Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Chances Analysis - 04/22/2012

Here are the Chances course maps from Sunday's trial at the QCDC:

The first challenge is very similar to one that we faced last month, namely, getting from the #3 tunnel to the #4 jump.  The A-frame makes it a slightly more difficult challenge because if the handler is behind the plane of the red line, the dog won't be able to see him upon exiting the tunnel.

The #9 tunnel looks like it might be an attractive off-course option after the #4 jump, but very few dogs chose it.  A much, much bigger problem was getting the dog to carry out to #4, and despite the decrease in distance from the line, the problem just got worse in Open and Novice.  

Basically, a dog will exit the tunnel and take #4 only if the handler is still pushing* forward physically and/or verbally as the dog enters the tunnel.  Unfortunately, many of the Open and Novice handlers either slowed down too much or ran up against the line before their dog was in the tunnel.

*Pushing is a relative term in this situation.  A BC high on adrenaline won't require much pushing from his handler compared to a dog that isn't really very enthused about the game to start with.  Neither will an experienced distance dog require much visible "push" from his handler, but if that "push" is not there, the dog will correctly check in with his handler upon exiting the tunnel.

The second challenge is setting a good line from the exit of tunnel #7 to the entrance of tunnel #9.  Let's analyze the Elite course first.  The tighter the dog turns out of the #7 tunnel, the more likely he is to slice #7 from left to right a shallow angle.  But even more importantly, if the you're only a foot away from the line when your dog exits the #7 tunnel, chances are you will end up against the line as your dog commits to #8 (if not before) and have nowhere to go but sideways.  Unfortunately, handler moving sideways if the cue most of us use for a serpentine.  (The first run on the video demonstrates my point quite well.)

Now take a look at the Open and Novice course maps.  The change in the distance line makes sending to jump #7 quite a bit easier.  However, woe to you if end up against the line--ESPECIALLY in Novice!  You can no longer simply move sideways; the line also forces you to move away from the tunnel you are trying to convince your dog to take.  In Novice, the line is plain old nasty.  It's so close to your goal, but if you're up against it, you are really stuck unless your dog will commit to the tunnel on a verbal alone.

The final challenge is the A-frame/tunnel discrimination. The handler can use any number of options to draw her dog to the A-frame, including an RFP, running backwards, lateral distance from the A-frame, just calling the dog's name and then releasing to A-frame when its in his line of sight.  The important thing to remember is that if you are facing the side wall the, your dog will take the tunnel.

Q Results
Elite - 7Qs/19 runs
Open - 2 Qs/10 runs
Novice - 0 Qs/16 runs

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bonus Line Frustrations

I set up this Elite Jumpers course using hoops on April 9th.

Belle and I spent a couple of days working on the bonus line attempt, but the box proved to be more than we could negotiate.  When I get a chance, I plan to set this one up again using jumps to see if that makes it a little easier to negotiate from the bonus line.

Here's the video of our efforts on the first day.  I decided to post it in slow motion so that I could more easily study the effect of my movements on Belle's path.


Chances - 04/19/2012

We have a NADAC trial this weekend, so I wanted to work on a Chances course with Dusty.  I chose this one from 2009:

Libby did splendidly on this course, and after our first bonus line attempt (I turned too soon sending Belle to the dogwalk), Belle and I were able to nail this one.  Dusty was another matter.  Thunderstorms were approaching during our first session, and I think they completely short-circuited his brain.  However, even on the next day, I had to baby-sit the line to #4 or he went directly from #3 to the tunnel.  I also had to really, really get his attention while he was approaching #12, or he continued out on a wide arc and went wide of the next jump by 10-20 feet!!!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Which Way to Wrap

In March, Bud Houston blogged about the wrap at #15 in this sequence from a course he had run:  

You can read his analysis by clicking here. 

Since I already had the tunnel under the dog walk, I decided to set up the sequence and film from a angle that would clearly demonstrate the consequences of wrapping right and left at #15.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Just Because You Can, Doesn't Mean You Should

Last year I was at one of the QCDC Thursday night run-thrus and an important point was driven home for me.  Just because I can do something, doesn't mean I should do it.  On this particular  (AKC) course, I chose to send Belle to a tunnel instead of going there with her.  However, as it turned out going to the tunnel would  have put me on a better line for what followed.

This morning, Belle and I ran the South African course one more time.  I decided to wrap her right at jump #9, thinking although the path was about 7-8 feet longer, it produced a more logical and faster flow into 10-12.  My plan was to follow the red line after #10, but on the fly I decided to layer #8.  I realized the consequences of my decision in time to veer sharply left and avoid the off-course tunnel entrance.  However, in addition to having to veer sharply left, I also had to run closer to the #13 tunnel than I had intended, and this made getting back to 15/16 gap that much harder for me.

P.S. 04/14 - This morning, we ran the course from #5 through #13.  I set up the video camera so that I could find out if wrapping right at #9 was really a good option.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Old Age and Trickery

I think what I enjoy most about the international courses that I have been setting up lately is figuring out how I to handle them without keeling over.  Yesterday, Bud Houston's blog post included this South African Qualifier.  (For Bud's analysis click here.)

