Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Insanity is...cik & cap!

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results" -Albert Einstein

I can't help but think of this quote when I'm trying to work on cik & cap with Bentley and Lexi.  From my previous videos you'll see that both dogs have a preferred side.  Lexi prefers to turn with her left shoulder to the pole, and Bentley with his right.  Within a day, I had great turns from both dogs going the way that they chose.  Silvia recommends teaching both ways at the same time...but it's so hard!  I've  been working on the dogs' weak sides (Bentley L and Lexi R).  It was a tough process for them, but last night I finally broke through and was getting turns on the dogs' weak sides.  Hooray!

But, I was feeling guilty because I was only working one side--and Silvia made it a point to say that you should work both at the same time.  So, I took a little break and then decided to work Lexi's strong side again.  Nothing doing.  All I could think about was the aforementioned quote from Einstein. 

I'm not sure I understand the logic behind working both at the same time.  Obviously at some point I'll reward turns either way, and then add the words, but right  now...I am not changing any cues (because the only cues the dogs have to work off of are my body language and the "obstacle") but expecting different criteria.  Isn't that like me holding a cookie in my hand (the signal for sit) and expecting a down?  I finally gave up and just allowed Lexi to work her weak side, because her turns were looking really nice.  So now both dogs only want to turn to their weak side (Lexi L Bentley R)

Any suggestions?

And here are a few short sequences (my husband never remembers to record me!) from yesterday.  We've had a stretch of a couple nice sunny days so I wanted to take advantage of it.  It stinks because by the time I get home from work, we only have about 30 minutes of daylight.  Also, there are less afternoon videos of Bentley because our neighbors leave their fence-chasing dogs out all evening.  They don't bother Lexi, but  Bentley goes crazy and we can't get any work done.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mishmash Monday

Bentley is enjoying the sun (I think he's thinking that we sure don't get as much here as we did in South Carolina!)

Friday, February 24, 2012

More Cik & Cap

A couple days ago we worked on cik & cap some more, and it's not as easy as it looks!  I thought, sure I'll teach Lexi to circle around a cone.  Easy!  Not!  Anyways, she can circle one way fairly well, but the other way, not at all!  She doesn't want to do anything the other way, just maybe take one step.

Bentley is getting the hang of it as well, even though I don't think he'll really need it on course.

After the above video a friend pointed out that I was only clicking at the same place--when the dog had almost completed the turn and was back looking at me.  Oops!  She also forced me to try to get Lexi to turn the other way.  I'm a pushover, I start to feel bad when Lexi gets frustrated!

So here is session 4, where I attempted to rectify the aforementioned problems.  Lexi still doesn't want to turn the other way, but it's getting better bit by bit.  Her turns the one way are great.  Bentley is the same--has one way down pat!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cik & Cap challenges, and day 2 video

After my first video (which I felt was successful) I had a lot of trouble asking for the next step from Lexi on her cik & cap work.  I just could not get her to make that turn all the way around the pole.  Diana gave me some great advice about rewarding and the placement of my hands but I was really struggling with the concept!  Who knew I'd already be challenged at Day 2?

Poor Lexi was trying everything, but she just wasn't getting it.  It was like she didn't want to let my hands out of her sight.  I could get her to make the turn by luring her, but it was clear to me that when I was luring, she was just watching my hands, and not paying attention to what she was doing (so not really learning).

Here's the first video from day 2:

You can hear me talking to Jonathan trying so hard to figure out how to get my hands in the right place to reward Lexi completing the circle.  No such luck.  I even ended up accidentally rewarding her the wrong way in my attempts.

Then I decided to try a smaller object.  I thought if I could reach over the pole it might help my hands.  I didn't have a cone, and tried a number of household objects before I stumbled upon a wine bottle holder and bottle of wine (haha!)  Anyways, DING DING DING!  It helped tremendously.

We just did a short session last night, and I was already getting more of a turn than previously.  I'm hoping that I'll start with this, and then be able to work up to something that I don't have to reach over once she gets the idea.

