Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Cik & Cap Update

Just wanted to start off by saying thanks to Diana for pointing out that Lexi missed her entries when I wasn't helping her--or shaping them.  She's definitely right!

It worked out well that we worked letter W the other day, because the following night we worked weaves in class, as well.  There was a course set up where the weave entry was exactly the same as the one where Lexi kept missing.  My instructor made a good point (that she has made before).  We need to work skills independently before we add forward motion.  As soon as I add forward motion, it becomes exponentially more difficult for Lexi to collect and do her job.  So, we should teach hard weave entries first, and then add the motion component a little at a time.

Soon I'll take an updated cik/cap video to share, but I've been lazy.  I did get my regular camera out today, though.  I got a few pictures of Lexi wrapping the pole.  She is definitely getting it!  And, it's already making her think a bit differently as she approaches other things.  I decided to teach her a new trick the other day, and she offered a weave around my leg.  So, I went with it and she's learning to weave around my legs.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

W is for Weave!

Photo by Mike Lifer Photography

Finally got the chance to get outside and get some video of a training session.  It's nothing crazy--just more Alphabet Drills (have I mentioned how much I love this book?  It's perfect for a small yard and not a lot of equipment!)

Yesterday we worked on letter W, which as it turns out, stood for weaves!

Unfortunately the neighbor's dogs were outside all day, and Bentley didn't get to play at all.  In case I haven't mentioned it before, he is reactive (as are the neighbor's dogs) and I don't want him to get the chance to practice reactivity during agility--which should be fun and stress free for the dogs.

I'll take a moment to talk about Lexi's weaves.  She has always been a low and fast weaver--for which I am grateful.  Those are two things that I don't know how to teach!  Of course, the "fast" part comes with a price.  If she's going too fast, she sometimes doesn't want to slow down to get her entry.  We retrained her this past summer using the beginning stages of 2x2, combined with a lot of rear end awareness exercises and I think that helped.  But, as you'll see in the video, there are still approaches that she hasn't quite figured out.  I'd like to get that independent entry (priceless with a fast dog) but we definitely aren't there yet.

Weaves are one of the things that confuse me because I watch videos of top trainers with their dogs (Susan Garrett recently posted one of her dog Swagger while she used her NRM to let him know to try the entry again) and they have such patient, thoughtful dogs.  I'd love to see a video of someone with a dog who will do it wrong 99 times out of 100.  Does Lexi want to get it right?  Of course--she's a working dog!  But, does she also want to go fast?  You bet!  And those two don't always mix.  If I were to use an NRM over and over as she continued to miss her entry, I think she would give up--and I don't want that.  Of all things, her enthusiasm is what I love best (even if it has its drawbacks).  I say all of that to say that from a certain angle, Lexi will miss her entry 99 times out of 100.  Maybe even 100 times.  So, we decided to bring back the wires and see if that would help.  At certain points they do, and other times they seem to throw her off.

Here's a brief video with some high (and low!) lights.

In the first 4 seconds, I found it odd that she wanted to take that off set jump.  Of course I can see that she was trying to find her line (something we worked on quite a bit) but it really wasn't on the way to me.  She did this twice until I re-angled the jump and made it clearer.

Then you'll see that she blasts past the weaves.  I was able to eventually get her in from this angle, but only with serious deceleration on my part, as well as a bit of babysitting (waiting there with her).  From the other direction, she has less trouble.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

One of those moments

Those of you who have dogs will know what I'm talking about when I mention "those little moments".  Doesn't matter if you're into dog sports, or dog companionship.  This is what keeps us coming back despite frustration, setbacks, challenges, and inevitable heartbreak.  A short lifetime of those little moments makes us forget everything else.

I would be remiss if I said that today I experienced one such little moment--and found it to be surprising, or unusual.  Every day I am hit by one of those little moments.  Whether it's Bentley curling up next to me on the couch, or Lexi ramming a toy into my leg--these moments are everywhere, and I love them all!

Perhaps today my mood is what made this "little moment" even more special.  I'm stressed, and to be honest, feeling a bit emotional!

We took the dogs to a park today, and walked them down a long path.  I considered taking my camera, but didn't know if the weather would hold up (it has been very gray all day).  I would guess that we maybe walked a mile or two, and then turned around to come back.  The path was mostly deserted, so I decided to let Lexi off the leash (don't worry, she has an excellent recall and we were in a safe area).  She explored, trotted at my side, sniffed, and checked back in with me like a good girl.  Luckily, this is something that she has always been good at it, and does my heart good to see her able to interact with her surroundings this way (similarly, it makes me sad that we failed at teaching that foundation with Bentley--though I think his character allows him to be perfectly content to walk in step with whomever is holding his leash).

