Sunday, June 21, 2015

Just a Little Hustle

Qualifying runs have been eluding Willie and me.  So far we have 10 Excellent/Master Standard runs and only 3 Q's.  Ex/Mas JWW is even worse.  Nine runs and no Q's!  Among other things, what was killing us in JWW was being unable to complete a long closing line without incurring a refusal due to a spin.

I was a participant in Tracy Sklenar's online Learn Your Dog Camp 2015 and she was quickly identified my problem with the long-line closings.  I was trying to send Willie on ahead of me with the big arm fling.  What I should have been doing was tucking up my arms and sprinting toward the finish albeit many feet or yards behind Willie.  Of course, I didn't get a chance to try this out last weekend because there was not a long-line closing on any of the seven courses we ran.  However, when it crops up again, I will be prepared.

After going 1/7 last weekend, I decided it was time to start setting up two or three JWW courses a week and seriously striving to get them right the first time.  So far we are 2/2.

This morning's course was designed by Dan Butcher, and I was very pleased that we nailed it the first time.  Additionally, I was very proud of the timing of my send and run at the tunnel and at #17 and Willie's ability to read the forced front cross on the run at #10.  My biggest handling error was failing to reconnect with Willie after my BC between 17 and 18.

One of the greatest downsides to training alone is trying to improve your handling.  Video helps me to see when something is going badly, but I may not be able to discern why or how to fix it.  Even when things go well, there are probably things I could do even better, but if I knew what those things were, I would have done them in the first place, n'est pas?  

I was fortunate enough to find video of someone running this course at trial, and she did a wonderful job of handling her dog.  Actually, that wasn't too surprising since it turns out she is a handler of world team caliber.  I tried not to get too carried away comparing our run and hers, but I did come away with several handling choices to ponder.  (Left to my own devices I probably never would have thought of any of them.)

1.  Right off the bat, the WT handler gained almost a full obstacle on us by sending her dog to the second obstacle and taking off for a FC on the landing side of #3 so she could handle DOL through the weaves.  (I stuck close to #2 and RC'd #4, a much more leisurely approach.)

2.  At #10, I did a forced front cross and then RC'ed 11.  This meant I had to handle 12-15 from behind.  The WT handler sent her dog to the backside at 10 and ran along the bar on the landing side, picking her dog up on her left.  She then made a beeline for a FC on the landing side of 12 and was able to tighten her dogs turns at 13-15 very nicely.  That savings in yardage put her dog another whole obstacle ahead of Willie.

3.  Additionally, the WT handler chose to handle the weave exit with a grab.  I used a FC close placed close to 6.  Her dog had a much tighter turn out of the weaves, but her dog is also a 16" Sheltie.  The only way to know if it would improve our time is to try it.

Both 1 and 2 demonstrate the advantage of getting ahead of your dog in terms of saving yardage.  However, whether or not it is always possible to get there is another matter altogether.

Willie and I went out in the afternoon and gave this another go.  The different opening and the weave exit grab presented no problem, and they definitely saved us a few yards.  I was able to easily push Willie to the back of #10 and pick him up on my right.  However, my FC before #13 was late and I was in Willie's way.  We ran the course one more time, and instead of trying for the FC on the take off side of #13, I merely got closer to the landing side and directed Willie from there.  (Interestingly, his turn from 14 to 15 was tighter when I was further away, although overall this section benefited from me being closer to the action.)  With just a little bit of hustle on my part, we shaved almost a whole second off of the run.

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