Monday, December 29, 2014

Taking Stock

Almost the end of another year, and a perfect time to take stock of how Willie's training is going.

1.  His distance skills are excellent.
2.  Jumpers courses are our forte.
3.  Great start line stay.
4.  Fast and willing agility teammate.

Needs Work:
1.  When I stop Willie to rework something we messed up, he can get into quite a state.  This should sort itself out as long as I remember to never let it slide in my desire to run a particular course or sequence.  Self-control is imperative for such a fast dog.

2.  Contact/tunnel discriminations, and especially DW/tunnel discriminations need to get more work.  Additionally, I really should invest some time and effort into training an independent DW contact.  Right now, it is very much dependent upon me stopping.  I don't have to be close to the DW, by I do have to stop.

3.  Given Willie's AF performances this weekend, I think we should take a break from any running AF training and just stick to a 2o2o performance.  Once Willie has an independent 2o2o AF (which he does not at this point), we can try to sneak in the back door to a running AF by working on a fast release and then an early release.

Without a natural stride that carries a dog into the yellow, it requires a lot of reps to get a dependable running AF.  We've worked at this for more than 10 months, and I think it is time to put it aside both for Willie's physical well-being and so that what is expected at trial is what he is accustomed to doing in practice.

4.  Timing.  This one is mine to work on.  Relax and go with the flow.  Just remember the flow is pretty darn fast with this particular dog :-)

Here with all of its warts is footage from our last trial of 2014.  The second day of this trial went better, but there is no video.

A New Skill to Train

Today's Regular courses featured a barrel tunnel trap that I have not seen before.  Here's the Elite course map.  To me it seemed like the tunnel was pushed to the right as I indicate and the barrel a little bit to the left.  In any event wrapping the barrel to the #4 hoop was not an easy feat.  On the Novice version of this course, Willie was to the mouth of the tunnel in both Round 1 and Round 2.  Novice Rd 2 did had the dog coming straight toward the barrel from a couple of jumps.  The judge kindly removed the tunnel under the AF, but then replaced the #13 tunnel with a barrel.

Needless to say, I will be setting up my barrel with an attractive off-course obstacle behind it as soon as it gets nice enough to play outdoors again.

Here's one set of exercises I dreamed up.

Course Challenges

Although I've been working with Willie on some NADAC courses, I really wasn't planning to do a whole lot of NADAC trialing. However, we went to a NADAC trial this weekend, and I was very surprised to see some pretty challenging courses.

For example, here is the Elite Chances course from today. The tunnel/AF discrimination took its usual toll, but the really tricky part of this course is directing your dog from 7 to 8. While running the 4-7 loop, the dog is on his right lead.  If the handler goes beyond the plane of 7 in order to support 5 and 6, then her return path will cause her dog to switch leads at 7 and turn toward the #4 hoop.

Two or three teams were successful with this path in Elite and Open, but with one exception, it wasn't pretty.

A smoother, less stressful way to get your dog from 7 to 8 is to take a deep breath and not rush toward the line.  Pace yourself so that you keep moving toward 5 without coming up against the line.  Then support your dog's line to 6 from the "x" or from not more than a couple of feet to the east of it.  This will either leave you in a perfect position to pressure your dog's line from 7 to 8 or allow you the chance to step back to "x" without cuing a lead change.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A Difficult Rear Cross

On Monday, Willie and I ran a MC Standard course in class that featured this opening:

We haven't worked all that much on rear crossing the weaves, and this particular RC is going against the direction that Willie is traveling in the weaves.  Since getting this right is a training issue and not a handling issue, I opted to start at #4 on our next turn.  Then I went home and created a plan to work on this skill.

RC Weave Pole Entry

We'll start this exercise with 6 poles and I'll decide whether to work with 12 poles as we get each step or work through all four exercises before starting over with 12.

The first stage will involve moving the position of the jump from the black position to the red.  Then I'll return the jump to its starting position and work on increasing the angle of the weaves away from the tunnel.  Once Willie can handle the RC with the weaves angling away from the tunnel, I'll start moving the jump toward the red position.

The final exercise will be as shown at the bottom right, where I've added a second jump to approximate the challenge we faced this morning.

Here are the videos of our work on this sequence:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Willie's First Trial Experience

I debated about whether or not to enter Willie in a CPE trial on August 2nd.  He was 15 months old on the 22nd of July.  I finally opted to run him in Colors, Wild Card and Jumpers since the only obstacle not fully trained (or so I thought) is the AF.

