Epic’s Progress

Epic recently turned 15 months and is starting to do some big dog stuff!

Full height dogwalk:

He is doing well with his running contacts and I have started to work on turning after. The biggest problem is that he often tries to go for three strides and then is high in the contact (and sometimes misses). He is also doing full height a-frame in a nice way.

12 straight weave poles:

Weaving has been a lot of fun to teach him. He learned extremely fast and I could progress fast. Good thing since I’ve been away a lot the past month and also have put a lot of energy into his contacts.

He is also herding a lot:

Contact training with Epic

This week has been rainy and dull, but it doesn’t keep us from training. Squid is back from having puppies and is getting ready for her first trial in many months. Her weaves were terrible after the long break, but it didn’t take long to get them back to where they once were. One thing I really like about the 2×2 method is that you can go back and open up the first set of poles to show the dog what we’re after. It worked really well with Squid and she is now showing both confidence and skill in finding her entries. I look forward to the trial on Sunday.

Epic is working a lot on contacts right now. We’ve actually done nose touches, running contacts and up-contacts today. This is how his running contacts looked yesterday. It was his third session on a new height:

I didn’t get his nose touches on video, but we’re making progress. I’ve had some problems with building enough value for targeting on the stairs before, but I’ve found a way that makes him very keen at the same time as he gets more relaxed in agility training in general. I mix nose touches on the stairs with running contacts. It’s a great combination to make sure that Epic offers behaviors in order to get to run through the tunnel and over the dogwalk. If he got to do just that, he’d get tense and stalky.

I’m very concerned with keeping my dogs relaxed and open minded in agility training. Of course, this applies much more to my border collies than to the cockers. You can test the openness in different ways – Do they run to me and do great, repeated nose touches if I present my hand? Can they offer getting into position at the side without help and with good rear end awareness?  Can they look up at me and walk with me between exercises? For a while, most of our running contact training was about Epic offering different kinds of behaviors before he got to run. He is much more relaxed and open minded now. I can also use running contacts to increase the value he has for behaviors that have been hard to build value for – like nose touching on the stairs. We’re now walking to the stairs between repetitions of running contacts, and he has to offer real nice and focused targeting. When he does, he gets his toy and then he gets to run through the tunnel and over the dogwalk. Perfect! It’s 3 for 1 – value for nose touches, open mind on the agility field and training his running contacts. Nice balance in training.

What about the up contacts?  When I do running contacts on the full dogwalk, I’ve put a stride regulator before the dogwalk to make sure that he hits the up contact as well as possible. I don’t think he learns a lot by that in the long run, I just don’t want him to repeat a behavior I don’t want. Now I’ve started to train his up contacts separately. This was his first session and I think the video speaks for it self:

Running Contacts and Nose Touch Contacts

I’ve always got a lot of balls to juggle when it comes to training my dogs. Obedience, agility, herding, tricks and sometimes search and rescue. I love training different sports and I mostly think it’s a strength, both for me and for the dogs. I feel that even though it’s a lot of work, obedience training helps agility and vice versa. The tricks I teach help both obedience and agility. The border collies loves herding and if I want to breed border collies it’s an absolute must. As a bonus, I feel that herding is great conditioning for the dogs. They get to do long outruns where they run as fast as they can and they walk slowly and deliberately with sheep. Both things feels like excellent physical conditioning. The only problem I feel is that some of the obedience behaviors conflict with the cues in my agility handling (like some minor blind cross-behaviors and running away from a stationary handler).

Yesterday was a good example of how we train different sports. We started with some herding in the sun on our small training field outside the house. You can see some pictures of our puppies herding here. After lunch, we headed for the indoor arena in Kungsör, where we did obedience and agility. I made a video of Squid’s (and Pogues) dogwalk contact behaviors. When Squid was about a year old, I started working on her running dogwalk. She didn’t seem quite ready for it, so we didn’t do much until she got a bit older. Even then, I didn’t really feel like her performance was as perfect as I wanted it. While I was working on this, I also worked on a nose touch contact for the see-saw. As our debut trials came closer, I decided to introduce a stop on the dogwalk as well. I wanted to feel certain that her contacts would be good and buy myself some time to work on her running contacts during the winter. Introducing the nose touch behavior on the dogwalk was very easy, since she already knew both the behavior and the cue.

