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Saturday playday

March 15, 2012

Many of us will be attending the Sophia Yin workshop all weekend, and won’t be able to make it for this weeks practice time. From the looks of it, the weather won’t be very inviting either, probably meaning an inside session. If anyone is heading out there for practice and want a suggestion for a setup, let me know and I’ll put something together.

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Restricted pages for members only

February 28, 2012

I have added a menu on the blog site for “Members Only”. So far, we only have the member contact information and the latest minutes there. The idea is to collect things like minutes, treasurer’s reports etc under that heading. The member pages are password protected using the same password as we have had on the whatagility.org site.

Also, I added a “Misc Info” menu item where we can put information that we want to remain permanent, rather than in blog form.

 

The Cost of a Fix

February 28, 2012

When something goes awry on a run, our instincts are to fix it. If the dog misses an obstacle, we might go back to the missed obstacle and have the dog take it. Doing so is understandable if it is a question of qualifying or not in some particularly important run. Perhaps you traveled far at great expense to get that Q.

But, step back and think about what going back to the obstacle means for your dog. Did he understand that something went wrong, and does he believe he caused it? Very likely. Why did he miss the jump? 9 times out of 10, it was because you didn’t position him to take the jump. So, in his mind, he now thinks something like “Oh, I was wrong. When she slows down, I shouldn’t turn into her”. This is how we create confused, insecure  or guessing dogs. If this is something that happens at very rare occasions in trials, perhaps the dog dismisses it as just something that happened. But be aware that there is a cost to doing this. Every time you interrupt your flow and go back, you are training your dog to distrust your cues and/or distrust his own instincts. If you do go back to rescue that Q, at the very least do it in flow as much as possible. If the Q can’t be rescued, there is absolutely no reason to to fix it.

I have adopted a set of rules for myself, and I try hard to follow them. One of the most important rules is to NEVER “fix” a missed obstacle, or an off course, in a training run. Unless the dog for some reason wants to avoid the right obstacle (injury, fear, etc), the fault is either a training error, a cueing error, or – most likely – the handler’s failure to shape the dogs path such that it leads to the right obstacle. In either case,  I do my best to finish the sequence in flow. Afterwards I try to figure out why it happened and form a plan to train that aspect. Remember – in training the objective is to learn and develop, not only skills, but also the relationship with your teammate. The objective should never be to do a “clean run”. If you do, cool, but if not – so what?

Every now and then you hear comments like “you can’t let the dog get away with it”, or “he must learn to follow my cues”.  Think for a moment about the “… get away with …” comment. It assumes that the dog doesn’t want to do what you are asking him to do. If that really were true, then why on earth are you making him do it? Agility is a team sport. It assumes that the game is rewarding and positive for both team members. If the dog doesn’t like it, forcing him will not make you a team. If you truly believe the dog is trying to “get away” with an incorrect behavior, form a plan for making the correct behavior desirable for your dog, or stop forcing him to play a game he doesn’t enjoy.

The other comment about following the cues is usually misapplied as well. In all likelihood, the dog did follow your cues. You just expected him to do something different than what you have trained him for that cue. The only other possibility is that you haven’t trained a behavior for that cue. If that is the case, punishment (interrupting the game) of the undesired behavior is a very weak training tool. Instead, develop a plan to train the behavior you want and link it to the cue you want to use.

So, remember: “Fixing it Doesn’t

Great weekend!

February 13, 2012

The RAT trial last weekend was great for the Elvstad clan. ‘Mber got his first Q by rocketing through the tunnelers course earning a blue ribbon. The fact that he beat Mirha by close to a second earned him bragging rights on the drive home… He did two more runs, both fast, but not quite in the sequence suggested by the course designer. That was not a problem in my view – having a very positive experience of being in the ring was all what it was about this time. The greatest thing about it was that his keep-away game was gone and he was totally unfazed by the trial environment, relaxing in his kennel without worries between runs.

