Friday, December 30, 2011

Running A-Frame - 7

After I wrote my last post, I re-watched the "problem-solving" section of Rachel Sanders' DVD.  Belle and I are about a month into our re-training, and she is doing really well, but she still doesn't realize that I want her to come flying over the apex and hit once in the blue and then hit the yellow with all four paws.  She can do it if the box is there, but remove the box and the behavior chain breaks down and she will most likely jump from just above the yellow.

The solution for that particular problem is that the box must be faded, which is what I began to do in my last post.  However, giving the whole process further thought, I have to accept the fact that I began the whole re-training process with unrealistic expectations.  I was hoping Belle would have a consistent running A-frame contact with just one month's work.  I can see she is improving from week to week, but I also can see it will take at least another month or two of training for a running A-frame to become second nature to Belle.  Since that is the case, I decided, I would try one more time to train Belle to hit a little lower in the box before fading it.  Rachel addresses this issue by moving the box closer to the apex and then gradually moving it back until it is completely in the  contact zone.

So yesterday, I moved the box up the A-frame about 20".  I think 12" would have been a better choice, but hindsight is 20/20.  I also lowered the A-frame back to about 4'6".  By the time we finished our afternoon session, the top of the PVC box was about 5" above the yellow.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Running A-Frame - 6

It's been about a month since I began working on a running A-frame with Belle.  She is consistently hitting inside the box with all four feet.  I have been unable to get her to hit two or three inches lower in the box by using a stride regulator, so I decided to not use it for the time being.  Since Belle hits the yellow even when the A-frame is in the middle of a sequence, I decided to start fading the PVC box.  This morning I replaced the top pipe of the PVC box with two shorter lengths so that there is a gap in the middle.

I ran Belle once over the A-frame with a whole box, and then replaced it with the one with the gap at the top.  The first time, I had her do the A-frame from a sit stay and just sent her to a hoop afterward.  Since that worked, I started sequencing work.  Unfortunately, I didn't press the button hard enough with my gloved thumb, and the video camera wasn't running.  I'm pretty sure she got four feet in the yellow each time though.

I also had Belle run across the dogwalk once and it was beautiful.  I have decided to use "easy" as she approaches the down ramp to remind her to run through the yellow and not jump.  I realize this makes Belle's dogwalk not truly independent, but it is a vast improvement over her TOTO dogwalk.

I ran two more A-frames with Belle so I would have some video to analyze.  Here are our efforts.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Running A-Frame & Running Dogwalk - 5

Last night we went to the Quad Cities for Thursday night run-thrus.  I think this was the third or fourth time I had the opportunity to try out Belle's running A-frame on an A-frame that has slats.  I was discouraged last night because I didn't think she did all that well.  Luckily, Ed came along and videoed so I was able to study Belle's performance in slow motion.  

Before the run-thrus started, I was able to run Belle over the A-frame several times.  She actually did quite well with just the PVC box in place.  However, she did dismally with just the bumper because I placed it about four inches too low, forcing her to put in a stride before it and one or two after it before hitting the yellow.  (I guess if I wanted Belle to run down the A-frame instead of doing it in two jumping strides, I stumbled upon a good place to put the stride regulator.)

After the run-thrus, I tried again with just the stride regulator and she did quite well.  Unfortunately, my videographer was busy chatting, and there is no video.

During the run-thrus, I didn't use either the PVC box or the stride regulator.  Belle hit the yellow every time, but took  extra strides in the blue.  I also discovered that I have not been putting in enough effort on the running dogwalk.  After Belle leaped over the yellow three times, I had to place a hoop at the end to ensure that she would hit the yellow.

This morning, I set up a course that would allow us to practice both the A-frame and the dogwalk.  I placed a stride regulator on the A-frame and added a hoop about three feet out from the bottom.  I decided that if Belle would truly prefer to run down the A-frame, I was willing to go that route.  She surprised me with three perfect two-hits-on-the-down-side.  Unfortunately, the dogwalk was not nearly as good.  Hopefully, if I move the exit hoop closer the next time we practice, Belle will run through the yellow instead of jumping from it.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Reality Check - Running A-Frame Training - 4

After Thursday night's disappointing performance on the A-frame, I reviewed the "Case Studies" section of Rachel Sander's DVD.  As counter-intuitive as it seems to me, her recommendation for a dog who hits too high is to move the box up on the A-frame and then gradually move it down.  I decided to give that a go as soon as the A-frame is free of ice.  I also think I'll see if we can do without the stride regulator, since it will be an additional prop to fade.

Saturday, 12/17/11:  The weather didn't really clear enough to try out the course I set up on Friday.

Sunday, 12/18/11, morning:  There is hoar frost this morning, but I  went out to the field to see if the A-frame was clear of ice.  Since it wasn't slippery, I ran Belle across it a couple of times without the stride regulator.  Then I moved the PVC box up about 9 inches. And did a couple more passes.  She nailed it, so I raised the A-frame one link and move the box down a couple of inches.  Belle was still hitting squarely in the box, so I moved it down another couple of inches.  The top edge is now about four inches above the yellow.  This afternoon, we'll go out again and I'll set up the video camera.  If it warms up enough, we may even be able to use the dogwalk.

Sunday, 12/18/11, afternoon:  I videoed our efforts this afternoon.  After watching the video, I had to face the fact that Belle is not ready for the addition of a sequence before the A-frame.  She must first become consistent in where she hits after clearing the apex.  Included in Rachel Sanders' DVD are 13 pages of notes.  This paragraph in particular is one that I will have keep in mind when we are training:

Once the dog can successfully perform the A-frame with a front cross and a push past, you can do some minor sequencing FROM the A-frame to other obstacles. When the dog is successfully performing these sequences and you have raised the A-frame to full height, you can start sequencing TO the A-frame. Sequencing to the A-frame is more difficult for the dog because he must learn how to negotiate being off balance as he enters the A-frame and how to regain his
balance for the apex stride.

Friday, December 16, 2011

One Out of Two Isn't Bad

Last night, Belle and I went to the Quad Cities for a run-thru.  I wanted to see how her running contacts were coming along, but  I only have video from the first run.  I was quite pleased with her running dogwalk.  There was a split second of hesitation on Belle's part, but she ran completely through the yellow--she didn't jump off at the end.

