Friday, November 18, 2011

Perfect Puppy!

Jonah was awesome today at Happy Tails.  Awesome.

It was a very well run trial.  The courses were fun and we got in five runs in one day while only having one ring...impressive.

As for thoughts on the venue, there was no real parking lot so we were parked on the street about 100 yards away from the building, which meant it was a bit of a hike back and forth.  If I had gotten there earlier I could have gotten a closer spot.  It was only a bummer because most of the people parked closer were crated inside and not working out of their cars, so it seems like there could have been a more efficient way of organizing parking, but oh well.

Inside, they had a different in and out door which made the traffic flow really nice.  There was also a room outside the ring where you could wait your turn, and it was much less crowded and hectic.  Very nice.  The ring itself was nice rubber matting and nice and big.  Again I only have a slight organizational mention which is that by the time I got there the whole watching area had chairs set up and there was no room for more.  All the chairs were people's private chairs, but most of the time the people weren't even there.  So, whenever I wanted to watch I had no place to sit and there wasn't really good standing room either.  Once I sat in someone else's chair, and she promptly came over and asked me to leave.  Sigh.  I volunteered for four classes, so at least then I got a chair :).

So for the actual agility:

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 4
    The course looked harder on paper than it did in real life.  It ran fast and fun.  The only area that was slightly messy for us was the closing serpentine.  I put a FC in between the second and third jumps and his turn was a little wide.  It wasn't bad.  It just could have been cleaner.  I watched a beautiful run (one of only 2 dogs that ran faster than we did...both were in level C with great handlers) and the handler handled the whole serpentine at more distance, putting in a RC on the flat between the second and third jump.  I don't know if that would have been the best way to handle it with Jonah, but I might set up the same line again and try it, because it was much smoother than ours at least as this dog/handler managed to do it.  We finished with a Q and 1st.  We were the fastest dog in level 4, and faster than all dogs in level 5.  Now we only need one more Jumpers Q in level 4.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     This course was very spread out.  I had planned a 6-7-7 opening, but almost none of the small dogs I watched got all the way through the closing, so I changed my plan to 6-7-3.  Jonah ran it beautifully.  His weaves were fast and I was able to leave him a little bit to get a FC in afterwards.  His DW was a little shaky, as he looked at the judge when he was coming down the ramp and didn't have a clean 2o2o. Then his closing was as nice as any I saw.  There was a tight zigzag and it was just very constraining, especially for the big dogs.  I managed to get 2 FCs in where most people just couldn't get there in time.  My first was very effective and then my second was a tad late, but nothing like other attempts I saw.  Jonah didn't have to slow down, he just had a slightly wiggly line.  Anyway, he hit a tricky-for-him almost 90 degree weave entry on the entry side, and his second DW contact was perfect.  We got through the end with 10 seconds to spare, so I probably could have done 6-7-7, but oh well.  The bummer of this round was that when I picked up my score sheet I saw that they had recorded it wrong.  They said I did 6-7-2.  I can understand it was tricky because there were two tunnels (the 2 and 3 obstacles) right next to each other and they were on the far end of the ring.  A lot of dogs were doing the 2 tunnel, so the scribe probably just misheard the judge or couldn't hear and thought the 2 was right because that's what other people were doing.  Anyway, I know I did the 3.  I knew I could talk to someone but it didn't seem like it was worth it--we still Q'd and I didn't think it would matter for placement.  Unfortunately it did matter--if we'd been recorded as getting the 3 we would have won but another dog got the same point total that we did (but 1 more than we were recorded as doing), so that dog 'won.'  We were more than 5 seconds faster than that dog, so in my mind we won.  It was definitely a Q, though.  Next time we do Snooker we'll be in Level 5!

Round 3:  Colors Level 3
     I didn't rev Jonah up very well in this course so he was a little less enthusiastic than in his previous runs.  He was still very obedient and had a lovely clean course, it just lacked the edge that he can have.  It was a pretty easy course and we finished with a Q and another 1st.

