Thursday, December 25, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
I am exhausted after 2.5 days of CPE! What a great trial; lot of fun and laughs and great runs by
We’ve worked hard on the weaves in the last two weeks, and I was interested to see how that transitioned to the trial environment. I’m happy to report that
Unfortunately in my rush to get home from work, eat lunch and back across town to the trial, I forgot the video camera.
Colors, Level 1
She was successful going to the tunnel, but she did look behind me at the dogwalk before making the correct choice – good girl to remember he training! Because I had to take her to the tunnel entrance, I was slightly behind when she came blasting out the other side, and she came toward me out the tunnel when she needed to push out to a jump. I held my ground and continued to indicate the push, but she seemed (to me) to not be reading it. About the time it crossed my mind
Standard, Level 2
This was a lovely, flowing standard course that allowed me to front cross on the landing side of a pinwheel;
It’s video time! I’m doing something different this time with YouTube. I think it will allow you to view the clips in a larger format, which should be easier on the eyes.
Jackpot, Level 2
We started the day with Jackpot. For those who play USDAA, this game is a form of Gamblers. However, in CPE you can have “non-traditional” Jackpot, where the judge makes up the rules. This run was one of those. I planned my strategy to get me to a point where I could work the weave poles. Unfortunately, it took me longer than I anticipated and
Unfortunately she was too distracted to weave. She gets very distracted by the sandbags under this particular dogwalk; and even though we class here weekly, she’s still distracted. I’ve finally decided it’s not only the shape and color of the sandbags, but it’s also because she doesn’t usually see sandbags under dogwalks without tunnels (think about that and it’s true; she’s very observant!). I took the better option to just leave; primarily because I was required to!
Fullhouse, Level 1
This is my favorite CPE game, mostly because it’s so easy to play and it’s fast and furious (like a jumpers course). It’s a point accumulation game, but within your points you must have three single bar jumps, two circles (tire, tunnel) and one “joker” which is a spread jump or contact. And you only get 30 seconds to get your points and get to the table to stop the clock. They give you a 5 second grace period, and then they start taking away one point per second until you stop the clock. Again, greed kills on this one – see why I like it?
Devon did an awesome job on this course. Her only mistake was coming off the A frame when I front crossed -- and my mistake was not marking it. Oh well! She read the deceleration to cue the turn to the A frame (and away from the tunnel) great, and she did a nice job on the rear cross to the tunnel (not her strong point). This course earned her a second place (right behind a border collie).
Colors, Level 1
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Monday, December 8, 2008
Connor earned his OAP Saturday, finishing his career. While it is a sad thing to really retire this wonderful dog, I’m glad we could go out with two beautiful runs that included perfect weave performances.
Connor would have been perfectly happy to be a companion dog; in fact he’s from a “pet” litter. He was exactly what I needed to follow my hard-driving border collie Reece. He’s been my patient partner as we learned agility and tracking. Although he will never reach Ian’s accomplishments in agility or Devon’s accomplishments in tracking, he allowed me to learn the sports so I could do great things with the dogs to come. He has been patient with the younger dogs, playing with the puppy Ian when no one else would and teaching Devon how to run the pack as a benevolent leader. Connor has given me a love for Golden Retrievers, with their versatility and biddability that ensures the breed’s place in my house forever.
Connor has had a very good performance career, and one that many would envy. While I wish we could have gone to greater heights because I enjoy our partnership, I know he prefers to just have fun and not be competitive. When things got too tough, or especially when I got too competitive, Connor said this isn’t for me and left the ring. During the past 4 years he has taught me valuable lessons on being a good teammate and putting things in perspective. And like every good teacher, he’s rewarded me for lessons learned; in our case he’s given us a “second” agility career in the last 2 years, earning his AX, six MXJ legs, 18 MACH points, NAP, OJP and OAP.
But most of all, Connor is part of my heart. My sweet boy who shares the couch and the bed, who is really only concerned about “going” so he does not miss out on getting pets and possibly treats from others. So if you see him at a trial any time soon, please spend some time telling him what a great dog he is. We’ll both appreciate it!
