A few of Jake and Lil’s runs at Sharon Nelson’s Seminar and Fun Raiser in Moab, Utah

(above) Lil’s Touch N Go Bonus Box run, April 17, 2015

After 3 days running Jake and Lil during Sharon Nelson’s Seminar, I was curious to see how they would run on the 4th day in a row, especially Jake since I am thinking about running him at Champs which is a 4 day event and he has never done four days of agility in a row.  He did very well at the seminar.  The couple of times he lost focus he quickly got it right back.   However, at the Fun Raiser Trial (day 4), he lost focus and did not come right back.  This was very disheartening for me because we have been working on this issue on and off for most of the 8 years Jake has been part of our family.  I think four days in a row played a role in his not coming right back but I think having more open space around the courses during the Fun Raiser contributed too.   During the seminar, participants tended to sit close to the action to be able to hear Sharon’s feedback.  Once the chairs were removed the arena looked noticeably larger to me and I assume it looked more expansive to Jake as well.  Since Champs is held in a HUGE arena, I am still on the fence about whether I think Jake will be able to stay focused or not at Champs.

As you can see in Lil’s Bonus Box run above, she ran very well on Day 4.  She loved the firm dirt footing in this horse arena.  I did too!   Lil has had a very reliable running A-Frame for a few years now.  The reason I am asking for a stop (4on) is because this A-Frame is 8′ vs. 9′ and she does not automatically adjust her striding so lately I have been playing around with stopped contacts sometimes and running contacts other times (like when the A-Frame is 9′).  So far she does not appear to be confused by mixing things up.

(above) One of Lil’s runs at Sharon Nelson’s Seminar.   Handlers got to pick their own Bonus Box positions.  It was great to be able to look at the course challenges and to determine where I wanted to be to meet those challenges.

(above) One of Jake’s runs during Sharon Nelson’s Seminar.   He had been running  full courses up to that point without losing focus.  But since I wanted Sharon to see what he looks like when he does lose focus, I asked if we could run the course again, which I thought might him to lose focus.  The video shows what Jake typically does when he loses focus.  The feedback I got from Sharon was similar feedback I got from Sue Sternberg many years ago… that Jake is not stressed or demotivated by anything I’m doing.  He was just distracted by something that caught his attention.  If I had to guess what he is thinking it would be something like: “I know where we are going next!”… then “Whats that?”… then “I know where we are going next!” then  “But what was that?” then in this case  “I know where we are going next!”

The thing I need to figure out is how to change my emotional state when he loses focus and does not come right back.   If I can remain emotionally neutral, he responds better than when I stress out about it, which he picks up on and makes the situation worse.  Sharon gave me some good solid advice about what to do when Jake loses focus and I will be doing my best to “keep my head” so Jake can “keep his head.”  Time will tell if I am successful.

(above) Lil running Extreme Barrelers at the Fun Raiser the day after the seminar. She earned a 15 point Q (points are based on the dog’s speed) which earned her Novice Title with an extra 5 points to spare.   Lil has always turned incredibly tight.  You can see how she makes 90 degree turns out of each tunnel and also how tightly she turns around barrels which cut her yardage significantly.

I love running more than one dog.  Jake is a total blast to run when he is ON but its great having a dog like Lil who is ON 99% of the time and super fun to run too.  Lil helps me keep everything in perspective.

Lil earned her Versatility NATCH at Mountain Dog Sports Trial, February 27, 2015

Lil's V-NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.

Lil’s V-NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.

(above) Lil’s Versatility NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.   It was cool that Lil earned this Championship Title under a judge who knew us from the East Coast.

I didn’t feel any pressure about this run being for Lil’s V-NATCH, because Lil runs Weavers courses well.  The only reason we lacked Elite Weaver’s Qs is I tend not to enter this class when it is offered late in the day on Sundays, which seemed to be fairly common on the East Coast (this is not a complaint though). I just personally prefer to run Elite Weavers (3 sets of 12 poles) with a fresh dog.   But since moving to Colorado in July, I’ve found many trials offer Weavers on Fridays, so we were able to get 8 needed Elite Weavers Qs (for a total of 13) over the past 6 months.

(above) Lil’s Versatility NATCH run at Mountain Dog Sports on Friday.

