Archive for July, 2016

Training With NDAL

July 24, 2016

Courses published by the National Dog Agility League are intended to be resources for training, recreation, and competition. For a moment I would like to focus on the “training” element.

An NDAL course is always open. What that means is that a club can set up a published NDAL course and run it at any time. When the results are reported, all of the new results are commingled with all existing (and historical) results.

The wickedly clever training director will immediately grasp the implications of this for both setting training objectives and measuring the results of that training. A training center might run a particular course, every other year for years. It would be a fascinating study to compare results for individual dogs over those runs and reruns. And I don’t mean just compare scores… look at the advancing skills of the team and the partnership between dog and handler.

Of course it’s very fun that our reporting includes a field for a YouTube recording. And so comparison of performance is substantially visual.

50×70 Fun & Flow

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Training objectives can be wide-ranging. On a course like this I could write forty different lesson plans all having different objectives and lessons.

It is somewhat serendipitous that this course offers a challenge that is prominently featured in a training program we have for our young dog Cedar. Specifically, we are engaged in “Named obstacle discrimination” training. This is a thing that I have documented in detailed manner in the pages of The Joker’s Notebook (the distance training series I sell on my web-store).

It is very important to understand that words in a book are meaningless unless they are taken in a purposeful manner to the real world and become a part of a dog’s training. It’s not enough to understand how to do it. You actually have to do the training to own (or deserve) the objective skills of that training.

Okay, on the 50×70 course I’m interested in the transitions through jumps #13 and #14 and the approach to the A-frame at #15. This challenge dovetails nicely with my ongoing training with Cedar. Following are two recording sessions I’ve taken with her. She’s nearly two years old now… so it’s time for some nifty skills:

Part One ~ I took this video about a week into Cedar’s training on Named Obstacles. She struggled to understand what I was asking for. My response when she guesses wrong is as important and meaningful to the training progression as is my response when she guesses right!

Part Two ~ This video was taken within a couple days of our league team running the 50×70 Fun & Flow course. Cedar is looking pretty good! That doesn’t mean I get to stop or rest in this training regimen. I continue to make the skill solid and permanent; and I need to introduce generalization.

Teaching Classes

So it’s important to understand that I can’t make “Named Obstacle Discrimination” the core focus for our advanced handling class. Think about it, I’ve been doing two-a-day sessions for several weeks with Cedar. I did the same foundation training with my boy Kory (circa six years ago). I cannot cram all of that into a two hour class for my students. It would just frustrate the crap out of them. I can suggest the training methodology…

However, making suggestions of training objectives and methodology does not constitute a proper training agenda for an advanced handling class.

So I’m going to use this opportunity to steal from the competition!

The Competition

I mentioned the YouTube recordings included in NDAL results and reporting… I really like that I can see how others solve course challenges. This intelligence might well direct our own training efforts. Allow me to give an example:

AQ4U’s Fast & Furryous in Louisville, KY has reported for the July 2016 50×70 NDAL Fast & Fun league. We will share the YouTube recording of Blade, a Border Collie run by Brian Wakefield. Blade finished this course with zero faults in a time of 23.44 seconds: https://youtu.be/MxYxaqvXD4c

Brian’s run with really quite excellent! I want to show this to my students, and see how they might solve the opening with Brian’s approach.

First of all, Brian opened the course with a very aggressive flat angle approach to the first jump in order to straighten out the opening line as much as possible.

The bit that I find most fascinating, however, is the #3 to #4 transition. What Brian does here is what I call a do-se-do Blind Cross. On a regular Blind cross the handler changes sides forward of the dog from on the inside of the curve. In the do-se-do Blind Cross the handler changes sides from the outside of the curve! I’ve never completely understood why the do-se-do actually works, but it nearly always does.

Some of you know that we’ve been studying the Back Pass. There is a strong relationship between a Blind Cross and a Back Pass. The chief difference is that the Blind Cross is relative, and the Back Pass is absolute. [[I know that I should explain at length… but I’m already in the middle of explaining something else, at length.]]

Anyhow for our class on league play night we’ll talk about and practice both the Blind Cross and the Back Pass.

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Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

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July 2016 League Play

July 10, 2016

The National Dog Agility League is going more broadly international in July, with a club in Australia beginning play, and with clubs in South Africa and New Zealand studying when they might begin. It turns out that they have winter in July down in New Zealand. So that club needs to get past the cold and frightful weather.

We also have a new club in Colorado beginning in July (BowWowz Dog Sports in Colorado Springs). Competition is starting to heat up!

60×90 Masters

I’ve finally set up the NDAL 60×90 Masters-league course in our training building. I thought that I would share it and maybe talk about the “interesting” bits. As you can see, this is a course that I designed. Next month we’ve invited Dennis Vogel (Cloud Nine in New Hope, MN) to be our game master.

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The opening is fairly straightforward but begs for diligent work, with a tight wrap off of the tire into the #4 tunnel (the A-frame inviting the wrong-course). The handler has to be thinking about which side to work on the approach to jump #5. Dog-on-right might work; but there’s more to go wrong with it than dog-on-left.

The handler might also be thinking about his position on the dogs dismount of the weave poles. The #7-9 serpentine offers two distinct wrong-course options. And frankly the game is won and lost in quick little jumping sequences like this. The dog might do the three jumps turning neat… or he could forge in wide & wobbly turns.

We’ll have a bit of fun with the closing. It is an odd mixture of opening te dog up into full extension, and then drawing him into collection. For example… from jump #9 and most of the way to jump #11 the dog should be in full stride. But the handler wants to put him in a lower gear on the landing side of jump #11 to turn neatly towards the next jump (and away from the weave poles); and cause him to continue to tuck in after jump #8 to get to the nearer entry to the #13 pipe tunnel.

Out of the pipe tunnel the handler has to give a turning cue to the left with some likelihood that he’s on the side away from the turn.

It’s a lovely course and should be a lot of fun to run. This course will be judged on a Time, Plus Faults basis.

36×85 Fun & Flowing

NDAL courses are based on the size of the working space. And, you’ll note, each has a theme. To my own thinking “Fun & Flowing” means that it doesn’t have a bunch of wicked technical challenges that require the intrusive micro-management of the dog by his handler.

That being said there should be an element of challenge. Fun is like an adrenaline rush, like riding a roller coaster. I don’t know if I pulled it off in the design:

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This course features two counter-side tunnels [that’s when the dog’s logical path has him approaching one side of a u-shaped pipe tunnel; but the judge has put the number on the other side.] Aside from those features this course is pretty much a collection of pin-wheel sequencing.

On both performances of the#4/13 pipe tunnel the handler needs to step in and get the dog aimed in a direction other that where the pipe tunnel was pointing.

 

Nesting

We will do the 50×50 International and the 50×70 Fun & Flow courses on a different night. I’m afraid your game master made a terrible nesting mistake. I’m sure some of the clubs will catch this mistake if they try to run more than one on the same day/night.

50×70 Fun & Flow

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There’s certainly a serpentine kind of theme going in this course. And by definition there might be (could be? Should be?) multiple changes of sides and changes of direction, all with the dog working at near best speed.

The most overt technical challenge is probably the tunnel discrimination on the approach to the A-frame at #15. This will certainly give us an opportunity to make the “discrimination” a training topic in class.

50×50 International

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As the name implies the 50×50 is focused on rather tough “international” skills. I don’t believe what I’ve designed here is oppressive. And I’ve certainly tried to create logical flow. Of course the interesting moments are those that defy logic. On this course the key challenges are clearly: the very tough approach to the weave poles; the pull through from jump #9 back to the tunnel; and the backside performance of jump #12.

The National Dog Agility League

The league continues a wonderful pattern of slow growth. We’re working on automation to allow players in the league to query stats and standing. A new league series begins right now! You can get the lowdown on the NDAL blog.

Blog1145 NDAL

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.

Every Day is Saturday

July 2, 2016

The other day I say to myself… what day is this? And that convinced voice at the back of my brain answers “It’s Saturday,” … “every day is Saturday”. Okay, I know that’s an exaggeration. I’m as busy now as I’ve ever been. I reckon I don’t know how to be unbusy. But don’t you know there’s time for gardening and fishing and this ‘n that projects.

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I made a bit of time to reconstruct the frame for this ancient whetstone, as the old stand had completely degraded in the weather. I was very faithful to the original design specs. I was pleased to use old oak true 2′ by 4′ wood from a carriage house demolished down in Watertown a few years ago.

The National Dog Agility League

The league continues a wonderful pattern of slow growth. We’re working on automation to allow players in the league to query stats and standing. A new league series begins right now! You can get the lowdown on the NDAL blog.

Blog1144 NDAL

Questions comments & impassioned speeches to Bud Houston Houston.Bud@gmail.com. The web store is up and running. www.dogagility.org/newstore. You’ll find in the web store The Joker’s Notebook, an invaluable reference for teaching an agility dog (and his handler) to work a distance apart.