Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Quick videos

Just a couple videos with courses from Stuart.

This was the first one--and the "easiest"!  I'll try to post another one in a few days.  There is one that I just could NOT get with Lexi.  I'll have to remember to post it to see what everyone else thinks.

Here's the first one:

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Just a few training videos

I'm behind on my videos (uploading to youtube takes FOREVER!) so I'm just going to lump a couple together from last month in this post.

The first is more alphabet drills.  Have I mentioned I love this book?  This is letter "R".  I'm always surprised at how well Lexi handles some of the more difficult sequences.  Of course, it's a whole different monster when she's coming at this technical sequences at full speed (instead of in a "vacuum" in the backyard where she can't get a head of steam).  I should also point out that we are working really hard to stay "up" the whole time and add tugging as much as we can.  Lexi seems much happier (though she always seems happy...she is less frustrated)

As usual with Bentley the issue isn't staying close and making tight turns, it's when it's time to let him loose to drive ahead.

One thing I still need to work on is not bending over.  When I'm focusing on making clear cues, I bend over!  Ugh!

The second video is from our training session at the club (we rent it out a couple times a month).  We are lucky enough to be able to train with a friend, and she has Stuart Mah create some courses for us.  Of course, this one is one of the "easier" ones-ha!

Bentley had some issues with the weaves--so we definitely need to work independence.  Of course that's hard when the yard is a mud pit! He did have a very nice forward send in this video.

I was pretty proud of how Lexi handled the sequence off of the dogwalk.  Coming out of the tunnel at the end I lost her, and wasn't able to decel enough to cue a tight turn (and with the weaves out there she went very wide).  But very proud of both pups!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Trial, Teeter, and Other Random Musings...

Sunday we took Lexi to a local indoor trial.  As I've mentioned a few times, neither of my dogs are particularly successful on rubber matting, but it's so hard to resist a USDAA trial that is so close to home (it's about 25 minutes away).

Since the building is very small, they can only do Starters and Advanced, so Bentley stayed home.  Because of the flooring (and lack of expectations) we only entered Lexi in the last 3 classes of the day; Standard, Gamblers and Snooker.  I figured we'd see what she did on the teeter, and I figured it was worth a shot to finish her Advanced Gamblers and Advanced Snooker titles.

First I have to mention that the day took forever.  We arrived a little after 9am.  The order for the day was Jumpers, Steeplechase Finals, and then Standard, Gamblers and Snooker.  Keep in mind that it was Starters and Advanced only, and there was no more than a page each for Championship and Performance in each event.  We didn't run (there were only 2 events before Standard) until 1pm.  The building is super small so we crated in the car, but it was really cold, so we had to leave the car on and just sat in the car for 4 hours.  Not fun.  And Lexi was not amused (Jonathan and I brought books, guess Lex forgot hers at home).

Advanced Standard:  It went okay.  It only took Lexi one extra try to get on the teeter, and I think that honestly it was due to the fact that she was unsure on the floor (you can see her slip multiple times in the video) and she would have had to change leads to get on the first time, and just opted to run past.  I definitely think that's an improvement.  She also had an off course, but that was more because Jonathan stopped and praised her after the teeter and didn't give her great cues when he released.  She also slipped right when she got on the table and banged her face on it--poor thing!  But, I was happy that she got on and didn't bounce off (something we've been working on at home inside).  And her weave entry was nice!

Advanced Gamblers went very well.  Lexi knocked a bar, but I think it's a combination of the flooring and her extended jumping style.  One odd thing was that she wasn't getting into her 2o2o on the dogwalk without a lot of prompting.  That is very unusual.  I think it's because ALL we've worked in the past week or more is  her 4-on on the teeter.  So she was getting into a 4-on position on the dogwalk.  I'm not sure what to do about that.  Am I confusing her by asking for two separate criteria?  Should I switch to a 2o2o on the teeter?

