Saturday, December 20, 2008

Goals for 2009 - draft

This is a fairly hefty thing to think about!


  • Attempt front crosses even when I don't think I can get there

  • Improve my Q rate with Tip in jumpers and standard


  • Get back a solid start line stay

  • Work on flatwork continuously

  • Continue to make stides on better paths in courses


  • Work on driving ahead on course

  • Refine his contacts (drive to the end of dog walk and change to 2o2o, reliable running A-frame, reliable teeter)

  • Get better distance on course

  • Discrimination's


Both dogs and I have been working on flat work for the last month. Boy, always interesting how different the dogs are! Tip, probably because she is seasoned, gets the flat work, but we are really trying to refine our cues and her understanding of them. Also, when I practice without obstacles she HAS to pay attention to me, I am after all the only game in town at that point. I think that this has been paying off for both of us. We have had a stellar month at class, trials, and seminars. I feel like we are really beginning to connect as a team! We have been running some very tight stuff and I feel confident I know how to keep her head when I need too.

Split is so fun. He is just so happy all the time. He loves to stay by my side. So different from Tip. Split is not a big rear cross kind of guy. We have been working very hard on this. I think that he is beginning to get it. One of the reasons rear crosses are hard for him is he wants to stay by my side. I have reviewed a ton of 'handling methods' to really understand the rear cross better (never had to think about it with Tip, she just does it). I started Split with VERY basic exercise. Sat him on the ground, went behind him, crossed behind him, when he switched his head, I threw the ball and let him go get it. We then graduated to running flat work. This is a little harder for the boy--he has to leave my side. This is what we are still working on. He seems to get it better if there is an obstacle, so I throw those in hoping he can connect the dots.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Amazing trial weekend

We did a NADAC trial this weekend and had some amazing things happen!! Sometimes it is not all about the Qs.

I went into the weekend knowing that I would have to train Tip's startline stays. She has been blowing them off for a year or so, but I only train one major thing at a time and the dog walk had been getting our attention. It took us three runs, she blew it, and walked her back and asked her to stay. The rest of the weekend was awesome, no broken stays! Only three times--amazing for us. Took a year for her to stay at the end of the dog walk.

Typically Tip and I have at least one crazy run over the weekend. She has a bee in her bonnet, gives me the finger and goes where she wants. There was NONE of that. Again, amazing. Wondering if it was because I was also running Split. Jealousy works in mysterious ways. Wonder if it is the flatwork that we have been doing. Maybe the wild runs are her way of blowing off stress (the stress that her handler can't steer her)?

Split improved an amazing amount over the weekend. Our first run of the weekend he was glued to my side and would spin when he didn't get the info quick enough. We have been mostly doing practice type drills and his lack of drive through the course caught me off guard. I decided to not worry about the Qs, but to see if I could get him to drive through the courses better. Every run, every thing he did got a PARTY! One run he was going way off course and intinct had me call him like I would Tip. From that point to the end of the course he spon on EVERY obsticle. I realized that when I needed his attention if I called him like I do Tip, he looses confidence. I put the happy face on how I called him and that made an amazing difference.

All in all I was very pleased with how much I learned about my dogs!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Tip needs to review collection. We have done too much distance work, and now she would prefer not to collect.

I reviewed some of Susan Garrett's stuff and have decided what I will use as review:
  1. Shadow handling--turning and spinning.
  2. Front cross without the jump
  3. Tight front crosses with one side of the bar much higher to encourse a tight turn on the inside
  4. Come to hand over a jump

We will see how she responds and decide where to do from here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Course Analysis

I am hoping that this will be a continual blog.

I feel like I have struggled with reading agility courses. I don't identify well when and where to place front crosses, when to rear cross, when to slow motion, when to rfp, etc.. In almost every seminar that I attend I bring it up and the answer is always the same--it is experience. I buy that answer to a degree, but there has to be knowledge in the brain for the experience to connect too! It is not as simple as when you put your hand in hot water and it hurts--don't do that again. Every segment of the course has several things going on at once. Which action was it that caused the problem? Was it the handler's motion, lack of motion, hand, feet pointed wrong. Or was it the dog not knowing what you told them, a missing fundamental? It is not as easy as "I front crossed and the dog took the off course" You don't conclude, the front cross was late? It could have been in the wrong place, but nicely executed.

I guess I am beginning to believe it is experience, but exposure to the right things help you gain that experience quicker.

One of the guidelines that I used this weekend (July 2009) was where is it MOST important for me to be. Then back into "how do I get there". I did this on the performance speed jumping course and it worked really well for me. First Place and a Q--yeah Tip.

