Using body motion as pre-cues for tunnels and barrels.

Jake, Lil, and I snuck in one last outdoor trial and weekend in the RV before I need to winterize it.  The brisk fall weather was great for dogs but I’m not so sure about the strong and gusty wind on Saturday.  Jake and Lil didn’t seem too bothered by it though.  And all in all,  it was decent weather for late October in New York.

My personal objective when running agility is to see how well I can communicate the path ahead so my dogs don’t look at off course obstacles or have to slow down due to uncertainty about where to go next.  Many handlers use body and motion to pre-cue turns after jumps and contacts but based on my observations watching teams running NADAC, AKC, and USDAA courses, I am surprised by how few handlers pre-cue tunnels (with body motion) to show their dogs the path AFTER the tunnel BEFORE their dogs enter the tunnel.   IMO, this causes many dogs to slow down a little while in the tunnel and to exit the tunnel looking for their handlers.  Other dogs come blasting out of the tunnel running towards the first obstacle they see and as we all know, once a dog has locked onto an obstacle,  if it is not the correct obstacle, the handler will need to call off her dog.  IMO, if this happens more than once in a blue moon,  it will begin to erode a dog’s trust in her handler and as a result the dog will learn to slow down over time in anticipation of the next call off.

Lil’s Elite Weaver’s course on Sunday had two great opportunities to practice pre-cueing tunnels, which you can see in the video below.  Both of them happened to be front crosses but the same concept can be applied to post turns/ shoulder pulls.

turn_after_tunnel_pre_cue_2(above) photo of Lil exiting the tunnel after pre-cue #2.   Fantastic to see it from this angle.

NADAC is now using barrels in place of C-shaped tunnels (for safety purposes if you were wondering).  I have done a fair amount of training with barrels and have come to see them like tunnels in that they both have an entrance and exit and both cause the handler to disappear from a dog’s sight for a moment.  The HUGE difference between tunnels and barrels is that a tunnel has one entrance and one exit.  A barrel, on the other hand, has one entrance and 180+ exits  🙂 so dogs really need to know BEFORE a barrel, which exit to take to AFTER the barrel… Is the exit a 270, 180, 90 degree turn or is it barely a turn at all.

In Lil’s first Touch N Go course she ran around a barrel twice:  the first time at 0:45 and the second time at 1:00.    I think the video clearly shows that Lil knew exactly which “exit” to take both times.   My intent in pointing this out is not to brag but rather to show the benefit of pre-cueing tunnels…and barrels if you run in NADAC.

On another note, my new pop-up Quechua tent debuted this weekend and I love it.  Even with huge wind gusts, it barely swayed while other tents were flapping like crazy.  It was so convenient to have a ringside tent, especially on Saturday when the trial was running small to tall!  I think I know why the designers made this tent green… because it makes people turn green with envy when they find out this tent in not available in the United States. 🙂

Quechua Base Seconds pop up tent

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Jake and Lil’s had a total blast at their first EGC (Extreme Game Challenge) Trial

Here are a couple of EGC runs from this weekend’s trial.   Jake did a great job running Extreme Hoopers earning a very high score of 93.64.  Lil’s score of 102.29 in Extreme Gaters was the highest score of any dog.  🙂 YEY for both dogs!

In EGC, the score is based on time plus faults: 5 point Q for scores between 50 and 75; 10 point Q for scores between 75 and 100, and a 15 point Q for scores over 100.

With no jumps, contacts, or weave poles to slow them down, dogs can really let loose and run on EGC courses.  I think Jake and Lil will continue to get faster and faster as they gain more experience running around these strange, new obstacles. 🙂

I love that the handler’s job is entirely straight forward… to show her dog “the path” in a timely fashion.  EGC might be the most fun I’ve ever had running agility with my dogs.   The EGC classes at last weekend’s trial were BIG and most people (and dogs 🙂 ) were smiling ear to ear after their runs.   I hope EGC continues to grow in popularity so more local trials offer EGC classes in the future.

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!  🙂