Sunday, December 23, 2007

Walter's agility year in summary

2007 saw Walter's and my first trial in March. He sailed through Starters and the Advanced Games, but Advanced Standard is definitely keeping us in check and making sure we're good and prepared before letting us get to Masters. ;-) Looking forward to next year's agility adventures and hopefully filling in some of the gaps in our skills set.

Sunday, December 9, 2007


We worked a very tight and technical sequence, forwards and later on backwards. Poor Walter was getting discouraged (and my clumsy handling was of no help) and started second guessing himself. Weaves-wise, he had no trouble with them running the course forward, but the backward version had the weaves after a tunnel and he kept entering at pole 2 even when I stayed way back and sent him ahead to them.

Also, I asked the instructor how she handles threadles; she does use the false turn for those.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Today was a brain-intensive lesson for Walter and for me. Also, something new, Walter was rewarded 90% with a tug toy and loved it. It's so nice to have a dog who naturally loves to tug. We worked on a bunch of things:

Get out
Using a c-shaped tunnel, standing at the bottom and getting him to go past the first entrance to the second. Didn't go too smoothly as he kept wanting to take the first entrance so we had to block it until he was patterned into taking the second.

Walter and I have always done serpentines using the false turn method, but the instructor (new to Walter and me since only a couple of months) had us try something different: using only one arm, held kind of back and low, and moving only slightly in and out. After several tries we started to get the hang of it. It was especially hard for me to get the timing right. Then, she substituted one of the jumps for the tire (all set at 16"). He needed a bit of a chance to get used to the idea of slicing a tire since it's not something we've practiced. Oh, and she noted I tend to drift farther and farther from the jumps as I run down the serp, rather than staying in nice and close. Driving home afterward I started to wonder how threadles are handled using this approach instead of false turns. I'll ask next time.

Left and right
Walter mostly knows (not 100% accurate yet though) left and right but I've only really used it as a trick for a spin in front of me and a bit in skijoring. So it was fun to apply it to agility and see him think through it. Did various jump combinations using left and right.

Go over
Worked a bit on a simple two-jump send. Haven't practiced this much lately so it was helpful for the instructor to throw his toy ahead (my aim was pretty lousy).

One of the sequences we worked on used a soft side entry to the 6-weaves with me standing around pole 3. He entered at the second pole every time. He sent ahead to it fine, but if I was standing "too far" ahead, ie in the position required of the sequence, he missed it. Clearly we need to refresh our weaves with me being around the clock.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Walter at the Olympic Stadium (Montreal)

Walter didn't run in this weekend's trial (see details on Lucy's agility page) because the environment would have been way too much for him. But, he really enjoyed rolling in the snow outside the Stadium, by day...

and by night!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Morning Star trial (Quarry Sportsplex, Kingston)

Lucy, Walter, and I piled into the car dark and early at 4:30 this morning for a road trip to Kingston.


The venue was one we've never been to, one of those gigantic bubble buildings used for soccer and other sports. To maintain the air pressure in the building (or something like that), the only door available for use is a revolving door and the change in air pressure causes the ears to pop. Both dogs handled the door situation and the articificial turf just fine. It was quite a nice venue and the atmosphere in the Masters ring was pretty neat with the stadium lighting and all. The Starters/Advanced ring wasn't so fancy but still was nice to run in.

Advanced Standard #1

Early in the run Walter didn't hold the dogwalk contact and instead headed toward the next obstacle (tunnel), so I called him back to wait for a second before continuing as a reminder that there is a wait at the end of the dogwalk. This got us a refusal, but other than that he had a nice run although he took 5 or 10 seconds to investigate the smells on the table before lying down.

Advanced Standard #2

This run was doomed from the start when I realized a few obstacles in that one of my shoelaces had come untied. D'oh. At the table I had the chance to tuck it back in, but it didn't stay put. So that was kind of distracting to start with. Then he took an offcourse dogwalk instead of the correct tunnel despite my calling him desperately. The frame to tunnel turning left away from me was very messy and wide. Then, coming out of said tunnel he decided he was really in a weaving mood so he went and did them again instead of taking the jump sequence. With all the offcourses and noncompletions (due to not taking him back around to do the obstacles he missed by doing the offcourse dogwalk and weaves) he racked up 90 faults and an elimination. Woo hoo! It can be fun to give the judge's arm a workout I suppose.

Advanced Team Relay

Walter was teamed up with a dashing long-haired daschund. An interesting match. :-) Both ran clean so we got a Q and first place (out of... well, us - only one special team was entered). This was Walter's only Q of the day, but if I had had my choice going into the trial which of the five runs I'd pick for him to run clean, it would be this one, so I can't complain. The bonus was that this was the daschund's Advanced Games title, so I was happy to be a part of that. One more ATR leg and Walter will have his Advanced Games title as well.

Masters Jumpers #1

This was one of those runs where anyone watching (if anyone was watching, aside from the judge) who hadn't seen us run before was surely thinking "What in the world are *they* doing at the Masters level." The course design made ample use of... someone told me the term but I can't remember... double backing or doubling back or something like that (doing the same section of a course multiple times but with a variation each time). Although in this case maybe it was tripling back because the course took you through the same section three times. Hmmm. This type of course will take some getting used to. Anyway, to keep it short our run was riddled with mistakes... offcourses, run-bys, me spontaneously inputting a front cross when I had no intention to do so, etc. (Note, one of the mistakes involved an unresponded to "here".)

Masters Jumpers #2

This course used the exact same layout as the previous Jumpers course and used the same tripling back area. I'm amazed I didn't get totally befuddled by the whole thing. Anyway, this run was much better than the previous one, with the only mistake involving the far and wrong end of a C-shaped tunnel (he didn't respond to my "here" command). Again, I didn't bother correcting it. His YPS was 5.16, his fastest ever of the runs I've tracked.

So, a theme of today is that Walter apparently thinks "here" means go away from me and take that far obstacle. Or, more likely I'm so preoccupied with the potential offcourse obstacle that my body language points him straight to it and overrides my feeble "here" commands. Well, so there's something to work on.

But, another theme of today was terrific weaving (3x12-weaves and 1x6-weaves), so that's good, especially considering it was quite warm inside the building. All entries were pretty straightforward.

Attention-wise, he was running a bit distracted for his first time in each ring, but not in a sniffy way, so it was a lot more fun than that trial in October where he was so all over the place.

I'm wondering if some of our goofs are due to the faster speed he's going at now - my cues are probably happening way too late which would explain all the "ignored" "here's".

Some stats...
Temp: mainly sunny, 5 degrees outside but a toasty ~18 degrees inside
Pre-trial exercise: none
Classes entered: 5 (Advanced Standard #1 and #2, Advanced Team Relay, Masters Jumpers #1 and #2)
Qs: 1 (Advanced Team Relay)
Time/SCT: 69.75/69 (Adv St #1), 29.48/37 (MJ #2)
YPS: unknown except for MJ #2, 5.16

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Trial - Day 2 (Dream Fields)

After the fiasco of our last trial in October, it was great fun to play agility with a focused and into-the-game Walter this weekend.