Elite Weavers was the first class of the trial.   Lil was acting tentative outside the ring so I ran this course with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, thinking Lil would appreciate feeling that type of energy to avoid feeling bogged down by the soft, deep dirt or feeling concerned about the environment which smelled strongly of horse poop and pee (Yucko).  Lil got her Boogie On about half way through the first set of poles and finished well under SCT.  She ran incredibly well all weekend long, Q-ing 11 of 14 runs and as usual the few NQs were due to handler errors.  I was (and am) so happy because this was the first trial at this site where Lil felt like her confident little self.  🙂

(above) Lil running Elite Touch N Go on Saturday

By Day 2 of the trial, Lil felt entirely confident when entering the horse arena. The tentativeness I felt on Day 1 and at previous trials at this site was gone.  I loved how tightly she wrapped the hoop and barrel. If you watch her wrap the hoop, you can see she was so tight, she had to hop over the timer foot.  🙂

(above)  Lil running Elite Regular on Sunday

This is one of my favorite runs of the weekend BECAUSE we NQed early on.  The turn after the dog walk seemed so easy on Round 1, that I took it for granted on Round 2. I guess I forgot it was easy on Round 1 because I handled it vs. stood there facing the tunnel while watching Lil run into it. Duh!  But as a result of this early off-course tunnel, I decided to run the rest of the course from a self-imposed handling box. Lil aced it…and she looked like she LOVED the distance.  🙂

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 1 on Sunday

Having recently participated in Paula Goss’s Advanced Distance workshop, I knew exactly how I wanted to handle Chances courses this weekend.  I knew WHERE I wanted to be, and WHEN I wanted to be there to show my dog the correct path ahead.  I handled Round 1 and 2 the same way with Lil and Jake and both dogs ran the course beautifully.

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 1

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 2

(above) Jake running Open Chances Round 1

I made the same mistake with Jake both rounds and pulled him off a hoop but I was so happy with how well he ran this course both rounds.  This was a tough weekend for Jake.  He found the temptation of huge mounds of horse poop along the one side and the back of the arena to be too much to resist on about half of his runs.   But on Sunday, I only lost him to horse poop on one run.

(above) Jake running Open Chances Round 2

(above) Lil running Elite Chances on Friday

The Chances course on Friday was one of the most challenging courses I’ve encountered.  There was only one Q in the entire Elite class.   Lil didn’t Q due our only missed dog walk / tunnel discrimination of the weekend, but I loved how well she ran the uniquely challenging portions of this course.  The coolest thing for me was that I knew exactly WHERE I wanted to be to send her out to 2 jumps after the second tunnel….which was as far away as possible from the tunnel exit when she emerged.  My plan worked beautifully.

Another challenge I felt really good about was the left turn after the first tunnel.  Once again, I knew WHERE I needed to be.. and WHEN I needed to be there in order to pre-cue that left turn before Lil ran into that first tunnel.  Plus she totally aced running through the “box” in the center of the course twice.  The first time was straight through 2 hoops to the far entrance to the purple tunnel.  The second time was from the exit of the purple tunnel OUT to the jump.

(above) Jake’s Open Chances Q on Friday

Jake Q-ed this very challenging Chances course in Open, which was particularly challenging for him due to the proximity to huge mounds of horse poop in that area of the ring.   I almost lost him twice.  The Q was saved by the Open line having a narrow channel in which the handler could walk in front of the tunnel, which helped me coax him back into “working mode.”

Jake’s contacts were PERFECT all weekend long.  So were his tunnel/ contact discriminations.  There were many things to feel good about which helped balance out numerous Es due to Jake wolfing down huge mouthfuls of horse poop.   SIGH.  Good thing we don’t need no stinkin’ Qs.   HA HA and true!

A few of Jake and Lil’s runs at NADAC Trials in Arizona

What a nice break from winter we all had in Arizona attending 2 NADAC Trials and a 3-day distance workshop with Paula Goss, which I’ll be writing about in a separate post.

Here are a few of Jake and Lil’s runs.  They both ran so well on turf and stayed perfectly clean.  What a nice change of pace from running in horse arenas around Boulder.

(above) Lil Elite Jumpers Bonus Box

Lil ran a great Jumpers Bonus Box course on February 1, which happened to be her 6th Birthday. I could not be more proud of her.  She ran with full confidence and really nice speed. Feel free to MUTE the audio. I was a total blabber mouth but Lil is used to me doing that and ran really really well in spite of it….. or maybe because of it (GASP)!

Too bad I didn’t believe we’d make it through a couple of tricky turns when I walked the course because had I formulated a handling plan for that last turn away from me towards the closing line, I may not have been SO LATE and I think Lil might have gotten it.   In the future, when my handling fails, I hope I can resist the temptation to jump in and finish the course running with Lil.   I need to remember I can just take a few steps and continue working at a distance.  Regardless, I feel GREAT about this Bonus Box attempt and based on the huge round of applause and YAHOOing Lil earned, I think our fellow competitors agreed.  🙂

(above) Jake Open Touch N Go

Jake’s new 4-on contacts were stellar and he earned his Open Touch N Go Title.  The only time he didn’t stick a contact was when a disconnect occurred between us earlier on course.  He still hit within the contact zone but since stopping 4-on is now part of our criteria, I asked him to return to a 4-on once as a test.  It seemed to have a calming affect on him.  After a brief pause and praise, I released him and he appeared completely centered, reengaged, and I could tell he did not perceive it as punishment.  If I had to guess, he experienced it as a reset (physically and mentally) and he finished the course running beautifully.  I wish I had a video of that run.

