Friday, April 22, 2011

AKC Finals course and more dogwalk

My practice field had the AKC finals course from the recent Nationals set up last weekend so Strum and I gave it a shot.

Here's the course.

On our first shot Strum knocked the first bar.  On our second shot he ran clean to the dogwalk where I thought he made it and I stopped to reward him profusely but as it turned out it was a weird sort of miss.  Then I got behind on the straight run from 17 to 20 and he took the #12 jump.  I knew this would be a problem when I walked it but I couldn't see much of a way to get ahead.  A rear cross at the #19 tunnel only puts you further behind and when I tried it I got the #11 jump.  I checked out some videos on Youtube and there were at least one or two other handlers with fast dogs that got the #11 jump with the rear or a refusal at #20.   Eventually I realized I had to trust him after the chute and run as fast as I could and finally that did the trick.  A good example of that is here, Rosanne DeMascio's win in the 20" class.  As an aside, she's coming to the Boulder County Fairgrounds to give a seminar on November 19-21.  FRAC members have the first shot at working spots and in the past they've gone quickly so if anyone local or semi-local is interested you might want to consider joining FRAC.  Anyway, she does a nice job of running ahead and keeping an eye on and connection with her dog, something I've been focusing on a lot lately for myself.  I handled the rest of the course almost completely differently from her.  Wish the course was still set up, I'd like to try the double rear crosses she did from after 4 to7.  I did double fronts and it would be interesting to compare.  The handler with the 2nd place run from the same class was behind the tunnel exit when her dog came out of the tunnel but the dog continued on a straight path to the finish.  I'm guessing she used a verbal.  Of the videos I saw of people with fast dogs very few people had success with that sequence if they weren't past the tunnel exit when the dog came out.  This seemed to be the only challenging part of the course and only challenging if you had a really fast dog.  Seems like it tested the handler's physical abilities more than anything.

The set-up at the practice field had the 1-2 jumps a bit to the left of the teeter so 3 to 4 was like a threadle in order to get a good safe approach to the teeter.  I started out with Strum on my right, did forward send to 2 then a little backy-uppy between 3 and 4 to handle the threadle.  A front after 4 and another front after 5.  I handled 8-9-10 like a serp with a rear cross on the flat between 9 and 10 but I didn't like that much.  I was standing around waiting for the rear, could have easily got a front in instead.  A lot of people on the videos did a front between 8 and 9 but I didn't like that option with 8 being a tire and the difficulty of getting in there for a forward motion front cross.  I kept Strum on my right all the way to the #14 tunnel.  A lateral send between 11 and 12 kept him off the #20 jump no problem.  Most people on the videos did a front after the weaves and I'm guessing it's so they could be in position to manage the tunnel-dogwalk turn.  You see this all the time in DOCNA, sometimes in a gamble, so we've practiced this to the point where he's fairly independent and I can get a head start on the dogwalk and trust him to get on the dogwalk and manage his entrance so I stayed to the left of the tunnel entrance and had a nice head start on the dogwalk.  The rest of the course was just a horse race.

This morning I was at the field bright and early in some bad winds to practice the dogwalk.  I don't like putting him on the dogwalk in high winds but they weren't quite to level that I would consider dangerous, more annoying than anything.  Nonetheless I did mostly backchaining from the top of the down ramp so he wouldn't get caught in a gust running full speed.  We did do a couple of full dpgwalks and a few reps of backchaining from further back when the winds seemed calm.

Since the past 4 practices with the dogwalk-tunnel set up have been so unsuccessful (40%-50% success rates) I decided to stand facing the down ramp so he'd shorten his stride and start having some success.  Once I felt he was going to make the contact I turned and sent him in the tunnel.  His success rate for these reps was 100% (or close, I didn't go back to check) and the misses happened when I tried to fade facing him and/or added some movement.  However he did have 3 hits where I was facing the tunnel or not directly facing the walk so he was starting to get the hang of it.  The effect of my location/motion is obvious in the video.

I think what this shows is that I did a poor job of fading the treat gizmo and tossed toys and that the tunnel is a different challenge than a jump.  Yeah, I know, DUH.  But we need to work through this and I think that if he can get this then he's going to have a better understanding of what he's supposed to do.  He's not nearly as sensitive to my position or motion when there's a jump so this is a good way to work on generalizing the behavior.

If I had this to do over I'd introduce obstacles after the plank from the very start of the plank on the ground.  Not during the initial stages of training but after the dog was running the flat plank I'd put a tunnel.  And I'd do it at each stage as well.  I did most of my early training in my backyard and didn't have enough space for a tunnel.  I did put a jump and that's probably part of the reason why he's so much better with jumps.


