Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Feel of Distance Handling

Had a great agility chances (distance) practice last night. Wyatt and I have improved a lot in 5 weeks now that I have some techniques under my belt. I am finding that chances/distance has a different feel. It is much slower (for the handler). You can really (and really have to) lay back and direct the dog rather than running together. I still love the speed of running with Wyatt, but the feel of distance handling is also fun, but definitely different.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Obedience Wednesday and Thursday and Agility This Weekend

I entered Wyatt in Novice B and Open A Wednesday and Thursday since there were some weekday trials. I am devoting weekends to family and agility. I thought I would try Novice B again to warm him up and do the easier sit/stays. The location (Big E - Better Living Center) is not great for Wyatt but I thought I would check in and see where we are. Still working sit/stays at home. I have been using props to keep him from scooting forward when I go out of sight and I have also been trying to teach him that he should not be moving at all by rewarding shorter periods of no movement.

We also have a NADAC agility trial this weekend. I am hoping to pick up some regular (standard) and chances Qs for our NATCH. I am also running Patriot, though less runs per day. I moved him back down to open so we can be more successful in terms of Qs and courses and times.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Practicing Out to A Tunnel

I set up our course at home with a tunnel under the dogwalk and one under the A Frame to practice Out to a tunnel. Wyatt and I are doing better at pushing out to the tunnel with my improving and more consistent handling of this situation. I am pushing out against his line about 1/2 way between the previous obstacle and the tunnel, saying Out Tunnel, and also pushing with my hand towards that same 1/2 point. Now I need to gradually work from farther away.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chances Course From Last Night

The #5 tunnel was hard for us. Need to practice at home. Did pretty well on the rest though I had some high arm issues and was late in some of my signal to the second tunnel. Lynn says I need to try and think more in terms of multiple obstacles and not one at a time.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Typical Chances Course

This one does not have as much distance as some but does have lots of discrimination at a distance.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Training the Out Command

I was thinking today how much of my recent agility work is really about what works for Wyatt. For example, in the discrimination work I have been doing, I need to paint a line a few feet ahead of him to show him the course/obstacle and to also put pressure perpendicular to his path half way between the previous and next obstacle to get him to understand that I am requesting that he take the outer obstacle. The "out" command seems to mean very little to him. I really verified this through trial and error.

I think we expect that we are going to train a verbal command with a hand motion of some kind that that is how the dog is going to discriminate. But I have seen that, time and time again, handlers use an out command but not really give any body and motion cues and the dog takes the other obstacle and handler feels that the dog is not obeying their command. I saw a dog taken off a course last week in just this scenario. The same thing happened all weekend to this otherwise great team. But I don't think you can just stand there and say out and expect the dog to get it.

I think our mental model is based on obedience and dog tricks where you train the dog to do something. But I think in agility and also obedience to a lessor extent, you have to find the body motions and cues that the dog understands. So you aren't training the dog at all, you are training yourself to find the motions that your dog understands.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


I had a long (for us) agility session with Wyatt tonight really working on the "out" command in conjunction with discrimination. What I am finding is that the word "out" does not mean much to him. I think we get frustrated because we expect dog to understand verbal command but they really are 90% or more reading our body language. What did REALLY help a lot was "painting the line" - drawing a line with my hand/finger about 2 feet ahead of the dog where I want the dog to go and really pushing perpendicular into his line about 1/2 way between the previous obstacle and the 2 discrimination obstacles. My current class with Lynn Smitley gave me these tips. They really work - when you remember to use them consistently.

Photos from Saturday

I love the first photo because it shows both of us moving as team and, I think, captures some of the excitement of agility. You can see I am trying to "paint the line", something I have been working on.

Courtesy of Terri Fischer

Out Command

I had a really tough time with Wyatt practicing the out command using a jump heading into a 180 tunnel. He tends to want to go to the near side unless I really get in his path. The "out, tunnel" command seems to not be well understood by him and I am also not sure he is reading/respecting my line. If I use one jump I can push him out but with a tire and a jump, he gets too far ahead and does not seem to read my line. I got frustrated but realized later that I really need to back up and be sure he understands what I want. I have never been consistent with my cues for this so I can't blame him. Pointing the line did seem to help. I do thik that he understands "out" when there is a single obstacle. This worked on out Chances run Sunday. I am going to back up to 2 jumps and also separate the obstacles more. The tunnels ends were probably too close too.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

First Elite Chances Q!

Thanks to all. Chances is a NADAC game where there are 3 challenges in Elite - distance, discrimination, and direction. They put a big line of tape on the ground where you can not cross. So you run the sequenced course but you have to direct your dog partner from a distance including helping them discriminate between different obstacles that are close together. Anyway, with Elite, obstacles are 20 + feet from the tape. So, it's pretty hard.

You need 13 qualifying run for your NADAC championship. You also need 13 in jumpers (we have a bazillion of those) and you need 23 in regular (which is what we usually think of as a standard agility course.) We have 7 or 8 regular Qs and those are coming now that Wyatt has fairly reliable. But, until today, we had never received a Elite Chances Q after trying for at leats one year. I was thinking we might never get our championship but this gives me a of hope. We had some near Qs last year but I realized I need help and I am now taking a class in distance work/chances. It appears to be helping!

Monday, June 08, 2009


We ended up with 8 level C (the hardest level - no faults) qualifying runs (Qs) for the CPE Nationals. I got 4 with Wyatt and 4 with Patriot. I was hoping for a few more but was happy with that. We missed a few by just a little bit. Patriot was over time 6 seconds in a nice standard run. It got hot quickly and I did not hose him down. We had 2 beatitul snooker opening sneaker but they both got the wrong end of the number 3 obstacle (sure sign of a hanlder problem.) I really blew the last colors run with Patriot by not running my plan and improvising my running on the outside. Highlights were Sunday's very difficult standard course with Wyatt and a really nice jumpers run with Wyatt - another tough course. I felt that by Sunday I was handling better and trusting Wyatt more and being more relaxed. Had a bunch of weave faults, which are generally stress related. Also forgot my contact handling support behaviors on Friday's first run.

Class Tonight

This distance class is so about the handler and not the dog. We are just figuring out what Wyatt needs to understand what to do. I really worked on "painting the line". I worked so hard on this I forgot a bunch of other stuff at first! It can be hard to put a new technique in place without losing, temporarily, the rest of the package. But when I did "paint line" - draw a line where you want the dog to go about 2 feet in front of the dog - and put pressure to get Wyatt to go out, cue him early enough - a real challenge, and move my body in a generally parallel way to where I want the dog to go, he really gets it. Hopefully, I can start to put this altogeher soon. We have a NADAC trial this weekend and another on July 4.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Distance Work

The distance work class I have been taking has been great. I finally feel like we are making real progress. NADAC Elite Chances Qs now seem possible. I see now that Wyatt has been ready but my handling was getting in the way. How many times have I said that?!? I just set up something at home where Wyatt did the whole course with me layering two obstacles. Here are the things that have really helped us.

1) Keep your hand out level and not up in the air.
2) Don't pump your hand and shout "Out, out, out" in concert with your hand. This was a specialty of mine!
3) Draw a line with your hand of where you want your dog to go. This really seems to work miracles!
4) Your dog is going to come into you if you run parallel without any pressure to keep your dog out. So verbals can do that or a "go on" command and, most importantly, running towards the line (putting pressure on the dog's line.)
5) Since Wyatt did not always respect my pressure/line, we found that I needed to step suddenly into his line to put additional pressure to take a obstacle farther out especially if the inner obstacle is a tunnel.

Thanks to Lynn Smitley for showing me all this!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Dog Sitters

I really missed having the dogs around last night when we were back home. We left them with our dog walkers Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights while we were away at a Bluegrass Festival. When I arrived today, they pretty much did their normal greeting routine and seemed perfectly normal. Wyatt has had separation anxiety so I was worried about him. Patriot is very flexible and has stayed with other people before. We got reports that the dogs were fine and relaxed. Anyway, it was a relief to find a place we can board them occasionally and have them be happy.

If you are interested, I also have a non-dog blog at Reflectons From Cricket Hill