Lexi had no issue with the gamble, though I have to admit that my foot went across the line.  I was feeling pretty guilty about it, but at least I know that Lexi would have done it regardless of where I was placed.  I just looked down and realized I was on the line and got away from it as soon as I could.  I got lucky that I was given a Q.

Advanced Snooker:   A little ugly as far as connecting when it came to cues, collecting, and deceleration (I can say that because my husband doesn't read my blog-ha!)  And unfortunately despite calling her off a couple off courses, she knocked a bar in the closing that prevented her from qualifying.  Again, she rarely knocks bars so I attribute this mostly to the flooring.

It was a long day (3 runs in 8 hours!), but we still had a good time.

So my big question is this...should we change her teeter criteria to 2o2o to match her dogwalk and a-frame?  Are we confusing her by teaching both?  Or, is it just because we've focused so much on the teeter that she's gotten confused and once we even out our training (using all contacts) the confusion will disappear?


Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Fun Post, and very very brief Teeter Update

First, the teeter update.  Apparently turkey is all it took.  Lexi is doing the teeter in the living room every which way she can think of (it's currently at around 18" high).  She'll jump on one end, get into position.  She'll even turn around and go right back to the other end (though I try not to encourage that!)  Anyways, this is the Lexi that I know, whose motto is "the world is my playground!" And that's exactly how I want her to feel about the teeter.  Next steps are to raise it to full height (probably in a day or two) and then sloooowly start to alter the tipping point using weights.

And since we don't have any tricks on video, I thought I'd share this fun one from November.  I got this little robot hamster for Christmas the year before and have discovered that the dogs (mostly Lexi) hate it!  Bentley just loves any excuse to bark!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Alphabet Drills and a Teeter Update

For Christmas I got the Nancy Gyes Alphabet Drills book.  It is AWESOME.  I will never be looking for sequences to practice ever again.  Just one letter can keep you busy for weeks.  I love that each set up is simple and small enough for a medium-sized yard.  I should also point out that the first thing that Bentley did was eat the packaging around the DVD and ruined it.  Nice.

Anyways, here's a quick video of letter A, AKA box drills (I'm behind on videos, and this one was taken right after Christmas)

Thought I'd give a quick teeter update.  This evening we lowered the teeter and tried to work more independent driving.  Jonathan reported that she would do it if he amped her up, ran with her, or encouraged her, but was less likely to do so if he just stood there, even with cheese on the end.  I decided to see if she would push herself more for turkey, and that's what we used this evening (just a note that each session is very short, maybe 10 reps?)  She had no issue going to the end.  A couple times I held the teeter in place and let her eat turkey out of my hand as I held it, and then dropped it as she continued to eat.  She had no issue with that (too busy eating to notice, I think!)

In class tonight she did the teeter on the first pass (and off of a forward send, which has been a scenario where she's opted to go around before).  I filled our trainer in on the issue and she felt that we were doing the right thing, just that I pushed her too hard by holding it immediately.  She recommended changing it just slightly every other day or so (by 1-2 lbs of weight).  I didn't think of it, but she made the point that if the teeter usually starts to tip right before she steps in the yellow, and I held it until she got to the end, I essentially changed the tipping point by 36" (the size of the contact zone).  That's a HUGE change.

Diana (my favorite blogging friend over at http://4dogcraziness.blogspot.com/) recommended that we try the two table method, and I like that idea.  But, we don't have two tables here...in fact we don't even have one!  But, I'm going to try to set this up during our building rentals this month to change up our methods a little bit.

Thanks to those that have contacted me with suggestions!

Teeter Boot Camp

Well, this isn't going to be as easy as I thought!

Lexi has had a teeter issue for several trials now.  Sometimes she does it, sometimes she doesn't.  She's had this issue since as far back as I can remember. We've retrained the teeter probably 3 times (basically just starting over and rebuilding confidence) and we're still not progressing.  It seems like 1 step forward 2 steps back.

It's clearly a confidence issue.  She knows the end criteria and I don't even remember EVER having to correct her for coming off the teeter, or flying off, or somehow or other not making her criteria (which is 4-on).  But, when a teeter doesn't do what she expects (typically it's when she finds a really heavy teeter that doesn't drop when she immediately gets to the end, or even vice versa), she freaks out and avoids it for the next who knows how long.

We've been teaching her the teeter using Wendy Pape's method (breaking it down into its components, bang, height, position, release, etc...)  I'm not sure if that was a contributing factor or not because the issue didn't show up until she was spooked for a reason, or even no reason.

I think I knew all along what needed to be done, but it doesn't sound like much fun.  Stuart confirmed my suspicions, and we were off to teeter boot camp.  We borrowed a teeter from a friend and it now resides in our living room (oh if my non-dog friends could see me now!) and Lexi is going to learn to get into position at different tipping points using weights.

I thought it would be easy.  But on the first attempt, she was weirded out by equipment in the house, and we had to start with just the bang and getting into position just on the down side.  Well, we moved on past that pretty quickly (I should also note it is not at full height) and went on to doing the whole thing.  When we originally retrained Stuart told us to not encourage her, but to allow her to find the tipping point on her own.  That is VERY hard to do as she'll go halfway up, decide it's not doing what she wants, and come back and get into position on the side that's already on the ground.  I'm trying not to lure her as I want her to think about it, but I keep thinking that if I lure her, maybe she'll realize it's not so scary.

She did it fine last night, and so this morning I decided to up the criteria and sometimes hold the teeter so she would have to run to the end before it moved.  SETBACK!  After I did that once, she didn't want to do it again.  I resorted to luring, and she still wasn't interested.  If my girl isn't interested in squeeze cheese, then I know I've pushed her too far (bad mom!) so we took a break and did something fun for cheese.  When Jonathan gets home we're going to have to lower the teeter even more and work on going to the end.

I guess I'm just not sure how to fix this if she's going to get worried every time she gets to the end and it doesn't move and we have to start over...any advice?

Inconspicuous, isn't it?  :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lexi's new trick

I was inspired by Ricky's great tricks and Chewy and Oreo, too to try this one.  Of course if it involved treats and jumping, Lexi was all for it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

St. Louis Trial: Bentley

Finally--Bentley gets his trial update!

As always, Bentley's goals are a bit different than Lexi's.  We've been working really hard on his 2o2o on the dogwalk, and I'm always anxious to put it to the test in a high-energy trial environment.  Needless to say, he passed with flying colors!  He went 3 for 3 in dogwalk contacts!  What a good boy!

Day 1:

Masters Gamblers:  Gamblers just isn't his thing!  He only has 1 Masters Gamblers Q, and hasn't really come close to any of the others.  But that's okay--it's a skill that honestly got skipped when we were learning about agility, and handler focus became Bentley's major strength.  Some day I think we'll have to drop everything and teach Bentley to work away, but for now we'll just understand that this is a skill that he is missing.  I was hoping that he would at least turn to the teeter  (the gamble was jump, right to teeter, left to a jump directly behind the teeter, back over the first jump and then a second jump beyond that), but it wasn't meant to be.  Also, we learned that his a-frame contact is NOT there yet!

Masters Standard:  Bentley hasn't gotten a standard Q in a year.  A whole year!  It's something we expected and actually pulled him from standard in many trials as we re-worked his contacts.  I was very, very proud of this run as the only mistake he made was in the weaves.  His weaves were off all weekend, which I think was a combination of lack of practice on 12 poles, and possibly him being pretty out chiropractically.  (Also, I think we better work on laying down faster on the table-ha!)  But on the VERY positive side, we got a couple nice forward sends, a beautiful dogwalk contact, and a very nice threadle!

Grand Prix:  In our lives, we've never gotten a Grand Prix Q!  Of course we haven't entered it that many times (either we felt Bentley wasn't ready for that level of difficulty or we were retraining contacts), but still.  Anyways, another nice run that we were proud of.  Good dogwalk, just a mistake in the weaves (hard to tell but he pops out at the end).  You'll notice a theme of mistakes right after the a-frame, that's because he's supposed to stop, and when he doesn't we're scrambling to adjust!

Masters Jumpers Q:  I felt like this was a nice run.  I felt very in tune with Bentley, and he was really going out and looking for obstacles--good boy!  Watching the video I definitely felt that I ran pretty passively, but I was glad that we qualified as we've been pretty close in jumpers in some of our last runs.

Masters Pairs:  I won't say too much about these runs, just a mistake in the weaves again.  He didn't run clean in his run that counted, but did run clean when he ran to accomodate the other 16" dog to help that dog Q. 

Day 2:

Masters Gamblers:  This one we knew he had no chance in from the beginning.  His weaves were off all day the day before, and since his surgery we really haven't worked independent weaves.  What followed was nothing short of hilarious.  Jonathan and I talked the whole time we were watching others run how important it was to get the dog in obstacle focus before sending them to the weaves.  Let's just say, that didn't happen.  Unfortunately I was laughing so hard that you can't really see what happens in the video.  Bentley kept jumping up on Jonathan's leg and grabbing his pants (something he does when he gets frustrated).  Jonathan couldn't get him to let go and send him to the weaves.  I haven't seen him melt down in the ring like that in a long time.  But, we still had a good time!

Masters Standard Q:  Bentley's first Q in Masters Standard, and first Standard Q in exactly 1 year!  So happy for my boy, and the effort and work that he has offered to us as we worked on his contacts.  I could have cried!  To point out a couple highlights--loved his push to the teeter, and his recall to heel prior to the weaves (bad camera work by me!)  And to point out the bad...naughty Jonathan EARLY released his dogwalk!  I called him out on it and he said "I was so worried that we would mess it up that I got nervous and released him!"  Hope that doesn't confuse Bentley!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Chiropractor and Patella Issue

I know, today should be Bentley's day to shine.  I do have all his videos on youtube and need to do a write up here, but I'm worried about something else and wanted to post about it.
Tonight we took the dogs to the chiropractor for the first time.  I admit that the first time I heard about it I thought it was a little odd, but decided that a qualified person's hands on my dog couldn't be a bad thing.  We decided on a chiropractor that was also a vet, as that made me feel reassured.

Anyways, Bentley was out in all kinds of places.  She said he was very out--she specifically mentioned his sacrum and pelvis.  She said it could have affected his weaves this past weekend.  I'm not one to write off all mistakes as being related to his chiropractic health, but it's something to consider. 

Lexi was only a little out (surprising since she is always throwing herself at everything as fast and furious as possible), but the woman did give us some interesting information.  She said that she felt Lexi's left patella pop.  She asked if I had heard any popping or seen any limping, skipping or favoring that side--and I haven't.  She said it could be very mild and never be an issue, but it felt like it luxated slightly.   Of course being me, I became very worried.  I know this is not necessarily a career-ending injury, but it still scares me.

I have reached out to all kinds of resources (friends that are vets, friends with experience, serious agility competitors who have been through this, sheltie-informed friends, etc...) and will be making an appointment with a vet soon.  I am trying to decide if we should see our regular vet or make an appointment with someone else who might have a little more agility experience.

I am praying that it's nothing serious--my little girl loves to run and play!

Monday, January 2, 2012

St. Louis Trial: Lexi

As previously posted, this weekend we went to St. Louis for a trial.  To sum it up, it was a great finish to 2011 and an awesome start to 2012!

The first thing I want to say is how much better the entire trial felt mentally.  I think the two contributor to that were the mantra I wrote on my hand (see previous post), and something we made sure to do this trial.  Before every one of Lexi's runs, the person running her went outside and threw the toy with her (even when it was freezing and windy!) for at least 5-10 minutes each time.  Not only did it put Lexi in the right place, but it calmed my nerves SO much.  It was just a very good feeling.  I was happy no matter what happened!

Day 1:

Advanced Jumpers Q:  I had to call her off the tunnel (bad mom!) and see some places where I could have been clearer, but Lexi did really well.  Her FCs were really nice, and she converged really well.  I stopped and waited for her a couple times (most notably out of the tunnel) and I'm really trying to break that habit!  But this was her third Q and therefore her Advanced Jumpers (AJ) title!

Advanced Gamblers:  The gamble was the teeter and I knew that it probably would be an issue.  As I've documented, Lexi has a weird teeter issue and it has flared up again since what happened at LCDA back in November.  I decided to try and test the teeter beforehand (since I knew I couldn't Q anyways if she wouldn't get on) and sure enough...she was having none of it.  The scary teeter monster strikes again!   Her avoiding the DW the first time is similar--maybe she thinks it's the teeter at first?

Advanced Snooker Q:  A little "fast and loose" in this run, but it was a Q, and Lexi did eventually get on the teeter.  I had high hopes that after she got on the teeter in this run that she would realize it wasn't so bad...but unfortunately the issue continued.

Advanced Standard: Teeter monster strikes again!  So you'll see that she is still weirded out by the teeter here.  On the plus side, she did eventually get on.  Also, Jonathan didn't cue deceleration for the table, and that's an obstacle that we honestly don't train enough (Lexi looks unsure what to do!)  And we have learned that Lexi prefers any obstacle over a contact, so we can't get lazy and expect her to make a turn to a contact (here you see she takes the tunnel instead of the a-frame).  She nailed her weaves, though, and I was quite happy as we've worked that a lot!

Steeplechase Q:  My baby's first tournament qualifying leg!  Lexi was great.  The only issues in this run were mine (didn't cue turns fast enough)...but Lex was perfect.  Great weave entry, great FC in a place where I was concerned that she'd go wide (at 11 seconds) and get an off course.  But I made it a point to keep moving and she followed!  She even came in first--woohoo!

Day 2: 

Advanced Gamblers Q:   Wanted to try the teeter again...but nothing doing!  Luckily I planned it out so that we would have enough points even if she didn't do the teeter.  I was very impressed with her distance with the RC to the DW.  What a good girl!  And she even held her 2o2o ALL weekend!

Advanced Snooker Q:  In order to Q we knew Lexi would have to do the teeter, and luckily, she did!  I don't know if she preferred the teeter in this ring, or what, but it seemed like she would at least eventually get on for Jonathan!  They even did all 7s together.  Anyways, I liked Lexi's recall at the beginning--she didn't even think about taking anything on her way to Jonathan!

Advanced Standard: Again, the teeter monster strikes.  Other than that, a nice run!  RTH before the weaves could have been better, but Lexi didn't cut behind and eventually got on the right side.  Also, awesome DW contact!

Masters Standard Q:  This run almost made me cry.  What a good girl Lexi was!  A few months ago I would have never imagined she could Q in Masters Jumpers.  She even saved my butt a few times when I forgot where I was!  The end was a bit choppy when I realized I couldn't get the FC in I was hoping for (you see me waiting to make the RC), but still, excellent!  Lexi had the best time (23.6) out of all the Championship dogs--including some very well known BCs!  She would have been even faster if I had done a better job at the end.  What an excellent girl!  (Also, notice a tiny bit of collection around 25 seconds--hooray!)

Steeplechase Finals 2nd: We decided to stick around for finals to see if we could make a little money :)  And we did!  In fact, Lexi almost came in first INCLUDING her 5 pt. fault at the broad jump.  I was worried, but luckily she just sort of ticked it with one foot.  This was the first time I used a blind cross in competition, and Lexi, like a good girl, didn't break.  She also nailed her weaves.  She did miss my FC at the beginning, but I wasn't quick enough to signal it because I was worried she might push to the a-frame.  Perfect RC to the tunnel, though!

All in all, an awesome showing for the baby.  Now we have to think of the best way to address her teeter issue!  Looking for any suggestions!

(Bentley's post to come...this was a long write up!)