Filling Holes

Video Link if video screen above is not visible: https://vimeo.com/104427017

At Sharon Nelson’s Distance Workshop last month, I realized Lil and I had a few holes to fill re: working at big distances.   One was sharp turns (pushes) away from me after the weave poles and contacts (with me at lateral distance and with a discrimination straight ahead).  With Champs coming up, I decided it would be fun…. and worthwhile to fill the  training holes I am aware of, knowing there are surely more holes that will appear as we attempt more and more bonus boxes down the road.   Since I don’t have access to contacts right now,  I decided to start by working on sharp turns away from me after the weave poles.

On a side note, my weave poles (Versa-Weaves) allow me to leave a slightly open channel so I can do more reps than I would with straight-up poles.  I also only used 6 vs. 12 poles because the focus of this session was on exits and not weaving itself.

I was (and am) very pleased with how well both dogs responded to pushes after the poles to the far hoops.  I can see room for improvement with my timing but one thing I noticed with Lil is I can say WEAVE RIGHT or LEFT before she enters the poles and she seems to know that I mean “weave ALL the poles and then turn right or left” and she does not pop out of the poles.   I repeated RIGHT or LEFT at the moment her nose crossed the plane of the last pole so I’m not sure if she is thinking about the verbal pre-cue while she is weaving but it certainly didn’t appear to hurt.. and who knows… it might actually help her anticipate an upcoming turn.  Time will tell.

Jake blew me away with his enthusiasm and I loved seeing how far he was willing to drive ahead of me. His confidence is so much higher than it was even a month ago and as a result, I am asking for more and more distance.  I think he is diggin’ it as much as Lil.  What a GOOD BOY!

One last thing…..I’m starting to do something new with both dogs when working at bigger distances.  I  will sometime ask for a WAIT and then redirect them to the correct path vs. always letting them run the path they are committed to running, even if it is not the path I had intended.   The reason I had previously let them continue on was to instill full confidence when working away from me but at this point I think both dogs are confident enough that I can ask for an occasional WAIT and redirect when practicing skills that are within the realm of what they know or just slightly more challenging.  I don’t have a strict rule about when I ask for a WAIT but I only do it occasionally since I think if I interrupted their flow too often they would become cautious when working at bigger distances.

So far, so good.   Both dogs appear to have great attitudes before, during, and after the occasional WAIT and redirect.

 

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Three runs from Skyline’s NADAC trial on May 19, 2013

Jake stumbled on the up ramp of the A-Frame at a NADAC trial a week ago, so I decided that it would be in his best interest to take a break the A-Frame for a while just to be on the safe side.   He seems totally fine in his day-to-day life but I am fairly certain his on-again, off-again issue over the past couple of years has likely been his right wrist.  Looking back, I can recall seeing him stumble like he did on the A-frame when running or jumping a few times over the past couple of years.

Since I had already signed up for one day of Skyline’s NADAC trial, I scratched Jake’s Touch N Go run and just ran him in Tunnelers and Chances.  His Tunnelers run was fantastic. He is running better than ever with a perfect combination of speed and focus.  He beat Lil by over 2 seconds in Elite Tunnelers (my notation on Lil’s Tunnelers video is incorrect).  He also did a great job running Open Chances.  I have that run on video but unfortunately he was the second dog on the line for Tunnelers which ran first thing in the morning, so I did not have time to ask someone to video tape Jake’s run.

Lil earned 4 Qs and her running contacts were absolutely perfect.  Even though she is running well under Standard Course Times in Elite,  she continues to feel less than 100% confident.  It was not too apparent in Tunnelers but it became more obvious in her Standard runs.  I don’t know if it is psychological or physical but I suspect there is at the very least, a psychological component because Lil has been acting a little strange for the past few months.   So my plan for the next couple of weeks is to take a little break from agility and see how she looks and feels after a little time off.

Overall, I feel so good about how well both dogs are running yet I know that nothing ever stays the same when it comes to dogs and agility… and life in general… so I’m trying to enjoy this experience as much as possible.

