Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bash Head Against Wall Wednesday

Took Strum to the practice field last night for some more weave proofing.  I've decided the thing I need to proof for is excitement so I busted out his tug toy and squeaky ball and got him all wound up, sent him over various straightforward sequences that ended with a tunnel with a straight shot to the weaves and each time he rocked back and collected perfectly for his entry, found the entry all on his own, blew through the poles without popping out but for once when the poles were way out of whack from a previous rep.  He also had beautiful weaves and got a tricky entry at class last week.  Sheesh.  Where was this dog last weekend?

I was talking with someone who's had very similar issues with her high drive Border Collie, in fact she's been helping me out and giving me tips all along the way with Strum's various self control issues, and she suggested that Strum needs to be in a class so he can learn to work while excited.  She's right of course but the only person offering classes that I might be interested in is an hour drive away meaning a 3-3 1/2 hour time commitment which is not feasible with my current work schedule.  Maybe as a one off here or there, people often sell their slots, but not on a regular basis.  So she offered to join my semi-private class and Joy is o.k. with it so we'll see if that helps.  I'm going to see if we can coordinate a time to go to the practice field together too.

Proof that yes this dog can in fact weave.

STRUM WEAVES MAY 25 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What every female mountain biker needs

This made me laugh and laugh.  Probably shouldn't watch it at work though depending on how stuffy your office is.  The ending is the best.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Prairie Dog Acres DOCNA Trial

Something of a traumatic weekend for dogs and handlers.  At the end of the day on Sunday I'm talking to a friend when all of a sudden she gets stung by a wasp.  And of course she's allergic.  She explains she doesn't have her epi-pen with her and her boyfriend heads off to the car to get some Benadryl.  I tell her I have some closer by, I'll run go get it but it may be expired but it's closer.  She says 'No, he'll get the Benadryl' so I suppose she's got some special dosage or something.  Neither of them seem too panicked and I figure that she isn't deathly allergic if she doesn't have her epi-pen with her so I keep an eye on her in case I have to try to remember my CPR class from when I was 12 years old but she seems fine, gets her Benadryl and I figure all is well and pack the last of my things to go home.  As I head out of the trial site, which is 10-12 miles from the tiniest of towns down a quiet country road, out in the middle of nowhere where the deer and the antelope play, I see a woman with a worried expression on her face standing at the entrance to the site but I don't think too much of it and continue on my way.  About 10 minutes later the paramedics come screaming by and then I realize why the woman is standing there and how serious the situation is.  If I'd known she was so allergic I'd have called 911 immediately but this woman is the exact opposite of a drama queen and I didn't realize how bad her situation was.  I spend a restless night worrying but it turns out she's o.k.  She had an exciting ride in the Flight for Life helicopter but thankfully lives to see another day.

The other exciting part of the weekend is the wind on Saturday.  Starts out as a cooling breeze in the morning but works it's way up to 25-30 mph gusts at least by the time Masters Standard starts.  The result is not pretty.  We start off the class with my favorite Italian Greyhound who just moments before was giving me adorable little doggie kisses getting blown off the dogwalk like a little origami paper dog.  He's not prepared for the gust of wind and does not land nicely.  Neither do any of the half dozen or more (so many I lose count) other dogs, including an 82 pound Akita and a huge 120 + lb mixed breed, that nearly get blown to Kansas.  The dogs aren't prepared for the gusts that send them flying so they land hard on their shoulders/backs and twist their spines around.  It's truly one of the most horrible displays I've ever seen at agility trial.  The judge lowers the walk for the Starters class and that helps, no dogs fly off that I see, and she removes the teeter when the course flows in a direction such that the wind lifts the upside off the ground periodically but there's only so much she can do short of canceling the trial.  By the end of Starters Standard the wind reaches a new intensity, probably 40 mph with 50 mph gusts and I say screw this and go home, missing my Strategic Time Gamble run.  No way agility is fun or safe for anybody in these conditions.  Sure it's Gamblers and I can pick a course that keeps him off the contacts but still, it's no fun to be out in those conditions and who knows what'll happen.  It's not worth it.

Strum and I had our moments of brilliance and frustration.  He was running very high, even higher the second day than the first, and as the weekend progressed his weaves got worse.  By his last standard run I couldn't get him to do them at all.  I haven't reviewed the video for that run but I suspect it's because it was at the end of a run that hadn't gone all that smoothly and he was too frazzled to focus.  In total he ended up with Q's in Traditional Gamblers (3rd place and his title which I didn't realize until this morning), Standard (1st place) and 2 Jumpers Q's (1st places) though I'm sure one Jumpers Q was a mistake because I was SO sure he had a bar down.  I didn't stay to see my scores so I didn't notice the potential error until this morning when my results came and I'm not going to waste a bunch of other  people's time trying to straighten it out at this point.  It's possible he only ticked the bar and my brain was playing tricks with me but I'm 90% certain it fell.  Oh well, it's only Advanced Jumpers and I'll be thrilled to be out of there and on to Masters sooner rather than later.

The highlight of the trial was the first Advanced Standard run and I've got a video of it below.  He was the only dog in the entire class to Q.  I walked the class differently from everybody else and felt weird picking such a different route but in the end I'm glad I stuck to the plan I thought was right and everything worked out perfectly except for a glitch at the end but there are no refusals in DOCNA.  The other run on the video started out o.k. but quickly headed south so I cut the video short, not so much because I'm embarrassed but because you'll want to claw your eyes out watching it.

DOCNA May 22, 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I can't believe nobody warned me about my hair and that I was walking around all day looking like that.  At some point I had a million loose pieces of hair in my face because of the wind so I redid the pony tail higher on my head to catch the loose pieces and while this worked it made me look like Pebbles.  Thankfully I was wearing a hat most of the day.  I remembered my hair clips on Sunday but I haven't viewed Sunday's videos yet so who knows what fashion faux pas await me there.  I'll try to get the rest of the video up sometime this week.

There was more I'm sure but for now I have to get back to the grindstone.  Hope everyone else's weekends were much more uneventful.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Bow Mountain

Went for a bike ride up Bow Mountain today-very beautiful but not scenic for photos if that makes any sense.  It's basically a network of quiet steep roads, some paved, some dirt.  They don't go anywhere in particular, they just wind around the mountain and are roads for the people who live up there.  No trails but a great place to go on days when the trails are too muddy and you don't want to hit the road.  Or more accurately the trails are too muddy and your road bike is kaput due to a snapped shifter cable and you can't figure out how to open up the shifter to fix it because of stupid Shimano 'technology' and it's a sunny beautiful day and you want to ride not screw around with your stupid ancient road bike stupid piece of crap Shimano shifters.  So Bow Mountain is looking pretty good right about now and it's right out my back door.

The roads are steepy steeeeeeeeep, great for building up those quads for running alongside dogwalks in pursuit of a black and white blur.

I'm out of shape but had a great time huffing up those hills anyway.  This was a flat part.

We saw a huge bird but he was too far off to tell what he was.  Jonny thought vulture but I'm skeptical about that.

On the way home I couldn't believe how green and lush everything looked on the Foothills Trails.

A view of the Flatirons from the Foothills Trail.  Yes that is snow up there on the high peaks.  I spared you the rant about the snow we had last week.  It's sunny and warm now so let's pretend it never happened.

More views from the Foothills Trail

These trails are out my back door, I'm so lucky to live here.  Except for when they catch fire but that doesn't happen too often.

More weave pole/dogwalk practice yesterday.  He was still popping out if I accelerated near the end of the poles but I was able to move away laterally earlier and for a greater distance so I was happy with that.  Turns to tunnels from the contacts were awesome today, guess he finally remembered.  Nice solid hits on the dogwalk too, I think he missed one that wasn't even supposed to be a rep but otherwise was perfect.  I got ahead of him on the dogwalk this time and cued the turn to the tunnel with deceleration as well as the verbal cue and that worked perfectly.  I know, he shouldn't be responding to my motion on those non-turning obstacles but he's so sensitive to motion, especially deceleration/acceleration, I'm not sure it's a battle worth fighting.  Maybe this will bite me on the butt in other scenarios but for now I'm not going to worry about it and use it to my advantage if I can.  As long as he lets me move away laterally I think we'll be fine in most situations.

Another crazy busy week ahead but hopefully I'll get at least on more training session in before our DOCNA trial next weekend.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Working those weaves and dogwalks

Somehow I managed to sneak in a couple of quick practices this week despite being hellishly busy and 2 days of snow mucking up the field.  Tuesday I worked on some proofing out at the practice field.  Experimented with a few things but didn't have any errors until I started using motion and an obstacle as 'bait' after the weaves. Accelerating near the ends of the poles caused him to pull out and charging towards the poles caused him to get only the first pole or run by entirely.  I'm careful not to do this at trial but it was a way to proof and ideally he should be ignoring my motion once he's in the poles.  I think running to the poles is unfair though and I'm not going to do that anymore.  I hate proofing because I hate trying to get the dog to fail.  I remember somebody  somewhere, maybe Clean Run, wrote an article about ways to proof without setting the dog up to fail but of course I can't remember the details.

Thursday we went back to the field and by the end of the training session he was staying in those poles if I drove towards the next obstacle with constant speed but faster than him and I was able to peel laterally away from the end of the poles which obviously is an important skill to have with a dog like Strummer.  Change in my speed while he was in the poles was still throwing him a bit so we'll work more on that next time.  There are times in Gamblers where I may need to declerate and stop at the line while he goes on through the poles without me so it's a good thing to practice.  Though I'm shooting for those non-turning obstacles to be independent of motion I'm not sure how realistic that goal is, especially for Strummer in particular but we can try.

Did some dogwalk practice on Thursday as well and he had maybe one miss out of lots of reps.  I was focusing on flips to tunnels and turns.  DOCNA has contact/tunnel flips all the time, I'm wondering if it's a requirement in course design.  He used to have a wonderful flip on a verbal 'turn' cue (the only place I use that) and in fact had started flipping into tunnels himself whenever he saw one under a contact.  But somehow he's completely forgotten it or maybe he was overexcited with the cold, cloudy weather but it didn't go so well.  Worked on the same thing on Tuesday with the A-frame with not much better results but the set-up there was a little unfair as there was a tunnel straight ahead off the A-frame and when I said 'Turn tunnel' I'm sure he saw that tunnel ahead and was sure that's what I wanted.  I hate relying on verbals and eventually resorted to getting ahead and indicating the flip physically before he got down the frame.  Can't always get there for the dogwalk though and he needs some warning so he can adjust his stride for the turn or else it's a wide turn.

Tried a rear cross on the flat after the dogwalk and that was a disaster.  I simply couldn't get there in time.  Need to do more fartlek running I think.  I'm going to do more turn work in the backyard with the plank/table before I try it on the dogwalk.

Lola goes to the orthopedic vet today for another exam and X-rays then we see the physical therapist.  She was up on 3 legs for a brief period of time on Monday.  Poor girl, I'm not thinking the vet will have good news.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

'Itchin' for a Fight' Wednesday

All the meditation, yoga and drugs and I still want to smack someone.

Here's to all the rest of you  who are enjoying a similar Wednesday.  Sue Sylvester would totally be my hero if she was real and I believed in heroes.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Deliver me from Novice

I wasn't planning on running Strummer at all at the USDAA trial this weekend but with Miss Lola on injured reserve I decided to let him have her runs (Gamblers and Standard) and use the opportunity to work on the weaves some more.  This is not ideal dog training, I should be trying to find ways to proof him away from the ring.  But after finally having some small amount of success last weekend I was sure he'd do better this weekend.  In conclusion, not so much.  On the plus side he was finally making his entries but still popping out with 4 poles to go.  I kept redoing the poles each class until he finally got them and each class it took 3 tries.  By the second class I could feel his frustration growing and I did not feel at all good about it.  It's important that he learn that he has to complete them all the way just like at home but doing them over and over in the ring does not feel like a good plan.  Agility trials should be fun for him, they shouldn't feel like a drill or a chore.  2 more weeks until our next trial but I'm so busy the next 2 weeks, not sure how much I'll be able to train him.  It is what it is though, work is so much more important right now.

I also spent a good part of the day yesterday beating myself up over some appalling handling in the Standard class.  Probably the worst run I've ever had in an agility trial, or close anyway.  Then I realized how utterly ridiculous I was being, Strummer had forgotten about the run about 4 seconds after it was over.  Still, there are those days when I feel like I have such a special, awesome dog and it's a shame I can't seem to do a better job for him.

What agility run?  Do you see my cool bottle?  Cool, huh?!!

The Standard run was challenging for a running dogwalk.  My plan was to put a front cross between 4 and 5 but I was maybe midway between the teeter and the chute when Strum hit the entry to the chute and I could hear my brain saying, 'No way Jose' so I held back and did a rear cross between the chute and the dogwalk which was the worst option because I was so far behind.  Strum turned back to me and lept off the side of the down plank without even trying to hit the contact.  We've been working on turns but not with me located at the halfway point of the dogwalk.  By that point my brain was fried and I should have left the course but we went on.  Strum hit the table then flew right off, I got lost and left off jump #8 and then got so far behind on the last run of jumps that he ran past the finish jump then back jumped it, a common problem we've been having with those novice courses.  I didn't think it was possible to make so many mistakes on a novice course but there you go.  I'm not sure if any other teams got that front cross in or even attempted it.  The only other run I saw had the handler on the right side of the dog walk and she attempted to flip the dog away from her to the table.  This led to some confusion and a call-off I think from jump #15.  I think the best option would be to hold the dog on the teeter, get ahead a step or 2 then release to the chute so that you can get ahead enough to get that front cross in after the chute.  I can't see any other way.  My mistake was stopping at the teeter to make sure he didn't go flying off and this put me way too far behind.  Need to work on getting a more independent teeter in a trial situation.  The theme of this post is that I suck at proofing.

Gamblers was nearly the exact same course with the gamble being the #14 tire to the #13 jump to the obvious end of the #12 tunnel with the gamble line running from the right side of the tire to the end of the tunnel near the #12 mark.  Easy peasy.  I ran the course as #1-5 then headed into the gamble.  But Strum took so long to get the weaves (and added in an A-frame on his own while trying to get them) that the buzzer went off after the teeter.  He's such a freaking rocket ship that he still managed to do all those obstacles and get the gamble in time.  So we got a Q but it wasn't a very inspiring run due to working on those weaves. 

I didn't run in Pairs but there was an interesting challenge from the #2 dogwalk to jump #4 that most teams struggled with.  Most if not all of the teams kept their dog on their right all the way to the weaves but the problem was that most handlers ran to the end of the dogwalk then the wing on the #3 jump forced them to set a terrible line to #4.  Some people were able to get enough ahead and use a 'get out' cue to redirect the dog to #4 but many had general confusion and call-offs.  I think the only way to do this nicely with the dog on the right is to have an independent dogwalk and stay back even with the #3 wing and move towards #4 as soon as possible.  The more appealing option to me is a front cross after the dogwalk, #3 to #4 with the dog on the left then a front cross to #5.  Or maybe a rear cross on the flat between #4 and 5 if I couldn't get far enough ahead for the front.  I didn't notice anybody try that but I was jump setting at the other end of the ring and it took me several dogs to notice the challenge so I wasn't paying close attention to all the runs.

The entry for this trial was so small, I was done with my 2 runs by 10:15 a.m.  I stayed to work for a bit, stopped for cheap gas and a mocha at the most awesome Bananalope coffee house and was still home by 2:00 p.m.  The entry was down by about 50% or so from last year.  Could be due to the economy but maybe also some rising discontent with USDAA in general.  Hard to say.

I did have the fun of helping out a newbie a little bit.  He had sent an email to the club wanting to join but not knowing anybody to sponsor him so I told him to send me an email telling me about himself and his dog and his interest in agility and I'd sponsor him.  I think it's silly needing sponsors at all especially for the newbies but I figured I should ask for some info. in case someone from the club questioned me about him.  He ended up coming down from Wyoming to the trial with his lovely BC mix and he asked a bunch of questions, even volunteered to set jumps for some classes and he was a nice guy so I think he'd be a great member.  Heck, we need as many guys as we can get to help move the heavy equipment, right?  I hope they vote him in, I'm not sure how picky they are about such things and I doubt I'll go to the next meeting.

A weekend off then 2 DOCNA trials in a row.  It exhausts me just thinking about it.  At least I'm out of Novice in DOCNA, maybe I'll have a fighting chance of keeping up with Rocketman.  That is if he doesn't trade me in for some faster, younger thing in the meantime.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

If only I had room for one more

This guy sounds about perfect.
I can't have 4 dogs.  I can't have 4 dogs.  I can't have 4 dogs.  Somebody else please snatch him up.  Quickly.  My husband thanks you in advance.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Haiku Wednesday

Hot tip for the day
Sixty five mile per hour winds
Don't scoop the yard poop

Trust me on this one.  And if you are going to attempt such a foolhardy task at least tie your hair back.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Hoopsy Daisy-an impromptu NADAC trial

I was in a spontaneous mood this weekend and decided to take advantage of day-of entries at a NADAC trial 35 minutes from my house.  'It's a great opportunity to work on Strum's inability to weave in the trial ring issues' is what I was thinking.  I hardly ever do NADAC and there's some weirdness about the venue that I'd either forgotten about or wasn't expecting.  Like those goofy hoops they use.  I didn't realize they put them in Standard and I'd forgotten about them in Weavers.  In fact I'd forgotten about them full stop.  People say 'Oh, don't worry about the hoops, the dogs figure them out right away.'  Those people have not met Strummer.  He was o.k. with them a year or so ago in a Weavers class so I put him through the practice hoop a couple of times and didn't think twice about them.  Until one of the hoops came flying towards me and whomped me on the head during our Weavers run after Strummer tried to jump over the top of it.  Unsuccessfully.  I wonder if anyone else in the history of NADAC has ever incurred a 20 point fault from a hoop.  I have it on video for those of you who weren't able to be there and enjoy it in person.

Here is another little twist from the fine folks at NADAC.  They don't stake their weave poles.  You can watch the video to see how that turned out for me.  Maybe if I go to enough NADAC trials I can get footage for a whole 'agility bloopers' video.

Weavers and 2 rounds of Standard
NADAC May 2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Strum ended up with 2/4 Q's (Standard & Tunnelers) though none of them will count for anything because I entered him in Elite (Masters) classes and he's in Novice still.  Elite classes in NADAC are more like the Advanced level in DOCNA and maybe Starters in USDAA and I wanted the extra challenge for him though I wouldn't say his Standard runs were challenging.  That's not to say I didn't mishandle and end up with an off course in one of them.  I'll blame it on a lapse on concentration after the running dogwalk.  Good practice for me though, I need to be able to learn to run fast and keep my head.  I will say there was a bit more challenge to the Elite Standard courses then I had at the last NADAC trial that I ran the older dogs in several years ago so maybe things are improving a bit or maybe I just got lucky.

I'd call the weave pole training a guarded success.  By his 3rd run he finally looked like he was going to hit an entry and make it all the way through but those darned unstaked poles came up and smacked him in the butt.  The unstaked poles proved challenging for him for all his runs I think.  It's strange though because I don't train with staked poles since my bases don't have holes to put anchors through and I've never noticed him having such problems.  I guess he's going so gangbusters a the trial that he hits them with a whole different level of enthusiasm.

The club had the solid rubber contact surfaces and they're awesome.  I was a bit worried about Strummer's running contacts on the the slatless equipment but the rubber provides such wonderful traction that he looked great, better than on the sanded surfaces.  He easily hit both A-frames and had one good dogwalk, the other was iffy.  The judge gave it to me but it was reluctantly.  Impossible to say for sure if he hit it from the angle of the video.  One of the DOCNA trials at the end of the month is having rubberized surfaces for the contacts though it's the granule type and not the solid rubber that NADAC uses.  I'm looking forward to it, I think it's going to be great for the dogs.  Another bonus was that dogs were so quiet going over the dogwalk and A-frame that Strummer was a lot calmer waiting for his turn to go into the ring.  That sound of nails on sanded wood sends his brain through the roof for some reason.

Overall it was a fun, relaxing day, beautiful cool cloudy weather.  Started out the morning in the mid-30's and it climbed to maybe high 40's. low to mid 50's.  Perfect for agility if you ask me and Strummer agrees.

Next weekend is 2 Strummer runs in a USDAA trial then a weekend off then 2 weekends in a row of a full slate of DOCNA.  Normally I would never sign up for such madness but I'm trying to get Strum out of Advanced so I can try to qualify him for Champs in the Masters division.  Though with a good likelihood of Lola not being able to compete I'm not sure if I'll go for just one dog and make the other 2 sit in crates all day.  On the other hand it's only a 4 1/2 hour drive to Grand Junction so in the end I'll probably go.  I've got a hotel room reserved already so I'm set if I want to go.