Thursday, August 23, 2012

Biting Off More Than We Can Chew?

This is the same Jumpers course that I blogged about in my previous post, except now I want to talk about it from the bonus line.

As I already mentioned, the spacing between some of the jumps is huge.  It is particularly noticeable in the serpentine.  Additionally, Belle and I had a very difficult time coping with all the switches involved in getting from 3 to 6.  The serpentine became extremely loopy, and toward the end of this morning's session, poor Belle had no idea of which way to turn when I called out "switch."

I originally opted to try this from the 20-pt line so I would have more freedom of movement.  But realistically, I think that was just too far for Belle to feel comfortable shifting into the obstacle focus required in the wide open pinwheel after the handler-controlled serpentine.  By the time, I finally moved up to the 15-pt line, Belle's brain was frazzled.

Also, I caught myself repeating "switch" commands between jumps.  Logical from my point of view since I knew where the course was going.  But to a dog without the map, quite confusing.  As in "I already changed directions and she wants me to change again?  I must have made a mistake."

Eight Hours Later:   Belle and I had one last go at this course this evening.  I decided I would forget about the 20-pt bonus line and try it from the 15-pt line.  I usually rev Belle up and release her from behind the start line when we are attempting a bonus line.  However, from the 15-pt line on this course, it made more sense to take a slight lead out so I could be in position for the serpentine.  Much to my surprise, we made it through the entire course the first time, and I think I remained behind the 20-pt line for the whole thing.  Obviously our bonus line problems are mine and not Belle's.

The Lead Out Edge

There are some courses that I never could begin to tackle without a lead out.  Then there are times when having the ability to lead out isn't really necessary, but it does give me an edge.  This course is one of those.
I was really struck by how widely spaced the jumps in the 3,4,5 serpentine are, and the awkwardness of the approach to #6.  I tried running on the right side of the serpentine, but that made for some very clunky rear crosses.  Additionally, I discovered that for Dusty, I couldn't slow down and send him to #6 very easily.  He just has too much handler focus and it made for a very crummy approach to #6.  Additionally, if I showed the rear cross too soon, Dusty missed #6 entirely.

I finally decided to try handling the serpentine from the left.  On my first attempt, I only lead out to about (45,60) and when I turned to do my front cross, I discovered I was in the gap between 3 and 4 and Dusty went sailing by me.  The next time, I lead out to about (50,55) so that I could more easily get to my spot on the takeoff side of #4.  It worked like a charm.  Plus, without any conscious thought on my part, I kept moving with Dusty toward #6 and didn't do my rear cross until he was committed to the jump.

Belle and I spent most of our time working on the bonus line, which didn't go all that well for us.  Since I wanted to end on a successful note with her, I decided to run with her.  Since she was tired from all her running, I decided to more or less start with her, which meant I had to handle the serpentine from the right side.  In the video, you can see that Belle loses ground to Dusty in the serpentine and doesn't quite manage to make it up by the end of the course.  (Since she doesn't suffer from excessive handler focus, the rear cross at #6 was basically a non-factor for her.)

Of Ketschkers and Closing Sequences

In July, Steve Schwarz posted this course on his blog.  I set it up Tuesday and worked on it for a couple of days.

The interesting parts of this course for Belle and me were the turns at #9 and #14 and the closing sequence, 14-16.

I quickly discovered that unlike Steve, I was not quite quick enough to handle 9-11 if I chose to stay on the outside of the angle formed by 9 and 10.

Running on the inside, I had my choice of sending Belle to #11 around either upright of the jump.  I thought sending her around the right would be faster, but since the path was shorter going around the left upright, it was a wash as far as time was concerned.  Wrapping around the left upright seemed more comfortable for me as handler.

I decided I would try tightening up the turns at #9 and #11 with a Ketschker.  We had several miscommunications before we managed to get it right at both jumps on the same run :-)  I was surprised that it didn't seem to tighten up Belle's turn at #9, so I re-watched Steve's video and discovered two things.  First, I was not cuing the turn until the stride before the jump.  It was like "run, run, run, boom TURN."  The other handling flaw I spotted was that I was running up to or even slightly beyond the plane of the jump.  It looks like hanging back a couple of feet might produce a tighter turn.

We had one nice closing sequence using a blind cross, and I thought that was the way to go until I tried to duplicate it.  I lost sight of Belle as I did the cross and didn't realize she had failed to pick up on cue.  The front cross was a sure thing and certainly not that hard for me to get in.

I also tried using a rear cross, but it was counterproductive since I had to wait for Belle to pass me before I could resume running.  It worked, but it wasted time.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I Remember

Usually I forget a course within hours of running it.  This one, which we encountered nearly a year ago, is an exception.  I can still see Belle coming out of the #6 tunnel at warp speed and taking the off-course jump.

I set up this course this morning to have a go at it with Dusty.  Much to my surprise, he nailed it.  Unfortunately, he lost concentration in the weaves and skipped a pole.  But he got the hard stuff!

I also tried running Belle from an imaginary bonus line.  Once again, she took the off-course jump due to my poor choice of position.  Guess I'll have to design a short sequence to work on that skill.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Freestyle Update

It's been a little more than a month since I posted the video of Belle and me doing some freestyle moves.  I've joined a couple of different on-line groups and ordered one DVD about choreography.  I also discovered that Dusty has a lot of FS potential and is very flashy when he moves.  Unfortunately, he alternates between being wrapped around my leg and having his nose stuck to the ground investigating some interesting scent.

Routines at the novice level in MDSA have to be between 1:15 to 2:15 minutes in length.  There aren't a whole lot of songs that are that short, so I have been editing our music with Audacity.  It's been a very intense and frustrating learning process, and I am now totally in awe of the people who do the sound mixing for tv and movies.

The video I did last month was composed of different clips joined together and the music was added after the fact.  This time, the video is in real time and we are working to the music.  (Since my video camera didn't pick it up, I had to dub it in.)


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Problem Solving

It really bugged me that Dusty could not achieve a smooth turn from #9 to #10 on yesterday's course.  So this morning, I tried doing a rear cross with Belle.  My initial impression was that she had no problem with it, but as you will see in the video, she did let me know the turn was rather unexpected!

Next, I tried running Dusty with a front cross.  Because I had to support his path to #7, I didn't really do a very good job of getting in a timely front cross between #8 and #9.  (Beware:  Most dogs who do a 2o2o A-frame will need support to get to #7.)  I also ended up so far ahead of Dusty after the front cross that I ran up against the line.  Next, I tried a blind cross.  It was much better from Dusty's viewpoint since I didn't get in his way doing the cross, but unfortunately, it brought me to the line even quicker than the front cross did.  Finally, I used lateral distance to commit Dusty to #7.  That put me at the left standard of #8 and I was able to do a nice front cross that kept me out of Dusty's way or didn't put me so far ahead that I arrived at the line too soon and had no way to support the #10 hoop if necessary.

Okay.  So now I know the rear cross was a bad handling choice.  (And not because I faded to the right before crossing, either.)  The blue line represents the handler's path for a rear cross.  The path must veer slightly right until the dog is committed to #9.  Since #9 is a hoop, the point of commitment for Dusty is when he is about 3/4's of the way through the hoop ;-).  The handler's timing in completing the rear cross becomes crucial.  Cross too soon, and the dog will probably do a 180.  Cross too late, and the tunnel becomes the obvious choice.  But even crossing just right means your dog has to change leads immediately to make a smooth turn to the hoop.  No lag time allowed.

The purple line represents the handler's path when doing a front cross at the left side of the #8 jump.  As soon as you've completed that cross, your dog knows he will be traveling left and will change leads after #8.  The same holds true if you perform a front cross or a blind cross between #8 and #9.  You just have to pay particular attention to not out-running your dog to the line if you choose one of those options.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chances Practice

Since Dusty needs 9 Chances Q's for a NATCH, I decided I will try to put up one or two Chances courses a week to work on the skills he needs to develop.  I thought this course would offer several different options for running, plus it included an A-frame for Belle to practice on. Although this course is from a trial in April, I apparently never analyzed it, so I am including a brief analysis.

The first challenge is the tunnel/A-frame discrimination which is complicated by the #7 jump in Elite.  I chose to lead out to about (50,50), and encountered no problem with either Belle (at trial) or Dusty (at home).  However, woe to any handler that doesn't at least lead out laterally to about the 55' line because the line will force you left and you will pull your dog to the A-frame.

In Open, it was easy for the handler to get sucked into the space between the #7 jump and the line.  However, if you look closely, you will see that unless the handler manages her own path very carefully, she will be forced to move away from the A-frame before her dog is in the tunnel.  In Novice, the handler can run between the #7 jump and the line and not get pushed left by the line.

The other area of concern is the #10 hoop.  When I ran this at trial, I played it safe and did a front cross after the #8 jump.  At home, I wanted to do a rear cross with Dusty, and it didn't work very well.  Out of eleven tries, Dusty took the off-course tunnel six times, did a 180 four times, and took the #10 hoop twice.  I watched all of the video footage I shot this morning over and over, and for the most part, I thought my handling was pretty good.  Except for the nasty habit I have of fading in the opposite direction before moving into a rear cross.  With Belle, I can get away with it.  With Dusty, not so much since he watches my every little move with such intensity.  My hunch is that this bad habit is what is preventing Dusty from getting from #9 to #10.  If you see something I missed when you watch the video, please, please let me know.

Here's Dusty:


Here's Belle and me trying it with bonus line distance.  Notice how nice her running A-frame is with the bumper in place.


Last Sunday, Belle and I went to a CPE trial, and I was struck by how differently she runs the bigger, slatted A-frame.  I decided I would start using one stride regulator in practice to pattern train Belle into taking a longer stride over the apex.

Belle had been coming up slightly lame on her left fore since early spring.  Six weeks ago, I took her to a vet who specializes in rehab, and it looks like Belle's issues have been resolved.  She had no problems after five runs and 30-minutes of swimming followed by a short hike at a lake we pass one our way home from Davenport.  Here's a short video of Belle at one of her favorite spots.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Upping the Ante

Since the course from Germany was well beyond the capabilities of Dusty and me as a team, I set up this Elite Jumpers course.  I used hoops because I only have so many jumps and because I wanted to work on distance.

On Thursday, I tried to stay behind the 65' line with Dusty, and we did a pretty nice job of it.  Today, I wanted to increase the distance and try to stay below the 50' line.

When Belle and I tried this out from the real bonus line last night, we encountered lots of problems in the upper right hand corner of the course.  With Dusty, the major problem we encountered was getting from #3 to #4.  Even after watching the video several times, I thought this was a training issue.  However, it finally dawned on me that I was walking along a curve as Dusty went from #2 to #3 and I failed to alter my direction soon enough to indicate the #4 hoop.  The gray line shows the path I took.  No wonder poor Dusty kept going to the off-course hoop.  The green line shows a much better choice for my handling path.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Connecting the Dots

Sabine Westhauser posted a video of a course she ran with her dog, Shorty, which you can see here.  She does a handling maneuver at :47 seconds that I thought was just so cool that I decided I have to set up the entire course as soon as it cools off enough that I'm willing to go outside.

I converted Sabine's course map from meters to feet.  (Here's a link to Sabine's original course map.)  

Sabine and Shorty make this look so easy in the video.  When I studied the course map, I thought OMG there's no way Belle and I can get through this course.  Then I decided I would break the course up into smaller sections and decide what my best handling options were.  By making wise choices about which way to turn your dog after 2, 4, 9, 10, and 17, you can instill a fair amount of flow into the course.

For those of you interested in an excruciatingly long description of how I decided to run this course, that information follows in the next few paragraphs.  (If your eyes start to glaze over, just scroll down to the video.)   The regular text indicates how I thought I might run the course from looking at the course map.  The italicized text indicates any changes I made based on actually walking the course.  The bold purple text indicates adjustments I made after working on the course with Belle.

I decided I would lead out to #2 and wrap Belle to the left while doing a front cross so that she is on my left going to #3.  Post turn at #4 and wrap Belle to the left and rear cross on landing side.  It should be easy to layer #4 while doing the rear cross.  This will put me in a good position to do a front cross on the landing side of #6.  Leading out from Belle's left side allowed me to give her a more vivid indication of her path to #2.  A blind cross between #6 and #7 is sufficient.  
Take Belle over #6 on my right and do a rear cross at #7 and a blind cross between #8 and #9.  Post turn at #10 followed by an immediate rear cross and a push so that Belle will wrap to the right.  Take Belle over #7 on my left, do a post turn to #8 and a rear cross between #8 and #9.  (A better way to handle the turn from #10 to the dog walk might be to blend the post turn into a blind cross so that I wrap around the right wing with Belle on my left side.  That would take the off-course #1 jump out of the picture.  No way that's going to work.  Being too close to the landing side lead to all sorts of problems at #10.)
From the dog walk to the A-frame is pretty straightforward.  (I failed to remember that Belle won't drive to the end of the dog walk unless I'm moving.  I also didn't appreciate how difficult the weave entry is.  We worked on it, but before running the course in its entirety, I moved the weaves about three feet to the right to make the entry less difficult.)  The only difficult part will be getting into position quickly enough to handle #15 to #16.   This is the turn that sparked my initial interest in this course.  Sabine positioned herself at the left wing of #15 facing toward #16.  She called Shorty over jump #15 and then wrapped him around both the wing and herself so he would approach #16 from the proper side.  I'm hoping I can do the same thing, but I'm not sure I can get there before Belle completes the A-frame.  (Getting there proved to be no problem.)

I have indicated the path I would like Belle to take from #15 to #20 in red.  It seems to me (at least on paper) that there are several different handling options I could use here, and I will have to walk the course to figure out which will be the smoothest for us.  For example, wrap around handler at the left wing of #15, post turn at #16, post turn into blind cross on landing side of #17, dog on left over #18, push to #19, rear cross, and dog on right to tunnel.  (That is how I finally chose to do it.)

Here's the video of our first two attempts to put the whole course together.