Monday, April 23, 2012

A week of learning

Last week was a week!  Every single day of it was filled with learning experiences both personally and professionally. 

The agility aspect of the week has been awesome.  I watched inspiring video, took a class that was just FULL of nuggets, and did exercises that were super challenging.

First, Mary Ellen Barry Video, a friend sent me this video of Mary Ellen Barry running Maizy and E-Z in Steeplechase.  It hit me almost immediately this is by far the best example I have seen of a couple of different things 1) Cue and Go  2) The value of independent performance of obstacles.  I am not a stranger to either of these concepts, but it is so valuable to me to have these visual examples of what I can achieve when I push the envelope of both of these concepts.  Inspired to once again to push the envelope. I think that my dogs have these skills, but since I rarely test it to this extreme I am going to work on it this week.

Second, Tangle and I took a class last week that was full of nuggets. Several things that I already knew, but it was great to hear again. New reasoning put to proven concepts, ingrains the concepts that much more. And lastly, new ideas. What I realized last week, Tangle is getting to a transition point. That point where agility is beginning to seep into his bones. It seems that when they just start out in agility, all the behaviors are fresh and the pups try really hard to keep doing the right thing. Then, sometimes fast and sometimes slowly, agility seeps into their bones and the behaviors begin to change. The beautiful startline is corrupted with anticipation, the contact behavior lines begin to blur because they know what is next, and the speed and confidence begin to change the picture. Tangle has arrived and I am thrilled. It is time to "Train to Maintain". The little nuggets and reminders that we picked up this week are:

  • Always mark behaviors good and bad.  Contrast them well, party when they are perfect, and mark when they are not desired.  I will be setting up really short (3 obstacle drills) to mark dropped bars, this doesn't apply to Tangle, but to Tip.  Although Tangle will do the same drill to maintain his beautiful performance.  Low confident dogs almost need this more because of the parties when they do the right thing, this applies to Split.
  • A better strategy of cue and go to get the tight turn that I want, but loose any babysitting behavior. Mark the spot of the bar that you want the dog to turn on and get the heck out of there. This works beautifully, although it is hard to appreciate because you are not there to spectate :)
  • Push and trust your dog in class. It is the perfect time. You have teachers and students who will tell you when something happened. A great example of this is, blind crossing the end of the weaves. I can't see that my dog finished them, but others can and quickly so the behavior can be marked.
Lastly, we did an exercise from the World Agility Open (WAO) E-Book, I won't post the exercise, but the E-Book, well worth the money. But, it was an International Drills exercise by Blake Stafford, page 119. Great exercises to twist your mind and figure out how to get the job done!

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