Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Kiln Trial October 25-28, 2012

MAXIE: 8 runs, 4 Q’s, 1 QQ, 1 1st place, 2 2nd place, 1 3rd place, 44 MACH POINTS, 7 videos
LUCKY LUCY: 8 runs, 2 Q’s, 1 QQ, 2 4th places, 12 MACH points, 8 videos

MILESTONES:  Lucky’s 1st QQ.  Maxie’s 10th QQ., 1st 4 day trial this year.

A rare 4 day trial for us, I usually only do 2 or 3 days and hang around the last day to rest, pack, watch and visit.  But I felt up to this one being as it’s only 2 hours from home, my motor home is cozy, parking is close to the arena, October weather is generally cool and pleasant, the Kiln arena less intimidating with only 1 ring going at a time, the hosting club is very friendly, and I wanted to give myself enough cushion to meet my 2012 goals.  I figured I could sit out a few runs if I felt too tired or stressed out.  I made it through all 16 runs but came home exhausted.

Left out at 1 p.m. on Wednesday with a stop in Slidell to visit my Dad’s gravesite and take pictures that can help Mom and me choose some permanent grave markers.  The gravesite was still dirt from Dad’s recent burial, but there were fresh flowers.  Found out Thursday when my Mother called me (8 times before I checked my phone) that my brother Londo is visiting New Orleans from Tampa and put them there.  Also discovered he had reported a poor site condition to Mom by phone, which upset her, so she had just called Forrest Lawn and ordered the slabs herself, sight unseen.  Having originally assigned that job to me, I had visited to assess the situation envisioned how to make the area special, and now my efforts were trashed.  I could have let that bother me, but instead decided to set it out of my mind until the trial was over.  I had a few other opportunities to practice my mental game over the weekend, too (more on that later).

From a balmy 75 degrees to start, the weather turned cold and windy late Friday evening, down in the 40’s.  The rest of the weekend was spent inside the motor home unless I was bringing Maxie or Lucky into the ring to run. The door was hard to open in the strong wind.  My windows and fence whistled constantly. But it was my first time using the heater, and it works great.  The dust was awful, grit in the mouth, eyes, and nostrils, especially on Sunday.  The open air arena was like a wind tunnel, bits of weed fluff flying everywhere, very distracting to the dogs.  You'll see in the video below, Maxie left the weaves at one point to follow a little white tuft of something blowing across his path.  Still poor at my mental game, I was horrified and did something I never do.  I put him through the weaves again.  At least he succeeded the second time but I skewed our course time averages.  Which is better?  Still not sure.

Lucky does not like posing for pictures!
Her 1st QQ ribbon (purple) is quite a prize.
Two white rosettes are her 4th place wins.
Jumpers with 4.45 seconds to spare, Standard
with 8 seconds under SCT.  Yahoo!
LUCKY LUCY:  I attribute Lucky’s QQ on Saturday (after 4 NQ’s on Thurs and Fri.) to cold weather and her never once being crated in the arena.  She stayed “home” until her time to run.  I didn’t bribe her with treats, tugging, ball throwing or anything.  We ran into the ring, did our run, and then afterwards I ran out with her, tossing her pieces of fried chicken, which she loved, we visited a few folks, lots of praise and pats, then back to the motor home.  Also, I was jumping her at 24” this weekend as an experiment, to see if it increased her enthusiasm, and also because she jumps higher than that even at 20”, and 24” gives her an extra few seconds of course time.  Of course somebody complained about me jumping her so high.  No matter. It gave her just the edge of time she needed for those 2 QQ’s.  I was thrilled to hear people cheer for her when she Q’d in Jumpers – her first since obtaining her AXJ Title in Kiln a whole year ago.  By comparison, she leaves this trial with 8 Q’s in Standard, so we could possibly get her MX Title in Lake Charles next month.  Only 2 Q’s to go for that title -- but only 3 chances unless I go to Pensacola over Christmas.

