Friday, March 30, 2012

Class 3/29

Last night Jonah and I had a fun (as usual) class.  He was back to his rowdy, loud mouth, fast and furious self.  I really don't have that much to say about it, but here's a quick review.

The first course was fun, and we were running beautifully until I tried to make things more difficult than I needed to.  It started with a teeter to a serpentine that he ran smoothly with tight lines.  His DW contact looked good.  His table down was fast and he held it well.  Then we had a 90 degree on side weave entry (the hardest angle for him), which I decided to then rear cross.  He got the entry but then looked back for me as I crossed behind him and he popped out.  Whoops.  The rest of the course ran great.

The second course was a little more complicated, but we still ran it well.  The first time through we had two slightly sticky patches, but overall he was fast and clean.  One sticky patch was a threadle directly into a 180 (back to the first jump).  I worked hard to get ahead so I could do the threadle as a FC, but then I was fully rotated so he was jumping at me as I was completely facing him.  There was also a wall right on the other side of that jump, so I don't think I needed such hard body language deceleration cues. It backed him off a lot.  The second tough spot looked like this:
I wanted him to wrap to the right on landing after 3, and I was worried that if I handled 2-3 with him on my right I would either have to pull his line way wide or he might read it as a RC and turn left.  I decided to try to FC the teeter, handle 2 with him on my left and push to the backside of 3.  It worked, but I didn't converge soon enough and he really did me a favor.  I need to handle better than that.

The second time I tried to FC between 2 and 3.  I had to leave him on the teeter and he popped off.

I would have liked to try it again, as I wasn't happy with the flow either time.

The second time I ran the threadle to 180 sequence he dropped a bar (not sure why), but he was MUCH faster, and it felt great.  I put a BC on the landing of the second 180 jump, and he was flying on to the next part of the course.  Fun!

Happy Tails

Well, we're many hours into our long day and it's going well so far.  It's been a lot of driving and a lot of waiting, but we had three nice runs.

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 4
     There wasn't a great flowing opening to this course.  The gamble was in the middle of the ring.  You had to start on one side, and I wanted to handle the gamble from that side, but a lot of good obstacles were on the other side.  I thought about a lot of options but ended up with a looping plan on the start/end side of the gamble.  We did 2 A-frames, 2 teeters, and a bunch of tunnels and jumps.  I had worked the lower level class that had the same opening, and the fastest dogs were completing about 10 obstacles.  My plan was for 14, so I was a little bit concerned, but I stuck with it.  They had set up a smaller ring this time, which meant a much bigger waiting area.  It was fantastic.  We didn't have to be stuck in a corner trying to hide from other dogs.  Instead, I could keep him moving and excited right until we went in the ring.  It worked great for us, and Jonah started fast and kept going fast the whole way.  We flew through our opening before the buzzer rang, so I just pushed him wide in a turn and reved him up a little more while we waited for the buzzer.  We're really only talking a few seconds, but he was looking happy and excited.  Once the buzzer sounded, we raced up the A-frame again (all 3 contacts were perfect), then turned to a tunnel and pushed out to 12 weaves.  The line was much closer than the Advanced USDAA gamble we did with weaves, and Jonah was fast and happy.  What a star.  1st and Q.  Two small dogs in level C got more points, but generally ours was one of the very best runs.  Lots of dogs didn't Q (time in the closing was tight).

Round 2:  Standard Level 4
     I thought this was a pretty friendly course for us.  Unfortunately, we went in and then the judge had to figure out some timing issue from the last dog, so we had to wait on the line for a while.  It meant he started a little more flat, and the second obstacle was the DW.  He didn't stop, but he trotted instead of really running.  He didn't hold his 2o2o.  After that, though, he picked up some steam.  There was a fun line where I really had to RUN to get in position.  I can confidently say that, of all the dogs I watched (and I watched some of the best teams), we did that sequence the best.  Yay!  So, once we really got going Jonah was great.  I'd say in the first run he was about 95% of full speed, and this run was more like 88%.  Not bad, especially considering our last standard run at USDAA which was more like 50%.  His A-frame was a little messy (not 4 clean hits), but clearly in the yellow.  1st and Q.  One level C dog (a Masters USDAA BC) was a second faster.  Maybe once we have our running DW we'll be able to catch them!

Round 3:  Wildcard Level 4
     I'd say I had about 88% of Jonah's top speed in this run, too.  I don't know why he didn't start quite as fast as usual, but he didn't.  He never did anything wrong--his lines were tight and everything.  His A-frame was a little messy again, but no question he got the contact.  I had the fun pleasure of putting in a beautiful blind cross that I was worried I wouldn't be able to get to in time.  It worked awesome.  So, overall it was a good run, and the second fastest of all dogs in the class (this time another Masters USDAA BC ran faster), but I know he can do better.  Definitely a Q, and I'm pretty sure it won our level 4 class, although we didn't stick around to see the official results after we got our duplicate scribe sheet that confirmed our Q.  Good day.

Now this evening we're headed back to DogStar for our first ever seminar!  Wish us luck!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Tails Trial Preview

Tomorrow morning Jonah and I are driving up to Maine for a few runs at Happy Tails.  He ran really well there last time, so hopefully it will be another success tomorrow.  Here are our runs:

Round 1:  Jackpot Level 4
    This would be our third level 4 Jackpot.  It looks to be traditional, but at this point my confidence with his distance skills is pretty high.  I think we should be able to get it.  Then again, if the judge is in a tricky mood there are certainly things she could set up that we wouldn't be able to get.  It's the first class of the trial, so I'm hoping she'll be generous :).  Our goal is to plan a fast and flowing opening, get the closing and get to the table without going right up to the buzzer.  This is the venue where we Q'ed in jackpot by .03 seconds.  I don't want to cut it that close this time!  We're one of four dogs in the class.

