Sunday, September 30, 2012

Talcott Mountain Agility Club (TMAC) - September 29-30, 2012

Whirlwind weekend for team Magica: dockdiving for Kippie on Friday just outside of Boston (more on that later) and then over (and down) to Connecticut for agility for Teller.

Teller ran beautifully all weekend, he's working so well for me - coming out of his crate just primed and ready to work. Our weekend  (Saturday) started with a double NQ - two wrong courses in standard and another wrong course in the afternoon JWW class as well. Both were super fun runs and I would have loved a second crack at that standard course!

Sunday we turned a new leaf with a nice double-Q - Including a STOP on his dogwalk!!! Sunday afternoon, I neglected to pay attention to the big-dog JWW ring while I was waiting to video a friend in standard. The net result was that I turned around after finishing my videographer duties to see that the 20" class was walking (yikes) and had a whopping 12 seconds left on the 8 minute walk-through. DAMMIT!!  So I missed my walk. I did get around the course once (though it took me more than 12 seconds to do so), but ended up running the course 'safely'. I just wasn't sure if I could put a front cross THERE - or THERE, so I ended up rearing the triple and taking a longer handling path on another line because I knew I could get where I needed to be and send him ahead of me into the weaves. It totally worked out for me this time with a QQ to finish off the weekend!

Sunday QQ:


And from the bad parenting department....Kippie was SURE that the huge empty wire spools in the back of the building were going to jump out and get him (to be fair he heard a deer go crashing through the woods and when he looked he just saw a giant wooden spool that in his mind must have just appeared there out of the blue). So what do you do if your puppy is afraid of something? Make him jump on it, hold a sit and then walk 6' away and take a picture. Works for us!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Wachusett Kennel Club - September 21-23, 2012

On Friday AM (at about 4:30 in the morning) I asked Teller for two double-Q's this weekend. Yeah, I know - asking a lot isn't it - but please, Woo? Teller came through for me with a five for six weekend with two double-Q's for Woo-Woo.

 Saturday's Standard run finished with a dogwalk to jump to tunnel. I swear that Teller looked at me on the dogwalk up-ramp and gave me this look like "I totally got this Erica" and I'm thinking "ummm, you actually don't 'got this' it's not the tunnel dude". He was so committed to that tunnel I did not have a shot - there was not enough wait or TELLER to dissuade him from that tunnel. That's our achilles heel and I just can't get him to do it at home, club practice, etc - only when he's trial high. I'd say 80% of the time I can manage it with something like a blind cross at the bottom of the dogwalk - and then well...sometimes the bear gets you :-)
 Friday QQ 

Saturday JWW Q 

Sunday QQ 

Kippie was a mixed bag this weekend. Friday he was entered in T2B - his first 'grown-up' course. We had a little bobble at the end, but otherwise it was a nice solid Q for him - extending his career agility stats to seven for seven :-)
Friday T2B

Saturday Kippie packed his baby brain (of course now that he is running in Open!). He really is a baby still and while he spoiled me with his novice success, he has a long way to go before he is the steady and reliable agility partner that Teller has become. In his standard he fixated on his leash, bringing it with him over the first jump. Silly yes, but once the panel came down in a crash he lost his focus - not unlike his father he does not like to make mistakes. He came back to work, but lost focus again. That's a big fat NQ for the Kipster. He went back to his crate and came out for JWW a much more focused puppy (and he is truly STILL a puppy).

In Open JWW I made a mistake - throwing in a front-cross after a BEAUTIFUL set of weaves, startline, etc - That cost us a refusal and a disconnect. After the refusal there as a bar down and a miscue on a serp line. Interestingly enough after the serp-line failure he took the off-course weaves about 30' away and NAILED his weave entry. He came back to me down the line (after the weaves) and we finished together.

I need to remind myself that he is still very young and very green - he needs a bit of support in those big (harder) courses. We live to play another day!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Old Colony Agility Club - September 8-9th, 2012

I just posted (here) about Kipling's  weekend at OCAC. Teller too had a great weekend going three for four (QQ on Saturday).

We 'flunked' standard this morning on our dogwalk contact, which meant that I got to push JWW a bit to see what I would get if I really put pedal to the metal. I got a nice solid run - perhaps a bit better on the YPS than Saturday's JWW run, but respectable nevertheless. I've watered him, cooled him out and he's eaten the remainder of the cookies in the cooler when I discover that there's been a scribe sheet mix-up and now we have a couple of options - we can run again for time, the judge can watch (and manually time) the video or we can take SCT. According to the sheet I picked up, it was a 7 point JWW run. About average for us in the 20" class where we get a little less time than the 24" class. But you know what? Here's our chance to run it again and leave with MORE points - or less. There's no Q on the line - let's drive it like we stole it.

The result was a full second and a half improvement over the first run (if our original scribe sheet was correct) for 8 MACH points and a run that was just so heckin' fun to run!

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Old Colony Agility Club - September 8th, 2012

Back to Amherst, NH for the Old Colony Agility Club Trial with Kipling and Teller. This was Kippie's third time in the ring having earned his first two NA and NAJ legs on his first two tries. Not to disappoint, Kippie came through with a baby-dog (novice) QQ earning his NA and NAJ titles on the same day - both with first placements.

For the statisticians out there, Kippie's agility career to date:
* Three days of trailing
* Six runs
* Six Qs
* Six perfect weaves/weave entries
* Five clean runs
* One refusal (when he decided a tape measure was VERY interesting).
* Four first placements
* Two second placements
* Nine held contacts
* Six startline stays
* Zero judges and ring-crew visited :-)

Wee-Man is off to open in a few weeks where hopefully he'll continue to improve on those statistics!

Thursday, September 06, 2012

The value of a coach...

Due to some real-life work commitments, I'm a day late on the Blog-Action day topic about coaches and trainers. Better late than never goes the adage!

I started my competitive life on horseback. I had various trainers over my horse-show life, some were significantly better than others but they all taught me something valuable - if only that I didn't want to put my horse or my students in a position I'd been in or ask something of a student I wasn't willing to do myself. Believe it or not my very first riding instructor owned a string of lesson horses and was afraid to ride herself!
Erica and Barry (Beredsam)
1998 - Second Level Dressage

The parallel in dog sport is frankly upsetting - I see lots of people (particularly locally) who are training and taking lessons/classes from people who do not participate in the sport that they are teaching. We have limited options here in Northern Vermont - but really if you want to put a CDX or UD (hell even a rally novice title) on your dog, do you think that training with someone who has never earned a single Q in the sport is going to help you be successful? Choose your trainers and coaches wisely. It's not enough to like someone personally, liking your trainer is really nice - but you can like a lot of people in the dog community, value their insight on topics of the day, but if they aren't subject matter experts (in IT we call them "SME's {pronounced Smeeeeeeeeez} you are going to have an even harder time learning all that you need to be successful and competitive.

Erica and Mouse (Bastille)
1992 - Training Level
Coaching and training in the horse world is very different than coaching and training in the dog world. There is very little sugar coating. Many riding instructors do a lot of yelling! In part because the spaces in which you train is larger (indoor arenas) but also because there is less room for error. If you break your dog's heelwork you aren't going to the hospital with a broken pelvis. There is also a great deal of practicality in reinforcement - which is different than force. Riders by necessity communicate in a very physical manner with their horses while the trend with dogs is completely hands off - which I think is a mistake on the part of dog trainers. One doesn't have to be abusive to train a dog, but ignoring all of the stuff we don't like in order to reinforce the stuff we do like only gives the dog half the picture. I want my dogs to know when they are wrong and there are many ways we can communicate that without breaking spirit or inflicting pain. And when they're thinking and making really good choices I heavily reinforce that effort, both with food, toys and yes - my hands on the dog.

