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!

Great agility equipment

Great agility equipment


training dvd's, gear



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!

CLICK TO SEE       Our video

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!

click here for more agility!

click here for more agility!


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!



This past week we had a class just on FullHouse lead by one of our agility members that has done extremely well in CPE so it was a good opportunity to come out and learn a few new strategies.  FullHouse is one of the CPE games that is fairly easy to qualify in because you get to make your own course and there are only a few rules that you have to remember.

The course is set in no particular order of obstacles.  All levels run the same course and time.  Large dogs, 16″ and over have 30 seconds to accumulate points and small dogs have 35 seconds.  At this time a whistle is blown and you have 5 seconds to get to the table (pause table) to stop the clock.  For every full second after the 5, a point is deducted from your score.  Depending on your level, you will need 19-25 points.  Specialist and Enthusiast are lower.   Jumps are worth 1 point , circles (tire, chute & tunnels) are 3 points and the joker is worth 5 points.  There are usually at least 2 jokers.  Jokers can be contact obstacle (A-frame, dog walk, teeter), weaves (usually 6 poles), double or triple jumps, or combinations.  Aside from having to accumulate a certain number of points depending on your level, you must do at least 3 jumps, 2 circles and 1 joker.  You can have 30 points, but if you only took 2 jumps, you will not qualify.  Also, the table is live at all time, so if your dog goes to the table at any time during your run, you are done.

I usually walk the course thinking of it as a regular course and try a look for a path that will flow and get points.  All obstacles can be taken twice for points and contacts can be back to back if they are performed in a safe manner, so if there is an A-frame, you can go up one way and turn around and go the other way and collect 10 points.  I usually caution beginners against doing a jump and then back jumping over the same jump, since this is not a behavior you want to encourage.  I find it is usually better to find a small circle to do 3 or 4 things for double points as this will flow better for your dog.  If you end up taking something a third time, don’t worry as this does not count against you.  If you tell your dog to take a tunnel and they pass it by, don’t try and go back and fix it, this only wastes time, go on to the next thing.  Just be sure you take another circle to make up for it.

Another nice thing about FullHouse is that you can go to the table at anytime.  Many times once I know we have the required amount of points, we just go to the table.  This will get us a qualifier, but probably won’t place very high.  It depends on what you are looking for.  The last thing you want is to have the points and end up on the other side of the field when the whistle blows and lose points for taking over 5 seconds to get to the table.  I have seen it happen many times!  Also, in CPE your dog only has to get up on the table.  They don’t have to sit or lie down or stay there for any amount of time.

FullHouse is loads of fun and once you learn the few basic rules, you will have no trouble getting lots of Qualifiers even if you did a completely different course than the one you intended!


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.


Agility Trials

There is exciting news for Florida  CPE (Canine Performance Events) competitors this season.  The CPE nationals will be held here in Kissimmee, Florida! The trial will be May 21-23,2010.  As a result the calendar is full of events here in Central Florida so you can  get  in  as many Qualifiers possible  before February. Pasco Paws will be hosting the event.  Rules and other information can be found here.  If you meet the requirements (at least 20 Qualifiers from where you started in CPE), entries will be selected by random drawing.  So get busy making your plans!  Hope to see you there.