Monthly Archives: August 2009

CPE Trials

The Florida agility season is about to begin.  Our first trial will be Sept. 12-13!!  It will still be very hot , so we are entering in only a few events.  They do have a few night time trials during the summer here, but I finally gave up going, since we never did very well – just too hot and they end at 2 or 3 in the morning!!  The heat doesn’t seem to bother some dogs (like my Kala) but others (my Sullivan) just seem to wilt.

With CPE nationals in Kissimmee (our backyard almost!) we have decided to focus on just CPE trials this season.  I might try one or two AKC with Kala, depending on how she does in CPE.  Her first trial will be in mid October!!  We really need to step up our training.  In CPE one of the nice things for beginners is that there are no weaves or teeter in Level 1.   You can also enter FEO (For Exhibition Only) and run the course with your leash (no toys or food though).

We love CPE!  It’s a great group of people and a great way to get started.  If you want to compete for fun or see where your dog is at before doing AKC or USDAA, CPE is the place to be.  The jump heights are lower than in the other venues and the rules are a little more forgiving.  There is a lot of variety with 5 different games and a standard run.  Each day you can only do 5 runs, so most trials offer a slightly different program each day.   Not only is it fun to run, but fun to watch, so those long trial days go by really fast!!

Some of the games are just running the course that is set up like Jumpers (has jumps, tire, tunnel, chute – no weaves), but most of the games require some strategy and thinking on your feet.  Jackpot is like the traditional Gamblers where you must aquire a certain number of points in the first part and then perform a series of obstacles from a distance in the allowed time frame.  As you move up in Levels, the tape gets further away!!

Colors (Sullivan’s best event) is 2 short courses intertwined – you must complete only your course.  Each one will usually have one easy part and one hard part – you have to decide which one your dog will do best.  We tend to do well because it’s usually only 9 or 10 obstacles and Sullivan sticks with me.  It is timed, so that is a factor.

Wildcard is another short course that will be one course, but three times during the course there will be a choice of two obstacles.  One will be easier than the other (ex: a tunnel or weave poles).  In the beginning levels, you have to do 2 easy ones and one hard one, in the higher levels, you have to do 2 hard ones and one easy one.

In Fullhouse it is a wide open course.  The object is to collect points within a certain time.  Each level has a corresponding number of points that you  need.  You can do each obstacle twice for points.  Not only do you need the points, but you must complete 3 jumps, 2 circles (tires, tunnels) and one “joker”.  The joker is usually a contact piece like A-frame or Dogwalk, weaves or a combination.  It’s lots of fun.  You must go to the pause table to complete your run.

Snooker requires the most strategy and is in someways the most challenging as it requires you to make adjustments if your dog makes a wrong move.  It is easy to get blown off the course (disqualified) because the rules are a little tougher.  There are generally 3 or 4 red (marked with a flag) jumps  and you have to do a red jump, then go to an obstacle (which are numbered for points) then take another red jump and another obstacle (obstacle can be the same, but the red jump cannot) and do it one more time, before running the course – obstacles 2-7 and ending at the pause table.  The red jumps are usually spread out and if you take two obstacles before getting to the next red jump you will hear a whistle – not good!!!  We used to be fairly successful at snookers, but lately time has been an issue for us.  If the course does have 4 red jumps and you knock a bar down, you can go to the other red jump that you weren’t going to use – but you cannot take any obstacle in between.  I love watching it!!

Everyone at CPE is very encouraging and we are getting quite a few trials here in central Florida.  To see if there is CPE in your area, check out the website here. You can also start your own club too.


Agility Equipment

What equipment do I need to get started in agility?  Agility courses have several different types of equipment or obstacles.  The most common are jumps, tunnels, tire, chute, dog walk, teeter, A-frame, pause table and weave poles.  The teeter and weave poles are usually considered more difficult to learn.  Some agility trials (CPE) do not use these in a beginner level.  The easiest to get started are the jumps.  Start with the height low.  Depending on how “tall” your dog is at the shoulders and which competition venue you are in, will determine their jump height.

Dogs are usually fearful of the tunnel and chute at first.  If possible get someone to help you by holding your dog and you go to the other end.  Bend down so your dog can see you through the tunnel and call their name with lots of enthusiasm!  Be sure to give a treat and lots of praise when your dog makes it through.  After a few times your dog will love the tunnel.

The dog walk, A-frame and the teeter are called contact obstacles.  On each end there is a contact zone (usually painted yellow) that your dog will have to touch (some only use the paw on requirement on the down side of a contact obstacle).  This is for safety reasons.  These obstacles require more patience to teach.  It is best to go slow at first. Place treats along the dog walk or contact obstacle and gently lead your dog across.  When your dog reaches the bottom on the opposite side, use the stay (or bottom) command and have the front paws  off the obstacle.  You want them to stop at the end with 2 paws on the contact zone, and 2 paws off the contact zone.  This is called 2 on 2 off.  Teaching your dog this position will ensure not only safety but will also keep you from getting disqualified at a trial.  Always start out training contact obstacles at a low height.  When teaching the teeter (see-saw) hold on to the bottom and lower slowly until your dog gets used to the motion and the noise.  This is best done with two people starting out, so you can hold on to your dog while someone else holds the teeter.

There are so many different ways and theories on how to teach weave poles.  Begin with just two poles to learn the entry. The dog will always enter with the left shoulder into the weaves.  You can use something like chicken wire on the poles to make it easier.  It takes lots of practice, but once your dog figures it out it will be easy.  Most competitions with weave poles will either be 6 or 12 poles in length.

The pause table is used in some competitions in the middle of the course and the dog will either have to sit or lie down while the judge counts for 5 seconds.  If the dog moves out of position, you will have to start over.  Once your dog can sit or lie down on the table, work on the stay part of it.  It is important that your dog immediately gets into the sit or down position – if he doesn’t, take him off the table and do it again.  Remember to treat as soon as they hit the position you are asking for!  In some competitions the table is used to stop the clock in the games.  In these circumstances the dog only needs to touch with one paw, but it’s best to teach table/down and table/sit.


Getting Started in Agility

Dog agility is fun for all ages and it’s easy to get started!  There are many different levels so that just about anyone can participate.  You can just have fun learning the different obstacles and build courses or you can go all the way to a world agility title.  You will decide along the way which is right for you and your dog.

Dog agility started in the UK in 1978 at the Crufts Dog Show and quickly caught on.  Today it is the fastest growing dog sport.  It is fun for handlers and dogs love it too.  Your dog will be begging to get on the agility equipment!

All types of dogs can perform agility, however some breeds are more suited to competitive agility.  In competition, the dogs are divided by height classifications and compete by height and level of agility.  If a dog is in a 20″ level, all of the jumps will be at that height.  Dogs are measured standing at the withers (shoulders).  Each agility organization has different rules that determine at what height your dog will jump in.

The best known dogs for agility are the border collies.  Other breeds that do well are Australian Shepherds, Shelties, Herding breeds and terriers.  This certainly doesn’t mean that other breeds can’t excel in agility, in fact many other breeds have won major titles, so if you have a different breed – Go For It!!!

Dogs typically need to be at least 15 or 18 months old before they are able to compete.  Obviously you would want to start training before this, but be careful and start with low jumps only since joints and bones are still developing.  As a precaution you should have your dog checked by your vet to make sure there is no hip dysplasia or any other reason your dog should not perform agility.

When you watch agility on television , the dogs are highly trained and can complete complex courses on command.  But all you really need to get started is for your dog to be able to obey basic commands such as sit, stay, lie down or down.. It is important for your  dog to focus on you and not be easily distracted by other people or other dogs.

As you begin with the basics you will need to teach your dog left and right, go out and go around.  A basic obidience class will help you.  Another aspect is to work on drive.  You want your dog to really want the treat or play with a toy.  The more food and toy motivated your dog is, the faster the dog will be on the course.

Start with rewarding your dog with a small treat for each obstacle or command performed.  If you dog makes a mistake, don’t make a big deal out of it.  Simply say uh-oh and make the correction.   Do not give the treat until performed.  Remember to start with easy tasks.  If you  dog is having trouble going over a jump, place the bar on the ground and reward just  for going over the bar.

Don’t forget: praise, praise, praise!  This will encourage your dog and give lots of confidence which is really important in agility.