We had a gorgeous weekend for trialing with beautiful sunny skies, low humidity and high temps between 65-75. The mornings were nice and cool, which the dogs appreciated and with the swim pond on sight, the afternoons were quite tolerable as well. Blair Kelly was the judge this weekend and boy was he fun! Really interesting courses and just a nice nice guy. He worked his tail off to keep the trial moving as efficiently as possible too, which was a blessing. So onto the report….
FAST was running first Exc to Novice, so I had time to do my training run in the morning before heading to the trial site. It was 30ish degrees when I got up and needed a hat and gloves for my run, but boy did things warm up quickly! Should have brought shorts to the trial because I was a bit too warm in the black pants I was wearing, oh well. Even for NC this weather was unusual. Anyway, FAST looked fun and the send portion was pretty easy to get to in flow. I don’t really go for points in FAST, but more just let the dogs have a nice fun run with the minimum points needed to Q. I also like to use it for training if there’s something that I might want to work on for the Standard run.
For this course, I ran it the same with both dogs except I wanted to work on a tunnel hole discrimination for Miles. With Rue, I just kept it really flowy. She was in a silly mood and came into the ring wanting to say “hi” to everyone. I got her attention on me at the start, but unfortunately the judge was standing perfectly in line with the first two jumps, so Rue went jump-jump-judge and visited with him for a few seconds until I could get her back with me. Silly puppy. Once she refocused, she was blazing fast!! Only the last several obstacles are on tape, so you don’t get to see her little flirtation with the judge…..
Miles’ run was also blazing fast, but I had a little difficulty cueing the turn after the tire to get him into the other tunnel hole, but he figured it out just fine. Should have led out a bit to get ahead to cue the turn earlier. He also did something very funky at the end and should have bounced the last two jumps, but instead added a stride and then was forced to jump in a very odd fashion. Thank goodness he understands the value of keeping the bars up! Otherwise a fine run for his 2nd leg.
Quickly it was time to run Excellent Standard. This was my first time running two dogs in the same class (other than FAST) and I really struggled with my mental game. I found myself focusing the majority of my time and energy on walking it for Rue when really I need to focus on Miles. Obviously I want to do my best for both dogs, but right now he’s more important. She’s so young and has plenty of time to get those Q’s 🙂 Fortunately there weren’t too many differences in my plans for this course anyway, but it still messed with my head. I was very glad that it was small to tall today so that I could get Rue’s run out of the way and then have time to revisualize for Miles.
I have to say, Rue did an amazing job on this course. She started out a little slow, but after the second jump she was really moving! I’m very impressed by her dogwalk contact (a LOT of dogs with running contacts were missing it for some reason) as well as her weaves and aframe. She seemed a bit concerned with the teeter (probably due to the rubber making it move different) and didn’t want to get off the table because she was eyeing the judge 😉 She was very smart to think about it for a second and then choose to come with me. She got a 1st place with this run for AX leg #1. She ran this in 3.5yps, go baby dog!!
Mr. Miles decided that he needed to go extra fast on this run, hehe. He was actually kinda crazy and in no way was going to stop on his dogwalk (but he cantered all but the down ramp, woot!), silly. Somehow he managed to get a rear toe in the aframe contact too, gah! I was certainly very impressed with his start line stay, how fast he went into his down on the table and also how nicely he rode the teeter down considering how crazed he was. He finished in just shy of 4yps for a 3rd place by 10ths of a second, 17 MACH points, and MX leg #4 🙂
After a bit of a break it was time to run Excellent JWW. The course was really tight and only took up maybe 60% of the field, so you can imagine there was a lot of twirling going on out there. I again chose to lead out and was so impressed with the lateral distance I got off of the #2 jump to get in position for a front between 3 and 4. He was moving so well that I actually thought to myself “wow he’s a brilliant jumper” and bam, he dropped a bar, doh! I must’ve hestitated in my cross while marveling at his skills 😦 Otherwise a beautiful and fast run for the boy. Only the last 1/3 of the run is on tape, unfortunately. This was a 5.4yps run!
