Sunday, December 25, 2011

Automotive chocks, skateboard decking, and barrels

These are some of the items that I got for Christmas: automotive chocks, skateboard decking, and barrel  Think about it, what odd gifts!  Oddly enough, it was what I put on my Christmas list and I am happy that I got them.  It was funny opening my gifts however.  My dad was over for the festivities.  Dad knows that I do agility, but it doesn't occur to him that all of these odd gifts might actually be useful.  So, his question of "why did you get automotive chocks" is very normal!

Now to be fair, I want to give credit to AgilityNerd for giving me the ideas for my xmas list.  I have been working on the project of making a chute for about a year now.  Obviously, not working really hard at it!

Supplies and equipment:
Two heavy rubber automotive chocks,
1 heavy blue barrel
4 stainless steal bolts/nuts used to secure the chocks to the barrel
1 Chute (NTI Global)
4 stripes of skateboard decking
Copper pipe insulation
Jig saw
exacto knife

Heavy rubber chock

Skateboard decking (basically huge sticky back sandpaper)

The barrel

We cut the lid off of the barrel being careful to leave the lip on the barrel.  The lip will come in handy to help keep the chute on the barrel.  Then we cut the bottom off of the barrel.

Next we secured the chocks to the barrel towards the front.  We used a drill to pre-drill holes in the chocks and to drill holes in the barrel.   The head of the bolt should be inside the barrel.  We decided to put the chocks toward the front in case we need to put another set on once I let Tangle do the test run.  He is the the largest and heaviest of all of my dogs.  If the chute is going to move, Tangle will do it!

Once the chocks are secured to the barrel we applied silicon caulking to the bolt head to lessen the angle from the bolt head to the barrel.  Mostly trying to diminish the wear that the bolts will have on the skateboard deck paper.  Once the caulking is dry (we gave it 24 hours) you can sand it a little to achieve a smooth surface if you want.

Clean the inside of the barrel with acetone or denatured alcohol

Get the skateboard decking and cut it to size.  We ran the decking the length of the barrel rather than the width.  The barrel does have a narrowing shape and lengthwise made it much easier to get a better fit.

Apply the pipe insulation around the edge of the barrel that the dog will enter to protect them from the blunt edge.

Once that was done, put on the chute and away you go!

In total it took about an 1.5 hours to make the barrel.

Monday, December 5, 2011

You must be "present" to win!

Sorry, couldn't resist the play on words!

Standard run

First the good news.  Tangle got his beginning standard, gamblers, and trigility titles this weekend.  All first places.  He showed more confidence going into the ring and more confidence running the course.  Several times I was left in the dust when he spotted his path and took initiative!  I am convinced that trialing was the best step progression in his training.  He knew his job in the back yard, but there is nothing like a trial to teach the dog to LOVE agility.  I have no idea why it does, but it does.

Tangle competed in his third agility trial this weekend.  And, once again, I learned very valuable things about him, and reinforced what I already knew or suspected.

  1. I, as the handler, am the weak link in the team.  Tangle knows his job and can only be as good as the information given to him.  I owe it to my dog to be "in the game" every moment like he is.
  2. Tangle is the kind of dog that can be pushed.  By that I mean, he likes and does well when I drive him hard (the run linked above).  This is exciting news for me since this makes the game all the more fun!  I tried driving him a little harder this weekend and he rose to the challenge.
You must be "present" to win!  On several of Tangle's runs this weekend my foot was hurting more than usual.  The surface was very irregular, which is the worse possible thing for my foot right now.  I was worried when I was leading out, fearing that I might really tweak my foot and have to abandon the run in the middle.  This worry caused me to not be aggressive about getting a front cross in a couple of places.  One caused an off course, which is not a big deal at this stage to me or the dog.  BUT, the other was timed poorly and caused Tangle to not time his take off correctly and he hit the bar.  This was unfair of me!

So, if I am going to run the course I must be in the moment (present) and focusing on the job at hand.  I need to make the decision before I get a dog out of his kennel that I am going to run that run, give him/her my full attention, and not worry about anything.  I owe it to my dogs who give it their all, ARE present in the moment, and love to run with me.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Natural Take-Off Point

I find that when I attend seminars there is almost always one big point that you take away from your experience. Might not be the point of the seminar, but it is something you were ready to hear. I took one day of a Tracy Sklenar seminar last weekend. I have taken a seminar before from Tracy and I always find her funny, engaging, accurate with her comments/suggestions. She is one of the people that I always try to take a class from when she comes to town.

The big point that I took away from her seminar this weekend was Natural Take-off Point and how critical this piece of knowledge is in how you run and cue your dog. The NTP is determined by the following: Run your dog in full extension on a straight line of jumps (18 feet apart to mimic what you would normally see in a trial). The point at which they choose to take off is there Natural Take-off Point or NTP. The NTP really depends of many factors like structure of the dog, or if they are facing a tunnel (will be a little sooner). Tangle's NTP was about 5 feet before a jump, and 7 feet before a tunnel. So now that you know this magic number, you need to cue your dog right before their NTP. That magic distance is determined by NTP + time for the human to process the cue and get it out of their mouth + time for the dog to process. So, in Tangle's and my case it is about 7 feet or so.

What I really loved about this concept is some of the discussion that came along with this information. The biggest point is you don't want to cue your dog too early. Why? If you cue the dog too early, they throw in a bunch of collection strides, more than is needed. Yes, you will have a beautiful turn, but you will also have a slower course time.

NTP goes along with the premise that you want your dog to run the whole course in as much extension as possible. You only want the dog to put in as many collection strides as they need to execute the required turn (gentle turn, tight turn) and no more. Keep them powering through the course.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dawn Weaver Seminar

Tangle and I did a half day seminar with Dawn Weaver. For those of you who aren't familiar, she is one of the top handlers over in the UK.

The seminar we took was Intermediate/Advanced Handling. Dawn has developed her handling methods based on what her dogs have responded to over the years. It does include motion, and verbals. Since European agility is a win based system. That is, you must win to progress, their focus for training and running is much different from ours. They train the dogs to drive and be obstacle focused. In the absence of a cue, Dawn wants her dog to continue to drive through the course and their line. She focuses on cuing in a fashion that never leaves the dog second guessing (therefor slowing down). Not a bad goal really. They never reward their dogs "on them", that is they always reward in a way that promotes drive like throwing the toy.

Dawn is very firm about positive training. She believes that dogs are basically honest and don't try to do the wrong thing. If they took a wrong course in a trial, it is because you cued it. You better figure out what you did to cue it.

Rather than focusing on exclusively jumping, we spent quite a bit of time working on handling and trying in a short session to understand how she handles her dogs. When Dawn handles she has the concept of the accelerator arm and the break hand. The accelerator arm is the arm closest to the dog and must support the dogs path and obstacles. The break hand (arm extended out with a flat hand) tells the dog that they must collect (probably a turn is coming up). She also uses the outside arm much like Greg Derrett would do as a cue for the dog to come into you. The middle jump on a serp (or snake as she calls it) is a great example of this.

Anyway, we enjoyed our time, I took away a few ideas, but I wouldn't say that the seminar was stellar. I was wanting more feedback on jumping and speed specifically.

A couple of tid bits that we took away. Hopefully they make sense out of context:

  • Every front cross should be proceeded with the break hand

  • You must run (draw with your path) the line that you want the dog to take

  • Always be even (parallel) with the dog when layering, otherwise they will come into you

  • Reward away from you--throw the toy

  • Inside arm should never drop until the dog clears the bar (otherwise the bar will come down)

  • Always reward after a rear cross with a baby dog

The season slows down

Three or four years ago I use to take off from about October through December from agility. Then gradually trials were scheduled and it become too tempting to resist and I would schedule a trial or two (probably more).

This year I have decided for the pups sake that I needed to get back to the "time of rest". Let their bodies recover from agility, and restore my mind. So from now until the end of the year we will slow down our practice, trials and agility what not. We are not taking a break completely from the exercise, brain work and fun, after all I do own Border Collies. We will just change what we are doing. We will take time to enjoy each others company in different ways.

