Thursday, December 30, 2010

Lexi weaving (1.5 months in)

We've been working Lexi's weaves the past few days, but as I mentioned, she didn't get much training over the holidays (we were out of town for 2 weeks).  That being said, she is back on track and we are now down to just one wire on each end to help her get her entrance.

We did try her on the "real weaves" at the field, and it was no good.  It definitely didn't translate.  We will be keeping her on these two wires for a few more days until she gets it without making a mistake.  In this video, you can see her pop out twice.


The shelties saw their first real snow a few weeks ago in Virginia.

As a fun post, here's a video I made of them enjoying themselves.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Update

Just had to post that we're still here...just traveling quite a bit for Christmas.

We did bring the weave poles with us for Lexi's training, but it hasn't been going well.  First, it snowed while we were in Virginia, so that made training impossible.

Then, we brought them to the beach, but the ground is very uneven, so Lexi has really been struggling.  We even cut it down to 6 poles to just work on them all the way closed, and she has struggled.  I don't know if it's better for us to stop training since we might be messing her up, or some training (even if she struggles) is better than none.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pals and Paws December Trial

This past weekend was our first trial with Pals and Paws.  We know several members (who often come up to Charleston for our trials), and it was very nice.  It was our first time indoors, and on dirt.  I don't think Bentley was fazed at all.

Lexi spooked a little at the sound of the teeter (she didn't get on, but watched quite a bit).  We made sure to feed her as it banged until she relaxed.  It didn't take long once she realized I had treats.

Had a decent weekend.  It's tough when you lack one particular skill that keeps you from qualifying time and time again (dogwalk).  I know we really shouldn't move up to Masters without being able to complete the dogwalk, but it is frustrating being in Advanced Standard and needing just 1 Q for so long.

Advanced Gamblers:

Of course Bentley uses his one awesome contact on the dogwalk for gamblers, when it doesn't really matter!  He doesn't get the gamble, and I didn't think it looked that hard.  That is a skill that we need to work on--a straight line of jumps that are slightly askew.

Grand Prix:

I was particularly happy with this run.  A LOT of dogs had a trouble with it, and there weren't many Qs.  Luckily, our little dog is so handler focused that the potential off courses were no trouble for him.  However, his handler focus mode also caused him to incur a refusal at the tunnel, his only mistake the whole run.

Advanced Pairs--Q:

Not sure how we Qd on this one.  Jonathan didn't get a chance to walk to the course, and pushed Bentley into the wrong end of the tunnel, and he even missed the last jump.  Our partner, Mojo, was fast, so somehow we Qd.

Advanced Standard:

In interest of full disclosure, I don't even want to watch this run!  It was awful.  Bentley missed his dogwalk contact (of course) and then had an off-course, which is highly unusual.  We've found out at the last two trials (see Bentley's last two Snooker runs) that he does not have a call to side.  You can see off the table that he gets really confused, and my slight motion pushes him into the a-frame, despite it being very far away.  He also refused the chute (he did this twice this weekend).  I guess it looked different from ours.  Very odd.


Pretty nice run here.  Not great on speed (he was the second slowest out of 8 to Q).  His a-frames were nice all weekend, including here.  I was planning a FC at the end out of the final tunnel to the last jump, but backed out at the last second.  Several people collided with their dogs here, and I didn't want to risk it.

Advanced Standard:

Thought I could trick him into getting his contact if I went really fast...he still missed!  I'll have to go back to try to figure out why.  Despite my speeding at the end, he turned nicely into the tunnel (on a dime!)

Masters Snooker:

This was by far the toughest snooker course that I've seen.  The two 7 point obstacles (2 jumps, A and B) had to be taken in sequence, and were not bi-directional.  Knowing the competition we were up against, we wanted to try to get all 7s.  It was difficult.  Not many other dogs attempted all 7s.  Bentley did the hard part (completed the opening) and then refused the chute in the close.  If he had completed the chute and the next obstacle, it would have been an easy Q, and probably a placement because of points.

Steeplechase Finals:

Jonathan planned on pushing Bentley for speed in this run, since it didn't matter (you can't Q in finals).  In watching the video, I still felt as if he was waiting on him to complete things before setting up the next sequence.  Despite Jonathan trying to get Bentley to go faster, he still didn't place (although he ran clean).

Masters Jumpers--Q:

I was very, very happy that we managed a Q in this run.  In fact, he even got third place!  That's saying a lot because there were several very, very talented 16" dogs.

