Saturday, April 29, 2006

National Update

Not too much new to report. Wyatt is getting a break though I have been doing some obedience proofing when I have him in or near the ring. Patriot shows in breed today. We would be happy if he makes the cut; lucky and thrilled if he gets an award of merit.

It is probably good to give Wyatt some time off after his falls at the agility trial. I will be getting a triple jump as soon as I can.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Patriot Wins Triathlon

Our boy Patriot won the American Whippet Club National Specialty. The triathlon winner combines scores in lure coursing, agility or obedience, and conformation. My wife Dawn handles Patriot in agility and obedience. He also recieved his CD, OA, and OAJ titles.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

National Update

We are at the American Whippet Club National Specialty. Wyatt had a decent novice A run going but went down on his sit. The judge choose not to use the mats. He actually did a down instead of sit even setting him up and I struggled a bit to get him back up and sitting. I saw that his pads were slipping when he was in a sit even warming up and he tends to lie down on carpet.

We had a very nice rally advanced A run. I had trouble with the pivot left last week but practiced heavily before we went on and we fudged our way though it. I made 2 mistakes that cost some point. I forgot to pause on the Halt, Sit, Down before proceeding and I ran to the finish line at the end. She only took 1 off for that but that was 11 easy points. However, we ended up with an 85 and a first place.

We crashed and burned (literally) in agility yesterday as Wyatt had a lot of trouble gauging the triple jump. He landed on top of the third (highest bar) and we limped off. I rested him and he seems fine so we did jumpers but he crashed again, this time landing on his back. So he has been limping off and on. I think he will be OK. Definitely need to practice that triple jump. We don't have one at home or in class and we see them rarely, if ever, in CPE and NADAC. We had a great jumpers run going too and were about 75% through. Wyatt really runs his heart out for me. We get a lot of firsts and a lot of NQ's.

Patriot is really cleaning up. He got his CD, OA, and OAJ this weekend and is currently leading the triathlon competition by 1 point. We are very nervous! The judge is a real unknown. But Patriot's breeder is one of the best handlers in the country and is going to show him for us.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Wyatt of Dodge City, CD

I am pleased to report that Wyatt finishing his companion dog title today! He was a little nervous and was lagging a bit but did everything else without a problem. He did hesitate quite a bit before coming during the recall but did come after about 5 seconds. They always put novice right next to the busy aisle for some reason in Springfield. No problems during the long sits and downs. He ended up with decent score of 183.5.

The judge was a very tall guy with a booming voice but he had a good feel for dogs and let the dog sniff him as they came in.

He also got his first rally advanced leg with a fourth place. We barely qualified (170) but it was good practice. I rushed in for the end of the walk though and was a bit discombobulated and made some handler errors. Wyatt was sitting at almost a 90 degree angle too for some left turns so I had so go back and get some better sits. Also, I paused, confused, at a 270 and lost 10 points there. But it was good to get some practice for Sunday. We are heading to the whippet national today for lure coursing, agility, obedience, rally, conformation, and Wyatt will also be in the parade of rescues.

Wyatt is now: Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, SC, NA, NAJ, CD, RN, OJC, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC “Wyatt”

He finished his CPE level 3 title last weekend.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Teeter Approach Speed

I noticed at class last night that we were having some problems with teeter flyoffs. I was really pushing my speed and he tends to leap off if I do not slow down at the teeter. So I am going to move the teeter where I can really get some speed up and work on it.

We gained permission from our neightbors to use a horse paddock for agility so that should help open up some room. I will post a picture when we get everything moved over there.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Ultra-Senstive, Ultra-Clear

People have asked me what I think has been successful in fixing a very stubborn trial only contact issues with Wyatt.

What I found was that I needed to go back to square 1 and retrain our 2 on, 2 off and then do a lot of show and go’s and NADAC where I could go back and redo obstacles.

I saw improvement but not as much as I had hoped. Then I really studied video of us worked and wondered if I was cueing a release inadvertently.

1. Do exactly what I do in practice – no extra cues or changes in the trial setting.

2. Do NADAC where I could establish that expectations were the same. Right now, he seems to need that initial correction to know the rules are the same. So he has tended to blow contacts on the first run of the day. I can go back in NADAC and in certain CPE games (fullhouse and Jackpot) which are usually first luckily.

3. I saw that he was jumping off early almost as if on cue. I think that I was inadvertently cueing him to release high up by using our spot command and/or having jerky body movements. I dropped the “spot” command since he may have thought it was a release word in the trial settings. I really made sure I was 100% consistent in using my release word EVERY TIME. (I tended to forget sometimes or use “good dog” or the name of the next obstacle.) I also proofing against body movement. I found that I could get him to release by moving my body so I went back and made sure there was no release until he hears “OK” and NOTHING ELSE. I had been so focused on getting him to 2 on, 2 off that I had neglected the release phase.

