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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!

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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.

Oh well…

February 28, 2015 Leave a comment

I do say or write it quite a lot recently. But no, it does not make me feel better. Yes, it is life, but sometimes it does suck, and the “oh well…” will not make it better.

Today, as many of my friends are getting ready to go to Spencerville, ON,  and trial, we are getting ready to go see Krypto’s physiotherapist. I am hoping for good news. His tissue adhesion has supposedly been taken care of and I hope the exercises we have done to potentiate his hind legs muscular mass have been fruitful. I am expecting some soreness here and there, but that is normal when using a muscle that has been idle for a long time.

What will I do if I get the ok to start trialling again?

I am an adrenaline junkie. I love the thrill of running Krypto. And I miss it. However, as any addict, I now need more and more of what brings about that sensation, that thrill. I do need more challenging courses to elicit the same adrenaline rush I once used to get by running simpler courses.

I did not have fun running Krypto at the last trials we went. I was worried. I was thinking about his stutter stepping. I was asking around to my fellow competitors what they saw when he ran. I was pondering about what was going on and what I could do to “fix” it. That was not the way to run an agility course.

I want to go back in the ring, feel my heart beating fast, feel that all so familiar shortness of breath, take that usual deep breath, forget about everything but the course at hand and just do the best possible run with Krypto.

I want to go back to the sensations I felt last Summer at Nationals.

I do not want to worry about jumping style, creeping A-frame and stutter stepping anymore.

That’s why we are not trialling now, and we will not trial right away even if we get the ok from the physiotherapist. Not until I am satisfied that I have done all what I can do to improve Krypto’s jumping and A-frame performance. We may succeed or not, or not completely…but at least I will have given it my best shot.

There are hundreds of photos on the internet of border collies, and not border collies, jumping with an inverted arc. I have watched videos of border collies running in agility and now that I know what to look for I have seen flaws in jumping style in some of them, many of them. I do see the flaws also in other breeds, in friends’ and acquaintances’ dogs. I would say that it is hard to come across to an “ideal” jumping style. But so what?! Is it really so important? I think in the end our dogs will adapt to the situation at hand and do what they can with what they have: conformation, training, directions from the handler, type of course, etc.

So why am I so bothered about my own dog’s jumping ability? Why won’t I go back to trialling even if we have the ok from the physiotherapist? Why do I care about achieving a better jumping style? Why am I re-training Krypto on how to jump when some agilists do not even care? Especially considering the success we have had last year? Because I want to keep playing this game with Krypto for a long time. Because I want to become a better handler/trainer. Because I want to try help Krypto run better. And because, ultimately, I want my adrenaline rushes back.

I do not have a set date for when we’ll go back. Considering my upcoming hip replacement surgery, I would be happy to be back to business for the September trial at Guides Canins.

For now, the only thing I can say is “Oh well…”.

GSP_5001_se

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Winter training dilemma.

November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Winter has arrived and our favourite place to play agility is closed until next May. Unfortunately, Red Gate Arena, our favourite indoor facility to do agility, closed in March of this year, and there aren’t many alternatives around. Either I do not like the footing, or the size, or both…Perhaps I am picky, but I have started considering taking a break from the sport/activity I like the most, and not train until next Spring/meltdown.

As one of my friends told me, dogs do not forget. True. It’s just that I always end up with new challenges being presented to us at each trial we go to, and I would like to work on those challenges asap. I also worry about the Regionals coming up in June and having had barely a month to get ready for the big event…

Perhaps something I have been planning with a friend will work out and we will go off to train for a few hours a couple of times a month. That would actually be awesome. And, our other training activities will be limited to a couple of fun matches (January and April), ball exercises, tricks and similar stuff, and we will play frisbee and go for long walks…

……….

……….

Categories: Uncategorized, Varia

Long time no see…

August 17, 2013 2 comments

It has been a long time since I sat at the computer to write a blog entry. Not that I do not sit at the computer. I even bought a nice laptop stand at Ikea so that I have my computer next to me when I relax watching TV…Still, it takes some commitment and discipline to write a blog post.

So there we go, what have we been up to lately?

Qs

 

On the training front, Krypto and I have been working a lot on the tight wraps (cik/cap) which for us are “la-la-la” (wrap left) and “de-de-de” (wrap right). Since I am not guiding him but I handle at a distance, it has taken quite a bit of time to acquire them so that we can go and try them in a trial. Also, we were working on the “round-round-round” (back of the jump) at the same time, and Krypto got a bit confused at times. I think that we are ready to try the three of them at a fun match to begin with, and the next step will be a trial.

Our classes with Janet are very inspiring, and I always come home with a few things to try and a deeper understanding of my own training issues and how they affect our performance as a team.

On the trial front, after the June 27th Masters Trial, we did a few more. We managed to get some Qs we had been seeking for a while, especially a couple of Advanced Snookers Qs. We had lots of fun at a trial away from home, in Kingston (ON) and we came home with quite a loot (4 Qs out of 5 runs) (see video below) There we also experimented a hotel for the very first time, and things look promising for when we will go to the Quebec Regionals next year. We also did another Masters trial here in Ottawa, at More Dogz, and that is when I decided that we were going to step back for a while and work on our skills before going to another Masters trial…It’s a long story, but I finally realized that I better stop, fix things, and then go back more confident, than keep hoping to have a good day just because…You can’t really do it when you handle “remotely” as one of our friends defined our way of doing agility.

One new thing we are working on is the “easy” or collection/slow down cue. I definitely need to teach that, and this has been our biggest issue since we made it to Masters. Since I do not run with him, Krypto cannot know from my body language (e.g. a deceleration) that we are going to change direction and he needs to slow down, for example. First attempts to teach this cue were unsuccessful, but I think I finally found our way around this difficulty. I inserted a collection jump grind in a speed circle, and I started using the cue “easy” when Krypto was approaching the collection grid. It seems to be working. Now I need to keep working on this until the new cue sinks in. Things are looking up…but this is yet another cue I need to articulate in the 30 seconds of an agility run…oh well….I better start doing tongue twisters 🙂

Update on Krypto’s contacts

May 1, 2012 1 comment

Finally! On Saturday we went to Dogz C.S.C. and, maybe because of all the excitement of being in a new place, or maybe because the lightbulb in his brain turned on, Krypto did a beautiful, fast dog walk, without creeping down the descending part, and ended it with a perfect 2 on 2 off position. I wish I had a video of it. We did some more, and he was quite good. No creeping down! Yuppy!!!!!!

A-Frame: still a work in progress. The full height A-Frame seems to cause him some issues in getting into a 2 on 2 off position. But I am sure we will get there. \

Teeter: I need to work on his end position. He needs to be reminded that he is not supposed to move until I tell him so 🙂

Now on to tackle our biggest challenge: he seems to be able to memorize an exercise/corse just by doing it once. Then I could be invisible, he would keep going because he thinks he knows what I want. I could see the weels turning in his brain. Quite amazing, but definitely he needs to understand that I am the one who decides what we are going to do next, he does not necessarily know.

We practiced one starters jumpers by Peter Mitchell, and I think we would have been ok if we had not had the dog walk  and other stuff in the field. So considering the “stuff” that crowded the arena, Krypto had a good LOP, amazing distance work, followed his line, listened. We had some issues past the chute. He turned to look at me and did not understand the “go”. Thus I need to train him to come out straight from the chute, no matter what. Then I will be able to adjust my handling/commands accordingly. But if I do not know how he is going to come out, I cannot tailor my strategy. I also need to support him more as I move away, or he tends to take shortcuts to come to me, and not do the obstacles he is supposed to do. I also need to work more on RX in pin-weels, and RX in general.

So much to do, not so much time before the trial. Thus, we will go there and have fun. No other expectations. No pressure. Sounds like a good plan.

Categories: Agility, Uncategorized

Ready, set, go!

September 23, 2011 1 comment

I am ready to go!

The boyz are happy (I hope) at Ewenique farms with Krypto’s breeder, the house is clean, the grass has been mowed, the suitcase is ready, my hand luggage is ready, now I just have to wait a few hour before heading off to the airport.

I had written a long paragraph about how it had been to leave the dogs behind, but I lost my internet connection and lost everything while trying to fix the problem…oh well…maybe I will write it tonight while heading to Europe.

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized