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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Course Analysis - Exc. Std, Columbus, OH

Did I mention how much fun OH was?  Oh, of course I did!

Any way, here is the Excellent Std course from Saturday, February 28th.

There were actually two areas that caused some problems and both of them were from handlers assuming their dogs would take the jump and didn't support it.

The first was between #12 & #13 - several dogs curled in as the handler moved forward to #14 before the dog was committed to #13.  Mainly, handlers turned and dogs came with them.  It surprised me and several of the teams out there - many asked me about it on Sunday and I happily answered what I had observed.

I really do like good questions and am happy to help out - when I remember that is

The second portion was after the #16 weaves, the angle to the #17 jump.  Many folks thought the #17 jump was an easy obstacle for the dog and moved on to #18.  However, the poles made a rounded angle to the #17 jump and unless handlers held their position, the dog came off of #17.  Also, I have no doubt that the depressed angle of the #17 jump meant a longer commitment time by the handler was needed.

If handlers turned their shoulders toward the #18 jump before dogs took the #17 jump, the chances of them coming off the #17 jump increased significantly.  Sometimes patience is key and that seems to be one of the hardest things to do when you're used to continuously moving on a course.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Emotions & Training

Emotions - we all have 'em and sometimes they're a blessing and sometimes a curse.  

I'm mentoring someone who, during the course of training their dog, is experiencing a range of emotions. I'll bet you can relate - they started off with their dog acting brilliantly.  Each week the brilliance increased and the dog & handler were having a great time.  Now as the handler experiences success, they expect their young dog to act brilliantly all of the time and at a moment's notice. They've now gone from a euphoric high to a ground-slamming low of disappointment as their expectations have surpassed the dog's ability.

Rather than go into the "Why's" of the situation, I thought it would be good to address the one thing nobody talks about - Training & the accompanying EMOTIONS!

It's natural for our emotions to take over at times. Like when you've just had an incredible agility run with your dog and you're certain you just conquered the world...or there was that equally frustrating run where you were less than pleased with either yourself or your dog....I'll bet you can immediatly blurt out how you felt in those moments.

The first thing I want to say is that emotions are NATURAL!  Like it or not, we live with them in every waking & non-waking moment.  Some of us are more prone to embrace (or be overtaken by) them and some are in denial that their parents passed on the emotion gene (I hate to tell you, but it's there).

Whatever type you are, I suggest preparing for "emotions" to sneak up on you at some point while training your dog.  It's going to happen. 

Unfortunately most coaches don't talk about this side of Agility and who could blame them? Emotions can be sticky, icky, uncomfortable, personal and honestly, not many agility coaches have a degree in Wading Through Emotional Sludge.

Let me say upfront that I've experienced both euphoric and just plain ugly emotions during my 13 year dog career and I'll bet you have too.  Some lessons I've learned the hard way and some lessons I did just right - life is about learning and you'll find yourself learning as you go too. Any way, since many of us commit ourselves to our dogs & to our training financially, physically and with our souls it's natural - and to be expected - that our commitment level comes out in emotions every once in awhile. 

Some handlers try to pretend that they're always positive and this is simply being untrue, unfair and undermining to themselves.  I say recognize & embrace your emotions because it is a part of who you are.  NOW, with that said, that doesn't mean emotions should necessarily run the show and run your behavior - especially if it highlights the inside ugly monster you swore you'd never let out of it's cage!

Seriously, be aware of how you're feeling (happy or not) and if you're not feeling "balanced", are overwhelmed, irratated, disappointed, etc. then stop, chose not to train, don't continue with what was eliciting the negative emotion, concentrate on breathing and resist the urge to replay the bad in your mind and instead chose to focus on things that went well.

Emotions are going to happen and it's our job to recognize them as they occur and if appropriate, immediately move toward an action that relieves any negative feelings - BEFORE we act upon them.

I share all of this because emotions and training do not necessarily go hand in hand.  Training is about our dog, is more factual based and focuses on a goal.  On the other hand, emotions are about US and they are sporadic and often can be unfair and illogical. 

