Monday, October 31, 2011

Muddy Paws

Our Saturday morning started out pretty stressful, but it turned out to be a nice day.

I knew the bridge in Quechee was out from the hurricane, but luckily (I thought) we didn't have to go that way.  I'd heard that the Taftsville bridge was intact, so I thought we were all set.  Wrong.  We got to the Taftsville bridge and it was closed, too.  That meant a 4 mile drive along the beautiful but terribly potholed and washboarded dirt river road into Woodstock where we could cross that bridge and drive that same 4 miles back along the other side of the river, this time thankfully on a paved road, but we got behind a slow out-of-towner who didn't help us make up time.  8 miles might not sound like a lot, but it added a good half hour to our trip.

Thus, instead of rolling up right before the briefing as I'd hoped, by the time we pulled in and I ran up to see what was happening, they were already on 16" dogs.  BLAH!  I was so annoyed.  I figured I'd ask and see if they'd put the bars up and let us run even though I hadn't walked the course or even seen a course map, but I wasn't feeling good about the request.  It was my own fault, after all, that I was late.  BUT THEN...whether by an act of God or pure coincidence (I said a little prayer just in case), they had accidentally run the non-traditional Jackpot that was scheduled to be run on Saturday on Friday night instead, so now they were actually running a traditional Jackpot, levels 4/5/C.  Thankfully we are still in Level 3 (maybe it's not so bad we missed those other Q's?), so we had enough time to breathe.  We parked, I picked up course maps and made a plan and Jonah got to do what he needed to do.  Soon it was time to walk and the day was officially underway.

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 3
     Jonah was wild when I took him out of the car.  It was much colder than it has been (high 30s), and we were both a little chilly.  So when we got in the ring he was a wild man.  We launched over the first few jumps (a pinwheel), and he spun super wide around the turn because he was so hyped up and ran right past a jump.  After our third jump we heard yelling and it turned out the timer hadn't started so we got to start again.  I thought maybe he'd settle a little bit, but no such luck.  He did exactly the same thing again and ran past that same jump.  Oh well, not worth fixing and on we went.  He was going so fast that I forgot my plan to RC the A-frame.  It was an A-frame with a tunnel under it so I'd wanted to be able to call him towards me after the A-frame and into the tunnel and then out of the tunnel and back onto the A-frame.  Having forgotten my cross, I had to flip him.  He was obedient, but in his wild rage the turns were much wider than they could have been.  Oh well.  His contacts were great.  Then we went into a tunnel and I'd expected the whistle to blow but it didn't so we improvised a bit until it finally blew.  Then it was to the gamble and it was over before I blinked:  jump, far side of tunnel, jump, table.  It was a pretty easy gamble as the line was very close, but I'll take it.  Good boy Jonah.  We collected 50 points and won the class.

Round 2:  Standard Level 3
     There was a tricky opening line with potential off courses in this course that had been the same for the upper level dogs.  I'd worked that class so I'd gotten to see lots of people screw it up.  By far the best success was when dogs were either really slow (which apparently Jonah was not going to be) or the handlers led out.  I like to run with him to get him more excited, but since he'd been so wild in the first round and the ring there is small and doesn't really necessarily reward the fastest dogs, I decided to lead out.  He did the opening line beautifully and I thought I was good to go.  His A-frame contact was lovely and I caught myself watching it rather than being fully aware of what came next.  My unclear handling allowed him to run around the next jump and into the following tunnel.  I would like him to have taken the jump since it was clearly in his path, but I'll take the blame since I wasn't 100% there.  After we fixed that he had a lovely end to the course.  His weaves were pretty impressive.  He shot off the teeter ahead of me and I just yelled "weave," which he did independently and flew over the last two jumps.  I realized that I'm uncomfortable when he's ahead of me, as it happens so rarely!  With the off-course and the time it took up we were 4th in the class, but it was a Q so we'll take it.  Now we only need one more Level 3 Standard Q.

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 5!
     I couldn't have asked for anything more from Jonah's Level 5 debut.  Since I've previously fallen into the trap of planning too many tight turns in Fullhouse, I decided to just run the outside track as a loop.  It was potentially dangerous because the table was right on that line and we had to take a detour through a tunnel to avoid it (table is live and stops the clock at any time in Fullhouse), but I decided to go for it.  The result was a really great run.  Jonah was fast and flawless.  His contacts were excellent, his weaves were fast and independent, he never looked at the table, and we almost got to the end of all that I had planned.  Unfortunately the whistle blew over the last jump (a double worth 5 points) so we didn't get those points, but we still ended up with 41 points for 1st place and a Q.  I glanced at the other scores and the only people I saw who got more points got 43 and they had small dogs who made a nice tight figure 8 over the 5 point double.  I don't like doing that with Jonah because it's unmotivating for him, so I was happy with my plan and glad it worked so well.

Round 4:  Jumpers Level 4
     I really tried to go for speed in this jumpers course, and I didn't support a jump in the opening serpentine enough, so I had to stop and call him around back to it.  Then he got going nicely through the middle half of the course until he saw his Dad and had to stop to wag in his direction.  Luckily he focused back on me pretty quickly and we cruised through the end of the course.  It was not a beautiful run but it was clean.  It was a big class and we were one of the first dogs so I decided not to wait for scores.  Unless something funny happened it was a Q, but I'm sure it wasn't a first place.  It showed me that I need to remember that he's not as focused at trials and I shouldn't just assume he'll read my mind like he often does in practice.  He's doing well but we're still pretty new to agility in the grand scheme of things.

It was a good day.  Check back tomorrow to hear what happened later that night!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fun Class...and Snow!

Today Jonah and I went to DogStar for class and we had a great time.  Since I've been feeling a little less confident about our ability to 'get the job done' lately, I walked a pretty conservative handling plan with a bunch of rear crosses.  I was pretty sure it would all work, but it certainly didn't push me very hard.  As a result, Jonah ran a nice, obedient clear round, but Grace commented that he wasn't very fast.  I think part of it was due to my not running as much because of all the rear crosses, and part was that I just didn't 'wind him up' very much at the beginning.  Also I was feeling tight and not full speed myself.

The second time through I got him really excited before we ran.  He cruised off the start line and through the first few obstacles.  I got a front cross in instead of a rear.  I layered a jump while he was on the A-frame, and then got in another front cross.  Then I pushed for the tire and left him to get in a blind out of a tunnel, but I didn't quite make it in time and had to do a rear on the flat instead.  It worked fine even though it wasn't my plan, and we probably shaved at least 5 seconds off the full course time.  Fun!

Our last course was short, as we were running out of time, but it included a threadle and a blind cross.  Once again I layered a jump with the A-frame and his contacts were great every time.  The first time I did the threadle I pushed him too hard to the backside and then didn't open up enough to invite him back over the jump so he ran around it altogether, but the second time I got it done nicely and it flowed quickly and smoothly.  I was quite happy with it.  There were a bunch of ways to handle the sequence and I would have liked to try it a few more times, but we were out of time.

In general I really love our group class and Jonah's doing great with the other dogs 99% of the time (he had 2 barking incidents today, but generally was super polite), but I sometimes wish we could get a little more time.  

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Muddy Paws Preview

This weekend we're headed up to VT for the Muddy Paws trial on Saturday.  Hopefully it goes better than last week.  He always seems to run well at Muddy Paws, though, so I'm optimistic.  I haven't done any agility with him this week for fear that we might have overdone things.  He doesn't appear to be uncomfortable and is running his brains out.  We'll see how class goes tomorrow.

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 3
     It's a non-traditional Jackpot, so hopefully we can get things done.  I'm still fuming about our Jackpot run on Saturday.  There are only 3 other dogs in the class, two of which I know and we can be competitive with.  Hopefully it will be a great start to the day!  I will really go for the Q and not take risks.

Round 2:  Standard Level 3
     We have a long break between the first and second round, and then we have a big Standard class with 6 level 3, 20" dogs.  We're the first dog of the whole class, so hopefully we'll set the bar high for the other dogs!  I'm looking forward to this run.  Hopefully this judge won't be obsessed with discriminations like the judges were last weekend!

