Monday, November 23, 2009

Time to rest

I was feeling this way before Nationals and it still is true, it is time to rest. Since my dog of choice is a Border Collie I can not REST, but I can do different activities and rejuvenate.

I think mostly I need a break from competition agility. That is rest the part of the brain that always has to think "is this my criteria", "was that the exact behavior I am looking for", "in this trial I need to Q in ??? in order to make nationals".

We are going to spend some time swimming, hiking, maybe training some distance agility (this will actually be the first time I have ever trained distance), and learning "stupid pet tricks". We will just work our minds and body in different ways!

We are NOT going to trial.

Let's see what this change of activity brings...In the meantime enjoy our start to RESTING

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

USDAA Nationals

Here I am at USDAA Nationals in Scottsdale, AZ.

Day One

Tip & I have been running well, she seems to have left the crazies behind most of the time. The only thing that I thought I really needed to train was threadles, pull thoughs and we were doing really well on those. I came down here ready!

I guess the practical items first. So far, I remembered everything that I needed, BUT...a rolling cart. Didn't think I would need it, couldn't have been more wrong. Note to self...bring one next time. The amount of walking is AMAZING.

When I set Nationals as my goal, it really was just to qualify. I didn't put a whole lot of thought into what I wanted to get out of Nationals. As the date grew near I began to think about that. My lack of creativity lead me to things like I want to Q, I want to place, etc...

I had my first run today and after the run it became clear what my goal for this Nationals was. I wanted to add more items to the list of what Tip & I need to work on. Having that list motivates me and really is why I am in agility. I love training the dogs.

Day two - end

I had the best of intensions on writing about each day, but to be honest I was exhausted and I could make myself sit at the computer or even focus on the past day.

So, I am back home, exhausted and Iwill make myself write.

Tip was amazingly consistent through all the days in her runs. She ran beautifully, but not as fast as she normally does. Both her and Split were not feeling well. Stomach stuff. Also, now that I see them back at home, neither dog was really happy down there. The environment didn't seem as stressful as it apparently was.

Tip kept all but one start line, I was so proud of her. Thankfully, the start lines weren't crowded. She listened really well, had beautiful running contacts (ops, the dog walk IS a 2o2o). Nice lines. Couldn't have asked for more really.

Looking at her results in Team jumpers and PSJ she placed 29th out of about 200 dogs. Not shaby results at all.

She was robbed in Team Standard however. We ran clean and fast. It was one of those runs were you knew you did your best. Everyone who watched said she ran clean. I was thinking, we placed in this I just know it! The official results said that she had a fault. Don't think so! She would have placed 2nd overall (out of 200 dogs). Instead, even with her fault she was 30th! Would have been nice to come home with a ribbon.

In the end, looking back, for the dogs it was a stressful week and probably not as much fun as just staying home and playing here. For me, great to see the rich and famous run their dogs, great to see just great handling by many unknowns, a lot of sitting around and waiting, proud of my dog and her consistent performance. I was proud of myself that I handles the stress well, I didn't fall apart. Proud of myself that we have come a looooonnnnnnnggggg way in short period of time.

So, here it is, my list of things to work on:

  • Better proof contacts with front crosses at the end. Could have used that at both the teeter and dog walk.
  • Turns off of teeters (we did OK, but I was worried)

Essential skills at Nationals (other than a good foundation)

  • Start line stay
  • proofed contacts
  • 270 tight lines
  • Turns off teeters

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Segments from USDAA team

I ran team this weekend with both dogs. I think it was safe to say that the theme of the courses was pull throughs. Here are some excerpts from this weekend that I want to isolate and practice for Nationals.

First excerise--demonstrating option 1 that people choose for handling


First excerise--demonstrating option 2 that people choose for handling (more popular)


Second - more popular choice

second option 2

This is a segment of the course so no leadout will demonstrate the problem. Handling #4, several people either got the tunnel or a refusal at #4. With a fast dog it was hard to get from the Frame to #4 to handle smoothly. Weave pole entry was hard to cue ahead of time because you needed the dog to jump toward you and then you could cue it. Of course the dog weaved into the edge of the course.

Again, segment of the course. Not many people too many problems on this. Just thought it was interesting. I have now seen this at AKC and USDAA were the dog is blind to where you are coming out of the tunnel.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My next exercise for timing

On the threadles the idea is to FC on the take off side of #2. I will have to run it to really figure that out.

After I do this exercise I will post a course map where I put the crosses.

These are comments after I ran the courses with both dogs. This is a great exercise. Certainly one that goes into the book of "revisit often".

