Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An agility post..

We interrupt your regularly non-scheduled posting for a purely agility post.

For Dog Agility Blog Action Day.. See the other posts here.

I've been helping a friend long distance as she starts to work her rescue dog through some agility in her backyard. He's very fearful and dog reactive, and she's not comfortable taking classes with him, so I've been trying to help.

Agility coaching via youtube is something lots of big-name trainers are offering now, but generally they have a course and materials and instruction. I've just sort of been offering tips as we go, without any set course. This is unideal, but seems to be working!

Here's her first public agility video in Sept 2012 (there were a few before this that were unlisted). I'd suggested she try to be more "fun" to her dog. You can see them both struggling a bit with the single jump. The handler isn't quite helping the dog enough, and the dog is too green to choose the jump on his own.

They've come an AWFULLY long way since then! She's been working on a tricky sequence from Steve's Agility Nerd blog. Specifially, #1-5.

The blind cross at 3 is her current goal, and I don't think she's done any foundation work on blind crosses with her dog. My own dog reads blinds fine, but has some significant jump foundation and I was able to practice them on a slower dog with coaching first. She's just jumped in with both feet.

When I'm helping her out, the first thing I do is watch through the videos all the way. Here are the three videos from the session I'm discussing:

As soon as I got through those, I could tell one of her problems was that she was racing her dog. Even a slow-ish dog with a fast-ish handler is likely to be faster than the handler in a sequence like this. She's using a start line stay to get ahead, but it's not enough.

From Hups Coaching

At this point, the dog needs to know where he's going so he can decide how to take off for the third jump. The handler is running, but isn't in any position to have cued the dog to take the jump (yes, some handling systems expect the dog to take any jump between the dog and handler. Not this one!) or to change sides. The dog is a good sport and does change sides and come to hand, but goes around the jump.

This problem is repeated in a few more repetitions. These shots show the dog in approximately the same location, but the handler's location changes.

Second attempt:
From Hups Coaching
Third attempt (and the best one)
From Hups Coaching

Fourth attempt (further back than the third)
From Hups Coaching
Here's the first video again:

The third attempt is probably the best one as far as the change of arms go, but if you watch the video, the handler's MOTION doesn't cue a change of sides or a turn over the jump at all. So, the dog goes around the jump! :)

Here's the second video again:

In the second video, after a few failed attempts, the handler makes it easier by just asking for the single jump. By this point, the dog really needs a reward, so he's glad to have something he can do!

When she goes back to adding in the next jump, her timing is still way too late. The dog fails to take the jump again until the handler physically positions herself to block the dog and force him to take the jump. This is not a recommended method, though this dog copes well with it.

Here's the third video again:

In this video, we can see the dog's confusion at the lack of reward at the beginning. He stalls out and isn't sure what to do. Once he's reset, he gets his enthusiasm back, and the handler does a pause which brings the dog in. Her change of sides is still very late, but the dog compensates for her.
She's unclear in her side change (though the dog now seems to understand the second jump is the one being rewarded) and she and the dog collide in the third repetition. This encourages the handler to be faster and more deliberate on her fourth attempt. She manages to show the side change before the dog takes off for the jump, and he succeeds!

After this session, I recommended that she work on the second part of the exercise, the Ketschker, first, then come back to the straighter blind cross. She did, and her videos on this can be seen on her channel. After another session, she was putting the whole sequence together quite nicely! She's still a bit hesitant on her Ketschker turn, but hey.. this is a VERY novice team doing quite an advanced sequence!

If you enjoyed this post, leave a comment. I won't fill my blog up with stuff no one wants to read! :)

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