4. I do tons of obedience proofing at trials and other settings with lots of dogs to get him used to working even when he is nervous or distracted.

I believe #3 was the biggest issue once I retrained the basic 2 on, 2 off. He seems a lot calmer now at trials. I wonder how much of this was due to my confused contact signals to him in the trial setting.

Sighthounds - Think Different

This question of sighthound drive and motivation is being discussed on the sighthound agility list was well. Most of it is how you train your sighthound.  A lot of the typicaltraining patterns may not work.  Wyatt was a rescue that came to us at one year old with tons of drive and natural retrieve.  I wonder how natural it was though – his first owners must have played with him a lot and I know he did obedience classes.  He loves to work and learn.  The biggest challenges
working with Wyatt have been proofing:  he needs a lot  and consistency: he needs 100%.  

Our other dog was given at 2 years of age and had only done showing and spent lots of time in a crate and was from a huge dog household.  My wife has worked really hard to speed him up.  He actually does play and retrieve now and runs on course.  His next step in obstacles.  They can still  be slow.  Watching them work last weekend, I could see how any correction like redoing a missed jump really slowed him down and demotivated him so they are going to just keep going for now.  She also is working on making the obstacles a chase game just like she does running between the obstacles.

So I think we have to “think different” with sighthounds and watch for some of the things that tend to come more easily for other breeds. What is "play" for your dog and how can you get it into your training?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

CD Attempt

We have CD attempts this Friday in Springfield and Sunday at the Whippet National. I have been working on the long sit proofing up to 2 minutes and on anticipating the recall - the 2 things that got us last time.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

CPE Contacts

Just a quick note as we just got back from our CPE trial in Vermont.

Wyatt did great again on his contacts. Not perfect but I am very pleased. He does seem to have trouble on the first run of the day. Luckily, at this trial, there were games first that I could go back and do the same contact again. Though he was in the yellow zone, he did not wait to be released so I took him back.

Wyatt got 2 of his hardest Q's - standard level 3 ( first place) and wildcard (2nd place). He finished his CPE level 3 title and got a level 4 wildcard. He now needs only one more level 4 wildcard (and 4-5 standards) to finish level 4. I am very encouraged. I believe the work we have recently done on our releases has made the difference.

He got one other Q in snooker (2nd place). It was an easy course so I really went for it trying to get the absolute maximum number of points (27+25=52). The "7" was a tunnel jump combo that was close to the reds. We got all the 7's in our opening and started the closing sequence. Great contact on 4 (A-frame), I had to restart the weaves once, but we were really moving to 7. He did the tunnel and I thought we had it but the whistle blew about 1 foot before the final jump! So close but I was really glad we went for; it was a lot of fun and something to remember.

He had one big dogwalk jump off this morning but I believe it was because the judge blew the whistle really loud. He jumped off the middle of the dogwalk right when the whistle blew. Something I am going to proof for but I think it was abnormal. That is one thing I have learned with him; he is a sensitive dog and even more so at a trial so I have had to really proof against sudden noise and movement so he does not release early.

Our standard run today was exciting as he did great on all 3 contacts with 2 on, 2 offs and waiting for a release. I held the release a bit and gave him a clear release word. There were weaves at the end after a couple of jumps. I did not even cue him as we went screaming into the weaves and finishes them perfectly.

I hope everyone had a great weekend trialing or at home with your dogs. See you at the Whippet National Agility Trial!

Friday, April 14, 2006

CPE This Weekend

We have a CPE trial this weekend. I was wondering if I should go since we made such progress at last weekend's NADAC trial when I could do some training in the ring with contacts.

I decided to go. Each day starts with a game that I can repeat contacts (fullhouse and jackpot) since they are not num bered courses. So I figure I will repeat if I do not get a 2 on, 2 off for these games and then try the numbered courses for standard, wildcard, colors, and snooker. If we miss a contact in a numbered course, I figure I will mark it with the "oops" command, which he does clearly understand, pause, and say "try again" and go on. Not perfect but the best I can do within the CPE rules.

Wish us luck!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Wyatt's Story

My wife Dawn rescued Wyatt at a hard time in our lives. I did not think it was the right time to get a dog but Dawn persisting despite, shall we say, strong opposition. I had always had cats and thought dogs were too needy.

He was one year old when Dawn rescued him. “He has not done one thing wrong while in foster care,” the rescuer said, as Dawn watched him counter surf the kitchen.

He paced around our house non-stop for about a month. We worked through one year of separation anxiety issues with him but the thing that helped him the most was getting his confident house brother Patriot.