Camped out at an agility trial last weekend. What fun!

jake_and_lil_ribbons from last weekend's trialI just returned from a weekend of camping at an agility trial in my -75 VW Bus.
Jake had his best weekend ever: 100% Q rate for 4 runs on Friday and 100% Q rate for 4 runs on Saturday. Plus he earned 2 new titles (Chances and Weavers). He ran with incredible pizazz and speed all weekend long. Every run was between 4.4+ and 4.7+ YPS.  GO JAKE!

A few of Lil’s highlights: She had her fastest time ever on an Elite Standard course @ 4.65 YPS and 4.4 YPS on the other 3 Elite Standard courses.  Her running contacts were 100% all weekend and she had her fastest time to date on a Touch N Go course @ 5.16, which was also the fastest time of any dog (all sizes).  Plus 4.0 YPS and 4.2 on Elite Weavers (3 sets of 12 poles). Lil also earned 2 titles (Elite Touch N Go and her Elite Regular Superior title). GO LIL!

Other highlights: My 38 year old VW Bus started up every time and ran super well…just like Jake and Lil (HA HA). It was so fun and relaxing to camp at Sugarbush farm vs. commuting back and forth.

"Home Sweet Home" 1975 VW camper at a NADAC TrialPhoto above is not from this trial but this is a typical camping set up.

Besides all the run we had in the agility ring, I also had a great time hanging out with friends. I am starting my week feeling relaxed, then entirely ready to tackle the big project of packing the art work shipping to Luxembourg for my solo exhibition in June.

Another super fun NADAC trial!

Last weekend, we went to a local NADAC trial and totally lucked out in terms of weather.  No rain at all… and this was just one day before Tropical Storm Sandy was due to hit our area.

Highlights for Lil include BRILLIANT running contacts all weekend long.  🙂   She had incredibly low hits on the A-Frame and her new running dog walk looked better than ever!  She also ran her first ever Elite Weavers course (3 sets of 12 poles) at 4.14 YPS and even did one set of poles 20-25-ish feet away from me (no video :().   Lil is now running ELITE in all classes except for Touch N Go, where she needs just one more Open Q.   This is pretty remarkable considering she only did a couple of days of NADAC when she was 18 – 20 months, and just started doing NADAC again in June 2012.

Jake also had a great weekend.  It was very windy on Sunday, which makes him higher than a kite, but he kept his head and ran well and fast both days.  Highlights include his fastest Jumpers run to date at 5.14 YPS.  🙂  He also had a lot of really nice moving contacts, which I am very pleased with since we have just begun playing around with them vs. 2o2o.  The thing I’m most proud of is that I was able to call Jake back around to take a few missed obstacles and he stayed totally engaged and happy.   I used to have to keep on going or I’d lose him.  Jake’s resiliency has really skyrocketed this past year. 🙂   We also had a funny moment after Jake’s 4.27 YPS Weavers run when a friend complimented me on how great Lil always runs.  I had to point out to her that it was Jake, not Lil!  YEY Jake!

I could not be prouder of Jake and Lil!  🙂

Jake and Lil’s NADAC trial last weekend at Sugarbush Farm

Jake is back! 🙂  after taking a few months off due to a soft tissue injury.  He ran incredibly well and his focus was unwavering the entire weekend.  I could not be more proud of him.   His jumping style started off looking a bit YAHOO 🙂  but by the time his Standard run rolled around on day 2 (the 3rd run on the video) he had settled into a nice rhythm  and was jumping efficiently (like he does at home).

A few of Jake’s runs:

Lil had another spectacular weekend.   She is in Elite in most classes now and her YPS are continuing to increase so its more fun than ever to run with her.   Her Elite Standard run on Saturday was 4.46 YPS (with 2 A-Frames) and on Sunday it was a whopping 4.78 YPS.  Too bad I didn’t walk the closing on Sunday and thus did not support the last hoop.  I don’t think I’ll make that mistake again!