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 5
     When I looked at the order of go, I thought there was a mistake to see a 5 next to Jonah's name, but it's not a mistake!   This is our debut at level 5.  That's exciting.  Since I kind of think we'll phase out CPE after we get our CATCH (which, I realize, is still a really long ways away), it's crazy to think that we're potentially on one of our last 5 fullhouse runs.  Wow. There are three other dogs in the class, so we'll probably even get a ribbon :).  The other funny thing is that Fullhouse won't be any more difficult at level 5 than it was at level 4, so in some ways there's no real change.

Round 4:  Jumpers Level 4
     Jumpers courses are lots of fun and a good way to end the day.  There are four other dogs in our class.  This would be our second Level 4 Jumpers Q, meaning we'd be half way done with level 4 if we got it.  In general Jonah's good at Jumpers courses, but there's always a chance of a knocked bar or something.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the weekend.  It should be lots of fun.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I just got an email today that we didn't get in to a trial in November, which means it's now not possible for us to get our Level 3 title this year.  I had hoped that we could get that done, but since we just won't have enough shots at Colors we'll have to wait for 2012.  We'll have 3 more CPE trials and one USDAA and then it will be January before we know it.  The trialing schedule slows down a lot, so we'll only get one day of trial in all of December.  After that things pick back up again.

We do get to make our Level 5 debut this weekend in Fullhouse, though!  

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our Worst Trial Yet

Things just didn't click for us today.  I'm not sure what the problem is.  It was frustrating and, honestly, I didn't have fun.  I know I'm competitive and my happiness is tied to my performance.  I'd like to overcome those things but it's hard.  I feel like I did generally alright with staying positive with Jonah, but I think he can sense that I'm not fully happy.  sigh.

Round 1:  Wildcard Level 3
    This would have been our last level 3 wildcard Q, but no dice.  It started out with a jump to a tire to the first discrimination, which was an A-frame or tunnel.  The A-frame was the b obstacle, but it was right in line with the jump and tire, so I didn't think it would be a hard discrimination.  I was wrong.  Looking back, I'm not sure it was legal.  The rulebook says, "The parallel spacing between wildcard obstacles is 5' for all Levels."  These had no space between them.  They were your typical discrimination.  I was actually pleased to see the discrimination when I walked the course because we've been practicing them and Jonah's been doing really well.  Nonetheless, on course he charged right into the tunnel.  Anyway, that didn't matter so far as I could recover and get the other two "b" obstacles.  We got the first without any trouble and I thought we were free and clear, but then Jonah raced into the tunnel instead of the weaves in the third wildcard.  I saw it happening and yelled, but Jonah was full speed ahead and so we had a 0-fault NQ.  Frustrating and unlike him, but oh well.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     I decided to go for 51 points.  The 7 point obstacle was the A-frame, which, coincidentally, had a tunnel discrimination under it.  We got our 1 and raced for the A-frame and before I knew it Jonah was racing through the tunnel.  Oh well, the tunnel was 6, so it wasn't much of a loss.  We got our second red and this time nailed the A-frame.  Third red.  This time I was determined to get the A-frame and I pushed for all my worth, but he stopped dead and wiggled his way around me into the tunnel.  Goof.  Anyway, then I thought we were good to go and we cruised through 2 and 3 and then...Jonah ran behind my back into the wrong side of a tunnel.  Again, unlike him.  At this point at least I was just shaking my head and saying it wasn't our day.

Round 3:  Standard Level 3
     Here's where things really got bad.  We had the same discrimination of tunnel/A-frame and I hemmed and hawed over how to best handle it.  I'd tried pushing in Snooker and pulling in Wildcard and neither worked.  I decided to lead out on an angle so he wouldn't even see the tunnel.  He was very good for the lead out but somehow managed to wiggle himself around the A-frame into the tunnel.  I couldn't help but call him a stinker.  Anyway, I brought him around to the A-frame and back into flow.  Then he refused the dogwalk.  He just ran right by it.  He loves the dogwalk.  Weird.  Once I got him on it he did have a lovely 2o2o contact, though.  The next couple obstacles went well and he weaved beautifully, but then we had a 180 and he jumped the backside of the second jump.  I have no idea why he did that--it was a rather irrational line and it would have been much easier for him to jump the correct side.  At that point I knew we were NQ'd, but we kept going until the next 180 where he ran right past the second jump.  Then he refused the teeter.  I have no.idea. what was going on in his head, but I took a deep breath, got playful with him, lined him up and powered through the closing line as fast as we could so that we could end on something like a positive conclusion.  A few people commented that I'd done a good job, and I was trying to be positive since I know how easily he shuts down when I'm upset, but internally I was fuming.  I thought about leaving right then.  We've NEVER had three bad runs like that in a row.  Argh!  The next round was Fullhouse, though, so I figured I'd stay for an easy Q.

Round 4:  Fullhouse Level 4
     Well, *finally* it was a pretty Q.  He ran past one jump, but otherwise it was a good run.  He hit 2 A-frame contacts (in fact, in 4 times over the A-frame today all his contacts were lovely).  He weaved nicely.  It was not our fastest and we didn't collect super high-points, but it was enough for a Q and 2nd.  Phew.

Round 5:  Jackpot Level 3
     I really wanted this Jackpot Q since we've fallen behind with them.  It was a very do-able course.  It was non-traditional, with 3 possible gambles.  We had 25 seconds in the opening and then 18 to get to the table, where the judge said we could continue to collect points.  We had to get one of the jackpots before the whistle blew.  I had made one plan, but when she said we could continue to collect points after the whistle I changed my plan so we could attempt all three gambles.  Well, the first (25 point) gamble proved a bit much for us, so I stepped over the line and got going.  We got the second (15 point) easily, and then cruised over to the third (20 point), which Jonah did beautifully.  The whistle blew while we were part way through the third, so we collected some points on our way across the ring to the table. I was pleased.  He did run by two jumps that I cued, but I found out later that I was directing him towards the backside of a double, so it wouldn't have given us any points, anyway.  So, we needed 40 points and I calculated that we'd gotten 50.  Finally a nice run!  Well, then I went to look at my scribe sheet, and we hadn't gotten credit for the 20 point gamble.  I was flustered and I hate to complain, but I wanted my Q!  So, I asked the judge in the big dog/small dog change.  She said you couldn't get a gamble after the whistle blew.  I told her that we had asked if you could continue to get points after the whistle and that we just had to get 1 gamble before it blew, but she was rather gruff and repeated that you could only get gambles before the whistle.  I replied that those instructions had never been verbalized beforehand and that I would have done my original plan if I had known that (where I would have done the 20-point and then the 15 point gambles and not worried about the 25), but she wasn't budging.  Yarg!  I like non-traditional gambles, but if you can't explain the rules things get pretty complicated.  I was upset, got right in the car and off we went.  I couldn't help but start crying and Jonah started getting worried that I was sad and then I just felt worse.  Yuck.

...hopefully next weekend is better...

I'm going to watch him carefully in the next few days for any signs of soreness.  He looked a little stiff when he got out of the car, but maybe I was just imagining it.  Obviously I don't want him to be uncomfortable, but I also wouldn't mind an explanation to today's wacky behavior.  He's never been lame before for more than a 10-minute 'stinger' type thing, so hopefully if it is a soreness thing it will heal itself quickly.  Of course, if he needs time he can have all the time he wants.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Bo-Gee Trial Preview

We have a busy Saturday ahead.  It's going to be a long day, but hopefully a fun one, too.  The weather is supposed to be quite pleasant, at least.

I was excited that I was not in the first class in either ring so I thought I could sleep in, but I'm scheduled to work, so no rest for the weary!  They only signed me up to work one class, so at least I'll be done after that and (maybe) can get some good reading done between rounds.  Here's Jonah's schedule:

Round 1:  Wildcard Level 3
     It's been a while since we've played Wildcard, but it's not a class that especially worries me.  With five feet between the discriminations, it shouldn't be too much trouble to keep him on course.  So, hopefully a Q shouldn't be too difficult, but a ribbon might be...there are 8 dogs in the class!  If we do get the Q, we'll be done with level 3 for Wildcard.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     This will be our one class in the upper level ring, and we may end up having conflicts between the first three rounds, which will be very close together.  Anyway, we'll have to see the course before we make a plan as to whether we'll go for big points or keep it safe.  If we get the Q it will be the first class we'll finish in level 4, and next time we'd move on to level 5!  There are 24 dogs in the class, split between levels 4, 5 and C.