So the next time you go to train your dog, check your emotions at the door (ok, just the negative ones!) and be prepared to focus on your dog and not your emotions.

As always, have fun and enjoy the training!  Oh wait, those are emotions....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why & What Foundation Work?

Today I turn 40, so I might be a bit nostalgic - but I realized that I've been training/competing/teaching in agility for 13 years now!

Last year I got my 5th dog, a Dalmatian I named Rouge (or Ru for short). Since she is now 13 months old it's time to start thinking of agility training beyond puppy concepts. With that in mind, I attended a Foundation Seminar given by my favorite instructor, Stacy Peardot-Goudy. I've been working with Stacy for 12 years now and it's great that she is still my "go to" person.

Why go to a Foundation Seminar:

As I mentioned, I've been in Agility for 13 years, am on my 5th dog and I paid to go to a Foundation Seminar.  Some might ask why?  Well first, no matter how many times I may have heard something, it's always good to be reminded of it again - especially in Foundation work when most of us want to skip on off to the end result. Next, I might learn a great exercise, learn a new tip, be reminded of something I'd forgotten, learn by watching the other young dogs or have a chance to ask a knowledgeable person a question or two and to see their view point on various topics.

But the biggest reason is that no matter how much I've learned or how much I know, it's fun to be the student again!  There is so little pressure. I mean I don't have to prove myself, all I have to do is LISTEN and WATCH (the 2 best ways to learn) and it gives me an opportunity to work & focus on only my young dog.

History of Foundation Training for Me:

When I think back on the 5 dogs I've owned and the journey we've had together, I can see how things -including me - have changed.  My first dog was my FIRST dog ever.  With her, Agility was just coming into the main stream and training was a wing on a prayer (Foundation was never a thought).  

With my second & third dogs, training was better, but both dogs were rescues and there was a ton of "other" baggage that had to be worked through before I could even think about Agility (Foundation Training was called "Obedience").  This is when I also became more interested in behavioral shaping and decided to greatly expanded my training skills beyond the basics and even beyond Agility. 

My 4th dog was brilliant and I could experiment on his agility training and behavioral shaping as much as I'd like because he loved to work and was very high drive. Unfortunately he knew how to push my buttons so the unexpected lessons learned (via the school of Fort Knox!) was to stay calm (even when he was a whirling dervish) and break the training steps down into TINY pieces and TINY time frames so that both of us could be successful. 

This is when I first heard the term "Foundation Training" as it relates to Agility.  A "well known" seminar person said "you need to work on Basic Skills," but when I asked for specifics, they couldn't define them!  I love their theory, but I work much better in reality and so I've since been on a mission to better define all of the skills I've acquired and taught dogs so that I could come up with a definable and relevant Foundation Skill Set & Plan for myself.

Foundation Training Today:

I'm happy to say that before the seminar, I had about 80% of my Foundation Plan formulated in my head and had been actively doing it with Ru over the last year.  After the seminar, I feel I'm 99% there.

After 13 years and 5 dogs, this is the first time I really know EXACTLY what outcome I want when it comes to her agility related performance and I have the hands-on experience to know exactly how to train it.  Maybe I'm a slow learner, but more than likely it's because I've been growing and learning during the last 13 years and now have a solid definition, skill set and a plan for Foundation Training.

What is Foundation Training To Me:

My definition of foundation training is the general & "every day" skills that I teach my dog that can easily be translated into basic agility skills. While these are the ones that are important to ME and since each dog is different, plans may need to be adjusted to take that into account.  

I should note that thanks to Stacy's Seminar, her influence and smart training over the years, there is no doubt she is the master behind this list.  Especially since she is the creator of the Contact Training Method 2-on-2-off, which I have spent a lot of my time playing with and having fun shaping.