I'm still luring her more than I'd like, but I'm sort of treating this as day 1 again, now that we have the right plan in motion, I can hopefully fade any luring.  I also received a suggestion to already start getting her to go a bit faster, and drive out of it, and I will work on that (I hope it will come with confidence).  But, I'm in no hurry, and I think this is one of those foundation skills that can't be overworked.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mishmash Monday

I'm not so good at participating in these day-themed posts (I can hardly remember to post anything at all!) but I'll give this one a try.

Mishmash Monday is where you post photos that didn't quite turn out the way you wanted.

This picture is from February of last year.  It's probably one my favorite pictures of Lexi, but it's too dark!  I tried to fix it in PS, but even after changing the exposure it's still dark and pretty noisy.  Darn.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Inside/Outside turn comparisons

Several weeks ago in class we did an interesting exercise.  We were presented with a few tough sequences from some "famous" courses, and were asked to perform them two ways.  Once, turning the dog to the outside, and once turning them to the inside.  Prior to running, we were asked to guess which way the dog would be faster.

As a key to the worksheets, the circled answer (where it says "fastest") was our guess.  The times written were the actual times for each sequence.  (Note: click on photo to see them larger)

Bentley p.2:
Lexi p. 2:

A few observations:
Not surprisingly, Lexi was faster to the outside every time.  I was 3/4 in guessing correctly.

I was surprised, however, to see that Bentley was faster to the outside a couple times.  We have a tendency to turn inside with him much more often, but I'll definitely be rethinking that.  I'm guessing it's because it's harder for him to speed up again once he slows down and collects for turns.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Lexi starts Cik and Cap

So, for a long time I've admired Silvia Trkman.  We even mistakenly tried to teach her running contacts before any of her online videos, etc...were available.

That being said, I've been intrigued by her concept and cik and cap, and have been wanting to give it a shot with Lexi.  Unfortunately I can't afford the class, but we were able to get the DVD and decided to try it out.  Sure, there's a chance I'll mess it up, but it can't hurt, right?   I'm hoping that it will at the very least make her a bit more aware of where her body is when she starts to make turns.  I'm anticipating that it will be very difficult to accomplish at speed, but it will be a fun endeavor nonetheless and regardless of the outcome.

I've taken a few notes from the DVD and hope to post a few takeaways here when I post corresponding videos.  Here are my notes from the beginning of the video (the why!) and a few notes on the very beginning stages of teaching (the how):

Reasons to use cik & cap:

1.        Improves course times
2.        Makes handling and timing much easier
3.        Takes stress off the dog's joints
4.        Teaches obstacle focus, distance skills and sends
5.        Makes it less frustrating for the handler since they don’t have to be everywhere for the dog—more fun for handler and dog since the dog can run full speed

Random notes:

Changing direction (180) is harder than threadle

Cik/cap doesn’t mean come to me, just means to collect and jump in the right direction

Step 1: Going around a pole or cone.  Can reward either direction. Reward close to the pole going in the right direction

Pay attention to the rear and jackpot if the rear comes with the front when coming around the turn.

This video is from her second session--I kept them both short and just used the clicker to shape the turn (though I guess I lured a bit when I rewarded).  I worked her a third session outside and she really seems to get it.

I will note that I am struggling to see whether or not Lexi's rear is moving with her front.  It seems to me that it is, but it's hard for me to tell.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Letter L, and Bentley is sick

Friday we came home and Bentley had gotten really sick.  He was sick all day and night Friday and Saturday.  We took him to the vet Saturday because I was worried that he might have another obstruction (for those who don't remember, he ate a bunch of leather in August and had to have surgery).  The vet felt that it was most likely a bug (she said those have been going around) and gave us some medicine to help. 

He seems to be feeling much better, and hasn't been sick since Saturday night.  I even went home at lunch today and check on him and he seemed fine.  I'll feel better once he's back on kibble (I'm feeding him chicken and rice) and things are back to normal.  Poor little guy.

