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Training in Ten Minutes, Episode #2

If you’re one of those people who, while at work all day, dreams about what you will do with your dogs when you get home, only to find that the time you had slips away from you between chores, children, spouses, and the other little necessities of life, then you’re not alone! In this article, following the Bob Bailey motto of “Think, Plan, Do”, I’ll outline plans for skills that you can train in ten minutes or less, so that you can find the time you didn’t think you had to train your dogs!

Originally posted in Clean Run Magazine as part of a series titled “The 10-minute Trainer”, this episode goes through the step by step process of teaching your dog how to circle a cone or a pole. Take a look, have a listen, enjoy, and…Happy Training!

Wow, it’s HOT! What now?

Written by guest blogger and student Diana Dickinson – you can visit her blog, which she posts on regularly, HERE.

effectiveness-clipart-thermometer-clip-art-172x300Every agility competitor I know worries about getting dehydrated when it's hot. We spend all day at a trial, and it gets hot in the sun, or in the arena, and we drink lots of water and encourage our dogs to drink lots of water. Some of us look for salty foods to replace the salt as we sweat. After getting muscle cramps that woke me up during the night after a long weekend's trialing a few year's back, I decided I needed to better understand my body's needs.

Like so many things about agility, it turns out it's not that simple. Drinking water is good, but drinking too much water is bad, and drinking too little water is bad. Both problems can cause muscle cramps, too. Replacing electrolytes (salts) lost through sweat is good, but too much is bad and too little is bad. Balance turns out to be key. Based on everything I've read, drinking too much plain water without also consuming some electrolytes can lead to problems—just like drinking too little water.

The goal of fluid and electrolyte replacement is straightforward: maintain optimum performance with correct levels of electrolytes and water.*

You can tell how much water you need to drink by keeping track of your fluid intake and weighing yourself before and after exercise. If you weigh 150 pounds at the beginning of the day and 148 pounds at noon, and you didn't drink anything (and you were sweating), you lost 2 pounds through sweat (and urine and breathing and other things, but mostly through sweat), which is 2 pounds of liquid you need to replace. “A pint's a pound, the whole world round” (as my mother used to say), so you need two pints of water (a quart). You don't need a gallon, just a quart. And you should be drinking that water steadily all morning, so that you don't lose weight over the course of the morning.

pc7KzLnoiBut of course there's a catch. You need to replace the electrolytes lost in sweat as well as the water, or else you can end up with lowered electrolyte levels, which is a problem. You don't need to have a ton of salt, potassium, and magnesium, but you need some. (And, of course, too much isn't good either.) The easiest way to make sure you get what you need is to use an electrolyte replacement drink.

One recipe for homemade electrolyte replacement is this one, from Nancy Clark (sports nutritionist):

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup hot water

1/4 cup orange juice (not concentrate) plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice

3 1/2 cups cold water

 1. In the bottom of a pitcher, dissolve the sugar and salt in the hot water.

 2. Add the juice and the remaining water; chill.

 3. Quench that thirst!

Makes 1 quart. per 8-ounce serving: 50 calories, 12 grams carbohydrate, 110 mg sodium.

 

However, research has also shown that chocolate milk** works for electrolyte replacement and an energy boost. Or water, fruit, and some (salted) pretzels. Both supply all the electrolytes you need. There are also all kinds of fancy commercial products designed to replace electrolytes. They are generally dissolved in water. I like to dissolve Skratch (a commercial powder with some sugar, some electrolytes, and some nice flavors) in iced tea and drink that all day—I like the taste and the slight sweetness, and it doesn't make me feel bogged down. I also keep packages of Sport Beans handy–they're basically salty jelly beans made by Jelly Belly. I find they give me a nice lift at the end of the day—mostly because they're loaded with sugar.

Finally, once you finish the day's trialing, have a nice dinner. You want everything back in balance by the morning.

*http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9303999

**http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/recipes/healthy-eating/superfoods/chocolate-milk-after-workout/

Podcast #20: Maximizing your agility camp experience

It's time for summer camp! As I'm getting prepared for the fun craziness that is camp – the second annual Clear Mind camp – I wanted to share a few thoughts on how to make the most of YOUR agility camp experience – whether it's with me, or wherever you may find yourself!

Play

I love to watch you play

I received this lovely, lovely email from a newsletter subscriber a little while ago, and am posting it here with her permission. I love hearing stories like this – and I'm so grateful that Cheryl allowed me to repost here.

 

“Hi Daisy!

How coincidental that you are asking for some inspiring content for your class.  I read this article just days prior to finishing our very first MACH with my boy Hogan:

While it is an article directed toward parents, I found it a completely fitting and parallel scenario with us and our dogs.  Many of us are “parents” with dog “children”.  A lot of what is written really hit home for me, especially those 6 words, “I love to watch you play”.