I have searched for resources to help me really understand this topic and their just aren't any. I want to start to compile successful elements of course analysis.

So, to start this off, this is what Liz's answer was:

  1. She always starts by walking the dogs path. Or rather the path that she WANTS (important distinction there). She wants to see what the dog will see.
  2. Then, she looks at where she wants the dog to land
  3. She always has a plan A and a plan B.

Walk the desired path

Reasoning: you can see what the dog will see. If they see something that is not on course, you have an opportunity to either handle it differently so that they don't look at that off course (like a tunnel). Or, plan how you will get their attention at the very least.

I still believe in this and activily practice it. It really help me with three things: 1) where do I have to be in order for them to see me and my lateral movement 2) seeing the off courses 3) where and when do I have to be pointed in a certain direction in order to get the dog to follow me

Where will the dog land

I will probably come back to this one. I need to think about it and work with it to truly understand it. Is it so that you can get your dog land to set the next trajectory? Land so that they don't stare an off course in the face?

After messing with this a bit, yes I think that you do want to set the next trajectory. How do you want them to approach the next obsticle. Do I want the dog to slice the jump so she sees the next obsticle and not the off course tunnel? Those are the types of questions to be asking yourself.

I would add the comments now (create again given to Liz), you want to cue them three obsticles ahead. So you are thinking about where you want them to land, but also and more importantly creating the current path for them to get there. Thinking about where the dog will land is almost too myopic in itself. The whole thought is "what is the path"

Plan A and Plan B

she does this because she has multi dogs and she can't walk it for each dog. she also does it in case she miss judges something. Probably a good idea, but right now it allows me to chicken out of trying something that I am not sure I can get (but it would be a really great way to run if I could get it)

Now that Split is getting more experienced I don't have the trouble that I use too. Split and Tip will run somewhat the same, although Split has a longer stride and will run faster. This is not as bad as someone who has super velcro and super distance dog (like I once had).

Other concepts that I would add now are along the lines of Linda Mecklenburg's system.

  • Think about your motion cues (or no motion cues)
  • Using lateral motion cues.


Today Tip and I did a seminar with Liz Blazio. The courses were challenging with lots of traps. I never would have been able to do these courses a year ago.

I liked Liz. She was very positive and good about complementing everyone on what they did well. She has a good eye on spotting the problems. Her calls are accurate.

Things that I think we did well...
  1. We had an awesome post turn. Very proud of how tight Tip turned and read what I needed. In general, there were some nice turns on course!
  2. Weave pole entries. She is solid.
  3. A-frame, nice....
  4. Some nice wraps on the course
  5. Start line stays (this is our current challenge)

Things we need to work on....

  1. When she is heading toward me and my hand is down/back, she needs to collect and come to hand. When Tip is extending, she really does not want to collect. Work on one jump. Then two, Then put a tunnel and two jumps. So gradually pick up speed once she learns what I need.
  2. Never allow her to take an obsticle without permission. Again, just another way to be strong leader for a dog that needs it! It extends to the agility course that she will take an obsticle if that one is more fun.
  3. I need to work on reading the courses better. Where do front crosses belong. In general, I need to put more in.
  4. I need to be IN CHARGE on the course.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Our first AKC

Tip and I have been trialing for about 2.5 years and we having a lot of 'firsts' lately. This weekend's first, was AKC. I haven't done AKC for two reasons in the past. Typically, they only have two, maybe three runs in a day. I do agility because I LOVE running with my dog. Secondly, Tip loves her distance and typically has not checked in with me enough during a run to keep her out of trouble (off courses). I decided to try AKC to see how we were doing on the later.

In the last year we have been working really hard on closing the gap of our distance requirements. A year ago, it was easier to push Tip out, rather than have her come to me. I have a lot more confidence in that skill. Although it is not were it needs to be yet. We did get into a little trouble for that very reason. In the course below, we got the tunnel instead of the table. Probably two reasons for that: 1) tunnels are more fun 2) I don't have a strong enough pull.

We did Q in this run because AKC allows an off course in Novice, but I would have liked to avoid it.

Our jumpers run was truely an odd one. The course started out with an 'L' shaped tunnel, 90 degree turn to a line of jumps. Once you were at the other end of the course, we literally did a zip zag pattern back to the other end, went into a six weave with another 90 degree turn to the end jump. We Q'ed here too, but boy were Tip slipping. Too many tight turns on hard ground.

