Thursday, December 5, 2013

Teachable Moments

I was looking for a sequence with a minimal amount of setup work since it is always windy out in the field this time of year.  Brrrr.  I chose this simple exercise from Linda Mecklenberg's Feb., 2013 column in Clean Run.  Never in my wildest dreams did I realize it would give us so many different things to work on with Willie.

First, there is the backside of #4.  We've done a little bit of backside work, but not a whole lot because I don't want him to default to the backside of a jump too easily.  The object of this sequence is to handle #4 in at least three different ways.  I tried pushing Willie to the back of #4 around the wing closer to the tunnel and then pushing into the gap between 4/5.  This proved to be somewhat difficult for Willie because he still doesn't understand collection.

Then I tried pushing him to the backside of #4 around the wing closer to #5.  Much to my surprise, this was made getting to #5 easier for him since he was forced to slow down (collect) for the wrap.  Unfortunately, I couldn't think of a third way to handle 4/5 yesterday.  But I think it might be possible for the handler to get to the take of side of #4 and handle from that side.

Because of his speed and size, Willie defaulted to the correct side of #2.  So I was really shocked when this turned into a major sticking point for Belle--she defaulted to my side of the jump.  Hmm.  I spent several minutes showing Belle the difference in my signals when I wanted her to take the jump going away from me and when I wanted her to take it coming toward me.  Then I brought Willie out and worked on showing him what it looked like when I wanted him to take #2 from my side of the jump.  There's that hard to grasp concept again, collection.  Once he got the idea of coming to my side of the jump, I started asking him to wrap it and go back into the tunnel.  Surprise!  He took the jump first, which gave us another skill to work on.

We quit for the day at this point, but in addition to wrapping to the tunnel, there are several other choices:
  • the other end of the tunnel
  • either side of #4
  • either side of #5
  • the gap between 4/5

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Mental Game

Just a few random thoughts for today's Dog Agility Bloggers Event, "The Mental Game."

First and foremost, it is a GAME.  Games are supposed to be FUN.  Fun for you and fun for your dog.  Nothing brings me down so much as watching a handler blame his dog for mistakes on course.  The mistakes are almost always the handler's--either she messed up her handling or she hasn't proofed her dog sufficiently, or Dog forbid, she did a crappy job of teaching some aspect(s) of her dog's performance.

In the same vein, don't beat yourself up over handling mistakes.  Jot it down and come up with some ideas to work on your skills so that you can handle the sequence, trap, whatever better the next time you see it on a course.

Use the course maps to memorize the sequence of the courses before you walk if at all possible.  If you can, watch while the course is being built to mentally test how well you've memorized the course.  Then you can spend your walk through time on analyzing what your dog sees and planning your handling.  Even after all these years, I'm not terribly good at estimating where my dog and I will be relative to each other, so I usually try to have a Plan B.  One thing that I used to overlook frequently was where to set Belle at the start line so she would be able to see me and the obstacles between us.  Duh! 

Unlike many handlers, I usually don't use all the walk through time allotted.  Sometimes, that bites me in the butt, but usually it works for me.  Once I've decided on a plan and know where the control points are and how I'm going to get there, I try to get to them once or twice and then I get out of Dodge.  If I'm running early in the order, I want to spend the time with my dog.  If I'm running later, then I have plenty of runs to watch to see if I missed something.

Plan your run, and run your plan.  Well, usually, but sometimes I see another handler do something that is much more logical, efficient, elegant, whatever, than what I had planned.  I'm not above giving it a go without having walked it.  However, I will rehearse the move mentally.  If subsequent handlers do the same move, I have an additional chance to mentally work on my timing.

Above all, have fun and make sure your dog is having fun, too!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

They Call It a Dummy Jump for a Reason

I set up this modified Novice JWW course (the weaves were at #10) for Willie today.  I realized the distances between obstacles was pretty big just looking at the course map, but once the course was set, the distances looked really huge.

I didn't think Willie had enough distance skill for me to send him out to 3 and 4 while I moved into position for a FC between 5 and 6, so I tried a blind cross which Willie didn't understand.  Then I tried sending him out on his own so I could do a FC, and he did just fine!

Our next problem was the #11 jump.  When Willie exited the tunnel, he drifted toward me and missed the jump.  I would have preferred placing my FC between 13/14, but the only solution for this problem was for me to move in closer and do my FC between 12/13.

Our final problem was getting from 15 to 16.  (I added the red dummy jump to make a box when I set up the course.  Not one of my better ideas.)  Willie repeatedly hit the bar at #15, and just didn't understand he was to go straight through the box.  Later I had Belle try it, and much to my dismay I discovered that adding the dummy jump was a really poor idea since even she had trouble getting from 15 to 16.  I removed the dummy jump and found Belle could complete the course when I used either handler path shown at the left.  Willie still had trouble driving through in a straight line, so obviously we will have to work on this some more.

Well, at least I have some training ideas for this week:
  • Work on getting RC and blind cross at 5/6.
  • Work on increasing lateral distance so I can do a FC between 13/14.
  • Work on driving from 15 to 16 in a straight line.
  • It would be a good idea to not use bars when introducing Willie to a full course.  There's enough new stuff going on that we shouldn't have to stress over knocked bars.
  • Keep working on obstacle focus!!!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Divide and Conquer

Yesterday, I set up this BYD sequence from Clean Run, 09/12, for Willie.  It proved to be quite difficult for him, and I made several mistakes.

First, we worked on this way too long, even considering that 75% of the time was spent playing between attempts.

Second, I failed to make the challenges simple enough for Willie to succeed after he failed two times.

Third, there were too many challenges embedded into this sequence:
  • The tunnel entrance at 2 calls for collection.  I should have changed the location of 1.
  • The 270 at 3/4 is a wee might strange, so I have to have Willie on my right.  However, even having him on my right is no guarantee of success.  I should have used winged jumps for 3 and 4 and reset them to maintain the 270.
  • When we got as far as 5, more often than not, Willie ran by it on the left.  Should have ended the sequence at 5 so I didn't have to worry about the turn to 6.
  • I realized Willie was looking at me instead of the first jump when I lead out.  I have to remember to wait until he looks at the first obstacle before releasing him to run.
(The funky 270 caused most of the difficulty we faced with this sequence.  In order to have any chance of getting it, Willie had to be on my right.  That means I cannot stand at the tunnel entrance--I have to be able to indicate it and MOVE!  Turning right on a RC at the following 180 is not a given for Willie at this point in his training.  However, given how closely I have to handle the 270, I simply can't do a FC between the 270 and the 180.) 

This morning, I set up this simple sequence (white circles) to work on Willie's ability to remain committed to the tunnel entrance I indicate while I move into position for a FC between 3 and 4.  I also made sure not to release him until he was looking at the first jump.  Once Willie was comfortable with my lateral movement at the tunnel, we tried the original opening (black circles) which had given us so much trouble.

Yesterday, I had tried both a lead out pivot and and serpentine handling for the opening.  After trying both with Belle, I decided serpentine handling was a better choice for us since it gave me a chance to cue some collection as Willie makes the turn into the tunnel.

When time allows, we will tackle the 270 problem.  Also, we will be doing a lot more work with wingless jumps so that Willie can develop a better understanding of what his job is in relationship to a jump.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Willies - A Backyard Exercise

Willie's understanding of my handling has grown by leaps and bounds.  Last week, I designed a setup that would allow us to work on several different skills.

Getting the white circle ending proved very difficult for us.

Here is the video of Willie and me working on one of the sequences.  The emphasis was supposed to be on the rear cross to the tunnel, but much to my surprise it became an exercise in getting the third jump in a pinwheel.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Front Cross, Rear Cross

I worked on this course with Willie the other day.  Although this course was designed for very novice dogs, 5-7 is really a pretty advanced sequence.  I tried it with both a front cross and a rear, and decided I didn't really care for the rear cross with Willie because he focuses too much on me.  Here's the video:

This morning I decided to use this course to see if Belle truly responds to my collection cues.  First, we ran a straight line three jump sequence using #5 from the above course as the second jump.  Then we ran the course as designed.  I marked the resulting video with two x's to show Belle's best collection take-off and landing spots.

I discovered Belle does respond to the collection cues, and that this is a very bad place to use a front cross to cue collection.  First rule for a front cross:  You have to be ahead of your dog.  If you have to try to beat your dog, you can't effectively cue collection.  Belle paid the price with a face plant.  For Belle and me, the rear cross was a much better choice in this situation.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Time Slips By

Willie is almost six months old already, and I can't believe how far he's come.  Between working with the dogs, editing video, and getting my flower beds ready for winter, there just doesn't seem to be any time or creative energy left for writing.  However, I am continuing to post video on my YouTube channel, so be sure to check it out occasionally to see Willie's progress.  Here's a short video of today's rear end awareness session.


Saturday, September 21, 2013


I've been working on serps and threadles with Belle, so I decided to do some more work on serpentines with Willie.  We are working with jump standards instead of hoops since between us, we've broken four of the hoops.  Wish I had used 1" PVC instead of 3/4".

I couldn't remember how I taught Belle to serpentine, so I did a web search and found and this on Bud Houston's blog and this on Bad Dog Agility.  Bud's method seemed rather out-dated and the method shown on BDA was a little too advanced for young Willie (although now that we have a little serpentine training under our collars, I think I'll give it a go) .

I started searching through my library of articles but couldn't find anything.  Then I remembered Nancy Gyes had written a two-part series on serpentines in Clean Run (06 & 07/2013).  We worked on the foundation exercises in the first article and then last week, I built a setup very similar to this for Belle, so I decided to work Willie on it.  (The distances between obstacles are a little wider than I'd really like, but I figured what the heck I'll expose him to speed and distance right off the bat.)

Since the tunnel on the left was actually a set of weaves, my goal was to do 1-6.  I quickly discovered this exercise depended upon a number of skills:
  • Willie has to send to the tunnel in order for me to get into position at 4.
  • He has to learn to take 4 even if I'm at the far wing/standard or entering the gap between 4 and 5.
  • Then he has to take the middle jump moving away from me and the direction I'm headed.
  • Finally, he has to come back over the third jump in the serp, which also requires him to ignore the direction I'm moving in.  (If he doesn't he will run by the jump on the backside.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

I Didn't Think I Could Do It

I'm currently auditing a class at Agility University, and one of my classmates posted the Masters Challenge Jumpers course from the USDAA North Central Regionals.  It looked complicated, so what the heck I set it up.  Then I walked it and reality came crashing down on me.

The distance from 10 to 11 is about 25' and the #2 jump is certainly seems like a very logical off-course.  The simplest way to handle it would be to get to the right standard of the double before your dog.  However, that certainly isn't going to happen for Belle and me.  I thought my best option would be a front cross between 9 and 10 in order to collect Belle before she took the double.  However, getting from 4 to 7 takes a little bit of handler participation, so I didn't really think I could even get in a blind cross between 9 and 10.  As it turned out, Belle slices the double very nicely and a blind cross and my running toward #11 were all that was needed.  No need for any collection cues until a stride or two before #11.

Going through the gap from the weaves to #13 was part of this week's lesson at Agility U, so I at least had a plan for this challenge.  Biggest problem I ran into here was being late in calling Belle to my side.

The remaining challenge is getting from 17 to 18.  I thought the tunnel might be an attractive off-course, but it really wasn't.  I tried two different ways of handling #17.  Both times I was pretty far behind Belle because of the second threadle at 15.  First time, I ran toward 18 and used a switch command as Belle landed after 17.  The second time, I had Belle wrap 17 to the right (toward me) which enabled me to catch up to her a little bit.  Both ways, I had to rely on switch commands and "remote" rear crosses to finish the course.  However, although wrapping 17 seemed a little awkward, it enabled me to catch up just enough to tighten Belle's path on the remaining jumps, and it made the close seem a lot more controlled.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013


The current Dog Agility Blog Action Event topic is aging.  I hate to think about my dogs aging.  Besides so far their age has not been the determining factor in when to retire them from agility.  For Max and Libby it was a matter of temperament; for Dusty it was a matter him being oblivious to abusing his body.  Dog willing, Belle will be running for another four or five years.

I also hate to think about my own aging, but pain, stiffness and insomnia force me to acknowledge its reality.  Nonetheless, I really believe that to a great extent you are only as old as you feel.  Hell, Diana Nyad is 64 years young and made the swim from Cuba to Florida this past weekend.  I have an aunt who will be 98 in less than a week and she lives independently in her own home.  I have a vivid memory of her when she was 80 running after a piece of paper that was blowing away.