Round 2:  Standard Level 4
     This is our shot at our 3rd Level 4 Standard.  We're on track to be in level 5 by nationals IF we get all the Q's we've signed up for...going 8/8.  That, unfortunately, seems unlikely, but he's been doing well lately so we'll see.  I think we should be able to get this Q.  There will be a short turnaround between our first and second runs, as they're running low to high levels in Jackpot and then high to low levels in Standard.  It seems a little funny, but I don't think it should be a problem for us.  It looks like we'll be one of 8 dogs in this class.  That's a lot for CPE!  Our goal is first and foremost to get the Q.

Round 3:  Wildcard Level 4
     Like Jackpot, this would be our 3rd Level 4 Wildcard Q, meaning we'd just need one more of each to get to level 5.  This time we'll have quite a long break before we go, but hopefully Jonah can nap happily in the car.  Then I'll wake him up and try to get him good and excited.  I think this trial has duplicate score sheets, so as soon as I can verify our results I'll take off!  For the course, though, I'd like to focus on fun and speed.  It looks like we're just one of 3 dogs in this class.

Then, hopefully we'll get home at a reasonable hour and get some rest, because tomorrow evening we're going back out and going to DogStar for a Gamblers Seminar!  This will be our first workshop and I'm very excited.  Hopefully Jonah won't be completely exhausted!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I just got word that Jonah and I were selected in the draw, so we're officially going to CPE Nationals in June.  I'll gather my thoughts about our plans soon, but for now, I'm just amazingly relieved and excited.  Woo hoo!

79 days to go, and oh boy will we be counting :)...I'll even have to see if I can add an official countdown to the blog.  Yay for gadgets. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


I swear, some day I will really have time to devote to the blog.  I had a midterm due yesterday that took over my life last week.  Here is a recap of recent events:

-I finished my midterm!
-On Thursday, we had class and Jonah was very good.  We ran our first course very fast and well, with the only problem being me almost running into a jump.  We ran it again and I tried to put in a blind which I guess technically worked but it was late and messy.  Otherwise a lovely run.  We ran the second course clear, too.  It has a threadle and a discrimination but was otherwise fairly straightforward.  It was a night of lots of fast running.
-On Friday we went back to Laura's.  We got there late and I was a little flustered, but we did well overall. The first sequence looked like this:
Everyone else in our class did a double front (between 2 and 3 and between 3 and 4), but I opted to handle it as a serp, with him on my right the whole time.  It worked quite well.  Other than that sequence, there was a really fun section of the course where I got to do a Ketschker (which worked brilliantly), and then there was a long straight line of jumps pointed right at the wrong end of a tunnel.  Laura said she would put in a front if she could but that there was no way she could with her BC and it would be hard with her sheltie.  That, of course, meant that I tried to bust my butt to prove that I could do it.  Stupid complex.  It pushes me, though.  Anyway, I got the front in, but I was running so hard that I didn't support one of the other jumps enough and he pulled off it to take a slightly shorter path.  Oops.  I tried again, focusing on keeping my arm out while sprinting full speed (not easy), and it worked beautifully--and was truly exhilarating!  The rest of the course beyond that wasn't bad, but he did take a wide turn on a wrap that I didn't especially like. I brought the box for the A-frame, so his contact was good.
-Oh, and we almost bought a house.  But then we didn't.
-And now it's monday and the rat race starts all over again :)
-Today we practiced our contacts and did some wraps, and Jonah was great.
-Last week it was 80 degrees and now it's back to the 30s.  Siigh New England.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is it worth it?

Well, I had worried about disaster in this trial because of some bad training sessions beforehand.  I can happily report that we avoided crisis.  However, I also have to say that it was just not fun, and I left the whole day wondering if trialing was really worth it.

Round 1:  Advanced Jumpers
     This run was probably the highlight of the day.  I walked the course and thought the closing line was especially tricky, but knew we could get it done.  Luckily I watched a dog run before us and realized that, in fact, I had walked the wrong closing line.  The actual course was much easier!  So, I had a little moment of panic while I searched for a course map and made a plan for the end of the course, but then felt pretty confident going into the ring.  My biggest concerns were two places where I really needed to be ahead of him.  Well, that turned out not to be a problem.  He was very obedient and wasn't especially worried.  He kept his focus, but he was just not his speedy self.  So, the course ran very smoothly but it lacked that fun edge where things are almost out of control.  So, we easily got our Q but we were slow enough to be out of the ribbons in a large class (and they only pinned through 3rd at this trial).  I thought we were out of trouble, though, when right after the class he pooped.  I knew he probably had to before the run but he wanted to go in so badly he wouldn't take the time to stop.  So, I thought that after he was done with that the next run would be more himself.

Round 2:  Advanced Snooker
     I got excited when I saw the course map for Snooker.  A little too excited.  We were allowed to do 4 reds, and I wanted to go for it.  It was really awkward to go for all four sevens, but I planned a nice course of 7-6-7-7 that didn't look too twisty.  I was ready to go.  Well, he started out pretty well.  Not full speed, but not bad.  We got our 1-7-1-6-1-7-1 and everything was going well.  But then, when we turned to the 7, which was just a little line of two jumps, Jonah ran past the jump and stopped, nervous.  It probably took me close to 10 seconds to get him back moving.  He looked terrified.  Then he ran past the second jump.  Meanwhile, I knew precious time was slipping away but I didn't remember the rules--would I get whistled off if we just went on to the closing?  I thought so, so I kept trying to get him back on track.  I did, eventually, but I swear we must have wasted 15-20 seconds in getting this last 7.  Then we started the closing and got 2.  We were on our way to 3 when the buzzer rang, and we would have had to get to 4 to Q.  Sigh.  Oh well.  I guess I got too ambitious in trying to really go for it.  The highest score in the class ended up being 44, so we even a 7-6-7 would have won pretty handily.  So, I'll take credit for the NQ.  Still, it was frustrating to just totally lose my dog and not be able to get him over this silly two jump combination.  The poor guy was just so nervous.  Even when we got outside he didn't seem happy.  I tried to play with him and he would just turn away.  Instead of leaping into the car he climbed up laboriously.  I was worried he wasn't feeling well.  Not sure what was going on, I figured I'd run the next run and then decide whether we should just go home.