The A-frame was an entirely different matter.  Belle failed to run over the apex and she missed the yellow completely.  I don't know if the problem was height (5'6" vs 4'8"), slats, or the presence of 16" jumps on the course.  I also made the really bad handling choice of trying to call Belle over the A-frame and failing to support her path to the jump before it.

I was surprised when we had several off-courses on this basically simple course.  Since I can work on the handling glitches at home, I used the bulk of our course time last night practicing the two running contacts.  I think the A-frame improved, but it still was not the flow over the apex and two strides on the down side that I'm hoping to eventually achieve with Belle.

I designed a short course based on this one that will allow us to practice lines as well as running contacts.  Here's the map with several opening sequences indicated.  I want to give Belle a day or two of rest, so hopefully, the weather will hold and we can try this out Saturday or Sunday.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Running A-Frame Training - 4

Belle and I are continuing to work on the running A-frame, and we're progressing very quickly, as you'll see in the first video.  Today, I really pushed it and set up a course around the A-frame.  I also tried taking the box off the A-frame to see how well the behavior would hold up.

I decided I really want Belle to hit a few inches lower in the yellow.  I added a stride regulator below the apex, hoping to train Belle to land further down the A-frame after cresting the apex.  This is really the most critical stride in Rachel Sander's running A-frame method.  The dog has to land far enough down and in control of its landing so that both rear feet hit the A-frame and the dog can use them to push off for its bounce into the yellow.  If the dog lands too close to the apex, it will be difficult for him to make it to the yellow in one leap.  If the dog lands too far down the A-frame, he may leap over the yellow.  Also, if the dog doesn't have his body under control as he comes over the A-frame, his rear legs may very well fly up higher than his top line--not a very safe behavior.

I had the brainstorm today to decrease the length of the boxes sides.  This gives Belle a smaller target to hit and I can place it further down in the yellow.  I also lowered the A-frame back to about 4'8".  Belle was hitting close to the top of the box, but she didn't touch it and she was driving further into the yellow.  When we practice again, I'll probably try moving the bumper down an inch and see what effect it has on where she lands in the yellow.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Can You Memorize This?

A couple of days ago, Bud Houston posted this USDAA Masters Jumpers course designed by Tom Kula:

Although it may be a course builder's dream, this course presents a real challenge to the competitor's course memorization skills.  On USDAA (especially if you run in the Performance division) and NADAC jumpers courses, there are not many landmarks.  With this particular course, there are no readily apparent patterns, so the only way I can try to get it down solid is to concentrate on where I have to execute my crosses.

1.  I originally chose to lead out to the "landing side" of the #2 hoop and face my dog.  After running it a few times, I opted to just take enough of a lead out so that I could do a front cross between 2 and 3.  This worked well with Belle, but with Dusty, it resulted in me being left behind for the lateral move from 5 to 6.

2.  I planned to do a front cross between 6 and 7.  Unfortunately, I lost track of the location of #8 several times and messed up the run with both Dusty and Belle.

3.  When I studied the course map, I thought getting the turn from 10 to 11 would be the most challenging part of the course.  I really wanted to do a front cross between 9 and 10, but I knew there wasn't much chance of being able to do so.  However, when I walked the course, I realized that a rear cross would do nicely, and going from 10 to 11 proved to be no problem at all.

4.  One last front cross between 13 and 14, and we were home free.

I didn't anticipate having any problem with the wraps at 8 and 13, but Dusty kept me humble.  Because he requires more support than Belle  and because he is so intense and fast, I found myself giving him collection cues for the two wraps a stride too late.

Here is video of someone running this course very nicely at trial:


A fun memory exercise is to try to run a course in reverse without re-numbering it either on paper or with cones.  Since I didn't do all that well at remembering where the #8 hoop was, I thought I'd give myself a second chance and try running this course in reverse.  

A straight reversal of this course would have called for sending the dogs to the backside of three hoops.  I decided to not do that at #8.  I did a pretty good job reversing the course in my head until I got to #17.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Champs 2011

At long last, I have the video of all my runs from Champs.  Luckily, I made some notes and wrote them up when I returned home from Springfield.

Wednesday:  I left for Champs just before noon.  It turned out to be about a three and a half hour drive--about half of it on two lane roads.  The Fairgrounds were easy to find, but the motel proved to be a little harder.  Especially in the dark. 

Thursday:  Round 1 was 40 obstacles long!!!  Belle and I ran about 169th and didn't run until about 2pm, five hours after the walk through.  On the walk through, I planned for a long lead out and as much distance and as little running on my part as possible.  When I watched some of the taller 12" dogs run, I realized my only chance of making it across the finish line would be to ignore any mistakes and just keep moving.  I did a pretty good job with my handling.  Belle head checked coming out of the tunnel after the A-frame, but she had no problem carrying out to the outer arc of hoops and I was able to layer the dogwalk saving myself many, many steps.  I had to remember to not move fast and end up too deep when Belle was in the weaves to once again save myself from running any more than I had to.  I also had to remember to check myself when I her into the tunnel before the tunnel under the A-frame so that she could see me push out to the tunnel under the A-frame.  The run was flawless until (like many a handler) I turned too soon at the hoop before the dogwalk and incurred an off-course.  I could have fixed it if I were more fit, but as it was I barely made it to the finish line.  Belle's Time = 61.08s; Course Faults = 30. 

Round 2:  Hooray!!!  This course was just 20 obstacles long and very fast!!!!  We didn't run until about 8:15pm.  I had a difficult time deciding when I was going to release Belle from the start line, but I ended up picking the ideal moment.  I forgot to slow down and use Belle's name to turn her head toward the correct tunnel before the A-frame and drove her into the off-course tunnel.  She came flying out of that tunnel and ran around the backside of the correct one.  I wasn't going to correct the off-course, but decided a 10-point fault was better than 30.   Belle's Time = 39.49; Course Faults = 10.

Friday:  Round 3 was also 20 obstacles.  We were the 18th team to run on Friday.  Sweet.  I chose to lead out to the take-off side of the serpentine, but I wonder if leading out to the landing side would have produced a tighter and faster run, or if the way I handled it with its wides on the serpentine and at the jump after the dogwalk was the fastest way for Belle?  I think the turn from the jump to the weaves was fairly tight.  Belle's Time = 37.28; 4th Place.

Round 4:  This was our best run.  I felt like we were perfectly in sync, with no bobbles or wides.  Belle's Time = 38.00 sec; 4th Place.

