a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Fun Match Gotchas

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fun Match Gotchas

SUMMARY: I work on things that I didn't completely anticipate working on.

The two fun match rings this morning were set up for Gamblers and Snooker (I didn't stay for the afternoon Standard and Jumpers). I got two runs with each dog in each ring, for a total of 8 runs. That was enough for me and my knee.

Boost spent most of all four of her runs popping out of weave pole #10. Over and over. I said "oops" and restarted the first time or so in each ring, but that wasn't getting me anywhere, as she'd just pop out again at the end. In class not long ago we discussed never putting the dog back in where she popped out, and there was a good reason for that, I'm sure, which I can't at the moment recall. But my theory is that, if she's going to consistently pop out in the same place, starting over doesn't help, whereas making her stop and come back and actually do those last 2 poles will make her brain engage. And as soon as she did the last pole, she got to get her mouth on her toy for a moment, but not a big playtime until she actually did the whole set of 4. So we got maybe 4 or 5 or even 6 big celebrations about weave poles today and almost no practice on anything else.

She didn't get all of her weave entries, either, but I was trying challenging ones, and she got some. Did some contacts and the first Aframe she left as I was saying "Good!" instead of waiting for "Break!" so we redid that, and the next couple were good. Start-line stay remains solid.

Tika--omigoodness--wouldn't stay at the start line the first time, just kept standing up and wandering around sniffing, or actually stood and started forward. We spent more than half of our first run time working on that. Then she flew off the Aframe repeatedly. Legal Aframes (feet in the yellow), but she's SUPPOSED to stop 2-on-2-off, so we did a bunch of Aframes. And there went our first run. On the second run we had to repeat the Aframe only once, then she got them nicely, and I went on to the dogwalk, and she slowwwwed waaayyyyyy dowwwwwnnnn. Sigh. I haven't found the balance between getting her so excited that she'll drive to the end, and yet pays enough attention to the rules that she'll *wait* at the end. Seems to be slow & wait, or fast and not wait. (I'm not the only one in the universe with that problem, I know.)

Then I tried doing some runouts in Snooker--running over a large aread of land, past several obstacles, which often discombobulates her and this is where she often starts turning in front of me to bark or grab my feet. First pass, she went right out of the ring into the rough field outside and wasted a good portion of our run time sniffing some gorse or something; second pass she went out into the next ring and took a couple of obstacles there; third pass she kept turning in front of me and grabbing my feet. For that one, I took her back where we had come from and tried again, but now she knows where we're going and is fine with it, so the problem seems to be not knowing where we're going and I'm not good at conveying "stick with me, pal, trust me, we'll get someplace interesting fast."

I really do need to go up to Power Paws and rent the field on weekends to work on stuff like this. Really. I do. Any day now.


  1. I always think fun matches are kind of a weird atmosphere, in a way almost more challenging than a real trial. Things are typically more loosely organized and people don't seem to watch their dogs as closely plus all the nervous energy of both the green dogs and the green and/or experienced handlers nervous about their green dogs. I sometimes get weird behavior from the dogs that I normally wouldn't get at a trial too.

    The last fun match I was at there were a bunch of people I didn't recognize (they either do only AKC or were new people starting out) and they were being so harsh with their dogs, yelling when the dog did something wrong and not taking time to stop during the run to reward when the dog did something well. Experienced handlers were letting their dogs break the start line and get off with it rather than using the opportunity to train. It was like they were all treating it like a real competition instead of a training opportunity and it made for a very strange, tense atmosphere, worse than what I see at most trials and both my dogs ended up running a bit 'high' which was good because it was a great training opportunity for me but lots of dogs there were showing a lot of stress behaviors and many seemed to be dragging around the ring like they'd rather have been just about anywhere else.

  2. I'm borrowing your observation for a new post because we had a discussion about this very thing yesterday at the fun match.


  3. Ah, someone else who has had reservations about putting the dog back in the poles after popping! I feel the same way you do about it. Just started trialing earlier this year and have done it once so far -- I felt crummy about it, like I had cheated, but at least it got the job done without demotivating my non-weave-crazy dog.

    Anyway, I'm really enjoying your blog! It's fun to read about your successes but also the little "challenges" along the way. :-)

  4. For many years I've not put them back into the poles when they've popped out because I'd never be able to do it right! In fact it's been quite a challenge for me with Boost to figure out how to put her back in about where she popped, and I still don't know whether I'm getting it right. My goal is to make her come out the correct way, so if I don't get her into the exact spot she came out, that's OK. In competition, this wouldn't work for me because I *can't* figure out where or how to get the dog back in the right place! (Although the other thing is that, for my first 3 dogs, they virtually never popped out early, so I never had to think about it much.)


  5. Weavepole corrections - I am of several minds about this. In training, I try not to practice what I am not going to do in a trial.

    If Flirt pops out or skips a pole somewhere after the correct entry she's usually going so fast and thinking so little, that getting her back in where she came out is neigh impossible. So I have to choose whether to mark the error in some way and go on or mark the error and go back and finish, because either way we've NQ'd except in team.

    Either way, I wouldn't want to put her back in where she popped out because she would be getting rewarded (continuing on in the poles) for her failure.

    I usually go back to the beginning, but I also try to get her to collect her brain before trying to start them up again, because I don't want her to fail again.

    In training, I always go back to the obstacle before and I change my handling to insure that she stay in (less lateral distance or not running as far ahead in the poles) and then stop and reward success. I then go back to the obstacle before again and handle the weavepoles the way I want to and stop and reward.

    Anyway, that's the thoughts from this peanut gallery.

  6. Well, that is the thing. If I'm doing everything I can think of that *I* can do to keep her in the poles (all the things you're mentioning) and she still pops out over & over, then I'm not being productive, so I need to do something different. Can't reward something that's always wrong, so want to give minor reward for partial success, and in training we can backchain weaves by starting at last, next to last, etc. and rewarding when they blast out the end, so I see it as the same thing here.


  7. What I've always found effective for fixing this problem in training is to do recalls through the weavepoles. And always reward ahead of the end of the poles. I know you've probably done this, but the recalls really make the dog 100% responsible for completing the poles and put you in the perfect position to reward.