learnings

Hey! So, to take a break from agility for like, 5 seconds… I’ve been teaching myself a language. And it’s completely impractical because it’s a language that like, 98% of people have never heard of, but some of my kids at school speak it and I think it’s really fun to be able to say little things to them in their own language and the more they teach me the more they open up to me so that’s really fun, plus I just find language fascinating. I find learning new sounds fascinating, and new letters, and new ways of pronouncing things. I find figuring out how to put words into sentences fascinating, and I love watching them teach me. One of the kids who’s in year 6 is becoming the most awesome teacher – he knows to speak nice and slowly and clearly when he’s teaching me new phrases so I can watch his mouth to get the sounds right and then he’s so stoked when I pick it up on the first or second try. I know how to call someone a dog as an insult, so that’s handy, and they’ve now told me how to tell someone to be quiet (which they then laughed and said it’s more like ‘shut up’. Yes, I have VERY easy-going relationships with my kids. I’m not strict AT ALL and that’s how I like it). I just taught myself a few ways of asking how they’re going (though, they told me the “cool” way of saying it already) so I’ll go in tomorrow and ask and see if they understand me or not, hahaha.

It’s difficult though because I’d like to continue learning, and actually work out how to make my own sentences rather than just getting sentences made for me, but I don’t know if I’ll be teaching there next year. I’m currently driving an hour each way to school and I love it there – I love the philosophy, I love the kids, the staff are cool, the Principal is great, we laugh in staff-meetings and have wine in the 1st grade room on Friday afternoons… but… I’m a teacher… one of the brilliant things about my job is my ability to work 5 or 10 minutes from home. Think what I could do with an extra 50 minutes a day!!! All the hiking I could do, maybe I could actually train Lumen sometimes! When we get another dog (in a couple of years) I could actually have time to train all 3! I could write books! I could actually do my own exercise, or go to a yoga class and not feel guilty because it’s a “one or the other” scenario (dogs or me). But it’ll be sad… I have such a nice little bunch of kid-friends at my school and I really have them trusting me… I don’t want to abandon them. And what if a different school is all strict? And what if they don’t like how I do things and they want me to do worksheets? And what if kids don’t walk around at yard duty chatting with you about things and teaching you how to count in another language? Sad times.

Speaking of learnings though (I can’t keep away from agility can I?) – Loki has his first seminar ever this weekend. A FULL WEEKEND OF AGILITY. His face is going to melt off. I can’t even… he’s going to explode by Sunday. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned it. It’s OMD. It’ll be fun. I think I’ve mentioned it.

Lovely DW hits tonight. When we finished I took him for a walk around the paddock then we came back and worked on tight turns off the DW. Although he wasn’t targetting his target, he was hitting consistently every time, collecting up… so maybe it will all be ok.

And his weaves are nearly there. Entrances are BRILLIANT. I can hardly trick him with left entries now from what we’ve been doing (always work to do) and the middle poles are ALMOST closed. Oh, so close. I have them at an angle now as Silvia says in her DVD but as soon as I make them straight his little brain can’t compute. Not sure how to get to the next stage here apart from ‘keep trying!’. He can do the first 5, then misses 2, then does the last ones.. just those 4 in a row of straight poles are very hard for his brain. Maybe I just close one at a time instead of the 2 middle ones. That might be a better idea – then he’s still doing 3 closed poles in a row, then slightly closed. Yep. I’m going to do that. Thanks everyone for your input.

Everything else is super funtimes. A-frame/tunnel discriminations are good to go. Tunnel threadles are still a work in progress but usually ok. Bars without wings BAAADDDD NEWS but we’ll get there. Backside-y, wrapp-y jumps are looking lovely… did a sweet backlap to a far tunnel the other day… Oh here, have a video. Lots of learning going on!!!

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consistency

So remember a few posts ago I said that Lu no longer had a dogwalk behaviour?
Turns out that if you actually train something consistently,  it gets better. So weird, right?!

It took her a good 5 or so sessions to get her style back & to look confident, but here you go, Lumen’s most recent RC. She’s such a front-foot hitter. Always has been.

There’s no trials between now and August for us (there’s one we could go to in June but until I’m running Loki my heart just isn’t in it) so I’m going to try and get her on some other dogwalks between now and then, too. The next step at home will be giving her different exits keeping the thrown ball, then different exits and including more obstacles before getting the thrown ball. I think as soon as she looses that forward drive is when she gets into trouble with her hits. That being said, this session had a whole spectrum of starting speeds, from a nice straight leadout, a tunnel on the side, a 90-degree turn onto the walk (as Australian judges seem to be loving doing lately) and a turn back from the tunnel under the DW. I put that tunnel there as a challenge for both my guys, but of course Lu loves the DW so much that she would MUCH rather do it than the tunnel (tunnels are dumb in Lumen-world) and Loki hasn’t seemed to notice it at all. Which is PERFECT! And I even test him by sending him in it sometimes.

With him, I’m wanting to split “fast start” sessions with “slow start” sessions. By far he finds medium-speed entries the hardest, followed closely by fast starts. I feel like he’s getting close to working out that stretching just a bit more to that 2nd apex will get him jackpots but he hasn’t done it consistently enough to be rewarded multiple times for it yet… but I figure he’s in about 80-90% now with high hits and some are safer… so if we keep working this way and jackpotting the best hits he’ll figure out the best style for him and hit that way. In the meantime if I work the two different entry speeds separately it won’t confuse his little brain as to which striding he has to do and once he’s confident and consistent in both, I’ll introduce medium-speed back in.

And somehow, at some point, he has to learn how to do soft turns off the dogwalk even with fast entries, because at the moment, his 4-stride attempts are too hard for him to turn with so… we’ll work on that a bit later. There’s still 3 months before he’s competing anyway. Heaps of time!

Oh! One more thing if you’re still reading!

Could you all please go and “like” Loki and my graduation video for RC class. You don’t even have to watch the video, just click “like”. If we win, we get  a free class & Silvia is running foundations in August so I could hassle her some more about dogwalks and then you, dear readers, won’t have to put up with me whining about them here! See, it’s win-win, so help me win!

Click here to vote!!!

when to trust your gut

Loki is so close to being consistent with his dog walk… SO CLOSE I can taste it. He can hit all the time with slow starts and now, 4 strides are coming together. I can see him trying different options, seeing which are easiest for him and still allow him to hit. Yet Silvia’s suggestion had been to work on slower entries for longer, very gradually building up more and more speed.

But I felt like he was close. He was almost there, almost! He just needed time and practise. He just needed to work out which striding felt easiest, which worked, how to make his body do what it needs to do at warp speed.

And today we had the hits in the video below. They weren’t all the hits in the session, there were some high ones but no misses… you can see him trying some different things, and he seems to be working on 3 options – the long extended foot over the apex, the short stride before the apex then extended foot after, and a new one that appeared today which was kicking off from the apex with back feet. I think in a session or two he’s going to choose which is easiest for him and start doing it more and more, and maybe sometimes do the other options too when he needs to, but he’s doing so good now, it’s so cool.

 

 

stop, reset.

I’ve been trying something new-ish with Loki and his dogwalk. I think it’s good. It’s a good concept. I’ll talk about it more if it works. We’ve probably had 3 sessions since starting, and I guess you could say it complements Silvia’s method in that it brings a bit more awareness to the importance of the end of the plank…

But we’re still sitting at about 50% JP’able hits. This isn’t great. The frustrating part is that even if I start from the same starting point, the hits are unpredictable. I really appreciate Lu now, because once I had a starting spot that worked for her, she’d hit the same way every time. Loki will do: average/good hit, JP! Leap, leap, leap, JP! All from the same spot. They’re not like, normal leaps either, they’re like an extension of the last stride so that his front-feet don’t have to hit at the bottom of the plank, even when there’s a long strip of carpet keeping it from looking like the bottom of the plank.

So I think I just need to remember in those leaping times, to stop after say, 2 leaps. Stop, reset, do the little extra ‘supplementary’ bit of the training – remind him how awesome the end of the plank is, and try again.

I just don’t know how else to solve this. It feels like we’re going to be stuck here forever. We could raise the plank, we could lower the plank, we could do good starting spots, we could change starting spots, we could back-chain, we could use carpet, we could throw a toy, we could drive to a toy, we could drive to a tunnel. I could give him a week’s break to think about it, I could keep going until he gets it.

There’s so many answers and this is truly the first time we haven’t been able to ‘get it’ and figure out a way to help him understand what he needs to do. And it feels so shit because he’s trying so hard and getting puffed and I’m just at a loss as to how to help him.

Maybe we’ll try to stop and reset.

Poor little Ro.

coming to an understanding

Current dogwalk exit setup. Notice stick on the left hand side. Angle doesn't look that bad but it was enough to make her jump.

Current dogwalk exit setup. Notice stick on the left hand side. Angle doesn’t look that bad but it was enough to make her jump.

It’s funny you know, with Lu, how much I’m learning all the time about her, about training, about myself.

For example, today I realised that it’s ok if she doesn’t ‘get’ turns straight away- she’s a dog for whom it takes 4-6 sessions to ‘get’ an idea. Full height dogwalk took about 8-10 sessions before she was consistently running and not leaping. Being keen for food games probably took 3-4 sessions. But sometimes I forget this, and when I find a solution to a problem that makes perfect sense in my mind (like putting poles/a stick at the end of the dogwalk to remind her to run all the way down), I can’t sort of reason why it doesn’t make the same perfect sense for her, too, and then just magically work every time from then on.

We had a great session tonight. We did right up to 90 degree turns, and ended up having a twig on one side of the walk (see picture). I also had some great discrimination opportunities there too with a tunnel to the side, straight ahead, and a jump off to the side. Of course, being Lu, like she cares about a tunnel unless really blatantly cued. In fact, sometimes I’d celebrate her good hit on the dogwalk and have to run her right to the mouth of the tunnel before she’d go in because she was wondering if she could get her reward right away. But it was good to do that kind of discrimination, it was good to do turns. It’s good to be able to no-reward some attempts, and jackpot others. I think, actually, that the clear distinction between ‘yes’ and ‘not really’ is super important for her learning. But she certainly wasn’t hitting 100% of the time, or even close to 80% probably, but she’s learning – and in another 2, 3 or 4 sessions, I think she’ll be hitting much more consistently and I can remove the stick. I also hope that with more confidence and experience doing turns that she won’t feel the need to shorten her stride like she seemed to be doing tonight. I think she’s thinking so hard about having to go all the way down that it’s altering how she was running, too.

 

I was talking to Penny tonight, and certainly something I’m planning to do from the very early stages with Loki is introduce soft turns and discriminations. Given that Lu wouldn’t ever drive to a static toy and that I really just needed to get her RUNNING, that was my main focus. I have a feeling they won’t be major concerns with Loki, so I can focus on turns and discriminations earlier on.

Such different dogs.

So much learning.

& note to self: if she doesn’t ‘get it’ in session 1, this is normal. NORMAL.