June 2008

Jump workshop

We have been to a two-and-a-half-day workshop on jumping with Vappu Alatalo. Vappu has trained with Susan Salo and is teaching her stuff. This was an advanced workshop for those who went to a workshop in February (wich I didn’t because I was in Florida, but I sent Thomas with Missy). Missy was a superstar in the Februray workshop and she has been doing great at home as well. Shejpa, on the other hand, has been hopeless and just really sloppy and crashing through the grids at home. I really didn’t know what to do with her. On the other hand – Shejpa has been jumping all right when we have been sequencing and Missy has knocked a lot of bars, so I didn’t really know what to think and god pretty frustrated with the whole jump training.

It’s good to attend a workshop when you’re confused. I have learned a lot this weekend! Doing more advanced grids has given me a lot more understanding of how to bridge the gap between the basics and running sequences. I love working with jumping because it brings out functional, harmonic movements and because I get to train my eye and really watch dogs move. When I got home and watched some old videos of my dogs doing agility, it was like watching them jump in slow motion. I saw so much more than I used to! I am convinced that doing this kind of training is both good for performance on course, but also to keep dogs fresh and healthy throughout their career. Not everybody here agrees with me on that.

Shejpa started the workshop with a basic grid in her usual style – sloppy and crazy. But we acctually found out why she has gotten worse and worse at home. It’s too easy for her to do the same old basic stuff all the time. She gets sloppy when there is nothing for her to thunk about. She was a different dog when we changed some things and gave her challenges. Vappu was very impressed with her and thought she was a great agility dog. Shejpa did all grids in a nice way, but often failed on the first attempt and then changed and did great the second time. This is what we’re going to work on. Give her different grids and wait for her to start doing it right from the beginning. I think it’s important to not give her the same thing again if she is successful. She will get nonchalant and not do as well. I need to change something (visual appearance for example) every time she has been correct. I have also thought that Shejpa sometimes doesn’t extend well in her rear when she’s jumping. Vappu said that she did extend, but that her personal jumping style was to pull her hind legs early to prepare for a fast take off when landing – and that that style was fast and not problematic. Sounds nice.

Missy is still jumping well, but she needs a lot of proofing when it comes to my movement. She was more extreme than she usually is at home and reacted a lot to any movement from me. This is probably the biggest reason why my nicely jumping dog is knocking a lot of bars when we run together. This will take a lot of time to fix, but I feel that I have better understanding now and that I feel motivated to do something about it. Both my dogs need more work on distance grids as well. I have hardly done any with them and it shows.

I am very happy with how well my dogs are using their bodies and how well they kept fresh during three days of training. The dogs get so tired from this kind of training that you almost can’t believe it. But my dogs handled it well. Warming up and cooling down two dogs gave me a lot of excercise as well – about two hours of walking every day. I was more tired than them after the work shop ended on tuesday.

A Chilly Midsummer Week

I have been pretty busy with teaching the past week and it will get worse in July. It’s getting cooler and we’ve had some rain here. I hope we get she sunny weather back in July, when we’re having a lot of camps. Thomas is away for a couple of weeks (working on his masters degree, studying search dogs). I’m home alone with Shejpa and Missy and we’re leaving for Sweden after class tonight. Missy is entered in an obedience trial on Friday (wich is Midsummer Eve, a national holiday). I have a good feeling when we’re training at home, but I also know that we’re not as well prepared as we should be. We havn’t done any serious competition-like training and havn’t trained enough in new locations with strange dogs lately. Missy is unfortunatly sensitive to those kind of things. My goal for the trial on Friday is to have a happy dog who keeps focused and confident.

Shejpa and I have done some more training on our running contacts. I have lowered the plank back to where it’s resting on the table. Mostly because I’m training on my own, but also because I made some other things more difficult. Since I’m training on my own, I can’t have a person with treats for Shejpa to run to. The best way to solve that was to let her run into her soft sided crate where she get’s a treat if I marked the correct behavior on the plank. She loves her cratebut she did initially have more misstakes with the crate compared to when she ran to a person. I think some of it has to do with focus and speed. It is easier to get focus and speed to a person and I need to do some value building for the crate between short sessions of running the plank. She is more likely to look at me when I’m ahead when I’m the one delivering the treat. That made her miss a lot in one session. She’s better when I’m behind and she’s very focused on the crate.

I have noted (from watching videos) that a lot of people training running contacts are doing the exact same thing through their sessions. They are stationary, standing in one spot and not changing their own position at all. I wonder why that is. Most people would agree that changing your position is important in all other agility training (weaves, stop contacts etc.). I also see how much my dog is affected by different body positions and movements, and I wonder if all the nice running contacts I see on video really are that good if you take away the lure and start handling. Any thoughts on this?

Another running contacts video

We did another session with the running contacts this afternoon. Our goal was to get her to run from the top of the higher plank. It required Thomas to hold both Shejpa and the plank high up in the air, but we managed. She was a bit confused at first when I started her from the middle of the plank and seemed to have some trouble with where to place her feet. It’s hard with the not perfect ones. I don’t want to reward them, but maybe I should. I get inconsistent with them. When we started her from the top of the plank, she was more confident and picked up speed. She jumped when I was ahead of her once and when Nina switched from kibble to hot dogs. We have a lot of proofing to do! I think some of the last ones on the video are very nice. This is only the third session with the plank on an angle.

Running contacts

This is so weird! I have been training running contacts with Shejpa, but not very often. We’ve done it a couple of times a month and sometimes a bit more. I don’t think we’ve done more than five sessions this year. I did one in April to make a video. Then I had another session in may where I tried to send her between two crates. That session was horrible and she seemed to be jumping just for fun. Yesterday, I got inspired by Justine and did another session. Shejpa was pretty much like she was when we did the video in April – if she hits the plank close to the end on her first stride, she hits the other end of the plank beautifully. If she doesn’t hit the plank well with her first stride, she runs but does not hit the very end of the plank.

I have had plans for a while to just try what she’ll do when I put the plank on an angle, and I tried that yesterday. I also talked to a friend who had sent my video to Silvia Trkman to get her opinion on the criteria. Silvia said that she would reward all of Shejpa’s tries, but jackpot the best ones. I guess I have been very picky with my criteria. I’m always trying to challenge Shejpa and work on her understanding. I have been in every body position and also put the reward on an angle to make sure that she doesn’t jump to the side. But I havn’t got even close to 100% successes with my strict criteria. I guess having strict criteria can make the dog slow down on the down ramp and it might also make it more uncomfortable for the dog to run the dog walk. I like strict criteria, so I have to think about this one…

Anyway. I raised the plank pretty high right away yesterday. I put it against the table and just ran her from the table. She did it so much better on an angle than she does running on the flat! She didn’t fail even my strict criteria and hit the end of the plank almost every time. We did another session today and made a little video of it. I think it looks pretty good, but I also think that I want to put her on the dog walk pretty soon to get more speed (I’ll get my equipment in a week if I’m lucky). We also tried to raise the plank even more and she did well with that. I just think I need to have someone holding the plank so that I can start her further up and get more speed. Here is the video:

I’m very surprised by this development. I thought we’d never get off the plank on the ground because she kept missing the end quite a lot. Now I’m thinking of back chaining the dog walk next week, but there must be something I’m missing here?

Seminar with Ken and Kathy

It’s June and the weather is even warmer. We had about 29° C today (84 F), wich is very warm when you live in Norway. I unfortunatly spent most of the day in the car, as we drove north to buy our new car (a Toyota Yaris Verso). It was very warm this weekend as well, but we spent it indoors, listening to Ken Ramirez and Kathy Sdao who gave a seminar on many interesting subjects. The best thing about seminars is that you get a lot of inspiration to do what you pretty much have known for a long time you should be doing. Kathy held a good lecture about counter-conditioning for dog-dog aggression. It made me see why I have failed some times in the past and gave me inspiration to try it at home. We have to female dogs that really don’t get along. I have no hope in getting them to accept each other (one of them is 11 years old), but the conflict has made Missy bark every time some one walks out the front door. I would really like to try counter-conditioning, but as Kathy pointed out, you need to make sure that you do it right. If I’m starting this project, I need to make sure that no one uses that door when I’m not around to feed Missy. I also have to do training sessions where we plan the door opening. She should get all her food (her raw food is the best food she knows) during these sessions (she can have kibble when we do other training). It’s also very important that the food comes after she hears the door (about a second later).

Another thing I want to try at home is Ken Ramirez’s concept training. I want to teach Pi modifier ques such as left and right (not left and right as a behavior, but as a concept that can be used with many differend behaviors). It was also very cool to hear about dogs doing mimicry, but I think that will have to wait… We had dinner with Ken and Kathy on Saturday night and we had some interesting discussions about how to add cues (Clicker trainers here often want to add the cue as the dog performs the behavior, but Kathy agreed with me that it’s more effective to give the cue just before the dog offers the behavior).

After the seminar yesterday, we wen’t to a nice beach where Pi had her first experience with going in the water. She was not reluctant to go in the water at all and she seemed to enjoy it a lot. I hope that we can go swimming with the dogs tomorrow if the weather is still warm. I havn’t done a lot of training today. We did recalls with Pi and she was really good. Missy got a session with some obedience and some double box training. She is still knocking a lot of bars, but I think she does some really nice things as well.