Thursday, February 28, 2013

Flying Frame Update

Just a quick update from what I posted a few days ago. I worked Hokey on the A-Frame again today and concentrated on getting her to jump the apex, rather than scrambling over it like she was doing on Sunday. I placed a jump bar at the top of the frame to encourage the behavior and it seemed to work the majority of the time. It looks like she's getting 2 strides on the upside rather than the 3 she was getting on Sunday. However, on the decent, she is putting in a short stride between landing over the apex and pouncing into the box. I guess I'll see if that starts to fade as she gets more experience and gains more confidence. I think this is pretty good for only her second time on the frame though.

Monday, February 25, 2013

3-2-1 Contact Training (with Serps & Pinwheels too)

 Hokey's agility training has been coming along. While (im)patiently waiting for spring to arrive, I've recently been able to get access to a nice building and equipment to practice on once a week. And it's only ~10 minutes from my house. Deb Goodhart rents the building about once a month to give lessons, so we've been doing that as well. I'm so appreciative to finally have an opportunity to do some training that doesn't involve traveling to the ends of the earth!

I put together a couple of clips of just a few things I was working on during our practice sessions. The first shows us doing some rear cross on the tunnel work, learning to drive through the chute and just fooling around running a little sequence -- a "real" one.

The following week, I worked her on some serps. It was only the 2nd time she'd done real serps. The first had been about a week before in my backyard. We still need a little work on timing and teamwork and her ability to consistently read the serp RTH when I add motion, but I thought she did stunningly overall considering how green she is. I also show a bit of a rear cross exercise at the end of this. Rear crosses are something we are still working hard at and still need a lot of work, but I was happy with what she did here. It's coming along. I was doing some exercises with her in my backyard this evening and after a small initial struggle, she started to really pick it up well. We'll continue to work at it.

Hokey has had a couple of initial introductory sessions on the teeter now, with the ends set on tables. During the first session, we just let her run back and forth to get treats at either end. Then we dropped one of the tables so that one end had about a 12" drop. She was unfazed. She couldn't seem to turn around fast enough to run to the other end to get her treat, even if it meant jumping up on the end and riding it down first. Of course, being deaf, the banging noise is out of the picture for her. But the motion doesn't seem to worry her.

Here is the end of our second session on the teeter. I am not teaching her any "end behavior" yet, however I am trying to train her to pause on the table at the end of the teeter as I move ahead. Since she is relatively fearless and tends to be at the "less" end of the self-preservation scale, teaching her to use her brakes now is probably a good idea. So here she is playing her favorite teeter ping-pong game:

She's been working the A-frame grid well for some time now, although admittedly I haven't been able to do it consistently during the winter months. But every time we do work it, she's been working well. So I decided it was time to introduce the actual A-frame into the equation. We've played the "mountain climbing game" on one side of the frame a couple of times to build up her hamstrings and teach her that she's able to control her decent. And she's run over it a couple of times at full height on the way to something else of her own accord (deaf dogs simply don't listen to "Don't do that until you've been trained how" and the "uh-uh-uh" as they forge ahead with their own agenda). But for a true introduction, we lowered it and I put my PVC box on. The first couple of times up and down, she was pretty tentative and unsure, like here:

So we decided to set up the ground grid next to the frame to remind her of what it is all about and give her muscle memory a boost.

That was all fine and good, so I switched back to the frame. Or at least I tried to. Suddenly, she was all "Frame? What frame? I don't see any huge, looming piece of wood directly in front of me". Even when Deb tried a restrained recall, she did a run-around.

Then she finally took the plunge up and over, proceeding to leap completely over the contact zone and box. But...she did a great job tackling the frame.

So now we were ready to put it together. As you can see, Hokey hasn't made the connection and generalized the striding from the ground grid to the frame yet. She's still getting used to the idea of running up and down it at this point. I know she's capable of opening up her stride more and she needs to learn to leap over the top rather than scrambling over and down until pouncing through the box, as she's mostly doing here. She may need a jump bar or something clamped to the top in order to help aid her in transferring the striding she learned on the ground grid to the frame. We'll see. But this isn't too bad considering it's the first time working the frame for this wee little pup.

We also worked some pinwheel exercises in my lesson this week. Since we are new to sequencing and with Hokey still being VERY green, her obstacle commitment is not always there and she apparently still needs quite a bit of support. I'm sure this will lessen as she gains experience and confidence. Here we are doing a straight pinwheel. Without a lot of support, she is pulling off jumps instead of committing:

Here we are doing the exercise without the send to the middle pinwheel jump, so that she understands that where I place my body relative to the plane of jumps tells her whether to take the pinwheel jump or not. Not taking the pinwheel jump isn't a problem, but she is so sensitive to my pulling motion that she almost misses the 3rd jump without me giving her a little extra push back out to it.

 Next, adding a front cross between jumps 4 and 5 after the pinwheel. I spent too long supporting her pinwheel jump and was late for my cross the first time through. The second time was much better. Of course, part of training a new dog, especially when you start to put it together and run some sequences, means learning how to come together to work as a team.

Then we did the pinwheel with blind crosses. The first run was pretty nice. I was a little too early on my cross in the 2nd run. The 3rd was much better timing-wise, even though she ended up dropping the bar.

Our last blind cross ended up being pretty nice though. Bonus: she doesn't even look at the off-course trap jump set up near the 3rd and 4th jumps:

We haven't started any training for the dogwalk and haven't even been able to resume the groundwork for that was put on hold for the winter. (confession: in another don't-try-to-tell-a-deaf-dog-no moment, she has been up on the full height dog walk of her own accord a couple of times. Like I said, she is fearless. I have been VERY conscious of keeping her away from the full-height teeter however).

I plan on starting 2x2 weave training sometime in March.

So that's the update on Hocus Pocus training. More to come soon as the warmer weather allows us more training opportunities!