Wyatt is full or character, life, and mischief! When going out to do his business, he will jump over jumps and gallop just because they are there. He loves to play Frisbee and tug and acts more like a border collar at times. He is also a watchdog and barker when on red alert. Clearly, Wyatt did not read the breed book sections on whippets.

We did some research online and found about whippet racing. We trained Wyatt for a year but he was never able to race. The stimulation of the box was too much for him to run cleanly. But he courses successfully, does obedience, rally, and agility. People are amazed at his drive and jumping ability. He is a top jumpers dog (even across all breeds) and is well on his way to a jumpers championship. Wyatt also loves obedience, especially, you guess it, jumping and retrieving. He recently received a score of 190.5 in novice obedience. He also loves scent discrimination and will whine to be let go to get the object. My goal is a UD (Utility Dog) , a CPE agility championship, and a TD (Tracking Dog) for Wyatt, which would make him one of the first group of whippets to get a VCD (Versatile Companion Dog Title). He is a very smart dog to excel so much despite all the mistakes I make as a novice handler.

Wyatt seems to have forgotten who rescued him and is now a real daddy’s boy now and loves to sleep on my lap, do agility and obedience, or go for runs in the woods with me and Patriot. He may not have the best conformation but he is full or heart and love for life!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

NADAC Trial Run Descriptions

I went into the NADAC trial really focused on my contact criterion. I pledged to forget totally about qualifying or placing. I also thought of the whole trial as a very long show and go. My only goal was to have a consistent criterion for 2 on, 2 off contacts. If I did not get a 2 on, 2 off, for whatever reason, I would go back and redo the contact.

Our first run was regular (which is a standard agility course), and he blew the dog walk and A Frame. I took him back both times and felt really good that I was able to keep to my goal. This is hard to do because sometimes your dog can get the contact (hit the yellow zone) but not give you the 2 on, 2 off that you are looking for. It’s hard to forget about qualifying. You have to remember, though, that what you are doing today will result in many more qualifying runs in the future, while if you let it go, you will have a lot of problems qualifying in the future.

The very next run was another standard run and Wyatt ran perfectly getting all his contacts. He even got second place and a really fast time. I held the contacts for a time that felt long to make sure I was really getting a good release. Our next two runs were touch and go’s (TNG). TNG has 4 contacts (one is repeated) and tunnels. Wyatt qualified in both runs. We had never qualified in TNG before. One the second run, I put him back briefly because he jumped a bit off the end, but the judge let it go, perhaps because we hit the yellow zone coming down.

We then had an awesome jumpers run getting first place. The Wildcard (similar to gamblers) had an A-Frame/Tunnel combo where you had to send the dog to the far tunnel from the A-Frame side and Wyatt took the A-Frame. However, I did make sure he got a great contact on the A-Frame. We had 4 Q’s out of 6, which is great for Wyatt and I.

On Sunday, he missed a teeter on his first regular (standard) run. His foot slipped a little off the teeter and he bailed in fear. He is pretty reliable on the teeter so I did not worry too much but I redid the teeter twice and he did fine. On our second regular run, he was in the yellow zone but jumped from the end before being released so, hard as it was (we would have finished our novice regular title), I had him redo the contact and we received an NQ for training. But I was happy with myself that I was again able to stick to my guns.

Our first weavers run was great. Wyatt got all 3 weaves with no problems and we ended up getting third place. For our second weavers run, Wyatt seemed a big stressed. He had been in his crate alone and was showing some signs of separation anxiety (he likes to pull down and rip the tarp on top of the crate to shreds). We had to restart the 12 weaves once and the 6 weaves a bunch but we finally got through it. On the final chances of the weekend, he went on the near dog walk and not the far tunnel as required and did a nice teeter.

Some of his contacts were a bit high with all four feet on the contact but he did generally wait to be released. It was a huge weekend for Wyatt; the best contacts ever in a trial. He did seem pretty calm all weekend. I am still trying to understand how much of this issue is stress, how much is training (such as the release improvements I have been writing about), and how much is about going back when the criterion is not met. I will write more about that tomorrow. But I am really happy about this major breakthrough (I hope it was not a fluke) because I have been trying to fix this problem for over a year.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Breakthrough Weekend!

We had, what I hope, was a breakthrough weekend.

Wyatt had his best ever weekend for contacts. He went from 50% or less contacts to more like 80-90% contacts. It was just fantastic. We have worked for over a year on correcting this trial contact issue.

He is just a fantastic agility dog when he has good contacts. We received 7 out of 12 qualifying legs including 2 firsts in open jumpers (he also finished his open jumpers title), one in weavers (third place), one in regular (with second place), and 2 touch and go Q's. Touch and Go has 4 contacts!

