running & visitors

So I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about Loki’s dogwalk. In the session below we worked on soft turns to the right to start with, then changed to straight exits. It was the first time we’d done soft turns and so his style changed a bit and he had more misses but I do think he was trying, and I do think that if I keep working on those turns he’ll get better at it.

Some of his hits in this video aren’t necessarily the prettiest but I’m working on understanding at the moment. So I’m doing a lot of ‘starting on the plank’ and close wrap starts and letting him choose the speed. So this isn’t Loki full speed, this is Loki thinking speed. I figure once he really understands what he has to do, he’ll add his own speed especially if I stop using the Manner’s Minder at the end, too. What I’m really enjoying seeing is the amount of effort he’s putting into… I think hitting the towel? I think that seems to be his goal… which is what my criteria has been – feet solidly on the towel. Those high probably-accidental foot hits? Reward. One foot solidly  a third of the way down the towel? Jackpot.  He’s never seemed to TRY to hit something before like this – not the target mat, not the contact area… It’s so interesting to see him shorten or lengthen his stride as he comes down in order to hit. I’m also getting front feet hits which he’s never done before (not since we first started RC training anyway)… And which although Silvia discourages, I don’t mind. I think one of his big things is not wanting to put an extra stride on the down plank because it would take him too close to the edge. If he feels confident putting in that last stride and getting close to the edge, he should be getting lovely deep hits!

I figure my plan is to keep this setup for a while longer, until turns are looking pretty solid.. then I’ll raise it up and do the same thing again.. up, up, up… once we’re on full height… work on adding speed… and then gradually fade the ‘ground’ end of the towel, and then fade it all together. By that point it should be a pretty ingrained behaviour, it’ll just be changing the picture of where the ‘end’ of the DW is (because right now the end is hidden by the towel, of course) so depending on what he uses as a marker of where to hit will depend on how removing the towel affects him.

We have a visiting dog in our house at the moment. Lumen’s breeder let me borrow a young dog to do some filming with for a class I’m going to be running. I needed an untrained dog and so I’ve welcomed Zuma home for a week or so.

It’s been an interesting few days with her… my little ‘pack’ has really banded together to keep her on the outside, and she’s used to bitches being bitches that she’s not pushy and so hasn’t really tried to get anyone to play or be her friend… Loki has been the most interesting one, showing a lot of teeth if she goes near his face, snarking once or twice at her for little things… She’s tried to play a game where she chases him and then bites him on the back. That’s gone down as well as a ton of bricks. Lu has squashed her pretty badly twice- once being possessive over Nic (I suspect Zuma pushed in when Lu was having cuddly time with Nic), and once for a reason I don’t know. I’d been training Loki in this DW session and Zuma had been trying to climb through the fence… and the next thing I know Lu was pinning her and yelling in her face, and she’s crying and trying to get out. I suspect Lu was telling her off for being naughty for trying to get through the fence. She’s sensitive about things like that (she loves it when dogs or cats get in trouble, and she goes over to help tell them off. Apparently her Mum does exactly the same thing).

But this morning Loki and Zuma were starting to play outside, though Loki was a bit rough for Z… and a bit of wrestling inside until Lu decided to be the fun police and tell them off. Gives me hope though that when it’s actually time to get a puppy that their world won’t fall apart, and they might all get along and be friends. Even my socially awkward border collie.

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running type learnings

So, I’ve been playing around some with Loki’s dogwalk again. I was using a target mat but as soon as there was any speed or turning he’d stop targetting. I don’t think he likes targetting so much. So recently I’ve started doing more like what Isabelle did with Finn (Fyn?) and Jenny did with Lili and letting him choose a speed to run down to a Manners Minder, and rewarding for low hits. I’ve put a towel over the end of the dogwalk to hide the edge a bit to try and desensitise him to it a little as I think he’s in a habit of hitting in certain ways at certain points…

Anyway, everything is looking pretty nice, I’m getting a variety of hits, a mix of quite low, and one paw near the middle, one near the top of the contact (still a good hit!). We’re working on a 60cm dogwalk, even though most people seem to do it with a plank from a table, we don’t have a table so I can’t do that.

I’ve also done one session with hard turns, using a pole at the end and that was really nice… and once I feel confident he’s understanding his job more, I’ll work on soft turns by moving the MM.

