Archive for the ‘Agility’ Category

Ch. Kabree Mad About You RA

September 29, 2009 Comments off
Image by neilfein via Flickr

I’ve been offline for almost a week, camping and trialing at the annual Wine Country Circuit at Sampson State Park in Romulus, NY. After a couple of false starts earlier this summer – shows I’d entered but was too fatigued to compete in – Madison finally got her chance to shine in Rally Advanced. And shine she did, earning her RA with a 3rd and a 4th place and qualifying four straight times. In the rain.

Rain and M. don’t get along. My princess doesn’t like to get her pretty spotted toes wet. Apparently, it really doesn’t rain in California (where she was born) or Virginia (where she lived with her other ‘mom’ Lisa Ross before she moved to central NY.) M. will eagerly race to the back door and stop in her tracks when she discovers rain on the other side. She will refuse to enter a tunnel that has a puddle in the entrance. She walks on the sidewalk when the grass is wet. After a miserable FAST run in a deluge at the CNY Sheltie Club trials in early August, I promised her that she would never have to run in a downpour.

But Sunday, it wasn’t pouring. The grass was wet, and there was some spitting intermittent rain, but these are facts of life here in central New York. There was no hint of a deluge. M. moved in a happy heel position from the car to the rings, bouncing and forging most of the way. Hmm. Okay. I told the little girl to stand up, step up and heel. And for most of that full-of-sits Rally Advanced course, she did — she even sat in heel position and dropped (twice.) On the last three signs, M. made me work for every sit (even the judge noticed her dirty looks!) Finally we got through the course, and my little princess worked the whole way ’round.

FAST was less successful — Friday, her push-to-the-right had disappedared. Saturday, pushes to the right were working, but I stepped on the piece of tangled fly-away plastic tape that was serving as the bonus line. Still, each of M’s five FAST runs has been a bigr improvement over the previous run. She’s running less like a green dog and more like a focused agility dog. So on we go — and hopefully, we’ll add a FAST leg or two in the next couple months.

Meanwhile, my princess has decided to heel – beautifully. When the girl puts it together, she puts it together with flair — flip finishes, hand touches, and a constantly wagging english cocker tail. Now that she has her RA, we’ll spend a few more shows in Rally Advanced working on precision and accuracy before I move her up to Rally Excellent.

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Categories: Agility, Rally

Backyard agility

September 17, 2009 Comments off
A Border Collie negotiating weave poles.
Image via Wikipedia

M. and I are running in FAST next week at the Wine Country Circuit in Romulus NY. So to our regular practices (we’re also in Rally Advanced A) I’ve been adding some simple backyard agility practices.

I was inspired by a tweet from @agilitynerd who linked to some of his backyard practice sessions.

Agility Nerd’s blog is one of my favorite practice resources. For M., I broke the practices into two sections: 1) left-side weaves to threadle to right-side weaves, and 2)
selected jumps to alternate sides of the tunnel. Then I had her run the full practice as left-side weaves / jump / near-tunnel entrance / circle round to jump / threadle / right-side weaves.

She’s nailing her entrances, so fingers crossed…and more practice…for a successful pair of FAST runs.

Backyard agility doesn’t need a lot of equipment. My tunnel and some of my jumps are from Pac ‘n Go and I supplement them with jumps and cavalletti from Max200. My weave poles are plain electric fence post rods from Tractor Supply Co. My entire setup fits into a low deck box, and can be assembled and taken down in five minutes.

Train on!

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Categories: Agility, equipment Tags:

Weaves — On. Her. Own.

August 21, 2009 Comments off

When I remember to let my little spotted princess process and think… I get spontaneous weaves. 😉

This morning, on the damp grass that gives her the wet toes she hates so much, Miss M. did four poles from a right side send. On one signal. At the end of the poles, after a click and a treat and while waiting for some more input from me, she decided to re-weave her four poles.

On. Her. Own.

Back at the entrance where she’d have to weave on the right, she wrote her own story again, offering a set of clean and continuous weaves, and then turned expectantly to me for the click and treat she assumed was coming.

On. Her. Own.

M’s capacity to process a skill when she’s given a couple days off from practicing that skill continues to amaze me. Now if I could just remember to keep tapping into that ‘quiet’ processing time so that we get back to 12 weaves, from the left or right, on one signal!

Categories: Agility, Training

When the princess won’t get her feet wet…

August 18, 2009 Comments off

Last night, in a humid and hot outdoor practice, M’s daily weave practice (and 2×2 entry reinforcement) paid off–I got several good entries, and even a couple runs of 8-12 poles in a row.

I even had a little dog who held her stays and was willing to work in the same field with me, whether the gate was closed or not. (Yippee–finally!)

But the last sequence of the night, a simple tunnel to jump/wrap jump pole back to the tunnel halted in its tracks when the princess realized that there was a puddle left over from the afternoon’s cloudburst in the first few inches of the yellow tunnel.

Agility trainers know that for tunnel-loving dogs, any open hole can turn into a giant dog-sucking magnet–and normally, M’s very good at being sucked into the tunnel. Earlier in the evening, she’d flown through the blue tunnel. But once she realized there was a puddle in the yellow tunnel, she absolutely refused to enter it, even for a tossed cookie.

I did the blue tunnel to a jump, pole wrapped and back through the tunnel, and rewarded her with a dog walk (when in doubt, do a contact!) And we called it a night.