Maxie posing at home with his QQ ribbon
and his 4 clean runs, all with placement
ribbons - Blue = 1st place, Red = 2nd place,
Yellow = 3rd place.
MAXIE: Maxie is running a bit slower.  Don’t know why.  Maybe the dust and wind, as he was shivering in my arms at times. Also, the videos show Max certainly isn't chasing me like the famous pair, Tigger and Robin. If anything, we are running along side-by- side and I am setting the pace.  If I ran faster, would he? He popped out of the weaves 3 times. But he is crazy for his turn, and barks his head off in complaint when I head towards crate or RV.  He likes being in the thick of things, hanging with me.  And he Q'd 4 out of 8 runs, all with placement, and his 10th QQ.

MENTAL GAME:  I had to put my big girl panties on once again on Saturday when, just as I was about to enter the Jumpers ring with Maxie, a very self-confident clubmate/former instructor comes up and grabs me by both shoulders, looks me in the eye, shakes her finger in my face and  chews me out for not taking Lucky “immediately to her crate for a huge jackpot” after her first successful run.  My mental game went all to hell and Maxie knew it.  We had our worst run of the weekend-- 5 seconds over course time, missed weaves, 2 refusals.  I have to work on recovering from such shocks in 30, no 10, no 5 seconds flat!  Instead I entered the ring thinking that gal has some nerve chastizing me to encourage my dog while she discourages me!  I should have told her “How dare you accost me just as I’m going into the ring!”, and been done with it.  But I don’t think that fast, my mouth doesn’t open that quickly, and my confusion turns to resentment slowly.  I surmise that comes from being brought up in a household where the children could never speak their mind for fear of father’s wrath.  We learned to zip our lips. Sometimes this serves me well, other times not so much.

WILLOW: Of course she tagged along.  She has become noticeably more self confident lately, jealous for her pet/cuddle time, even looking to be included on training sessions at home.  She usually just tolerates Pepper's playfulness like a Mamma dog, but doesn't react or participate.  Here’s a short string of video snippets of her engaging in a rare bit of play in our RV yard, which also shows the fierce wind we experienced in Kiln.  All chairs and tables were laid down most of the weekend so as not to blow over.

PEPPER: Pepper is enthusiastic and shows no fear of anything.  He became “observant and tentative”, though, when I brought him to sit in the aisle between rings with all the feet tromping by and dogs barking, but he wasn’t cowering.  In the field, on a 16” retractable leash, he romped and froliced like a colt.  He tries to pee on everything and pulls hard on his leash!  He can get tangled up in that leash within 5 seconds of tearing around, and his constant rear crossing makes it hard to walk all 4 dogs at once.  The leashes are constantly tangled.  I had forgotten to appreciate how well the other dogs have learned to walk on leash together.

Portia and the 4 dogs hang out before breakfast.
VISITORS:  Laura and Portia came Friday night for the Pumpkin Carving and stayed Saturday thru about 2 p.m.  Good thing, because Laura was able to bring me several items from home. While it was fun, there were issues with food, phone cords, game boys, socks and such forth left out where the dogs could get them, not enough warm clothing, clashing schedules, a child needing tending, TV on after my bedtime, blocked passageways in my narrow motor home, who gets to sleep with which dogs, etc.  Just the nature of having company, I find once again that I really need my privacy at trials.  As they hadn’t packed clothes for cold weather and the arena was freezing, Portia didn’t see any agility runs anyway and Laura only saw one of mine.  Of course it was one of Maxie’s worst!  My sister-in-law and niece, Carolyn and Heather, showed up Sunday afternoon, just in time to see Maxie’s last run of the weekend, another NQ and no video to study to see what went wrong.  It was too cold for them in the arena as well, so after a brief tour of my RV, they also left.

The lucky Q pumpkin.
The RV’ers:
There were 19 RV’s in the park, about 10 more than my first Kiln trial with my pop up camper 2 years ago.  Our regional group of agility RV’ers is clearly growing! They did the Pumpkin Carving party on Friday night, which was fun and the Q pumpkin could be rubbed all weekend for good luck, but they called off the “Whine & Cheesy” party Saturday night. Just too cold, too windy, and everyone too tired. I had made a double batch of chili, again, and again it was not eaten.  John and I will be eating chili for awhile!

