Thursday, August 02, 2007

Another Bar Knocker

SUMMARY: Boost lays them flat.

We've been working on basic serpentines this week at home. Boost is getting a little better about not running past a jump when approaching from a drastic angle, but she is knocking knocking knocking bars.

In class today, I don't think she had a run where she didn't knock at least one, often 2 or 3 bars (at which point we'd stop and regroup and try again).

Our instructor (Jim this time) had me pace off 12 feet, then 10 feet, back from the first jump to put her into a sit-stay. Nancy (and others) have always said that, for ideal speed over the first obstacle, you want your dog to have two full strides before that first obstacle. I've always just put Boost as far back as I could, my theory being that that would give her time to get the feel of her stride. But she was knocking the first bar today, too. At 12 paced-off feet, Boost threw in a half-stride after two full strides. At 10 feet, she did 2 full strides and didn't knock the first bar.

Now I need to remember that in competition; pace off 10 feet pretty exactly and start her from there.

That doesn't solve the midcourse bar knocking. Some of that was me giving commands over the jumps, which is so frustrating because I thought I had that timing down after working with Tika, who is pretty danged fast around a course. But there's something different in their strides that throws me off with Boost somehow, or maybe I'm too worried about her pulling off the jump, which she still does a LOT because her commitment point is so late.

Well, this weekend at the ASCA trial with (in theory) fast, wide-open courses should be interesting. I'm looking forward to it more and more, in part because work is so stressful the last couple of weeks. Nothing terrible, just deadlines and too much to do.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fun Match Gotchas

SUMMARY: I work on things that I didn't completely anticipate working on.

The two fun match rings this morning were set up for Gamblers and Snooker (I didn't stay for the afternoon Standard and Jumpers). I got two runs with each dog in each ring, for a total of 8 runs. That was enough for me and my knee.

Boost spent most of all four of her runs popping out of weave pole #10. Over and over. I said "oops" and restarted the first time or so in each ring, but that wasn't getting me anywhere, as she'd just pop out again at the end. In class not long ago we discussed never putting the dog back in where she popped out, and there was a good reason for that, I'm sure, which I can't at the moment recall. But my theory is that, if she's going to consistently pop out in the same place, starting over doesn't help, whereas making her stop and come back and actually do those last 2 poles will make her brain engage. And as soon as she did the last pole, she got to get her mouth on her toy for a moment, but not a big playtime until she actually did the whole set of 4. So we got maybe 4 or 5 or even 6 big celebrations about weave poles today and almost no practice on anything else.

She didn't get all of her weave entries, either, but I was trying challenging ones, and she got some. Did some contacts and the first Aframe she left as I was saying "Good!" instead of waiting for "Break!" so we redid that, and the next couple were good. Start-line stay remains solid.

Tika--omigoodness--wouldn't stay at the start line the first time, just kept standing up and wandering around sniffing, or actually stood and started forward. We spent more than half of our first run time working on that. Then she flew off the Aframe repeatedly. Legal Aframes (feet in the yellow), but she's SUPPOSED to stop 2-on-2-off, so we did a bunch of Aframes. And there went our first run. On the second run we had to repeat the Aframe only once, then she got them nicely, and I went on to the dogwalk, and she slowwwwed waaayyyyyy dowwwwwnnnn. Sigh. I haven't found the balance between getting her so excited that she'll drive to the end, and yet pays enough attention to the rules that she'll *wait* at the end. Seems to be slow & wait, or fast and not wait. (I'm not the only one in the universe with that problem, I know.)

Then I tried doing some runouts in Snooker--running over a large aread of land, past several obstacles, which often discombobulates her and this is where she often starts turning in front of me to bark or grab my feet. First pass, she went right out of the ring into the rough field outside and wasted a good portion of our run time sniffing some gorse or something; second pass she went out into the next ring and took a couple of obstacles there; third pass she kept turning in front of me and grabbing my feet. For that one, I took her back where we had come from and tried again, but now she knows where we're going and is fine with it, so the problem seems to be not knowing where we're going and I'm not good at conveying "stick with me, pal, trust me, we'll get someplace interesting fast."