Masters Snooker

This was our first try at a Masters Snooker course, where the time limit drops from 60 to 55 seconds and the number of required points increases from 37 to 40. For some reason my nerves were actually pretty calm, unusual for Snooker. It was a fun course consisting solely of jumps, tunnels, and frame. Walter ran well and didn't make me think on my feet. Our opening was #7 jump/tunnel combo, #6 frame, and #6 frame again, and we finished the closing for 49 points, a Q, first out of ten dogs and best run of our division. :-)


In this, our second try at Steeplechase (our first being at the October trial where he was Mr. Scatterbrain), my goal was to push for speed and get an idea about whether or not he has any hope in heck of ever qualifying in Steeplechase. He ran really well except for bobbling the weaves (got the entry but then immediately popped, but completed them on the retry). He was 2 seconds over SCT but had it not been for the bobble at the weaves and/or some crummy handling I did at the opening, he would have come in under time. So, Qs in Steeplechase aren't totally out of our reach. He finished third out of eleven dogs in his jump height.

Masters Jumpers

This was our second try at a Masters Jumpers course and my goal was again to push for speed. Early in the course I wrongly estimated his commitment point to a tunnel and booted it in the other direction for a front cross, so at the last minute he pulled himself off it. Brought him back to do the tunnel just so he'd know yes, I really did mean he should take the tunnel. This goofup messed me up for the next obstacle and I ended up sending him straight to an offcourse jump, but there was really no point in messing with his flow since he had only done what I asked, so we just continued with the rest of the course. Despite it being our first elimination, I was really happy with his speed and focus and left the course a happy camper.

This weekend I discovered how fun it is to run fast and be willing to risk some precision for the sake of speed and flow. Up to now I've just been kind of jogging along, so that's all Walter's been doing too. Going into today I wanted to push myself to run faster and do more front crosses and see how Walter would respond, and he not only picked up the pace but also seemed to have a lot more fun. :-)

Temp: mainly sunny, 5 degrees
Pre-trial exercise: none
Classes entered: 3 (Masters Snooker, Steeplechase, Masters Jumpers)
Qs: 1 (Masters Snooker)
Time/SCT: 48.45/55.00 (Snooker), 46.14/44.00 (Steeplechase), 33.14/35.00 (Jumpers)
YPS: unknown

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Trial (Dream Fields)

Just one class today, but it was worth the drive: Walter *finally* got his first Advanced Standard Q!! Only took us 9 tries to get it, with for the most part one miscellaneous goof on each of the previous Advanced Standard courses keeping the Q out of reach. I almost feel like framing the course map for pete's sake.

It was a good course with a couple of tricky spots, #2 jump to #3 weaves and #7 frame to #8 chute. Most of us were agonizing about how to handle 1-2-3. How far to lead out? Where to lead out to? To pivot or not to pivot? Well, if there's anything good about not having a leadout on one's dog, it's that the lack of options for handling opening sequences limits some of that agonizing. :-) I briefly considered starting with him on my left and rear crossing between 1 and 2 but tossed that idea. So, I started with him on my right. Somewhat to my surprise, he didn't go to the offcourse frame but instead ran over in the general direction of the weaves, and then kept on running toward the middle of the arena. But, Lady Luck was with us as it just so happens that he ran between poles 1 and 2 on his way to check out the middle of the arena. In Advanced, as long as the dog gets the entry it doesn't matter if they pop out; you can bring them back to do it again without incurring any faults. If his excursion into the middle of the arena had taken him a few feet south of the weaves, he would have scored a refusal, or if a few feet north, a fault for incorrect entry.

The rest of the course wasn't a problem, including a good table performance which has eluded him in recent standard runs, and he ended up with first place and best specials run of his division. Thanks to Ms. Luck, Walter was among the 7 dogs to get a Q out of the 36 dogs who ran the course.

Some stats:

Weather: sunny, 2 degrees (perfect weather for a happy Walter)
Pre-trial exercise: a short flyball practice
Classes entered: 1 (Advanced Standard)
Qs: 1
Time/SCT: 53.69/64.00
YPS: 2.98

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Group lesson

The theme of today's lesson was distance handling, including these two sequences. My artistic abilities are limited as is my proficiency in Paint, so kindly use your imagination to picture in these schematics a frame, a tunnel (heh), some weaves, and three jumps.

In exercise 1, I was glad for the opportunity to work on the frame/tunnel discrimation, and thanks to some patterning we did first, Walter was doing "out tunnel" pretty well. (But, later on when we tried the same exercise using the frame instead of the tunnel, he kept going to the darn tunnel.) This being a distance exercise, Walter couldn't find the weave entry to save his life (kept entering on the wrong side), but no surprise there since weave entries have admittedly been a big gap in our training. I'll be bringing out the living room weaves this winter I think.

In exercise 2, the goal was to be able to stay in the spot marked H. After he popped out between poles 5 and 6, the instructor tossed a toy for him a couple of times after the weaves, and then, lo and behold he completed the sequence on two of two attempts, with the instructor throwing a toy for him after the frame. I have to admit I was surprised that he did so well at this exercise and need to trust in his abilities more. He may still be a "baby" in so many ways, but he's no longer a baby agility dog. :-)

Running list (no pun intended) of winter projects:

- circle work with him on the inside
- weave entries

Friday, November 2, 2007

Practice on the flat (soccer field)

Had fun brushing up on some shadow handling at the soccer field. Front crosses, rear crosses, outside circles in both directions, using a toss of his ball as a reward, all was going smooth as cinnamon until I tried inside circles and realized what a huge gap in our training! So there's a winter project, circle work with him on the inside.

The soccer field also provides a good opportunity to practice "go on" and "get out", using the soccer goal post things. He knows "around" so using the two posts I can send him on a "go on", then either "here" or have him continue on a "get out" to go around the second goal post. Lately he's tending to anticipate the "get out" so getting him to come in before the second post is a bit tricky.

Then took Lucy out for her walk at a park and was enjoying the lovely fall day, until I felt it... the unmistakable
s - q - u - i - s - h

of stepping directly over the center of a large pile of dog poo. It wasn't a chihuahua who laid that egg, let me tell you. I'm trying to give the culprit the benefit of the doubt, like maybe it was dark, or maybe they were busy calling 9-1-1 alerting officials to a nearby crime in progress so didn't notice their own crime in progress. Yeah... right.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Practice (BF)

For our last green fee practice before the field closes, we worked on slicing jumps and a bit of 6-weaves. He played the "I don't know how to weave" card when I tried to call him through the weaves but did just fine when I sent him to them instead, so it wasn't that it was too hot for him (about 18 degrees). Hmmm. Will have to work on that next year for sure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Group lesson

We worked on various ways of handling a jump/tunnel sequence. It started with a really tight line between two jumps parallel to each other but a few meters apart, sort of like this but not quite that tight:
--     _
A strong slice over both jumps gave a good line to the #3 tunnel. That was challenging enough on its own since I've hardly practiced slicing jumps, but it was even more challenging since the frame was a nearby offcourse and grabbed at Walter several times.

