Durham Kennel Club AKC trial 9/25-26/09: Miles earns his second AX leg and Rue earns her very first Std. and JWW Qs!!

What a weekend for my pups!  The weather was predicted to be really really crappy, but somehow we managed to avoid anything more than a little sprinkle here and there.  The good thing about that was it was cloudy and quite cool…since there’s no running water at this site, it made it much more comfortable for the dogs.

Friday:

Excellent only, so just Miles was entered the first day.  Both courses were walking very big dog friendly so I was totally psyched.  Most unfortunately, I got a call from my uncle that my great uncle had gone into a coma due to bleeding on the brain and wasn’t going to make it.  This was during my walkthrough for Standard.  Needless to say, I wasn’t very focused and ended up walking the same loop about 6 times before realize that I hadn’t even seen the rest of the course.  My head and heart weren’t really in it, but I tried to find a way to put on a happy face for Miles.  He actually did fantastic and I directed him very confidently into the wrong end of the tunnel at the second to last obstacle.  When I realized that I told him to go in the #7 hole instead of the #19 hole, I very loudly said “shit”.  Nice.  Fortunately the judge was very nice and actually was chuckling a bit when I turned to apoligize to him after collecting my dog.  Miles did exactly what I told him to do, so I wasn’t going to call him off that tunnel hole, so we just went with it and took our NQ.  This run didn’t get on tape…probably a good thing 😉 

In between runs I had Rue measured.  We had done a lot of this as she had been growing up, but admittedly hadn’t measured her in quite some time.  I new that her growth plates were closed at 10mo when she had her OFA prelims, so I wasn’t stressing about her height at all since she was consistently measuring about 20″ at home.  I wasn’t concerned about her height while being measured, but more about her standing still…or standing on the table at all since we had worked so hard on an automatic down.  Well she did fine, but did something at first to make her measure about 21.5″, gah!  I asked if she could do it again, which she did, and we ended up with 20.75″.  Still a little tall I think, but good enough for AKC.  I will need to practice with her at home to make sure we get her consistently measuring under 21″ for USDAA.

The Excellent JWW course was technical in parts, but at the same time didn’t require any collection at all…sweet!  I had a good plan and worked really hard to get my mental game back.  I stupidly rushed him at the poles and pushed him into the second hole.  He clearly knew that was incorrect and wouldn’t continue weaving until we fixed it 😉  The rest went beautifully except for a bar near the end at a very tricky spot where the dog had to converge on you and basically run across your feet to a rear cross jump.  Not sure if he slipped or hit the standard or if he truly hit the bar.  I didn’t hear anything, but saw the bar fall.  He was super happy on this run though!

Saturday:

My mom came down from NY late Friday evening for the weekend in part to celebrate my birthday, but also to watch Rue’s debut (or de-Rue as my friend was calling it).  So I dragged her out of bed at 6am for a potentially very long and rainy day.  I was sooo appreciative of her coming along and being a trooper for the whole day.  Thank goodness we didn’t see the 90% chance of rain up to 1″ total that they were predicting!  They were running Exc Std, Exc JWW, Open Std, Open JWW, Novice Std, and Novice JWW in two rings, but with one judge.  The trial moved very efficiently and there were quite a few scratches from folks being nervous about the weather.  I think we were done with Excellent by 11:45.  Doug and the girls arrived around 12:30 to be sure to catch the de-Rue too 🙂

The courses today seemed much more challenging than yesterday and more twisty turny.  Thankfully I decided to bring my brain along!  Standard ran great and I was so proud of Miles.  He actually stopped on his dogwalk…I am not certain he’s done that in a trial in eons!  He also had a great teeter both days without flying off.  He was a little slow to down on the table, but all in all a beautiful run for our second AX leg and a 1st place!

The JWW course was full of boxes, ick, and was eating dogs up left and right.  And the bigger the dogs got, the more it ate them up.  Miles did an amazing job in light of a very hard call off the tunnel at #3 and being more distracted than usual.  We got through most of the hard stuff to lose him to an offcourse at the end, boohoo.  I knew that ending was going to be tough and I thought I had his attention so I released him to jump, but he got sucked to the obvious offcourse anyway 😦  He thought he was perfect and I didn’t let him know otherwise.  He worked through a lot on that course and didn’t lose any speed or knock any bars despite it!

