Friday, June 13, 2008

Driving Lessons

Do the Hustle

Strum had his second agility lesson on Weds. night. This time the whole hour went to him partly because storms were possible and Lola hates thunder but also because it's something of a challenge to have 2 dogs at work when one of those dogs is Strummer.

The Trouble Twins

They're not that bad but one is so much easier and of course on the very rare occasion that they do decide to misbehave at the same time it's in front of a client or my boss or, if I'm really lucky, both. I was really lucky last week so decided to keep it to one dog this week. An hour turned out to be too long of a lesson for him so I'll be back to twofers next week or maybe I'll find someone to split my lesson with. I think Strum's ready to start working with one other dog in the field.

We started out with what should have been a simple jumping lesson-a gentle arc of 5 or 6 jumps heading into a tunnel. The jumps started out with one slightly staggered then the amount of stagger would increase. The idea was to teach Strum to look for jumps. First off, Strum has never worked with more than 3 jumps at a time or more than 2 in a row so this was way more difficult than I thought it would be. We started off with just 2 or 3 jumps then increased by a jump each rep. First Strum didn't want to send to the tunnel, something I know about and have been working on. I have to run right up to the tunnel entrance. Joy gave me some good tips on how to work on this and we've been practising but not a whole lot. Then when we got up to 4 jumps or so he would jump then look at me and miss the next jump, running right by it. Or he'd take 2 jumps then run by the 3rd. Part of the problem was that I was running right next to the jump standards, crowding and confusing him and of course drawing even more attention to myself. I finally managed to convince mysslf to run a fair distance out from the jumps but he was still missing them. It took a lot of reps and a lot of running (oh poor knee) before we finally got it. Let us not even discuss how fast Strum is. I thought Lola was a little red rocket dog (she's slowed a lot now that she's older) but this guy needs a 20 year old with good reflexes to run him, not an old lady with bad feet and gimpy knees. I think maybe my next dog will be a Bassett Hound.

We worked a bit on the teeter. Strum can do a full height teeter now but I'm having trouble fading the liver paste at the end of the teeter. If there's nothing there then he does any number of things but none of which is correct, ie stop at the end with all 4 feet on and wait for release. After trying many things with a low teeter Joy had the idea of teaching him a verbal for his stop at the end and keep with the liver paste until he starts to learn the word because that's the best way to get him to stop in the perfect position. Once he's got a word it will be easier to fade the paste because I can tell him what he needs to do. Shaping this with a board on the ground would be too confusing for him because of the running contact work we're doing already with a board on the ground.

As far as the weaves go, Strum can easily weave 6 poles with the channels closed and we've been working on entries. I've been using 2-3 poles so I can click just the entries and also because he was having a problem with diving into the space between poles 2 & 3 and missing the entry. I showed it to Joy and her diagnosis was that he was not collecting at all, even with just a few feet to run before the entry. She suggested a wire guide on the 1st and 2nd poles which is easy enough since I have some at home. I was avoiding them because I'm trying not to have to fade props but we'll give it a try and see if it helps.

The last thing we worked on was the 'Turn' cue, which means turn away from me. I started out teaching this on the flat with a hand signal but decided I didn't want a hand signal with it so we've been working on getting just a verbal with no body language cues. I'm pretty close I think, I don't need an arm at all but it's possible he's still cueing off of some subtle motion like a slight deceleration when we're walking in anticipation of the turn. I tried running with him then saying 'turn' and he had no clue so we need more practice. I want to start working with a jump standard though and I was having some problems so I asked Joy for some help. She told me to approach the jump standard at an angle rather than straight on and it worked a charm. She also had me practice with a tunnel, walking parallel to it then verbally turning him into the entrance, like coming off a dogwalk and turning away into the tunnel. He got that straight away but I think I was cheating a bit and using slight arms/body cues to help. More homework for us.

I stopped for food & gas on the way home and by the time I got home it was after 8:00 pm. By the time we had dinner both Strum and I were flat out on the couch/floor. It's the first time I've ever seen him too tired to do anything else. And I overslept the next morning and missed my early morning swim practice out at the Reservoir. Plus we won't talk about the swelling in my knee. I wonder how many bags of ice I can fit in my freezer.


  1. I keep thinking that I'm having trouble sending Boost to tunnels (or other obstacles), which is odd because she does it in the yard, but I've had 3 different instructors tell me that I'm actually stopping or pulling off before I have in fact really gotten commitment from Boost (e.g., she's still looking at me, not at the tunnel, stuff like that), or that I'm saying one thing but my body is doing another (e.g., I've already stopped when I think that I'm still taking a step forward and I haven't even given the "tunnel" command yet). I suppose if I videotaped myself, I'd see it, but as long as I've got someone watching me to tell me what I'm doing wrong, I'll be lazy and not set up the camera.

    All of which is really disguising possibilities for why Strum might not send to tunnels. You know--my problem is everyone's problem?


  2. We worked on this very thing at Stacy's workshop this weekend. More later in a regular post once I can get a good version of the course map scanned.