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.

 

 

Such a speedy little guy

ladies and gentlemen, we have adjustments.

It’s been a long road. We’re nowhere near the finish-line yet, but I feel we’re getting closer.

When it came to running contacts, Loki had always been on the mindset that faster was better and that rewards were great but running was also great so it didn’t really matter if you got ‘extra play’ (with toys) because running was play enough. This is so nice. So lovely… but not so conducive to him learning stuff while running.

I tried going slower. I tried building value for the end. I tried doing GTCG, I tried using a towel as a target… all these seemed to work for one session and just as quickly, they would mean nothing to Loki, who would rather run fast than worry about a towel.

The other night I was talking to a friend online and I asked when she started to notice her (two) BCs adjusting to hit. Silvia had actually said that Loki not making any effort to hit was very unusual at this point so I wanted to source some more information. She said at about 90cm-1m, then went on to tell me that she used raw meat and play for JPs, and a piece of kibble for rewards and obviously nothing for non-rewards.

And I thought… well, we do ALL our shaping to food, right? Later on, when they know a behaviour, we might cue it and reward it with a toy… but while they’re learning, we use food. When we’re shaping, they get either one treat if they’re close, or lots of treats and a play when they did awesome. What if, in Loki’s little BC head, he’s just having the best time because he gets to run all the time… sometimes he gets to play, sometimes he just gets to run, but it’s all part of the fun game and doesn’t really make sense. What it I made RC look more like shaping. So I did one session of GTCG with food, and almost instantly I started seeing a difference. I’m not over-exaggerating because the sessions before this had been VERY average. Ok, he’s not running at it full speed right now but I think this is fine, we’ll build to that… But of course, this could have all been a fluke… except we had another session today. As per Silvia’s instructions we are to do GTCG and then move him back 10cm at a time on the ground. I’d like to point out the very deliberate adjusting going on in this video. I suppose ideally, we want him to be adjusting earlier than this but given that he’d been showing such little understanding of his job, this is huge!

Let’s just hope it’s not a fluke!

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Loki’s running contacts

I mentioned that I was joining Silvia’s RC class right? Well, I did and it’s going well. I think the best part is being able to hand all the responsibility over to her, knowing that she has so much experience, and say “fix it!!!” and trusting her advice and judgements.

We ended up dropping the height back down to 60cm again cos his running got a bit unsure. The main problem seems to be that his stride-length is generally too short for comfortable 4-stride hits, but too long for easy 5-stride hits. We’re thinking we’ll end up having to train him to do 5 strides but it’s too hard for him to hit with 5 strides when the dogwalk is so low!!

Today I raised it to 70cm… there were plenty of not-quite-right strides, and then some really nice RF hits. I feel like I’m getting a lot more rear-feet hits than I was before the class started. But, whether he hits or not depends entirely on how he enters the DW. If his first hit is very high on the up-contact, he’ll have a gorgeous hit. Anywhere else and he’ll miss or it won’t be as nice.

Anyway, it’s funny because when I was doing it we had a bunch of no-rewards, but in general I walked away feeling really positive about the session. The no-rewards aren’t bugging me or stressing me out like they were before because it’s all part of Silvia’s plan and it will all be ok and she will tell us what to do. Which is just the nicest feeling. It’s making everything a lot more fun!

So, that’s all pretty interesting. We’ve also been doing homework. One of them was cavalettis, which was too easy, so we followed some suggestions to make it harder and did backwards and sideways cavalettis.

I’ve also started using the dam fetch as a big massive jackpot. Gosh he’s cute. I love how border collies get routines. It just amazes me every time. Like, he’ll do a great hit, and I’ll grab his “frisbee cat” (the floating toy we use) and take off running. He goes FULL PELT across the drive, through the fence and to the dam and has to wait for my slow stupid human legs to catch up. He understood that this was what we were doing the 3rd time I grabbed the frisbee cat. I’m pretty sure he likes the game. It’s just fetch but I don’t have to be scared of him breaking himself cos it’s in water.

He’s also eating about 4 cups of food a day because last time I weighed him he was a tiny 14.3kg and if I want him to build muscles he can’t do it if he doesn’t have the calories he needs. He looks a little bit more solid, but not much.

dogwalk action plan

because who doesn’t love an action plan!?

After a fairly shitty dogwalk session at training yesterday I’ve thought about it and talked it through with Penny and I think I’ve come up with a good plan to help Lu with her turns. I can see she’s starting to worry more and more about what she’s meant to do and as a result her striding’s gone out the window, she’s doing all sorts of weird things on the down-ramp even when it’s a straight exit, and it all really sucks. I know, I know, it takes her a few sessions to ‘get it’, but I need to help her along here. I think too much has changed, and I need to wind it back a little.

 

Step 1: Straight tunnel exit with little white PVC poles either side of the plank to build up confidence in running again. Throw ball after tunnel.

Step 2: Straight tunnel exit, but move the tunnel to the side a little. Progressively move the tunnel to either side to work the exits. Throw ball after tunnel.

Step 3: Make PCV poles into little sticks. Continue with straight tunnel at different angles on the exit. Throw ball after tunnel.

Step 4: Fade little sticks. Continue with straight tunnel at different angles on the exit. Throw ball after tunnel.

Step 5: Exit to a jump with no other discriminations. Put sticks back in if necessary. Change exit angle with each successful try.

Step 6: Introduce more obvious discriminations.

 

Meanwhile, I remember from Silvia’s Running Contacts DVD that when she switched to a static toy, Le went through a period of shortening her stride, but she worked through it until she was focusing forward on the next obstacle and she could go back to using a thrown toy then. So, a) it’s ok if Lu shortens her stride a bit while she works this new puzzle out, and b) maybe she needs more forward focus on the next obstacle, too. Often if I say “YAY!” because she hit the contact, she’ll turn back to me rather than driving forward for the tunnel. Possibly I need to consider whether I can get her to run forward for her food pouch after a jump during these sessions as well, to really get her seeking out that obstacle rather than worrying about what I’m doing.

But it should be all ok. As Penny so wisely said to me yesterday after I’d been in tears about the stupid dogwalk: “There was a time when Lu couldn’t even wrap around the 2nd pole of the weaves (when the channel was open to 20cm) and yet now she can nail awesome entries”. So…. we can work things out, we can solve problems, even when things seem so difficult and impossible, and like everything we’ve been training for has gone out the window.

It’s just hard to remember than when I’m busy stressing about those problems.

couple of videos

Here’s some RC. I’m really pleased with this session because she looked really nice doing the tunnel-jump bit, especially since Mal missed that jump a few times (what the?!) and Lu just stretched out and took it… and there were lots of really nice hits even though she was coming at it with speed. I expect the 1st run will be a leap and then she goes: “oh yeah, this thing” and does it properly. I didn’t even start her slow for this session, just ran her on.

Then there’s some weaves and I think I’m throwing too late so she’s looking at me rather than forward. I’ve widened the channel again because she was having a lot of trouble with the 2nd pole so I’m going back to this and then will narrow them again when her entries are more reliable. I think I rushed a bit.

And then a little sequence that was just meant to be figure-8s, eventually including some other stuff but you’ll see that she’s looking for obstacles so much that she goes behind me and does some random jumps. LOVE that she’s looking for obstacles- don’t love that she’s ignoring me. So I think I’ll do this again and with more of a call to hand, and reward from the hand some, and THEN get her going through the tunnel, and repeat the same on the other side. She was jumping really nicely though…

I’m wondering if she’s a bit sore actually. We’ve been doing a fair bit of walking, though nothing excessive, and the wraps are still at 400mm which is high-ish… I’ve just been seeing more of her ‘tired-dog’ walking at the end of a hike, where she pace-walks, and swings her back legs out wide with each step… Even when we were doing 1.5-2 hour hikes in the bush I hadn’t been seeing MUCH of that walk but I certainly saw a lot yesterday. So, since the weather is going to be nice and cold for the next 2 days, we’ll have hiking days, and then see how she goes with some RC on Thursday, and possibly even leave wraps until Friday or Saturday. Which is annoying, because I’d like to train the call-to-hand-wrap-with-distraction-obstacles but I’ll leave it. It’s just a feeling I’ve got, you know?

