Monday, April 25, 2011

More on the Ketschker Turn

Apparently the Ketschker turn has been around for several years in Europe.  I emailed Steve Schwarz, the Agility Nerd, a link to my second session and he replied that the Ketschker is used primarily to tighten up jump wraps.  His advice was to not use two obstacles to train it as that might end up diluting the cue to wrap.  Also he did a post in his blog on April 11th about jump wraps, and one of the methods he covered was the Ketschker.

Here is a video that demonstrates a lot of wrapping with the Ketschker:

I broke my ankle Saturday evening, so I won't be able to do any more work on this fascinating maneuver (or any other agility) for at least eight weeks.  I'm hoping to really work on Belle's directionals and her service dog skills ;-)  Additionally, I want to re-commit myself to my weight loss goal for the NADAC Championships in October.  If I don't curb my fork, I'll end up 20 pounds heavier by the time the cast comes off.  Wish me luck.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Ketschker: A Different Type of Blind Cross

Added 06/13/2013:  The first video of me introducing the Ketschker to Belle has nearly 1,000 views.  Since I really didn't have a clue as to what I was doing, that is really unfortunate.  Here's a short video I shot today that shows a much more systematic way to introduce this move:


Original Post:
I was watching some videos posted lately by ScottisSeite on YouTube, and saw a very interesting handling maneuver.  The handler moves backward toward a jump and the dog takes the jump and goes behind the handler to the other side of the handler.  Here's a video from three years ago of someone training the maneuver, which is known as a Ketschker:

Here is a more recent video from a seminar that shows people using the Ketschker:

I decided to try teaching Belle this move.  Here is my first effort this morning.  It's a rather blatant example of how not to train.

After I edited this morning's video and looked for a couple of examples from ScottisSeite to include in this post, I spotted how to indicate the move to Belle at 1:54 in the second video above.*  Watch the lady's hands.  She is basically using the hand movements we use in obedience to teach a dog to return to heel position by going around the handler's right side.   Well, duh, we may not do much obedience, but we have worked on that skill.  I went out again with Belle and managed to quiet my arms and body and get a much better response from her.

*(Note:  To me it doesn't look like everyone is using this particular signal, but for Belle and me it seems like a good starting point.)

Here's the video of our second session:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Grand Prix Practice

Belle and I will be going to a USDAA trial on Sunday, so I wanted to get in a little Grand Prix practice. 

I spent an hour setting up this Grand Prix course designed by Frank Holik.  Once I began walking it, it seemed very familiar. 

Before running the course, I came inside to search through last years videos, and sure enough, I had set up this course last July.  I watched the video and was appalled at how much shouting I did while running the course.  I was hoping to run the course a little differently today by opting for a rear cross instead of a front cross between 5 and 6, and by running on the backside of the #16 tunnel.  My first idea worked quite well.  The second, not so much.

Dusty had A-frame problems, so I devoted most of our training time to that issue.  With Belle, I made the same mistake this morning that I made back in July.  I took the dogwalk/tunnel discrimination for granted and Belle ended up taking the wrong obstacle.  Additionally, the course highlighted the need to work on Belle's teeter performance.

I decided I would mow the field and then set up a second Grand Prix course.  This one was designed by Janet Gauntt.

By the time I finished setting this course up, there was only enough time to run it once.  We had a slight bobble between 3 and 4, but not enough to be called for a refusal.  (I was concentrating on getting into position to handle the 270, and moved across the box a smidge too soon.)  Belle and I got as far as #11 before we had an off-course.  We started again from the A-frame and this time I stopped soon enough to let Belle know the next obstacle was #12.  The rest of the course ran very smoothly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Letter "a" Alphabet Drills - Threadles and Rear Cross

Exercise 2 provides the opportunity to do two threadles in quick succession.  Once Belle, Dusty and I were able to do the two threadles, I added different lead-ins to the exercise to increase the speed the dogs were running at.  Exercise 3 provides a chance to do a much more dynamic rear cross than Exercise 1.  Finally, Exercise 3 provides the chance to practice a lead out and three threadles in quick succession.