A few of Lil’s runs:

Camp Gone to the Dogs

Jake and Lil’s Freestyle Demo

Bev Blanchard is an amazing Freestyler, instructor and choreographer.  We took 3 private lessons with her at camp, through which she helped us develop a freestyle routine from scratch.  On Thursday, after our final lesson, we discussed everything we had worked on, and I remember thinking that I wished I had a few weeks vs. one day to practice before performing the routine for the first time. 🙂

I decided it is kind of crazy to try to develop an entire freestyle routine in 4 days of camp to then perform in on the 5th day.  So I plan to continue to refine this routine over the winter vs. starting a new routine from scratch every year at camp.  I hope to add some cool tricks that did not make it into this routine in place of tricks that didn’t look as dynamic as I’d like and develop each dog’s solo routine to really highlight what makes each of them so special.

I’m so glad Bruce captured most of the routine on video because  I learned something very important.   I had not realized that my body language was the same for some new tricks AND old tricks so that my dogs needed to rely solely on verbals to know which trick to do at times.   Lil seemed fine with the verbals but I think my vagueness in terms of motion and body position contributed to  Jake’s loss of focus at times….on top of  performing in such a  “well seasoned” ring filled with treats from a week of camp! 🙂   I also think Jake might do better with fewer treats during the routine.   He seemed to lose focus briefly after each treat!    And the other reason it is good to have video, is that things don’t look nearly as bad as they sometimes feel…like Jake’s sniffing!   I actually think he looked kind of cute!

Clips from the agility ring.  Lil’s new running dog walk looked really good all week-long.  It’s the first time she worked on turns after the dog walk (since we have only been doing NADAC lately).  She nailed every single one.   Oh and Siliva Trkman is right as she always is when she said “If you train a running dog walk, you get the A-Frame for free.”   Since I switched Lil from 2o2o to a running dog walk, her A-Frames are looking great!…. nice low hits and great speed even with a tight turn after!

After 2 months off from agility (due to a soft tissue injury), Jake looked great at camp!  He had nice soft landings with every single 2o2o on the A-Frame, and really nice speed!  He looked like he was having a blast too.  I took it easy with him and only ran him a little but I think he is feeling good!  YEY!

Some of Lil’s runs at NAE’s NADAC Trial last weekend in Dummerston, VT

The weather was less than ideal but we still had a great time.  Lots of rain on Friday and Saturday and then hot and sunny on Sunday but Lil ran beautifully all weekend long.  13 of 17 Qs and 4 new titles, impressive YPS and a nice consistent performance with her NEW running dog walk.  After just a few weeks of training on a plank, she did not miss a contact all weekend long and most of the hits were nice and low in the contact zone.

I also experimented with more rear crosses and Li really seemed to enjoy them.  I also see that I don’t need to rush and race her to the finish line as that causes her to feel rushed and her jumping becomes less efficient as a result.  As the weekend progressed, I felt I was handling more and more in a style that truly supported Lil’s ability to do her job well.

Lil’s running dog walk at NADAC trial last weekend

I couldn’t be more pleased with how good Lil’s running dog walk is looking!  Just one high hit (but still in the contact zone) and many very nice low hits.  She clearly understands the criteria. YEY!

I’ll be posting some of her runs in a day or two.  She ran fast and confidently all three days  and earned 4 new titles and 13 Qs!

Great progress with extension jumping!

For the past four months, I’ve been focusing most of my attention on Jake and Lil’s  jumping.   I have seen very good progress in the backyard so I felt it was time for the ultimate test… a NADAC trial.   NADAC is a great venue for testing jumping skills because the courses are fast and the jumps are spaced at a whopping 21′ which is five full strides between every jump for my dogs.  It has been a long time since I have gone to a NADAC trial, so I had forgotten how much fun they are for dogs and people.  We all had such a great time, I’m going to another NADAC trial this coming weekend!

Jake has always dropped his head and shoulders before jumping, but his jumping at this trial looked comfortable for him and his striding between jumps looked nice and even.  BTW, my sweetie-pie Jake has come a long ways in terms of staying in the game.  I was very proud of him!   I didn’t get a video of his Open Tunnelers run but he Q-ed it and he can get very WHOO HOO running Tunnelers, especially first thing in the morning.

