Friday, October 29, 2010

More dogwalk training, more fire

Was driving to the training field this morning at around 9 am and smelled smoke.  There was some smoke visible in the air but I couldn't see where it was coming from.  Until I got to the training field.  Then the source of the fire was  a little hard to miss as you can see from the video.  It didn't look to be close to my house so I wasn't too worried but as I drove home the smoke got thicker, the light turning that apocalyptic orange.  Again.  This fire is much closer to town and in fact parts of town are evacuated.  Unfortunately the winds are blowing the fire towards me and they just moved the evacuation boundary closer to me so it's now less than 2 miles away (the fire is probably 3 miles away).  I'm not to the point of worrying or packing up the car because the winds have died down a bit.  There's still a high wind warning and it is windy but not enough that I'm going to start tearing the house apart and packing up.  I think they expanded the evacuation zone because the firefighters are doing a back burn and not because the fire spread of it's own accord.  But that's only a guess.  I'm about a mile from the line where the power is being intentionally cut so I'm planning on the possibility of losing power at any time.  The smoke is bad, no biking or dog walking for me today.  Went out for not even 1/2 an hour to take some photos and my shirt smelled like a fireplace when I got home, had to take it off it was so bad.  So many people out there running and biking in the muck because it's otherwise a beautiful warm day in the 70's.  I won't do it though, my throat is sore enough with just sitting at my desk and the short photo ride I took.

As for the dog training:

7/9 hits, 78%, same as the trail a few weeks ago.  I shot some video on Weds. as well but it was hard to see the contact zone and I had a frustrating session of rewarding all 3 of his misses (7/10, 70%).  The misses were so subtle, even with the video I had to slow it way down to see them.  No obvious leaping like he did at the start of the video I posted, more like he simply strided right over even though he was doing what looked like the same gait he does when he hits.  I was hoping to get better footage of the slight misses to post to Silvia's forum but of course this time around he didn't do it.  The one rewarded miss was a tunnel/turn and I was standing back at the tunnel exit and couldn't see the contact properly but somehow I thought he had gotten it.  Because I'm psychic or something.  Don't know what I was thinking.  No subtle misses though, I'll try again this weekend if the smoke ever clears.

I'm also not thrilled with the stress on his ACL's when he does those tight turns to the tunnel.  Seeing those in slow motion made me cringe and kept me from my sleep last night.  I won't let him chase balls because I hate that screeching to a stop then turning tightly and here I am intentionally training it.  I'll have to figure out a better end performance but right now I can't quite picture it.  Today's performances weren't as bad as those on Weds. but still, yikes!  I only asked him to do it so I had an example to send to Silvia, maybe she's got a way she handles that challenge.

Some photos of the fire taken from my neighborhood.

Views from Wonderland Lake

Slurry bomber

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Silly dogs

Big Mouth Strikes Again

Hard to get any kind of photo of Cody.  As soon as the camera comes out he either starts acting weird or comes right up to the camera so that all you can get is a good shot of his nose hair.

I think he loves that squeaky red rubber devil ball a little too much.

All sorts of mayhem ensues whenever I break it out.
At least it's a distraction from his watering can obsession.  Jonny had to take it off him the other day because he was flying around the yard like such a maniac with it in his mouth that somebody was going to lose an eye.

I keep looking at that course map in the post below and thinking I can run fast enough to get past that #4 tunnel opening to cue that #5 jump.  I wasn't trying hard enough during practice, surely that's the problem.  I'm always wanting to run when I shouldn't and not running hard enough when I should.  I feel the same way about the dogwalk, I can totally run faster than I do.  Probably holding back because I'm afraid I'll be out of breath and unable to handle the rest of the course or I can't think and run that hard at the same time.  Maybe it's time to revisit those Tabata sprints once I'm done rehabbing from that stupid car crash and can start running again.  I do sort of remember starting to dread them several hours before doing them but feeling good afterwards.  Not sure if it helped the agility running though because I'm not ever going that hard on a course.  Maybe the fartlek running is better.  It's more fun anyway and I don't want to cry at the very thought of it like I do with the Tabata sprints.  For now I'm stuck on my mountain bike on the road and easy trails per the chiropractor until the stiffness and pain in my neck and back go away.  Can't even swim right now, haven't been swimming in weeks.  Masters is going to be ugly when I finally go back.  I probably shouldn't have opened that bag of Halloween Reeses peanut butter cups either.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Handling Dilemma

That darn 'Out' verbal cue, I never was able to teach it to Cody and Lola.  To be honest I never tried all that hard.  Teaching a dog to defy your motion is difficult and tedious and I gave up the task without putting sufficient effort into it.  Cost Lola quite a few gambles but oh well.  It was never a big problem for us on regular courses, seems I could always find some other way.  Didn't even try to teach it to Strummer, trying to keep consistent with the notion of not training him to ignore my motion on the turning obstacles.  But yesterday a handling conundrum came up for the second time and I couldn't find a way to deal with it.

The problem occurs at #4 to #5.  Without an 'Out' cue (or a 'Left' directional) it's nigh on impossible to get there to cue that #5 jump.  I couldn't lead out at the table past the offset jump or he'd take the offset jump and I think that's a handling system violation anyway, ie putting an obstacle between you and the dog that you don't want the dog to take.  I tried a rear cross between 3 and 4 so that he'd be on my right coming out of the tunnel but I was still too far behind and ended up with a spin in front of 5 and when I tried it a second time we almost had a collision in front of the tunnel.  Even with a decent send from 3 to 4 with him on my left I couldn't get past the tunnel entrance before Strum came barreling out.  I don't ever recall encountering this issue on a course but it seems like I could.  Maybe it doesn't happen often enough to make training the verbal worth it.  Or maybe it happened more often than I remember and it wasn't a problem in Lola's vet years when she slowed down quite a bit.

I also discovered a training hole that I knew I had but kept forgetting about and that's the rear cross at a tunnel.  Strum doesn't read them at all as far as coming out of the tunnel on the correct side.  So if I did a rear between 9 and 10 he still came out of the tunnel turning left.  If I put him in with him on my left then he came out and did the right turn to 11 no problem.  No amount of calling while he was in the tunnel made a difference.  So this week we'll practice those rears in the yard.  Can't believe I left out such a basic skill but I remember at some point in his training I reached Information Overload and apparently some stuff fell through the cracks.  It's no matter, I've been looking for some fun little thing to train in my little yard and now the perfect thing has fallen in my lap.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Handling video

I shot some video of our last practice session since I had a nice overhead view from a deck above the practice area.  I like to get some video of my handling and Strum's jumping every once in  a while to see where we're at.  The exercise is a Backyard Dogs thing from Clean Run but I have no idea what issue.  I can find out if anyone's interested but I think you get the basic idea of the layout from the video.  Tried doing the exercises different ways to see what worked best.

The good-almost no bars down.  He had one or two hard knocks that didn't bring the bar down but would have with a regular jump standard (a few of those bars were very tight in the standards).  I think his jumping looks good for the most part.  He's taking off where he should, collecting when I cue him to.  I put a couple of exercises into slow motion so I could compare my cues to his reactions and I think it mostly looks o.k.

The bad-I'm still flinging my arm way up in the air over my head.  Seemed like I was getting a handle on that but for this practice session I was back to my old habits.  Glad I shot the video, I realize now I still have to watch out for that.  My other problem was with supporting jumps.  He still needs me to hold up for a bit until he's committed or go up to a jump with him.  I had a couple of run-bys at the trial last weekend because I took off running somewhere before he was committed.  I'm hoping with time and practice he'll get more independent.  He's way better than when we started but still needs a fair amount of support.

He's such a fun little boy to run, he truly loves playing agility.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Trial video and yet more dogwalk practice

Couldn't get the trial video but the person who filmed me was o.k. with me posting the link so here you have it, Strummer DOCNA Specialist Standard.  We had an off course at the A-frame just before the weaves that you can't see and he got called on his A-frame, the only A-frame miss the entire trial.

More dogwalk practice, this time with no flips to tunnels.  Had 7/9 (78%) success rate at the practice field on our own, some turns, some straight on to a jump that's off screen.  This is a similar success rate to the trial this past weekend.  One miss was rewarded the other was not.  I'm sort of at wit's end as to what to try next.  He's not exactly leaping on his misses, just taking too big of a stride.  I think he's still doing a rotary gallop even on the misses which is why I rewarded the one miss.  I may get desperate and post to Silvia Trkman's discussion group.  I don't mind putting in the training time but apart from plugging along with what we've been doing I'm out of ideas.  And maybe continuing to plug along is what I need to do.  Could be he simply needs more practice at how to adjust his stride and with time he'll get more accurate.  I hate to start messing with stride regulators, hopefully he'll figure it out himself.

Video is bigger if you watch from the link below.
DOGWALK 10-21-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Had some good handling practice last night with my training partner and I have video of that too but it'll be a day or two before I have it processed.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Ribbon Hoarder

I know, you've all got a similar pile, probably way bigger than mine because my Q rate is low and I stopped taking most ribbons years ago.  But still, look at that mess, they're piled up deeper than they look and that's not even all of them.  Every once in a while I decide I'm going to go through them and get rid of all but the most meaningful then I realize what a huge waste of time, easier to leave them in a pile in a cabinet and I put them all back.  This time I went so far as to buy a plastic bin and you can all have a good laugh at how that's going to work.  In the end I stuffed all but the most obvious special-ist ones in the bin and I'll go through them at night while I'm watching Netflix.  Yeah, I'll get right on that, along with my sock darning project.  And what do I do with the rejects that have been written on?  Will I go to the effort to find a place to donate the ones that aren't written on and are in good condition?  Can't give most of them back to the club because they're so old.  One club is defunct and many don't do NADAC any more or give out a different style of ribbon.


Edited to add:
A reader sent in a link to a place you can send your ribbons to be re-used by therapeutic riding centers.  I'd heard of this place before, just didn't remember the link or the name.  My initial concern was that they wouldn't use the dog ribbons for horse events but I emailed the woman who runs it and she said she's happy to take dog ribbons.  Some of the riders don't care or know the difference and sometimes the ribbons can be modified.

As an aside I spent several years doing volunteer work for the Colorado Therapeutic Riding Center and it was a lot of fun.  I'd go before class and tack and groom horses then lead the horse around the ring if the rider needed it.  One of the classes I volunteered for had riders that were very independent and didn't need horse leaders for the whole class which is why I was initially concerned that the dog ribbons wouldn't be used.  Not all riders in the program are mentally impaired at all or to the point of not noticing such a thing and being offended by it.  But apparently there is enough of a market for them that they use them for some of the riders.

You don't have to know anything about horses to volunteer either, they also have people that walk at the side of the horse and help the rider with the various therapeutic exercises.  It's a great volunteer experience to consider if you have a program in your area.

Not sure what to do with the special ones either.  I made a nice shadowbox for Lola's second place Grand Prix Regionals ribbons but that little project took about 2 years to get to and would have been abandoned altogether had I not bought the shadowbox right away when I was still excited about the accomplishment.

I already took photos of the dogs with their nice DOCNA Champs ribbons from 2 years ago but now what to do with the ribbons?  That stack alone takes up a lot of space but they seem too nice to get rid of.

Let this be a cautionary tale if you're just starting out in agility.  Think long and hard about whether that 3rd place non-Q Advanced Snooker ribbon is going to have any particular meaning 6 years down the line or whether it'll detract from the more meaningful accomplishments and clutter up your closet and your brain.  I did stop taking most ribbons some time ago but I wish I'd figured it out sooner.

Monday, October 18, 2010

DOCNA trial Oct 2010

Not as big a deal as USDAA Nationals going on this past weekend but our little local DOCNA trial was a lot of fun for Strum and me.  Highlight of the weekend was winning the Specialist North America Challenge (like USDAA's Grand Prix) by 5 1/2 seconds with a nice fast clean run.  That qualifies us for DOCNA Champs next year if we want to go.  Also picked up a 1st place and Q in Specialist Trigility and Q's in Jumpers and Strategic Time Gamble.  All his other runs were near misses-a missed contact here, a knocked bar there, I got lost for the last 2 jumps in Jumpers because I'm an idiot, even an off course or two due to late cues.  But he ran so well, I think we had only one bar down the whole weekend which means he was running with focus and not all crazypants off his head.  Finally starting to feel like we're getting the hang of this.

Turns off the dogwalk to the tunnel were pretty fabulous, I was so pleased the training transferred to the ring.  He got 2/3 of them, not sure why he missed the one but I'm not too worried about it.  What a luxury not to have to babysit that turn.  I can hang back by the tunnel exit and be in perfect position for the next part of the course when he comes flying out.  I've got some video of this that a friend shot on her Flip camera, I'll see if she can send me the Flip file and I can convert it into something I can post.  Right now all I have is a link to her file sharing site and I don't want to post that.

Final Stats

Specialist Jumpers-Q and 5th place (pulled him off a jump and had to go back and fix it plus some wide turns)

Specialist North America Challenge-Q and 1st place, 5.23 yps

Specialist Trigility-Q and 1st place (all of 3 of us had clean runs)

Specialist Strategic Time Gamble-Q and 6th place (time was 42.46 for 20 obstacles and a little time wasted, maybe 2-3 seconds)

Edited to fix a math error.  I is good engineer, really.
EDITED AGAIN 10-19-2010 to correct dogwalk percentages.  I miscounted one miss that was a hit on Saturday.  I knew he'd only missed 2 dogwalks for the whole trial.
Dogwalks-5/6 (83%) on Saturday and 3/4 (75%) on Sunday or 8/10 (80%) for the weekend.  This is slightly better than his typical 70%.  Time to break out the treat gizmo and go back to some basics with his training, I know we can do better than this.

A-frames-7/7 (100%) on Saturday and 3/4 (75%) on Sunday or 10/11 (91%) for the weekend.  Of course I wish he were perfect but I can't complain.  How many people with 2 on/2 off have that kind of accuracy?

Teeters-100% and there were lots, including in the gamble, but sheesh I don't like how he's launching off with his rear feet.  We've been working on it but need to work some more and get more independence.

Weaves were good, only one missed entry when he came barreling out of a tunnel and the weaves were right there (Gamblers, first run of the trial).  Popped out of the 6 weaves during Snakes and Ladders because I stopped moving to cue a 180 degree turn to a tunnel and prevent an off course.  I had to reset him a few times in the weaves and finally move forward with him which indeed lead to the off course.  I've worked a bit on proofing for me stopping and he was doing great at the practice field on his own but it's clearly something to practice with training partners around.  Overall though I thought his weaves were great, especially considering what a disaster they were just a few months ago.

Only one bar down that I can remember and that was due to a handling error.  Can't complain about that.

As it turned out my training partner needed someone to help with the driving so I didn't have to try to squish everything into the Subaru or the rental car since she has a big SUV.  Was able to crate Strum in her car for a bit on Saturday but I also had a crate in the arena building and he was doing so well on Saturday that I left him in the arena the whole day on Sunday and he did great.  Saved me a lot of walking back and forth to the parking lot and I think it's good for him to learn to be calm amidst all the hub bub.  We were crated in a very busy, tight area too but the Standard ring was at the opposite end of the building and he only had to endure the 2 Jumpers classes.  I have to wonder if being crated next to the dog he trains with gave him some security.  As crazy as she is when she does agility she's calm in her crate and confident with other dogs so she's a good role model.  Or maybe he's finally growing up at age 5 1/2.

No more trials for 6 weeks then I have DOCNA in December, USDAA in January and DOCNA in February,  all at a venue just 20 minutes from home.  Doesn't get much better than that.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

USDAA Nationals videos 2010

Here's a link to some videos of Colorado/Utah/New Mexico competitors for anyone interested.  I'm sure more will go up as the competition progresses.  Very fun for me to see how everyone's doing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Happy 20th Anniversary

I got home from Chicago yesterday just in time to go out to our favorite Indian restaurant to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary and get hit by a teenage girl in a Rav 4 on our way home.  I swear I'm a magnet for giant SUV's to sideswipe me.  It seemed it should be pretty straight forward, I was going straight through an intersection and the girl turned left right into me.  But some crazy woman who claimed to be a witness yet told me she wasn't sure what she saw stood around in the cold for 1/2 an hour so she could tell the cops I had run a red light.  Well, I hadn't run a red light and the teenage girl's story backed up mine so the cop didn't give me a ticket but still, how aggravating to be the victim then be victimized again by some stranger who had nothing to do with it and even admitted she didn't know what she saw.  The teenager got the ticket and the cop insisted I didn't need to collect her insurance info.  I asked him twice about it because that didn't seem right but he said my insurance company would deal with their insurance company.  Unfortunately this turned out to be untrue and I spent the morning tracking down the insurance info. from the police department.  Now I get to hope that her insurance company doesn't try to screw me over.  At least no one was seriously hurt.  I'm banged up a little and I'm having trouble bending my knee and it's sore to the touch on the bone but I'm hoping with ice and a little time it'll be o.k.  I'm hoping to schedule an appointment with the chiropractor because my back and neck are a bit tweaked but I need to get the insurance stuff sorted out first.

Poor car, I just paid it off in May, I'm hoping they fix it.  I doubt we'll get a loan for a new car based on Jonny's salary alone.  Not sure what I'm going to do about the trial this weekend, was hoping to crate in the car but I don't think Strum's crate will fit in the Subaru sedan and I can't crate him unattended in the arena because he'll go off his head.  I'm hoping I can talk the insurance company into renting me a larger vehicle but I'm not holding my breath.  Maybe I don't work 6 classes like I usually do and work with him being quiet in his crate instead but that sounds like an exhausting weekend for both of us.  Ah well, I'll work something out, even if it means he sits in the car in his seat belt harness all weekend.  I suppose I won't soon forget our 20th wedding anniversary.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Bahai Temple Wilmette

Hard to take a bad picture of the Bahai Temple.

And yet I've somehow made it look like the Leaning Tower despite its obsessive symmetry.

There are 7 Bahai Temples in the world but the one in Wilmette is the oldest and most impressive.  And just a short 10 minute drive from my grandmother's house so it made for a nice little excursion today.

One of the gardens that surround the temple.  I forget exactly how many but there is one on each side so the temple is completely surrounded.

Usually the gardens look a lot more lush than this but perhaps because it's nearing winter they've toned things down.

The detail of the stonework is amazing.

The swastika symbol, or actually 'reverse' or 'left hand' swastika, was a religious symbol used in Hinduism and Buddhism long before the Nazis got their nasty paws on it thus its inclusion in the carvings on the pillar depicting the world's religions (the Nazi swastika is a reverse image).

I'm not exactly a religious person but I love the Bahai Temple.

They don't allow photography inside because it is a place of worship after all and they want people to have peace and quiet and respect if they're in there to worship.  But I did find a virtual tour of the interior that's very cool.  You can use the arrows to look anywhere you want, including straight up at the top of the dome and you can zoom in and out.  The inside is a sight to behold and if you're ever in the Chicago area it's worth a quick trip.

Is it really in the upper 70's in October?  I think Chicagoans are the only ones happy about global warming.  Except for the folks running the Chicago Marathon tomorrow.  For the non-runners reading this, upper 70's is way too hot to run a marathon.  I went out for a 3-4 mile run yesterday morning and I was too hot after 20 minutes.  Hope they have enough water this time.  In 2006 temps. went into the upper 80's and they ran out of water and shut the race down.  Tomorrow's conditions won't be as brutal but still there will be the potential for problems and I hope the organizers learned some lessons from last time.  Good luck and have fun to anyone running.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

More dogwalk turns

Yeah, I know, some of you, maybe even most of you, are probably ready to poke your eyes out with all of this but I made the videos for myself and I may as well share them with the 3 people who might find them useful.

After some thought I decided to try using the prop of the pole to help Strum run all the way to the bottom before turning.  As I said in the comments on a post below I'm not fond of props and this is largely because I'm so crap at both using them and fading them.  I don't have a lot of faith in them either so I avoid them for the most part.  But I thought I'd take the opportunity to learn how to use them.  I wanted to use the running dogwalk experiment to improve my training techniques and here is one that could use some improvement.  Well, you can see from the videos below how that worked out.  In short, the pole only seemed to confuse and cause leaps and jumping off the side early to avoid it.  So after giving it the good old college try for a grand total of 2 days/training sessions I said adios to the prop. and the next session I had perfect turns.  I did have a training session on the A-frame/tunnel with my training partner but the mechanics of that turn is very different from the dogwalk.  Still it probably helped some.

Monday's session with the pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-4-2010 AFTERNOON from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I had a theory that he was cueing off my lack of motion and shoulder position (ie facing the direction I wanted him to turn) rather than the verbal so I tried running forward and saying 'turn' and sure enough he went forward the first time.  I tried it again with a little less forward motion and he surprised me by taking the turn.  Maybe he is learning the verbal after all.

Tuesday's session with the pole
DOGWALK TURNS 10-5-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

This session saw even more goofiness with the pole.  After that I decided I'd leave the poles to the strippers and figure out something else for next session.

Tuesday evening I met at my training partner's house to practice teaching verbal discriminations and turns for the A-frame/tunnel.  He was 100% with his turning cue, even with some forward motion on my part.  He was not 100% on his verbal for the tunnel vs A-frame so I helped him out with some physical cues but by the end I think he was starting to get the idea.  Verbals are hard, it'll take a lot more work but what I saw was encouraging.  I still question his ability to ever learn to process a verbal that doesn't have some physical cue to back it up during a course when he's flying full speed.  I think where it might work are instances where the physical cue is weak and the verbal will be extra information, like when the dogwalk and tunnel entry are close together and the physical cues to indicate one over the other are subtle and maybe not all that clear, the verbal can help him out.  In theory anyway.  We'll see how it works out in practice.

Wednesday's session, no more pole

DOGWALK TURNS 10-6-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I cheated a little here and positioned the tunnel opening so it was next to and a bit forward of the dogwalk plank.  This was to encourage him to run all the way down.  I'll inch the tunnel back a bit over more sessions to make sure he doesn't start to dive in from the side given the opportunity.  This session he started anticipating the turn and even turned with forward motion on my part for one rep.  And I rewarded it with a yes!  Next rep he started to do it again then stopped himself.  Third time was a charm and he went forward no problem.  I need to remember to put a lot of forward reps into each session like I did when I was starting out.

Strum gets a little break until next week because I leave for Chicago tomorrow for a long weekend.  I think the rest will do him good.  Will be interesting to see how it holds up next week.  I have a DOCNA trial that following weekend and I'm eager to see how all this training will pan out in the ring.  Also will be interesting to see if his weave poles hold up because I've hardly worked on them since Champs.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Bevy of Beardies

I took a quick trip up to the Beardie Agility National in Loveland today to see Molly run her dogs Max and Stanley.  They came all the way from San Francisco.

Molly & Stanley finishing in style
Unfortunately my photos are mostly craptastic.  The combination of the poor lighting in the arena, the iffy quality of the kit lens that came with the camera, my iffy photography skills and all they flying Beardie hair made for a lot of horrible shots.  There were a few that were passable though.

Flying Dustmop
I love Beardies, they have such bouncy, sunny personalities and do everything with mucho enthusiasm.  The Border Collie rescue I do volunteer work for has a Beardie mom and her litter of pups right now and it's a good thing I'm full up because good lord people, the grooming.  Though one thing I discovered today is that the coats are long but coarse so I don't think they're as hard to maintain as they look.  But still, I would have to bathe a dog on a regular basis and not just once every 4 years or so when they have some kind of 'incident'.  It was fun to enjoy them vicariously for a morning though.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Exercises in getting there

Or not.  Strummy finally took me out in grand fashion yesterday.  It was only a matter of time, I'm surprised it took this long, and I'm sure it'll happen again but sheesh.  I'm not a huge fan of blind crosses, I think they're not the best choice for me and Strummer in about 90% of situations but there are those 10% of situations where I think they come in handy.  Unfortunately yesterday's practice course was not one of those places.

I tried to slip on a blind cross between the #7 A-frame and the #8 jump.  I'm not entirely sure what happened but I'm sure it would have made a good video blooper.  Strummer and I ended up in a pile on the ground and I smashed the PVC jump wing to bits and sent the jump standard flying.  Skinned my palm a bit and landed hard on my bad knee but otherwise I was o.k. and Strummer seemed fine.  I think he came at me faster than expected, tripped me up from behind and I failed to avoid the jump wing because I was glancing back to see where he was.  I tried it again with a front cross and nearly broke my neck on the #6 tunnel somehow but I pulled it off.  The #10 dogwalk to #11 tunnel was a good challenge with that #3 jump beckoning and in fact he did take it once.  I pulled off the front cross between the #11 tunnel and #12 jump but it wasn't pretty and in the end I opted for a rear which was much smoother.  After my experience at DOCNA Champs and running these courses yesterday I'm starting to concede that a rear cross is often the best option when there's so much speed involved.  Sometimes no matter how hard I try I just can't get there.

The weave entry was no problem but Strummer kept popping out with 3-4 poles to go.  I thought it was because with the tunnel and A-frame set-up it was like weaving into a wall but my training partner thought he was being seduced by the tunnel.  She stood in front of it for me and he finished his weaves no problem so I'd guess she was right.  Tried it again without her standing there and he weaved the whole set again, no problem.

In general for the first couple of runs there was much running amok, not collecting, shooting out of tunnels and carrying on to the next obstacle without looking for me and general shenanigans.  We finally had some nice seasonal autumn weather and at just past dark in the morning it was downright cold so Strum was a bit off his head despite having about 1/2 an hour to run around the field while we set the course up.  It's good to have these issues at practice, yes?  So you can work through them?  Because that's exactly the nutcase I have at a trial.  But at trials you don't have do overs to work it all out.  I'm hoping at some point with enough practice that Mr. Crazy Pants will settle down.

Course #2 seemed to provide a challenge for a running dogwalk, and it did, but my training partner with a stopped dogwalk also had issues and ended up using my handling strategy.

Here's where having good verbal discrimination for objects would come in handy.  Getting that #3 dogwalk proved very difficult for Strummer (a similar discrimination took out about half the dogs in his class at Champs in the North America Challenge including most if not all of the super fast dogs).  Any sort of motion on my part sent him into the tunnel so I had to send to #2, hold my ground and call him to me then send him to the dogwalk on my left and not move forward until he was on the dogwalk.  Well, you can imagine how that push to the #4 jump turned out.  Again, even my friend with the stopped contact was waaaay behind and it was a problem.  So you either need a great verbal that overrides your motion cues and a dog that can line himself up on the dogwalk or you can do a front cross at #2 and handle with the dog on your right.  I was able to pull of a rear cross between the dogwalk and jump #4 and held my ground and called him to me with a lot of direct eye contact to get him into the #5 tunnel.  Not pretty but it worked.

Then there was the fun of the #7 tunnel to the #8 jump.  Another great place for Strummer to take me out.  I don't have a verbal 'Get Out' cue that means move away from me laterally and even if I did it would be challenging to get it to work in that scenario.  In fact my training partner said she did have a directional cue ('right' I think) but it took her a number of times to get it to work.  The dog shoots out of that straight-ish tunnel with so much speed.  Strum had a fairly decent send to the #7 tunnel and I had to run like heck to beat him to the tunnel exit.  Again it wasn't pretty but in the end I managed something.  Anybody ever had a cruel judge who put a challenge like that into a course?  Unless you've got solid verbal directionals or speedy legs I don't see a lot of options other than hoping you never see that in a trial.

The unnumbered set of weave poles weren't meant to be a trap but they ended up being one for Strummer.  It took a number of reps to get him to come to me away from those poles.  One rep he even looked right at me then continued on along to the poles.  I don't think he was being defiant but somehow he was sure that's what I wanted.  In the end I had to call him to my hand, give him some treats, then repeat again and finally he came to me and went in the #10 tunnel.

He missed the #11 weaves on his first try but got in on his second.  I was thrilled with that because it's a tough entry for him so I stopped the session at that point.  As such I'm not sure I have the rest of the course after the weaves marked correctly, especially the part after the #14 tunnel.  I know the A-frame was in there somehow.

Lots of challenges for us to work on.  I think the big one is to try to get some better verbal discriminations for the obstacles.  I'm skeptical though that I'll ever get to the point where he'll ignore my motion for the verbal, especially since he's so fast.  I even wonder if such a fast dog can process the information in time to act on it but maybe he could react in some scenarios where I could get him the verbal early enough. Aside from the dogwalk/A-frame flip I don't teach verbal directionals that go against my motion (ie 'Get Out' for lateral motion away from me) but it would be nice to have the verbals for the obstacles.  So many DOCNA courses would be easier to handle if only I had that skill.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Running dogwalk turns

I've been on a mission to get the 180 degree flip from dogwalk to tunnel on a verbal.  I thought I mostly had it but DOCNA Champs showed me that oh no I don't.

Even though I have a practice tunnel I decided to use a plastic lawn chair for him to run around because for one I could get in a lot more reps without having to wait for him to run through the tunnel and also because it's a wider turn and easier on his body.  In theory anyway.  That silly dog refuses to have any respect at all for his body no matter how I try to help him.

I've been working with the chairs for a few days now, several quick sessions a day and it took a good 3 days before he seemed to have any clue as to what I wanted.  After he failed for the third time in a row I'd give him some physical cues to help him then take them away and he'd be back to making mistakes, ie not turning away on the verbal cue and running straight ahead.

Yesterday's last session saw over 80% success though as did this morning's so this afternoon I broke out the tunnel and he's been near perfect.  Sort of.  After watching the video I'm not entirely happy with the performance.  He's not running to the bottom and turning but rather turning before reaching the end and sliding down the plank a bit.  He hits the yellow but if he takes to diving in the tunnel before running through the bottom of the plank he could easily start missing and in fact he did this on the A-frame at Champs.  He wasn't running to the bottom either with the chair and I was rewarding it.  The last rep isn't too bad and part of the problem I think is that I need to repaint/resand my contacts.  Glad I finally shot some video before I got too far along.

Some of the reps were straight ahead runs to a jump that was off screen.  My camera doesn't zoom out far enough to catch all the action and my yard is so small I can't place it farther away.  I had a lot of reps go straight because I don't want him learning to automatically dive into a tunnel whenever he sees one under the dogwalk.  He was starting to do that last summer.

Though I want the turn on a verbal I have been helping him out by remaining stopped and facing the side of the dogwalk towards the way I want him to turn when there's a turn and facing straight and moving forward when I want him to go straight.  If I want him to turn towards me I call his name and face the direction I want him to turn and indicate with an arm.  I'll get some video of that.  I didn't think he was having problems with that but now I want to see for myself on video what's going on.

Practice tomorrow, I'll see if I can get my training partner to shoot more video.
Dogwalk Turns 10-2-2010 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Small taste of the FCI 'World' Championships

O.k., I'll admit I'm grouchy about the notion that the FCI is a legitimate 'world' championship.  How can you seriously claim you're showcasing the best in the world when a significant portion of competitors in the world are not invited to play based on non-performance criteria (ie pedigree, absolutely the most stupid criteria there is)?  Mixes and rescues and non-kennel club recognized breeds aside, what if you have a working dog like a Border Collie and you don't want to register it with the AKC (or whatever the country's kennel club is) for ethical reasons?  The team format waters down the competition as well.  Anytime you limit entry based on non-performance criteria you water down your competition.  Sure there are a lot of great teams there but how much more awesome would the competition be if entry was based purely on merit and not pedigree or political boundaries?

Anyway, for those of you who, like myself, have limited funds and a short attention span and lots of other fun things to do on a beautiful Saturday I found a short video of some of the large dog Individual jumping runs.  A great taste of the courses and handling at the 'worlds' without having to spend your whole day watching your ass get bigger and your eyes go square.

What a crazy looking course on paper but those handlers made it look easy.  Sort of.  The widest variation in handling was the closing #16 to #20 jumps.  The top 5 finishers were .66 seconds apart.  I'd love to see a Dartfish overlay of some of those runs to see exactly where the differences were.  Were the time differences due to handling strategies, obstacle performance, tightness/speed of turns, speed on the flat?  The engineer geek in me wants to know.

My favorite run was the second place team, Anja and Pray, who were only .47 seconds behind the leader.  Such a smooth, flawless looking run, poetry in motion.  Gotta love a team who can run fast and clean and look pretty doing it.  That is how I'd love to be able to run my dog.  Maybe someday.  I love watching Silvia Trkman run too, so much energy and enthusiasm.  And that crazy guy near the end, wow, that was a wild and wooly ride but it worked for him.  Fun to see all the different handling styles.

There are some more runs posted by the same woman here at her YouTube site.  As for me, I'm off to work on those dogwalk turns.  Maybe I'll even shoot some video to share.