So, we are taking walks, stretching, jogging, swimming (at an indoor pool), and learning new tricks. Tip and Split will have the time almost completely off from agility. Tangle will get to do a couple of one day seminars, a class or two and perhaps a trial. He doesn't take to the slower schedule like the older dogs do yet.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Patience = Faith

Sometimes you just know that something is right or will just come to be. And, sometimes you need to remind yourself that you know this.

I keep relearning that I must have faith in my son. He has developed into an awesome person-a leader that is smart, wise, gentle, fair, and just all around compasionate person. I know this about him. But, he is just a teenager and when I fall back to my parent roll I have to remind myself that he does conduct his life in a manner that is more exemplory than many adults I know. I keep coming back to having faith in him.

Tangle is another "old soul" that I have faith in. From the day I got Tangle I knew him and knew he was an old soul. He is a wise and thinking dog! He is already leading my pack, but from the sidelines.

When Tangle was really young it was amazing to me how he just "got" foundation and agility. Geez, maybe it is because my teaching methods and knowledge are so much better this time around? Yes, there is some of that, but the other significant part of the equation is Tangle and his innate abilities.

Tangle had his AKC debut this past weekend. He went 4 for 4. Q'ed in everything. That was not our goal at all. These Q's weren't the novice Q's that I have had with my other novice dogs. With my other dogs the runs were ugly, but somehow we stayed on course, the judge looked the other way on a contact, and somehow we crossed the finish line in time, spins and all. Tangle's Q's were well earned. My old soul went to the startline, did his job, was my perfect team mate! I am very proud of my 16 month old boy!

Now, should his run be faster? That is where "Patience = Faith". I know that he will gain the speed. I know that he will develop explosive starts. But I also know that patience will pay off on this one. He is learning to do his job in the ring well. It is only then that you can do something fast AND accurate.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Course this week!

I set up a course today that was based on a USDAA Grand Prix course. I had to tweak it a little due to course size and I still don't have my chute completed sadly.

I choose this course for two reasons, 1) it allowed good speed from the dogs 2) there was a spot with speed and then a tight turn.

I am trying to run Tangle on courses that allow for nice speed. He is a large strided dog and I am trying to build his experience base to open up and run. He has to either bouce jump if there is a short distance or take a shorten stride. A shorter strided dog can just take a full stride.

With Split, now that he has hit a new level of confidence he needs work on watching me for turns.

In general the course ran really nicely. Fast with a few handling challenges. The same challenge was present with both Split and Tangle. The most challenging sequence was 7-8-9-10. The speed starts at #5. You and the dog are racing through the course, the last thing the dog sees before going into the #7 tunnel is full extension cues (ie, you running your ars off), and then you need to ask for collection at #8.

I tried three different handling strategies with this sequence. When the dog came out of the tunnel, I called the dog's name and used my outside hand to cue the turn, decelerated to get the collection and a turn. Then I set the line to #9 and the teeter. This worked fairly well. The next strategy I tried was getting ahead of the dog but cutting the line almost hugging the weaves, FC on the landing side of #8 and then set the line to the teeter. The bar came down with Tangle. Finally I cut the line on the inside of the weaves, decelerated, got the dog turned on #8 and was ahead to show the line to the teeter. This was the most successful, but I have to say I am not sure that I would be brave enough to try this in a trial.

I am actually very pleased that neither dog took the dog walk. Right now that is heavily rewarded for Split since he has such a spetacular running DW last weekend (he should have a 2o2o).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Value of the blog

This morning I woke up reflecting on my weekend trial. I don't really focus on the exact run or the result too much, I tend to focus on what we did well and what we need to work on next. The results (Q's and placements) tend to come as a result of good training.

Also, I went back and read many of my blog entries regarding Split. I had written so many times about my challenges with him being a soft and velcro dog. He has been hard to train at times (because I didn't have the skills as a trainer that he needed). My frustrations are apparent in these blog entries! The height of those frustrations seemed like they came last winter. Then, came his injury and many, many months off for him.

Fast forward...I trialed with both Tip and Split this weekend. Split was a different dog! A very different dog! The amount of confidence that he displayed was on paralle with Tip's confidence (which is really saying something). Split ran every course this weekend with his head straight ahead, spotting his lines and driving to the obstacles like a mad man! He was a blazing fast, confident boy!

I am thankful that as a dog trainer I realized this change in behavior and rewarded profusely! I have been trying to follow the advice of Mary Ellen Barry and reward improvement! With Split's run, they weren't even close to perfect but it was HUGE movement in the right direction! Reward, Reward, Reward!!

I am really glad at this moment that I have taken the time to blog about my challenges with Split. It helps me appreciate this improvement! It helps me love the problem that I have now :)

So, back to my morning thoughts about the trial specifically...

What Split did great--driving through the course with independance, not requiring that I was right at this side, if I didn't cue it on time, he made a decision and stuck to it!

Now of course this change doesn't come without problems :) Split ran his dogwalk contact, he was so confident and fast that his lines were way less than perfect and he was a little slow (ok, a lot sometimes) to respond to some cues!

I will take this problem and be very happy with it!! I KNOW how to train this type of confident dog!!!

P.S. I strongly suspect that the time off for Split was the best trainer of all!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tangle's First Trial

Wow, is it that time already?

When I first started training Tangle I had no intentions of having him in the ring so soon. I wanted to take my time training him and enjoy the ride. Funny thing is, I did take my time AND am enjoying the ride. Tangle was just so quick to pick up on his training and I think with the third dog I am a better trainer.

So, here he is, first trial! Our goals were simple, have fun and keep everything motivating! I didn't care about Q's, wrong courses, dropped bars, just make sure it was fun!

I signed Tangle up for all the runs, figuring I would only run him each day until his novice brain exploded. After all, first time in the ring you never know exactly when that is. Never did explode! Tangle was mentally in the game the whole weekend. I am still amazed. Actually, he came home and still wanted to play.

Tangle ran jumpers, standard, gamblers, snakes and ladders (game with tunnels, weaves, and contacts), and North American Challenge. He was not the fastest dog out there, but he knew his job for sure! He stayed at the start line, stayed on course, and kept all the bars up! Good boy! We had several sequences that we had never done before, but he handled them beautifully! He has never turned into a tunnel from a contact, he had never turned from a tunnel to a contact, and has never had to cross one end of a tunnel to take the opposite end.

So, what do we need to work on? He had several occasions where he didn't fully go into a 2o2o at the end of the dog walk, he leaped the AFrame once, and he was cautious always trying to do the right thing. I am not concerned about the contacts, he does know his job, we just need to proof a couple of other things in terms of contacts.

What I want most for Tangle is that he gets to the point where the game is so addictingly fun! That is what we will work on!

p.s. His stats for the weekend were 9 runs, 9 Q's, several firsts, and qualified in the Intern class for DOCNA Nationals next year in Denver.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Cynosport 2012 a.k.a. USDAA Nationals

Since my foot kept me from participating in this year's Nationals, I will begin to look forward to next year. USDAA Nationals will be in Denver next year! That will be awesome, right in my own backyard.

I am already starting to think, which dogs do I want to qualify, in what events, how will I achieve those goals etc...

Nationals will be in October, outdoors at Dick's Sporting Good's Park. Of course that time of year the weather comes to mind, after all it is Colorado! We have been known to have snow one day and be 70 degrees (21 c) the next day. This weekend, it was sunny and warm Friday, cold and snowing (nothing stuck to the ground) on Saturday, partly sunny but cool on Sunday. Today, Oct 10th, it was an almost perfect 60 degree sunny day!

I went back and looked at the last 10 years, what was the weather like on Oct. 10th, the starting day of Nationals.

For the most part, we didn't have any precipitation the week of October 10th. So, if history repeats itself, it could be fairly nice. We don't have a history of being hot this time of year, so the dogs and handlers should be pleased to run in the cooler temps.

If you plan on attending the Nationals next year, one thing is for sure. Bring layers. This time of year Colorado always has cool mornings and the temps can swing 30 to 40 degrees in a day.

Whenever I go to trials out of state I always try to search maps, and google for information about the surrounding area. I want to know where I can walk my dog off leash, eat where I can park in the shade, find near by stores, and stay in hotels that are nice, but dog friendly. Since I live in the area, I am thinking about blogging from time to time though out the year with helpful information for those who will be attending USDAA Nationals from out of state. Perhaps things like dog friendly places, dealing with the altitude, hikes with dogs, not sure what else. If you have suggestions, leave a comment!

