Remembering Sullivan’s First Agility Trial

We just celebrated Sullivan’s 9th birthday and it’s hard to believe that she came to us eight and a half years ago. Boy she has come a long way from a shy little dog to the sweet loving smart dog that she is today. I really believe that agility has helped her is so many ways. Now a days we go to trials all the time and do really well, but I found myself thinking back to that first trial. We had been going to class for probably close to a year and began to really be able to put several obstacles together, get a start line stay and were learning some of the more challenging obstacles like weave poles and the teeter. We felt we were ready to go to our first agility trial.

We sent in all of the required paper work and entered in several “runs”. The trial was about and hour and a half away in Zephyrhills, Fl and began at 7 am, so we decided to go the night before and get a hotel room. We got there early the next morning ready to go. The first thing was Sullivan had to be measured by the judge to make sure she was jumping in the right category. She didn’t like that at all!

As the time approached for our first run, I was getting so nervous! What was going to happen? Would Sullivan stay in the ring? Would she do the course? In Florida most of the trials are outdoors and that means the bathrooms are Port a Potties – Yuck – but I will admit I used that outdoor bathroom more times that day than I probably had in my whole life!

Finally it was our turn to go. All of the training went right out the window! No start line stay, went right past the first jump and then she starting looking all around at the spectators looking for her “dad”. Eventually she went right out of the ring and we were disqualified for that run. So much for thinking we really had it all together! Lesson learned – just because your dog can do it at home, doesn’t mean she will do it in a trial. Practice, Practice Practice!!!!

Thankfully on the next few runs we did much better, even placing on one of the events. We didn’t get any qualifiers that day, but only missed by a few seconds on a couple of runs. At any rate, we were hooked! Everyone was so nice and supportive and we loved watching the more experienced dogs.

That first trial was an ASCA or Australian Shepherd trial, today, we pretty much only trial in Canine Performance Events or CPE. It’s not quite as stringent as some of the other venues and dogs of all breeds and mixed breeds are welcome. We have made it from Level 1 to Level 5 in all of the events and are almost and getting our Championship Level. Only 2 more Standard qualifiers to go! We are so glad we started agility. Sullivan loves it and so do I!!! Continue reading »

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CPE Nationals 2010 – our first

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We just finished a long 3 day weekend at our first CPE Nationals.  They were held right here in Kissimmee,  Fl  at the Silver Spurs Arena (normally used for rodeos)  just about 15 minutes from my house so it was a no brain-er for us to enter.  I could only enter my older dog, Sullivan since Kala has just started to do trials and did not have the 20 qualifiers.  Sullivan is all Level 5, except for Colors where she is in Level C (Championship), but for some reason I entered in all Level 5.

We got there on Thursday afternoon to set up.  It was very impressive to me.  We have only done outdoor trials here in Florida so to see 3 rings all set up with beautiful equipment in a big arena really made it special.  All of the crating was on the second level which was up about 40 steps or you could take a small elevator which broke down a few times.  We mainly did the steps which was quite a workout.  My dogs (I had Kala with us too) had never seen stairs or an elevator and I don’t think they really cared for either one.   But it was nice being up above the rings because you had a great view of all of the action.   There was one large ring for standard and then 2 smaller rings for the games.  At Nationals you do 1 Standard each day and 2 games, so by the end you have completed 3 Standards and one each of all of the games.

The event was put on by Pasco Paws of Zephyrhills, Fl and was very organized.  You were assigned a group and your group walked at a certain time, worked at a certain time and then ran.  I knew several people in my group, so it was easy to keep up with everything.  It was great to cheer for our friends and also meet new people and see their dogs too!

Once the courses are set up in the morning, they stay the same all day.  All classes run the same course, but you are given your Q and placement based on your level, height, etc.  There were 313 dogs entered.  The courses weren’t extremely hard, but each one did have a challenge to it.  The most difficult was the Jackpot (more on that in my next post) which only 12 dogs completed and 10 Q’ed (2 dogs were overtime by a few seconds).

If you ever have the chance to go to a Nationals, I would highly recommend the experience.  My dog ran great, we met a bunch of new people and above all felt the camaraderie of the CPE family.  I’m already looking forward to going to another one!

