Of Beachbody coaches and professional dog trainers.

December 30, 2015 1 comment

Today I am snowed in. Like yesterday. And I start feeling some cabin fever. And since I am like this, I started looking at Facebook. I know, I have decided to let it be for a while, kind of a “cleansing period”. But there is just so much I can do when I am bored and stuck inside.

On Facebook, I came across two disturbing “commercials”. One from a Beachbody coach, advertised on the Agility Canada group (or another agility group). I think. The other from a dog trainer offering a professional dog training program.

Call it cabin fever, but I could just not prevent myself from commenting on the Beachbody coach post. I asked what were her credentials. I wanted to know whether she was a physiotherapist, an osteopath,a kinesiologist, a rehab therapist, a vet, a physician, etc.  What is she? Apart from some sort of financial consultant (yeah, totally related eh?!). Because without any real training in any of the above, I seriously doubt she could help any dog or any handler without risking to actually do more damage than help. Unless, of course, she only wanted to encourage people and offer moral support. However, that was not stated anywhere in her post.

Interestingly, the whole thing is gone. And she messaged me going on and on about the fact that Beachbody coaches do not need to have any formal training (which I know) and that I should have not offended her publicly. I am blown away by the fact that asking for someone’s credentials and stating that as a Beachbody coach she does not need any, is now taken as an offense. Really? What, am I just supposed to praise her for her endeavours and not ask polite, yet to the point, questions?

So, obviously without any relevant background as my questions “offended”her, just because one day she decided to add some extra income and to become a Beachbody coach, she can now “help design a workout”.

Encouragement, metal support, maybe. But designing a workout?! That is potentially a dangerous thing to do without any idea what one is actually doing.

I have a personal trainer who has studied kinesiology, exercise science, functional movement, and is working his ass off to stay in business in a world where anyone can go out there and profess to be whatever and people will just go for it. This is great, just great.

But hey, one must not ask what their background is because they will remove your comment and message you privately telling you that you offended them and embarrassed yourself? I do not think so!! I do not feel embarrassed in the least. If asking a simple question can cause this reaction, perhaps this person knows that she is not qualified to do what she is doing, even if legally perhaps she can do so.

But, let’s move to another favourite topic of today. Professional dog trainers. This is such a ludicrous title in Canada where there are no rules/regulations pertaining dog training.

I am not a professional dog trainer. Simply because I do not train dogs as a profession. But I could easily be one in Canada. As I said, this profession is, in Canada, non regulated. Which means that anyone can go out there, and say he/she is a professional dog trainer, and start teaching other people how to train their dogs in pretty much everything. Like the much criticized Cesar Millan.

Of course there are established dog schools, established meaning that they have been around for several years, that offer what they call “certification programs”. But, as the industry is not regulated, those certification programs can, again, be set up by pretty much anyone claiming to be a professional dog trainer. They only need people to believe in them and be willing to pay quite a bit of $$ to get a certificate that legally is worth nothing. It will just mean that they have gone to this “school”, taken whatever classes the “professional dog trainer” has deemed necessary for them to get the certificate, and passed whatever test he/she decided on with whatever passing score he/she has set.

Mind you, some dog trainers have lots of experience and are really good. And their certification programs may be excellent. What I want to say is that it is a jungle out there. And one has to be careful and “shop” well before registering in any of these types of programs.

A perspective professional dog trainer could go above and beyond this, and go to university, to earn a degree as Certified Applied Animal Behaviourist  (C.A.B.B.).Becoming a C.A.B.B. requires a Masters of Science in Ethology, Psychology or Applied Animal Behaviour plus an apprenticeship under an Animal Behaviour Society certified animal behaviourist plus peer reviewed behavioural research.  A  C.A.B.B. has nothing to do with being a “canine behaviourist” or “dog psychologist”. Because these two, exactly like the “professional trainer”, have no legal requirements in Canada. I could just go out and start professing to be a “canine behaviourist”. After all I have dealt with my dog’s “issues” for 5 years now.

I do not know anyone in the dog world here in the Ottawa/Gatineau area who is a C.A.A.B.

And this is why when I see people going off promoting their certification program I wonder…it is funny because some of them list in their resume that they are certified pet dog trainers! Certified by whom?! Others promote their certification program saying it is “fully accredited”. By whom?!! The industry is not regulated in Canada!!!