OUR CLUB:  There were at least 20 competitors from our Baton Rouge club at this trial.  I know 'cause Thursday morning early I counted the envelopes containing our badge numbers!

VIDEOS:  Several different people took my videos, all with different styles and ideas on how to do this.  One cut my head off, another got me but lost Maxie, another never zoomed in so Maxie is an invisible speck half the time, another zoomed in so much we were both lost, some tried to film the time clock at the end and never found it (I recommend the videographer just announce the time).  Most never documented the date, time or place.  Maxie's last run is missing. I despair of getting consistently good videos.  Such as they are, I uploaded a composite of Maxie's runs to YouTube, with commentary.


One thing Maxie's videos brought to light this time, you can't accurately calculate your dog's average YPS if you include the time it takes to put them through the weaves again. If I want to track whether my dog is really running faster or slower this year than last, this month than last, I either gotta keep moving forward, or I have to subtract the repeat time in my records.  It does help me to see that Maxie's average time has decreased from around 3.5 YPS last year to around 3 YPS this year.   Why is he slowing down?

Also, if 8 runs have roughly 20 obstacles each, that's 160 obstacles taken over the weekend. With Maxie's 6 faults, that's a 96% accuracy rate.  It helps me to count our success this way, not just in Q's.

Lucky:  4 of 8 of Lucky's runs were clean, but all but the 2 Q's were at least 5 seconds over course time.  Only 2 Q's, which thankfully happened on the same day, resulting in her first QQ in a year's worth of trying, and her first Q in XJ in a year. Rather than bore myself with reviewing her ongoing lackluster performances, I choose to just focus on her 2 wins. 

What is clearest to me about them is
  1. She has no trouble jumping 24"
  2. Her wins were a result of her speeding up, rather than barely walking, thru the weaves.  The future has to be all about those weaves.
  3. She does not like being crated up all day.  It makes her sad, bored, stressed -- some combination of those things.  She ran fastest and clean when going straight from the RV to the ring.
It truly breaks my heart that dog fanciers can't see her as I do -- a magnificent athelete chasing squirrel, armidillo, possum, birds, with tail up, nose up, cutting corners on a dime, explosive speed, total focus, indomitable will, fearless.  Yet totally domesticated, cuddly in bed, a soft mouth that never nips, loving eyes, total devotion and willingness to please, quick to learn, etc.  Over and over people ask me her breed.  I say "Yes she is a breed, she's a "Southern Black Mouth Cur".  And I often hear, well, if she wasn't a breed, she should be, she is so beautiful (great face markings, build, coat . . . . etc.)

I used my new Logitech H530 headset/microphone (from Office Depot and highly recommended by a professional audio tech person), and am pleased with the results. No more cutting out, volume easier to adjust.  I was also pleased with the price, recently reduced from $50 to $30!

Only problem I had is while the LED guage said my black water tank was only 1/3 full (and I emptied it recently, too), still, when flushing the toilet I see water and paper just under the valve.  Something is wrong.  Rather than use it any more, I decided to treat it as a port-a-pottie.  I lined the bowl with a kitchen trash bag stretched over the toilet bowl, put the seat down over that, and in the morning I stuff the bag and contents into a gallon zip lock and throw it out.  Same as I used to do with the port-a-pottie in the pop-up camper.  It worked fine then, and works fine now.  But still I want my flushable sewerage!

Wednesday I managed to step my left foot in a puddle of water but was too busy to change shoes or socks.  By Thursday morning the sole of my foot was textured and tender, by Friday morning a crack had appeared between two toes and was hurting.  One thing I had forgotten to bring was Athelete’s Foot spray, Neosporin or Vitamin E oil.  Laura brought me those but of course it was too late.  So my foot was sore all weekend and I should have changed socks 2-3 times per day to keep it from being sticky. But of course I didn’t bring so many socks, so I just took off my shoe when I could and aired it out.  Which wasn’t often!  With 4 dogs and company, one is always on one’s feet.

Got home to John's surprise -- he prepared a few garden rows for me.  Unfortunately by Tuesday he had a pinched sciatic nerve, by Wednesday he could barely walk.  We went to the chiropractor on Wednesday, then Thursday, and today.  Ice pack every hour, anit-inflammatories, bedrest.  We're catching up on recorded shows and Netflix documentaries and I'm slowly getting this blog post together, interspursed with nursing my foot, Halloween festivities, cleaning out the RV, laundry, and Portia's birthday party.

  • First time to try it out, and the heater in the RV works great.  Since it works on both electricity and LP gas, I can take it to any trial in winter, even if they don't have RV hookups.  I actually only need electricity to run the AC.
  • Maxie needs only 11 more MACH points to reach my goal of 550 by year end.  We should get that easily in Lake Charles.  We met our goal of 10 QQ's by year-end.  Hopefully 10 next year will get us to MACH in 2013, but I realize this is a stretch as it took us 15 months to achieve the first 10. 
  • I just counted, and to obtain the new Bronze MXB and MJB titles, Maxie needs 4 more Jumpers Q's and 4 more Standard Q's for 25 of each.  With only 1 more trial scheduled this year (unless I go to Pensacola), I doubt I can attain that this year.  Early in 2013 is likely.
  • Lucky finally got a Q in Jumpers.  Her last Jumpers Q was a year ago, in Kiln, to earn her MXJ.  Nothing since then.  A whole year, and always over course time.  Only 2 more Standard Q's to go to get her MXJ title, though.  We might reach that in Lake Charles.
  • Run faster!  Lean forward. Learn to enjoy exercise. Treat agility as a game of chase.  Do more shadow handling and racing around the yard with my dogs trying to catch me.  Learn to time my forward momentum so I don't get caught where I can't move forward.
  •  COMPLETELY outfit my RV with everything I need – a different set of toiletries, medicines, camp chairs, jackets, than I keep at home.  My goal is to never find myself without something I may need, and not have to cart things back and forth from the house, or risk forgetting something and being without.  One thing about a Class C as opposed to a trailer, once you’re set up you can’t easily unhook everything and drive to the store.
Next trial, Thanksgiving Weekend in Lake Charles. A 3  day'er, and the weather there is usually freezing, rainy and windy.  I must find another parachute suit with a hood, a trapper hat to keep my ears warm, and otherwise get myself prepared.  And another way to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.

Upwards and onward,

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pepper's 1st Birthday

CC: Audrey, Laura, John, Allison, Nathan, Portia
Dogs: Pepper, Willow, Maxie
Today is Pepper's 1st Birthday.  I picked a pet friendly restaurant, La Madeleine's Bakery, for his party, and called ahead so management expected us.  It lasted about 45 minutes, took no prep time, and worked out great.  Our closest circle of peeps came after work, about 5 p.m.  Nathan secured us a lovely table on the porch, and John started snapping pix with my iPhone.   I bought a fruit tart, and onlookers were amazed how the dogs sat and stayed with the tart under their noses while we lit the candle, sang Happy Birthday, divvied it up onto 3 separate plates, and waited for my "Okay" command before eating.  I put this slide show together in Windows Live Photo Gallery, just to see how that works.  Not so well, as I can't put the slides in the order I want.  (Hit the "REFRESH" button if it doesn't show up the first time you open this page.)

Pepper at 8.5 weeks old.
Pepper at 6 months, with huge ears,
a long nose, and not much fur.
It's so hard to believe I brought Pepper home last January. Seems more like last month.  Where has the time gone? 

I never intended to keep the fat little fart with the huge ears and big feet, just sell him to raise money for my agility expenses and increase the Papillon population in our area.  Did I really need a 3rd agility dog?  When exactly did I decide to keep him?  Don't know.  He grew on us gradually, but neither John nor I would give him up for anything now.

Pepper at 1 year, growing into his ears and nose.
From day one, he just fit in.  Everyone accepted him -- dogs, cats, family, friends.  Going from 2 paps to 3 was no great effort.  No extra crates or beds.  He posed no problems, other than an extra vet visit and some puppy chow.  Of course, there will be training expenses.