All in all, it was a fun weekend.  I especially enjoyed seeing all the extremely talented dogs and handlers.  Of the bunch there was Nancy Kleinhans, Suzanne Wesley, Stuart Mah, Gabrielle Blackburn, Janet Rahn, Rhonda Koeske, and Karen Holik.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Bentley dogwalk

After speaking with Stuart, we started thinking that maybe Bentley's dogwalk problems are because of his strides.  If you watch some of the trial videos, you'll see that Bentley is slowing down as he runs over the flat portion of the obstacle, then actually shortens his step right before the down side.  Once he does that, he lengthens his stride again and then punches off right before the contact zone.

I'm not sure how we created this...but my hypothesis is that it stems from when we started slowing down to protect the contact, he started slowing as well.  Now he has learned to slow right before the down side apex, and this allows him to punch off at the end.

Stuart recommended that we correct him when he shortens his stride, and tell him to get going.  It seemed like a great idea, but in practice, it's really difficult.  First of all, it's hard to see when you're running if he has shortened his stride.  Also, he has been known to shorten his stride, and still make the contact.  I assume that's a no-reward type situation, but I'm not sure.

We went out to test this, and had not-so great results.

Here's a video of my analysis:

It looks like he needs to come over the apex (before the down side) and land a good portion of the way down.  If he strides and the stride carries him just over the hinge, his final stride takes him over the contact zone.  If he shortens up at all, pretty much all is lost.

I think we are going to plan a trip to go visit Stuart in a month or so to see what he has to say.  I feel like we are ill-equipped to deal with this, and I'm hesitant to go back to 2 on 2 off because of Bentley's motivation/speed.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lexi weaving (1 month in)

I had way too much fun making this...

I think her entries are looking really nice!

As to the channel weaves, she has them all the way closed, and we've taken off 4 wires.  Looking good!

December Trial

Well, the purpose of this blog was to document Bentley's dogwalk issues.  Let me just say, that things have spiraled out of control.  Bentley clearly has no idea what the criteria is on the dogwalk.  He missed every single one this past weekend.  This mistake kept him from qualifying in 3 runs--everything else was clean. It was so upsetting. We have spent more time on this skill, and it just never seems to work. 

That being said, Stuart Mah gave us some great pointers on where to go from here (I'll post again with more details)...but I'm frustrated because we're basically wasting $$$ on trial entries because we know we cannot Q (and we're reinforcing the incorrect behaviors). We are traveling to a trial in Florida next weekend, and it's too late to pull out (without losing our money). We have some serious training to do in one week.

Here are the videos, good, bad, and ugly!

Advanced Pairs--Q:

This was only a Q because our partner was so fast! The judge called Bentley's a-frame (I think he gets it, but it was not good), and Leila (the aussie) made a mistake. But Leila was fast enough to cover the faults.

Advanced Standard--Elim:

Not a good run. Instance 1 of blowing his dogwalk. Then he popped out of the weaves, twice. He rarely does this (sometimes he misses his entry, but I don't remember the last time he popped out while I was with him), and then the second time he just stood there. I was worried that he was hurt, so I pulled him out. I took a look at him, and he was fine.  Maybe just slipped and then surprised that he was no longer in the weaves.  His weaves were fine the rest of the weekend.  It was suggested that I should take him to a chiropractor, but I haven't been able to find one around here.

Masters Jumpers--NQ:

I am still beating myself up over this one. I felt like this was a really nice run. It's the only run of the weekend where I felt that I was incorporating some of the things that Stuart had taught us (like not running as passively). And then I got worried about a FC, stopped, and Bentley ran into my leg, forcing him to knock the bar. 

Masters Jumpers--NQ:

Not sure why, but Bentley knocked the double jump in this one. He's honestly not a bar knocker...weird. And then I held his attention too long on the tunnel, so he got a refusal--my fault.

Masters Snooker--Q:

Weird thing at the beginning--he went around the tunnel! So bizarre. We didn't get the Super Q by 2 points! If he had been able to get the dogwalk, he would have had it since he did all 7 point obstacles in the opening. Stupid dogwalk! Haha!

Advanced Standard--NQ:

The best part about this run--you can hear Stuart coaching me the whole time! He recommended that we ease off before the a-frame, and it worked. But there's that stupid dogwalk again!! 

Grand Prix--NQ:

Jonathan did a good job, and I was proud. Other than the dogwalk (theme of the weekend), Bentley ran clean. That's the first time that's ever happened in Grand Prix.

So the good thing is that once we can get the dogwalk down, we'll be doing great!  Bad thing is that could take awhile! 

