Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday Training 22

Switching Contacts.. Again

After the rough run-through (in terms of A-Frame performance) in New Jersey and an equally bad attempt to try to teach the four-on-the-floor behavior (or even the beginnings of it) during my ring time, I decided that I'm going to give 2o2o one more push.

Aside from my lack of ambition, I had serious concerns about Marge not being able to to two different kinds of contacts on the Dog Walk and A-Frame, and also did not think she'd do well with going into a down on grass (she can get iffy about it - doesn't like getting wet). I really hadn't given the 2o2o a fair chance, I had maybe 2 private lessons to train it and the rest was in class. So, I'm going to focus on it these next few weeks and see where it goes.

Here is a compilation of some A-Frames from my ring time.. be as critical as you can, and take into consideration her body mechanics.. does it look like a huge stress on her body? I'm just baffled as to why it would be so bad for HER to do a 2o2o, yet I see dogs twice her size doing it without a problem. I don't know if I'm being too cautious or not cautious enough. I don't want her to hurt her front joints, but I also don't want to do a large amount of repetitions in teaching the modified running contact.

Louie seems to think that Marge's successes and failures in getting into 2o2o position have a lot to do with when I cue her. If I cue her once all four feet are on the down ramp, she misses it. If I cue her earlier, she usually hits it. I'm going to continue working on it and see what happens. I'm also going to do dog walk work in hopes that proofing the contact on the dog walk might help out the A-Frame situation.

Crates and Snarky Town

Marge hung out in a plain old wire crate for almost an hour between our private practice and our agility class. She did great - I sat right there with her and fed her little bits of treat often. Just as I was about to take her out, one of our newer classmates - a very happy, goofy - very large breed dog - came in and went right up to the crate she was in.. which Marge did NOT take well. I can't really blame her for it - she felt trapped and acted accordingly to try to remove the perceived thread. The door was closed, and I blocked as best I could, but the snark ensued. Nasty barks, growls, hackles up.. the whole shebang. I'm hoping it doesn't set us back - I had her wait in the crate for a few more minutes to calm down before I let her out.

She got all nutso when she saw him come in to the room to run his course during class, so I put her in the connected bathroom with the door half closed and stood by, ready to slam it shut in the event that he came over to say hello. I did wind up having to do it. I tried to play Look at That with her but she wasn't really interested.. don't know whether that means she really wasn't that uncomfortable with him or what. Those were her only snarks of the day, so on the whole, her behavior was quite good.

Another Indoor Class
The day's unseasonably warm temperatures did make me long for the big open agility field, but class inside was fun too.

The (silent) video.. there was lots of talking and it's more fun for me to recount the play- by-play here!:

  • The opening was more offset jumps. Seems to be becoming a theme in this class! This week's jumps were much harder than lasts. Took me once or twice to get the first two down pat, but the two back crosses before jump 3 and before the A-Frame were not problematic at all. According to my awesome teacher, we have smokin' back crosses. You can practically see those lead changes in midair!
  • I think I've spoken enough about the A-Frame, but Marge hit the contact more times than not while running this sequence. I think she missed it once out of four times.
  • Her weaves continue to look beautiful.
  • The jump after the weaves was interesting.. we started learning the new "backy-uppy", popular for threadle handling, and I'm so happy I finally got it because it worked out awesome in this situation.
  • The next cross was the really hard front cross down the opening line of jumps.. I could get there, but Marge wasn't really turning into me. I think that's the one thing we left unfixed from the class.
  • Teeter didn't look bad! I put treats on the end of the board and she ate them, didn't try to jump off or anything. Thinking about doing some teeter work next week during my ring time.
  • Tunnel to the final line of jumps was interesting. Marge totally saved my butt on this one, because I got way too far out ahead of her but she still came into my side and took the three jumps. Other dogs opted to go up the A-Frame, take the weaves, etc. Thanks, Marge, for not letting your less-than-stellar handler get in the way!
Next week is our final week in agility class, maybe except for one possible drop-in in February. This doesn't mean we won't be doing agility anymore - even with college classes, I'll still be able to squeeze in a trip to the club every Monday from 2 to 3. Unfortunately, since class is later than that, I can't stick around. I'll also hopefully be able to have some private lessons and get back out to Jersey for another one of those run-throughs. We are NOT hibernating this winter!