The Open classes were very small and were done and gone within an hour of starting, so that meant the time for Rue’s runs was getting closer!  I tried to let go of any anxiety, but I’m never quite sure yet what I’m going to get out of her.  It was only a week ago that I started working her in the ring without any cookies on me!  And last Sunday I met Melanie for a quicky private just to run a Novice type course without cookies and with her being “judge” just to test the waters a bit more.  She did pretty well, but visited Melanie twice and also visited some really interesting mushrooms on the ground that she found while on the table.  I was able to get her back quickly both times, but I was certainly not going to be surprised by any visiting during the trial!

Both Novice courses were quite baby dog friendly.  The Standard course did have a nice offcourse tunnel right in the beginning and also a choice b/w teeter and weaves, but otherwise was very straightforward.  I was surprised that there was a pretty hard turn off the dogwalk to the broad though.  Dang we’d been working really hard on straight exits in the last week and leaving the turns alone.  I brought Rue out about 15 dogs ahead of time.  I wanted to make sure she was nicely warmed up and that we had some time to connect.  We did a little jog around the ring so she could see everything, potty, and loosen up and then headed to the practice jump.  She did a really nice job there with focusing, so we left to wait outside the ring and do tricks.  I started teaching her a new trick last week so I was anxious to see if she could do it here…yup.  I also sent her out and around the legs of the tent to work on handling focus.  She thought that was really fun!  I used thawed frozen fried fish sticks as her warm up treat and realized as I was about to go in the ring that I had totally forgot to bring her post run reward of cat food with me!  Dang it!  So I secretly placed her bag of fish sticks outside of the exit area and figured that was better than nothing, plus she *really* likes them.  As we entered the ring I never once doubted that we’d have a great run.  She was focused and happy and very confident as we stepped to the line.  I elected to put her in a sit, but to not lead out as I didn’t want to lose that connection.  What a great job she did!  Met all of my criteria without a question, didn’t even look at the offcourse tunnel, thought about taking the teeter a second time, but quickly redirected herself to the poles, and had good running contacts.  Definitely her aframe and dogwalk hits were a bit high, but she did them happily and quickly 🙂  Rue earned her first Q with a 1st place finish!  She was totally exstatic to shove her face in the bag of fish sticks and to play tug/chase with me, yay!

Last but not least was Novice JWW which was basically a big “S” shape.  I was psyched to run the course, but again wasn’t totally sure who I’d get in the ring.  I remembered her cat food reward, but since I had given her all of those fish sticks for her last run and Miles ate all of the frozen Bil-Jac, all I had left were a few meatballs and some string cheese that was graciously given to me.  Neither of those are really favorites of hers and she wasn’t as excited during her warm up.  We still had a nice run, but she sniffed a bit before taking the first jump and was trotting/slow cantering for the majority until the last 5 jumps when I just decided to take off ahead of her.  She responded nicely to that and finished very well for a Q and a 2nd place 🙂

So, not sure what happened here…but I have some theories.  Either she was a little mentally tired after the Standard run and really only got about 10 minutes to rest in between runs.  Or possibly her tummy was full of fish sticks and that was good enough for her.  Or she connected the fact that she got fish sticks before and after her last run which she loves, and decided that since I was giving her meatballs before this run that she was thus working for meatballs and that wasn’t very motivating.  Or she was more distracted in this ring (Miles had been too) due to more activity outside of it and that took up enough of her mental processing that she couldn’t do her job and be fast at the same time.  She was certainly happily surprised by her cat food reward and once again had a very fun wrestle/tug/chase session with me.  I have no doubt that she was rewarded well at the end of that run, so I will have to play around with the variables and see how this plays out.  Of course, training isn’t linear and I’ve seen this reaction from her before.  We’re still learning about each other and this is obviously very new to us.  I have no doubt that we’ll figure it out and that she’ll gain confidence in her job and go faster in response to that.

We are entered on our home turf for AKC next weekend….:)

Countdown…

It’s just over a week until Rue debuts in AKC agility!  Part of me is wondering what the heck I was thinking when I sent in her entry and the other part of me is beaming with pride and confidence for this little girl.  What is going to happen??  Oh I’m so excited!  I’m trying to prioritize what I need to work on in the upcoming week to make sure that we’re both ready.  Her obstacles are all pretty solid, but are obviously still works in progress.  