Monday, October 3, 2011


Course by Sandra Katzen
Tip was already my Champion agility dog, but now she has the title to prove it!

Tip, my first agility dog, the one that tolerated me learning, re-learning, changing my handling style, my frustrations, and our success. We did it all together!

I could write probably write a novel about our journey, but I won't, at least not right now. I will say Split and Tangle owe her BIG!

I entered just one day of a USDAA trial. I was fairly sure that my foot won't tolerate a whole weekend, but figured I would try one day. I entered Split and Tip, 8 runs in total. OK, 8 runs was probably too much, but I would do it again in a heart beat. Split and I had only trialed together 1 time in 10 months (first his injury, then mine), I wanted to run my boy. Both dogs were wild at the beginning of the day, just glad to be out. Tip's first run looked like a "yard sale" and when I told her that on course, the judge cracked up! As the excess energy was expended, things calmed down for both dogs. Much better runs!

All I needed for Tip's title was one more Super Q in snooker. Snooker isn't generally our strongest game. Your dog must listen, do only as directed, and keep a level head. Some days that does not describe Tip :) The course seemed kind of nasty on paper. I couldn't figure out a good path that would get us enough points for a SQ, but not blow Tip's head when I asked for too much control. Couldn't find it on paper, walked the course, couldn't find it then either. I tell you, I walked to the start line just thinking "this would not be the day".

Tip listened AMAZINGLY well, she got a first and her Championship title!!

Here is the course and the path that I ran. Several people ran different courses, with more opening points, but not many made it all the way through the closing.

Our run

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Training becomes harder

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. To me, a puppy is very easy to train and to set goals for. You want the puppy to sit. You have very concrete measures of success for a sit. You want your young agility dog to learn the weaves. They go through all the poles, they know how to weave. (I know, not quite that clear cut, but close).

Tangle now knows all of his obstacles, he is very clear right now what the criteria is for success. So, how do you set your goals and how do you measure them now?

My goals for Tangle are to gain confidence, speed and more passion for the game. He also needs mileage or experience. My challenge is how do I measure progress and what is my criteria? More esoteric for sure. What does "mileage" really mean? And how do you put "mileage" on a dog with the least amoung of repetition and stress on their bodies?

I am starting with developing pictures in my head of what a confident, passionate, and speedy runs would look like. (Mileage is something I am still trying to define.) I look for examples among my other dogs, and I look for examples among many, many videos of other people's runs. OK, now that I have a few examples, I am setting my mind to defining concretely why the run looks confident, speedy, and passionate.

One of the challenges is defining milestones of success and knowing when we have arrived. I can break it down in many ways, just deciding which is the best is the trick. Do I break it down by obstacle? For example, the weave performance goes from 2 seconds down to 1.3 seconds? Do I break it down by body language? No stress on the startline, eyes engaged. Full strides, head down (it's a border collie thing) where he is capable or is he reserving energy (ie, hesitant) still?

I think that my answer lies with both of these types of measurement. I don't want to stress too much any individual obstacle at this point and the "body language" indicator is very hard to measure.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Weave Entries

20/20 hind sight is a beautiful thing!

Tangle has been struggling with his weave entries over the last several weeks. Not sure what happened since they were AWESOME before my injury. I say "before my injury" since I suspect that my injury had it's impact on Tangle. The weaves being one of the casualties.

Before the injury I was able to move with Tangle, meet him at the end, and have a huge game of tug. I didn't do this all the time, but obviously enough that it made it really fun and worth the challenge to hit entries. While my motion was still very limited, just throwing a toy at the end didn't seem to be enough for him.

So, over the past week, I went back to just 4 poles, worked entries, threw a HUGE party if they were correct! When I first started this approach, Tangle was getting his entries but thinking way too much. Slow, methodical, and not having a ton of fun! I am not sure what made me realize this, but I started to tug with him at the end of the weaves and I saw a dramatic shift in his motivation to hit the entry and to drive through the weaves! Sometimes you don't realize what you are doing to motivate the dog. You have to retrace your steps, examine every motion and figure it out.

All of dogs have switched from time to time what motivates them. It takes me a day or two, but eventually I catch up and realize that I must shift the reward to the "reward of the day". This is exactly what was going on with Tangle's weaves. This morning Tangle was back to being "on fire", hitting his entries, driving with passion through the weaves and tugging for his reward.

When given the proper motivation it is amazing the speed at which Tangle can hit his entries and drive through the weaves!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Carrie Jones and fun runs

Tangle and I attended a seminar with Carrie Jones this past weekend. We attended a "Contacts and Weaves" session and a "Novice Handling" session. Since I have been training Tangle pretty much on my own my goal was to start getting other eyes on Tangle and get those problems identified early on in his career.

The sessions went really well. Tangle tends to be a little reserved in new places (which I already knew, but reinforced once again) so his speed was not what I want to see. He is a thinker and really wants to do the right thing. And, he did! In general I would say that Carrie's feedback was that she wants me to get him hyped up to the point of naughty. She wants to see him more excited and it is OK if he makes some mistakes because of that.

Also, I have been examining his A-Frame, trying to decide if it is exactly what I want or if we need more work. Tangle ran the A-Frame for Carrie many times, each time, she was pleased. In the end, she thought he had an excellent A-Frame. So, several professional eyes have been on Tangle's A-Frame, I think I can rest a little for the moment, it is fine!

Also, last night Tangle and I went to a fun run. My second time at a fun run with him, but first time with a standard course. The standard course was a excellent level course. Carrie said that when her young dogs enter the ring she wants to see only a couple of things. 1. They must hold their startline 2. All their contacts must meet criteria. Tangle did both of those flawlessly. I tested his startline and contacts a little, but my goal was to KEEP IT FUN and KEEP HIM SUCCESSFUL because I wanted to encourage his speed and keep him from thinking so much. Tangle was back to his normal speed thankfully and very happy all evening. By the way, I was thrilled to be running him again and my foot lasted the evening!

The things that I have learned over the past couple of days are priceless for me. I learned exactly what my goals should be over the next month or two with him.

  • More ring experience that is positive and fun.

  • I suck at rear crosses with him and need to work on those. I am late!

  • Serpentine entries into weaves are tough for Tangle. Now that is on our "To-Do" list. I think that it is because the "collection" cues are minimal for the weave entry

  • I have absoltely no instincts with how my dog will handle the course. We have no mileage on us as a team and that is how you develop those instincts. We need mileage. I will say that I spent a lot of time saying "I trained him to do this" and that is how he ran it. That felt good.

  • I need to ramp up Tangle "target" so that it is crazy fast and wild. I will use this to get him driving even faster to the end of his contacts!

Things that went well for us:

  • Handling the course. He read front crosses, lateral and forward sends really well

  • His jumping skills were awesome

  • All the errors in the past couple of days were mine!

  • Our tire training is paying off. He jumped it beautifully and did not touch the tire

  • He is an amazing dog when it comes to walking through a crowd of dogs

  • He was not stressed waiting his turn in line

  • My foot felt great and I am on the right track for increasing my speed again

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tangle and I had a fun 10 minutes!

With my foot injury I have not been able to move very much. I have been able to run the older dogs working on things that don't require much motion. They both put up with that effort and went along for the ride. No worse for the wear.

I learned that a green dog is a different story. Tangle got a little confused when I would take him out to work and I really wasn't moving. You could see his little wheels turn. Is this really what we are doing today? So, I decided the best thing for Tangle was to stop training him. It is easier to fix a rusty dog then to fix a dog who is completely confused!

It has been about 3 weeks!

Tonight I decided my foot was feeling good enough that I afforded myself 10 minutes of training with Tangle. We did things that didn't take a ton of motion, but I wasn't limiting myself either. We spent our 10 minutes just catching up on fun things and enjoying each others company. We worked weaves, A-Frames, serpentines, boxes, and even threw in a threadle ( he did great with that BTW).

He was so happy to be out in the agility field playing with mom and I was thrilled to be running my little boy again!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nothing in Life is Free

NILIF is a phrase my dogs know well. Me being the bad dog owner that I am I don't practice it 100 percent of the time, but enough. It is Tangle's turn this week to work for ALL of his food (not that working sucks for a Border Collie really).

