Monday, August 31, 2009

How to trip over your dog on the agility course

So today's agility lesson is how to take your eyes off your dog while she's shooting out of a tunnel so that you can rotate quickly out of a front cross, take a step and procede to fall on top of your dog who is not where you thought she would be.

Sage and I were having a beautiful jumpers run for a double Q (would have been QQ #16) and luckily, Sage was OK. She was happy to run out of the ring with me and get her special treats. No special treats for the handler.

The venue was awesome! Indoor soccer field with sport turf. The dogs ran really fast on this type of ground. Outside was a large field where you could walk and play with your dogs.

Saturday both dogs qualified in Jumpers with a 2nd and 4th place. Sunday Sage qualified in Standard with a 3rd place and Summit won Jumpers that afternoon. Summit had a gorgeous standard run on Sunday morning but earned a refusal when I dropped my arm too quickly after a send to the panel jump and he pulled off the jump to come in to my side (good boy).

I should have videos of some of the runs. And if I'm really brave, I might post the one of me falling on top of Sage if Don was able to get it on film.

Heading to Salt Lake City, Utah Thursday morning for 4 days of AKC agility. Beautiful outdoor site with lot's of trees and places to play with the dogs.

Summit Saturday Jumpers

Sage Sunday Standard

Summit - Sunday Jumpers

...and featuring the video from the popular TV show - Agility Bloopers

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Super Q's for Sage

It was a fun USDAA weekend in Laramie, Wyoming. One ring at a great site (well, except for the pesky flies on the last day!).

My goal this weekend was to earn that last GP leg that Summit needs for Nationals as well as the jumpers and standard legs he needed for his MAD. Well we got the jumpers (awesome run) but not the GP or the standard. He did win Masters relay (with Norm and Fl'n) and earned his Masters Relay title. However, something even more wonderful happened this weekend that I did not expect - Sage earned two Snooker Super Q's!

Friday night was Masters Gamblers, Steeplechase, and Snooker. The Gamble was not one that either of my dogs would get so I used Gamblers for warmup and training. Summit had two faults in Steeplechase (would have been a second place) and Sage had a beautiful run and qualified for the finals.

The snooker course was technical with lots of "snookering" between obstacles. I chose to do three sixes with both my dogs. Sage had a nice run and I knew she Q'd but assumed it wasn't fast enough for a SQ. Summit also had a nice run but dropped the number 4 double in the closing. That was the last class and I packed up and went to the hotel - not bothering to look at the snooker results.

The next morning I grabbed a Q ribbon and looked at the results to write down Sage's time/points. There it was - "SQ" next to her name! She got the 7th SQ out of 8 total.

Sunday we had another snooker class. This course was set up for wicked speed. The three reds were set up in a line and directly across from them was the combo 7 which was a straight serpentine. Of course, the 2 and 3 point obstacles were in the middle between the reds and the combo 7, but getting all three 7's was pretty doable. Sage ran pretty early in the class and we had a smokin' fast run. However, there were still a lot of very fast BC's yet to go and many nationally ranked. Sage ended up with the second fastest time and of course, another Super Q! This Snooker course was designed for her. Rather than having to rely on loud verbal call-offs (which seem to be typical of a technical Snooker course), this course allowed the handler to run a nice flowing path. It really did come down to just speed.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Rocky Mountain Regional DAM teams confirmed

So DAM teams for both dogs are confirmed and I mailed off our entry yesterday.

Sage is on a competitive team with Elicia Calhoun/BreaSea and Liz Blasio/Ticket.

Summit is on a very fast young dog team with Donna Thomson/Indy and Liz Blasio/Deuce.

I have been training some specific skills for Snooker and Gamblers this week in addition to brushing up on discriminations (jump boxes, contact/tunnel).

Today we trained early in the morning and then went on an awesome hike in the mountains.
Heading to Laramie, Wyoming this Friday for USDAA. Maybe Summit might earn his MAD this weekend!

Friday, August 14, 2009

24 inches???

Had an awesome private lesson with our instructor this morning. I learned some new drills to set up to work on getting tighter turns with distance.

I've been training Summit with the jump bars at 24" for several months now. My instructor told us today that he jumps much nicer at 24" (rounder) and that I should consider jumping him at 24" in AKC. I hadn't thought about it but looking back at photographs and videos of him at 20", he does jump flatter and more extended than he does in USDAA where he jumps 22". I like his jump form better in USDAA at 22" but it never occurred to me to move him to the 24" class in AKC.

He is not a tall Border Collie but he can handle 24" just fine. I don't tend to worry about jump heights with a BC of his structure. I think tall a-frame heights and weavepoles are harder on a dog's body than jumping.

So something to think about. At this time, I'm not sure what I'll decide...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Straightlines and boxes

This week I've been training both dogs everyday. The usual routine is to work Summit for about 15 minutes then have him wait on the pause table while I work Sage. Then I finish up with a shorter 5-minute specific skills session with Summit (wp entries, contacts, etc.). The diagram above shows the different handler paths for each coordinating colored jump in the box. I love setting up these simple exercises.

I always begin Summit's session with basic RTH exercises focusing on collection. I use food as a reward since I want Summit calm and thinking. I use the flying squirrel (or other tug toy) to get him in drive for the speedwork. He is happy to accept the treats but every once in awhile, he turns to look at the table where the flying squirrel is laying there waiting.

Straightline of jumps (bars set at 24"), into a box using lateral motion for a pull or a RC. Using deceleration and a forward send to cue a 180 degree wrap at the last jump in the box.

jump, tunnel, a-frame discrimination. Forward sends to the weavepoles varying my location (middle of poles, opposite end of poles, etc.).

I have not been leading out very far for the straightline of jumps. I don't race him but I do set a good running pace down the line. Monday he dropped several bars during each session. Today, he did not drop a single bar. I've spent a lot of time working on collection with Summit but not so much extension. Not that a Border Collie needs to learn how to extend over a jump, but (in Summit's case), how to jump extended without flattening out too much and dropping a bar.

I've been working a lot of discriminations with Sage. Many including like obstacles (jumps). Other than the straighlines (which she doesn't need), I work many similar exercises with her that I do with Summit. It is very interesting to see the difference in how each dog will read my motion, location, and arm cues. This difference has nothing to do with Sage being unilaterally deaf as I rarely use verbals with Summit during training because I really want to see the effect the other cues have without relying on a verbal recall.

Summit has a pretty solid foundation in APHS; Sage does not. Sage will diverge off my line to take an obstacle, she also does not have as good an understanding of location cues. She is however, very good at reading motion. Its quite interesting to work both dogs on the same exercise and observe the differences.

So I've been attempting to fill in those holes in Sage's foundation training. Focusing more on incorporating more use of location and other arm cues (in addition to the OA collection/turn cue) to support my motion. Who knows, there may yet be a Super Q in her future!

Tomorrow morning we are taking a break from training and going swimming at Chatfield.

We have this weekend off and then the following weekend we will be travelling to Laramie, Wyoming for a 2 1/2 day USDAA trial, followed by a 2-day AKC trial, followed by 4 days in Salt Lake City, Utah for another AKC trial. A very busy three weeks!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Agility in the mountains!

We spent the weekend in beautiful Durango, Colorado playing agility outdoors. The venue was gorgeous. Nice grassy ring surrounded by lot's of trees. The area was surrounded by 350 acres of woodland and meadow so lot's of off-leash hiking with the dogs in the evenings.

Summit had two blazing runs on Saturday to earn a Double Q with two first places. Sage dropped a bar in jumpers that morning but then had a very nice run in standard for a 4th place.

Sunday, again Summit had two nice runs but he dropped a bar in each class. Sage missed her dogwalk contact in standard and earned a third place in jumpers that afternoon.

There were a LOT of bars coming down. The ground was a bit uneven with some dips. The judge ended up replacing the triple jump with the broad jump because the area where the triple was supposed to go, the ground was very uneven and he decided the broad jump would be a better choice. That is the first time I've seen a broad jump in the Excellent B class. It is legal, it is just something you never usually see.

I'm noticing that Summit's occasional dropped bars are when he's jumping with extension (straighline or soft turn). So I've set up a fairly straight line of 5 jumps with a box at each end. I'm working on discriminations in a box with Sage. Focusing specifically on using lateral motion to push or pull to the correct jump in the box. The lateral motion is subtle and I begin setting the line at the first jump (not as she enters the box).

I'm doing the same thing with Summit but also practicing keeping the bars up while I'm racing down the line with him. I've been using a timeout for ticked bars as well as a dropped bar.
I'll mark it, then stop and put him in a down while I reset the bar (or we go back to the beginning if it's a tick). Sometimes I'll not send him all the way into the box, instead taking the opportunity to mark and reward for nice jumping form.