The weirdest thing is that Lexi is really upset about something. Either she doesn't feel good (I hope that's not the case!) or she is worried because she knows something is up.

She is really sensitive, and we've obviously been acting differently (sitting with Bentley on the floor in the kitchen, the living room is completely gated off since we had to steam clean the carpets) but she won't leave us alone. She keeps asking to be held (even when we're walking around), and wants to be in my lap all the time.

Jonathan and I were taking turns sitting in the kitchen with Bentley (didn't want him on the carpet) and Lexi was so worried that she insisted on sitting on our laps as we watched Bentley (he's on the floor behind the chair napping!)

I also need to catch up with some of the videos I've recorded, so here's one from last week where we practice the letter L Alphabet Drill with Lexi.  I thought some of her turns were pretty nice!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Lexi's handstand

A work in process...I just had to share this video, though...  It was originally about 3 minutes long, but Bimmer decided he had had enough, and just sat right in front of the camera for all but the first 30 seconds.  Ha!  Typical cat.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Random post

Nope, still haven't gotten my act together to post about the many things running through my mind.  So I'll settle for just a few random thoughts.

1.  Jonathan and I decided to try to concentrate more on one dog each.  We think that will be particularly beneficial to me and Lexi since the hardest part is working on timing.  I will still run Bentley at times, and he will still run Lexi.  But we're going to try to do more 75/25 rather than 50/50.

2.  Tuesday night in class was a great night.  This class has had some pretty challenging sequences which can leave me feeling just a tiny bit defeated.  Despite all that, I have learned a lot and I know that the dogs have too!  We wouldn't grow as a team if we never worked on things that were hard for us.

That being said, I love those classes where the progress that has been made is almost tangible.  I remember when we first were introduced to the recall to heel positions how Lexi had absolutely no desire to come in on the serpentine recall to heel position.  It required collection and convergence--two things that Lexi knew (or cared) little about.  The class focused on this skill, and Lexi was stellar!  Of course there were mistakes made, but when I did things right on my end, Lexi responded accordingly.  I just remember thinking that these RTH positions were too hard...and now look at us!

3.  I am trying to teach Lexi to do a handstand against the wall.  She's at the point where we have a couch cushion almost parallel against the wall, but not yet.  As soon as I make it parallel, it's like she doesn't trust her feet to be able to grip and back up.  Not sure how to fix it.  Maybe try a more "sticky" material to help her grip?

I also wanted to try to teach her to lift her back leg (one at a time), and Lian kindly suggested that I touch her leg to get her to lift it up, and then click.  Good idea in theory...but Lexi is too busy throwing herself around trying things for me to capture a mere leg lift!  I will try to get a video to show what I mean.  I even tried to get my husband to sort of hold her still (she is shifting, backing up, moving sideways, barking all at once!) but she just seemed confused!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Forward motion--lightbulb!

I've been pretty lax in updating the blog with agility related stuff...but it's (again) been pretty rainy here so we haven't gotten out as much as I'd like.

But, in class the other day our instructor said something that made so much sense to me.  It sounds obvious, but I just never considered it.

Lexi needs very little forward motion cues.  The less, the better.  If you take one step too many forward, she races out and we get wide turns, off courses, and I'm playing catch up.

I know it makes sense, but I never though about it in such simple terms.  This afternoon (sunny weather, yay!) we went out and worked more alphabet drills.  I focused my handling so much on minimal forward motion--or at least being conscious of when I was using that as a cue.  And it made such a difference.  In a 20 minute session I probably got 4 amazing, jackpot turns (meaning tight and lots of rewarding).  I was so impressed and as usual, Lexi had a good time! :)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Dogs in the snow/sleet of Canada

Just a quick video of the rough weather we had on our first full day in Canada.  Needless to say the dogs didn't go out much!

(Sorry for my dorky comments-ha!)