It’s good to be home

I had a very good time teaching in Edmonton, but it sure is nice to be back home and able to train my own dogs. I have trained a lot with both Shejpa and Missy today. We went to a new club i the morning to try our running dogwalks on a new kind of equipment (aluminium frame with carpet). My dogs have only done their running dogwalks on our wooden dogwalk at home. I was surprised with how it didn’t really seem to matter. Even Missy, who usually isn’t very confident, ran it fast and consistent right from the second attempt. Shejpa was even better and showed great understanding even when she slowed down a little (she is always best when she is really fast). Shejpa also got to try a new seesaw. She isn’t doing the whole seesaw yet, but she is learning fast and we should be able to do the whole thing in a couple of days. She shows great speed, weigh shift and targeting.

We did some more training later in the afternoon. Both dogs got to do some jump grids. I introduced Shejpa to the long jump and put it into her distance grid later. She had no problems with it, so I will put it into sequencing pretty soon. I also introduced a pole in the ground to help her turn after her running contacts. It might clarify things for her, so I will give it a shot. Justine had tried it with Preston and it looked great. I might try it with Missy too, although she seems to have more understanding of the turns and will think more than Shejpa. I did some shaping with both dogs in the house as well. Missy now knows how to jump into my arms when I stand up (Thanks J!) and both dogs did shaping sessions on the theraball. They have amazing balance and strenght!

Thanks to Justine and all the nice people I met in Edmonton. I had a great time and it was really interesting to see dog training from new perspectives. It was fun teaching european style obedience to an enthusiastic crowd of dogs and owners. I hope that they will keep up with the tugging and high speed training that we did. It was also fun to do a puppy day and I am looking forward to getting my next puppy. Handling is always one of my favourite things to teach and I was happy to see so many that were dedicated to doing agility within Greg Derrett’s system of handling.

Handling with Laura Derrett

I really should write here more often, but we have loads to do all the time. We came home from our honeymoon a week ago (after 20 hours of waiting in the most awful airport ever). Then Laura Derrett came on Monday and we’ve had four days of handling with her. She left yesterday and I was once again just exhausted from running two dogs, taking care of people and staying up a bit too late drinking beer with Laura. Tomorrow is qualifications for Norwegian obedience nationals and I should be out training Missy (better late than never?) but when I do we just end up running agility instead. I don’t really feel motivated for obedience right now. If I’m lucky, we’ll qualify for the finals on Sunday, but I’m not counting on it. We should have trained more, but with the wedding and having both Justine and Laura here, obedience has not been a priority. I should also make some videos of obedience training because I leave for Canada on Monday and will teach obedience in Edmonton next week.

Having Laura here was great! Both my dogs surprised me in a very good way. I ran Missy the first two days (double box) and both dogs in the last seminar that was more advanced. Missy has made such an improvement since Justine was here. I havn’t done a lot with her, just her running contacts and some collecting and turning over one jump. But she was like a new dog and for the first time I really enjoyed running her! She didn’t knock any bars unless I did something stupid and she could even keep the bars up in serpentines. She could collect and dig in when I was stationary in a sequence, something she’s never done before. We still have a lot of work to do, but I finally feel like we’re getting somewhere.

Shejpa was suprisingly focused through both days. I always obsess over her speed and think that she’s slow, but videotaping and actually timing her made me think differently. She was acutually 0.5 seconds faster than Missy over a six jump sequence. That’s a lot! She was 0.3 seconds slower than Ted (genius border collie who is really powerful) in the sequence with two serps and I slowed her down on when I didn’t get out of serpentin position fast enough. I guess I should be happy with her speed, but there are still things that could be a lot better. She responds nicely to my handling, but she could be faster on arm changes. Maybe I don’t reward them enough (thinking about it, I very rarely reward front crosses) or maybe I’m sometimes early? I don’t know, but she blind crossed me and took white number 3 in this exercise when we ran black numbers and were told to just front cross and leave on commitment to 2:

She also blind crossed me in a front cross in the video, but I was babysitting the turn so that she was just turning wide. Anyway, it’s very good to know and will be the focus of my handling training this weekend. Her response to my decel is getting a lot better, but I will need to work on a verbal dig cue and also on her responding to my decel when I’m behind her. I also think that I need to work on decelerating in a rear cross to make them really tight, I’m not sure of how to do that.

I had to try some dogwalks now that I hadn’t been training at all in over a week. Missy was really good and consistent when I ran her straight. Laura timed her to 1.25 s. and I also had some really nice turns off the dogwalk where she really dug in on the yellow and had a nice, tight 180-turn off it. We’re unfortunatly not done with turning of the dogwalk, sometimes she’ll completly jump off to the side, but I had a nice session with her today where she turned nicely. Shejpa’s dogwalk was not as good as Missys on Tuesday when we started training it again, but she’s really come along nicely and I had a session today where we worked on turning and she was almost 100% when I sent her to a person with food that moved more and more to the side (almost to 90 degrees). I also started working on her seesaw again and it’s looking pretty good.

Here’s a video of mosty Shejpa from Wednesday and Thursday:

I’m really happy that we got both Justine and Laura to come here and teach for us. It has been so much fun and people seem really happy. I hope that they’ll come back next year. I’m seeing Greg in Malmö in Decmber. I look forward to that.

Missy is running her contacts as well!

Justine Davenport has been here for four days teaching and we’ve had a great time with lot’s of training for the dogs. Justine did four days of handling (one day flatwork, one day double box, one day rear crosses and one day of running courses). It was really good and I think everybody was extremly happy. I’m to tired to write a lot right now, I have to come back to some of the things that I learned and did. Shejpa has worked a lot on her running contacts in the evening. She’s good when she can run straight after the dogwalk, but we still have to work through different angles coming off the dogwalk. I guess it’s just something we have to work on, like how you gradually raise the plank and add handler motion. She is making progress.

Missy started her runnig contacts training on monday night. We started with a plank on the ground. Yesterday, we added height and raised the plank a bit. And tonight, Missy was running a full height dogwalk. Missy is easier to train than Shejpa in many ways, and I’ve learned a lot from teaching Shejpa. But I never thought we would come this far in two days! We obviously still have a lot of work to do, but I’m very pleased with us both so far 🙂 Here’s a video of our first session on a full dogwalk:

Two agility videos

This is me and a friends border collie running a jumpers course at a trial in Lillehamer yesterday. He is a really nice dog and is wonderful to handle. Unfortunatly, he knocked a bar in the end of the run, but I think we were a good team.

When we got back home, we were inspired and built a sequence for Pavlov and Shejpa. Shejpa has had a boring weekend and she was very keen on running. She always looks slow on video, but this run was really fast!

Obedience and another video

We finally did som serious obedience training today. We went to a park and set up a ring. Missy had a really bad attitude when we started, it’s obvious that she is affected by the trial-like environment. We took a break and then started with some really easy stuff, just walking into the ring, and starting up. I rewarded her for good focus and attitude, and just started over again outside the ring if she lost her focus. She was soon doing very well and we did all the exercises. I was especially happy about her scented articles, that has been a problem for her in new situations before, but she was really good today. We need to work more on our send to square at home, it’s an exercise that really requires regular training for us. And we havn’t been training that much obedience lately… We’re doing this again tomorrow, in a new park with new people. It’s really good for us!

Here is a video of Shejpa from tonight:

One stride a-frame and missing up contacts – with a cocker :D

It’s really hot here right now and it’s hard to do training. It’s not cold enough until it’s dark. I guess a lot of you live with that all year, but we certainly don’t, so I guess we should be happy. We have long days in the summer and the weather is great (except if you want to do something active…). Fortunatly, Shejpa seems to really enjoy her training on contacts, but she’s not as fast as she could be in the heat. She is a very fast dog, but I really have to work to get her to want to run fast. Her favoutite thing is sniffing while running (but I don’t think many dogs run and sniff that fast) and she’s also likes running very fast away from me 😀

We continued our work with the running contacts yesterday. When Shejpa ran the dogwalk at 1.4s yesterday, she missed the up contact and I know she did it quite a few times. I never thought that I would have that problem with a cocker spaniel, but she is a remarkable little dog with a huge stride. It helped a lot to just take the dogwalk the other way, so that she started with the contact where she’s gotten a lot of clicks on her way down. I got to click correct behavoir on the way up and reward her on the dogwalk. She didn’t jump any more up contacts yesterday, but she might do it again if she picks up speed.

I also worked some more on the down plank contacts. I tried to fade the crate and throw a toy instead. I still had the crate there, but I threw the toy after the click most of the times. She was pretty good, but if she isn’t speeding, she is more likely to jump. I don’t know if I should just keep sending her to something (person or crate) or if I should just work on throwing toys.

We let her run her first a-frames yesterday too. She didn’t miss the yellow many times, but she was not low enough and I will have to lower the a-frame and work through it. She did the whole obstacle in one stride once and got a perfect hit, but I don’t think she’ll do it again and I don’t think she should either. It seems to hard on the body. Is it common with one stride a-frames with the bigger dogs running their a-frame?

I’ll do some more training tonight, when it’s cooler. I think weaves and seesaw will be my focus for the night.

First running contact on full dogwalk!

Shejpa did her first full dogwalk today and we’ve been progressing fast this last week. I got my dogwalk on thursday and let her run from the table and down the ramp on friday. We were away teaching this weekend and Shejpa was with a friend of mine and did no training and I just didn’t have time yesterday. I started with the plank a bit higher today, added about 10 cm. She did great and had a success rate of 80% in her first 10 repetitions. I added about 10 more centimeters at lunch and went from calling her to me when I was sitting with food in front of the plank, to doing all sorts of different handling and sending her to her crate if I was behind. She did great. I put up the full dogwalk tonight for the first time and she had no problems running the down plank, so I started to back chain it. She had some misses, but I think most of them came when she was out of balance and confidence. I think she’ll be even better when she picks up speed and confidence. I sent her to a friend with food so that I got the best possible drive forward. I’ll try with crate or tunnel after the dw tomorrow. I havn’t decided if I’m going to teach her to turn tight after the running dogwalk or if I’m just going to cue her target behavior if we need a turn. I need to work some more on my nose touches anyway, but the stimulus control might be difficult to get.

Here’s a video of Shejpas first dogwalk 🙂

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?