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stuart Mah: Bentley

It has taken me forever to post this on the blog...not sure why.  But, I wrote some quick recaps of the main points, and there was definitely a common theme!

The first sequence was basically a course--a run through to see where we all stood.  

His first thought, as Jonathan and Bentley ran was that we're standing around too much.  There is a lot of starting and stopping on the handler’s part.  We are handling really passively, “ok, let’s go, take your time, get to the a-frame, etc…”  and thus babysitting him too much—we have to get over that.  He has a lot of untapped speed, he is riding the brakes through the course.  We need to start being more aggressive about the cues, which allows him to drive to the obstacle.  It’s about speed and intensity.  He’s in handler focus an awful lot.  We are waiting for him.  We have moved past going obstacle to obstacle (novice).  We need to be able to see the sequences and move sequence to sequence.  Bentley needs to complete the sequence by himself while we set up for the next sequence.

We should be able to be a little bit sloppy and the dog should still complete the obstacle.  This demonstrates their ability to understand the criteria of the obstacle.

The second sequence was a series of tunnels and jumps basically in a circle (slightly more complicated than that).  The objective is to send him to the tunnel and keep moving, while staying 5 feet from the entrance to the tunnel.  We need to get him to go to the tunnel regardless of where we are moving to set up.  It’s okay to get ahead—Bentley needs to listen to what he needs to do.  Just because we’re ahead doesn’t mean he can’t be in obstacle focus.  This will force him to pick up the pace.  He wants to run with us, but he can’t if we didn’t ask for that.  This was really difficult for Bentley.  He has a tendency to peel away from the obstacle he's heading towards if we peel away as well.

The third session was similar to the first, but we tried to make it more complicated.  Not only were we to peel off the obstacle, but move in an entirely different direction.  He asked us to layer a jump, and still push Bentley into the tunnel.  We were moving in a different direction while Bentley should complete the sequence by himself. Needless to say, it did not go well.  We spent a while on this, and only once did Bentley get into the tunnel without help--it took a long time.  I asked, and Stuart said that this is common for shelties.  Watch Karen Holik and Sizzle, apparently she has the same problem.

When he wouldn't get into the tunnel, if it was apparent what we were asking for, he told us to hold our position and let him figure it out.  Don’t sneak in closer.  When the hand gets stuck “out”, it doesn’t mean anything.  Bring it back in and throw it out again.  In the beginning, we can’t stop motion completely.
Bentley wants to use direct line vision, not peripheral.  We want him to start using that by seeing us move in a slightly different direction.

I spoke to Stuart about our dogwalk contact, and this is what he had noticed. We are babysitting the contact.  He is keying on me, focal point up, instead of the bottom of the dogwalk.  We should not help the dogwalk.  He needs to start figuring things out.

The same was true for his a-frame.  Need to change the focus on the a-frame.  The focal point has become corrupted.  His head is looking out.  He’s driving out past the contact.  He needs to be looking down and not up.  Settle him down before he gets to the upside.  Temporarily go back to target plates.  The target cookie should not be on for very long.  Hoops would do the same thing—but they are more physical.  So they are even harder to move away from.  Change has to be more subtle.  We need to praise his focal point.  Only use them for a week or so.  When training, don’t isolate the a-frame.  Use it in sequence, interval training, so he’s concentrating on other things.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Stuart Mah: Lexi

I promised a write-up about our experiences with Stuart Mah (see: this past weekend. It's taking quite some time, so I'm splitting it up by dog. This post is in regards to Lexi, who is my obstacle-focused speed-demon.

Also, I have videos, but I did not feel comfortable making them public as Stuart spent a lot of time working with us and our club. If you would like the links, comment on this post and I will share them individually.

The first thing that he told me is that some of my directions are vague. Not only that, but because Lexi is ahead of me a good portion of the time, I need to use more than one type of cue. I am using body cues, but that's not always enough since she can't always see me. Also, one cue "right" may not be enough, either. For her, it might be "quiet right"--don't be afraid to compound directions.

For the first exercise, we were to wrap a jump, and then get the dog to do a 180 around 2 jumps (there was more to the sequence, but this was the focus). For Lexi, I was always in a hurry to get the turns in, hence forcing her out wide. For the wrap, I was in a hurry to get the wrap in, and hence pushing her away. He told me not to be in a hurry, and showed me how he could slow his speed (bringing her into handler focus) then almost stop at the jump, Lexi naturally turned into him. I was trying to do too much by going fast, then stomping on the brakes. I needed to use a more obvious cue (fast, then slooowing down) to let her know what was happening. As he said, "Turns aren’t as important, neither is speed, it’s about taking the time to back the power off to get Lexi to pay attention".

Another exercise had Lexi speeding out of a tunnel, FCing, a jump at the outside of the tunnel, then two tight right turns back into the tunnel. Lexi kept blowing past the last jump to head right for the tunnel. She kept making the turn too wide, no matter what I did (telling her "shh right"). Stuart said that this was a case of her blowing the cues (not my fault). This is sort of what I have been seeing her do (see my post about driving a fast car), but haven't been sure how to address it. In this case, she was busy watching me accelerate, and she did not do her job. This goes back to how Stuart has told us that our dogs need to do their jobs--to take some responsibility for the course ahead. 

To fix it, we made it easier. We put a jump wing down to make her "see" the jump better, and she didn't miss it that time (reward). We removed the wing, and she continued to go around (even after moving the jump farther out, to make it easier for her to make the turn). 

He described it this way: Lexi gets caught trying to run and not think about her job. No attention to detail on her part. It’s her responsibility to pick that jump up. She is not taking responsibility when it comes to powering down. Her objective is to get going fast. We need to tell her to pay attention to detail, she needs to go back and pick it up. Somewhere along the line it was more important to run and handle than for her to take responsibility for obstacles. She’s saying “I can work only to a point”. It’s not that she doesn’t know how to perform the obstacle, it’s that when she goes into handler focus to make some of these turns, unless the obstacle is right in front of her, it’s easier to go around. She’s not paying attention to detail. 

To fix it, we actually do need to correct her, and ask her to finish her job, because she ignored it. So, when she did her "flyby” as he described it, I stopped and brought her attention to it "Hey, what happened? You do your job" and I walk closer to the jump and send her over it (not 100% helping her) She is not allowed to opt for the easy way out. If I help her finish it, I can verbally reward, but no real reward because I had to do the work. 

She does it because the speed is more important than the detail. They should be of equal importance.

Another important thing that he mentioned all weekend is something that everyone seemed to have trouble with (except me, because I remembered it from his seminar before) that I thought I would mention. Be sure to reward your dog verbally for what it is that you're trying to train. Let's say that you are practicing a pinwheel and the dog misses the center jump and comes around to the third. If you do it again, and the dog gets the center jump, you want to mark it "yes!" or "good girl!" as the dog is running to complete the sequence. Too often handlers say "good girl" at the end of a run, but to a dog, that just means "good job on the last thing you did". Dogs live in the moment, and won't remember that it means good job on the third obstacle, or whatever it is you're training. Your physical reward can come at the end, but the verbal marker should come immediately.

I want to end this by saying that if you ever have the opportunity, Stuart is amazing. He's extremely knowledgeable, as well as friendly and helpful. I strongly recommend a seminar with him.

Lexi weaving (2 weeks in)

We've been a little lax on our weave training.  I'm still hoping that Lexi will be weaving come February, but with the holidays coming up, I'm not sure.  We will have to really get working if we want to get there.

Here she is in our backyard doing a set.  I had just closed them a bit, we have about an inch left before they are shut all the way.  I want to build up a little more speed and independence before I totally close them.  Oddly enough, she seems to be doing great with the entry.  In fact, I don't think I've seen her miss at all.  She did jump out at the end a couple times in her hurry to get to the next obstacle.

I tried to incorporate some of the things that we learned from Stuart in our training.  First, I'm trying not to do just the weaves over and over, but to quickly incorporate it into sequences.  Secondly, I'm trying not to do the same sequence over and over (this is hard to do in a tiny backyard!).  And third, I'm already trying to get her to take responsibility to get into the weaves while I move away (you can see me do it in the video on the way back, I bring her in, then send her out, and I'm already moving away).

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quick Stuart Mah synopsis...

Well, the verdict is in!

According to Stuart, "Bentley needs to learn to be naughty like...well more like Lex!"

And, "Lexi needs to learn to pay attention to detail like Bentley"

So maybe our third dog will be just right?  Haha!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Contact work

Just a quick post with a couple videos from last night.

The first is Lexi's teeter.  About a month ago she refused the teeter, and has been spooked ever since. She hasn't had a bad experience, and we're really not sure where this came from.  That being said, we basically had to start her teeter training all over.  She's not 100% ready yet, but here's her gaining confidence on the teeter, not quite at full height.

Now Lexi on the dogwalk.  She doesn't need the target plates, but I think we'll leave them down for practice to reinforce her driving to the bottom.

