Friday, March 29, 2013

Michigan Again

Not a great showing for us.  I don't think the courses were the problem, I just think Lexi and I are still a green team which means we're pretty inconsistent.  We have some great weekends, and some not-so great ones.  And of course, our hotel was terrible and we got no sleep.  So that didn't help.

There was some incredible competition at this trial, and I've never been in a more competitive 16" class.  As an example, Bentley ran clean in Steeplechase and came in 11th place!  Sure, it wasn't he and Jonathan's best run, but that's saying something.

Masters Gamblers:
Not much to say about these runs.  I think 4 dogs total (Championship & Performance, ALL heights) Qd on this course.  It was REALLY tough!

Lexi:  Naughty, naughty contacts!

Bentley: Clearly, Bentley was feeling a little out of sorts at the beginning of the day.  Jonathan's cues weren't very clear, and Bentley wasn't up to snuff, either.

Masters Standard:
Lexi:  Our worst run in a while.  I knew the weave entry would be tough, and I wasn't pushing enough towards them, but I told her weave early and hoped she would look for them on her own.  Nope--I need to help more.  Got a pretty nice turn to the table, though :)  And then, why did she cut behind me?  That was reminescent of the Lexi of old--she was facing sort of behind me, and coming to my right side would have taken more effort, so she just didn't.  I guess I could have been more aggressive with my cue, but I have my arm out, and am looking over my shoulder.  And then she went SO wide coming out of the tunnel that I wasn't prepared and pushed her back in.  And then we were in that vicious cycle!  But, we got (and HELD) a lovely dogwalk contact.

Okay, and to focus on the positive.  I got AMAZING collection at the end.  I stopped and cheered for her and we ran off and got cookies.  I don't even care that she dropped the bar.  YAYAY!

Grand Prix:
Lexi:  Not a bad run considering this course had some similarities to our terrible standard run.  I knew the corner to the dogwalk would be hard, and she was pushing her contacts all weekend.  I didn't think I could get her to hold the teeter long enough, and I was right.  She broke too soon, and I wasn't able to get down and cue the jump and turn, so she peeled off too soon.

Bentley: Bentley wasn't really up to par this weekend.  I think he was feeling the after effects of his rough week.  He was significantly slower, missed his weaves a couple times, and dropped a few bars.  Very unlike him.  Still a good run, though.

Lexi:  I really agonized over whether or not to throw a blind in, but was afraid I wouldn't get there.  I sent Lexi to the tunnel and had SO much time.  I just stood there waiting for her!  But on the positive side, I was standing still and thus got a really nice, tight rear cross.  Then I watcher her and forget to get into position for the cross, and was late, and she cut behind me.  Same thing out of the weaves.  I stood and stared at her after my forward send, and forgot that I was front crossing.  Luckily Lexi forgave me!  We got a Q, too, which was an added bonus.

Bentley:  Jonathan admitted that he got a little lost on course (you can see some very late handling moves!) but Bentley was still clean.  I was happy that he got his a-frame contacts, though you can see that they were NOT 2o2os haha!  Anyways, poor Bentley was clean, and got a Q, but came in 11th place!

Masters Snooker:
Lexi:  Jonathan is SO good at Snooker.  He just GETS it, and always comes up with amazing plans.  We have had several people compliment him on his approach.  I wish I could think like that!  Anyways, he had a really great run with Lexi.  It was a bummer that she dropped that bar, because the opening was just perfect.  He wasn't planning on having her take the back side of 2, but he got turned around, and she dropped the bar.  
Bentley:  Mr. Reliable!  Jonathan didn't walk the course for Bentley (I was actually going to run him), but he decided to just run the course he had planned for Lexi.  Maybe not the best plan for him since he's not as fast off the line, but he still Qd!

Masters Jumpers:
Lexi:  I just love this run of ours.  Yes, she drops a bar, but it was the end of the weekend and knowing our trouble with Jumpers, I was so pleased with the remainder of the run.  She was really moving, and had the fastest time of the 16" dogs that ran (and as I mentioned, there was some SERIOUS competition!). 
Bentley:  Yay!  Good run, boys!

