Sunday, September 30, 2012

Scott County Kennel Club Trial - Part 2

Saturday was the day I had been practicing for and I knew that the challenges on Craig Josling's courses might be quite subtle.  First up was JWW.  Because I wanted Belle to run her fastest, I started out with her on my right.  Unfortunately, I got ahead and my timing at the tunnel was very poor and almost forced her into the wrong end.  I should have just lead out to the landing side of 2 and run to the tunnel with Belle on my right.  Much less chance of me messing that up.

Having cued too early once on this course and getting away with it, I lost total presence of mind and out ran Belle by what seemed an eternity to the weave exit.  I turned and faced her and ended up pulling her out.  Bad handler; poor trainer :(

Now for the subtleties of the course.  If the handler goes in deep to the tunnel and fails to get ahead of his dog, he will be forced to move in the direction of the unnumbered jump between 8 and 9 in order to not run into the wing of 9.  Next, if the handler is not far enough ahead of his dog going through the box for 11 to 12, his line into the box will drive his dog off-course to 19.  Lastly, tunnel 14 caused handlers problems both coming and going.

By comparison with the JWW course, the Standard course was pretty straightforward with no cleverly hidden potential off-courses.  My plan for the opening was to send Belle over 3 to the tunnel and pick her up from the landing side of 5.  However, after watching the runs before me, I realized that there was no good reason to use distance handling here, so I ran with her.

Almost everyone, including me, did a front cross or a blind cross between 9 and 10.  Most did a second front cross between 11 and the table.  I was hoping to achieve a tight wrap by cuing it with deceleration and a verbal "wrap."  I should have also thrown in an offside arm to grab Belle as she took off.  Something went wrong and Belle turned left upon landing.  I think it may be because I moved back and a little bit to the left to signal the turn.  Also if you look at the line from the 9/10 gap to where I ran for the post turn, it is trending left.  This is a sequence I want to set up and try to run in as many different ways as I can think of.

Surprisingly, very few dogs took the wrong end of the tunnel after the A-frame.  However, several did not pick the weaves as their next obstacle upon exiting the tunnel ;-)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

What Did You Learn Today?

In addition to working on Silvia Trkman's Handling I class, I also decided to try out Dawn Weaver's monthly online instruction series.  Dawn has two different sets of exercises available, one for novice teams and one for more experienced teams.  I took the plunge and sent my $26 across the seas for the first set of experienced exercises.  The first set of exercises required a set of 12 weaves, two tunnels (actually one tunnel and a chute), and six jumps.  (Each exercise includes four sequences.)  You videotape your efforts and submit up to five minutes of you and your dog working on them by posting them to YouTube and sending Dawn the link.  Dawn will then review your video and email you feedback plus a link to video of her running the sequences with her dog(s).  (A terrific option is that if you are having a problem in training or in the ring, you can submit video of that instead of your efforts on that month's exercises and Dawn will give you feedback.)

The feedback I received was awesome.  Since I train on my own, I can only improve or change what I realize needs improvement or changing.  That can be a rather huge Catch 22.  For instance, I didn't realize how many times I am late in completing my front crosses.  I thought I was supposed to finish my rotation as Belle was in the air.  Oops.  That actually makes it late.  I also never realized that I often backhand Belle into a rear cross while facing the wrong direction.  Additionally, Dawn gave me some advice about my lead outs and my positioning relative to a jump that is to be wrapped.  Very interesting stuff that took my several hours to digest

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Silvia Trkman

Last February, I enrolled as an auditor in one of Silvia Trkman's online classes, Handling I.  After waiting for what seemed like an eternity for the snow to melt, I was able to set up the first course and run the two exercises.  Keep in mind, I had watched at least a dozen people tackle these courses before I had a chance to run them, and I was really excited.  Unfortunately, I discovered I was not fast enough to get where I had to be for a couple of the moves, and Belle's distance skills did not include being sent to the back of a jump from 30 feet away.  After knocking my head against a wall for a week or so, I put the course aside.