My Basic Foundation Skills Plan:
  • Attention - okay, this is Stacy's word.  Mine would have been the sentence "ensuring the dog doesn't zoom around the ring, race off to another county or leave you frantically yelling "come" as you chase the dog down"  However, the point is still the same.  Without you and the dog working together, there is no team work - only frustration and conflicting agendas.
  • Name Recognition - ah, it's so basic and yet there are still dogs out there who don't know their name or more importantly, don't care about their name when there are other exciting things happening!  When naming my current Pup, I knew it had to be a short, fun name. While Rouge is her formal name, it was automatically shortened to Ru and when I call her, it's a fun "Ru-Ru!".  That name gives a positive feeling for both of us since I keep it light and up beat.
  • Play Drive - this is definitely Stacy's word!  Each dog is different and my Dals love their toys, but not in the ring.  I'm sure it's something that I've done (or not done) and this is an unfinished item for me in the plan. Food has been a great motivator for the Dals, but toys were easily used with my Border Collies. Note to self: I need to experiment in make toys a higher paycheck for my Dals in the ring if at all possible.  Second note: Play doesn't have to be about toys - it can be a game of chase, etc. Now that I'm good at!
  • Eye Contact - I just love this one and work hard to share with my students the impact and information eye contact can have on a course.  I encourage my dogs to make eye contact at a start line when appropriate, when I need to be very specific about something (collection, come into my hand to go between obstacles, etc.). It's a powerful tool that most people don't think about.
  • Hand Touch/Lead Hand - Stacy uses Hand Touch, which is the first step to teaching my favorite term, Lead Hand.  The end result is to teach the dog the importance of following your hand cue - a must if you want to make it around an agility course or snake your dog through a crowd.
  • Parallel Path Work (Stacy's name) - Heel & Side (the terms I use).  It's interesting that I learned this skill set wwwaaaayyyy back when after having done quite a bit of obedience work with Pinky (this would have been 12+ years ago). I don't remember what led up to it, but I got the idea that Pinky should learn to work not just on the "heel" but also on the other "side" as well.  I'm not terribly creative with names and "side" stuck.  I worked it various ways and played lots of games with it.  The one detail part that Stacy's seminar definition added (& that I will be incorporating) is that the dog must be parallel to you and not kind of parallel or sitting crooked.  I know I had that with Pinky because of Obedience, but not so sure I would have been that much of a stickler in detail with my new pup - it was a great point to relearn.
  • Verbal Release - Ah, the age old proofing of not moving and using a single word to release the dog from a position.  It's been around for a long time and yet it seems to be one of the hardest to maintain, especially as we begin to compete and potentially forgo the release word in our excitement to be on course.  Yes, I found myself doing this with dog #4 in our very first run.  That was a HUGE mistake and I'm going to have to work HARD at not doing that again .
  • Directional Commands - Some folks can use Right & Left (refers to the dog's right and left), but I am NOT that talented so I tend to focus on relative directional commands such as "Get Out" (means move away from me), "Here" (means move into me), and "Back" (means 180 degree turn).  Other commands you may have heard are Switch, etc.
  • Rear & Front Cross Hand Signals - Defining what your Front & Rear cross signals are is the first step in this process.  After all, if you don't know what you're trying to teach, it won't get taught very clearly to your dog. Details are important on this one and should be done on the flat first.
  • Reinforcement/Shaping - It's important that trainers/handlers know and understand what actions or steps they want and are actually shaping or reinforcing. We may have an idea in our head, but the reality of the situation may not match what's happening. This piece of Foundation Work is for the handler/trainer as it will help in communicating your expectations to your dog.
So even after the hands-on experiences, training, seminars and other education I've received, a Foundation Seminar is still relevant.  I would suggest everyone go with their new dog, even if you know the content it's GREAT to be a student and have fun with your dog.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Course Analysis - Denver, CO 2-17-09

Ah, sometimes watching a course you designed go to h*ll in a hand basket is really painful to watch.  Unfortunately, that was Monday's course and it didn't leave me feeling so happy or proud to be the author.

I'd like to say that after 4 days of trialing, both dogs and handlers were tired - I know I was! While that may be a part of the reason, it was a course I wish I could take back so that everyone got to end on a happier note.

There were two main problem areas (circled in red).  

