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...