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Judging Agility

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Life’s  not fair – right??   Has there ever been a time at a trial when you felt that you were right, but the judge ruled otherwise and you end up without that needed Q?  Well – you’re not alone.  Talk to anyone that has been doing trials for awhile and they will all have a story to tell.  This is just part of the deal when you decide to take part in a sport that has a judge involved.  I have been in many judged sports, mostly gymnastics and diving and there are definitely times that leave you screaming “NO FAIR”!!!  So how do you handle it??

The good news for dog agility is that the judges really do seem to be on your side.  Most judges want to see you Q and will give you the benefit of the doubt.  If you feel that you were wronged, bring it to the judges’ attention as soon as the event is finished so they might remember your run.  If you are nice and approach the judge in a good manner, you will have a good chance of getting the mistake fixed, or perhaps finding out why they ruled that way and learning something from it.  Once you have discussed it with the judge, remember their decision is final.  Don’t keep going on about something once it is over.  The best you can do is let it go and focus in on the next run.

On the flip side – there will be times where you did make that mistake, but the judge either didn’t see it, or didn’t call you for it.  These are nice and make up for the times that things didn’t go your way.  Once you get going in agility and have done a few trials you will see that you will get some good calls and some not so good calls.  Remember -no one is out to get you and your dog.  Quite the contrary.  Everyone wants to see you get your Q’s and move up the agility ladder.

Once I felt that my time was wrong (manually timed) in a Jackpot closing.  The run was video taped and the counter on the video showed that I was under time (from when the whistle blew), but the timer, who was on the other side of the field showed just barely over.  Very frustrating!  But as a friend said – well if you had done better, it would not have been an issue – so the responsibility is ultimately mine to make sure we are under time to be sure to get that Q.

Before you start to blame the judge, put yourself in their position and realize that it’s not easy watching run after run and if you are in a place like Florida -where most trials are outdoors – the weather can really get to you.  All of the competitors go rest under their tents and the judge is still out there.  Most trials I have been to, the judge barely takes a break.

The next time you go to a trial give a little more thought to the judge.  Most of them have their own dogs that they run, so they  can see both sides.  If you see someone get a lucky break, be glad for them and know that yours is coming.  Most of all, don’t let one bad call ruin your day or your trial.  Remember – judges are human too!  Now let’s go get some Q’s!!!

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From A Dog’s View

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FROM A DOG’S VIEW

The other day we watched a great movie – Hachi – A Dog Story.  The movie stars Richard Gere and is a remake of a Japanese film of the true story of Hachi, an Akito that goes to the train station every day to wait for his master to return from work after his death for 9 years. There is a statue in Tokyo where the real Hachi would wait.  Unfortunately the movie was never released in the US, but in other parts of the world, but it is now available on DVD (we got it at Redbox) and I highly recommend it, but do have your tissues ready as you will cry!  Many scenes in the film were from the dog’s view point.  They were mostly black and white with limited color and shot from an angle as to what Hachi would be seeing.  It gave the movie an added element.

I’m thinking about this in terms of agility training and especially when we walk the course prior to a run. Perhaps you have seen videos on YouTube where the camera is placed on the dog as they run a course. They are worth watching because it shows how your dog would see the course.   Most people just walk where they are going to be on the course and don’t stop and think about the dog’s view and how they see the next obstacle .  If you can, walk the course before they set the bars and walk through the jumps, stand directly in front of the contacts and tunnels and the course will look totally different than when you just walk your path.  This will help you plan your directions and have fewer off courses and faster run times.

Being aware of the dog’s point of view will give you an extra advantage and help you earn that needed Qualifier!  Good luck!

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CPE Nationals

CPE Nationals are being held May 21-23 here in Kissimmee, Fl!   The premium is on the CPE website – just look under Events on the left side and click and scroll down until you see it.  The premiums (entries) need to be in by Feb 15, so you need to hurry if you haven’t sent yours in.  The rules to see if you are eligible are also on the site.  Basically you need 20 Q’s from where you started.  All courses are 4/5/C  for all dogs and they will be a little tougher than usual. The event is held indoors and I think that will be the toughest for us since we have only done outdoor trials.

The entries are done on a random draw, so even if you sign up, you are not guaranteed a spot until after the drawing which will take place on Feb. 19th. The event is being held at the Silver Spurs Arena which is quite nice.

If you are planning on staying any extra time to visit Disney or other attractions you may not want to leave your dog in a hotel room all day.  I train at The Canine Center which is only minutes away and they have 5 acres for your dog to have a great time too.  They provide day care and overnight boarding with spacious kennels, lots of playtime and individual attention.  Check it out!  It would be a shame to come all this way and not see some of the other great things that Orlando/Kissimmee can offer.  They also have a great blog: www.DogBoardingOrlando.com


I hope to see you at Nationals – good luck!

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CPE Wildcard

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Wildcard is a great game in CPE.  It is also one of the games that people tend to get confused on.  I think that a lot of the confusion stems from the way the obstacles are labeled.  The idea of the game is a short course where along the way you will have a choice of 2 obstacles.  One will be a little harder than the other.  This will happen 3 times on the course.  Depending on which level you are on, you will either need to take 2 easy and 1 hard (Levels 1 & 2) or take 2 hard and 1 easy (Levels 3,4,5,&C).  The course is numbered so you will have obstacles say 1,2, then 3a &3b.  The b will be the harder of the obstacles.  Sometimes they are different colors – yellow & blue – in which case the judge will let you know which color is considered the hard one.  This is one of those games where you will want to be at the briefing to make sure you know which obstacles are considered hard and which ones are easy.  Then know how many of which you need for your level.

As you walk the course make a plan according to the abilities of your dog.  What works for someone else, may not be the best for you.  There are no refusals, but once your dog starts an obstacle, you need to stick with that one.  This means that if your dogs takes the easy one first and you meant to do a hard one, you will have to make the adjustment on the next choice, so flexibility and thinking on your feet are important.  Play out of few scenes during your walk through.

As you go through the obstacles you will hear the judge call out points – 1 point (easy) and 2 point (hard).  For example if you are in Level 3 & above you will want the judge to have called out 2,2,1 (in any order) and if you are in Level 1 or 2 you will want to hear 1,1,2 (in any order).

In Levels 1 & 2 you are allowed an off course. In all Levels 1-4 you are allowed up to 10 faults (can not be the same faults) like a bar down(5 faults) or overtime (up to 5 faults – 5 seconds).  You cannot have an off course in Level 3 and higher.  Level C must run with no faults.

We have had good success with Wildcard.  Sullivan is about halfway through Level 5 (she missed a few Q’s with an off course, wrong end of a tunnel and a back jump on her last two runs) and my pup Kala has Q’ed on all of her   early runs and moved up to Level 3.  She has done one Level 3 run, but did not Q.  We have 2 more trials in January.

In order to avoid confusion, ask the judge which are labeled hard and then just approach the course thinking about how many hard and how many easy you need.  Don’t forget to make the correction if your dog takes the wrong obstacle. Good luck!

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A Long Time to Qualify

Are you in agility for the fun of it?  Of course you are, but you still want to get those Q’s!  What happens when your dog goes for a long stretch without any Q’s .  It can be frustrating.  We had qualified all of our Level 3 Standards just over a year ago.  Standards take the longest to move to the next level because you have to do twice as many as each game.  So Level 3 Standard has to do 6 Q’s where as Jumpers Level 3 is only 3 Q’s.  As you move up, not only do the courses get a little tougher, but course times are also shorter.  This is what hurt us the most.  My dog Sullivan is very accurate and rarely takes an off course, but doesn’t go very fast.  Especially in the heat, which is most of the time here in Florida.  Once we got our Level 3 standards we went on to Level 4 and struggled to make the time!  I kept thinking – this is our day – only to be met with an over time or sometimes she would miss the weaves (usually a pop-out on 10 or 11).  This went on for a year if you can believe it!  Now you know that your dog has no idea what a Q really is and they are usually doing their best, so you really have to be careful and not over criticize so your dog will still have fun doing agility.

We are happy to report that at our last trial we did 2 Standard courses and qualified on both of them!!!! So now we “only” need 6 more to get to Level 5!  We also Q’ed on Jackpot and Jumpers – also areas where we were behind.  We did not enter anything else as to conserve our energy since I didn’t know how the weather would be.  We had 2 perfect days!!

If you are struggling in an area in your agility trials, don’t let your dog see your frustration.  Give them praise and then work on your issues in training.  You want them to be happy and excited to go to the trial!  Have patience and you will get those Q’s!!!!

