Sunday, February 24, 2008

Red Hot Agility!

Hot as in what the heck happened to winter!?! I realize all of you freezing your buns off up north will probably be jealous, but we hit a humid high temp of 82 today; come on! it's February!!

My dad and I went over to Leaps 'n Bounds for some practice before next weekend's trial. I got some awesome pictures of my dad's dog, Meg; but my dad had a little bit more trouble getting the timing right with my camera.

Lots 'o pics, be patient.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi'.

Wew! All done now!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Teaching the Weaves

Guppy left a comment the other day about teaching the weaves. . .

Well, first let me say that there seems to be as many ways to teach the weaves as there are people running agility, so I encourage everybody reading this post to add to the comments and explaination of how they teach the weaves. Like a lot of things in dog training, there is no one size fits all method, IMHO. I think the most important part of teaching the weaves is to make it FUN. I can't imaginge a dog doing really fast weaves if they aren't enjoying themselves.

I think the two big keys to learning the weaves are 'muscle memory' and that the dog learns that they have to weave to the end of the poles, regardless of how many there are, to 'complete' the exercise. By muscle memory, I mean that the dog learns how it 'feels' to do the weaves, and eventually does it without thinking about it, like learning to drive a standard shift car.

The way I taught weaves to my dogs was inherited from my dad; we use the off-set weaves method. This is one of the two most popular methods, the other method being having some sort of a physical guide that directs the dog in the path they should take through the weaves. These two methods can also be combined. I have some pictures of half (3 poles) of the weaves I use here at my place. The other three are an exact mirror image of the first three. These are pretty easy to make yourself using different lengths of PVC pipes, endcaps and T connectors and some colored electrical tape on the poles for contrast (you can also make home made jumps the same way). A woman that used to be in my agility class had a great idea, if you have a short dog (hello, Cardigans!) and tile or hardwood floors. She bought a bunch of toilet plungers and just stuck them to the floor! Easy to adjust however you want, and easy to put away when you're done!! Just remember that the poles should be 21 to 24 inches apart, and I wouldn't start with more than six poles. Of course, you can always buy ready made weave poles; the Clean Run store is a good place to start. Here is a link to their agility equipment.

So, if your're going to use the off set method, put a wide connector between the two sides of the poles (in the pictures the smallest connector is in place), wide enough that you have a nice channel between the poles a little wider than the dog's body. Then either lure the dog down the channel with a treat or toy, or have some one hold the dog at one end, while you are at the other end and call the dog. If your dog is already target trained, you can also put a target at the end and run down along side as your dog goes through the channel to go to the target. The dog ALWAYS enters the weave poles with the first pole on his left side (I know my dad used some clicker training to teach Meg that she had to enter the poles from the correct side).

Now, if you are using a lure, make sure you get your hand down low enough so that the dogs head stays level, not looking up (this is where having short poles comes in handy if you have a short dog). You want your dog to get into the habit of having their head facing forward and looking where they're going, since later on they tend to pop out of the weaves if they aren't looking where they're going.

Over time, you'll put smaller and smaller spacers in between the two sides, but don't rush it. Now you know enough to get in trouble everything you need to know about teaching the weaves!! Really, I think the one thing that really helps is repetition. If you have a set of weaves (or toilet plungers!) actually in your house or backyard, you can run through the weaves a couple of times every evening. I really believe that muscle memory makes all the difference.

It does seem to take a while for the light bulb to go off, 'Oh, I'm supposed to go back and forth around these poles the same way, every time!' but once a dog 'gets it' the progress gets a lot faster. And remember that long backed dogs can have a harder time with the weave poles, and long backed dogs in particular should never start learning the weaves until they're physically mature. Oh, and make sure you practice weaving with you running along side on BOTH sides, don't let your dog get into the habit of having you on only one side!

So? Everybody, let's hear how you teach the weave poles!!

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi.'

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pretty As A Picture

It's been a long time since I took my camera with us on a walk. I'm having kind of a strange day, so we took our 'morning' walk around noon.

Gorgeous blue sky today.

Holly's bloopers. She really, really doesn't like to pose for pictures, and doesn't mind telling me about it.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi.'

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Course Night

This was a killer course for the handlers. The 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 line and the 12, 13, 14 line and the 16, 17, 18, 19 line were all ones were the handler had to run like he!! to keep up with their dog, which means by the time most people (me included) got to around obstacle 18, no one could breath. Poor, pathetic humans!