I decided to break into a run--just for fun.  And to my surprise, and joy, Lexi broke into a run, keeping pace with me at my side for almost a minute.  I know that sounds silly...but we were in total sync!  Perhaps I should remind everyone that this is my crazy, boisterous girl that loves to race ahead, jump in front, turn around and bark, and often almost trip me up with her herding instinct (which she seems to think is the best game ever!)  It was odd, but it was incredibly calming.

I love those little moments!

"What now, Mom?"

(Don't worry--I'll be back with your regularly scheduled programming--Agility and Training--soon!)


Friday, March 23, 2012

I love my dogs!

I guess I probably don't say this too often...but I really love my dogs.  Dogs are great because they love us unconditionally!

This week has been really stressful.  My boss has been on vacation all week, and I've been in's been a terrific learning experience, but extremely stressful.  She has a crazy job, and seems to be the key to the entire marketing department!  Anyways, the place hasn't burnt down yet, so I guess I'm doing okay!  I'm also basically doing two jobs at once...but that's not really a fun dog-related story!

Tuesday was particularly stressful.  I had worked 9.5 hours straight, and then immediately went from work to agility.  We worked on serpentine recall to heels (in sequence) and it was just awesome.  The dogs didn't do anything in particular that put me in a good mood...they just were their little selves.  Enthusiastic, willing to work, and of course, cute!  They weren't perfect, but I didn't care.  We were working together as a team and all my worries just faded into the background.  On our way out of class there was a sheltie club meeting and I got to hold 3 little 11 week old sheltie puppies.  Adorable!  I left that night with a HUGE smile on my face.

I love my dogs--and I love this sport and everything that comes with it!

This picture is from 1.5 years ago!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cik & Cap (good thing my dog is smart)

So because I've been busy (and I wanted to take a short break) we really haven't done a ton of Cik/Cap work.

I'm super swamped at work today, and I'm out of town this weekend (and no, not for something fun like agility-ha!).  But here's a quick video of some of our work yesterday.  I'm trying to keep the sessions short, as you'll see, and Lexi seems to be doing well.  I need to get better about remembering which side is which!

(PS don't mind my obnoxious voice!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A little of this and a little of that

by Mike Lifer Photography

For my birthday my husband bought me a TON of pictures of Lexi.  The photographer (the guy who was the photographer at USDAA Nationals) was going out of business, and had a great sale.  Unfortunately it would have been really expensive to get photos of both dogs, so I chose Lexi because I have purchased other pictures of Bentley before.  Anyways, you'll be seeing a lot of them because I love them all!

This weekend we enjoyed the lovely weather and I decided to see what Lexi would do with a tree outside and her wubba.  She definitely understood going around it (cik & cap)--hooray!  And then last night I had my husband hold a wooden pole in the middle of the room and Lexi ran around it from either side (depending on which side of me she was on).  I'd say it's time to start adding the verbal!

What do you guys think of the new blog?  I really wanted to do a collage (I admit the previous background was poorly executed) but I just can't come up with a good way to do it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lexi BRAG Trial

Masters Gamblers: This was Lexi's first time in Masters Gamblers. Gamblers has always been her strongest event, but I knew that once we got to Masters it would be challenging for her--yet fun, of course. I was really proud of her in this run. As I mentioned on Bentley's post, only 3 out of 60 dogs got the gamble, and Lexi got everything but the last jump! I was really proud of how she came in and took the tunnel at the discrimination. I should also point out that after our last trial you'll see that Lexi no longer has an issue with the teeter-yay! Let's keep it that way!

Advanced Snooker: Q and Title!
As my husband said, he got a little greedy with the send to the tunnel at the beginning of the close, but luckily in advanced there are no refusals and he was able to fix it.  I really liked how Lexi came around from jump 3 to the chute (4).  I thought she might go wide and take the jump (as in a 180) but she read Jonathan and came around right towards the chute.  She drops the bar at the very back of the course, but it was very sandy in the back of this ring.

Advanced Standard: E
Poor girl--this was a tough course.  I was really happy how she handled the opening.  There was a day not too long ago when I am confident that she would have thought long and hard about taking that 3rd jump (the green one on the straight away) at the beginning.  She didn't even consider it but turned and headed for the tunnel.  Jonathan should have trusted her and kept moving!  When walking it we knew there was a strong likelihood that Lex would come around that turn and head for the tunnel.  She loves tunnels to begin with, and with speed like that, it would be tough to deter her.  We're also seeing much faster downs on the table, no sitting up halfway through the count, and no jumping off this weekend.  Vast improvements all around!

