Monday, January 17, 2011

Our First Trial--Full Recap

I'm well rested now and I've had some time to put together my thoughts from the weekend.  Overall, I am just so very proud of Jonah.  We've had him less than 7 months, and when we first got him he was too scared to go up and down the stairs.  He was afraid to go through doorways.  On his first day of class I thought we might have scarred him for life when he was absolutely terrified of the clicker.  Our first agility classes were so frustrating because he would just try to drag me to the door and wouldn't do anything I asked.  He wouldn't sit, he wouldn't make eye contact, he wouldn't eat treats, so you can imagine how much he wouldn't do any agility obstacles.  That was August.  Now it's January and he just had a fantastic first trial with a 100% Q rate.  And that doesn't even mention the fact that, after he was doing great, he got attacked just before Christmas and had another big confidence setback.  That's not to say there's not a lot to improve on, but looking back at how far we've come it's kind of amazing. 

Some of this may overlap the last two posts a little bit.  This will be the more complete version.

Run 1 (Saturday), Standard:  This run was less enthused than some, as he was still a little unsettled in the new place.  The most stressful part was that I went in, took off his leash and the electronic 'go' never happened.  I'm not sure what the problem was.  I should have told them this was Jonah, but they had said in the briefing that we didn't have to.  Anyway, everyone was confused and I was getting stressed, but eventually it got straightened out and we got started.  The first jump was a little awkward but then he got moving.  He was slow down the A-frame and didn't go right into his 2o2o, but it wasn't bad.  I'm not sure I should have front crossed out of the tunnel.  I got in his way and slowed him down a little.  If I were doing it again I'd front cross the down ramp of the dog walk, but someone had told me that wasn't a good idea.  As the weekend went on, I got more and more comfortable following my intuition instead of just doing what other people were doing.  Anyway, the front cross wasn't awful, it just could have been better.  The last line of jumps was a little less flowing than it could have been.  That's something I would like to work on.  This round was clean for a Q and second place.  Thanks to Dave for the video!

Round 2 (Saturday), Wildcard:  This was the round that really knocked me out of my comfort zone.  Jonah flew off the start line so fast I was left in the dust.  What dog is this?!  As I said in Saturday's post, I was late with my cues since I hadn't expected Speedy McSpeederson Jonah, so he took a tunnel instead of the double jump I'd planned, but I was able to adjust at the next wildcard.  It was a beautiful, fast run but unfortunately he dropped a bar at the second to last fence.  It was a straight approach, so I'm wondering if he was just a little confused on his footwork since he hasn't had much practice at warp speed, either.  It was the only bar he dropped all weekend and I'm not going to worry about it.  It was enough to knock us out of first place, though, even if we were 20 (!!) seconds faster than the first place dog.  Oh well.  Still a much deserved Q.  Sorry, no video for this round.

Round 3 (Saturday), Colors:  This was the beginning of the dogwalk craze.  I was one of only a few people to pick the course I did.  It required more in the way of crosses, but it had a nicer flow, and since I want to encourage Jonah to keep running fast, I decided to go with it.  Plus, it had a dogwalk, which I knew he liked.  I just didn't know quite how much he liked it.  I front crossed while he was in the tunnel and then was waiting next to the jump when he came out.  I guess he saw the dogwalk first.  Maybe he thought this was layering practice?  I don't know, but before I could stop him he was already on the dog walk.  I didn't want to call him off it, so I went to the end, asked for a contact (which wasn't even great), and then we ran all the way back to the jump right next to the dogwalk.  After that the course went nice and smoothly.  We made it in time for a Q and our first 1st place.  It didn't seem fitting as our first blue ribbon--I much prefered both of our other rounds, but oh well.  I'm thinking that Jonah may push better than he pulls, and maybe I should have had my back to the dogwalk when he came out of the tunnel.  Good lesson learned.  Thanks again to Dave for the footage!

