Monday, January 3, 2011

A Lead Out Gone Wrong

I'm always happy when I have someone to video my trial runs since I don't have access to formal training anymore.  Making mistakes is a part of the learning process; but it's impossible to learn from your mistakes unless you have a good instructor or observer who can tell you what went wrong AND how to put it right.

I try to be my own observer/instructor, and I depend on video to help me out.  Sunday's tunneler run was such an unexpected fiasco.  Belle has proven herself to be capable of performing some pretty tricky sequences even when I had to take a fairly substantial lead out for one reason or another.  I watched the opening of Sunday's tunneler's run several times to find out why it went to badly wrong and what I could have done differently while still taking the long lead out that I wanted.  Here's what I discovered:

  • The lead out probably would have been more likely to have been successful if I had placed Belle closer to the first tunnel. (I purposely left her further back so that she would build up speed before crossing the start line.) 
  • I failed to notice where Belle was looking when I released her--she was looking a me, not at the entrance of the first tunnel.
  • I ran away from Belle at the start line giving a fairly wide berth to the first two tunnels.  This gave Belle really bad information about the path I wanted her to take when released.  I should have run closer to the right side of the first two tunnels and crossed Belle's intended path in the gap between the second and third tunnels.  This would have given Belle a head's up about where she was supposed to go when released. 
  • When we play snooker, my release word is "come." (I also whisper to her that we're going to play snooker while we're waiting for our turn.)  After leading out, I stand with my hands down and in front of my body inviting Belle to come to me.  I'm also careful to set her up so that she has a direct line to me.  Sometimes there is a red jump along that line; sometimes there isn't.  But the idea I've tried to convey to her is that she is to come to me on the straightest line possible, which is what Belle did on this tunnelers run.  Even though I did none of these things, running away from her on the path that I took was enough to convince her that snooker was the name of the game.  (This I feel is a training issue, but hey, I'm also the trainer.)
  • In this run, I released her with "okay."  "Tunnel" might have been a better choice.  But given all the strong body signals I gave Belle and the training we've done for Snooker, I don't think that would have saved the day. 
  • Lastly, from the standpoint of trying to be a good handler/trainer, I could really kick myself that I didn't just go with the flow and direct Belle into the third tunnel instead of running back to the first tunnel and trying to salvage the course.  In the split second I had to change my plan, I decided this was Belle's mistake and not mine, so I tried to start over.  After watching the tape, I can see that about 10% of the failure in communication was Belle's and a whopping 90% was mine.
Don't get me wrong.  I'm not beating myself up over my mistakes.  I am thrilled to have this opportunity to analyze what went wrong and how I could have handled it differently.  And I look forward to being able to set up sequences where we can work on honing our "extreme" lead out skills.

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