 

You see, my boy Hogan is an almost 11 year old Golden Retriever.  He's my first dog ever, let alone agility dog. We've been struggling for the past 8-9 years in agility to become that consistent team required to achieve a championship.  Through those years I've struggled terribly with the mental game.  I've seen and had training partners climb the ranks onward and upward, achieving success with dog after dog. I was feeling left behind and left out. At that time, I viewed success simply as getting a Q.  It seemed that everyone else was Q-ing and running in Excellent classes, enjoying themselves and all gathering together with the camaraderie that I desperately wanted to be a part of.

 

Hogan and I were still in Novice classes, which run at the end of the day.  We would get a few “good luck with your runs” prior to everyone else leaving and getting ready for going out to dinner. Sure we were invited, but we usually showed up late with nothing to celebrate. I ran those Novice runs thinking “I gotta Q, I gotta get with the program and join everyone else”.  I didn't take those runs for what they were or should have been…enjoyable time spent with the most awesome dog in the world.  I began to resent Hogan for not being good enough.  He was (and still is) a wild child on course and at the time I just wished he would be more calm and normal like the other dogs (who Q'd). Still we struggled, encouraged only by comments such as “hang in there”, “he's a great dog”, and the best one yet, “it will all come together eventually”.  How long was I supposed to wait for “eventually”?  Run after run, year after year, trainer after trainer, we persisted through our struggles.  Training partners came and went, and I learned not to judge our progress against anyone else's (although secretly part of my brain still does).  My subconscious ruled our runs and ring nerves persisted.  I tried all the tactics for calming yourself down and found listening to music prior to my runs really began to help. I found I could really focus on course if I had the rhythm of Lady Gaga's “Bad Romance” still in my head! LOL

 

Eventually we made it to Excellent on to the QQ journey of the MACH.  On March 14, 2015 we found ourselves sitting on QQ #19 1/2.  We had an awesome first run in Jww.  We've been on a NQ jumpers streak for a while, so knowing we just Q'd Jww really put my head over the edge.  We usually rock Std courses, but didn't want to jinx myself. I was so wound up with nerves and excitement, but I didn't want to pass that onto Hogan.

 

Prior to our Std walk-thru, I sat in my car, thinking about everything, the past years, the past runs, everything.  Then, I remembered what I read in that article:  “I love to watch you play.”  It dawned on me.  I DO love to watch Hogan play.  From everything he does, all his quirky Golden antics and behaviors, I began to think about what I loved the most about running with Hogan.  Believe it or  not I realized I loved to watch Hogan play prior to our runs.  He loves his tug toy, and will roll around on the ground with it and do “the Roach” over and over until he can get as dirty as possible! Oh how much fun he has!  I often laugh out loud when he's doing that, and see that he makes other people laugh and smile as well. That was it.  That was the key.  I scrambled for a pen and wrote the words “I love to watch you play” on the inside of my arm.

 

During my walk-thru, as I went through the motions, I could see the words written on my arm.  Seeing that visual reminder was so empowering and so calming.  I kept seeing that reminder as I walked to the car to get Hogan.  I saw it again as I put the leash over his head.  I saw it yet again as I was warming up and tugging with him.  As it was our turn to step to the line, I saw those words again as I removed Hogan's leash.

 

I took a deep sigh and released him over the first jump.  During our run I would catch glimpses of the writing on my arm, reminding me to watch Hogan play, and remain focused and connected.  We made it to the table..clean…..half way through the course.  I took those few seconds to reconnect with Hogan and with myself and looked at those written words again.  It's funny because the video shows me glancing down at my arm just before I released Hogan!  5 more obstacles to go.  As we approached the last 2 jumps, I cued Hogan to go on with my arm held straight out.  Again I catch a glimpse of the writing.  He jumps and clears the triple.  The bar is up.  WE DID IT!  OMG We finished our MACH!  I patted and praised Hogan, grabbed the last bar and took our victory lap. When I shook the judges hand  he was so surprised when I told him this is our first MACH and Hogan is almost 11 years old.  We left the ring (with leash firmly around Hogan) and celebrated.  All the while I'm catching glimpses of the writing on my arm, reminding me of what this is all about…Loving to watch your dog play.

 

This article and those words came into play again this past weekend.  One jumpers leg was all that we needed to finish our ADCH.  I took the time before our walk-thru to write those words on my arm again.  I am happy to say we had an amazing and clean jumpers run.  2 Championships finished within weeks of reading this article.  Was it truly the article that inspired us?  Or was it the visual aid of seeing the written words?  Or was it just getting a check on my mental game by really and truly believing what is at the heart of this game we play.  It was all of the above, and then some.  I know I just had the most amazing 11 years with a once in a lifetime partner and friend.  I pray that we can be so fortunate as to have many more years and runs together.

Thank you Daisy for taking the time to read this email.  I hope this article can be useful to you and in your upcoming class.

 

Sincerely,
Cheryl “
lovetowatchyouplay
Now if that isn't amazing, I don't know what is 🙂

Football and the art of the Forward Motion Front Cross

I'm not interested in discussing the “why, what, where, when” of the forward motion front cross; your timing is something you'll need to perfect with your dog. What I'm interested in discussing is the how of the forward motion front cross.  After all, if you can't get your body to do the correct things at the correct time, it's not going to matter one tiny bit how perfect your timing is; you might know exactly when to do something, but if you can't do move your body in the required fashion, your knowledge is useless.

