Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I want it good now

I'm glad last week is over is all I'm saying. I had 3 fashion disasters (I had to explain to 2 different people that no I don't have the day off work, I do actually go to the office dressed like this), one diagnosis for a possible root canal/dead tooth and started off Thursday by stepping into the toilet. Then there was the fun of dealing with day after day of thunderstorms and hail and the ensuing freaking out of dogs. I was seriously considering Vallium for everybody, especially me. Or especially Strummer. Either way.

The one good thing about last week was that my new camcorder finally came. I decided to keep it old school and ended up ordering a Canon miniDV camcorder. I was a little bit nauseous forking over the $219 because I've been not spending money on Stuff but it's such a critical part of my agility training and I'm not to a point where I want or need to give that up. I looked up the computer requirements for the software for the Flip Mino which a couple people recommended and my computer is indeed not fast enough. I also saw some reviews of the camera by people with older laptops and they reported skipping/jumping type problems with the uploaded video. I don't want to buy a new computer at the moment so all my old school equipment will have to do for now. I'm hoping that by the time I'm ready for a new computer they'll have some of the glitches of the HD camcorder technology worked out too.

I've got some video of Strum's dogwalk practice from the weekend and I think it looks worse than my old camera but maybe it's only a matter of tweaking some settings. I went through the manual for once and thought I'd set everything as they suggested but maybe I'm missing something somewhere. I used the same software and quality level to upload it so I think the problem is at the camera level.

I've been having a fair bit of frustration with Strum's dogwalk at the moment. It's good, it's great, it's a disaster and no consistency from practice to practice. I lowered his backyard plank/table to 3'-6" and I've been working on little proofing things and fading the treat gizmo. He's nearly perfect at home and usually is good at the field on the real dogwalk if I have the gizmo. But take the gizmo away and things quickly fall apart. So I've been trying to gradually fade the gizmo in the yard by doing 2 reps rewarding with it, then 2 reps with the gizmo in place but rewarding with a thrown toy (ball or tug) then moving the gizmo away and using only the toy or tug. The practice session shown on video below ended up being 9/12 or 75%, not great. The first 5 reps were good then once he realized I had a ball in my hand he started getting overexcited and leaping off the side. Even on the reps he got he was looking at me and not running straight ahead which is not what I want. I rewarded it because I was happy that he wasn't leaping but after watching the video I've decided I don't like that performance. To prevent it I start out the session standing well past the end of the plank so he's focusing forward on me then gradually moving back and throwing the ball while he's still on the plank so he's looking forward for it. He was 6/6 on Tuesday and 5/6 this morning and he's running forward nicely.

I apologize profusely for the tie dye fashion disaster. It's my shirt from DOCNA Champs. and for some reason I really like it even though I'm not a fan of tie dye. I had no idea how appalling it looked and I didn't think about what I was wearing when I made the video. Sad thing is I'll probably still wear it. In my defense there were some way worse outfits at the NE Regionals (long black baggy shorts and black calf length sock-yikes!). I'm going to be extremely careful of my clothes choices if I decide to go to Regionals this year and they are live streaming it. I can't imaging that USDAA would bother with our dinky Regionals but you never know.

Strum has a terrible fall near the end when the plank slips out from under him. He was o.k. I was not. I hesitated to post it but thought it might be a good warning to other people trying this method. If your plank isn't securely attached make sure it's stable at each rep! I had him do 2 more reps after he fell just to be sure he wasn't freaked out and he wasn't. I didn't count those reps in my final tally.

I'm still resisting the urge to use stride regulators and other props. I hate the idea of yet more stuff to fade. If I can't get him successful out at the field I may give in and use a stride regulator for a few reps. I've tried this already and he's fine with it there but take it away and the behavior doesn't necessarily stick. It's been a while though and may be worth revisiting.

First though I'm going to experiment more with turns and especially flips away to a tunnel. I've noticed that when we practice turns he's significantly more successful and maybe for him this is the easier scenario while running straight is harder. We'll see how it goes.


  1. To be honest, I don't even notice what people are wearing in videos! :)

    Strum's running contacts are great, better than Wall-e's! You're using Silvia's method? We are too. Wall-e has a perfect performance on a 2" raised plank at home, but once we get to the field he just doesn't understand. I'll just have to work on the plank a lot more at home, I guess. We haven't been working on it in a while, it's been a couple weeks.


  2. I'm no help on the running contacts since we taught 2o/2o, but I'm glad he was ok from the fall.

  3. Silly dog is made of rubber I swear.

    Yes, we're using Sylvia's method. We have the same problem of field vs home. It's hard to get the same amount of practice time at the field as at home and that table and 12' plank are unwieldy for taking to other locations to practice.

  4. I don't notice what people are wearing in their vids, either.

    I guess some people are tie dye people and some aren't. Your shirt is beautifully done and actually quite tame compared to many tie dyes. I'd be delighted to wear it at the regionals or even nationals...Oh, yeah, my DAM team shirts at the nationals for the last 5 years have been tie dyed. ;-)

  5. That DOCNA Champs shirt is my only tie-dye shirt and I kinda like it. At least its not obnoxious reds/orages/blues in some crazy swirl pattern.

    As far as the video quality, did you try connecting the camera to your TV and playing it back to see how it looks? You could also pop in one of your old MiniDV tapes from the old camera as a comparison - take the computer & software out of the picture.

  6. I know, there is something about that shirt that I like, the colors and/or pattern or something.

    I hooked up the camera to the tv/vcr last night and copied to a VHS tape. I know, I know, SO old school but this is the main way I watch my training videos. It was loads better than my old camera, especially in slow motion. So I need to play around with the uploading I guess. I'm using Windows Movie Maker and used the same settings for both cameras but I guess I need to tweak something for the new camera or maybe find some other free uploading software.

  7. One thing I noticed in every rep is that he is really turning back and looking at you just as he gets into the contact zone. Is he supposed to do this or drive staight through to the end. I haven't trained running contacts before but thought I would ask.

    I LIKE your shirt!

  8. No, he's not supposed to turn to me at all. I shot some video this morning showing what I've been doing to prevent it. If it came out o.k. I'll try to post it if I get time.

  9. With Wall-e, at the field I take one of the down planks off of the DW and use a pause table to prop it up. Maybe that'd work for you.

    Just realizes that in my first post I said Wall-e was using a 2" plank, I meant 2', whoops!


  10. I was using the dogwalk/table combo at the field too but the problem is once I get to the 2' table there's no way to gradually increase the height to 4'. I made a bunch of legs for my table at home so the increments are 4" to 6" all the way to 4'. It's been a big struggle to get him to make the leap from 2' to 4' at the field.

    Also I'd like to take my table/plank to other locations but they're too unwieldy.