BRAC AKC trial 1/22-24/10: Rue earns her AXJ and Miles nabs his 4th QQ!!

Last weekend we headed out to Asheville for one of my favorite agility trials in one of my favorite cities.  It’s held indoors on dirt with 2 rings and I was certainly curious to see what Mr. Miles thought of it after the 3-ring circus of the preceding weekend.  All week he had been acting totally normally and was his typical crazy self in his Tuesday night class.  He had a great experience at this trial site last May, so I was hopeful for a good weekend.  I headed out Thursday afternoon in time to set up and hit the B-match.  Both dogs did one 90sec run and they had a blast.  Miles did 2 successful teeters, but thought about the 3rd one.  Otherwise he was brilliant.  Lil’ Rue had a blast chasing me with her bunny fur tug while we avoided the teeter and hit every other obstacle 🙂  Melanie and I then celebrated by going out to Doc Chey’s noodle house downtown.

Friday:

After a less-than-restful sleep (Rue was too excited by the fact that there were 4 other dogs in the room, hehe) we arose at 6am to get ready for the day.  Tall-small today with Exc. JWW first.  The course looked fun and Miles was the first 24″ dog.  We did our typical warm up and headed to the line.  Unfortunately, I didn’t support the 2nd jump and earned us a refusal.  Miles turned out a pretty decent run otherwise despite some sightseeing.

Rue faired better with the 2nd jump, but took the wrong end of the tunnel.  I honestly thought she’d probably do that, but was mainly focused on just keeping her running so didn’t do much other than run at the tunnel.  If I had rotated for a FC, she would have nailed it, but again I didn’t want to slow her down.  Just wanted a fast and fun first run for the weekend 🙂

The Exc. Standard course was very fun.  The opening was very similar to JWW, so I knew I needed to make it a point of supporting the 2nd obstacle better for Miles.  He had a great run, but got called for the up on the teeter.  He kind of turned wide and I *think* thought about refusing it, but then got on from the side above the yellow.  The rest of the run was fabulous.  A little slow on his table, but not horrible.

I pulled Rue from all Standard runs this weekend to give ourselves more time for her teeter retrain.

Last run of the day for us was Open FAST.  I planned two different courses for the dogs.  I wanted to test M on the teeter a bit and also wanted to try a 90 degree soft side weave entry with a rear-cross.  Pretty ambitious, but he handles those fine in training.  Well he had a great teeter and hit his entry, but then spaced out for a second and didn’t wrap back into the poles.  I restarted him, but then he popped out at pole 10, so we just went on.  He handled the gamble like a champ and we got just enough points for a Q and his first OF leg.

I actually planned a totally different course for Rue than the one I ran.  There was an AKC rep at the trial and he decided that the gamble line needed to be moved out which changed my whole plan for her.  I didn’t have much time to walk a new one, so I just kind of winged it.  Again just going for speed with her…I wanted to give her several opportunities to chase me (she loves that) and I wanted to give her the chance to get on her favorite obstacle, the aframe.  I think she had a blast in this run!  Look at how much speed she picks up both when I push on her line out of the first tunnel and again after I leave her after the frame.  She got her first OF leg and her picture in the Asheville Citizen Times for this run 🙂

I left the trial site around 4pm as they were getting ready to run Excellent FAST to go back the hotel, work out on the elliptical trainer and shower before meeting several folks for dinner at a local Thai restaurant.  The food was great and the converstation was even better 🙂

Saturday:

A bit more of a restful sleep and Small-Tall today, but still up at 6am with Melanie as she has 2 dogs in the 16″ class.  I headed to the trial site around 7:40 for the obsessive walk-through and then took myself for a 9 mile run in the foggy mountain air.  I got back in time to watch the 16″ dogs tackle JWW which helped to solidify my plan for my pups.  I walked the course again a few more times and then had to wait for the large 20″ class to be nearly over before Rue’s turn.  She handled this course amazingly well and again really accelerated when I pushed in on her line off the start.  I need to remember to go in a support her more in pinwheels and such.  She has no problem sending out to obstacles, but she’ll slow down if I’m not driving into them with her.  She was decently fast off the line with this run too 🙂 This made her 2nd AXJ leg with a 4th place finish and her best time of 5.2yps!

Miles had a great run going.  He allowed me to take a decent lead out, but I didn’t support two of the jumps after the tunnel well and he went around them.  Again, in training this wouldn’t have been an issue, but obviously in a more stressful indoor venue he needs more support for me.  I keep forgetting that he’s only 4yrs old and just a baby dog too!  However, I must remark that he had gorgeously fast poles in this run and it was actually a 5.9yps run…woot!!

I left after these runs to take a shower and collect myself for Standard.  It was going to be a long day with Excellent FAST predicted to run until 8ish.  So I brought a change of clothes back to the site so that we could all just head to dinner straight from there.

I was excited for Std with Miles because it really looked like a course that we could execute well despite having to go through a box twice, yikes.  I made sure to support and work every obstacle with him and he did fabulously.  Unfortunately he turned wide and ran around the second-to-last jump.  I don’t think that was my fault, but just that he didn’t see it when he landed from the previous jump and I was hauling butt to the finish so he just came with me 😉  He had a fabulous teeter, but was a bit tentative going into the tunnel in the corner due to the photographer.  He recovered from that despite giving them a sideways glance twice on the dogwalk and had a pretty decent down on the table.  Overall I was very pleased with this run. 

I had a conlict between his Standard run and Open FAST, so again didn’t really get a chance to walk the course much.  I came up with the same plan for both dogs for the sake of sanity.  I actually missed both of my runs while doing Standard, so they had to quickly squeeze me in at the end.  This meant that Miles didn’t get much of a break at all and then there was just one dog between him and Rue.  Miles did a fantastic job with the course that I planned and handled the gamble really well.  He got himself 73 points, a 1st place and his second OF leg!  I was super thrilled since he had zero downtime between the runs.  I had to beg for help from a friend to take him out to play fetch while I ran Rue..

Rue’s run was pretty spectacular as well.  I mishandled her weave entry so we had to reattempt them, but otherwise she was fired up.  I got a beautiful blind cross in after her frame, but then called her too hard for the tunnel discrimination in the gamble and she came to me instead of into the close end of the tunnel.  Amazingly she kept working for me, found the right tunnel hole and had a smokin’ finish.  Unfortunately, the refusal cost us the bonus and the Q.  I love how we just ran in the ring and started running the course.  I’m sure that will be difficult to replicate in the future, but she liked it 🙂

I stayed to watch my friends run in Excellent FAST and then we all headed out for some Mexican food before I retired to the room to watch the Duke game.

Sunday:

Finally a decent night’s sleep!  Again, up at 6am and frantically packing up my stuff, showering, and grabbing the essential cup o’ joe before getting to the site.  Today was Tall-Small and it started with Standard.  Miles was again the first 24″ dog and I just knew that today was our day.  He had been doing so well, but just little oopses here and there had been keeping us from the Q.  I was pretty pleased with this run.  He was a bit slow on the dw, but then picked up speed.  He had a gorgeously fast sit on the table and somehow avoided being called for the up on the teeter today.  He again went wide on his turn and hopped on from the side.  Something to be aware of for training, that’s for sure.  He got a Q for this run, 17 MACH points, his 7th MX leg, but no placement.  He came in 5th.

Again, Rue was not entered, so we had a bit of a wait for JWW.  This was a fun course that allowed me to start with both dogs.  Miles did a fantastic job through the box again and turned out a respectable run for MXJ leg #7, 11 MACH points, and QQ #4!!

Lil’ Rue was not as thrilled with this run.  I was admittedly worried that she’d visit the scribe right off the bat with the way the start line was facing.  So I decided to put her on my right which forced a rear at the tunnel, but also opened up a choice b/w the jump and the tunnel off the line.  She definitely is slower and concerned when she’s faced with that and I should have known better.  She released her stress by visiting a ring steward briefly, but I was able to refocus her and burn up the rest of the course.  Thank goodness she was fast for the finish because we squeeked by with a Q and her AXJ title even though she was 4 seconds over time, phew!!  She took 4th again for this run.

Overall, the dogs had a great weekend and I had a ton of fun hanging out in the mountains with friends, both new and old.  We now have a bit of break in trialing.  Miles is entered locally for USDAA just in Perf. Speed Jumping and Perf. Grand Prix on 2/13…hoping for a bye or at least some Q’s to get him fully set for Nationals.  Then we head to Florida for a 4-day Awesome Paws Camp at Wendy Pape’s place with her, Linda M., and Carrie Jones.  On the way back, I’m hitting a 3-day AKC trial in Savannah, GA.

