Archive for the ‘weave poles’ Category

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.


“… so I have.” – Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride

I’ve signed up for another round of Silvia Trkman’s most excellent Agility Foundations class. As preparation, I made a short video of how we are coming along with the early exercises:

I also revisited a sequence we worked on last summer, and it wasn’t so pretty.

I officially never want to see this sequence again, and I have definitely over-worked it. I will spend the next couple of weeks working on shorter, 3-4 obstacle sequences that don’t have so many tight turns.

I most look forward to her advice on how to proceed with weave pole training, because stuff like this keeps happening:

Jagger with fur scraped off his face :(

“That did NOT leave a mark. I totally meant to do that!”

Princess Bride reference source 😀

Only I don’t ride him like a horse. At any rate, with the move and the new baby, my training time has been pretty limited. My new house’s back yard is in that “has to get worse before it gets better stage” of being completely unusable as a training space until we stop getting torrential rain for several weeks and my landscaper can finish grading it to fix the drainage. Apparently North Carolina has decided to have a monsoon season this year, so it may well be May or June before this work gets done. The good news is that the trees are cleared and the debris is removed, and the fence installation got started before we were once again deluged by rain. I was able to do a little training with Jagger before the trees came down and the yard really got torn up:

Jagger’s slamming the weave poles pretty badly, so we are going to have to back up a few steps and work on that when I have a regular training space again. I’ve been trying to work on his running dogwalk once a week when I can get out to a training field. It’s not ideal, but after some messing around and refreshing both our memories I was able to get to the exciting milestone of seeing his first hits on the full height dogwalk:

It’s very inconsistent, however, and Jagger really wants to switch to four strides as soon as possible (good! faster!) but he’s not extending enough and comes up short on the contact (not so good!):

So I am back to working on no-speed approaches and Get The Contact Game as here in our last session:

I was pretty happy with how this session went; I think I’ve found a good spot to work on back at the first apex where I can keep working on helping Jagger understand not to leave the downramp early. I am seeing some funky striding going on at times, and am not totally sure what’s going on with that. Maybe he is just trying to figure things out, too. I have been jackpotting every attempt that is in the contact zone at all and have rear foot separation. I just wish we had more time to practice! Hopefully by late summer my yard will be useable again, and better than ever.

Work continues on Get the Contact Game – the videos contain the commentary this time. I very much feel that I’m fumbling a bit and figuring this all out as I go along, but Jagger is a very good sport and I’m lucky in that.

I’ve also been working Jagger on channel weaves. The two videos below are of his second and third sessions on the channels with a thrown toy. I had been using a static toy, but I didn’t like the result I was getting in terms of lack of drive through the poles and understanding what was being rewarded (hitting the entry). Thrown toy is much more exciting! We are working entries right now; the channel is fully open. From past experience with Copper, I find there is absolutely no rush to close the channel, because at some point you are just going to have to open it back up to teach entries anyway. Plus, Jagger is just 13 months old this week and still too young in my opinion to be doing “real” weaving.

Finally, I have a bunch of videos to share of Jagger and I working on a new sequence for wraps and handling. We are hard at work breaking the pieces of this sequence down, working on my timing, and making sure Jagger learns to turn nice & tightly around the jumps. There was one session in there of work on the landing side turn at 2 which was giving us so much trouble that I did not film.

And I always like to share a comparison of Copper versus Jagger running the same sequence:

I find it interesting to see how differently my two dogs run.  Being the trained agility dog, Copper killed this sequence on our second try (after I remembered I can’t send him like Jagger and need to run to every obstacle because his commitment point is much closer). Jagger, as I mentioned above, had to have a lot of background work before we could put it all together, and I still don’t have the bars up all the way. But wow, he’s fast! It’s going to be a wild ride when we start running longer sequences – I can’t wait!