Round 4 (Sunday), Jackpot:  This was our worst run of the weekend by far.  It was a non-traditional Jackpot where you could do any of the 3 gambles at any time.  Since it's hard to see the tape in the video, the 15 point gamble was the red tunnel to the jump and back to the red tunnel.  The 20 point was green tunnel to weave poles to jump (we try this in our round but can't get the weave entry).  The 25 point gamble was that same sequence backwards--jump to weaves to far end of the green tunnel.  There was no way Jonah would get that far tunnel entry, so we didn't even try that gamble.

Our round started out with Jonah high tailing it towards the dogwalk (again, maybe I should have been on the other side to push him off it) instead of jumping the two jumps to the teeter.  From the dogwalk, there were only a few feet to the jackpot line, so I was worried that, after the stopped contact, he wouldn't have enough 'umph' to drive ahead of me to the tunnel.  Well, he did indeed.  I had been so worried about the jackpot when I was planning my course, but that was the relatively easy part of the course (although we didn't have nice flow from the jump back into the tunnel).  It was the other point collection that screwed us up.  Other than the distance weaves in the second gamble (where I cued him late and probably shouldn't have tried anyway), I thought Jonah's weaves were great--the first time he'd done weaves in a trial.  Good boy.  The teeter was another story.  I don't know what happened there other than that he was just so excited he didn't want to slow down to tip it, or he wasn't thinking that it was a teeter at all.  Whatever the reason, that's not something we want to make a habit.  Next time he does a teeter in a trial I'll make sure to slow him down before it and name it "Teeter" a few times.  Then he was going so fast up to the table he couldn't stop to 'down,' and he hopped back on after he basically fell off.  Another thing to work on.  Overall, this course just didn't flow well.  Partly my bad planning and execution, partly the dog walk incident at the beginning.  Somehow it still managed to be a Q.

Round 5 (Sunday), Standard:  This was one of our better runs.  It was clean, flowing and relatively quick.  Actually, it was the fastest round on this level 1 course, out of about 20 dogs.  I look a little awkward at points, and the final line is jerky, but overall it was a nice run.  Thanks so much to Dave who was at the trial all day Saturday and most of Sunday, and to my Dad who was there most of Sunday.  The video is really helpful, and Jonah was so pleased to see you!

Round 6 (Sunday), Jumpers:  We had another nice clean run.  It was not our fastest, but it was good enough for a Q and first.  I don't have video of this round and there's not much to say about it other than I did our only lead out of the weekend and it worked well. 

- - -

It was a fantastic weekend, but very long.  If you happen to be reading this because you're preparing for your first trial, I would strongly suggest not doing two full days your first time.  We were there more than 12 hours on Saturday, and about 9 on Sunday.  There's a lot of down time, but I wasn't able to get much work done, and it was somewhat stressful for Jonah just to be there.  Of course, every dog is different.

Another general observation is that a lot of people didn't warm their dogs up very much, if at all.  I took Jonah outside to potty and then jogged him around for a few minutes.  When we went inside we jumped the practice jump a handful of times.  Most people never went in the warm-up area, and I never saw anyone else jogging outside.  Clearly these people have a lot more experience than I do, but a lot of dogs dropped the first bar on course.  Sometimes this was because they were set up way too close to the first jump, but maybe sometimes it was because they just weren't warm.  I liked our warm-up routine and I'll do it again.

General Points:
I'd like to improve my handling style so I'm not so jerky.

Jonah cross-canters at a few points in the videos.  It makes me think some sort of physical therapy really could be good for him.

I used a slip collar when we went into and out of the ring.  It worked well and I didn't have to be pulling on his face to get a real collar on and off.

With the Qs we got, Jonah got two titles: CL1-R and CL1-H.  Cool!

I think that's plenty.  Moving forward, I'd like to get our weave pole bases painted this week, but I'd have to do quite a lot of shoveling to be able to use them, so we'll see how much good the painting does.  I have more time now, though, than I will after classes start next week.

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