And what should I say about those people who list their title next to their name, e.g. “Ms Trainer, PhD”? I do have a Ph.D., perhaps if I wrote it on Facebook next to my name people would ask me to train their dogs, even if my Ph.D. has nothing to do with dogs! Sure. Why not. Those 3 letters look so cool after all.

I could go on and on about this, and add the canine nutritionists to this, but I made a hole in my snow bank just big enough for my car to go through. So I am getting dressed and bringing my two dogs to run in the snow.

 

 

Categories: Varia

On playing agility on outdoors artificial turf

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment

The 2016 AAC National Agility Championships will be held in Montreal.

Wow! When I heard the news, I was ecstatic! Just a couple of hours from home. Short trip. Cool!

When I heard we were going to be playing on the soccer field of Ecole Secondaire de la Ponte-aux-Trembles, on artificial turf, I was very happy. I thought it would be great to run on a nice, smooth, even surface, no matter the weather. I did not give the surface a second thought, but then my experience of running on artificial turf/grass has been limited to a couple of indoor trials and training sessions.

Then, last week, the organizing committee posted on Facebook more information about the soccer field we will be using:

“Finding a perfectly even and athletic quality field that could hold 6 rings was an important objective for the organizing committee. In addition, for those who were in Sussex in 2014, it is easy to understand the fear of seeing a field deteriorate from one competitor to another. In Sussex, they had a field that resisted very well to the atrocious weather conditions. However, Montreal Island is known for its clay type soil in many areas. This can be disastrous in wet conditions, to the point where an event would need to be cancelled. Renting a one time use venue (predicting the soil’s capability to resist in wet conditions) was deemed too risky.

The choice was obvious; it would be artificial turf (Synthetic grass).
The site chosen has an excellent quality field surface (recently replaced- approximately 2 years old). New enough to avoid being patted down or worn out, yet old enough to be broken in. Thanks to local government support, we obtained special permission to use it for a canine event.

Many worry about the heat from the turf on paw pads. On a bright and sunny day during summer, it is undeniable that artificial turf is hotter than natural grass. We tested by checking if we could leave an open palm hand easily over 10 seconds on a very hot day, with no clouds at high noon. There was no problem in doing so. There is no danger for burning pads due to the heat. However, the committee acknowledges needing to find ways to reduce the discomfort caused by the heat floating off the turf in the waiting areas and for the volunteers who will be there for hours.”

Reading the text I highlighted above, sent me some warning signs. I had not “clicked” until this post came up on Facebook.

Considering that the dogs will have to spend more than 10 seconds on that surface, and also not having any idea of exactly how hot such surface can become, I set out to find some answers.

The first things I found were journal articles about the 2015 Women FIFA World Cup held here in Canada, outdoors on artificial grass. Here in Ottawa, on a 25C day (air temperature) the artificial turf the soccer players had to play on was at 55C. The women at the FIFA World Cup kept their cleats on ice before going in the field. And developed blisters in their toes because of the heat of the surface. In June.

I then discovered that there isn’t much research done on the issue of artificial turf overheating and most of the research has been concerned with their toxicity. However, there is a reputable source of information: the Penn State University Center for Sport Surface Research:

http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/research/synthetic-turf-research-penn-state

This year they studied the effect of irrigation on synthetic turf temperature:

http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/documents/irrigationsynthetic.pdf

The study was conducted at Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research on June 24, 2015 on a FieldTurf Revolution plot that had been installed in 2012. Weather conditions were sunny, breezy, with clouds moving in at about 3:00 PM and lasting for the remainder of data collection.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I highly recommend having a look at Figure 1 on the above article, which clearly shows how the temperature of artificial turf (control – yellow) increases, how lower the temperature of “real” turf is (blue)  and how frequent water irrigation can help keeping the artificial turf temperature down. Also, one can see from table 1 that when the air temperature was 75F (23.8C), at 2:30 pm , the artificial turf had reached its highest temperature for that day, of 155.7F (68.7C). Already at 11:55 am the non watered artificial turf (control) temperature was 143.6F (62C), while the air temperature was only 70F (21C). It is also interesting to note that at 3:30 pm, 30 minutes after the cloud cover established itself over the field, the non watered artificial turf temperature had dropped significantly to 124.9F (51.6C) while the air temperature was higher than at 2:30 pm at 78F (25.6C).

