World Championships

Scoop and I got in half a dozen sets of weaves this morning, and I will do a few more before I get in the car and head to the airport. Next weekend the Agility World Championships are being held in Rieden Germany and I will be gone 10 days starting today. I look forward to the day that Scoop and I will be traveling together to compete internationally. There is absolutely no agility challenge more incredible than being able to represent your country and your agility community in one of the various international agility competitions!

We have a great 2010 Team and you can read all about it on our US Agility Team site, http://usagilityteam.com/.

If you want to get inspired click the button and watch the show that team member Daisy Peel put together.

If you are adequately inspired, you could say thanks with your checkbook. The AKC Team takes donations all year round to cover all the extra expenses for the Team. Don’t send us any money if you haven’t yet contributed to a good human cause this year, like Haiti or Pakistan. There are so many wonderful charities and causes in this world, and if I didn’t send a bit of money here and there when I feel insipired by disasters or tragedies I could not sleep as easily at night. But if you have a little disposable money that can support OUR agility cause, and help send a team each year to Europe and at the same time help me keep my wonderful coaching job with AKC:) you could write a check to the AKC/USA World Team and mail to 10711 Crothers Road, San Jose, CA 95127. 

I hope you are thinking as many competitive thoughts and international dreams for your puppy as I am for mine.

NJG

wishing for weaves

I am still working on teaching Scoop to weave. My husband Jim  says Scoop is weave challenged and I would somewhat agree with that observation. I really want him to slalom the poles. His father Yankee double steps, his mother Taser single steps. His siblings mostly double step.  I want the maternal type of performance and I am not ready to give up the mission. There is nothing wrong with double stepping, some handlers prefer it and think it is better for the dog physically. I will have to accept that performance if Scoop is unable mentally or physically to weave the way I want.  I am just not ready to throw in the dog towel yet!

Scoop will slalom a set of 6 or 8 poles, so I have decided to do something I have never tried before. I have two sets of 6 in the yard, with about 10 feet separating the sets. They are still in a slight channel configuration, about 1.5 inches apart. Scoop will slalom those two sets and you can see a couple views of his performance here in these videos. He doubles in and out of the poles, and that could get in the way of him learning to do 12 consistently… I won’t know till this mission is complete.

For a while I tried to add just two poles at a time but once I got past 8 he would start to double again. Equipment is also an issue. I don’t know if I want to mix sets of 6 with sets of twos which I needed to do if I was doing 8’s and  10’s because of the equipment I own. My two by two’s are 22 inches and Scoop is learning on 24 inch bases. I am going to stay with the two sets of 6 until the channels are closed on both sets. Then I am going to move the sets closer and closer together. Hopefully he won’t switch back to doubling when I straighten out the poles.

Another reason I felt that I needed to stay at 6 poles was that I was also having an issue with Scoop reliably hitting entries and exits at speed. When I clicker trained 2’s and 4’s, he was reliable on entries/exits, but I did not like the slow and cumbersome footwork I got. If I added speed and he missed a gate, he would immediately slow and double step if he thought he was wrong.  More than 6 poles was just not an option when I considered all the separate issues I was having.

In three days I leave for the Agility World Championships. Till then I am going to stay the course and hopefully I can convince my husband to do a bit of training with him when I am gone. 3 or 4 sessions while I am gone should keep him remembering his footwork.

I hope your young dog likes weaving and takes to it like a duck to water, my black swan and I are swimming along:)

NJG

Scoops first competition

I entered Scoop in 3 classes at the USDAA trial in Woodland CA last weekend. He was 18 months and a few days old. I only entered gamblers, snooker and jumpers since I haven’t finished training his A-frame, weaves or teeter. The gamblers class did not have many options for jump sequences, so I decided to give the DW a try which Scoop can perform reasonably well at home. The first attempt he ran right by it, but on the second try he got on happily and even did his multiple nose touches at the end. We did a few more jumps and left when the gamblers whistle blew since I was not even considering attempting the gamble.

Snooker the next day was fun and easy. I did not try to qualify, just wanted to find a logical short course for him and luckily their were no weaves, and the frame was 7 so we just skipped that and left after the 6 combo. Jumpers was really our first attempt at a real course where he was able to do all the equipment since there are no weaves in USDAA jumpers. We had a nice run with a couple rear crosses which he accomplished easily, but in seeing the videos I think I did not execute as accurately as I would have liked. We pulled a bar after I decelerated right over the top of it, I would have liked that decel to occur while his feet were still on the ground.

Here is my first attempt at including a video in this blog, it was so easy I wonder what I was waiting for.

Scoop was a good boy, he played with his leash as we entered the ring each time, and played again at the end.  He stayed nicely at the start in jumpers and snooker. In gamblers I went back to him to reset him after he moved, then I led back out to my pivot position and he was fine. All in all it was a successful first event for an immature boy who hasn’t done much agility away from home.