And Bentley's dogwalk.  Still needs a lot of work.  We've put hoops on the end to work more on him keeping his head down and driving rather than jumping off the end (which he's still doing).

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Run Throughs--Masters Jumpers

I was very happy with Bentley today, he got to show off his skills as our run-throughs were a Masters Jumpers course by Bud Houston (he will be judging our trial in December).

Bentley ran clean, and handled really nicely--but the course was especially suited for him.

Here's his run (we only ran twice with him--he was clean both times!)

Lexi, on the other hand, was a very different story.  She did well--she is just a baby dog!  I was reminded after my husband's run how much direction she needs, and quickly, or she's on to something else.  I thought I would post my husband's run (he will be so proud, ha!) and then my run with her.

With Lexi, she tends to take things very wide, and you can hear me often saying "shhh" to cue her to slow down.  Deceleration is also a huge thing for her, and we'll both need to work on that (with Bentley, everything is acceleration, it seems!)

You can also tell that I am constantly calling her name, saying "here" to get her attention.  I think this is for a number of reasons.  First, she's taking things so wide that she has a lot of potential for an off course, secondly, she tends to just grab whatever is near her.  And third, I want her to learn to stay with me or we will have trouble Qing, even in Starters (though I assume that there are less chances for an off-course in Starters...I hope!)

Notice that she struggled with the sliced jumps.  She really had trouble with the second jump out of the tunnel, and even in running just that part of the course, never quite got it.   I think I will need to teach her a close command, but I'm not sure how...maybe something Stuart Mah can help us with.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Lexi is learning to weave

It is finally that time...Lexi is 13 months old, and it is time for her to learn how to weave.  I remember this being a particularly painful process with Bentley.  At one time, I remember saying "he is never going to get it".  We taught Bentley using a combination of channel weaves and weave-o-matics.

I would love to try the 2x2 method, but other than the DVD, there really aren't any resources (people) that I know that have done this.  If I try a new method, I like being able to ask someone questions as I progress.  I also don't learn well via DVD.  So, we'll go with the channel method for now.

Lexi has seen channels a couple times, but it's been awhile, and the channels were wide open (she was just a baby at the time).  Once we get the club's weaves (we're lucky enough to be able to borrow them), Lexi will be on a strict regimen of several short training sessions every day.

Here's her (short) work today. I was at the field by myself, so video taping was a huge pain...

Review: Boomer Ball

Out at the agility field today, I found a Boomer Ball ( that someone left behind.   Lexi loves to play with soccer balls, and this ball is supposed to be somewhat indestructible, and built specifically for dogs.

It is made of a durable plastic that is supposed to withstand chewing.  But, I found that the plastic was too hard for a little dog.  Lexi didn't seem to mind, but I was uncomfortable with her banging her head against it all the time as she herded it around the field.  Also, I was afraid that it would hurt her if she ran in front of it when I kicked it to get it moving.  But, she did love it, as she loves any big ball she can nose around.

All in all, I'd rather stick with a cheap $2 ball from Wal-Mart or a cheap soccer ball.

Monday, November 1, 2010

MADCO Halloween Trial, Pt. 2

As promised, here are the runs from Sunday.

Masters Jumpers:

For some reason, Bentley cut in next to me at around 36 seconds.  The jump beforehand was slightly sliced, and he cut in towards me (heading towards the tunnel).  I should have handled it differently.  One thing that I was particularly proud of is that at 28 seconds he went into the tunnel, and shot out looking straight ahead at the next jump--not at me!  That is a huge improvement for him.

Advanced Standard--Q!:

Yay, a Standard Q!  Not so easy to come by, these days!  In all honesty, we got away with another missed dogwalk contact.  I was worried about his table...if you watch you will see him stand there, then look around (he notices something) and I have to ask him to lay down.  Whew.  I was pretty happy about how I handled the tunnel entrances.  Several dogs were going into the wrong ends of tunnel.  Knowing Bentley, I knew a RC would pull him into me, and I could flip him out into the right side of the tunnel.  Worked at both 17 and 37 seconds.  I also liked his weave pole entry as he was moving quickly and turning, and he got it on the first try!

Masters Snooker--Q!:

Bentley was really moving during this course!  It was an interesting set up as there was a start jump and a finish jump (unusual in Snooker).  That's why you see them head towards the far jump in the corner after the buzzer goes off.

Advanced Pairs:

This is why I hate pairs.  Bentley ran clean, but his partner got an off course in the first half, so they were eliminated.  We weren't mad at our partner or anything, but it seems silly that your performance relies upon someone that you don't know!

MADCO Halloween Trial, Pt. 1

This weekend we drove up to Charlottesville, VA for a number of reasons.  First of all, Jonathan had an interview at UVA on Friday.  Secondly, my family lives about 45 minutes away, so we were able to spend some time with them.  And third, we went to the MADCO trial on Saturday and Sunday.

It was a beautiful setting right in the mountains, and it was quite cold in the morning (30 degrees)!  But, we managed, and by the afternoon it was in the 50s, and was really nice.  It helped that Bentley had an amazing weekend.  I could not have been more proud of him!  And on to the videos...


Our first run of the morning was Steeplechase.  Bentley has never Q'd in Steeplechase before.  The good thing is that it is time + faults, so you can make a mistake and still Q if you make time.  Well, we didn't even have to worry about that, Bentley was perfect!  He was one of the few dogs that got the weave pole entry on the first try (sort of a weird angle as the third obstacle).  The course was pretty easy, and very open.  I felt myself babysitting his FCs all weekend need to work on that!), but he did well.  His a-frame in this run was very nice.

Grand Prix:

Bentley's never Q'd in Grand Prix either, but it wasn't to be this day!  The course itself was really tough, not to mention that it's run by masters rules, so refusals, etc...all count as faults.  Bentley cut behind Jonathan on a FC before the tire, so that was his first refusal.  Miracle of all miracles, he got his dogwalk contact!  So proud. I really could have cared less about the rest of the run.  He also missed the weave entrance several times, and then did the dogwalk again instead of the tunnel.  Jonathan said he would have handled that differently, but Bentley had already NQ'd, so he didn't worry about it.  Did I mention that he got his dogwalk contact?!

Advanced Gamblers:

Such a good boy!  Not only did he do the gamble, but he got his dogwalk contact as part of it!

Masters Snooker:

This was a pretty tough course, and Jonathan and Bentley did really well!  He did 4 reds (instead of 3) and managed two sets of the 6 point obstacle sequence and one of the 7.  Time was an issue for every dog, and only the absolute fastest completed the closing.  No matter, he still Q'd!

Masters Jumpers:

I was incredibly proud of Bentley on this tough course.  There were several wraps, and some tough angles and easy off-courses.  Bentley did awesome.  I changed my plan on course several times (something I'm usually not so good at), and I was happy about it.  We did a little bit of a "bump" around 34 seconds, but he recovered well.

Advanced Standard:

I think we were both tired on this run!  The course wasn't difficult, but it didn't go well.  The only actual fault he had was his dogwalk contact (not even close!), but he made several other mistakes.  He had a refusal at the jump before the a-frame, I assume I probably peeled off for the in a bit too early.  Then he ran right past the weaves.  Looks like I was busy looking at him, and not ahead.

All in all, a great day!  I will post Sunday's runs later on...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Baby dog

I was reminded by one of our wonderful trainers that Lexi is still a baby dog, and I shouldn't expect too much from her.  I am always forgetting that she is still a baby!  We hadn't even started agility with Bentley yet, at her age.

That being said, we went back out last night to try the course again, and I wanted to try to be a bit quicker with my directions.  I think it went well.  We were a lot more in tune.

There were a couple snafus, but I think the straight line (2 jumps) to the tunnel beyond the dogwalk is a really tough thing to do.  In fact, Bentley missed it too, when my husband ran it with him.  I could have tried a RC, but we only ran once before there were other people who needed the field.

Also, she obviously doesn't understand my "flip" out to the tunnel at the very end.  That's just something she has only seen a couple times, so we'll work on that.

Monday, October 18, 2010


I'm going to start by posting a few videos from our run-throughs this weekend, and then voice a few of the concerns that I have.

These courses were from the October issue of Clean Run, on page 54.  We started with the Starters course, then the second one is the Advanced course.  I felt that they were both extremely challenging, and much harder than any Starters course that I've seen!

Lexi Course 1:

Bentley Course 1:

Lexi Course 2:

Bentley Course 2:

My first concern is with Lexi.  She is all over the place!  I know that there are dogs that go out and run away and grab whatever obstacle they want.  That's not quite Lexi.  She's just so excited, and she's running so quickly, that she'll grab whatever closest that she thinks I want her to take.  I can call her off, if I'm fast enough, so she is clearly trying to do what I ask...but she's so quick, that she often goes off course.

I don't want to ruin her enthusiasm or drive (the mistake we made with Bentley), but I wonder whether or not we need to try to reign her in.  I feel like any time I'm slightly facing the wrong way BAM, she's gone.  I need to be able to make some slight mistakes, or we'll never be able to be successful.

