Monday, December 10, 2007

Busy Week

Not too much posting here lately, been too busy. Lots of my own training and Strummer's been getting a good share of attention, at least until the snow hit on Friday. I bought some portable all in one jumps at Nationals and I've been working on Strummer's jumping with 1 jump on my lunch hour in a field next to my office building. Right now we're on week 4 or so of Linda Mecklinburg's foundation jumping program that was published in Clean Run. I don't like learning out of magazines but that's what I'm stuck with at the moment for a variety of reasons. So far I haven't run into any problems or questions with it but I have noone overseeing me so who knows if I'm doing it right. I feel like I'm seeing the results I'm supposed to so for now that's good enough. He's learning to jump in a nice collected fashion and turn tightly around the jump standard. I may have to make myself some jump wings but for now we're doing fine without them. I've also been reviewing Susan Garrett's One Jump DVD and introducing some of those exercises too. Her groundwork exercise for a rear cross is good and Strum can easily do it but she doesn't go into a good explanation of how to add the jump and he has no clue. I'm starting to come around to her idea that you shouldn't use your inside arm to flip your dog away from you at least for Strummer because he's so sensitive to it, he's flipping away from me on the ground and the slightest motion when we practice our heeling stuff. I still feel strongly about wanting a verbal for turning away/switching leads though so I think I'll fade the flip motion and only use the verbal. Cody & Lola have never had a problem with that arm flip and it's been a handly move but I can see how it might be a problem for Strummer. But that's how I taught rear crosses and now I'm not sure what to do about it, I guess simply wait until the verbal 'turn' cue is stronger and use that.

Cody & Lola have had no agility practice since Nationals and now the practice field is covered in snow so I'm stuck going to course run throughs at Boulder County Fairgrounds but that's only one night a week and not the sort of practice the dogs need right now. I want to practice short little drills and slowly reintroduce Lola back to the equipment and this isn't possible at the course run through format where you only get 90 seconds in the ring. It's better than nothing though and with a USDAA trial coming up in 4 weeks it'll have to do. I may go out to Biscuit Eaters over the weekend and shovel a small area if it doesn't look too bad out there but with 5-6" of snow from this weekend's storm and more on the way this week I'm not sure how practical that will be. Maybe I'll just shovel a spot for the weave poles in my yard, that's all Cody really needs at the moment. His only mistakes at Nationals, except for one missed A-frame contact, all had to do with the weave poles. I think this was true last year too. I did the best I could beforehand but I can't overtrain him or his shoulder will go.

I went out for my first cross country ski session on Sunday since Boulder got enough snow for the Nordic Ski Club to groom a loop out at North Boulder Park near my house. Each loop takes 8-9 minutes and I did a solid 4 loops and decided I should call it a day since I could start to feel some leg/groin muscles I seldom use start to act up. I do this every year, I overdo it the first time out skiing then I can't move for the rest of the week. I felt like 32 minutes wasn't enough so I went out for one more easy cooldown lap and even stopped halfway through to take some pictures. I felt fine all day then of course woke up a bit stiff this morning and now I can barely move. Yowch. Will I never learn?

Took Lola out for her first run on Saturday and she did great, about 40 minutes in the snowstorm. I think the soft snow helped soften the impact a bit. Cody came with and had multiple fits in the snow. He's always gone crazy in the snow and that outing was no exception. Lo and the other dogs had some off leash running in the snow on Sunday. Jonny and I called her back and forth from opposite ends of the park. She loves that game and it's great recall practice plus she's running in a straight line so she's not harming her feet with sharp, sudden turns. So far she's had accupuncture, lots of supplements & Rhymadil, a massage (that was a free house call from a doggie massage student) and a session on an underwater treadmill. The treadmill didn't go so well, she was freaked out and couldn't get into a good rhythm. So no more water therapy for Lola unless she's got a serious injury and there's no other option. It's too traumatic for her. At her treadmill session Lo's PT found that her neck was out of alignment so I have an appointment at a doggie chiropractor for her. She's turning into quite an expense account but I need to keep her sound so she can be active. If he's a good chiro I may take Cody too, I suspect something may be up with his back.

Some good masters practices last week too, 5400 yards or so in total. The coach kicked my ass on Thursday, I'm surprised I was able to drive home. Ran 5 days which is a lot in one week but it was only 11 miles or so. Some walking as well and of course the 42 minutes of skiing. Must put some air in my Swiss ball so I can do my strength training, ugh.


  1. I was taught a rear cross and a "turn" as two completely different things... and my dogs understand them differently. A rear cross ("g'won") means to my dog "go on and take that jump without me, I'm hanging back to change leads here" and it doesn't always involve a major directional change on the dog's part (if it does it becomes "g'won left" or "g'won right"). It was very easy to teach using targets.

    If I want to turn my dog and change leads, that's when I use the "flip," aka "counter-hand turn," using the outside arm and "right" or "left." It's really interesting to me that some people say never use the outside arm to signal a turn (I've heard it called the "evil arm turn" although I'm not sure why) and others say never use the inside arm ... I personally love the way my dogs turn when I use the outside arm.

    Any way, I could probably diagram out how I was taught/taught my dogs both of these (and maybe even discuss the differences in when you would use one on course) if you are at all interested. (Maybe I will anyway ... It would make a good blog entry for me!)

  2. I'm always interested in training techniques. It seems if you're going to go to all that trouble to explain things though that you should do it as your own blog entry so other people could benefit and it doesn't get lost in the comments.

    I've heard people debate into the ground about inside arm, outside arm etc. and I've seen both ways used successfully at trials as well as blind crosses and other supposedly bad techniques. Obviously it depends on the team, how the dog was trained and how it interprets its handler. I like using the inside arm/flip for Lo & Cody but I do think I might end up getting in trouble with this with Strummer. If I wasn't so busy/lazy I'd do a better job of training him to really understand that he's only supposed to turn away when I cue him but it seems easier to go with how he naturally interprets things and train him a different way.

    I'm trying to avoid working with targets because I'm terrible at fading them and I didn't have much luck with them with Cody & Lola. Nothing wrong with them and Strummer does know how to target but I'm trying to find a different way.

  3. I'll put rear crosses and counter-hand turns on the list of things I should blog about--when the puppy and my job leave me some time ;-) It will be fun ... another reason to play with the Clean Run Course Designer ;-)

    I'm sure there's a way to use an obstacle that's a proven "magnet" for your dog (a tunnel would work for a lot of dogs, I think) instead of a target. For practicing/teaching a rear cross, I think all you need is something that will attract the dog to move in a certain direction so you can pattern train and teach them what whatever command you want to use.