Last week, I was looking for something different after working on several of Craig Josling's AKC courses.  I took a peek at the second set of exercises in Silvia's class and decided we could probably do those, so I set it up.  I was thrilled that we did a fairly credible job with the two courses, but I decided it really would be nice to get some feedback.  I contacted Silvia and she allowed me to pay the difference and become an online participant.

Silvia has a fantastic eye and does not try to make one solution fit every team.  She is also fantastically prompt in responding to her students' posts!  (I'll go out on a limb here and say that I suspect Silvia enjoys teaching almost as much as she loves training and running her dogs.)

This is my final video submission to Silvia for the second set of exercises.  I wanted to share it with you because of the song I used for backing.  (I almost never mute the original voice track in my videos, but today was excessively windy, and the voice track is useless.)  "Without You" expresses so well how I feel about my wonderful little red dog.  Unfortunately, the rights to the song that I dubbed in preclude YouTube from allowing the video to be shown in just about every country in the world.  I swapped in one of YouTube's lame offerings which should allow my video to be seen.  However, if you would like to hear the song I originally wanted to back this video, simply click on both videos below and mute mine.  It isn't the Usher version, but these two guys do a very nice job of it.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Course Designer 4

A few days ago, I downloaded Course Designer 4 from the Clean Run website.  I finally had a chance to play with it a little today.  Below are images of the course I last blogged about in CRCD3 format, a frame shot from the video, and in CRCD4 format:

I really like the ability to change the angle of view in CRCD4.  It helps to point out tricky spots that I have difficulty visualizing in two dimensions.  On the down side, if the course isn't already in CRCD3 or 4, I have to manually input it before I can manipulate it.  (The only reason I had already rendered the two Josling's courses in CRCD3 was because the original course map had the dog walk running at a slight angle, and it is much easier for me to set a course when the dog walk is either parallel or perpendicular to my fence.)

When doing an analysis, I can easily use a frame from the video to illustrate my point.  Using Photo Shop, I can even alter the angle of view to some extent.  However, if I want the course numbered in the photo, it involves a fair amount of extra work.

As with CRCD3, the viewer is a free download which you can use forever.  After downloading the viewer, you have 30 days to play with the software before deciding whether you want or need the extra bells and whistles it provides for rendering your courses.

Another AKC Course and Problems with the Running A-Frame

On Tuesday, I set up another course designed by Craig Josling.  Here's how I thought I might run the course before I had set it up.

After walking the course, I decided going into the box from 6 to 7 would probably push Belle into the off-course tunnel (which it did), and a better choice was to move laterally away from the dog walk while maintaining pressure on Belle's line to ensure that she went all the way to the end of the dog walk and didn't cut corners and come off the side.

Even on my walk-thru, I completely overlooked the effect the positioning of #8 would have on the dog's path to the teeter.  I failed to collect Belle before the jump and her path to the teeter was longer than it had to be.

I ended up doing a rear cross between 10 and 11 because I didn't get there in time to do a blind cross.  After I watched the video of our first two attempts, I thought I'd try to do a front cross between the teeter and #10.  Yeah, right.  Bringing Belle into collection at #8, meant for sure there would be no way I could get into a position for a front cross after the teeter.  I noticed that the dismount from the teeter got progressively more sloppy (off the side).  One more thing to remember while running.

The rear cross worked fine as long as I didn't say "come table."  "Come table" resulted in an off-course to the tunnel both times I used it.  "Belle" or "right table" seemed to work, but not "come."  The reason for this is because I normally use "come" when Belle is moving toward me or at least perpendicular to me.  In that context, I normally link it to an obstacle name and it serves as either a cue to turn or an aid in an obstacle discrimination.  (I also use "come" in snooker openings when I want Belle to take the jump in front of her if there is one and then come directly to me without taking any obstacles along the way.  In addition, I stand very erect, facing her with my hands low and in front of my body to indicate I want her to come to my hands.)

