Monday, February 14, 2011

DOCNA in the Dirt

Still sort of exhausted after a marathon of agility.  Four days of a seminar last weekend then zillions of runs and a late running trial this weekend has taken its toll.  I finished my 5th of 6 runs at around 5:00 pm Saturday and decided to skip Snakes and Ladders and head home.  It was nice to be home in daylight, have a nice dinner with Jonny and take my mind off of dogs and agility with a 'This American Life' DVD from Netflix.  Where I slept through most of it but the one story I happened to stay awake for was about a lady who leaves her crazy OCD husband and becomes a dog agility teacher.  Or maybe I dreamed up that ending, it's hard to say at this point.

My goal for the trial was to have most excellent, perfect handling after the four days of experts helping me with every little aspect of my handling.  O.k., maybe not perfect handling but hopefully some reasonable improvements.  There were so many things for me to work on that came out of that seminar though, I decided to pick just a few to focus on, namely lateral and forward sends and trying not to whip my shoulders around on a pull.  And the big one-keeping an eye on Strummer so I could get my cues out at the exact right moment.  Handling at the speed of Strummer is a rush or a train wreck and things go much better when I keep my eye on him.  But not to the point of spectating, sometimes I have to RUN and know he will follow but still keep him in my sights.  My head is still kind of spinning with all of this.

In general the trial results don't look so great on paper.  Only 2 Standard Q's out of 10 runs and at least one of those Q's was a gift because Strum blew his dogwalk but the judge didn't call it.  The other dogwalk was iffy too.  But I felt like I'd made a little progress in my handling.  I was still doing some stupid things but felt like I was doing a better job of paying attention to where Strum was and getting my cues out at the right time.  One strategy for improving your swim stroke is to pick one thing to improve and focus on drills to fix only that one thing for a month rather than trying to fix a bunch of things at once.  It's a struggle to overcome the old habits that are built into muscle memory and rebuild new ones so I'm trying to be patient with myself, acknowledge the mistakes so I can continue to work on them but not get emotionally upset with myself for not getting it right away.  I feel like Strummy and I are getting oh so close to being a nice team but we're not quite there yet.

Dogwalks were mostly abysmal but I knew that would be the case.  He did have one beautiful, perfect dogwalk on his very last run of the trial that had a dogwalk.  I thought his A-frames were perfect and the judge didn't call any but at least one video shows that he might have missed.  Hard to say for sure from the angle but it wasn't a good solid hit in any case.  And he's still doing weird things with the weave poles though this was probably his best trial yet for getting entries.  His weaving issues came up in the seminar and Mary Ellen was even a little surprised by them but she gave me some things to try.  I'll write more about that later.  And the teeter, ugh, I need to have independence on that stupid teeter.  How many times have I said that?  I've been working a little but bad weather has taken its toll on my obstacle training.  Looks like sun and mid-40's to 60's for the rest of the week so I'll have to get to the training field and my yard may be clear by tomorrow or the next day.

I want to do another detailed write-up but I realize this may be tedious so I'll section it off for those who might not be interested in all the details.  Also, I'm changing the format a little bit from last time.  I'm copying 4 Dog Craziness' idea of putting the course map and video for just one run together rather than combining video for multiple runs into one video file.  I can't find her exact post but I remember liking it when I read it and thinking it was a clear, simple way to look at each run so I'm giving a go.

NOTE:  In DOCNA, Specialist = Masters.  All courses are Masters level.


Specialist Jumpers

DOCNA FEB. 2011 JUMPERS SATURDAY from colliebrains on Vimeo.

I was so sure I'd do well on the Jumpers runs after all the work I'd done with my handling at the seminar but I was off course after jump #1 on the first run of the trial.  Strum did beautiful lead out pushes with a 3 or 4 jump lead out at the seminar.  I was able to go to the next part of the course right after I released him and he didn't pull off.  But of course in a trial he pulls off on a 2 jump lead out.  Oh well.  The course was pretty boring, just a bunch of pinwheels.  I'm starting to grow weary with the monotony of DOCNA's courses and it's not the judges' fault.  Ultimately one person reviews them and changes them so they all end up with very similar challenges.  I decided to experiment with some rear crosses.  Not too happy with the second one, I need more practice.  Also I pulled him off jump #10, a bad habit I'm finding hard to break.