It's going to be a fun trip learning more and more about our new Birthday Boy, tracking his progress, training, and reaching for another gold ring.

Lucky is almost 4, Maxie is 5.4, Willow is 10, and FoohFooh is almost 13. And I'm about to turn 66.  Time is flying by.  Will I still be training dogs, running Pepper, at 76? Can I do right by this amazing little guy?  I shall try.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Practice Drills - Continued

Continuing on from here.

Alas, when I went out Saturday to practice, I discovered they had picked up my course to mow the field.  And they had set up new courses all over the place, including encroaching on my 40' x 50' space, despite the fact that I chose an out of the way spot that is rarely ever used, where the grass doesn't grow!

It feels like my project is being thwarted.  No matter. I set it up again.  I marked the fence with yellow rope to tell our yard man not to mow this spot.  Then I received an email from a club member who complained that no one member can commandeer a spot all for themselves and she'll break it up whenever she wants.  I need to get our Agility Director to put out a notice that this is a sanctioned experiment to benefit all our members, not just me.

Last night my tent stakes came in so I'll go ahead and prepare the holes for the tumblers. We'll see what happens next.

Upwards and onward!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Practice Drills at my Dog Club

I finally finished a project I started last spring, getting permission and setting up a section of our club's field for PRACTICE DRILLS.  I screwed a weather-proof letter box (like realtors use in front of houses for sale) to a tree, and the plan is each month or so I'll put a laminated copy of some Practice Drill in it for all our agility members to use.  I found 4 sets of sturdy colored tumblers in blue, green, orange and pink (4 for $1) at Dollar General, and used 2" stick on numbers 1-12 on each set.  I'm starting with Clean Run's series of the Back Yard Dog . . . . . I have 4 years worth of those so I won't run out soon.   I color-coded each course on the article to match the tumblers. This is probably only doable in fall-early spring when the grass isn't growing and the course can stay up for awhile.  I can recycle the laminated copies (I have a laminating machine so it's not that expensive) every few years if I run out of time to find new ones.

I tried the first 4 sequences myself a few days back, first with Maxie then changing the bar height for Lucky, in beautiful pre-fall weather, and it was quite a workout! The dogs enjoyed it and were jealous for their turns.  Noticing that a little table would be convenient, I brought one of my plastic ones from home.

Alas, I went out there for class last night and someone had already removed the tunnel and knocked over/moved some of the numbers.  When I got home I sent out notice to club members about the project, and added a polite line about not disturbing things.  Today I ordered some tent stakes (which I found cheap on and I'm going to poke a hole in the bottom center of each tumbler (with a hot ice pick) and secure each tumbler to the ground.  Hopefully this will deter dogs, wind, and people from moving them around.

And the little project keeps growing.  I am now thinking of a way to keep track of who uses it.  If it isn't much used, it won't be worth the effort.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tigger - AKC's Top Agility Dog

Pinpaps Jonquil Of Skipnlena
aka "Tigger"
Photo by Jerry and Lois Photography”
AKC sent me their mid-year stats for agility dogs throughout America. I was shocked, I mean shocked, not to mention thrilled, to learn that an 8" papillon is the highest ranking agility dog in America, and this by a considerable amount.  I cruized the internet and YouTube in a frenzy looking for any info, photos or videos of this dog, but all I can find so far are a few photos, copied here.

Below is a closeup of the stats showing the 20 Lifetime Top Overall Dogs, with this link if you want to see the whole report.  What blows my mind isn't so much the 35 MACHs this dog has earned, with 55,952 MACH points and 710 QQ's, but the next nearest dog under him (a sheltie) has "only" 25 MACHs, with "only" 25,415 points and 513 QQ's.  Points measure speed, and it's a 100%+ leap in points between 1st and 2nd place!  My how that pap must run!  And my how accurate he must be!  And my how many trials must they attend each year!  In fact, the stats page AKC put out in January showed Tigger with "only" 33 MACHs and 54,547 points, which means he earned 2 more MACH's, i.e., 40 QQ's, and 1,405 points in the last 6 months or so (and that without the doubler for 1st place).  If he is capable of earning 4 MACHs a year, he'd have to have been doing that for the past 9 years or so. 

