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 »


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!!!!

Need Weave Pole training – check out Susan Garrett’s 2×2 training!  Your dog will be weaving in no time!



Place or Qualify?

When I went to my first trial, I had no idea what it meant to place or qualify in a run.  In some agility venues you have to qualify in order to get a placement ribbon.  That’s not the case in CPE.  If you place, but did not qualify, you can still get a  ribbon for 1st – 4th place if you finished the course.  If you got an NT (no time) then you would not place.

What exactly does it mean to qualify – or to Q in agility speak?  To qualify means that you completed the course under the course time and within the amount of faults allowed on that course for your level.  In CPE there are 5 levels before Championship and you must qualify in so many runs before you move up to the next level.  You can take each level separately, so you could be Level 2 in  FullHouse and Level 3 in Standard.

While a high placement is nice (love those blue ribbons!), it is more important to focus on getting your Q’s if you want to get titles.  I have seen on occasion where something doesn’t go right on the course, say the timer didn’t function and the judge feels like it would have been a Q, the judge will offer the handler either a do over or a Q without placement – most people will take the Q without the placement, because they are looking to move up to the next level.

In CPE the levels are divided into Regular (Standard), Handler Games (Colors & Wildcard), Strategy Games (Jackpot & Snooker) and Fun Games (FullHouse & Jumpers).  When you get the necessary Q’s for each category you will receive a nice certificate from CPE.   For example we are in Level 5 in FullHouse and Level 4 in Jumpers – we will not receive our certificate until we get all Level 4 Q’ for Jumpers.

Once you have completed all of the Level 5 requirements you will receive a C-ATCH (CPE Agility Team Champion) title. This is very exciting!!  At most of the trials I have been too, the C-ATCH handler is rewarded with a decorated jump bar that is signed by everyone and even a cake!

CPE Qualifying Ribbon

CPE Qualifying Ribbon

CPE Placement Ribbons

CPE Placement Ribbons

I realize that when you get started, some of the lingo can be a little intimidating.  If you don’t know what something means – just ask!  Most handlers will be more than happy to explain it to you.  Everyone started out as a beginner.  Once you go to a few trials – you too will be telling everyone how many Q’s you had that day and how many more you need to get to that next level – have fun!