I admit, I am not the most exciting handler right now. I am moving at a snail's pace and planning courses or exercises that don't require me to move much. Chasing me on course is one of Tangle's favorites. But, my lack of ability is no reason to blow me off for sure! We were on course this morning and Tangle decided that most of the rest of life was randomly more interesting. It wasn't a stress reaction, it was that I was boring. Usually, I think that I am way more entertaining for him, at least my neighbors tell me I am (crazy dog lady).

So, today his meals were fed by hand. Interesting, we worked the teeter and the dog walk a little since he hasn't really been on either obstacle for a month of so. I was AMAZED at how fast both obstacles were once he figured out he got handfuls of a meal while in the yellow zone.

Tonight we had a high school soccer game, Tangle got to do tricks for most of the game, and greet small children for food. He did an awesome job focusing on me instead of the running kids kicking soccer balls. This was mostly "Train to Maintain", but it went along with the theme of the week!

Friday, August 19, 2011

What fun getting to spectate!!

Yesterday Split's biggest admirer Rachel came over to run him for me. I asked her to run him in an upcoming trial for me so she is trying to get her Border Collie shoes on! Rachel normally runs a Lab/Catahola mix Evie. Evie is a medium speed, steady, love her mama kind of dog. So, for Rachel to run Split takes some adjustment. It was awesome, she is getting the hang of it very quickly. She needs to retire so she can get a Border Collie :)

It was so fun for me to not only help her figure it out, but also to watch my dog run. Spectating was great. Split is fast and graceful and I don't get to see that when I run him. I absolutely loved just watching. I gained an appreciation for the work that Split puts into the job and learned a thing or two along the way. Thanks Rachel!! I would highly recommend this to everyone.

This morning I worked Tangle and Split. We worked on Nancy Gyes' Alphabet drill "a", discrimination's, and independent obstacles. I was super pleased with how both dogs did. In the jumping drill we focused on 270's and coming through the gap. Both dogs did a great job with forward send and come through the gap (270's are old hat to both).

This morning was Tangle's first introduction to no motion discrimination between the tunnel and the dog walk. At first, not surprising Tangle would take the DW no matter what the cue. Well, which obstacle is more highly rewarded? So, I set him right in front of the tunnel, said "tunnel" and rewarded with tug. Lights went on "ah, we are not working just the DW today". We then progressed very quickly through the process. I kept setting him back further so both obstacles were an option. Each time I didn't move and just called the obstacle name. He was BRILLIANT! Next I would send him over jump #1, and call an obstacle name. Again brilliance! The only thing that I need to work on is the speed of the dog walk. When I sent him and had minimal motion myself, he was slower. I will work on that, but to be honest it is really rare that you ever have a course that dictates that skill, the handler is always moving somewhere!

Split has a ton more experience for these discrimination's, but it never hurts to just backup, simply, and practice the basic skill. He did great.

The handicapped sequence for today was working on sending to a tunnel, taking a jump with me in a lateral position (closer to #4), and then an independent weave. I only worked this sequence with Tangle and he did stellar. I am always amazed at how well he does.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Switching gears - Handler challenged courses

I find that life has forced me to switch gears in terms of my training plan for the next three months or so. I was running Tangle last week and heard a loud pop, yep, partially ruptured a tendon in my foot. Big boot on my foot, no running and fairly limited movement for the next two weeks, then gradually over many, many weeks I get to add more movement.

It is not my style to sit around and wait for time to pass. I try to switch gears as quick as I can and find the activities that will fit in with my current limitations.

Here is my first handler challenged course. My physical limitations this week are 1) I can only take a couple of steps while handling to dog 2) I can't take them fast

I decided to work on the subtlety of cues. In this design I am showing the dog the difference between a forward send, a 180, and forward motion cues. Although I only diagrammed the dog on the right, I did work both sides.

This actually turned out to be a good exercise for Tangle. We have worked all of these configurations in the past, but as he has gained more speed and excitement for agility it proved to be a good reminder.

I can't imagine that I will heal quickly so I am guessing that I will be designing a series of these course in the coming month or two.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Running A-Frame - Tangle and Split

I have three dogs with running A-Frames! Tip is awesome, fast, and reliable. It was a gift from God, I don't think I really contributed to the success of that one. Split has had a 2o2o, running, 2o2o, running, etc. So, now he is leaping, but I am determined to make it reliable. Tangle's A-Frame was trained first with a running dog walk and then the skill transferred to the A-Frame. There is one thing nagging me about his performance however and that is his back feet. They hit, but I want them farther into the yellow.

So, I had a little time a couple of weeks ago to surf YouTube and see how people were training running A-Frames. I ran across a site (ops, don't have the link) where a gal and her BC had put together a really nice running A-Frame. The stride regulator was put on the yellow line. I have to confess that I had never thought of putting it down that low. All the conversations I had about where to place the stride regulators was up high so that they would extend their stride, there by putting them into the yellow.

Placing the stride regulators up high produced mixed results for me with both Split and Tangle. I actually think that it made Split leap a little bit more.

I have been playing with the regulators down low for a couple of weeks. I really think that they are getting the stride into the yellow a bit more and have shored up the reliability of the performance for Split.

We will see if they hold up through time and even more importantly, once they come off will I be left with a better A-Frame performance?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tangle's First Fun Run


I have to say, I was a little bit giddy during the day at the thought of getting to run Tangle on his very first fun run. It was kind of like a first date in a way. You know all the prepping (year long training), anticipation, and finally you get to go on the date.

I had no expectations going into the run. I just knew that what ever happened I would come out of the experience with work assignments. If he ran perfectly, I would take him to another fun run, but one with a little more energy. If he had all sorts of issues, I would analyze those and come up with a training plan to fill in the gaps that had been exposed.

In short, it was a great first date! We ran a 18 obstacle Jumpers With Weaves course. The courses wasn't a gimme. It had some advanced lines of motion. My plan for running him tonight was to support him as best I could. I wanted to run him conservatively, let him extend and just gain confidence. The course was a little difficult to run without too many sends and front crosses.

Tangle did a really great job. True to his nature, he was a little reserved with a the new experience. He hadn't been in this particular arena a lot, so it was a perfect place to dry run some skills. He had a marvelous start line, followed my line of motion beautifully. Beautiful balance between handler/obstacle focus. Hit his weaves every time (straight on entry). The spin after the tire was because I didn't want to front cross a tire with such a young dog and I kind of cued a rear cross, ops.

Really, really proud of my boy!

Next run I will pace him a little bit faster and see how he holds up!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weaves in Sequences

Tangle graduated from 6 poles to 12. We have been working on building value for the entries and all 12 poles. Weaves are a hard thing, I don't want to do too much weaving with him, but you have to do some to build the value.

In order the build the value quickly, I brought out the big guns toy for him. The "ball"! I don't practice much with the ball since the reward is always being thrown away from me, but I don't mind in small doses. With most of his other toys, I can choose to either reward by my side or in the case of an independent obstacle I can reward away.

So, prior to today I just did the classic "around-the-clock" proofing of the 12 weaves. Today I decided to put them in short sequences to measure our progress. I have seen with my dogs that when you put the obstacle in a sequence it sometimes changes the picture. In the case of the weaves, it really changes the picture. The dog generally has to add scope to the weave performance as well. That is, look ahead to gage his jump, land and collection, but without starting it at a sit-stay which allows him a ton of time to see what is ahead.

I am not pushing Tangle in any of this. My goal is to set him up to be successful and build confidence. Challenging him will come later.

I am proud of Tangle, he did a really great job. This video isn't just the best of all the performances with him, it is all of them. Notice, he didn't miss a single entry, even when my handling was less than desirable :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Makes a Champion

I read this article yesterday What Makes a Champion?. I really like the point of the article. I am a competitive person, more with myself than with other people. I always expect the most and best out of myself and when I don't meet my expectations I have to pick myself back up from disappointment.

For me agility is doubly hard since I have lofty expectations for myself and for my dog. I do know that ultimately how the dog performs comes back to "me" and my training ability.

