Monday, February 29, 2016

Molly's Weave Poles: On COLLECTION

I haven't updated in a little while about my progress with Molly's weave pole training.   We had a few big snows around here and that put an end to any outdoor progress.  But now all of the snow is gone and the temps are high - the ground is nice and soft for practicing again.

A few weeks ago we went to an hour long Weave Clinic. (of course shared with many other teams.)  I explained Molly's poor foundation, and her re-training (two times.) and how I just cannot seem to find the missing puzzle piece of why Molly behaves the way she does at trials.  Our instructor asked me to bring Molly out and send her through the weaves.   Molly was pretty jazzed up and went running...running....right past the entry.  The instructor said, "I think your missing piece is that Molly doesn't understand collection."

She went on to explain that when I re-sent Molly into the weaves (from one of those 2x2 "around the clock" positions that Molly can nail anytime.), Molly was already in collection and could see the weave entry and was focused on it. (And while she did do the poles when she was re-sent, she was slow like she is at a trial.   The missing her entry and having to stop running and Doing Wrong - it stresses her.)  But coming in from a dead run, out on a course...the skill is not there yet.

Here is a video from our last exercise of the night: our instructor is squeaking and dropping toys, but Molly stays in her poles!   Coming from the side off of a jump, Molly is already collecting her speed since she can't turn at full blast and she grabs her entry nicely.

That gave me a lot to think about!  Reflecting on all of our training, it is sorely lacking in collection.  I am a little ashamed that I did not realize it!  My yard is not big enough for working on this skill, and I was not focused on working collection on any of our "on the road" sessions.  It is a relief to have a direction to focus in though!  I started trying to search for some collection challenges that we could begin practicing.  I found this free article on Clean Run and it did contain a collection exercise.

This weekend I had time on both days to get Molly out to a park and do some sessions focusing on collection skills.   No food, I used the ball as her reward right out of the gate.  I want that high arousal that she has at trials - she needs to learn to think through that.   She only bit me twice, a flying leap and nip in my face (scary!) and put a nice bruise on my pinky nail bed!   We did the exercise and Molly did not really stutter - she grabbed her entry well from either side that we worked.  I think this is because the way the exercise is set up, our paths have to converge and that helped her to slow down.

Here is a video, I was videoing while I was running!  We were on a school's playing fields (because at 9am none of our parks were open, hmph.) and I didn't want to get too cozy setting up the iPad and really settling in.

I started playing around and trying to make the challenge bigger.   I sent Molly over the jump away from the poles and peeled off without her.   This was too much.   She was so fired up by my sprinting away from her she blasted right past her poles.   Now here is something we can work on!  I repeated this exercise and slowed my motion slightly and cued her and she grabbed the entry, I wanted her to be successful to end with.

Sunday we started our work on Molly learning to collect and enter the poles while I run past.  Holding her collar and both of us taking off running at the same time does not seem to do the trick - she easily enters the poles in that situation.   Sending her over a jump, her focus is thrown off and the first thing she sees when she comes back towards me and the poles is my running away from her.   The poles are staring her in the face, I just need to increase her obstacle focus there!

This is our training session.  I would like to see my body language be more consistent.   There is some flailing, some moving in too close to the poles, some helping her with her collection...I might need to practice without the dog in order to get my body to do the same thing each time.

Analyzing, for my reference!  I love to video my training and break it down, and Molly's weaves are My Great Project .
:01 This is sort of similar to the exercise from the Clean Run article, except I rear cross the poles.
:28 Our first rep of our "new exercise".  I do a small shake of my right hand to reconnect with her - but the ball is in that hand.  Not helpful!  She blows right past the entry.   I am flailing, and not helping her with her entry at all (I don't want to help her!)
:41 we repeat.  I'm throwing my hand too high and not reconnecting - I think I'm trying to "send" her to the weaves.  this time I do not run quite so fast, and I point and cue her and she gets the entry.  I give her a second ball throw, "jackpot."
1:12 Again with the arm throwing, this time even more flingy.  Need to clean that up.  I come in close to the poles and cue them and really shake my hand (with the ball in it, bad!), but too late.   She runs past them.  
1:24 I send her into the weaves and reward her with the ball.   I don't know how I feel about this.  On one hand, I wanted to keep her confidence up.  On the other hand, I don't know if she should have gotten a reward for my simplifying the exercise.  I should have just praised her verbally.  Rewarding, but not as good as the ball.
1:43 I really don't like my handling here.  I got in to the poles extremely close, shook my hand hard at her - but I was majorly crowding her path!  She misses the entry but I can definitely see why!  I don't think I was aware of how close my body was to the poles.   This is why it is so valuable to video my sessions!
1:54 I still get in close but I cue the poles quite clearly and am not really sprinting past them.   I feel that I helped her to collect a little too much, but that is probably okay this early in working on this skill.  I also have the ball out of my hands and in my pocket.
2:20 This looks like the rep at :28 except I am closer to the poles.   She misses.
2:37 I repeat but I see myself bring up my right arm and I think it helped her to reconnect to me.  She gets her entry and we ended there for some cool down and switching the side the jump was on.

So... I need to clean up my handling and be more consistent.  I also need to get that ball into my pocket and out of the hand I am using to handle - she's not ready for that intense of a distraction yet!  It is something I didn't even think about in the moment.  A lot to think about!  I am excited for when we will have some time and daylight and weather-cooperating to do another session.


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