The princess doesn’t like to get her feet wet–if it rains during Wine Country, you can count on me to be back in the trailer, making breakfast instead of running my dog!

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Putting our weaves back together

August 17, 2009 Comments off

M. has been having more trouble with weaves entrances lately. So for the last two weeks, we’ve ‘gone back to kindergarten’ using Susan Garrett‘s 2×2 weaves method, especially concentrating on and clicking every offered ‘entrance’.

Unfortunately, after a week of solid entrances in a pair of pole, M. lost entrances again as soon as I moved her up to 4 poles. So this week (and probably next) I’m holding her at 4 poles, clicking correct entrances but giving higher-value rewards for offered right-side and full travel through all 4 poles.

I’m also helping her out using some 12″ garden fencing to create a guard-rail along one side of the poles. And as I discovered in the beginning, in the heat of the 30-minutes-stand M. has hard-wired, I’m just going to have to be patient enough to let her think it through.

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Categories: Agility

The Dog Trainer’s back…one hour at a time

August 3, 2009 Comments off
A Hungarian Vizsla negotiating an A-frame.
Image via Wikipedia

Two weeks ago, I substitute-taught an advanced beginner dog agility class at Syracuse Obedience Training Club. No big deal for someone who’s been a club member for 28 years, taught obedience classes for 20 of them and is training and competing with her third agility dog–right?

Right…except that in July, 2000 in week 4 of my new 8-week curriculum, Obedience for Agility Puppies, I had an intracerebral hemorrhage.

Nursing the worst headache of my life, I called my assistant and all of my students to cancel that Monday’s class. Roxanne, my assistant, continued the class after I was hospitalized. And although I’ve taught many other things since that Monday night in July, 2000, including teaching dog trainers how to be better instructors, I haven’t taught a class full of inexperienced handlers and their dogs since that summer nine years ago.

I was a little nervous. Sure, I knew the curriculum and the principles of the class–teaching the dogs to sequence (working multiple obstacles.) I had worked with two of the students, but knew none of the dogs and had never worked with the class assistant. I would have to teach from notes to be sure to stay on track. What if I lost my train of thought, what if I couldn’t adapt each sequence to the skill level of the student and dog? It felt like my first day at school.

When I arrived, sequence areas were set up–A-frame to weaves, tire to tunnel to jump to chute, teeter to table. As the students came in, I introduced myself to the miniature schnauzer, visla, australian shepherd and toy dachshund while everyone grabbed a stanchion to set up a jump circle. One student helped me move the table so that it could be part of the circle and the teeter sequence. We warmed up with the jump circle, small dogs first, everyone analyzing each other’s efforts and the handler paths. I felt them out, they felt me out, and with everyone prompted to chime in with comments, soon all of the students relaxed (I was still nervous as a cat.)

After the jump circle, I asked, “Who has equipment at home?” and “Who practices outside of class?” That segued into my favorite subject: home practice. I explained simple sources for practice equipment: the Dollar Store, the farm supply. I explained how every sequence we were going to practice could be modified for at-home practice, and how in five minutes a day, they could work control commands like here and out and go. I moved into the jump circle with my imaginary (perfect) dog to demonstrate a simple one-jump practice to work on straight lines and curves. I could see the AgilityNerd blog drill practice in front of me, explaining to them how to work the straight lines in the circle and switch sides for the curve.

I was teaching again. And taking my life back, one hour and one class at a time.
It IS just like riding a bike!

All content at “The Dog Trainer’s Log” (c) Patricia A. Steer. May not be reprinted without permission. Originally published at “Gaelen’s Cafe: Life Out Loud” August, 2009, (c) Patricia A. Steer

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Good for Madison, not-so-good for me

May 1, 2009 Comments off

Blue Roan coloured English Cocker SpanielImage via Wikipedia

It’s national specialty week for the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America (ECSCA), and I’m here in Milan OH at the national specialty. On Monday, Madison made her agility debut in FAST (did the send successfully and racked up 35 points before we made the critical mistake of retaking the A-frame…oops!) But she stayed in the same ring with me, worked the whole course, and didn’t check out to do her own thing once.

Then on Wednesday, she put together a lovely run in Rally Novice B, tied for first place with a 98 and ended up in second place (Rally ties are decided by course time.) I was really happy I’ve kept her in Novice B, on lead, to get as much experience showing her as possible and let her work the kinks out of the whole thinking-dog thing. Best of all, co-owner Lisa got to see M’s run, and she was happy and impressed. All wonderful.

But on Tuesday, I learned through email, phone calls and txt messages that the R&D division of my group based in Syracuse will be closing no later than end of 2010. I’ll just be 55, so if I can hold onto my job until then, I should be okay. If my job is eliminated before the move, I’ll be a year short of 55–and lose about two-thirds of my pension.

On one hand, I was philosophical about the announcement meeting when I left on Friday–I couldn’t change the meeting, so I might as well enjoy my national, a show I’ve been planning on for months.
Today, though, philosophy lost out to figuring out how I could survive.

It’s hard to think that the company didn’t do this on purpose–evaluate the ages of the people at the site, and then select the closing date and job eliminations so that they could avoid paying full pensions to those who would hit 55 within a couple months of the relocations.

And knowing that the job front is in upheaval at home sure makes it tough to keep my head in the game on a dog show vacation.

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