21 December 2011

Boring dog agility handling post that has nothing to do with Christmas or Hannukah, except maybe the bean dip.

Photo credit: Rob Michalski, World Team member and world's best most excellent agility photographer, capturing what goes up and what goes down on old skool FILM. Handheld light meter. Rigtheous.

I think I prefer real agility class to online ones. I am a little bit behind in the Derrett's Ultimate Handling one and Canadian John Cullen's Winning Process one. A lot behind. I like the classes, I think they're interesting and I am learning things. Notably how HARD I should be practicing and taking things more SERIOUS if I'm going to be a champion. But nothing beats just doing some dog agility.

Sometimes I run big dogs. That's my friend Soja in Rob's photo. Running big, fast dogs that aren't your own is one of my favorite hobbies. I make errors. I'm not perfect, and I can't guarantee a winning round. But I am very lucky my friends let me run their dogs anyways. I handle them the same as little dogs, but different.

Last night in my class with Nancy, I was trying to do excellent LISTENING. Even though there were perfectly frosted high end cupcakes and a hot bean dip made with sour cream and cream cheese and oodles of gooey cheese on top. And the thing with our hats, we have a very specific fashion trend we've set in our class.

That's one thing with agility. Only in dog agility can odd cone shaped beanies with strings hanging down the sides like Heidi braids become fashion trend. Not sure if these are agility fashion trend everywhere, like where you live? If you want to be cool in California, this is the hat you need. Now. Today. That's how trends go. Tomorrow it might be something new, I hope it's maybe little taffeta or plaid skirts worn over our pants. But for right now, Holiday Freezing 2011, you need a hat with ear tails.

I would show you a picture but it's the darkest longest days of the year at the moment. Agility is in the dark. I don't like flash. No photos. You know these hats. Use your visualization skills, good practice.

So my listening is trying to be excellent, but I am also in a class with very large, very fast border collies. And I need to take into account that many things we learn have to be scaled down to shorter strides for those of us with littler dogs. Gustavo is very fast, he did the whole class last night because I am a little wary of Otterpop running late at night in freezing cold when her leg is running completely without bending, which it her own winter trend, but the size of his strides is nothing like a big dog.

Last night, I would get to my position and try to turn just like the big dog handlers and get some very wide turns. Goddman! I would get to my position and rotate just at the right moment, and goddamn! Not the tight turn of my dreams! In fact, various off course options taken by the G-man because WHOOSH! Off he goes.

A definite problem we have trialing, which is a definite thing that makes him go kaplooey. He needs to only run exactly right and not make errors for his brain to continue to function. So in some ways, this is a good problem to have in live class, not online class, where Nancy who watches everything like a hawk can usually identify the problem in like one second. I am scratching my head, all HUH? and an excellent instructor can point out exactly where the problem occurred.

Super boring dog agility minutia follows here. Sorry. Good bye, non dog agility friends. And my mom. Scroll back up and admire the arty dog photo! Pretty dog! She's a terv!

Some of the time, when I am really listening, I need to downsize the Rules somewhat for scale. When I rush out to a positional cue, I am very many strides away from a little dog. Very fewer strides away from a big dog. I can panic a little bit when the dog is going very, very fast, and rush to my position, showing too much motion before a decel. Or also just being too darn far away from a little dog to clearly show the thing I'm looking for. I do the opposite running a big dog, panic rushing away from something too fast to get to a new position that I never showed the dog exactly what to do.

(And then, upon realizing this, overcompensating by coming in too tight somewhere else. Poor Gustavo. He was being so good, too. My errors and watching many border collies over and over for a whole class fried his brain a little by the end of the night.)

Big dogs I tend to pull off things early, little dogs I tend to send to the wrong thing in advance. Nice.

Sorry I just lost all my non-dog agility friends. Boring. But agility pals, the couple of you that are left, this might apply to you as well. Maybe it can be something you work on if you get any time off work over the next couple weeks for your agility in the snow. With your heidi hat.

Just means, there is so much more practicing I need to do, and much of it needs to involve breaking very specific habits that I have and rehearse on a regular basis. So practicing more BETTER. I love to do agility but if you keep practicing the same things that make you a crappy handler, you get really good at them. I am really good at the panic-rush-don't-point-feet-arm-correctly-long-enough-in-the-right-place-enough-not-being-clear-enough move.

