Thursday, January 31, 2013

Honky Tonk Dally in Nashville

This past weekend, the Stump Kids and I travelled with our friends in the Small Dog Posse (including Stout and Porter) to Franklin, Tenn., for two days with the Nashville Dog Training Club. I always look forward to this trial because it's the start of the year, and usually the first trial in a long time. Our last AKC agility trail was in mid-November (though we did do one day at a CPE trial and one day at a NADAC trial in December), so it's been a while. Add on top of that the suspense of wanting to see how much LaMesa and I have learned together since our "weave pole bootcamp" and the Dawn Weaver Seminar (I still have to post the videos, sorry!), and I was itchin to get down there!

First we'll cover Dally's weekend. Let's just say we didn't start off the year as hot as we ended 2012. In Standard I told her "tunnel" once for the chute, saw her look at it and I moved on...and so did she. I should have supported it more. But then we bounced back in Jumpers with a 14 point run and 5th place (there were more than 10 dogs in 4-inches this weekend!), so that was nice.

On Sunday, the end of Standard had a 4-jump serpentine--Dally loves serpentines! I was able to get in a blind cross between the first and second jump (go me!), but then I think Dally took the middle jumps a little too close and she came down on a bar. It was a decent time, considering we seemed to have some communication problems. (You can hear me calling for her to get her attention to go towards the correct obstacles in the video.)

Then in Jumpers, I had her revved up and ready to go at the tunnel. She came out of the tunnel winking at me--she must have gotten some dirt in her eye because she spent the first half of the course with one eye open, trying to blink out whatever it was. I was waiting for her to just give up (and I admit I was close to stopping and trying to clean out her eye), but once she got to the weaves, she seemed to be back to normal and turned on the speed! We Qd with 4 points, but I was proud of her for not giving up and sticking without me through the course (a couple of years ago, she would have done just that).

I came away from this trial a little concerned about my and Dally's partnership. We weren't clicking like normal, and she wasn't running with the gusto that we had been seeing the last part of last year. I'm hoping we're just a little rusty, and with some more practice and a couple of trials under our belts we'll be back to normal. I just hope we get our spark back by Nationals!

LaMesa's exciting update coming up next...

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!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Dawn Weaver Seminar: Quick Bits from Foundations

Last week I told you I was lucky enough to attend the Dawn Weaver seminar at Flying Feet. And now I'm finally able to share a few key points I've taken away from the seminar. Today I'll cover the Foundations Seminar and then do the first day of the Masters Seminar in a post later this week.

(Sorry no videos, yet...I still have to get the husband to work on them with me).

(Special thanks to Merinda for letting me have a copy of her notes. I was able to take good notes during day one, but day two I couldn't keep up while working LaMesa!)

From the Foundations Seminar:

  • Let your dog dictate your handling--no handling systems!
  • Show mostly green lights for maximum speed.
  • Reward after obstacles--creates drive to each obstacle because they think it may be rewarded.
  • Shoulders cue the turn, but your feet show direction for the current obstacle (your shoulders show the next obstacle)
  • Don't go into the obstacle close only to run away from it--fade laterally once the dog passes you (I'm guilty of this!)
  • Too much franticness and/or high-pitch cheerleading can cause your dog to offer calming signals, such as slowing down. (How many times have you seen someone yelling in a high pitch, cheering their trotting dog along, and you think the dog is getting slower? This totally makes sense!)
  • Teach agility as a series of tricks and games--make it fun for you and your dog and build that relationship.
Even if you are an experienced agility handler, you still could take away some valuable points from the Foundations Seminar. And the beginners were able to soak up so much information to start towards the experience of years of agility.

Stay tuned for more from the Masters Seminar...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Stump Kids Attend a Clinic

This weekend the Stump Kids and I traveled with Merinda and Stout to Floyds Knobbs, Ind., for a seminar with Dawn Weaver at Flying Feet Agility. It was so awesome!!

I originally signed up for a working spot only in the Foundations Seminar on Friday, and then auditing the first day of the Masters Seminar on Saturday. This opportunity was given to me as a birthday present from my parents, and I was so excited. Then on Friday they mentioned that there was a couple open working spots for the Masters, so I jumped at the chance and paid the extra amount to work with LaMesa on Saturday.