Steeplechase: Q
I thought this might be a tough one for Lex as there were a couple very "Lexi-like" off courses.  She proved me wrong, once again (note to self--believe in her!)  She did miss the weave entry, but I think that I lost connection with her in that expanse and should have kept an eye on her to make sure she wasn't eyeing the tunnel.  Beautiful weave entry on the way back, though, and that entry wasn't easy (at speed!)  Beautiful FC at the end (my have those improved!) and a strong finish.  1st place!  What a good girlie!

Masters Jumpers:
Totally my fault!  Lexi really handled nicely, I just wasn't on top of my game.  I decelerated way too late at the exit to the tunnel, and pushed her out really far.  Then I didn't catch her eye to put her over the white jump.  Oops!  I think the rest of the run was wonderful.  Great send as she turned toward the tunnel, and beautiful finish.  Really happy with this run as the mistakes were all mine.

Masters Snooker:
Well, not much to say-ha!  This was a hard course.  As I mentioned on Bentley's posts, no obstacles were bidirectional, and well...just not so good for baby girl!  She drops the first bar (again, this is the second day where the footing was bad) and I think Jonathan was thrown off from the beginning.  Then he didn't give her the information in time and lost her as he headed towards the tunnel (I can criticize him on my blog because he admitted to it!)  Well, we knew Snooker would be tough for her!

Advanced Standard: Q
Hooray!  Her first Advanced Standard Q!  Nice send off of the teeter.  Then my husband played it safe and pulled her away from the table so she wouldn't bounce on and off.  Running towards the table with speed is something we need to work on so that we don't baby it in a trial.

Steeplechase Finals: E
This was probably the best E ever!  I really liked a lot of things about this run.  If it weren't for the weaves, she never would have been eliminated.  This is the only time she popped them all weekend, and I think she lost her footing because her striding got mixed up.  Other than that, I thought this was a very strong run.

Advanced Relay: Q and Title!
I was really flattered when I introduced myself to our partner.  I asked her which side she wanted to do and she said, "Oh, I don't care.  But your dog is so good!"  Anyways, my fault on the weave entry as I got lazy.  I really needed to support her entry and I just assumed she would get it.  I also knew that Lexi would get turned around at the end, but couldn't figure out a way to get there!

Grand Prix: E
Bad handler.  I don't even want to post this video because I was so bummed.  I had so many great handling ideas, and just literally forgot all of them when I got out on the course.  This was definitely a tough course (hey, it's GP! It's supposed to be!) but I think Lexi could have done it if I had executed to my plan.  The first mistake: after the tire I had in mind my FC positioned almost at the wall. In my head I told myself to drive towards the wall...and obviously I didn't.  I FCd like right next to the weaves leaving Lexi absolutely zero room to make her entrance.  I also meant to FC after the teeter, and just forgot.  Then I didn't execute the RC properly (my thoughts: "ARRRRRRRGH!" haha).  But really, she could have done it and did everything that I asked of her!

Bentley BRAG Trial

This weekend we went to the BRAG trial and had a nice showing.  As always, some great things, and some things to work on!

I'll start with a few general comments, then talk about Bentley's performance.  I'll create a separate post for Lexi.

  • It was COLD!  It was about 20-30 degrees outside, windy and we had freezing rain on Sunday.  The trial was indoors, but it was one of those large metal horse barns and it often felt colder inside than out.  There were heaters, but the club did not pay to have them turned on (apparently it's very pricey).  
  • Previously footing had been horrendous at this location.  Several members of the clubs in the area contacted the owner and voiced their concerns (he believed that the footing was fine) and this time there was improvement (based on what I heard from others).  However, there were some pockets of soft sand, and by the second day there were a lot of knocked bars all around.
  •  This was the first trial where Jonathan and I tried to run "our" dogs for the first time.  I still left Snooker for him (his favorite!) and I ran Bentley in Jumpers (my favorite) and Gamblers (Jonathan was feeling discouraged).  It was a lot of fun, but I don't envy those that run more than one dog in an event at a time.  It was confusing and tiring to run two dogs in the same event--especially with only a few dogs in the class.
  • It seemed to be a weekend of almosts!  There were not a lot of 100% clean runs.  That's not to say that we didn't qualify, or that I didn't feel good about a lot of the runs, just that we weren't ever really 100% in sync.
Day 1:

Masters Gamblers
Unfortunately, this is not Bentley's class.  I felt that I had set up a pretty good plan for him, trying to keep him mostly in obstacle focus.  But, towards the end I fizzled out (the effects of my cold catching up with me after having run two dogs back to back) and didn't set him up very well.  Also, I should note that only 3 out of 60 dogs did perform the gamble, so I can't feel too bad.  By the way, if you can't tell from the video, the gamble was red jump, far white jump, tunnel (discrimination), and then far green jump.  Toughie!

Masters Standard
And this is where our weekend of "almosts" with Bentley began.  He really needs Standard Qs, and was so close both times.  Sorry about the bad video, for some reason it just wouldn't focus!  Unfortunately, this is also where Bentley's creepy contacts made a reappearance.  Our criteria for him in training is a 2o2o, but it seems like something we only get part of the time in a trial--and I'm okay with that...but this weekend was pretty bad with the creeping.  Positives were that he didn't miss any contacts, and his downs on the table are a bit faster.  I really liked his ending (you can't see it but the turn from the chute to the close end of the tunnel was tough) and then his wrap to the last jump was perfect.  He dropped a bar and thus NQd.

Masters Relay:
Bentley's new favorite obstacle is the dogwalk (dogwalk = cookies) and he ran out when Jonathan took his eyes off of him and he grabbed it.  So, this was an E.  Also, he dropped a bar.  I'm blaming it on the footing here.  Very happy with his a-frame in this run, though!

Steeplechase: Q:
The agility gods smiled upon Bentley in this run!  He missed his weave entry going both ways, and yet still managed to Q.  Several dogs in the class were eliminated, so Bentley was able to qualify.  Jonathan said the first missed entry was because Bentley was considering the tunnel and committed to the weaves late, and the second one was Jonathan's fault because he wasn't in the correct position.  Another pretty nice a-frame here.  Jonathan was late on the FC cue towards the end which is why Bentley went so wide.

Masters Jumpers: Q
I was quite happy with Bentley in this run--he saved me!  Really nice send at the blue jump to the far right.  I cheated a little bit as I actually ran Lexi right before this and made a mistake.  Lexi missed the white jump coming out of the tunnel, so with Bentley I took extra care to cue him in so he would catch it.  I almost held him too long, though, and had to push him out to the green.  You might be able to hear me say "Out out out! Yay! You saved me!"  Sometimes I'm weird mid-run :)

Day 2:

Masters Snooker: Super Q
In typical Bentley fashion, he steals another Super Q even though he doesn't need it.  I swear this dog has more Super Qs!  The snooker course was really tough.  It was the first time I've seen a course where all obstacles had to be taken in a certain direction in the OPENING (so nothing was bidirectional).  Because of it, it was almost impossible to get all 7s or even high point values. Really nice speed for him--and no issues with the tunnel/a-frame discrimination.  (If you think this course looks easy--take a peek at Lexi's run on the same course.  It's a totally different ball game with an obstacle focused dog!)

Steeplechase Finals:  2nd Place
First time I've ever seen this.  Obstacles 2 and 3 were both the yellow tunnel!  He drops the double in the corner, but at this point in day 2, the edges of the ring were really sandy.  You can see his a-frame take a turn for the worst, though.  What is he thinking?  Clearly it's time to go back to targets (for the 19857867th time).

Grand Prix: 
Another SO close! More creeping on the a-frame, though.  And then, the dreaded refusal.  This reminds me of the "little old lady" drill that Stuart had us do.  Apparently it wasn't enough!  You can hear our friend "Bentley, what the heck?" haha!  Other than that, this was a great run. Though you can start to see him creep on the dogwalk here, too.

Masters Standard:
Again, close but no cigar.  Really nice recall to heel off the table--I didn't have a lot of confidence in that!  Bentley refuses the jump as Jonathan peels off a bit early to set up for an RFP (a late add due to the difficulty of the upcoming section for a lot of the dogs that ran before him). 


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cik & Cap--Clearly I'm doing this wrong!

I did some work a couple days ago and posted a video (CikCap5) and a couple of my friends told me that I was working for too long (which is why I was really only getting turns one way).  They also recommend that I start throwing a treat/toy to get Lexi more excited and driving out of the turns.

So yesterday I took it outside and decided to work using a toy.  I thought that I had it fixed because Lexi was turning both ways and pushing out of the turn and accelerating to get the toy.  I was quite excited.  Then I went back out last night and decided to ask for more of a turn (I wasn't really getting a full 360 earlier in the day, in the video).  I got nothing.  I was literally right back where I started with her just poking her nose from one side to the other.  So, I thought maybe it was because I had the toy, and not treats.  So I brought the treats and the clicker back out...and was basically starting over.  I couldn't get her to do a full turn (I think I got one or two at the end).  Also, outside she wasn't offering any turns around the pole without my movement.  It's like I had to "throw" her towards the pole to get her started.

I had no idea it would be this complicated!  We are still enjoying trying to learn new things, but I wish I knew what I was doing!