(above) Lil Elite Touch N Go

I have been playing around with asking for 4-0n the A-frame with Lil but after seeing her response at this trial, or should I say lack of response over the first two A-frames at our first trial since training a 4-on, I decided I didn’t like it for her.  I think her long history of running over A-frames trumped her short history (under a month) of stopping 4-on and I really didn’t like how it caused her to shorten her striding down the A-frame which made her dismount higher.  So instead of trying to “make her stop” and potentially creating an issue with Lil and the A-frame, I decided to just say GO ON like I always have and she went back to her typical style of running over A-frames.

For the record, the only reason I had contemplated switching Lil from running to 4-on was because NADAC trials can have 8′ or 9′ A-frames and Lil doesn’t automatically adjust her striding when she goes from 9′ (at trials around Boulder) to 8′ (in Southwest Colorado and at Champs).   A stopped contact would have saved us the hassle of needing to train a few sessions on 8′ A-frames before we encounter those shorter A-frames in trials.. and at Champs, which is not convenient since I don’t have an 8′ A-frame.  Oh well.  Its not the worse thing in the world.

(above) Jake Open Weavers

I almost scratched Jake’s last two runs after he lost focus on a Chances course mid-day.  I thought he was mentally done but I’m glad I changed my mind because he finished up the day with two fantastic runs, including this Open Weaver’s course.  Jake has a bunch of Open Weaver’s Qs.  The reason I have not moved him up to Elite is because I don’t think he needs to weave three sets of 12 poles and Open Weavers has two sets of 6 and only one set of 12.

(above) Lil Elite Weavers

Too bad the video starts mid-course because Lil ran the opener super fast and weaved the first set of poles much faster than she has been weaving lately.  I have wondered why her weaving has slowed down this past year.  Is it mental?  physical?  emotional?  Or maybe its due to weave pole bases being a little wider than the poles we train on at home.  Regardless, I was very pleased with how well she ran this course.

(above) Jake Elite Tunnelers

Jake has been running so well lately, I ran him very similar to the way I ran Lil in Tunnelers and Weavers… just a few feet less in terms of distance but the same basic handling.  YEY Jake!

(above) Lil Elite Tunnelers

Lil ran this course beautifully with me mostly staying inside a self-imposed Handler’s Box.  I lost my nerve while leading out and released her before I got to my intended position but other than that, I stayed in my box, and Lil ran with full confidence. YEY Lil!

It was so much fun to run agility outdoors and to reconnect with friends from Champs and Yellowstone Dog Sports. Plus I love having Sarah Fix as a judge.  She always creates such a fun, upbeat vibe and this trial was no exception.  Also agility folks in Phoenix are very welcoming.  We’ll be back next winter for sure.

 

 

 

 

I Want a Do Over !

Jake, Lil and I attended our first trial in Colorado last weekend, hosted by “Dog Agility of the Pikes Peak Region” (DAPPR).  The site was gorgeous and everyone was so nice and  friendly, it made for a very fun weekend.

I think this might be the first time I attended a trial with “real” grass vs. what we call grass in the NE.. which is more like cut grass-like weeds.    Plus this was the thickest grass I’ve even seen.  Lil had to really work to plow through it, which slowed her down quite a bit (as evidenced by her YPS) but that didn’t seem to dampen her spirits too much.

Lil ran a whopping 14 courses, and attempted 4 bonus boxes.  No Bonus Qs but she ran very well all three days Q-ing 9 of 10 non-bonus runs.

Jake also had a great weekend.  He Q-ed 6 out of 9 runs but more importantly his start line stays were impeccable.    I had really let them slide over the past couple of years (for no good reason) and decided a few months ago to get Jake’s SLS back on track.

Sharon Nelson demonstrated a fantastic Start Line Stay game at her Distance Seminar at Yellowstone Dog Sports in July which I now play here and there at home and last weekend I played the game before each of Jake’s runs and it worked brilliantly.  I had no question that he would stay and when released he blasted off the start line.