At her first trials, she got to do her nose touch contacts. I’ve been working some more on her running contacts with just the down plank, starting with it on the ground and working my way up. She’s a lot easier to train now than she was a year ago. She has much more confidence and drive, and can be recalled away from the toy when she fails without loosing speed in the next repetition. I feel like this made all the difference. I couldn’t do this last winter, so I used to just throw the toy forward as she met criteria. It worked fine, since she is good at running forward without looking back to see the throw. Her running contacts look great now, but I haven’t tried a lot of turning and sequencing. I have tried to mix running and stopping in two sessions and she seems to be able to switch well. She is adding some extra strides while running, probably because of the mixing, but I think that will get better with experience. Here is the video from yesterday:

Squid’s second agility trial

This week has been packed with dog training. I counted 31 hours in indoor training arenas in four days! We’ve done obedience, agility and herding. Yesterday was finally the day of Squids second agility trial. We entered one trial in December, where we weren’t prepared enough for performing in that environment. Squid gets very excited around other dogs doing agility and I wasn’t really prepared for it (especially not with a sore foot that made me limp around the course). Since then, I have taken every chance to train with others, letting her go crazy and then work on start line behavior, contacts, weaves and handling. All the hard work has really payed off. Squid was completely quiet before her runs (I managed her very carefully), didn’t move a foot on her start lines and ran clean and fast. She came second in the standard run and won jumpers. We’re now one third on the way too the next class. Here is a video of our runs:

Winter training

Thomas has been away teaching in Norway for a week now and I’ve been home alone with my dogs. I haven’t had much teaching to do this week, just one evening class, so we’ve been training a lot. We’re fortunate enough to have two indoor dog training arenas within about an hours drive. They are warm and have turf footing, which is a life saver when it’s cold and icy outdoors. We also have a riding arena where I have my agility equipment just 5 minutes from our place, but it’s not quite the same. I’ve been training a lot of obedience the past month and both Squid and Epic are doing well. Squid will do her first obedience trial in march and I feel very well prepared for that. We’re working on a lot of sequences with 3-6 exercises in a row with only one reward at the end. I’ve also started to add more and more distractions to the sequences, trying to find new things that could distract us at a trial. I will keep doing that, but now that everything works well as a whole, I’m also planning to take care of some minor details that will make our performance even better. My goal for the trial is to be so well prepared that there will be no surprises.

Squid, tired from four hours of training in one of the indoor arenas

Epic is mostly working on heeling, the stand (which i promise I will talk about in the blog soon), sitting still with distractions (people coming up to him is one of the hardest, he is such a happy dog, just like his sister) and always retrieving his toys to me in full speed. We’re also working on some tricks and agility foundation behaviors, like circle work, nose touches and puppy jump grids. He is so much fun to work with – always keen and focused, but also very good at relaxing in his crate when I work with one of the other dogs or watch others work. He will be 6 months old this week.

Epic, running in the snow at home

Shejpa doesn’t do obedience, but I’m working on some stimulus control and standing still waiting for a cue with her, something she’s not very good at. We’re also training agility, like today when we went to a riding arena where our dog club has training every Sunday. This year, my goal with Shejpa is to get a more consistent performance in trials. She really has ups and downs and I’ve never really figured out what makes the difference. I’m starting to think that the correct warm up is very important for her and I’m trying out different warm ups and record keep so that I can get optimum arousal and focus in every run. So far I feel I’m on the right track and I’m very excited to do more trials so that I can tell if I am or not.

Crazy cocker spaniel <3

Right now, I’m preparing for two days of obedience with our favorite instructor Maria Hagström. I’m really looking forward to it and I’m sure I’ll have something to tell you about it later this week.

My pretty dogs

My Dog 2011

Shejpa and I went to Gothenburg for this years first agility trial. It’s an international trial at a big dog show called “My Dog”. Shejpa ran really well and came in second in jumpers on Friday. We then went on to win the standard run, which gave us our first CACIAG (international certificate). I was really pleased with the jumpers run on Saturday as well, but we only got fifth place. Four world team dogs from Sweden and Denmark was a little bit faster (0.8 seconds to first place). Here are video of our runs:

