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.