Sunday, February 28, 2010

A hike in the Rocky Mountains

Jen and I spent most of the day on Saturday hiking the mountains West of Boulder with our four dogs. It was a perfect day for a hike - 50 degrees and warm enough that the ice on the trail had turned to slush and the slush had turned to mud. I brought home two tired and very muddy dogs. After a bath, they crashed out in the livingroom and I was able to get some work done to prepare for the classes I'm teaching this semester.

Border Collies on a mission!

Summit and his half brother, Bode

Sage at the head of the pack - waiting for the others to catch up

Jen, Summit, Bode, and Sage

Lone white wolf...

Bode and Summit taking a short break to pose for a picture

Thursday, February 25, 2010

They have arrived!

The 2x2 weavepoles have arrived. They were sitting on my front porch when I came home from work this afternoon. Beginning tomorrow morning, both Sage and Summit will be having fun running through the poles. I'm especially excited about Sage's new high powered (obnoxious) clicker that she can hear. Her WP entries are pretty darn good but like Summit, they can always improve! Since we can't train outdoors, let's play with shaping independent WP entries.

Shaping breakthrough

So the shaping with Sage on the contact board has been going very well. I have been experimenting with different ways to mark behavior and had the idea of trying one of those old fashioned clickers (the obnoxiously loud kind that nobody uses anymore). I had found one when I was cleaning out the closets several days ago and had set it aside to throw away. I use the quiet click (designed by Karen Pryor) and have never had Sage respond to these.

She did respond to the loud metal clicker! I wondered why I hadn't thought of that before (she has some hearing in her right ear and can hear higher frequencies - voice, herding whistles, etc.).

So last night we had a short session and it was much more productive. It didn't take her long to figure out the new marker.

I ordered two sets of  2 x 2 weaves (two weeks ago after the seminar). They are supposed to arrive today and so even though there is still snow on the ground (too icy to train outside), I'll be spending time training entries with both dogs in the sunroom with the 2x2's.

I am using the revised version by Mary Ellen Barry (which I learned from her during the Weaves session at the seminar). Its a slight modification of SG's method.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Puppy Breath?

Summit on his first hike at 10 weeks old

The breeding has taken place and now it's just a matter of waiting until puppies can be confirmed (sometime the middle of March). Hard to believe I just may have a puppy this Summer! I'm so very excited. And I know Summit will be happy to have a little Sable boy to play chase with.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Summit's winning runs at CKC and shaping session with Sage

No MACH this weekend for Sage. She was 50 percent with a dropped bar in jumpers on one day and two missed DW contacts. Summit also was 50 percent. He had two winning jumpers runs and took second in standard. There were appx. 84 dogs entered in the Ex. B 20" class and there was some very competitive dog/handler teams entered so I was pretty thrilled about the placements. Summit would have had a first place in Standard but for a dropped bar (the finish jump was in the middle of the ring and I pulled up quickly instead of maintaining my forward motion past the jump).

Here is Summit's second place Standard run. At 35.13 seconds, he was just 3/10ths of a second off 1st place. I'm very happy with this run. I do make him hold his contacts at local trials now so was really thrilled with his course time.

Here is Saturday's Jumpers run - first place. It was a really nice course. Sage qualified as well.

Another first place jumpers run. This was a very tough course. I had fun on it and liked the challenge of timing my lateral motion to cue both turns out of the tunnel (although I think I overdid the lateral distance a little at the first tunnel exit to the 180). Many dogs took the finish jump after exiting the tunnel the second time. Also quite a few dogs took the incorrect jump on the inverted 270. It really was quite a challenging course and I'm very pleased that Summit did so well. His time was 22 seconds.

I had a fun training session this morning indoors (back field is muddy and icy). I practiced extension RTH on the flat with Summit (by the 15th rep, he was starting to get it that he couldn't bump into me).

Then I started a shaping session with Sage on the contact board. She made me laugh several times. She immediately picked up that I wanted her to interact with this object. At first I marked and rewarded any contact with the board. Then I decided I wanted her standing not laying down on it. She laid down on the end (not marked), she scooted over and laid down in the middle (not marked), she then scooted all the way to the other end and laid down (not marked). She rolled over on her side (not marked), she put her head sideways flat on the board and held it there (not marked), by this time I was laughing so hard at all the behaviors she was offering all in less than a minute. Finally she jumped up and had her two front feet on the board. I marked that and threw the treat. This started her on a roll of figuring out which feet I wanted on the board (I eventually will want back feet only). Anyway, we ended the session with her now figuring out that getting on the board with all four feet and not laying down got rewarded.

Not sure if the retraining will hold up in the ring but I'm having fun playing the shaping game with her.
In the past, I've used timing and placement of reward to shape her behavior. Last weekend, I came up with the idea of using one of those old fashioned clickers (the really obnoxious loud ones).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mary Ellen Barry and Jennifer Crank Seminar

Well it was an intense four days! Both instructors were absolutely amazing! This was the first time I have chaired a seminar and was hoping things would run smoothly. I did have a few nights where I woke up in the middle of the night panicked that I would forget to take care of something for the seminar. I would run downstairs to my laptop and send myself an email with a list of items I didn't want to forget to do the next morning.
I learned so much. Although I have been applying the APHS system for over two years, watched the Foundation VOD, read all the handling articles, and worked through the DJS book with both dogs, there was still a lot of information I was missing or misunderstood. The two that really stood out for me was the blending of the arms (and dog not passing the plane) and the importance of the extension RTH.

Although I really worked the other RTH presentations with Summit (collection); I neglected the extension RTH since I misunderstood the importance and Summit extended just fine, thanks :-)
So we'll be working that one starting with it on the flat.

The feedback I received was that Summit collected well and had really nice turns while sequencing. I need to support a Forward Send longer (wait until I see his head turn over the bar) before I turn and leave. I am getting too far ahead of him on the course. I also need to rotate my shoulders more when I pick up an OA to cue a FC. He passed all the RTH drills with flying colors except for the extension one.

I worked Summit in all of the sessions. I did switch out with Sage one day to let her run. She did not have the foundation skills to handle the highly technical European courses but she did well on the Masters course work.

I also learned a lot in the Weaves session. Mary Ellen did a demo of her version of the 2x2's. I am mostly happy with Summit's wp entries but would like more independence. Once he's in the weaves, I can leave and he'll continue to weave to the end. However, he missed several difficult wp entries in Jennifer's European coursework sessions. So Tuesday morning, I ordered two sets of 2x2's and will work on both Sage and Summit's entries. Mary Ellen said if the dog already knew how to weave and you just wanted to train entries, that 2 sets would be sufficient. I also learned some good information on handling entries; mainly that you should be facing the direction your dog needs to move toward to hit the correct entry. This way the dog does not cut across your plane to hit the entry.

I have the dogs with me at work today. This afternoon we are headed to the National Western complex to set three agility rings for the CKC Cluster Show this Friday-Monday. My agility club is hosting the agility part of the show. After the rings are set, club members get to do run-throughs in the standard and jumpers rings with their dogs.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Another QQ for Summit and planning for the FRAT Seminar

We were down at the Black Forest this past weekend for a two-day AKC trial. The results are....

.... Sage STILL needs one more double Q for her MACH. She was 50 percent for the weekend. Nice runs but was called for the dogwalk contact in both Standard runs.

Summit won Standard on Saturday with a smokin' time of 36 seconds! He got second in Jumpers for a double Q. Now we are down to just 4 QQ's to finish qualifying for Nationals.

Sunday, I pulled Summit off a tunnel (yes, I can pull off a BC from a tunnel) by dropping my arm and moving laterally too soon. Darn! I have done that before and even walked the course with that little song in the back of my head (do not drop arm and move laterally before dog has committed to tunnel). When he got to the teeter, it was not slide to the end and wait for release but slide to the end and BANG and GO. Sigh... he's been pushing his teeters lately in competition. So he got his NRM and I thanked the judge and we left the ring.

That afternoon I asked David to help me get the teeter out of the snow bank but the bottom 1/8 of the board is frozen in a solid block of ice.

Sunday afternoon I just played with jumpers since neither one of my dogs Q'd in the morning. I decided to try different challenges with each dog.

Sage: lateral leadout, move laterally away from the poles about 5 feet while she's weaving. She Qualified with 3rd place.

Summit: lateral leadout (I dropped my arm too soon and pulled him off the second jump), extreme distance from the weaves (WooHoo! I started moving laterally when he was half way in the poles and was able to get 30 feet away by the time he exited). Pushing for speed (I know... I just wanted to see how he handled the pressure - he dropped one bar and had one wrong course).

I could have run the course with Summit to qualify. It was a nice course, we could have run clean but I really wanted to proof our training. I learned a lot on that run.

I've been very busy finalizing last details of my agility club's annual 4-day Seminar. It starts this Friday and we are having Mary Ellen Barry and Jennifer Crank out to teach.

I am participating in all 4 days of course!

I'm signed up for the full day Masters handling with Mary Ellen on Friday. The full day APHS Foundation/Basic Skills session with Mary Ellen on Saturday. The half day APHS handling (masters level) with Jennifer Crank and half day European style coursework that afternoon. Monday I have another handling session with Jennifer Crank and then a half day weaves session with Mary Ellen.

I am going to have some tired dogs by the end of the four days. I'm looking forward to learning a lot from two great instructors who use the same handling system that I do.