Monday, July 30, 2007

Lesley Olden seminar - part II

The exercises I really liked consisted of timing various handling options for one sequence and seeing which one was faster. The results were sometimes counter-intuitive for me, which is why I liked it so much, because of all the information these exercises provided.

What was very eye-opening for me was Lesley's concept of lines on turns. I'd heard about it before, I think it's something I really should have known about, but well... somehow I never gave it as much thought as Lesley did at this seminar. In general, Lesley said (rightly so) that it is always faster for a dog to turn in the direction it is moving in and looking at.

In this exercise it would seem that the shorter and thus faster route would be to shape the turn between the 1-2 jumps, wrap the wing of number 2 to the left and give the dog a straight on entrance into the weaves. Like this:

BUT.... it turned out that for all the dogs (one exception, a smaller slower dog) it was significantly faster to turn right after number 2 and wrap the wing from the other direction. Mostly because the 1-2 line was clearly suggesting to the dog that it would be turning right. Thus, the left turn in the first handling option took longer to register and wasn't as tight as the right turn. Here's the faster handling:

Same thing in the exercise below. It would seem logical to wrap the right wing of number 2, have the dog move between jumps 2 and 3 onto the A-frame, also giving the dog a straight on approach onto the A-frame. Like this:

But it turned out that giving the dogs an angled approach to the aframe, by turning the dog to the left after jump number 3, was the faster solution for everyone.

I also noticed that Lesley is a fan of long offset leadouts, especially when they help you get a tighter turn. And what she suggested here was a leadout way to the right of number 2, with the left shoulder turned towards the dog, left arm leading the dog to number 2 and switching to the right arm as soon as the dog commits. Again, something I'll have to practice, because it was a good idea in terms of the tighter turn it created.

Here's the faster handling option:

This one wasn't as clear cut and obvious. The concept that the faster turn will be in the direction the dog is looking in would apply, but the distance the dog travels after turning left is so much longer that it sometimes outweighs the time gained on the turn. Here are the two options:

EDIT: Come to think of it there actually isn't any distance losst on turning to the left here. Which means I have absolutely no idea why turning to the right worked faster for me. But it did.

And nothing counterintuitive about the sequence below. The faster way was with a front cross after number two. BUT... it was damn hard to get it in. For me it required sending the dog into the tunnel running to number 2 ASAP and giving her my turn cue to number 3 as she was coming towards number 2.
I also tried the second handlig with a post turn after number 2 and with a wrap and then a back cross. My post turns/pivots suck, so it was faster with a wrap and a rear cross.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lesley Olden seminar - part I

I just got back from a seminar with Lesley Olden and what an informative seminar it was!

In general I have to say I love Lesley's handling style, because it's so un-European. Lesley is not a "run with your dog as fast as you can" kind of person, she has knee problems herself, so she needs to look for ideas that allow her to maintain speed while handling from a larger distance than most European handlers.

On the other hand I'm not sure if she's got the personality of a seminar-giver, I think you really have to dig to get answers out of her, ask her questions and don't accept a "well done" type of comment. I'm also glad I was in the advanced group with Uma, because she seemed excellent when discussing the handling issues we faced and kind of bored with the basic (motivation, focus, startline stays) issues the less-advanced people had. So for handling strategies, she's an excellent choice and I highly recommend her.

She definitely revealed tons of holes in my training and motivated me to work on them. I'll write them down now (so I don't forget) and I'll later write about the specific exercises.

TURNS - I've been working on this a lot, but it seems like there's still a lot to be done. I have not worked on pivot turns (post turns) and that shows when I need to do one. And more work on wrapping wings tightly. It seems her best turns are turns out of rear crosses. That has to change ;-) Lesley also showed us some cool grid work jumping exercises, which I will want to work on in my neverending quest to improve Uma's jumping technique.

WEAVES - Lesley has totally impressive weave entries from a distance at weird angles and at tons of speed. I still need work on that, lots of work. I also need to work on entries when I'm on front of the dog and recalls through the weaves.