I really do need to go up to Power Paws and rent the field on weekends to work on stuff like this. Really. I do. Any day now.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Mixed-Success Weekend

SUMMARY: Both dogs ran well and behaved themselves, but training and handling were issues.

I had a good time this weekend, loved running both dogs, and my knee held up fairly well.


No ADCH again. One issue that keeps cropping up is to try to cover wide-open territory and then send her ahead of me to an obstacle. Jake used to do that really well. Tika bounces along in front of me telling me that she doesn't understand what I want and is really excited and wants to do something. So we might not have made time on our necessarily aggressive Snooker course anyway, but what ended up killing us was, during the opening, a really fast blast from a tunnel into the weaves for the second time, I had her so revved up that she hit her weave entrance and bounced into the 3rd pole instead of the second. That hasn't happened in a long, long while, as I've worked so hard with her on weaves. After that, there was no way we could get the Super-Q no matter what I did for the rest of the run. Crap.

She had a lovely pairs run, although got tangled in the chute for some reason--it might have been my cross-behind and strong call, which I haven't usually used in the chute. Still, she was clean although partner was offcourse.

In her standard run, she was offcourse immediately on a lead-out pivot that I didn't time anywhere near well enough. Felt like I was working in molasses and just couldn't get myself moving until she was already committed for the wrong jump.

And the gamble was tough--only 9 of 69 dogs earned Qs. A few more dogs got the gamble but over time. My practice at home this week was spot on--I decided to do "weird handler weaves" with Tika a whole bunch, where I just do weird things and move in odd directions and so on while she's in the weaves and reward her when she stays in. She was hesitant at the beginning of the week (after not practicing this for a long while) but stronger by the end of the week. I was feeling confident about this gamble, where most dogs were popping out at weave #10. But, to start with, *I* bobbled a weave entry in the opening--thought she was going to miss it and called her just as she made a difficult skid and turn and made the entry perfectly (that practice pays off!) but came out again in response to my call. Didn't trust my dog to do her job! So we ended up missing 7 points in the opening, and then the closing involved the same set of weaves and I hung back a little to avoid the problems that other people were having, and danged if she didnt make her entry and immediately turn back and come to me to see what was going on! So much for practice makes perfect...

On the up side, she had a flawless Jumpers run; don't know how I could have gotten any more speed out of her, thought we had a chance of finally winning one, but no--3rd place (which, mind you, I'm not complaining about), missing second by only .14 of a second.

And most exciting, she knocked only one bar out of all 5 runs, and that was the first bar of the gamble opening, where it really didn't matter (and that's because she lay down at the start and there wasn't enough room for her to get elevated again).

She stuck her start line, stuck her contacts (came off one early and I held her up, then she was fine again), and was just a total joy to run. If only she felt the same way about my handling!

Boost with her "New Title" ribbon for her AD.


My other goal for the weekend was to finish Boost's AD--which we did, Phew!, now we can move up to Advanced in everything. Not entirely sure we're ready for it, as our issues are, again, handling and experience (both of us with each other, Boost, with different situations). Once again our biggest issue was blowing past things, usually when I'd give her a little call to change her line a little, and she'd change her line by a mile and blast past the next obstacle while looking at me. As someone said, like driving a Ferrari, you make one twitch on the steering and she veers a mile offcourse--she is *so amazingly fast*.

She started the day with a nearly flawless pairs run. I just about floated off the course. From A to Y, almost couldn't have asked for anything better. Held her start line without even raising her butt a fraction. Made her 2 contact entries smoothly, hit her two-on-two-offs fast and held them until I released her, made a very fast weave entry and stuck them all the way through, kept all her bars up, didn't run past anything. The only thing that wasn't perfect was that she slowed a bunch on the dogwalk up--she seems to not yet be able to identify the difference between a teeter and a dogwalk, and the fact that I use different words for them hasn't sunk in.

Our partner had a fault, but we Qed on the run (although didn't place). And she Qed in her Standard for the AD, but again didn't place--blew past the weaves (my fault involving a complicated table situation and I don't think she had a chance to see them until she was past them) and a jump, both of which I had to come back for.

In jumpers, blew past 2 jumps when I made those little adjustment calls (was TRYING to keep my mouth shut) and I just didn't go back for them; just wanted her to keep running, and man did she ever!

In gamblers, had some issues with go-ons to obstacles in front of us, but were in nice position for the gamble--and she blew past a jump that required a little more direction ('out' or 'left' or something) from me, but did obstacles 1,2, and 4 with tremendous speed and elan. :-)

And in snooker, her opening of 5-7-7 was absolutely luverly including go-ons to obstacles way ahead of me, but the closing started with a serpentine-type move across a jump and she blew right past it into the next tunnel and I couldn't possibly call her off of it (flat footed yelling "boost!boost!boost!" but nooooooooo). But I already knew all too well that serpentine-type jumping is an issue with us: That was solidly drilled in on our courses at Scottsdale. Soooo need even more of that!

But altogether she was a pleasure to be on the course with. Did all of her contacts beautifully, made all of her weave entrances except that one and stayed in all of them once she was in, kept all her bars up, etc. etc. What a good girl.

How many Boost trials?

So I don't know what to say about "Boost earned her AD in only X trials." It's a weird count. At the Labor Day trial, I entered only one class a day and used it for training, not for Qing (e.g., repeating the missed weaves in the gamble opening even though the whistle had blown). So does that trial count, since I deliberately blew off Qs?

At the next trial, she Qed 6 of 9 or so--short only 1 for her AD. And that's the one where my knee blew up.

At the next trial, we were handicapped by the fact that I literally could not run with her because of my knee, AND by the fact that that's when her weave poles fell apart and she couldn't complete a weave successfully all weekend. Would it have mattered if I could have run with her? Probably not, although a couple of classes that was decidedly the relevant factor in not Qing. So maybe I should count that trial and maybe not.

The next trial was the Nationals, and we were trying to make a go of it on masters-level courses and she did very well (including weaves) except for the aforementioned serpentiney kinds of moves. So do I count the nationals as a real trial? Not on the AD campaign, because she couldn't earn Qs.

So she completed her AD in only--um, 2, 3, 4, or 5 trials depending on how you count 'em. (grin)

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Agility Class At Last!

SUMMARY: Took Tika to class last night and we did fine.

The last time I went to agility class was November 15. Took Tika last night for one last shot before another week off for Christmas. They've already cancelled Boost's class for today because of anticipated rain and the holiday rush, dang it all.

We both did well. I never ran full out, although after some experiments, I did rather a Goucho Mark glide, to get some speed without actually pounding my knees. Tika handled just beautifully at a distance. I am so pleased with her weave poles, both her entrances and her willingness to stay in while I veer off sharply in an entirely different direction. She made some very difficult entrances last night with me at a distance (that a couple of other people had trouble with even being there to manage their dogs into the entrance), and I really pushed the limit on veering away--the instant she was in, I took off at nearly a 90-degree angle past a couple of other obstacles to the next one 40 feet away while she finished the poles. (Normally I'd drive her through the contacts for maximum speed, but in this case I was trying to move around a large course without having to run, so I took any distance maneuvers I thought I could get away with.)

She even stayed at the start line! Without standing up or skootching! Which she's normally very bad about. I guess practice does help, eh?, and we've been practicing that in the yard lately. Except once she did stand up early and I let her go because I didn't want to walk back to her (BAD handler! this is why it deteriorates...).

The only issue was, as usual in training, that she stands at the end of the contact, having made a very nice 2on-2off landing, and roots around in the grass looking for microscopic bits of goodies that previous people have left on the ground when rewarding their dogs. It's so hard to practice real-life contacts with her. In competition she never does that (because there's no food in the ring). I've been trying to reward her for releasing off the contact and coming with me, but the challenge is getting her to release and come with me! Even when she decides to recognize the "OK", she strolls off in any random direction with her nose to the ground looking for more goodies. We're still working on this...

But I felt good, my knee felt good, Tika handled beautifully, we had some lovely end-of-the-year brownies baked by Tracy in honor of Flash's triple-double at their recent 3-day AKC trial and various pastries provided by Ashley in honor of Luka's ending up in the top 10 in all 5 categories in USDAA for the year--at last look, they were in something like 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 2nd, and 8th (gamblers?). How far they've come in 2 years! It's very exciting to have seen them progress and succeed.

