Posts Tagged ‘agility foundations’

Jagger and I did a couple more trials, both AKC and USDAA over the rest of the winter. I only got video of his AKC debut:

Yes, lots to work on still. We did another USDAA trial a few weeks after that, and I am very proud to say he held ALL his stays. We are currently working on the outrunning the jumps issue. Our problems still come down to Jagger learning to manage his excitement (JILITIES!). We continue to make progress, but we are still chipping away at a lot of the same issues. For example –

Exhibit A:

Who uses his face as a brake on the weave pole? This guy.

Who uses his face as a brake on the weave pole? This guy.

Exhibit B:

Who tics the bars so much he leaves mud trails? THIS GUY!

Who tics the bars so much he leaves mud trails? THIS GUY!

Exhibit C:

Who needs his very own breakaway tire so he can learn to jump through the aperture instead of literally through the tire? You'll never guess. Hint: It's not the yellow dog.

Who needs his very own breakaway tire so he can learn to jump through the aperture instead of literally through the tire? You’ll never guess. Hint: It’s not the yellow dog.

I do have days where I get discouraged that we aren’t further along in terms of being ring-ready. In that case, I buy more collars to make myself feel better. Here’s our nifty new tug leash combo:

Safety orange for Mister "Safety Third"

Safety orange for Mister “Safety Third”

In addition to the challenges of training a very high drive, fast dog for the first time, North Carolina weather never disappoints. All four seasons in the same week makes my yard a mud pit and cancels classes, seminars, and private lessons we had planned left and right from December through February. Sigh. Hoping for a better spring, soon.


"Speak for yourself. Snowjility now, human."

“Speak for yourself. Snowjility now, human.”


I haven’t done a blog update in a while, but I am pleased to say that for once this is because Jagger and I have been busy training! We have been (mostly) injury free, weather has been tolerable, and there is enough grass in the yard to practice agility most days if we haven’t gotten heavy rain.

I’ve got a pretty long training list, but my focus with Jagger has been on:

  • startline stay
  • proofing 2o2o for teeter
  • thoughtful jumping effort and striding
  • weave poles (the BANE of my agility existence)
  • running dogwalk
Jagger lying on the carpet

That’s a long list, little buddy. You’re lucky you’re handsome.

Jagger’s main issue with jumping is that he’s in a huge damn hurry. That’s kind of a high class problem, I know, I know. He’s all about getting from point A to B as quickly as possible, and as all geometry students and border collies know, the shortest (and thus fastest) path between two points is a line. A line through the jump bar. Jagger is able to do a regularly spaced jump grid with no problem. However, when you add the speed component of a more agility course-like setup, he feels the wind in his fur, the adrenaline starts going, he does a line of coke off the first bar as he creeps up on his start line and the next thing you know we have bars and jump standards down all over the place. Jagger also likes to run around jumps, which is a typical baby dog thing to do, but again, it’s so much faster! Mayhem, I tell you. Instead of more grid work, we did these types of irregularly spaced circular grids with a tunnel for speed:

jumps in a circle with eager border collie

I’m told speed circles are kind of old school. Jagger says he can be retro.

Here’s our summer training all summarized in a fun little video I made, complete with running dogwalk montage:

And here’s the obligatory mass download of all the running contact video in case you are a) a true RC nerd/afficionado b) in Silvia Trkman’s online RC class again like me or c) have been struck by a sudden, uncontrollable urge to watch border collies running in slow motion to combine your love of Baywatch reruns and dog agility.

There always seems to be a lot of discussion surrounding running contacts regarding how to decide whether or not you “should” train them. There’s somehow the implication that you “can’t” train running contacts unless you’ve completed a checklist that says you “should.” Personally, I have always thought that there’s nothing particularly special about them and that you don’t need a reason to train them other than that you like them. They are a labor of love, they take a long time, and you need to love them to go out and train them. Case in point, here’s what our dogwalk training looked like for the month of March:

I only train them 2 or 3 times a week, and I don’t tape every session, but this is a pretty good idea of what things look like. I probably spend 10-20 min total per session which includes warm up & cool down with plenty of time to play tug and rest in between efforts.

“… 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.

I’m feeling much better about our contact game progress. Jagger has gotten much more comfortable being up on the horizontal plank of the dogwalk and has been clowning around quite a bit during training:

He makes me smile.

The hits from starting spots on the down ramp are looking much better. We are currently working on some tricky spots we found on the horizontal plank and also working on improving consistency across all spots up there. I still throw in some turn & go starts rather than starts from restraint when Jag starts feeling a bit tense to me. Not sure if it’s excitement or stress, but either way getting a little break from my fussing over his start spot too much seems to help him relax. Overall, I’m really pleased with how he’s doing. We certainly have a lot of work to do, but I am really excited that I am now seeing Jagger experimenting with adjusting his stride on these GTCG drills.

We also did our first attempts at an extension/collection drill… it was ugly! We started with our current cik/cap training height of the bars set at 14 inches, and after more time than I would have liked (sorry, Jagger) I did finally realize that there were just too many elements for Jagger to handle right from the get-go. He was having a hard time both collecting and organizing his jumping effort at the same time. He also continues to have some confusion about what exactly that outside arm turning cue means. After I put the bars on the ground, I did try adjust my cues some to give him more on an inside arm forward cue; we’ll have to work on that some more. I’ll be really glad when I can work this drill and not be 8 months pregnant.

Slow-motion version of the above video, cut down to a few key examples. I think it’s easier to see how Jagger’s having a hard time slowing down and also getting his weight back to jump, which results in bars coming down, turning wide, or him adding that funny extra little stride.

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!