Sunday, March 31, 2013

Running Contacts Session 36

After Karissa and Laura pointed out to me that Belle was hitting three times on the down ramp from a stationary start on the DW and twice when we began with a running start, I watched several of my previous videos paying particular attention to Belle's striding.  I contacted Silvia Trkman and she watched the last video I posted.  She wasn't concerned about the three hits from a stationary start on the DW, but, as Karissa and Laura observed, she told me that Belle needs to extend her stride a bit more when running so that she can hit lower in the contact zone.

We are to the point now that a large number of reps per session isn't really necessary.  Instead I'm hoping to do 6-8 reps and concentrate on either getting Belle to extend her stride or introducing turns after the DW.  I also want to introduce having a tunnel be the next obstacle, but first Belle will have to become accustomed to running because I'm running and not because there is a target ball waiting for her.  I lowered the DW to three feet for now so I can introduce the turns, and I'll probably keep it there for another week or two.

I really like this method of teaching running contacts.  When I attempted re-training just the A-frame using Rachel Sanders method 16 months ago, I had Belle doing way too many reps in a week and she paid the price.  Knock on wood, this seems to be a much less physically stressful way of training running contacts.  The only problem is that not everyone wants a running DW and for Silvia the running AF is just a natural consequence of teaching a dog to do a running DW with her method.  Of course, you could still use her method and once you have the running AF you want, then you could teach your dog a 2o2o DW. 


Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Better Motivator

Yesterday, I tried using Belle's Jolly Ball instead of a tennis ball or monkey's paw for our running contact session.  The Jolly Ball is pretty close to the top of Belle's  "I want it" list, and I thought it might get her excited enough that she wouldn't care quite so much about being right.  I also limited our starting position to somewhere on the DW, with the exception of one last rep which we did after playing around with an exercise from April's issue of Clean Run.

Belle did an excellent job with that final rep, especially considering I forgot to take the milk crate from under the edge of the ramp.  (I use milk crates to keep the boards from being in constant contact with the damp ground when we're not using the teeter and the DW.)

Today, I decided to do two short sessions and continue using the Jolly Ball.  I began both sessions with Belle on the cross plank of the DW, and quickly progressed to sending her to the tunnel.  (I decided against having her start from the up ramp or a sit-stay before the DW so that she didn't have to fight gravity while trying to get up to full running speed.)  I was very pleased with the results.  Definitely got more than just 1R foot high in the yellow on several of the reps.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Raising the Dog Walk to Full Height

Day 58 of the re-train:  I wanted to raise the DW to three feet today, but raising up to that height using milk crates was just too unsteady. Since I don't feel like making new legs for my dog walk supports, I decided to see what would happen if I raised the DW to full height.  The reps were pretty good, but I felt Belle was checking her stride ever so slightly so I opted to add more speed to see what would happen.  Belle began hitting fairly deep in the yellow with only one rear foot.  This is an acceptable hit, but she had been running the DW and hitting with one or two front and two rear feet.  (Hitting with all four feet is something I expect to disappear as Belle becomes more and more confident running the DW.)

The jury is still out whether we will stay at full height.  We'll do another session or two to see if her striding improves before I lower the dog walk back to two feet or bite the bullet and build new legs.  However, if I were working with a dog who wasn't a re-train, I would definitely build new legs for my dog walk so we could get used to doing it at three feet before moving to full height.

Another thing I've been doing is watching Belle run through the yellow, which is something I don't do at trial.  I want her to get used to running through the contact with me watching and not think I'm looking for 2o2o.  I've also finally found a word to use for our running dog walk--"fly."  Right now, I'm using "okay," as in "don't stop at the bottom, keep moving."  When I use our old cue, "walk it,"  Belle becomes unsure of what I want unless I also use "okay."  That's a little too cumbersome for me, so for now I'll just use "okay," and when Belle is striding nicely again at full height, I'll introduce the new cue.

Notice what an absolutely beautiful day it is in the video.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Barrels are Coming

Sooner or later, a barrel is going to make its appearance at one of our NADAC trials, so I decided it was time to train Belle to go around one as tightly as possible.  The two Regular courses I've seen online featured a barrel after/before the dog walk, but since we're working on retraining to a running dog walk, I decided against trying that for now.  I came up with this set-up that uses four hoops and a barrel:

 In the video that follows, we did two basic sequences:

1.  A three-hoop serpentine to the barrel to the fourth hoop.

2.  A 180 (using any two adjacent hoops) to the barrel to a third hoop of my choosing.

There are a host of variations possible with this set-up, plus you can add more hoops to the arc around the barrel to increase your options even further.

I was surprised how quickly Belle pattern-trained to the serpentine.  You'll see us working through that little wrinkle in the video.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Follow-Up to RC Session 23

I took Belle to the doggy chiropractor today.  She was badly out of alignment in a spot where she normally has no problem.  Our best guess is that she may have wiped out running on the ice in the backyard.  Since the adjustments were so extensive, she will have a couple more days of rest before resuming our running contact training.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Running Contacts - Raising the Dog Walk

Session 22 (03/16/2013) - Raised the DW to 24" and changed its directional orientation.  Was very pleased at how well Belle did.  9 successes out of 11 reps.  Belle was sitting on the DW for the beginning of each rep.  Tried varying my position and movement a little bit each time--nothing drastic though.  DW on my left and we were running toward the NW.