Rear Cross vs. Front Cross

Those of you who live in the Midwest know how crummy the weather has been this month.  Today it is cold and damp, but at least it isn't windy and rainy.   Tomorrow, I think it will be warm enough to set up a full course, but for today I decided to set up the first of the Alphabet Drills designed by Nancy Gyes (Clean Run, 02/05).

For the first exercise, Nancy suggested using a rear cross between jumps 3 and 4.  I decided to try with a rear cross and then a front cross.  (With Belle, I also tried the exercise from an imaginary bonus line.)  With both Belle and Dusty, I discovered the front cross produced a faster time on the exercise.  For Dusty, the difference was approximately .8 of a second; for Belle the difference was only about .2 of a second.  In Dusty's case, the rear cross produced a wider turn around the right standard of #4.  For Belle, it didn't really seem to make that much difference in how tight her line was from #4 to #5.  However, in both cases, I had to wait for the dog in order to do a rear cross.

That brings up a very important point regarding crosses.  In order to do a rear cross, you must be behind your dog.  If you have to wait for your dog, there's a good chance you could do a front cross instead.  The more dynamic your handling, the faster your time will be.  Moving more slowly or standing still cues a dog to slow down.  Moving more slowly is preferable to standing still since once you stand still, you are no longer giving your dog any information about where the course is going. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

CPE Trial

Belle, Dusty and I went to the Davenport yesterday for the QCDC's first CPE trial.  It was a very small trial, but those of us who were there had a great time.  Our judge was Mary Beam, and she set some interesting courses.  Plus, she was very congenial, and very helpful to those who were playing the CPE games for the very first time.

Belle and I are at Level 4, and we Q'd on all five runs yesterday.  I was particularly proud of myself in Snooker.  I handled well and didn't commit snookercide.  We garned two 7s and a 5.  I had a fleeting desire to go for three 7s, but since we hadn't Q'd in snooker the last four times we tried, I decided it was time to start plotting snooker courses with a little more flow.

Dusty was a mama's boy for his first two runs with David.  Then he got into the flow and earned a Q in Standard and a Q in Full House.  He almost earned a Q on his first Standard run, but did a spectacular fly-off on the teeter (still managing to have one foot on it when it touched the ground) and David walked him off the course.

Here are Belle's Jumpers, Snooker and Full House runs.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Yesterday's Jumpers Course Reversed - Another 15-pt Attempt

I reversed yesterday's course so I could do some more 15-point distance with Belle.  Note that I moved the tunnel to the left side so that it is still the first obstacle.

The narration on the video says just about everything I can think of regarding this jumpers course.

As you watch, notice that with Belle, if I am moving toward the right side of the course, I cause varying degrees of curving either right out of the tunnel or after the first jump.  Also, Belle interprets my turn command between 16 & 17 to mean she is to turn left after 17.

With Dusty, the 8/12/15 jump is our biggest problem.  I say "come" as he takes the jump before, and he interprets it literally and comes to me instead of taking the jump.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bonus Line Practice

I set up a Jumpers course that we ran last year.

In analyzing the video from today's practice, I found:

I did a pretty good job of remaining in motion.  And for the most part, my body signals were timely.   On the other hand, my verbals were almost always late.

The first two times I ran with Belle, I was falling behind by the time she got to #4.  Because of this, she is looking back at me, and this draws her attention to the #9/#15 jump.  The first time, I was clueless and my late "out" was useless.  The second time, I knew it might happen (although I didn't know why) and I was a little more timely in my effort to keep her on course.  I also was inadvertently a little less behind her the second time.  I was even less far behind on the third effort.

When I was running with Belle, I really liked the slingshot start I used the second and third times much better.  However, in looking at the video, I found Belle curled back toward me both times.  I also noticed that by the time she enters the tunnel I am no longer moving so I will have room to drive forward when Belle exits the tunnel.  I'll try the slingshot start again and try to keep moving and see if she will drive straight to the first jump.