Would I do AKC again? Yes, probably. But there is a reason I own Border Collies. Both my dogs and I like to run, and two runs a day is just a warm up!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The first double Q standards

Split sprained his hock a couple weeks back, so it was just Tip and I doing NADAC this past weekend. It was a Mountain Dog Sports trial--they are always fun, and challenging.

Tip and I had a great weekend. We could only do a half day on Saturday, but ended up Q'ing in TNG and Hoopers (my first Hoopers Q since Randy usually runs Tip in Hoopers). Sunday we had an AWESOME day. Tip and I were so connected. We Q'ed in 4 out of 5 events. Jumpers was the only thing we did not Q in. We did end up Q'ing in both Standard runs for the day. We have never done that!! Also, we got a chances that only one other dog got. I was so thrilled.

Tip is truely a NADAC dog. She loves the distance and she loves the speed!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Split's first USDAA

Randy ran Split this weekend in USDAA. It is so hard to watch your son run the dog that you train as well. I am nervous for the dog and the child.

They did fairly well! Lots of of courses...Randy needs to refine his cueing. USDAA has 12 weave for beginner dogs. Split does not do 12 weaves in public for some reason. We are working on that. Probably the topic of my next blogging.

The two Q'ed in Snooker however. Randy does an excellent job thinking on his feet. Split took a wrong turn, Randy compensated and got them back on course. It was wonderful to watch. They were so smooth.

Back in the water again...USDAA

Since Tip had been doing so well on her dogwalk contacts lately, I decided to try USDAA again. The reason we did not do it for a while was that I could not train the contact in the ring effectively.

To make the story short, she got both her dog walk contacts! One was a beautiful stop and wait, just what I want, the second was a slow down and see if she yells at me. Not happy about the second, so she is obviously enjoying living on the edge. But, this is progress.

She ran fairly nicely all weekend. We had one run where she was blowing me off. Funny, I talk to a lot of people that don't believe that she blows me off. They say she just doesn't know what I want. A very great case of, you have to live with her to truely understand it.

We ended up Q'ing in Gamblers (a tie for the highest points in the trial with Sybil ,a nationally ranked dog), and standard. We came really close on jumpers (Tip slipped and hit a bar), snooker (I didn't get turned fast enough and she took an off course at the very end).

Maybe we can get back in the game...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

NADAC Champs

Tip and I went to NADAC Champs in Gillette Wy. I had to show up a day late so I missed jumpers and hoopers.

Let me just say, contacts at champs were for the most part fabulous! She got EVERY dog walk contact for 4 days. She was having trouble adjusting her stride for the A-Frame since ours is a running contact. On one standard run she was going so fast that she landed close to the bottom of the contact and did a nose plant. That must have made enough of an impact cause after that she actually slowed down, strided over the entire contact--beautiful!

The final results were:

  • Weaves-would have q'ed, but I left the collar on (we arrived 15 minutes before the run and I didn't walk the course, not our usual time to prepare.
  • Touch N Go- We got fourth, which is huge for us.
  • Standards-didn't q at all.
  • Std 1 - the amazing leap got us a 'unsafe obstacle' fault
  • Std 2- she actually stopped at the end of the A-Frame (2o2o) which shocked me, and I forgot to tell her the change of direction
  • Std 3 -
  • Std 4 - Off course, my fault--it was a 'switch' out of a tunnel, off course A-frame, jump, turn, she went straight onto the dog walk
  • Std 5 - off course, completely my fault. Momentary loss of memory.

As I write this, I realize that I should work on cueing change of direction on fast courses.

So, all in all, I am pleased with the results. We did get on the stuff we had been working on!

I need to get out on the field and shore up our dog walk contact again. Tip started to quick release herself!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Where do we go from here...

As mentioned in my previous post, Tip blew most of her dog walk contacts. I spent 7 hours driving home after the trial thinking about it. Many ideas, no solutions yet.

I guess the first questions are:

  • Does she really know what I am asking her to do?
  • Is she just loosing her head in the heat of the moment?
  • Are the consequences not severe enough (making her re-do the sequence and get the contact)?

My observations from this weekend are:

  • The first couple of times when I repeated the sequence she got the contact perfectly on the second try. After that I would repeat up to three times and she would not get it. I would then walk her off the course.Perhaps that is reward enough (getting to do the sequence again) and reinforcing the bad behavior.
  • On one run I tried slowing her down before the dog walk and told her that she needed to do her job. She still blew it.
  • I tried to just place her back on the end of the walk and ask her to do the contact. She had NO idea what I wanted her to do. I don't ask her to do this in practice. I believe in repeating the sequence.

  • Current ideas are:
  • Go back to basics. Work with Tip on 'how to learn'
  • Break the dog walk back down into running over and just doing to contact backchaining.
  • Work on the walk in the backyard. When she blows it, put her in the house and bring out Split to work with.
  • Go back to a running contact! I like the idea of a running contact, but I don't want to keep going back and forth. Reasons we left the running contact are for another day on this post.

So, today, just to experiment I worked with Tip in the backyard. I sent her over the dog walk a couple of times. I didn't really run hard, didn't through a toy, just kept it easy. Normally, she would get this NO PROBLEM. She blew it. Since I wanted to be successful a couple of times before I upped the stakes, I put her over again, she stayed (what would I have done if she didn't?).

Here was the drill: send her over, she gets it, I throw the ball (her most favorite toy on earth) at least 7 times. Do it again.

So, I did the drill. The first and second time still keeping it easy. She made it. The third time I threw the ball in front of her, but she stayed on the contact-yeah! Rewarded with a 7 round game of ball. Upped the stakes again, ran really fast, threw the ball in front of her, she blew it. OK! No emotion, take her to the house, put her in (BTW, she can still see through the door). I get Split and we have the BEST time of our lives. Playing ball, practicing rear crosses, etc.. Tip is going NUTS in the house. She can not stand to be left out. So, again I bring her out and repeat the cycle. I did this about 3 times, each time she stayed a little better. this going to work, don't know.

Something I did realize in all of this:

  1. I suck at marking the good behavior--I need to get better. Say 'yes' exactly when she hits her 2o2o.
  2. She is not clear on her release word. Sometimes she releases when I say 'yes' sometimes she stays.

We will work on this tomorrow again. I have another trial this weekend so we will see if this has any impact at all.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

NADAC in Durango

We are doing the Labor Day NADAC trial in Durango. Very fun, very social.

Split's first trial was rained out except for one run, so this was really the first. Today he was entered in Jumpers, Standard, and Touch N Go. Randy and he q'ed in both jumpers and standard. For the most part they did very good. Randy could have supported some areas a little more to avoid spins, but they g0t the job done.

Tip had 6 runs today, but only Q'ed in one. She had beautiful standard runs, but I ended up having to train both dog walks, bummer. In the jumpers run she dropped a bar, but other wise great run. Not sure why it was dropped, I think because I paused a little too much in a jump box to make sure she committed. Chances was handler error. She got the distance challenge, which was quite the challenge--change of direction, and discrimination. She dropped a bar when I called out 'weave' when she was over the jump. Duct tape is in order I think! In weavers she skipped some poles because I was running too fast past them--hum, guess I need to proof some more. At the end of the day she finally q'ed in Touch N Go.

In USDAA Tip has a FANTASTIC running A-frame, but with the shorter NADAC A-frame I have to draw my hand down the landing side so that she hits her contact. This causes me to babysit the obstacle. I am sure this is because she doesn't really understand how she is suppose to perform the obstacle. But....She FINALLY stopped on her dog walk contact!

There is so much to re-train with your first agility dog. Where to start? We will see what tomorrow brings.

The next two days at the trial was fun, however we were not blessed with q's. Randy and I did learn what we need to work on next with Split. Sequencing, rear crosses, and Randy driving Splitty.

Tip continued to blow her dog walk contact. *&^%$, Grrrrrr

We did have some beautiful runs except for that. I tried a bonus line tunnelers run. That was fun! I need to learn how to run Tip at distance (60 feet!). Bless her heart, she came into me which is NOT her default behavior.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Tip and I did a review of wraps. She was kind of rusty at first, but then picked it up nicely. We practiced both post turn wraps and front cross wraps. Since we have drilled front crossed so much in the last year, she read those better. We did the wraps on both sides of #1.

We then transitioned to serpentines. We did better today. She seems to be able to jump toward me if my path slightly mimics hers. That is, if I am near the middle jump, head slightly away, she will come back over the middle jump.

We practiced them going in both directions.
Circle #2 and Square #1 were both hoops. We are working on our hoooo-weeeeve, but I will leave that for another day.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Today's practice

Well, we set up several courses with somewhat evil things like taking the back sides of side, several lead changes over three obsticles. I felt really good about how Tip did. It took her a moment to remember her wrap, but then she was great on 'wrap' and 'round'.

Split showed some of his green and I showed some of my "I forgot how to run a green dog". He did fairly well, which is usually does better on tight courses. But we came out of it with several 'to dos'.