There are fewer horse show weekends on (in the Northeast) a limited season of shows. The season runs May through October and a heavily campaigned dressage horse might be out one weekend a month, the jumpers circuit is a bit more demanding but a heavily campaigned Jumper might be out 2 weekends a month with a 3 or 4 day show as one of the weekends. Competition is rigorous and it's pretty common for horses to have several days off in the pasture after a show weekend. Coaches and trainers go to shows with their students, watch their students warm-up, coach from the ground, watch performances and provide real-time feedback. Sometimes it's a drag to come out of the ring and get that feedback - but there is a HUGE  investment in student's success and improvement. Coaches and trainers are compensated for warming up their students and acting as eyes on the ground. This is all very common and normal.
Our Young-Rider teams (1996 I think) with our Coach and Trainer.

In the agility world, I've been disappointed with some trainers who don't support their students but especially their novice handlers.  I see way too many novice (and open) handlers who are at trials by themselves. There's no introduction to dog shows or introductions to friendly people in the community. There's no feedback (positive or negative) and there's no support to the newest fledglings of the sport. When I was teaching regular classes I was so careful to launch newbies successfully. They entered trials I was going to with my own dog (or dogs)  and I stayed to the end of the day to watch every single one of them run. It gave me an idea of what they needed to work on to improve and it gave me the chance to cheer them on, pick them up and in more than a few cases step back and see what a lovely team they had become. At a recent trial I watched a novice dog gallop out of the ring in three of it's four runs. Bystanders caught the dog, the handler was embarrassed (naturally). I know who their instructor was, they'd left hours before after NQ'ing in their morning run. There wasn't positive feedback, there wasn't any feedback at all and when the student says to the instructor later "He left the ring after jump five" that isn't going to provide any information to the coach about why that performance may have happened.

As a community I think we need to step up on what it means to be a coach and the responsibilities that go along with teaching newbies and novice handler. There's a level of responsibility we should take more seriously and yes, take a page from those horsey folks.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

NOMAD Novice Night - September 5th, 2012

My turn to facilitate NOMAD's novice night. Here's what I put together.

Three sets of practice sequences (stations).
Red denotes nested items that change for the run-through portion.

Red was the excellent level course; Blue was for the novice dogs.
Sub'ed in a tire for the #1 wingless jump.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Kipling at DockDogs - Hopkinton Fair 9/3/2012

As of Sunday Evening (day four of the DockDogs event at the Hopkinton Fair) Kipling was standing in 4th place in the amateur division after 16 'Big Air' waves (Amateur 0' to 17'11"; Semi-Pro 18'-21'11"; Pro greater than 22') with his best jump on Thursday (16'11").

So I decided to drive down for finals today, hedging our bets that we'd keep that position after the two waves this morning. So 5:15 alarm, 6:15 departure and a 8:30 arrival for 9am practice.

Once I got there we had to come up with a strategy. I put him in practice and he's consistently jumping 20'+ over the 6 jumps he got in practice. So I watched the first wave - there were quite a few jumps in the 17' range, but I had no way of knowing which of those dogs had already jumped out of amateur over the weekend. Was 16'11" good enough to get into the amateur finals? If I could get a 17'6" jump we'd be solidly in the finals, but if we went over 18' we'd be out of the amateur division and into semi-pro where a 20' jump wouldn't be good enough to get him into finals. What to do, what to do?

I gambled and entered that second (and final) wave. Kipling blew me out of the water with a TWO FOOT improvement for an 18'11" jump. There goes finals baby! For our second jump I threw (and sent him) too early and while I think it was our best 'official' jump of the weekend it wasn't scored - manual scoring of that jump put it in the 20' range. Our second official jump was a solid 18'9".

In the end, that 16'11" score would have put us in second place in the amateur finals and that 18'11" would have won the amateur finals. That was my miscalculation and a credit to Kipling's willingness to do whatever I ask of him and do it BIGGER and BETTER than the last time! I'm happy with the drastic improvement and I'm psyched that he loves playing this game too. From a training standpoint, I love that he held his stays (waits) on the dock. He was barking and bouncing back there AMPED and ready to go, but he did not go until he was released. The barking was a surprise to me, I'm used to whining in waits poolside at home - but the barking bounce was a new trick!