The first thing I noticed on the course map was the long sprint from the #7 tunnel to the #9 jump and then the long return trip to that tunnel from the teeter. 

After I set up the course, I was struck by the close spacing of #5 and #6 and #6 and the wrong end of the tunnel.  Then there was the enormous distance from #2 to the dog walk.  If I had to play catch-up here, no way I'd be able to finish the course. Lastly, the spacing between the jumps above the 60 foot line is generous even by NADAC standards.  (The course wheeled out at about 210 yards!)

Running a conservative handling path as shown on the left, I would have to cover about 375 feet.  Using a little more distance, I can cut that by about 40 feet. 

Although the difference in the two lead out positions translates into only a 10-12 foot difference, the lead out position on the right means I won't have to try to catch up with my dog right of the bat.  It also does away with the necessity of having to do a side change between #3 and the dog walk.

However, the dog has to thoroughly understand the handler's cues to take the back side of #2 in order for that option to succeed.  I tested Belle's ability to respond to those cues and discovered it was something we have to work on some more, so I set up this two-jump exercise. 

Start as close to #2 as necessary to push your dog to the back side of #2.  As your dog catches on, you can increase your distance from the jumps.

Just to keep your dog on his toes, vary the exercise by wrapping right or left around #2.

Here's the video of my two runs with Belle.  It was a fun course to tackle.

A Three-Jump Exercise

I expanded on the two jump exercise I used yesterday to teach Belle to take the back side of a jump even when I was at quite a lateral distance from her.  I tried it out with all three of the Aussies this morning to see if they would get the idea.  I was absolutely astounded when Dusty and Libby were able to do the opening of the South African course after just a little work on this training exercise :-)

Step One:  Lead out.  Release dog to jump #1.  Step toward the wing of #2 and direct dog to the back side of the jump.  Once your dog understands what you are indicating with your motion, add a verbal.  (I use "ausen.")  Finally, alternate wrapping #2 in both directions and sending to the backside of #2.

Step Two:  Gradually increase the lateral distance of your lead out.  Be sure to work both directions.

Step Three:  Now it's time to start angling the first jump.  Since you are increasing the difficulty of the exercise, lead out as close to the wing of #2 as necessary for your dog to be successful.  Then work on increasing the lateral distance of your lead out.  Remember to lead out as close as necessary to the wing of #2 each time you increase the angle of the first jump.  Once your dog is comfortable with the new angle of #1, it is a good idea to occasionally direct him to jump and wrap as in Step One.

Monday, April 2, 2012

How Not to Handle a Course

I wanted to work a little distance with Belle, so I set up this course designed by Stefan Elvstad of Whatcom Agility Team.  Stefan did an excellent job incorporating tunnel challenges in this course that have given us trouble at actual trials.

Unfortunately, after setting up the course, I was too tired to give it the effort it deserved and we lots of off-courses and various other faults.  For example:
  • Turned my shoulders and pulled Belle away from the weave entry;
  • Turned my shoulders and pulled Belle out of the weaves;
  • Was late indicating the turn from #4 to the tunnel.  First time, Belle continued on to the #12 jump.  The second time, she ended up on the backside of the tunnel.
  • More than once, I turned too soon and sent Belle up the A-frame instead of into the #7 tunnel.
  • Failed to give Belle (and Dusty) enough information before they entered the #15 tunnel so that they didn't make a beeline for the off-course #2 tunnel. 
  • Lost track of the course at #16 and sent Belle into the #11 tunnel instead of over the #17 jump.
  • Missed the A-frame contact.
  • Lastly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted Dusty jumping over the #4 tunnel.
I went out later in the afternoon and ran it again with both dogs, giving the course the effort it deserved.  Belle nailed it (although I didn't try any extreme distance handling with her this time), and Dusty and I made it through with just one bobble.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

IHC Standard

I stumbled across this IHC Standard course on the USDAA website in January, and decided it was a fitting follow-up to the European jumpers course we tackled last week.  (For information on USDAA'S IHC classes, see Brenda Fender's article on the USDAA site.)

Unfortunately, the first time we tackled this one, I over-looked the fact that there is a threadle before the #11 tunnel.  I only realized my error because I found three videos of teams actually running this course at the Good Dog trial last year.  (I included the videos below mine.)

The two problematic areas of this course for Belle and me are going from the #11 tunnel to the #12 jump and turning left out of the #16 tunnel.  Because there is a threadle involved at 9/10, the handler is forced to position herself somewhere in the vicinity of the gap between the two jumps.  To be able to get to the landing side of #9 is preferable since you can face your dog and cue collection.  As it was, both times I tried this, I should have moved back toward the tunnel another foot or two.

Unfortunately, being so close to the #11 tunnel makes it impossible for me to get ahead of Belle and in position to do a front cross on the take-off side of #15 to set up the left turn out of the #16 tunnel, which was my initial plan.  As I discovered, if I moved too soon, I risked sending Belle off-course over the #9 jump.  When I held my ground until Belle was committed to #12, my only recourse was to do a rear cross before the chute and another before the #16 tunnel and hope she would turn left upon exiting the tunnel.