I will write more about the weekend tomorrow.

Friday, April 07, 2006

NADAC Trial This Weekend

We have a NADAC trial this weekend with tons of runs (I think there are 6 a day). So we will get plenty of contact practice in the trial settings. It will be interesting to see if any of the work I have been doing on the release phase of the contact will carry over (yet)...

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Release Word

Wyatt's contacts looked very good tonight in class. I think dropping the spot command and really focusing on a clear, consistent release has worked well. I was too focused on getting him to the 2 on, 2 off position and not enough on what happens after that. So working on the release phase has made for much more independent contacts. I give the contact name, run shoulders square to the end or past the end, and look back to see him in 2 on, 2 off and give him his release word - OK. I am hoping this will put the responsibility on him to do the contact and wait for the next thing instead of me having to have exact words, positions, etc during the performance of the obstacle. One theory I have is that he may be releasing high up on the contact when under stress because I have not been consistent in releasing and have not proofed against different words and body movements.

I have also noticed that my release word is not consistent in obedience either (the word itself and using a word). So I am trying to consistently release him with OK and not my body or "good boy" or "yes" or the next command. This should help agility and vice versa.

Does he actually view OK as his release word? I have been proofing for body movement but to really proof the release word, I need to use other words and make sure he does NOT release.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


My wife Dawn has done a great job teaching our other whippet Patriot to retrieve (with a little help from me). He was not a natural retriever. We basically backchained from a simple take it command from the hand, gradually moving the dumbbell lower and still assisting him with one hand to bring it up. Gradually, you take that one hand away and he gets it from directly below his head. Then you slowly move it farther and farther away until you have a retrieve and you can throw the dumbbell.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Rest Day

Wyatt had a nice rest day yesterday. It was very warm and sunny in New England.

I was thinking about the sit more. I think I am going to need to work on his sitting "form" if we are to go on to open. Sometimes, he sits very poorly. I have noticed he does do better if I bring him up to the sit as if we are about to heel.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

CD Minus 2 Seconds

Wyatt can be a real heartbreaker. So quick to learn; so environmentally sensitive.

We made another attempt for our CD yesterday. We have 2 legs. Dawn and Patriot also made a CD attemptm but had trouble with the off leash heeling.

We were next to each other in the order so the judge put Wyatt and me first. Trying to start, there was a big goofy, in your face, yellow lab blocking the way. I asked her to move but she didn't so Wyatt snarled when the lab got in his face for the second time. This lady was pretty clueless; the judge had to coach her through some of the exercises. Then she let her dog run out of the ring. I was nervous Wyatt would be upset by this incident.

On the start line, I was going to practice saying "no" to the judge when she asks if you are ready but Wyatt was ready!

The judge was a real coach type of judge. She told you what to improve between runs! She kept telling me not to look back at my dog. It did actually seem to help. I had stopping looking back but I guess it had crept back in. I was trying to turn my head without turning my body but I saw on the video that that did not work.

We had a good run going besides some lagging. He actually did better off leash which is typically the case (maybe because on leash has the figure 8). Stand for exam was perfect. I was a little nervous for his recall, which is what he blew last time. I has proofed it a lot in the last few weeks but I still made sure I turned around slowly. He came right in. He had to sneeze so he sneezed; slowly sat down and then did a perfect finish. So far, so good. I thought we had a good but not a great score. (It turned out we had a 185 at that point).

The group sit and down came next. I usually stand him while the judge gives directions and then move him up to my side as if heeling with our "side"command. He went right into a sit without any command and it was just about time so I just let him be. I went across the room and checked my watch. He looked nervous as usual especially when people started clapping in another ring about 45 seconds into the 60 seconds but he stayed up. Well, right at 60 seconds, he went down about 2 seconds before the judge ordered us to go back. That is a NQ. That is the third time Wyatt has lost a Q based on just one exercise and done the rest of the them really well. Of course, he went on to do a perfect 3 minute down. At least I was not nervous during that one.

Another heartbreaker but what can you do? We will do extra practice the sit before our next trial in 2 weeks. I may go back to using cones in class to prevent him from sitting but I think it was mostly nerves for him. I think he will put it all together at some point but I am about ready to finish novice and move onto Open. I am going to keep my shoulder square again and not look for him until he is sitting by me. That should help our heeling.

I am going to try and post the video clip of our run on my web site so watch for that!

After we were done, I took him out to a fenced in area where he enthuisastically fetched tennis balls for 15 minutes. He really loves life and wants to do whatever activity I have in mind. It would hard to be upset, disappointed, or mad with him for very long.