There's even another pap at 9th place, with almost 28,000 points while earning 18 MACH's, beating out both top shelties for speed.
Robin Kletke & Robin Cohen,
with Tigger
1st Place 8" class
, AKC Nationals 2007
All this blows my mind. How can it all be true? There must be some mistake. How old is this superdog? How big is this dog? I need to know. So I did some more research.

Tigger has won AKC Agility Nationals many times.

His owners hail from Seattle, WA.  West coast.  Lots of trials out there. Lots of money.  They compete with other dogs as well.

Recently I found where you can go punch in any AKC dog's registered name and it comes up with all the dog's scores back thru 1999.  So I looked up "Pinpaps Jonquil Of Skipnlena" , and sure enough, scores all the way back to Tigger's first Novice Q on April 4, 2000.  I saw he's been competing for 12.5 years, at 8".  So he has to be at least 14 years old now, and still going strong.  WOW!  WOW!  WOW!  Between 2000 and 2006, with only a few exceptions, Tigger scored 1st place, and with the point doubler in place, racked up points quickly. Beginning 2007, he begins taking some 2nd and 3rd places, but still a vast majority of 1sts.  By 2011 he's getting beat for 1st quite often but still places high on every run, and by 2012 he has no 1st places. He is slowing down. But not by much. His speed is still phenomenal, averaging over 4 yps.

NAC MACH35 Pinpaps
Jonquil Of Skipnlena
Photo by Jerry and Lois Photography
Laura and I tried figuring out how many trials this dog has had to go to every year, on average, to MACH 35 times in 12 years.  35 x 20 QQ = 700 days of trialing with no mistakes divided by 12 years = 58 1 day trials per year.  Factoring in that no dogs QQ every single day, and giving Tigger a 70% Q rate (50% is about average) , and since dog's don't QQ every single day even when they Q, I guestimated up to 100 1 day trials per year.  That tells me, and the list on confirms, that these folks are at trials approximately 40 weekends a year.

Reading his titles:
NAC = National Agility Champion
MXC8 = 100 Q's in Standard, 8 times
MJC8 = 100 Q's in Jumpers, 8 times
FTC1 = FAST Century:Requires the MXF title plus one hundred Excellent B FAST Q's of 60 points or greater. The FTC title initials are followed by a numeric designation indicating the quantity of times the dog has met the requirements of the FTC title. (e.g. FTC2, FTC3, etc.)  Since the FAST class became a titling event in January 2007, and Tigger acquired the FTC1 title by September of 2009, it took him 2 years to earn it, and he has not competed in this class since then.
MFC = 100 Q's in FAST
TQX = means he's QQQ'd a lot!
T2B = this class became a titling event in July 2011.  Title requires 15 Q's and 100 points. Tigger earned his title in November 2011, in 5 months, and has not competed in this class since then.

Tigger has had to Q a minimum of 1,700 times to earn all these titles. Averaged over 12 years, that's about 141 Q's per year, or 3-5 per weekend. Nice ride!

On top of all that achievement, Tigger is beautiful!  I am soooooooooo impressed with this little dog, and with the Papillon breed.  I will continue to try digging up info on this dog.  I want to talk to his handler, Robin, and meet the great Tigger.

Upwards and onward!

P.S.  Since writing the above, I found a few more things on the internet:

A 2004 interview with Robin Kletke, about training Tigger:

Videos (I finally found a few and learned that Robin runs very fast, and Tigger is mostly busy chasing him!):


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pepper Antics

Pepper, like most puppies, is full of antics.  Some of them happen so fast you can't capture them on film, but they fill your heart with joy.  Here's one I caught on video yesterday.  He's been doing this spontaneously since about 5 months old, and I can trigger it now by bragging on him.  His huge ears make it all the more funny to watch as his ear feathers get longer.  No doubt, he knows it is entertaining, for he will repeat it over and over until I stop him.

Upwards and onwards!