The article also indicates that turf temperature is dependent on how the sun rays hit the surface. On a sunny but relatively cool day with no cloud cover the artificial turf will likely be hotter than on a warmer day where there is a cloud cover or a significant amount of haze.

The above may be misleading as one may think the day is sunny but not hot and not be prepared for a high artificial turf temperature.

Another good image can be found on this article and it shows clearly how between natural grass, sand, cement (pavement) and artificial turf, the latter reaches the highest temperature on a given day: http://turf.uark.edu/turfhelp/archives/021109.html

As for burns, according to AntiScald Inc., at 55C one can develop a second degree burn in 17 seconds and a third degree burn in 30 seconds, while those times go down to 2 seconds and 5 seconds respectively at a temperature of 60C (http://www.antiscald.com/prevention/general_info/table.php). They are referring to human skin and not dog paw pads. But it is still an indication of the potential danger of a hot surface.

Because of the above,  I wonder what the AAC Nationals organizing committee means by “no danger”.

Not only the scientific data indicate that outdoors artificial turf can overheat and become an issue. But the recommendations I received from fellow competitors who have experienced trialling or working with their dogs outdoors on artificial turf on a sunny day are not those one would get if there was “no danger”.

I asked questions on the Agility Europe Facebook group, as I know that in Europe they trial on many different surfaces and I sent a private message to a Facebook friend who is very active in agility and plays at a very competitive level.

My post on the Agility Europe Facebook group can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/383870845005713/permalink/976189345773857/

Kristýna Hrazdilová comments on my post on the Agility Europe Facebook group: “We had a third qualification competition (2 days) on artificial grass in conditions you describe (temperatures about 35°C) – Impossible to step on the grass barefoot, but during the 2 days just several dog paws were hurt. It was very important to keep dogs in shadow, wet and minimize the time spend on the grass. So it is possible (and possibly safe) to compete in such conditions, however not optimal”

Monika Rylska  comments: “plus remember to wet your dog but keep his paws dry – wet paws plus hot artificial surface will surely scratch skin off”

Susan Fallon Paulsen comments: “Yes, our nationals in the USA for USDAA was like that. It can get very hot so wet your dog down. Also, the turf can get very slick.”

My Facebook friend, in a private message, told me that he has done a 3 week-ends camp on 3rd generation astroturf. Air temperatures were 30-35C. They would do a maximum of 4 minutes on the turf, and only from early morning till 11 am. Then they would pause till 5 pm when the sun was starting to set. From 9 am on, they watered the field every hour to cool it down. They also wet the dogs every time they went on the field. With those precautions, a few dogs got minor burns, likely due to a combination of hot temperature of the turf and friction.

Because of all of the above, the statement “There is no danger for burning pads due to the heat.” by the AAC Nationals 2016 organizing committee appears to be a gross misrepresentation of what things could really be like at the 2016 Nationals on an outdoor artificial grass field, given “unfavourable” weather conditions like a bright sunny day. I was hoping the field was provided of an automatic irrigation system, but I just received confirmation from the organizing committee that there is none.

Had I not gone through this exercise, I would not think of the necessity of watering down my dog before a run on artificial turf when the air temperature is, for example, 25C, when the day is pleasantly sunny and not humid. I would not know that the artificial turf, if my run is at 2:30 pm, may be at a temperature close to 70C. I would not know of the need, in such conditions, to minimize contact of my dog’s paws with the artificial turf. And my dog would still risk burning his pads because of the turf temperature and the friction on that surface. Had I not gone through this exercise I would believe, because of the statement by the organizing committee, that everything is fine. Until stepping on that surface, for the first time, on a bright sunny 25C day. That would also likely be the last run my dog would run at that event. Because he would likely burn his pads.

I understand the attempt of the AAC Nationals organizing committee to have all competitors run on the same turf, not on a turf that deteriorates due to unfavourable weather conditions as more and more dogs run on it. However, I do not think they solved this problem. Between the first dog running an event at 8:30 am and a dog running that same event on that same turf at 11:00 am, the turf will still be the same in terms of evenness of the surface . However, the turf will be at a much higher temperature for the latter dog, potentially so hot as to cause burns due to heat + friction or heat alone, depending on the atmospheric conditions. How is this any better? And, how is this the same turf for all competitors?

What I really dislike, however, is the false sense of security that the AAC Nationals organizing committee is giving to competitors. I certainly hope nothing will happen, that the 4-7 of August 2016 will be all overcast breezy days and no sun rays will hit the artificial turf of the six agility rings.

And, I wonder which value would have a waiver signed by competitors under the misleading information publicly given by the organizing committee that “there is no danger of burning pads due to the heat”, if anything happened…

I have been criticized for spreading some of this information on my Facebook wall, I have been told that anything can be made look scary, that the 10 seconds hand test is a well accepted test, that if I can hold my hand for 10 seconds on pavement my dog can walk across it.

However, my Facebook wall is mine to do as I please. I did not offend anybody. I just stated my concerns and some of my early findings. One may take it or leave it. Or just read it and remain indifferent, or of course comment on it. Nobody is forced to read the stuff I post on my wall. Or to take it at face value.  As for making things look scary, I disagree. I am just putting together whatever I found out there. Both from scientific sources and from fellow competitors who answered my questions.

My job, that pays for my agility, consists on finding out information. Both from scientific sources, blogs, patents. Anything I can find about a certain topic, made available to the public in any possible form. And what I posted here is out there for anybody wanting to look and read it.

I am a chemist. I do understand what I have read. I may not get much about politics or economics, but I do understand heat, conductivity and temperature and polymers and so on, even if at first I had not paid much attention.

I also understand that my dog will not be trotting on cement. He will be running full speed ahead on a possibly very hot surface, a surface likely hotter than cement (see above article from Arkansas U). He will be weaving, doing tight turns, accelerating and decelerating. There will be significant friction with a surface that can already inflict friction burns when cool. And while the hand on a surface for 10 seconds may be considered as a good empirical way to see whether a dog can walk on a hot surface, I do not consider it a valid test to determine whether it can run and decelerate abruptly and turn sharply on the same hot surface.

I now have a much better idea of the potential dangers of outdoors astroturf on a sunny, not necessarily hot, summer day.

And I have also read carefully the recommendations of my fellow competitors.

As far as I am concerned, when I will decide whether to go to Nationals, I will have made an informed decision, not one based on what, so far, to me looks like a wrong and dismissive “no danger” statement, which does nothing more than spreading a false sense of security. Because us commoners, without looking into the issue, with just that statement, would only consider the usual precautions we take when running our dogs in conditions of extreme heat. We would not think that a surface we run on can be at 68.7C when the air temperature is a pleasant 23.8C as shown by the folks at the Centre for Sport Surface Research of Penn State University.

A last thought goes to the judges of the event, and to the volunteers, who may be faced with sitting or walking for several hours on a surface that can heat up to 70C on a nice ordinary sunny day. The organizing committee mentions that “the committee acknowledges needing to find ways to reduce the discomfort caused by the heat floating off the turf in the waiting areas and for the volunteers who will be there for hours.” I am looking forward to their solution, especially for the judges. As this type of event has been run on outdoors astroturf abroad, I am sure it can be done also here. I just cannot see everything stopping every single hour to water down the whole soccer field at an event where about 500 dogs need to run 2 courses every day, if the need arose. After all in Sussex they did not stop during the downpours unless, like during my gamblers run, the scribe was unable to hear the judge…

Regardless of what I will decide to do, hopefully all the stars will align in the universe and August 4-7 2016 will be 4 great overcast days in Montreal.

——-

As an aside, the city of Barcelona (Spain) public agility field is artificial turf. But there is an automatic irrigation system (according to the info I found online). This appears to be the best way to dissipate the heat and cool this type of surface.

——-

A short summary with recommendations from Penn State U:

http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/documents/temperature.pdf

Some thoughts – or should I say “ranting”?

November 11, 2015 Leave a comment

I subscribe to an agility related mailing list: “AgilCan”. This week a lady started a thread on the contact zone. She was having trouble with her dog leaping off the contact and missing the contact zone, and she suggested it would perhaps be better to just have a line who delimits the start of the contact zone, instead of a solid coloured zone. For example, a solid blue A-frame with a yellow line to indicate where the contact zone starts. That way, she thought there would be the possibility for a dog to jump over the line, as if it was jumping a jump, and land perfectly on the contact zone. And that would solve all her problems!