Non-Agility Updates
I know these Tuesday posts are always really long, but I haven't brought up our other training endeavors in a while:
  • Walks are continuing in some capacity. Night walks happen when I think it's quiet enough and/or cold enough out. She's been doing well.. had no problem with an ambulance being across the street from her on Monday night's walk. I thought for sure that she'd at least keep an eye on it.
  • We had another visitor to our house, a 15 year old girl friend of my sister's. She was in her crate in the basement with me when the doorbell rang and didn't try to get up or anything. Very chilled out, very good. I went upstairs with her a short while later and she took to the girl immediately. I mean, 100% comfortable with her. Welcoming pets, trying to jump up and kiss her face. Awesomeness.
  • She's been pretty good with my dad, too.. going up to him with full expectation of being petted (there is only so much I can tell him - he insists on petting her), jumps on him sometimes, bops him with her nose.. MUCH better than before. Don't want to jinx it, but the door situation has been managed pretty good as well. She's beginning to learn the default behavior of coming to find me and get her cookies (ie. move away from the door), especially when she knows its him coming home (his car makes a distinct beeping noise when he locks it - convenient for me, convenient for Marge).
  • Planning on some Rally practice too, maybe even with other people around. We've got a trial to prepare for!
As you can see, we're keeping busy. I know the Tuesday Training posts are pretty technical in nature, but it's so important for me to log my progress. I recently went back and read some of my old blog posts, and the difference from month to month, sometimes even week to week, can be profound.

Stay tuned for a fun post in the coming days - MargeBlog is about to turn 1 year old!


Kathy January 19, 2010 at 3:32 AM  

Looking at your aframes she looks like she is getting it. She is starting to hold her head lower, but I think it would be really nice and discourage leaping if she focused her head lower, perhaps using a target a few times to get her to keep her head lower. As she was getting it better after a few repetitions it looked like she was rocking her weight back a little. How about some games with the position. I was watching Amanda Shynes 360 contact video and she does a game where you put a jump at the side of the Aframe and the dog jumps over the jump and then hits the position. I could have my dogs do it and post a little video. I also have my dogs just pop into position and pay them for it, trying to make that position a really cool position to get into.

whoo hoo Marge hanging out in a wire crate and relaxing. I HATE when people let dogs run up to my dogs to say "HI" when mine are in a crate, that is just plain mean to the dog in the crate with no where to go.
Marge read that rear cross with the first jumps so well, and I noticed the aframe contacts looked really nice. I love the backy uppy.
Marge sounds like she is getting so much better with visitors, that is soooo cool, good for you and good for brave Marge.

I can not wait for your rally trial, that is so cool.

Sara January 19, 2010 at 6:17 AM  

I think Kathy's idea of using a target is a good idea. It does seem like Marge understands what you want, but is sometimes just too excited to do it or is looking for you.

Nice job on having Marge stay in the crate! And for handling the situation with the other dog. Those kinds of things frustrate me, but I guess we have to use them as "training moments". LOL.

Dog_geek January 19, 2010 at 8:05 AM  

Some thoughts... She does look like she is coming down a little heavier on her front end than I would like to see. Generally, what happens as the dog is cresting the apex determines whether the dog will be able to (safely) stop on the contact. As the dog is coming over the top, they need to already be shifting their weight back - otherwise they will either have to bail, or they will jam their shoulders to make it. Cueing earlier seems to help a little. One exercise ala Sharon Nelson is to actually teach the dog to back up the down side of the A-frame. Once they know how to back up the ramp, then run the A-frame - once the dog hits the contact, instead of releasing them forward, ask them to back up the ramp. In order to prepare their body to be able to back up, they will get their weight back under them as they are coming down.

Another thing I have done with some dogs is to add a target (I usually use a little piece of masking tape) about a third of the way down the down side of the A-frame, and put a little blob of squeeze chese on it. In order to be able to get the cheese off this target, the dog will have to fold back as they are coming over the top. For some dogs, this really helps them to learn what they need to do with their body to control themselves on the down side.

Diana January 19, 2010 at 8:13 AM  

Notice on the 3rd time going over the a-frame where her feet are. On the last section of the a-frame. Thats where you want them. Then notice the time when she didnt stop and you put her back on. You put her back legs up higher, notice her back and how its swayed. You dont want that. I would practice with a table next to the a-frame and have her jump from the table onto the aframe and then tell her "touch" ( or what ever word you use) to get into position. Work on rewarding with head down and feet on the bottom positon. That way she doesnt have to keep running the whole a-frame to learn the position you want. I hope that makes sense. Diana

Frankie Furter January 19, 2010 at 8:27 AM  

I am sure Marge will continue to make grrrreat progress. I'll keep my paws crossed

Samantha January 19, 2010 at 8:58 AM  

Oh how I wish I understood the techie terminology of agility more! But I do understand a tiny bit about communication between doggie and handler and you both look amazing at this skill!!! I can't believe how you wrote about her probs several months ago and now just LOOK at her go!!! She is a fast one, which I guess is furry, furry important in agility. You go, ladies!!! I know your first real trial will be interesting and wonderful for so many reasons! Keep it up!
Big hugs xo

KB January 19, 2010 at 10:18 AM  

I think that I agree with Louie about the A frame timing. It looks like Marge needs to prepare early to stop with her back paws on the contact zone so she needs an early cue. It certainly doesn't look like an injury or anything conformational is stopping her.

