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Posts Tagged ‘Agility’

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: , ,

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: ,

Tuesday at Red Gate Arena

November 6, 2012 1 comment

Winter is upon us, Dogz has closed for the Fall/Winter months, and Pongo, Krypto and I are back to training at one of our favourite places, Red Gate Arena.

Considering that next week-end Krypto and I will be busy at Dream Fields, today was our last chance to train before the trial. And Pongo tagged along for some well deserved chuck-it sessions.

To get ready for the trial, we practiced many of the skills we will need, and we also repeated some sequences that caused us issues at Friday’s trial.

Table

Although we just got in Advanced, I am so hoping we will get out of it really quickly, because the table is still one of our weak points. Sure, Krypto will go to it, and even lie down on it, but he will keep his left elbow 1/4 of an inch detached from the table surface. Now, if he had long fur that would be no problem, a judge would hardly notice. But he is a smooth coated border collie, and has no fur to conceal that! We worked hard on this obstacle, and Krypto was doing relatively well by the end of the day, but I still keep my fingers crossed for the trial.

From table to weave poles

What can I say, he was just perfect.

A-frame

Today Krypto had the A-frame performance I have been hoping for in the past year or so. Fast, no creeping down, perfect 2 on 2 off position. I could then send him to the tunnel in front of him or to the jump farther and slightly on the right, something that did not happen on Friday during our snooker run. He did not stop at the bottom of the A-frame, and went to the tunnel instead of listening to me and going to the red jump.

Chute

This was quite a cool thing to do. I started sending him to the chute from different positions (clock). The coolest was when I sent him from past the exit of the chute to it. Krypto nailed it! I would think that he knows what the chute is, and he understands that he has to seek the entry out if I tell him “chute”.

A-frame – tunnel discrimination

Well, this is a work in progress. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. And it all depends on Krypto’s level of arousal and thus on whether he is listening or just doing stuff.

And, dulcis in fundo:

Directionals

As I said before for the discriminations, if and when Krypto pays attention, he does know left and right. We are not at the point where he takes a jump then turns either left or right to do another jump. Today I added another jump straight  ahead and used also the “go” command as well. So far so good, but I am not sure this would work at a trial, when he is far more excited than in training. I would still think the directionals are a work in progress.

Other things we practiced were:

-180

-treadles

-rear crosses

-lead outs

Are we ready?

I am afraid that no, we still aren’t ready. We still struggle with the new level of complexity that Advanced and Masters have brought in. While it is relatively simple for Krypto to “go”, follow his lines, we still do not have much experience in tighter courses, where he needs to come off a line to of a pin wheel, for example. And while he can turn on a dime, and he is eager to follow my lead, it is my lead that at times is faltering…my timing is often off, and timing for our team is everything…

Categories: Agility Tags: