Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Good Clean (Run) Fun

Yesterday the link to the Clean Run training exercise of the month was posted on the Clean Run Yahoo group. [click here if you want to see the whole thing] Seeing as it was Monday (thus I'm actually home in the evening for a change) and it was a beautiful 60 degree day, I printed it out with the thought that it might make a fun evening activity for us. There's an international jumpers course from the February issue that I also want to set up soon, but this was much faster to set and thus won out!

Note that I was too lazy to go down to the basement to bring up the rest of my jumps, so I substituted three hoops for the jumps at the bottom of the course. Once I ran it, I did find myself wishing I would have used jumps because I do feel they add a different element of challenge vs. a hoop. That said, these exercises were certainly filled with plenty of challenge as it was!

Unlike the Backyard Dogs exercises where I find myself able to retain three drills at once, with these exercises (I opted to do Exercise 5 then Exercise 4) I worked on committing one to memory, ran the dogs, then learned the second one and ran them again. My brain is still struggling to work through these styles of courses and it generally takes quite a bit of effort for me to get it right (more on that later, lol). I think that's just what happens when you focus on nothing but NADAC for so long!

Generally these exercises tend to be listed in progressive order of difficulty, but I chose to run Exercise 5 first because it had fewer obstacles and I perceived it to be "easier" than the one preceding it.

Kathy Keats (The Agility Coach), author of these drills, stated that the handling challenge of these drills requires the dog to be very responsive to your cues. I tell you, if that's not Secret's strong point, nothing is! She really nailed this drill. I believe her only error was taking the number 9 jump between obstacles 7 & 8 a couple of times, which was easily corrected by fixing my positioning and timing cues.

These types of drills are really up Secret's alley. She excels at tight, twisty & turny and these things really fire her up. In addition, she seems to really be turning on to the cues to take the back side of the jump. Secret seems to really enjoy having me push her around and then take off running to the next obstacle.

Even Kaiser rocked out this exercise. The most challenging aspect for him was making it from three to four without taking the tunnel between them. He is such a tunnel sucker! I ended up having to almost run backwards through that sequence to keep his focus on me and not the tunnel. From there the rest went very well. I'm very happy with how much improvement I've seen in his wraps lately -- He didn't back jump anything all night! With his super sensitive space bubble, it doesn't surprise me that he's taken well to finding the back side of jumps, either. :o)

I did bring Luke out... It was pretty miserable for us both and I ended up letting him run around taking whatever he wanted and throwing his ball for him. Much happier that way!! This course was super, super tight and I see no reason to push him to do these exercises at this point in his career.

Needless to say, I felt like a pretty brilliant trainer after having such success with Secret & Kaiser on the first exercise. Believe me, the second one put me in my place a bit! lol

First things first -- When I was looking over the exercise later in the evening going over what we'd done, I realized that I ran two obstacles in the wrong direction! See, I told you my brain just doesn't grasp this stuff yet... I ran jump 5 on the opposite side, making it a back side push instead of a serpentine. Then I ran (hoop) 13 from the opposite side -- running it as labeled probably would have been easier! I carried the course map with me while walking this drill; my brain just gets so confused when presented with numbers on both sides of jumps. lol

While walking this drill, I spent a LOT of time trying to work out how best to handle jump 2. I know my dogs don't drive well around me in a post turn, so taking the back side from the right didn't seem like a good plan. In my head, I decided the optimal plan was to push to the back from the left and then blind cross the landing to pick them up on the right again.

Yeah.... That was a total fail! Honestly, I didn't even attempt it with Kaiser after failing epically with Secret. The handling move that worked for us was a rear cross. With Secret I rear crossed the landing side and was still easily able to get into position for the wrap/front cross into the tunnel for 3 & 4. For Kaiser I opted to rear cross on the take-off side of jump 2 because he is so sensitive about me crossing directly behind him.

Because I was doing it wrong, I then pushed to the back side of five as they came out of the tunnel. Apparently I was just on a "find the back side" kick last night or something and my brain failed to catch it. Doing the exercise as written would have offered a much different challenge. Most likely I could see Secret knocking that bar as my 3' wide jumps don't offer much leeway in those tight scenarios. Kaiser would have been likely to take an off course jump or tunnel if I wasn't careful with my cues. Oh well -- We did the back side and it worked nicely. :o)

I had thought going from 7 to 8 would have been a bit more of a trap than it turned out to be. Neither dog even looked at the jump in front of them (which would have been the third jump in a pinwheel configuration). We didn't have any trouble going from 8 to the tunnel at 9. I'm not sure why the number 2 jump didn't present itself as an off course obstacle as much as the number 12 jump on the opposite side.

Best as I could figure, there were two optimal ways to handle the 9-10-11 sequence. One could threadle it (not our strong point) or one could push and scoop. Secret definitely fared much better with the push & scoop method, again proving how much more comfortable she is being pushed away from me vs. pulled in to me. Kaiser surprised me in that he seemed to do much better with the threadle, namely because that took out the option of the off course jump at 12 due to me blocking it. With the push/scoop he was very prone to taking the off course jump before wrapping back into the tunnel. He's terribly sensitive to pressure that way.

I handled the final sequence from my right, choosing to do a post turn at the back side of 13 (since, you know, I ran it wrong!). Because my dogs find post turns so incredibly demotivating, I did try a front cross wrap followed by a rear cross at 14 with Kaiser and that worked as well. Secret actually started to power through that post turn, likely because I cheated and threw her toy for her. ;o)

This was a super fun set of drills. If you are looking for something fun and challenging, I definitely recommend you check them out! My only disappointment is that I didn't have the video camera at home. This would have been a nice one to video to be able to watch my cues and how the dogs respond to them. Truthfully, I should record all of our training sessions since I'm always training by myself!

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