Round 3:  Advanced Pairs
     I don't like having the pressure of a partner on my shoulders, but I also wanted to get this Q over with and I didn't want to let down our partner, so we gritted our teeth and headed in.  Our partner didn't have a preference about which course she ran, and I think I'm more comfortable running second, so we did the second half.  It was not really that easy.  It was a straight line of jump-weave-jump and then turn away from another jump that was straight ahead and very close.  So you had all this momentum straight ahead and then had to turn.  Then after you turned you had a discrimination, taking the tunnel.  After the tunnel you did a little pinwheel and then came back to the discrimination, this time taking the DW.  Anyway, our partner started well and generally ran nicely but the dog saw Jonah as he was coming down the closing line and it distracted him, making the last bar fall.  Then the pressure was on, so after a clean baton exchange we were off.  Jonah ran great and nailed the turns and discriminations.  The only issue was that the judge was very close to the DW, and Jonah got a little concerned about him coming down the ramp.  He ran through his 2o2o, but we finished fast enough to Q with 7 seconds to spare, even with the bar.  Phew!  We even got 2nd place!  That was a huge relief, so we don't have to do pairs again until Masters.  Also, I was thinking Jonah was feeling a lot better.  I vowed to stay right next to him on the DW in standard so he would feel sheltered from the judge, and I decided to run our last run.

Round 4:  Advanced Standard
     It was a pretty easy course.  There were a few tricky areas, like the chute to the table where dogs kept blasting out of the chute and then when they jumped on the table it was tippy and they'd fall/jump off.  Also then it was a tricky weave entry from the table and a side change in the weaves.  Well, Jonah got all barky and excited, and raced up onto the DW.  I stayed right next to him over the top, but then even though I was right there he stopped and looked at the judge.  Before I knew it I was ahead of him calling him down the ramp, which he did, but it was slow and messy and again there was no 2o2o.  Then a few jumps where he picked up speed.  Then the teeter.  Again, he stopped and looked worried.  I had to really coax him to tip it.  Then a jump and a tunnel before the A-frame.  I waited while he was in the tunnel and gave him a playful, "Ready?!" as he was exiting, and then really accelerated towards the A-frame.  Didn't work.  He stopped at the top, nervous again, and then trotted down the ramp.  Luckily I didn't have to worry about him blasting out of the chute, because there was no blasting going on.  He got on the table and actually did a nice down.  Then he got a good weave entry and the weaves might have been the highlight of the run--he was good and speedy.  Then we had a jump, a tunnel and the closing line.  He came out of the tunnel looking confused and unenthused, but he ran down the closing line and through the end.  Wow.  A lot of work and not a lot of fun for either of us, although I think I did a pretty good job of giving him a big party at the end for getting through it.  It turned out that if we'd been .25 seconds slower we wouldn't have qualified just for being too slow.  Needless to say, we didn't place.

Yarg!  Jonah might not be as driven as some of the BCs, but he is NOT a slow dog.  In practice, he's FAST.  And sometimes he's fast in trials.  He usually has a great time running.  But not this time.  It made me really question whether trialing is worth the time, money and effort if it's not going to be fun for him (and honestly, it's not much fun for me either when he's not having fun).  I'm not ready to give up yet since this was by far the trial where he showed the least enthusiasm.  It's also possible that he's just not feeling great right now.  I'm going to keep a close watch on him over the next few days and see how things go.  Poor guy.  I love him so much and want all the best for him!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Time to take a step back...

Jonah has been doing really fantastic lately.  But I think I was getting a little too comfortable with his great work, and now it seems to be time to be humbled.

In our class last night at DogStar, we had trouble with a discrimination.  I completely stopped, called his name, turned my shoulders and stepped laterally while calling "Frame," and he just charged straight into the tunnel.  Yarg!

Once he got the A-frame, he 1-hit it.  When I went back to try it again, he had a beautiful contact.

I guess I'm being negative about last night's class, but we did have some beautiful moments, too.  His down on the table was good and fast.  I was able to shape some great, tight lines which was a lot of fun.  Overall, he ran quite well.  There was one sequence where I was able to leave him in the weaves and get way ahead to put in a FC that no one else was able to do.  Good boy.  I also practiced stopping while he goes ahead and finishes the weaves--the sort of challenge that made him pull out of the weaves in our last USDAA trial.

Today's lesson was more discouraging.  It was the first time we'd done agility outside other than that our house in six months, and it showed.  Jonah was a little wild and distracted!  For the first time in ages, he was consistently blowing his A-frame.  He would just 1-hit time and time again, and he wasn't even getting in the yellow like he usually does when he 1-hits.  Bleh.  We put a stride regulator up and then he was fine, but it was discouraging--he must have missed it at least 5 times.  He's been so awesome with his A-frame lately.

Other than the A-frame, Jonah jumped off the table the first time.  I tried to push to a far tunnel entrance and he almost crashed through me to take the close one.  Then, one time he ducked behind my back to take a wrong tunnel entrance.  One time I did a RC(which usually makes him turn tightly), and he just went straight ahead and jumped an extra jump.  And he pulled a bar.  It was quite frustrating.

We did do some nice ketchkers and I had another opportunity to run my butt off to get in a FC that no one else was able to do.

All in all, though, I left the lesson rather concerned about tomorrow.  Hopefully we can get things together and avoid disaster/maybe even get some Qs.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Hi, I'm Dave! Katie is letting me post so that I can write about our very exciting weekend.

On Thursday, the day before we left for our exciting weekend, it finally snowed. We'd been waiting with our new, unused snowshoes all through January and February, and finally March comes through! Of course it promptly warmed up and mostly melted everything, so we didn't even bother bringing them on our exciting weekend.

We left for our exciting weekend on Friday. We were going to our friends' house in Vermont, and along the way we stopped for a quick hike in Acton. This was good because Jonah was very noisy in the car, and the hike helped him settle down. It's amazing how many small patches of conservation land there are all around here. Anyway, we got there, had a great dinner, and watched a big loud James Bond movie. Jonah didn't like the movie, but he was nervous being in a new house, so he was afraid to leave the couch.