Last but not least was Open JWW. The course wasn’t too horrible, but I was having a really difficult time wrapping my brain around how to best handle it for Rue. I’ve been trying to keep her in extension as much as possible, but honestly have just had a very difficult time conceptualizing where to put the crosses in, etc. I admit I was a bit panicked for this course and just couldn’t get my mental game in check. I got Rue out way to early for this run too and could tell by our warm up that she was just not as into it as she could be and it showed when we got in the ring. She took the first 2 jumps slowly and then veered off to visit a ring steward. I got her back relatively quickly but she trotted to the next jump and then skipped a pole in the weaves so I restarted her. I’m not sure if she looked at the judge or if it was a weird point at the junction of the two sets of poles or what, but all of it ate up too much time for her to Q. I do have to say that after the poles she got going nicely and finished very happily, which is the most important thing right now.
I spent a lot of time Saturday evening analyzing what had happened in all of our runs. For sure I need to work more on mentally preparing to run two very different dogs on the same course, but also I am struggling a lot on the handling aspect for Rue. I’m not convinced that she needs all of the turns on the flat at this point, plus they’re awkward for me and I’m sure she senses my insecurity. I agree that I need to aim for as much extension as possible for her until the time comes that I’m getting offcourses due to her becoming more commited to obstacles ahead of her. Right now she’s still focused a lot on me and my motion…not a bad thing, just a measure of her understanding. So I decided that I was going to handle her with crosses at the jumps like I do with Miles, but just remember to support her more and go for as much extension as possible.
Excellent JWW was first today and it was tall to small. The course was very interesting and as I’ve come to understand very typical for this judge. Apparently he likes to make the handler think a lot, hehe. There were 3 straight tunnels in a row in this course and the first time through you don’t take any of them, but then the ending has you taking them all in a row, yikes! Miles definitely had a lot of fun on this course, but I was not a very good handler. I did a start line stay, but either should have led out on the other side to do a push or led out farther on the side I was on because I didn’t get a very good turn to #3 and almost bought the obvious tunnel. I think now that he appears comfortable with the start line stays, I need to push it farther and not feel so rushed about releasing him so early. This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten surprised with how fast he comes off the line when I lead out 😉 Also, I didn’t support a lateral send enough and he pulled off a jump which forced a strange rear to get him in the poles. Since we already NQ’d I tried to get lateral off the poles ,which I did, but wound up having to stop motion due to almost running into the next jump and he pulled out at pole 10. Then he got so much speed through the 3 tunnels that I didn’t cue him soon enough in the last tunnel so he came out too far and went around the next jump, agh. That put me in a bad spot for the ending and had to do a really funky manouver to get him over the finish. Still with all that crappy handling he finished in 27 seconds, only 4 tenths of a second off the first place time. This was a 5.5yps run, yahoo!!
Next up was Open JWW and another interesting course. One thing that I really liked about this judge was that his Open/Novice courses were very different from the Excellent courses. Not many judges design them that way and rather just take some of the obstacles out or renumber to make the courses “easier”. This one still had 3 straight tunnels, but was vastly different from Excellent. I got a good plan for Miss Rue that would allow extension, but with cues to turn over the jumps. I also got her out at pretty much the last second…enough time to pee, do some shadow handling and some tricks and then into the ring. We had a slight delay of game when we got to the line because the handler before us was having trouble leashing her dog. I could see Rue’s enthusiasm draining before my eyes, sigh. However, she actually came off the line pretty fast and accelerated through the first turn. I think she quite liked the earlier information about the turn and didn’t even look at the obvious tunnel. She popped the poles in the middle again today, sigh, but quickly reattempted them and we made it under time for a 3rd place Q and our 2nd OAJ leg! If you subtract out the time lost having to go back and repeat the weaves, this was a 4.2yps run…her fastest yet!
Excellent Standard was up next and again I found myself struggling mentally during my walk through. I think I only walked it once for Miles….bad mommy 😦 The course didn’t look too bad at all, but since M was going first I really should have focused more of my time on him instead of just taking him for granted. Especially with him going faster and faster I need to be on my game to be where I need to be for him. Needless to say, I totally botched his run up. I wasn’t in the spot I needed to be for the teeter and ended up causing him some confusion. He saved my butt and hit the weave entry, but later in the course he came out of a tunnel and through the tire with so much extension that I couldn’t get him to turn back and he went around the aframe. It’s become more and more clear that I have minimal time to think out there with him. I need to be where I need to be and not wait to marvel at him. I must say that he still got the fastest time out of the 24’s and was only a few seconds behind some fast 20″ BC’s. Also, when I was giving him his reward outside of the ring, someone I didn’t know said “he’s so fast”….made my day 🙂 Subtracting out the time lost with the refusal, this was 4.2yps…holy smokes!
