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.