Steeplechase Finals:
Lexi:   I was really, actually, running all out in this run.  I figured, why not?  We didn't have anything to lose, so I thought it would be fun to just run hard.  And then Lexi was so excited about that idea, that she broke her a-frame contact! :)  And then I didn't push far enough into the weaves (recurring theme: no independent weave entry!), so we had to try those again.  And then, I'm a huge jerk.  I'm running too fast down the straight away that I don't show enough decel, and Lexi crashes the double.  She limped for a second and I was SO worried and felt horrible.  Then she realized she was okay, and jumped up and was fine.  WHEW.  (Don't worry, she went to the chiropractor after this day!)

Bentley:  Another good run for Jonathan and Bentley.  I will briefly mention his SERIOUSLY shaped RC at the end.  We've been getting on him for class for that, and it's crazy obvious at the end.  ;)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Pennsylvania Trial, Day 2

Masters Jumpers:

Lexi:  Never did I imagine that I would have a dog that would have a harder time with Jumpers than Standard.  In fact, I usually like Standard because it feels "easier".  I feel like in Standard a lot of time the challenges are equipment-based, whereas the challenges in Jumpers are handling-based.  Lexi has decent equipment skills, so typically that isn't the issue.

Anyways, we have only 1 Masters Jumpers Q, from January 2012!  I mean, she did have 6 months off during that time period, but still...clearly a weakness of ours.

But that makes the Qs all the much sweeter!  This was a really nice run.  Of course there are always things to work on, but we held our own.  If you watch, she wanted so bad to cut behind me on the serpentine recall to heel, but I held my ground and she came around.  Woohoo.  And then coming out of the tunnel she almost didn't grab the jump in front of her, but noticed it last minute and went out and grabbed it, saving my butt!  I was most concerned about the turn at jump 11 because I knew I would have to trust her and leave her. I could have trusted her and left sooner, but I did trust her and moved downstream, and it was great :) We had the 4th fastest time of every dog at the trial!

Bentley:  And Bentley had an amazing run!  He was only a couple seconds behind Lexi (which is really MOVING for him), and had a great run.  He and Jonathan were definitely on the same wave length, and Jonathan's crosses were really pretty!

Masters Snooker:

Lexi:  One of her strengths is her speed--not so much her collection :) so it's a great benefit that we can lead out really far and not lose much time.  The opening of this run is a great example.  In fact, the entire opening was really super!  Then Jonathan didn't work the weave entry, and she didn't know that's where they were going since he'd been pulling her off of things the entire run.

Bentley: Not much to say!  Jonathan concentrated so much on Lexi's plan that he didn't leave much time to plan for Bentley.  Bentley doesn't have an a-frame contact, so clearly the a-frame wasn't the plan, but he wasn't clear enough.

Masters Standard:
Lexi: There were a few bobbles (and the video cuts out for just a second), but how adorable was it when one of Lexi's back legs slipped off the dogwalk and she put it back on? Baby girl knows her criteria!

Steeplechase Finals:
Yay Bentley!  He came in first in finals and we got a little bit of $$--always a perk!  Not sure what happened at the weaves or afterwards--I think he was just tired.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pennsylvania Trial: Day 1

Firstly, have to say, we had a GREAT time at a great facility.  It was a bit farther than we like to travel for a weekend (just under 4 hours), but it was well worth it.  First of all, it's a 2 ring trial, secondly the facility was top-notch, and third, they were nicely organized and we were done by 3 both days.

Masters Gamblers:

Lexi:  I thought that Lexi had a chance at turning into the tunnel, and then I thought if I could pull her out then I could send her back over the last jump.  But, I was so worried about showing motion that I showed way too much, and she went farther than I thought.  Oh well—she’s definitely got the distance part down J  I just need to work on my directions!

Bentley:…d’oh! So frustrating.  It was almost harder knowing how close we were.  Though in all fairness, most judges would have whistled him for the first attempt as a refusal, so the fact that we were over time really wasn’t as close as it looked.  Still, sucks knowing he was so close.  (Remember, he only needs 2 Gamblers Qs for his ADCH, but it could take an eternity!)