Also, the instructor borrowed each of our dogs to give us a demo on how people generally tend to ask for wider than necessary wraps out of their dogs on jumps with wings v.s. wingless jumps. It was probably the first time he's been asked to work for someone else and although he came back to me several times, he was quickly catching on that working with the instructor was much more rewarding than coming to me and being ignored.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Practice (KK9)

Set up a rough approximation of a couple of the exercises we did at our lesson on Sunday. I'm not sure what I was doing wrong, but he kept shooting from the first tunnel to the second without checking in with me to see that I was trying to front cross him to come in to the jump.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Practice (BF)

Walter's frame to tunnel turning left away from me was great today. Also, it may be a fluke, but he seems to be getting the "get out". I only used it for turning/veering out to single obstacles -- no discriminations at this point.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

October 1st-14th

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Sunday October 14th 2007 - group lesson at K9 Sense

Woo hoo, back in lessons for the fall! We worked on three different jump/tunnel sequences, focusing on distance while using silent handling. Took a while to get the hang of not saying anything except the release, neither his name nor any obstacle names. This will be a fun session.

Saturday October 13th 2007 - fun match at Red Gate

The course setup provided the opportunity to try out our frame to tunnel thing. The first try didn't quite work, but after that it went great and we did it a few times over the course of the day. At the table on his first run, he hopped off before lying down, but not with any particular apparent purpose as opposed to last Sunday when there was a spot of particular olfactory interest nearby. Mostly I modified the courses to be nice and flowy. He did some nice serpentines and his focus was good all day.

Sunday October 7th 2007 - trial at AARF (Harrowsmith)

Most of us agree that our dogs really don't care about ribbons and Qs and initials after their name, right? But, most dogs do care about treats, and mine are no exception. Well, I think a little bird, or perhaps a deer, rabbit, or some other smelly critter who had visited the agility fields recently must have told Walter at the outset of the day that this club doesn't award treats for Qs or placements. So from Walter's point of view, there was really no point in trying today.

Advanced Standard #1, #2, and #3

Our first two runs of the day (both Advanced Standards) were complete write-offs, riddled with refusals and terrifically inefficient wide lines. I discovered how unfun it is to run agility with a dog whose attention you're desperately trying to hold onto. Or get a hold of for that matter. He even hopped off the table to go directly to investigate a captivating smell at the nearby fence. He was almost, but not quite, as sniffy as that time at the June trial where the dog before us had bled all over the course. Extremely not fun. For Advanced Standard #3, he was starting to come around although I really had to fight for it. He was clean except for the time faults accrued due to a bobble at the weaves (popped at the 11th pole) and a very slow down on the table. So... this brings us to 0 for 8 in Advanced Standard. Sigh.

Masters Jumpers

The same story... had to fight to keep his attention and he ended up with a couple of refusals and a few time faults.


Our first try at Steeplechase! It was fun and the course was what Steeplechase courses are supposed to be like, fast and flowing. One or two refusals and a popout at the 10th weave pole kept us from a Q, but I think he was going fast enough that he may have Qd if he hadn't had those bobbles. Given that it was now past 5:00pm and his day had started at 5:00am with no sleep except for catching a few winks in the car on the way down, his last run was actually not too shabby.

So it was bound to happen sooner or later: our first trial with no Qs. Glad to get it over with I suppose. But man, that sniffing was just awful, and not only in the ring. Even outside the rings on walks and pee breaks his nose was *glued* to the ground. It will be interesting to try this venue again next year and see if the same sniffiness happens again.

On the bright side... Well it's always a good day when neither dog nor handler gets injured, so that's good. Plus, he held all of his dogwalk and teeter contacts nicely, and got all of the weave entries. And, he did some nice starts where I had to set him up at a sharp angle to the first jump because of a tight 90 degree turn to the next obstacle.

The stats:

Facility: AARF Harrowsmith (outside on grass on a farm)
Weather: cloudy and 14 in the morning up to a warm sunny 19 at 3pm
Classes entered: 5 (Advanced Standard #1, #2, and #3, Masters Jumpers, and Steeplechase)
Qs: 0
Time/SCT: not worth tracking since he was so all over the place.

Saturday October 6th 2007 - practice at Red Gate

Dogwalk or frame to tunnel good today, turning left or right away from me. Also worked on same thing but with the turn to the tunnel being towards me.

Next training priority before end of green fee season: Tunnel/frame and tunnel/dogwalk discriminations.

Thursday October 4th 2007 - practice

Dogwalk to tunnel coming along very well with the turn away to the right, and coming along but less well to the left. Frame to tunnel turning away right coming along very well, didn't try frame to tunnel turning away left.

Tuesday October 2nd 2007 - practice

More work on dogwalk to tunnel, turning right. He's really catching on now.

Monday October 1st 2007 - practice

My main training goal for Walter for the rest of the green fee season is to get a nice smooth dogwalk-to-tunnel and frame-to-tunnel so we worked on that today, mostly with the dogwalk, using outside arm. He did fairly well but goofed on a few of them. I have a picture in my mind now of what I want to see, after watching lots of really smooth Masters teams on Sunday. We're not quite there yet. :-)

2007 entries to October 14th

Walter's 2007 agility journal entries up to October 14th are archived here.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

September 2007

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Sunday September 30th 2007 - Dream Fields trial - Day 2

Only one class today, which was our first try at a Masters course.

Masters Jumpers

My goal was again to run him smoothly and maintain his confidence, and I was prepared to sacrifice a potential Q by not calling him hard off an obstacle if that's the way he was headed. Except for a close offcourse at the tire due to a very late turning cue and from which he called off easily, it was a smooth run but I don't like how I was all hunched over in places. He was quite responsive and saved my butt in a few places. The down side is he was slow as molasses, which may be because his run was at about 5:00pm after a day of regular at-home activity and a 30-minute off-leash walk, and it was a humid 18 degrees, plus I was lollygagging along myself, trying to keep track of where we were going. His time was 40.18, and I thought the SCT was either 35 or 40 seconds so I figured we hadn't Qd but might place. I arrived back from putting him away halfway through the ribbon presentations and we weren't called; oh well. Then they called for Jumpers ribbons, so it turns out the previous ribbons were for the previous event. Anyway, it turns out the SCT was actually 42, so took a Q and 2nd place out of 5 Specials 22" dogs. That was a real surprise bonus for me since I was just happy that I didn't forget the course and Walter ran nicely responsive. Aside from trying to remember the course which had a gazillion jumps that all looked the same, the course didn't seem too challenging although I can see that it would be if you have a really fast dog.