Agility keeps me feeling vital and engaged.  It gives me a reason to push myself physically, and it certainly encourages me to use my mind to figure out how to get things done that someone younger, faster and with more stamina would accomplish by simply running with her dog.  There is always something new to learn, especially when tackling international courses and training a new puppy.  

Many, many moons ago, I used to ride horses, and was even lucky enough to own a few over the years.  I really loved riding and it was the main thing that helped me get through the horrible four years known as high school.  However, in some ways, agility is even better since my dogs are with me almost 24/7.  Can't say that I ever considered inviting one of my horses into the house.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

A Little Bit of Motion Gives Clear Direction

I set up the course below  based on the Balsell's course I posted a few days ago. 

This is just one of several sequences we ran.  Last night, I decided to add the dog walk at the periphery of the course so Belle and I could get in some DW practice.  This morning I added the two hoops and moved jump 5 to the square #13 position to produce this challenging course.  At least it proved to be challenging for Belle and me.
Our first problem was getting from tunnel 4 to tunnel 5.  My path is along the orange line and my plan was to get to the left wing of 6 and send Belle to tunnel 4.  Wrong.  When I stood still and tried sending her to 5, she came over 6.  When she realized that wasn't what I wanted, she defaulted to turning right out of 4 and taking 9.  (Over the last few days, more times than not, that is the direction I asked her to take in the sequences we worked on since it gave us so much trouble in the original course.)

I finally wised up and realized I had to keep moving along the orange line until Belle had passed the middle of jump 6.  Standing still just wasn't going to cut it with this dog and in this particular sequence.  It doesn't matter where I am along that line since it is not my proximity to the tunnel that matters.  What cues Belle to take the tunnel without taking the off-course jump is my movement along the that line until she is committed to the obstacle.

Next bobble was the backside jump, #11.  Belle is used to working with lateral distance and although I didn't have my left arm extended out to the side, it was far enough away from my body that Belle took the dog walk.  The solution here was simple.  Keep my arm even lower, call Belle's name and make eye contact with her.

The last two challenges involved which way to wrap after the straight tunnel.  Once again, since we've been working on wrapping away after a tunnel, Belle's preference was to turn right.  Getting her to turn left proved to be quite a bit harder.  I finally realized that what I had to do was make sure that my motion was going in the direction of the turn I wanted before Belle entered the tunnel.  As soon as she was committed to the tunnel, I could make the left turn indicated on the purple line if I wanted a left wrap.  If I wanted her to wrap right, I had to keep moving along the green line until she was in the tunnel.

Friday, August 30, 2013

More Techno Geek Stuff

I've been running international courses for a year or two now.  Since I can't set a course without my surveyors tape and wheel, I spend a lot of time converting photos of metric course maps to feet in CRCD.  I finally decided to try and overlay a grid marked in feet over a metric course map.

The course map I used was in .PNG format, so I converted it to the more common JPEG format in PhotoShop to see if this would work with a JPEG image.
Next I created a 40 meter x 20 meter grid in CRCD.
Then I switched off metric in the view menu and had a blank course map marked off in feet.  I saved it in .PNG format so that I would have a transparent background when I removed the white areas.
Then I opened my grid in PhotoShop.  In order to work with the image, you have to change from indexed color to RGB and convert the background to a layer.  Then you can use the magic wand tool and remove all the white.
Next select Inverse and paint the lines and numbers red to make it easier to see them when you overlay this image on the original course map.  Select the entire image and copy.
Paste it over the original course map and voila.
Since I am working in layers, I decided I might as well move the foot grid to the right so that the course fits within an 80x100 foot grid.
Here's my finished course map:



Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A Little Distance Goes a Long Way

After enjoying several weeks of below normal temps, Mother Nature turned on us and it is hot, hot, hot!  In case I've never mentioned it before, I don't particularly care for hot weather.  I set up a course last week and then I lost interest in moving the equipment around for a new course.  I finally found a course that motivated me to get up early to beat the heat.  Here's the course:

The course is from the Buenos Aires Regionals and was designed by Rodrigo P. Balsells.  I thought it presented enough challenges to make setting it up worthwhile, plus I can see other courses embedded in it so I can leave it up for a while.

I made a mistake in walking the course and planned for #5 in the wrong direction.  However, even taking it from the wrong side, you have to make sure your dog is committed to the correct end of the tunnel before you can take off for the backside at #8.  I assumed #13 was to be taken from the numbered side which produces two threadles. 

I anticipated that getting Belle to the backside of #8 and #20 would be my biggest challenges.  However,  I was totally blindsided by the difficulties we encountered turning from #14 to the long jump!  After muddling through that using a number of different commands, I decided to try running 12-16 using some distance.  It certainly couldn't be any worse.  Remaining somewhat removed from the obstacles would remove the acceleration cues I was inadvertently giving while trying to get to the obstacles.  It would also allow me to stand in a spot where Belle could see me as she exited the #14 tunnel, and it would enable me to be further downstream for the run to the backside of #20.

Tomorrow, we'll give this course another go with the following changes:
  • take #5 from the side indicated
  • run 12-14 as a serpentine
  • add an extra loop (14,18,14) to see if Belle is pattern trained in regard to the turn to the long jump
First Day:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gate Circle

Yesterday, I set up a gate circle using my six gates and six hoops.  I was pleased with how well Willie did.  This evening we went out and played around with it some more, and he did even better, although he still doesn't quite get the concept of a rear cross.  Here's video from yesterday.


While we were out in the field, I came up with this set-up to work on send distance.  Obstacle 3 is a traffic cone, and as Willie becomes more comfortable driving out and around it, I will move it further away from 2 and 4 while I remain behind the line.

This setup also lets me work on leading out and cuing Willie to come to my left or right side when released.  I can also practice a front cross between 4 and 5.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Time Flies

I can't believe more than a month has gone by since my last post.  Since the weather has been very nice, I've been spending gobs of time working on my flower beds.  I did post some videos during that time, but I didn't write any posts to go with them.

Willie was 17 weeks old on Monday.  His legs have grown so very long, and  I noticed four adult teeth last Friday.   His training is coming along nicely.  So far we've worked on:
  • sit
  • down
  • stand
  • stay
  • sit pretty
  • wave (left and right paws)
  • high five (left and right paws)
  • celebrate (high five with both paws at the same time)
  • bow
  • crawl
  • put four feet in a relatively small box
  • balance disc
  • retrieving (very much a work in progress)
  • Buja board
  • heel
  • side
  • front
  • behind (switch from one side of me to the other by moving in back of me)
  • around (both me and other objects)
  • spin and twirl (clockwise and counter-clockwise, respectively)
  • recall
  • nail clipping
  • touch
  • putting names to objects (we've got a long way to go on this one)
  • waiting patiently at the back door
  • waiting to be released from his crate
  • tugging
  • front cross
  • rear cross (definitely the more difficult cross for Willie to understand)
  • travel plank (for the 2o2o contact I'm hoping for on the dog walk)
  • hoops and gates
I try to work with Willie at every meal so that we have at least three short sessions each day.  The wonderful thing about working with a puppy is that there is no time pressure to accomplish anything.  After all, he's a puppy!  We can't compete until he's 18 months old.  Therefore, I can take my time and lay a solid foundation and let him mature physically and mentally.

Willie was offering too much handler focus when we were working with hoops.  He was actually running into some of them!  I decided to see if using a few gates would help him focus on where he was going.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Willie The Pirate

I've had three dogs that enjoyed canoeing, and I started all of them out as very young puppies.  I tried taking Belle out last year (she had never been in any kind of boat) and she refused to stay in the canoe.  So I decided I'd take Willie for his first canoe ride today and get him used to it while he was young.

The Wakarusa is a small stream that flows through NW Illinois, and it is really only canoeable after heavy rain.  Unfortunately, I've never had the pleasure of paddling it when it was running high.  After the seventh or eighth time I had to line my boat today, I quit counting.  However, the stream flows through some very nice bluffs, and we got to see a doe and her fawn up close, as well as a Great Horned Owl.  At one of the places I had to line the boat, Willie flushed a Canada Goose.  I'm not quite sure who was more upset--the goose or Willie.

My canoe only draws about 4" of water, but in spots, the water was even shallower than that, so I used a J-lean to rotate my canoe off its keel allowing us to get by in 3".  Shortly after we put in, I leaned the boat to make a tight bend in the river.  Willie was balanced on a gunwale and fell into deep and fast flowing water.  Luckily, I was downstream of him and the current quickly carried him to me.  He was a real trooper and seemed totally unfazed by the dunking he took.  However, after that experience, he kept his paws off the gunwales when I had to lean the canoe in the shallows or to make a quick turn.

