saying that my mental game is improving, thank goodness.  My friends and I have also decided to have a book club and read “It’s Not Just About The Ribbons”.  We’ll read a chapter per week and then discuss what we learned and how we’ll apply that to our lives.  My book is on order from Amazon–can’t wait!

Another positive realization for me was that I finally feel like the Excellent courses are no longer over my head and are completely doable for Miles.  Not only that, but I’m starting to be able to concentrate on handling paths, yardage, etc. to try to find the fastest and most efficient way to get from Start to Finish.  It feels really good.

I need to continue to come up with my own plans for each course and not let what others are saying influence my decisions for my dog.  It stresses me out to much to constantly listen to others talking about what could go wrong if you do x y z.  Argh.  

I have gotten better about running faster and not babysitting, especially Miles.  I need to continue to work on my timing with him to avoid confusion and/or wide turns.

Miles:

The boy continues to amaze me with his transformation in the last 6mo-1yr.  It really hits home when you can compare his attitude at the same place but separated by about 7 months.  He still has his stressy moments as evidenced by him popping the poles in Standard the first day last weekend, but those are very rare anymore.  Most times he might look at something, but continues to work without losing focus and speed.  I find that he’s noticing things less and less though.  Further, he seems to be almost completely unaffected by the photographer now.  I haven’t seen any pictures of him lately where he’s looking at the camera, sweet!  He’s also allowing me to leave him in a short lead out without it affecting his speed off the line.  This is HUGE.  He has also not had a teeter refusal since the Concord trial in July.

What’s getting us still is speed, especially in Standard.  He’s just still not that competetive with his times and I know he’s still not as fast overall in trials as he is in training, but we’re getting there.  In competition, his striding is pretty good, but he does still add some unnecessary strides in some places.  My timing could definitely be better so that we avoid really wide turns.  Mostly his biggest time wasters are the table (when it’s a down), the weaves, and the dogwalk.

His table is all stress related as it’s a break in the action and he has a chance to think about his surroundings.  I have to remember to tell him “down” as he’s getting on the table before I lose his concentration.  Generally this gets better as the weekend progresses.  I don’t really have a definite plan here…maybe do some foundational table stuff with him that he never got when he was learning.  Of note, he offers a very quick down almost automatically in practice and sometimes even offers to do the table before we start a sequence if it’s close by.  Having said that, I point more of his issue to plain stress versus a “table issue”. 

With the dogwalk, I’m toying a bit with the idea of a retrain to running.  Not sure that I’ll do it, but I’d love to find a way to motivate him to canter the entire length of it.  It’s tempting though because since switching to the modified running a-frame, his speed and confidence has skyrocketed.  Instead of site-seeing from the top, he’s flying over the apex and frequently giving me a 3 strided frame.  As for the dogwalk, in training he’s typically cantering until the downramp and then trots into 2o/2o.  In trials, usually he ends up trotting the middle and end planks and then *sometimes* stops in his 2o/2o.  I’ve been bad about early releasing him, but he’s also self released before due to stress, so at least I feel like if I say it’s okay to break then at least he’s not making that decision.  He’s still 100% stopped in practice.  I may try varying the time that I leave him in his end position in practice to build drive by keeping him guessing.  I find that 2o/2o contacts really only work well if the dog is motivated to get to the next obstacle.  He certainly is during practice, but a bit less so during a trial.  I’m hoping that building a little more intensity into the 2o/2o in training might help with speed.  If not, Silvia Trkman’s coming to PBH next month and both dogs are signed up for her contacts/weaves seminar 😉

And speaking of the weaves, ugh.  I’ve just about given up on getting this dog to single-stride.  We’ve been through several retrains with 2×2’s and the channels.  I cut the poles way down to 20″ tall in order to encourage a lower head position which that definitely did help with.  I also purchased 24″ weaves a few months ago, but still no effect on his striding.  I can say that since the last retrain this Summer, his entries are way more accurate on the soft side, his head position is lower, his speed has increased, and he’s much more independent with regard to my motion and lateral distance.  I don’t know that he’ll ever single step and I have to wonder if it’s uncomfortable for him with his mild elbow dysplasia??  I have a set of 6 knuckles that can convert straight poles to a weave-a-matic style, so I may try those during the winter break.

Rue:

I’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster regarding the lil’ one over this past week.  Don’t get me wrong, she is doing a phenomenal job considering her age and the short time in which we’ve been sequencing obstacles.  She’s one smart turkey, but she’s starting to really show her lack of confidence in trials.  Obviously, she’s a baby dog and there is a lot of new stuff that she’s trying to process out there, but I want to make sure she’s happy and having fun. 

She’s very accurate and wants to be right both for herself and I’m starting to see glimpses that she wants to be right for me too 🙂  Her speed has me concerned…not really her speed so much as the trotting on course.  I don’t mind if she’s slower right now in trials than she is in practice, but watching her trot makes me sad.  Most times it’s only for an obstacle or two in the beginning, but still.  Granted, I’m very pleased that she is able to break out of the trot and open up for me as I’m sure a lot of dogs would trot the whole way if that’s the way they started out on course.