Walter's blazingly slow Masters Jumpers run

Saturday September 29th 2007 - Dream Fields trial - Day 1

Only two classes today:

Advanced Standard

Our first go at this course wasn't exactly very good. Incurred a refusal at the third obstacle which was the tunnel of a tunnel/dogwalk discrimination. Then, he somehow missed a weave pole somewhere midway but since he kept on weaving, we weren't gonna Q anyway, and I'm trying to improve overall speed/flow on course, didn't bother restarting them. Then, I think we got yet another refusal at the same tunnel/dogwalk, this time from the dogwalk going to the tunnel. Then, at the chute which was the second last obstacle, the chute fabric came right off the barrel and he got completely tangled up in it. Somehow he remained calm and we extricated him quickly. After they put it back together they encouraged me to put him through the chute by himself a couple of times and I was happy to, and -- what a brave guy -- he was just fine. The judge offered a rerun given the chute fiasco even though our Q had been long since blown :-). I accepted, and our second go was great, no mistakes BUT we were 1.6 seconds over time. This is because it probably took me 5 seconds to go from the dogwalk to the tunnel: because our skill set is very lacking in that department, I made him go forward a few steps and then turn around to the tunnel. So that makes it 0 for 5 Advanced Standards. :-) But, I was very proud of my boy! Word of caution: The obstacle preceding the chute (it was a tunnel) required a 180 turn into the chute. One of the trial officials said afterwards that he believes the reason the fabric came off is because of the 180, many of the dogs were entering the chute at a weird angle, pulling the chute fabric to the side a bit. Walter was the last of 26 dogs on the course and his pass through was the straw that broke the camel's back, so off came the fabric. Just thought I'd share that as an FYI in case it's of any use to anyone. Didn't take video of either of these runs unfortunately. Oh, and he took first place and best Specials run despite the NQ.

Advanced Snooker

A great run, too bad I didn't get it on camera. I think I'm getting more and more nervous with each Snooker run though, which sucks. Despite the nerves, he ran clean for 46 points, a Q, first place and best Specials run. Only one other dog out of all the other dogs who ran the course (20 dogs in total) scored more points, which was 48. It was a very fun course and is shown below. We did red #2, tunnel combination #6, red #4, frame, red #3, frame, and the closing which he completed in time. I was very pleased with this run because for once in Snooker I didn't overmanage my dog, and guess what, he had really nice flow. I bet he enjoyed not having me shout his name in panic every three seconds and being all crouched down over him the whole time. With this Q, he's now at the Masters level in Snooker, Gamblers, and Jumpers, and still at the Advanced level in Team (which we haven't tried yet) and Standard (0 for 5...).

the Snooker course map

He was also signed up for Advanced Gamblers, but since he would have had to move up to Masters Gamblers, which we are SO not ready for, I had pulled him out of it and put Lucy in it in his place. One more run tomorrow, which will be our first try at a Masters course!

The stats:

Facility: Dream Fields (inside on sand/dirt)
Weather: sunny, 11 degrees during Standard, 13 degrees during Snooker
Crating: Since he was fairly happy in his new soft crate at our last trial, I put him in it today. He was NOT liking it at all today, scratching and chewing at it, so put him in the car instead where he is much happier.
Classes entered: 2 (Advanced Standard, Advanced Snooker)
Qs: 1 (Snooker)
Time/SCT: 71.61/70.00 Standard; 57.39/60.00 Snooker
YPS: 2.46 Standard

Sunday September 23rd 2007 - Last K9 Kup of the year

After seeing how sniffy both dogs got towards the end of last weekend's trial, this morning I didn't reduce their breakfast portion at all to see what would happen. Could be a coincidence, but neither dog was sniffy at all today. Today's goals were fewer vocals (only obstacle names for the most part), flow, and speed, but also sticking the teeter and dogwalk contacts.


Started with a few high pitched excited barks while at the start line, but wow, this was one of Walter's best runs in a while. No goofs by either of us, just flow flow flow. Could have been faster though, including the first frame descent. Great job with the 12-weaves.

Walter's steeplechase run


Botched the first attempt at the mini gamble but got it the second try. He did NOT hold 2o2o on the dogwalk so I stopped and said "excuse me" or something lame like that and kept going. At the end gamble, he sent nicely to the tire and tunnel, but came in to me instead of going out to the jump. Little Miss Lucy showed him up on this one!


Another couple of high-pitched barks at the start line. Determined that he would hold 2o2o on the teeter, I issued an exagerated "wait" command right as he was tilting it. From watching the video, this poorly timed cue clearly startled him and messed up his usual teeter flow because he tried to put the brakes on at the wrong time and finished it off very awkwardly, not holding 2o2o at all because of the way the teeter suddenly banged down. At the time I thought he had simply decided not to hold 2o2o, so I made him sit for a second before we continued. Man, this whole videoing one's runs thing is great to get us goofy handlers to see our mistakes. Anyway, by this time of the day it was getting warm and I suspected dangerously close to the Walter-The-Non-Weaving-Dog zone. Sure enough he ran right past the 6-weaves and failed to complete them properly despite a couple of re-attempts. Seeing as he did weave at least some of the poles (kept entering halfway through) I left it at that. This after a beeyootiful go at the 12-weaves earlier in the Steeplechase, which like this course was a straight on entry with me on the right side. Environment Canada says that it was 14 degrees during our successful Steeplechase weaves and 20 degrees during our nonsuccessful Standard weaves. Given how great his weaves were last weekend when it was cool, I'm more and more convinced that it's a temperature thing. Remind me to only sign up for Jumpers and possibly Gamblers at next summer's trials... Anyway, enough digressions, he held 2o2o on the dogwalk very nicely while I led out from it. And, good table from which I led out a bit. No trouble at the chute under the a-frame unlike Lucy who struggled with it.

Our team had some "challenges" today and didn't place in today's events nor in the overall placements, but they also awarded ribbons for the best team in each individual event over the course of the four K9 Kups, and our team took home the ribbon for overall Snooker Champions! :-)

Thursday September 20th 2007 - practice

Tonight's practice was short, fast, and fun. Just a few passes over an easy flowing course focusing on speed and confidence building. Finished with a couple of passes on the teeter where I lag back and he goes ahead.

Sunday September 16th 2007 - Trial - Day 2

Only one class today: Starters Team Relay with his mom's canine housemate, a rescue border collie mix. Walter took the first half of the course because the first obstacle was the 6-weaves and having him start from his box would probably not have gone well because of the wacky angle and the proximity of the other dog's box to the weaves and how crazy wound up he gets at the start... I can't see him heeling with me leashless to a good position; could have ended up in one of his "I have no idea how to weave" days. Anyway, he was feeling good, did the weaves on the first try and did a clean run although he wasn't feeling sharp and we weren't "in the zone". Got a hold of him in the box and watched his partner run, and she did a great job too so Walter and his mom's best buddy went clean for a Q and best run overall (regular and special combined since it was a small field)! That finished off his Games title, so now he's all done with Starters!