For me I loved the fact that the people that ultimately succeed are those that don't give up! I don't give up! Sometimes I should, ya know when you point out to yourself what is the point of accomplishing that anyway? For instance, pursuing something at work when it was just driven by politics and you can't influence that process. Spend your energy elsewhere!

But in agility, I don't give up! Frequently, I pause, feel like I have given up, but then develop a plan and get back on the horse. I heard something recently (from Mary Ellen Barry) that I just loved "Realize that failure *is* part of the process.", "The more times you do something, the more you will fail at it (Daisy Peel)". I am now a believer that failure is a part of the process, I have to get better at that and learn to embrace it's lessons quicker.

The other thing that spoke to me about this article was the triangle of: persistence, timing, and talent! Two out of the three have to be true to succeed. This applys to agility as well. In my previous post, ya know the one that I was commenting on Timing. So true! The hard part is that timing isn't a constant in most fields. That is, once you have it down you are good. Timing is changing and evolving, very true in agility! So really, to me, the talent is adaptation of timing to be more precise.

On another note, Tangle and I had an amazing practice this morning! I decided not to bring the camera out, but I really wish that I had. We worked on several things, proofing 12 poles, contacts in sequences, jumping. He was just amazing with his ability to stick with the game! Enjoy it tremendously. I am very commit ed to keeping practices short, but when you are on a roll, it is really hard!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Working on Timing

Split and I continue our practice to get us operating more like a team and my timing back to what Split needs it to be. Timing is absolutely the hardest thing about agility. In the evolution of the team, you both get more confident. As the dog's confidence grows they tend to get faster, which throws off your timing. The cycle begins again. It seems that this is an element that constantly needs to be refined. I find that depending on how forgiving the dog is in terms of your timing, the job is harder the less forgiving.

Split is very sensitive to my motion. I want it that way really. BUT, it tends to make my timing more critical and the need to have my cues more clear and intentional as well.

This course is a great course to stay calm on!

I started this course with a leadout and my location between 3 & 4, but closer to 4 to clarify the line for him. He read the 1-2-3 sequence perfect every time. Next I did a serpentine recall over 4 to 5. My timing and body position were really important here. His commitment to #4 was rather late and I could not leave as early as I wanted, even if I gave him the "jump" command. I found that the serpentine recall as describe by APHS was not the way to go. I actually had to keep my chest facing the jump if I wanted to be farther away, or if I did a serpentine recall I had to be closer to the jump. His late commitment on #4 changed how I was going to cue 5 to 6. I underestimated the number of cues it would take to get him to turn. I stayed stationary, used my outside arm, waited for him to turn and then I took a couple of steps backward between 5 & 6 to cue 6, catch him and cue the weaves.

Split kept popping on pole 5. I think it was the typical weaving into nowhere problem. Once we did get the weaves I did a landing side FC on #8 and sent to the tunnel. Once he was committed to the tunnel I booked it as fast as I could to #10, giving him a cue to turn into me (outside arm) and set the line to #11. This, he read really nicely!

Things that I noted with Split.

1) His commitment point to #3 tunnel was much shorter than his commitment point to #9. I am sure that clarity played a role.
2) Outside hand is still very effective with Split. He gives me relative collection quickly and adjusts his path.
3) His startline confidence is coming back.

Fun little course and easy to set up!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Proofing Tangle's Weaves

Tangle is now a year old! Happy Birthday Tangle!

I trained Tangle on 2x2 weave method, but followed Mary Ellen Barry's article from Clean Run vs Susan Garrett's method. I first worked Tangle on the 2x2 at about 10 months. I just did 2 poles and worked strickly on entrances. I didn't really want him weaving that young. The reason I decided to work entrances that young was to capitalize on the young puppy learning. I have noticed that with all my dogs, what they learn first is what they do the best. So, with Tangle in his first year I did a lot of introductions, but really no perfecting of skills.

We picked up weaving again at almost a year and progressed through to 12 weaves. I never worked weaves more than every 3 days or so and 5-6 repetitions.

This morning we decided to work a little bit on weave proofing. We haven't really worked on this yet with obstacles. He started out a little less confident, but by the end I was really pleased with how his confidence built.

I am really pleased with his footwork and entries. I see no hesitation at all. He did an excellent job of transitioning from the weave to the jump as well.

I will continue to work this type of proofing, probably throwing 12 weaves in the mix once a week or so.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

A Bit Rusty

Split seems to have recovered nicely and can begin to take the workouts! That is the sigh of relief that you heard!

I have spent the last six months working with just Tip and now my timing with Split has gotten more than a little rusty.

This is the course that we worked on this week. I realized when I was walking the course that I had forgotten what Split is capable of and what he is not. Also, I just don’t know what he will still do well and what we won’t. It does feel like running someone else’s dog.

This map has two courses in it. The first, with the pink circles was the least challenging to figure out how to run Split. I started the course with a recall to front, backed up to send him over #3 and then post turned into the weaves. This worked really nicely. The challenge on this course came when trying to get Split turned nicely and through the box 5-6-7. I ended up doing a forward send, getting ahead of him and heading directly for #7.

The next sequence (Green Boxes) was a bit more challenging. I had minor bobbles from 6-7, I had to front cross the AFrame before the tunnel, Split didn't like to pull to the tunnel. 13-14-15-16 is where I spent a lot of time trying to solve the puzzle. What made this sequence a challenge was 15-16. I could handle it really messy and get it, but my goal was to figure out the best way to handle it smoothly. The best solution that I came up with was a landing side FC on 14, send to 15, get the heck out of there, catch Split’s head and release him to #16 when the risk of taking the #2 off course jump was gone. We need to work on some of our foundation skills, sharpen those up and then I will try this sequence again.

Monday, July 4, 2011

USDAA Rocky Mountain Regionals

My little girl, Tip and I accomplished some goals that we had been working on for a while. Our goals aren't really first place ribbons, or beating so and so, etc...Those come as a natural by product of attaining our other goals. The goal of being "present" in every moment of your run. Only focused on the run, the performance of every obstacle, and how your dog is interpreting your cues. I want to be as calm and clear as I can with my dogs when I run them.

Tip and I had an amazingly consistent weekend. I was proud of myself because I hit every start line this weekend with controlled nerves, focused on my dog, and being present for her during the whole run. Tip sat at every start line focused on me and determined to work as a team. I really tried to focus on the courses, reading them and running them the way that Tip would run the best.

The rewards came:
1st Place Performance Team!
1st Place Local Performance Grand Prix
1st Place Performance Team Jumpers
2nd place in Regional Performance Grand Prix to earn a 'Bye' to Semifinals at the USDAA Nationals
Earned a 'bye' to the Semifinals in Performance Speed Jumping

Both 'bye's are for USDAA World Games Championships in Oct. in Louisville, KY!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


I too will join the "call to action" for blogging about volunteering. It hit a special cord today since I got no less than 4 emails from people about needing volunteers for this weekend’s USDAA Rocky Mountain Regionals. These weren't just the please sign up to "work a class", these pleas were "Chief Course Builder", or "All Day Volunteers", you know, the "big" positions.

Also today, Mountain Dog Sports is holding a Course Building Workshop so that they can have plenty of Chief Course Builders to call upon and not burn out the few that she regularly calls on.

Two examples in one day of how volunteering impacts our agility lives!

I am going to speak from personal experience. I volunteer at every trial I go to! Regardless of venue and how many dogs I am running. There are things that make volunteering easier and more fun!

When I am running multiple dogs, it is much easier to volunteer for shorter durations. Maybe that is a partial class, or the smaller classes. I would much rather volunteer three times for 15 minutes each, than one time for 30 minutes. Smaller time frames help me get my dogs walked, myself feed, and enjoy a few conversations with friends.

I love volunteering when there is a spirit of team work! I was at a trial recently where there was not a single call for volunteers. As a matter of fact, the trial chair was getting a massage on the side lines. People just jumped in and kept everything running smoothly. The few "compensated" positions were manned by people who were open, friendly, and eager to teach. That makes a huge different for those who are tentative to volunteer if they are not "experts" in that area.

Small things do matter--chairs and umbrellas in place for jump setters. It makes it comfortable and we can see when that position needs to be filled. Raffles for each time you volunteer. No one polices it, it is on the honor system. Please and thank you go a long way!

