Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Never one to let a little heat slow me down I have moved my summer training sessions to early morning so that Sonic and I don't have to miss getting a work out. Mind you this only happens because I'm on holidays. Once I go back to work next week I'll have to go back to my normal evening sessions. I am extremely lucky that a good friend of mine has a magnificent 8 acre property only 5 minutes from where I live. He has spent the last few years working really hard to get a beautiful lawned surface set up to train on as well as making all of his own equipment. Like me he follows Greg Derrett's handling system so we set up a different jumping grid at each session from Greg's DVD - "Great Dog, Great Handler" and help each other work through the sequences. My partner Colin has been an absolute gem and has been filming all of these training sessions so that I can watch them back and review what I'm doing. It is not always pleasant watching but in a matter of three or four sessions I feel that my handling has improved from doing this. In the past I'd had some agility competition runs videoed with my other dogs but I've found that it's not nearly as obvious as when you are watching yourself do the same grids over and over (and over...). The fact that your not moving out of position quick enough in a front cross or hesitating too long on your pull through is immediately obvious and then the next session you can work on improving. With my own handling seeming to improve I think that Sonic has also improved heaps. He was really powering out of his turns this morning and you can see that there are less questions for him in the way he is moving. His dog walk this morning was out of sight. I had timed him at 2.2 seconds previously but this morning I clocked him at 2 seconds flat which I am pretty happy about.
Colin gave me a video editing software package as a Christmas present so I've been merrily mucking around with it over the last couple of days. Too hot to do anything outside so it's easy to justify spending the time playing with it... It's pretty full on software and at first I was contemplating whether using Windows Movie Maker was just simpler. Now that I've worked my way through a fair few of the features I'm slowly starting to work it out and after finishing my latest video that I'm currently uploading to my You Tube channel I'm glad that I've perservered. It does some really cool stuff as you will see below!
In light of Sonic's quick progression through a lot of the sequences I've been training on of late, the question arises, at what age should you start to enter agility trials with your dog? A friend of mine recently told me that she wished that she had of held off starting her youngest dog as at the tender age of two her dog is already up to the Masters classes. Being that in another month Sonic will be old enough to enter his first trial it is something that I have been giving quite a lot of thought. I haven't finished training all the agility equipment yet so naturally he won't be entered in agility for a while but he could probably do a novice jumping course with his eyes shut. So, what would I be achieving by not entering him? The trial ring is quite a different world with all the excitment and bustle that accompanies an agility trial. It is something that any dog needs to get used to as part of his training. As long as when I enter that ring for the first time I know that my dog will have no questions as he is running, because I've trained him to understand everything that he may encounter, then what am I achieving by not entering him, irrespective if he's 18 months old or 2 years old?
On a final note, it occured to me the other day that I have used quite a lot of Sam Weaver's photo's that she has so kindly taken and then forwarded on, but in my excitment of receiving them and posting them in my blogs have never given her the credit for them that Sam deserves. I have now gone through all the old photo's and made sure that Sam's name is against all the ones that she has taken. So my apologies Sam and thank you once again for all the great shots that you have taken!
Monday, December 29, 2008
As we roll into the last week of 2008 I find myself reminiscing about the year that was and all the training milestones that Sonic and I have achieved in his (almost) 17 month existence. The hours upon hours of training that as agility enthusiasts we pour into our wonderful fur kids. Being the fourth destined for serious competition agility dog in my household my expectations of performance levels are pretty high. I'm a big believer in if your going to do something, do it to the best of your ability. Some don't like the level that agility has gone to these days, however like all sports, many people are inspired to be their best. It's great to see people running dogs in agility for fun but I don't think that those who aspire to train for the ultimate dog and handler combination should be critisised for that. Personally I find watching these amazingly fast dogs run around an agility course breathtaking and I doubt I'll ever tire of it. Those magical moments when it looks like dog and handler are reading each others minds. I am privileged enough in Perth that we have a few of these combinations and I'll always be inspired by them. I really look forward to the day when Sonic and I are able to compete against them and pit our skills against theirs. And may the best team win!