A forward motion front cross is one where your motion (think, from the hips down) is telling your dog to go forward, but your upper body (hips up) is telling the dog to turn.  In this fashion, you can balance cues so that you let the dog know there is a turn after a jump or chute or straight tunnel, even as you are moving forward to the completion side of the obstacle.

Consider this sequence:

Figure 1

Let's say that you would like to be able to handle #4 from the take-off side, so that you can already be moving toward #5 to cue the turn required to get your dog to #6.  You're going to need to get on the landing side of #3, and it's likely that your dog is going to see you moving toward the landing side of #3. Your motion and your changing location (evermore toward the landing side of the plane of the jump) are going to tell the dog to go forward after the jump, to that tunnel that is looming just beyond.

All is not lost, though – you can balance out the cues your lower body is giving, and your changing location with some upper body cues that will let the dog know that despite your motion, you do want a turn after #3. The trick to this is that your dog has to see you initiate these cues as he's getting ready to commit to #3. If you initiate your cues too early, your dog may discard the information as irrelevant to the #3 obstacle, because your location relative to it was too distant when you began your cue combination.  If you initiate your cues too late, your dog will almost certainly head toward and go in to the tunnel; after all, if you're just running forward, and facing forward, and you're moving to a landing side location, all cues say full steam ahead to the dog.

Many people get this, at least in theory.  In practice, it's another matter.  I'm not interested in discussing the “why, what, where, when” of the forward motion front cross; your timing is something you'll need to perfect with your dog. What I'm interested in discussing is the how of the forward motion front cross.  After all, if you can't get your body to do the correct things at the correct time, it's not going to matter one tiny bit how perfect your timing is; you might know exactly when to do something, but if you can't do move your body in the required fashion, your knowledge is useless.

Most of the time, it's helpful to think of your upper and lower body as two different parts that can balance one another out.  In this case, the lower half of the body is giving forward cues, and the upper half of the body is balancing it out. If both the upper and lower half of your body are aligned, then the cues they give will be additive (ie forward + forward = FORWARD!), but you can easily change that balance by shifting either your upper body or your lower body to give fewer forward cues.

If you're not sure what I'm talking about, take a look at this picture:

Figure 2

You can see that the wide receiver, who has the ball, has his lower half going forward, but his upper half is turned.  Imagine that the football player in the white uniform is  a dog; from his perspective the wide receiver's outside arm can clearly be seen as well as the inside arm. The wide receiver is also looking over his shoulder making direct eye contact with the “dog” in the photo.

Of course, in this photo, you can anticipate that the next frame is either going to be the wide receiver rotating clockwise so he can run a bit faster, or getting sacked by the opponent.  But, in dog agility, seeing a handler moving like this has a pretty clear meaning to the dog; watch out, a turn is coming – the dog will anticipate that the wide receiver is going to continue rotating counterclockwise, particularly if the handler has developed a history of following through with such a rotation, say, in foundation work (think, recalls to heel).

I used to be in the marching band in high school and college, and to be honest, I've had my fill of football.  But, a couple of months ago, when I was on a plane and somebody had left a football special edition of Sports Illustrated in the seat back pocket, I was intrigued by all the photos like the one above. Each photo like this so clearly shows how to properly rotate your upper half independent of your lower half.  In football, the wide receiver is trying to turn back to find and catch a ball coming from above.  He's also trying to avoid getting sacked.  He can't just run forward, or he'll never catch the ball.  And, he can't run backward, or he'll get sacked immediately as he'll have no speed.  So the compromise is what you see above; lower half going forward as best it can, and upper half turned as best it can.

Figure 3

Even if you're not built like a wide receiver (I'm certainly not!), you do have some ability to do this. Figure 3 shows an exaggerated version of what I'm talking about – this is what it might look like if you as the handler were fully extended and still trying to cue a turn for your dog. This is what rotating on the run looks like, and even if you're not doing a forward motion front cross, learning how to rotate on the run is a very useful skill, because you can rotate your upper body in toward your dog (the football) and still cover ground quickly, cuing a turn while also staying ahead of your dog.

In the sequence above, you should be doing something like this before you pass the plane of #3. You don't want to be so far ahead of your dog that you complete the rotation and end up standing still on the landing side of the jump; you only need to be as far ahead of your dog as the wide receiver is ahead of his opponent in Figure 2, provided that your dog has not already committed to the obstacle.  And, since you'll be rotating your upper body but continuing to move forward with your lower body, your rotation might start before you cross the plane of #3, but it won't end until a stride or two later (your strides), when you are on the landing side of the obstacle and can then work on cuing #4 properly.

We don't have to worry about moving quite as quickly as the football players do, and most of us don't have to worry about getting sacked by our dogs. Phew! Here are a couple of videos from Youtube – in each one, there are at least a couple of forward motion front crosses being performed.