PULL THROUGHS (and threadles) - this seems to be one of Lesley's favorite moves. I need work on pull throughs when the dog is way in front of me, which can happen... Lesley suggested teaching a verball pull through command and I think I'll go for that. I had some issues doing the threadle in the course which follows below, there was no way I could get it from a distance. Especially since I'm used too handling threadles while walking backwards, I can only achieve this when I'm in front of the dog. If the dog is in front of me, there's no way I can do that.

TUNNELS - it seems Uma does not understand the concept of the possibility of exiting the pipe tunnel in the other direction than the arc the tunnel is curving in. And I can call her all I want, in the course below she still first turned to the indside of the tunnel after existing it. Lesley suggested directional commands, but I am not sure about that. I'll have to think it through.

CONTACTS - Uma has gorgeous contacts and fast as well, but she sometimes loses it when the speed is really outrageous - as in below 1.7 seconds. In the course below I tried sending her to the number 8 tunnel and recalling her over the dogwalk. The first time she did not get the contact, it was just too fast. I had to go back to a target and the next time she got it. So more work on this, getting really top notch speed (out of a tunnel) and recalling over a contact obstacle.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

more courses and photos

Here's yet another cute Uma pic from Lublin (two weekends ago):

The guy who took this picture, Szymon Regis, is one of the best agility photographers out there. Like most of the agility photographers in Poland he lets people use his photos for free as long as credit is given.

And two more courses from last weekend. This one was particularly nasty:

We died after the number 15 jump. I was too slow Uma took the dummy jump (number 8) instead of going to the tunnel. But it was a heck of a nasty course.

And a Jumpers course which I was particularly proud of running well:

The way FCI trials work in general is that there are three runs a day - one is the so-called "exam" That's a regular standard run divided into levels (A0, A1, A2, A3). You need three Qs from A1 to move up into A2, 3 Q with top 3 placements from A2 to get into A3 and 3 Qs with top three placements from A3 to earn the A3 title. Exams are not organized at each and every trial (unfortunately and for strange and complicated reasons). The two remaining runs, one Jumpers and one Standard, are so-called Open runs, which means any dog from any category can run in them. They don't count for titles.

And now we're off to a seminar with Lesley Olden. That should be fun!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Photos from Bialystok Trial

And some photos from the trial in Bialystok. All photos by Mokka (Hanna Bryzek).

Get that contact, girl!

Got it, mom!

Straight line, legs extended:

Maybe a little bit less extended here... Maybe not.


This one's my favorite:

And the A-Frame

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bialystok, July 20-21

We were in Bialystok at an official FCI trial this weekend. There were some highs and some lows, but we were running very smoothly and the only times anything happened was when I messed up.

BAD: calling her too early when she's in the tunnel, not turning her quick enough after she comes barelling out of a tunnel, me being nervious about weave entrances and thus Uma not getting them (on Sunday I relaxed and she got ALL her weave entrances). And more bad timing on my part....

GOOD: The dog :-) Uma holding her contacts (I'm tempted to start quick releases with her, but I don't think I'm there yet), fast weaves, awesome jump work, just 1 knocked bar all weekend long (my fault). Practically all of our runs were very nice and fluent, usually with one stupid handler mistake per run. Two were awesome - a qualifying Standard run on Sunday in A1 (this means she has 1 leg and needs 2 more to move up) and an awesome clean Open Standard run on Sunday (with a third place).

Saturday was a "bad handler day" for Uma and I really messed her up quite a few times. I pulled her out of the chute by calling too early (there was a tricky sequence following, I didn't want her to take the dummy jump, but it was obviously too early) and I put her over the wrong jump after exiting the tunnel.

I did the very same thing on Sunday which cost me an off course and a very nice trophy. Here's the course where this happened:

Here I off-coursed her after the number 18 tunnel onto the number 3 jump instead of doing the broad jump. I didn't turn her tight enough after the tunnel and it didn't help that I was on the right side of the broad jump. She jumped the jump when my back was turned to the tunnel. I did the same thing in Saturday's Open Jumpers class, which means this is something I need to work one. Both of these runs would have been awesome if it wasn't for that off course after the tunnel.