I watched a little bit of the first round of Silverstakes Thursday afternoon, but it wasn't pretty, so I left.  Friday, I watched both rounds of Silverstakes and Superstakes, and WOW!  The 20 obstacle courses were much more reasonable.  Two or three of the teams had nearly flawless runs.  One was an older Border Collie who approached her job more slowly and methodically, checking in for direction at strategic spots on course.

Someone stopped me in the afternoon to say how much she enjoyed watching Belle and me run.  It was so nice to hear.

I was very impressed with the crowd.  They applauded for every run and cheered loudly for many.  Matt and Martha did a great job with their commentary during the runs.  It definitely would have been awkwardly quiet without their commentary.  During Stakes there is no commentary so that the dogs are not distracted.  Those of us watching were on the edge of our seats, breathless and hoping for successful runs for each Stakes team.  The silence was intense.

Someone shared the winning sequence of turns for returning to the hotel from the Fairgrounds--2R3L1R.  It was really nice to be able to get back there without taking a scenic drive through Springfield in the dark :-) 

Saturday.  Round 5.  OMG!  Drastically underestimated the speed my running start would produce and totally under-handled the course.  This was the worst run Belle and I have ever had.  However, I was not alone.  The wheels came off the bus for many a team on this course.  Belle's Time:  57.06s; Course Faults: 20.

Round 6:  The walk-through for this one was brutal.  It was very congested in the back corner where the distance line was located as the course went through there twice.  Additionally, the sun was in our eyes looking into that corner.  It was so crowded that I didn't even realize the 8,9,10 serpentine wasn't a straight line of jumps until  I sat down to watch the teams before us run.  Luckily, I was able to modify my running plan and still execute it well.  Belle's Time = 34.65s; 4th Place.

Sunday.  Round 7:  There was some talk that this would be a simple U-shaped course run just for fun and speed.  Since I was not running until the end of the order and I knew Belle and I would not be running in the final round, I was very pleased to see it was a regular course.  I quickly decided how I was going to run most of the course, but I couldn't make up my mind how best to start.  Belle on right?  Belle on left?  Release her while I was still moving?  Lead out, stop and release?  I finally decided to open with her on my right and to release her while I was running.  I wanted to generate as much speed as possible on this one.  I was a little slow getting into position in a couple of spots and was basically in Belle's way, so I really pushed for a fast finish, running behind her while she was on the dogwalk, yelling "GO!"  Go she did, missing the yellow by a couple of inches.  Oops!  Bad handler.  Should have yelled "Touch!"  Belle's Time = 36.00s; Course Faults = 10.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Running A-frame Training - 3

I took the video camera out to see how Dusty and Belle were progressing.  I have added handler motion to Dusty's grid work.  I was very disappointed to see that he was not getting all four feet into the box.  Unfortunately, I didn't catch it until I watched the video in slow motion.  I will have to go back to no handler motion until he understands he is to collect his stride for this grid exercise.  If need be, I will place a gate about 10 feet from the PVC box and see if that gets Dusty to think about what he is doing with his legs.

I started Belle on the A-frame Saturday.  After sitting down and re-watching the section on Rachel Sander's DVD demonstrating to introduce the actual A-frame to a dog that has been taught TOTO, I decided to back up a couple of steps and make sure that Belle was confidently hitting the box without needing a release command to exit the A-frame.  Thanks to my lack of consistency in using a TOTO, she didn't have much trouble with this.

After trying that exercise from different positions on the downside of the A-frame, I placed Belle in a stay and had her perform the entire A-frame.  After I viewed the video, I realized she was hitting quite high in the box, and sometimes she was even hitting the top of it.  Rachel Sanders explains this is due to not landing far enough from the apex on the downside of the A-frame.  Her suggestion is to try a stride regulator, which is what I did.  It seems to work.  The next time we work on this, I will probably move it another inch or two lower.

One thing that really impresses me about training Belle to do a running A-frame is how it eliminates all the extra steps she was taking as she approached the apex and when she was on the downside of the A-frame.  She just comes smoothly over the top, something I don't think she was ever able to do before.  Here's a compilation of video clips which demonstrates how Belle's A-frame performance was deteriorating.  I also included one clip from today's work to show how much smoother Belle's performance of the A-frame is already.  

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Running A-Frame Training - 2

Today, I moved the grid out into the field and set up several hoops before it and and one on each side after it.  I filmed my back chaining work with Dusty.  I can see I'll have to remember to always release him with "Okay."  He's so over-eager, I don't want him to have to wonder if he can go NOW.  He definitely needs a clear cut release word.

I forgot to set up the two jump standards at the end of the grid when I moved it.  As you'll see in the video, I don't realize it until I started working with Belle.  In addition to adding a short sequence before the grid, I also placed a front cross between the grid and the last obstacle on our final three runs.  On our second attempt, Belle does not seem to pick up on the front cross cue and fades to her left.

A word about Rachel Sander's method:  The grid we're working with right now is the foundation for a running A-frame.  For most dogs the end goal is to hit once after the second jump and then to hit the box with all four paws on the next stride.  (A few small dogs may require two bounce strides before the box.)  With Belle, I'll work with the grid for another week or two until I have proofed every contingency I can think up and she is able to come straight through the box without the guidance of the two uprights most of the time.  Then we will start back chaining on the A-frame itself.

I anticipate the same process with the grid will take at least twice as long with Dusty.  Once I begin adding handler motion and other obstacles, his excitement level will go up dramatically.  So I will be breaking the training process down into much smaller increments for him.

Running A-Frame Training - 1

Wednesday, I added some handler motion to the jump grid.  Belle did quite well.  In the afternoon, I introduced some speed into our approach to the grid.  Tomorrow, I plan to move the grid out into the field so I can set up hoops around it so we can begin working on the grid as if it were an A-frame in the mid of a sequence.  Here's a short video from our work Wednesday morning.

After giving it some thought, I decided I'd see if Dusty could control himself enough to hit the box in the jump grid.  The first time, he soared over it, so I worked on back-chaining it.  I began with him mid-way between the second jump and the box, and worked our way back to setting up before the first jump.  I can tell that it will take longer to train Dusty since I could hear his nails ticking against the PVC box.  There will be no introduction of handler movement for Mr. D until he can get through the box.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Couple of Winter Projects

After Belle missed a few dogwalk contacts at trial because I was pressing for speed at the wrong time, I decided I would take the next couple of months to work on a running dogwalk.  I've placed a hoop close to both ends of the dogwalk to encourage Belle to run through the up and down contacts and not leap over them.  So far it seems to be working pretty well.  I asked my DH to video so I could see how well I was doing on spotting the performances to reward.  As you will see, I need to increase my skill in spotting when Belle leaps off the dogwalk (even though she may hit the yellow) and when she runs through the yellow.

After watching the video from Champs, I decided Belle's A-frames are getting very iffy, especially on A-frames with 8-foot sides.  I originally taught her TOTO, but in order to gain a little speed, I almost always use an early release.  Several times over the years, I halfheartedly tried to teach Belle a running A-frame by using stride regulators and a hoop without any success.

Once I realized a running dogwalk was probably doable, I once again started to dream of switching to a running A-frame.  Since I was pretty sure stride regulators and a hoop weren't going to do the trick,  I purchased Rachel Sander's Reliable Running A-frame DVD and began using her method.  Here's video of our second practice session with a jump grid.  I was really pleased that Belle was successful 6 out of 7 times and that I was able to see that she was doing the striding correctly.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chances Analysis - 11/20/11

Belle, Dusty and I went to a NADAC trial last weekend hosted by 4RK9s in Davenport, IA.  I had a chance to tape the Chances runs on Sunday.


 There are four main challenges on this Chances course.  

1.  The send to the tunnel under the dogwalk.

This task can be made somewhat easier by angling your dog toward the tunnel at the start line.  Something I forgot to mention until near the end of the video.

2.  The send to the tunnel in the upper right corner.
When you watch the video, notice the great variation in commitment points to the two tunnels.  Dogs that commit early allow their handlers to move much sooner toward the next challenge than those who require support until they are almost in the tunnel.

3.  Sending your dog over jump #7.

Notice that on the Elite course map, the distance line running from the right edge of the course to jump #4 echoes the path the handler can take to support the dog's line to jump #7 and hoop #8.  This is not true of the Open and Novice courses.  If the handler follows the line on either of those courses, he is very likely going to draw his dog away from #7.

4.  Sending your dog out to hoop #8 and bringing him back through hoop #9.

On the Novice course in particular, if the handler is on the line, there is no way for him to move toward the #8 hoop.

Here's the video with my commentary.  I hope you find it helpful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Random Thoughts on a Standard Course

I began my agility journey in NADAC and did not trial in any other venue for the first year or two.  Therefore, the idea of refusals was rather alien to me.  Watching the Standard run at Sunday's trial while sitting directly across the ring from the weave poles, I once again had to ask myself what was so bad about a refusal that it warranted being elevated to the distinction of being a disqualifying fault in Excellent (AKC) and Masters (USDAA)?

Perhaps as many as 20% of the dogs running this course turned toward the chute after #7.  But there is no penalty for that kind of mistake in any venue that I'm aware of.  Along the same line, it's okay for your dog to spin upon landing, but not before taking off.  I, for one, really appreciate the fact that NADAC doesn't expressly penalize any of these scenarios except for the loss of time they incur.
I generally subscribe to the KISS school of handling.  In the case of this course, I really felt the easiest way to handle 2-4 was to be ahead of your dog as he exits the chute.  You could easily manage this with a long lead out to (63,-20), or if you are fleet of foot, a considerable shorter lead out.  I was surprised by the number of people who made the approach to the tunnel harder than it had to be by executing a front cross after the chute and running with dog on right over #3.  Theoretically, a rear cross at #4 should have pulled them to the tunnel, but it didn't always work and some of the dogs ended up on the dogwalk!
I try to always keep moving when I'm running with Belle.  I may not be running fast, but I do try to keep moving.  To that end, I wish I had  gone closer to the #5 tunnel than I did.  I felt like I stood rooted to the astroturf for an eternity while waiting for Belle to emerge and begin our run to the weaves.  However, I did myself proud at the A-frame by executing a front cross on the upside.

This kept me constantly in motion and resulted in a less sticky A-frame (which is a training issue that I've never been able to solve with Belle).  Only one other handler did a front cross here--a terrific handler whose whole run just flowed so smoothly.  There was one other option for remaining in motion and that was to run from table to teeter with dog on left and do a rear cross at #13 to turn the dog to the A-frame.  One person did it and it worked quite well.  I thought about it since we had practiced a similar sequence at the QCDC, but I decided against it because of the angle of the jump to the A-frame.  I also wanted to handle #16 from the landing side and I felt I had a better chance of getting there using a front cross.

After watching everyone run, I think the last three jumps ran a little smoother when the handler worked from the take-off side of #16.  However, even if I had gone with that option, it still wouldn't have given me the courage to try the rear cross.

Everyone else chose to handle the A-frame by hanging back as the dog jumped #13 and executing a post turn.  By and large it worked, although a few dogs did go off-course to the dummy jump.  But it just lacked something--just like standing rooted to the turf waiting for Belle to emerge from the tunnel did.  I guess if I had to put a name to that "something," it would be "connection."  By stopping, it's as if an invisible line tying handler to dog is broken.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Jumpers Course Observations

This is the Jumpers course from Sunday's USDAA trial.
When I walked this course, I realized if I turned too soon toward #8, I would probably pull Belle off of #7.  I thought #10 was an attractive off-course, so I wanted to be sure I slowed up as I approached #8 to indicate the turn.  As I discovered when I was bar setting on this side of the ring, #10 was not a viable off-course.  The approach to #9 was shaped at 5 and 6 and the faster the dog was traveling the further it arced left over #8, placing #9 directly in his path.  That said, too much speed in the 8-10 sequence brought down many a bar (and in some instances the entire jump).

The most interesting part of this course was 11-15.  If you ran too hard at the tunnel, your dog might very well come around the right wing of #12 by the time he turned.  Also, there was the question of how to handle the turn from 13 to 14.  The most popular choice was a front cross between 12 and 13, wrap right around 13 and then pull the dog into the gap for 14.  Then run as fast as possible with your dog on your left for the close.

The most elegant solution was to call your dog out of the tunnel without changing sides, send him over #13 and rear cross.  It made for a very smooth line to #14.  The only danger was that if you began the rear cross before the dog was committed to jumping, you stood a good chance of pulling him off the jump.  

One person opted to take her dog over #13 on her right and do a Ketschker at #14.  It was quite cool, and alas, still beyond my abilities as a handler.

Almost everyone wrapped their dog around the right wing of #13, but a few chose to wrap left.  Wrapping either way got the dog to #14, but by and large wrapping left proved to be an unfortunate choice further down the line. 