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Kala’s First Agility Trial

CR180x160_agilityThis past weekend was Kala’s first trial.  Kala is an Australian Shepherd and is almost 2 years old.  She has been practicing agility for several months now.  She is able to do small sets, mostly jumps, tunnels and tire.  She can do the contacts (except teeter), but still doesn’t get the stay part at the bottom.  She is just learning to weave using Susan Garrett’s 2 x2 training method.  By AKC or USDAA standards, she would not be ready for a trial, but by going to CPE and only entering some of the games, we were able to have the trial experience.  We entered in Jumpers (no weaves in CPE), Colors and Fullhouse.

Our first event was Jumpers.  I really had no idea what she would do – she stayed on the start line and I led out the first jump.  She is pretty fast and Jumpers is a fast course, so I had to keep up with her and call her back to be a few times.  Luckily she didn’t take any obstacles out of sequence and ended up with a Qualifier and first place! (3 dogs).  I was very happy since I knew any mistakes she made would be easily corrected once she got used to doing courses.

The second event for her of the day was Fullhouse.  At this particular venue, there is a spot in the first ring that my other dog, Sullivan, always like to stop and sniff.  I don’t really see any other dogs stopping there, so I was surprised when Kala decided to stop and sniff there too!  Maybe Sullivan told her there was something good there???  We did OK in the Fullhouse, but did not Qualify.

The second day we started out with Colors.  Colors is a course that has 2 intertwining courses and you choose which one you want to take and once you start with that one, you have to stick with it.  At Level 1, one of the courses had a sharp turn from a tunnel exit to a jump, the other course had a better path, but included the A-frame.  I decided to go with the sharp turn.  The first obstacle was a tire, so I did not lead out.  Kala took the course like she had it memorized or something.  She completed the 38 second course time in only 12.89 seconds!  She got another Qualifier and first place.  Wow – it was great!

The second event for that day for her was another Fullhouse.  Unlike the Colors, she acted like she could have cared less.  She didn’t even run or go for any obstacles and when we got over by the sniffing area – that was it – she wouldn’t budge.  I almost had to ask for her leash to get her off the course.  Very disappointing.  Not that I expect to be perfect on every run – especially on the first trial.  I was very happy with the other runs, but I was concerned at her lack of drive to go out and do anything.  So, along with everything else, I will be getting her excited before each practice run, so she will be ready to go out and have fun.

Our next trial is in early November so we have less than a month to get ready.  One of the big issues at this last trial was the heat.  It was in the 90’s both days and almost no breeze or anything.  My other Aussie, Sullivan, did her best, but did not Qualify in anything.  She does not run well in the heat and it was just too much for her.  We came close in the early morning events, but just went downhill as the day got hotter.

I learned some good lessons from her  runs too and will be posting them soon – off to practice!

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Is My Dog Ready to Trial?

CRWCCHow do you know when your dog is ready to enter his/her first trial?  It can all seem very intimidating!  My Kala will be in her first trial this coming weekend and sometimes you really don’t know what to expect.  We are going to a CPE trial and only entering a couple of the games.  CPE is a very favorable venue when just starting out.

Here are a few things that I feel are important to have before going into a trial.  The first thing is a good recall.  You will be taking your dog to unfamiliar territory and although they may be doing a course where you train, they could decide to leave the ring or go jump on the judge!  You want to be able to have control of your dog whether or not they complete the course.  If this is your first trial , you will probably be nervous and your dog will pick up on that as well.

If you haven’t practiced that many courses, don’t worry.  We practice sequences of about 4-5 obstacles.  As long as your dog can do sequences, they can usually make it through a beginner course.  Most beginner courses flow fairly easily, but you will have to switch sides at least once.  If your dog starts going all over the place (the zoomies) just be patient and call him back to you and continue on.  In CPE you will only be faulted one off course no matter where the dog goes.  Now if they take a few more obstacles and then go off course again, then it would be another fault.  You are allowed one off course fault at the beginning level.    What if your dog leaves the ring?  I don’t know if there is a hard rule on this, but I have been to many CPE trials and have never seen anyone excused from the ring if their dog went out of the ring and came back in.  Now if the dogs goes way off and takes forever, it’s probably best just to say thanks and excuse yourself and go catch your dog!