Until then…..

Silvia Trkman Seminar 11/22-23/09

For the past four days, Sivia has been hosting seminars at PBH.  This is her second trip to our club, her first was March of ’08.  I attended her Novice Handling seminar at that time with Miles and the poor guy was so overwhelmed by the auditing crowd and her difficult sequences that he could barely even jump.  What a difference 1 1/2 years can make!  It’s always nice to be able to look back at something like this and remind yourself just how far you’ve come.  Not only have I improved as a handler, but Miles’ improvment in attitude and skill level is just incredible.  This time I signed up for 3 days worth of fun:  Advanced Handling for Miles (wanted to do Masters, but T-day traveling conflicted with that), Contacts and Weaves with both dogs, and Young Dog Experienced Handler for Rue.

All day Sunday was the Adv. Handling seminar.  Silvia actually gave us some pretty difficult European style sequences…I definitely didn’t feel like we weren’t challenged.  Miles really aced all of the sequences and Silvia even said that he was fast, wow!  I think he was the only dog that hit every single weave entry too…and they certainly were some zingers.  Not much else to say about the day really.  It seems the last couple of seminars I’ve been to with Miles (Daisy Peel’s and this one), neither one had much to say about him other than how good he is at following my motion and how I make good handling choices for our team.   He’s such a good boy 🙂  I know I definitely have more work to do with him, but it’s comforting to hear these folks saying such positive things about us. 

We got a 2 hour break after the daytime seminar before returning for the Contacts and Weaves workshop.  I took the dogs for a short woods walk and grabbed a quick bite to eat on my way back to PBH.  Silvia spent some time talking about her methods for teaching running contacts, 2o/2o contacts, and weave poles.  She then wanted to see each dog perform the dogwalk with and without turns in order to figure out what we might need to work on.  Rue was the only dog out of seven with running contacts, so she wanted to see her first.  I was excited to show her off, but also a little concerned as there were folks lined up on both sides of the dogwalk which would definitely add pressure to Rue’s performance.  Amazingly, lil’ Rue came out of her crate ready to play and tugged vigorously with me despite the close proximity of the crowd.  Her dogwalk performance at first was less than full speed, but she she was doing the correct striding although hitting high.  After several more reps, she extended enough to start hitting nice and low and then we showed off some turns.  All in all I thought she did a fantastic job considering the environment.  She worked probably for 10 minutes all for a tug toy, woot!  Miles got to go last and I really wanted to get Sivia’s opinion on his dogwalk and how I could speed it up.  She actually said to me as I brought him out for his turn, “do you have any problems??”, ha!  I explained that I wanted to find ways to increase his speed and ideally get him cantering the length of the obstacle.  She relayed that he actually already was quite fast even though he was trotting.  She said that I could start playing with him on the contact board, like how I started with Rue’s running dogwalk, and see what I get.  If nothing else, it should help his confidence with running on a narrow board.  For the rest of the workshop we were able to pick to work on the aframe, teeter, or weave poles.  I chose to work the teeter with Rue because I wanted Silvia’s opinion on her conflict between that and the dogwalk and whether I should be keeping a stop on the teeter.  Of course, I hoped that Rue would do the teeter at all!  She again was a tugging fool when she came out of her crate and had no issues doing the teeter both alone and with the tunnel to start.  Silvia thought her performance was good…she was driving to a good position on the board and then running off the end.  No need to keep a stop unless I need a place to “catch my breath”, but I think I’m fast enough to be able to handle all running contacts with her 🙂  Rue also showed off her aframe performance and weave poles (both just one rep) and she thought they were great.  With Miles, I again wanted Silvia’s opinion on his teeter.  She suggested that I continue to reward low in practice and also possibly say “contact” while he’s performing it to break his stride just like I do on the dogwalk.  I tried it and it worked 🙂  She also gave me some ideas to try to proof his “running” aframe (running a bit ahead or a bit lateral) so that I might be able to have a little more freedom there.  I left feeling very proud of both dogs, but particularly excited for Rue.  Not only was she able to work through all that pressure, but she did it enthusiastically and for a toy!!

