Saturday, April 9, 2011

Our First Outdoor Trial

We had a truly beautiful day today:  high of 63 and sunny!  It was a real joy to sit in the sun between rounds.  It was so bright that at one point in the afternoon I had to move into the car to get some shade and avoid getting burnt.  It was wonderful socialization for Jonah to be sitting quietly with us while other dogs walked by, without being so close that he felt pressured.  He did bark a few times here and there, but overall he was excellent.  It was so much less stressful between rounds than in a cramped indoor space!

As for the actual agility, Jonah was fairly distracted.  Here's the run-down:

Round 1:  Fullhouse Level 3
     Jonah warmed up well and let me rough him up and get him to bark before we started.   We started with a long straight line of jumps where he was great and fast.  Then we turned and did the A-frame.  He ran right up without a thought, but then he saw the judge, who was standing next to him.  He stopped.  I got him going, but he was spooked and never got his speed back.  We qualified easily and got first place, but he was clearly a little scattered and bothered by that funny man standing in his ring.

Round 2:  Standard Level 2
     Again we started with a big line of jumps, and Jonah was flying!  We turned to the A-frame again and this time had the opposite result.  He caught air over the top and bounced right off, blowing his contact.  He's never, ever done that before, and honestly I didn't even notice, so it must have been really close.  I didn't see the judge's signal so I just kept going (well, I couldn't have done anything if I had seen it, anyway).  He raced into a tunnel and then...saw his dad.  Suddenly I was left in the dirt and Jonah was racing over to Dave, who had our baitbag.  Oops.  In coming back he took an off-course jump and tunnel, but then we got back on track.  He flew over jumps, through tunnels, back over the A-frame beautifully the second time, weaved perfectly, and didn't blink an eye at the teeter.  Then we raced for the last jump and once again Dave caught Jonah's eye.  He flew past the last jump and I had to bring him back around to finish.  Of course, I came off the course thinking that we'd had to work really hard but at least we'd managed the Q.  I was wrong thanks to the blown contact.  Dave said it looked to him like he had touched the yellow, but I wasn't going to bother trying to argue.  It was an embarrassing run which probably didn't deserve to Q.  Nevertheless, I was rather frustrated.  No level 2 title for Jonah until I'm back from my trip.  I'll have to talk to Joan and see if we need to rethink our running contact strategy.  Despite all the troubles, we ended up with almost 100 fewer faults than the other dog in the class, so we got a blue ribbon.  I felt a little sheepish picking it up, but I'm not complaining.

Round 3:  Wildcard Level 2
     This was more like the kind of run I had expected to have.  Jonah was absolutely obedient but he was pokey.  He did everything exactly as I asked except he lacked that edge.  I had to lead out, so I didn't have the chance to really rev him up, and I wonder how much that contributed.  Maybe I'll have to work on energetic lead-outs at some point.  It was an unexciting round, but after the Standard run it was a breath of fresh air.  We Q'd and got first place.

Round 4:  Snooker Level 3
     Whether it was from sitting out in the sun all day or just being late in the afternoon, Jonah lacked some energy in this run, as well.  I got to rev him up and he started well.  Our opening was beautiful, actually, and we got 6-3-4.  It was a fairly difficult Snooker, and that was a higher point opening than almost anyone managed.  I don't know why no one else used the same plan I had, but it worked great for us.  I kind of like to do something different from everyone else, anyway.  After the opening, I sent Jonah to a tunnel.  He was pointing right at the close end, but for whatever reason his focus momentarily disappeared again and he went to the far end.  It was bidirectional so we continued on, but it was a really strange decision on his part.  Anyway, after that (I might have made him concerned when it took me to figure out that the tunnel was bidirectional and we could keep running) he was kind of scattered again.  He needed lots of support through a line of jumps, then did a beautiful wrap, went into a tunnel and just came out looking confused.  He missed a weave entry right in front of him because he was looking at people and dogs outside the ring, but then he came around, weaved nicely and raced over the last jump to the table.  We got our fourth blue ribbon of the day, Q'd, and had the highest point total of any level 3 dog.  It wasn't a beautiful run thanks to those two brain fades, but it got the job done.

In summary, Jonah found the outdoor agility to be a bit distracting.  We got better (although slower) as the day went on, and I have lots of hope for future outdoor trials, but this wasn't our best.  It is true that we haven't been to any trial in just about a month, plus this was his first trial at a place he hadn't been to before as well as his first time doing any agility outside other than in our yard.  With that in mind, the day's events really weren't so bad.  I am concerned about the blown contact since that's so uncharacteristic, but we'll try to get that figured out.  I just run as fast as I can past A-frames, and even if we kept the running contact I could slow down on the down ramp to get him to run more to the bottom.  Or, we could set up more jump gymnastics so he goes to the base, puts in a stride and jumps so he gets his muscle memory in gear a little more.  I think the problem is that he normally doesn't catch as much air over the top as he did in that Standard run, so his footwork must have been unusual.  So, we just have to figure out some way to encourage him to race over the top but still go down to the bottom.  I'm sure it's a fixable issue.

So, that's it for trials for us until May 29!  A long break, but hopefully we'll return with renewed enthusiasm.  We still have 3 more weeks of training before I leave, but no pressure of a trial is nice.  I'll post a goals list shortly so we have some focus.

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