I ran Dusty from behind the red line on the course map.   Any run with Dusty that is silent and without spins is a huge success, so I was really pleased with him and with myself.  The only spot where I was late signaling was for the turn from #11 to #12.  And apparently, I was within Dusty's guidelines since he neither barked nor spun.  However, as with Belle, my verbals were uniformly late.

I decided my late signals would be more of an issue if the dogs were actually jumping, so we went out and tried the course again with the bars up.  Dusty and I did nearly as well with the bars in place, but Belle and I still had some bobbles.  I look forward to running this course in reverse tomorrow.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wrap & Tight

While reviewing the video footage from the Power Paws exercises, I noticed Belle was turning pretty wide over some of the jumps.  About a month ago, I downloaded Silvia Trkman's Cik & Cap video.  Silvia has a phenomenal grasp of right and left while moving at speed with her dogs, and she has taught them "cik" for "collect and take the obstacle in front of you and turn left" and "cap" for "collect and take the obstacle in front of you and turn left."

I know I am directionally challenged, so that is not an option for solving Belle's wide turns.  However, I've been thinking about using "wrap" to indicate "collect and take the obstacle in front of you and turn toward me.  Then I could use "tight" to indicate "collect and take the obstacle in front of your and turn away from me."

I used the four jump box from the Power Paws exercises to do  a little practice with Dusty and Belle.  Dusty had a hard time with the concept that he is to take the obstacle first and then turn.  If I can teach him this, it will be a great way to save wear and tear on his body.  For Belle, it will enable her to turn more efficiently and hopefully shave some time off her runs.

Notice in the video that when one of the dogs doesn't execute "tight" correctly, I work with one jump and then go back to working with two.  "Wrap" didn't seem to present too big a problem, but "tight" is a new concept for both dogs.

Postscript 04/09/2013:  Dusty has been retired and since Belle never responded very well to "tight," I only use one verbal cue, "wrap," and rely upon physical cues to indicate whether I want her to wrap toward me or away from me.  With my next dog, I will once again try teaching both commands.

Power Paws - Long Way, Short Way: Exercise Three

Here is exercise three from the 03/11 article by Nancy Gyes.

There are a myriad of ways to handle 1-6, and I don't know that it makes much difference which way is chosen, as long as the dog doesn't go off-course.  I felt the crucial point of this exercise was how you decided to handle the weaves.   Front crossing between #6 and the weaves gave me the feeling I was in control of the run.  My second choice would be the blind cross I did at the weave exit.  However, much to my surprise, Belle's fastest run was her first complete run on the video where I waited to do a rear cross after she took #6 and then had to run like crazy to catch up in the weaves. 

I was absolutely taken by surprise when both Belle and Dusty took went from 1 to 3 on their first attempt on this course.  I haven't a clue why they did it.  Belle only did it once, but Dusty did it several times.  He also went off-course from 5 to 3.  I suspect that was because two of the fingers on my left hand were pointing at 3 as I went by it. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

Power Paws - Long Way, Short Way: Exercise Two

Today, I ran Exercise Two with Belle and Dusty.

Since 2 to 3 is a 270, my preference was to stay in the box and try to produce as tight a line as possible by pulling my dog from 2 to 3.  After sending the dog over 4, I did a rear cross.  I finally tried a front cross between 3 and 4 with Dusty, and it worked quite well once I got my timing right.

I normally opt for the simplest handling solution, so I would probably never think to do a front cross here which is unfortunate.  When I went out a second time to work on this exercise, I realized I had to wait for Belle to pass me by in order to do a rear cross.  Rule of Thumb:  If you have to wait in order to do a rear cross, perhaps you should be doing a front cross.

I used four different handling combinations at 6 and 7:

1.  FX between 6 & 7 and a second FX to wrap the dog back into the gap.  This worked with Belle, but with Dusty it was not a very good choice.

2.  Send over 6 and move backward to threadle the dog over 7, and then move back again to threadle the dog to the tunnel.  (I.e., I had Belle and Dusty run across my feet to the tunnel.)

3.  FX between 6 & 7, and then RX 7, wrapping the dog left to the tunnel.  I felt this was a faster option than number 2 above.  The only problem was that I felt like was signaling the RX from a very strange position.

4.  Send over 6 and move backward to threadle the dog over 7 and execute a post turn to wrap him left to the tunnel.  Once I figured out how I had to move, this became my favorite way to handle 6-8.  I also think it was the fastest.

The threadle/post handling described in #4 above are in this video:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Power Paws - Long Way, Short Way: Exercise One

I set up the Power Paws drill created by Nancy Gyes for the March, 2011, issue of Clean Run.  I had a lot of fun with the first exercise.  The primary considerations were which way to wrap your dog around #4 and are you going to try handling 4-7 with the dog on your right or your left or a combination of the two?

I had quite a bit of trouble getting Dusty to take #7 from the correct direction.  Given his speed and his ability to turn off an obstacle in the blink of an eye, I think the best choice was handling him off my right in the weaves and allowing him to go ahead of me over #6 so that I could do a rear cross.

With Belle, almost every combination worked, but the fastest time was produced by wrapping her left around #4 while I stood about half way between #3 and #5.  This allowed me to sprint along the outside for the closing.  However, I did have to make sure that I held my ground long enough for Belle to make the weave entry.

I also found that as Belle got faster, it became harder and harder us to get the last two jumps if I was handling from the outside.  I just couldn't get there fast enough unless I  started running before Belle entered the weaves, and she just isn't quite ready for that.  Therefore, the best way for me to handle this was to do a front cross at the weave exit.  It resulted in a slightly slower run, but at least it allowed me to cue Belle as to the last two jumps.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Some Thoughts on Planning a Gamblers Run

1.  What is your goal for this Gamblers run?  Do you want to practice contacts?  Weaves?  A sequence that may be coming up in another class?  Do you just want to gather as many points as possible?  With your goal in mind, plan your course accordingly.  No matter what your goal is for the run, one thing that makes it easier on you and your dog is to plot a course that has as much flow as possible.

2. The course map will specify how much time there is in the opening.  How many obstacles can your dog do in that amount of time?  You can get a rough estimate by looking at your times in various Standard or Regular runs and dividing your dog's time by the number of obstacles on the course.  I figure it takes 2+ seconds an obstacle for Belle.  For the weaves and dogwalk, I add another second.

3.  Where does the gamble begin?  What angle you want to start it from?  Remember where you want to start from when the whistle blows.  Chances are pretty good you will have plenty of time for the gamble even if it takes you two or three seconds to get to the spot you wanted to start from.

4.  It is best not to use the weaves or the dogwalk as one of your last obstacles since they take extra time to complete.  An exception to that would be if when your dog finishes either obstacle, she is in a perfect position to start the gamble.

5.  Don't run out of obstacles.  Try to plan for two or three obstacles more just in case your dog is really flying today.  The course I plan is almost invariably too long.  With the course I set up today, I was spot on, but that was cutting it too close since there were no obstacles close by to finish out the opening if they had been needed.)  

I set up this course designed by Frank Holik:

My first instinct was to open on the left, but then I realized that opening on the right was much faster and it earned 9 points vs. 8 for the left side opening. (There are no spreads in Performance.)  I knew Belle would be really running by the time she got to the dogwalk.  (With a faster, more intense dog, the handler might want to open the same way and test her dog's ability to hit the DW contacts.  On the other hand, she might decide to start on the left side so that her dog wouldn't be in warp drive when it got to the DW.)

I debated whether or not to include a jump between the DW and teeter to eat up a second or two, and decided against it.  (In hindsight, I should have added one on the second loop.)  I sent Belle into the tunnel and did the DW and teeter again and then sent her over the jump at (28,72).  I was beginning to think my timer had gone to sleep on me when he finally called the start of the Gamble.  (He was about two seconds late.)  I didn't think Belle took the AF that well, but when I looked at the video it was better than I thought.  Rear crossing contacts is just something that Belle has never been trained to accept.