I’ve already posted about Devon’s big weekend, but I need to talk about what a good job Ian did. The courses this weekend were very though and times were tight. Ian qualified in Standard on Saturday, placing third, and just popped a weave pole in JWW. The weave entrance in Standard was horrendous, and I was pleased Ian handled it so well.
Sunday was a much more difficult Standard course, with another very difficult weave entrance off a triple. Coming out of the weaves was even more difficult; and an extremely challenging tunnel/dogwalk discrimination was made nearly impossible because the handler was restricted by a jump and the tunnel and sandbags were both yellow – the same color as the dogwalk contact. The best way to handle this discrimination was to V set the line off the table, over the jump and handle the discrimination with at least 10-12 feet of lateral distance to the dog; in other words a completely handler independent discrimination.
Ian was the third 24 inch dog to run after two 26 inch dogs. As the first 26 inch dog ran the course, I realized I needed to change my handling strategy and front cross after the triple (always risky) to be between Ian and the judge. He’s really struggling lately with judges moving in the ring, and on Saturday his head was pivoting in all directions watch the judge. Ian nailed the weave entry but nearly came out of the weaves three different times, before I managed to get him through them clean. He handled the worst dogwalk entrance I can remember (his least favorite obstacle) with perfection, and we crossed the last obstacle with a CLEAN RUN!
That clean run was one of the best highs I’ve felt in this game! I can only remember one other run (and it was NOT in the Invitational) where I felt better than this one. I’m competitive against the judge and the course, not the other exhibitors. To me, each run is a test of our agility team of two. When we turn in a completely perfect performance against a nearly impossible course, I’m thrilled! What made this one even better was to that Ian battles his “judge demons” on this course, and we won!
And speaking of winning, Ian was the ONLY 26 or 24 inch dog (out of about 20 dogs) to qualify on that course. That was an awesome feeling! Ian may be winding down his career, but he’s still giving me thrilling moments.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
You’d think these three expectant faces are ready for their Christmas presents. However, they’re being good, obedient dogs and waiting at the top of the stairs for their release word. I got tired of Ian munching the other dogs at the base of the stairs. He likes to get his sneak attack in when the dogs are coming down the stairs and not paying attention to where he is. This would usually cause (1) Connor to back up the stairs, and (2) Devon to retaliate and a game of chase and chaos to start. So, to fix the problem, I instituted a “wait at the top of the stairs until you’re released” policy. This way I can proof stays and release words and be at the bottom of the stairs to control Ian’s manners. (Pictured from left Ian, Connor and Devon)
Ian’s trialing career has now gone into a period of highs or lows. After giving me a thrilling day on Friday, Saturday was the opposite. Actually, I would have been fine with him completely crashing the course. Instead, he decided once again he couldn’t weave with the judges moving and people watching. UGH! That’s the ONLY thing he did wrong on both courses. I made him get back in the weaves and do them. However, I was worried I’d create a performance issue (again) if I got on him too much.
So, on Sunday morning, I decided we were going to have fun. I gave him lots of warm up time with happy talk, and he was wagging his tail clear to the start. The opening was tough with a wrap from a tunnel to the dogwalk, but he did that well. I was quiet and gave him distance in the weaves, and once again he popped out. I told him that wasn’t acceptable, and turned him around. When I asked for them again, I said, “Ready, ready, WEAVE!!” He raced in and I continued my wacky cheering voice. At that moment I realized the problem. I wasn’t being crazy like I am in the backyard when we do weaves. Ian was worried in the weaves because I was too quiet and not cheering him enough. Goodness!
So I cheered him all through the rest of the course, which was brilliant. I was also running faster and with more purpose. He got a fun happy jackpot party after the run. So, my goal for JWW, the last run of the weekend, was to run with purpose and really have a ball in the weaves. Ian was brilliant! He was confident, fast, and you should have seen him weave! He was 8.03 seconds under SCT for a whopping 4.59 yps – his third fastest JWW run in his career. What a goober! He enjoyed his jackpot party after the run and we ended the weekend on a great note. I guess being 50% and earning 21 MACH points isn’t too bad for a three-day trial.
Friday, November 28, 2008
Ian was at the end of the 24 inch dogs, and I got to watch at least 10 dogs before he ran. I was a little worried, because the judge moved around the course a lot, especially in the weave poles. Ian has been refusing to weave when a judge is moving in the weaves. However, Ian was flawless and fast up until three jumps before the end, when he slowed considerably. I was convinced he might not even make course time with only 18 obstacles, but he earned 8 MACH points.
On a side note, I think I've finally hit that big sigh of relief most people feel after they MACH. Ian wasn't running well when he MACHed in June, and we've had to work through some weave and stress issues this summer and fall. I had this one last goal for him to qualify for a second AKC National, and as soon as he did this morning, I felt a huge weight off my shoulders! Our JWW run was a lot of fun -- he Q'd with a nice time and was one of only 7 dogs (out of 31) to Q. It's really fun when you and your dog have reached all the goals (and in Ian's case more goals than I could have ever expected) for the team.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Ok, I read this on C-Lee's blog, and it sounds like fun. This is the 4th photo in the 4th folder of my photo files. It was taken the first week of June when we had the 100 year flood. This is looking off my back deck toward the north. What's underwater is the circular drive in front of my training building. I didn't get nearly the rain others south of Indianapolis got. On a work note, the floods caused me a month's worth of overtime because the state opened it's emergency center and on-going disaster recovery programs.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
After we finished the game, there was a nice woman with a black Lab asking about being measured before the Novice classes in next weekend’s AKC trial. It will be her first trial, and I told her Devon and I would also be in Novice. While I didn’t need a measure Devon, I would make sure she got to the right place for measuring, and I offered to answer any questions she had during trial.
She looked at me, then at Devon in shock and said, “SHE’S in Novice? She looks so much better than a Novice dog!” I could have cried! What an awesome compliment for a girl who only started back jumping in early September and didn’t have a successful full-height teeter performance until exactly one month ago in October. We still have room to improve on a consistent weave performance, but I am just so pleased at on outside opinion of her performance. Of course I did admit to this nice person that Devon was my 4th agility dog.
Last night Devon and I went to Lafayette for another games night. This week it was Gamblers. While one of the Novice level Gambles had a teeter in it, so we didn’t “do” the gamble, the other was a fairly straight forward Jump, tunnel, jump, jump at about 10 ft. of lateral distance. The difficulty for Devon and I on this second Gamble was the tunnel was under an A frame. The tunnel opening was closest to the handler/gamble line, so based on my handling system, Devon should have done the tunnel. However, I’ve rewarded handsomely for contacts and the line off the first jump set them up for the A frame.
You guessed it – Devon did a lovely jump to the A frame. I was so befuddled and there was a dog on my opposite side lunging at us that I forgot to ask for her contact, which befuddled her! She came off and to me since I didn’t even signal the other two jumps. I laugh and told her she was brilliant and we played tug.
So our second time into the Gamble, I stopped my forward movement after the first jump, which should have made her turn toward me and change her line to the tunnel – NOPE! I was ready. I called her to me and she turned and came back to me for a treat and a good girl. I then redirected her to the tunnel and she nailed the last two jumps at 10 ft. of lateral distance.
To note, she was AHEAD of me over the first jump … shades of things to come! The atmosphere was high in the building last night, since all the dogs were in the ring watching each other and we had two sets of dogs running. Devon was calm and good, even volunteering tugging to relieve her stress (wish other owners had taken note). However, this higher energy atmosphere is what we’ll be dealing with at a trial, and she’ll be wired and ready to run. I’m glad we know rear crosses!
Back to the Gamble for a third time, and I only needed deceleration and a verbal to change Devon’s path after the first jump right into the tunnel. When we ran the game for real, she nailed the Gamble! I had set her up badly for the whistle, so we were over time by 3 seconds and didn’t get enough points in the opening to “qualify,” but it was a well executed run by both of us. I didn’t panic when the whistle blew, and Devon completely ignored the number shouting and the whistle blowing.
My plan to get Devon on as many different teeters before her first AKC trial has worked out far better than I imagined. I had no idea I’d be able to get her in seven different locations in 6 weeks. I have dedicated time to this mission, and probably an additional $100 in building rental and drop in fees, but it has been one of the best things I’ve done in my training.
I know Devon and I need to have lots of training and foundation behind us before we start to compete. We’re both more confident walking to the line. She gives me her all every time she goes to the line, but she prefers to know exactly what her job will be. I made a huge mistake last year pushing her through some half hearted agility training and expecting her to know her job.
So here is a list of the training facilities we can count to Devon’s credit: Pawsitive Partners (two different teeters), Greater Lafayette Kennel Club, K9 Athletes, Wild Weavers of Ohio, Dogwood Training Center (Ohio), Pawsitive Energy and Queen City Dog Training Club. We’re doing weekly classes at Pawsitive Partners and we’ve been able to do several training sessions at Lafayette. This has been very worth our time since our first several trials in December, January and early February will be in these two training buildings.
Today, I can confidently say after seven teeters and training in various building under lots of conditions, she’s ready. I can’t wait until next weekend! Here’s hoping I can get a video camera on special Friday morning so I can post Devon’s runs (and runs by Ian and Connor, too!).
The agility equipment is now neatly tucked away in my small training building. Sigh! We had a pretty, but cold day on Sunday, and it was the perfect day to pack up the equipment since a rain/snow mix was coming in on Monday. In about 1.5 hours, we had everything neatly stored, with the weaves, one tunnel and a teeter still out for practice. Devon got to show off for mom and dad before we started packing everything up. We also discovered a rabbit huddled under the dogwalk before Devon did. It bounded to safety while Devon watched from the dog yard one fence away. She was sure to check out the rest of the rabbit beds in the tall grass after she missed that one.
Last week I noticed Devon had developed a pattern of bailing off the teeter on the first time over it during an evening practice session, but she would turn around and do it successfully the second time (usually to great rewards) and then remain successful the rest of the evening (also earning rewards). She did this three training sessions in a row, so I was seeing a pattern that I didn’t want to continue or to crop up in a trial (since she cannot repeat the obstacle at a trial if she bails off after having all four paws in it).
The first thing I decided to do was change my words. I’d been saying, “teeter, teeter, tip it” as she approached the teeter and as she progressed over it, even when she’d glance over the side which I take as a sign she might bail. I believed continuing the performance word was encouraging her to continue the obstacle performance. However, I started to wonder if repeating the teeter command might be putting too much pressure on her. She was well aware of her job on that board. So thinking about Wendy Pape’s contract training sessions, I decided that once she had four paws on the board, I’d switch my words to “Good girl!” as she went over the obstacle. As Wendy always says when she’s training contacts, praise them on the board and don’t stress the whole obstacle.
My second concern was that she would learn to re-try the obstacle once she bailed, which would get us whistled off the course at a trial. I have already vowed never to call her off a teeter, especially when she’s on it. I never want the teeter to be a bad thing. However, this would add a lot of stress around the teeter from the judge if she tried to get back on it at a trial.
After much discussion with Kim, we decided if she bails off the teeter, I’m will take her immediately away from the obstacle and put her back on course 3-4 obstacles before the teeter. We want Devon to know she has to perform the obstacle correctly the FIRST TIME in order to earn a reward. If she goes back to it instead of coming with me, she’ll get a “good girl,” but no food rewards for the second effort; again only rewarding the completion of the obstacle the first time. We thought this plan might also rehearse moving her away from the obstacle if she bailed at a trial.
My first test of this new “protocol” came last Thursday in her class at Pawsitive. This is a location that she has done the “first time bail” before. We also had a different teeter that she had not seen for 4 weeks, so it was a good test. She was successful the very first time over the obstacle with the new verbal reward after she mounted the board.
The biggest test was Friday evening at Queen City Training club. We went to run thrus and she’s never been to that facility before. She nailed the teeter the first time over it. I gave her jackpot rewards, then turned her around and asked her for three obstacles and the teeter again. She was successful and got more jackpots. We did a second run and she was again successful. Last night at Lafayette, she was successful every time over the teeter, especially the first time.
So while she may still bail on a teeter performance in the future, I think I discovered the problem this time was my verbal pressure in continuing to give her an obstacle command on the board. Since I have switched to full praise when she’s on the board, she hasn’t bailed off the teeter a single time!
Monday, November 17, 2008
Last week we had a field lesson at Gamekeepers. First, Mitch set up a “big dog” T drill for Devon. The back pile was at least 80 yards and the side piles were at least 60 yards from the center. This was more distance than Devon had seen to date, so we were really pushing her. She did just a fantastic job. She slipped one whistle and had a no go toward the end of the drill, but other than that she did just great.
After the T drill, Mitch wanted to see some long marks in his front field. Devon got the first mark at about 90 yards. Mitch moved to another location to set up a mark about 120 yards long. As he was setting up, I heard a sound and in my subconscious I noted it was an animal sound. However, as it continued, my subconscious registered it was an “out of place” animal sound, and I locked in that it was a cat meowing. I turned, and sure enough there was a brown tiger cat meowing walking up behind us. I turned to see how Devon was handling this since she had no leash on and I wasn’t holding her, and she only had eyes for Mitch. Good girl!
So Mitch threw the bumper and I sent Devon. As she was going out for her mark, this friendly cat came and started winding its way around my feet. As Devon started to come back with the bumper, I yelled to Mitch about the cat. He was shocked and said most cats stayed away because of the dogs, and he asked what I thought Devon would do. I said, “Well, we’ll find out.” Devon has been around cats inside, but she’s never had one run from her. You should have seen the look on Devon’s face when she saw the cat at my feet. She was about 20 yards away when she saw it, bumper in mouth at a dead run. She made a quick decision and headed right at the cat, which smartly ran about 15 yards to my left (I can’t imagine what the cat thought). After removing it from my feet, she returned to heel and never bobbled her bumper – GOOD GIRL!
I yelled to Mitch and asked what I should do about the cat. He said take the bumper and release Devon to see what she’d do. So I did. As soon as I got the bumper and gave her a release word, Devon turned and took off toward the cat. The cat took off, with Devon in hot pursuit. It made a couple of bad cut back moves, and Devon almost had it twice. As soon as Devon had taken it close to the tree line near the road (this is a dirt road that barely gets half a dozen cars a day), I called her back to me. She looked over her shoulder like, “Mom! You have GOT to be kidding me here! I’m having WAY too much fun!” I decided to add a nick to my “here” and after a couple of light collar nicks, she broke off and came right back to me, settling in heel position. Mitch decided we didn’t need to worry about her retrieving a live duck if she ever got one, because she almost retrieved a live cat back to me!
Devon continued her marks, and then Mitch set up three site blinds, including one with suction to where Devon chased the cat. I’m so proud of my girl. She never once even looked toward where she’d run the cat out of the field but continued to work like a pro! She lined all of her sight blinds except the long one (115 yards) which she got on two handles (three whistles because she slipped the first one). Not bad for the first time handling to a blind!
Devon has made huge strides in agility. Last week we had an agility lesson with Jenn Crank, Devon’s first since her iliopsoas muscle pull in March. Devon was successful on a new teeter, and other than a slow, testing first attempt at the dogwalk, she was fine on all the equipment. Jenn reminded me to continue to use all forward cues as I class and do Devon’s first few trials in Novice. She also picked up that when I’m a little unsure about what Devon will do on a sequence, I tend to let my voice get really high and baby talk Devon. Jenn reminded me that I need to be confident and sure of what she’ll do and reflect that in my voice.
This great lesson was followed by a great training session at Dogwood in Ohio. I was able to rent the building for an hour, working Connor (he was delighted) and then Devon. She was so excited to be in another new building to do agility! She cantered over the contact equipment, going faster across the dogwalk than I’d ever seen her. I could tell her speed increased, because I had to move faster. She also was successful at not only sequencing every set of 6 weave poles, but she was also successful at two sets of 12 weave poles.
I also did run thrus in Lafayette last week. Devon did a really good job, even getting 12 weave poles. She did bail off the teeter the first time, mainly because the entrance was awkward and didn’t allow me to support her from behind onto the board (I had to post around and be parallel to the end of the board). Even though she bailed the first time, she was successful the other two times over the teeter with that entrance.
We completed our week-long tour of three new training buildings by working at Pawsitive Energy on Saturday evening. Devon really liked the dirt floor to do weaves and was flying through them. The speed decreased the accuracy, but she did well even though she didn’t hit every pole. She did struggle with this new teeter. This was the first time she’s really been unsure in a new building. Even though she bailed off of it, she went right back on and was successful. She did bail off the first three times we attempted the teeter, being successful on the second attempt. We went off to do other things, and when we returned to the teeter, she was successful on the first try for three more sequences at the end of our session.
The thing I was most pleased with at Pawsitive Energy was her dogwalk performance. If I thought she was speeding up earlier in the week, it was only shades of what was to come Saturday. Devon RAN up the dogwalk so fast she bounced the up ramp. I could barely keep up with her, and I was running as fast as I could to the other end. I’m thinking I’m going to be very glad I stayed with the 2o2o contact! I would have never imagined Devon would be running over the dogwalk!
So we’re still training daily on various handler positions in the weaves and getting her on equipment at local training clubs. We head to Queen City for run thrus this weekend, and yet another new training facility. This will be her 8th new agility facility in five weeks, and she’s done the teeter at seven of them. I’m so proud of her! I think we’re really ready to start trialing in December!
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I was just looking over the blog posts, and I realized what incredibly fast progress Devon made on her teeter confidence. She went from not even being at full height on Oct. 3 to doing a brand new teeter in a new location in a sequence on Oct. 28. In fact, during a match on Oct. 17-18, I wrote that I didn’t even try the teeter, and she wasn’t ready for weaves at all. Less than 10 days later she was confidently doing both away from home! I’m really proud of this girl!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Now that Devon has mastered the teeter, we’re starting to work on building speed. I think this will come with confidence in “playing the game,” and I had planned to wait a little longer before pressing her for speed. However, after discussing it with a couple of trainers and thinking about it more, I decided to play with encouraging speed at this point, and I’m pleased with the results.
First, I took a toy and played the “ready, ready, GO!” game and raced her to it. Then I went to the weaves with the same energy and the same toy and said, “ready, ready, GO WEAVE!” Now, these were 12 poles with wires only on 2 and 4 and open 2 inches. She just nailed the poles and at more speed than I’ve seen her have. You better bet I rewarded that! We repeated this four times with me in various positions before I saw her speed slightly diminish as she got tired. At that point I moved onto something else.
For speed down the contacts, I put her on a 24 inch table next to the A frame and used the same toy target and again did my “ready, ready HIT/STAY!” Unfortunately this game with a toy means grab the toy and take off on a victory lap with it, so we got no two on two off. When I tried to make her stop with the toy, she clearly got confused. Since I wanted to keep the speed and association I got at the weaves, I decided we’d change the target reward.
The next day I put good human food in a plastic disposable container with a lid. I rewarded her from this small container so she knew what kind of yummies were in it. Then I put it out as a target and said, “Ready, ready, HIT/STAY” and she flew down the A frame and nailed the contact. She does like to pick the container up in her mouth, which is fine with me. She’ll even take a jump with it in her mouth before I reward her for it.
I’m really encouraged by the speed I’m getting with just minimal work on rewarding for it. The weave speed even translated to her 6 poles straight up. Interestingly I did a ring rental at a new place (for her) yesterday, and she still kept the speed with 12 straight up poles even if she only did about 8 of them. I rewarded her for the effort and the speed she gave me, but I won’t try 12 poles straight up again for a while!
Also during the ring rental, we worked full contact performance with the speed reward at the bottom. I got drive all the way down the A frame, but she wasn’t able to hit a two on two off with that speed. She did give me a four on the floor stop just at the base of the A frame. I think I’m going to go ahead and reward that, since she’s purposefully driving down through the contact zone and stopping. It’s a lot better performance than her halting/sliding down the A frame to make the contact!
I was also pleased with her drive on the dogwalk, considering this particular dogwalk has a lot of bounce on the ups and downs. Between her being fine on the dogwalk and sequencing a brand new teeter (again without doing it in isolation first), I was thrilled with her work so far this week!