After pancakes the next morning, we headed out for a hike. Vermont had gotten more snow and it hadn't melted, but it did have a thin crust that made it hard for everyone (Jonah included) to walk in. Nevertheless, we headed out along a clearing for power lines until we got to a little trail leading into the woods. Forests in Vermont in the winter are among my favorite places ever. There's snow! Trees! Ridges! Hills! A creek! Ice! Ridges with a creek at the bottom! Jonah was grinning and running a lot and then I realized, hey, yeah, that looks like fun. So then we both started running up and down the ridges. He is a very adept climber. He just scurries up and down steep, snowy slopes with no problem. I tried to make up for clumsiness with enthusiasm, and I think I mostly exceeded.

Anyway, the trail we were on went along the edge of a ridge, which had presumably been carved out over many years by the creek down at the bottom. Eventually, the creek turned into a small waterfall, so we climbed down from the trail so we could see it up close. It looked like it might be a worthy goal to climb up the ridge on the other side of the creek so that we could see the water from a different vantage point, so we did that. But then we needed to climb back down, and I figured it would be much better if we climbed down the steepest part we could find. So after a little bit of slipping and catching ourselves on tree branches, we made it. Jonah actually hesitated at a few points on this descent. Well, it wasn't really hesitation. It was more that he could tell that the humans were going down the stupid route, so he just picked a wiser path.

Once we were down at the bottom, we still had to make our way along the edge of the creek to a point we could cross. And there wasn't really a bank - the slope just kept sloping straight down to the water. So as we were inching along, Katie stepped on some ice which didn't support her and soaked a pant leg. Whoops! I felt a tiny bit bad for leading us down this silly route, but mostly I was just having lots of fun (Katie was now having slightly less fun, but at least it was warm enough that she wasn't going to get hypothermia). We don't often have the chance to be anything more than suburban explorers, so this was great. 

We finally all made it across the creek. Katie and Ian went to look at the waterfall, and I climbed back up to the trail. Jonah was all over the place during this. He followed me up to the trail, but then he went back down to check on everybody else, then came back up again. Then he went off after some sniffs. And then he met a border collie! Yep, there was a black and white border collie, about Jonah's size, with a unique spotted pattern on his leg. He didn't appear to have come with a person, though we assumed one must've been down the trail somewhere. The two of them said hello, ran around a little bit, and then Jonah got very excited and did his hi-everyone-look-at-me-I-am-sprinting-in-circles-I-am-so-fast-hooray thing. The border collie went into the classic border collie crouch and just watched Jonah run himself silly. Then there was a whistle, and he immediately disappeared back down the trail. We met the person a minute or so later, and that was far less interesting than what Jonah met next...

We hiked some more, but eventually had to turn around so we could make it back in time for brunch. We cut directly through the woods, and Jonah was out in front somewhere. After a few minutes of this he launched into chase mode, and after a few seconds I saw a biggish non-Jonah shape. None of us thought anything of this at first, figuring he was just going to spook some animal and then come cheerfully bouncing back. But after a few seconds, I realized that he was after a turkey, and that the turkey wasn't very far ahead of him. I started sprinting after him, not knowing what we would do if we ended up with a half dead turkey, and Ian started sprinting after me, and then Katie did too. Apparently, she hadn't seen who was chasing whom, and afterwards said she was more worried that the turkey was going to hurt the dog.

Running through the snow turned out to be very fun. We didn't have to worry about tripping on any protruding rocks or roots, because of the cushion of snow around everything. But it was slower. And there was the very real potential of dead turkey. It kept trying to fly, but didn't have enough runway before Jonah would start nipping at it. As Ian and I closed in, Jonah finally got a good grip on it. At first, I thought he had it by the neck, but that was happening as we finally got close enough to distract him. After a little bit more skirmishing, we persuaded Jonah to let the turkey limp off. We didn't see any blood, but there were a lot of feathers. It looked like he may have gotten all of its tail feathers. 

I have no idea how turkeys survive in the wild. There are coyotes in this same area - how have they not hunted all the turkeys to extinction? 

After that we had brunch and then we drove home and that was our exciting weekend. I suppose if we ever end up with a farm and a forest in Vermont (which would be awesome) will probably have to get used to our dog killing more things. I felt so suburban as all this was happening.

Oh, yeah, and today we set up the agility equipment in the backyard. I ran Jonah up the A-Frame a few times. Don't tell Katie, but I had fun doing that!

Up With the Contacts!

Spring break might not be a vacation in the Bahamas, but there are some perks.  The other night it was warm enough that we actually got to camp outside for the first time this year!  I thought it was great, and slept like a log.  I woke up perfectly dry, listening to the sound of light rain on the tent.  How peaceful.  Dave had a different experience.  Being next to the door, he was responsible for handling Jonah's ins and outs.  At first, Jonah wanted to stay outside (we put the tent in the agility area, which is totally fenced).  Most of the time he just lay in front of the tent protecting us and watching/listening to the sounds of the world.  Quite often, though, he would hear a noise or sniff a sniff that was truly irresistible, and his response would be to charge through the woods making humphing and growling noises.  I slept soundly once I fell asleep, but apparently each time Jonah had one of these 'episodes' Dave would wake up.  He tried to get Jonah to come inside the tent, which he typically likes, but this time he wanted none of it.  So, it was a prolonged battle of ins and outs and woofs and growls and little sleep for Dave--but Jonah and I had a fantastic night!

Today was a big day because we brought the contacts outside and put the A-frame up (I'll finish setting up the DW and teeter tomorrow)!  Jonah looked great over the A-frame, and Dave even ran him over it a few times.  I practiced rear crosses and blind crosses.  I did get him to 1-hit-wonder on one of the BCs, but that's the first time he hasn't done a lovely 2 hit in ages.  We'll keep working on blinds now that it's up.  Spring is truly here!