Round 3:  Standard Level 3
     I love Standard runs, and I don't have too much worry, although it's possible he could blow an A-frame or have any other kind of unusual mistake.  This will be our fifth of six level 3 standard Qs if we get it.  There are 11 dogs in the class, split between levels 2 and 3.  Running with level 2 means we can't be faulted for weave performance, but that's never been an issue for us, so it might actually be a competitive disadvantage for us.  Not a big deal either way.

Round 4:  Fullhouse Level 4
     Fullhouse is always fun and low pressure.  We're right after a whole slew of great dogs this time (the trial secretary, two other judges, 2 BCs, etc), but hopefully we can just stick to our own plan and do our own thing.  They're all in levels 5 or C, so we're not actually competing against them :).  There are 28 dogs jumping 20", but they're split between all the levels.  If we get this Q we'll be done with Fullhouse level 4!

Round 5:  Jackpot Level 3
     We've never done five rounds in a day before, but we need the Jackpot so I went ahead and entered.  Luckily it's a Jackpot for levels 1, 2 and 3 together, so hopefully it will be pretty basic.  There are 12 dogs in the class between the 3 levels.  I'm just going to try to keep his energy up and make a good plan.

As I said, it will be a long day, but I think it will be a good one, too!


Sorry I've been so quiet lately.  Here's what's been going on:

-Jonah's A-frame work is looking great.  I have half a box now (top and one side), and he's great.  The only time I can make him miss is if I'm behind him, where he slows and looks for me, thus trotting down the ramp.  It would be good if he would drive ahead, but for now I'm trying to stay even with him or ahead so he keeps getting repetitions of good footwork.
-I took 6 weave poles away to be able to work on entries without him getting as tired of weaving all the way through 12.  They're doing pretty well.  He still has trouble with the 90 degree entry on the entry side (as in, he'd turn right to weave) unless I'm pretty close to help him.  I'd like to be able to be farther away, but we'll keep working.
-His discriminations are getting a lot better.  I'm pleased.
-I ran a half marathon.
-The independent teeter is improving a lot, although I had a dream about him flying off last night.  Hope that doesn't actually happen.
-We went to PA last weekend and had a great time running and hiking, although a few places didn't allow dogs, and at one point Jonah had to stay in the car while we walked around a lake.  Lame!

As for the last class that I have missed posting about, it was alright but we just couldn't get a few sections done cleanly.  We could make things work, but it felt really discombobulated.  I set up some of the sequences at home and we had no trouble.   I think he's a little slower at home which gives me time to get in place and handle better.  Of course, I'd rather have him be fast!  Anyway, the result was that sometimes I should just do the easy option of handling (like a rear cross) rather than busting my butt to get in a front and being dizzy and unable to handle the next section well.

Today in class I want to be able to get through the courses clean.  We'll see how tall an order that is.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We had half of a stick of string cheese left from this morning, so Jonah and I headed out for another session of discriminations.  At first he was missing some again, especially when the tunnel was on the left, when he just kept going to the tunnel.  I asked for the frame.  He went in the tunnel.  We went again.  I stopped when he went in the tunnel.  He normally races through, but he was so tuned into not wanting to be bad that he stopped in the tunnel, and when he came out he looked sheepish.  Poor guy.  I made a real effort to pet him and make eye contact even though I didn't feed him.  We tried again.  He raced for the tunnel.  I called his name.  He stopped.  I told him he was a good boy, we backed up a few feet and then I asked for the frame again.  He got it and looked SO.PROUD. of himself.  Then he never missed again in any direction.  What a star!  It was like it really just clicked in his brain and he started listening to my words to determine which obstacle to take.

I did try putting him in a stay and then calling him forward.  He got the discriminations, but when I asked for the frame he was less enthusiastic and didn't get his correct striding (he put in 3 'touches' on the down side instead of 2).  I don't want to be encouraging poor striding, so I didn't work on it that way anymore.

One time when he kept missing that tunnel/A-frame I rear-crossed the frame so I could block the tunnel.  We got the discrimination but again he got tentative in his footwork and so I didn't do that again.

I'm feeling good about the discriminations at the moment.  Next I'll move the tunnel back to the dogwalk and see how that goes.  I think this is one of those skills that will just take repeated practice to keep sharp.

Discriminations Take 3

Today we did our third recent discrimination session, and it's still proving to be rather difficult for us!  I flipped the tunnel around in the A-frame and this setup was much better, without trees in the way.  Nonetheless, we had trouble.  Jonah doesn't have tunnel suck per se, nor does he find a magnetic pull towards the A-frame each time.  Often when he makes a mistake he picks the farther obstacle.  I've left the tunnel out there and we'll just keep practicing.

One concern I have is that he's quite sensitive.  When he makes a mistake, I don't do anything to punish him, but even just not saying anything starts to turn him off if he 'misses' the discrimination more than once or twice in a row.  Today I had to take a break from discriminations and go do other fun things a few times before coming back to it.

Another thing that seemed to up the difficulty of the discrimination was to do it more in flow of a short sequence rather than all by itself.  I'll have to keep trying that.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Practice and Video

Today we did more work with discriminations.  Dave was kind enough to video, although trees often got in the way.  I still find the footage valuable, though, and I hope you do too.

He's doing pretty well with these, although you see one 'miss' where I asked for the frame and got the tunnel.  With more work I know we'll nail them consistently.  

His weaves weren't super fast today, but they're solid.  I don't like my flailing arm to cue them--I was pushing him out but my hand's up to the sky.  It's nice to see how silly I look so I can change it!

His entry here is nice and independent.  His teeter's getting better with lateral distance, too (even though this clip doesn't really show that).

His dogwalk was slow, with him trotting down the ramp...

...when I pushed the pace a bit we had some trouble.

That's all for today!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

SCAT Trial

We had a great time in Westbrook for the SCAT trial yesterday.  The drive was longer than I prefer (it took about 2 hours 15 minutes on the way there, and then over 3 on the way back thanks to traffic), but the facility was very nice.  It was a large indoor horse arena with a few entrances for the dogs and a fair amount of space around the two agility rings.  The dirt footing was nice although a little hard, and I slipped at one point.  The best thing, though, was that there was a nice sort of alley between two wings of the barn where they set up the practice jump.  It felt enclosed and private yet spacious.  It's the best warm up area I've seen at any trial.

I had signed up to volunteer, and when I arrived I gulped when I saw that I was signed up for Assistant Scribe and Course Builder.  I've never assistant scribed before, so I was a little wary.  It turned out not to be bad--I just put the scribe sheets in order and handed the appropriate one to the scribe.  I guess it just felt a little demoralizing.  I thought the scribe could have done my job too.  She made me feel like I was just getting in the way.  Oh well.  As for course building, I'm happy moving things around, but I needed help knowing what to do!  First off, Jonah was the third to last dog in the class before my course building assignment, so by the time I got him back to the car and settled I was already late for my job.  Oops.  Then when I got there, the chief course builder looked so frazzled that he didn't know what to have me to.  I found a few jobs here and there (I helped move the teeter, got bags for the tunnels, removed a jump), but generally I just felt in the way.  I should have brought my course map to at least know generally what was going where, but I'd been in such a rush to get there that I hadn't thought of it. Oh well.  The perk of working, though, was that I got a really delicious bacon cheeseburger with my worker money :).