The first was the opening sequence with the obstacle discrimination of dog walk & tunnel.  That darn tunnel absorbed more dogs than I can count. Since I had the advantage of watching the dogs, most were locked on to the tunnel the minute they landed from the tire and there was no stopping them.  Some handlers over handled and called the dog off of taking the dog walk (so the dog neither took the tunnel or the walk and incurred a refusal).

The other area that caught handlers off guard was the #11 jump.  Coming from the teeter, several people miscalculated the spacing to this jump and incurred refusals as the dog would pass the run out plane and head straight toward the chute.

In hindsight, this was definitely more of a handling course. I also wish folks could have another chance to run it and earn more Q's!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Poorly Executed Front Crosses are...well - garbage!

Excellent JWW Course - Denver, CO

It seems like Front Crosses are the hippest thing in Agility right now and they're popular for lots of good reasons.

  1. If you're ahead of your dog, the theory is they should be running fast to catch up to you (increase in speed means beating the competition or just your personal best).
  2. You can present your dog with the correct path and avoid having them make eye contact with a wrong course option.
  3. If you're ahead of your dog, you can present a change of direction early and on or before take off (again, a speed incentive).
However, it should be noted that a poorly executed front cross usually takes away some of the advantages stated above. I bring this up because poorly executed front crosses caused the majority of issues on today's Excellent Jumpers course, resulting in run-outs, refusals, knocked bars and wrong courses.

The Problem Areas

Jump #5 - MANY handlers took jump #5 for granted and did not support the dog to this jump.  Instead they figured it was a gimme jump and pealed off early in order to execute a front cross in between #6 & #7.  Ironically, quite a few handlers had the same problem with this jump (now #16 on the course) in the ending sequence where they did not support the jump and rushed the finish.

Jump #14 was the other challenge area. Just prior to this jump, most handlers followed the dog down to the end of the weave poles and then did a front cross close to the end of the poles. When handlers came out of the front cross, the wing blocked their path and as they pulled to go around the wing, they inadvertently created a line that sent the dog over #13 and heading toward (or over) the #6 jump.  This was a surprise for me as the #6 jump wasn't even considered an off course option when the course was designed.

Additionally, quite a few people chose to do a front cross between #15 & #16.  Another surprise, to all watching, the downward motion of the handler pushed the dog into the tunnel (since the  handlers were moving in that direction) or if they were able to call the dog away from the tunnel, the dogs made a wide loop and went around the bottom side of #16, incurring a refusal/run out.

I can't help but ask if the almighty front cross was the best option for this course.  While there were some incredible front crosses to be found, by far, the majority didn't take into account the potential effect or direction the handler was giving to the dog.  Was it terrible handling?  Of course not, but part of the fun of watching 250+ dogs is looking for and recognizing the best of the best!

Several folks did utilize rear crosses which required a bit of patience on their part since they had to stand and wait while the dog executed the turns, but it certainly did make for a shorter path and some nice lines for the dog to follow through the course.

Bottom Line

The timely & properly placed front crosses were beautiful. Here are some of my observations on these:
  1. A front cross should be done because you are in FRONT of your dog (I know this seems basic, but you'd be surprised at how many people are coming in from behind....)
  2. A front cross doesn't mean "jump in front of the dog" and then execute the cross - the actual front cross steps can be used to help the handler cross the dog's path.
  3. A front cross does not need to be executed "in the middle of the jump". Depending on the path you want the dog to take and where you're at, a front cross execution can begin at the first jump stanchion.
  4. Think about where in relation to or between the obstacles you want to execute the cross. Where you place your front cross can have an effect on the dog's path. For example, do you want to do your front cross closer to the next obstacle, in the middle of the two, etc.
  5. A front cross should "pull" your dog to the next obstacle and keep it on the appropriate path.
  6. Keep in mind that wings vs. non-wings can play a significant role in potentially executing a successful front cross since they can either open up or block your intended route.
Just some quick thoughts from today's Denver runs.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Agility Class Course - Jan 28, 2009

Details coming soon.

Agility Class Course - Feb 4, 2009

Details coming soon.

