Saturday, November 28, 2009

One of Those Nights

Tonight was just one of those agility practices where my setup and I just didn't gel that well.  

I had two courses in mind with the set up.  The first turned out to be pretty good, and is the one in the video.  

Breaking it down:
  • I liked starting with the tire because, previously, Marge's start lines at tires have not been good.  Didn't seem to be a problem tonight.  
  • Came in between the 180 to go out to the red tunnel, and here I encountered some trouble.  It seems that I turned my body/shoulders too quickly, before Marge committed to the tunnel, and that led to her veering off to the side in the first take.  I added an OUT command (something I almost never use) and that seemed to help.  
  • Coming into the second, blue tunnel was tricky for Marge.  I had to wait back to pull her in to it, but I couldn't wait too far back because the weaves were next.  With subsequent repetitions, she started to get it.  
  • Her weaves were alright tonight.. not as good as I would have liked, not too terrible either.  I don't know whether to be worried about it or not, because her weaves are fine at all (albeit usually at reduced speed).  Starting to wonder if the spacing is different..
  • That front-crossy thing between the weaves and jump seemed better than a back cross, those possibly less efficient.
  • She hasn't seen the table in quite some time.  The fact that it was a low table did throw her off a bit, but there was NO way I was lugging out the heavy, big one.  
  • She did nicely down the line from jump to tunnel, and had no problem figuring out that the tire was the next obstacle.  The rest is straightforward.
Critique, please, critique!

My second sequence was disastrous, way too hard for Marge and way too small for the room I was in, so I scratched it.  But, I couldn't really think of anything better to put (I had some other courses scribbled on paper, but they, too, seemed to be too big for the room) so we did a lot of drill-type stuff.. back crosses into the tunnel, weaves after the tunnel, bounce jumps..

Speaking of bounce jumps, does any one know how the heck to figure out the correct spacing?  Marge either seemed to be constantly straining over them or, if they're too far apart, taking extra strides in between.  Perhaps I should have left the bounce jumps at 16" for another week..

I felt so bad.  On one attempt, Marge went crashing through the final jump and seemed a little discombobulated after, a little hesitant to go over the jump again.  I then decided that we'd all had enough of the bounces and spread them out for her to boost her confidence back up.  I ended the night with a couple of easy 270's.  

I guess I am caught in a never-ending battle between a) wanting to work on specific skills, b) wanting to run a 10-14 obstacle sequence because it's more fun for both of us, c) dealing with the reality that the space is VERY narrow and d) the fact I have no experience putting a course together.  Perhaps next time I should stick to the saying that less is more, and do more drill-type stuff with Marge, since it's what the space is really best for, and end with a couple of very easy 7 or 8 obstacle sequences in the end to keep it fun for her.

I'm definitely missing the input from my instructor, and am relieved that plain ol' classes are starting back up hopefully a week from Monday.  If anyone has any drill/sequence ideas, I'd appreciate the input.  Right now, I have 5 jumps, a tire, 2 tunnels, 12 weaves and a table available.  I'm hoping that the number of jumps and tunnels will increase when the equipment is brought in from the field outside.  Oh, and the space is about 85' x 25', though I prefer to only use about 60' of the long direction.  Ideas, please, ideas!

And, for fun, some pictures from the night, courtesy of my sister..

My only hope is that Marge still had fun tonight despite the technical difficulties of setting stuff up; I think she did, for at least a good portion of the time. However, looking back, the biggest problem I have is probably not rewarding her enough (not so much in this sequence, but in others, especially with the weaves) and being a little bit stressed out about getting stuff out, putting it away, leaving on time, doing some productive, etc. Maybe next time we'll take a step back and do a sequence we've already done, or just one big circle, or smaller set ups that are less intense in every sense of the word.


Martha November 29, 2009 at 5:03 AM  

We always think that Marge looks as though she is having fun.
At points she appears to fly over those jumps.
As you know we don't know anything about agility but we are always impressed by the hard work and committment of you both!
We particularly like the sound of the treat crunching!!!!
Good work xx

Dexter November 29, 2009 at 6:55 AM  

Those do look like kind of tight quarters for agilities. You did great! I think it is hard to do the tire right after something else and sometimes I just go under it. Oops!

Hey, as long as you are running and jumping it is fun, right? Those bouncy jumps must have been hard to get right. Don't be scared if you crash. That's why the jumps are made to fall over.


Sara November 29, 2009 at 7:13 AM  

The weave poles look like they are spaced close together...maybe 21 inches? Talk is most venues are switching to 24 inch spaced weave poles (safer for big dogs). Not sure what you have been practicing on outside. People say dogs shouldn't notice the difference, but I know Oreo notices EVERYTHING!

Working in tight spaces can be difficult. You could pick a certain skill you want to focus on, like 270's, or rear crosses, and set up a short sequence that you can do a bunch of different ways to work on that skill.

If your dog is feeling stressed, you can always put two tunnels, and a few jumps in a circle, and just run that. That has worked great for Oreo. He gets to run fast and doesn't have to think. has exercise books that I use a lot on my yard. I adapt them to fit in my small space.

Kathy Mocharnuk November 29, 2009 at 8:52 AM  

I like that you included a space in your course where Marge is really spreading out, running and able to build up speed. She really gets going when you give her a couple of jumps in a row and she can just drive ahead. I personally think it is important to make sure they always get to practice some of that extension with the tigher stuff so they understand the difference and get used to running both ways. Marge is really going to be fast, and she has a very long stride, and one thing we are working on here is sending to the tunnel, we are just doing around the world tunnel entrances from all angles so that on course when the dogs can just drive ahead they feel confident and I can just send them to the tunnel, a great way to be able to slide laterally and get to the next place when you get on a course and Marge is just zooming-did I say with that stride I think she is going to be fast ;-).
I have not done the Susan Salo jump grids in awhile, and I will look it up because I want to do some with my doggies too, but if you want bounce grids I think you start with around 6 feet and then you might have to increase until she comfortably bounces in between, but if I remember correctly Susan Salo uses very low height jumps?

Gus, Louie and Callie November 29, 2009 at 9:21 AM  

Marge you did great.. We think you are a professional. As long as you have a job we know you love it..

Big Sloppy Kisses
Gus, Louie and Callie

Two French Bulldogs November 29, 2009 at 12:53 PM  

Good job Marge you look like a pro..We don't like those weavy poles.
Have a relaxing day
Benny & Lily

Lorenza November 29, 2009 at 1:10 PM  

I don't know a thing about agility but I think you are doing it great!
Kisses and hugs

The Army of Four November 29, 2009 at 1:55 PM  

You two are doing great. Remember to keep it fun and relaxed.
Tail wags,

Cinnamon and Mint November 29, 2009 at 3:40 PM  

I think you are doing great as always! Especially it is great that you remember how you and Marge did in every run in detail. That is what I am very bad at!

NAK and The Residents of The Khottage Now With Khattledog November 29, 2009 at 7:56 PM  

It looks like such fun fur Marge!

THAT is the important thing!

It all works towards helping her furget the past and move on!

Tank woo again fur loving her so much!


Astrid Keel November 29, 2009 at 10:23 PM  

She's doing GREAT, and so are you! I have no advice, as well... we have never done the 'gilities!

Diana November 30, 2009 at 7:59 AM  

I think her bouce jumps looked fine. The distance between the jumps depends on whether your are trying to bounce jump collection or extension. They should be able to do both at their jump height. And I would use at least 5 jumps for the grid because sometimes it take the first few jumps for them to figure out what you want. Also remember to cue collection or extention when working grids. If you want collection because the spacing is tight dont go pass the last jump. If you want an extension grid jump either do a lead out and run or go pass the last jump. That cues extension.
I thought your video sequence looked great. Diana

KB November 30, 2009 at 8:51 AM  

I thought that the two of you looked really good given the tight space. The tight space seems ideal for working on precise control rather than speed. For that reason, doing a short course (like the ones that you show here) seems like a good thing to keep in your practice.

I'm a novice compared to you but I will say that my dog adores working on one obstacle for a short period. I taught her to do the weaves fast and well by throwing a toy ahead of her as she came off the last weave. I worried that she'd have trouble putting the weave back into a course (that she'd always sprint for a toy at the end of the weaves) but it wasn't a problem.

What kind of surface is that? I wondered if you needed to be careful of Marge's joints because it might not be as cushioned as regular grass. (e.g., lowering jumps etc).

As for me, I love the pause table. Because of my back, I can't even come close to keeping up with my dog even on a small course so I sprinkle it with pause tables to stop her and let me catch up!

Frankie Furter and Ernie November 30, 2009 at 9:31 AM  


Hi Sam & Marge. The agility work looks great! You're having fun, Marge. I do my own agility like I said in my adoption story on my cousin Frankie Furter's blog, but it isn't fancy and challenging like yours. Wow it looks like fun. Thanks for sharing the pix.
Grrr and Woof,

Sam November 30, 2009 at 1:29 PM  

KB - the surface is, I believe, rubber matting. But, you're right, it probably is worth looking in to more. The old mats were just plain black rubber, about 3/4" thick.. this has more of a hollow sound when we use it.

I'm also thinking about getting Marge on a joint supplement. She doesn't have any problems as it stands now, but a few of the people I train with said that they do it for their dogs.

I think next time I'm going to try to do sequences of just a tunnel and a couple of jumps to allow for more room between obstacles and minimize any problems with set up. I really wish I had access to contact equipment - hopefully I will in a few weeks, because they're the obvious choice in my eyes for training at this building.

Cyndi and Stumpy November 30, 2009 at 4:34 PM  

both you and Marge are doing great. Concentrate on having fun! That should be your first priority. Everything else will follow!

We are always the most critical of ourselves. What looks or feels horrible to us, does not come across that way in anyone elses eyes.

thanks for stopping by our blog. Stumpy's thrilled that you think she's cute and admired her legginess. she is a speed demon for sure!

Johann The Dog November 30, 2009 at 7:24 PM  

I think you're doing great!!! Just keep it fun and rewarding. Like your idea of rewarding more. Stuart Mah taught us something that I think Marge would love -- teaching obstacle focus, she seems pretty focused on you and I bet would love the thought of some independence, like the tunnels are a great place to start. Worked super well for Gracie :) Thanks for stopping by!

Enter our contest if you'd like, we'd love to have you and there are some really great prizes :)

Life With Dogs November 30, 2009 at 9:04 PM  

Marge looks great! I know you did not have a perfect session, but she looks so happy - more so each time I catch up. Whatever you are doing (actually, you have already told us) is working! :)

Jules November 30, 2009 at 9:09 PM  

She spliced the tire really nicely on take two. In all I thought she looked great!

BRUTUS November 30, 2009 at 10:43 PM  

Hi Sam!
I'd say that all looked a whole lot more controlled than many runs I saw in competition this past weekend! Lovely pause table. Nice job with setting up the courses, they made sense to me! How about using a line of jumps down the middle to so some serpentines, maybe enough room in there for a pinwheel. Tons to stuff you could practice with those two set ups without having to drag around a lot of equipment. Or even the weave poles in the middle of the room to send to & from other obstacles around the periphery of the room to practice your entries as well as obstacle discrimination. Just a few random ideas, hope that helps!

Keep up the good work, you two! Looking great!


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