Remember how you worried about the weaves just a little while ago. Then, it seemed like Marge suddenly 'got it' (her weaves looked great!). I bet that the same thing will happen with the A frame.

All in all, the trend in your posts has been that Marge is improving in all areas (agility, general fearfulness) by leaps and bounds. That is so great!

Scout 'n Freyja January 19, 2010 at 10:28 AM  

We ♥ it when we can keep up with your progress. It is wonderful to watch Marge grow and learn and change. Did we ever tell you that we ♥ Marge? Yesh, we do!

LauraK January 19, 2010 at 11:17 AM  

I'm having the same dilemma with Riley- especially since we're having shoulder issues and she's heavier in the chest due to her "pit" traits. It's so hard to decide what to do, especially if you don't want to lose the training that you already have. I am definitely going to be switching to running contacts when Riley and I become more experienced, and I know that she won't blow her contacts. Marge does seem to slam her shoulders, but it doesn't seem to an extent that I would be stressed out about right now anyways. Like you said, there are dogs out there that slam way worse- but I guess you have to look at how long they're going to be doing agility. I'm definitely NO expert though :) I love how positive you are with her- she's lucky to have you!

I would definitely try a target with treats- it gets them super excited about doing contacts. I've never really had a problem with missing contacts, but Riley was starting to creep down the downside of the A-frame. I decided to bring out the targets again and WOW- whole new experience. She was SO excited about doing her contacts, and didn't slam her shoulders as much since she had to get the treat. Some of those things you have to remember- don't take things for granted and make everything as exciting as it can be. I hadn't brought out those targets for over 8 months because her contacts were always so good- bad mom! So I bring them out randomly now, just to keep her guessing :) And Diana's suggestion about the table next to the A-frame is great, so you can get more repetitions in for her to understand her job without doing the whole A-frame every time. Good luck with everything, you're so motivated- it's fun to read about!

Martha and Bailey January 19, 2010 at 1:14 PM  

As you know we poor bassets do not understand a thing about agility!
We try to watch and learn as Marge goes from strength to strength guided by you.
We love seeing the bond between the two of you - we understand that bit!
love and kisses
Martha & Bailey xxx

Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom January 19, 2010 at 3:09 PM  

...and this Sibe MIGHT understand but chooses NOT to!

Tank woo fur sharing all this grrrreat stuff -

Marge is sooooo lukhky to have such kharing folks to be with!


Kari in WeHo January 19, 2010 at 3:36 PM  

she really seems to love those weave poles! she is super fast through them

Gus, Louie and Callie January 19, 2010 at 5:30 PM  

Marge you are doing an awesome job.. You look so good doing your agility.. Keep up the good work...

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

kissa-bull January 19, 2010 at 5:36 PM  

we're rooting for you marge
your doing so gweat
wiggles and snuggles
the houston pittie pack

giantspeckledchihuahua January 19, 2010 at 6:21 PM  

I love your tuesday posts! Every bit of it! I love watching you both progress, I love watching you and marge working together, I love your commentary and the advice others offer. I love that your logging everythng so you can go back and see your progress when things don't progress as quickly as you might like!

Dog Skin Solutions January 19, 2010 at 6:37 PM  

great video post agility training to dogs. I enjoy reading your blog post. keep it up!

BRUTUS January 19, 2010 at 6:49 PM  

I'm coming in pretty late in the game here, but agree with several of the other comments. The first thing I noticed is that Marge's head is up, looking at you for a treat, which makes it natural to bring her back end down/off the incline. I think a target would do wonders, as it would bring her head down, she could see it as soon as she came across the apex and have plenty of time to prepare for the stop.
Otherwise I think you are looking better & better every week, only wish I could get as much focus from Brutus. I'm working on crate training right now too; if I can get him to relax in there like Marge away from home (he's fine in a crate at home, a nightmare otherwise) I'll be thrilled!
Keep up the hard work, it certainly is showing!!


Muttsandaklutz January 20, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

As you mentioned, one nice thing about 2o2o is that although the behaviour is (IMO) harder on their bodies than a running contact, they don't have to do nearly as many repetitions to learn the behaviour.
And, once the behaviour is learned, not a lot of reps are needed to maintain it.

Life With Dogs January 20, 2010 at 11:16 PM  

I like that your posts are technical - it makes for a free education. You are correct about progress - it's easier to see when you step back and reflect, but clear to the rest of us with each visit...

Jules January 21, 2010 at 8:35 AM  

Good luck with continuing you training of the 2o2o. Given the breeds I have it is not something i have any experience with. :-)

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