This is so wrong on so many levels!

I doubt this lady gave any thoughts of why her dog leaps off the contact. Did she analyze any of her training sessions/agility runs, to try and understand why her dog was leaping off the contact? She does not say, but it does not sound like it. Did she consider going back to square one? Do more training? Change training method? Due to the nature of her post, I seriously doubt it.

Some people in agility just go to trials, show clumsily to their dog the path through a run, and expect to succeed every single time. If they do not, it is of course the dog’s fault. Like in this case, it is the dog who is leaping off the contact. Far from them to understand that it is their job to help the dog. To teach it how to perform every single obstacle. To guide them through the meanders of an agility course. And to figure out why things are not working.

Changing the colour of the contact zone will not change the dog’s behaviour. That is just wishful thinking.

Dog agility is a complex sport. There are different obstacles who require great skill from the dog: single jump, double jump, spread, broad jump, tyre, tunnel (straight – U – S – etc.), chute, weaves (12 or 6 or two sets of 6), A-frame, teeter, dog walk, pause table. Then there is the variable of the approach to those obstacles, we have backsides of jumps, tight turns around one jump stanchion, collection parts, extension parts, slices, etc.And to all this we have to add our handling to direct the dog during an agility run. With body cues, verbal cues, or both. There is our dog’s physical shape. Is it well conditioned, is it sore, is it an anxious dog or a “working machine”? There is the trial venue. Have we been there before? Have we practiced there? Etc. The surface: grass, sand, astroturf, carpet, rubber. How deep is the sand? Is there dew on the grass? And so on. The weather (if outdoors): is it raining? Is it very hot and humid? Etc. There is our ability to memorize the course, make the right choices of handling for us and our dogs. And, last but not least, there is our own behaviour, e.g. whether we are “high”, “anxious”, “cool” and so on.  And I am sure I must have forgotten some important variables!

All of the above influences the outcome of every single agility run. To succeed we need to work on all those variables. We must train our dog so that it can perform every obstacle fluently. We must add to the obstacle performance our handling. If we can we should train on different surfaces to make our dog comfortable on all of them. We must work on our mental game so that when we are out there, at a trial, we are able to be on top of the game. And, we must be able to look at the outcome of a trial, dwell on it, and go back to training with some added knowledge on our strengths and weaknesses, to maintain/improve our strengths, and overcome our weaknesses.

So if our dog has issues with the A-frame and leaps off it before touching the contact zone, we must understand why, then we must go back and train the obstacle to solve the problem, eliminate the issue.

Suggesting re-painting of the contact zone to solve one’s, likely, training issue, shows a great deal of laziness, lack of understanding of this beautiful sport, and possibly lack of desire to work through some difficulties to achieve one’s goals.

Not only it is ludicrous. It is also sad.

Categories: Agility Tags: , ,

From a sticky A-frame to a running A-frame – where are we at?

October 17, 2015 1 comment

Krypto and I have been struggling with the 2 on 2 off A-frame contact for a long time. Probably since we began competing in 2012. Krypto would just come down the A-frame ramp very slowly, as if he was glued up there for some odd reason, then he would just leap off. Definitely not the obstacle performance I want. In the past I had tried several times to retrain it going back to basics, thinking that I must have made a mistake in doing so the first time. Perhaps I was not consistent enough, clear enough, rigorous enough in my criteria. I even changed the cue I used to ask him to drive down to the bottom in a 2 on 2 off position. We passed from “target” to “spot” to “touch” to even try not to use any specific cue for the behaviour but the A-frame cue. I brought out very tasty treats to reward driving down the A-frame, but, regardless of my efforts, Krypto’s performance would deteriorate at trials and the creeping down/sticky A-frame would resurface time and time again.

Finally I decided to drop the 2 on 2 off and to train a running A-frame. During the Winter of 2014-2015 we started working on the box method by Rachel Sanders. It seemed like a good idea to use a pipe box of the same size of the A-frame contact and train the striding on the flat, before moving on the A-frame, so as to avoid too many repetitions on the A-frame itself. The following is a video from March 2015, where Krypto is working on the striding and I had also added directionals to see whether I would be able to get a good hit on the box even when asking for left and right turns.

Once the striding on the flat was good, I started working on “unglueing” Krypto from the A-frame, following Rachel Sander’s method. However, we were not having much success. As I said many times, Krypto thinks a lot. And asking him to not stop in a 2 on 2 off position seemed too hard for him. He kept questioning my request.

After these first steps towards a running A-frame, we had to stop training because I had my second hip replacement, then Krypto had surgery to remove his tiny cancerous mass. That brought us to August. Then, for a few weeks, I contemplated going back to a stopped A-frame and I tried again using a plexy target and very tasty treats, unique treats, to get Krypto do drive down the A-frame at a fast pace. Our first trial at the beginning of September made me understand that my desire for a stopped A-frame without creeping down was not going to happen. Krypto started creeping down again. I do not know what I was doing wrong, in training and/or in competition, but definitely whatever it was did not help…

Then, in mid September, I went to a workshop by Canadian National Champion Teri O’Neill. Although the workshop was supposed to be on contacts only, the organizers decided to change its content at the last minute, without notice. The story of my life it seems… Nevertheless, we managed to get some time on the A-frame with Teri, and she helped me “unglue” Krypto from the down ramp, and get him to run the contact, of course without caring about hitting the contact zone since my first goal was to get him to just run the obstacle. She also suggested the use of stride regulators and not of a box a la Rachel Sanders. I was so happy about finally having Krypto run the contact without worry! Of course when we got back home and started training the running A-frame, we had a couple of sessions where at the beginning he questioned running the down ramp. To be expected as he had been asked to stop for so long. But after those sessions, Krypto was happily running down the A-frame. And I started adding stride regulators to get a nice performance when going over the A-frame peak and then hitting the contact zone (see video below).

The day after this session I went on vacation, and yesterday, the day after my return home, we went out to work some more on the A-frame. I did change a bit the position of the stride regulators to try to get Krypto’s paws more inside the contact zone. And I also tried to see what would happen if I run ahead of him and if I remove the lower stride regulator (see video below).

Observing the videos of September 24th and October 16th I realized that the position of the stride regulators of September 24th works best and that I need to do something to force Krypto to hit the contact zone even when I am far ahead of him. My movement is affecting his performance and when I am behind he slows down and hits the yellow, when I am ahead he launches to keep up with me and misses the yellow. I am reluctant to add a new prop like a hoop to get him hit the yellow as props have never worked well with him. I am thinking of adding a jump in front of the A-frame to force Krypto to hit the contact zone. A “pressure” jump like the one used by The Agility Nerd:

I will then move this jump farther and farther away to fade it into a typical trial situation jump. I will also keep changing my position relative to the A-frame and my movement, to get a performance as constant as possible.

Hopefully we will get to a reliable running A-frame contact reasonably soon. Winter is upon us and the opportunities to train are getting slim. I cancelled our trial commitments for the remainder of the year and I hope to be ready for the January trial in St. Eustache (Montreal). Fingers crossed!!

Getting back, up and running, can be scary…

August 27, 2015 1 comment

It has been a long time since Krypto and I have done any “serious” agility, that is trialling. We had stopped last November because of Krypto’s injury due to some scar tissue adhesion that had deteriorated his jumping. We had reached the point where he would refuse to jump the double, spread and tyre. And stutter step more and more frequently.

Then it was my turn. I was not injured, but I underwent surgery to get a second total hip replacement. This time I got a brand new left hip.

Then, at the very end of my convalescence, I discovered that a very small mass on Krypto’s chest (left-hand side), which I thought was gone since I had first seen it in February, had actually grown a bit. In February the vet that had seen him (unfortunately mine was on holiday) had sworn it was a histiocytoma (benign) and that it would normally reabsorb within 4-5 months. I brought Krypto to see my vet, to get her opinion on the mass, and decided to have it removed as it was growing, even if very slowly. That was a good call on my part as it turned out that mass was an early grade 2 mastocytoma, that is a cancer. Luckily we got it in time and my vet was able to remove it completely, so Krypto did not require any further surgeries or chemotherapy. But it was a huge scare for me, and of course we were off any type of activity for an additional couple of weeks.

After my surgery and before Krypto’s, we just had the time to do a couple of Gamblers runs at a small local trial. We did well, but Krypto popped the weaves in a very costly mini-gamble, which is very unusual. I did not think much about it, but after his surgery, he kept popping the weaves in training and at agility class. A visit to the chiropractor explained the issue as he was “a mess” and even his toes were out of alignment. He hasn’t popped them since.