USDAA Trial Preview

On Saturday Jonah and I are heading up to All Dogs again, but this time it will be a USDAA trial.  The schedule will be very similar to last week (which was Jumpers, Snooker, Colors, Standard), except instead of Colors we'll run Pairs third.  There are lots of dogs entered, so it may be a long day.  Hopefully it will be a good one!

Round 1:  Advanced Jumpers
     I like jumpers and I generally feel like we have the tools to succeed in any Advanced Jumpers course.  Of course, we've never run one before so I might be overconfident :).  There are 12 dogs in the class.  At this point, I'm not going to work too hard to have a fast time and a placement; I'd rather focus on going clear and getting the Q.

Round 2:  Advanced Snooker
     Snooker is fun.  I used to find it rather intimidating, but now it's an enjoyable puzzle.  We'll see if it's worth going for 51 (or 59) points.  Again, a Q is more important to me.  I know we can have lovely snooker runs, and we don't need to be in the top 15% until we're in Masters.  We need 37 points to Q, so that will be the goal.  Any more than that, or any placement, is just icing on the cake.  There are 7 dogs in the class.

Round 3:  Advanced Pairs
     We have our partner assigned and we'll be running with another blue cattle dog.  This one jumps 22".  I think this week in class I'll ask if we could run a pairs simulation, having another dog in the ring, etc.  Our last pairs run went really smoothly, but it's still the most stressful game for me.  If I could only have one Q on the day it would be this one, so we could have pairs all out of the way until Masters.  I would love that.  Also, it looks like we drew a pretty good partner.  In the future I think I might like to try to find someone in advance so I don't have to do random draw.  I'd think that, especially once we get to Masters, there will be more people that I can connect with through my network.  Anyway, that's a ways off.  For now, a Q would be super wonderful.  There are 7 Advanced pairs.

Round 4:  Advanced Standard
     Last week Jonah was getting tired by the end of the day, and it showed in a lack of concentration.  I'll have to make an extra effort to get him excited before this run and then handle well so that I don't give him any extra reasons to disconnect.  We need 3 advanced standard runs, so every one matters.  There's no room for error.  I want to slow down before the table so he's less likely to jump off the other side.  The goals for this run will be to run clean and accurate.  There are 16 dogs in the class, so I'm not going to be worried about placements.  That can come later.  For now, we just need to get the job done.

Nationals Nervousness

I just found out that there will indeed be a random draw for CPE Nationals.  There are 575 slots, 100 of which are reserved for the host club and juniors, and there are already 735 entries--and the window for accepting them hasn't ended yet.  That's not looking too good.  We've got our fingers and paws crossed!  They will do the random draw next week.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

All Dogs Gym CPE Trial

We had a good day today.  We have things to work on but hey, who doesn't?!

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 5
     This course had lots of pinwheels, so it didn't look very motivating.  Nonetheless, Jonah came out running hard and made it look easy.  I made an effort to keep myself moving with small steps rather than just stand in the middle.  That seemed to work well.  He was very economical with his lines and he was covering ground very well.  The only problem was that I almost ran into a stanchion at one point.  It made for less than beautiful handling for that little section, but the rest of the time we were both running hard and smooth.  Q and 1st.  We won our class easily.  The fastest dog over the course was 2 seconds faster.  It was  an experienced BC with a good handler.  I think it's possible we could have shaved off 2 seconds, but it would be hard for us.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 5
     This course ran very well for us.  We went for 3 "7's" and we got them and finished the closing with plenty of time to spare.  The closing was quite nice and flowing, so even though we had to do a fair amount of wiggling around and tight turns for the opening, he got to be rewarded by the closing.  It was lots of fun.  I wouldn't say he was full speed through the full opening (the turning and such tends to slow him down), but he was flying in the closing!  1st and Q with 51 points.  The same BC also got 51 points in another level and was 4 seconds faster I think.  Jonah was definitely physically capable of shaving that much time off, but he's never especially motivated by lots of wraps and things.  I was very pleased with the run even if it wasn't the fastest of the day :).

Round 3:  Colors Level 3
     The leash runner for this class was a young boy.  Jonah does not like children.  The boy was fairly close as we were getting started, and Jonah barked at him.  He started the course fast and happy, though. There was a tight turn after the A-frame with a tunnel entrance enticingly right ahead.  Jonah's contact was super and he made the turn easily.  Then he did a tunnel directed straight at the leash runner.  Result=flustered dog.  He disconnected, his ears went down and he stopped.  Nervous.  So, I went up to him, got between him and the boy, and asked him if he was ready.  He was, and off we shot to finish the course blisteringly fast.  What a goof.  The boy-spotting incident cost us 1st place by less than a second (and it probably took close to 10 seconds!).  Oh well.  I was pleased that he went right back into high speed and worked for the rest of the course.  I don't know how I could fully prevent him getting worried at something random like that, but it's good to know that he'll go back to work.  Q and 2nd...which means...we finished our Level 3 title!  Yay!

Round 4:  Standard Level 4
     I think Jonah was getting a little tired at this point, so I made an extra effort to get him excited before we started.  He was flying around until we got to the DW, where he stopped before he got to his 2o2o.  I took the time to make him get his 2o2o even though it cost us a few seconds.  Then when I released him into the pinwheel that followed he was a little unenthusiastic.  He picked back up, but then a few obstacles later he spotted a man who was ring crew, and he disconnected again.  It was between obstacles so didn't really influence anything, but I had to put my happy excited playful tone on again to get him moving.  It worked quite well, though, and once again he flew through the last 6 obstacles.  A bunch of people commented on how fast he is (when he wants to be).  It's true, he's really fast.  Anyway, even with the little blips the run was a Q and 1st.  The fastest dogs overall were a full 10 seconds faster, but I have no doubt that he would have been close to that if he'd been focused the whole way.

