Sunday, November 30, 2008

Crazy Dog Lady Fashions Presents...

I went a little crazy this weekend with the running dogwalk practice/video thing. On Saturday I decided to try Strummer out on the full dogwalk lowered to 2'. He had a great week in the yard with the 22" table, the reps went something like 20/21, 24/26, 30/30, 28/30 all with the treat gizmo for reward so I figured I wasn't pushing him hard enough and that the 24" table wouldn't be much of a challenge. I was so sure I'd have rave reviews of his first time on a full lowered dogwalk but I'm afraid the results were dismal. 1/9 hits (11%) (one was iffy and I didn't count it) and I rewarded 3 of those misses though one was the iffy one. Luckily my timing with my clicks was way off for the misses and good for the one hit but that's about the only positive thing to say about the training session. Well that and his speed. How awesome will his dogwalk be when I finally get it right? The clicks for the misses were probably late because I wasn't sure and decided to reward in the end. Jonny shot some video for me and I feel obliged to post it even though the results are not at all what I wanted. But it's important to document the bad stuff as well as the good. The best part of the video is the start where my snarky husband says, 'This video brought to you by Crazy Dog Lady Fashions'. Unfortunately this is a common dog outfit for me for winter and in fact it gets worse. I knew it was bad but I didn't realize it was quite that bad. It was snowing while I was taping so every once in a while there's a white streak on the video, couldn't do much about that.

Saturday's training session w/ the full lowered dogwalk:

Yesterday's performance was still bugging me today so I decided to run Strum back to the field to try some backchaining. I'm not sure if he was having problems because he still doesn't understand the concept of adjusting his stride to hit the yellow zone or if he understands but couldn't figure out how to control himself to do it. He's so fast and big strided, there's little room for error. Or maybe he simply didn't generalize the idea of the plank/table set-up at home to the dogwalk at the practice field. I've worked the plank/table set-up at the practice field but not all that often and not recently that I can remember. I put the table next to the up side of the down ramp so he had a way to get up on the dogwalk and I tried some reps. Then I gradually moved the table back so he would have more of a running start. The further back the table went, the worse his results. I made a big mistake of doing way too many reps. I should have stopped at 15, his success rate would have been 14/16 (89%). Instead I did a whopping 34 reps for a final tally of 21/34 (62%). The good news was that my timing with my clicks was much improved and I only rewarded one miss (by mistake of course). Toward the end of the session when he was starting from further back and having more misses I decided to move him closer so he could have some success and he did. I didn't have the patience to edit 7 minutes worth of training video so I included the reps at the beginning of the session and the end. It's mostly to document the process so I don't feel like I need every single rep recorded for posterity.

On a positive note, his weave entry training is coming along really well. I don't like to work him 2 days in a row on weaves but as we were leaving I couldn't resist doing just a few reps and he was perfect, getting entries that were plaguing him at the beginning of the week and flying through a set of 12 poles after a tunnel. Whee.

The other people that train at the field must think I'm crazy because I was leaving at 10 am with Cody & Lola when they arrived then returned again at around 12:30 just as they were leaving. I took Team Old School out there in the morning to do the weave and contact exercises that were set up. They did fairly well, no missed contacts at all (maybe some dogwalk ups, I wasn't paying attention to that) and I think only 1 or 2 missed weave entries per dog. It was cloudy and nice and cold-low 30's I'd guess-and the dogs were running wild. Fast, happy, excited hyperpants dogs, I love winter agility. I was overdressed in that puffy vest and sweating by the end of it. Now if only the serious snow will hold off for another few weeks so I can get that darn dogwalk perfected.


  1. OK, so maybe I dress more crazy dog lady than you do, but I think you look fine.

    Tell us again your foot placement criteria? Do you want him taking a full stride in the contact zone, like back feet near the top, front feet near the bottom? OR, will you accept a single foot somewhere in the yellow?

  2. Criteria is one front foot in the yellow and no jumping. So quite a few of those reps would be legal as far as the judge is concerned because he has back feet in the yellow before front feet hit the ground but those reps don't meet my criteria and I don't reward them (at least not on purpose).

    Had him out at Biscuit Eaters on my lunch hour and it went not so great. Had the table at the top end of the down ramp just like yesterday where he had a lot of success and he had way more misses. I'm going to take a step back and work in the yard again for a bit then try with just the table/ramp out at Biscuit Eaters. I don't get the feeling he knows what he's suppposed to do, at least not out at B.E.