OK. This was NOT my best handing on either video! 🙂  NADAC courses are so different from USDAA courses, that it took me most of the day to get my timing down and to stop calling Lil into handler focus when I didn’t need to….most apparent in Tunnelers.

Lil and Jake both felt very confident when jumping!   The person video taping zoomed in a lot for their jumpers runs, but you can get the general idea of how fast they were running and how well they were jumping!   All in all, there were just a few earlier-than-ideal take offs throughout the day and no dramatic launches by either dog! Oh and Lil got 4 of 4 Qs and 4 blue ribbons,  Jake got 2 or 4 Qs and 2 red ribbons and I wasn’t really trying to Q.

A couple of days before the trial, it occurred to me that I should run my dogs over a few 21′ spaced jumps since that is much wider than what we usually practice. This video is just of Lil, but Jake managed the spacing very easily too.

Weave pole entries, sends to tunnels, and a lot of fast running

Below is a video of Lil’s 4th session working on Silvia’s weave pole challenges and I am amazed at how much she has improved!  Using channel weaves makes so much sense.  Lil did more reps in this one session than she normally does over a 6 month period with no strain on her body whatsoever.

We also did SENDs and GO ONs with a tunnel and mixed in some weave poles.  My matting is too slippery to work on tight turns to FCs or post turns but that is OK because GO ONs are just what both of my dogs need right now to find a better balance between handler and obstacle focus.

Throwing a ball as a reward has increased Lil’s speed and drive considerably.   Lil has always loved to chase balls and fetch.  I can’t believe I had this “speed tool” in my tool bag all along and wasn’t using it!

LoLaBu on March 8, 2012 at 13:08

Silvia’s response to my video: That’s sure really great progress already! Looks like she figured out what this game is about! And yes, I also think go is more important as come at this point. And she sure seems to like it! Really great distance skills with tunnel sends and some really cool entries!

ps–I am only uploading videos of Lil right now because I am posting them as part of Silvia’s Foundations class.   But I am also video taping and reviewing Jake’s performances.  He is not being neglected and is doing very well too!

An another note, I am I am taking a few days off from training “Loop and Wrap” since my yard is now thawing out and very wet.  Plus I think taking a few days off from working on any skill is good especially if a snag occurs.

A couple of days ago, I had a brilliant idea….or so I thought at the time.  I would do a short “Loop and Wrap” session in the bedroom to provide a new environment and I would rig up an impromptu jump with a tiny base so Lil wouldn’t have to hop over long support bars.  The new jump consisted of a 2′ tall PVC pipe that Lil would wrap around, a partially deconstructed wing on the far side, and a 2′ long PVC bar set at 4 inches.  I think the combination of a new environment and the strange mini-jump opened up a can of worms.  Lil started hitting the bar with her back legs so often that I wondered if she thought we were playing “touch that object with your back feet” game which she likes to play.  She even tried stopping while straddling the bar once and looked at me with an expression of “Is this what you want?”

OMG.  How did this happen?  Well, I have been saying YES when Lil approaches the wrap, thinking I was marking the commitment point and the set-up step.  But I think my timing contributed to Lil’s confusion because I was saying YES before she cleared the bar, so I was marking both clearing the bar and hitting the bar.  I play a lot of shaping games with my dogs and so when Lil happened to hit the bar a couple of times in a row and I had already said YES, I think that she thought she was supposed to touch this strange apparatus with her back feet and proceeded to do so consistently for a few more reps.

Bob Bailey is so right when he said: “What you click (or mark) is what you get!”  Of course, at the time I didn’t fully recognize what was going on so I ended the session and brought Jake in for his turn.  Jake had no trouble generalizing that this was a jump and that he was supposed to jump it.  Whew!  Anyway, I finished by taking Lil out to a dry spot in the yard and did a short “Loop and Wrap” session around a pole to end on a positive note.  I think  taking a few days off from “Loop and Wrap” will erase Lil’s memory of that strange little “shaping” session!