Round 4:  Jackpot Level 3
     This was our one 'interesting' run of the day.  I had waffled a lot about what plan to run, but I decided to go do the jackpot early (it was nontraditional and we could do it at any time).  There were two gambles:  it was a jump and then a choice of two tunnels next to each other (one closer, one farther away), and then depending on which tunnel you did you took a different jump (again, one farther and one closer), and then go back into the closer tunnel to finish.  I didn't think it was likely Jonah would take the farther jump in the more difficult gamble, so I just planned on doing the easier, closer one.  Well, the first time we came to the gamble Jonah was in the far tunnel before I knew what was happening.  As I expected, he didn't get the far jump, so we had to try again.  I called and pulled hard for the closer tunnel, but again he cruised into the far one.  We got the job done on the third try, thankfully, but now I was in a total tizzy and didn't know how many points we had.  I thought we needed a lot more so I embarked on an ambitious loop for big points.  He did it really well and picked up on my urgency by running full speed.  I figured after we ran that we must have been over time, but when I picked up my score sheet I was relieved to see that we'd just made 0.03 seconds!!!  Talk about a close one.  The silly thing was that I had 9 points more than I'd needed.  If I'd only been able to do math on my feet I wouldn't have had to take so much risk, but I thought I was way behind on points.  The risk paid off though, so we got our Q and another 1st.  Now we're done with Jackpot level 3!

Round 5:  Standard Level 3
     I didn't think this was too hard a course.  There were some off-course opportunities, but Jonah was very tuned into me and didn't blink an eye at any of them.  His DW contact, teeter, weaves and A-frame contact were all excellent.  In fact, the whole course was excellent.  He was hyped up again and ran fast and happy.  Another Q and 1st.  That finishes our Level 3 standards.  Now on to level 4!

Phew!  Now that's what I call a good day!  We're tired but very happy.  Too bad there aren't many upcoming trials.  We just have one next month.  I can't wait!  Of course, most trials aren't like this!

11/17 Class

I have lots to do tonight so this will be short, but here are some highlights from our class last night:

1.  When I do a blind cross while Jonah's in a tunnel, I should think about what he can see.  I got one in yesterday, but his line out of the tunnel was facing towards where my feet had been running to get the cross done, rather than straight ahead as I had wanted him to do.  Thanks to Grace for pointing out the fact that he can only see my feet while he's in the tunnel.

2.  I put in a blind cross between two jumps where there was an off-course option right ahead.  Jonah got it done, but when I did the same section with a front cross it was cleaner and he had a better sense of where he was supposed to go.

3.  I tried layering the weave poles with about a 15' send.  He got the entry but then popped out like, "Mom, why aren't you coming?"  We'll have to keep working on that.

4.  His table was a little weak.  He doesn't want to lie down immediately.  I hope it was just a fluke day.

5.  Jonah's DW contacts were good but not perfect.  A few times he was going so fast he couldn't quite stick the 2o2o, and other times he stopped with all 4 feet on the end of the board, only stepping his front feet down with encouragement.  A few times he was excellent, but I would like it to be more like all the time.

6.  In our first course Jonah let me leave him in the weaves and get in place for a FC after the next obstacle (about 12' away), but in the second course he popped out and I had to stay closer to get the job done.  We had a threadle out of the weaves and, because I couldn't leave him entirely, our line was wider than I would have liked.  Project number next:  work on more weave independence.  

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Petco Trip

This isn't much of a post, but I just took Jonah to get a new bag of food, and he actually wanted to go inside.  I know he's gotten to the point where he's excited to go into agility venues, but Petco has always been far behind.  He used to be terrified of the automatic doors, but this time he led the way straight inside. There were even other dogs there for grooming or something and they barked a lot when he walked in, but he was completely unfazed.  He was rewarded for his brave behavior at the cash register, when he got a few cookies :).  It's fun when I get to have a moment that so clearly shows how much more confident Jonah is than he used to be.  I'm glad he is in a happier place and doesn't have as much to be afraid of.  We've had him close to a year and a half now, and he's a very different dog.  I'm so proud of him.

Trial Preview

Tomorrow Jonah and I get to trial in a new state:  Maine.  It looks to be a nice facility, but we're going to have to wake up really early to get there.  I also have some stress because our car is in the shop and the crate is in it.  We used to drive with Jonah loose in the car but now I like the safety of the crate.  I think I might borrow Molly's crate, but it's really too small for him and I know he won't be happy about it.  Oh well, once we're there all things will be better.  It's going to be a fun day!  The judge is the judge who did our very first trial and it will be nice to have her again.

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 4
     This will be our attempt at our third Level 4 jumpers Q.  I couldn't ask for a better class to start the day.  I love jumpers courses!  Fast and fun.  It won't even be too competitive--there's only one other dog in the class.  Also, if you remember from our November goals, it's the Q I care the least about at this trial.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 4
     If we get this Q we'll be done with Snooker Level 4.  Of course, it's always easy to screw up a snooker run, but hopefully we can get the job done.  Jonah will be one of four dogs in the class.  This is the Q I care second-least about, since we're pretty far ahead on it.  Yet, the ability to screw Snookers up means that it's probably good to be a little bit ahead.

Round 3:  Colors Level 3
     Well, this is our first try at colors level 3, and in fact only our fourth time ever doing colors.  I don't know why trials don't usually have colors on Saturday.  Anyway, I don't think the courses are usually very hard but it would be great if we could get this Q since it's where we're most behind.  There are 2 other dogs in the class.

Round 4:  Jackpot Level 3
     If we manage to get this Q, we'll be done with Jackpot Level 3, and showing good progress away from our 'issues' with it earlier on this season.  We've been doing distance work lately, so hopefully it will pay off.  To make things even better, it's a nontraditional jackpot, so if the level 1 dogs can do it, we can do it!  When I did Jackpot with this judge before she had three possible gambles out and you could do as many as you wanted.  That might be my favorite kind of Jackpot, so we'll see if she does the same thing tomorrow.  This will be a bigger class for CPE; Jonah will be one of 5 dogs.

Round 5:  Standard Level 3
     I have my fingers crossed for this one.  Jonah is the only dog in the class, so he has a good chance of winning, but what I really want is a Q.  This would finish our level 3 standard title and it's especially important because a lot of our trials this winter will be at Riverside and they don't offer standard there.  So, we'll have chances to get ahead on games but Standard will lag.  Plus, you need twice as many standards as other things.  For example, to get a CATCH we'll need 19 standard Qs, but only four more fullhouse Qs.  Hopefully we can get the count down to 18 after tomorrow!

I can't wait.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pinwheel Gamble Take Two

Today I set up another pinwheel to practice gamble work, and it proved difficult.  This time we approached on a different angle (you can see last time's in the previous post, where the jumps shifted 45 degrees.

This time:

Anyway, we could do it but it was a stretch and Jonah often just curled after the first jump, taking the last jump without having gone out to the middle two.  Sometimes he would take jumps one, two, and then skip three and go right to four.  It's good we're starting to work on these gambles might take until June before we can do them well!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Gamble a Day

I want to improve our distance work, so today I set up a gamble and we got some good practice.  I'd like to keep setting things up a few times a week.

Here's what I did today, from
Enlarged view of image

I only set up the gamble, not the whole course.  Jonah did well.  The first time he didn't drive out to 2, but the next time I pushed a little harder and he cruised right out.  Jumps 2 and 3 were about 15 feet away from me.  Jonah didn't seem to be any better or worse in one direction, which I guess is good.  I was also pleased that he was running fast through the pinwheel.  Usually they slow him down a lot.

Also, since Jonah's been a little stickier on the teeter lately I put our teeter down a little bit and just had him run across it full speed a few times.  He seemed much more confident, so I may keep it down for a little while and slowly move it back up, trying to maintain confidence and speed.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Boredom Project

It was pouring the other night but Jonah had tons of energy.  I took him outside but he wanted right back in.  So, this was our solution.  This was actually our second round, and he had started to develop a technique.  The first time he really didn't know what to do at first.  Anyway, I think it's pretty cute, and afterwards he finally settled down.

Class and Run-Thrus

Jonah and I got to go to DogStar twice this week--once for class and once for run-thrus.  The courses were pretty tough and we had some real challenges.  Rather than write all about it, you can see some video footage that Dave took on Friday.  Curiously the things that we did well on Thursday were troublesome on Friday and vice versa.  You'll see me trying some different handling techniques...some work and some don't!  Also, I was doing a blind cross off the A-frame and it seemed to be unsettling his contacts--they were poor and once he missed entirely.  We'll have to keep working.  The videos are rather discouraging in that we had lots of off-courses/missed weave entries, etc, but I still think they're helpful.

He had no trouble with that weave entry on Thursday, but it needed a lot of support on Friday.  Same with the tire to the A-frame.  I think I take things for granted after I know he can do them correctly.  It's a pretty discouraging video, eh?  :-/

I like seeing this video.  In class on Thursday I just did the rear on the flat between the second and third jump of the serpentine, and it worked well.  I wanted to try some other ways, too, and I met mixed success.  Also here you can see the poor A-frame contacts (and one blown).  I'm still not totally sold on the blind crosses, but it's good to practice them.

We could definitely tighten up our line.  The Ketschker works, but I feel like I have to be so on top of it that I'm not actually sure it's faster for us right now.  Oh well.  Oh yeah, and that discrimination at the end (he's supposed to take the frame) is another thing we nailed last night with no problem, but Friday I forgot to decelerate hard, so I take credit for buying the tunnel :).

So you probably can't tell from watching this video, but it was our attempt to practice handling more at a distance.  As you can see, the pinwheel was a bit of a challenge, and I'm really not ever very far away!

Bloopers!  As in, a lesson in why you should pay attention to your dog while you're listening to your trainer.  I love the yawn.  Jonah says, "Mom, you are SO boring.  Can we please play agility now?!"  And then the last clip of the little bear who turns his baitbag inside out.

We've got lots of room for improvement, but it's nice to see video footage every now and then!

Day at the Beach

Dave, Jonah and I went to the beach today and we had a super time.  There's an off-leash area where Jonah got to meet lots of other dogs.  He didn't run as much as I would have hoped, but he was well behaved.  His only issue was when other dogs had toys he would bark at them.  Jealous.

Aside from spending some time in the leash-free area, we went for a nice, leashed walk and Jonah was fantastic walking past other dogs, children, people, etc.  He didn't even bark once!

Here are some shots:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

USDAA-More Results

The full results from our USDAA trial last weekend are now posted.  It's helpful, somewhat encouraging and somewhat discouraging.  I'll start low and get better :).

   Of 27 entered dogs, 7 qualified.  15 were eliminated.  If Jonah had not been called for his A-frame, he would have been 1.13 seconds too slow to qualify.  His time would have qualified in any of the other height categories of championship or performance.  With the A-frame faults, he would have qualified in the 12" or 16" Championships, and in the 8" or 12" performance.  At first glance I thought that was discouraging, but now that I've written it I still feel like we'll be able to do it some day.  It will take a good run and some luck, but I'm confident that we could have shaved 1.13 seconds off our time, and we'll have some fast run some other day to get our Steeplechase Q.  After all, we only need one to get our ADCH (plus a whole lot of other Q's)!

Grand Prix:
     Out of 25 dogs, 5 qualified.  8 were eliminated.  As I updated the other day, Jonah did not actually get called for a refusal, so his only penalty was being 0.13 seconds over course time!  That was by far the least faults for a non-qualifying dog, and that's something that I'm really very confident we could fix in another run some other day.  I don't think we'll have too much trouble qualifying in GP in the future, so long as we have nice clean runs.  I know we don't always have nice clean runs, but it's not that rare!

Stats Update

I was looking at our CPE tracking sheet and remembered that we'd left our last trial early.  I'd assumed that we'd Q'd, but I figured it was a good idea to check the online record.

Well, even though it was not our smoothest run it was a Q and 1st place.  Yay!

While I was at his record, I was looking through our stats, and they aren't bad :).

The site only records Qs, so we have a handful of NQ runs that aren't accounted for, but for the runs where we've gotten the Q we've had:

32 first places
15 second places
4 third places
2 fourth places

That's pretty darn good, eh?  That means that we win about 58% of the classes we qualify in.  Of course, the NQs would change things but I don't feel like figuring all that out right now.  I'm pretty sure, though, that even when we haven't Q'd we've always placed at CPE, and a few times we've even won...but USDAA is a very different story!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Warm Weather Gambles

It's ridiculously warm outside, so Jonah and I had to take advantage with a little agility.

When I got home right after school, we went out back and I didn't have any food but Jonah was getting really excited about his stick, so we would do some obstacle performance in return for a tug/chase of the stick.  That was fun and motivating for him.  Maybe someday we won't have to be entirely food motivation.  At the moment, though, whenever there is food he chooses that over a toy.

After my lunch we headed out there with a rake, the tunnel and some string cheese.  I don't really want to rake too much yet because there are still so many leaves on the trees, but it was getting a little deep in a few spots so I cleared it off a little.  Then we practiced some discriminations which Jonah did beautifully with.  The only one he missed was a tunnel on the outside and I really didn't push at all and I had significant lateral distance, so he correctly read all of my cues except the verbal 'tunnel.'  I'll take the blame on that one.

Next we decided to play with some distance work.  Here is the little 'course' I set up:

I was impressed that Jonah did very well with this.  He did come back to me after the weaves but when I sent him back out to the table he went happily and downed quickly.  His weave entry was excellent every time.  We also ran the whole course (minus the teeter) backwards and he handled that well, too.  (As a note, for number 2 on the map I would choose either tunnel or wasn't dog's choice ;-)).  

