Monthly Archives: May 2013

Hiking In The Woods

I was inspired by Em’s blog post free running: ultimate dog conditioning to go hiking in the woods today πŸ™‚ It’s not that I haven’t heard Silvia’s recommendation many times before, but usually I only like woods when it’s dry. Today was raining.

Due to some injuries in the past and my fears I usually didn’t let both dogs off leash before. I kept one on leash while the other one ran free. Today I had to let them both off leash, otherwise I would quickly land on my face on the slippery ground.

It was wonderful! It was lightly raining, but the tall trees protected us from rain. It seems my fitness has improved as I was able to run for a part of the way and hills weren’t too bad on me, either. The dogs were playing and sniffing and running…

At one point I picked up many small cones and started throwing them up and down a trail while Ruby and Java blazed past me. The cones were too small for them to find, so they didn’t really bother, they just enjoyed running up and down. That was my favorite part of the walk πŸ™‚

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Training Weave Entrances

Silvia Trkman teaches weaves using the “weave channel” method, which means you put a line of 6 poles on the left and a line of 6 poles on the right then send the dog through. With time you close the gap between lines until you get a set of 12 straight weave poles and the dog is still going through. There are of course other ways to teach the dog weave: 2×2 weaves, putting guide wires on the weave poles, weave-o-matic etc.

I taught Ruby to weave using the channel method and I really liked the result – a very happy and fast weave performance. Weaves are one of Ruby’s favorite obstacles, because in his head he is still just running straight through after a ball πŸ˜‰

A very happy weaver

A very happy weaver

However, teaching the dog how to move through weaves is only a part of the process. Another important part is training the dog how to recognize and perform the entrance independently. This is where Silvia’s method didn’t work so well for me, so I researched the matter and came up with my own hybrid of methods that worked really well for Ruby and is working even better for Java. πŸ™‚

I teach it in my living room using just 4 free standing “poles”. After just three sessions working on each side Java was nailing 60 degree entrances. Shortly after that she could do 90 degree entrances. I couldn’t believe we were able to progress this fast after trying Silvia’s instructions and not getting anywhere.

This image shows 45-degree entrances (blue line), 90-degree entrances (purple) and 180-degree entrances (red) – yep, Java can do those, too! 60-degree entrance would be starting the dog at number 8 (on the left) or 4 (on the right).

Weaves

Are you interested in finding out the details? Drop me a comment (or email).

This is Java’s second session transferring the knowledge from the living room to the club’s weave channel (which looks a LOT different from my homemade poles). It’s the entire session, including mistakes. What a smart girl! I’m so proud of her πŸ™‚

EDIT:
The follow-up post describing the beginning of weave entrance training:
Weave Entrances On Four Poles

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Wraps And Tunnels

I love love love training agility with two dogs! Ruby and Java are both doing the same basic exercises at the moment, Java because she is still learning and Ruby as a conditioning exercise to develop muscles. We’re not doing any jumping yet so these are just muscles involved in acceleration/deceleration and turning.

I am very happy to see that Ruby remembers to collect for wraps and can also extend comfortably when the exercise calls for it. My plan is to go through all the Agility Foundation exercises and start jumping him on low height once his shoulder muscles are better able to absorb the impact. We will also do some Hit The Ground Running exercises to build jumping skills.

Also very proud of little Java for picking up speed in the last two training sessions. πŸ™‚ I really like her 180 degree single wraps, and she seems to enjoy doing little sequences of wrap-tunnel-wraps. Now it’s just a matter of building more distance and commitment so I can handle the sequence properly and tighten those wraps.

We are having so much fun and I’m looking forward to running them on little sequences without jump bars so I can focus on handling and basic skills. Right now focusing on details feels like the right thing to do and makes me happy. I’m sure that will change after a while, so I’m enjoying the feeling while it lasts. You can never go wrong by investing in basics πŸ™‚

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Whippet Adolescence

Ruby had a really hard time going through adolescence. He lived in a mostly brainless state from age of 6 to 14 months which made it difficult to train as I could never know what kind of a dog I would have on any given day. Sometimes he was attentive and we were able to train, at other times it was as if I didn’t exist at all and even if I did get his attention he seemed to have forgotten most of what I taught him. It seemed to get worst at 10-11 months when he would be brainless for three weeks at a time, come back to earth for a few days and then brainless again… Really, I was keeping notes to see if it would get better!

I have a theory that what was actually happening is that he was discovering a world of females in heat and his adolescent brain wasn’t yet ready to handle it. We lived next to a small park frequented by many dogs, most of them intact, so it’s quite possible that most of the time at least one female was in heat. Well, whatever it was, he was slowly getting better with shorter periods or brainlessness and around 14 months I could start thinking about training him in that small park.

I was on a lookout for when Java would start acting like an adolescent, but it never really happened. Sure, she had a time when she would not recall from other dogs, so I just didn’t let her choose not to come and practiced more recalls. Other than that she had the same sweet and wanting to please disposition that she had as a puppy. But then something funny happened at the end of her first heat: she ignored me on a walk! She forgot what “bring me” means. She didn’t know what to do with weave poles. What? Who exchanged my sweet, smart girly with this stranger? At first I was really confused, but then I recognized the pattern – apparently she was going through the same thing as Ruby. It lasted a few days and now she is back to normal. Hormones. They make us crazy sometimes.

Do you have your own adolescence story to share? I would love to read it!

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Ruby Turns 4 Years

From this…

Ruby, 10 weeks

Ruby, 10 weeks

To this…

Ruby, 4 years

Ruby, 4 years

Happy birthday, ΕΎabica! Where did the time go?

This morning we celebrated by doing a little agility, just a tunnel and a jump wrap. There’s something about running agility with Ruby that fills me with adrenaline every time I think about it. It’s not the speed. I handled dogs with similar speed, and Java is definitely capable of more speed than him. It’s not about how well trained he is because really, he’s not. I think he would benefit greatly from doing Agility Foundations with Java.

It’s about his passion, how his whole being quivers with anticipation of being sent into that tunnel… How much heart he puts into that performance, his eyes sparkling with excitement… How he holds on to the disc at the end, relishing it, but also waiting to be sent again.

I have no video from today, but here are some more photos that my awesome sis took while babysitting Ruby during Java’s heat:

Tired after a walk

Tired after a walk

What a sweet face :)

What a sweet face πŸ™‚

Waiting for release

Waiting for release

Like a boss :)

Like a boss πŸ™‚

All photos were taken by Mateja

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Agility Training At Full Speed

When doing Silvia Trkman’s Agility Foundation exercises with Java I am very particular about what kind of attitude I want to see and what kind of speed. I want her to learn early on the basic ingredients of a good agility run and am willing to postpone other training until I get them.

The ingredients are:

Focus
Of course, to train we first need dog’s focus. But there’s more to it than that in agility. The course requires the dog to switch from obstacle focus (looking at the obstacle, being drawn to the obstacle) to handler focus (looking at handler, passing obstacles in favor of handler) and back. Knowing how to do both and switching at the right times is what makes the run look smooth and flowing.

Sends
If the dog won’t send to an obstacle it befalls on the handler to take him all the way there, which means considerably more running for the human part of the team and less speed for the dog since he has to wait for the slow human legs to get there. Sometimes the dog will turn into the handler, barking and jumping so by the time they will get to the next obstacle the dog will miss it.

Java is getting better with sends to tunnels:

Commitment
If I can send the dog to an obstacle far away I should also be able to start moving to the next obstacle while letting the dog complete the one I sent him to. Without this, sends are of limited use since I will have to wait for the dog to take the obstacle before I can move again.

Speed
I want to do all training at similar speed as the dog will have in the end so that I can start solving all the problems that come with that speed early on. It’s easy to neglect training sends and commitment if the dog is running slow enough so I can be at every obstacle at the right time. Ruby taught me this lesson and I can’t wait to see if I learned it well enough πŸ™‚

Speed changes many exercises in agility, but most of all wraps and running contacts. If doing RC training it is imperative to start with full speed. Java thinks that’s a great idea πŸ™‚

Tightness of wraps
Tight turns are easy when the dog is coming to the jump with little speed and I’m right there to handle it, but things will fall apart when I need to send and the dog is coming with lots of speed. This is the major reason why I want to start with speed. There is no point in training wraps at half speed.

I can regulate how difficult or easy I make a wrap for Java by changing the distance from which I start her:

Even though Silvia has posted the first two sequences in Agility Foundations classroom already three weeks ago we haven’t tried them yet because I think we have more work to do on basics. First we had to work on drive for curved tunnels (done!) and now we’re working on tightness of 180-degree wraps (getting there). As much as I would love to just go and do it I know patience will pay off. Soon! πŸ™‚

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A Visit From Java’s Daddy

Last week Java got a visit from her dad Isi (Fleet Fellows Insider), half-brother Indalo (Indalo Isis Wind), Carlos and their human friends Ingrid and Anton. We had a lot of fun together and I got to do a little agility with Insider πŸ™‚ He is an awesome whippet and I am so happy that Sari and David entrusted me with his daughter. I know how sad they were that she is going so far away from them.

Ingrid with Indalo (left) and Insider (right) with Carlos hiding behind him

Ingrid with Indalo (left) and Insider (right) with Carlos hiding behind him

It was wonderful to see Isi work with Anton. He clearly loves agility and it looks like running over obstacles is his biggest reward, though of course he enjoys his toy at the end πŸ™‚ I was surprised when he showed the same level of enthusiasm for obedience as well. I guess he just likes working in general – how cool is that?

Unfortunately Java is in heat these days so the dogs didn’t have a chance to play together, but Ingrid and Anton promised to come again next year so hopefully they will be able to do it then. If Java’s training goes well the father and daughter might even run in the same competition, along with Indalo and Ruby. That would be so much fun! πŸ™‚

Java, Indalo &  Insider

Java, Indalo & Insider

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Ruby’s Sprained Toe Recovery

As you know Ruby sprained a toe in October 2012. Despite rest and icing the toe just didn’t get better. Every time I let him run free (or even just let him play with Java in the apartment) he hurt the toe again.
Finally a friend recommended a vet who might be able to help us. He didn’t make any promises, but said we could try injecting Hyaluronic acid directly into joint.

This is an account of his recovery in case anyone needs it for reference (feel free to skip to the next paragraph):
Ruby got injections on February 20th, February 27th and March 6th. The vet said that we will see full benefits a week later, on March 13th. After that date we started going for longer leashed walks and I let him play inside without restrictions. Two weeks later I started letting him run a bit on 5m Flexi lead. I gave him a toy and he ran circles around me πŸ™‚ Three weeks after that I let him run free occasionally and also threw toys for him sometimes.

For the last three weeks Ruby has been fetching toys on walks and has stayed sound so I decided he could do a little bit of Java’s Agility Foundations stuff. He loved it, of course πŸ™‚ It’s a great way to get him back into agility after such a long hiatus and build some distance & commitment skills along the way.

There are so many emotions welling up as I think of all the things he will be able to do again… Stay sound, my brindle boy.

Follow your heart
Let your love lead through the darkness
Back to the place you once knew
I believe, I believe, I believe in you

Follow your dreams
Be yourself; an angel of kindness
There’s nothing that you cannot do
I believe, I believe, I believe in you

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