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Training in Ten Minutes, Episode #3

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 bypass the obvious entrance of a tunnel. Take a look, have a listen, enjoy, and…Happy Training!

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

Class Courses

I really enjoyed the set-up I designed for classes this week.  It offered a lot of opportunities for different challenges I used in all of my competition handling classes (from Beginning Comp to Extreme Agility).

Here is the basic set-up:

The first course I set for the Advanced Comp Class (the Beginning Comp class had the same course, but did straight from 6-8, not taking the #7 jump before the A-Frame).

My Advanced Comp students tended to run very tentative the first time getting the dogs from the #5 weaves to the backside of #7.  Once I told them they *had* to be more intent on working  the line, they found they could easily push to the right side around #7 (dog on their right).

 

Another option was to execute a blind cross while the dogs were in the weaves and push to the left side around #7.  These ways were much more successful than trying to front cross on the landing side of #6 or pull and rear cross the dog to #7.

I also liked the option of then running on the right side of the A-frame (dog on left) and then rear crossing the next jump to tighten up the turn to the weaves.

At the end of this course, we worked on pre-cuing a tight turn out of the tunnel, setting the proper line on the 270 and different ways to handle the 270 to the end of the course.

Next, students had to think about running the first course in reverse flow (which was a challenge in itself!)

For the Extreme Agility Class, everybody first ran 1-12.  After they finished, I then added 13-20 and they ran the entire course.  I followed that by numbering another 10 obstacle sequence so their 3rd turn was running a 30 obstacle course.  We tend to all have enough stamina to get us through 20 obstacles, but it became clear that adding the yardage for another 10 was taxing to humans and dogs (especially by the 4th turn!).  Compound that by a few students who ran 2 dogs in the class (Oh yeah, one was me running Bizi and Skylar for Ann Zarr who is resting a leg injury) and it was quite a work out!  I think everybody could see the benefit to working longer courses and pushing ourselves to be able to dig deep to get through them.

Handling Comparisons

I have had a great time with my Online Coursework Facebook group!  Every 2 weeks I post a set-up with 10 exercises, ranging in skill level so there is something for everybody, in addition to gambler and snooker challenges.  I usually share demo video focusing on a few sequences and handling options (not all of the options, I love having others comment that they tried something different and post their own video!), while subscribers share video for me to analyze and everybody discusses what worked for them, what was difficult and advice to help each other improve.  What a fun, sharing and learning environment!

This cycle, the video focused on the opening line of two exercises and different handling option I chose to try with C-ya. I also noted differences in times, mistakes we made and how I could have improved my own timing and execution (Hey, nobody is perfect!).  My hope is that it helps others learn to scrutinize their own training session more closely and be bold applying different cue combinations to optimize their performance.   We also tend to focus so much on the big picture that we lose sight of the details.  When we improve upon the details, the picture becomes much clearer. 🙂

Here are the video and maps:

Here are maps of the 2 exercises I demonstrated.

Happy Training!

P-push it Real Good!

I really enjoyed all the “Fancy” classes this weekend presented by judge Leslie Bickel.  Casa de Canine offered both the MC Biathlon and individual classes over the last 3 days, so there were challenges a'plenty!  Today's MC Standard course had a fun opening that led to multiple handling options:

push5

Opening to MC Standard Course Designed by Leslie Bickel

The initial decision the handler had to make was what path they wanted the dog to take from 1-4. As I stepped out both paths and looked at the natural line my dog would take  (she was jumping 26″, so make your own individual conclusions with your dogs and their natural tendencies),  I personally felt one was the best choice to have a very fast, efficient line from 1-3, but did not result in a great approach to the #4 A-frame.  The other choice did require a full 360-degree turn for the dog, but did allow the dog to land #2 and immediately transition into a straighter (safer), and faster approach to #4.   While I normally will always choose the more flowing path for my 26″ jumping dog, in this instance I felt it would be both faster and safer to go with the latter option.  Here are the paths I drew out in my mind and the differences in distance:

The downside of the latter option was the proximity of the tunnel opening facing the dog as they were being pushed to the backside of  the left wing of #2.  There were several handlers who tried this path, but lost their dogs in the tunnel.  This is one of the reason so many handlers decided to take the alternate path.   I heard more than once while walking the course, “I can't push my dog on that side, he/she will for sure take the tunnel!”

In these scenarios, the dogs who do take the off-course tunnel do so not because they are being naughty, but because they don't know the jump even exists!  Think about how you trained your dog to send to the backside of a jump.  Where are you usually located?  Are you physically taking your dog to the backside of the jump versus pushing/sending them more on their own from the landing side?   Here is what handling that way would look like to the dog on today's course:

push11Of course these dogs are going to look at the tunnel- the handler is blocking the jump so the dog doesn't really see it.  In addition, the handler isn't connecting with the dog- the focus is all forward (eye contact, hands, etc). There is no reason for the dog the think he/she isn't getting a send cue to the tunnel.

Instead, one of my big rules for backside sends is always letting my dog see part of the obstacle I want her to take, even if it is a piece of the wing, at least she knows there is something with which we are going to interact.  Also, this is a skill where the dog can't just assume he/she knows what comes next. It required connection in cuing. Here is how I positioned myself:

push2 Here, I shift to the right so that my dog sees the wing (but does not have access to the jump). I begin by giving a recall cue, so my dog is immediately coming to me, instead of defaulting into obstacle focus, which could lead to her taking the tunnel.  My eyes are focused on my dog, insisting she remain connected with me so she receives the send cue to go to the backside of the jump.  Also, I teach pushes as a 2-part skill.  1) push to the backside 2) take the jump.  Once my dog owns both of those responsibilities fairly independently, I am free in my handling to leave as soon as I see my dog is committed to going to the backside of the jump.  In today's sequence, as soon as I gave Solei her “back” cue and saw she was going, instead of post turning all the way around to my right as she was taking the jump, I was able to immediately move to my left towards #3 and picked her up on my left as she landed.

Just as they say football is a game of inches, so is agility!  Just a slight shift in your initial positioning can be the difference between a clean run and an E! 🙂

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 🙂

Backyard Training – Keep it Simple!

Many of us have some amount of usable space to practice small exercises at home with our dogs.  Even with a number of indoor agility training facilities in our area, I can't emphasize enough how supplementing your “formal” training time with practice at home is so important.  The more you can focus on small things (isolating and reinforcing individual skills such as stays, call to heel/hand, timing and placement of cues, etc), the stronger your teamwork will be with your dog.  The shorter the exercise, the more often your dog will get reinforced, too!  Also, I enjoy the challenge of working small sequences and practicing every single handling option.

Serps, Threadles and Push-throughs. Oh My!

Last night I taught a workshop on handling serpentines, threadles and push-throughs.   The participants had already attended a class on the introduction of these skills, where we worked one or two skills at a time, so everybody was ready to be pushed a bit more!

The drill I devised was a spin-off of the traditional straight line of jumps.   By curving the line, it varies the challenge a bit and offers an increase in difficulty when the handler has to work the jumps from the “outside” of the curve.  It doesn't matter if you use wing or wingless jumps (a variety is great).  I also recommend playing with expanding or decreasing the distance between jumps.

set-up

The Set-up

The first objective is to serpentine the jumps, ideally down and back along the line.  Keep in mind that this should be a “no-brainer” to you and your dog.  Yes, you cue the line, but shouldn't overly have to work or hold to get your dog to come into you over a jump or push out to take one away from you.
Next, try threadling between the jumps. This means your dog is going to take each jump away from you.  Things can get a little tricky at this point, especially when you are trying to get down the line.  The best advice is DO NOT rush sending your dog back to the jump.  If you make the dog's line too effecient, then you risk getting too far behind and threadles are mostly successful when you stay ahead of your dog's path.  This is an example of a place you might have your dog take a little longer line if it allows you to remain proactive and keep them on course further along the line.  I am showing the path in black going one direction and red coming back.

Now tackle the push-through, where your dog takes each jump coming towards you.  This can also be pretty daunting, so don't strive for too many reps at once.  The more confident you are with your cue to send your dog to the back-side of the next jump, and the better your dog reads that cue, the more successful you will be.  Note that the dog starts on the “outside” of the line.

Once you feel confident with each of those handling skills and doing them repeatedly, we can up the ante!  All I have done in the set-up below is rotate each jump slightly on it's axis.  It changes the character of the skills significantly!  Now try each exercise with the jump angles changed.  You can also see how reversing the direction changes the challenge

Ready for more?  Try mixing up the different skills into one sequence.  The more confident you get, the longer you can make it.

I would strive to remember and get through a 25-30 obstacle sequences doing all three skills on just these 5 jumps. Enjoy!