First off, welcome new comer / veteran agility students Carol and mini Schnauzer Jenny B! I think this will be a good class for Jenny B… bring back some fun with less pressure and complex course handling, get her to stress less about car rides again, and build up some confidence that may have been flattened during her health issues. And, I look forward to Carol discussing their Agility journey and showing off some of their competition level skills!
During our last class before the holiday break, I realized we need some more work on the weave poles. While it’s fun to run a course, when I stick the weave poles in a course, the poles by themselves don’t get a lot of attention… maybe a couple passes, maybe the dog does them but skips some poles, maybe the dog is reliant on the handler to guide them thru, maybe the dog is really starting to understand the poles, but is ready for more challenge. So, I wanted to put the focus back on the weave poles, so that when I do stick them in a course, the dogs are much stronger in their understanding and performance.
My plan was to set up 2 sets of 6 poles. One set would have those dogs who have a good understanding of the poles to start working on additiaonl challenges, and the dogs who need more obstacle independence or who just don’t have a lot of experience in them, get more focus on basics.
My more advanced weave pole performers showed us where I need to set the poles for them. Having the poles halfway over the metal flat piece, was just a little too tight for them. By having the pole just on the edge of the flat metal, allowed the dogs a challenge, but kept their understanding and performance there. When they ran right by the poles, it showed they were too closed up, and the dogs didn’t recognize them as an obstacle they know.
For the rest, I had the poles wide open. I ended up taking out 2 poles when it was clear that some dogs were continuously popping out – they still needed a lot of handler direction to stay in the poles. I want the dogs to see the weave poles as one continuous obstacle, not 6 independent commands / hand signals. I want the dogs understanding that “straight and fast” is the way to go, and to do that, they will need to work independently from the handler. When the dog relies on the handler, the handler has to be PERFECT in their timing with hand signals or voice. When the dogs understand A) how to get into the poles and B) how to run as straight and fast as possible, the handler just has to direct the dogs into the poles and stand back and watch them run. Sadly, I couldn’t find any video of Quattro doing poles straight up! The only video I could find is from April 2017, almost 2 yrs ago, but this gives you an idea of what I’m talking about.
The results of our weave pole focus, were good. I think we’ll see leaps in improvement if we do this again next week.
For Desmond, our greenest dog, he seemed to really understand how to get into the poles, and to move straight and fast. We’ll add poles in, so he’s doing 6, and then work on entries.
Rocky had a break thru – where in the past, he really didn’t want much to do with more than going in between 2 poles, he really was charging in and driving forward! I think all he needs from Diana is a signal to get into the poles, and she can stand up straight and step back and let him go. He doesn’t like babysitting, and now that he seems to have discovered running straight thru all 4 poles, Diana can be hands off. We’ll go to 6 poles with him, and slowly start working on off-angle entries.
Scout – I think WE had a breakthrough in understanding what she needs. She is SO handler dependent, whether it was Kathryn or me working her, that I really wanted to bring it all the way back to the beginning and work on Scout moving straight and fast, no looking up for direction. By doing a restrained recall (Kathryn held her collar while I called and tossed a treat as she came up to me, then I would hold her back and Kathryn would reward her for coming) with only 2 poles, we were able to reward her for what we want – straight, fast forward.
For Piper, who we’ve seen do beautiful poles in the past, I jumped too far too fast and pushed the poles too close for Pipers understanding. She showed us that by walking alongside the poles! She did not see her entry when they were so close together, so we need to open them up, and get her back to straight, fast, forward. When we (er, I) confused her by pushing the poles too close together, she became more reliant on looking at Debbie (or me, when I worked her), looking for information. So, I feel that trying to jump her forward, I actually set her back a bit. Nothing that can’t be fixed, but something to keep in mind. Skipping steps does not always advance you!
Sassy was interesting… she did them really pretty tight the first run, but then her performance slid backwards. Again, maybe similar to Piper, it was just a bit too much too fast, causing her some confusion and losing her confidence… that caused her to look at April a bit more, which when you are aiming for independent weave poles, that doesn’t help! Again, I think we can bring her back fairly easily by opening them up again, building up her indepent confidence, then start to close them up.
For Jenny B and Carol, the open poles were probably a nice break! I think of the difference between a crossword puzzle and a word find… the word find is a lot easier, and easy is fun! That was our goal for Jenny, to have fun without pressure. You could see her two-step cadence in the poles on her first pass, then she realized they were open, and she could just trot thru them. Again, nothing wrong w/ fast and easy! I was happy they were able to practice the off angle entry I had wanted to build in to the rest of the class, where Carol directed Jenny around the jump post and Jenny had to find the opening (enter on the correct side) of the poles.
I wish I had remembered to video everyone’s weave poles! I think it is really helpful to see things from the dogs perspective, and it is just nice to have a memory to refer back to, and see your growth. The videos I got from the last exercise, the jumps, really make me see where the dogs should have been set up – basically, they should have started right in front of the camera to have the most direct line over the jumps. Watch your dogs path, and watch your timing of your signal to the 2nd jump. Our goal as handlers is to make the dogs path as smooth as possible (again, think straight fast forward), and when we are late to give a command, the dogs many times have to adjust their direction / stride to catch the next obstacle last minute. The more advance notice they have, the smoother, faster and more direct their path will be. Less confusion for them, less stress for you!
Click the link to Vimeo and enjoy!
This is one more from that training session I did w/ a friend back in April of ‘17, where I was working on having Quattro jump from the backside of a jump, like we did in class. My friends dog wasn’t as advanced as Quattro at the time, so the see saw and jumps were lower than he was capable at that time. The poles were fine for him at the time.