Thursday, May 29, 2008

All Dogs trial; Lucy destined to stay in Starters forever?

Ok, I know I said Lucy would be taking a time out from trial events involving frames. I actually had emailed the trial secretary shortly after making that decision, to cancel her entry. Well, all of a sudden two weeks ago I received an email confirming her entry in the trial. It would seem that my email to them got trapped in a spam filter or something. So, rather than complicate things for them I just let it go with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, it was a sign that she should be in the trial and would maybe, just maybe, end her ever-lengthening non-Q streak and get her Starters Standard title.

Well. In fact, perhaps I should have paid more attention to another sign, a potentially ominous sign indicating that maybe, just maybe, Lucy is destined to stay in Starters Standard forever.

What, you ask, is that ominous sign? This is what the entry confirmation said:

Trial Date: May 8, 2029

# Event Name Event # Judge

1 Starters Standard 1 1 John Willis

2 Starters Standard 2 2 John Willis

Yup, apparently Lucy will still be trying for her third and final Starters Standard Q in 2029. Simple computer program glitch, or sign of things to come? Time will tell! But hey, if she's still doing agility in 2029, Starters or not, I'll be thrilled. ;-D

Down to business. In Standard #1, she had actually a pretty good run. However, I was in spectator mode watching Lucy hit the yellow on the #4 frame (using the highly trained, highly respected method commonly known as Point and Pray) and my delay in directing her to the next jump caused me to lose her to several seconds of sightseeing, refusal-incurring, and backjumping.

In Standard #2, I lost her after the second jump. I think I have figured out that one of our problems is that if my handling isn't at least close to being spot on or if I'm late in cueing the next obstacle unless it's right in front of her, I lose her. She goes off on a little stress sightseeing (not groundsniffing, and not really zooming, just loping around in a most unfocused way, looking at everything except me). So back to Standard #2, there was a front cross after the second jump which I must have bungled, because off she went. She regrouped fairly well for the second half of the course.

Also, I noticed that at the end of both runs, she was quick to leave the ring. Last year, she used to check in with me at the end of the runs and we'd leave together.

So, darn darn darn. I was hoping that our stroke of bad runs at Dreamfields and Morningstar was due perhaps to those facilities being indoors which maybe she didn't like too much. Blame it on the roof, yeah, yeah... Blame it on the walls... that shut her in... Whatever you do... don't put the blame on you... There's your Milli Vanilli fix of the day. Anyway, nope it's not the roof because I don't think I've ever seen her as zoned out and unresponsive as in her little "zoomy" in the second run today.

I really really hope we can get back to the place we were last summer when she was awesome and really having fun out there playing agility with me.

As a pick-me-up to remind myself of Lucy's enthusiastic agility year last year, here's a repost of Lucy's 2007 agility compilation video. See, there are benefits to doing such little projects. :-)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Running frame resources

FYI, here, in no particular order, are a few online running contact resources/blogs (using a variety of training methods).

Sylvia Trkman's running contacts FAQ and videos

CFlyRun blog: running contacts diary (includes videos)

TajMuttHall blog entries on a running frame technique: Part 1 and Part 2

Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction blog post, "Thoughts on Running Contacts" (lots of thoughts to think about there)

Agility Nerd: Stride Regulators (includes videos) (he uses two on two off, but the stride regulator aspect is very interesting)

Agilty Nerd: Contact Hoop and Contact Wicket

Days of Speed and Slowtime Mondays blog (overall a very neat agility blog and she is switching to running contacts which you can read about in some of the posts) training notes

Running frame training session #1

Lucy's first time at the new practice field. Brought along our pool noodle and started our running frame training. Caution: I am very much a novice trainer and recognize that by doing this training I could be totally messing up my dog and/or spending a lot of time on something while not accomplishing anything, so it is not recommended that you try this at home!

- The frame was set as low as I could set it without squishing myself.
- The first few times I carried the food tube in my hand and threw it after she passed under the hoop. After that I put it on the ground several metres ahead and she seemed to drive ahead better. Next time I'll put the food on a target so she can eat it right away and not have to wait for me to give it to her.
- Didn't want to do too many reps since I couldn't tell what her frames were looking like; thank goodness for tripods, cheap digital cameras, and slow-mo on the computer replay!

Here are the results from running frame session #1:

Geez, seeing the shoulder impact in slow mo when she hits the frame I wonder if I should't put a hoop on the upside too? Also of note is that on her 4th try she jumps the apex, which is great, but it looks like she doesn't actually hit the yellow.

After a few more sessions like this and more close video review (she won't do a frame without it being caught on film for the foreseeable future) I'll try to decide if stride regulators will come into play as well.

At this point I don't plan to do any of this with Walter's frame because his stride seems to naturally carry him into the yellow, and if I'm messing up Lucy with this training (although I'm not sure how much more messed up her frame can get than it already is) there's no point in messing up both dogs at the same time. :-D

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dream Fields trial (in which I traumatize Lucy but she forgives me)

First class of the day was Advanced Team. This was Lucy's second ever try at a Team event, the first being Starters Team back in September. Given all the issues she's had over the fall and winter (teeter fear, dogwalk fear, lack of focus, etc) I didn't dare put her in team again until now. She took the first half of the course, which went well except for me wayyyy overmanaging the weave entry. Oh, and she totally did NOT stick her teeter 2o2o but instead went diving into the tunnel right after it. Then, it was time to get her under control in her box, then give the a-ok to our partner. Note, this was the first time she's run first in team so it was all new to both of us. Well, poor Lucy: I was too hasty and rough in trying to get a hold of her and she yelped. Lucy is a drama queen who screamed bloody murder the first many times I approached her with nail trimmers (maybe she had a bad nail trimming experience in her previous home?), and yelps in terror if the vet so much as looks at her (well ok, slight exageration, but you get the picture), so I really should have been aware of that fact and taken my time to calmly and gently collect her in our box. So, we got eliminated, a rule I totally understand and agree with. Lesson learned! A Big Huge Sorry to my very understanding and forgiving partner (and to Lucy!).

Then it was Advanced Snooker. I used this run to try to get Lucy more comfy as lately she has seemed a bit on the frantic side. Fast I like, but frantic I don't. So we walked out calmly to one of the reds on the far side and played around, taking our time. Made it through the opening and the whistle went just as I was trying to remember where the heck the #2 was.

Next up was Advanced Jumpers. I was really glad about this run as the franticness did not seem to be there. She did have yet another la-la moment facing the in/out gate and incurred a refusal, but overall it was a good run.

Finally it was Starters Standard. She saw me accidentally drop a few treat crumbs in the ingate just as we walked into the ring and as I was setting her up she tried to go back to get those gold nuggets. Once we got going she did fairly well, and this time she totally stuck 2o2o on the dogwalk and teeter, yeah! Another slight la-la moment facing the ingate, but no refusal incurred. Good table. All was looking good until the third last obstacle: the frame, and she gracefully sailed right over the pretty little yellow bit. Totally understandable as anyone who has been following this blog knows that I have been a very bad human and have kept running her in trials knowing full well that she NEEDS time out to retrain her frame since we've abandoned 2o2o. So that darn frame bit me in the butt clear as day today.

So, Lucy's non-Q streak continues to be alive and well. I hereby decide to run her ONLY in Jumpers until her frame has been retrained. I was hoping to get that last Starters Standard for her title before retraining, but clearly it's not meant to be. We have our work cut out for the summer!