a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Misc Training Notes

Monday, July 03, 2006

Misc Training Notes

SUMMARY: At the park, in the yard, around town.

Jumping drills from Boost's (and Tika's) classes from a couple of weeks ago involve a modified 3-box grid--4 jumps going up the middle, 20 feet apart, one jump 10 feet to the left of the last 2, one jump 10 feet to the right of the second 2, and then another jump straight out from the 2nd jump as if starting another box to the right and weaves and a tire off the left side--OK, I'll have to upload a copy of this, it's hard to explain.

There are a ton of exercises you can do with this setup. I've marked three of them on the diagram.

Well, my yard does NOT have room for 4 jumps 20 feet apart. If I really twiddle things, I can get 3 jumps 17.5 feet apart--but without much room to swing wide left or right after either of the end jumps (can go straight ahead into a u-shaped tunnel, for example, or veer out from the middle jump... dang, ok, time for another drawing...)

To the Park We Go

Anyway, because boost and I (and Tika and I) really need some spread-out jumping, I decided to try hauling 7 jumps to the park down the street for practice. Haven't done anything like that since I started Remington 11 years ago. I'm so lazy--hate moving my equipment just around my yard, let alone hauling it out front & into the car etc.

It's just that there's a park just a couple of minutes from here, whereas if I want to rent the field at power paws, (a) I have to pay to rent it, and (b) it's a 20-to-25-minute drive each way.

However, moving my equipment won't be easy-- my metal jumps are frozen to their bases, so I can't disassemble them for easy transport, have to carry them whole and somehow finagle them into the minivan..

Since only half of my weaves are fully functional (i.e., not totally wobbly), I mostly dismantled one set (two poles are frozen to their bases on that set), folded it in half (which it barely does any more--lucky that's not frozen, too), put it into the car. Did some trimming of broken jump bases, dug out my old iffy PVC jumps, worked on improvising some fixes, carried 4 of the frozen metal jumps out to the car and figured out how to get them in--yes, I had to completely remove the crates, which is at least a 5-minute operation by itself.

Then, at the park, the field with parking next to it was taken up by small children playing soccer, so I had to park a long way from the nearest large swath of grass and haul everything over there--took 4 trips for the equipment and would've taken more except that I didn't take the weaves because, duh, I left the dismantled poles sitting in my back yard. AND discovered I had only 6 bars for 7 jumps, so had to figure out how to kludge something with one of my fence posts that I'd taken to stake the dogs to.

So--40 minutes from "think I'll go to the park" to leaving the driveway; 35 minutes from parking in the parking lot to being ready to run my first dog. Later, I think 20 minutes to get it all back into the car (hmm? no, maybe 30... have forgotten already) but I feel like I'm getting more efficient all the time... and then maybe 20 to unload the car, get the crates back in, etc. So it took me about 2 hours of time to save 40 to 50 minutes of driving time to/from power paws. Plus I was exhausted.

Jake's practice

Jake knocked a bunch of bars. I don't know why. He hardly ever knocks bars. Is it him or is it the site? The grass is a bit longer than we usually encounter. He does OK but isn't super-enthused about doing this. He'd rather make a beeline for the hinterlands to go sniff fenceposts and things. Takes a while to keep rounding him up and I finally give up on him.

Tika's practice

Actually I get her out last, after the other dogs, and she is completely wired. I set her up at the start line and intend for her to go straight over the 4 center jumps and then make a 270 to a side jump. Well, she blasts across those jumps like no one's baby and continues running full out--I'm thinking she's taking off on me, but no, she circles around full speed and comes back in and takes another couple jumps at supersonic speed. She's just very excited. We deal with her overshooting turns and blasting full speed through several attempts at multiple jumps and then I give up and mostly do nothing with more than 2 straight in a row because she is so wired and excited and we can't seem to do the most basic things correctly. I think that this is instructive. I'm not entirely clear on HOW it's instructive, but we do practice a bunch, and she gets lots of practice and rewards for staying in a sit at the start line and for coming in to me when called on a jump and stuff like that.

Boost's practice

First I lead out past jump #3 and release her--and she goes *around* all the jumps to get to me. Jeez, she hasn't done that in ages! And, I mean, this is exactly the same set-up with the same heights as we've been doing in class the last couple of weeks. I try again, same thing. Back up one jump, same thing. So we have to go back to real basics--lead out just barely past the first jump and release her and reward when she goes over the jump, then we do a front cross or two, and gradually add jumps back in. She's not knocking quite so many bars as she sometimes does, but she's sure knocking more than will allow her to earn Qs in competition.

Then, on the last exercise I want to try--a rear cross with her turning to the right--she always turns to the left. I exaggerate my body motion, I try to give cues out the wazoo (ewww) and she still alwasy turns to the left. In fact, I'm yelling "hup-right!" and she still turns left, and I KNOW that she know how to turn right after a jump because we spent a lot of time working on this and practice it on the flat or over a jump all the time.

So then something clicks in my little sweaty brain: Had to go back to basics to get her to go over the jump instead of around it. Let's go back to basics here. So I put her in a sit in front of me facing the jump, tell her to hup right, and she gets up uncertainly and turns back to me. Finally get her to just Hup, then add the Right back in, and then something clicks in HER sweaty little brain, "Oh, you mean THAT right!" and she starts hupping and turning right in that controlled situation, so then we go back to the rear cross with her turning to the right--and she does it beautifully, and then I turn left the next time to repattern her and try right again, and she's fine.

So what I learned (that I already knew) is that dogs have a rough time generalizing to new environments and what worked at home and in a familiar practice field don't necessarily work AT ALL anywhere else.

So I 'm glad we did it, I think it was valuable, but it was too bloody much work (2 hours of setup/teardown for 1 hour of practice), and we were all getting really tired but I was determined to get in at least half of the time that I spent setting up! So maybe I could take just 3 PVC jumps out to the field again and try some very simple things--but to really get the running long stretches, looks like it'll be renting Power Paws. Sigh.

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