Let's not go the way of having to police coupons and actual amount of minutes that you spent volunteering. That belittles the efforts. If everyone does just what they can we will always have more than enough volunteers!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Adrenaline messes with your perspective

Today was Split's first trial back after six months of rehab. I only signed him up for 1 day/2 runs. Trying to take it slow.

His first run was Gamblers. I walked off the course after his run thinking that I had the most wild, out of control, dog not listening type of run. Just for the record I was ok with that since Split LIVES for agility and he was so glad to be going to the start line after six months.

So, I taped his standard run. I walked off that course thinking "ok, that was an improvement, but still out of control". When I replayed the run *in my head", here are some of the highlights 1) the forward send to the double, Split was amazingly wide 2) he leaped his A-Frame. 3) it took forever to get him to down on the table 4) when he was running wildly after the chute, it took 4-5 seconds to get him to come to side.

Well, I put on my big girl pants when I got home and decided to watch the run on video. I was really ready to eat humble pie, take a ton of training notes, and experience the disastrous run.

Here is what I saw 1) nice startline stay 2) beautiful teeter 3) his turn after my forward send was not nearly as bad as I recalled 4) his AFrame was TOO DIE FOR beautiful 5) huge wide turn to the weaves, he didn't read the FC 6) table speed was OK, not perfect, but certainly for six months off, can't complain 7) turn after the chute was completely my fault, I was worried about getting hit 8) beautiful, beautiful closing. Actually he would have Q'ed had I not made a handling error.

So, I find two things interesting 1) when the adrenaline is pumping, how time slows down and everything seems to take on another timeline 2) Shame on me for only recalling the bad! I knew he had a good startline, closing and some parts in between.

So, although I am only running Tip tomorrow my take aways from today are 1) film everything to get things in perspective 2) try to balance to memories of faults and beauty.

And, I will follow up with my training notes and work Split's turns this coming week :)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

IHC Standard Course

This course is based off of a course we ran last weekend at the Utah 4-star. The course was designed by Tim Laubach. I had to modify it a little since I didn't have enough tunnels or a chute. #18 was a chute, and #10/#14 was a tunnel. I am sure my changes made it harder.

On the real course Tip did a fairly good job, except she broke her start line (which amazingly didn't set up off course and she had another off course (can't remember where, ops).

Today I focused on running the beginning sequence 1-2-3-4 and 4-5-6-7-8-9. I wanted to play with the different ways to cue the beginning sequence with Tip, who is obstacle focused (this makes cuing easier some times) and Split who is handler focused and if not told to do something, won't do it.

With Tip I could lead out to the landing side of 3, face her and do a cross on the flat to get #3. With Split I had to stay on the landing side of #2 and then move forward to get my cross on the flat for 3. After Split ran the course once, I could cue the same as Tip.

Next I played with how to cue 8 to 9. Tip did this fine in the trial, but I was still curious if it could be done differently. The two ways that worked were jumping her to the outside of 8, bring her to side through the gap and then cue the weaves. The other was to backup through the gap and then to cue 9. I prefer to bring her to side since it was easier for me, but this was risky with some dogs.

Tangle just got to work on individual obstacles. We worked on more introduction of the tire (no you can't touch it when jumping it).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Course from Agility Nerd

AgilityNerd Article

This course caught my eye. On paper it had some challenges that I thought would be really good for Split and myself--forward sends and independent weaves. Those were the challenges, but there was more (of course).

The only difference between my course and Steve's, I exchanged the chute for a tunnel (I don't have a chute) and I had another jump beyond #4 so I would know if I wasn't queuing correctly.

Steve mentions that you should start with your dog so that you can appreciate the challenge of the course. I did start with the dogs as well as lead out (same side as the dog) to the second jump. I wanted to practice non-traditional starts.

In working with Split the first challenge was sending to #4. Since I was so far behind, he came out of the tunnel looking for me and I had trouble getting him out to the jump (Tip, no problem there).

At the weaves I tried front crossing the entry side, but ended up really liking running 4-5-6 like a serpentine. Both dogs could get their entry when I was at the end of the weaves, actually they collected better after 4 with me at the end of the weaves.

#6 is not that clear to the dog. Great thing to practice! Rarely do we see a jump placed like that and both dogs tried out the back side of the jump if I did not clearly bring them into me. Another reason why the serp worked better.

The next challenge was getting the dog to turn toward me after the straight tunnel. Again, I ended up sending to #7 and being at the end of the tunnel to get a better turn for 9-10.

That is as far as we got today. I might comment again tomorrow when, hopefully I can finish the full course.

Great course Steve, thanks!!!

Tangle worked on jumping, weaves (2 sets of six!!!), table, and the dog walk today. He was really motivated and into it. I tried using his favorite squeaky ball. Lovely surprise that he worked really well for it, but could still think well enough to execute things nicely.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A game of chase is all it took!

Tangle is a thinker when it comes to agility. He does not like to fail and sometimes over thinks a problem. These kind of dogs are great to have, but you have to be really careful in a couple of ways with them. 1) Don't let them fail too many times. If they can't get it on the first couple of tries, break down the task. (good practice anyway) 2) If they start loosing interest you can almost be guaranteed they are thinking too much and the fun factor has to be ramped up! Don't let them think too hard!!

Compare this with Tip, who is a do'er! I don't think Tip has ever shut down on me. She is ALWAYS game to play and then play more. She would work until she drops dead. BUT, it is harder to get her into a place where she is thinking "hum, what does she really want". I have to control Tip's excitement level a lot more when training something new. Food when she is learning something new, toys only when she has got it down cold.

So, I introduced Tangle to channel weaves this morning. He has been taught to weave six poles with 2x2 weaves. The channels were a completely different obstacle to him and it was NOT obvious what he needed to do to perform them properly. I noticed very quickly that he was thinking too hard and beginning to shut down. Well I believe strongly in ending on a positive note and it became apparent this was not going to happen.

Stop, breath, and think "how do I end this on a happy note"? C H A S E!!!!

Tangle's favorite obstacle right now is the AFrame. So, I incorporated the AFrame into a game of chance to just get him "do" and not "think" any more. It turned out to be a great decision. I ran him over the AFrame (favorite obstacle), threw the squirrel Frisbee (favorite toy) and while he was getting that, I ran in the different direction and hide behind the shed (chase, favorite game). I had a completely different dog on my hands!!! The speed, intensity, and joy out of Tangle was amazing.

After I had him completely engaged again, we went back to the weaves. First time ran all the way through the channels--we ended there, on a positive note!

Now, I will say as I write this I realize my mistake in introducing the channel weaves. I had them slightly open and I think that is what confused him. I should have started with them closed and then opened them as he gained confidence on another set of weaves. First time I have trained weaves this way and we all live and learn.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Mr. Toad's Wild Ride

Split returned to class last night. First time in about 5 months! Now Splits is a happy dog anyway, but last night he was celebrating in every way he knew how. Wagging his tail from his soul, howling, yipping, and greeting everybody as if he hadn't seen them in 100 years. The boy was happy!!

This was the course that we had Split run. We were trying to take it easy on him since this would be his first time out. He has run at home, but nothing parallels the excitement of being in class for him.

All in all I have to say I was super pleased with how he did considering his excitement was OVER THE TOP!

Back in January Split was having a few problems. I am positive most of them were attributed to his injury (got to love 20/20 hind sight). Skipping weaves, jumping off the teeter, avoiding jumps.

Last night's course was a different story. He did awesome for his first time out. Took all the jumps, hit the weave entries and finished them, and all with speed!

The only problem on the course that we had was several really, really wide turns! 12 to 13 he really wanted to hit the weaves on the way back to me, and 14-15 he wanted to hit the tunnel. Now to be fair, it was hard to cue collection, but I am not sure he was really interested in collecting and running a controlled course. He wanted to stretch out and just RUN!

I was expecting worse since he was very over the top! I am just thrilled to have him running again, wide turns included!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Feels like kindergarten again

This blog is mostly for myself! A marker in time if you will about where we are and what we are doing.

Today's session with Tangle today was great, but there are certain things that running/training a green dog teaches or reteaches you. Experienced dogs, like experienced people have the ability to say "I know what you said, but I will do what you really want". Green dogs say "OK, I will do exactly what you told me".

We worked on several things today and more than once I was educated by my young dog!

Start lines - I have a tendency to push slightly out laterally as I am beginning to run forward. Tangle is reading this as lateral motion and will come around the jump since he is not obstacle focused yet. I need to make sure that I have my weight moving forward and give the jump command!

Start lines - I know about this gotcha, but am still guilty in certain situations. When I am asking for a lateral start, that is my lead out is just to the side, not forward I move AS I release the dog. I need to move and then release. Tangle was releasing on motion.

Start lines, contacts, and the table - I need to use my release word and then the obstacle name. I want it very clear what releases him.

Straight line of jumps - I need to remember to give him the jump command! Older dogs don't need it, but Tangle still needs it. He wants to be right and that helps reassure him that I do want him to take that jump! I also need to be mindful that he can't drive the pace, it is I who has that job.

Just to mark where we are on our other obstacles at this point:

Teeter performance - Tangle has started to identify the tipping point of the teeter instead of just driving to the end. We need to go back and do the following exercise to help him focus on the 2o2o and not the tipping.:
--hold the end of the teeter up, hold Tangle, and have him drive into his 2o2o position while the teeter is up and then let it drop.

Dog Walk - We have made the conversion to a 2o2o (2 feet on, 2 feet off) at the end. Tangle completely understands his job and is doing it really well, but I want excellent! I need to incorporate some drive to the end exercises. Again, focus on getting to the end as soon as possible. When he had a running dog walk we didn't need to work on this.

A-Frame - What can I say, it is awesome! It is still a running contact and I intend to keep this one running. He runs it at full speed, just clearing the apex and drives to the bottom. So, we will just continue to raise it.

Specialty jumps - time to introduce them! Tire, winged jumps, double, triple, and broad jump.

In general Tangle is doing an excellent job. His speed to good, watches me well, thoughtful and quick to learn. What more could I ask really!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Woo Hoo!

Many of my friends are busy posting their agility winnings and accomplishments on FaceBook and YouTube. I am very proud of them and feel happy for them that they are all doing so well. Really, I am. I do have Tip to run and she continues to turn in stellar performances, but it is not what is making me bust at the seams right now.

I am going to post a HUGE accomplishment of mine here today. It feels like we just ran a marathon and came in with a personal best time!! Split finished rehab today. His physical therapist is super happy with his progress and doesn't want to see him again (except for maintenance work). This is very much like a marathon for me. It has been 4 months off from our regular routine, 2 months of that with very little activity. Then SLOWLY introducing agility back into our lives for 2 months and we aren't done yet, but we can begin to see our first trial date in sight.

So, when you run your dog and they are healthy and happy, kiss them and thank them for the gift of another great run!

Monday, May 23, 2011

A-Frame performance

I have heard this advice several times and in several different disciplines "Find a great performance and emulate it"

I just started to train Tangles A-Frame and thankfully I have the performance to emulate right in my backyard (literally). Tip has a beautiful A-Frame. Fast, efficient and really consistent. I want Tangle's Aframe to be like hers.

Video comparisonClick to see video

I ran both dogs on the same configuration this morning as a way to evaluate the differences in performance. Let me say immediately I honestly don't believe that I can train Tangle to be just like Tip when it comes to the AFrame. The dogs have different structure, temperament, and drive. But can I get close? Yes, I believe that I can.

I have many observations about the side-by-side performances, but I would love to hear what others have to say before I taint the waters. I have no doubt that others will observe valuable things that I have missed!! Please, comment away!!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Split's rehab helps all the dogs

Training a puppy and rehabing a dog have some commonality!

Split was taken out of agility Mid-January due to a Hip Flexor pull. He was allowed to jog on leash with me, but really not much else. We gave him 8 weeks of rest and then began to work him back really, really slowly. I guess the nature of this injury is that the dog can re-injure it fairly easily.

First I started with really low jumps, about 8 inches, 4 jumps in a row. We would do that 4-5 times and that was the sum total of his agility. Gradually we worked the jumps up higher and added another repetition. I have gradually worked in other equipment as time has gone on. Maybe one rep of the weaves, a couple tunnels, low teeters, low dog walks and now a low AFrame.

Since all the equipment was low for Tangle, it was perfect to work Split and Tip got to come along for the ride.

It has helped Split gain his confidence back (from the injury) and the performance hasn't been a strain on him. I even sort of think that this has helped Tip, but I am not clear why. For our past two trials her contacts have been stellar (it has been a life time challenge). Her teeter has been amazing, her dog walk 2o2o is worlds better. I might play with this concept more because it intrigues me!

Also, I have had the 2 by 2 weaves out working entrances with Tangle. So, I started working those with Split has well. When he was injured he was avoiding the weaves as a part of the injury. The 2 by 2's have helped work on his entrances and get those back in shape, but has kept the strain of doing a full set to a minimum.

I am really liking this synergy between the rehab and puppy training!

I started training Tangle on jumps by doing single jump work. I decided to do this with Split as well. It helps build his muscle in his rear and build back the confidence when nothing hurts!!

This morning Split got his hardest workout since January and his jumping was amazing! He had really nice collection, tight turns, and confidence back. I am thrilled.

I am re-thinking how I keep my adult dogs in shape and well trained. Stay tuned.

As a side note, Split is jumping 18 inches and doing really well with that height!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Puppy license

I have noticed in the last month the changes in Tangle as he progresses from puppyhood to adulthood (at least in growth). In the last several weeks Tangle has lost his puppy license with some other male dogs, his drive is moving to a new level, and he is beginning to show signs of the adult male that he will become!

At the same time my perspective in training him has begun to change. Up until now he has clearly been "the puppy". As such, our training has only included puppy tasks (sort of). Low dog walks, no jumps, just weave entries, no AFrame, etc... Although my criteria for him is solid, somehow it isn't the same as when you know you will have the dog in a competition this weekend!! There is puppy license filtered into the criteria.

I began to realize this weekend that technically he could be competing in 5 months. And although I doubt that I will compete with him that early it dawned on me that we would need to move from all the puppy activities to the "real agility dog" activities.

Is he beginning to loose his puppy license with me as well?

Tangle will be "the puppy" for many more years, but soon he will begin some adult tasks.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Tangle, popcorn and the dog walk tour

The title almost sounds like a band, eh?

Let me start out by saying I don't normally feed my dogs popcorn, I go out of my way to make sure that they don't have corn in their diets at all as a matter of fact. But, popcorn really did make the PERFECT training treat in this case, really! It is kind of like letting your kids eat M&M's for breakfast, you know its not right but perhaps it serves a momentary purpose.

We, my family and I have on occasion been known to teach the dogs how to catch popcorn. Not real often. But, it totally entertains us:) So, Tangle really likes popcorn. This is how I got the idea.

It made the perfect training treat because:
*It is white, high contrast to the grass
*It is light and floats down instead of a fast drop, enabling me to see EXACTLY how well I am delivering the treat timing wise.
*Tangle finds it quickly, it stays on top of the grass
*Tangle can watch it on the way down too (and I wanted his head down).

I started Tangle out jumping, but he wasn't keeping his head down well. Also, the treat that I had been using was really hard to find in the grass. So, I needed a solution.

I think this one worked well!

Tangle jumping for popcorn

Tangle also got to start his dog walk tour this week. Earlier I mentioned that we were going to start a tour to help some training issues 1) he is showing a hesitancy to do a DW on unfamiliar equipment 2) his hit rate goes down dramatically. Friends were gracious enough to set up their dog walk for Tangle, thanks Don and Lori!! Since Tangle has been hesitant on his first run across a "strange" dog walk, I just trotted him across. Then we began our runs. Overall I would say that he did well. You can see that his speed increases the more runs he completes. This is encouraging! Also, his hit rate was right at 80 percent. Great for a unfamiliar place.

Tangle's DW Tour #1

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Current Successes

It isn't often that I have an opportunity to write about an awesome trail with one of my dogs. Tip and I had an awesome trial today! We have more and more great runs, but we don't often come together for an entire day!

I will just take a moment to reflect so that I can look back on this day!

Tip and I did a NADAC trial today. We had 6 runs, 5 Q's and all of the placements given were first with one second! But more importantly than statistics is how we felt. We were a team today! We both read each other well, where Tip was unclear she glanced at me for clarity, but most of the time I held up my end of the deal and gave her the information before she needed it. We trusted each other today!