 If the handler wrapped her dog left at #13, and chose to stay on her dog's right at 14 and 15, his path was shaped toward #6 and opened up the possibility of jumping #16 from the wrong direction.


Performing a front cross at the lower wing of #14 produced a better line to 15-17, but called for lead changes before 18 and 19.  The handler either had to keep up or or be able to accomplish the lead changes from behind.

Wrapping your dog right and pulling him in to take #14, sets him up on a good line to finish with no lead changes required.  The handler (X) remains on the dog's right.

USDAA Trial - Sunday, 11/13/11

Sunday we traveled to Crystal Lake, Illinois for a USDAA trial hosted by RACE Agility.  My DH came along to video and do the long drive home.  Thank you, Sweetheart.

Belle and I were really in sync and went 5 for 5, finishing her PDM title with our Standard run.   I did a lot of concentrated watching while others run, so I'll have quite a few posts generated by this trial.  For now, I'll just post the video of our runs.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The Devil is in the Details

Belle and I traveled to Muscatine, Iowa yesterday for one day of an AKC trial hosted by the Muscatine Agility Club of Iowa.  The trial was held in a horse arena.  Usually, I bring along hiking shoes just in case the footing is too uneven for me to negotiate in my running shoes.  Unfortunately, I didn't bring them with yesterday :(  I found just walking on the surface hard, so I taped my ankle and planned for as much distance as possible.  JWW was first and it lent itself to distance handling beautifully.

I was able to take a very long lead out which enabled me to easily do a front cross between 4 and 5.  

By far the best way to handle 8 to 9 was to execute a rear cross between them.  However, I knew I'd never get back to the 12/13 gap in time for a front or blind cross.  (A rear cross at this point had the unfortunate tendency to pull the dog off #15.)  Therefore, I spent a lot of time planning a front cross.  I executed the cross well enough, but I failed to carry forward until Belle committed to #9 (red line), and we incurred a refusal.  The rest of the run went as planned.

So many of the small dog handlers wrapped their dogs right at #17,  I really thought I'd missed something on the walk-thru.  However, it just didn't make sense to me to do two extra lead changes when you don't have to.  For the 24" and 26" dogs, I think wrapping right produced a nicer line to the last jump since for the most part they turned wide around either wing and turning wide around the right wing put them directly on a line for #18.  Turning wide around the left wing did not.  Most of the 20" dogs and all of the smaller dogs were capable of wrapping left tightly enough that they were heading directly at #18 after the wrap.

Standard did not lend itself to picking a couple of spots to handle from.  However, JWW round tamped down the surface and evened it out considerably.

Nonetheless, I tried to plot as an efficient a course as possible to minimize my yardage.  Almost ever handler put in a front cross between the teeter and the panel jump.  I used a rear cross between the panel and the tire and it worked quite well.  I was able to easily get in a front cross by #7.  For 8, 9, 10, I did a post turn.  My original plan was to rear cross the weaves, but the run was going so well and I knew it was an easy push to the #12 tunnel, so I didn't bother with the rear cross.  Unfortunately, I didn't think to slow myself down and keep my right arm close as we ran from tunnel to #13 and Belle went sailing off course to the dogwalk.  Bad, bad arm.

Our final run was T2B and the surface had been leveled out even more.

I opened the same way I did in Standard, but now it was a straight shot to the tunnel if you set your dog up on an angle to #1.  I debated whether to handle the serpentine from the back side or the front and decided on the front, realizing that I would have to pace myself in order to do a nice rear cross at the weave entrance.  In my haste to get in a front cross on the landing side of #8, I finished my rotation too soon and pulled Belle into the gap.  But since refusals don't count in T2B (except for the time they suck up), I was able to fix my mistake and we earned 9 points.

I really liked the courses that Annette Narel designed for Friday, and I look forward to running under her again. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Another Chances Course

I set up this Chances course on Monday using only hoops, and I set up an arbitrary bonus line at 40' for my runs with Belle.
I had problems directing Belle through the turns and switches from a distance on Monday, but today, we pretty much sailed through the course.  Dusty was another matter.  We had a lot of trouble with the turns and switches yesterday, and after some work, we finally it together today except for the tunnel discrimination.  The really weird thing is that we had no problem with that on Monday.  Here's the video with commentary:

Notes fromThursday Night Practice

This was Thursday evening’s practice course at the QCDC.

It was very cramped course which didn’t allow me to get much more than 10 feet away from Belle at any given point.  On my first run, I LO to (42,18) and ran with Belle on my right through the teeter.  I pushed her to the chute and found myself behind after she took the panel jump.  However, I was able to step backwards and call her to the table—turn was wide though.  Took a slight LO and sent her into the tunnel off my left.  I turned and started running along the DW as she exited the tunnel.  I moved with Belle on my right to TOS of 17 and sent her to 16.  I then executed a post turn to bring her over 17 on my right and RX 18 to get the wrap to the triple.

After watching the other handlers run, I decided to try and get in a FX before the teeter.  On both of my subsequent runs, I placed the FX almost on top of the teeter and had to quickly get out of the way.  (At least one other handler had the same problem.)  I don’t know if that produced a loopy path or not since I have no video.  I wish I would have tried using a BX both before and after the teeter to see if that would produce a tighter line without having to worry about tripping over the teeter.  (I did do a FX at the teeter bottom with Dusty, but it was awkward and a time killer.)

A lot of handlers managed a FX between the panel jump and the table.  I tried this on my second and third runs with Belle, and it proved to be very easy to do and very effective.
Another spot where a lot of handlers did a FX was at the right wing of 17, TOS.  I tried it on our last run, but I think our line from 16 to 17 was much tighter using a post turn.

BX-blind cross
FX-front cross
LO-lead out
RX-rear cross
TOS-take-off side of jump

Monday, October 31, 2011

This Weekend

Belle and I traveled to the Quad Cities for the American Belgian Tervuren Club's AKC trial.  I had hoped to practice on at least one AKC course last week, but I had a miserable cold and couldn't work up the energy to set one up in the yard or drive to Davenport for Thursday night's run thru.

 The judge was Karl Blakely of Minnesota and three of his four Excellent courses were refreshingly straightforward.  The fourth offered a variety of opportunities for going off-course.

Saturday's JWW course was the only course I managed to run as I planned.  I even managed to do a fairly nice blind cross between 16 and 17.

By the time we ran Standard, I was fading and knew running along the dogwalk would pretty much exhaust me for the rest of the run.  I opted to layer the teeter and push in toward #5.  I practically tripped over my own feet turning around for the run to the teeter.  Then I ran from the teeter to #9 pulling Belle off #8.  The video demonstrates quite clearly the effect of turning your shoulders too soon.  I made virtually the same mistake a second time by cutting the corner from the chute to the triple (#14 was actually set more perpendicular to the chute and the triple than the course map shows).


My handling plan for Sunday's JWW course was to lead out between 2 and 3 and run with Belle on my right to #12, executing a front cross on the landing side of #13 and finishing the course with Belle on my left.  However, after watching a few teams run, it was quite apparent that the fastest way to get from the #9 to the tunnel was to run with dog on left.  Almost every handler did so by doing a take off side front cross at #9.  However, by doing it on the landing side, the right wing of #9 was no longer a possible obstacle that the handler might have to avoid before taking off for the tunnel.  The vast majority of the large dog handlers opted for the take off side front cross; about half of them placed it really well; the other half finished their cross only to discover they still had to get around the right wing.

And now for the last Excellent course of the weekend.  It looks so innocent on paper, but it proved to offer many opportunities to go off course.  Since I had been practicing with hoops for drive and distance for the last couple of weeks, I was leery of opening with Belle on my left, and was favoring a lead out to (-55,-25) and turning Belle into the chute off my right.  However, after watching team after team go awry somewhere on this course, I decided what the heck and took a small lead ahead and to the right of Belle and went for a front cross between #3 and the chute.  We earned a Q and a second place!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Another Chances Course

I set up another Chances course today.  We ran this one in late February at the QCDC.  Here's the course map:

I didn't look for the video from February's trial until after I ran this course with Dusty and Belle today.  Although you can't tell from the camera angle, the two tunnels at #2 are only about 12 inches apart.  At February's trial, the tunnels were about 30" inches apart and the hoop at #1 (which was a jump at the trial) was pretty much in line with the correct tunnel.

I began with Dusty since I was planning to try from the 15-point bonus line with Belle.  This course contains more challenges than yesterday's course.  Right off the bat, there is the tunnel discrimination.  Then from the tunnel, the dog has to turn to the #3 hoop which is not visible until the dog has exited the tunnel.  Leading out to about (50,-5) gives the handler enough room to push toward the correct tunnel at #2 and ability to see the dog exit the tunnel and call him to the #3 hoop.

Next you have to be able to turn your dog away from you into the tunnel under the A-frame.  Then you have to turn him away from you again from 7 to 8.  Additionally, to be successful, your dog has to have an independent A-frame and independent weaves.

I really felt the tunnel discrimination was the easiest challenge.  However, it turned out to be quite difficult for Dusty.  He took the closer tunnel or he went to the outside of both tunnels much more often than he took the correct tunnel.  What I should have done was break off my efforts and set up a separate exercise just for him, which is what I will be doing over the next couple of days.  Here are a couple of different ideas for set-ups to use for working on "out."

Working from behind the 15-point bonus line, the biggest difficulty Belle and I encountered was getting to the #3 hoop.   From behind the 15-point bonus line, there is no place the handler can stand to have a clear line of sight to the tunnel exit.  The handler has to rely solely upon a verbal cue to get her dog to #3.  I think some of the missteps that Belle took at other spots on the course were due to my use of the word "switch" instead of "turn."  I have always used "turn," but I thought I could change over to "switch" without much fuss.  It worked yesterday, but it didn't work as well today.


A nice thing about this Chances course is that it lends itself easily to alternative sequences.  For example:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chances Practice

Belle and I are back from Champs.  As soon as I receive the DVD of our runs from Three Pines, I will post about Champs.


I entered Dusty in a trial in mid-November, so I decided to start putting up some Chances courses for us to practice.  The one I picked for today also had 15 and 20-point bonus lines to practice with Belle.

There are four challenges on the Elite course.  First, the dog has to be able to perform the weaves with his handler approximately 12 feet away.  Next is the 180 degree turn from 7 to 8.  Third is the push from 10 to 11.  Finally, for those of us not able to keep up to our dogs, the dog has to be able to finish up the course while his handler is falling further behind.

In the Open version of this Chances course, the first challenge is removed, but the others remain.

As you will see in the video, I prefer to lead out on the right side of the #2 tunnel because it puts me in a position to see my dogs exit the tunnel under the A-frame.  I did one run with Dusty in which I lead out to the left of the tunnel, and he took the weaves with ease.  However, I think he was able to do so because he knew the course by the time I tried leading out to the left of the tunnel.

Be able to perform the weaves without the handler being close by is a skill that has to be taught.  And as Dusty's little meltdowns show, once it is taught, it must be practiced from time to time.

The 180 degree turn from 7 to 8 depends upon the training the dog to turn away from you after he has started toward you.  It also calls for fairly good timing on the handler's part, especially if you substitute jumps for the two hoops.

The push from 10 to 11 is most easily accomplished if the handler backs away from the line while his dog is in the tunnel so that he has room to push on the dog's line from 10 to 11.

If you fall behind your dog on the last two hoops, you have to have a verbal to indicate he is to go on without you.  FWIW, I have a theory that over-using a verbal will cause some dogs to turn back toward their handler or pull them off-course.  Think of it this way, the dog is on course and his handler is in back of him cheering him on with "Go! Go! Go!"  Since he was going toward the last object and you are still yelling, maybe you really want him to do something else.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Last Course Before Champs

Champs start on Thursday.  I'm hoping we don't have any courses longer than 32-35 obstacles.  Any more than that, and they may have to carry me off the course.  

For our last course before Champs, I decided to design a course that would allow me to work Belle over 20-35 obstacles using lateral distance.  One thing that this set-up really drove home for me was that I have to support Belle's path to the hoops and on the dogwalk/tunnel discriminations.

