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.