Her motivation level is also something that I’ve struggled with on and off for a while.  It’s been very difficult finding something or some way to really rev her up.  One day it will be a tug toy that’s the best thing in the world and another day she’ll wonder what’s in it for her if she plays with it.  Same thing with food.  Further, what works indoors can frequently fizzle out when outdoors.  For instance, I can turn her on just by looking at her a certain way inside, but outside where there may be hunting to do??  Forget it.  I have to work MUCH harder to find that on switch.  I’m not complaining, just something we have to continue to work through.

Another observation that I’ve made is that when it comes to practicing and sequencing, she’ll often slow down and show less enthusiasm if there is someone in the ring acting like a judge or an instructor.  I’m fairly certain it’s because she’s conflicted between visiting that person and working with me, so she slows down in order deal.  This is something that I can certainly help her work through in practice both at home and in class, which is nice.

I’m not convinced that trialing her right now is a bad thing because she seems to be improving at each trial as evidenced by her yps, particularly in the JWW runs.  However, I will have no problem pulling her from the few she is entered in if I start to see the trend going in the opposite direction.  That being said, I know I need to continue to expose her to many different places and situations as well as moderate how and with whom I’m practicing. 

I’m planning to take her for a few more drop-in classes at different facilities for varied equipment and environmental exposure.  I’ll also try to get her out to different run-throughs when possible.  While there, I will vary between easy courses/high distraction and hard courses/low distraction as well as what’s in between.  Just this week, we went to an Open/Excellent drop-in class at Bon-Clyde and had a FANTASTIC time. 

Here’s how it went:  The first run was an 18 obstacle course and I just wanted to see what happened so I treated it like a trial.  She was way faster than she is in a trial, but was about the speed she is in class when the instructor is close and adding pressure.  Her weaves were pretty slow, but her dogwalk was quite nice and the rest was cantering and accurate.  The second run was 7 obstacles and I brought food in and stopped to reward after her painfully slow weaves and then again at the end before running out to jackpot.  She popped out of the poles to visit another dog, but very quickly came back and re-attempted the weaves.  Our third run was again a short sequence and I used…..her bunny tug.  She was soooo crazy!  I’m still in awe of how fast she ran off the line.  Yet she was still able to focus on what I was telling her to do, kept all the bars up and had a sick dogwalk with a really low 3 paw hit that I rewarded with tugging and then stole the tug again and finished the sequence followed by more tugging and then I let her win the toy.  We left the ring and I gave her meatballs 🙂  I’d say that was a very successful training session!  The unfortunate thing is I’m not sure how I’ll reproduce it, but I’ll sure try!

We’re signed up for a drop-in at another local center next week for more exposures.  In the meantime, something else that I’m going to play around with is being a little more sloppy in my handling.  It has come to my attention that I may be giving Rue too many turning cues too early and that could be a big factor that’s slowing her down.  I’m going to go back through Linda Mecklenburg’s book and work on just trying to turn her on the flat and give her as many extension cues as I can over jumps.  I tried it in class last night and it for sure made a difference in her speed and enthusiasm.  I’m excited to see what happens this weekend!

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3 thoughts on “What I learned from last weekend and what I’m doing about it….

  1. Kristin, one thing that gets Emma really jazzed is the zig-zag exercise that Linda wrote about in Clean Run. It’s designed to teach convergence and to help the dog look for obstacles when you progress through all the steps, but I think if you leave the jumps in their original positions you might be able to use it as a forward, fun, fast exercise for Rue. With Emma, in sequencing session I need to be sure to mix in some extension work to let her “yahoo” a little bit because her she takes control very seriously, and her personality needs it.

    I an sure you will see more confidence with her if you are careful not to give any turning cues on the approach. Just be sure your turns on the flat are all solid so that you can use them in motion on course. The baby dog handling requires a different kind of analysis and handling than you’re used to doing now with Miles, but I know you’ll be able to switch back and forth.

    I have a ring rental tomorrow and need to decide what I want to work on tonight!

  2. Ohhhh, thanks for the tip! Do you remember what month(s) that was in? I remember reading it, but never did any of the exercises.

    I’m very excited to see how she does this weekend with our “new” handling. She seemed to really speed up in practice when I handled her like that.

    At home, she’s very confident with pre-cues and the like, but I think she just needs extra forward cues when outside of her comfort zone to keep her happy and speedy 🙂

    Have fun this weekend…
    Kristin

    • Kristin, the zig zag exercise is in April and May 2009. It actually takes a while to get through if you do it properly step by step. I haven’t made it into the stuff covered in the May issue. It’s not designed to motivate dogs, but I did notice that Emma seems to LOVE it, so I thought I would mention it to you. I’m curious to hear how Rue does with it. I intend to continue working on it and will try to tape some sessions.

      You may be interested to hear that Linda doesn’t start using turning cues on the approach to obstacles until her dogs reach Excellent. She talked a lot about this a lot at the forum and at the Basic Skills camp I attended. Most dogs aren’t ready for it until then. She also is very careful to start out using forward sends only, no lateral sends, as forward sends are much easier to finesse if the dog doesn’t read them properly.

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