Now onto the main topic of this post:  Why I want a do over.   I screwed up and said OVER LEFT when I should have said OVER GO ON and blew what might have been a successful Bonus Run with Lil.  Here is my excuse :)….  I was mentally and physically exhausted.  Its been a long time since I ran 2 dogs at a 3 day trial.. up to 9 runs a day to boot.  Plus the site was very large so all the treks to my tent, RV, bathrooms, ribbon tent, and 2 rings took its toll on me.

But actually the “do over” I wish I had was not related to the actual run… although I would love to run that course again someday to see if we could have gotten the bonus from behind that tunnel.  But my bigger wish for a do over was based on a short conversation I had immediately following that run.

A fellow competitor came up to tell me that her instructor encourages her students NOT to use verbal directionals (left and right) because people make mistakes with them.   My response (while having a post-run party with Lil) was “I rarely screw them up.”  What I wished I had said was:  “I rarely screw them up….but when I do, my dog doesn’t know I screwed up because I follow through as though everything went perfectly well.  Granted I was a total bumbling idiot with my directionals in the opening sequence of this particular run, but Lil didn’t seem bothered by even this extreme level of confusion on my part, as evidenced by her confidence and speed… and this was the 2nd to the last run on day 3 so I think we were both tired.

(above) the video that shows my bumbling idiot moment in the opener.  At 0:40 seconds, I redeem myself re: verbal skills and Lil does a great job with what I considered to be the trickiest part of the course.. an interesting serpentine-like distance challenge.

Even with an occasional mistake using LEFT and RIGHT, I think the benefits far outweigh the negatives for me and my dogs.. not that I’m suggesting everyone should use LEFT and RIGHT.   I personally love that there are as many different ways of handling as there are different types of handlers!

 

Thinking (and working) outside the box

Box set up, June 29, 2014What a fabulous early morning backyard training session we had this morning.  The weather was perfect and the grass was freshly mowed.  The set up included one more hoop to the left and I started some reps running my dogs down the DW ramp off the set of steps to the left of the out-of-frame hoop (if this makes sense) so they entered the box at full speed.

I tend to set up symmetrical sequences so I can work with dogs on my right and left without needing to reset any obstacles. I really liked this particular set up for testing how well my dogs respond to my body language (upper and lower body cues) for GO ONs, LEFT and RIGHT turns by using a box consisting of 4 jumps surrounded by hoops.  I stayed well outside of the box (at positions like the 2 red Xs) in order to test distance skills while layering other obstacles.  Boxes sure are great for proofing handling at a distance since they provide very tempting off course options.

Lil totally aced the GO ONs through the box…..super fast, 100% confident, and not even a tiny glance at the off course obstacles. Lil’s OUT skills (turning away from me) were also stellar.  The only skill we/ I did not ace the first rep was OVER RIGHT (turning towards me)  when I just used a dramatic shoulder pull.  So the next rep, as Lil approached the first jump in the box,  I took a couple of small steps backwards while rotating my upper body and feet to face the path ahead and she totally GOT that I wanted her to turn towards me…. and she did it at full speed and with 100% confidence.  No question about it.

I also did some reps sending her through the 4 hoops around the perimeter of the box while I took just a single step to push on her line when needed (along with appropriate body rotation). That was quite challenging since 3 of the hoops were quite close to the edges of the yard but Lil GOT all 4 of them after a couple of tries.

Jake was also super fast, confident, and aced the GO ONs but when I send him ahead, he tends to think he knows the course based on whatever he did the last rep.  He had a blast and so did I but since I don’t plan to do BIG distances with Jake at trials… I am not worried about his creativity 🙂  when I am not using motion (running with him) as my primary cue!   Jake is such a fun dog to run!

Compared to just one month ago, I feel so much clearer about how to best use physical body cues for distance handling thanks to the ongoing guidance and feedback from my good friend Lynn Smitley.   She showed me my NEW backing-up “dance move” at our last trial and it worked perfectly to turn Lil towards me off a beckoning tunnel straight ahead which was part of the distance challenge in an Elite Chances course, which Lil aced.  This cue is so effective it has to be a natural cue for dogs.  Today’s session seemed to confirm that.

Below is a link to a video of Lil’s 2nd and 3rd ever BONUS BOX attempts and the Elite Chances run I referred to.

Lil’s 2nd and 3rd Ever Bonus Box runs at NAE NADAC Trial last weekend plus a couple of Jake’s runs.

Lil and I attempted a few Bonus Box runs at last weekend’s NAE NADAC trial. She ran incredibly well all weekend long. I had no idea she was capable of running entire courses with these types of distances and challenges. I see I have some work to do to be a better handler but I could not be more proud of Lil!

Here are a couple of Jake’s runs from last weekend’s trial. He is such a fun dog to run! So YAHOO!