Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Left, Right or Straight Ahead--A Distance Exercise

This morning, I created a short sequence on the jumpers course I set up last week that allowed me to test my ability to direct Belle and Dusty's to one of three jumps upon exiting a tunnel.

Here's the course map.  I have three different ways to start the sequence.  You could also start by sending your dog through the gap between 1a and 1c directly to the #2 jump.

With Belle I was able to get the job done from the farther line.  With Dusty, I had to get close to the line nearer the tunnel exit.  But what I found really interesting was the difference in the default jump between Belle and Dusty.  Belle's natural choice was 5c; Dusty's was 5a.  I was rather at a loss for how to direct Belle's attention to 5a.  What finally worked was calling her name as she exited the tunnel.  By getting her to look toward me, I took her focus off of 5c and was able to redirect her to the correct jump.

Getting Dusty out to 5c was much harder to accomplish.  I had to step in dramatically and resort to an off-arm along with a strong "Out."

Jump 5b was not a tempting off-course choice for either dog, but when it was the correct choice, a simple "Come" was enough to direct both dogs to it.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Lately, there was a thread on the Clean Run Yahoo List regarding volunteering to work at trials.  Steve Schwarz, the Agility Nerd, sent a group e-mail inviting people who blog about agility to do a post on June 28th explaining why they do or do not volunteer their time at agility trials.  Here are my thoughts. 

I started my agility training with Cheryl Carter.  Her group, Fundog, puts on several trials during the year, and it was only natural to volunteer at the Fundog trials.  In fact, at my first trial, I didn't even run a dog.  It was a wonderful learning experience, and when it came time for my debut with Max, I wasn't totally in the dark as to what was expected from me as an exhibitor.

Now a days, I do most of my trialing at the Quad Cities Dog Center in Davenport (one ring), and I volunteer every chance I get.  The $2 off per class is a great incentive in these hard economic times, but even if it weren't, I'd be happy to volunteer.  There are 18 different runs every day of a NADAC trial, and I'm participating in only six of those runs with my dog.  It makes the day go by so much faster to have something to do during the 12 runs in which my dog and I are not running.

I also freely volunteer at one ring trials and at AKC trials whether they be one ring or two.  With only two runs a day at an AKC trial, there are really no conflicts.  Usually, there are so many people at a two ring AKC trial, that you only get assigned to work once a day.

However, there are two ring NADAC, CPE and USDAA trials that I do not volunteer at--at least not ahead of time.  Basically, it's because it becomes too tiring for me (mentally and physically) to run back and forth between rings to see where the classes are at, take care of my dog, and volunteer.  (At this point in my life, this is almost a mute point, since I only do one or two two-ring trials a year.)

Because I started with Fundog, I know what it takes to keep a trial moving along efficiently.  Clubs are not making an outrageous profit running agility trials, and their members put in a lot of hard work.  To keep entry fees reasonable, most depend upon club and non-club volunteers to help out.  I'm grateful that someone is willing to put in the effort to host a trial, and I'm more than willing to help gate, scribe, time, or bar set.  I don't course build because I usually use that time to exercise my dog.  However, from building my own courses at home, I can tell you that helping to set up a course gives you a real head start on analyzing it for your run.

Many of the jobs give me a ringside seat from which to view the action.  This is definitely not the case when I scribe though--I have devote myself to watching the judge ;-)  Leash running, bar setting, transcribing, chute fluffing and timing are the best jobs for viewing the action.

For me volunteering has been an over-overwhelmingly positive experience, and I confess I used to wonder about people who never seemed to volunteer.  However, after reading some of the reasons on the Clean Run List, I realized I can't read minds, and I don't know every exhibitor's circumstances.  Additionally, as someone pointed out a year or two ago, the key word is "volunteer." 

You can find links to the posts of other bloggers concerning this subject on the Agility Nerd's blog.

Monday, June 27, 2011


How much proofing do you do with your dogs?  I must confess that I don't really do very much.  Belle has me pretty spoiled.  However, if there were a Jolly ball on the course, I know she would make a beeline for it.  