12/17 (70%) 

Again, I think all the misses were when I wasn't facing the dogwalk but we did have 3 successes with me not directly facing the dogwalk.  I'm going to continue with this next week but also maybe throw in a session with a jump and some tossed toys so we don't forget that.


  1. Hm, the last few tries (when you started doing just the down ramp again) are way too slow for him. I'm sorry but it looks like whatever gains you would get using this method wouldn't translate onto real dogwalk performance without many repetitions (possibly hundreds) in which your movement, his speed & distance from the down ramp are slowly added.

    Or I might be wrong.

  2. Yes, this will take some time to fade. It's going to fall apart for sure when I add in motion more so than anything else. But I'm at a loss for anything else to try.

    On the encouraging side though I was able to fade facing him this morning with some good results. I'll post the video.

  3. Jen and I ran the course at BE's. I started with my dog on my left and wrapped #2 to the right then serped 4-6 (left him on the teeter to move laterally to recall over #5. Sent over #8 and recalled over #9 and FC'd. Lateral send to #11. I FC'd the end of the weaves because I would have just been standing still if I didn't (it was to keep me moving and to get him to drive faster out of the weaves to the tunnel. I FC'd landing side of #5 (closer to the tunnel)so was even with my dog when he exited the tunnel and then cued #20. That worked well for us. The FC was challenging to get but doable.

  4. I assume the wrap at 2 is to get a better line to 3-4-5? Yeah, I think the front between 9 and 10 is the best way. Not sure what I was thinking when I walked it.

    What's the advantage of a front between 18 and 19 vs keeping the dog on the right and running the straight line after the chute?

  5. Because it put me much farther ahead of my dog. I had fully rotated and was near the tunnel entrance when he was over the #18 jump. Also, if the handler was behind when the dog exited the tunnel, the dog would turn in towards the handler. If handler stayed on dog's left, the dog would see #12.

  6. Yes, the wrap to the outside set the better line and he didn't have to change leads.

  7. Hmm, I was able to get much farther ahead without a cross after a couple of tries. I was a third of the way or maybe even half way between 19 and 20 when Strum came out of the tunnel. Surely a cross costs you more time? When I tried it with Strum on the left and was behind he didn't look at 12 but he did take 11 and I know that happened to at least one other person in the videos of finals. And I think another person had a refusal or run-by at 20. I'm just wondering if there's some reason for the cross, maybe because of something between 16 and 19. Even with a front I'd be further behind than if I'd stayed on the other side and ran straight.

  8. Neither Jen or I could keep up with our dogs staying on the left because of having to get around the #6 jump. We both had success doing the FC. I think in your map, the location of #18 is different than it was at the agility field. We both were able to set a direct line to the entrance of the tunnel without having to go around a jump wing (as it would appear in your diagram). We were there early Saturday afternoon right after the course was first set. I wonder if the jumps were moved slightly after we ran it?

  9. I was there Monday morning so who knows what got shifted. I know the teeter was not as shown on the map, it was to the right of jump 3 so I had to handle it like a threadle or risk a horrible entry. I think 18 was slightly more to the southwest of where it's shown on the map. I do sort of remember a slight stagger to the jumps.

    I do remember having to run around jump 6 though. It seems you'd have to run around that wing no matter which side of the tunnel you were on though.

    It occurs to me that I had a lot of time while Strum was in the chute to get around the wing and start running forward down the line so maybe he got hung up a bit in the chute or took longer to get out than Summit & Bode did and/or maybe he had a wider turn to 17 and that's why I had more time. I'm pretty sure I passed the entrance to the tunnel well before he did. I know for sure I was plenty far ahead to cue 20 with no problem. If you look at the video of Rosanne that I posted the link for in the body of the post that's pretty much how I handled 16-20 and I think I was in roughly the same positions give or take a footstep or two.

    The only trouble I had with this strategy with Strummer was when I didn't keep indirect eye contact with him. One one rep. I just turned and ran and he ran past the 17 or 18 jump but I tried again and kept some eye contact with him and he handled it no problem but it was risky for him in that sense. It's also a good scenario for him to knock a bar if I lose contact with him. Was just wondering if there were any other pitfalls you had noticed and that's why you chose the other way.

  10. No pitfalls. Just that our dogs were too fast and although both of us are fast sprinters, we could not beat them to the tunnel exit.

    I think it really has a lot to do with a dog's ground speed. The faster the dog, the less chance of beating them to the end of the tunnel.