Masters Standard:

Lexi:  I knew going in that she needed 1 Q for her MAD, but I've been thinking that for a while, and we just couldn't put it all together.  This was our weekend!  We weren't perfect, and there were a lot of opportunities, but I felt positive about all (well, maybe not one of them...but we'll get there) of our runs!

Anyways, opening was lovely, and then my front cross after the teeter was SO late.  I'm lucky that there was nothing around and I was able to regain control.  Poor girl needs more information, and faster!  And then!  Wait for it...Wait for it...I DID A KETSCHKER IN A TRIAL!  It's not that they are hard, or anything, but they are new for me, and trying new things is something I struggle with.  Anyways, I think it went really well! And I thought it had a purpose (lots of people complaining that these are becoming more popular for no reason).  And then.  Another first.  I TRUSTED MY DOG!  I saw the angle of the chute to the weaves and I was worried.  That's a tough entry, and I know that Lexi tends to shoot out and go wide.  But, I thought I would show lateral motion before she got into the chute, and I said "weave" before she was even in the chute.  And she came out looking for the weaves!

She did trip on the way up the dogwalk, but was no worse for wear!  And she held her contacts ALL weekend.

Grand Prix:

Lexi:  Yeehaw!  One of our best runs of the weekend.  What an excellent girl!  (Got a little worried at first when another sheltie ran onto the course to say hello, but he was friendly).  Great turn off of the dogwalk with the backy uppy at the jump--and yes, I STILL celebrate when she collects because it doesn't always happen.  And then, I was worried about the weave entry (again, this is the one that is tough for Lexi), but I ran with her and set her line, and she had no issues!  And she came in first and got another bye :)

Bentley:  Another really nice run for J & Bentley!  Of course, you can see Bentley's lovely a-frame, but we'll ignore that part of the run!  I am so envious of the forward sends that he is able to get with Bentley.  They are always perfectly timed and nicely executed.  I think that Bentley's weaves were a bit faster this weekend, as well!

Masters Snooker:

Lexi: Lexi only needs Super Qs, which is a tough spot to be in.  There weren't enough 16" dogs in our class, so we had to compete against the 12" dogs.  In the 12" dogs were 2 dogs with their ADCHs, and one dog with several WAO medals.  Tough crowd!  I think that if Jonathan had sent Lexi to the tunnel sooner as he started the close, he could have gotten the 7 points at the end and the Super Q.  Oh well, still a really stellar run!

Bentley:  Provided nothing goes horribly wrong (see next day's snooker video as an example), snooker is a walk in the park for Jonathan and Bentley! This was their Snooker Champion-Bronze (15 Masters Snooker Qs!)

Masters Jumpers:

Lexi:  Don't worry, in case I was starting to feel too big for my britches after a very excellent day to this point, Lexi and I had a communication meltdown in jumpers.  I feel like it always happens in jumpers.  My trainer described jumpers as "highlight handling" and that's definitely the weakest part of our game, so I guess it makes sense that I find it so difficult.  Anyways, I'm willing to take full responsibility for our first off course. Showed way too much forward motion.   But the next one?  Is she mad at me?  Do I smell bad?  Are we doing gamblers and I don't know it?  Anyways, she keeps me humble :)

Bentley:  Of course little buddy gets out there and makes it look easy (well, except for that one jump that I'm still not sure how he didn't miss!)  With this run he got his Jumpers Champion!


Lexi:  Silly handling error by me.  I waited too long at the tunnel (again, need to trust her!) and then I was pushing out so far at the jump beyond the tunnel that she read it as a rear.  Can't blame her for that.  Don't know if you can tell, but after I sent her to the tunnel I was running as fast as I could.  That's what caused her to drop the bar out of the tunnel--so much acceleration.  But I had to do it to get out for the ending.  She had a very nice go on at the end!

Bentley:  Nicely done!  Bentley is so reliable, I just love that about him.  I think Jonathan is still trying to figure out the key between acceleration and getting too far ahead, but I think the encouraging him helps, as long as it isn't too distracting.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dognition: Canine Assessment Toolkit

Around a month ago a friend of mine posted about her dog's experience in a beta-test of a canine cognition test created by a company called Dognition.  I read a little bit about it, and immediately signed up, though the program was still in beta testing, and they didn't need anymore testers.  I received an email from Dognition about a week or two ago and was offered a really great discount on the Canine Assessment Toolkit (the test itself).  I treated myself to the test for both dogs for my birthday.

A little about the science (from Dognition's website, linked above):
"Dognition is not about ranking dog IQ scores.  It's about discovering which skills your own dog relies on to navigate the world -- the ones your dog excels at as well as the challenges.  Knowing your dog's 'cognitive style' can help shed light on where your best friend is coming from -- and the new places your relationship can go."

Dogs are tested on the canine cognitive dimensions they've defined below:

Each test is more like a game, and helps Dognition come up with a profile categorizing how your dog processes different games, challenges, and requests.  Honestly, they were mostly a lot of fun!  I really loved watching the dogs think through different things, and of course they thought through most games very differently.

I don't want to give them all away, but one of my favorite examples was asking your dog to "leave it" a treat (your dog doesn't need to know any commands to play the games, but they can be used).  The first time you time your dog to see how long they will leave it as you watch them.  Then you time them to see how long they leave it when your back is turned.  And the third time, you time them to see how long they leave it when you cover your eyes.

Lexi didn't eat the treat at all.  She just watched us the whole time.  Bentley waited until our backs were turned, and helped himself!  

It took us almost a week (they recommend that you don't do the games all at once--each section takes 15-30 minutes), but we finished tonight and received each dogs' individualized reports.

Again, I don't want to give it all away, but they were completely SPOT ON!  The report was able to define what I've always known about the dogs, but was never able to verbalize.

A few nuggets from each of their profiles:

Lexi was categorized as a "Charmer".  Tagline?  "A smooth operator, the charmer relies on a secret weapon--you!"

"Lexi can work a problem out on her own as well as anybody, but she prefers to rely on her secret weapon - you. As a Charmer, Lexi has exceptional social skills, which means she can read your body language like a book. She is not above using this information to get her own way. Lexi is no fool when it comes to independent problem solving, and her scores reflect a keen understanding of the physical world. However, Lexi's real genius is that she sees you as an ally and partner, and she will usually turn to you for help before trying to figure out a problem on her own."

"Lexi's empathy scores were off the charts...You probably often find her staring at you for no reason. You might wonder if Lexi is trying to tell you something, like she is hungry, needs to go to the bathroom or wants to weigh in on an interesting issue you've both just seen on television. But Lexi may not want or need anything - she may just be seeking your gaze because she is just hugging you with her eyes."

"Lexi is definitely retrospective, with a rat-like spatial memory. She can probably recall rich details about where things are located throughout your house and neighborhood."

Bentley was categorized as a "Protodog".  Tagline? "The protodog is reminiscent of the first dogs that began their relationship with early mankind -- burgeoning social skills allowed dogs like yours to become a much loved member of the human pack."

"Thousands of years ago, when our human and canine ancestors first began their extraordinary relationship, there was something about certain types of wolves that distinguished them from the rest of the pack. Rather than a traditional form of intelligence, these pioneer dogs, or protodogs, had budding social skills that allowed them to approach and interact with humans. Bentley is reminiscent of these first dogs. Independent problem solving may not be a strong suit, but he has what counts - a desire to communicate and connect with you."

"Bentley's performance is highly collaborative. It looks like he relies on an infant-like strategy that allows him to flexibly use human gestures to solve all types of problems."

"If Bentley is good at solving a problem but can't solve a new version, then he probably learned to solve the original problem through lots of practice, without necessarily understanding much about the problem in the first place." (Relates 100% to his contact performance!)

Anyways, I thought it was fun, interesting, and eye-opening!  As they gather more data, they also share information broken down by country, state, category, breed, etc.  I can't wait to learn more!