Here's a video from one of my favorite YouTube posters showing how to really, really distraction-proof your dog.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Left Turns and Self-Control

After watching the video from Thursday while editing, I decided to devote this week to getting Dusty to work more calmly.  Specifically, I want to see him be able to run a sequence without head checking.  Additionally, I want to be able to send him from a standstill to an obstacle without him devolving into a barking, twirling canine mass.  Lastly, I want to work on getting him to do a hand touch with just his nose.  He normally goes at it with too much gusto and a wide open mouth.

With Belle, I want to continue on her driving off the start line and getting her to turn in the direction the course takes.

This is the Elite Jumpers course I set up Thursday with two sequences that take advantage of the tunnel and dogwalk I added.  A third possibility is to go from the 6/11 jump to the unnumbered jump and on to 14-16.

I am at a loss to explain why Belle fails to turn left when I told her to "turn" at #4 on her first run in the video.  On subsequent runs, I used the word "left" and she nailed it each time.  The problem is that neither one of us is consistent in our usage of "right" and "left."  However, that's what practice is for.  I've never made an effort to teach "left" and "right" to Dusty, but for these exercises I decided to use "left" instead of "turn" with him also.  However, unlike Belle, Dusty understands that "turn" means "turn away from me" and is fairly consistent in his response to that command.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

An Almost Successful 20-Point Bonus Jumpers Attempt

Belle and I did the reverse of yesterday's Elite Jumpers course this morning.  Belle got everything except the last jump, which she missed because I started to celebrate our success after she took the penultimate jump.  Moral of the story:  The course isn't over until the finish line is crossed.

Here are a couple of sequences using the four obstacles I added to this jumpers course.  The course maps are included in the video.

Friday, June 17, 2011

20 Point Bonus Attempt

Belle and I went out to the field around 8:30 this morning for our first bonus attempt on the course I posted yesterday.  It went really well except for the turn from #9 to #10.  Instead of going left after #9, Belle wanted to go right.  I also was majorly late in turning Belle from #15 to #16.

Next I brought out Libby and Dusty and had another go at handling the course from the area around the #5 jump.  Since Libby does agility only because I ask, I accept the off-courses and just keep going.  Once again, I was impressed by how much distance she was able to do.

This was Dusty's second exposure to this course and we did well until #18, which is where we had trouble yesterday.  The plane of #19 is close enough to the left upright of #18, that if the dog is already turning as he jumps #18, he is going to have difficulty getting the next jump.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Every Day is a Little Bit Better

Today, I had my third session rehab session with my chiropractor, and I can't believe how far we've come.  I worked almost all day long and the swelling this evening is much less than it was yesterday.

After I mowed the field this afternoon, I put up this jumpers course.
Everything in black is from the original Elite Jumpers course, including the 20 point bonus line.  I added the obstacles in red and the red handler's box around jump #5.

By the time I finally had the course set up, I was too tired to try the distance challenge with Belle.  So I used the sequences on the course map below to practice the dogwalk and weaves at a distance.  I worked first with Belle, and had one heck of a time getting her to take the opening three jumps--she wanted to turn left after the second one.  Once we ironed that out (instead of facing toward the third jump, I had to face slightly to the right of it), doing the dogwalk and the tunnel to the weaves was a piece of cake.  Unlike Monday, Belle had no problem staying in the weaves.  However, Belle had a hard time understanding when I wanted her to go directly from the dogwalk to the weaves.  She was convinced I wanted the red jump.  I finally had to cut my distance almost in half to put enough pressure on her line to get her to the weaves.

I also tried these exercises with Dusty and Libby, although with them, I lead out between the second and third jumps.  However, I managed to not go any closer to the dogwalk than the 70 feet line.  Dusty did much better today than he did yesterday.  He seemed to accept that I wasn't running.  The big shock came when I brought out Libby.  Libby is not a distance dog--I think she only has Elite Chance Q to her credit.  Much to my surprise she was able to handle the exercises at the same distance Dusty did.

I rested for an hour or so and then took Dusty and my video camera outside to see if we could do the jumpers course with me staying near the #5 jump as shown in the red box on the first course diagram.  My first choice was to try handling the course by using the entire box, but I'm just not quite quick enough to do that.  My second choice was to remain on the landing side of #5, and that worked pretty well.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ad Libbing

I had my DH set this practice course up last week.
The layout provides a lot of opportunities to work on a little doggy NASCAR, tight turns and wraps, and turning at a distance.  Yesterday I finally had enough energy to get the tripod out and film my practice with Belle.  I also brought out Dusty for the first time in seven weeks.  Normally, Dusty is like a red tornado on the course.  But he seemed to be really inhibited by my lack of motion.  Unfortunately, I forgot to start the camera rolling again for his workout.

Here's the video of Belle from yesterday:

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Course Analysis: Finding the Sweet Spot

I have spent the last few weeks reviewing my NADAC courses.  My goal has been to find a sweet spot on each one from where I could possibly handle the entire course without having to move more than a few feet.  Yesterday, I had the opportunity to do this with a non-NADAC course at the home of my friend Cathy, who teaches agility near Freeport, Illinois.

This is an approximation of the course that Cathy set up yesterday:

I gimped through the course a couple of times to determine where the key control points were.  I was pretty sure I could handle everything above the 50' line without having to go beyond the 40' line.  Now for the rest of the course.

The #3 tunnel was the first challenge.  I wasn't sure I could get Belle into the closer end from a distance.  I felt her momentum might make the further end a more logical choice to her.  However, that proved to be no problem.  On the other hand, I was so pleased when she took the correct entrance to the tunnel, I failed to call her in a timely manner for the turn to #4, and she was well on her way to the DW before I realized my mistake.  On our second run, I tried using an off-side arm instead of a push to indicate the tunnel, and Belle stopped and looked at me, as if to say "What???"

The other challenge for me on this course was to get the 270 at 18/19.  On our first run, I couldn't get there to apply enough pressure to keep Belle out of the gap between the two jumps.  On my subsequent runs, I adjusted my starting position so that I was close enough to that gap that I could apply the needed pressure.

My first choice of lead out positions was A, but on subsequent runs, I discovered that B was better choice since I was better able to get out of Belle's way for the second jump in the first serpentine.  The only spot where I had to hustle a little more than I was comfortable hustling was for the 270.  I was able to direct Belle through the entire course without having to cross the plane of the serpentine going any further up course than the 40' line.

I did make an important discovery.  Six weeks is too long to go without doing a full set of weave poles.  Belle popped out at the #10 pole more times than I like to even think about.  Guess when I have my DH set up my next course, I'll have to make sure there is a full set of weaves set up nearby for practice.


Friday, June 10, 2011

The Garden

Despite the fact I haven't been able to weed my gardens over the last seven weeks, they are doing pretty well without me.  The flower garden in front of the house looks very pretty this year with an abundance of foxgloves.  Last year, this same garden exploded with the red poppies in the lower left corner just in time for Memorial Day weekend. 

I was hoping to go the the 4RK9's NADAC trial tomorrow, but I'm just not mobile enough yet, and my ankle keeps swelling up like a balloon.  So I guess hang around the house and try to get some weeding done.  With all the rain we've had over the last two and a half days, they should come out the ground very easily.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

I Can Walk Again -- Sort of

It's been almost six weeks since I had surgery to repair my broken ankle.  This morning, my orthopedist cleared me to start walking on my left leg.  Aside from the fact my ankle is too swollen to flex, I'm doing pretty well.  I mowed the agility field, and my DH set up a real course for me.  Today was a Midwestern rarity--95 degrees, but with low humidity and a nice stiff breeze.  It was actually quite tolerable outside, especially, in the shade.

I believe this was one of the sample courses that was available on the NADAC Yahoo list at one time.  I added the jump in red so that I would be able to come up with more variations.

I discovered I cannot move backwards in the splint--I nearly fell on my butt trying.  As soon as the swelling goes down enough to get my foot into a shoe, it will be hasta la vista to the boot.

During my six weeks of lawn chair agility, Belle really learned what "turn" means.  In the video, you can see several times when I say "turn," and Belle turns more sharply than I had intended.  Once I finally figured where body cues alone were sufficient, it went much more smoothly.  I also found out that "come" does "mean take an obstacle closer to me."  Rather it is the opposite of "turn."  I'm planning to change my "come to me" command to something like "front" so that when I want to recall Belle, there is no doubt in her mind what I want.