One other gamble I set up was harder for Jonah.  I had the weaves where jump 4 was so it was a jump out to the weaves, and Jonah kept going in at the second pole.  He needed more support than I would ideally like, and I had to cross the vertical line (he has no problem with the horizontal other than that's the one time I made him miss the tunnel with the discrimination):

When I added another jump before the weaves, even with the weaves farther away, he found the entry much easier:

All in all, it was good practice.  There are lots of little variations I can do to keep giving him new looks and challenging ourselves to work at distance, which isn't our favorite thing.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Little Wonders

Two little things happened today that were impressive, and of at least some interest to this blog.

1)  Our neighbor's dog, Tino, came over this afternoon while Jonah and I were outside.  They love to play together and were having a generally gleeful time.  The highlight (for me, at least) was when Jonah ran so fast into the bushes that Tino (an overweight, adult lab) lost him.  Jonah then stopped in a play bow about 25 yards away around a little corner, and Tino was just walking around looking everywhere for Jonah.  Hysterical.  Anyway, at first they were in the backyard, but then Tino's mom realized he was missing and came over to retrieve him.  While we were talking and watching them play, now in the front yard, a dog and its person walked by.  Tino started barking and charged at them.  Jonah started to follow suit.  I called Jonah...and he stopped dead and looked back at me.  Then he looked over at Tino (still barreling towards the walkers).  I called him again.  He came trotting happily over to me.  What a good boy.  Recall with motivating distractors!

2)  When I got home from school tonight all of the brush in the driveway was gone and there were beautiful piles of mulch!  Apparently mom managed to grab a group of landscapers who were working across the street and get them to come over at the end of their day.  Not only did they get what I'd dragged to the driveway, but they went out to our agility area and finished those piles off, too!  Amazing.  I'll try to take another 'after' picture tomorrow so you can see the turnaround since the storm last weekend.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Score Update

Apparently we didn't actually get charged with a refusal for our Grand Prix.  We still didn't qualify because his being startled and stopping meant we were 0.13 seconds over the SCT.  Dang!  Now of course I just wish I had run a little faster--I had him hold his DW contact a bit to say good boy, and if I'd pushed him on we would have got the Q, but oh well.  I'm impressed we were that close!  It also makes me feel even more confident that we'll be able to Q in the future.  Any of a few spots--a more confident teeter, a lack of being startled and coming to a complete stop, a shorter DW contact, a tighter's not too hard to shave off 0.13 seconds!  Good boy, Jonah.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Today Jonah and I went to All Dogs Gym for our first BARK trial.  It had been quite a while since we'd been to All Dogs, but as soon as we got there Jonah was visibly excited and wanted to head right inside.  That was a pleasing start!  I thought I was early when I went in, checked in, and got my course maps, but the trial started even a few minutes so I was glad I was there.  It was nice because Performance Speed Jumping went first and I got to watch the whole division on the course we would run.  I saw where dogs were going off course and what handling seemed to work.  For instance, there was one spot where it was hard to get in place for a FC in time, but when handlers didn't get the cross in, their dogs often took an off course.  I decided it was worth trying, even if I might end up being a hair late.  A slight hesitation is better than an off-course.  There was another line that was causing a lot of off-courses, but a few handlers handled it on the far side and that worked beautifully if they could get there.  I hadn't even considered that when I looked at the course map, but I decided to try it.  In general, the big dogs were having a lot of trouble because it was a tight course and their big strides were getting them in trouble.  My sense was that Jonah's slightly lower drive could actually be an advantage for us.

When it was finally our turn, I had a good sense of what the course's challenges were.  Jonah was almost jumping out of his skin he was so excited.  We went in, heard the 'ready' and took off.  I left Jonah in the weaves and moved out to get in that FC.  Yes, I was slightly late, but I thought it worked well.  About half way through the course I remember thinking, 'Wow, this is going really well.'  Then, unfortunately, I let Jonah try to figure out his own striding on the A-frame and he barely missed the contact.  Doh.  More on that in a minute.  After the A-frame, we kept going well, and he had a nice contact the second time over it.  He had a slight moment lacking focus where we almost missed a jump, but other than that it was a great, fast and flowing course.  I was super proud of him.  The course was causing significant carnage, but he had shown that he's really up to the challenge.  It wasn't the fastest time, but it wasn't the slowest, either.  I'll have to check the results once they're posted online, but I think we might have qualified if it weren't for the A-frame contact.

As for the contact, I'm a little unsure of what to do next.  First off, Jonah's A-frame contacts are fantastic now on the lower frame.  However, I've done minimal practice at the higher height, and when I put it up this week he was having trouble.  Thus, I'm not really that surprised that he missed one today.  I also know that if I push the pace he is more likely to get down into the yellow.  In Steeplechase, though, I was worried that he wouldn't get into the yellow even if I did push it, and I was hoping he'd put an extra stride in on the down side.  I think, though, that all the work with the running A-frame has cemented in his mind the fact that he's supposed to do two hits on the down side, so even though he was high up the ramp he thought he should take off after the second hit rather than putting in a third.  Anyway, I don't know if I should practice more on the higher height (probably) or just work on CPE for a while and not worry about USDAA too much (possibly).  Soon enough we'll have to bring the A-frame inside, and it might not be a bad idea to just focus on one height until we can get regular repetitions on the frame again in the spring.  Hmm.  I might talk to Grace about how people deal with this, since I know she must have the same problem.

Back to the trial...

The Grand Prix course was less challenging than the Steeplechase.  Many dogs were running clear and smoothly, so I was thinking we had a good shot.  And I think we did.  My main concern was the A-frame, but I decided to try to get him running at it as much as possible.  The opening was not especially conducive to high speeds, as the second jump was in the opposite direction from the frame and required a 180 degree wrap to get back to the A-frame.  Most people were leading out but I knew that would decrease our speed, so I handled on the other side from most people but I thought it worked really well.  He took a nice, tight line and raced to the A-frame.  Up-up-down-down beautifully into the yellow.  Woo!  We sailed over a jump, nailed the first discrimination and headed on our way.  Jonah was a little hesitant on the teeter but then picked up speed again for a pinwheel.  Then, I'm not sure what happened. It was really loud in the room, and Jonah suddenly screeched to a halt and looked over at the audience, looking startled.  It took me a few seconds to get him back up to speed and over the next jump, and in the process we were awarded with a refusal.  Sigh.  After that, though, Jonah was fantastic.  He drove through the chute, flew over the dogwalk and landed a beautiful 2o2o, had a tight wrap, nailed the second discrimination, cranked through his weaves while I got ahead in position for a FC, and lept over the last jumps at full speed.  It was a great way to end.

Overall, I was really proud of Jonah.  No, we didn't Q in either tournament, but I left with confidence that we'll be able to get those Qs some day.  I was reminded that very few of these people are handling their first dog, and many have multiple current dogs as well.  Thus, while I might be moving up the ranks in CPE, I'm still very new to agility compared to the people competing in the tournaments at USDAA.  At the same time, our mistakes were far from the messiest courses we saw.  Lots of these people who have been doing this for years would have been happy with the performances we put together.  So, I'm proud of my little guy.  We're underdogs out there--smaller than a lot of the others, not bred for agility, and an inexperienced handler to go with it.  But you know what?  It's going to mean all that much more when we get those Qs some day.  I have confidence that we can do it!

Class Fun

Last night we headed to Dogstar for another great class.  Before class started, though, we really got to count our blessings on how we'd fared the storm.  Grace still had no power, and others had just gotten it back today.  Yikes!  They'd gotten more snow, too.  It made our A-frame near miss seem like nothing.

Anyway, once class started well.  We had two bobbles in our first course:  the first was the teeter to a backside jump to a tight weave entry.  I tried to get the front cross on the front side of the backside jump, but I worry too much about babysitting the backside that I was late on the front, and then I gave Jonah a pretty impossible line to the weaves.  Oops.  Our second attempt was far improved.  Our second mistake was me not pushing hard enough for the A-frame on a discrimination, which resulted in Jonah charging through the tunnel.  Grace said it was entirely my fault (as usual), and it was easily fixed.

The second time through Grace made us handle the course differently and it provided some challenges, but Jonah responded well.  One thing she had us do was push hard (about a 170 degree turn) out of the weaves.  I would have rather rear crossed the entry or front/blind crossed at the end, but the push is potentially a good tool for us to have.  I'm pleased with how independent Jonah's weaves have become, and he responded well to the push.

One of the other handling changes was on the same teeter-backside-weave section that we screwed up earlier.  This time we had to rear on the flat.  I initially signaled the cross too late which set a wide line, but the second time I tried it it worked quite nicely.  I pushed to the backside of the jump, pretty much stopped my own motion and just verbally cued "weave."  He picked his own, appropriate line and charged into the poles nicely.

The final handling chance was a RC to blind combination.  The sequence was the A-frame to a jump wrap back to the tunnel that was a discrimination under the A-frame.  The rear cued Jonah to be on my right which allowed me to sort of block the A-frame and push out to the tunnel, which I then had to rear. Instead, by following the rear with a blind, I picked him up on my left to avoid the rear at the tunnel.  This meant the A-frame was an open option.  I was skeptical, but in fact the rear/blind combination worked pretty well because we both had our backs to each other at the same time.  by the time he had wrapped and turned back around, I was making eye contact and picking him up on my left hand.  It worked quite nicely.

Our second course was short but fun.  I did a backside push/blind cross which worked nicely and allowed my motion to continue in a more fluid direction than a FC would have.  The last line of this course was super fun.  It was three straight jumps aiming right at a tunnel, but we were supposed to do the other end of the tunnel.  There was pretty much no way to get far enough ahead to do a FC, so we had to use lateral distance and a verbal cue to alter the path.  One point Grace made that I thought was really smart was that simple lateral distance isn't enough, because we train them to go straight while gamble lines peel off.  This situation needed a sharper cue, like a handler really turning or suddenly moving to the side, instead of just a drift.  Anyway, Jonah had a beautiful run through this line that caused the other dogs some trouble.  It was fast and exhilarating. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Trial Preview-Tournament Time

Sometimes I wonder why I've made the choices I've made with USDAA.  Maybe I'm out of my mind.  But whatever.  I can always change things.  For now I just have to bite my lip a little and try not to be too competitive.  This is for practice and fun and experience, not to go out there and win.

Round 1:  Steeplechase
     There are 27 dogs in the class.  There are two PWDs (interesting?).  There are six aussies.  There are nineteen BCs.  At least four dogs are handled by professionals.  Sigh.  All I can hope for is that we can go out and run hard.  I need to try to keep Jonah excited and high.  Even if we make mistakes we'll make them with guts.  After all, a lot of these dogs make mistakes, too.

(Round 2:  Steeplechase Round 2
     I suppose it is possible that we could qualify for round 2, but I'm not counting on it!)

Round 2/3:  Grand Prix
     Well, there are only 25 dogs in this class!  It's a lot of the same dogs (2 PWD, 5 Aussie, 17 BC).  But the nice thing is that in Grand Prix we don't have to compete against everyone else,  we just have to compete against ourselves.  If we go clear, we qualify.  It would be super duper exciting if we could do that, but of course it's possible that we could screw things up.  Wish us luck!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Nationals Bound!

So at the last two trials I've been to people have been talking about CPE nationals next year.  I did some research and I've decided that we're going to go!  We're all qualified, and the event is only a few hours away.  I think it will be lots of fun.  All of the courses are level 5/C challenge, but you get your Qs for whatever level you are at.  With that in mind, I know we can do most of the upper level CPE courses now, but I want to launch a bit of a program to prepare with a little more focus.  The problem is figuring out just what that plan should look like.  I'm going to talk to Grace and keep thinking.  Currently the biggest real challenge I see for us is distance for Jackpot.  Those are the only course maps that I look at and say I'm not sure we could do.  Other than that, I want to improve our discriminations.  His obstacle performance at this point is all solid, and then we just need to work on our general partnership, focus in the ring despite distractions, and motivation and speed.  I'll let you know as I start to develop our training plan in a more concrete way.

In other news, today I chopped up the big log so the agility area is pretty much back to normal.  We even have a few new stanchion stumps :).

In USDAA concerns, I put the A-frame up to USDAA height today and Jonah had trouble with his footwork.  He was wanting to put an extra stride on the down side.  Granted, this was before the limb was gone so there wasn't a lot of space to get moving beforehand, but it's a little concerning.  I put it back to about 5'7" and he was doing well.  I'll put it up another few inches tomorrow now that the branch is gone, and hopefully we'll get it right.

I also brought the tunnel out today and Jonah's discriminations were excellent.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Goals (Not so good)

I'm embarrassed to even write this post, but I might as well get on with it and have a fresh start for November.  Here's what I was hoping to do this month:

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.
     Ok, I guess we actually did this quite well.  We got all our Qs and had three pretty nice runs, especially the Jackpot.  We got a 51 point Snooker, too!  So, maybe I shouldn't actually be complaining about our bad month.

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.  
     Nope.  We blew our Standard, Jackpot AND Snooker runs at Bo-Gee, so we only finished the Level 4 Fullhouse. Granted the Jackpot was not Jonah's fault, as it was my misunderstanding of the rules that resulted in our NQ, but I'm still upset that we did so poorly at that trial.

3.  I want to take Jonah on some sort of socialization outing at least once each week.
     Nope.  We went to Beaver Brook once, but that was it.  It's just getting dark so early and it's been rainy or I haven't had the car, and then I was teaching a middle school ultimate frisbee clinic two days a week after school...all bad excuses I know.  Jonah did come running with us at a few different places (Quechee, Landlocked Forest, Promised Land, Mill Pond), but we saw few other dogs and they weren't intentional socialization trips.  We'll have to get to Willards a few times soon.

4.  Be able to do the DW, weaves and teeter with 15' lateral distance, being both directly lateral and 5-10' ahead and behind.
     Mmm...not really.  Jonah really struggles with being ahead of me for these things.  We can do the lateral distance with me directly beside or ahead, but still not behind.  I don't know how to work on it because it slows him down so much it becomes demotivating.  I try to bait things out ahead of him but he doesn't drive out for them.  I'll have to be patient/more creative.  I also want to keep working on his distance weave entries.  His teeter at distance is greatly improving.

5.  Begin to fade A-frame box, ideally get top piece gone by the end of the month.
     Yep!  Jonah is doing fantastic with his A-frame contacts.  He's gotten quite consistent with the box, with a faded box and with no box.  Good boy.  He's even maintaining his criteria at home, in class and at trials.  That's a good boy.

Ok, so what will November look like?  We'll have to see how long the weather will cooperate with us doing work outside at home.  Here are some things I'd like to do:
1.  Put the A-frame up to USDAA height with the box to get some good muscle memory at that height.  

2.  Practice the 24" table.

3.  I want to keep myself calm and in a good mood for the USDAA tournaments this weekend.  I was really stressed the last time we ran Steeplechase and I think it impacted Jonah.  I want to handle the courses fairly conservatively and make sure Jonah has as much fun as possible.  I don't want to fix mistakes--I want to keep running if he misses something (but I want to do everything I can to make sure he doesn't miss anything).  It would be really exciting if we could get a tournament Q (we'll need 5 if we ever get to an ADCH), but I'm not really counting on it this time.

4.  Our other trial this month has some potentially big runs which could allow us to:  1)  finish level 3 standard and get our CL3-R title, 2) get our first level 3 colors Q!  3)  finish level 3 jackpot and earn the CL3-S title, 4) finish level 4 snooker.  I'm going to be really ambitious again and hope for 2/4 Qs, like I did in October.  I think that should be reasonable, but we'll see.  

5.  Develop a long-term plan for 'stepping up our game.'  I'll let you know the thinking behind that one soon, but we have big things ahead of us, and I want to make sure we're ready!


So Saturday at the trial people were talking about snow.  Lots of snow (well, for October anyway).  We were supposed to get a foot in VT, which is part of the reason Dave and I decided not to wait for ribbons and just head on back, get groceries and settle in for the night.  In the end, it really didn't turn out to be bad up in Vermont.  We got about 4 inches and it was lovely and pretty and there was no damage.  In Vermont.

Then we came home.

All evening activities at church were cancelled, the traffic lights in town were out, school was cancelled for Monday, and branches were down all over the place.  Compared to a lot of people, we were pretty lucky.  No one was hurt.  A big branch landed where Mom had parked her car all week.  Luckily she'd put it in the garage before the storm.  Another branch was inches away from Dad's car.  There is still a big (12" diameter) branch on top of the garage that we somehow have to get down.  But other than that, we had power by the time Dave and I got back, and the house itself was unharmed.

The next morning I went out to check on the agility area.  Here are some pictures:

Disaster zone!  It would not be easy to do agility there.

Time to fix fence!

It's hard to even see out there.

Uh oh...A-Frame!  You are so young!  PLEASE don't be broken!

The top looks alright...gulp...

Amazing.  Literally inches to spare.  You can't really tell from here, but the limb is resting on the small sapling next to the A-frame.  That sapling's bark is all scraped off on the side the limb fell on.  It's even bent at the top so it's leaning over the A-frame, but it pushed the big branch off.  If it hadn't been there, it would have been a direct hit.

Closer view.  Freaking amazing.

Another general view of the chaos.

...and another.

But then...after 2+ hours of work, things are a lot better, even if there's a long way to go:

One of the three huge piles of branches I pulled out of the agility area.  All three piles are taller than I am.

The second pile.

A much clearer view, even if it still needs a good raking.

And more clear views needing raking.  So many green leaves shows that it's still mid fall here even if there's (a little) snow on the ground.

Jonah looking at his narrowly missed A-frame, and the big tree looking a lot more manageable.  No one was around while I was working so I didn't want to get out the chain saw, which this branch really begs for.  Tomorrow I'll slice it into a few pieces so I can move it out of the way.  

Far from perfect, but much, much better!