FAST Course w/ 2 Send Lines

Want a different type of FAST course?  Here is an approved AKC course with 2 send lines.  It may look a bit strange on paper, but it ran GREAT!

Look carefully and you can see the Red send line between the double jump and the a-frame.  Handlers were allowed to "go in" by the double as they began the send sequence (which was the a-frame, wrap to the tunnel and then out to the double) as the red dotted line was the first send line.

As the dog went into the tunnel on their way to the 3rd obstacle in the Bonus (the 8-pointed double), the traditional send line then became active.

Set this up and give it a try at home, it was successful here in Denver.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Learn By Watching

While there are many things I like about judging, watching the dog & handler teams work their way through the course is by far my favorite.  I always come back from shows with tips, hints and some "don't ever do" thoughts.

Today's Excellent Standard course had 2 interesting challenges that I'll be bringing back to practice.  

The first sequence was #1 & #2 on the course which was a fairly straight tunnel to the weaves.  Of course I should mention there was an off-course dog walk straight ahead of the tunnel that pulled many a dog despite desperate calls from their handler.  What incorrectly signaled the majority of the dogs was the handler's motion.  While handlers were intent on moving toward the poles, they didn't realize that the dog's line of site was the dog walk.  Many handlers were surprised, and some not so happy, when their dog understandably went up the ramp that was staring them in the face.

I want to try this sequence 2 ways:
  1. Using the assumption I have a stay at the start so that I can do a lead out past the tunnel.
  2. Next, using the assumption I don't have a stay at the start so I'm starting with my dog.
You might be wondering "Why?"  Simply put, I ultimately expect my dogs to be able to perform each obstacle regardless of where I am. I also like to train using both motion & verbal cues. After all, sometimes I'm with the dog, sometimes ahead of the dog and sometimes behind the dog.  In any of these situations, I need my dog to take responsibility for the obstacle performance because sometimes I can't be there and sometimes I need to be else where on the course preparing for the next challenge.

The next sequence was 2 jumps and a table.  The sequence was #10 jump to #11 jump, wrap back to the #10 jump (which is now #12) and then wrap to the table.  Think figure 8's with the jumps.

I was very interested to see how this section would run since practicing wraps & crosses (front & rear) using a figure 8 pattern is a basic skill that every dog & handler has probably practiced a dozen or so times.  The trick to this section was that the dog was coming into this sequence with quite a bit of speed.  Keeping that in mind, I designed this section with 21 feet to any off course option, leaving plenty of room for dogs to turn and handlers to manage.

Here's were watching really came into play.
  1. It was VERY interesting to see the difference between well-timed rear crosses and the not so timely ones.  Watching something being done right helps me to capture a visual picture that I can play in my mind, like a mental practice session. This helps me to be more timely in the real world when I'm running my own dogs.  There were some beautiful rear crosses!
  2. Some handlers were very successful using the opposite arm to signal collection over a jump which resulted in a front cross.  What I learned from those that executed this move smoothly was that it was clear they'd practiced this with their dog often and it was natural to them.  Oh yeah, and the obvious - they were in front of their dog .  While on first appearance, the arm may appear to be the cue, I couldn't help but notice that MOTION (slowing down or a lack of motion) was also key. Those that tried to race their dog to get in front only encouraged the dog's forward momentum when in collection and a turn was soon needed.  Another component was the direction a person's shoulders faced (straight ahead signals run and turning in to face the dog is another collection signal).
I'll work to get the course up on my website so you'll have a visual of what I'm referring to.  In the meantime, I have homework to do as I'd like to do some basic work to start preparing my young dog for these types of ques.  Coal and I had the cues down perfectly, but Ru is a different dog with a different body type.  When I eventually get back home, I'll let you know how it goes!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

First Night in Denver....

Well, I didn't meet anyone interesting on the plane trip. I admit, I was more engrossed in designing courses for a surprise assignment I wasn't aware I was engaged for .  These things happen and so I'm playing catch up.

At the moment I sit in a hotel bar, drinking a glass of wine, designing courses on my laptop and I can't help but over hear conversations around the area.