I considered sending Belle over the jump at (28,72) on my right side to begin the gamble, but decided it would give her too much momentum going over the AF and make the closer end of the tunnel just too logical an option.  I knew the rear cross would make her pause and wonder where I was going next.  (Don't get me wrong.  I wish this weren't the case.  But since it is, I decided to use it to my advantage.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

From a Distance or 15-point Chances Practice - Part 2

Now, what happens to the usual challenges when you try to stay behind the 15-point bonus line?  Well, I already knew that the #10 tunnel becomes an extremely attractive off-course after #4.  First of all, I was late with the verbal.  Second, I tried both a shoulder pull and facing Belle and pulling (sometimes to the point of an RFP), but I neglected to actually move toward the bottom of the course while doing so.  When you are standing close to the 50-foot line, you are at least as big a draw for your dog as the #10 tunnel.  When you're below the 15-foot line, your animal magnetism is considerably diminished :(

Additionally, because the distance is so great, it hard to provide a deceleration cue to Belle as she entered the straight tunnel.  She comes blasting out in full extension.  My signals to turn over #4 were almost all late; a) because she was moving so quickly, and b) I didn't want her turning before she took #4.  As you will see in the video, this means she is pretty much beyond the left upright of jump #5 before she completes her turn to it even on the best of our attempts.

Once I actually got Belle through the first six obstacles, I got the shock of my life.  She didn't go into the tunnel under the dogwalk!!!  I got all sorts of variations on the theme you see in the video.  I never did figure out exactly what was going on with this.  Maybe in a month or two, I'll realize what I was doing wrong.  [10/26/11.  By reviewing the video in slow motion several times, I was able to finally figure out that I was late in indicating the turn to the tunnel on our unsuccessful efforts.  Body and motion cues for the tunnel must be given as Belle takes off over the #6 jump.  Once she has landed, it is too late!  The only way that I can see at this point to create some collection over #4 would be to use a quiet "easy over" as Belle exits the tunnel.  This is something we'd have to work on.]

I was late a few times on the 8-10 sequence, but Belle was cranking.  I was really surprised to see I used the on-side arm to indicate the push to the #10 tunnel.  I would have thought I would have gone for the off-side arm.  But when it came to doing it in real time, there just wasn't time enough for me to switch arms.


Lessons I learned from this one.

1.  I really thought the shoulder pull would be the way to handle #4 to #5.  However, for me it was better to face Belle and move backwards, doing an RFP if need be.  This meant I had my eye on her at all times and I could move more quickly to where I had to be next.

2.  Even without intervening layers of obstacles, distance changes the challenges.

3.  If I find myself shrieking "Belle," it is because I am late, late, late.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

15-Point Chances Practice - Part I

I set up this Chances Course during the week so I could work on handling it from the 15-bonus line.

Belle and I ran this course on January 2nd at the QCDC trial.  (There was an A-frame next to the tunnel which I didn't include on my practice course.)  I believe it was the first time I attempted the bonus line on a Chances course.  I really thought this course would be relatively easy, but Belle went like a rocket from #4 to the off-course #10 tunnel and finished with the dogwalk.

I really didn't see that off-course coming, but when I watched the video, I noticed I faced Belle and called, but failed to move back or attempt a shoulder pull.  Okay, so my thinking is this goes to the heart of my need to train myself to not stop moving.  However, after working with Belle on this course for several days, I discovered that was not to be my only problem with this course.

Since for most of us, Chances is the hardest class to qualify in, I decided to outline all of the challenges I spotted on this course.

1.  On the original course there was the A-frame/tunnel discrimination at #3.  This really was a non-issue given how the course is set up.

2.  Getting the dog to #4.

3.  Turning the dog from #4 to #5.

4.  The #8-#10 sequence.

Given that you aren't attempting this from the 15-point line, the biggest challenges are the second and fourth ones.  If you outrun the dog when he is in the tunnel, sending him on to #4 is going to be a tough sell.  In order to turn your dog right over #9, it is best to remain at least two or three feet from the line so you can move in enough to indicate the turn to the tunnel.

In the video below, David had no problem getting Dusty to #4.  However, it proved to be a major sticking point for Dusty and me while working on this in the yard.  It was also a major sticking point for Libby, who has much less experience than Dusty and Belle with Chances.

Here is the video of David and Dusty's qualifying run.