Overall, it was a good day.  4/4 Qs, 2 beautiful runs and the other 2 were pretty beautiful aside from a couple little episodes.  I wish we didn't have those episodes--we never see any sign of them in training, so it's hard to practice.  Sometimes I have moments where I consciously accept labels for Jonah.  Like the last trial at Riverside, when people who weren't even close to running were letting their dogs be on loose leashes in the very tight hallway to the ring and I said, "Excuse me, can we get through?  He's reactive."  I had never officially verbalized that Jonah was reactive before, but it felt so right in that moment.  I've come to be OK with that label.  We can manage his reactivity just fine, and most people don't even notice.  Well, today I'm getting used to the fact that Jonah struggles with trial anxiety.  That's ok.  I don't know exactly what to do about it other than keep taking him to trials and give him lots of good experiences.  He's a really good agility dog in practice, and sometimes he's just as good in trials.  And sometimes he's not.  But it doesn't matter.  I'll try to give him the very best runs I can offer him, and if I have to be a little extra enthusiastic sometimes, so be it.  It's always fun no matter what, and I love him and am proud of him every time we go in the ring.

Friday, March 9, 2012

ADG CPE Trial Preview

Tomorrow we get to go to All Dogs Gym for a CPE trial.  It should be lots of fun.  Here's a peak at what we have ahead of us:

Round 1:  Jumpers Level 5
     We finished level 4 jumpers in December, but we haven't yet had a go at level 5.  I really like jumpers courses, and in CPE they're not usually very difficult.  Since we're already in level 5 for this, I'd like to try to put the pedal to the metal and try to have a speedy run.  There are 5 dogs in the class, so we'll see if we can get ourselves a ribbon and a Q.

Round 2:  Snooker Level 5
     This would be our second level 5 snooker Q, so I'm going to plan to go for 51 points unless it's really not a good possibility.  On the one hand I don't want to be demotivating for him, but on the other hand we will need to be able to get 51 in USDAA once we get to Masters, and this is a good time to practice.  There's not much to lose if I don't get the Q since we're so far ahead in Snooker.  The same 5 dogs are in this class.

Round 3:  Colors Level 3
     This could be the day when we *finally* finish level 3!  I will handle this run conservatively and just go for the Q.  If one course is longer but easier, I will pick that.  I want to completely minimize the chance of any NQ!  There are four dogs in the class, but I don't care at all what they do so long as we get our Q and our CL-3.

Round 4:  Standard Level 4
     This will be our second run at level 4 standard, and this is another important Q for us.  Every standard run counts these days, since in all likelihood standard will be the last class we need to eventually get our CATCH.  We need 17 more Qs!  Hopefully we can make it 16 after tomorrow.  I just really enjoy standard, so it will be fun.  We are almost the last dog of the whole day, though, so we're both likely to be tired.

In other news, I'm behind on all the blog stuff and have lots of other work to do, so look forward to Dave's upcoming guest post about last weekend.  It should really put some "Adventures" back into the blog...sometimes I think we need to rename it "The Boring Training Journal of an Unexceptional Agility Team."

Friday Lesson

It's technically my spring break now, which means I have to do all sorts of longer term projects instead of the daily assignments.  It's really not any less work, but at least it's a change of pace.  Anyway, being spring break I felt like I needed to reward myself and have some more fun.  Thus, we went to another lesson with Laura at Gemini.

I was very excited when we walked in and Laura told us that the name of the game today was gambles!  I've always thought of gambles as a weakness of ours, but I'm starting to change my mind :).  One neat thing to hear was that Laura really doesn't do that much work on gambles regularly.  She says that it's such a small part of all agility that she doesn't want to untrain any other, more important cues (like the connection to movement, etc).  That said, her dogs are typically very good at working away from her.

The first gamble we did was an A-frame/tunnel discrimination where the dog had to take the tunnel (which was the far obstacle) at distance.  Then there was an 'out' to a jump and then the weaves.  We started with the discrimination, coming from the DW.  We actually didn't get it the first time.  This would not have been the approach I would have chosen, but it was good to practice.  The line was at the end of the DW.  Jonah's not great at driving out to his contact in front of me, so I had to escort him down basically to the line just to get the contact.  Then I didn't have anywhere to go forward to support my send to the tunnel.  When I gave the cue, he drove out towards the tunnel, but he second guessed himself and then took the A-frame.  The second time I handled the DW with more lateral distance, so I could converge towards him even if I didn't have much space to go directly towards the tunnel.  This worked really well and he cruised through the rest of the gamble.

The second challenge was the same gamble but approaching from two jumps.  This was much better for us because we could build up some steam, unlike the stopped contact.  Jonah didn't blink an eye.  He was excellent with the rest of the gamble again, too.

Laura did point out in some of my opening that I am sometimes slow getting out of FCs.  She's right, and I'm glad she highlighted that for me.

For the last run of the day, we got a compliment.  The other dogs got to do either of the previous approaches to the gamble, but Laura said that was too easy for us, so she had us do the gamble backwards.  It ended up being very similar to our Advanced USDAA gamble, as I sent out to a jump, layered another jump while he weaved, and then sent to another jump and the tunnel.  He was great through the weaves, but then I screwed him up for the last jump.  I had gotten ahead of him while he was weaving, so once again I ran out of room to move forward.  Just like before, he was good hearted and headed off towards the jump, but then got worried when I didn't follow and he turned away.  You'd think I'd learn, huh?  Anyway, when we tried it again I stayed more parallel to him in the weaves, or even a step behind, so I could have a couple strong forward steps as I cued the jump.  It worked beautifully and he was excellent.  I'm so proud of the guy.  He's come so far.  Best of all, though, he's having such a fantastic time every time we play agility.  That's what matters most!  (And I have a blast, too!)

Thursday Night Fun

Last night Jonah and I went to DogStar for our weekly lesson.  We had a really great time!  Both of the courses were not too difficult to do, but they were difficult to do well.