There are a few guys talking about various topics.  They started out discussing cultural differences.  It was a friendly conversation and stayed informative - I was impressed that neither side took a hard stance (especially since I'm certain lots of alcohol is involved).  They then went on to discuss their wives.  Now in a typical bar situation you'd expect it to turn raunchy. I have to say, these guys just love their wives!  They bragged about them, outright said how much they LOVE them and on and on.  Maybe it's the pending Valentine's Day or maybe their just secure with themselves.  At any rate, I was impressed.

You might be asking what the heck this has to do with dog training?  Well, the answer is absolutely nothing.  Bottom line, there is more to life than just dog training (I can't believe I said that out loud).  Any way, balance in your life is important.  If you have a significant other, be sure to pay lots of positive attention to them as well.  I have to admit, dog people really get caught up in our dogs and sometimes neglect the humans that are around us. 

Sometimes I think it's easier to relate to dogs because they're so simple in their needs and really aren't capable of ulterior motives, lying, talking behind our backs and a lot of negative things humans tend to do.  Regardless, we have to remember that part of living life is taking risks and interacting and connecting with the 2-legged race as well.

Ah, just my rambling thoughts....back to courses!

Flying - to Denver

I love flying.  As a kid my father traveled quite a bit for his job and I was lucky enough to go with him on many a trip.  For me, the destinations of the world are only a flight away.

Today I'm in the Seattle airport getting ready to head off to Denver.  This will be a 4-day show, so I'll actually be able to settle into a hotel room for quite a few days.  That also means packing the very large suitcase instead of the smaller carry on that normally accompanies me.  Since this is a breed show, it also means more clothes as I'm required to wear suit jackets, slacks and make-up .  Another change from the dockers that would normally be acceptable!

Judging this weekend means I won't be spending Valentine's Day with my husband and I won't see him or my dogs for a good 5 days (including flying time).  There's always a sacrifice when judging, but there are always good points as well.  Judging is one of the few times that I get time to myself.  Sometimes that's on the airplane designing courses and at rare times I get to spend a bit of time in a hotel hot tub or in the room watching a chic flick.

At any rate, the best part is meeting new people.  I almost always meet very interesting people and I really need to take time to write about them. Some have been:

  • A professional bicyclist on Team 1
  • Professional basket ball & foot ball players
  • Lawyers
  • A lady with a very interesting love story
  • and more
Some are ordinary people with extraordinary stories and some are extraordinary people who want to be ordinary.  In any event, I always learn about myself or others during these trips.

I'll let you know what I learn this time through.

Tully - The Chocolate Lab

I've spent the last 10 days working with a WONDERFUL chocolate lab named Tully.  His owners were off to Hawaii and while they wanted a great place to board him, they also wanted a bit of training for this big boy as well.

Tully's owners got him a few months back from a family that decided they couldn't handle him. I'd suspect he had little prior training and unfortunately, was very over weight as well.  His current owners are wonderful people and this boy has an incredible home.  The owners are very smart, dog savvy, and live on an incredibly dog friendly environment - Tully is a lucky, lucky boy!

Tully's issues were that he jumped on people, pulled his owners while walking, barked very deeply & loudly when he didn't get his way or while very excited.  I should add that Tully is 1.5 years old so he's still young at heart.

The first order of business was to get Tully on a high quality food that would allow him to shed some of those extra pounds.  In all, I suspect Tully needs to loose about 35 lbs.

Next, we allowed Tully to become a part of our household so that his training occurred throughout the day.  Tully was immediately taught what the clicker meant and we shaped a sit to be his default behavior.  We required Tully to sit and wait until released before he could do any behavior such as eat, leave the x-pen, go out the door, come in the door, before we would pet him, before we would put a leash on/off him for walks, etc.  We kept the training sessions very short, 3-5 minutes and they started at 5:30 a.m. (feeding time) and continued until bed time.

Tully didn't train 24/7, I'm a big fan of letting dogs be dogs!  He had a TON of time to run around our acreage with our dogs and they played and played and played!  To see Tully run and jump over the logs as he chased Ru or Burton was really great fun to watch.  Tully also had daily naps and he is a dog that snores!  After running and playing, all of the dogs would lay on the carpet while I did paperwork on the laptop and get in a nice long afternoon siesta - I'll admit that one day I joined them in catching some zzzz's.

Tully took to clicker training very well and as we worked attention exercises (some call it doggy-zen) and recalls, he would get better and better each time.

When I returned Tully to his owners yesterday, he did each task exceptionally well.  There's always a concern that when they return to their home environment that the training they learned elsewhere if a distant memory.  Not for this handsome boy!

I'll be visiting with him and his Mom next week for some additional in-home, issue specific training (he brings back the neighbor's garbage ).  I'm really looking forward to it.

Tully is a wonderful dog and I'll admit, I'm going to miss him in our household!  However, I know he is well loved and taken care of in his current home and I'm lucky enough to be able to visit.  I'm also looking forward to watching his weight come down so we can see that beautiful structure of his!

See you next week Tully!!!!!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Agility Class Course - Feb 11, 2009. Where's the Best Path?

When first looking at this course, the optimal path isn't immediately clear.  As a matter of a fact, it's not clear at all!  

Most handlers put in a pinwheel in the beginning, attempted a push to the jump after the tunnel, maybe a rear cross to the jump prior to the tunnel and on it went.  Lots of fancy foot work and a ton more praying that it would have the desired effect on the dog.

I've attempted to put the optimal path down to the left, the first part is done in red and the second part is done in green.

The goal for this path was to decrease the handler standing time, to decrease the fancy footwork, to increase the dog's speed and clarity of the path being created for them and to keep it FUN.

By starting with the dog on your right, pushing up to the jump after the teeter and immediately working via a straight line down to the tunnel entrance, you're trusting your dog to take jump #4 so the handler can execute a timely front cross at the tunnel entrance.  This path also allows the handler to get down in between jump 6 & 7 for another front cross.

What is key to this front cross is to begin execution as you are in front of the jump up right on the LEFT side of the jump and pull down to jump #7 (don't just "cross" the dog's path as that puts your motion heading toward the wall that the dog walk is on (wrong direction!). In other words, move from the left of jump #6, down to the right of jump #7 in this pattern " \ " and not like this " - ".  Clear as mud?

From the table, push to #9 and then treat 9-11 like a serpentine.  The same with #15 - 17.  Push down to the dog walk contact, don't hesitate to go in a little deep here and then pull back, treating the next few obstacles like a serpentine as well.  Remember to face your shoulders toward the dog and have your hand back behind you indicating the path.  After all, if your shoulders are facing forward, your dog should run parallel with you and not pull into the desired obstacle.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beyond Weaves - the other things

Well, Ru is just starting to come into season and so I haven't been diligent on my weave pole work.  She tends to be very needy the first few weeks and requiring a bit of distance & independent work from her during this time period is just too much for her hormonal brain to embrace.  No problem, there's so many other things to do!

Last week I had planned to start her on the chute (she's confident on tunnels and has been for a long time) and after setting up the chute up I was talking with another student - there went Ru, through the chute, checking it out as casually as possible.  OK, so much for "teaching" it to her - she's a natural.  Good dog!

I did some sequencing with her for the first time and she really caught on to that concept quickly.  I started out working 1 obstacle at a time until I could chain 3-4 together.  I've learned that she is very quick to head off to the contacts - clearly I've made those a worth while obstacle in her mind!  It's funny to watch her because she recognizes them and runs over as if to say "here it is Mom!".  I just stop where I'm at and wait for her to come back to my lead hand of course treat and praise - then go on.  It was neat to see Ru piece together the concept of multiple obstacles.

I've done quite a bit of ground work for front and rear crosses so adding those in was very easy.  of course I would work it through with her and take the time to reward those steps that were on the path to success.  I'm careful to break down each action into tiny steps to help her be successful throughout the experience.  That keeps it fun for both of us!

I just bought a large (3' high) construction cone to work on some additional send & turn work with all of our dogs.  I like this cone because it's tall enough that even the big dogs can't go over it.