I am so glad I did--I learned so much!!

First of all, let me just thank Trisha, who owns Flying Feet, for having this seminar at her place. It's a great indoor facility located in her backyard. The footing is rubber matting like the flooring at Queen City, which my girls love. If you have the opportunity to attend classes, seminars, or a show at Flying Feet, you should jump at it.

Merinda and I videoed eachother working with Dawn, so I hope to have those videos to post here soon. I did pretty well taking notes on Friday, but for the Masters session, it was hard for me to keep up and watch everyone and work LaMesa, so I'll have to wait for Merinda to make copies of her (in-depth) notes.

Here's a little information about Dawn from her website:

Dawn began her career as a veterinary nurse, moved onto dog training and dog grooming and now teaches agility full-time. She takes seminars both nationally and internationally, having taught extensively in the USA, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden to name but a few. She has also written an agility training manual entitled Knowledge Equals Speed which has been printed both in the UK and the USA. 

Dawn handles differently to most in that she believes that handlers should be using the dog's handling system rather than a set system designed by a person for the dog to learn. Surely using their preferred natural way of being directed is better than enforcing an unnatural system upon them. So if Dawn's dog goes the 'wrong' way then she learns from it and asks herself how she just directed her dog in that direction rather than just blaming the dog for a 'mistake'. 

She believes that a dog gives you unconditional love which never varies no matter how many handling mistakes you have just made in the ring! This should be a two-way street and if her dog makes a mistake in the ring, or in training, her love is equally unconditional and her treatment of him does not change. 

Using this natural handling has resulted in her dogs achieving some major accomplishments as follows:  

  • Chelsea is the only dog to have won Olympia 4 times; 
  • Puzzle is the only Papillon ever to have become an Agility Champion in the UK; 
  • Promise has won the major final the Crufts Singles; 
  • Breezer has won the main Crufts Agility Championship which made her an Agility Champion; 
  • Freeway, Minky, Chelsea and Puzzle have all won Gold Medals for their country at World Championship level; 
  • Chelsea, Puzzle and Breezer are all Agility Champions with Chelsea holding 15 Championship Tickets.
The thing I really liked about Dawn is that she doesn't work with a handling system--she believes in doing what works for your dog, because not every dog fits into a mold. Which is perfect, because I know Dally doesn't fit into a mold and LaMesa is definitely not fitting into any mold at this moment. 

I definitely recommend looking into any of her seminars if she's in your area. 

I'll post more about the seminar later this week.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Weaves in the Snow on the Farm

A couple of weeks ago the Stump Kids made the trek to Grammie and Grandpie's house for the Christmas holiday. But just because we're here for holiday celebrations doesn't mean time off from weave pole training, right?

I'm lucky in that my dad keeps the equipment trailer for the Hoosier Kennel Club's agility equipment on our farm, which means when I'm home I can pull out things like jumps and weave poles (contact equipment--there's no way, but jumps and weaves, yes) and work the dogs on the farm. So, that's what we did--dad helped me pull out the weave poles and we set them up in the middle of the barn yard, with the horses out in their fields, snow on the ground, and my sister's dogs barking next door. For LaMesa the barn yard usually means running around, having fun, barking at the horses and chasing the barn cats, so I figured this would be a great way to train for distractions, plus to train on different weave poles.

LaMesa did struggle a little with a few things--I think the poles aren't spaced exactly at 24" like the weaves she's used to, because you could see her rhythm get knocked out of whack when she'd get going. But, I was proud of her for really concentrating and trying to do all 12.

At one point dad pulled out part of a set to add three more poles because he felt that it would help her with finishing her weaves to do more than 12, which I agree is a good theory. However where the base was set was on uneven ground, so when she would hit the base, it would rock to one side and she had a hard time staying in. I'd watch her try and try--you could see her body bending to try to make that one pole, but when it moves on her at the last second, she missed the last pole. No worries--I removed that last set of three and had her try just the 12 (rather than 15) and she was just fine.

Here are a few videos of her dad was learning how to record video on a IPhone for the first time, so don't mind any of the rocky views.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3