Monday morning I woke up to pouring rain and the prediction that it was going to continue until the afternoon.  This was Rue’s day for handling and I was sad that we’d have the weather obstacle on top of everything else.  Normally she doesn’t mind the rain and has trained with me in it before, but I was curious what she’d think about an agility seminar in the rain…would it be too much pressure?  The fields were already still soupy from the deluge we got two weeks ago, so this was just making things worse.  They moved the equipment to the top of the big ring in order to try to preserve the grass in the “real” agility area.  As is Silvia’s style, the sequences were all quite challenging for baby dogs if not used to the European style….lots of tight turns, threadles, pushing out to the back side of jumps, etc.  I’ve certainly worked on all of these handling moves with Rue, but I can’t say that she finds that kind of thing particularly motivating.  Her first sequence was quite good and she handled it with good speed and had decent dogwalk performances.  She also worked enthusiastically for her tug toy.  I was feeling good about things after that until we tried our second sequence.  This one started with a jump heading towards the dw, but you were to push them to the backside of a jump that the dogs couldn’t see off the startline.  Lil’ Rue seemed a bit put off coming out of her crate…like she didn’t want to step in a puddle (odd), but tugged well for me and ran off the line headed for the dw.  She realized quickly that we weren’t going that way and managed to do the sequence well, but you could tell someone had let the air out of her balloon.  She managed a couple of jumps and then went off to visit the crowd.  On our second attempt she was even slower and again visited the audience after the same jump.  I really think she thought we were going to the dw, then realized she was wrong and then slowed herself down so she would have time to be right.  The added pressure of the surrounding audience, the rain, the mud, and the tug toy didn’t help either.  It was obvious that her interest in the tug was waning, so I switched to food.  She was able to think through the sequence better, but was still slow.  Silvia suggested that I give her lots of rewards for situations like that where there are choices and she needs to follow me.  She needs to learn that following me is rewarding and that she doesn’t need to search for obstacles as much.  Also Rue probably needs more rewards for turns she thinks.  Silvia also suggested that if she’s going slowly to just not run her for that sequence and work Miles instead (like in class) so that Rue only does one speed in agility–fast.  One other idea that Silvia had was that if she wasn’t that into running to maybe start with something that she loves (ie. dogwalk or aframe) several times to get her going and then start adding more sequencing in to “trick” her into running the whole thing faster.  The third sequence was even more abysmal.  It was raining much harder and Rue really didn’t want to come out of her crate at all due to the mud puddles surrounding it.  Once out I did get her interested in a different tug, but as soon as I attempted to start the sequence, she was very slow, took a wrong course, but then sped up for a nice finish over the dogwalk.  Unfortunately when I tried again, she didn’t even run 😦  I tried to get her to play but then she left the ring to pee.  I thought maybe that was her issue, but I never did get her back into wanting to do the sequence.  I got a few jumps out of her and rewarded, but still kept losing her focus.  Silvia suggested that I just have her run back and forth over the aframe, but she was still not very interested, so we ended there.  I’m hoping that a lot of the issues were mostly exacerbated by the heavy rain and muddy conditions.  After lunch, we moved inside the arena to do some jump/tunnel sequences.  I elected to just stick with food for her and much to my surprise she was much happier to run even with the crowd inside and the formerly very distracting wood chips 🙂  The last two sequences we did were not so good though, but I really think she was just fried.  It was a very long day for her with a lot of distractions. 

Overall I think this was an awesome experience for me and the dogs.  Silvia offered some different perspectives and I’m going to just take all of this in for Rue and work on the things that I can work on (ie. turns = fun, only running her when she’s running fast, and/or starting to integrate sequences in after running some dw’s, etc.).  I’m going to continue to use her tug toy as I really think this is the best way to motivate her for speed.  Thankfully we have a bit of a break with Thanksgiving this week, but I am taking her to a drop in indoors somewhere new on Saturday.  I look forward to seeing what we can do there to help her.  I will certainly work Miles if I need to 🙂

Miles is signed up to work in a Masters seminar with Carrie Jones in a couple of weeks, but I think I’ll split the time between both dogs.  Seeing that I don’t seem to get much individual attention when I work Miles, it might make it more worth while to give Rue the opportunity to work in yet another new place with yet another big crowd.  We’ll get there……

 

Moore County Kennel Club AKC trial 10/24-25/09: Miles gets MXJ leg #5!

Miles DKC AKC 9-09 (2)

Another new trial site for us and what a beautiful place!  The trial was held at “Corgi Hill Farm” in Carthage, NC.  The drive there was nice among  beautiful countryside with some gorgeous Fall colors and the site was actually a working farm full of sheep, ducks, and Corgis 🙂  I only entered Miles this weekend because I wasn’t sure what Rue would be doing at the time.  I was a bit sad that I couldn’t run her this weekend, but at the same time judge Tom Slattery had some wicked Standard courses that would have been very tough for her since she just moved up to Excellent.

Saturday:

Warm, humid and raining on and off all day.  Somehow Miles and I managed to avoid the heaviest rain, but some folks weren’t so fortunate.  Of course rain makes Mr. Man that much faster/crazier for some reason.  This was a very small trial with only about 45 Excellent entries and with the weather forcast, there were quite a few scratches.  I was glad that I was slated to be timer for the small dogs since otherwise I would have gotten there a little later and would have missed the combined walkthrough.

Excellent Standard was first to run.  The course wasn’t too bad, but had about 4 discrimination points and at each one you wanted your dog to take the inside obstacle/tunnel hole (our least favorite).  I walked the course about 4 times and came up with an independent plan.  Since doing the goal setting exercise last week, my focus really was speed.  I want to see our Standard course times getting better and ultimately would love to be seeing 4yps consistently.  Once I took my position as timer and started watching some small dogs I realized I walked the course and completely neglected the table, agh.  What the heck??  This isn’t Grand Prix, sigh, why am I so dumb sometimes.  Fortunately, it made sense where it was and I mentally made a plan for it. 

Miles was uber excited to warm up…actually I don’t think he’s ever been this bouncy outside of the ring before.  Seeing that it was a new place and there were two huge tents over the ring entrance that were flapping heavily in the wind gusts, I was most impressed with his exuberance!  As expected, the course ran really fast.  I unfortunately got stuck managing the dw to tunnel entry and couldn’t get in position for my blind before the a-frame which caused a refusal.  Since that NQ’d us, I just pushed him for the rest.  He had an awesome stay on the table where I led out about 15ft, wow!  I failed to indicate the correct tunnel hole after the teeter (which he rode all the way down, yeah) which made the weave entry quite difficult, but he got it anyway.  I should have kept moving while he was in the poles and gotten on the other side of the triple, but I hesitated and he popped out.  He had a beautiful line of offset jumps to the finish.  If you take out the time lost getting him on the frame, this was a 4.2yps Standard run!!

Melanie, Leila and I then took our 7 dogs for a nice long walk around the property while we waited for all of 8 Open and 4 Novice dogs to run.

The JWW course looked fabulously fast.  I was very very excited to run this course as I thought it would be one that we could execute well.  I think I’ve been a little hesitant lately about front-crosses as I’ve had 2 very recent occurances where I couldn’t get there and was forced to rear on the fly.  So I planned two rears in this course, but unfortunately I was there in more than enough time and my lack of motion made the rears very difficult.  Miles saved my butt on the first one and miraculously pushed out to the double even though I was way behind, but he just couldn’t do it at the last one.  I was literally stopped and he did what he should have and pulled off the jump for a refusal 4 jumps from the end 😦  SUCH and nice run though and at 5.4yps I’ll take it!  He also had fabulous weaves in this run 🙂

Today they also planned to demo the new Time To Beat (TTB) class at the end of the day.  I decided after looking at the course map that I’d stay and run lil’ Rue.  I figured it’d be good experience for her at a new site on new equipment and since it didn’t “count” I could mentally treat it like a show and go.  The premise of this game is very similar to USDAA’s Steeplechase in that it’s designed for speed and you compete based on jump height, not level.  So there’s just one course for all levels.  This course had the a-frame as the one contact obstacle (it will be either be that or the teeter, never the dogwalk) and you had to do it twice.  Otherwise it was just jumps, a tunnel, and 12 weaves. 