Running Contacts Update

Spring is really here now and I’m enjoying every day. All my agility equipment is at home again and we’re mostly working on contacts, weaves and jump grids right now. Squid’s running contacts have been a bigger challenge than Shejpa’s and Missy’s. Both Shejpa and Missy chose a nice style right from the start and was pretty consistent with hind feet at the end of the contact when running straight. Squid has chose to push off with her hind feet on the ground right after the plank. It doesn’t seem as efficient to me, and it also seems that she is more likely to stride over the contact. I have been experimenting with stride regulators to get her to change her techique, but she always goes back to her old style. I have decided to let her do it in her own way, as long as she’s got at least one front paw on the lowest 2/3 of the contact. We’ll see how it works out when we start sequencing. I’m glad that she is challenging both my training and my observational skills (it’s a lot harder to see if she’s correct, since she never jumps, just strides over the contact and puts her back paw on the ground less than a centimeter from the contact). Here are some videos from a few weeks back:

When we’re not working on our agility skills, we’re spending time herding sheep. Squid is really doing well and she is going to her first trial in two weeks. Thomas bought a 7 month old border collie girl from Derek Scrimgeour in England a few weeks ago. Her name is Jen and she is a very nice dog. Calm, sweet and soft. She is starting to learn the basics of herding. We’re also training Squid’s mother Fly at the moment, and will be doing some trials with her this summer. She is so much like her daughter and it’s great to have her here.

Weaving 2×2

I’m really falling behind with the english blog, but I’ll try to update more often in the future. We’ve had a long winter and the snow has just gone (although it is snowing again today). We have still been able to do a lot of training indoors and both girls are making progress. In this blog post, I’m going to show you how Squid’s weaving with the 2×2 method has progressed over the past month.

This is the first video, where we go to four straight poles for the first time. She is having problems with entries from 10-11.

Squid weaving 2×2 from Fanny Gott on Vimeo.

In the next video, the problem persists:

Squid Weaving 2×2 from Fanny Gott on Vimeo.

So I decide to break it down and work on just that weakness:

This clip is after one more session:

These are the two sessions from the day after, where I add a jump before a set of four straight poles. It was a true lesson on latent learning, where you can see the amazing difference between the two sessions (with a five minute break in between them):

In this clip, we’ve had one short session since the last video:

This is the latest video, where I have gone from four to eight poles. We’ve had one session since the last video, where I gradually over four repetitions put two sets of four poles together:

Rear Cross Foundations

Squid is doing well, but I’m letting her rest for a while to make sure that she doesn’t get sick again. She’s still eating every other hour, and I’m using that as an opportunity to train some much needed skills (while watching winter sports on TV). One of them is understanding of rear crosses. It’s not hard to teach the dog to turn her head when you cross behind, the challenge is getting it under stimulus control. The only thing that should cause that head turn, is when I cross her path. If she turns her head before I have crossed her path (because I’m closing in on her or moving my arms and she’s expecting a rear cross), that would be a flick, and I don’t want to encourage that. I love that I can do agility training in front of the TV, and know that she’ll have a great understanding once we try rear crosses on jumps. Here’s a short clip from a session today:

New Year – New Trials

We’ve started the new year with four days of trialing. Both our cars have broken down, so it has been a project to get to and from the trials. I’m very thankful for my friends that help me out. On Monday and Tuesday, we went to Kista, outside of Stockholm for one standard run and three jumper runs. The carpet was very slippery, and Shejpa did not like running on it. She was clean in all four runs, but not at all fast. We came 3rd in standard, but did’nt get any good placements in jumpers. On Saturday and Sunday, we went to Gothenburg to run four classes. My parents live there, so having to take the train there was weighed out by all the great food and all the help I got. The carpet in Gothenburg was much nicer, Shejpa did only slip once, after the first jump in the first class, wich caused her to drop the next bar. She was much faster and seemed to enjoy herself more.

We got eliminated due to going off course in three of the runs. Two of them were my handling errors, one was her ignoring my threadle arm and going into the wrong end of the tunnel (that’s a first), I need to reward more first arm changes in training. In our fourth run, we got a refusal at the weaves. The weaves are still our biggest challenge and I can’t wait for spring to come so that we can do more training. We’re not entered in any trials for a couple of months now, so Shejpa will get some rest and we’ll work on details for a while. There are a lot of things that we need to improve

The next few days will be spent obedience training with our favourite instructor, Maria Hagström. I haven’t had much time to train Squid since we worked with her before christmas, but I’m hoping that the little training we’ve done has taken us a bit further. Thomas and Pogue are preparing for class II and Squid and I are preparing for class I. I’m also very motivated to work on agility with Squid. I’m really looking forward to spring!

Here’s a video from yesterday: