Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dream Fields trial (in which Lucy does her best kite impression)

[Warning: Long post. How I manage to write such long posts about single-run trials is beyond me!]

Well, dang, I messed up today and Lucy was not in forgiving mode so she stressed as high as a kite during her one run, Advanced Jumpers. The course looked nice, there were a few spots for potential offcourses or run-bys but I wasn't worried about that, hoping just to have a good connected run with her, who cares if it would be clean or not. She looked good before her run as we hung out, relaxed and focused with a happy look on her face. Put her over the warmup jumps a few times and she was pretty peppy. A nice non-sniffy start-line stay followed by a good opening line, faster than I was expecting, then she went for the offcourse tunnel. Just as well because my front cross there would never have worked -- I had been expecting the pokey Lucy from our last two trials in which case the front cross may have worked but on second thought, probably not. No pokeying about today though. Then coming out of the offcourse tunnel the poor dog never saw my front cross so she didn't know what to do next -- and I lost her.

Zoomy time!

My videographer stopped recording at this point figuring she'd save me from the horror of having to watch footage of crazy Lucy, so the rest is a bit of a blur, but my best recollection is that she (Lucy, not the videographer ;) ) did a few laps, taking some jumps and tunnels on her way. We did get back on track for the last two closing lines during which she continued to fly like a bat out of heck. On the homestretch line she totally left me in her dust -- NO WAY can I keep up with her on a straight line when she's running like that.

Don't get me wrong, it's fun running Lucy when she's in fast mode even if it means we don't go clean, but it would be a lot more fun if she were running fast because she's having a good time rather than because she's in frantic stresscase mode.

Watching the video back it looks like Lucy totally locked onto that tunnel, suggesting she was somewhat stressed to begin with (she'll tune me out and become obstacle-focused), but then it's totally my fault that I lost her after that with the front cross that she never saw.


Okay, so here's what i'm thinking for next time to reduce the chances of Lucy going frantic:

  • Take her for a good walk before the trial to hopefully take some nervous energy off;
  • Plan the course for FastLucy just in case it's she who makes an appearance; and
  • Always be in the right place at the right time. Sooooo much easier said than done as we all know...
Walter's turn tomorrow. I'm very lucky that he's so predictable, and forgiving...


Nat said...

She really DOVE into that tunnel!! Too bad it was because of stress...maybe it was because she hasn't been running on dirt in so long and it brought back old stressing memories? I definitely agree with you though how hard it is to be in the right place at the right time, especially when things don't go as expected!

Good luck tomorrow with Walter!


Muttsandaklutz said...

She did, didn't she -- can't wait to see the day she runs like that in fast AND happy mode at the same time!

Hmmmm, interesting point about running on dirt... I was reading over an old post from spring 2008 which was her last time at Dream Fields, and the word "frantic" came up there as well... Ah well, we'll see what next time brings!

Looking forward to seeing the video of Mika's Gamblers Q from today! The gamble looked tough - no way Lucy would have gotten it, not sure even if Walter could with that last jump in the middle like that.

Sam said...

As a fearful dog owner, I'm curious - does she get stressed like that often at trials? And what sets her off? I'm creeping closer and closer to trialing with Marge, and although she has done well at the two trials I've taken her to, I'm worried about her getting distracted like that once she gets in the ring.

Muttsandaklutz said...

I'm still figuring things out with Lucy... we haven't trialed very much, especially this year. But more and more I'm thinking what sets her off is receiving unclear information from me in terms of what she's supposed to do.

I have to tell you though, Lucy is my social butterfly. She loves people, no fear there at all, yet she's the one who stresses in the agility ring. Walter is the one who's has had fear issues (due to undersocialization as a puppy - my fault), and though he tends to be a serious, anxious, prone-to-worrying dog, he's been a reliable agility dog right from the start. One thing I did a lot of was have people at trials give him extra-special treats. People who were standing, people who were sitting. Tall people, short people, people wearing hats. Once he was comfortable with that then he had to work for them to get the treat, by doing simple tricks like sit, shake hands, and so on. He responded well and is now a well-behaved, relaxed guy at trials.

Are there any fun matches in your area that you could try to test the waters before starting to trial? Great opportunity to run in a trial-like setting but be able to bring treats/toys into the ring to reward good behaviours and build confidence (the human's and the dog's :-))

Elf said...

IMHO, you don't want to take that edge off--you want that speed and excitement on course. Some reasons I think that the front cross didn't work are 1-- you never stopped your motion towards that tunnel; sure, you ran some of it backwards, but you're still moving briskly towards that tunnel. 2--She was already over the jump before the tunnel before you even started your turn, and 3-- (hard to tell) but I didn't hear any verbal signal from you, either, before the jump to try to get her to check her stride a little and pay attention. Lastly--you did comment that that front cross would never have worked anyway. Not sure where you were intending to go after the jump that you were crossing before. If into the other tunnel, pulling would've been much better (still need to be signaling a slowing/turning towards you before she's over that jump). If to the other jump--yow, that's a very long path for you to run to get all the way out there and back in again. Either pulling or front cross between the two jumps-- ack, hard to explain verbally & without a course map knowing where you were going. But in short, if you're going to do a front cross to change her direction, you've got to stop your forward motion in the wrong direction and you've got to let her know before she's already over the previous jump. Don't know whether this is helpful-- Sure is fun to see her flying! I might have tried to pick her up--not back on course, but from wherever she's headed, start running ahead/with her into ANYTHING that she'll do--maybe a fast tunnel/jump/jump straightaway off the field if you can get her to, and not worry any more at that point about doing any planned sequence. Make use of the speed & excitement and reward it. IMHO. I am not a paid professional. ;-)

Elf said...

P.S. Fun to have that video. I just never take the time to have anyone tape us, just one more thing to worry about but it sure is good to have afterwards.

Muttsandaklutz said...

Elf: Can you tell it's been ages since I've taken lessons? ;-) And yes, your comments are helpful!

Yep, the next obstacle was the jump, coming towards the camera. What was I thinking eh? Need to work on rear crosses more with her so I can rely on them instead of trying crazy stuff like that front cross to avoid rear crosses later on. Some people did a front cross but if memory serves most of them stayed on this side of that jump.

Interesting comment about the verbal check before the jump. I don't think I ever do that with either dog. Do you use one before every front cross, or just in certain front crosses like when there's and offcourse obstacle right in front of them?

My concern with just running around on the fly with no planned sequence rather than trying to get back on track in one form or another is it would continue the cycle of me not knowing what I'm doing, therefore not giving Lucy any guidance, therefore continuing her valid opinion that I haven't a clue what I'm donig out there :-)

Videos like this are gold -- too bad my videographer stopped, I would have really liked to see what the rest of it looked like. Still, I hate asking people to video for me so I'll happily take what I can get.

Muttsandaklutz said...

About the verbal check: Actually on second thought maybe I do do that by saying "here", but not all the time, and probably way too late too.

I've had a few different instructors in the past all with varying methods. Some were of the opinion that using verbals in most cases is a crutch, and were big proponents of running silently. Some were of the opinion that hey, why not use all the aids at your disposal to help the dog know where they're going next.

I can see both sides of the coin.

The result: I'm one inconsistent wreck of a hanlder who can't decide which schools of thought to follow :-)

If I could start all over again there's one training center in particular whose dog and handler teams are just beautiful to watch... I would love to train with them. Problem is they're an hour and a half drive each way... sigh.

Elf said...

I probably use a verbal cue more for a pull, rfp, or wrap than for a front cross. Depends on how sharp a turn it's likely to be. Probably for most front crosses some lateral motion beforehand and getting the turn done on time is more important: Our instructor always says that, by the time you can see your dog over the standard of the previous jump, you must already be making your front cross move or it's too late.

Far-off trainers: Some people do just one-on-ones with their favorite instructor on an occasional basis. A couple or 3 hours once a month with just you and your favorite instructor can give you maybe a lot more help than being in a standard class with others on a weekly basis. Something to consider.