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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.

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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).

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Games Drills

Last week I posted this set-up for the Competition classes I teach in Kansas City. Normally, I will use set-ups I have had in class when I teach seminars.  This time, I decided to bring some game drills I used in recent seminars back to my classes since we had so much fun with them!

The Setup

The Setup

 

The basis of this drill uses the ladder set-up from my previous blog which can be seen HERE.
Warning! These games are not just for those who compete in USDAA or similar organizations offering snooker-type games classes!  I wanted these exercises to emphasize the importance of balance in respect to the dog being in handler vs. obstacle focus.  Also, it teaches the handlers to create smooth, efficient paths for the dog when given the task of  planning their own courses.   Think of it as brain games to improve our agility neuroplasticity!  Enjoy!

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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:

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My New Favorite Drill – Jacob’s Ladder

A while ago, Alen Marekovic from Croatia posted a recent training exercise on facebook.  His course was the base for the following exercises and I give him full credit for the design inspiration!  I immediately saw the 5 parallel jumps at the top as a unique challenge that would make for an interesting drill.  So, with a little simplification to focus on that part of his original design, I was able to come up with a fun adaptation that resulted in a fresh new challenge which I introduced to my classes this last week.  Here is the basic set-up:

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