This is a course we ran clean and in 41.90 seconds. The best time was 38 seconds by a very fast Lithuanian border collie. However, I was holding Uma's contacts for at least half a second on each. I'm sure there's no way she would have been as fast as that dog, but I could technically shave at least 1.5 second off her time by quick relasing. But.... I'm not sure I'm ready for that yet. Anyway, here's the course:

In general I'm very pleased with her and of course disappointed in my handling skills or lack thereof. But next weekend we're going to a seminar with Lesley Olden (of Crufts fame) and I'm looking forward to that.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Lubiln, July 14th

Yesterday we went to Lublin to a small and very informal trial with the goal of holding Uma's contacts and doing all in my power to try and break her stays. There were only 8 dogs in Uma's class, so the trial was absolutely no big deal, but we still did our thing - contacts were perfect as were her stays.

Her standard run was clean and in first place, her jumpers run was also nice, but I was so amazed she made the difficult weave pole entry I held back and pulled her out - so that was 5 faults for a missed weave pole. Still a first place though. Second went to Uma's mom Mira, who missed her weave antry (also 5 faults), but was slower. There's always a combined standard +jumpers classification in Poland and Uma took first in that as well. She also got the "best contacts" award - well, that's what we were there for. We got some very nice hand-made polar fleece tugs as our loot - I think they'll come in handy as tug toys.

And here are the courses from Yesterday. Here's the standard course (as I remember it):

And here's the Jumpers course:

Uma's two siblings (blue merle Asti and black Jinx) were there as well and did very nicely too.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

and more problems

Of course, as always before a trial after a longish break, all kinds of problems have to pop up JUST before the trial.
On Monday I was working on speed on contacts with my club members and worked with Uma as well. It was drizzling and kind of slippery, but after the speed session she was not holding her contacts on the dog walk - trying, but clearly too much speed to stop.
The good news is her speed was decent - 1.6 to 1.9 on the dogwalk. But I cannot yet ask for that kind of speed in competition or this is what I'll get. She needs practice, practice, practice stopping in the 2on/2off position from FULL speed.

On a good note - Mira (Uma's mom) has received an invitation to the ASCA Agility Finals for this year! She qualified in last place of the qualifiers, but I am guessing she must have been the only one who went from Novice to qualifying for the finals in about 6 months.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

We worked on some weave entries on Wednesday and Friday and I have definitely found a hole in my training. But this is something that just needs to be worked on in terms of miles and, hopefully, it will come.

The bigger problem seems to be Uma's weave pole technique. In the US she was very nicely sinigle stepping the poles - BUT the poles in ASCA/USDAA are spaced at 20" - that is 50.8 cm. The poles here are spaced at 65 cm - that is 25.6". It's a HUGE difference, for some reason I hadn't noticed how huge the difference is. And it clearly impacts her technique.

Interestingly, both Mira and Malcolm (and Jinx and Asti - Uma's littermates) single step these weave poles very nicely. I'm trying to think very hard about what to do to get Uma to do this. If her siblings are capable of doing it, it should mean she can do it too. But it's kind of frustrating at this point...

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Training in July

Our first trial in Poland is on July 14-15th, it's an unofficial match in Lublin. The following week (21-22) there's an official trial in Bialystok. Then we're off to an agility seminar with Lesley Olden from the UK and then to agility camp in Vetrkovice.

The past week was devoted to enjoying the almost constant availability of agility equipment :-) We did some tunnel/contact obstacle discriminations and worked on handling for that, some jumping drills on offset lines of jumps and some weired entrances onto contacts.

Our dropped bar ratio has been pretty low, though not nonexistent - but mostly when I pulled too fast on tighter sequences or signalled miserably late.

A friend visited us with a camera yesterday and took some pics of the dogs playing agility and herding. Thanks for the pics, zakla! Here are a few pics of Uma: