Thursday, October 16, 2008


I've not written about the wee Strum man for ages. We've been taking private lessons with Joy all summer, just handling stuff on jumps and tunnels and a little bit of work on weave entries. These lessons are mostly for me, I need a lot of help with my handling. I think my main problem these days is that I get all in a panic while I'm running Strummer since he's so freaking fast, I forget to think about where I'm running or how fast I'm approaching an obstacle and where exactly the crazy rocket dog zoomed off to on course. Joy had to put a bar on the ground last week to keep me from running to close to a jump. I'm getting better about keeping my arm up all the time and the flailing is getting better but I still revert back to the old habits now and then. So much to think about all at once while running and trying to keep an eye on a black and white poof of smoke. He's like those cartoons where one moment there's a dog there and the next just a puff of smoke in the shape of a dog.

I set my sights on a Feb. DOCNA trial for his first trial just so I have a goal to shoot for, otherwise I'll mosey along forever with his training. Then I thought what the hey, let's embrace the madness and enter him in a NADAC trial in December. Just Jumpers and Tunnelers. Just to see what will happen. I know, I'm nauseous about it already. Both trials are one ring at an indoor arena less than 20 minutes from home. Also, they have drop-in courses set up once a week so I can practice there well before the trials. Also I'm seeing about getting him in his first group class there but we'll see. I sent an email to the instructor that basically said 'hi, my dog doesn't know all the obstacles and is a bit crazy, can we be in your class?' How could he refuse? Actually I know the guy and he knows Strummer so we'll see what he says. These classes are at the same place as the drop-ins and trials so it will also be great practice for him. We were splitting some of our lessons with Joy with one other dog and that went great so I'm hoping he's finally ready for a class. Got to start somewhere.

Weaves are oh so close. He's still having problems collecting when he's excited and he either misses the entry or gets the entry but skips the second pole. I finally got him up to weaving 12 straight poles but he has to be in a sit right in front of them with me standing at the very end of them facing him.

His contacts are doing great, we're up to a 16" table at Biscuit Eaters and a 12" table at home. The plank at B.E. is a proper sturdy dogwalk plank with slats and the one I have at home is just a 1x12 with no slats and it's not nearly as sturdy. I'm going to see about reinforcing it a bit this weekend and maybe making another plank so he can run up and over the table then down the second plank like a mini-dogwalk. I don't have room in my yard for a full size and probably only barely have room for what I'm proposing. Maybe the up ramp will have to be short. He's at 80-90% accuracy so it's time to move up the heights. Sylvia Trkman recommends moving up at 2"-4" intervals and I discovered that 4" so too much of a jump so I'll need to cut some more table legs this weekend. I was reading a training journal where the person was increasing in 1/2" increments but that's too much sawing for me I'm afraid. She was using a different sort of setup too so I'm not sure it's a fair comparison. We'll see how it goes at 2", hopefully I won't have to go to 1". I'm hoping to start him on a low dogwalk in 4-6 weeks depending on how things go. His teeter needs some work too. He does it no problem but he's not stopping at the bottom. He's not flying off either but I'd like a stop so I'm working with him on a very low teeter for now. He won't focus forward and I think I may experiment with using the treat gizmo.

So much to learn for a crazy little border collie. I'm giving Team Old School a bit of a break from agility to focus on the Strum man. Hopefully I can finally get him up and running.


  1. Is that a bit of a New England accent there on ol "Strummah"'s name. Like "Turn on your wipahz so your Fahthah can see out the windiz". Ok I grew up in southern Mass so thats all too familiar.
    Anyway, I'm curious to see how your running contacts progress using Sylvia Trkman's methods. We had her out to our place last year for a seminar and everyone there was very interested in teaching the running contacts and how to solve the issues they were having with them. Katrina is teaching running with her young guy ICE and it still hit & miss. Seems like you need to practice it a little every single day. I am sure sure if I dare to go there yet with my young guy Rip. I've started him with 2o2o for now.

  2. I practice maybe 4-5 days per week, sometimes twice a day sometimes once depending on how busy I am. If I plan on twice a day sesssions I'll do 10 reps for each, if it's once a day then maybe 16-18 reps. I try to keep each session to 2 minutes but sometimes I run over, esp. if I'm doing the longer 1 session per day. I'm trying to keep up with posting traiing videos but it's time consuming so I can't do it too often.

    I wanted to go to Sylvia's seminar but it was during the work week and then I had to have foot surgery while she was here so I couldn't go. The method doesn't seem all that hard though, it's just a matter of putting in the training time and being consistent with what you're rewarding (that's the hard part I think). She has a detailed description on her website as well as a troubleshooting question/answer page. It's an experiment for me and an opportunity for me to try to improve my training techniques and learn how to troubleshoot my problems, we'll see how it turns out in the end. I think the most challenging part will be figuring out how to handle the dogwalk on a course and how I want to handle turns.

    Strummah is English of course, named after Joe Strummer from the Clash. He barks with an English accent. :-)

  3. Ahh Joe Strummer - I get it now. You guys keep on Rockin the Casbah with those running contacts. Funny thing when Sylvia was here, she really didnt want to focus on running contacts at all, even though that is what she is really known for. She more or less wanted to focus on tight course handling skills, like you would see on an FCI world course, and improving your connection with your dog. When people did make her discuss running contacts, she was mentioning how its all detailed on her website and such and how really easy it is if you are consistent. Katrina has a couple of those "hit it" boards but they are not 100% accurate, and probably are only about 80% at best, so correctly rewarding the correct behavior is the biggest challenge!

    I think you are on the right road with being able to practice 4/5 days, just a little each time though.

  4. The trouble for me with the Hit It boards is that the dog can still jump the contact but land in the contact (eg with their back feet, Strum does this sometimes but I suppose it can happen with the front feet too) and hit the board. Sylvia's criteria doesn't allow for the dog to jump the contact even if they're in the zone. I suppose it depends what you want for your criteria.

    I can see why she didn't want to focus on the running contact stuff, it really isn't all that hard, more a matter of practice and a bit of troubleshooting. She answers questions from readers too so she probably figures if someone is really stuck they can email her.

  5. All that info and all I noticed was "Tunnelers"! Was just saying to a friend today that, boy, I don't know whether Tunnelers really deserves to be a titling class, but it is just about the most fun class in the universe and I especially love it with a fast dog, as much as it's true that it feels like living on the edge of a major crash and burn.

  6. I am sort of wondering if Tunnelers might not be a mistake of grand proportions for a dog like Strummer at his first trial but oh well, live on the wild side I say.