Exercises You Can Try

For some reason, holding a jump bar or weave pole at shoulder height tends to help people get a feel for what it's like to move the top and bottom halves of their bodies separately.  The video below shows you a couple of different exercises that you can do to help feel out moving your top and bottom halves independently of one another.

 

Examples

The slideshow below is an example of a forward motion front cross; you'll note that while my feet are travelling in one direction, my shoulders have already started to rotate toward my dog, who doesn't even show up in the frame til later.  Once my upper body has started rotating, my lower body then turns to meet my upper body, but then, my upper body STAYS rotated in to my dog as my lower body rotates forward again in the new direction.

[slideshow id=1]

For a video that shows some nice examples of the lower body moving independently of the upper body, here you go:

If you liked this article, leave a comment!

 

8

Building your own PVC Jumps

Or…back to basics.

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When I first started agility, many years ago, one of the most alluring things about agility, other than the actual activity itself, was the PVC “stuff” I could build. It was like Tinkertoys, for big kids. All those fittings, angles, and even…chemicals! It appealed to the chemist in me, the engineer in me, and the kid in me.

My first full set of jumps was PVC. I built them all, spray painted them, and even found aluminum number stamped jump cups for them. Then, I got a little more notoriety in the agility world and figured I should upgrade and get more “professional”. I sold them all and got metal jumps.

At the time, I thought these were more "professional" than my DIY PVC jumps.

At the time, I thought these were more “professional” than my DIY PVC jumps.

 

Then, we moved to WA, and I sold all THOSE, and didn't get any more, as I wouldn't need them in WA. Well, then after a couple years I struck out on my own again, and had to buy more jumps, and I had these made for me based on a design I brought home from Australia:

I brought one home, and had a whole set made. Now many jumps in the NW look like this!

I brought one home, and had a whole set made. Now many jumps in the NW look like this!

I wanted something lightweight, NOT metal (safety trumps however “professional” the jumps may look), and different than the standard rectangular PVC wing design.

Well, although my time is limited, I do love a project. This year, with the Agility Hall expanding to include an outdoor grass arena (currently being watered by a lovely NW downpour), I need another set of jumps. And, instead of just red white and blue jumps, I want one jump from each country I've been to (or maybe plan to go to) to compete in agility. I had thought of purchasing a whole set of Launch The Dog jumps, but despite how cool they look, they're a little pricey for me *and* I just want a little more instant gratification – I want my jumps NOW! Plus, the contrarian in me wants them less and less the more and more other people have them 🙂

So, I've embarked on a project to build a whole new set of PVC wing jumps. Jumps that look a little flashier than the typical rectangular wing design.

I'm keeping a record of building this set of jumps, so that those who are interested can take the plans and use them for their own designs. So, I'll be including pictures, how-to, flub ups, and finished results, for all to see, in addition to the cost of each DIY jump. So, without further ado, here's my latest project!

This content is free, but you'll need to sign up to access it first! Once you've signed up, you'll receive an email with your login credentials, and you can log in and return to this page to view! If you're already a student and know your password you can log in immediately 🙂

Training in Ten Minutes, Episode #1

If you’re one of those people who, while at work all day, dreams about what you will do with your dogs when you get home, only to find that the time you had slips away from you between chores, children, spouses, and the other little necessities of life, then you’re not alone! In this article, following the Bob Bailey motto of “Think, Plan, Do”, I’ll outline plans for skills that you can train in ten minutes or less, so that you can find the time you didn’t think you had to train your dogs!

Originally posted in Clean Run Magazine as part of a series titled “The 10-minute Trainer”, this episode goes through the step by step process of teaching your dog how to love the table. Take a look, have a listen, enjoy, and…Happy Training!

In this post, we’re going to spend our ten minutes working on an obstacle that is often overlooked….the table. Personally, I find that spending my time working on fast sits and downs on the table is pretty boring, and of course, since I don’t find it exciting, my dogs don’t either! I do, however, want my dogs to perform any behavior that they can do on the ground on the table, and with equal zest and speed. So, I want to do a lot of fun things that revolve around the table. And, it turns out that the table can also be a great piece of conditioning equipment.

Just spending time doing a variety of activities with the table, even if it is in my living room, will help bring the table up in value in my dogs’ minds. Ask yourself – have you given your dog the same amount of cookies or toy play as reinforcement for activities revolving around the table as you have for the weave poles or the contacts?

For most of us, the answer is probably no. There’s a reason many of our dogs gravitate toward contacts and not the table – think of the ratio of cookies spent on the contacts vs. the table! The following exercises are just some suggestions of how you might spend 10-minutes with your dog building value for the agility pause table without ever even working on a sit or a down position on the table itself. Enjoy!

 

Jump UP

Your dog may have no hesitation in getting up on the table when he has a good amount of space and can run toward it with some speed. But, will your dog jump UP to get on the table if he is close to it, with no motion involved? This exercise can serve double duty: helping to eliminate refusals your dog might incur for failure to jump up on the table when he gets close to it, and helping to condition and strengthen those muscles needed to jump UP.

 

  1. Start your dog standing near the table, with his nose so close to the edge of the table that he is touching it, or hanging his head over the table. You may have to take some time to get your dog comfortable being on the ground so close to the table; many experienced dogs will try to jump up on the table from a distance further away, where they can use horizontal momentum to get up on the table, rather than vertical lift.
  2. Once you’ve got your dog close to the table (perhaps munching away happily on some treats you’ve got in your hand), move your hand up and away, so that your dog has to jump UP on to the table to get back to your treats. You can coax your dog however you like – waggle the treats in front of his nose, encourage him verbally, or even push him back a bit to make the treats seem even more enticing, but the goal here is to have your dog jump up on the table from a location very close to the table.
  3. Once your dog jumps up on the table, praise him heavily, and of course don’t forget to give him some treats! But, save that last treat, because you’re going to toss it OFF the table so that your dog follows it.
  4. Most dogs will eat that last cookie and turn around instantly to try to get back on the table again. Make sure you’ve got yet another treat ready to go to keep your dog on the ground til he is quite close to the table, and then repeat the process again from step 1.

 

Jump DOWN

Jumping up on the table from a location close to the table itself is one thing. Jumping back DOWN is yet another. Of course I wouldn’t do this on any sort of slippery surface, and I will take care to make sure that my dog is safe. But, once my dog is up on the table, I can also place cookies close to the base of the table, on the ground, and release my dog off the table to get those cookies. This can be a useful activity for those with larger or more enthusiastic dogs that tend to push off the table horizontally when released, with such force that they knock the table back, causing it to slip out from under them.

 

Back UP

In AKC, the dog must come off the table with all four feet in order to be faulted. On more than one occasion, I’ve been glad that I’ve played this game with my dogs on the table! Occasionally, my dogs have miscalculated their speed on approach to the table (or I’ve miscued how much speed they should have), and have hit the table only to slip off again. But, thanks in part to this game, they know how to avoid coming off entirely, and can actually back themselves up on to the table. Be advised, this is a great conditioning exercise, but it also requires a great deal of strength – so start with a low table to start, and go from there. It also requires that your dog have some experience with targeting objects with his rear legs, or that he know how to back up.

  1. Start your dog on the ground, facing you, with the table behind him. It’s helpful to start by sitting on the ground yourself, so that your dog can focus his head down, which will make it easier for his rear to go up.
  2. Move in to your dog’s space, or ask him to back up, or, if he’s comfortable with it, physically place his rear legs on the table. If your dog is reluctant to do this but does know how to back up, you can soften the edges of the table with a towel, pillow, or blanket. Many dogs don’t want to hit their rear legs on a solid surface.
  3. Once your dog has his rear legs on the table, reward low, between his front legs, so that he has to look down to get his treat. And then, move in to his space again, and reward for any movement backwards that results in more of your dog’s body being on the table.
  4. Once your dog is on the table completely, give lots of treats and praise, toss a cookie off the table to get your dog back on the ground, and start over again!

With this exercise, I purposefully don’t lure my dog forward in to a two on/two off position on the table, because I don’t really want him trying to drive forward to such a position. And of course, I’ll make sure that I’m not doing too much of this activity. As with all other exercises, moderation is the key. What I really want is for my dog to get as few cookies as possible with this exercise, until his whole body is on the table, and then, he will get a LOT of cookies.

 

Wicket/Measuring Table Games

At some point or another, probably sooner rather than later, your dog is going to have to be up on an agility table, at a trial, OUTSIDE the ring, in order to be measured. So, in anticipation of this, include some measuring games in your table training repertoire. For this game, use a hula hoop cut in half, or a homemade measuring wicket made out of three short pieces of PVC and a couple of 90-degree PVC elbows. With your dog on the table, do the following:

  • Click and treat for your dog looking at the wicket
  • Click and treat for your dog moving his head toward the wicket
  • Click and treat for your dog ducking under the wicket

In each of the above cases, click for attention or movement toward the wicket, and then deliver your cookie such that the dog has to continue to move toward or duck his head under/through the wicket to get his cookie.

 

With your wicket, you can also reward your dog for:

  • Picking up the wicket in his mouth
  • Allowing you to touch his topline or any part of his body with the wicket
  • Passing the wicket above the length of his body
  • Resting the wicket on his shoulders while feeding him

Table Tricks

In addition to the activities above, there are many tricks that I teach my dog on the ground that I might also do on the table. For some of these tricks, marked with an asterisk (*), performing them on the table adds an added element of strength and coordination, depending on the stability of your table. But for all of these tricks, teach your dog how to do them on the ground first!

  • Sit Pretty or Beg (*)
  • Touch your nose with your paw (*)
  • Stand up on your hind legs (*)
  • Stand up and lift up one of your rear legs (*)
  • Stand up and lift up BOTH of your rear legs (*)
  • Put a toy in a small box
  • Take a toy out of a small box
  • Stack one food bowl inside another
  • Bark
  • Wave (*)
  • Lay down with your chin on the table
  • Lay down with your paws curled over the edge of the table
  • Down to sit
  • Sit to stand
  • Tug on a toy (*)
  • Hand Targeting

You can make this list even longer with the tricks that you’ve taught your own dog. Some tricks, of course, are not appropriate to do on the table, such as backing up, or rolling over, for obvious reasons. And you can see that on my list, a simple “sit” and “down” aren’t really even included.

 

In Conclusion

Of course, I do teach my dogs to maintain a down position on the table until I say my release word. And, I do a lot of exciting gyrations when they’re in a down stay on the table to see if, in a playful way, I can entice them to come off the table. When they do make the mistake of coming off of the table, however, because I have done all of the above activities on the table with them, they are typically quick to get back on the table. And, when they mistakenly come off, all of my gyrations stop suddenly, and I become far less interesting. Then, when they do hop back on the table, I’m quick to reinforce in their minds that the table is a really fun place to be! So much of the rest of an agility course can be so much fun for the dogs that some time spent specifically making the table a fun place to be is time well spent – and it takes very little time and space to do it.

 

Sit or down on a table should just be one of many things your dogs might do to earn a cookie while they’re up there. And, like any other behavior you might ask your dog to do as a trick on the table, sit and down should be viewed as a trick – cued with a smile on your face and praise at the ready!

 

Until next time,

Happy Training!

 

 

Snooker Rules Explained!

Today was Chipper's very first USDAA trial! As I listened to the very thoughtful and thorough briefing that the judge gave to the Starter's Snooker competitors, I was surprised at the number of competitors that had no idea how the game was actually played! The judge was very patient explaining the rules – but oh, how I wanted to jump up and down and tell everybody, “hey, did you guys know that there is a CLASS you can take on this in my Online Classroom?!”.

Then, I realized that at the very least, I could make this 22 minute video, on the rules of snooker available to everybody! Lori Michaels put this video together as part of her Snooker 101 course. Judges, you can just play this video on your iPad during the briefing, and you'll never have to explain snooker again! OK, you probably will, but COMPETITORS and INSTRUCTORS, share this video with your students to help demystify the game! And, you can learn even MORE about the game, and the skills you need to play it, in Lori's SNOOKER 101 course!

 

Let’s Pardon Some Turkeys

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Here in the USA, this time of year is often referred to as the season of remembrance.  Thanksgiving and the upcoming holiday season helps to remind us to be thankful for the things we have, be mindful of the many who go without and to send positive thoughts to those who cannot be with their families and friends because they’re busy protecting us so that we can enjoy our freedom.

With that and agility in mind, lately I’ve been thinking about how lucky we North Americans are for the agility opportunities we have in the United States (and Canada) and how I need to be mindful of that sort of thanksgiving as well.  As you look across this continent and think about the very basics (and beginnings) of training and shaping behaviors through the highest levels of complex competing (not to mention all the conditioning and advanced medical resources we have available), I genuinely believe that we have the best handlers and trainers in the WORLD right here in North America.

 

Current trends in seminars might seem shiny and brighter because they come from outside North America, but if you closely examine them, don’t they seem oddly familiar?

I genuinely believe that we have the best handlers and trainers in the WORLD right here in North America.

Think about it and be honest.  There's a well known handler, trainer and competitor right here in the USA who quantified everything that some of the Europeans are now teaching, and she did it years ago, and she's been teaching it, without any marketing or hype, successfully, for years.

Another well known competitor and instructor, right here in North America, has protocols for weave pole training and stopped contact training that are amazingly clear, detailed, and have been successfully used by thousands of people.

Our training and handling, right here in North America, is the best in the world.

Our courses at competitions might not challenge us to USE those skills all the time, but in terms of the information available, you can get the same (or better) information from somebody “Made in the USA”, as you can from a more exotic source.

usa_flag-wide

You can get the same (or better) information from somebody “Made in the USA”, as you can from a more exotic source.

Now let me be clear.  There are many instructors out there teaching the same material.  Some are better at marketing their material than others.  Some have more clever names for their material than others.  And some are just plain better at teaching the material than others.

But I think it's important to not get too caught up in the hype or to feel that if you don't attend the seminar from presenter XYZ, you are going to be missing out on all the latest and greatest.  Seriously, the chances are really, really good that you will be hearing the same content, worded differently at some point soon (if you haven’t heard it already).  And if the personality of presenter XYZ appeals to you more than another presenter, then by all means – go with the instructor you like.

But at the end of the day, trendy seminars aside – is a “seminar” from someone you don't know the best use of your time (and money)?

While the one or two day seminar can provide a list of training “to-do’s” and a temporary sense of excitement, how does one sustain really good, substantive training long term?

Current trends in seminars might seem shiny and brighter because they come from outside North America, but if you closely examine them, don’t they seem oddly familiar?

In this day and age, where information is so readily available, you can form a relationship with an instructor who doesn't even live anywhere NEAR you.  REALLY!

From Florida to California to Texas to Maine to Montana, competitors can train with great instructors, behavior specialists, world champion handlers, international winners and the like from Wisconsin, Colorado, Canada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Oregon – wherever!

Form a relationship with that instructor.

These days, you can have access to all the heavy hitters in agility ONLINE, no matter where they live.

And then (and this is VERY important), instead of spending thousands of dollars to go to seminars where the presenter doesn't know you, has never heard of you, and doesn't have a vested interest in supporting YOUR agility future . . . further solidify your online education by occasionally getting yourself to a private lesson or workshop that is being taught by that instructor from FL, CA, OH, OR, or wherever that you DO have a relationship with.

Think about it – if you're going to spend tons of money getting to a seminar where youMIGHT get an hour of working time, wouldn't you be better off with a one hour private lesson with the world-class instructor you've ALREADY been working with?

Who knows you?

Who has seen you work with your dog, in your own back yard, answering your questions in great detail that you can refer to time and again all through the convenience of your PC, laptop, tablet, etc.?

And then, when that private lesson is over, and you leave, you STILL have a relationship with that instructor, who has now seen you in person and can give even BETTER feedback as you continue to work with them online.

As a seminar presenter and online class instructor, I’ve been giving more and more thought to these very ideas lately and find that I am less and less interested in presenting seminars to clients I am unlikely to ever see again – I want to meet those students for the first time, and then be able to continue with them for the long run.  A one time encounter with a new student might help me pay my bills, but ultimately, I feel as though I'm not actually helping those teams as much as I could be if we had continued exposure to one another.  In a way, those one hit wonder types of seminars can be a disservice.

I've been around long enough now to see that most of the “new” stuff going around these days is just the same stuff packaged up in slick new wrappers.  I'm much more interested in showing people how they can get the same results with the skills they already have, and then moving on to the more important business of helping people execute and act on the knowledge that is so readily available to us all now.

Phew – that turned out to be a long one! 🙂

 

Best wishes, glad tidings and safe travels to everyone!  Enjoy your holiday!!!

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Getting great feedback as a participant

Objective

Getting great video feedback starts with submission of a great video! The following tips will help your long distance instructor give you the best feedback possible, whether that instructor is me, another instructor in my online classroom, or an instructor in another online classroom. Let’s get started!

Dress Appropriately

It may seem strange that you’d need to dress appropriately for something you’re just heading out to do in your back yard, but the clothes that you wear can affect the quality of the feedback your instructor can give you. If you want your instructor to be able to comment on your movements around the course with your dog, make sure that your movements can be seen. Wear bright colors that contrast with the background; for example, if you’re working on a dirt surface, you don’t want to be wearing brown pants, or your instructor won’t be able to see your legs! If you’re working on grass, avoid wearing green. And ALWAYS avoid wearing black, since it makes your body very difficult to observe on the screen.

In my videos, I make the effort to wear bright colors such as red, or blue. It’s not just because I’m patriotic! I also try to wear clothing that has stripes or other features on it. For example, in many of my videos, I’m wearing a pair of athletic pants that have white stripes down the leg. These white stripes make it easier to see the angle of my legs as I move. And, I tend to wear tops that are either brightly colored and/or have stripes on them as well, so you can see my shoulders and arms better.

I try to wear clothing that is not lumpy or loose. Not only is it difficult for me to run in loose lumpy clothing, but it makes it difficult for an observer to even tell if they’re looking at my front or my back end! Even if I might not feel entirely comfortable in snug fitting clothing, I know that to an observer watching my videos, snug clothing is going to make it easier to see my body, and how it’s moving.

Make sure you’re lit appropriately

You might not have complete control over the lighting in your videos, but you can at least avoid some of the more common pitfalls that make videos difficult to view with respect to lighting.

  • Avoid backlighting  situations. If you’re inside a barn or building, and there’s an open door, wall, or window, and the light is streaming in through it from outside, avoid pointing your camera in that direction. If your camera is pointed toward bright light coming through the middle of a solid wall (i.e. a door, or window to the outside), then anything that is in between that light source and your camera is going to show up as a black outline, and no matter how brightly dressed you are, your instructor is going to have a hard time seeing any of your physical details. Put that bright source of light, the door, window, etc., BEHIND your camera.
  • Film when the sun is high in the sky. You might not have complete control over when you get to do your training, but whenever possible, avoid dim conditions, such as sunrise and sunset. Not only is the sun lower in the sky at these times, providing less light, but the angle of the light from the sun can lead to “flat” conditions, making it difficult for your instructor to figure out the spacing between obstacles in your set up.
  • Point your camera away from the sun. Whether the sun is low or high, if you’re filming outside, be sure to put the sun behind your camera, instead of in front of it.
  • Check for lens flares. Set up your camera where it’s going to be for your video, and film a short clip. Walk around in that clip. Check to see that you’re visible, and that there are no flares of light in the film, caused by light refracting inappropriately in your camera lens.

 

Film from a good angle

One of the biggest problems with trying to give feedback  on videos is that it can be difficult to determine the spacing between the obstacles in your set up. Filming from a good angle can greatly determine the quality of the feedback you receive.

  • Film from above. If at all possible, film from a height that is above your own height. If your camera is too low, it is going to be difficult for your instructor to see the whole sequence.
  • Film at an angle. If you’ve got your camera set up so that it is pointed straight through the obstacles, your instructor will have a hard time perceiving any depth to  your video. Film at an angle that allows all of the obstacles to be seen, with some perspective, so your instructor can get a feel for the distances between obstacles, and their spatial relationship to one another.
  • Filming from directly overhead. While this may seem like a good idea, and while it can really show your lines of motion nicely, it doesn’t allow for your instructor to see fine details of your handling. A slight angle is better than directly overhead.
  • Shoot from the same angle as your instructor. If your instructor has provided video examples, film your own attempts from the same angle. Plan out how you’ll set up your course and where you’ll put your camera to accomplish this. If you shoot from a different angle than your instructor, the course will not look familiar. Remember that your instructor is watching the videos of several other people, in all likelihood. And, if your instructor has provided video examples, the angle that they shot at is probably the angle that allows for communication of the important aspects of that sequence, so try to mimic their footage if at all possible, with respect to the angle and the set up.

 

Here are some examples of different camera angles. Which ones do you think allow you to tell what the sequence is?

flat camera angle

This camera angle is too low – you can’t even see all the obstacles! It’s not a great angle for getting great feedback!

flat camera angle 2

This camera angle is a little higher, and you can see all the obstacles, but it’s difficult to get any sense of perspective for the obstacles (their relationship to one another in space). Again, it’s better, but not a great angle.

even better camera angle 4

This camera angle is a little higher, AND at an angle to the exercise. It’s easier to get a feel for how far away obstacles are from the camera and each other, here.

 top-camera-angle-5

This camera angle is from nearly directly above. It’s a great angle for seeing your movement through the course, and for seeing the spatial relationship of all the obstacles. However, it may be difficult for your instructor to see the finer details of your handling.

The last two images above are the best angles to choose from, if you can, because they offer the best view of the sequence. In my videos, these are the angles I try to shoot from.

Again, if possible, shoot from a similar vantage point to that of any demo videos your instructor has provided, so that your instructor can compare your handling to that of their own.

 

Edit Edit Edit

So you’ve shot your footage. You were wearing the right clothes, you had great lighting, your camera was set at a great angle, and now, you need to edit your footage for submission to your instructor. Here are some tips to help you with editing.

  • Get rid of unnecessary footage. Edit out any footage of you taking your dog to the start line, playing with your dog, etc. If you’re  not doing the exercise with your dog, your instructor doesn’t need to see the footage. Get rid of empty frames (frames where you and your dog aren’t even in the view of the camera! Unless your instructor asks to see footage of you playing with your dog, etc., don’t include it.
  • Include just a couple attempts. In general, two attempts at each exercise are sufficient, unless your instructor specifically asks for more. If you include try after try after try, your instructor is not going to know which attempt to comment on and will start skimming through your video.
  • No slow motion. Again, unless your instructor specifically asks for it, no slow motion. Your instructor can slow down playback on his/her own if necessary.
  • No music. Part of your handling is your verbal cues. Your instructor needs to hear this. Don’t cover it up with music.
  • No fancy titles or transitions. Just the basics. Label each attempt so your instructor knows what figure he/she is looking at, particularly if you shot it at a different angle than the example footage. And stick to fade or cross dissolve for your transitions. No bubbles or stars necessary 🙂
  • Keep it short. You’re likely to get better feedback if you’ve got a succinct video. Videos that are two  minutes long or less will keep the attention of your instructor better. It’s not that your instructor doesn’t want to pay attention, but 2-3 minutes is better than 10 minutes or even 5 minutes, for keeping the focus and attention of anybody observing your footage. It’s just human nature, and if your instructor has several videos to go through, it’s likely that he/she is going to skim through only 2-3 minutes of your video in any case, to pull material from for feedback.
  • Don’t shoot for perfect! You don’t need to include your BEST attempts. If you’re going to include two attempts, include your best and your worst. This is about feedback on what you can’t do, not just kudos for what you can do! If you nail an exercise, you nailed it, but your instructor won’t be able to give much feedback other than congratulations! On the other hand, if you tried an exercise 10 times, and had a similar error each time, just include footage of that error once, and then use editing to make a quick note that this one time is representative of how it went for you 9 other times.

 

All these editing guidelines will produce a video that may seem boring to watch – but remember, you’re not making this video to be clever, or to produce an emotion from the viewer, or to highlight you and your dog to the world. This video is for feedback from your instructor! Be greedy, and get the best quality feedback you can from your instructor, by keeping editing distractions to a minimum. And, if you want to make a more interesting video, with music or fun edits, go for it! Make a second version for the general public, and save your feedback version for your instructor.

 

Conclusion

Hopefully, these guidelines will help you get the best feedback possible on videos you submit in the course of an online learning experience. Again, these guidelines might not produce the fanciest or flashiest video, but they WILL help you produce a video that will be more likely to get you the great feedback you’re looking for, which will in turn help you improve your handling and training, and get the most bang for your online learning buck!

If you'd like to download this article as a PDF file:

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How to get great video feedback

Interested in more?

If you’re not currently a student in my Online Classroom, take a look at what’s offered here!