Weather: low of 8, high of 13, mostly sunny
Classes entered: 1 (Starter's Team Relay)
Qs: 1 (Starter's Team Relay)
Time/SCT: 57.03/84.00 Team Relay
Title earned: SSGDC

Sunday September 16th 2007 - Trial - Day 1

The first of several trials thoughout this fall. The cool weather is great for the dogs, but not so great for us shivering humans! Happy news today is that Walter was flawless in all of today's weaves which amounted to three sets of 12-weaves.

Advanced Standard #1

I was leery of the 12-weaves being the #1 obstacle, but the weather was brisk so Walter was in weaving mode. He did well throughout the course but incurred a refusal at the table by running past its plane. Got a 2nd place finish. He was quite relaxed before the run and didn't bark at the startline.

Advanced Snooker

Poor Walter. After the first red I sent him to a tunnel, but he got confused and didn't know which obstacle/entry to take. I should have chilled out because he was surrounded by obstacles of choice, but oh no, I just had to go and insist that he do THAT tunnel. Anyway, he recovered from my silliness and had enough time to complete the closing for a total of 45 points, a Q, and 1st place. He did a couple of highpitched barks at the startline.

Advanced Standard #2

Thank goodness Walter is not a superspeedy dog because the opening line was a straight line of four jumps to a tunnel and with no lead out, well, that would be "challenging" with a fast dog. Walter discovered a very interesting smell on the entrance of the second tunnel and paused for what felt like an eternity to investigate it, then got a refusal by having to circle around before entering it. Another refusal later on at the other end of the same tunnel by running past it; I must have given bad directions. On the bright side he got the offside weave entry which I wasn't expecting. 3rd place finish.

Advanced Gamblers

Oh man, thank goodness this was a choose-your-own-adventure class because Walter was so not into this run. He kept going off on tangents, I had to struggle to keep his attention, and my plan went out the window. Didn't even attempt the mini gambles seeing as he was in this kind of mood. But, he got the end gamble! It was two c-shaped tunnels with the gamble line at the bottom, sort of like this: (__) First the bottom of the right tunnel, second the bottom of the left tunnel, then third the top of the right tunnel and you're done. He hesitated at the third tunnel but after a "go tunnel... tunnel go" he decided to give it a try and see if he was right. Good boy and enough points for a Q and 1st place. The bad news is, this being his second Advanced Gamblers Q means he moves up to Masters Gamblers now!!

Advanced Jumpers

He was a little bit nose to the ground in a few places but not to the point of pulling himself off his line. Also he wasn't terrifically fast, but enough for a Q and 3rd place. So now Walter moves up to Masters Jumpers too!!

Note: Getting all those placements sounds good, but the special class was quite small as was our height division, so it's not really that impressive. ;-) My goals for this trial were to be more relaxed and to hopefully get his first Advanced Standard Q. Ok, hard to be relaxed with a goal like that but there you go. I did feel a bit more relaxed, but still lots of room for improvement. We're 0 for 4 in the Advanced Standards, but on the bright side that means there will be more time to get used to these harder courses. Not so for Gamblers and Jumpers which will be interesting as he'll have to move up in all the trials I've already entered him in later this fall. Oh well, it will be fun anyway. :-)

The stats:

Facility: All Dog Sports Club (outdoors on grass)
Weather: windy, low of 10, high of 12, rain in the morning
Classes entered: 5 (Advanced Standard #1, Snooker, Gamblers, Standard #2, Jumpers)
Qs: 3 (Snooker, Gamblers, and Jumpers)
Time/SCT: 58.06/67.00 Standard #1; 49.49/60.00 Snooker; 76.49/72.00 Standard #2; 56.24/60.00 Gamblers; 36.74/41.00 Jumpers
YPS: 2.9 Standard #1; 1.1 Standard #2 (OUCH!); 4.1 Jumpers

Wednesday September 12th 2007 - practice

God his frame to snaked-under-tunnel-on-far-side is still SO not happening! Long ago he did this well but lack of practice I guess so I'll have to go back to basics on that.

Monday September 10th 2007 - practice

Lateral and send distance on the teeter was much improved today! Can now send him ahead from a couple of metres behind to complete the teeter and he's looking confident. Lateral distance up to a few metres. Using a thrown ball to reward after he gets into 2o2o. Tried "get out over" with a jump next to a tunnel using a jump wing to block the tunnel... That one is definitely a work in progress!

Wednesday September 5th 2007 - practice

He's getting a bit more comfortable with me lagging back at the teeter. Outside turn .... well we worked on it, but no real progress made today.

Tuesday September 4th 2007 - private lesson

Seeing how sloppy my handling has been getting, I signed up for a lesson. Really must get back into those! At my request we worked on front and rear crosses, primarily over jumps, and I got some tips on training outside turns. The instructor runs her dog mostly silently, saving vocals for certain situations like call-offs and praise. I would definitely like to run more quietly, but I think I'll probably keep saying obstacle names. For the outside turn thing if it's a 180 type of turn, the instructor confirmed the way I was headed, which is that it's a rear cross, just with more distance between you and the dog, so you just use the same rear cross cue. If it's a temporary turn away and then continuing on in the same direction, it's not a rear cross, so use the inside hand.

Monday September 3rd 2007 - practice

Worked more on "go" with a straight line of jumps/tire. Worked more on distance (lateral and the other kind, whateve it's called?) at the teeter. It's writ clear as day on his face that he lacks confidence if I lag behind too far so this will need to be done gradually. Today we worked up to me being about 3 meters to the side and no further than the pivot. Worked on shoulder pull a bit.

Friday, August 31, 2007

August 2007

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Thursday August 30th 2007 - club practice

Today was Walter's first time participating in the club practice. I'm finding that I rely a lot on my voice to get Walter to change direction rather than trusting more in body language. Must work on this! Started Walter's "running" a-frame contact by releasing early. He's really starting to get "go" now, going ahead over the obstacles and looking for the toy.

Sunday August 26th 2007 - K9 Kup #3

Our team didn't take any ribbons home today, but we did put in some good runs and good tries.


On the easy, modestly spaced pinwheel, he refused the middle jump by passing it on the near side -- caught me way off guard with that move! Success on the first attempt at the soft-entry 6-weaves. The video showed he actually wagged his tail a few times at the table! :-) He held all the contacts but I must say watching the video, I really don't like the shoulder impact on the a-frame...


For the first time outside of a class setting, I got The Dreaded Snooker Whistle! And it was totally, completely my fault -- I lost track of where we were in the opening and sent him to the obstacle that follows in the closing. The moment he committed to it I realized the tragic error of my ways, and TWEET that was it for us. :-)


Tried the 6-weaves in the opening but he ran past them and I didn't bother retrying since by now it was 23 degrees and humid, perfect let's-run-past-the-weaves-and-pretend-we-don't-know-how-to-do-them weather according to Walter. Good job on the rest though including the mini-gamble and end-gamble.

