German Shepherds Forum banner

1 - 12 of 12 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
753 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Odin and I competed in our first Agility Association of Canada Regionals last weekend. We needed 350 points to qualify for nationals and we got 352 lol. At the time I was actually pretty disappointed in how we did but thinking back on it now I feel like we did pretty good. During the 6 regional courses we only had one off course and 3 refusals (all weave poles) BUT over the 6 runs he knocked 14! bars. That adds up to a lot of faults. I have decided to drop him to 22" specials as I am so sick of having "such a nice run, except for all those bars" and all of the work we have put into jumping clearly hasn't helped. Other than all of the bars he was running fast and listening well :)

I have decided to skip nationals this year. I just have too much on my plate right now to be able to focus that much on agility and I just feel that as a team, we just aren't quite there. Anyways here are some vids of our runs.

 

·
Registered
Joined
·
74 Posts
looking good out there, it's a shame about the bars :( I guess when you add them up they do knock the points down quite a bit, congratulations on Q'ing for nationals tho.He does try so hard for you.... I love watching your video's of him, hopefully we will be ready next year to enter :laugh:
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
27,460 Posts
Congrats and good luck!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
304 Posts
Congrats on qualifying for nationals! Even if you don't attend, that's still an accomplishment.

I really feel for you on the bar-knocking and not quite feeling like a team. I read through one of your old posts a while back about Odin's bar-knocking (this one). I think I could have written that post word-for-word about Ryker. lol. So I certainly sympathize!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
753 Posts
Discussion Starter #5
Thanks! How is ryker's bar knocking now? Any advice? I am definitely lowering his jump height to 22" I just think we will both enjoy ourselves more at that height. Part of the issue is that AAC courses can be so tight that he just can't fit a stride in between jumps. He is very looong which makes straightaways that are sometimes only spaced 15' apart really tough.

I really am way too hard on us, as a team we do work together really well (except for the one run at regionals where he totally blew me off, but that was the only time he has really done that.) I just know that we are not ready for nationals quite yet. In a year or two we will be a team to contend with :) Right now I just need to focus on building that team work, we do have runs where I just feel totally in sync with him, I would just like more of them. This was a challenge course from the week before regionals and this really felt so good! We had an off course (my fault) and a knocked bar (his tail) but the run itself just felt amazing :)

Odin Challenge May 2013 - YouTube
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
304 Posts
Yes, we have the exact same problems! We run in USDAA, which you probably know is really similar to AAC. Ryker is so long and fast that he is often getting only one stride, half stride, or sometimes even a bounce between obstacles. And he is so extremely sensitive to handling that if I'm off by fractions of a second, down comes the bar. Especially with the short distances between obstacles, which gives me limited time to handle so it's easy for me to be off on my timing. Sometimes it is my handling, other times it is Ryker not taking off appropriately. He usually takes off way too close to the jump, which leads to him hitting the bar with his chest on take-off, or his knees. He also jumps too close to the standards on turns and knocks the standard with some part of his body (varies between his shoulder and his knees or rear feet). And if it's not any of those, it's that darn tail! I have seen his tail wrap around jump standards like a hook and pull them down. It's almost like he's trying to knock the jumps. :rolleyes:

I actually took a few months off from doing any agility with him, other than a few short practices at home. I was at the point where I was so frustrated with it and we weren't getting anywhere that we really just needed the break. It seemed to help, at least with my sanity.

I've dropped him down to Performance 22" in trials, but still practice mostly at 24-26". Usually height doesn't matter in practice, he'll knock 16" bars just as much as 26" bars. But it seems to help in trials and we've actually made it through trial runs at 22" where he hasn't knocked a single bar. I actually have a video of the very first run in a trial where he didn't knock any bars (here), and though it wasn't a Q (we had an off-course) it still felt great and lots of people clapped and cheered because they're quite familiar with Ryker's jump destruction around here. :p

One exercise I finally found that seemed to help the most was one of Linda Mecklenburg's. Put the dog in a sit-stay straight in front of the jump, about as far away as the height of the bar. Stand on the other side of the jump, also about as far away as the height of the bar. Face the dog, and as you release him to jump, turn to the side so your dog lands in heel position. As your dog succeeds, start him farther and farther from the jump, so he approaches with more speed and has to work harder to turn, keep the bar up, and land in the appropriate position instead of landing behind you. (you stay in the same spot, so the landing area is small). This video explains it pretty well, though I would put myself just a bit closer to the jump to start so the landing area was even smaller and my dog was doing more turning over the bar.

Come to heel

One other thing I have started doing is that as soon as he knocks a bar, his turn is over. Back in the house if we're at home, back in his crate if at class, walked off the course if at a trial. He is drivey and crazy enough for agility that it is a fairly serious punishment for him to stop playing, so it really depends on your dog whether this would be effective or not. I wouldn't do it for my other dog, as she's a lot softer and it would shut her down, but for Ryker it helps. Especially at trials, if I pull him off a run for knocking a bar, often he is much better in the next run.

Sorry for hijacking your thread, I'm just excited to find someone with the same issue because I often feel alone and utterly frustrated with it. :eek:
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
753 Posts
Discussion Starter #7
Trust me you are not high jacking the thread! It is so nice to talk to someone having pretty much the exact same issues as me and Odin. It's kinda funny I have watched all of Ryker's youtube videos before but didn't put two and two together lol. It's crazy how similar they look jumping, they look to be built very similar and have similar drive.

I did buy Linda Mecklenburg's book and had been working through her exercises and it has really seemed to help!!! I found the come to heel especially helpful. But then I got distracted thinking about getting ready for regionals. I am definitely going to once again make those exercises a part of our weekly training (even though I find them BORING!) Susan Salo stuff seemed to get us nowhere.

I have been working with a very good private trainer and he has had me start to enforce a "time out" for knocked bars. That has really helped, now there at least seems to be a bit of effort to keep the bars up. The only problem I have with the time outs is what do I do if its his tail? Sometimes its really hard to tell.

I also REALLY need to work on him not getting sky high before we run. He is worse in agility than he is in flyball! Normally we tug with his leash before we run, but its making him way too high. Basically as soon as his "trial leash" goes on, he tugs on it until we walk into the ring, he's a strong dog and is starting to over power me. I am so sore by the end of trials these days! I am going try letting him chew on his ball before we go into the ring (he loves to squish those orange chuck it balls) its annoying because I will need to find somewhere to stash it before we run, but I see lots of people doing it.

This weekend is our first trial at 22'' so I am hoping it goes well!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
304 Posts
How funny that you have seen Ryker's videos before! I haven't posted any of the really terrible runs. There are runs where bar after bar after bar has come down, or the course has been left in shambles. :eek:

Yeah, I'll admit I probably don't practice with it nearly as much as I should. Like you said, it is boring! Not just for me, but Ryker seems to get bored with the one-jump stuff too. So I try to keep the sessions short.

We have done Susan Salo's jump grids ad naseum, but yeah, they seemed to get us nowhere too. Linda's stuff has helped more, I think because the dog has to do more thinking for himself with Linda's exercises, whereas Susan's jump grids basically hand all the information about take-off and landing to the dog and he doesn't have to think as much. Ryker just blasts through them. Susan's stuff seems to be good for working on jumping form, which kind of makes sense since it is so based on horse jumping exercises. Whereas Linda's stuff seems more appropriate for dogs and teaching them think more and control their body appropriately, all while dealing with handler cues (which Susan's stuff basically ignores until the later stages, yet is the biggest issue for our crazy dogs). If that makes any sense at all!

Susan Salo is actually in town doing a seminar this weekend, but I'm not going. One, it's pretty expensive, and two, like I said her stuff just didn't seem to help as much.

It is hard when it's the tail. I try to be observant and not get too upset if it's his tail hitting the bar/standard. On the other hand, I also have to wonder if I should be treating his tail like a fifth leg and making him be just as careful with it. This is one I'm not really sure about, just how much control and awareness dogs have over their tail. They have to have at least some awareness with it! Generally if I notice that it was Ryker's tail that hit the bar, I stop, reset the bar, and try again. Whereas if it is his chest/knees/feet/etc, then he's done.

I've also been working more with wooden bars. Dowel rods, which are light enough that they don't hurt, but solid enough to make it more obvious to both of us that he hit the bar. I think part of the problem with the PVC bars is that they are so lightweight, I honestly don't think Ryker notices when he hits them.

Ryker has the same issue with getting crazy before his runs! I've gotten it pretty controlled in practice, but his startline behavior at trials is atrocious. Non-stop barking and squealing, won't sit properly, and by the time I lead out and look back at him, he's no longer sitting but crouching very low to the ground in a spring-loaded position. This is another reason I've taken a break from trials with him, so he can stop practicing that behavior. He's very good at differentiating between practice and "I know this is a trial so you can't make me do it properly!" I need to get to fun matches, where I'll have time to work on training his startline. Unfortunately there aren't very many matches around here. Lots and lots of trials, but few matches.

I'm debating whether to give up on the sit-stay and just do a sort-of stand-stay that he is pretty decent at. But on the other hand, I'm also feeling stubborn about it and thinking if my dog can learn to do agility, he can learn to control himself enough for a stupid sit-stay! Seems to be easier said than done, though. *sigh*

Playing tug before the run can be both good and bad, at least in my experience with Ryker. Uncontrolled, mindless tugging just gets him more and more wound up. What I've been doing is working on attention behaviors while waiting our turn. He looks at me instead of barking at the dog in the ring, tug for a few seconds. Heel with eye contact for a few steps, tug. He still gets wound up with it, but not quite as much because he is thinking and working to earn it. My arms get sore too!

When possible, I try to let him off-leash for a few minutes of fetch before his run. It doesn't totally take away his crazies, but it at least takes the edge off.

Good luck this weekend!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
753 Posts
Discussion Starter #9
Oh yes we have had more than one run where there was only one or two bars left standing! Jumpers is the worst! Our normal jumpers runs he normally knocks at least 3, often 5 or 6. I think his record is 10. The thing that I hate most is having to handle him catering to his jumping, if I try to get ahead, the bars come down. Handling from behind with lots of rear crosses just feels so unnatural to me.