First Split--He did a great job with the front crosses. Read them very well as I would have expected. The rear cross were a little more rusty, but he caught on well (or I did). Threadles need the most work. He really wanted to turn each threadle into a 180. As well, this is the exercise that was the hardest for me to get positioning on which didn't help him. As I went down the line of threadles my position would get worse and worse. I really need to work on this one. I should open my chest to the next in the path, leave him to get the job done while I am getting into position for the next. Because my back is facing the 180 option he should not take it.

Tip was showing her maturity here. She did great on all of these exercises with threadles being her strength. I am so proud of us, I never could have said that even a year ago. When she recognizes that you are handling and asking for collection she switches modes quickly.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What does the next year bring?

That is always the question, what does the next year bring. After just finishing USDAA regionals I find myself starting to think about the goals for the next year now that my goals for this past year are beginning to come to an end.

Myself - Looking back on the last year I have come a long way. As a handler I handle the dogs more consistently, my body and mouth are more quiet. I have been able to be focused and stay calm and have a great run, but I can't always bring this to bear.

In the next year I want to work more on consistentcy.
1. In each practice I want to approach at least one run as if it is competition. Focused, calm, and handling to win.
2. I want to review foundation skills on a rotating basis with each dog.
3. Enter a trial every three months that I can devote to training in the ring. There is always something that one of the dogs needs to be called on.
4. Run each dog with the appropriate style--biggest difference is the Frame.
5. Get better at snooker.
6. Cue in a more timely fashion

Split - Little Splitty has come a long way in this last year. He drives through the courses, has some very good turning skills, teeter/dog walk are good enough so he doesn't get faulted. He still has a hard time if he has to wait at the start line, he begins to shut down. The Frame is a huge challenge for us still.

In the next year.
1. Get his frame contact consistent and his dog walk contact more appropriately 2o2o.
2. See if I can figure out how to avoid those really wild runs. He doesn't have as many as Tip, but when he does its UGLY.
3. Further refine his skills of checking in with me (might relate to #2)
4. Find a warm up routine that brings him into focus

Tip - WOW! Tip has come a long way in a year. At regionals last year I was ready to retire her I was so tired of fighting her wild nature. I could never predict which dog was at the trial with me. Now I rarely see a wild run out of her. She is focused, with me, and behaves! What made the difference? Age I think had a lot to do with it, having a much stricker standard for her when we practiced, and getting another dog so she was not the queen anymore.

In the next year.
1. Proof the start line again (it is not that bad, but it SOOOOO impacts a run when she breaks it)
2. Work with her on snooker skills. I think these skills will help her runs in general. Pulling through obsticles, collection/extension type excerises, long leadouts, etc...
3. Continue progress on knocked bars.
4. Regular foundation rotation. She tends to get rusty on things (like 12 weaves poles right now)

Monday, August 24, 2009

USDAA Nationals, here we come!

One of my goals this year was to qualify for USDAA Nationals with Tip. It has been an interesting journey to get here. Many lessons learned which is always a good thing right?

To get to Nationals you have to qualify with 2 Q's in the events you want to compete. The events are Team, Grand Prix, and Steeplechase. Tip earned her Team Q in January. In my view this feels like the hardest to get since you and your team mate have 5 runs a piece and you have to run all of them well. I didn't run the other tournments figuring I had the rest of the year to qualify for those. Lesson #1 learned--don't put things off if you can avoid it.

Tip was injured in March which took her out for about 12 weeks. During those 12 weeks there were several USDAA's that she could not compete in. It feels like there are not that many USDAA trials in our area and we missed many of them. I honestly wasn't sure if Tip would be able to run ever again, let alone make it to Nationals.

After Tip began to run again and it seemed clear that she would be able to do at least a couple runs a day (more on that later), I re-evaluated our goal and decided to stay on track for Nationals. That meant qualifying in the other two events in two trials! Very agreesive, but what did I have to loose?

Tip got one of her Steeple Chase Q's in July. First place with the most spectacular run we have ever done. It felt like one of those dreams where you just knew you weren't going to loose. I knew it was a winning time and run! She ran a marvelous Grand Prix run as well, but the judge called her on a contact (she GOT it many witnesses say). One more trial to get two Q's...

This past weekend, Tip got her second Q in Steeple Chase finishing her qualification for that event. The run was good, but she had to redo two weave polls which cost us in time. She got 4th, but still Q'ed. I can't even say her Grand Prix sucked because she didn't even take enough obsticles to call it a run. I don't dwell on the bad, so I am not going into much detail. Bad start...wrong course, just leave it at that! What I would do differently...get her focus or don't go on course, if she won't hold her start, don't start!

So, going into Regionals we are qualified so all we have to do is vi for position. If she Q's at Regionals she earns a 'buy' into Nationals' semi-finals. This would be a huge leg up.

In terms of Tip injury...she ran the whole weekend looking great. 4 runs per day.

Stay tuned....

Couldn't resist this photo of Split (yes, he is fast)

Friday, August 14, 2009

Splitty and the A-Frame

Well, I made the decision to move Split back to a 2o2o A-Frame. Not really happy about it, but I just could not figure out how to communicate the running contact with him (familiar problem from Tip's dogwalk).

Split is such an honest boy. Once he figured out the new rules, he is trying his best to comply and stop at the end. He and I just need to put some practice and many configurations on top of the knowledge and he will be as good as gold.

Last night I introduced front crossed at the end of the A-Frame. Threw him off a couple of times, but then was right with me and waited.

Interesting side watching the contact 360 video, Amanda had a side note about the release word. Split will NOT release on his release word at the end of the A-Frame. He needs the movement with the word (he doesn't release on just movement thankfully).

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Amanda Shyne, some notes

Training the dog walk, reinforcing the Independence in the contact
Charge ahead
Stay behind
Move away laterally
Release the dog either in motion or totally still. Reward, backup, run ahead and then release
Can be anywhere and send the dog to the target at the end of the contact
do it with speed
two jumps at the bottom of the A-frame. Dog jumps and gets into position

put two dowels (or jump uprights and fade to dowels) at the start of the contact, about a foot away. Have the dog approach and line up straight. Reward before the dog gets on the contact. You are rewarding that the dog lines up straight. Train from all angels and speeds. Can do on a flat board.

A release word is a command. They dog must move upon the release word. Interesting, Split does not do this unless I am moving. So release is two things at the contact the word and motion

If you are throwing a toy to keep the dog moving forward, you have to keep moving yourself (a LM principal)

Be at the end with a tug (standing to the side) , have the dog charge onto the teeter, and tug with them

Back from vacation...

We are back from vacation! In that week I decided not to think about two agility problems that I have been dealing with, one for each dog. Sometimes when I let problems sit for a while the solution comes easier.

I have been wanting to watch the Amanda Shyne video on contacts ( to see if I could ferret out some ideas for Split's A-Frame. He is a long strided dog and will either jump over the contact or touch it with his back feet. The back feet are perfectly legal, but judges don't always catch that he touched the yellow. I haven't gotten any new ideas for Split, which is leading me to believe that a 2o2o might be the only answer right now. I am not a fan of 2o2o on the A-Frame because I think it is hard on their shoulders if they are speedy (yes, I am aware of the methods that people teach so that the shoulders don't get pounded). I have complete faith that if Split understood what I was asking he would do it. He is very biddable.

Incidentally, Amanda touched on dropped bars and gave me some ideas for Tip's issue of dropping bars. Amanda does jump circles with her dog Dilly. She runs them from the very center where she does not have to move that much. Then she runs them very close to the jumps, this creates more motion on her part which is what the dogs have trouble handling. This is true for Tip as well. In thinking through this it makes sense. Once the dog runs clean, you move a jump. It helps them gain experience in different jump lengths which can also create dropped bars.

I will begin to incorporate this into my training plan.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It is always the simpliest thing...

I am a programmer and have come up with a saying that seems to be true more times than not. "It is always the hardest problems to find that end up being the one line fixes". Translated, the problems that are the hardest to diagnose, can be the quickest to fix.

I have been working on serpentines for way too long with both of my dogs. I am trying to teach them the Linda M. way of doing serps. Well, it was pointed out to me this week (thank you Lori) that I was saying 'come'. What does 'come' mean to my dogs? Come to me without taking any obsticles--not the serpentine performance I wanted.

Today I tried using the work 'jump' with Split. Hum...he took the jumps. Good Boy!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bud Houston's Laws of a Dog in Motion

Here are some good thoughts

1. The dog turns when the handler turns
2. The dog tends to work in a path parallel to the handler's path
3. The dog gets his speed cue from the handler's speed
4. The dog gets his direction cue from the handler's shoulders, toes, hips, & movement
5. A dog ahead of the handler tends to curl back to the handler's position

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Maintaining Criteria

I went to a fun run last night with both dogs. The course was challenging, but very fair (explain that later). Both dogs did great, but one of the first lessons was re-taught to me. I realized that I had not been maintaining criteria on the contacts. I am fairly consistent in the back yard, but once we get on a 'real course' I allow behaviors outside my criteria.