Between Krypto’s surgery and his visit to the chiropractor, we managed to go for a One Mind Dog workshop held by OMD coach Jessica Ajoux in St-Lazare, to learn the techniques. It was mostly young dogs, and we were pretty much the only “old” team, and also the only one who did not know those fancy moves (I think…). It was an extremely hot day so even if we could have worked longer with the coach, if we got things right at the first attempt, we stopped there. It was fun, but I also got a bit self conscious watching these speedy handlers, with their young dogs, doing impressive handling, while I considered it a success when Krypto and I got the German turn or the double lap turn right!

And now this is it. Saturday we have our first trial in a long time.  If I do not consider those two Gamblers runs, it has been roughly ten months.

The one on Saturday is a small local trial at our club, More Dogz. Four runs: standard, challenge and two jumpers. It should not be a big deal but it is becoming a big deal for me. I am concerned about what we’ll be able to do. I am not really fast on my legs. I think I can get better once my left leg is stronger, but now I am so so as far as speed is concerned, and I lack endurance. Not that I will ever be fast…but…

And I see all these young people with legs that go up to their necks, run so that it looks so simple. And they are oh so coordinated. I was never an athlete (and never will be…), let alone coordinated!!

I think I need to get my act together and just trust that my adrenaline will keep me breathing till the end of each course. And go in the ring forgetting about young people with great legs and beautiful smooth “international” handling skills. Remembering the course and what I need to do both in terms of handling and in terms of verbal cues is what I must do. And I’ll be ok.

But,most of all, I must remember that I do not care about the Qs. I care about being as one with my amazing little border collie, to play and have fun together. Then everything will be ok, no matter what.

Patience is not my strong suit…

April 19, 2015 Leave a comment

..but it looks like I will have to learn…

Last Sunday Krypto and I went to our first fun match after 5 months of inactivity. I was quite excited to be running him again, and he was rather happy as well. I tried to run him without thinking “how will he jump?”, “will he stutter step?” and so on. I was also hoping not to loose it if someone was going to approach me, to tell me about his striding, had he stutter stepped. I was moderately successful on both accounts. Krypto did throw in his “funny” stepping here and there, and someone did approach me about it. And I did worry and almost lost it…almost.

The worry:

I try to remind myself that this is not a matter of national security, or global warming, or world peace. It is just a dog jumping at local trials and possibly at regional and national events. I did try to put things in perspective. And I think by the end of the fun match, or perhaps by the time I got home, I succeeded. I realized that I have done all what I could think of to correct a behaviour learnt and practiced for over one year, a bad habit, and that it may never go away. I will keep working on it. Every time I hit a wall, so to speak, I look back and think of something else to try. But, despite all what I have done and going to do, once in a while Krypto may still do his funny stepping. And so what? It’s not the end of the world. We may loose some time because of that, we may not get first place because of it at local trials, but at the end of the day is that so important? I am still thinking of an answer to this one…

The “loosing it”:

This is more difficult. Despite 18 years in Canada, I still have not learnt much of their famous diplomacy and tact…one day maybe…

The patience:

After so many months working on Krypto’s collection, the fun match was a total disaster as far as that aspect of his jumping is concerned. I may have been late with my cues a few times, but even when I was dead on, he still would not collect. He was in the “yahoo let’s go” mode, his famous launching mode. Funny stepping + launching. Not a good combination.

So, my plan of teaching him collection and that that would show him how to get closer to the jumps, and hopefully fix not only his launching/early takeoff, but also help his striding, seemed not to work. Or perhaps not 100%. Or maybe it is still in its infancy and it needs a lot more work. Which we’ll do. But since balance is everything, I realised that perhaps I had been focusing too much on collection, and perhaps I had disregarded if not extension, something about it that Suzanne Clothier had used many years ago in her jumping method to teach dogs how to jump: rhythm/momentum.

And I decided to try to add to our training sessions some “jump chutes” to create some muscle memory, some rhythm. Hoping to advance a little more in the right direction, to make Krypto’s striding a bit better. Another plan is to add stride regulators to force his stride where it should be.

This is a video of yesterday’s session (condensed).