Days like this are even sweeter because of the journey it took to arrive here. When you feel great like this, it feels good to reflect on the tears and frustrations along the way. We both learned from each other and arrived upon today!

Another success this weekend was training with Tangle. You know, really, I always enjoy training with Tangle and we haven't had too many frustrations and all of them have paled in comparison to Tip's and my learning curve.

My husband helped us do restrained recalls on the teeter this weekend. It was just the tool that I needed! I wanted to turn the teeter into a game and this was the ticket! Here is the video of our training. His speed and love for the teeter up until this practice session was equivalent to the first teeter on the film. Not bad at all, but he is thinking too much. Yes, I want a thinking dog, but I do not want a worrier. To my eye, the speed and drive for the toy only increased with each teeter. It is this love and drive that will keep Tangle from thinking too much on the teeter and get into the game.

Not to leave Split out of the mix today. He is doing great. Still in rehab for his hip flexor pull, but starting to return to activity. I currently have him doing 6 jumps at 12 inches, a few weaves, a few dog walks and really low A-Frames!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Grand Prix inspired

Tip needs another Grand Prix Q to qualify for Nationals so I decided to work on Grand Prix courses. Here is a course that was inspired by a Frank Holik course. Frank will be the judge at the Rocky Mountain Regionals so why not study up?

The start of the course was actually fairly fun, I started with Tip by standing in between #1 and #3 and then front crossing (FC) #2. The sequence 3-4-5-6 was fairly straight forward. However once the dog comes out of the tunnel you have to make a decision which side of #8 to pick them up. I tried both sides, but ended up liking the inside closest to the tunnel. It was much clearer to cue Tip that she was turning. This does make it a rear cross (RC) over a triple, but Tip handled it great.

The next trouble spot was 15-16-17. This is because the spacing of 16 to 17 was a bounce jump for Tip. Typically I don't set up something that is a bounce jump, but once in a while it is really good to practice different jumping skills. That is, scope out what is coming and what adjustments in the jump style does she have to make in order to not knock the bar.

On the Tangle front, we had a great lesson today. We worked on his teeter. We were working on his speed across the teeter. The suggestion was to do restrained recalls over the teeter. Also, have the toy low to the teeter, about in the middle when released, and run to the end. By the end of his teeter session he was driving faster.

Interesting little factoid was that Tangle had about a 100 percent failure rate during the lesson on the dog walk. Since we are about 100 percent success rate at home it tells me that we need to go on a dog walk tour. That is, visit a lot of dog walks around town and show him that his performance should be the same on all of them.

P.S. I will still probably move his dog walk to a 2o2o

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Pack recalls

Spring has sprung in our area. It has been fairly wet for the last week and this morning was too icy to work much. I decided to work pack recalls.

I train the individual recalls like this because it comes in handy for so many things:

  • Self control

  • Being able to train one dog, but have the others handy on the field

  • Safety, I have had to call one dog past a coyote and need the other to stay

  • Run, then lie down is handy and good for snooker too

As I reviewed the video I find once again inconsistencies in myself. It is so hard to be completely consistent!! I have found that in raising my child and again in training my dogs. My goal is to be consistent in my training and with each passing day I do get better. Honestly, I know I won't reach my goal, but better is always great!

"Technically", I only need to say the dogs name and that will release them from their stay. I also included the word "come". "Technically", if I use only the word "come", all three dogs should release to me. As you can see Split wanted his specialized invitation.

Video of Pack Recalls

Thursday, April 14, 2011


We had fun this week designing this course. Again, we started with discussion and exercises from Developing Handling Skills and organically developed this course.

We ended up running several variations, but here are a couple that were most notable.

(First course) These days I am running these with Tip since Split is injured. The first discrimination (AFrame, Tunnel, or jump) was actually a little challenging. Your timing and your cues have to be very precise. We practiced getting all three and studying the differences in how to cue them. My next challenge on this course since Tip has a running AFrame was to get ahead so that I could use lateral motion cueing 5-6. If you are behind, your forward motion cues the off course pin wheel. Very hard to cue the AFrame and then get the heck out of there to be ahead. Fun challenge for sure!!

(second course) This course introduced layering (yes, it is in DHS). Not too hard to get with Tip from the table. I could be ahead cue extension and use forward motion (and stay in the inside of the serp). The hard part was 15-16-17. These compressed and elongated pin wheels are getting popular with the judges, they are harder to cue and harder to get tight turns. I used a send to 16, and backward motion to the tunnel to bring her over 17 (I try not to do classic post turns). She fancied the DW, but was a good girl and followed my motion.

Love to know how people handle these...

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The first full teeter

This was kind of a fun day for us. We have been working on many differrent skills that lead up to performing a teeter and today we got to put it all together.

The journey begins with wobble boards, running planks, sit/stay, the "bang it" game, progressed to learning just the 2o2o behavior on planks and then contact trainers. Then Tangle got to learn the 2o2 on the actual teeter. First barely moving, and then we gradually raised it. Today, we put ALL the skills together into one behavior.

I was so proud of my boy. His stays at the end of the plank were fabulous (even throwing chicken on the ground). He did have a few issues, but really first time out of the gate, I am very happy!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tip in Performance Speed Jumping

I need to take a moment to say how proud I am of my girl. It is moments like this that make me stop and say how proud I am of my girl, recognize and appreciate the journey that we have been on. Tip is an amazing dog who has taught me so much. The dogs that I have trained after her certainly own her.

Tip ran Steeplechase last weekend. She won both days. The second day she had the fastest time of all dogs at any jump height. Her ground speed isn't the absolute fastest, but her turns are to die for. She has turned in some amazing times because she can cut a jump amazingly tight.

Video of the run

(Yes, her time was the fastest even with the weave bobble)

Running contact update

Tangle and I took a week or so off of running contacts. We were stalled in our progress so I wanted to give it a break and give myself time to think through what my response should be. I went from thinking about scraping the running contacts to having confidence that I could figure this out. (For the record, I am still not in love with the idea of how a running contact is trained.)

This morning we started on our adventure again. I decided that practicing being stuck wasn't a good idea, so I set up our next logical progression. jump-dog walk-jump.

Today's setup

Long story short--we were back up at our 80% range. You know, I have no idea why these things work in training, but they do. Maybe one theory is, if I change something, the dog has to go back to thinking and things improve! Would love to hear thoughts on this.

On other fronts we have worked more seriously on the teeter and Tangle is learning weave entrances! He is doing stellar at both!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Save the hands

My poor hands! They are battered and bruised from playing so much tug with my puppy. The blame is all mine, but I stand by my approach.

Tangle has been really bad about catching my hand along with the tug toy. But, here is why I haven't really trained the "don't get the hand" yet.

Tangle has been a good tugger, not an awesome tugger. He clearly loves the game, but doesn't want to hold on for dear life. I, on the other hand, want him to hang on once he has grasped it. Early on when I would end the game for a second or two when he caught my hand he would stop playing. He still does to a degree. Tug is such a great game for agility, distraction, and fun that I didn't want to train the tug out of him.

I have from time to time stopped the game for a pause, and then started when he let go of my hand. He always shy's off. I never say a word, just stop playing. Testing the water's from time to time, but I always see the hesitation begin.

I have tried the squirrel frisbees, long tugs, big knot tugs, he always "chokes up" and gets my hand.

So, last night I went on a mission to make a toy that might help protect my hand. I went to Petsmart and got a rope toy that had two tennis balls with holes in them. I decided to adapt my usual design for a tug and incorporate the tennis ball as a bigger marker of what end is mine and what is his. I am hoping that grabbing onto the tennis ball is not quiet as fun as the polar fleece tug.

In order to make sure the toy had huge value, I played with it last night, not allowing him to have it, this morning we did restrained recalls to the toy, and then, finally tug with the toy. He does love it. But then he loves all toys.

I think that I had some mild success with it. He does recognize that the tennis ball is on the toy, he doesn't really want to grab it while he tugs, but he did catch my hand when he tried to choke up. However, he does try to stay on his side of the toy!

I think that for now this toy is a keeper and I might be able to train him to stop making mince meat of my hand and still have fun tugging.