Wednesday, August 27, 2008

second session of learning to HIT IT in the box

second session of learning to HIT IT in box

Ok so here is our second session with Lizzie to teach her to get four feet in the box. She is still doing a lot of looking at me, the bummer is that I have taught her that when I had so much trouble getting her to stay with me so she focuses nice, but I am using reward placement across her vision line and away from me to try to get her focusing off of me. Anyway, she likes the box work, the command is Hit IT, and I am hoping to either maybe try the RAchel S method of running Aframes or use this to teach her to collect and stride on the Aframe, so she isnt jumping off the end. I am still sort of playing around and trying to figure out what I want to do wtih the Lizzie Lou. Hey but she is with me and working well, having a good time and I couldnt be more thrilled even if we do have some bugs to work out, we are on our way.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I HATE contacts, LOL!!!

WARNING THIS IS A LONG POST AND JUST WORKING OUT MY THOUGHTS AND MY PLAN FOR WHAT WE WILL BE DOING WITH OUR CONTACTS. I suspect most people will not want to wade through all these thoughts, LOL. WELL, because Breeze has a definate physical problem with her hips, whether it is causing her problems now or will ever cause her problems......she does have arthritis starting, and so after reading Chris Zinc, DVMs thoughts on the safest contact performance, and after talking to lots of people I had deceided to do a four on the floor contact with Breeze, I can be pretty consistent when I want so I felt like it was worth trying if we could make it easier on her body, and my instructor felt that it would be best to just keep it the same with both dogs, so that is what was chosen for Lizzie too. Chloe the sheltie does a gorgeous 2O2O but she has injured her shoulders in the past with that, so....I have taught her to rock back and sort of angle down on the down side and we just dont do many because she already will blow off a tunnel or jump if she sees the AFrame or dog walk, especially the dog walk, so we really dont need to make that more valuable now do we? Anyway, Liz learned it right away and LOVES going to her mat and HAD the most beautiful performance. Breeze took a long time to learn it and I was hating mat work for a bit, but she finally got it and her natural default behavior is a down so it does work really well for her too. Let me clarify this is a modified running contact if you want to define running contact meaning that they dont stop in the contact zone and stride right through. But it is a definate stopped contact. The dog strides up and over the contact, the way it has been working they lower and start to drop a stride or two before the mat and when they reach the mat they crouch into a down and then wait for a release. I have all my criteria for the obstacle written out and I review it pretty often to make sure I am watching all the criteria. YIPPIE, SKIPPIE, it all works fantastically well and gets the job done. UNTIL when my instructor was gone and we spent about a month without working contacts, Liz has gotten more confidence, and you know that border collie is always thinking of ways to do things a little easier and faster.... Anyway, first thing to happen was Liz was making this big splat sound when going on the upside of the contact. I rewound and checked the video and sure enough she was consistently missing the upcontact, she would jump right up past the upcontact, do a mighty leap over the apex and then continue on her way. The rest of it looked all right. I was not excited over putting out a big stride regulator to make her jump and land closer to the Aframe so she would have to be safer and stride in the upcontact, but we hauled it out and I tried to find it a home in my car for traveling, LOL. So that worked for.....hummmm....a few days, until I figured out where the stride regulator should be to really make my upside look good. About that time Liz started a bad curling in behavior turning toward me on the I brought out my treat and train-worked with the mat on the flat to get her really used to driving to the mat and looking ahead and not having to look at me, and tried to get her to use more toys for her release so I could throw those over her path of vision and away from me, and I noticed....... YIKES, once we got her striding nicely over the upside, we got a leap from the upside over the Apex, down to the bottom of the green, before the contact started and then she leaps down onto the mat where her bottom is touching the bottom of the contact. HOW COULD SHE DO THAT???? A person had warned me that would happen, LOL, but I hadnt really believed them, but YIKES. So CRAP, that wasnt going to be acceptable now was it. So I reviewed all of Ann Crofts work with four on the floor which we had modified and put our own spin on it, and here is what I think was missing from my initial training:::
1. I think I taught Liz to approach the obstacle and stride up and over, but she just was happening to stride through the yellow to get to the mat. Lizzie Lou figured out a way around that and figured she would save me some time, she knows this is a game about time, so in her defence I never made it clear that striding through the yellow was part of it, just get your butt to the mat. So now I see why Ann insists on using the hoop at the bottom, a concrete way for the dog to know they have to also go to the bottom of the obstacle not just fly on down.
2. I have never rewarded striding, and as Alicia says collection on the obstacle, again I just figured because it was there to begin with it would always be there, humm, guess that isnt necessarily so.
3. I ASSUMED to hit the mat when it is very close to the bottom of the Aframe that it would be automatic that there would be a stride through the yellow contact zone, WRONG on that one, LOL.
4. I think I totally underestimated Lizzies WHOO HOO behaviors. She is a weird combination of wanting to please me and being fundamentally soft, and being totally exciteable and over the top so it makes it really hard for her to keep her head at times. I know I always need to have VERY CLEAR consistent criteria and this is one case where I think she needed more criteria and my criteria was not nearly as clear as I thought it was, there were loop holes-DRATS.
5. I think that Liz just hasnt a clue how to work out her striding, when we fix the upramp the down side is messed up, when the downside was gorgeous the upside was a mess, think she needs to actually be taught again HOW to go over the obstacle and how to handle her body, along with criteria she understands to make the obstacle safe. GUESS WE GOT SOME WORK TO DO.
So this ends up at the current conflict about what we are going to do with this contact stuff. the Options:
1. to do a 2O2o, which will probably take care of the problem EXCEPT seeing how Liz is handling stuff now I think she still needs to learn to stride correctly or I am SURE she will leap from the top of the obstacle into a 2o2o position and I can not imagine what that will look like for her shoulders. So it might take care of the hitting the yellow problem but not sure that will automatically make it a safer performance. So I think I can only do that if I do some other training too.
2. I always like new things......and reading the clean run article about the Rachel Saunders running contact training on the Aframe, just sounds very intriguing-would be totally cool to be able to teach the striding and body collection on the flat. Liz is very clicker savy and picks things up quickly. So here is the crazy idea, why couldnt I train the box and still add on the mat behavior at the end? Eventually weaning that out and ending up with a running Aframe???
3. I could go back and work on my four on the floor, add in the hoops, start with the low aframe and work on teaching Liz to collect on the obstacle, being more clear about encouraging her to look elsewhere. The bummer with this whole situation is Ann just started a series of articles with revisions for the four on the floor, some of the things that sound like they have been revised sound like they address some of my issues, so wouldnt it be nice if I could read it all now and not have to wait three more months??? That would be too easy to let me read all the new hints and tips now, right???
So, the plan.....taaaa daaaaaa, is to stay off the Aframe for the moment, no big hurry to rush into anything, and going to do some work on the flat and see how it goes, feel my way through and come up with a plan. Breeze is not working contacts right now, so .......good thing I have some time to modify my training and deceide what I want to do for her-last she was on the contacts she had a gorgeous four on the floor, but seeing her excitement, not sure how that will end up.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shaping and Gratitude