But like… I don’t know if I trust my own training skills… There’s a class that Martina Magnoli Klimesova recommended – a Portuguese trainer, and I was thinking of signing up… but I kind of like what we’re playing around with, I think we’re heading in the right direction… I don’t want to start something completely 100% different… So anyway, I emailed her with what we’re doing and if it’s kind of similar maybe I’ll join. An extra eye and more experienced expertise can’t hurt anyway. I just don’t want to spend a crapton of money to then not really get much out of the course/not like the method/whatever. Hmm…

 

We also played on our fancy new height see-saw today (90cm at the top end! Yes!!!) and Loki did so awesomely. He doesn’t do the big powerful SLIDE onto the contact, but he gets there quickly enough for a first session. I don’t know if he’ll ever slide… maybe he will with more confidence. He did very well on the new height. He’s a lovely friend.

Weaves are on hold during break, as is jumping… I’m working on stays and have a bit of a plan of attack, including a new ‘setup’ routine that will help him get ‘unstuck’, as he’s getting VERY sticky when training at home.

One thing I do need to work on is listening skills… Once he has it in his mind to do something and is committed to it, it’s so hard to get him to do something different. And his commitment point for most obstacles is like, 7 meters away. 😉 I’ll think of some games I can play for this kind of skill. LISTENING GAMES, LOKI. ❤

 

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!!!

training ‘n things

A windy blustery day today. Does the wind make anyone else feel a bit discombobulated? I was worried Loki was going to get blown off the dogwalk. Lu was pretty convinced she was going to be.

I’ve been thinking a bit about this blog and the purpose of it. As it descends into whiny dogwalk land once more, I wonder what I should do with it. I don’t want to be an advice blog, telling people how to do agility… but I’m pretty sure there’s only so many times that people can read about my efforts so solve Loki’s dogwalk… Plus, the blog is hardly about Lu any more and so the title seems inaccurate… but I don’t necessarily want a Loki-themed name, cos what about when another dog comes along? I was thinking of a name with a Light/Dark theme in it (from Lumen being Light and Loki being the dark sort of trickster in Norse mythology) and although I don’t mind darklightmotion it sounds more like a movie production company than an agility blog. Any ideas?!

While we were on the topic of dogwalks, I’ve discovered a few things about Loki from tonight. 1. Doing soft turns as a single exercise stresses out his little brain and leads to much collection. 2. Doing dogwalks as part of a sequence promotes really nice running and really nice hits, especially if NRs result in no sequence. Loki loves him a sequence. 3. Could the answer to my soft turns problem be poles stuck in the ground to promote going-forwardness + sequences? Possibly.

Lumen also got to do DWs tonight. I’m trying to do them more regularly with her but it’s hard. I don’t find it as fun, even though it really is fun, and even though she actually likes training DWs and is happy. I’ve been working on the same turns with her because whenever we get anything vaguely not straight at a trial, I get no hits. So this is a good experience for her. She doesn’t do sequences after it.

I asked my personal agility trainer (OMD coach Niki) for some help in getting Loki to collect when entering the weaves, as he was coming out way wide and missing the 2nd pole. I’d watched Silvia’s DVD and kind of disagreed with her suggestion (this seems to be happening more often with me now and I think this is ok… it seems like an expansion of my understandings and techniques) to open the first poles more and work on more extreme angles there. To me that wouldn’t necessarily promote a whole lot more collection than what I was already seeing. Niki suggested two things – one was a little fence (which OMD uses a lot to help with different things, usually commitment) which I didn’t have and it would have been too windy to stand up, and the other was to do weave-grabs through the 2nd gap, reward with food there, then progress to moving the hand earlier and earlier. After just 2 sessions of doing this, working lots of angles and adding speed, I’ve seen a huge increase in his understanding. He’s failing WAY less than with the other method, and is actually coming to understand how to use his body. He’s hitting entries from tunnels (so, FAST) that I wouldn’t have dreamed he could hit the other day, and I’m really not helping him all that much, and sometimes I’m testing him by not being there with the grab at all. The middlest poles have about 3cm left to close, and the outer ones have 5-7 left, so there’s not far to go. I figure once he understands how to enter properly, then I’ll work on independent entries again. It’s very fun.

So – any ideas for the blog? Any ideas for names?

If you’re interested, “dothelokimotion” isn’t taken yet, nor is “onesmallbc” but … y’know… he is small (33lbs/15kg). Both are pretty Loki-centric. Maybe it could be “extrastreme”  because we say that Loki is extrastreme because it’s like extreme but even more extra. Maybe my blog could be extrastreme…Or how about orangesplodgecollie – sums up my 3 dogs? I could go down the Silvia path and have MaLuLo 😉 Hmmmmm…Help!?

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!!!

letting it be, part 2.

So hey.

Good news, Loki no longer seems ‘flat’. I actually wonder if he had a stomach thing or if his food wasn’t agreeing with him. But he’s back to keen and fast and running to the start to do another rep of the DW so hurrah! That’s awesome.

