Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Fix My Dog!

OK, agility folks, little help here. Bella has always run a little slower in trials than at home. I chalk it up to inexperience and stress on both our parts. She tends to be faster in the mornings and peter out a bit throughout the day. Hell, I'm tired on Sunday afternoon, too. No biggie, right?

The one super annoying issue has been weave poles.
She loves weaving at home. Will do it all day... thusly

At trials? Shit, you'd swear she has never seen weave poles and is currently unable to see them on the field.

"What poles? I don't see no stinkin' poles"

When you (that is if you happen to be me) finally get her brown-ass in them she will literally walk through them like someone trying to avoid stepping on a third rail.

So after much picture and video studying, every possible issue I have come up with has been proven wrong at our next trial...

Bella doesn't like to collect, hitting weave straight on a prob... nope
I'm handling her too close, wants larger weave personal space bubble... nope
Weaves in shade (or sun or rain, etc)... nope
Sudden onset PVC blindness... nope

So, for lack of something else to do I have been rewarding after every set in practice.

At trial last weekend. Saturday = Bella on fire. Running fast like in class, only listening to me. Not trial sillies. 4 Q's. 3 1st places. And weaving! OK, not quite as fast as at home, but still.

So. Much. Better.

Looks just like when you put a watermelon seed between your thumb and index finger
And squeeze!

I couldn't believe how well we were doing. When she is on a roll I have to layer like 3 obstacles because I can't get where I need to be. Just yell names, she'll figure it out.

I mean, really, photographic proof...the girl was moving!

Then Sunday rolled around. I'm feeling great and thinking my reward after weave scheme is working out great and Bella is all back to her "I can't see weaves" shit. What gives?


  1. Maybe you should try training in a different place. She associates home with treats and training. Trials are where the pressure is, just by your attitude and the day's preparation to go. She knows the difference. Maybe go to a similar place as the trails are, or somewhere away from home, and bring the rewards with you. Let her know that there's a reward at the end of the trial, too.


  2. Dogs don't generalize, so weaving at home and weaving in a trial are two very different things. We have training facility specific contact issues - both my dogs have incredible and beautiful 2o/2o in class, but they deteriorate mightily in trials. I now go back and take the Training Time call and MAKE them stick contacts in trials to drive home the point that all contacts are touchable, anywhere, anytime.

    Weaves fall apart in trials because there is a lot of pressure - also, set up your weave poles in no trial situations so that they are not just 12 loose poles in the flow-y, relaxed middle of a park. Set them up so they end 5 feet from a wall, and lead into them with 3 jumps in a difficult sequence. You'll see that the dog responds to the pressure differently, even in practice.

    But I do want to just make a comment you will ultimately hate me for ... if you are handling your dog correctly, you should not be layering and you should never be 3 obstacles behind. It has absolutely nothing to do with your or her speed, it's how you set up your lines from the very beginning to be in the right place for the entire course. If you are not doing that, you will end up behind and falling back on lazy layering. I can say this with confidence because for years I was convinced I could not do front crosses because I couldn't ever beat my dog to the obstacles. Then I found an instructor who *actually* showed me how to handle properly, and I'm never behind my dog and never have to rely on layering now :)

  3. Damn it! I posted a reply and it disappeared! Now I have to remember what I said...crap...

    OK, first, offering an opinion, particularly when I asked for one, would never piss me off! :-)

    The layering was not planned. Part of the problem I have is never knowing how she will run at a trial because her speed can vary so much. If I plan for trial speed and she ends up giving me practice speed I end up having to “Oh, Shit!” handle. This is why I suck at traditional gamblers. I can never seem to plan my opening right because I don’t know how fast she will be. My lack of experience makes it difficult for me to adjust on the fly. I know I have issues. Haha!

    I will try the weaving into a wall thing. We do practice with the few jumps and one tunnel I have and even with additional obstacles and harder entries, I think it’s still too obvious to her in that situation.

    Thanks, Biotch!

  4. As basset hounds we don't get the whole 'exercise' thing unless it involves a lot of sniffing. Or ham treats. We just love, love, LOVE the photographs. Thank you for the pretty pictures.

    Now, back to searching for that dropped cheeto....


  5. No experience with agility, but with horse shows, sometimes when you have a problem it's best to pay your entrance fees and plan to run your animal on the problem obstacle like you would at home. If that means running the weaves three times and rewarding after each run through, then excusing yourself from the ring, do it. You have to switch things up so she's never sure if this time there will be food.

    Perhaps you could reward in a ring after a break (I don't know it there's a warm up ring like there is at horse shows), or work on 2 by 2s (I think that's what I've seen suggested to sharpen other dogs, no idea what it means) back by your car where you can heavily reward weaves.

    As for speed, are you doing anything different outside the ring? Like, one hunting dog I had would be spot on perfect if we got to the start line for the brace in front of us and she got to sit and watch the other dogs run- often not our field, but enough to get her hyped up. If she was in the first brace of the morning or after lunch, I'd have a butterfly chasing nitwit on my hands, because she'd take off and ignore me, the birds, and try to steal her brace mate's point (at which time I'd leash her up, excuse myself, and mutter my way out of the field). Once I figured that pattern out, we spent all day with her on leash in camp, not in her crate, and she didn't have such a complete brainless mode.

    This is the real reason I'm waffling on starting Duncan on competitive obedience. I think we'd enjoy it, but I don't miss the "What the HELL was that, Dog?!" moments.

  6. If I plan for trial speed and she ends up giving me practice speed I end up having to “Oh, Shit!” handle.

    ZOMG! ALWAYS ASSUME IT WILL BE PRACTICE SPEED. If you end up running way ahead of her on course, so be it. She has to learn to run fast in every situation.

    Also, the first time you walk the course, walk it like your dog, not like a handler. Then you'll see the lines your dog sees, and can plan accordingly! And always have two plans - the one you want to execute, and the one for when you fuck up ;-)


    A Disciple of Gerhard "Again FASTER" Rieger!

  7. stress, IMO
    Experience (including yours) will overcome it in time.

    Don't YOU stress so much.


  8. If I may chime in my limited experience 2c...
    IMHO, on Saturday she weaved fast because you rewarded weaves in practice, and then went slow on Sunday because you DIDN'T reward on Saturday.
    So the rewarding part is working, I think you just need to figure out a variable rewarding schedule (after weaves, after weaves+jump, after weaves+jump+tunnel etc.)
    I'd also do what others suggested, sacrifice a few trials to pull her out after weaves and reward, try as many different sets of weaves as you can, try to get her used to pressure, try to make her crazy about weaves.

    Re trial/practice speed, my first dog was slow in practice, but fast on trials... pretty much impossible to practice handling LOL

  9. What about taking your weave poles somewhere else to work her? Pack them up into your van and take her to the park. Then have her work them there.


  10. Gotta chime in here - I've been playing the agility game for 10+ years and I want to second (or third or fourth?) a couple of things:

    1. Take your weaves on the road. It's one of the hardest obstacles to generalize

    2. Definitely do them in sequence - with jumps/tunnels before/after - but REWARD the poles you like.

    3. Old Nancy Gyes saying: Train like you Trial and Trial like you Train. Meaning - always expect her to be zoomy girl on course. You can walk your courses that way and if she is unexpectedly slower, you aren't standing there in befuddlement thinking "Oh Shit."

    4. WATSS - it's a new thing going around. "Weaves At Trials Stress Syndrome." I've lived through it - it's horrid. Once I started having issues at trials, it was REALLY hard to not stress the next time we saw poles. I would stress, my dog would pick up on it and either go (a) what weaves? (b) I can make the entry but then I'm gonna skip or my personal favorite (c) I will walk through these mo-fos. The ONE trial I didn't stress about it at (USDAA Nationals a couple years ago) she made the friggin' Finals. Go Figure.

    Good Luck!!!!