2 things

1.

As evidenced below, my dog can, in fact, run on a dogwalk without leaping off the end. This is indeed good news. She can also run a DW into a tunnel with good speed. Also excellent news. Especially since a swarm of bees had taken up residence on a fence post in the area where I usually throw her ball. Not so great.  Very cute when she would hit the contact and I’d go: “YAYYYY!” and she’d glance at me as if to say: “reward now?!” and I’d be going: “TUNNEL TUNNEL!” and she’d go: “Oh! OK!!!” and do it. Good girl. So I think I’d like to move her back a bit to try a speedier approach and if there’s still no leaping (and I don’t think there should be), then I’ll put it up 10-15cm or so.

2.

When Lu is sequencing she often feels slow. This is not represented by the video where she’s running fast and into the tunnel. I often feel like she’s slowed down and tired but I don’t actually see it. This session was interesting because the jumps are a LITTLE higher than the last video I posted… she looks like she’s putting in a lot of effort to clear most of them but my plan this week will be to do what I did last time- set them at an easy stride distance (about 7.5m) with her reward hoop at the end, and just run that a few times… then move the 2nd bar in or out. I think at the moment she’s worrying about the height when she doesn’t need to- if we go back to showing her it’s just a bigger stride, that should help. The jump out of the tunnel is still hard for her but she didn’t smash it up or land on top of it, she just jumped higher and further than she needed to, but that’s ok, I think she’ll work it out. I’ll just do the same exercise with the jump a certain distance from a straight tunnel, then move it.

Also, Silvia said I was allowed to let her go chase the rabbits away so she could focus better, as long as she did an easy trick (today it was sit, drop, sit… that was all she could muster) and then I released her… and… today, she didn’t stare off into the paddock once. She was focused and happy. So, rabbit chasing will now happen before every session and I’m ok with that cos it means I get to practise my recall, too (and she’s actually really good with that- provided the rabbits are all gone 😉 )

can’t stop smiling

Yesterday I did some training as I’ve re-enrolled in Silvia’s Foundation class (did I say I was going to do that here? I forget) because despite her jumping weirdness I figured she can’t actually figure out how to jump confidently without practising how to jump, even if that was just at really low bars to start with.

So yesterday I went to the field, Lu chased away the 400 rabbits that have taken up residence there since the owners have moved out, and we did this:

 

 

And I’m so, so happy because she was fast, motivated, engaged and awesome, and it was super fun. I now have a way to practise single wraps AND extension jumping , because her sends to single wraps by themselves suck, but put a single bar in front of them and suddenly she’s running in with speed. AND I have an awesome new tunnel game (A mash-up of Andreja’s curved-to-straight game and the 500-ball tunnel game) which she LOVED and should make her really enthusiastic about curved tunnels, and Silvia said I can add a wrap or an extension jump in and make a little mini-sequence out of the game. Which I’ll do, but not for a while cos it’s too much fun right now… Though I could do it just as straight tunnel-wrap-straight tunnel-throw ball-straight tunnel-wrap etc

AND it’s the first time I’ve ever seen her opt to shorten and add a stride rather than jump from far from the jump and she did it twice in a row and had such a party with the hose game so hopefully it felt easy and good for her and she’ll be more inclined to try that again in future. YAY!!!

 

I’m trying to be really good this time and not over train her. I’m resisting the urge to go every day and do something, but being daylight savings means I can actually go for long evening walks in the light so that makes it easier too because it’s just as fun to go for walks in the bush.