TTB

Rue did quite well with this course.  She was slower at the beginning and added extra strides, but from the weaves on she was cookin’.  I should have talked to her in the tunnel because she came out looking to the left which made the next jump very difficult, but she was a very smart puppy and saved it!  She finished in 30 seconds which put her 3rd in the 20″ height class out of 10 dogs and just behind and Aussie and a BC.  Yay Rue!  I’m thinking that she really doesn’t like when I push back on her at the start as she’s been tending to trot before the first jump when I do it.  I’m going to experiment with baby lead-outs versus sending her through my legs and taking off running.  I will also continue to reward pushing back on her collar and having her touch my hand for cookies to see if I can build drive for that game too.

Sunday:

Much cooler today than yesterday and far less humid which made it much more comfortable for everybody.  The Standard course looked even more evil than yesterday with a hard call off both ends of a tunnel to go into a pinwheel, yuck.  I figured I’d give it my best, but if he took the tunnel oh well at least he’d have more fun that way.  Well, I got what I expected and he called off the first tunnel hole and went into the 2nd one, so I went with it.  After watching the video I think I may have had better luck if I kept my stinking arm down, oops.  He found the tunnel to the pinwheel fun and I cheered for him for doing what I obviously told him to do which got a chuckle out of the judge 🙂  We got called on our teeter today, which was a surprise as it really wasn’t that bad….maybe he called it since we had already NQ’d??  I’d like to think that!  He had a beautiful table that he had to really hold onto as he was flying at it and then went into his down reasonably fast.  His tunnel to dogwalk was beautifully tight and the rest was fabulous.  We had a bar after the frame not sure what I did there, but probably was frantically trying to get to a front cross that I hadn’t planned in my walk through, but I wanted to test his weave entry and independence.  He rocked that part.  Totally hit his entry and let me get about 10 feet lateral and way far ahead of him.  I don’t think he’s ever weaved this fast in a trial, ever.  He was SUPER happy with himself too!  This run was actually 3.8yps even with the extra tunnel and the little hesitation to down on the table.  WOW!

We again did our 7 dog, 1 mile walk between classes and Rue got to see horses for I think the first time.  She thought they were quite neat 🙂

Once again the JWW course looked super fun…lots of places for fronts and nice areas for them to really open up and rip.  I was brave today and planned all fronts including one after the weaves (which was actually a “backy uppy” followed by a front) which required me to have lateral distance off the weaves again.  Well I must say I think my boy quite liked this course!  I was able to do my whole plan and he responded so nicely and didn’t even look at any of the offcourses that were eating up dog after dog.  He ran this in 5.2yps and was still 3 seconds behind Melanie’s Awesome Austie!  But 2nd place with 16 MACh points ain’t bad 😉  So this makes MXJ leg #5….

Overall I thought Miles and I did really great this weekend.  The courses were very hard and we still were able to pull them off with only 1 or 2  mistakes in each.  I’m so thrilled with how fast he was running especially given that it was a new place.  He far superceded my yps goals in each run and had some *amazing* weaves!  I was also very proud of myself for not trying to play it safe and go for the Q.  I would have felt really terrible if I slowed him down to try to be perfect and even worse if we still NQ’d so this was a big accomplishment for me!  I got so many compliments on our runs too, which is funny as only 1 was a Q.  Just goes to show you that slow and accurate just isn’t as memorable or as flashy as fast and dirty : D

Up Next:  A new patient evaluation for both dogs at a sports vet in Virginia.  I’m looking forward to learning more about my dogs’ structures and what I can do to help keep them as sound as possible.  Following that both dogs are entered locally for AKC 11/7-8 and then we’ll be taking it indoors for a show in Concord (same site as the AKC Nationals this year) the following weekend!

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!

Training update 10/8/09

Rue PBCA JWW 10-09 (2)

Since I started trialing Rue, it was suggested that I not do too much agility training during the week in order to keep it fresh for her.  On one hand I definitely agree that she needs to be mentally rested, however on the other hand Rue (and Miles) LOVE their agility training time with me.  Literally every time I walk by the back door, Rue comes flying over, ears perked, tail wagging, eyes widened, just waiting for me to say the magic words…..”you wanna go do it?”. 

In any case, before her first two trials I did very little agility training and spent more time working on a new trick – jump up and put your front paws on my extended arm and drop your head under my arm between your paws….I think I’ll call it “monkey”.  However this week I felt I needed to do a little more of actual agility training.  She had been starting to hesitate a bit on the teeter in training (stopping at the pivot and letting it tip versus driving more to the end) and in class leading up to last weekend’s trial where she actually refused it…twice in the same run.  I really don’t think she has any fear of the teeter at all, I believe she was avoiding it because of conflict and decreased confidence with the criteria.  Rue is not a soft dog, but she wants so badly to be right that she will avoid things including me if she’s unsure.  And for certain if she thinks she made a mistake???  Forget it, I have lost her.