Mikey and I had a little trouble with the 2 to 3 turn and the tire to dog walk the first time we ran the course. I chose the outside line for 2 to the A-frame to the tunnel because Mikey still gets a little insecure with the A-frame and by going outside I could run along pretty close to him and the A-frame, but taking the inside line would have meant that I would have to swing far away because of the tunnel sticking out on that side. The problem was that I would lead out almost to jump 2 and then start running and I kept going out to far before turning to the A-frame, which kept lining Mikey up for the tunnel instead of the A-frame. And the problem from the tire to the dog walk had to do with a little over confidence in my boy. Mikey has never been a tunnel sucker (meaning the dog goes for the tunnel even when you say to do another obstacle because it's fun) and he is normally totally responsive to my verbal commands; so I just expected that the tire to the dog walk would be no problem and kept too much forward momentum and made a sloppy turn, which pushed him into the tunnel.

The second time we ran the course we nailed everything. I turned a little earlier to turn to the A-frame, and I pulled up hard and started my turn for the dog walk right at the tire (in fact I pulled up so hard and turned so sharply that Mikey started to turn back toward me after the tire) so Mikey was right on for the dog walk. We were both really on for the second course; one of those 'feel good' runs were everything flows just right!

Currently reading 'The King's Pleasure' by Nora Lofts.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi.'

Nailin' Those Weaves!!!

Mmmmm hmmmm. That's right. Mikey NAILED the weaves last night in class. All 24. Twice. Doin' the Cardigan version of single steppin' the poles!! GOOD BOY!!! I'll try to get a course map up tonight.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Return of the Grasshopper

Some of you may remember this - well, he's baaa-aaack! Seriously! I opened the front door yesterday night and who should come jumping on in? Mister Grasshopper (only bigger, I swear!). Holly and Mikey were convinced that my squealing attempts to herd him back out the door was a sign that I had finally come over to the dark side and decided that bugs make a good snack. So of course this now became a competition; who can catch and eat Mr. Grasshopper first? Needless to say, both Holly and Mikey were not much 'help' in herding Mr. Grasshopper back outside where he belongs. Poor Mr. Grasshopper. Where do you run when pursued by two ravenous dogs and one demented human? Apparently you grab on to the human and refuse to let go. EVER! Or you at least refuse to let go until you've been trasported (weeeeee! like a really, really squeeky roller coaster!) back outside and are stunned into letting go by a good whack from the demented human, at which time you better hop for your life, because the two ravenous dogs can't believe their snack is escaping.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Exercise Night, Bleh

Tonight was exercise night; it's not so much that I don't like running exercises, it's that I really, really enjoy the flow of running courses (guess it's a good thing that exercise night seems to be few and far between with these instructors). I missed class again on Monday, but after the second time now going to the Wednesday night class, I think I may switch to Wednesdays, since the class is about 1/3 the size.

We spilit up into groups and worked with both of the instructors and worked independently on contacts. One instructor was working on handling with wrap arounds and tight serpentines, all jumps. I must admit to getting a little frustrated with her, as she wanted me to really get after Mikey for knocking jumps; as in pick up the bar and shake it at him or poke at him. EXCUSE ME!?! Happily she didn't push me much for doing it 'her' way and I just put Mikey on a drop every time he knocked a jump and made him wait while I reset the jump and then made him start over. There is NO WAY I'm going to do anything to take away from the joy Mikey gets out of doing agility.

Plus, I think when a dog is working really hard on technical stuff that requires a lot of mental work on their part, it's just expected that the physical performance may suffer temporarily. And some of it too is recognizing Mikey's physical limitations. He's not a Border Collie (as much as he may act like one). Mikey is very athletic for a Cardigan, and I think it's only fair to realize that even if he can turn on a dime, a slightly wider turn may give him a better chance to set himself up for a clean jump. IMHO.

Currently reading 'Escape' by Carolyn Jessop with Laura Palmer.

Holly and Mikey say 'Hi.'

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Little Eccentric. . .

Dog activities boring, work too 'exciting'. Promise to get back to blogging again soon.

You Are Bert

Extremely serious and a little eccentric, people find you lovable - even if you don't love them!

You are usually feeling: Logical - you rarely let your emotions rule you

You are famous for: Being smart, a total neat freak, and maybe just a little evil

How you life your life: With passion, even if your odd passions (like bottle caps and pigeons) are baffling to others