This concept is really hard for me. I am not a follow the rules kind of person in life. All rules are guidelines. When it comes to running a full course my goals are not in line with maintaining criteria on contacts. I want to run the course fast and good enough (to Q in a trial). I need to shift my goals in non-trial situations so that I can meet my goals in a trial (to Q).

In a fun run they give me 90 seconds to run the course and work on what ever I need too. My goal should be to run the course in 90 seconds. That is, have the dog hold the contact for 5 seconds, run past the dog and see if he/she holds the contact, be out in front when calling the dog over the teeter (I can usually bait the dog and get a fly off), lead off a ridiculous amount from the table, etc.

So, next time I am at a fun run (this weekend) I am going to see how well I can meet my new goal for my runs.

P.S. a fair course to me is when there is a way to handle the course and keep the dog from doing maneuvers that would add to injury. I am game for extremely hard courses and I have seen some that are very fair and VERY hard. They don't have to be too tight, 90 degree kind of courses to be challenging.

Thursday, May 21, 2009


I had the privilege to run Tip again this week. What a sweet run that was! I had thought that 8 weeks ago was my last run with her and I didn't even know it would be my last run.

I guess I didn't blog about this. Not sure why, maybe that the news changed everyday and I kept waiting for the 'definitive' answer to what was wrong.

We came off our last run of the weekend and Tip was limping just a tad bit. Once we walked a little it went away. I decided to go to the vet and see what they thought the issue was. The vet (ortho surgeon) said that she had a partially torn ACL. He was not recommending surgery, just give it a while and we will see what happens. I can't even begin to describe how I felt. I knew at some point she would have to have the surgery and that would end her career. I am not one of those people who would do the TPLO (adjust the geometry of the dog) kind of people.

I won't drag on the story too much, but we went for a second opinion up at CSU vet school. The head of Ortho diagnosed it as a sprained hock with arthritis. Much better news!

So after 8 weeks of bed rest, physical therapy, Tip is back on her feet so da speak. I have bringing her back slowing--long walks, hiking, then slow jogging, low straight jumping and finally this week a full course. The jumps were only at 12 inches.

It was sheer pleasure to run her. What an honor to have my dog back!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Haven't posted in a while, not because I have not been working with the dogs.

Tip's progress has been amazing. Since we put her on 'bed rest' I have not seen signs of her injury except for the other day. She had to be restrained to get blood drawn for heart worm and I think she stressed the leg (Split took it like a man). It is back to normal now. We are beginning to increase her activity. She gets to go for very long walks, and very modified agility (no leaving the ground or sudden starts). She is very happy that she gets to do this.

Split remains an awesome little puppy (2 years old now). He has caught onto the 'driving' through the course concept, almost achieving NADAC distances at times. I need to go back and review collection with him now. Weave poles still remain a challenge in strange places. I am beginning to think it is about confidence. If this is the case, patience and practice will be the key.

Well, Monday morning, 8 inches of snow, I guess my only choice is to go back to work!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Its not easy being green

Well, Tip (my experienced dog) is on rehab rest for a couple of months so Split gets all my attention.

We just came off of a week vacation to the Pacific NW and had a grand time. Thought I would take Split out to brush off the dust and get ready for next week's trial. What I realized in practice, he is an AWESOME dog! I already knew that, but the universe just keeps reminding me.

Practicing with Split today gave me the following list of things I need to always remember (I know them, I just keep forgetting to practice them):
  1. It is really about what the handler needs to practice/learn
  2. Deceleration gets him to turn in (the more dramatic the tighter the turn)
  3. Pausing ( like declaration) gets him to adjust his path into me
  4. Take your time out on course
  5. Sometimes it is the dog that chooses what will be worked on that day

The short story behind each of these bullets...

  1. Since Split is my second dog I knew better how to train the foundation skills. I am just beginning to realize the value and wisdom of what I have taught him. I taught them, but didn't completely understand how to apply them. So, now when I am practicing with Split, the practice is really about what I need to practice in order to follow the rules that I taught him. He follows the rules when we run and when I follow them too, we have an awesome run. This covers my first three statements.
  2. Although Split is smarter than I, he is still green. He needs my support. If I can just remember to lengthen the 'moments' in each run, it will go better. For instance, take my time, point out what I need him to do (it only takes a split second) and then move on to the next thing. Split, unlike Tip needs permission to do each obstacle. So, if I take the time to give permission it will build his confidence. In time, permission might be just a glace at the obstacle instead of a hand pointing at it for a full second.
  3. The fifth statement was one that I didn't have to learn so much with Tip. Tip is always motivated, and not much shuts her down. Split on the other hand is motivated, until something shuts him down. Sometimes you can spot what is it me getting too intense. Sometimes the horses in the next field could have scared him. So, when he is shutting down or being scared, what gets trained that day is what he finds fun! Or how it gets trained is totally different. I am learning that if he has no issues, the Frisbee might be too much stimulation. If he is having issues, the Frisbee is just right! It brings the fun back and distracts him from his troubles. The other part of this statement came from today's practice: he forgot how to sit! OK, we all know that he didn't forget, but that is what it was like. So, instead of fighting that today (cause that shuts him down), I just changed how we did things in order to keep the games going. For instance, put a table on the start line and he would 'sit' on it. So, that is what we did. We will work on sit in other ways this week.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Ditch 'em

Today we practiced a course that we found in the March clean run. It was the courses by Stewart Mah. Surprisingly it had several elements that were really good for the dogs and I to practice.

Tip's and my challenges lately have been dropped bars. In the last year we have really been working on switching her to a more handler focused dog. Now she has arrived, but my skills have not caught up. Several of her dropped bars are due to me stopping my movement in preparation for turning or ditching her to get to were I need to be. She is very responsive to my movements and when I stop mine, she drops her back feet if she is over a jump or worse she will miss judge her take off because she is looking to see what I am up too. Stewart's course had several places where I needed to ditch and run. The exercise gave me some practice is keeping my movement going at least a little, supporting Tip's activity and getting to where I need to go.

Split is progressing on his path of learning to drive forward and being more obstacle focused (yes, one dog obstacle focused, one dog handler focused). We had a really good practice earlier in the week, but today there was a little backward movement. Probably cause there was more distractions with my training partner being there. was EXCELLENT cause Split was keeping me completely honest. Keep my motion going, feet must support his motion, can't do my thing until he is commited to his. It is hard to keep all those priorities going all the time! Every handler should keep running green dogs. You really have to re-sharpen your skills again.

Side note in all of this agility. I was diagnosed with Graves last fall. I began to loose my thyroid in December and I began medication. All that being said, I have been low for about 2.5 months. It has been really hard to get out and work the dogs with the regularity that I should. I have been getting out, but the creativity that I need to solve the problems. Things are getting better and I am hopeful :)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Reflections of the past couple of months

Here we are mid-January and I have not written when I should have. I think since I last wrote, we have done a USDAA and an AKC trial.

I will comment on Tip first. Tip had an amazing USDAA trial. I always think about where we came from to measure what we are currently doing. Not sure that I have ever really blogged on Tip's start in agility. Our first agility class was a drop-in. I took Tip through the course on leash, yes a course on a leash. We did all the obsticles-over the A-frame on leash, through the weaves, kind of pulling her through, you get the picture. Well, after several classes we tried the course off leash. Took me about 6 months to get the weaves, thankfully there was a pair of channel weaves to practice on. Tip was one of those dogs that did it all willingly (thank godness huh?). Not sure how we did it, but she had beautiful running contacts, willing to go over any jump, drive ahead to the next thing. She was FAST from the start and MUCH perferred distance. If I was 10 feet behind her she was a happy girl. WOW, what a start!

So, after that beginning I had a ton of ground to cover to teach her fundementals that she/I missed once I realized that I was missing them. That only took about 1.5 years :)

So, we had an amazing trial. Tip was focused in every run, watched me really well, came into me when I asked, tight turns when I asked, the contacts were to die for--I am a lucky girl. We did team and got our first Q in that! We did Grand Prix, she dropped a bar, but her time was 2/100th of a second behind Steve Moon's Slick. That felt great. We picked up several other Q's we needed. The only one that I did not get was a standard Q. Dropping bars was the issue of the weekend. I have since gotten her adjusted (chiropractic) and that problem looks like it is on the way out.

Tip at AKC blew start lines! I decided that was the last time I was going to put up with that. I am sure that will be another blog topic.

Split had a great weekend as well. I measure Split a little differently. Since I had more of a clue when I started him, he had a much better start to his career. Split is a really soft, kind of velcro dog however. How I deal with Split is so much different than how I deal with Tip (who is hard as nails). I wasn't worried about Q'ing with him. My goal was to keep him driving through every course. To do that, I must cue him much earlier than Tip, run slightly ahead (and he IS faster than Tip), and completely support him ALL the time. This is hard!! Run fast, don't make any sudden moves, know where I am going, think ahead to where he has to go, cue that. I am just not as good as I need to be yet. I will get there however. Both dogs are making me a better handler!! So Split walked away with several Q's, but a ton of GREAT runs. My minor challenges with him right now are weaves the first time, cueing ahead of time, trusting so I can cut some corners to stay ahead, and managing the A-frame. He is inclinded to leap so I am managing it until we get enough repititions to build muscle memory.