Monday, January 31, 2011

Stuart Mah: Contact Advice, Lexi

Again, we had the opportunity to work with Stuart at our club.  This time, he offered private seminars, which were great since we had a lot of specific contact questions to ask.

We started with Lexi, and I'll explain our issues and his comments below.

1.  Slow 2o2o.  Recently Lexi has developed a bit of a creep down the down side of both the dogwalk and the a-frame.  She is able to eventually find her position, but it is slow.  I was very worried that we would end up with what Bentley had (that led us to his running contacts).

His thoughts were that Lexi is slowing down because when she misses the contact, our reaction was to pick her up and put her back into position.  She's interpreting that to mean "you're running too fast".  Stuart compared her thought process to the idea of a person getting a ticket for speeding.  After that, you're a little gun shy, and you don't drive as fast.

The first extremely interesting bit of information that Stuart shared is that he would recommend that we go to a running contact with her.  His words, "if I wanted to just do well locally, I'd do 2o2o.  If I want to compete nationally, I need the running" (even with a quick release, you lose time with a 2o2o).  Also, he thinks her stride might be pretty conducive to running, even more so than Bentley because she's smaller.

But, he said that if we want to teach 2o2o, we have to let her blow through a contact.  So, if she misses it, we let it go.  If we stop and mark it, she will slowly creep down the next time.  Obviously she doesn't get a reward, but we can't mark it as a mistake.  According to Stuart, "we have to let her blow through it and miss on occasion, because the alternative is that she'll creep the next time to get it done".  Stuart said that we'll take our lumps initially with a running, but in the long run it will be worth it.

If we want to teach a running, she has to learn to focus, and still move.  That means she'll blow a few at first.

We decided to work on speeding up her 2o2o for the next couple weeks.  Stuart will be back in February, so we'll re-evaluate at that time.

We ran our first dogwalk, and it took Lexi 4 seconds.  Not great.  We have to first learn to ignore mistakes, and teach her to speed up.  To speed her up, we added a secondary target beyond the first (behind another jump not too far away).  Also, we kept the energy up the whole run, encouraging Lexi to go faster.  On her second attempt, it took her 3 seconds.  On the third attempt, she was easily under 3 seconds.

2.  Barking/Herding in between runs:  Lexi has a tendency to bark and jump around my feet while I'm walking from obstacle/sequence to sequence.  I always interpreted it as bad, and asked Stuart if I should discourage it.  His answer in short, "no".  She just thinks we are running a sequence and is asking me for information.

3.  Lexi's crazy "go go go" attitude:  Lexi loves agility, and she often can be seen barking or going nuts up at the field.  Also, everything she does is fast (sometimes at the sacrifice of details).  Several people in our club have mentioned this, and we do have a few people in our club with crazy second dogs.  I have been very worried that Lexi is going to turn into a dog that forgets to focus when she's in the ring.  So, I asked Stuart if he saw that in Lexi, and if so, what should we do about it.

He asked us what we do at home, and I assured him that we work on control all the time.  Lexi has to wait for everything:  dinner, treats, leash, going outside, playing with a toy.  He agreed that this is extremely important.  He said that the tendency for people with slow first dogs is to cut the second dog a lot more slack, and to allow them to get away with things and to be a brat.

He said the key is that we need to be in charge of the pace of things.  He set up a short sequence ( a circle with 3 jumps and a tunnel) where I  was to run the circle at full speed, and then on the second pass, slow down and have Lexi slow down as well.  Lexi's so cute...because Stuart was just going to show me as an example, but she started to run with him, and performed correctly.  She immediately slowed when Stuart did and looked to him for further instruction.  Lexi allows us to dictate the pace, which indicates that there isn't a problem.  According to him, "you need the drive to win, but you need the control to qualify".  If she's missing turns or floating wide, it's probably us.

4.  Teeter:  As I posted previously, Lexi has now gone through 2 periods of fear when it comes to the teeter. Stuart believed this is because Lexi understands everything about the teeter except what makes the teeter move and more importantly, what makes it stop moving.  He recommended lowering the teeter and putting a target at the end.  It is her job to run from one end to the other.  We are not supposed to say anything, especially if she slows down or starts to look confused.  We will continue to slowly move the teeter up.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January LCDA Trial

Another not-so steller weekend for Bentley.  But, I came away from it with some really good information.  I'll briefly summarize under each run.

Masters Gamblers

Not a great run...but the gamble was impossible for Bentley anyways, so we weren't too upset.  Only 2 masters dogs Qd on this particular gamble.  At least Bentley's a-frame contacts were good.

Masters Jumpers

This is the run that really frustrated me the entire weekend.  I felt that Bentley was not performing the way that he could, and was pretty upset that a rear cross was what threw him off in this run.  It was a tough run (and the refusal at the RC really was a tough spot), but I couldn't help but feel very frustrated.  It was this run that made me realize how differently I handle Bentley in a trial versus in practice.  I made it my goal for our next jumpers run for me to provide him with clearer information.

Masters Pairs

Yuck.  Our friends Liza and Curzon weren't too mad at us for this run, but the good thing is that we will get to pair together again.