Dogwalk: 

Her dogwalk is looking amazing, but we are still ironing out the turns and my timing with them.  Last night she was 100% in class both with tight wraps into a tunnel under the DW as well as sharp turns to the weaves and to a jump.  One thing I should probably work on is straight exits.  With all the turn work we have done very little straight exits and the few that I’ve done with her have resulted in questionable hits.  Seeing that in Novice most exits are relatively straight, I will concentrate mostly on proofing those this week.

A-frame:

Pretty darn awesome!  I had a few high hits the other day when I was peeling away from it abruptly, so that’s something to practice with her, but if I’m just booking straight she hits really nicely in the contact.  I should introduce a tunnel under the a-frame though as I don’t think she’s see that much and then work on exits into the tunnel and entries out of the tunnel.  Could also stand to try rearing the frame as well as introducing a blind after.

Teeter:

Rockin’!  Hits her contact and stays in 2o/2o until released.  Proofed with front crosses before and after as well as me continuing motion while she’s stopping at the end.  Need to introduce rear crosses before the teeter and continue to proof the stop.  I also need to make sure that I continue to occasionally reward the release as this is a place that she has lost a connection with me in the past and might be a place where she’ll stress at trials. 

Weaves:

Dang this little girl can hit all kinds of crazy entries…thanks 2×2’s!  Her striding is fairly consistently single stepping, but if she’s a little stressed she will slow down and hop.  If I leave her in the poles and continue to run straight she really speeds up.  I need to remember to not overmanage her entries because I have a tendency to push her to a wrong entry if I’m driving hard into the poles (ie. she’ll enter with pole 1 on her right if I try to drive in to shape her entry on a soft sided approach).  This is very different from the way I handle Miles with a soft side approach as he relies on me to hit those entries.  She has much more independence there and I need to trust her that she knows what she’s doing.  Still need to work on rear crossing the poles as well as fading off to the side of the poles.  Should probably introduce a blind cross here as well.

Chute:

Still a bit slow in the chute, but getting better.  I will probably concentrate a lot on rewarding the chute this week and just work on simple sequences with it.

Table:

Great auto-down that is pretty solid even if I continue my motion.  Need to proof her in a sit and me leaving her a little bit more as she tends to go back into a down as soon as I move away.  Again, this is a place that I need to make sure I occasionally reward the release as it’s another place where we have lost a connection in the past.

Jumps/spreads/panel/broad/tire:

Pretty darn solid.  Still working a bit on timing of rear crosses, but otherwise this little gal has a fantastic jumping style and can wrap a jump as tight as a BC.

Tunnels:

Mastered those 🙂

Start lines:

Has a very solid stay, but occasionally can lose a connection with me if it takes too long.  If I absolutely need a lead-out, then I need to make sure I do it quickly.

Handling and other general stuff:

Rue really reads my motion well and seems to really be getting the game.  I need to make sure that I’m very clear and crisp with my handling b/c she doesn’t like “grey”.  Need to work a bit on recall-to-heel stuff this week and make sure she’s coming to my hand well as she does sometimes take something behind my back if that’s the obstacle I’m closest to. 

I also need to do more practicing without cookies on me.  I did that for the first time this morning and she was just perfect.  All of my practices from now until the trial will be “trial-like”.  She’ll go to the field on lead, we’ll do tricks for cookies outside of the ring, then go in on lead, throw the lead off at the startline and do a short sequence before running to our treats.  I also need to practice finishing a sequence, putting her leash on and getting the treats.

I am taking both dogs for a drop-in class next week as our regular classes will not be meeting.  It’s at the indoor facility that I’ve taken Miles before and even though it’s a Masters class, the instructor graceously is allowing me to work Rue too!  We’ll do shorter/simpler versions of what the big dogs are doing, but this will be a great time to practice without treats!

I’ll be sure to update as soon as we get through the debut!  Oh and here’s my little girl last week at run-throughs as well as a little warm up session before our turn…..