Sonic and I have been working our backsides off on jump drills recently. Partially because I believe they are the cornerstone of skill building and partially because I want us to do well at the Greg & Laura Derrett seminar in about four weeks time! I'm a combination of excited and nervous about it being as Sonic is going to be the youngest and most inexperienced in the group that I've been put into. There may well be some things that we can't do however we'll just sit out the bits that I'm not comfortable with him doing. I have no doubt that it will be great fun though and a wonderful start to the 2009 agility year for us. The experience of Greg and Laura and the opportunity to have that imparted on us will be invaluable and I know that Sonic and I will only be the better for it.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Sonic and his paddle pool (very popular this time of year...)
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Recently I’ve been having lots of conversations with people about over arousal in our dogs. Sonic and his siblings all have extremely high levels of arousal and are quite a handful to say the least. It is interesting that quite a few people have said to me that I must have the laid back one of the litter as Sonic is very calm and controlled when he is at agility training. This always makes me chuckle to myself as they may have a different opinion if they saw him in other situations. This morning being a prime example, when Colin and I took them down the beach for a morning run. When we arrived in the parking area at the beach and lifted the back of the wagon Sonic started screaming. I’m not talking just a little whining, I’m talking full volume hysterical screaming. If you can imagine the noise a dog may make if someone was trying to remove one of his legs without using anaesthetic you would be close. This continued while the other dogs where allowed out of the car and is also generally paired with his body shaking and trembling. I won’t let him come out of his crate until such time as he calms down. Otherwise the problem just escalates. Once he has gotten control of himself we all head down onto the beach where they all have to lie down on the sand and wait until they are given a release cue. By this stage he is normally reasonably calm and we all enjoy a fine time in the sun.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
As Colin has now become designated agility videographer I had him do some filming at training yesterday afternoon. After much fiddling on Windows Movie Maker (only getting slightly carried away with background music and effects!) I have managed to produce a quick video on Sonic's dog walk and a small jumping sequence.
Monday, December 1, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Riot & Sonic (otherwise know as high & low maintenance!)
It's been a busy couple of weeks with owning my big fluffy border collie Riot feeling a bit like having a pre-drivers licence adolescent, as I drive him to in store appearances at Better Pets and Gardens and to dates with a very pretty border collie girl who has come all the way from Tasmania to hopefully have his pups.
In between running around for Riot's social life I have been focusing on some good old agility fun with the Sonic. I am very pleased to announce that I no longer "hate" Sonic's dog walk! Yes, we appear to have managed to conquer the trotting down on the descent ramp issue. Last week at training after about four reps on each side with the jump bar in place I took it away and he ran the whole thing. It was a very gratifying experience. I knew he was feeling confident as he had gone from cautiously taking the jump on the way down to leaping it from a distance (obviously a good sign), but to actually have him run down minus the jump was great. I will still keep the jump bar in for a few more weeks before totally phasing out just to make sure the behaviour is well and truly established. Interestingly enough this training method never worked on Riot.
The A-Frame is still on its way up. I will probably hold off raising full height for another month or so. He can do 12 weavers but I hate his style, if you could call it that. So after some consultation with others who have been teaching weavers recently I will break them back down and see if I can get a better action through them. I'm not sure how long it will take but I don't see the point in continuing and hoping that they get better as they are.
The jumping grids are going well and I'm contemplating running him in Novice Jumping at the Agility Club's members comp this week. I'll check out the course first and if I think it's nice and simple I will give him a run. It's going to be quite a while before we attempt Novice Agility so we might as well do some jumping in the meantime. Sonic loves stretching out over his jumps so hopefully it will be a nice open (easy) course.
I am pleased to say though that my puppy is still a total nutcase. At 15 months I thought there was a possibility that he may have started to grow up and be a little more "settled" or slightly boring even. Oh no, not Sonic. I still can't sweep in the house without closing the blinds because Sonic wants to kill the broom, he still destuffs all his cuddly toys for evening entertainment, loves to jump on our bed in the morning to play "kill the hand", belches loudly at any given opportunity, digs holes to China in my poor grass, turns going in and out of the dog door into a life threatening experience for every other dog in the house who is silly enough to try and use it at the same time and finally, turns a pleasant walk around the local streets into a crazy throw yourself at the passing car thrill ride... And I wouldn't want him any other way :-)
Monday, November 3, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Look I can fly...
I set myself a goal of teaching Sonic to weave in three weeks. I never really thought that we would achieve it. However after two weeks and four days Sonic can weave through 12 straight poles on the competition bases that we use. It's not perfect and his style is still developing but he is doing the 12 poles by himself (no luring) with me just walking alongside. Last weekend the light bulb just seemed to go on and we haven't looked back since. Three cheers for the clever puppy!!