Specialist Traditional Gamblers

The blue numbers are the plan I ran, the black #13 was the plan I walked but I knew when I got there that I had too much time left over so I added another loop and was out of  position when the buzzer blew.  Still we had plenty of time for the gamble and he did it but dropped bar #3, one of only 2 bars that he dropped the whole trial.  I was blathering like an idiot for him to 'GO JUMP' and running forward probably waving arms around frantically while he was over the bar so I suppose it's no surprise it came down.  I didn't like the layer at 3 to 4 so I was overhandling.  He did get his A-frame contact very solidly according to several people in the crowd.  Otherwise the run went very smoothly, nice weave entry, I was pleased.  No video.

Specialist Standard #1

DOCNA FEB. 2011 STANDARD 1 SATURDAY from colliebrains on Vimeo.

A very boring course, again the judge had campaigned for more turns but was overruled.  I was surprised to see 4 jumps in a row on a Specialist course.  I was so sure I'd left those behind in Novice.  FC at 5-6 and 8-9, didn't support the push to 10 very well so we had a bobble there.  RC behind the teeter then had a bigger bobble between the teeter and jump 14 because I was behind to support the teeter and he started to head to the tunnel.  I was not at all happy with his dogwalk even though the judge didn't call it.  Hard to say if he had a toe in.

Weaves and A-frame were good.

Still this run was good enough for a Q and 1st place by just .6 seconds.  5.68 yps even with the 2 bobbles, imagine if it had been clean.

Specialist Standard 2

DOCNA FEB. 2011 STANDARD 2 SATURDAY from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Another boring course and this time I have to run for the 4 straight jumps rather than lead out and let him do the work.  Bad dogwalk, Strum thought he was turning into the tunnel but still was pretty bad.  Those turn cues need more proofing.  This was the one run with an iffy A-frame too.  FC from 13 to 14.  Botched the RC from 14 to 15 and I've screwed this same scenario up before so I was trying to pay attention this time.  I got impatient and started the RC too soon and pushed him off the jump.  In retrospect I had plenty of time for a front.  I'll have to set up this simple exercise and practice it both ways.  DOCNA may have repetitive challenges but that doesn't mean I won't keep screwing them up if I don't practice.

Weaves and teeter were very good.  Four jumps in a row turned out to be no problemo.

This run got a Q and 3rd place (a dismal 4.53 yps with all the mistakes) but I wasn't terribly happy with it.

Specialist North American Challenge (similar to USDAA's Grand Prix)

DOCNA FEB. 2011 NAC SATURDAY from colliebrains on Vimeo.

Missed his dogwalk.  Nice solid A-frame though.

Nice teeter though he's looking at me, something else to proof for.  Lateral send at 6 and FC at 7 to 8 were o.k., maybe could have been better to tighten up that turn, maybe not.

Did his weird weave pop out thing and it was only 6 poles.  Then he does his other weird thing of get the entry and look back at me and pop out at the first pole on the long set of poles.  He did this at the seminar too and Mary Ellen was a bit perplexed.  It's always fun when you have problems that stump the experts.  She did have some things to try though and I'll have to give them a go.

Messed up the FC between 15 and 16 or maybe for some reason he was committed to the A-frame.  Pulled it off nicely in the previous Standard run, not sure why it didn't work as well here.  I think I rotated out of the cross a fraction of a second too late and he had his nose pointed to the A-frame.  RC to 17 was easy this time because he was coming at the jump from a better line from the A-frame (I didn't go back to fix the tunnel).

Specialist Snakes and Ladders

I bailed on this, was SO tired and it's not my favorite class.  Staying for the North American Challenge was already a test of endurance and I thought I'd get some rest and save some energy for Sunday.  Also the main reason I enter is to test weaves and aside from the NAC his weaves were looking great.  Also didn't want to give him another chance to do poorly on the dogwalk.



