Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Kenna - Terry Simons Seminar

Kenna and I were lucky enough to snag a spot in the Terry Simons seminar that happened recently in Edmonton. A local competitor/dog daycare owner here brings him up every year, but as with all these seminars spots are hard to come by and fill quickly. As a result this is actually the first big seminar that I've attended.

The seminar was held at a turf facility, where we have taken classes on occasion. It's the only turf facility in the area that I'm aware of. It's good to get Kenna running on a variety of footings to get her comfortable, but I definitely find that turf is not her favourite. It can be a bit slippery and I do see her slip on turns and pull bars more often than usual, I also find she's not as fast (though this may also be related to the fact that the facility is not full size so obstacles tend to be a little closer together, which is obviously not as ideal for her to get up to speed.

I was really pleased with how Kenna handled everything. We didn't have any major problems with any of the course segments we were shown, mostly working on small adjustments and tweaks here and there. I'm feeling great about how she's matured and where we're at with her third birthday coming up in just a few days.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Kili - Master Challenge Dog of Canada

Kili also finished her Challenge title at our last trial, saving herself only slight embarrassment. You see, Kili has been running agility for about 5 years now... and Kenna for just over a year. But well, they're two very different dogs who got two very different handlers during their formative years!

In typical Kili fashion, we had a couple of complete throw away runs in Standard and Steeplechase and we had two very nice runs in Challenge and Snooker. With Kili you just often don't know exactly what dog you've got on the line until you get going.

But in all seriousness, Kili has accomplished the goals I set for her and then some. She is working on her Silver titles in AAC right now which is nothing to sneeze at for any dog, and especially for a sighthound. Hopefully we will have many more years to run together and many more titles to finish. She can be a bit of a kamikaze, but I love her and she loves to play this sport with me... you really can't ask for much more.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Kenna - Master Challenge Dog of Canada

We were at a local trial this past weekend. I was exhausted from working the day before and feeling a little put out that I would have to work again the next day... and you know maybe I should have taken a day of just hanging around at home resting and catching up on errands instead of being at agility. But what fun is there in that when I'm planning my life?

The girls did a great job of making it worthwhile. Kenna had a perfect day with 4 qualifying runs in Standard, Steeplechase, Snooker and Challenge, which completed her Challenge title. She also hit all 5 of the A-frames she was presented with, which makes me feel great about where we're at with retraining her to a running frame. This dog is absolutely amazing. I swear there's nothing she can't do.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Kenna - International Night

How did I get so lucky to have this dog as my partner? Kenna absolutely blew me away yesterday at International Night. I say "jump" and she asks, "how high?"... I say let's change to a running frame and 4 weeks later it's almost perfect. What more could I ask for in a dog? I only wish I was the handler she deserves to be her best. I'm trying my hardest and have learned so much, but as usual most of our mistakes were my fault. And she's okay with that... she's so forgiving and just wants to play with me.

It's funny though, because I'm always kind of disappointed with how much slower Kenna looks on video than in real life. I just about died yesterday, Kenna was so fast, and now I watch the videos back and I'm like "meh". (Ironically, her weave poles look way faster on video than they feel in person.) Either she's not as fast as I think (but this seems unlikely because I myself am probably one of the fastest handlers and I can barely keep up and stay ahead) or that darn long stride of hers is very deceiving on video. It would be super interesting if I could get video of a border collie and Kenna with similar total course times to play side by side as a little experiment on the impact stride length has on the perception of speed on video. I remember a discussion about this during a horse show jumping event that I was watching years ago... there was a relatively larger horse with a long stride and the commentator discussed how it looked like it was kind of lumbering along but in fact it was on pace to set the fastest time. I tried to look this topic up online, however, and couldn't find anything remotely relative.

Sunday, January 06, 2019

Running A-Frame

You know that moment when you realize you might actually be insane? Well mine wasn't when I decided I was going to purposely buy a greyhound puppy for agility, or even when I decided to get a SECOND greyhound puppy for agility... it was a few months ago when I said to my agility trainer: "You know, I think I want to retrain my A-frame from stopped to running." That, my friends, is the definition of insanity. Trading in a 100% stopped contact behaviour that gives you a place to catch up with your dog, for a running contact which even at its most reliable is probably only 95% and makes you have to run so much more.

Not only are we talking about retraining a solid, well understood behaviour, but a running contact also requires the handler to retrain themselves in how to handle.

We had a private lesson on December 13, 2018 on how to convert to a running frame. 3 weeks later we had our first trial. It's still a journey in progress, but I thought I'd share our progress to this point. I had very bravely filled our January with trials, so we'll see how those go before we start signing up for February!

This was the first session we had after our lesson. We started by back-chaining... just putting her on the down ramp of the frame and asking her to step into the yellow and off. After a few repetitions of that we started doing the entire frame. I'm also using her release word to let her know she doesn't have to stop, and she's still not totally confident so there's a bit of hesitation. The bar or "stride regulator" gives her a target that her second stride needs to be below. Basically she needs to put in 2 strides.

This is the second week of training. I've been noticing that on many of the attempts without the stride regulator her stride is quite short and so even though she's put in the second stride, she's only just barely hitting the top of the yellow. The goal is for us to get all 4 feet in the yellow - 2 front feet followed by 2 back feet. When she hits high she's often only hitting with 2 feet. To try to help with this I've been adding in a wicket at the base of the frame. Typically you train a running frame with one method - people either subscribe to the wicket or the stride method. But heck, I'm already doing insane things like training greyhounds in agility, so why stop there? When training an unconventional dog in an unconventional sport use unconventional methods! Like using BOTH a wicket AND a stride regulator!

The stride method basically teaches the dog to put in a certain number of strides in order to hit the yellow. For large dogs that's 2 strides, for smaller dogs it may be more (don't ask me how many more because I don't have any small dogs!). The wicket method is different in that the striding doesn't really matter. What the wicket does is forces the dog to drop its head, which in turn forces the dog to run lower on the frame.

For the most part I do like the striding method, but since she is hitting a bit high, I'm hoping that getting her to drop her head a bit will force her to lengthen that stride a bit. Right now I'm using the wicket for the first couple attempts, then ditching it for just the stride regulator, and then finally removing everything (or using the stride regulator on one side and nothing on the other).

It's a work in progress, but here was Kenna today debuting her new running frame at a trial. I had run her FEO in the run before this and just had her do the frame a few times and rewarded with a toy, just to remind her and see what she would do in a trial environment. She was hitting high but doing her job. The frame in the Standard run was by far her best one of the day.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Kenna - International Night

Kenna recently attended her very first International Night, hosted by a local competitive trainer. International Nights are a special fun match type event that features world level or "international style" courses... i.e. hard! Although anyone can attend (if you can get a spot! They sell out fast!), these fun matches tend to have a lot of very high level competitors (world team members and those with world team aspirations).

I decided to try it out with Kenna as she's been developing really well and I wanted to test some of our skills. I'm always looking for ways to push myself and become a better handler, and what better way than international courses!?

I was so proud of us. There is a Jumpers course and a Standard course, and you get 2 turns at each. I'm sad that I forgot to video our second run on this Standard course as it was pretty close to perfect. In this first run we handled it really well for the most part, but Kenna tripped going up the teeter and had to bail off, and you'll also see that she almost face plants coming out of the close tunnel. And then I messed up the handling at the end (in the second run I instead chose to trust my dog, leave the backside after the dogwalk earlier to get far enough ahead to do the blind cross instead of the front, preventing me from losing sight of the tunnel entrance we were aiming for).

Can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Monster Match 2018

I took the girls to their first disc trial in almost two years! Wow! Time really gets away from you sometimes!  Being a secondary sport for us, disc tends to lose out to agility trials... and there are so many agility trials that there are frequently conflicts between sports.

Kili had a lot of fun but had a bit of a rough day. She slipped and fell on the second throw in her first game, and ended up doing a couple of rolls so I pulled her from the rest of her run to make sure she was okay (she was). She played well, but in typical not so focused Kili fashion, for the next couple games, and then seemed a bit off again in her last run so I basically pulled her from that one as well. I think she may have just been tired by that point as she didn't seem to be sore.

Kenna was a rock star though. We got off to a difficult start when she saw the ducks in the pen beside the field and wouldn't leave them alone. We ended up having to move the ducks in order to get her to focus. It was a bit surprising because she's my super focused dog, but also not surprising as she's my better chaser in lure coursing (though I'd still argue that Kili is my higher prey dog). But the rest of the day went quite well. Kenna even earned 2 ribbons. She was second in 4-Way Play and I was super stoked that she got fourth in Freestyle! It wasn't an overly exciting showing, but I was pretty happy with it considering we didn't have a routine and hadn't practiced any of our tricks in over a month. Maybe next time around I'll actually do some practice and come up with a real routine!

And although by most disc dogger's standards both of my girls are epic in their gentleness with their discs... there is a significant difference between Kili and Kenna. In our world, Kenna is a disc destroyer. I've bought her new discs after just 2 years - her old ones are salvageable but need to have all the rough edges ground down with a dremmel. Now, many disc dogs completely destroy discs in a single session, so I can't complain about not absolutely needing to replace discs after 2 years... but compare to Kili who still has discs from 5 years ago. Not only does she not puncture discs, she barely even leaves a mark. I think these photos illustrate the difference....

 As you can see, Kili basically catches with her incisors while Kenna chomps a whole mouthful!