  3. Gotcha ... so you need him to collect as he transitions from the flat to the down-ramp ... in order to get that front foot in the yellow.

    It does sound like he is NOT transferring backyard practice to B.E. practice.

    Is there any way you can practice at home, then drive straight to B.E. and practice there? Maybe on a weekend?

    I wonder if that would help.

  4. It's not so much a true collection I'm looking for. I want him to run in extension but adjust his stride so he hits the yellow. Maybe extension is the wrong word for it but it's definitely a run, no collection involved. It's hard to explain but I know exactly what it looks like and what I'm looking for. He does it perfectly at home, you can see it in the last video or 2 that I shot in the backyard.

    I think stepping back to the plank on table at B.E. is my plan as well as continuing with the practice at home. The equipment out there is so different and of course different surroundings so it's not a shocker that he's having problems generalizing. Just frustrating because I was so sure he had it.

  5. OK. I have another thought. I just watched the videos again (both full length and back-chained).

    I wonder if it will come together, if you can figure out and get him to understand how many strides = a dog walk.

    It looks like for his size it's 5-6 strides, but unless he's really stretched early, then the fifth stride usually = no contact by your criteria.

    So, maybe you either need him to take 5 good long strides or 6 slightly smaller ones.

    Here's the thing. When you backchain or when you're working at home, he's taking 2-3 strides down the ramp.

    When he runs full distance, he takes 1, maybe 2 strides, down the ramp. That's where your misses happen, but I think the miss can be predicted by his stride count earlier on the dog walk.

    I've never read the running contact articles or seen the videos, but I'm just telling you what I see. It helps a lot to look at them in slow-mo and really look at his body and the number of strides he usually gives you.

  6. Yes, the correct striding down the plank is what I'm aiming for and he's only (intentionally) rewarded when he gets it right. That's the only way to do it that I can see, reward him for the correct striding and no reward for the others until he works out what he's getting rewarded for and can develop the skills to do it. Sometimes I can tell by the first stride on the downplank that no way is he going to get it or absolutely he's going to get it. Then there are the grey areas where sometimes he can make it, other times he doesn't. Ideally he should be able to adjust his stride on the fly so that no matter where his first footfall occurs on the down ramp he's still in the yellow. I've actually seen a video of a very well trained dog doing this. It's definitely a trained behavior, not a muscle memory thing. I reread some stuff off of Sylvia's site and she suggests a stride regulator at the top if you're having problems and I may try that for just a few reps so he can have some success and hopefully understand what I want from him.

    I also found someone else's training videos on Youtube and she ran into the same problem as me in the same stage of her training. She went back to the table/plank and within a month was back on the dogwalk again with much more success. She has videos of her dog in competition and the contacts are fantastic so I'm hopeful I can work through this little roadblock.

  7. Here's a link to the video I was talking about:

    About midway through the video you can see a rep in slow motion where the dog's first front footfall is maybe 2/3 of the way down the down plank but he shortens his stride significantly to hit the yellow. This is not the dog's typical striding pattern but for whatever reason he missed his striding at the top but was able to adjust at the bottom and understood that that's what he was supposed to do. That's the level of understanding I'm aiming for, we'll see if we can get there.

  8. Yeow! I saw the dog adjust its footing. Holy cow! That's some quick thinking on the fly.

    I have no idea how you teach that.

  9. One thing I noticed is that I wonder if the treat gizmo is a little too close to the end of the full DW. Silvia recommends that it be at least 15 feet away from the end of the DW--she doesn't want the dog slowing down at all coming off the DW.

  10. I'm pretty sure it's a matter of being clear & consistent with rewarding your criteria and a zillion and one reps. And not moving too quickly with any of the steps as I did.

    I've also found video of someone who claims to have taught this in 5 days all the way to a full height dogwalk, claiming it was probably down to the fact that she does a lot of shaping with her dog.

  11. Yes, the gizmo is too close but that's also something Sylvia recommends if you're having problems. So whenever I raise the table or change something I move the gizmo closer to make it easier for him. If I have success then I move it further away for the next session. In this particular session it didn't work though and in fact he was skidding to a stop at the gizmo in an alarming way that I didn't like at all (plus he was getting big piles of dirt in the gizmo's bowl). I moved it further away for yesterday's session and the skidding was reduced at least.