So my focus this week has been to build back her confidence regarding the teeter and her job.  She has gotten LOTS of cookies for the teeter this week and has been jackpotted for the times that she drives farther to the end.  I will probably need to go back to the bang game at some point, but I’ve had limited time to do everything. 

On the other hand, I’ve done only a few reps on the dogwalk and they’ve all been brilliant performances including at home, at PBH, and in class so I’m not going to do any more of that.  I think her lack of speed and crummy striding this past weekend again was due to conflict and decreased confidence, but since I’m not able to reproduce the issue at home (as opposed to what had been happening with the teeter) I’m leaving it alone and am assuming that it will resolve itself with more trial exposure.  It’s interesting that her first trial dogwalk was really speedy, but these last two on a familiar dogwalk weren’t so hot.  Further, she missed her contact at the DKC trial (got a toenail in it that the judge saw I guess), but had great hits this past weekend.  I’m wondering if she could have possibly realized that she didn’t meet criteria at DKC and wanted to be extra sure that she was correct this time?  Hmmm…interesting idea, however doubtful.  Only time will tell.

Lastly, I set up a jump grid this morning to work on extending her stride.  I have no idea if this will make a hill of beans difference in how she’ll run this weekend, but it was worth a shot.  I did a lot of work with grids over the Summer and at that time she was really giving me nice striding around the course and appropriately choosing to bounce jump frequently.  Since I stopped working grids and have been doing more challenging sequences she’s been adding more strides.  Again this could all be confidence related, but if there is any correlation to the grids then I wanted to at least expose them to her again.

Her performance in class last night was really impressive.  She was perfect and confident on all of her contacts and the table.  She had decent weaves, but those may need some remediation work as well with a slightly open channel to build back speed and better striding.  All in all, though she did great.  We had three stations with 2-3 dogs at each all working simultaneously.  She did not once look at what another dog was doing and she happily tugged her leash with me in between exercises 🙂

I’m looking forward to this weekend!  She’s only entered one day, but I moved her up to Open Standard and she’ll also try FAST for the first time.  More data collection for me, yeah!

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. 

Training notes for the last couple of weeks – dogwalks, teeters, and weaves oh my!

We’ve been doing quite a bit of training here lately, but I haven’t had a chance to write it all down.  Both dogs have been working for breakfast and dinner for the last month or so which automatically increases training time.  I like to do that from time to time to remind them where their bountiful feasts come from 😉

Miles:

Weaves – keeping him at 1″ spacing on my weave poles for the forseeable future.  I would really like to see him change his style to single stepping and to stretch out more.  His poles are 20″ tall still and I don’t think I’ll need to go lower than that as they seem to be low enough for Rue as well.  Interestingly, I measured my pole spacing at home and it’s only 20″ which is likely one of the reasons why he learned to weave very upright instead of pushing through with his rear end.  Miles does have some very mild elbow dysplasia which may limit how much he wants to contort himself through such narrowly spaced poles.  So, now I’ve added 22″ spaced weave poles to my shopping list.  The trial this past weekend used 24″ spaced poles which was awesome, but not a lot of clubs have switched to that yet and we also play in USDAA where the max spacing is 22″.  So I figure if he’s single stepping in 20″ poles with a 1″ channel, then giving him 2 more inches in spacing should do the same thing for him. 

Here are some videos of him on 12 poles with 1″ spacing.  He had some entry issues in the first video that I figure out were due to the taping on the poles…he couldn’t see the first one, so I switched them around and he was good to go.  The second video is from the side….you can see his head lower, but you can also see how he scrunches himself like a slinky in order to single step through those narrow poles 😦

Teeter – I’ve been seeing more and more fly-offs in practice and he nearly had one over the weekend in our second Standard run.  I don’t want to have to add a stop back in, but I will if I can’t correct it in another way.  Since he hasn’t been doing it at trials, I may not have to do anything at all, but I think as his confidence grows so does his speed and the likelyhood of flying off.  Last night in class he launched himself off 3 times despite me slowing down at the end of it.  So this morning I thought I’d do some work on it and see if I could communicate to him that flying off was not the correct behavior.  So we worked some fun and fast tunnel/jump sequences with the teeter and on his first rep he flew right off.  So I stopped and gave a no reward maker.  So we tried it again, and he stopped in a 2o/2o….quite an impression I made I guess!  Still not what I wanted (I want him to ride it down and then move on), but I rewarded the valliant effort.  Third rep was perfect.  Fourth rep I tried to push him and got a lot of speed going and I kept running….fly off.  So I gave a non reward marker again.  We did 4 or 5 more reps and he was perfect each and every time.  We’ll see how this goes!

Rue:

Weaves – This little monkey is doing amazing things with her weaves!  She is one smart potato and once she understands what I want (sometimes that’s a tough battle ;)) then she is rock solid.  She’s graduated to 12 poles and worked from a 3″ channel down to straight poles in about four sessions.  She is a speed demon single-steppin’ fool!  Just this morning I started working entries, so I added a jump 15′ straight before the weaves and led out just past the jump to release her.  She drove right ahead of me, hit the entry, and just flew through.  I have also just finally added a word to this behavior…”weave”.  Up until now it was just the release word to go do something.  We worked through Joe Canova’s 5 actions with the jump in this position (dog on left, dog on right, recall through the poles, rear cross dog on left, rear cross dog on right) and then I moved the jump to “station 2″ which is a 30 degree hard side entry still 15′ from the poles.  We did the first 2 actions before she finished her breakfast, so we’ll continue either tonight or tomorrow morning with this station and then change it again. 

This is the only recent weave video I have of her and she was finishing up her 12 poles at 2” channel.  That was on 7/5, so you can imagine just how fast she’s caught onto this!

And this was her first attempt at 12 poles with the 3″ channel:

Teeter – Again this little girl has made some HUGE strides lately.  I hadn’t been doing too much teeter stuff recently because I’ve spent most of my training time with her on weave poles and her board/running contacts, but I decided to do a session the other night and she was on FIRE!  Totally driving to the end and sliding into her 2o/2o position.  Only issue is that she doesn’t stay on the board after her reward, so I have to start proofing my movement and her staying on the board until released.  I didn’t video this session, unfortunately because it’s better than the one I did video, but you can still see her driving much farther than she did when I initially transitioned her to doing it unassisted.  I think the most notable thing about this session, though, was that she had to poo really badly (I didn’t know it but as soon as we were done she went).  In the past she would have left me and just gone and pooed, but she continued to work really hard.  She does go off from me once for a brief moment in this video and I think that’s probably why…but she came right back when I called her name 😀

Dogwalk/running contacts – WOW, what can I say here other than she’s AMAZING!!  She has been on a full dogwalk five times now and has had *two* misses, that’s it.  Holy cow!  The first video here is her second time on the evil giant slatted bouncy wooden dogwalk at PBH.  I am starting with her in the video, restraining her before the upramp and running with her.  Her striding is a perfect 5-strides, but you can tell she’s kinda bouncy and not really driving forward…yet.

This next video is on my new home dogwalk, yahoo!  It’s aluminum and fiberglass with low profile slats and is very sturdy.  I started by restraining her as I did in the above video since this was her first time on this dogwalk and then proceeded to send her into a macaroni tunnel before hand.  She is really starting to drive in this video.  You can see her one miss is very close and she may have gotten a toe in the contact, but it was not what I wanted so she was not rewarded.

And finally, here is her most recent session.  I decided to add a jump about 12′ after the down ramp and then placed her food reward 8′ after that.  I’m going to attempt to fade the food lure now, ack.  In her second rep in this session she actually does the whole thing in FOUR strides!!  I have no idea if she’ll ever do that again or whether that was a one time deal, but it was something awesome to watch!  She also has a near spill in the 3rd to last rep…I think she just got on a little crooked, but managed to hang on and still hit her contact.  I was freaked out and had her do it two more times.  She was definitely slower, but still looked good.  We’ll work it again tonight and see what we get!

So that’s it in a nutshell.  We have another private lesson tomorrow night and I’ll only be working Rue.  The plan is to start working on turns after the dogwalk as well as proofing the stop on the teeter and handling (jump grids, figure 8’s, etc.).