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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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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