Specialist Strategic Time Gamble

No video.

The numbers show the course I walked and ran.

Strummy had a really nice run, hit both A-frames (at least she gave him points and I thought he had nice hits, I don't have proof on video) hit both weave entries, didn't pop out.  Nice teeters too I think.   Unfortunately I pulled him off the course too soon and our actual time was 40.26 (or 41.26 with our 1 second time bonus).  My original plan was to continue on after the #20 teeter to the #15 jump to the #16 tunnel then head out over the finish jump (labeled 21).  Our time needed to be between 41.5 and 46 so I'm not sure if my original plan would have put us over time (I doubt it) but I had thought briefly about looping him over the #15 jump after the teeter and if I'd only done it we likely would have gotten the Q.  I always panic when I hear the buzzer and get him out too soon.

For this game I never plan an opening and closing, I usually try to get between 21-24 obstacles and run it like a flowing course, maybe repeating a loop.  I don't worry about points either, it's all about time.  I think I have to make sure I have at least 22 obstacles if I'm going to omit the dogwalk.

Specialist Standard 3

No video.

Blew his dogwalk and he headed up the A-frame rather than the #4 tunnel.  Several very fast dogs did this.  Hard to say what went wrong without the video, I thought I cued it properly.  Was planning a FC between 4 and 5 but because of the confusion at 4 I was too far behind so threw in a RC which worked o.k. unless that was where we had a bar down.  I don't think she called his A-frame and I thought it was good but I don't have video.  Got a FC in between 11 and 12 but it was poorly executed.  Was hoping for a Forward Motion Front Cross but I was a bit rattled and unfocused by that part of the run and didn't execute is as I had walked it so it was a very late FC.  Sent him into the weaves on my left and he missed the entry, again he got to the entry then looked back at me.  Got in a FC btw'n. 18 and the teeter and he had a poor teeter so I had him redo it since we'd already NQ'd.  Did the teeter nicely the second time.  I'm pretty sure we had a bar down somewhere, maybe #5 or 6.

Specialist Standard 4

DOCNA FEB. 2011 STANDARD 4 from colliebrains on Vimeo.

This course finally had some challenges to it, at least for us.  I was behind babysitting the teeter again (I'm sensing a theme here) so I couldn't get far ahead enough to cue the tunnel and for whatever reason Strum locked onto the dogwalk.  For some inexplicable reason I threw up my outside arm in a panic and called his name but those things occurred after he was already committed to the dogwalk so while they weren't helping my case they weren't the cause of the off course.  Popped out of his weaves again as well, the weaves definitely deteriorated as the trial wore on.  Rest of the course was really nice though, probably our best Standard run AND he got his dogwalk.  The jumping part of the course was trickier than it looks on paper and lots of potential for me to get lost so I was pleased that I kept my focus and got my cues in properly for those parts. Not a super challenging course by any means but I was glad to finally have some handling stuff go right.

Specialist Trigility

We had a fast clean run on the Jumpers portion.  It was so easy, not even worth printing the map.  Standard partner was also clean.  Gamblers partner had a nice run but had a bobble and missed the gamble (ironically after already getting it as an accommodating dog for another team) so no Q.  I had the easiest course by far but I didn't want to put Strum up on the dogwalk if I could help it and the other courses had dogwalks.  I don't really care about Trigility, it's simply more ring time for us and I may as well run it if it's in the middle of the day rather than sitting around.

Specialist Jumpers 2

No video.

This course was challenging because of the sheer speed of it.  I did my stupid handler trick of pulling him off of #5 but once we got going again it was a beautiful run.  I got in front crosses between 7  and 8, 13 and 14 (yes people, I pulled that off and it was awesome, let's hear it for the Forward Motion Front Cross) and 15 and 16.  No bars down, nice and smooth, a great way to end the trial.  No Q because I had an off course after pulling him off that early jump but what a rush for the rest of the course, wee ha!


Trial Stats:

Standard Specialist Q, 1st place
Standard Specialist Q, 3rd place

No titles

1/4 (25%)  We're on a downward trend.  I'm not counting the one the judge didn't call that I couldn't confirm.  Haven't been able to practice due to weather.

7/7 (100%)  I'm not counting the one the judge didn't call that looked like a miss.

Bars down
2 (one in the Gamble the other was likely a handling error)


Strummy is still caked in mud from the conditions at the trial site.  We had snow during the week then bitter cold then temps. shot up to the 60's on Saturday and Sunday.  Strum would get snow/water on him when I took him outside then when we came inside the dirt in the arena made a nice mud paste on him.  Plus the actual mud in the parking lot.  I may have to break down and give him a bath, a horrifying thought for both of us.  There's still a bit of snow about so for now I'll wait and see, maybe the remaining snow will wash the dirt off of him.  Better go hit the trails and see if this theory pans out.


  1. Thanks for posting all the video -- I liked how you posted the course maps and then just the video of that run. You and Strummer had some really nice moments out there -- those contact/tunnel discriminations can be tough!

  2. I like that format too, I think it's more interesting to watch a video if you can see the course map. I'm going to try to be better about posting maps for practice too even if I have to draw them from memory.

    We struggle with those discriminations in practice if the correct one is the tunnel and I'm out of position so I suppose it's no surprise it was an issue at a trial. The teeter was a problem too. If I didn't have to babysit it I could have easily been in position to cue the tunnel. Finally some nice weather for training though, will be fun to work on this stuff.

  3. Wow you guys look awesome. Just a few bobbles but when those get fixed.... wow, you all will be hard to beat! I was just wondering. When you practice the dogwalk at home are you running full out with your arms pumping like you do at a trial? Just wondering if that is making the dog think, "Holy crap, she is hauling a$$. I better run!" Its just a thought.

  4. I do have reps in training where I run full out next to the dogwalk but it's true, a lot of his early training didn't involve that because I was trying to train him to be independent of my motion. So for a lot of the plank work I sent him to the treat gizmo and stood back behind him. But for some of it I did run alongside. But it's a fact that my motion and his excitement of being at a trial does effect his dogwalk. I do want him running so that part's o.k., it's the leaping off the end that's the problem. Going to try to get to the practice field tomorrow or Thursday.

  5. Just wondering, getting back to the contact/tunnel discrimination, do you have a left or right command so that you can say left tunnel or right walk it? I can't tell from the video.

    I've taught Emma, my almost-three year-old BC left and right, and while it works for turning after a jump or flipping into the tunnel off the contact, sending to the correct obstacle (tunnel or contact)when I'm not there is more difficult. I usually resort to pushing on the path with an out command to get her to take the outside obstacle. We're working on the left and right though.

  6. I don't use left/right verbal cues. Tried teaching Lola and she never got it. It was too much work and I never needed them all that often for all the work involved. I do have a verbal 'turn' cue that I use for contact/tunnel flips away from me but honestly I think he's responding to body language more so than the verbal.

    I am going to work on getting stronger responses to obstacle names. His weakness in this area came up at both the tunnel and weaves in the seminar and Mary Ellen gave me some ideas for working on that. I don't say a lot when I run and I often forget to use an obstacle name until very late if at all.

  7. Wait--a Bay Teamer was featured on This American Life?! And I never heard about it? Gah, now I have to try to find that show online somewhere.

    Your strategy of working on one thing at a time seems like a good one, and I think I've heard that suggested before. I have trouble doing that just for myself, whether dog agility or photography (I will work on composition! lighting! depth of field! color choices! originality! flash! all at once!). Which is why seminars & classes are often good for me, too; they get me to focus. (No pun intended. Really.) Don't know why I can't manage that on my own. Nertz.

  8. This is the episode. It was from Season 2. You can watch instantly on Netflix if you have it, otherwise looks like you have to wait until March.

    It's not a very cheery story though that's probably obvious from the description. But it looks like the woman came out of it o.k. and is now in Crazy Dog Lady Land.

  9. Thanks. She's definitely in crazy dog lady land, possibly even more than some of us; at least two of her dogs have their own facebook accounts and participate in discussions.