Friday, August 10, 2012


Jonah was awesome today at the USDAA trial.  Just-stinkin-awesome.  Here's how things went:

We got to have a pretty normal morning rather than waking up earlier than usual and skipping our normal routine.

The drive was easy.

We weren't running in the first class, so I had some time to check out the space.

I decided to actually crate him indoors, which I haven't done since his very first trial.  He hated it then, but there was a ton of space today and there was AC inside, so I figured I'd give it a try.  I never saw him actually sleeping, but he was mostly restful.  He could see the ring from his crate, and when I was working I could sometimes see him watching me.

Being crated so close meant I didn't have to take him out super early in fear of missing our turn.  The gate stewards were awesome all day, too, and weren't rushing us into a line.  We all got there on time like mature adults :).

Round 1, Advanced Gamblers:  Well, if anyone who didn't know us was watching this run, it probably looked like a disaster.  But it was the greatest disaster I could possibly have hoped for :).  Jonah was alert and focused on me and was barking and leaping like crazy when we were waiting.  We got the "go" and we were off...but he was handler focused from me revving him up, so we missed the first jump I'd planned to take.  No matter, we went racing on to the dogwalk.  And he ran it!  He's never run full speed on a dogwalk ever in a trial I don't think, until today.  I thought he got his toes in but the judge called a "0."  Whatever, I didn't care.  We did a loop of jumps and he was flying.  Then we came back to the dogwalk with the exact same result--full speed happy dog who was close to the top of the contact zone and got called for a "0."  Honestly, though, I don't care.  I know he's good with his contacts in training, I haven't been drilling them much lately, and I know this is a super trainable issue.  We'll get there.  Next we went to the weave poles.  He missed his entry.  I just kept running.  We did a tunnel and came back to the weaves, and he flew through them as fast as ever.  Then back to the dogwalk, since we hadn't gotten any points for it yet.  I knew we were going far away from the gamble, but since we didn't need the Q anyway I figured I'd get some training out of it.  Well, the whistle blew on the down ramp, but he was definitely in the yellow that time.  We raced across the ring and got the gamble (a layered teeter) easily, and just in time.  It turned out with all the missed dogwalks and missed weaves we only got 19 points in the opening.  We needed 21.  I was so super pleased to have him running full speed, though, that I really didn't care one bit.  We had a huge party afterwards and even got to go swimming in a pond.  What an awesome comeback.  The fastest he'd run in a trial in a really, really long time.

Round 2, Advanced Standard:  Jonah was maybe a hair less enthusiastic off the start line for this run, but he was still very fast.  He got his dogwalk contact with no trouble.  Then at one point the judge (a taller man) was a little close and he got distracted for a few seconds.  I got him back going and he was up to full speed.  He ran down his A-frame rather than having clean 2-hits on the down, but he still looked happy.  He missed his weave entry again, but it was a little tricky (a tight turn to it, and I don't think he saw them in time).  Once he was in he was speedy again.  When we got to the table, he wasn't interested in the down.  He wouldn't give me eye contact and he was licking his lips, clearly stressed.  So, after asking for the down a few times we just went on.  He finished the rest well.  Again, we had a huge party.  It wasn't perfect, but the fact that he bounced back from his nervous episodes was very encouraging.

Round 3, Advanced Snooker:  The course I walked was a little tricky right off the bat, but I wanted to give it a try.  It was a 6-7-7 opening.  I was starting with a red that was a ways from the start line, so we started just running together.  Then I sent him to the back side of a jump which then led into a serpentine.  If he'd been nervous, this would have been ugly.  But, he came out happier and more exuberant than even our first run.  He flew through the tricky jump sequence and we were on to the rest.  The A-frame was the 7 point obstacle, and he still wasn't clear with his striding, but he was clearly in the yellow.  On one approach I had to bring him through a gap.  He nicely came to handler focus but then I didn't give him the cue for the frame early enough so he started following me right past it.  We adjusted, though, and it was fine.  The closing ran beautifully.  I remember when he was in a tunnel (the 4 point obstacle), I was thinking "we're almost there."  And the rest flew by.  A bunch of people cheered for us when we finished, and I was so thrilled with him.  It was a beautiful 50 point snooker run, and even a Q!  My dog is back.  We won the class, too :).

So, I am so incredibly relieved.  I was honestly wondering if his trialing days were over because he seemed to be hating it so much.  Now I know there's hope.  He was loving it today, and so was I.  I feel like this phase has gotten a lot of my competitive edge out of the way, and I think I'm a better handler for it.  Who cares about the Qs.  I know that I have to give my dog the best possible run I can manage, or I'll pay for it later.  I need to be ready to change plans, to really read Jonah well, and to not care what other people think.

Take away points:
1.  Jonah ran well 3 times, but then was totally passed out on the way home.  I think I'll limit our entries to a maximum of 3 runs a day for a while.

2.  The difference between being inside in the AC and outside in the heat was huge.  I think the weather really does affect him more than I'd realized.  I need to be mindful of that in the future.

3.  Crating isn't necessarily a bad idea, given the right situation.

4.  There's hope for us!

5.  It's not time to take our dogwalk for granted yet.  I'd like to school it, the A-frame and the table more.

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