Tunnel Jump Relays

Yesteday I set up my tripod and took video of Pepper and Maxie doing Tunnel Jump Relays --  comparing the first attempts of a puppy with my seasoned agility dog.  Audrey came along as a second trainer.  This was Pepper's first attempt, Audrey's first crack at dog training, and Maxie hasn't done this in over a year.  Pepper's performance was sporadic. 

The most imortant things I learned are that
  • Pepper values boiled chicken liver treats more than gizzard treats.  After I switched to liver treats, he came to me more readily.  I had given Audrey the liver treats because they break up more easily, and because I can put the gizzard treats in my mouth (I love gizzards).
  • Pepper will have no trouble jumping12", though we'll continue to practice mostly 8" until he's older.
  • Pepper needs a lot of flatwork at home before doing much sequencing.
  • Maxie has forgotten how to do the exercise spontaneously,without any direction like he used to do.  We'll have to work on that.
If I hadn't been so anxious to capture this relay on video in the short time allotted, I would have backchained the exercise first -- straight tunnel, slightly curved tunnel, deeply curved tunnel, add one jump, then the second jump.  Pepper started doing straight and slightly curved tunnel relays at about 4 months.  But I was in a hurry to assess Pepper's ability to sequence before Beginners class begins next week.  My bad. After practicing a few more weeks, I'll take another video, hopefully with better results. It's a process.

Here's the video, about 8 minutes.  The whole exercise took about 15 minutes with both dogs.  The weather was low 80's, nice and cool, and mostly in the shade.

Next I'll post the Dog Walk Relays we did the same day after a brief rest.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Study of Weave Performance - Front View

It takes a dog between 3.5 - 6 seconds to run through the weaves, too fast to notice all the fine details of their footwork, especially if you are the handler/trainer. So, last year in Lake Charles I took video snippets of numerous Excellent level dogs taking the weaves at a trial, all running towards me.  I finally got around to compiling them into a slo-mo video to better understand how different dogs take the weaves, how a lack of consistent footwork slows them down and leads to pop-outs, and how even high achieving dogs who complete the weaves are sometimes inconsistent. 

Here's the 6 minute video of 26 Excellent Class dogs in a T2B run, slowed down to 40-50% speed.

Do you know how your dog weaves? 

Several things I noticed:
  • Almost all dogs have the same rear foot action - a two foot hop, regardless what the front feet are doing.
  • A few large one-stepping dogs only put down one back foot also, or barely touch the other foot down.
  • All dogs push out of the last weave with 2 front feet.
  • All dogs head check their handler as they leave the last space unless the handler is already ahead of them.
  • Some dogs push the poles with their head or shoulders, to straighten their line, which probably improves their speed.  They leave the poles all aquiver.  Other dogs don't touch the poles.
Inconsistencies include:
  • Leading into the space with the outside foot sometimes, other times with the inside foot.
  • Both front feet land simultaneous sometimes, other times it's a stutter landing.
  • One footing it sometimes, two footing it other times.
  • One footing it on one side, two footing it on the other side, consistently.
  • Even in consistent two steppers, they sometimes land on the outside foot first and the inside foot other times, or always land on the same foot first no matter which side of the weaves they are on.
  • Some dogs combine all of the above within a single pass through the weaves.
  • An inordinate number of dogs pop out at the 10th weave.  Why is that?
I want to learn how to improve footwork consistency in the dogs I train. Let me know what you think.  I invite discussion.  I've heard various things from various trainers, including
  • Always practice on channel weaves except a week before a trial.
  • Trainers close the channel weaves too quickly, before their dogs commit the performance to muscle memory.
  • I don't care how my dogs weave, as long as they know they have to get through them.
Two stepping and one-stepping are both correct styles in my view.  Each dog will do the style that suits them.  And yet, we should be able to improve consistency and the answer lies in back-chaining and baby steps.  Hitting solid entries.  Susan Garrett's 2 x 2's is one way.  (Our club has a set.  Hardly anybody uses them.  It's hard to teach a class with multiple students on the 2 x 2's.)

Last year I posted a still shot study of the various front foot action, plus a slo-mo video of rear foot weave action.  You can view that study at this post.

Upwards and onward!