Tuesday, July 26, 2011

System Recap

5 Different Motion Cues:
1. No motion
2. Forward (Accel)
3. Deceleration
4. Lateral
5. Backwards

What type of motion is used for a forward send? Deceleration

What type of motion is used for a lateral send? Lateral

When executing a forward or lateral send, a t what point relative to a jump must you begin your motion as a turning cue? Prior to the point of commitment

Why does the dog not refuse the jump? Because of the balance of additional forward cues: Shoulders forward, verbal cue, hand motion, eyes, etc…

The timing of the motion cue is more important than the location cue.

6 Cues to provide the dog with information:
1. Motion
2. Location
3. Shoulders
4. Eye contact
5. Hand
6. Verbal

When handling, your job is to create a balance of cues telling the dog where to go in a timely manner.

What is the balance of forward cues and turning cues for each skill?
Skill: Forward Send

Turning Cues:
1. Motion (Deceleration)
2. Location (Handler stays on take off side of jump)
Forward Cues:
1. Shoulders (Facing forward)
2. Hand signal
3. Eyes
4. Verbal

Skill: Lateral Send
Same as Forward

Monday, July 18, 2011

More LM information

Sends & Recalls
1. Lateral Sends: Lateral movement cues the dog
a. Keep your shoulders square to the jump until the dog commits

2. Drills:
a. One jump drills
i. Set the dog up 8’-10’ in a stay. Stand so that you can touch the jump (on the dog’s side). Release the dog at the same time as you step laterally (side stepping). As the dog commits to the jump, turn 90 degrees and step forward, and reward the dog at your side

5 Motion Cues:
1. Forward/Acceleration
2. Deceleration
3. No Motion
4. Backwards
5. Lateral

Tips for Lexi and Bentley:
a. When making a turn, keep eye contact while moving forward
b. Use arms earlier to signal that a turn (or cross) is coming

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2x2 Weaves Continued

We have continued to work Lexi on Susan Garrett's 2x2 Weave Pole system. I already have a complaint about it...it's billed as "12 Poles in 12 Days" and that is SO unrealistic for the average dog/handler. The idea is that you work several short sessions per day, but I find that we are having to stay at certain "Days" longer than others.

We've been on Day 4 now for about 4 days! This is the day where the second set of two poles comes into play, and comes closer and closer to the first set of 2, until they are weaving a straight set of four poles. We made it there, but I wasn't getting the entries I was hoping for (the whole reason that we're doing this!) I think we need to take a step back. Today and tomorrow I plan on working on some of the harder entries. I'll start by going back to two poles only, and working tough entries keeping my reward line consistent. I'll also go ahead and add the second set (keeping the first angled) and reward for the entry of the first set. Then, I'll move the two sets close together, but keep the first set angled so Lexi can be successful getting her entry into the four. Hopefully that will keep her learning. She did see a couple sets of 6 and 12 last night in our practice, and I felt like she was hitting entries more frequently, but still missing the majority of the time when we were coming at any angle at all.

Here's the video of a few sessions in the past few days:

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Linda Mecklenburg Experiment Begins

This week Jonathan and I started classes at a new facility. I will be honest in saying that I have been skeptical, and hesitant to start classes at this facility because they are serious Linda Mecklenburg followers. For those who know me know that I don't follow a handling system. We have worked closely with Stuart Mah, but to say he has a system isn't entirely correct. In fact, I have almost felt opposed to using a system because I don't like the idea of there being only one way to do things. I also like using verbal commands, while LM emphasis positioning very heavility. I also don't like what I see when many LM followers seem to use a lot of FCs and their dogs run slowly rather than driving ahead (this is NOT entirely accurate, just some of the negatives that I have seen in some dogs).

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed our classes tonight. I learned a lot in those two classes, and a lot more about the fundamentals of dog training than I have in quite some time.

I have decided to use this blog to outline the things that we learn, not only as a journal, but also as a resource for me. I am learning, but I don't just want to "monkey see monkey do". I want to read through the information, understand the reasoning, and compare processes.