So I am just trying to figure out how to do SOMETHING with the videos, LOL, so sat and spent the afternoon first trying to shape closing a box with Liz and Breeze, shaping 2X2 weaves with Cherry, who is doing well by the by, and shaping laying on a mat to put with my contact behavior which has fallen apart with Liz. Seriously not sure about what to do with Lizzies contacts, but might post a video and a seperate entry about that soon. Sooo can not figure out how to uncode my ipod music to put with videos, which sucks, but finally got a video made with music and everything-even if I had to use a song that came with the computer, LOL.

Made a few other decisions, started a gratitude journal again, an idea I first heard on Oprah, but has helped in the past when I feel off balance, so of course the whole idea is to list five things to be grateful for every night. Sounds like a stupid and easy thing but it has been a powerful thing in my life at times, it just helps to remind me of the great things I do have in my life. It is just too easy to focus on problems some days.

So for some of the things I am really grateful for, I am so grateful my kids are so wonderful, strong and healthy, that has to be a HUGE thing to be grateful for. I am grateful I do have so many choices in my life and that I am healthy and can make new decisions every day. I am grateful that I do have the things I really need, there are a lot of things I WANT that I do not have, but I have the basics and I should be happier about that. As far as my dogs because this is my dog blog.....I am grateful that Lizzie is so happy, friendly and so attached to me, she might be difficult to focus and work with but she has the underneath desire to be with me. And she is growing up and BOY am I GRATEFUL about that!!! I am grateful Breeze is doing as well as she is and she just looks so good physically right now and she keeps showing me how smart she is. Chloe is just such an easy dog and so sweet, what isnt to be grateful about that. Skyler is just an easy to get along with dog. And I am really grateful that there have been so many people that have helped me along the way with this agility journey, I have had a lot more people take an interest and really help me then I deserve, and I have met so many people through this, there have been hassles and conflicts but even that has all been resolved so....I guess I dont have a lot to complain about. And most of all I am really GRATEFUL my dogs understand CLICKER TRAINING, working with some dogs that don't understand it makes me really grateful that my dogs do-having such a powerful tool sure makes like much more wonderful!!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

We might actually get there--where ever there is!

