Thursday, September 24, 2009

Checkpoint (aka Trial)

Last Sunday Bryce and I entered an AAC Masters mini trial. The goal, for each run, was for me to hold my ground and not give in to arguments around tunnels and weaves. Trials are very relaxing for us as the outcomes are not figured into the plan :-).

The tricky part of our weave entry, is that if Bryce is going to argue, it's going to be AFTER he's made a correct entry -- between the first and second pole... Clearly I don't want this as a weave behaviour and we're retraining for that.

I should note, that after his last run (Jumpers), I had Bryce see the onsite EMT for a massage. She said that his rear hip area, quads and psoas were VERY tight, likely resulting in his throwing himself over jumps in the Jumpers run. We're treating with additional full massages, chiro and stretching.

This is Bryce's Standard run. You can see the tunnel refusals, but my response is what is new :-).

This is the Jumpers run...He started of VERY slowly which could be caused by a) his tightness in the rear, and/or b) my hesitation at the start as I was preparing for a tunnel refusal that didn't happen...

This was our second trial at the Masters level, and a great time to check on how our training is progressing and what things we'd like to tweak or add. After watching several excellent teams, I've tweaked our goals slightly:

1. confident, independent weaves (nothing new)
2. tunnels -- from a send AND from close proximity
3. driving toward the next obstacle with confidence

Time to get busy!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weave on!

Criteria for the session: Encourage the boyz to take a more independent approach to the weaves by seeking entries and driving to the exit.
Environment: 18 degrees, Sunny, very windy. Moved to the obedience yard.
Time: Sessions 1 and 2 at 12:30pm, Remaining sessions at 4:45pm...10 minutes to warm up but want them to still be eager to play.
Reminders: For me to BE QUIET... both in voice and body... Minimal to no cues.

After reviewing the videos from yesterday's sessions, several experienced sets of eyes raised the question as to whether the boyz are actually looking for, and driving to the weaves on their own.... Because when performed in the face of distractions, it can fall apart... To sum up, as one expert put it so well:

"It's like the dog starts saying, "MUST do weaves. MUST do weaves... let me at 'em!"... instead of, "HAVE TO do weaves. Oh, but look there is a butterfly...."

The consistent message is that the boyz need to have their weaves to the point where they can look for them, find them and drive through them as the introduction of distractions at a trial will throw them.

So we broke them right down yestererday... Right back to 2 poles. I even moved the session out of our regular agility yard to another spot which causes an unexpected variable that shows up more in Mick's sesssions :-).

I set up Bryce's first session with us positioned at the 12 o'clock position and ~8ft (2.4m). He's a bit confused about whether I'm out in that yard to throw the toy or to do the poles :-). He had no trouble finding the poles, but I did use a bit of body language to help him for the first throw. Not the second one, though.... ;-)

Bryce's second session... I stayed at 8-10 ft(2-3m)... I can see that I unintentionally confused him by swinging the toy around and making him think it was a retrieve, but otherwise, I think he's getting the weave entry on his own.

Bryce's third and fourth sessions... increased the distance a bit so I went back to start at 12 o'clock. We're now at 15+ feet. I moved position around the clock and maintained the same distance... We had a bit of a "Mexican standoff" but I held my ground :-). After one bobble, things go smoothly. For the last session, I'm our of camera range, but I remained statuesque in my response to Bryce's chatter ;-).

Now for Mick... The only guarantee when working with Mick is that I can expect the unexpected, unusally caused by his following something I've told him to do to a tee! He didn't fail me in his first session with 2 pole entries :-).

This is the yard I use to practice obedience with the boyz... So when I release Mick ("OK") he waits for me to move and then joins me in heel position... I was very compliant with his plan and kept my body straight and even stepped with deliberation into my heel position for him :-). I thought it might be the "flippin' Frisbee" so I changed up the toys, but then it dawned on me that he was totally set up for obedience!

I used a bit of body language to get him going too...

Mick's second session... I tried to remember to use a more animated posture, and then drew him back a couple times to play and get him going... I also switched ends after a break to keep him from getting stuck.

For the last session fo the day with Mick, I wanted to really get him going before we started (you can see it doesn't take much:-)... I kept moving closer but then realized I needed to break completely so that he didn't think I was setting up for obedience :-).

Thank to all the support and suggestions! We're listening :-). I can feel the "click" when I get it right, and appreciate the prod when I get off the path.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Weaves again!

While we have indeed been training, the recording and blogging were NOT kept up :-). The learning from this is that video is an invaluable tool to us when we're training alone. A picture truly does paint a thousand words.

After our abysmal trial experience this weekend, I started the day feeling quite discouraged by our progress with getting weave entries, and heck, the weaves in general in a trial situation. Takes all the fun out of a run for everyone when it's clear that something isn't working.

Criteria for the session: Take the first steps to changing up the weaves to make things a bit more challenging. Also, to reinforce the down of the dog who's not working.
Environment: 18 degrees, Sunny, no wind.
Time: 3:45 p.m. Immediately after work, played ball/Frisbee in the front field for about 10 minutes to warm up but maintain energy levels.
Reminders: Just observe what's going on with each of their performances on the weaves.

That lead me to haul the video camera out and really start to look at what I am doing in training vs what I'm doing in a trial.

It was a warm, but not hot day and I set up a small sequence in the side yard. I took the boyz out and warmed them up immediately after coming home from work. They were still full of themselves after a day of lounging and I wanted to capture that initial energy.

For the first session, I set things up to send Bryce through 12 weaves to see what was going on. The idea was to send him over three jumps (he's on my right) to a tunnel, then for him to find and drive through the weaves. I can also see in the video that I look like a seagull about to take flight... what's with all that arm waving?!?! Poor Bryce has a right to be frustrated!!! I need to be clear with my cues, even to the point of it feeling artificial to me, I think.

Now for Mick's turn :-). Mick is obsessed with his Frisbee and cannot focus if it is in sight. So it's out of sight for the first set... Encouraging Mick to do independent weaves is the goal. The first couple of attempts he's checking back which isn't what I want to see. If I reward Mick for doing just one pole, he gets stuck there very easily so I've found that doing fewer poles but doing them all works much better in the long run :-).

Then, just for fun, I pushed the limits a bit and carried the toy... He hesitated but then did them! Good boy!!!

For Bryce's second session, I positioned the weaves at a 90 degree angle to the preceding jump with me on his right. When I could see the frustration building, I cut and sent him through the tunnel. I moved the weaves to a 90 degree angle from the tunnel, but at a softer angle from the jump and he was fine. Out of the frame of the video, to the left, there are two jumps and the second set of 6 poles at a 45 degree angle. He drove to, and then right through them. Good boy!!!

Lastly, I tried Mick through all 12 weaves just to see what's going on... Previously, Mick would charge the weaves and then get higher and higher as he progressed through the poles, even to the point where he scales the last pole :-). He got did fairly well on those counts, but I can see by his fancy footwork that he's not really comfortable yet. I think we need to go right back to the basics with offset weaves to get some consistency in stride. One session after dinner with the offsets had him flying through on a recall SINGLE STEPPING! I'm going to stick to this plan with Mick.

When I went back to pick up Mick's Frisbee, I looked back at the setup and wondered what Bryce would do if I did the same sequence with the weaves at a 90 degree angle from the preceding jump, but this time stayed on his left... Again, the video doesn't lie :-)