And I might have mentioned it before, but I'm delighted to have Ashley in my class because I really feed off of his enthusiasm and determination. His legs are much longer and faster than mine and he's more coordinated and naturally bubbly than me, but it gives me something to strive for. Our Wednesday night class this time around is generally very inspiring for me. I've seen Tracy improve in confidence and willingness to try challenging handling moves with her fast little sheltie. Ken and his fast Terv, Apache (aka Bubba for who knows what reason), have inspired me since Tika and Apache were both novice dogs and I'd always be looking for other dogs who could come close to Tika's time on course (faults aside), and Apache was one of only a couple of dogs there, so I was thrilled when they joined our class. And Jennifer and her fast aussie, Kai, are fun to watch, too. While Ken and Tracy are more like my age, they still know how to move around a course, and meanwhile Jenn and Ashley are younger and more athletic and I love watching them run and trying to get my body to do what theirs do--not in an unrealistic way, but on the theory that an excellent way to learn how to do something well is to watch experts do it.

And we all feed off of each other at stretching our handling skills, with Jim helping by throwing in frequent challenges ("here's how you might handle it, but if you really think you can get there, then here's this option--"). If even one of us says, OK, we'll try the double-layered, distance send, double-reverse front-cross halfway across the field for major Cool Factor points, then by golly we all end up trying to do it, and we all cheer and whoop wildly as the others try it and so often succeed. It's especially helpful with Ken and Jennifer because their dogs also jump 26", so we're in a minority in training classes in general.

It's a great class. Thanks, Jim and Ashley and Ken and Tracy and Jennifer and Bobbie and Kathy for helping me to challenge myself to be an even better handler--somewhat humbling, with my 12 years of experience, being propelled onward to greater things by all these folks with much less experience.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Out of Condition

SUMMARY: Many muscles sore from fun match.

Dang, why do I never think of taking photos until after I'm home?

The fun match was at Workin' Paws in Hollister. This is Susan Paulson's back yard, but not a back yard like you find in most of Silicon Valley. All of the houses in the neighborhood are on their own giant lots--I'm guessing at least 2 acres each, maybe more like 3 to 5. Many people have horses. Workin' Paws has a duck coop (what do you call a building in which you keep ducks? Chicken coop, dove cote, turkey trot--or something--), a huge fenced area for pottying and running dogs that's larger than my back yard, a pretty-close-to-full-sized agility ring in grass, and another ring under construction, plus their house and personal yard. And I have no idea whether the neigbhoring pastures with sheep and llamas were theirs or other neighbors'. Pretty cool. But a long commute from most jobs up here (just under an hour from my place in south san jose, so estimate at least one and a quarter hours--in good traffic (ha!)--to Sunnyvale or Santa Clara).

I ran Jake in 3 Jumpers runs and he seemed pretty happy to be there. I believe that I did 4 Jumpers runs each with Tika and Boost, and two or three Standard runs each. But they weren't straight through--they were most like practices, and we were allowed up to 90 seconds each in the ring, so I redid sections that I felt would be productive.

So I did quite a bit of running with my knee brace on, and my right knee got to feeling pretty tired by noon. Today, all the muscles in all of my legs (at least 2 of them) are bone-tired. This is bad. This means that I'm really very much out of condition. That's really not a lot of being on my feet for me normally, but apparently it is a lot for me NOW. I realize that I haven't been going for my daily mile walks for quite a while now, and I'm doing less and less with the dogs overall, but boy, I'm going to have to be careful after the surgery to remember that I'm not going from peak condition to surgery to peak condition.

Boost and Tika both didn't want to carry on to the end in the Jumpers courses with 4 or 5 straight jumps in a row. Bother! Something I worked on with both of them a lot and just assumed that they'd do. So we worked on that a bit. Worked with Boost on going over jumps and not going around them when she's trying to catch up to me. Worked with Tika on the start line stay. And worked. And worked. She got up and ran only once, but boy, she skootched and skootched and SKOOTCHED and skootched--

I've toyed with the idea of putting her in a down, since that's what she seems to want to do as an alternative to taking off early. Seemed to keep her in place better, but in fact she went into full relaxed position with one front leg tucked under, which isn't what I want, either.

So much to do--

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