We ran the course a couple more times today, but never did achieve a qualifying run :(  Belle's A-frame performance left a whole lot to be desired, and when I watched the A-frame clips in slow-motion, I discovered she was putting in a stride between the bumper and the apex.  I tried fiddling with the placement of the bumper and I tried taking it off, but no luck.  I finally, removed the bumper and placed a piece of yellow 1" PVC pipe at the top of the yellow.  That seemed to work, so I guess that's what we will be doing.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Makings of a Good Instructor/Coach

I missed the last two dog blog action days, so I decided to prepare ahead for this one.  For me, these are some of the most important things I look for in a good coach:

1.  A good eye.  In order to help you with the rough spots, your instructor/coach has to be able to see what is going on with both you and your dog.  Are you mis-handling?  Are you asking for something the dog can't yet do?  Was your timing off?  Is something wrong with your dog today?

2.  Flexibility.  Can your instructor suggest alternate ways of handling that will work for you and your dog, or does she only know one way.  Is she okay with you working differently than the rest of her students.  For example:  A fast handler running a fast little sheltie may prefer to run with her dog using distance only as needed.  A person who is not fleet of foot running a fast BC will require a good distance foundation so that she can get to the critical handling points on a course.

3.  Possesses people skills.  An agility instructor/coach's is job is to teach people, not train dogs.  Unfortunately, just because someone can train and run their dogs very well, doesn't automatically make them great teachers.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Working on the Send

When I first started working on bonus lines, Belle didn't drive away from me very well.  I thought we had overcome that problem, but apparently not.  I used hoops on this course and compressed the 16-19 serpentine and tweaked everything else accordingly because I thought the serpentine would be almost impossible if the hoops were placed as indicated on the course map.  (Using jumps would have been a better choice, but they are already being used in another course at the moment.)

Well, when Belle and I had a go at it, I quickly discovered that driving down the line to the #4 tunnel was not in the cards.  Belle expected a turn after #2, and no amount of shouting "go" or "tunnel" could convince her otherwise.  Once we finally managed to get to the tunnel, the next problem was getting from 6 to 7.  Even with jumps, I think the dog's natural line would be over the off-course #2 jump.  We finally stumbled our way to the second half of the course, but Belle's confidence and energy were ebbing.  For once, I'm glad that operator error kept me from preserving this fiasco on video.

For sure we will be working driving to the tunnel over the next few days!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Practicing Some AKC

After a lot of deliberation, I sent off entries to two upcoming AKC agility trials.  The first is at the end of the month, and hopefully I can still get in.  The judge at that trial will be Craig Josling.  Since I haven't run any AKC courses in a long time, I decided to set up some recent courses designed by Mr. Josling.  This is the first:
I knew I need a long lead out in order to handle the sequence after the dog walk.  Unfortunately, I got so wound up in what followed the dog walk that I pulled Belle off the side of the dog walk.  She was in the yellow, but since both dogs came off the side of the dog walk at last Saturday's NADAC trial, it is definitely something I want to be aware of and avoid encouraging.

My plan was to remain in the gap between #3 and #5 and run with Belle on my left to the teeter.  On our first attempt, I neglected to get Belle's full attention as she came over #5 and she took the dog walk.  Whoops!  The second time, I made sure to bring Belle into handler focus, but when I watched the video, I saw that I was standing around waiting for Belle to clear #5 and make the turn to the teeter before moving.  On the third and last attempt, I made sure I was in motion and found myself putting in a front cross on the landing side of #5 and rear crossing the teeter.

The rest of the course was pretty straightforward.  The only mistake I made was moving toward the gap between #15 and #16 while Belle was still in the weaves.  The way I set up the course, that left #15 a little too much to chance for my tastes.  (I caught the mistake and corrected my path while Belle was still in the weaves.  The second time, I made a point of not making the same mistake.)