I think we are just about ready to hit Greg Derrett's "Great Dog, Great Handler" DVD and start working on some of those sequences. I will still continue with the double box grid work but I think we need to start expanding our grid horizons somewhat. We have attempted a couple of general jump sequences at training in the last week and I wouldn't say they were particularly successful so I'm really keen to move on and give Sonic some new stuff to learn.
October has finally given us some warmer weather so we've been able to start hitting the beach again. I was starting to get worried about snakes so we'd decided to stop taking the dogs down the bush for this year. About a week later Simone and her dogs came across a snake while down in the same bush at the same place where we go so it was obviously a good decision. Snakes freak me out in a major way and I would prefer not to encounter one!
So training goals for October and November will be continue with weavers and build some confidence, start more complex jump grids, move the A-Frame up at least one more notch and work his speed into 2o2o on the dog walk. We shall see how we go...
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Lots of reminiscing was done over the weekend while at the Royal Show. At last years Royal Sonic was all of eight weeks old and had only been with me for one week. This year I had him with us at the Royal for the days when I was there competing to get him used to the atmosphere and noise that goes on. We had a few reactive moments at garbage trucks and horse floats that needed a good telling off as Sonic likes to do, however all in all he handled it all really well. Hopefully next year when he's there competing he will take it all in his stride.
So, at fourteen months of age weaving training has begun in earnest and he's not doing too badly after seven days worth of learning. It's all a bit of an experiment really as I've never taught a dog using the weave-a-matic method but he seems to be picking it up pretty quickly. A lot of people I know have had trouble getting them up straight and I can see that we will have similar issues now that I'm getting to that point.
I started last Sunday using weave-a-matics with four poles lying on the ground. He was more than happy to bounce over those so I added the other eight straight away. From there I pushed them up very quickly to the 'V' shape and by the third day he was leaping over those like a kangaroo. I was reluctant to leave them like that as he was leaping over up to three poles at a time and I didn't see any benefit to that so up they went again.
So at the end of his first week of weaver traing the top of the poles are a couple of inches off centre. He is developing a lovely single stride through them although every now and again he gets his foot work a little confused half way through. Today after having a few solid run thoughs I moved the middle two poles up to centre and that completely threw him. He just couldn't see them at all and ran straight past them. So I moved one of the poles slightly off centre again which helped a little but he definately struggled. I also moved back in to the centre and rewarded him at the point at which he was having problems. It feels like a bit of a catch 22 with moving the poles upright. Even though his weaving with them slightly open is great and I would like to see his single striding get stronger, I'm reluctant to leave them like that for too long as I don't want him to get too use to seeing them open. I think that no matter how great his weaving is with them open his style is still going to change when he has to start doing them straight. At the end of the day you are teaching them to do something that looks like one picture and then when they can do it, change the picture on them so they have to learn it all over again. Muscle memory is obviously really important though so now that he is doing them only slightly off centre no doubt it will be worth allowing that to develop before forcing him to deal with all straight line weavers.
I have to say though that I am very lucky as he is a very clever little dog. He generally picks things up extremely quickly so I am being very spoilt as far as his ability to pick all this new stuff up. I can pretend that I'm some great dog trainer when really I'm just blessed with a bright spark for a pup!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
We finally managed to get onto a lowered A-Frame last week and he was running over it very happily. I've ended up with a nose touch on the end which I hadn't intended on training but it has actually worked quite well and has really helped to develop indepenance as he drives into 2o2o. At the end of the day I don't want him looking at me I just want him going straight to his 2o2o position so I'm very happy with how it's going. I think we'll stay on this height at least for another few weeks before raising the height any further.
The dog walk is definately a slow work in progress! He is running the puppy dog walk really well but he is quite unsure when he's on the full size one. His 2o2o is great, no problems there at all. So will just keep on letting him play on the full size one and hopefully his confidence will grow when he's ready.
I think I will be brave enough to try the weavers in the next couple of weeks...
I really can't wait to see him when he's fully confident in agility. Some of the stuff he does around the house with no thought to any sort of caution blows my mind. Colin and I just look at each other and shake our heads. If I can harness that in agility I will be very happy!
Sunday, September 7, 2008
It's hard to believe that the 2008 Nationals has been and gone. It was another amazing experience and I'm glad I got the chance to watch some of the other competitors over the course of the weekend. It was very inspirational that's for sure and the competition gets harder every year. The standard in Novice was incredible.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
The first decision I made was to spend about a month on each handling manoeuvre. I don’t want to get caught in the trap of teaching him everything in the space of a couple of weeks and then just having one confused little pup. So I’ve gone back over Greg Derrett’s “Great Dog Shame about the Handler” DVD and broken Sonic’s training up to fit in with the different handling sections. So the last three weeks I have purely worked on front crosses. Initially I just did the front cross exercise over the figure 8 but have now moved on to a pinwheel and then yesterday we attempted our first double box grid. I have to say that after doing the pinwheel for the first time and having a pup that did it like a seasoned professional, it brings home again the importance of the groundwork. His understanding of how he should react to my body cues is brilliant, and as such all he needs to focus on is getting over the jump. He is easily managing the 500mm height and it took him only a couple of weeks to work up to it. He is reading my body extremely well for his figure 8 work and his turns are tightening up nicely although I’ve noticed that his turns to the left are much wider than his right at this stage. Hopefully that will resolve with lots of drill training. So we will spend another week on front crosses and then provided I’m happy with him it will be onto push throughs!
I am slowly working my way around onto the different pieces of equipment, with the exception of the weavers that I’m leaving until late September. I have reintroduced a target to the A-Frame and Dog Walk as I’m still not totally happy with his position and capability of giving me a strong 2o2o. I’m tempted to rev him right up to encourage the desire but I am wary of the likely hood of over arousal and then total chaos as a by product. I did have a small break through this week when I put a table along side the dog walk. Then I had him getting on higher up which seemed to get a much more enthusiastic bounce down into 2o2o position. However there is no rush so we’ll just see how it goes over the next few weeks.
I have really been pushing the distraction aspect of his training too. He is coping extremely well but sometimes does get overawed by his surroundings. Last week I set up his jump grid in the thick of dogs doing agility and although he stayed focused on working with me you could see that he was struggling to cope with all the activity. Most of the dogs that we train with are high drive working dogs so are extremely exciting to watch. Being such a reactive dog it was a credit to him that he could do anything at all! A couple of bars went astray and he released off someone else telling their dog to go, but apart from that it was a pretty impressive effort for a twelve month old.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
(Photo's by Cathy Snook)
Finally I have a couple of pictures of young Slipper. Slipper is our last MickSal pup that I've been chasing Dave up for the last couple of months trying to get a photo!She is such a pretty little girl and looks just like Secret except that she has a longer coat. Dave has only just started doing a little bit of agility training with her although he has been doing some obedience work. Appartently she is showing a lot of potential to be a very nice little obedience dog.
She's a feisty as the rest of them and I'm sure Dave will have a lot of fun with her.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
OK, well it is his birthday...
Saturday, July 5, 2008
I have to say that the MickSal pups are such a talented bunch (not that I'm biased or anything)!
Thursday, July 3, 2008
We’ve had quite a few training disruptions of late with the wet weather. He loves his training so much that I hate having to miss it. I’ve been doing a little bit at home but it’s not quite the same. Training itself is progressing quite well. Most nights he is very good and handles the distractions easily. Other nights he has trouble focusing and goes over threshold very quickly. Those nights I just concentrate on calming him down and getting him switched back on. I’ve been training him closer and closer to the action and even spend some time sitting him near dogs doing fun stuff (like charging through tunnels) while rewarding him for being calm and looking at me. For a dog as highly visually stimulated as him it is a big ask, but he normally does pretty well.
He still goes through stages where one week he will do beautiful two on two offs on the end of the dog walk with loads of nose touches and stay on until I release him. Other times he is all over the place and throws a couple of nose touches at me before getting off again before being released. However his speed and enthusiasm is picking up so I guess it’s all part of his learning process and confidence in what he’s doing. It will still be quite a while before I feel confident enough to commence the back chaining process!
Recently I set up two uprights at home 6ft apart with both jump bars set at 150mm height. I was curious to see what he’d do considering that he does 5 jump bumps like a seasoned professional. Interestingly he just could not do them. He would do each one on it’s own no problem, but as soon as I asked him to do them one after the other he just ran around them. Goes to show the impact that can occur when you change the picture on them. All I did was just break the jumps down and I think I got one or two where he would do both but he really was like a fish out of water. I am keen to try it again soon to see if he copes any better!
I have been starting to think about his training program once he reaches 12 months (only one more exciting month away!!). The only thing I’m certain about at the moment is that I’m going to hold off on any weaving training until after I get back from the Nationals in September. That will put him at 14 months so I will feel much more confident that he will be physically ready. To watch him free run you would say he is very coordinated, particularly after experiencing the heart pounding fear of seeing him coming directly towards me full pace and then screaming to a halt only two strides in front of me before zooming off the other direction. However doing new tasks is a different thing altogether and I’m happy to wait. Other than that his coordination when it comes to digging 3km deep holes in my back yard appear very, very good…
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Sybil, Secret & Basil
Basil and Sybil are growing up on the farm and both are doing well. Basil is learning to be a sheep dog and Sybil is just enjoying life. Unfortunately Sybil has a problem with her heart so there is no pressure on her to do anything but have a fun time while she is in good health.
Time to see how Sonic's big sister is going. Secret was born first, Sonic last and when they were puppies she was almost double his size. But you wouldn't know it now. Secret is a diminutive little thing but manages to make up for it with a larger than life personalilty. She certainly doesn't let you forget that you are in her presence!
Monday, June 23, 2008
Gillian has been kind enough to send me some photo's of Billy to post on Sonic's blog. The last photo's of Sonic's siblings were back when they were really little so it is lovely to get some of them as almost grown ups. They all look so alike you could never think that they weren't related! Billy is a little taller than Sonic but they both have legs that go on for miles and a "butter wouldn't melt in their mouths" expression (Gillian and I know the real truth)! I have no doubt that Gillian is getting as much joy from having Billy as I am from Sonic. When I do have the oppurtunity to see Gillian working with Billy I can see that he loves to work and even at this age is totally focused and loving his training. I'm so looking forward to seeing him develop into an amazing agility dog.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Come over here little bubble...
My two boys :-)
I dug out my forgotten bubble machine and some peanut butter flavoured bubble solution this afternoon for some bubble fun for Sonic. He totally loved it and was avidly catching bubbles until the solution ran out. Naturally I had to get my camera out to catch the action.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Sonic modelling his new winter rain jacket.
Sonic's big blue bunny - pre bashing
Mind you the dogs seem more than happy curled up on their beds in the house. My partner and I just returned from six glorious days down at Margaret River, which focused on drinking, eating and sight seeing (in that order…). That meant that the dogs had to go to the kennels for the week. From what Judith told me when I collected them yesterday, they all conducted themselves extremely well (even Sonic!) and other than Riot having a ripped toenail (with much sooky facial expressions and sighing when I cleaned and bandaged it up yesterday) they seem none the worse for wear. I dare say that the quietness in the house today would be due to kennel recovery time!
I took Riot and Sonic to Simon Leanings last Saturday to have some fun. Sonic only had a very brief go on the sheep. He was much more animated this time and spent a bit of time charging around and barking at the sheep. In between the silly stuff he showed some nice work. I did quite a bit with Riot and although he started off a bit rough he was really working well at the end of the morning. When one of the younger more inexperienced dogs lost the sheep out the back paddock Riot and I were able to go and get them and bring them back quickly and quietly which was really fun.
I’ve been working hard on Sonic’s 2o2o on the end of the dog walk bringing my rate of reinforcement up very high. He seems to be getting more confident but I will hold off any back chaining until I’m really happy with his understanding of the position. I’m even getting some nice nose touches without the target on the ground. We’ve also been mucking around with the flexi tunnel. It was initially a bit crazy but I’ve incorporated start lines in front of the tunnel as well so some semblance of control is introduced! With all the groundwork I’ve been doing with him I have to say I’m very happy with his understanding of my body position. Even working on the tunnel you can see that depending on where I’m standing when he comes out of the tunnel he knows exactly where he needs to be.
I love doing recalls with him and his start lines are great. If I add a front cross into his recall mix he gives me an excited growl when he turns. I’ve started doing post turns as well. I’m glad I did as initially he kept trying to turn in behind me so I think it’s important that he understands those too before doing any formal jumping grids.
I did another quick measure of Sonic this morning and I got him at just under 53.5cm. I’ve found in the past that when formal measuring is done they tend to be about 1cm taller than what I get so even taking that into account he should comfortabley come in to the 500 height class. I’m happy for him to be on the higher side, as hopefully it will help to make him more competitive.