I was hoping to take the DW on the Colors and Wild Card courses, but my knee was bothering me too much to run the length of the DW and when I tried pushing Willie out to them, he took the straight tunnel that was about 10' closer to me and parallel to the DW.  A new obstacle discrimination variation for us to work on at home.

Willie's jumpers run was beautiful until the last obstacle which was a tire.  Someone thought he had hit the metal support frame with his shoulder, but in slow-motion, it looks like he missed it.  Thank goodness for breakaway tires!!!

I thought about the tire incident during the long drive home, mentally kicking myself for almost injuring Willie.  When I went to bed last night, I was still considering the matter and came up with a way to "fix" our tire problem.  All of my other dogs, except Dusty, were taught to jump through a hula hoop long before they encountered their first tire.  From there I went on and worked on transferring that performance to jumping through my arms.  Max, my late Airedale, actually won the best trick award in a local competition by impressing the judge with his ability to jump through my arms.

So this morning, I dug out my 24" hula hoop and began the process of teaching Willie to jump through the hoop cleanly.  Basically, I will be following these steps:

Begin with the hoop vertical and resting on the ground.  
1.  Reward any interaction with the hoop.
2.  Reward a few passes through the hoop no matter how many body parts touch it.  Mustn't stay at this stage very long.
3.  Only reward those passes where no part of his body touches the hoop.

Once Willie can get through the hoop without touching it, raise it an inch or so off the ground.
4.  Have him sit and wait.  Release to come through the hoop for a cookie. 
5.  Over several sessions, raise the height of the hoop until we get to competition height.  Be sure to maintain criterion of no body part touches the hoop.
6.  Put the behavior on a verbal cue.

Once Willie can jump the hoop cleanly at competition height, begin working on getting him to jump through my arms.  A big plus of jumping through your arms is that the dog will brush against you if he is of any size, and he will learn to do it with control to avoid ramming into you.  (Some dogs don't learn this part.  I could never trust Dusty to not hit my shoulder, so I stopped offering him the opportunity to do this trick.  His tire performance was also less than safe unless it was carefully managed.)

I have found the easiest way to do this is to place one hand on the top of the hoop and the other off to the side toward the bottom, holding the hoop as far from my body as possible.  As the dog gets comfortable jumping close to my body, I increase the amount of contact my arms have with the hoop.  This will also bring the hoop in closer to my body.  Once my arms are wrapped around the hoop to the fullest extent possible, it's time to see if he dog will jump through my arms without the hoop on cue--I keep my fingers about 12" apart for these first attempts.  If necessary, I have someone lure my dog through with a cookie.  Once he will jump through my arms, I start decreasing the size of my arm "hoop."

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Distance Handling Check

My original goal with Belle was to get to the point where we were able to do NADAC courses from the bonus line.  We almost got there, but not quite.  With Willie, I can tell that I'm going to need all the distance I can get in order to get through any course with him since he is considerably faster than Belle.  My job will be to navigate and stay out of his way.

I'm having trouble with my right knee, so I decided to find out how well Willie could do this Masters Jumpers course with distance handling.  Here's a frame shot from this morning video.  Note that I misread the map (again) and we took 10 from the wrong direction.

It was quite the learning experience.  I plan to go out and "run" it again tonight or tomorrow morning.  I'll finish the video then and post it here and on YouTube.

#1 is a continuing problem with Willie.  He doesn't quite get it that if the jump is between him and me and I don't indicate otherwise, he is to take it.  

#2 Can you say LATE!   

#3 & #4 I missed seeing the threadle at 10, so I cued Willie to jump 10 in the wrong direction and then tried to do a threadle at 11.  My initial plan was to handle it from what was our landing side, and getting there pulled Willie off of 9.  It also made for a crunchy threadle.  It handles much better when I remain on the take off side of 10 and I can also support 9 better.  However, now that I see my mistake, I look forward to seeing if we can get 9-11 correct.

#5 I wanted to stay around (52,8), but soon discovered neither Willie nor Belle could get to 15 consistently if I did that.  Moving 1/3 to 1/2 way down the tunnel supported that jump just fine.  Actually, it's not surprising that Willie didn't carry out to 15 since we've done a lot of work in the last two weeks on tunnel exits.  If I'm not moving when he goes in, then he should be checking for me and prepared to turn when he exits. 

#6 I had to make sure I supported the double or Willie ran by it.  (Perhaps that's because I didn't put a pair of wings on it, but still....)  Must remember that Willie is a young, unexperienced dog and what Belle takes for granted, he very well may not.