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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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!

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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.

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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.

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