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.


  1. Wow, you guys set up some doozies!

    On the second one, how about running up the left side of the dogwalk (same side as the #4 jump)? The push away from the tunnel to the dogwalk might be tough but the 4-5 would be much easier I think.

  2. In the end I did run on the left side of the dogwalk with the dog on my right, rear cross on the flat between 3 and 4 then held my ground and called him into me with a lot of direct eye contact then redirected him into the #5 tunnel. I think maybe my description in the post was unclear about that.

    I'm not sure what you mean by the 'push away from the tunnel to the dogwalk'. Do you mean between #2 and #3? Because the front at #2 and push to the dogwalk worked a lot better than having him on my left between #2 and #3 and trying to pull. I could easily use my motion to cue the dogwalk with him on my right so I wasn't nearly so far behind. With him on my left I had to stand still until he was already on the dogwalk and I was so far behind.

  3. OK, rereading now, I did misread it the first time. Yes, I meant 2-3; what happens sometimes on the push is that the person has to then step out to get past the tunnel and thereby pulls the dog into the tunnel. I think it would work OK with my dogs, too, though.

  4. Ah, I see. Wish I had some video, I don't trust my memory, but I don't think I had to step in too far past the plane of the tunnel, if at all, and I was able to move forward without pulling him off. Though I suspect he was so preoccupied with the dogwalk that even if I had some lateral motion to the left he barely took notice of it.