Mirha did really great as well. She came home having earned her elite Touch-n-Go title and therefore also her elite versatility award, the elite outstanding chances title and the elite superior hoopers title. The most cherished run we had, however, was not a qualifying run. We tried to do the elite jumpers run from a small bonus box. I was hoping to get the first 5-6 jumps handling it from the box. Instead, we got much farther, not derailing until the very end. Of the few that attempted the box, I think our run was the most successful. There were some redirects, so it wouldn’t have qualified as a bonus run anyway, but just getting that far was a new high point for us. I haven’t had that much fun in a run for years!

NADAC Virtual Trial Thursday Evening January 5

January 2, 2012

I will be organizing VT runs at the Lynden Fairgrounds arena as part of the CDTA Open Practice program this coming Thursday. Setup starts at 6PM. For those who want videos submitted for judging, the dog needs to have a NADAC number, and the fee is $5 per submitted run.

I have had requests for Touch-N-Go and Chances. Depending on how many helping hands there are, we can get more runs in, so let me know of any requests.

‘Mber does his first real trial run

January 2, 2012

This is a brag (of sorts). ‘Mber and I ran the tunnelers course yesterday at the NADAC Fun-raiser in Canby, Oregon. It was his very first real trial run, and he turned out to be a racing machine. He did a perfectly clean run with total confidence and the fastest time of all dogs at the trial irrespective of level. We are very pleased with his 7.25 yps run on a surface reputed for slowing the dogs down.

The ‘of sorts’ comment is that he just couldn’t believe that the run would be over after a mere 17 seconds, and so went on to do some more obstacles and eventually earned an E (as he should) instead of a Q. Still – it was a gorgeous run!

 

Course maps are out

December 2, 2011

We got not one, but two sets of course maps this week. One of the sets is for an 80×100 ring, and the other is for a 70×110 ring. No problem fitting either of those at Hyline! I made PDFs of the maps, and you can fetch them  here: VT-0711-Cardinal and here: VT-0810-Stormy

The hoopers courses require 20 or 21 hoops respectively. I have 12 out there. I can pick up 8 at Janine’s and I also could bring one more of our personal ones, allowing us to do either (or both) courses.

The Weavers courses both need 5 tunnels: 4 x 15′ and 1 x 20′. That should be doable. I have purchased a repair link for the broken weave pole base, and I can bring out an extra set of 12 weaves if needed (I’ll check what is out there, maybe there is a base we can use at Hyline already).

The tunnelers courses use 8 or 9 tunnels respectively. I don’t see a way to solve that for tomorrow.

We could do a chances course if I can fit the AF into the trailer. It’ll be tight, but maybe it could work. Of the two courses, I would class one as a bit easier than the average, and the other one a bit more tricky than the average.

The jumpers courses should be no problem equipment wise. However, one of them has big changes between the different levels and so would be a bit more time consuming to set, so I would think that we would stick to just the one course.

Regular and TnG are currently out of the question – We first need to convert our dog walk. (We could use our personal one, but it isn’t an easily transported thing).

Looking at videos of peoples VT runs, there does not seem to need to be an enclosure around the ring. We may still want to use some surveyor tape or the like to delimit the ring.

For those of you who haven’t seen the information and rules for VT (Video) trial runs, the following are some of the highlights:

  • Dog needs to have a NADAC number. If you want to submit a video for judging and don’t have a number yet, you can register your dog online at http://www.nadac.com/afrm/dogregfrm.asp
  • The VT points and titles are separate from the regular trialling points, but all the various titles and awards are available for VT runs (the titles just have a VT in front of them). That said, if you have earned the novice title in traditional trials, you can start the VT system at the open level and so on (I’m not 100% sure about this, but will verify before tomorrow). If you are working toward a life-time points award, the VT points are combined with the traditional points. There are some additional situations where VT and traditional points may be combined, but those are for some very specific things that we can ignore for now.
  • All equipment must meet NADAC rules, and all normal trial rules apply as well. So, the dog must enter the “ring” on leash, and exit the ring on leash as well. Toys or food can not be brought into the ring or within 10′ of it (exception, treats or a small toy that is in a sealed container and invisible to the dog may be kept in a pocket). Tugging on the leash is considered to be playing with a toy, and would lead to elimination. Dog must run naked – no collars etc.