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 3
    We finally did it!  It was an interesting Jackpot.  All levels did the same course.  There was no 'line' to handle behind, but it was scored as a traditional jackpot:  2-4-6-8.  The 2 was a curved tunnel, 4 was a combination of two jumps in a row, then 6 was a 180 degree turn to a straight tunnel, and 8 was the table which required another 180 degree turn back the other direction.  It wasn't too difficult, but some dogs dropped bars and some took an off-course jump between the jump and tunnel or tunnel and table.  Anyway, we had a really nice opening with good A-frame contacts.  The one messy spot was that, after the A-frame, Jonah was driving towards a tunnel and I wanted him to turn to a jump.  I called him out but I called a little too hard and he lost momentum.  My bad--I should have just let him do the tunnel.  When the whistle blew we headed to the closing and it flowed very well.  I didn't pull the turn from the jump to the tunnel too tight because I wanted to do everything I could to make the bar to stay up, and I knew we'd be fine for time.  We were, and we got our first Level 3 jackpot Q and a pretty blue ribbon, too.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     This was a bit of a mess because the briefing and walk-thru had been while I was working in the other ring.  They said they would do a second, but if it ever happened I didn't notice (and I was never out of the ring for more than 5 minutes).  Anyway, it's always a little disconcerting to run a course you haven't walked.  Luckily I did get to watch a bunch of dogs go, and what I saw changed my plan.  We went for 51 points.  The 7 obstacle was the weaves.  Some of the entries were tricky, but I thought Jonah would get them fine.  He actually missed 2 out of the 4 attempts at the weaves, which is rather unlike him.  The missed entries made me worried we'd run out of time, so my handling got a little frantic, but we got through the weaves in the closing and to the table before the whistle ever blew, so we were fine.  Woo!  Our second 51 point snooker!  Crazily enough, though, that was only good enough for 3rd place! We were only 1.5 seconds out of first place, and I know if he'd gotten his entries he would have been fast enough for first.  Kudos to the other two people who went for it!

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 4
     I actually got to walk this course, which was very good, because I had a plan from looking at the map and once I got out there I realized one of the lines was nearly impossible and not worth the risk.  I was able to create a new plan that had a few more wraps and back-and-forths than I would have preferred, but it worked well.  Jonah was a very good boy and cruised around happily.  He had another very pretty A-frame contact, too.  We had 39 points (I think?), which was good for a Q and 1st.

It was a very nice day.  I'd definitely go back if they had more full Friday trials there.  They have one in December, but they're only running one class on Friday and it's not worth the drive for me.  Maybe next year.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

SCAT Trial Preview

Tomorrow we head to Connecticut for a CPE trial at the Westbrook Hunt Club.  We've never been to this facility, but I'm cautiously optimistic.  It's a horse arena on dirt with two rings.  First, I like running on dirt.  Second, I like trials where we work out of our cars/tents outside but the ring itself is inside.  Third, I like trials with two rings because they move so much faster!  Also, Jonah can add a new state to his trial list (we've got MA, NH, VT, and NY so far).

Here's a look at our runs:

Round 1? Jackpot Level 3
     Because there are two rings, I'm not actually sure if our Jackpot or Snooker run will happen first, but my guess is that it will be Jackpot.  I'm super excited about this Jackpot because the level splits are: 1-2-3, 4-5, C.  That means we get to run the same course as levels 1 and 2 and thus it should be pretty easy.  We've missed a few Jackpots in a row now and I'd really, really like to get this one.  We'll see, but things look to be in our favor.  This would be our first Level 3 Jackpot Q.  There's only one other dog in the class, so at least we'll get a ribbon :).

Round 2?  Snooker Level 4
     This snooker is run with levels 5 and C, but at this point I'm not worried about snooker.  A course can only be so hard (famous last words?), and it's really just about making and executing a plan.  We also already have 2 level 4 snooker Qs, so the pressure is off.  There are 6 other dogs in the class, though, so there will be competition on that front.  I'll have to wait and see the course before I decide how risky and high-point a plan to come up with.

Round 3:  Fullhouse Level 4
     Like with snooker, we have 2 fullhouse Qs at level 4, so I don't feel as much of a rush to get more, but it's always good to Q.  For this course I'd like to find a nice open, high-point loop and just run around as fast as we can.  Fullhouse is always fun.  There are three other dogs in this class.

Overall, if I get the Jackpot Q it will have been a successful day.  If not, we at least have two other chances to have fun and run happily.  I also want to be sure my expectations are realistic for being in a new location.

Quick Discrimination Session

Yesterday I pulled out the tunnel to work on some DW/tunnel discriminations.  Initially it went well but then we got to a frustrating place.  We're going to have to do this more often.

When the tunnel was the close obstacle, Jonah was excellent.  He would drive into the tunnel or up the DW ramp as soon as I said the word.  It was fun to watch him change his path in response to my cue.

Then I put the tunnel on the far side of the DW and suddenly things became much more difficult.  Jonah wanted to do the DW every single time.  To get him in the tunnel I had to physically block the path to the DW.  I thought we were beyond that, but not yesterday, apparently.  After a few failed tries we got to the point where I could push the line farther away and then drift laterally so I didn't run into the dogwalk.  So, that was an improvement but we never got to the point where I could just say tunnel and he would drive out to it.  He needed more physical cues.

Anyway, I'm not super worried, but I do think I need to get the tunnel out more often and practice.  I also think next time I will put him in a stay about 15 feet away from the discrimination, walk past it, release him and give him the verbal cue.  I hope this would get the verbal distinction sharper so he's not so dependent on my body language.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wet Weekend and October Goals

This weekend Jonah, Dave and I joined my parents, my aunt and uncle and my two cousins for a camping trip in the Adirondacks.  Unfortunately it rained most of the time, and it got fairly cool (41 degrees) at night.  On Saturday night, though, we managed to get a fire going despite the drizzle and wet firewood, and we had a great time eating warm food.  Jonah was great except that he wanted to play earlier in the morning than the rest of the family wanted to wake up.  He hiked with his packs and was still running all around and chasing chipmunks, so he didn't seem to mind the weight at all.  It only had inflatable sleeping pads, so it didn't weigh much, but it doubled his width.

Anyway, it's already October so it's time for goals!
We only had three for September:
1.  Attend two USDAA trials where I work to be more relaxed and help Jonah have a good time.  It would be great if we could get two more standard Qs and finish our Starters Standard title, but with our A-frames where they are I'm not going to count on it.  
     Yes!  Jonah was great, except for that one Snooker run at ARFF.  We had two other NQ's thanks to my bad Gamblers planning and a pulled bar, but overall I was thrilled with Jonah's performance at our USDAA trials.  We did get all our Standard Qs, so next time we can enter Advanced Standard!  When I enter him in pairs (and Grace says she thinks she can find me a partner), we'll even have our SAD title. 

2.  Progress towards a running A-frame!  I'm not sure how the timing will go on this, but I'd hope that I could start fading the box by the end of the month.
     I'm really pleased with this, as well.  I haven't faded the box yet, but Jonah's form looks great and the frame is up to full height.  We'll keep working along but I know we're well on our way to much improved A-frame contacts.

3.  Maintain DW 2o2o criteria in all settings.  He may not be perfect when he's high/nervous at a trial, but I need to do my part.

     I did a good job of this and Jonah responded with mixed results.  At ARFF, he ran through his DW contacts, but at Riverside he stuck it beautifully.  In class he's been mostly good but not perfect.  We're working along and I just need to stay firm in my expectations.  At home I want to work on sending him out ahead of me to the contact.  He's getting good with lateral distance and he's fine if I'm ahead, but having him ahead is the next step.

So, looking ahead to October, here's what I'd like to do:
1.  Our first trial this month is this Friday at a new-for-us venue in CT.  My goal is for Jonah to be able to go in and focus without being too nervous.  Also, I'd REALLY like to get the Jackpot Q.  It's been way too long and I need to do everything I can to help him get it.

2.  Things can always go wrong, but we have shots this month at (all CPE):  finishing our level 3 standard title, finishing our level 3 jackpots, finishing level 4 fullhouse and finishing level 4 snooker.  My goal is to do at least two of those four milestones this month.  

3.  I want to take Jonah on some sort of socialization outing at least once each week.

4.  Be able to do the DW, weaves and teeter with 15' lateral distance, being both directly lateral and 5-10' ahead and behind.

5.  Begin to fade A-frame box, ideally get top piece gone by the end of the month.