I hope your first event with your puppy leaves you feeling as hopeful as I am now about your own training progress and competition future!

NJG

Momentum

Scoop and I both are working on finding ours. I need the mental momentum to keep up his training, even when I get frustrated, and Scoop needs a bit more momentum on his weaves and contacts. I missed so much training time this year, and I know I need to be patient and train my dog at his level of ability. I drift into the perception that my 18 month old dog should be be farther along than he is, and then I remember the days and months of training we skipped this year when I was gone. It is like winning the lottery. I always wish I would win the multi millions, then I remember that I don’t ever buy lottery tickets!

I love my dog. I will be patient and realistic about his training. I will train the dog I have at the moment.

My almost 10 year old border collie Panic is helping with Scoop’s momentum by going to the field with us when we train. Other than classes where I do a bit of practice with Scoop, we train totally on our own which can get a bit humdrum for both of us. I train for a few minutes, then take a break, sit in the shade and think about my next training steps. When I have Panic with us, while Scoop is taking a shade break, Panic and I get crazy playing tug, or running through tunnels.  Scoop has some down time, but comes roaring back to play after watching all Panic’s excitement with me. Don’t get me wrong, my puppy has plenty of drive, but given that I want to do so much technical training right now, I want each step to be taken while he is right at the top of his energy level and gives me all the speed and enthusiasm I can possibly get. Short latency, quick & sharp response to my cues as well as speed are all a part of his job description in agility, and the faster he does his nose touch, or weave entry the better I know he understands his job.

I am trying to balance sit-stays and/or running starts that Scoop does at the start of an exercise. When setting up to practice backchaining contacts or a specific weave entry I often use a sit stay. But instead of starting with a sit each and every time, instead I hold onto his collar till he is silly excited, then send him to a jump or tunnel to start the exercise and head him in the direction of the weaves or contact. Too many “sit-stay starts” and two things happen; Scoop’s stays get a bit sloppy, since he is always being released forward  to do something exciting, OR, I feel like I don’t have as much momentum or speed as I want when he approaches the obstacle. So I am trying to keep changing things up by balancing the high drive and the control. I am greedy. I want both!

This morning I had a great two minute weave session with Scoop, and I will go out in a few minutes to do another one. I am using 6 poles and restraining him from entering while I give him his verbal weave cue. He is pulling away from me and trying his hardest to get in those poles and get the toy which will be tossed to him at the end.

At the end of a couple minutes of weaves, Scoop wasn’t trying to pull out of my hand as hard as when we started. So I stopped with a short tug game, and put him up till I finished writing this morning.I have time for two more weave sets before I teach todays “obsession session” to a great group of agility handlers who are obsessed on training the right way and meeting all their personal goals:)

Don’t forget to be patient with you own puppy, and yourself of course!

NJG

Scoop goes to class

When Scoop was about 13 months old I started working him in some of the agility classes which I teach. At that time his drills consisted of just 2 or 3 obstacles, then stop and tug, then maybe do another obstable or two before ending his shortened version of the class drill. When he was much younger it was impossible to have him with me when I taught class. He screamed and barked and was generally obnoxious unless I was shoveling cheese in his mouth. He looks pretty grown up now while he sits quietly in his soft cage with the door open waiting for his turn.

I usually get him out to play multiple times while students are walking exercises and then pop him back in his cage again to wait for his short turn. At one end of our agility field we have a big metal cage that came from a laboratory, I always imagine monkeys were housed it in at one time, but now it is Scoop’s home away from home.

I have always worked my dogs in classes which I teach here at power paws. Since I often have limited time to train on my own, this is my solution to getting in the extra practice time. Also, my dogs are probably just like everyone elses in that during a quiet practice time here in the yard, they make few mistakes and I don’t push myself to really run hard in each drill. In classes my dogs start lines, contacts, and level of attention gets proofed all the time.

Scoop can do almost all the jumping drills now with any level of class. He is not on straight line weaves yet, but if there are weaves in the exercise I ask him to enter and he often does find the entry and do the first 6 in a straight line without too much problem. Beyond that he will often just skip out of the poles and I just go on as if he did them all correctly. I hope his weaves are perfected soon, but for now they are still a working project. I haven’t counted the days of consistent weave training with him, but I do know he is taking longer than the couple weeks that my dogs normally take to perfect the poles. Maybe it is all that leg he’s got, or that he just doesn’t want them bad enough, but whatever the reason, he is still not consistent in his footwork. I am rethinking about how soon I will get to show Scoop in a trial. I could do AKC with 6 poles in novice jumpers, or USDAA jumpers with no weaves, but that doesn’t sound like as much fun as sending in a complete entry will be, so I may just wait till his weaves and contacts are all done.

I got a new photo app for my iphone called Hipstamatic. Last weekend at the USDAA trial I shot this pic which looks “aged”. He sure looks sweet here. Hope you are having lots of success training your puppy, but more importantly, I hope you are having fun!  NJG