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!