Friday, December 28, 2007

Snow More

It can stop snowing any time now, really, I won't mind. My yard had finally melted down to a few bare patches and the weaves were almost useable when bam we got hit with 2 storms a few days apart and now my yard is buried again. There's at least a foot or so out there which means it'll be another 2 weeks or so before I have any chance at all of training out there or at Biscuit Eaters. I've got a trial in a week and Lola's had no training since Nationals in Nov., Cody's had one run at a course run through and of course the workshop last weekend. I tried bringing 6 weaves into the house the other night but I don't have enough room anywhere in my tiny house unless I start moving the sofa. I tried anyway in a cramped little space and it was pure chaos. I'm glad all the dogs are so enthusiastic about training but agility is simply not an indoor activity, esp. in a 1000 sf house. On top of it whoever of the boys wasn't getting a turn had to pitch a fit which Jonny didn't particularly appreciate and Lola barks her head off when she runs so when I tried working her all 3 dogs were going mad at once. I'll just have to wait for the thaw and hope for the best for next weekend.

I've been working Strummer on his plank of wood in preparation for teaching contacts and I've reached a stalling point. I want him to run to the end of the plank and lie down facing straight, back legs on, front legs off. He'll do this no problem as long as I'm ahead of him but if I try to send him he goes to the end then plops down on the board at an angle with his neck curved around to face me. I've tried standing at the end of the board but as soon as I get even with the board he comes down on an angle to face me. I've tried shaping him looking straight ahead but he gets frustrated way too easily. I can't seem to break it down any more, it's a matter of a tiny step between him lying straight or at an angle. He seems to think the correct behavior involves facing me and it's been hard trying to convince him otherwise. I suppose I have at least a month before he can get started on any equipment anyway.

His jumping's coming along o.k. though it seems I've got a bar knocker on my hands, something I've never had to deal with before. Hopefully it's just because he's learning but sheesh he's dropped more bars in the span of a couple weeks than Cody & Lola have dropped in their entire agiltiy careers, combined. Weaves are on hold of course. He was having trouble with the transition between 4" to 5" partly because I was using a mixture of striped and unstriped poles. He'll have to be proofed for that eventually but for right now I need to remember to use striped poles until he has the basics down.

I slipped on the ice (again!) a week and a half ago and caused a good bruise and goose egg on my knee and a gash on my hand. They're finally feeling better but I haven't been doing much training. Tried a long run on Sunday but there were so many patches of ice still left on the streets that I grew frustrated and gave up trying to run any more after that. We took the dogs on some long 1 hour, 45 minute long walks over the holidays and got 5 laps of skiing in at N. Boulder Park on x-mas day but no swimming or biking. I can't bear the thought of getting on the trainer and I've been using my gjmpy knee as an excuse. On top of it all my foot has started bothering me to the point that I'm considering surgery. I have a bunion that I've been living in peace with for years but it's finally starting to hurt to the point of being horribly painful. It bothers me most at night when I'm trying to sleep and last night woke me up 2-3 times or so throughout the night. Unfortunately I have no time or interest in surgery and if I did the ideal time would be a week from Monday but I haven't even called the doctor about it yet and it would probably be weeks before they could get me in. I hoping to gut it out until this time next year but we'll see. Of course I felt fine this morning and the thought of surgery seemed silly but I'm sure tonight I'll be singing a different tune when my foot starts throbbing again.


  1. roxanne8:51 AM

    Seriously. Stop falling. We worry about you doing real damage.

    Sorry to hear about your foot. Sounds awful.

    Yes, indoor training is a total pain. We do mostly thinking work inside.

    Have you taught Strummer a mat command or to target a paper plate or something with his front feet? Maybe if you do that, and place it at the end, then he'll have to put his front feet there.

    Lilly and I go through this sometimes. You just have to figure out what will make sense to him, then I'm sure he'll get it right away.

  2. Cedarfield6:36 PM

    The problem you're having with Strummer's dw sounds like a very common problem and I think a lot of people just keep going anyway and hope they'll always be able to be in the right place, ie in front of their dog.
    Maybe you could try teaching him to lie down straight on a mat (something you can do inside)and then put the mat at the very bottom of the board or just off the board on the ground(this can be used on the A-frame, too). Then you can cut the mat (or towel) down a little at a time until it's a much smaller size and not very visible. At that point you can have it in place at some times and not in place at others.
    I would think that running just off the end of the board and lying down would be a behavior that should be relatively easy to maintain during trialing since it's such a discrete behavior. Although I can also imagine that many high drive dogs would start to inch forward from the end of the board until you have a nice gray area to deal with :-)
    Ann Croft has a DVD out that deals with this four on the floor type of contact but I bought it and didn't find it that helpful.
    She also seems to use the dog's opposition reflex to keep him straight on the towel while doing the goundwork portion of the training which I think cound be useful even when training on the board. I'm going to try it and I'll post something on my journal if it works at all.

    PS I'd get a 2nd opinion on that surgery if I were you. Fifteen years ago I was headed for bunion surgery until an orthopedic doc at a university teaching hospital pointed out that all I really needed was higher arch support. I got some custom orthotics made and haven't had any pain since.

  3. Thanks for all the training advice. A target would certainly work and Strum knows what they are but I'm trying to avoid them. I'm trying to stick with pure shaping this time around, just as an experiment and to try to improve my shaping skills. I'm hoping the behavior will be more solid if it's shaped rather than lured with a target.

    Strum has never been on an A-frame or dogwalk, I'm still working on the ground with just a board about the width of the dogwalk. I'm aiming for a 2 on/2 off in the down position, not a down on the ground after he's run off the board. He's got the 2 on/2 off on the board part down but he's facing me when I vary my position rather than staying straight on the board so if I send him and hang back he's looking back and not positioned properly on the board. If I'm even one step out of place, he turns to look at me and has his feet off the long side of the board instead of straight ahead off the short end. I've been working on shaping him to look straight ahead but it's slow going and he gets easily frustrated and pops up out of position to try something else. I think the problem is with my shaping skills, I need to keep practising and rewarding for even tinier approximations. I get so impatient sometimes.

    As for the bunion, I haven't even been to a doctor yet so noone's talking surgery except me. I saw a podiatrist about 8 years ago and he made me custom orthotics that have helped a lot. He told me not to think about surgery until it got really painful and unfortunately I think it's finally to the very painful stage. When he saw my foot x-rays 8 years ago he couldn't believe I was able to walk around but said not to worry about it as long as it didn't hurt too badly. I'll go back to the same guy and have new x-rays to compare to the old and see what he recommends but I'm guessing the news will not be good. I've been up every couple of hours the past few nights with stabbing, throbbing pain and it's getting worse rather than better with ice & rest.

  4. Anonymous10:49 PM

    WRT Strummer, it sounds to me like you missed a step or need to go back a step. I would go right back to the begining and reinforce the final behavior. Have him stand in the final position and c&t for him standing and looking straight ahead with YOU moving around to different areas. Remember to reward in the direction you want him facing/looking (so walk up to him and place the reward in the correct location or throw the reward forward and release him to it, instead of having him come to wherever you are)

    Once he can do that, start adding in his movement down the board. But at first start with just one step (repeated with you in every different position) then 2 steps (again repeated with you in every different position) and so on.

    I admire you for trying to shape this behavior. I think it can work, but it's not easy ;) Although even with a target, all of these steps have to be repeated ad nauseum.

  5. "Have him stand in the final position and c&t for him standing and looking straight ahead with YOU moving around to different areas."

    Yep, I think so to. That's what I've been shooting for but he doesn't like to lay still for long and if I try to wait him out for the staring straight ahead behavior he'll realize something's wrong and break position to try something different. At the end of last practice I was able to get a few stares straight ahead but it's going to take a while I think.

    I do reward him in position, always. He gets his treats dribbled on the ground right in front of him (a trick from an Elicia Calhoun lesson) so he's in position when he eats them. Throwing the reward forward and releasing him to it is also a good idea I'd forgotten about, I think Elicia recommended that too, using a bait bag stuffed with treats. I should pull out my old notes. There's an article in Clean Run outlining her method but I have some more detailed notes from my lesson with her somewhere. Must hunt those down today. I'll work on this in the next few days and see if we can get anywhere.