Collecting a lot of training thoughts

Posted: January 12, 2014 in agility foundations, agility trial, jumping, running contacts, USDAA, weave poles
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t updated this blog in quite a while. Some of that is because being a mom is a pretty busy experience and work has been busy, but a bigger part of it because I’ve experienced a lot of frustrations in Jagger’s training and I needed some space to just be and train, without video and without overanalyzing it.

We spent an entire summer trying to get better striding on the dogwalk, but as soon as I raised it a couple of inches, that striding was gone. I also don’t think he has any understanding of this importance of the contact area. I think he just runs, and I see no consistent effort at all to make stride adjustments. We have good sessions, we have bad sessions, but **overall** we don’t get much better than 50% success rate. Chance? This is extremely frustrating. One thing I have learned is that Jagger is actually quite smart, and if he’s not making any progress it’s because I need to find a different way to explain things to him. So, I’m going back to the beginning and working on teaching him to foot target a contact zone-like object. We’ll see where this takes us, but I am also seriously contemplating teaching him a stopped contact as I’m not sure I have it in me to also teach him turns after spending all this time on just straight exits.

I haven’t videoed running contact practice in a long time as it was just too upsetting to have to review footage of bad sessions later. Here is the last video I took, and no it’s not bad at all but my worry is we have been doing this for so long, and just not getting any significantly better success rate. I am positive that part of the problem is my clicker timing and my clicker ability. I do the best I can, but my timing doesn’t seem to be accurate enough; I think the click happens when he’s well past the contact area so what am I really marking? No wonder Jagger doesn’t understand.

Jagger is not really understanding some pretty fundamental handling cues, and we have gone back to basics on positional and motion cues. I’m sure a large part of this is my inexperience being only on my second agility dog and learning how to run & train a very fast dog. The good news is I think we are on the right track and I’ve got some excellent resources of experienced instructors right here in my home state.

We went to our first couple of USDAA trials back in the fall, just to get some ring experience and give Jagger some practice at managing his excitement level in the “big boy” ring. He was SO incredibly happy to get to play, it was really sweet.

Since then, we did one day at a CPE trial a few weeks ago, and two days at a big USDAA show here in Raleigh this past weekend. He’s gotten much better, and I like to think I am getting better, too. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get video at either trial. Here are the things that really have improved that I saw this past weekend:

  • Start lines: Jagger held them ALL!
  • Teeter: Jagger got right on every teeter, didn’t fly off, and held his 2o2o!
  • Dogwalk: None successful, but he was very sticky and needed management for the entry which put me behind on every single one. However, he did each dogwalk I asked in a brand new place without leaping off it like it was lava as he did at his first couple of trials. And, at the CPE trial he did have one *beautiful* dogwalk hit that was two feet in, nice and deep.
  • Table: All that start line work appears to have transferred nicely to his table. He did one perfectly with an auto-down and let me get a lead out. The other we had to reset, but he got right back on and downed and held it for a reaaaaallly slow 5-count.
  • Reading lines: He did *some* of this. There were moments of beauty.
  • Rear crosses: Not so good at this trial, but at the CPE trial we had a jumpers run where I felt like our handling really started to click, including him actually reading rear crosses and not just getting confused, outrunning the jump, and getting stuck in handler focus.

Here are the main things I see for our training list:

  • Dogwalk: Wow, yeah. See above. I am not sure where this journey is ultimately going to take us, but it is clear that I need to do something differently.
  • A-frame: He’s stopped being willing to add in an extra stride when necessary on the down ramp (unsurprisingly enough, this is the same problem we have with the dogwalk) so we will have to revisit this obstacle as well. He also ran past it like it was possessed by some evil sorcery and I had to re-start him each time. This didn’t exactly help our striding. His A-frames have been good in practice when I am ahead. Turns are going to be an issue, though, if he won’t add that stride.
  • Handler focus: This dog can be really, really sticky. It’s even worse at trials when the adrenaline is up and just a hot mess when he’s tired and his brain is fried. A friend observed that Jagger might be so focused on job 8 or 9 that he’s not paying attention to completing job one. I think this is pretty accurate. I really want to give Jagger more information and earlier on the course. It is really hard to do this when I can’t trust him to finish completing the previous obstacle. He’s very quick to pull off jumps and come with me (typical baby dog) and he damn near killed me by cutting me off while I was at a dead run to make sure I was far enough ahead execute a recall push in one of our Jumpers courses (needless to say, this dog doesn’t push well). Our last two runs of the trial, he shot off in the wrong direction and would NOT come in to heel so I could reset him. He just faced me in a crouch and kind of spazzed out. Imagine this conversation:
    • ME: Come here and I will show you.
    • Me: Dude, I need to point you in the right direction first.
    • Me: …
  • Jump bars: I know he can keep them up. He doesn’t drop that many in practice anymore. He just can’t always think about what I’m doing, what he should be doing AND keep the bars up. Ah, young boy dogs. We have a good plan to keep revisiting our jumping and handling foundations, and I think this will help his jumping a LOT. Over time it’ll become more second nature to him. Right now he’s still learning the language, and I am learning to speak it 3 times as fast.
  • Collection: This is related to the jumping and handling foundation above, and it’s also applicable to weave entries which we still struggle with. Jagger thinks collection is for chumps, and he ain’t no chump. He still uses his face as a brake on occasion to get into the weave poles rather than collect. Ugh.
  • Tire jump: I am happy Jagger did this correctly *once* during the weekend, but he also ran under it not bothering to duck and broke it open with his head. Going to get one for the house asap so we can practice.
  • I’m sure there are some things that I’m forgetting, but this feels like more than enough!

Well, trialing is above all to test your training. We’ve certainly got a good list. One great piece of news is that Jagger hasn’t injured himself enough to require rest in quite a while. I think all our conditioning work has paid off.


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