Without further ado, here are my notes from the two classes. (Note: Sends & Recalls is Lexi's class, and Competition Silver is Bentley's class):

The Linda Mecklenburg Experiment:

Sends & Recalls:
1.) Sends: Not a “distance” thing, but asking the dog to take a jump in front of them.
a. Forward and Lateral Sends
b. Decelerate early. Decelerating indicates a turn, not a shoulder turn. The shoulders remain facing the jump until the dog has committed. A dog’s natural tendency is to turn into you when you decelerate as long as there is no lateral movement.
c. Leading out off of a contact only allows you to accelerate. Going from stopped to moving is always acceleration. Better to hang back and show actual deceleration.

2.) Drills:
a. One jump drills using both forward and lateral sends.
a. For lateral sends, place the jump in a corner which forces the dog to curl tightly around the jump.
b. For forward sends, place the dog in a stay and back up behind the dog. Start running (motion) and release the dog as you begin to decelerate (stop before they commit).

Comp Silver:
1.) 4 Different Kinds of Rear Crosses
a. Forward Moving: Maintain forward acceleration beyond the obstacle, driving to the next. The handler needs to keep pace with the dog (rather than accelerating past, or pushing the dog ahead) to allow acceleration.
b. Lateral Movement: Lateral movement is what shows a dog that you are rear crossing to a particular side.
c. Deceleration: Handler drives ahead of the dog, then forward sends the dog (see previous) to cue a turn. Then the lateral motion indicates the direction of the turn.
d. No motion: Similar to a decelerating rear cross, but when the handler is way ahead of the dog.

The instructor remarked that Bentley does not seem to know the difference between the 4 mentioned rear crosses. This is likely true. We worked so hard to get Bentley to move ahead and away from us, that rear crosses were taught (and performed) in the most basic of ways.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

2x2 Weaves

I am finally starting to catch up on the videos that I have.

From the trial videos you'll see that weaves have become quite an issue for Lexi. Clearly, she isn't collecting, and sees no value in the first couple poles. So, on the recommendation of several of my friends, we've decided to use Susan Garrett's 2x2 weave training. Luckily, a friend offered to lend me her DVD.

I'm taking videos sporadically, so please remember that what you're seeing is not the entire process. We started 7/6 (Wednesday) and work Lexi several short sessions a day. Luckily, I've found a toy that she does enjoy working for, so it's made the process a bit easier. I tried originally throwing treats, but they would get lost and she would spend too much time looking for them in the grass, and then being distracted by the smell at the next session. So, I pulled out a toy that we had used with Bentley in the years past (he never got the hang of it) and filled it with my husband's sock, Lexi's favorite toy that she's not allowed to have! It has worked really well. (You can get it at Clean Run for $15)

The first day is spent teaching the dog to value the first two poles. You work on sending the dog through the poles, and rewarding ahead (to keep the dog focused ahead). Lexi didn't have any trouble with this, so the next day we moved to the next step, which was to work the entries of the poles from different angles. It took Lexi a bit more time to realize that we weren't going to throw it if she just ran in the general direction of the poles, but several sessions later she seemed to understand. In the video you'll see that she is still spending some time looking back at me, or barking at me to throw the toy rather than interacting with the poles. We made sure that she was moving quickly ahead before moving to Day 3. Here's a quick clip of some of our earlier reps at this step:

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Lexi: Handler/Obstacle Focus and a Clicker Challenge

The dogs enjoy a trip to Schiller Park in German Village.

I think I mentioned this, but since I'm behind I'm just mass-dumping the videos that I have on my computer from the past couple months. Here's a quick one of Lexi in the yard working on turns from the tunnel.

And, here's another one of me teaching Lexi to put herself into a box. She's a little unsure, and clearly doesn't know much about her back legs. So, it was definitely a good exercise. After this, I tried to get her to do it again, and she didn't get it. So it's a work in progress. I want to teach her to stand on something, and pivot with her back feet (great for rear end awareness!) so this was sort of the foundation for that. (I should also point out that Lexi is not really clicker trained. This was her first time using the clicker for shaping a behavior. She definitely is not afraid of offering!)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Collection exercises

Everyone loves to tell us that Lexi needs to learn to collect. Unfortunately, being novice handlers, it's something that we're still learning how to do. This started with one of our lessons with Stuart where we learned that Lexi is always jumping in extension, and it causes her to take wide turns, and sometimes knock bars.

Unfortunately, an hour with Stuart isn't enough to fix the issue, it's something that takes constant work. I could list the things that we've done with Lex to work on this, but I don't think there's enough room (or time) on this blog! Jump grids have played a big role, as have jump boxes, working on tight turns, turns out of tunnels, using a command to indicate a change ("shhh"), but nothing has shown us a great deal of success. But! We aren't giving up.

I spoke with a friend of ours who recommended working on the flat some to reward staying with us and reading speed changes. Lexi read our speed changes very well. It's almost like when she sees the obstacles, she loses her mind. But, I've come to find that a great deal of it is because of my poor timing, so I'm trying to improve as well.

This issue also pops up when working weaves. You may have noticed that at our last trials, the weaves have been an issue. Lexi consistently goes wide and misses her entrance. It isn't because she doesn't know how to enter (she does), it's because entering from an angle often forces her to slow down, and she chooses not to. So she swings out wide, and enters when it's easier for her. So, we're working on that as well. I think the future holds some 2x2 weave training to help with that.

Here are a few drills that we worked on last month:

Okay, I forgot that YouTube doesn't show my captions. Here is what we worked on, in order:
1-- Circle work, rewarding for attention to speed changes
2--Circle work, including crosses
3--Circle work, then a send, rewarding a tight turn
4--Collection with jumps, rewarding collection
5--Collection prior to the weaves
6--Big scary neighbor dog comes out, forcing us to stop. Also, forces us to put up a fence.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Trial: BRAG Bentley

Alright, here are Bentley's videos from the same weekend...

Bentley: Masters Snooker Q
Woohoo--Bentley is a Snooker Champion now! He got his 10th Masters Snooker Q with another Super Q (he didn't need it!)

Bentley: Steeplechase Q
Darn that a-frame...but still a Q!

Bentley: Masters Gamblers
Well, we all knew gamblers was not his thing! The weaves were just too far out there, and the "corrected" teeter prior to the send just didn't set him in the right mentality.

Bentley: Masters Jumpers
Bentley handled really nicely here. I ended up on the wrong side, and mishandled my RC which caused him to refuse the jump. But other than that, he was moving nicely and I felt like our crosses were nicely timed.

Bentley: Masters Standard
A good run...I was proud because you can see that he tries to slow down at the bottom of the contact, but he slips and jumps off the side. I'll take that over a flying leap, which is what we had been getting. (This is his first time on rubberized contacts)

Bentley: Masters Standard (Day 2)
Ugly. Missed both A-frame and dogwalk, then headed back to the table in a tricky section towards the weaves (Jonathan's fault as he's opened up to the table completely). Then he turned too soon off a cross and missed a jump.

Bentley: Steeplechase Finals ($22!)

And I won't post it, but I got lost on the Masters Pairs course and cost our team a Q (DUH). Can you tell I was exhausted? I've never done that before! Sorry, partner!

Trial: BRAG, Lexi

The first weekend in June was our first trial in Columbus, only a week after moving in. In retrospect, I think the dogs were a little overwhelmed by so many new things in a short time, but I was proud of the focus that they showed (some of the time!) Even I must have been tired because I actually forgot the course in Masters Pairs, costing us a Q (sorry partner!)

Originally, I didn't upload several of the videos because they were so bad...but I guess I better share the good AND the ugly. This time, I created different videos for different runs. Enjoy.

Lexi: Starters Jumpers Q

Jumpers is one of the toughest events for Lexi and me. I actually had another competitor tell me that that is normal for a dog like her (fast and obstacle focused). I am constantly "managing" her, and I think that can be frustrating. That being said, this was her best run all weekend. She listened!

Lexi: Steeplechase
If it weren't for the trouble at the weaves, she would have Qd! She handled nicely for Jonathan. We are going to retrain weaves using 2x2 to teach her to slow for her entries. She also dropped a bar at the end. The bar drop added 5 seconds to her time, and if I remember correctly, she

Lexi: Starters Jumpers
The beginning was ugly, but there was some nice parts (her getting out to those pinwheels).

Lexi: Advanced Gamblers
I'm proud of my girl for this run. It was her first Advanced level run, and she did well. In fact, if it hadn't been for the dogwalk mishaps, it would have been a Q! This was her first time on rubberized contacts, and I think the grip was different from what she was expecting, and she couldn't hang on. She was a brave girl and tried a couple times until I stopped asking her. She got the gamble (which I thought was hard--the far end of the tunnel) just didn't have the points.

Lexi: Starters Standard
Started off on a bad note when she dropped the first bar. Jonathan babysat the entrance to the dogwalk because of her issues in gamblers, and it caused her to drop the bar. Then he was late on the RC, and it just didn't go well! I'm not too upset about the teeter because this teeter is really heavy, so it takes a long time to fall. Lexi has been trained to run down the teeter until it falls...which she did! She just ended up all the way at the end before it started to fall.

Lexi: Starters Standard Q
Thank goodness for loooong course times in starters! This was a bad run as well, but because she somehow made it under time, it was enough for a Q and her AD title. Notice she has another issue with the dogwalk here. The slats are under the rubber coating, which I think made her think it was the teeter (especially after what happened on the teeter the day before). I think she slowed at the top, expecting it to drop.

Lexi: Starters Snooker
After Lexi got her AD title, any starters events were moot (just for fun) since she would be moving up afterwards. For some reason my husband decided it would be fun to try something more difficult. Didn't go so well! Our obstacle focused girl proved true to form and just picked the closest obstacles each time.

Lexi: Starters Pairs Q
Another issue with the weave entries, but other than that she did fine. I forgot the course for a brief second, so was lucky that we didn't get an off course.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Obstacle v. Handler Focus

I love the Backyard Dogs drills found in Clean Run. Here's one by Stuart Mah that we found was really great for our dogs. Not too hard to set up (or remember!) and great for both dogs, though each have different skills to work on.

One thing that we found is that Lexi responds a bit too much to pressure. Specifically, at 1:07, she pushes out to the far jump only because Jonathan is turning, and therefore opened up a little bit to the far jump. I'm not sure how to fix this, because if I add a command for close (we use "here") then am I just babying her incorrect tendencies? Shouldn't it be the opposite...that she only goes out if I say "out", but naturally stays with us? I'm not sure. The same holds true at 4:45 (Sequence 5).

I've also noticed, from watching a lot of these, is that our timing as handlers really needs work. For Lexi, we're too slow and she turns and responds well, but we need to make sure we are asking for turns sooner. For Bentley, we tend to stomp on the brakes, and that causes him to pull in.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A bit behind! May LCDA Trial

We've moved (from SC to OH!), so I've fallen very behind in my blogging.  I'm going to slowly update.

In May we participated in our very last agility trial at Low Country Dog Agility.  I will definitely miss all of our friends.  It was so nice to be surrounded by a group of people that have been with us since the beginning of our agility journey.

Bentley had a nice weekend. He (finally!) got his Jumpers Master title with his 5th Masters Jumpers Q, and his Snooker Champion (10 Masters Snooker Qs which includes 3 SuperQs). He also got a Masters Pairs Q. Oh! And even better...in Masters Standard he only had 1 refusal one day! It wasn't pretty by any means, but he did get both contacts. Hooray.

When we move he is going to contact boot camp (in the yard!)

In the end, Lexi got her Starters Gamblers title with her 3rd Q, and she also got Qs in Starters Pairs, Starters Standard, and Starters Snooker. She now just needs 1 more Standard Q to get her AD (Agility Dog) title. And she was SO close this weekend...she misjudged a jump completely and the bar dropped.

Obviously she has some collection issues, but she honestly did great for a baby dog and I couldn't be more proud!