My second concern is the reason I started this blog...Bentley's running contacts.  His A-frame is really nice, and I'm mostly pleased with it.  I have seen him miss a few times, but in my opinion, not too much.  The dogwalk, on the other hand, is just atrocious.

During our daily trainings, he really seemed to make progress.  But as soon as we stopped the every day stuff, he just lost it.  He now hits (in sequence) about 25% of the time.  I think he has missed in every trial that we've entered him in since we started retraining.  It's so incredibly frustrating.  I'm seriously considering going back and retraining 2o2o, but I'm afraid that that will make it even more confusing for him.   I think it's at least time for us to get the board back out in the backyard, and start doing that again on a daily basis.

Also, I wonder if we aren't correctly rewarding/correcting him like we should be.  If he misses in sequence (except trials), we stop, and either start over at the beginning of the dogwalk, or pick him up and put him halfway up to try again.  If he gets it, he gets a treat.  90% of the time he gets a treat when running in sequence if he gets it.

Big decisions ahead.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So we've hit a bit of a hot spell again, and it's been in the 80s during the day.

We went out and practiced a short skill set, serpentines (and threadles).  I was really pleased with the serpentines.  The threadles were fine, but just need a little fine tuning to make them more fluid.

Bentley serpentine:

Lexi serpentine and threadle:

Monday, October 4, 2010

1 Day Trial

We were out of town at a wedding this weekend, but did make it back for one day. Apparently the judge we had was not well liked--her courses were extremely hard. Her Q rate was very, very low (for example, in GP, ZERO dogs Qd!). Many of the courses were masters level courses where just one or two jumps were angled slightly differently for advanced or starters.

We didn't have high hopes after hearing that, but we had a good day!

Advanced Gamblers: Really tough. The gamble was tunnel, weaves, and jump. The tunnel puts the dog out facing the opposite way of the weaves. Bentley came out and had to find DH, and that was all she wrote.  If the tunnel had been facing the weaves, we MAY have had a chance...but that still would have been iffy.

Masters Snooker: Awesome run! It was Bentley's first Masters Snooker run, and he Qd! Kudos to DH for thinking on his feet a couple times where Bentley had a different plan, but he did really well. This Q ended up being a Super Q, so we were especially proud.

Masters Jumpers: FINALLY--we Qd! Bentley did really well..and get this..I thought on my feet! That NEVER happens. I was planning a FC at one point (around 21 seconds), and did a RC instead. Sounds silly, but I was proud.  He did break his stay, which has honestly never happened...but he was amped up all day.  He barked at me before we went on the course, and he never does that!  I just hope that I can keep this going...he really listened well.  I think I need to be clearer when giving him instructions.  There are some times where I don't like my handling.

Advanced Standard: I felt like this was really a Masters level course. They angled one jump about 6 inches differently from the Masters course. So naturally, it was a train wreck. I though the lead out pivot would help him get his entry (saw several dogs miss), but he still missed the first pole.  Bentley missed several of my FC, and he shot out of the tunnel the second time and went right for the table. I called him off, but he then missed the tire. He also refused the table...which was odd.  He did that in our run-through the other day, but I just assumed it was a fluke.  we definitely need to work that.  And, sad news, he missed his dogwalk contact.  The judge didn't call it, but it wasn't even close.  I don't know how to get him to translate his performance in practice to a trial.  I don't know if I didn't slow down enough, or if he was really amped up, or what (probably both).  More work to be done here.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grand Prix Rainout

Our club had run-throughs on Sunday, but we were out of town.  When we got in that evening, the sky looked dark, but we decided to chance it.  The rain brought some nice, cool weather, so we couldn't resist.

Well...we did get rained out.  We got through 1.5 runs with Bentley before it started pouring!

Here's the run-through that we did get through.

His dogwalk was nice, albeit slow...but I'll take it for now.  It was my fault on the odd angle (close to the camera) as I wasn't clear, and then called his name as he turned towards me.  I guess he refused the table because I stopped too soon.  He's been a bit weird about the table lately, so I was happy that he laid down once he got up there.  All in all, I was pretty happy with the run.

And, to end on a good note, the puppies tug!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I'm always interested in how dogs learn and think.  Nothing shows the differences between dogs' thought processes more than watching my two dogs learn the same behavior.  They learn very differently.

For instance, Bentley has been doing agility for 2 years now.  He has never loved the table, but usually eventually (read: slooowly) lays down.  He has given me trouble with the table once, but like I said, he usually slowly falls into place.

Lexi, on the other hand, gets to the table and throws herself into a down.  She is usually in the act of laying down before she even gets on the table.

We went out tonight to practice the dogwalk, but couldn't use it (there was a class running late), so we did some table work.  Lexi's table is excellent.  You can run to the table and past it, and she will lay down immediately, no problem.  Bentley, on the other hand, doesn't get it.  He will run to the table, and if you run past, he'll either jump off, or stand there looking confused.  His downs are SO slow.

It's just interesting how differently they process the commands.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cheating Dogwalk?

So we went out tonight and tested our theory.  I noticed the other day that if I slowed down at the end of the dogwalk, Bentley almost consistently strode through the contact zone without issue.

Consider our theory proven.  He hit 100% of the contacts when we slowed down on the downside of the dogwalk.  Unfortunately, it's not a great training method, but for now, it at least shows that he knows what we want, though he's cuing off the wrong command (the command being a deceleration).  What works:  hit the contact at full speed, decel on the downside and watch his!

And here's a quick video of our speed demon.  I know that we'll use more rear crosses than anything else with her, but we're trying to get her to slow down and focus on our body language and read a front cross.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

EDIT! Advanced Gamblers Q!

We just got our results in...and Bentley DID Q in Advanced Gamblers!  So exciting!

I just thought about it, and he is 2 Advanced Standard Qs and 1 Advanced Pairs Q away from his AAD (Advanced Agility Dog).  Of course those Standard Qs are the hardest to come by, so it could be awhile, but still--what a good boy he is!

I also thought I would point out that I calculated Bentley's YPS in his jumpers runs, and in the first one, he was going 4.2 YPS.  And if he hadn't missed that jump, where I had to get him back from the tunnel, he would have been at 4.5.  I think that's awesome!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

PBH Trial

Our first away trial was a lot of fun.  It was different not knowing many people (we honestly knew 3 people...and one was Stuart!), not knowing who was in charge, where things were, etc...but everyone was very nice.

Not the most amazing weekend, but we did what we set out to do, get Bentley his Advanced Snooker Title!  So Yay!  He is now, Coastal's Blue Train Special CGC SS SJ SG SSA AD AJ AS--woohoo!  It's about time, seeing as Snooker is definitely his best event.

We didn't get any other Qs, but we'll discuss that within each video description.

1.  Advanced Snooker--yay title!  Bentley did great!  Jonathan did 4 reds (only 3 necessary), and went for the 7 point obstacle the first 3 times (it was tunnel + 3 jumps).  He knocked a bar once, but he still had plenty of points (51) to Q.

2.  Advanced Gamblers--Bentley did well, but didn't get the gamble.  He bailed on the teeter (still got his contact), then wouldn't go back out.  I think he could have done it, but it just wasn't in the cards that day.

3.  Masters Jumpers--These jumpers courses were honestly the toughest that I've seen.  The judge was Dave Hanson (for future reference!)  There were a lot of unavoidable crosses on top of jumps very tightly set.  In this run, Bentley takes off for the tunnel...the only thing I can think of is that I said "right", and he cut right too quickly, so he got a refusal.  However, he was MOVING!  I think that might be the fastest I've seen him go in a trial.  In retrospect, there are several things I did poorly.  I shouldn't have crossed the way I did before the tunnel...I ended up just waiting for him and I'm lucky he didn't refuse the tunnel.  But, he was quick and had drive, so I was proud of him.

4. Masters Jumpers--We started the day with this course.  Another really tough course.  Honestly, it was like nothing I've seen before.  I handled the beginning awkwardly (with a pivot) instead of RC to the tunnel because I was afraid it would pull him out.  Instead, he missed the jump after the pivot--my fault.  Then, he reads one front cross perfectly, and totally misses the jump at the next FC I add.  It was the first time I've seen a serpentine in a course, and he handled it perfectly!  

5.  Advanced Gamblers--Jonathan was nice enough to let me run this event.  Normally, Jonathan does gamblers.  I was feeling a little down after our jumpers run, so he let me run this one.  Bentley did well!  I forget how forgiving gamblers (the opening) is.  For the gamble, I knew he would go to the far end of the tunnel going over the jump, so I chose to bring him into me, and send him back out.  It took 2 tries, but he did get it, and I was ecstatic  (note the fist pump when he gets in the tunnel).  Then, he gets out and completed the gamble!  I was thrilled (please note the ridiculous happy leap I do!!!!), but he was slightly over time.  Oh well, my little velcro dog completed and advanced gamble.  Huge step for us.