Session 23 (03/17/2013) - I ran with Belle on right today heading SE and toward the fence.  When I viewed the video in slo-mo, I was dismayed to see she was bringing her left foreleg across the midline of her body.  Once I had seen it in slo-mo, I was able to see in real time, the effect it was having on her path on the DW.  Over the last year, I have noticed she is beginning to wing inward with her left front, but it usually isn't this pronounced.  I checked her over but couldn't find anything except that her toenails were in need of clipping.  I clipped them back and we won't do any DW work for a day or two and see if the problem persists.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Running Contacts Session 21 - Introducing Handler Motion

Yesterday, I tried running with Belle during our running contact session.  I didn't video the session yesterday, but we did somewhere between 15-18 reps, and Belle missed the yellow at least 10 times.  On the plus side, Belle didn't do any checking of her stride before the yellow despite so many NR reps.

The problem with a DVD is that it is often difficult to locate exactly what you're looking for.  In this case, I needed to find out when Silvia suggests introducing handler motion.  Maybe I need to go back to the plank on the ground?  Maybe I should wait until the DW is a little higher.  I was able to find my answer with a little searching, and it looks like I'm introducing differences in handler motion and position just about where she recommends in the training process.

Yesterday, I foolishly used the three-hoop lead in sequence so I could get ahead of Belle.  That was just a wee bit too extreme at this stage.  Today, I had her sit in various spots on the 12" high dog walk while I lead out and ran at various speeds and with a variable amount of pre-release revving-up.  I was quite happy with the result.  We went from a success rate of about 20% yesterday to 57% today.  (Since I'm working with a video camera, I decided I would stay on the same side of the DW for all the reps of a single session, and we would only run in one direction during each session.  On subsequent sessions, I will change direction and/or side.)

Notice that I'm now throwing the ball before I run.  Yesterday, I'm sure throwing the ball as I was running was just a bit too stimulating for Belle.  Also, my aim is so much better when I'm standing still.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chances Analysis - 03/09/2013

It's been quite a while since I put together a Chances analysis video.  Last Saturday, we had a pretty straightforward Chances course, and I videoed several people running in Elite.  (Sorry no video from Open and Novice because I was scribing for those two classes.)

The most difficult part of this course was the left turn at hoop #5.  Although
Belle and I did Q, she was clearly confused about which way to go after #5.  I watched the video in slow-motion a bunch of times times, and really couldn't see why Belle was confused.

However, when I started putting together this video analysis, it dawned on me I was too far to the right.  My physical turning cues were well-timed, but since I didn't give a verbal "switch" command, my position on the course made Belle hesitate--after all she doesn't have eyes in the back of her head.  Luckily, I was far enough back from the line that I could move forward to indicate Belle's path to #6.

Here's the video.  If you spot anything I missed be sure to leave a comment.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Running Contacts - Session 19

Belle and I went to the QCDC last Saturday for a NADAC trial.  Unfortunately, for the first time since I started retraining the A-frame in November, 2011, contacts were a major problem.  Since I don't watch Belle as she comes through the yellow, I had to wait until I was able to view the video in slow motion on my computer monitor before I knew which contacts she missed.  She seemed to have no problem hitting the dog walk contact if I was not moving.  For example, on one course there was a left turn off the dog walk to a hoop, so there was no need for me to move.  That she missed the yellow when I was running didn't really bother me since we have not been able to work on that at home yet.

What had me concerned was the A-frame.  But she missed only one out of four, and if anything, I thought she was coming over the top even better than she had been before we started working on a running dog walk.  Hopefully, a limited amount of training with a stride regulator in place will show Belle I want her to land a little lower after cresting the top of the A-frame.

Today, I ventured out into the field and discovered enough snow had melted that we could do a running contact session.  It's been more than a week, but I decided to lug out the third board and give it a go.  By and large, I was extremely pleased with Belle's performance.  The only problem we encountered was that Belle was collecting before the yellow when I moved.  One rep was so bad that she managed to put six feet into the yellow!!!

I don't know if this is a potential problem or not.  It could be a stage most dogs go through, or it could be how even dogs with blazing running contacts actually manage to hit the yellow.  I'll have to sit down and watch some videos of dogs with running dog walks on YouTube and see if I can find an answer to my questionI'll also watch Silvia Trkman's DVD again and see if it's an issue she addresses.

P.S.  I contacted Silvia on her website.  She said Belle is checking her stride because running contacts are a re-train.  It isn't a behavior she sees in dogs who haven't previously been taught to stop on their contacts.  Solution:  Do not reward those reps.  Good thing I can really hear it when Belle alters her stride.  



It seems like winter just doesn't want to let go this year.  Normally, we get a few days in January and February when it is warm enough and dry enough to do some clean up work in the flower beds.  Not this year.  I shudder to think of how much work is waiting for me outside when it finally warms up.

I took this photo of snowdrops coming up by our pond on January 17th.

I know the leaves and flowers of late winter bloomers are hardy, but I really thought they would be a soggy mess when the snows of the last few weeks finally melted, but I was wrong.  This is how they looked this morning.  Guess they're called snowdrops for a reason.


Friday, March 8, 2013

Running Contacts Sessions 17 & 18

Last Saturday, I added the top board of the dog walk and was very pleased that 7 of our 11 reps were successful.  Sunday, we did 7 or 8 reps where I sent Belle to a hoop before the boards.  Unfortunately, she offered a 2o2o twice, jumped once and came off the side once.  No more practice until the ground is clear of snow and I can move fast enough that Belle doesn't think I'm looking for 2o2o.

Here's Saturday's video: