Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving weekend trial

What a great Thanksgiving weekend! Dinner with family on Thursday and then Friday morning we headed to the Black Forest (near Colorado Springs) for a three-day AKC trial. Great judge and great courses (its so nice to see challenges other than big circles and pinwheels). My whole goal that weekend was reminding Summit of his contact criteria. After we returned from Nationals, he's been pushing them and I've been letting him release himself. Friday we got second in Jumpers with a nice run. Standard he ran his dogwalk and A-frame (I think the teeter too ;-)
Saturday he had a nice dogwalk and teeter and when we got to the a-frame, he self-released and we left the ring. Sunday he was a good boy and held all his contacts until I released him. He ended up second place with held contacts. We had a nice jumpers run that afternoon but I called his name while he was over a jump and he dropped the bar.

I'm very happy with his contact performance on Sunday. We have the month of December off from competition so I plan on doing some drop-ins at local arenas to continue to reinforce his 20/20.

Soleil was measured by the VMO. She only measured 13.5 inches tall. So she is still under 14". She was great at tugging and playing with me ringside (while dogs were running in the ring and others walking by her on leash). She was 100 percent focused on me. I did not get the same focus when I tried some training with food. She was a bit distracted everytime a dog would pass her. So obviously, playing/tugging still remains her primary reinforcement.

I've decided to train her to jump up in my arms after an agility run. Anyone have ideas on how to train this?

Here is one of Summit's jumpers runs. I really liked how I handled the serpentine on the outside. I think only one other person handled it that way. Everyone else either front crossed the landing side of the jump after the weaves to handle from the inside or rear crossed the second jump of the serpentine and then another rear cross on the fourth jump after the weaves. I preferred not to rear cross the 4th jump and be in position to send instead. Since I could leave Summit in the weaves (you had to be able to leave your dog in the weaves in order to be ahead to serp), I found this strategy worked best for us. I was also in position to restrict his landing to create tighter turns.

I received Mary Ellen Barry's Foundation video last week. Six DVD set! So far I've viewed the first DVD and have started working with Soleil on some of the things in the video. Some of the exercises are familiar but with a different twist. Hopefully I'll make it through the entire DVD set by the weekend.

We'll be hiking every weekend until the New Years weekend holiday when we have a three-day AKC trial indoors on soccer turf. I love this venue! There is a bar/restaurant upstairs where you can sit and watch agility down below.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Soleil is 6 months old

Soleil will turn six months old this week. Hard to imagine how quickly the months have flown by. She is filling out and getting her adult coat. She is looking like a big-girl-sheltie now. She is still under 14" - it will be interesting to see how tall she ends up. She's got a lot of leg though and her groundspeed is amazing!

She has been on many off leash hikes now and her recall has been 100 percent (so far). She hikes with Sage or Summit and a friend's BC's (including her 8 month old BC puppy, Meg). She has a lot of her adult teeth in now. I am impatiently waiting for the time I can stop gluing her ears.

She's attended several foundation seminars and her focus has been very good. Happy to tug and work with me with the distraction of other puppies nearby. She's been to every agility trial (including a National event) since she was eight weeks old. She tugs ringside and is getting used to seeing dogs running in the rings without screaming. She is very good with other dogs and although very confident when meeting a strange dog, is very appropriate. She is a bit standoffish with people she meets for the first time but interesting enough, she adores children and gravitates towards them - her whole body wiggling.

Our training sessions mostly consist of sits, downs, backing up, stays, hand touches, target touches, going around a cone and jump wing, flatwork (which includes all crosses on the flat, pushes, pulls, and circle work). She is learning that reinforcement always comes from my side and she's getting better about not crossing behind me. Now that she has a stay with enough duration for me to lead out ten feet or so, we are starting the foundation recalls to heel on the flat. Her issue with the teeter board (see earlier post) is gone and she is happily playing the Bang Game. Other than the teeter game and tugging on the pause table, she hasn't been exposed to any agility equipment. I will however begin plank work with her the end of next Month (when she turns 7 mos. old) for running contacts. 

Here are a few (ok more than a few) pictures I took of her last night. The last picture is of her Daddy on the podium at Grand Prix Finals - 3rd place (not sure what year this was taken). I think she looks a lot like him.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A competition video and a training video

First, here is Summit's Standard run from Sunday. I love this run and really liked my handling. I was one of the few handlers who did a rear cross on the flat (between jump and teeter) but it was the best option for Summit. His 1st place time was 32.70 seconds!

Here is a video from Monday's training session at Mary's house. First a little background on the teeter board...
Last week I took my teeter board off the frame and put it on the ground (it has a three inch block underneath it). Soleil had a lot of fun jumping on it and making it move. The next morning, I went out with her to play on the board and it was covered with frost and very slippery. So I moved it into the sunroom and she offered to jump up on it. Well it made a noise on the tile floor and also the vibration was different. She was NOT comfortable and avoided it after that. So my goal that entire week was simply to build lot's of value for the teeter board. I put towels on each end to muffle the sounds and after a week, was able to remove the towels and she was happily offering to jump up and walk around on it without fear.

The video shows the first time she got on Mary's teeter. We lowered it as low as it would go and then put the pause table top under one end. Once she got on the board, I was clicking for any forward movement. When she reached the point where the board would tip down, I jackpotted that. We are not *training* the teeter nor am I asking for any end behavior.  As you can see, she quickly becomes comfortable on Mary's teeter.

I will continue to play teeter games (eventually we'll tug on the teeter but right now her gums are sore from teething) until December. Once I start plank work for running contacts, I'll put the teeter board away as I don't want to confuse her.

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Soleil videos and a cool overlay of Summit and Indy

We were at an AKC trial this past weekend. Summit had great runs and a 50 percent Q rate. We had a bar in jumpers both days. He won standard on Sunday with a 32 second run!

Soleil had fun at the trial and got to play with her Sister in the x-pen both days. This morning we got together with Mary and 4 1/2 month old Tangle (a Cedar Border Collie puppy related to Summit) at Mary's house to train and let the puppies play. I have a video of Soleil on the teeter which I'll upload later. For now, here are a few fun videos of 25 lb. Tangle vs. 11 lb. Soleil.

Wheeeeeee! Notice Soleil looks back to see how close Tangle is.

Here is a cool overlay of Indy (Contact Point Indy Go Girl) and Summit. Indy and Summit were less than a 10th of a second apart (The time was 21.__ something seconds). Don and I found it interesting that although our handling paths were different, our dogs' paths were almost exactly the same. Each dog dropped a bar (Summit dropped the triple and Indy dropped a single) but would have take First (Summit) and Second (Indy).

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Soleil - 21 weeks old

Soleil is 21 weeks old and at the trial last weekend, she measured 13 inches. This puts her potentially at a mature height of 14" or slightly taller (so I've been told by several experienced Sheltie folks). Not the 15 1/2 inches I was hoping for but that is ok.

Here are a couple of short videos of the Little Miss Sunshine "Soleil"

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tracy Sklenar seminar

On Friday, Soleil and I attended a full day foundation seminar taught by Tracy Sklenar. It was a great seminar and Tracy is not only a very gifted and knowledgable trainer but a good presenter as well. I would love to bring her back to Colorado.

Tracy was very impressed with Soleil's tug drive. I thought Soleil did very well keeping her head together for over 7 hours of instruction (we had a 1-hour lunch break).

We spent a lot of time on impulse control games (which also build drive). It's your choice, Levels 1,2, 3. and crate games, and Mother-may-I.

Focus work such as Focus Forward. We would put the dog in a sit stay and walk about 5 feet ahead and drop their favorite toy on the ground in front of them (we would be standing even with the toy about 3 feet lateral to the side). When the dog stops looking at us and focuses forward on the toy, you release them to the toy and then play tug. You eventually replace this later with a jump. This translates to the dog learning to focus forward on their "work" not on you. This is good for complicated lead outs on course where you don't want the dog turning and looking at you but looking forward at their line.

We did flat work and worked on beginning to train directionals. Left and right. She does it differently than GD who teaches his dogs to spin. I don't use directional cues over jumps but I will want them for Soleil's running contacts.

The main thing I took away from the seminar was her philosophy of training and how she sets up and manages her training sessions. She begins each training session with a game of tug to get the dog in "drive" then she will quickly get out the treats and ask for behaviors. This goes into a shaping session and then another break with a game of tug. Then training again. It's done quickly with no down time and the dog is highly motivated the entire training session.

Saturday and Sunday we had an AKC trial. Summit won standard both days (by several seconds) but had a wrong course in both jumpers runs. The first run I'm not sure why he continued on his line when I was moving laterally and cueing the turn. Let me know if anyone sees anything.

On Sunday, the sun was shining through the windows at the top and as I turned off a pinwheel, I was blasted in the face by sunlight and was totally blind.

Here is Saturday's Jumpers run. He takes the wrong jump at the begining (second turn). Not sure why.

Saturday's Standard run - 1st place 37 seconds

Sunday's Standard run - 1st place 36 seconds

This week I took my teeter board off the frame and put it in the sunroom (along with the pause table minus it's legs). I shaped her getting onto the board, walking and turning around on it and end to end so it tips at each end. The movement didn't bother her but once she left the board and it continued to move and made a noise on the tile floor, she was bothered by this. So for now, I'll be building great value for the board and will incorporate playing tug games on the teeter board like we do on the table.

She is progressing very nicely in her understanding of lateral motion. She is performing front and rear crosses on the flat, and pushes and pulls. We continue to work on stays. Her sit stay is progressing nicely. The down stay not so much. She went on her first off-leash hike on Sunday afternoon and I was very pleased with her recall response. It was 100 percent with the distraction of running with three Border Collies - including her BFF Meg, who is 8 mos. old.