I try to do lots of focus before runs and we work on the warm up jumps etc and he controls himself very well. I'm sure to people looking he looks perfectly normal. But his eyes.... he gets this look like his brain is about to start leaking from his ears, his eyes get real big and his pupils are the size of saucers. Sometimes I think its kinda funny, not so much when he randomly explodes and muzzle punches me in the face right before a run! He reminds me of a shaken bottle of pop lol, the lid is on...but barely. We will see how the ball thing goes.

Luckily Odin's start line is really nice, other than squealing! He has only broken a few times in trials and every time I have brought him back :) pretty proud of myself for that, its not easy blowing runs but worth it. How old is Ryker? Odin is 4, so luckily we have a bit of maturity on our side. Plus for the first 3 years of his life he was a schutzhund dog primarily, so he got LOTS of work on stays :)

We have about 6 weeks of no trials after this next one so we will have plenty of time for training in there. I don't know what I would do with myself if I took a big break from agility, I would probably drive my husband crazy lol.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
304 Posts
Jumpers is definitely tough! I swear, the day that Ryker gets his first Jumpers Q I'm going to grab the last bar and take a victory lap like we just got our ADCH. I also hate running Snooker with him. Snooker is the worst class to run with a bar-knocker. Especially since there is no set path, so my handling is even more tentative, which doesn't help.

It's hard trying to find the balance of what kind of handling Ryker needs. I try to handle cautiously, partly because he also hates it when I get ahead of him, and partly because I'm expecting him to drop a bar at any time. But he does seem to do better when I just RUN and do my job instead of micromanaging every step in anticipation of a bar coming down.

Ryker has only completely broken his startline stay and self-released once. What he does is change position from a sit to a low, spring-loaded crouch. He doesn't even creep forward at all. But I still consider it breaking position, because he's not in the sit that I left him in. His sit-stay is great everywhere but trials, because he's learned that I can't/won't correct him there.

Ryker will be 4 in just under a month! Supposedly 4 is the magic number when he'll settle down and be awesome, but people also said that about turning 3 and it never happened, so I'm not holding my breath. :p I just hate that his performance career is probably 1/3 over given his age and breed/size, and we've hardly had any success. It's rather demotivating sometimes. :(

Stopping trials and training is a tough decision, but sometimes it's necessary. I think I was only able to make it through the break because during that time, my younger dog Solstice was really making progress with her training and just getting ready to start trialing. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have been able to stop, or just gone completely crazy. :p So it was really just a break from Ryker, and it was definitely needed.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
753 Posts
Discussion Starter #11
I totally forgot about how frustrating snooker can be! We've had a few where he knocked the first red bar but since he has such a long stride he's on the next piece of equipment before the bar hits the ground and we are whistled off. Love making those donations;) That being said jumpers is the only one we haven't Q'd in, we are in advanced or masters for everything else. We've come close, I think we've had 2 jumpers runs with one bar down...now that's frustrating.

Odins start line breaks are a little more dramatic, I'll be walking to the first jump and there is just a streak of German shepherd going flying past me lol. He's done it twice :) Otherwise he just squeals and bobs his head up and down :)

I unfortunately don't have another dog that I can do sports with:( I'm hopefully getting a puppy in September and I think that will help take some of the pressure off of Odin. I think we are getting there though, he does try really hard for me. Everyone that knows Odin says that about him, I'm really hoping that 22" takes away some of the frustration with the bar knocking.

I sometimes think how nice it would be have to have a nice easy dog that just follows me around a course. But the truth is, I know I would be bored with that almost instantly. I am however really looking forward to having a dog that is built more effectively for agility. I'm sure that will come with different challenges though.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
304 Posts
Oh yes, we are contributing members of the Zero Point Snooker Club! Jumpers is the only thing Ryker hasn't Qd in yet, too. We've had a couple runs that were close, only a couple bars knocked. I stopped wasting my money on Jumpers for a while, but we're trying it again now since he needs it to finish his PI title, along with two Standard legs.

Solstice certainly has her own issues, fear being the biggest one. But at least she's not a bar-knocker! I don't think she'll ever be as crazy as Ryker, but as her confidence increases I think she'll be pretty great. It does help that she is smaller and more built for agility. But I have seen GSDs just as big and fast as Ryker going around the course with not nearly as many issues! Makes me jealous. I show those videos to Ryker sometimes and say "see, this dog is just like you and he can do it properly!" I don't think he gets it though. :p He has the kind of drive and enthusiasm I wanted in an agility dog, I just wish I could figure out how to control it a bit better.

My first agility dog (a little mixed-breed) was one of those easy ones that just followed me around the course and went wherever I told him. Never missed a contact, and I can count his knocked bars on one hand. He was a great confidence-booster and a good dog for me to start with, but one plus to Ryker is that I have definitely learned a lot more about training with him. The difficult dogs do teach us more, frustrating as they are sometimes! ;)

Let us know how it goes this weekend! Like I said, lower jump heights don't really matter for Ryker in practice, but it seems to help in trials. So hopefully it will help Odin too.
 
1 - 12 of 12 Posts
Top