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