When I bought my first canoe 22 years ago, I took my Airedale puppy, Chance, out on one of the small lakes near our home.  She quickly proceeded to walk out of the boat and discovered she couldn't walk on the water.  She also was undaunted by the experience and came with me on many a trip.  Max was also exposed to canoeing at a young age, but he eventually grew too big for me to include in my paddling adventures unless I in a tandem canoe and paddling with a partner.  However, even in a larger canoe, he always had an uncanny knack for shifting his weight to the wrong side of the boat at the most inopportune moments.

Max - 2001
Libby at lunch break on her first trip - 2003.

(I began the trip with Willie clipped to a thwart, but once it was clear he wasn't going to hop out, I removed the leash for safety in case we flipped.)


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Distance Handling and Obstacle Committment

Bud Houston posted this sequence the other day, and I thought I would give it a whirl and see how well Belle and I could do this with distance handling.

The handling problem I encountered failing to wait for Belle to commit to the current obstacle before I moving on to what was coming next.  In particular, Belle's line from 3 to 4 is not a given--I have to maintain pressure on her line until she is committed to that jump which for her was when she was in the air.  If I turned too soon, she pulled off the jump in confusion.  The other thing I had to remember was to not under-handle the wingless jump.  At the very least I had to keep my arm out and look at it while moving toward 6.

However, if I encountered a sequence like this in a trial setting, I would not opt to stay out of the pocket.  I would support Belle to 4 and start moving laterally to the left wing of 6 and do a FC as in the video.  If the course called for me to be on the right side of the teeter, then I would add a blind cross between 6 and the teeter.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

From a Dog's Point of View

I set up Ann Croft's 4th of July Happy Hurdle Days exercise yesterday evening, and Belle and I tackled the blue course this morning.  I'm really glad when a course presents either a handling challenge or a training challenge for us to work on.

Right off the bat, I picked a poor way to handle #2, but I quickly realized the error of my ways and opted for one that made more sense.  However, for the weaves, I was firmly committed to remaining on the side away from the tunnel, and  I quickly discovered that Belle's understanding of the weave poles was not as complete as I thought.

To me and to most humans, the weaves are a single obstacle.  However, down at our dogs' eye level, especially when looking through them from the other side, they are a series of openings, and Belle chose to come through several of them to get to my side of the weaves.  She finally figured out she had to come around the first pole, but even then the entry wasn't easy for her since Mom's entire body was turned west (in relation to the course map) instead of east.  Belle did eventually nail the entry, but this is an entry that will have to be revisited in order to be maintained.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Starting Over

It's been a while since I posted here.  I continue to shoot video almost every day and post something on YouTube, but finding the time to post seems to have eluded me lately.

Long before I even saw Willie's photo, I made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish with my new puppy.

Goal:  To create a puppy with drive and biddability who thinks working with the Mama is the greatest thing ever.  One who is friendly and well-mannered, and confident in the face of new experiences.  I'm hoping to create a send-me-in-coach attitude.

Manners and Everyday Life
Look at That
Walk on a loose leash
Accustom to being left alone
Noise desensitization

Balance, Proprioception, Movement, Other Basic Stuff
Balance disc
Balance peanut
Buja Board
Small teeter
Distance training by sending to mat and hoop
Leg Weaves
Platform work

Straight backing
Verse (backing around me in a circle)
Side pass

Freestyle and Agility
Accurate positioning for heel and side
Out, Get Out
Line Up

I train in short two to three minute sessions and when a teachable moment arises.  Here's a video from two weeks ago showing Willie learning about the balance disc.  Willie quickly mastered the balance disc and is now comfortable sitting, standing or sprawling on it.

Today, I videoed our one of our leash work sessions.  Willie had never been on leash or worn a collar before he came to me, and views the leash as a tug toy.  To extinguish this habit, I wait for him to let go and then either continue our walk or gave him a treat.  He's doing nicely.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A New Puppy!

Yesterday, I picked up my new puppy, who for the moment I'm still calling Willie.  I also picked up a second puppy for transport.  I was amazed at how well both puppies traveled.  They had already been on the road for 11 hours before I picked them up near East St. Louis, and we were on the road for another 5.5 hours.  I decided to stop as the sun was going down to let the puppies out for one last potty break.  Sure glad I did it while it was still light.  They hadn't been on a leash before and it was like trying to walk a couple of garter snakes!  They didn't have a clue and they were in no mood to learn this particular skill at this particular moment in time.

I pulled in about 12:15 a.m. and decided to sleep in the sun room with the pups so we'd be close to the back door if they had to go out at some outrageously early hour.  Both Willie and his sister were quite good and slept until about 5 a.m.  Since they hadn't eaten since the morning before and they had been cooped up in crates for more than 20 hours, I got up and feed them and then walked with them out in the field, hoping they would wear themselves out and I could grab another couple hours of sleep.  I also used the early breakfast to introduce Willie to a clicker.  His sister discovered the agility tunnel and ran through it a couple of times before Willie joined her.  I think he's going to be a lot of fun to work with.

It took a while, but they were finally willing to zonk out again.  Reese's family picked her up about an hour ago and now it is just Willie and the pack.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Making the Most of Your Instructional DVD's

One of the problems with an instructional DVD is trying to locate the exact information you are looking for.  You know you saw it, but where.  If you're lucky the DVD is divided into chapters and has a menu, but even so, what you're trying to find isn't always in the chapter that you thought it would most likely be in. 

Recently, I was torn between auditing another online class and purchasing a DVD covering the same material.  I ended up purchasing the DVD so I could watch the material over and over whenever I wanted to.  Yesterday, I spent about an hour watching about 10 minutes of my new DVD and then working on what I saw with Belle.  Then I compared what we did with what the guy in the DVD was doing.  I identified several spots where I got it wrong and went out and tried it again.

This morning, I was re-watching the DVD to see if there were still points I had overlooked.  I was about to get out my pen and some paper to make notes when it dawned on me, I could use Word for my notes and just switch back and forth from VLC media player to Word.  Then I had an absolute inspiration.  I could paste screen shots into the Word document and add notes later.  Here's an example:

Not only does this give me the important points of the DVD, it also provides me with where the information is located on the DVD.  (If I decide to print a hard copy, I would probably type out the words and eliminate the pictures to save ink.)  And of course, I'm not limited to just capturing the titles.  If there I'm having problems remembering how to do a certain move, I can take successive screen shots and save them in my Word doc.  Then I can load the document into my Samsung Galaxy Tab 5 and take it out with me when I practice.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Perfect Setup

Over the last few days, I set up two of the courses from the WAO.  I thought we'd do a little better than we did with them.  I was starting to question why I was even bothering to set these courses up since they are so far above our current skill level.  Then yesterday, I received a newletter email from Daisy Peel about goals.  Basically, by definition a goal (in the sense of a challenge) is something that is beyond your current capability.  Yep, these courses certainly fit that description.  Here's the first one we tackled:

Yesterday, I set up a jumpers course from the WAO, and I was totally taken aback at the difficulty Belle had in shifting from obstacle focus to handler focus.  Hmmm.  Time to do some training.  I looked through my binder of Backyard Dog exercises and Power Paws drills, and finally came up with an PP setup (May, 2009) that featured two straight tunnels with plenty of opportunity to bring a dog from obstacle focus to handler focus.  

I set up the course this morning using hoops since our problem stems from handling and training issues and not jumping.  Right off the bat on what was basically an obstacle focus exercise, we hit a snag.  Belle turned the wrong way upon exiting the first tunnel--I wasn't expecting that at all.  Just love it when I pick an exercise that is going to give us the chance to work on multiple skills!  Here's the video of us working it out:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Running Dog Walk

Yesterday, I finally threw in the towel.  We've been at full height for almost five weeks and Belle still doesn't hit the yellow with any regularity even when starting on the cross plank of the DW unless the PVC box is in place.  It's been a very interesting training experience, but it's time to move on and resurrect Belle's 2o2o DW and see if I can breathe some life into it.

I really feel that Silvia's method is a good one, but re-training an older dog who started with 2o2o is a monumental task. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Biathlon Jumpers Course from IFCS CCOA

Steve Schwarz, the Agility Nerd, did a Chalk Talk on this course from last weekend's IFCS Championship of the Americas.  I decided to set it up and work on it for a couple of days.  The biggest physical challenge for me was getting from 7 to 11 in time to indicate which side of the jump Belle was to take.  I tried a rear cross in my first efforts because I didn't think I could get in either a blind cross or a front cross between 8 and 9.  However, with a little bit of hustle the blind is certainly doable.  Much to my surprise though, Belle turned left after #10, both after a rear cross and the blind, despite the fact I was on her right side.  I must have been pressuring her line ever so slightly to get her around the wing of 11.  Note to self:  Run at the wing or standard when I want Belle to take a jump from the backside.  Don't run at the bar and don't run at a spot 6" from the wing.

After I watched our complete run, I also watched video from the actual trial.  For our next session, I wanted to do the following:

1.  Do a running LO and do a FC on the landing side of #3.  Worked on this, but I wasn't able to consistently get far enough ahead to do a FC between 5/6 and get 6 from the backside.

2.  Don't run so fast at the gap in the threadle so I can keep moving instead of having to wait for Belle to catch up so I can push her into the gap.  This one I was able to remember and do.

3.  Try a BC between 8 & 9.  Worked better than a RC even when I was late.

4.  Be a little quicker with my FC at #12 to tighten Belle's wrap.  (I don't have to get to the wing, I only have to get to the line between 12 and 13.)  Not so much.  By this point on the course I'm starting to suck wind :(

5.  Don't outrun Belle to #19 and head toward the left wing, not the bar.  Yep.  And I was even able to take off for the final jump before she cleared the bar.    

We ran the complete course a second time, but unfortunately I forgot to turn the camera on.  The most memorable thing for me was that I got too far ahead after the triple and added a heck of a lot of extra yardage to my path.  To add insult to injury, the course is uphill at that point.  So maybe another thing to try would be:

6.  A FC after the triple.  Yeah, right.  Like I could even get there in time.  A well-timed RC cut my yardage and made for a nice turn into the weaves for Belle.

The video shows our "first" and final attempts on this course, plus some bloopers.  The final run is almost three seconds faster, and the only substantive change in my handling of the final attempt was using a BC instead of a RC between 8 and 9.  Most of the difference was due to tightening up Belle's path at the back of the course (9-15).  Interestingly, she still faded left after #10, but not nearly as much as the first time.  I think the only way to avoid that fade would to run faster, which is easier said than done.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Distance and the International Course

A couple of days ago, the Agility Nerd posted this course designed by Eduard Bonet and some exercises that he designed that were inspired by Bonet's course.  (The original course was in meters and oriented in landscape format.  I took the liberty of orienting it so that corresponds with the angle I planned to shoot from.)

1-9 wasn't too bad for this old body, but from 9 to 18 there is an awful lot of running to be done.  Since I'm still working on a running DW, I wasn't about to stop Belle in a 2o2o so I catch up to her for the back side of 18.  That only left me with one option. I had to start running along the DW while Belle was traveling from the weaves to 16.  Since this sprint comes at the end of the run, I decided to send her to the broad jump and the chute, and then call her over 16 and do a post turn to the weaves.  The first time through, I forgot myself and ended up scooping her across my feet into the weaves.  It worked, but I think a FC followed by post turn would have been more efficient.  Other areas that could be improved:

3-4:  Do a post turn.  I finally decided the post turn was too boring for me, so I did a Ketschker.  The K was no faster, but at least I felt like I was doing something.

8:  Slow my stride sooner.  Belle went way deep because I was still showing extension in my stride.  Once I realized I had made this mistake, I was very good about showing collection soon enough for Belle to make a nice wrap at #8.

9:  Go to the tunnel with Belle so that I don't have to stand still or slow down to let her pass me on the way to the teeter.  This turned out to be an exceptionally bad idea.  If the handler is running, the logical obstacle from the dog's point of view becomes the weaves.  I also tried doing a FC on the landing side of the panel jump.  It certainly takes the weaves out of the picture, but it makes it a little more difficult to send Belle on to the chute and pick her up for the weaves.

The best approach for us was handling from the TOS side of the panel jump.  I just had to make sure to bring Belle into handler focus so she didn't have a loopy path to the teeter.

14:  Stop moving before she exits the chute.  Get her attention and move toward the weaves for my post turn.  Actually, an even bigger problem was that I never remembered to give her a verbal cue while she was still in the chute.

Here's the video of our first run, some efforts to improve a few sections, and our final run.