So listening is good, but actually applying the listening to own personal good handling, needs very much improvement. I think this is like reading about de-cluttering and organization, but then walking into my house and immediately thinking, Hoarder. Somehow, you have to actually fix the problem. Personally. I have some of the best agility instructors and handlers in the world pointing this out to me over and over. I am learning on the internet from some other world bests.

And I still do the same old stuff out there. So it goes.


Agility Foot said...

Good tips. Thanks. As you said, it's hard to know what you're doing wrong when it's just you and your dog practicing. I don't layer, do I?

team small dog said...

Denice, you are a fast runner. Run fast. Don't layer! Really! Don't layer!

nosemovie said...

I totally get this post!
I started agility with a slower and less motivated dog. So I "learned" to handle that (and we did ok).
But then my next dog is MR. SPEED and POWER... and my body and brain still want to do agility like I learned it in the beginning. I think our brains get lazy and they're all "oh, that thing, I already know that..." and even if we want to change, change is hard.
GOOD LUCK! (to you, and to me!)

Elf said...

My first lessons were in 1995 and I also am still doing the same wrong handling things and have to have front cross position explained to me over and over. Um, that was supposed to be reassuring but it sounds kind of discouraging. (Plus the hoarding thing. I think today is freecycle day.) I think you've learned twice as much in half the time.

Cedarfield said...

Do you find that in running to get to a specific position (for a front cross, for example)you actually cue your dog to jump in extension? I never could get to the correct position for a front without watching my dog go zooming past me into outer orbit. I use a different system now but I still don't layer or flick.

Agility Foot said...

I don't layer Laura, really. I'm very careful and plan my course running w/o layers. I just layered in Rob's classes a few times cuz he puts obstacles so frickin close together that it's either layer or smash into an Aframe or a jump or a teeter.

Celeste said...

Thanks for this post - you're doing great! When I started training Riff it was all about running fast enough to get in position for timely front crosses. Then I hurt my back and now it's all about trying to do agility without being able to actually run. I have to cue him from wherever I am, while he gallops on ahead. Great dog...shame about the handler. Trying to figure out distance work has been weird and frustrating on a very fundamental level. Confusing shit happens...like flicks and layering and yelling and waving my arms around like a windmill... Sometimes I think I should quit agility, but Riff doesn't want me to. He thinks I'm hilarious and that the game is a blast. (I keep thinking about getting back into competition and how much fun it would be to WIN...)

Ellie said...

Right on! My first "serious" agility was/is an incredibly fast, incredibly driven Border Collie. So different than the slow and unmotivated (but awesomely smart)Toy Poodle I started with back in my 4-H days. It's been a steep learning curve, that's for sure. But I sure do love running my fast dogs! :) Each dog you train/run is in your life for a reason...they all have different strengths, weaknesses and speeeds that teach your how to be a better handler and trainer.

jodi, eh? said...

I am very excited that I am signed up in Feb for a 3 day seminar with hawk eyes Nancy Gyes in NY where I can also do excellent listening. It's nice of you people to share her with us East-Northerners.

team small dog said...

Yes on the by mistake cuing for extension when actually trying to make a decel! This happens with Gustavo more than anyone. With the big dogs I tend to just pull off early.

I do a lot of things wrong. Agility is complicated.

I am glad you don't layer Denice!

Celeste have you tried working with Jim on distance stuff? I know gamblers is very different than handling whole courses at distance, but using his dark arts I have trained Otterpop to do pretty much anything I ask her from very, very far away while I just stand there and point and yell and flail around. It is quite a party trick.

Jodi I know you will have a great time in Nancy's seminar. She always knows the answer. She will probably be wearing her heidi hat, that sounds cold.

TeaganZooms said...

I have a sometimes fast/sometimes slow MiniPoodle. Naughtiness at the start line is the only clue as to what little black dog has shown up. I have a harder time when he runs slow and having to adjust my timing and handling. I have a 16 month old in training and she's focused And fast. Your description of working with Otterpop at a distance is how it will have to be with Jib. I won't be able to keep up with her.

Thanks Laura for a year's worth of thoughtful And funny posts, photos and drawings.