Masters Standard

Bentley's first masters standard run.  Honestly, it could have been worse.  I still don't know why he went around the a-frame, though, and it was at this point that I started feeling a little down about his performance.

Masters Jumpers

A much better run than the first jumpers run.  I was frustrated that he went around that jump (not sure why that happened), but after that I tried to run faster and be more vocal (since I wasn't "protecting the Q").

Masters Snooker--Super Q!  Snooker Master Title!

Of course, our obsessive little snooker dog did great.  He did knock the third red, but he still had enough points to Q, and since the other dogs were eliminated, he got his final Super Q to get his Snooker Master.  He only needs 2 more Qs for his Snooker Champion!

Masters Standard

I was pretty proud of this run.  It was tough, but Bentley did great.  He got into his weaves nicely (many dogs didn't get the entrance) and the portion from the teeter on was really nice.  I tried to scare him into his dogwalk contact (hey, it was worth a shot!) but no such luck.

Grand Prix

Last run of the day...yuck.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Teeter training

So tonight I'm a little frustrated.

If you look back to the post dated 11/11, you will see that I mention that Lexi had a weird set back with the teeter, and we essentially had to start her training over again.  I never could pinpoint exactly what "spooked" her--she didn't have an accident, and we were treating the teeter normally.

Well, I would say that a couple days ago I commented that her teeter was looking nice, and that she had started to bend her knees to brace for the bang.  I chalked up her original fear to maybe her getting hurt since she wasn't bracing herself.

Bad news.  Tonight we were working intervals with the teeter and Lexi was doing great.  She never had a refusal, never even missed her contact, or hesitated.  She was doing great.

We stopped working with her (put her in a down stay) and started working with Bentley.  He did about 5-10 short sequences, and we decided to work Lexi again.  The first thing she did was refuse the teeter.  I corrected her, and we tried again, and she hopped on and hopped off.  She then refused to touch it, and appeared scared. It took me a lot of coaxing to even get her to bang it (just with her front paws, and the board close to the ground).  I have no idea what happened.

I don't know what to do, nor do I know why she is acting this way.  We are going to try again tomorrow, but I have a feeling I know what the outcome will be.  I can't keep retraining the teeter...what is going on?!?

Contact set back (Lexi, for once!)

I'm a little bummed. Lexi seems to have had a big set back with her contacts (2o2o). She has had an awesome 2o2o for the past few months. It seemed to come very natural to her. We got rid of the target plates, and she has slowly started to be unsure of where her 2o2o should be.

Just the other day I started adding the target plate back in randomly, and she did better.

But the other night we had run-thrus (gamblers) and she creeped a little bit on the dogwalk, and then blew her a-frame contact! I think it was because the a-frame was part of the gamble, and we were a good distance lateral from it. Since we couldn't be right there to "manage" it, she was unsure of the behavior.

I'm a little bummed, but it's obvious that we haven't trained her to get her contact independently (no target plate, no us standing right there).

I think the problem is that we moved the target plate away and continued where we were (which worked). 

BUT, I just assumed that she would be able to generalize the behavior in any situation. But in reality, she was keying off of us to tell her what behavior she should present. So when we were removed, she was confused,

We will need to go back to sometimes targets, sometimes not, with the handler in different locations. I think we practiced too much with us standing right next to her or running ahead--not behind or way out to the side.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Update on Lexi's Weaves

Lexi's weaves are coming along...this is a slow process.  I have a video from about 10 days ago that shows her on the weaves at the house with no wires.  She misses them once.  The end of the video has a clip of her in the weave-o-matics.

Although she is weaving at home with no wires, it is taking a bit of time for this to translate to the real weaves at the field.  I'm not sure if it's the weaves, the location, or the spacing (ours are 22", the field has 24").  We have had to backchain a little with the help of one our trainers and use our hands to get her started with the weaving motion.

Sunday at run-thrus Lexi weaved the entire 24" weaves with no help from me!  Of course I lined her up square with them, but I was so proud!  We will just have to keep working them.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

ICS Trial

This past weekend we had a trial at a new local club (yay!) called International Canine Stars.  It was a small trial, and we enjoyed it.  Bentley and I didn't have a great weekend, but were able to sneak out with an Advanced Standard Q (FINALLY-YAY!) which resulted in his Advanced Agility Dog title.  I was quite pleased.

Of course Bentley and my husband Qd every day in Snooker...but that is his strong suit!

I won't comment on all the videos (it WAS a 3 day trial), but my general observations are this:
1.  Bentley can get his dogwalk contact when not running quickly.  He was able to get his contact when the table was the obstacle prior to the dogwalk.  Therefore, he could not gain any speed.
2.  Bentley was entirely TOO handler focused over the weekend.  We had a few really horrible runs (jumpers, especially) because of this.
3.  I was too late and vague with a lot of my commands.
4.  Bentley's weaves were off this weekend (he only got in on the first try once!)

12/31 Masters Jumpers

12/31 Masters Snooker Q!

12/31 Advanced Pairs

12/31 Advanced Standard

1/1 Advanced Gamblers

1/1 Masters Jumpers (so close!)

1/1 Masters Snooker Super Q!

1/1 Advanced Standard Q Title!

1/2 Masters Jumpers

1/2 Masters Snooker Q!