In CPE, in Level 1 (beginner) there are no weave poles or teeter, so you can start without having these obstacles.  Also in CPE there is a category called FEO – for exhibit only.  You still pay your entry fees and you have to be registered, but you will not get any credit for the run.  You cannot train in the ring, no toys, treats or redo’s, but you can keep your dog on a lease and do the course.  It is a good way to get started without any pressure.  Even if you start in Level 1, and your dog is not cooperating at all, you can call for your leash and still do a few obstacles on leash before leaving the ring.  Don’t go crazy and try and do the whole course if you call for the leash midway, this would be considered training and is not allowed.  Just do a few things and exit the ring with a thank you to the judge.

One of the reasons we are just doing a few of the games is that I don’t feel we are ready to do much on contacts.  Kala can do the A-Frame and Dogwalk, but doesn’t really have a good bottom stay yet.  We are entered in Jumpers (only jumps and tunnels), Colors (2 intertwining courses that should have one contact at most) and Fullhouse (gain points, one of the jokers could be an A-Frame or Dogwalk, but there will probably be something else too).  Fullhouse is where I expect to do the best since if she goes off course (except the table) we will just be getting some extra points.

Everyone has to make their own decision about when to do for that first trial.  Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or your dog and just go for the fun of it!  Just as a reminder, to begin in CPE, your dog must be 15 months and registered with a CPE number.  You will need to go early to get measured no matter what jump height you are in.  If you are getting measured before your dog is 2, then you will have to be measured again for a permanent card after that.  Good luck!

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JACKPOT

CR180x160_agilityThis past weekend was our first trial of the season – It rained most of Saturday which wasn’t as bad as you might think since it wasn’t as hot as it normally is for this time of year in Central Florida. On Sunday it was hot and muggy with a few showers at the end of the day. The last trial we were at was probably last April, so I was anxious to see how we would do.  My dog Sullivan is one of those dogs that slows down in the heat, making it hard  to qualify in the Florida heat.

Jackpot has always been a favorite of ours.  We always love a challenge and with Jackpot, you never know what your dog is going to do.  There are two types of Jackpot (some venues call it Gamblers or Fast) in CPE.  Traditional and non-traditional.  In traditional Jackpot, there is an opening where the object is to collect a certain amount of points (depending on your level) before the whistle blows, then send your dog through 4 obstacles (the table is the last one) in an order determined by the course and at a distance – which is marked by a tape.  The handler cannot cross this tape once the whistle blows.  The dog must complete the obstacles in order. The first obstacle is 2 points, then the next one is 4 points, then the next is 6 points and the table (paw must be on) is the 8 points and when the clock stops.  You can complete the “jackpot” and still not qualify if you did not get enough points in the opening or took too long in the closing.  Your dog can cross the tape and go in and out of the area, but you cannot.

Non-traditional Jackpot is created by the judge and each one is different than the other one!  They will involve getting points and some sort of distance handling, but that’s about all that can be said upfront.  It is very important that you attend the briefing at Jackpot since many of the “rules” are what the judge dreamed up for that trial!

At this particular trial last weekend, Saturday was a traditional Jackpot, and Sunday was non-traditional.  The non-traditional allowed you to do part of the jackpot during the opening and then when the whistle blew you had 18 seconds to finish the last two obstacles (a tunnel and table) behind a tape.  If you took any contacts or a combination jump that he had set up you got double points after the whistle – but then you could run the risk of not finishing in time – so it was really fun.  I started out with my “perfect” plan, but Sullivan had other ideas and ran her own course – had I been able to count the points in my head I would have realized that we were one point short and could have taken an extra jump (worth one point) after the whistle since we finished with 10 seconds to spare.

On our traditional Jackpot, we did really well – collected enough points and completed the jackpot with relative ease = only to find out we missed the time by less than a second! UGH!!! So we did not qualify on either run this past weekend.  It was disappointing, but on to the next one!!

This is a video of our traditional Jackpot – you can here the judge calling out the point values (there is a jump combination that was worth 5 points).  You can also hear the first whistle when we are in the weaves.  We would have not gotten any points for them even if we had finished them, so when the whistle blew, we went straight for the jackpot!

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Our next trial is Oct. 9 & 10 and we are hoping for a little cooler weather.  My Kala will be trialing for the first time so it will be very exciting!

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