WELL, this week is the big IRS TAX AUDIT, YIKES!!!! The funny thing is we have nothing, and can not imagine where we could hide anything money wise, our stuff is pretty non complex, BUT we are being audited and they claim we owe them a ton. Ahhhhhhhh......anyway, we are not so ogranized with receits and stuff, so we might be going away for a long time. So before we get shipped to the poor house or the big house I went ahead and ordered a cart so I can go to trials and my dogs dont have to both get stuffed into one soft crate barely big enough for one of them, (actually that is what I had to do last weekend because it was just too far to drag the big wire crates-because it was hot and I am just weak and lazy). Sooooooo have to say it is sort of exciting getting together all my supplies and putting together my "kit" for trialing. All of a sudden it really feels like we might actually be able to trial one day, and if we dont end up going away we are going to be ready, YIPPIE!!! I got a gift certificate to Clean Run for a dog I am keeping here and working with, so going to get some of the other little things I will "need". As for the actual meat and potatoes of this venture......Breeze started back to her agility slowly, not sure I picked the right thing to start with but first she was allowed to do short runs and now we are doing weaves. She is doing eight weaves as of today. I am sure that Susan Garrets 2X2 weave video should be out any day now, videos always come out just AFTER I have finished training whatever they are about. Lizzie has had some horrible diarrhea and isnt herself, although no one can find anything specific wrong but I am worried about her, so she isnt doing her weaves, and then I am figureing out that dogs that arent opporant and dont know that game and not food motivated are not the best candidates for 2X2 training, I had tried the little dog we are taking care of and the results are less then exciting. Anyway, so nothing really exciting happening, just the trappings and some sutle signs that we might actually be moving forward.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I learned all I need to know in beginning agility class???

WELL, I couldn't sleep last night and you know how you lie there and ping on some thought?? Well, I kept thinking about what I want out of agility and what I always hope to have in my training and the values I hope that I never stray from, and it occurred to me that the beginning agility class I substitute taught last session has really clarified so many things for me. I had never taught before but when my instructor was going to be gone for most of the summer I deceided to dive in and try my hand at some instructing. I know a lot of the really good agility competitors do not want to mess with beginners, and it does take a lot of patience and some adjustment and sometimes what they are doing doesn't seem like rocket science or mind blowing but.........gosh I have learned so much. For one thing I had really seen the ugly side lately of how some people in agility can treat each other, there are some people out there with such a wonderful nurturing attitude that all help each other out so much, and some strong friendships are formed and then there is the nasty side that some people show when they are competiting. I have seen how ugly people can be to their dogs, the disappointment and the frustration they show to their dogs or just when they do things that are not in the best interests of their dog. ON the other hand I have also seen how intense the bonds can be with some people and their dogs and the lengths some people will go to to make sure their canine buddy is doing ok and I really admire those people. Anyway, so had a few moments of wondering how far I want to get into all of this and knowing I dont want to make some turn along the way and really get to the point of not letting competiting ever turn me into the type of person I do not admire. It hit me though that watching this beginning class for these eight weeks.......gosh, they are what the whole agility thing is all about, it is written on their faces as plain as day, and I can only hope that as time goes on I will always take the time to notice those faces and to reconnect with that wonder that I hope will always be inside me. The thing that is so great about this group of handlers/dogs is that for instance we were doing just a simple oval with five jumps and a tunnel at one end of the oval where they were to send their dogs over a jump and then rear cross the tunnel, pick the dog up on the other side and continue around the oval over the jumps. Simple stuff right??? Well, these people did that and the look on their faces, just the pure joy that they were running a sequence, and their little super star dog was actually doing agility. They were just so proud of themselves, and of their dogs. It took intense concentration for them to remember where they should be and get the foot work right for something that I never think about anymore but for them it was a big deal, and they felt such accomplishment for getting it right, it was all too cool. I remember a particular exercise when I was learning a simple turn away into a tunnel, I could not for the life of me do it, and I tried over and over and finally came back after class to try to get it. LOL, I have since went out and set up that particular sequence because I remember so vividly just not being able to comprehend the set up, and anyway, looking at it now I truly dont know what I could have been confused at, it just is so straightforward to me now. Anyway, after my beginners sequence, none of those people were disappointed at the speed of their dogs or their turns werent tighter or they couldnt send from further away, they were just so proud of their little buddies and they knew even though it didnt seem like rocket science to others that they had come a long way and they were just happy with that at this moment. If I had that class a little while longer I would hope I could help them play with their dogs even a little more and keep that up so they dont lose that excitement and enthusiasm. Teaching the beginners really gave me a lot of confidence because I really "got" how much more I do know now, how far I have come-and that is refreshing because I tend to just be impatient about not being where I eventually want to be, especially lately when it seems I have hit a bit stalled out space in training. That class made me feel so proud of my dog because it really pointed out to me how much my dogs have learned, how many hundreds of little things they have had to pick up, lots of things I dont even think about. ANYWAY, sure a few of those people will go on to end up competiting and a few will just take a few sessions and then life will get in the way, but I do know these people are learning to connect more with their dogs, and are for right now just having a good time, and during that class I think most of those people found our agility classes to be a Happy Place, which is what agility has always been for me, so I feel very successful, and I hope that I always remember the look in those handlers eyes on their first few sequences and remember to stop and feel that for my dogs when I work with them.