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.
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.