It is clear that when Krypto has momentum, his striding when he needs to put in two strides, is much better. I would actually be ok with the type of striding he shows at the end of the jump chute. But at the very end of the video, where he is doing only the two last jumps, starting from a sit/stay, it is obvious that he is not as comfortable as when he is coming down a row of jumps and gaining momentum or getting comfortable with a certain rhythm in jumping. I think there he is thinking too much…maybe. As he seems to be loosing rhythm when he knocks bars, and then his striding worsens. That’s why perhaps stride regulators will help in that type of situation.

Interesting to note also the problems Krypto has with dark blue tunnels…this is already in my training plans for next week. Tunnel games with the very dark tunnel.

On the running A-frame front, I finally managed to unglue Krypto from the 2 on 2 off position. I did not take a video of that as the battery of my videocamera was running low. But it was really great progress since we had ended the previous training session with Krypto going back to holding his 2 on 2 off no matter what. Now I just need to find some kind soul to help me lower the A-frame for our next training sessions so that we can move forward with the backchaining.

Of course even in the running A-frame department I have doubts, I wonder whether I’ll be able to fade the prop I am using to teach Krypto to hit the contact area. I really wonder if this will ever work. Then other days I get hopeful and I even fantasize of having both the stopped and the running A-frame. It is feasible, as he already has a stopped one and the command for the running one is obviously different. But then I think I am becoming too ambitious and I better keep my feet on the ground.

So yeah, lot of patience, out of someone who has very little of it…I guess I am learning!

Collection

March 17, 2015 2 comments

Krypto and I have been working on collection. And I so wish I had known what “collection” really was way back in the days I started training Krypto. But way back when, I had no clue who Silvia Trkman & Co were. I did not know about the importance of tight turns. Or, I did not think about it. And so Krypto learnt to “go” full speed ahead. And then he started enjoying that so much that he started launching. Not that he did not need collection before, but now that we are way past his ATChC, we do need it badly.

I am not sure that collection will solve Krypto odd stepping issue. That has become almost a habit. So I will not worry too much about it as there is just so much I can do about it, and we’ll focus on learning to collect and to approach jumps appropriately.

I started teaching collection to Krypto just recently and we have been going through the Linda Mecklenburg foundation jumping exercises. But I soon felt we were not going where I wanted to go. The exercises are extremely boring for both the dog and the handler. Well…agility training may be tedious sometimes. But those exercises require too many repetitions at the dog’s jump height, and they are not too much to my taste. After a Saturday of not so successful training following that path, during my drive home I started pondering what I should do. Linda M., who had appeared like the solution to all my training issues, was “failing”. Perhaps it is me, but I felt Krypto and I were going nowhere. Apart from getting Krypto to jump with a very nice arc, head held down. That was great. Then there were my friend’s words that kept bugging me, about 16″ special…

That Saturday, during my drive home, my main thoughts were collection and jump height. And for some weird reason they made me think of Silvia Trkman and cik/cap. How she teaches collection having the dog do tight turns first around poles/trees/you name it. And then on single jumps and on fun jump-tunnel exercises. How she starts working on jumps at a low height, does all the exercises at that height and moves up by very small increments only when the dog is performing well at a given jump height. This sounded like a good plan. And it sounded like more fun than what we had been doing in the past couple of training session. Instead of working through the Linda M. foundation, we could go for Silvia Trkman cik/cap and use the single jump exercises by Linda M. to maintain a nice jumping form as typically border collies tend to flatten they jumping arc when going over low jumps.

The next days Krypto and I worked hard in my backyard and went through as much as we could of the early cik/cap exercises.

Then last Saturday we went training and we had a blast. Yes, on a few occasions I mixed up my clockwise (dedede) for my counterclockwise (lalala) cue. But I finally felt we were going somewhere. Perhaps I am too optimistic. I always get my hopes high then I get some very low moments when I feel like nothing is working. Because of that, I decided to shift completely my focus away from the stutter stepping issue, which may or may not go completely away. My main training goals are collection/tight turns and a running A-frame. With some time spent on reminding Krypto about distance work (!!), hard weave entries, stopped dog walk. With the clear intention of not going lower than 22″R as far as jump height is concerned. As for me, the list is endless: blinds, lap turns, ketschkers, reverse spins, TIMING…

I just hope I will not change plans again. This seems like a good one, and I need to stick to it.