Here are four variations:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

15-point Bonus Line Practice

Monday I set up an elite jumpers course using hoops and one tunnel so that I could practice some distance work with Belle before Champs.  In the video, I used the original course map, but here is the course with hoops and a tunnel:

Before running the course, I thought the most difficult parts would be turning Belle from 4 to 5 and getting her from the tunnel to #9.  However, both of those proved to be no problem.  The major problem was getting her out to #3!  The second problem was getting the turn from 10 to 11.  I think the first problem is a training issue and the second is more of a handling issue.  Here's the video of Belle and me attempting the course from the 15-point bonus line:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good News; Bad News

I'll start with the good news.  Belle and I went 4 for 5 Friday and Saturday at the Scott County Kennel Club AKC trial under Judge Daniel Dege, including our very first Excellent B first place!!!!  We were the second 20" team to run, and I thought our time was pretty good.  However, I was unable to watch the rest of the 20" class run as I was busy waiting in line with Dusty for a chiropractic adjustment.  When I checked the results, I was ecstatic to find we had placed first.  Additionally, on Friday we were within a half second of the first place dog in T2B.

Now the bad news.  On Friday, I spoke briefly with Dana Pike Chamberlain to find out if she thought she could help me shave three seconds off our JWW runs.  She asked me a couple of questions, one of which was were did I think we were losing time? On the straightaways or on the turns?  I didn't have an answer for her at the time, but it occurred to me later that I had analyzed some video of Belle and Dusty jumping and Belle was consistently putting in an extra stride of two between jumps--strides that she probably wouldn't have needed if she were running faster.

However, even without that bit of insight, Dana's suggestion was that if I wanted Belle to run faster, I would have to run faster.  This is not a new concept.  I had considered it before.  However, I'm 60 pounds overweight (which is a choice as one friend put it) and 62 years old (which is not), and I already feel like I'm running as fast as I can possibly run.

When I've watched video of myself running with the dogs, I've always thought I looked like I was lumbering.  Yet when I'm running I feel like I'm running fast and smooth.  I mentioned this to my chiropractor, and he asked me to video this weekend's runs so he could see them.  When I watched the video from Friday, for the first time ever, I noticed that I was bringing my feet to the mid-line of my body when I ran--I was single-tracking!  (It is particularly noticeable in the closing of Friday's JWW run beginning at 36 seconds.)  I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to do that when you run.  I thought this might be due to the ankle break, but I looked at video from four years ago, and I was definitely doing it even then.

Saturday morning, I got some advice about how to sprint from my less-than-diplomatic friend and made a conscious effort to implement a couple of his suggestions when I ran.  I also spent a lot of time watching handlers run.  I'm hoping my chiropractor will have some helpful ideas for changing my running style without over-stressing any joints or muscles.  I may not be able to run "faster," but I wouldn't be surprised if running more efficiently translated into greater ground speed.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Distance Work - The Send

September 24, 2011.  I modified yesterday's course and made it into a simple race track.

I tried handling Belle from behind line L1.  But once again, she ran much slower moving away from me than when coming toward me.  When I ran Dusty, I used L2 as my handler path because my goal with him is to eliminate head checking.  Since that went so smoothly with Dusty (relatively speaking), I tried it with Belle.  She was faster moving away from me when I worked along the red line, but still not as fast as when coming toward me.  What to do?

I decided to go back to square one for the send.  I set up a traffic cone and tried using treats to reinforce movement away from me around the cone.  There were a couple of problems with this approach.
  • My timing of the click wasn't consistent enough to let Belle know what I really wanted, i.e., a fast send to the cone.
  • In order to receive her reward, Belle had to return to me.  Not the best placement of a reinforcer for the behavior I wanted to work on.  (Note:  The treat could be tossed indoors to the appropriate spot to reward the behavior.  On grass, it's not really an option without a food tube.)
  • On some of the sends, Belle moves at a pretty nice speed, but the return is always much faster.  You can see her digging in after she makes the turn around the cone.
I finally brought out Belle's favorite toy, a Jolly Ball, and used it to reward the send behavior at a distance.  Since I was no longer going for a send and return, I substituted a hoop for the cone.  Then I added a second hoop, and finally ended the session with a send through multiple hoops to a distant tunnel.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Distance Training - 09/23/11

I set up Nancy Gyes' Power Paws Drill from the July issue of Clean Run.  My goal is to run the exercises from bonus line distance.  So far it's not going that well, but it is a great training opportunity for Belle, Dusty and me.  Here's the course as I set it up with hoops:

I added the two red hoops to make the exercise easier from behind the bonus lines.  I hope to eventually be able to remove the two hoops, but as you can see in the video, they are quite useful for improving the handler's timing and it makes the course more straightforward for the dog.  Belle was drawn to the hoop on the left with the red arrow, and I eventually moved it out a good 20 feet so that it was no longer in the picture.

This brings to mind a couple of guidelines for distance training:
  • Don't mark mistakes.  You want your dog to be comfortable working away from you.  Corrections will erode that comfort. 
  • If an exercise is not going as you hoped, simplify the exercise so that you and your dog can be successful.

After running the course, I decided to alter it so that I could concentrate increasing Belle's send speed.  Here is the course as I will be using it tomorrow, along with a couple of suggested sequences:

If need be, I will configure the outer two lines of hoops to form arcs to encourage more speed on the send.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

AKC Standard Practice

Belle and I have an AKC trial coming up at the beginning of October.  The judge is Daniel Dege.  I was unable to find any of his courses on-line, but I did find out that Clean Run featured one of his courses in their "What's My Plan?" series in April, 2010. 

I ran the course with all three dogs before reading the article.  After reading the it, I decided I will place a winged jump at 7/13 tomorrow since the extra width may alter the way I have to handle the sequence from the tire to the teeter.  (09/21/00:  I placed wings by the jump and they made no difference for a rear cross on the landing side.  However, they made the double a very, very viable off-course if the handler plans to do a front cross between 6 and 7.)

Here's today's video with commentary:

Friday, September 16, 2011

Working on Distance - A Tale of Three Aussies

I used a novice jumpers course map from 2000 and set up a course with hoops to work on handling and distance with the Aussies.  This is the course I wanted to set, but I was pressed for time, so I just eyeballed the placement of the hoops.

Although I've been working for years with each of the Aussies, when I train, I concentrate on different things with each dog.  With Belle, I'm primarily interested in increasing her speed and improving my ability to communicate with her at a distance.  With Dusty, just getting to the start line is part of the training process.  I want him to come to the line without barking and leaping and twirling.  When he's running, I want him to run without head-checking or barking at me, which means I have to really concentrate on my timing.  Despite appearances, Libby is a soft dog who has shut down in trial settings two or three times in her agility career.  The last time was three years ago, and I have not trialed with her since.  When I bring her out to "train," I'm interested in making agility fun and keeping her motivated.  Therefore, I usually don't react to mistakes, and I spend a lot of time playing tug with her.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Grand Prix

Today, I set up the Grand Prix course that was designed by Peggy Hammond.

I was really surprised at how easy this course seemed in comparison to the Masters Standard course.  This morning I ran Belle first, running her as I would run her at an actual trial; in the afternoon, I tried some distance handling to see how her speed and accuracy compared.  Our morning run was about two seconds faster than our afternoon run.  On the video you will get another demonstration of the power of using your dog's name.  (See my post, "What's In a Name?")

I was extremely pleased with Dusty's morning run.  I let him hold a toy in his mouth on our way out to the start line, and we got there with a minimum of barking and spinning.  Then he shocked me with a very beautiful run.  I gave quiet commands at strategic places and he listened!  (Stuart Mah maintains that to bring a dog into handler focus, you speak more quietly.  Unfortunately, a lot of us have a tendency to speak louder when we want our dog's attention.  At least I know I do.)  My handling was pretty much spot on except when I was late signalling the left turn over the #12 jump--that produced a very wide path to the tire.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Gotta Know When to Run, You Gotta Know When to Wait

This morning, I set up Peggy Hammond's Masters/PIII course from March 13, 2010.

I ran Dusty first and we had several rough spots.  I turned toward the teeter before he was committed to the tunnel and pulled him on to the dogwalk.  Next, he overshot the weave pole entrance because he failed to collect.  Lastly, he self-released from the A-frame.  Ugh!  Then I ran Belle.  I thought it was an almost perfect run except that I almost pulled her to the dogwalk.  However, then I watched the video.  Much to my surprise, both dogs by-passed the #3 jump.  That I pulled them past it I can understand, but that I didn't even notice I did it. . . .  Yikes!

I changed the camera angle and took all three Aussies outside to work on my handling of the opening.  Despite the fact I knew it was a problem, I missed it the first two times I tried it with Libby.  Since I now knew it was a problem, I made sure to bid my time with Belle and Dusty until they committed to the jump.

I watched the Agility Nerd run Meeker after I ran this course, and it made me realize that leading out to (27, 68) to face and call the dogs was probably not the handling best choice.  A more modest lead out, keeping my back to the table, and releasing them to run on my left side to the tunnel still allowed me plenty of time to get into position for what followed.  Facing my dog indicates I want handler focus and collection.  Getting to the correct tunnel entrance doesn't call for handler focus or collection IF you run with the dog on your left as Steve did.

Introduction to Distance Training - Part Three

It's been two or three days since my first two sessions with Max, so I decided to set up three hoops and work a few minutes with him this morning.  Unlike my Aussies and Lacie, the Cocker Spaniel, Max does not have live to work with his people.  Additionally, he is easily distracted.  He no longer has a reliable recall, so I will never be able to take him out to the agility field to work since it is unfenced.  However, there is a fair amount of room in the backyard, and I should be able to set up some fairly interesting courses for him as time goes by.

For today's exercise, I set up a three hoop pinwheel.  Based on our short warm-up, I decided the second pinwheel was too far out, so I moved it in closer.  If Max had trouble with it at that distance, I could have moved the hoops closer together and/or moved a little more deeply into the pocket.  My goal when I do a pinwheel is to stay out of the pocket unless I want to do a front cross before the third jump or I'm need to run a longer path so my dog can get ahead of me before I do a rear cross.

Here's the video:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Gamble Analysis

Yesterday evening, I set up this USDAA Masters/PIII Gamblers course designed by Peggy Hammond.

Since the principles of distance handling are the same no matter what the venue, I decided to film the gamble portion of the course.  When I analyzed this course last night, I thought the only way to be successful was to begin the gamble with the dog on my left.  Then I would move up field and signal the turn into the correct end of the tunnel.  Next, I had to scurry back down field to the landing side of the jump, making sure to back away from the line so I had room to move back in and place pressure on the dog's line from c to d.  This worked every time with Belle, and it worked two out of three times with Dusty.

Then I decided to show what happened if you began this gamble with the dog on your right.  I really didn't expect it to work.  However, much to my surprise neither Belle nor Dusty had any trouble understanding what I wanted.  As they committed to a, I did a rear cross to pull them away from the incorrect tunnel entrance, and then I signaled a turn away from me to the correct entrance.  Because I was behind the dog at this point instead of even with him, I was able to get back into position for the push to d with less effort.  Although I got to the line too soon with Dusty when I did the push, it wasn't nearly as soon as I got there on my second effort with him.

Introduction to Distance Training - Part Two

I did a second session with Max.  This time I set up two hoops for him.  Here's the video:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Introduction to Distance Training - Part One B

I was able to persuade my sister-in-law to bring over her American Cocker Spaniel, Lacie, so that I could try working with a dog who has no previous agility training.  Lacie is being trained in field work and will be entering her first hunt test at the end of this month.  She has been taught to retrieve using a clicker.

Here's the video of Lacie:

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Introduction to Distance Training - Part One

A question commonly heard is "How do I train my dog to work away from me?"  I thought I might try to answer that question with a series of videos.  For my first video, I used Max, my 10 year old Airedale.  Max has been retired from agility for many years because I was unable to get him to stay on track when we ran.  Max has several novice NADAC titles, but we were never able to earn a Q in open.  

Max is not totally unfamiliar with the concept of distance.  He is my first agility dog, and my first agility instructor taught her students to handle with distance, not necessarily extreme distance, but certainly you did not run by your dog's side.  Also, some layering was including in almost every lesson.

I finally bit the bullet and constructed a set of hoops, so I will be using hoops to work with Max.  (I'm also using them to work on increasing Belle and Dusty's distance skills.)  Since Max is not familiar with hoops, the first thing I do on the video is shape the behavior I'm looking for.  My criteria for Max's hoop performance were minimal:  I just wanted him to pass through the hoop.  Once he was doing that fairly well, I introduced the command, "hoop," and started working on increasing lateral distance.  Lateral distance is the easiest distance to obtain.  You simply move a little further away each time.  If your dog pulls off the obstacle, you've gone too far.  Move in a little closer and try again.

The last thing I am able to do in our short training session is introduce some send distance.  I would say this is a fairly novel concept for Max.  I think send distance is harder to train for many dogs.  Your dog has to be willing to move away from you.  A lot of our training involves getting our dog to pay attention to us.  Telling them to move forward without us flies in the face of all that training, especially for dogs that aren't particularly possessed of a ton of drive.