His weaves are coming along so, so nicely. I think the poles are probably about 7cm apart now and he’s starting to understand how to collect for entries of 90 degrees on the left. I need to do more right entries though as he goes in at the 2nd pole. His independence is great and I’ve even been doing rear-crosses into the channel. So much fun. Scares the crap out of me how he does them though – absolutely no regard for his body.

I dropped the A-frame to lower today as well as he’d been trying to clear the down-part in one stride and not getting deep enough so I decided I actually needed to do some work on it, so we had a lovely session doing that, too. I think I need to proof him to my movement…. In Loki world, the priorities are speed first, thinking second. Which is what I’ve found with dogwalks too. LOVE his speed, but this presents new challenges.

As for running DW. I posted last time that he was trying new patterns. Well he’s decided that the most comfortable option for him is a 4-stride dogwalk where he flies down the down-plank and puts in the stride near the end. This actually works most (not all) of the time. I was going to get all pedantic and try and slow his entries to the max to try and get 4.5 strides but really… he’s hitting, and he’s running like this VERY consistently, even with slow entries, so it’s obviously WAY easier on him than his big down-plank adjustments… so I figure if I can JP the best ones he’ll work out how far he needs to stretch. By the end of today’s fairly short session he’d worked out that if he stretched a little more on the top plank, he’d push off the apex with RF and have a beautiful hit in the contact with the next stride. If that’s how he wants to do it, GREAT!!! I’m feeling like this ‘let it be’ attitude is freeing. I don’t want to impose my ideals of how his DW should look if his way is working for him. Also his separation was coming back in this last session. Hurray!!!

Now I need to start introducing different exits with discriminations. Oh boy. How do I start? He can hit any exit, and even when I was playing with tight turns he was doing them BRILLIANTLY! I’ve trained them a little but today ran the whole thing with a sharp turn at the end and he did SO awesome. Maybe this is finally a DW thing he’ll just understand! But if there was an option to race forward and do the forward jump, no way was he turning. He patterns so easily. So I’m not sure how to introduce discriminations without freaking him out, but proving the point that he still needs to listen.

The other day I had a nice setup with a pinwheel option, a jump tunnel option, or a ‘cik’ option…. so maybe I’ll do that again. In the meantime I’ll see what Silvia has to say. I bet she won’t be happy with Loki’s DW behaviour. Meh!

We had such a fun little agility course at the trial today. It had some great little technical bits with opportunities for different handling options… nice dogwalk entry and exit… couple of push-blinds… really fun… and Lu was all flat and bored. I can’t wait to run Loki. It’s going to be THE BEST.

Here’s today’s dogwalks

recognising that it’s going to be ok/let it be

So, back in the land of Dogwalks. Doing ok. Generally getting 100% hits from Loki (let’s not even talk about the train-wreck that is Lumen’s RC right now), but I’d say about 50% are high hits. He’s trying stuff. He’s trying loooooooooong leaps all the way down from the apex to the contact zone, he’s trying keeping both front-feet airborn but paddling with back-feet (these get reeeallllyyyy nice hits), he’s trying keeping one front foot airborn and doing like a mini-stride (also really nice hits) and sometimes he forgets to try anything at all (whoops.).

His separation is still nowhere near as good as it was… It is AWESOME for the hits. Like, really cool… but the other 3 strides along the rest of the DW not so much.

But I’m sort of thinking like…

How much does it matter? This dog cannot run faster. I have no doubt that he is going as fast as he can. Is he hitting? Yes. Is he working it all out? Yes? Would he be able to get further along the dogwalk with more power if he had more separation? Maybe, but meh. So…. does his separation matter at this stage? Not so much. If he can hit, if he’s running fast, and if he’s being consistent, I think that’s more important, right? I think sometimes I get so caught up in stressing about how something ‘should’ look that I forget that maybe it’s ok just how it is. I don’t anticipate him picking up a bucket-load of separation when we start trialling so he’d get all confused about how to hit…. Maybe he just likes it this way. So maybe I’m just going to be ok with that and try and help him to hit more and teach him exiT discriminations (oh lordy this scares me SO much… I don’t even know where to begin without freaking the crap out of him by giving him options) and if his separation comes back, awesome! If it doesn’t and he’s still consistent, awesome!
Meh

Who cares.

And we’re getting closer to weaves. Yes yes yes it’s very fun.

Oh but his A-frame sucks. It sucks so bad. I need to get more chain and lower it but that involves going to the shop. Yuck. So much for an A-frame for free. Booooo.