Friday, January 18, 2013

Dawn Weaver Seminar: Quick Bits from Masters

The other day I shared some quick take-homes from the Foundations part of Dawn Weaver's seminar that I attended a couple of weeks ago. Today I'd like to share some take-homes from the first day of the masters portion (thank you to Merinda for these notes, since I couldn't keep up with them and work LaMesa).
  • Never reward for stalling/stopping--you must reward in movement (make them do something)
  • Your signals to your dog should be natural, not trained. 
    • Trained handling will break down in the ring
  • To shape a jump, you have to go in deep
  • Don't stall your dog on turns--apply the brakes before and then accelerate (think of it like a race car--break before the curve, then accelerate into and out of)
  • On pivot turns, look where you are going next
    • Shoulders should be 45-degrees ahead of the dog
  • The closer you are to your dog, the tighter the turn he'll make
    • The farther away, the bigger the arc
  • Bigger dogs need more turn signals
  • Don't rehearse what you don't want--if you want your dog to be fast, practice with him being fast. If they're slow, stop and go on to something else to encourage speed.
And then there are the weaves... On Saturday we had a set with weaves. I didn't feel the entrance was particular hard, but I had worked both LaMesa and Dally on the weaves that morning before the seminar started and LaMesa was having issues staying in them, so I knew this would be difficult.

Sure enough, LaMesa would nail the entrance, then pop out of the weaves. And every time, I would continue to run forward some, then immediately turn around and try again. Dawn pointed out that doing this was rewarding LaMesa for coming out of the weaves because it's action and excitement. So her suggestion was to freeze as soon as she pops out of the weaves. You want to freeze for at least five seconds, look at the weaves, and wait for her to offer to go back into the weaves on her own. Once she does, say "Good girl" then re-try the weaves again.

The first few times, it took LaMesa a while to figure out why I stopped. She'd bark and bark and bark at me. Dawn said, "Let me translate for you: 'Move, dammit!'" I broke down because I was frustrated. LaMesa was reacting to me being ahead of her in the weaves (we were working on doing blind crosses for the next jump), and that's why she would pop out (yet she'll stay in them if she's ahead of me). 

I explained everything I had been doing with our "weave pole bootcamp" (weaves while I'm running beside or behind, weaves while Dally's bark and Matt's throwing a football, weaves while Dally and Matt run the opposite direction and I'm still at the end, etc.). She said all of that was great, but if she was messing up and I reacted as I had been, I was undoing everything. So now that I knew about pausing for five seconds, things will start to get easier.

Since then, I took the Stump Kids to the BFO practice field last weekend and worked on sprinting past LeMesa (and Dally) in the weaves...if she popped out (which she did a couple of times at first), I immediately stopped and faced the weaves. She got the point quickly and would go back into the weaves. Finally, towards the end of our session she'd stay in the weaves and I was able to do blind crosses with no problems (and this was in the rain, with other dogs working all around her and Stout barking)!

Needless to say the instruction with the weaves was well worth the extra money I spent to get the working spot!

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