I was excited for Rue’s run because I thought we had a really good chance of doing well with it. Even though there was a turn after the dogwak, I still could cue extension and just send her into the corner and then cue the turn. I had a good plan for the remainder, so I just hoped that I’d have the same dog that I had in JWW for this run. She seemed very excited before going in the ring and actually left the line quite fast, but went to the inside of the dogwalk for a refusal. I reset her and then she did a beautiful dogwalk, got the turn, but then had to call her off a jump to cue the teeter which she also refused. I again reset her and she got on the teeter but stopped before the pivot…something she’s never ever done. So I took her off, skipped the weaves to keep it fun and just ran the rest of the course. She did that all brilliantly and left very pleased with herself. I’m still not totally certain what happened here. Melanie really thinks that she was bothered by the teeter on Saturday and thus refused the dogwalk since she couldn’t tell the difference. Once she realized it was the dogwalk then she knew the other one was the teeter. I’m not totally sure just becuase I didn’t think she disliked the teeter that much on Saturday, but who knows. I thought it was more that she was chasing me initially and went around the dogwalk (she’s done this before if I get her really excited…she goes into chase mode instead of agility obstacle mode) as she got right on it and didn’t hesitate on the upramp to see if it would tip. I think the teeter refusal was because I called her off an obvious jump and she decided that I was garbage. Who knows. I’m definitely going to be getting her on as many different teeters as I can this week before our next show…
There was about a 2.5 hour break after Std. before FAST, so I decided to go ahead and get my long training run in for the week. I figured no time like the present and plus it would give me good processing time for what may have happened in Standard and what I could do to really make FAST fun. Well somehow in the heat of the afternoon, I managed to do 9 out of the 10 miles that I was supposed to run, bleh. Of course I got back and they were just about to run Novice Standard…should have run farther, but it gave me a chance to let the dogs swim in the pond again and for me to lay down for a little bit 🙂
I digress….back to FAST. I found a great plan for both dogs that had the same start to the send portion, but with Miles I wanted to run him over a different rubberized teeter and with Rue I wanted to avoid the teeter and hit the aframe instead so the ending was a bit different. Before this run I also bought Rue a really nice braided tug leash that matches her trial collar perfectly 🙂 I was interested to see what she thought of that and see if I could get her engaged with it prior to going in the ring. She was defintely interested, but too conflicted to tug, which I expected. I did get a little bark out of her though, but she still trotted to the first jump. After that she did great and I think really was the perfect way to end the weekend. Only her run got on tape, but they both ended up with Q’s to earn them both the NF title!
So I learned that I need to manage my head better now that I have two dogs in the same class for Standard (and probably soon for JWW as well). Miles really does deserve the most attention from me right now as far as how I’m walking the course. It’s pretty clear to me at least for the moment that Rue can handle the earlier turning cues, so maybe there’s not as much difference between their handling as I had thought other than their contact criteria. I realize that Miles is continuing to get faster and more confident, so I need to make sure I’m handling him proactively instead of reactively and that I can start to push him with the lead outs more. He’s gotten faster and our Q rate has dropped significantly. That’s to be expected as there’s now more risk of offcourses, etc because things are happening that much faster and his striding has gotten bigger, so less room for indecision on my part. I also discovered that Rue only needs a very quick warm up much the same as Miles. I still need to work on figuring out how to engage her more at the start line so that she’ll stop trotting through the first obstacle. I’m hoping her new leash will help with that since she’s gotten so much more into tugging lately, however I realize that this might take time as it’s taken a while for her to be comfortable enough to tug in class/training. She also just needs a lot more exposure to agility outside of trialing, so I need to continue to make that a priority for her to get to as many new places as possible. Fortunately, we only are entered in one more trial until late January.
Up Next: Two days indoors in Concord for AKC this weekend, then Silvia Trkman’s seminar at PBH followed by a workshop with Carrie Jones in mid-December!