Teamworks USDAA trial 9/12/09

Only one day this weekend as we’re gearing up for a very busy Fall trial season and I don’t want to wear him out before we even get started!  We entered 5 runs on Saturday which is the most we’ve ever done…kinda using it as a test to see how he’d do with such a long day.  Since we had such a successful weekend last weekend, we got to move up a level in nearly every run 🙂

First up was PIII Jumpers in the sand/grass ring (the owner planted grass on top of sand, but it’s not quite there yet).  The course was pretty challenging, but looked to be nice a fast.  Miles was totally excited to get out of the car and warm up for the run.  Of course just before I went to get him I realized that I had lost my keys!!  Fortunately, since I had left him in the car the windows were down enough for me to reach in and unlock the door.  I tried to concentrate on warming him up, but I couldn’t help being a bit distracted by the fact that I had no idea where my keys were.  As soon as we stepped to the line I forced myself to forget about it and we turned in an AWESOME run.  I do believe this is the fastest I’ve ever seen him in a trial!  Unfortunately, I over-rotated in a front cross near the end and pulled him off of a jump, dang!  I should have kept going (double dang) but I stopped to fix it.  Fortunately he got right back up to speed for a very nice finish.  How am I going to be able to stop correcting my mistakes???  I must.  Anyway, if you take out the time it took to correct the missed jump, he would have finished in 24-25 seconds or about 5.75yps!  I think there were a couple of spots that he put in an extra stride, but all in all it was pretty darn efficient!

After our run and post-run doggie swim pond cool down I set about trying to find my darn keys.  To make it worse, I had padlocked Rue into her crate since I left the back gate open and the padlock key was of course attached to the car keys.  I retraced my steps and narrowed it down to them having to be somewhere b/w my car and the portajohn….ew.  My friends and I searched and searched and had finally come to the determination that they were IN the toilet when I dejectedly told another friend of mine what had happened and she gleefully produced my keys that someone had found on the ground outside the portajohn.  Crisis averted, thank goodness!!

Next was PII Snooker.  I decided that I would listen to the briefing this time (heh) and then set about to find a flowing course.  Miles had a super run and we actually Q’d!  Funny too because I apparently DIDN’T listen to the briefing and took the #6 combo slightly out of flow in the opening to recieve zero points.  Good thing my others were #7 and #4 and we were fast enough to make it through the whole closing to squeek by with a whopping 41pts, haha!  One day I’ll listen 😉  Oh and the contacts here are newly rubbarized (not the teeter) so this was his first exposure to the a-frame and he could have cared less!

Our third run was PII Gamblers which had a pretty tough gamble where we needed to send out to the a-frame and layer a straight tunnel.  I thought we might have a chance if we got enough speed going into the gamble so that’s what I planned for.  I have to say I’m getting much better at predicting how much we can do in the opening although he still seems to get just a bit further then I think when the buzzer goes off.  I also wanted to get him on the rubber dogwalk and work the weave entry that followed since it was identical to the Standard course we were going to run.  Mission accomplished.  We had a spectacular opening, except for a teeter launch off for zero points–whoops!  However, when the buzzer sounded it caused Miles to pull of a jump and not give him as much of a good angle to the a-frame as I would have liked.  He took the close tunnel, but pushed out to the last two jumps.  Honestly, I never layer, so this was really to be expected.  I was just hoping that his contact suck would over ride my handling system, but it’s kinda good that it didn’t 😉 

PII Pairs was next and we were partnered with a cool Terv named Clover.  They took the first half and had a couple struggles with the weaves which I figured we could make up for with time, but then had an unfortunate off-course at the end.  I was very proud of Miles…not only did he have a picture perfect run, but he also had gotten spooked by something while we were waiting and then Clover came up behind him as we were getting ready to go and that spooked him too.  You wouldn’t have guessed it though once he got going!  My boy has truly come a remarkable way…..

Last, but not least, was PII Standard.  It seemed like a fun open course that would work well for us so I was pretty psyched to run it.  Being the last run of the day and the fact that he was a bit spooked in Pairs, I wasn’t totally certain what I’d get though.  Seems as though he did carry a little stress with him because he was a little more spooky during our warm up than he had been.  Either that or being a bit more tired allowed him to notice more “stuff” like the flapping umbrella over the timer/scribe.  I was totally totally impressed that he let it all go and still had gas to run this pretty darn well!  My goals were to have a quick down on the table and to not push him on the teeter for another fly-off.  Well the judge was a bit nitpicky on the table and I guess he weight shifted off the elbow closest to her so she stopped her count twice 😦  His teeter was great, but I think my hesitation there caused us a bar after the tunnel because I couldn’t get up there in time.  Not sure, but it was unfortunate.  Overall a super run for Mr. Man.

We have a welcomed break this weekend and then the madness begins…..

Dogwalk turns

We seem to be getting somewhere, I hope!  I’ve been doing a lot of practice with her board contraption to take the pressure off of the dogwalk itself and her last few sessions have been 90-95% successful no matter how I turn her!  I’m trying to be consistent with my motion cues (ie. lateral motion, decel, shoulder rotation) so that it’s the same whether we’re working with a jump or the dogwalk.  The difference is the timing as to when I need to tell her that a turn is coming and how much collection she’ll need.  With Rue it seems as though there is enough time to push her until the top of the down ramp and then show clear turning cues or continue to run forward with extension cues. 

Here’s a video of a recent session on her board.  This was the first time I attempted true collection for a tight 180 turn as well as the first time I tried a push off the end.  She was perfect with true collection, but as expect had a little more trouble with the push.  It seemed that when she felt my convergence on her path she lept in order to finish quicker.  Will need to work on my timing there and see if it helps to wait just a little longer before putting pressure on.

As far as the real dogwalk, she’s been 100% in her last two sessions and I even had her do a 180 exit into the weaves several times and couldn’t get her to mess up.  Feeling good!!

PBH USDAA trial 9/5-7/09: Miles earns his PDI, PSI, PGI, and PJII titles along with Q’s in Performance Grand Prix and Speed Jumping!

We’ll see what I can do here as I’m still exhausted from the weekend!  Overall a great trial…a bit hot on Saturday (90 deg), but the rest of weekend was quite pleasant.  It’s funny, I hear a lot of folks complaining about AKC trials and how they have to sit around all day for 2 runs…I completely feel the opposite.  With AKC I can get there and be done by 12-1 whereas with USDAA I tend to sit around from 8-4 and do all 4-5 runs back to back with conflicts!  That’s way more stressful and annoying to me, but anyway…onto the report.

Day 1:

Signed up for Grand Prix, PI Standard, PI Gamblers, and PII Pairs.  Got there around 9am, but didn’t run until about noon and then had to run Grand Prix and Standard back-to-back. 

Grand Prix went first and it was an awesome course….lot’s of flow and really really fun!  Miles was a superstar and except for some wide turns due to late cues on my part turned in a great time that was just 2 seconds off the winner!  Was super proud of his speed, his teeter, and his weave entry 🙂

About 10 minutes later we ran PI Standard.  My head wasn’t really in the game and so my handling was not too stellar.  Miles really tried very hard on this course despite my shortcomings (I barely even ran…WTH??).  Unfortunately, some early cheering by me brought down the last bar 😦  I really felt like I let him down on this run…even though on tape it didn’t look as bad as I had imagined, I decided that I was going to go for speed and fun for the rest of the weekend.

Next was PII Pairs after a bit of a break.  My partner was nice enough to let me pick, so I chose the second half….better half for running fast plus that lets him get his treats immediately after running.  I also remembered to put his cool coat on him during our warm up which I think helped a lot.  He was so happy waiting his turn in the ring, even to the point of jumping up and giving me hugs and kisses.  Speaking of that, I defintely have noticed a huge change in him since the Memorial Day trial, but it makes even more of an impact when you can compare apples to apples and see how his attitude has changed in 3 months at the same trial site and same venue.  Notably, he had no reaction at all to the automatic “go” and “ready” buttons and only had one episode of definite sight seeing throughout the whole weekend.  He was also faster and more comfortable just hanging out outside the ring after our runs while I talked to someone or taped a friend.  Anyway back to the run, both dogs did great.  Miles was super duper fast and we ended up with a 1st place Q!

Our last run for the day was PI Gamblers.  Again, I was going for speed and points and planned a fun course that got us the 7-point obstacle (a-frame) twice as well as the teeter twice.  Even at the Memorial Day trial here, he refused the teeter once.  Not today!!  He did it twice with the judge literally standing right on top of it!  Miles also showed his confidence by sending out 20′ to the more difficult tunnel entrance (it was bi-directional but the more difficult entrance made the rest of the gamble much easier).  That finished that title, so even without our Standard title this moved us up to PII for everything else!

Day 2:

Signed up for PI Standard, Performance Speed Jumping/Steeplechase, PII Jumpers and PII Snooker.  Again, go there around 9am but didn’t run until almost 11am and then literally ran Standard and Steeplechase back-to-back but today without any time to rest.  Both courses looked really fun, but I promised myself that I’d put more emphasis on Standard since we really needed that Q for our title.  He did a spectacular job with great speed.  He was a bit naughty on the table and got up off his elbows when I tried to leave him at as the judge was about to say “1” so she had to restart her count from 5 argh!  even with those extra 5 seconds, he only missed 1st place by .02 seconds, haha!  He also had a naughty teeter fly-off, but the judge was nice so we got our needed Q for our PDI title!!  The video is messed up, but here it is for what it’s worth….

Immediately upon finishing that and getting his cool coat wet, we had to go in the ring for Steeplechase.  There were only 3 dogs in my height class and one was another Golden, so we had a little fun competition going 😉  Despite being hot, Miles turned out a really really nice run.  Since I had focused on Standard I kinda forgot my plan in this run and ended up putting in a front cross before the second set of weaves where I had originally planned a rear.  Since I pulled the front out of my a$$, it was not in a good spot.  The second of broken flow allowed Miles to find a scary umbrella behind him and hesitate.  Thankfully he was a very smart boy and hit his entrance and then finished really strong.  That little bobble cost us the win to the other Golden by .3 seconds!

We got a nice long break before PII Jumpers which was welcomed as I was feeling rather tired.  Of course, I was too busy watching friends run that I didn’t really rest!  The Jumpers course looked really nice…a couple of tricky areas, but overall very fun.  Our only issue was that I didn’t support a jump enough and he went around it twice, but no refusals at jumps meant that we still Q’d it just cost us time.  I was particularly proud of being able to get in my 2 fronts where I did 🙂

Our last run was PII Snooker.  My friend and I had planned a fun course earlier in the day which still seemed like a good plan on course, but I was SO exhausted by the time the judge had her briefing that I couldn’t focus.  Apparently you were only allowed 3 reds even though there were 4 out there.  Of course I had planned to only do 3 b/c I was tired and admittedly just wanted the minimum points to Q at that point.  However, while running it I just decided to go for the 4th red…OOPS!!  So we got whistled off which Miles thought was just awesome.  “What we do 8 obstacles and get meatballs???  This is GREAT!!!”.  And it was right after the teeter so he got good reinforcement there too.  Next time I’ll try to pay attention to the briefing though…

Day 3:

Ahhh, just signed up for PII Jumpers and then we made it to Round 2 of Steeplechase, so I was hoping for a quick day with some fast runs.  The weather also cooperated as it was cloudy and much cooler around 70, yay!  Jumpers was first and it was basically a huge speed circle with 2 tight serps to mix it up a bit.  Again, my concentration was on speed so I walked for that purpose.  I also wanted to test a short lead out and this seemed like a good course to do it on as it definitely gave me an advantage to be a little ahead on the start line.  We got to the line and they told us to go, but then quickly said “wait the timer’s not working” so I got frisky with Miles and then ran out of the ring for cookies.  He thought that was the COOLEST thing ever and was then more than happy to go back in to try again.  We had a very successful lead out and a great run.  Again, I didn’t support one jump enough, but was able to save it which gave us the Q we needed for our title.  Now we get to move up to PIII/Masters, sweet!

Last was Round 2 of Steeplechase and I was really excited to give it everything I could.  The course was fast and we went for it.  I was unable to decelerate in time and unfortunately pushed Miles to an offcourse jump.  I was totally thrilled with this run though as we really gave it all we had and it was SO MUCH FUN!  The video only shows the last half of the course as my camera was having issues.  I will have to upload it later today though….

Up Next:  Daisy Peel Masters Handling seminar tomorrow, 1 day of USDAA locally on Saturday, then back-to-back AKC throughout October!