  • Work on wrap close up and distance
  • work on just the contact part of the dog walk
  • flip out from the dog walk to a jump


  • Reinforce a wrap (just a reminder)
  • further proof a 'round', cause when there is some speed he literally goes around the jump
  • Flip out from the dog walk to a jump
  • Don't jump across my path, jump beside me
  • Weaves
  • Proof the dog walk more

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Split's first trial

Split ran his first trial yesterday with my son. It was pouring rain! Split was scheduled to run 3 runs, but due to rain we only got to run one before they cancelled the trial.

Split ran the jumpers leg of the Trigility. He and Randy did awesome. They stayed on course, but had a couple of spins. Once they both get a little more seasoned, the spins will go away.

The team q'ed, and got first.

Tip's contact progress

A couple of months ago I stopped trialing Tip in USDAA. I had been thinking about it for a while, but the USDAA regionals was the last straw. Tip just couldn't not listen, get contacts, or even hop on the table. It was hot, which I am sure didn't help. It was frustrating because I could not hold her accountable, like you can in DOCNA and NADAC (ie, train in the ring).

So, I am taking a step back to retrain some of the items that have been plaguing us for a while--dog walk contact, table, and the teeter. On the dog walk she jumps from right above the yellow, she stalls when she gets on the table, and frequently she runs around the teeter.

We have been working on all three of these. I have visited ever dog walk in Denver to show her she gets to stop on all of them. I feed her breakfast on the table and try to put fun games into the routine. The teeter might be slightly different. Recently at a semimar with Stacy Peardot Goudy Tip blew off the teeter. Stacy thought it was about who is in charge. Stacy thought the problem started from the moment we entered the ring. Tip was pulling me (bad handler). So I have been really careful to be 'in charge'. We will see if this helps.

In general, I have been hand feeding Tip more, enforcing that I get to go through the door first, etc. My family is total awesome and on board with helping these things!

In mid-july we were in a NADAC trial. It took me 4 runs to get her to stop on her contact (2o2o).

I ran the North American Challenge today and I was amazed!! A totally different dog. She got her 2o2o dog walk, she hit the teeter and stoped (4 on), and listened really well on course. I, of course had to make the off course error. I will take that error any day!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Green dogs and weaves

We were at class last night and Split had some problems with the weaves. He was very excited to be doing agility and would not slow down enough to hit his entrances. A site -- his head would hit the second weave pole, his butt would go up in the air, then he would pop out. Not ideal.

Split's first trial is coming up this weekend! OK, his weave style probably isn't ideal for trialing. My son and I were brainstorming on how to 1) manage weaves in the trial 2) how to train him to collect so that we can overcome this problem.

So, first thing this morning I put an email out to many of my great agility pals. What would they do? Interesting, all the advise was great, but different:
  • Tell the dog 'EASY' several times before he entered the weaves. This person uses EASY as a collection cue.
  • Decelerate before you get to the weaves as a cue to decelerate.
  • Go back and teach entrances with two weave poles. This is nice since you only have to worry about the entrance and not the rest of the poles. Focus on what he needs to learn.

We experimented with several things today. The most successful was to declerate before the weaves. We learned that we could also reinforce that by pointing at the first pole. This seemed to help the collection as well.

We are still debating on whether to teach a collection word or not.

Friday, August 8, 2008


I decided about 8 months ago to change our style for running a serpentine. We are changing from a style where I turn into the dog to bring her back over the jump to me. I am told that the new way I want to run the serpentine is the Linda Mechlenburg was of running a serpentine.

The best way to describe it is running in a straight line parallel to the line of jumps and only using your hand to direct the dog. So, to send the dog over the jump, you point to the jump, when they are on the opposite side and you want to bring them over, you drop your hand to your side.

This new way makes a ton of sense to me. The biggest reason is that I am keeping my path free of extra movement (girations). When I am running Tip (she runs 7 yards/sec), this is important. Split is going to prove to be as fast.

I have really been struggling with training this. Split/I are better at this than Tip/I. I think this is a foundation issue. Last month at camp, Jerry Brown helped me identify the foundation elements that I needed to have with the dogs to do this. Tip being my first dog, I never trained her to jump to my heal and come to my hand. I have since trained those, but they aren't second nature to her. Split I have trained those since the beginning. Secondly, I think I am doing something which I can not identify.

The exact problem that we are having is on the middle jump. Both dogs want to keep running past it and not come in/over if I am moving too fast. I can get them to come in my dropping my shoulder and putting my hand back, but this is not the ultimate behavior that I want.

So, tomorrow I am going to film myself and see if I can notice anything odd.


I am a dog agility enthusiast. I have owned Border Collies all my life, but only currently have I begun to do agility with them. Right now, I have two BCs, Tip and Split. Tip is 4 years old and Split is 1.5 years.