Our first go round, our challenges were a tight turn to manage, a RC into the weaves, a push out of the weaves the second time we did them, and a tricky pull in a serpentine at the end of the course.  Jonah did absolutely beautifully, and it was a lovely run.  The only thing I would have changed about the whole thing was that I got too far ahead before the RC weave entry that I really had to decelerate to avoid running into them.  That was completely my fault but he didn't blink an eye and still drove in and weaved very fast.  What a good boy.  His contacts looked great and his down on the table was good.  I would say it took him half a second to go into his down--it wasn't immediate, but it wasn't slow.

Since he'd done so well the first time through, I tried to come up with ways to make it more difficult, or at least more difficult.  So, I handled part of the course as a gamble.  It looked like this:

He was awesome!  Well, not completely.  He pulled a CPE on the table and jumped on and right back off.  Oops.  But other than that, he was awesome.  He charged out for the RC over 2 and then didn't blink before he charged onto the DW.  He raced into the 2o2o, which was impressive since he is usually a little tentative when I'm not right with him.  The peanut gallery was all oohing and aahing at us and I think he picked up on that because he was clearly very proud of himself when he hopped right on and off the table.  Anyway, the rest of the course ran very well, too.  I tried some other handling for practice. It was lots of fun.

For our last course of the night, we had less of a smooth run.  We had trouble with the beginning of the course, which looked like this:

The best way to do a running start was to slingshot 1 with him on my right.  When I did that, though, he jumped really big over 1 and by the time he realized he was supposed to weave he was past the entry.  I need to practice this.  We got it eventually, but I had to stand completely still to get him to turn back to me soon enough.  A lead out would have been better.

There were two other sections of the course that were recipes for wide turns.  The first one I handled well and his turns were nice and tight.  The second, which was just jumping one jump, then another, then back to the first, didn't work so well.  Usually I would just cue jump 2 and get out of there, but now that I'm working on setting tighter lines I tried to stay a little longer.  He didn't really respect my space, though, and still jumped fairly wide behind me before coming back in to my side.  Another thing we need to practice.  The second time I stayed even longer and that was better.  It's unintuitive for me because I've always worked so hard to keep moving, but sometimes he needs fairly strong deceleration cues to prevent inefficient lines.

All in all, it was a fun lesson because I walked each course and knew we could do it, so then I got to think about not only how to get it done but how to get it done well.  Jonah's been doing great lately and I feel like we're really stepping up our game.  It's very exciting!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blog Event Day: If I Knew Then...

Today is a Blog Event Day, thanks to Steve at  To see more about the event and read other posts, see:

Anyway, I haven't yet had time to read any of the other posts, so this is a peak at my first thoughts on the topic, which is, "If I knew then what I know now."  Granted, I still consider myself very new to agility (I started in the fall of 2010), so it's not like I really have that much knowledge to consider.  I've also been very blessed to work with a number of wonderful trainers, so I don't have too many bad experiences that I would try to avoid if I were doing things over again.  Nonetheless, I hope my thoughts will be helpful or at least might spark some discussion.

I have three main points that I would give my former self:

1.  Know Your Dog
     This is always an evolving process, but the better you know your dog, the better your agility partnership will be.  In our case, Jonah had only been with us for 2 months when we started agility training, and he was going through some significant change.  When he arrived, he was terrified and distrustful.  While he quickly adopted us and became more comfortable by the day, his behavior was still rather unpredictable.  If I had spent more time building our relationship and focusing on obedience basics (we only went to 3 obedience classes!  Yikes!), I would have been better able to understand his behavior, and I would have been able to do a better job at my second main point:

2.  Be Your Dog's Advocate
     As hard as it is for a dog's parents to know her or him, it is much harder for a trainer to do so!  While trainers are experts and see lots of dogs, they do not live with your dog, and sometimes they will 'misread' a dog.  In our first agility experience, our trainer was spread thin between all the dogs.  Jonah was absolutely terrified to the point that he could not focus on anything.  The trainer diagnosed him as being disobediently distracted, and advised me to take a hard line to get him to work.  When she did recognize his nervousness, she wanted me to just push on and keep asking for the behavior.  At that moment, if I had known my dog more fully, I would have had the confidence to disagree with the trainer.  She had good intentions and I trusted her expertise, but I wish I had been able to make the decision sooner to stop going to this facility.  As soon as I chose to move to a different training center, Jonah immediately began to grow into the happy, agility-loving dog I now have the pleasure of working with.  Now I know that it is my responsibility to put my dog in the best situations I can provide for him.  There may be people to help along the way, but at the end of the day it is up to me to follow my conscience and always act in my dog's best interest.

3.  Don't Be Afraid to Be Different
     Especially in introductory classes where trainers have many dogs at the same time, there is an understandable tendency to teach 'one-size-fits-all' techniques.  The first thing that comes to mind is the 2o2o contact behavior.  I understand that this is a practical choice for many dogs, and I have decided to keep Jonah's 2o2o on the dogwalk, but insistence on the 2o2o performance on the A-frame made Jonah very tentative and slow.  Ever since I taught him the running contact, he charges over the A-frame happily.  That doesn't mean I think the running contact is right for everyone, though.  Again, you just need to know your dog and have the courage to advocate for her or his best interest.  It's alright if you do something different.  I always love it when I'm walking a course and everyone else is walking a different handling strategy.  One of my favorite things about agility is that there are so many ways to do it well!  

Dave has one more point to add to the 'if I knew then...' list.  He says:

4.  "If I knew then what it would be like to have a dog, I wouldn't have been able to wait this long!"

Monday, March 5, 2012

March Goals

Sorry I'm behind with posts.  I have another exciting one coming soon.  I started an internship last week, so between school, the internship and job applications, things are kind of hectic.  Thankfully next week is spring break!

Anyway, here's a look at our goals from February:
1.  Get at least one Q at the USDAA trial.  The Standard Q would be extra valuable!
     We got the one Q.  It wasn't standard, but I'm still basking in the glory of it, so I don't even mind that we didn't get the Standard Q.  The gamble was HARD, but Jonah rocked it.  So many dogs couldn't get it, but he proved his big dog status.  I was so freaking proud.  Of course, the Standard course after the Gamblers Q was kind of frustrating, but he rebounded and ran well at Riverside last weekend, so I'm thinking it was just a silly fluke.  Bottom line:  we got an Advanced Gamblers Q, a feat I had assumed would take several tries.  I know we should be able to get pretty much any Advanced Standard Q, so we just need to chip away at them.

2.  Get at least 2 Qs at the CPE trial.  If I don't get the Colors Q I might cry.
     Yes!  Jonah went 3/3 and ran very well.  The only slight concerns were that he ran through one of his DW contacts and he got distracted when the course went right next to the in-gate.  These are slight worries.  Overall it was a great day.

3.  Get video of one day's courses, whether at class, run-thrus, or one of the trials. 
     Yup.  Dave came to run-thrus and got some video.  More is always better, but this was not too bad.  Hopefully I can get some more soon.

4.  Set up at least one gamble a week to practice on distance skills.  
     I'm not sure.  We did a fair amount of gamble practice, but I don't know if it added up to once a week.  As I said, things have gotten fairly busy.  Also, now we have snow so we can't do much.  It's not worth shoveling as it's supposed to warm up soon, so I just need to be patient.

5.  Bring in the table and work on a fast down with a solid stay (at least now that we're out of starters we only need a cumulative 5 second count, not a consecutive one!).
     Yes.  This has been a pretty big success.  He does his table to get every meal, and I practice with him at various points throughout the day as well.  It's good.

6.  Get to the point where Jonah understands the wrap exercise where he should turn inside the tree/cone/marker.  Also have him be consistent in turning the correct direction when I send and pull, FC, RC or Ketschker.
     I was good about this early in the month but then moved on to more gambles and having Dave do fast sequences with Jonah.  We still need to work on wraps and recall to heal stuff.

So, it's already a few days into March but here are some things I'd like to accomplish:
1.  Finish our level 3 title!  We only have one shot this month, which will be this weekend.  I would really like to just finally be done with this.  
2.  Aside from the colors Q, we'll have CPE attempts at 2 standards Qs, a jumpers run, a snooker run, a wildcard run and a jackpot run.  I'd hope we would get 5 of those 6 Qs.  Things can always happen, but I think we should be able to get 5.
3.  We have our USDAA trial next weekend where we'll have a Standard, a Jumpers, a Snooker and a Pairs run.  My goals will be to have an uneventful pairs run and at least 2 of the 4 Qs.  The standard would be good since we need those and we missed our last one.  If he managed to get all the games, he'd have a leg in each Advanced game and all he would need would be the Standards.  It seems crazy that Masters could be on the horizon!
4.  Put up the contacts!  There's snow now, but in a week or so I'm thinking it should be safe to put them up for the season.  Fun!
5.  Continue to work on wraps and recall to heel.  This is one of Jonah's weaknesses but I really don't think it needs to be.
6.  Attend our first seminar!  We're going to a gamblers seminar at the end of the month and I'm very excited!  This was one of our goals for the year, and it looks like we'll get it out of the way this month.


Unfortunately we had family over last night so we had to miss our class at DogStar.  We missed it.

We did, however, get to go to Gemini for a lesson today, and it was awesome!

If you've been following this blog since the beginning, you will know that Jonah has a history at Gemini.  That's where we started, and we eventually left because it was just not a positive experience for us (for a taste of it, you can look here:

So, you might think I'm crazy for bringing him back there, but I heard that Laura Dolan was teaching at Gemini and I am very impressed with her, so I figured I'd give it a try.

Jonah was awesome!

We got there a few minutes early so I could just walk him around and be enthusiastic and give him cookies.  He did seem a little bit wary in the one far corner (where there was an active leak!), but he walked eagerly up to the door and never showed any of the frightened balking behavior he used to do.  Their DW apparently does not have good supports, so it was not full height.  I didn't know how Jonah would respond.  The A-frame also pointed right at the wall, and the ceilings there are rather low.

When other dogs arrived, he barked at them all.  One was a GSD, and he especially didn't like her.  It was never a problem for me to just keep some distance, though, and after a few minutes he didn't notice they were there.

So, when our first turn came up, I had no idea how he would react.  To add to his potential to not be enthusiastic, we had to lead out.  I figured he would start slow when I released him...but NOT AT ALL!  He shot out of his sit, leaped through the first serpentine, and I could barely keep up with him over the DW.  He drove beautifully into a tidy 2o2o.  In the next section of jumps, we realized that the floor was very slippery.  He ended up turning pretty wide while he was trying to get his footing, but he still made all the turns.  The teeter was pretty loud but he raced over it eagerly.  The course ended with the weave poles.  Once again, the floor was bothering him.  The harder he tried, the worse his feet would slip.  The result was not our fastest weaves, but we finished the course clean and clear!

I was so thrilled with him.  What a brave boy!

Laura helped us try to tighten up some of Jonah's wide turns.  At one jump, she had me handle it like a 'sliding door.'  The idea was that I would shape his turn on the take of side of the jump rather then letting him swing wide on landing.  I ended up pushing him to jump farther from the inside stanchion, but he landed facing in the right direction and saved a handful of strides this way.  The footwork had me a little disconnected (step out with right foot and then step straight back with right foot before rotating my body), so I'd like to practice it some more, but I think it was a very interesting tool that worked very well in this situation.

Our second sequence involved a lot of tight jump work and it was lots of fun.  First Jonah did the A-frame basically right into the scary corner (but his contact was good), and then it was a threadle into a serpentine.  I was worried about getting in position for the threadle so I didn't support the first jump enough, but on our second try it all went very well.  I had to MOVE!  He was flying and was very tuned in to my handling.  I've never driven a sports car, but I kept thinking that Jonah reminded me of a sports car.  The sequence ended with a 180 to another threadle, and once again I had to really run to get in place, but it worked really well.  What a dog!

We ended with a little sequence with a tough weave entry, and Jonah didn't even blink an eye.  I thought this was a great lesson and I look forward to going back.  I think we'll get a lot out of working with Laura.