A new thing is that he was yappy at the start line on the second and third runs even though I'm still not leading out. Not sure if I should see this barking as a good thing (he's so excited to start?) or not (he's going to start self-releasing?)..... :-/

Lessons learned: Today's video shows that my handling is really going to the pits so I need to get back into lessons! And, I think I've decided to change Walter's a-frame to a running contact. The shoulder stress is not insignificant especially considering his top-heavy build, and while he could theoretically be trained to use his haunches more on the descent I'm not convinced that it would stick without a lot of training which I'm just not into doing at this point. His teeter and dogwalk will remain 2o2o.

Monday August 20th 2007 - practice

Wow, I have really been neglecting practicing/reinforcing contacts over the last few months and it's really showing. He didn't hold 2o2o about 50% of the time today but I wonder if it's partly because I was pushing distance. "Get out" in the pinwheel is coming along.

Friday August 17th 2007 - practice

More work on the outside turn, this time using two jumps. Using "get out over" for the far jump in a pinwheel. Worked on proofing contacts by using more lateral distance and non-release words. This cooler weather suits him as he was peppy and playful.

Monday August 13th 2007 - practice

Working towards an independent dogwalk; put it at half height with toy at end. Got too hot to do much more than that.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

July 2007

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Tuesday July 24th 2007 - semi-private lesson

It was Walter's first time at this facility doing agility and we had a gamble-skills-oriented lesson which was a lot of fun and really useful. She gave us a number of exercises to work on, and she made an interesting point, which is that a dog should be able to do gamble work without needing momentum to launch them into it. In other words, if your dog can do gamble exercises starting from a stay, then they have well-developed distance skills. Despite the heat he was well-motivated throughout the lesson, especially when we brought out the squeaky ball and flying squirrel!

Thursday July 19th 2007 - Advanced Trial

A good evening at Walter's and my first ever Advanced trial! We were entered in all classes: Standard 1 and 2, Jumpers, and Gamblers. The night got off to a late start due to a thunderstorm passing through, and the rain stuck around for the Standards after which the sky cleared. I really liked the courses which sure were a lot more interesting than those at the Starters level, but not super-hard either.

Standard #1

Given the weave "problems" Walter's been having lately, going into the trial I was 95% sure I'd make him skip the weaves. But, the rain seemed to have kept him cool and fresh so at the last minute (ie while he was approaching the jump that preceded the weaves!), I decided to heck with it and let him do them since calling him off would really interrupt his flow. He did the 12-weaves clean on the first try!!! Our dogwalk to snaked under tunnel was really messy but somehow we didn't incur a refusal. He crept up on his table down causing the countdown to restart, but I wouldn't want to lie down on a wet table either. Towards the end, he took the offcourse frame which I had thought he had sucked over to, but a keen observer noted that my body language was actually sending him straight to the frame. Silly mistake -- I should have taken special precautions since he's already told me several times that he loves frames! That offcourse gave us some faults for a NQ and we ended up with third place.

Standard #2

Wow, he didn't hold the dogwalk contact at all and seemed to have caught a scent. While I was trying to get his attention back and set him up for the weaves which followed right after, he hopped back on the down contact which gave us our only faults of that run. I was thrilled that he did the 12-weaves clean on the first try again! The run was good enough for first, but no Q to accompany it.


My handling plan at the pinwheel section got messed up, but Walter was very forgiving and managed to go through clean for a Q, first place and best Specials run for a cow thing tug prize!


Walter contributed his own recommendation to our opening which messed me up and I was sure we hadn't gotten enough points, but I was really glad that he did the gamble! The gamble was said to be easy for an Advanced gamble: frame parallel to gamble line, turn toward handler into snaked under tunnel, then jump following the tunnel exit at the max lateral distance. HOWEVER, his contacts were HORRIBLE. Sure he always hit the yellow, but I don't think he held a single 2o2o, on either the teeter or dogwalk in the opening nor the frame in the closing. I could understand the frame in the closing since I haven't proofed it much with distance, and I guess I'll "blame it on the rain" for the rest of the blown 2o2os... but I believe a fun match contact proofing session is in order! Somehow we ended up with enough points in the opening for a Q plus first place and best of Specials for another tug prize.

All in all, a good night that I really wasn't expecting much from other than finding out what Advanced courses are like and having fun with my dog. Note to self: During both weaves, I said nothing at all while he was weaving, neither a "yes" for entering nor any "good boys" so maybe I just need to shut it while he weaves. Gonna give him a nice break from agility unless we get a bout of cool weather and look forward to trialing some more in the fall.


Facility: All Dog Sports Club (outdoors on grass)
Weather: Thunderstorm preceded event, then rain during both standards and dry for last two classes; 20 degrees according to Environment Canada but it felt quite a bit cooler than that
Pre-event exercise: 20 minutes long-leash at BP
Crating: cool enough for the car -- seems happier staying in the car than in his xpen
Classes entered: 4 (Advanced Standard 1 and 2, Jumpers, and Gamblers)
Qs: 2 (Advanced Jumpers and Gamblers)
Time/SCT: 78.38/69.00 Standard #1; 72.70/70.00 Standard #2; 33.84/42.00 Jumpers; 56.06/60.00 Gamblers
YPS: unknown (forgot to write down yardage)
Difficulties: Deteriorating 2o2o

Tuesday July 17th 2007 - practice

Short practice using a super duper treat to reward the weave-a-matics. Trying to build a really positive association with the weaves.

Sunday July 15th 2007 - K9 Kup #2

Well, that feeling of being totally in sync with one's dog eluded me today in Walter's runs, but, that said, it wasn't *that* bad. I think I'm getting worried that the weaves are becoming an "issue" (more on that below) which is pushing aside in my mind the stuff he's doing well.


He was SO not feeling those 6-weaves today. Just like in the first run of the day at our weekend trial in June, he would have nothing to do with the weaves even after a few attempts, so we got an Incomplete straight off the bat. Very clumsy handling from weaves to frame, yuck! Watching his table, such a difference from Lucy, there's NO tail wag happening at all! How boring. Refusal at the tire, not sure why.


Refusal -- maybe a "go" should have been added to my over command or I should have crossed differently? But, narrow escape from a backjump there!! :-)


Stangely, he forgot (?) to pause at the frame contact and I continued right away anyway!! ARGH!!!!!!! I hope hope hope I will not let myself do that again... guess I succumbed to the pressure of this being a team thing and wanting us all to score/place as well as possible. Bad handler, bad bad bad!! But, he held 2o2o at the last obstacle, the teeter, so that's good. Given the relatively warm weather (20 degrees) and his nonweaving weave episode earlier on, I opted to not even try the 12-weaves which were the #7 obstacle.

Weave Issue Developing? Ok, here's the situation. In practice and at events lately, Walter has not been weaving well, either popping or just not doing them at all. Unlike Lucy (who is a two-footed hop weaver) and many other dogs, Walter is not a dog who can do the weaves halfheartedly. Maybe it has to do with his being a single-strided weaver, but he has to really be into it right from the start, otherwise the weaves just don't happen. Warm weather really contributes to his weaving halfheartedness. His recent weaving performance reminds me of his lackluster attitude doing boxwork at flyball, NOT good. To address this, I will (a) go back to the weave-a-matics at practice until his speed, drive, and confidence are back up, and (b) not do fixed weaves (not even the 6-weaves) until he's driving well and staying in the wams. This means we will bypass the weaves in all events at our first Advanced trial later this week. In a way, this is kind of cool because it means there's no hope of a Q in the standards (and possibly Gamblers... do they put weaves in the gamble at the Advanced level?) so it will be a no-pressure opportunity to get exposure to the sorts of things one might see in Advanced-level courses and more importantly to focus on just getting Walter to have more fun! :-)

Friday July 13th 2007 - practice

12-weaves: The goal was to get a clean pass as part of a sequence in the hopes that the excitement of running a sequence would pump him up enough to do a clean pass, but it didn't quite work. He kept running past or popping, so as soon as he did one good pass it was party time and no more weaves for the day.

"get out": Following the post on Bud Houston's blog, today Walter started his "get out" training with two jumps and a tunnel. He did well until I rushed things and put a third jump as a decoy and then he wanted to take the jump. Why oh why is it always so tempting to push? :-)

Tuesday July 3rd 2007 - practice

Well, today's plan didn't exactly go quite according to plan. He hasn't done any weaves since the last trial, so today's plan was to simply run him through the 12 weaves 3, maybe 4 times MAX and really jackpot for that since he's tended to pop at the last couple of trials, and spend the rest of the time playing fetch/tug. The first goofup was I forgot to bring the super-duper treats. Oh well, I still had some other delicious treats and figured I'd just give him even more of them. Well, on the first pass he popped between poles 9 and 10. Hmmm. Again, same thing on the second pass. On the third pass he popped even earlier. Ok, Houston we have a problem, so I removed half of the weaves; now he should definitely be able to do it. Nope. Popped between poles 3 and 4, just like at our last trial. I always mark the entry with "yes" and it seemed today he was pulling out after I said it, but now that I think of it he didn't pull out so early in the 12-weaves so I don't think that's it. Funny how in both the 6- and 12-weaves he popped on the left side between the 3rd and 4th last poles. Am I somehow unknowingly pulling him off? Anyway, he did do one good pass on the 6-weaves so after playing I put him away to work with Lucy. Brought him out for one more exercise which was a run on a nice easy course with the 6-weaves in a different part of the field halfway through the course. This time he did it right on the first try, yay! Resisted the urge to try it "just one more time" and instead ended the session with a fun game of fetch the flying squirrel.

Sunday July 1st 2007 - practice

  • frame to tunnel: getting a bit better.

  • serps and threadles: much better than last time we tried them.

  • started work on "get out".

  • getting Walter's attention off the frame when it was in his face as a potential next obstacle: at first he wanted to take the frame but then he clued in that that wasn't necessarily what we were doing.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

June 2007

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Friday June 29th 2007 - practice

After a week's break from agility we snuck in a quick practice before the skies opened up. Experimented with distance today. Lateral distance at the contacts he handled well except for sometimes not holding 2o2o. Going from snaked-under L-shaped tunnel to the frame by turning towards me went fairly well. Definitely need to work on turning away from me to go into the tunnel; even with reduced distance was rough. A little bit of weave entry work with a 2x2 using thrown ball as reward.

Thursday June 21st 2007 - Evening Starters mini-trial

Walter hung out in his xpen while I had a front row seat volunteering as ring crew for the two standards which was fun. Then, it was time to play!

First, Team Relay which was our first ever try at it. Our partner was having tire issues that night so I was happy to take the second half which had the tire. We had both agreed that this was to be a no-stress affair (well in theory anyway - easier said than done!!) since neither of us wanted to stress ourselves out. Walter waited patiently while our partner ran, and I saw that they had gotten a fault, so the supposed-to-be-nonexistant-but-definitely-existant-self-imposed-pressure was off! Then off we went. From looking at the course map and later walking the course I had a feeling Walter would be sucked over to the frame, just wasn't sure if it would be before or after the tire. Well, lo and behold that's exactly what happened, straight to the frame after doing the tire even though I was on his left. After backjumping 4, we then got back on track until the 6-weaves. I had front crossed after the tunnel because he gets the entries better when I'm on the left, and he got the easy head-on entry, BUT popped halfway through!! and there were only SIX weaves! and the weather was nice and cool! What the!! I really should have taken him back to do them again, but I thought I'd give the hand-leading thing a try since we practiced it a little bit yesterday, and although it worked, there was no satisfaction in it and I felt like we had cheated! :-( Anyway, a couple of rear crosses to finish it off. So, we were a perfect match to our partner, each of us getting faults which is very nice since this way neither of us feels we let the other down. :-)

Then it was Snooker. Although he got his Snooker Q last weekend, I had already registered for this trial and since it was a Starters-only trial there was no moving up so we ran it anyway. Although we didn't technically need it, I was really hoping to get this Q too because of the two-judge rule since all our other games Qs were under one judge so this way it doesn't matter who the judge is for future team relays (if I understand the rules correctly). Anyway, it was a pretty nice easy course with three of the reds huddled close to the #7 teeter. We took the leftmost red first since the nice open space after it gave me time to collect Walter and inform him that this was not going to be a go-go-go-at-whatever-obstacle-is-in-your-face sort of run. So, leftmost red, teeter, middle red, teeter, angled red, teeter, then around to the closing sequence which we managed to complete before the whistle. I can't believe I'm saying this, but ok maybe Snooker *is* fun, if only I could learn to relax a bit and not overmanage every move he makes in this crazy game! I heard the judge chuckle at me while we were running; must be pretty entertaining watching all the handlers running around panicking at every step their dog takes. Heh! A Q and best specials run (out of about 5 dogs) (lovely treat pouch prize).

Walter will have a break from agility for the next little while to keep him from turning sour given the rash of agility events lately!


Facility: All Dog Sports Club (outdoors on grass)
Weather: Rain and distant thunderstorm but cleared in time for our runs; 16 degrees
Pre-event exercise: 30 minutes long-leash at BP
Classes entered: 2 (Starter's Team Relay/Snooker)
Qs: 1 (Starter's Snooker)
YPS: not applicable
Time/SCT: 62.27/60.00 in Snooker
Difficulties: Sucked in by frame; popped the 6-weaves

Sunday June 17th 2007 - K9 Kup #1

Many thanks to one of our teammates for these great action photos!

Here's the downed bar in Standard, fractions of a second before it came down.

Normally he gets lots of air...

... too much air!

Our team took 2nd place in Steeplechase!

Walter's first K9 Kup event! K9 Kup is a team-based event with three classes per day (Standard + two games) geared to dogs who are not yet trialing, run just like an official trial except it's not sanctioned and refusals are never faulted. All dogs run the same Starters-level courses, but titled dogs receive a handicap. Walter seemed to have no recollection of last Sunday's blood episode thank goodness!

Jumpers was first. He rear crossed smoothly between 4/5 and 13/14 since I wasn't sure I could get in position for the front cross. It was a clean run.

Next was Standard. Starting together off the startline as usual, I then sent him to the tunnel then booted it to change sides between 3 and 4, which worked. Not to be outdone be Lucy, he got the 6-weaves on the first try, and held his contacts while I led out from them. The surprise was that he jumped off the table before lying down, and then when he hopped back on took his sweet time to down. How generous of him to keep me on my toes! ;-) And for the first time in a LONG time he dropped a bar, at the second last jump (see photo).

Steeplechase: Although I wasn't sure how it would go, a rear cross between jump 2 and tunnel 3 worked fairly well. Refusal at jump 7 for whatever reason, might have gotten distracted by activity outside the ring; took him around to do it again, then the 12-weaves. He popped at the second last pole (argh!) and in the span of half a second I debated if I should just not push the matter and move on, or take him back to the start of the weaves to try again. Did the latter and luckily for me, a clean pass that time since I wouldn't have wanted to push again and risk demotivating him since he's not one of those weave-crazy dogs. Having taught him to weave with the hands-off weave-a-matics method, a skill I've been thinking I maybe should teach is to be able to target my hand through the last 2 or 3 weaves so that when he does pop near the end of the poles, we don't have to go all the way back to the start again. I'm just not sure if this is a good thing to teach or not, teaching him to enter at something other than the first pole AND on the wrong side if I'm on the left... hopefully it's not something we'd have to do often, but it would be nice to have that in the backpocket. Here's the video, starting a couple of seconds in. The good thing about being the last dog of the day is that everyone gives a really enthusiastic "yay" at the end since it means we all get to go home soon. :-D

Steeplechase (Starter's version!)

The bonus of the day was that our K9 Kup team won 2nd place ribbons for Steeplechase!

Sunday June 10th 2007 - Trial at ADSC - Day 2

Another gorgeous day weather-wise, and just two more classes for us.

The first class was Standard #3 which started off as a complete and utter disaster but I learned that Walter is part bloodhound or a wannabe search-and-rescue-dog! ;-) The poor dog running a couple of spots before us ripped a toenail but no one realized it until afterward when the next person saw blood on the table. So Walter and I were delayed while they cleaned the table, no big deal. So we started our run, first the tire, then the dogwalk, all was fine... until while in 2o2o at the dogwalk he picked up on the smell of the blood and that was that. Managed to get him to do a few more obstacles (including many offcourses) but he could focus on nothing but the blood (some of which I noticed on the teeter and frame) so I pulled him, no sense rehearsing him ignoring me. Turns out the dog had ripped his toenail on the second obstacle (dogwalk) so the blood was all over the course. The judge kindly offered to let us rerun after they cleaned the blood off the teeter, frame, and tunnels (thanks to a couple of young kids who were flexible enough to get in there!). With the blood being all over the field on the grass I wasn't expecting much but gave it a go. This time I booted it to keep Walter moving and somehow, after resorting to clapping to get his attention a few times, we sqeaked through clean for a Q! This being his third Standard Q under two different judges, what started as an awful run ended up earning him his first ever title: Special Agility Dog of Canada! (SADC, pity about the acronym!) There were 12 weaves on this course and on his good run he got the entry and didn't pop although he looked a little bit hesitant while weaving... but I was so glad/relieved he did them clean the first try since he probably would have stressed out and gone back to the blood if I had had to ask him to retry and retry and retry the weaves. Another first place and best of the specials (out of 6 dogs) so another tug toy prize, yay! Anyway, a lesson learned and although I wasn't in the least upset with Walter for his blood-sniffing, I should do some proofing against distractions on course but I don't know that anything could be quite as distracting as the smell of fresh blood!!

Last but not least was Gamblers. It was held in the other, non-bloody ring, but Walter seemed to be wondering if something had been wounded in this ring as well as he was a little bit nose to the ground but only for the first few obstacles. He changed our plan on the fly at a few places, but being Gambler's and the end of a long weekend I really didn't care. Didn't attempt the 12-weaves but did the mini gamble twice and the end gamble for a total of 26*2=52 points, a Q (squeaked in at 57.09!), first place and best of specials (out of only 3 dogs!! heh) for which the prize was a nifty t-shirt.

So, as fun as all these Qs have been, it means we now have to -- I mean, get to -- move up to Advanced in everything but team relay. I won't enter him in any classes involving weaves (especially now that it will be mostly all 12-weaves) until the fall when the weather is cooler which means the only ones we might try at evening summer trials are Jumpers and possibly Gamblers after we brush up (well, ok we need a lot more than just "brushing up"!) on distance skills.

Here are the stats of the day:

Facility: All Dog Sports Club (outdoors on grass)
Weather: 22 degrees and sunny
Pre-event exercise: none except for a bit of long-leash on-site
Classes entered: 2 (Starter's Standard #3/Gamblers)
Qs: 2 (Starter's Standard #3/Gamblers)
YPS: 2.73 Standard #3
Time/SCT: 55.66/68.00 Standard #3; 57.09/60.00 Gamblers
Difficulties: Distracted big-time by blood!
Title earned: SADC

Moving up to the much more challenging Advanced, Qs and placements will be fewer and farther between but I'm quite sure Walter won't miss these silly brag photo shoots!

Saturday June 9th 2007 - Trial at ADSC - Day 1 (Walter's (and my) second trial)

A fun and successful first day of our first ever two-day trial. All events were at the Starter's level.

First up was Standard #1, which was where we had our only problem of the day: He kept running past the 6-weaves and would only weave the last 2 or 3 poles. Just like our last trial (where he didn't have any problems), the weaves followed the table with a nice head-on approach, but he just was not feeling that set of weaves today! Possible explanations for this are that the base was an H shape which he's not used to or that being his first run of the day in a brand new place he hadn't quite found his comfort level. Also, in general his concentration for that run was not at 100%... e.g. he was looking around rather than at me while holding 2o2o. But, no flow problems other than the weaves.

Next was Snooker and there were no weaves in this course. I planned the course for flow rather than points and the opening wasn't pretty (I can still hear my frantic voice making sure he didn't take a red instead of an obstacle of choice or vice versa), but 37 points got him his Q! and a third place finish in our division (out of 5 dogs) although they mistakenly gave us the 2nd place ribbon. When I noticed this and went back to return it for a 3rd place ribbon they said not to worry about it. I would rather have our actual third place ribbon, but oh well!

Jumpers was next and it felt nice and smooth with one exception at the chute where he came darn close to a refusal by nearly running past it but realized at the last minute that yes I really did mean *that* chute. A Q and a first place ribbon followed, as well as a brand new tug toy as a prize for the best Specials run! (out of 7 dogs) My pathetic ancient digital camera doesn't have zoom so you can't see too much, but here's our Jumpers run anyway, highlighting if nothing else my clumsy front cross after the tunnel (not sure how he kept that bar up):

Starters Jumpers - best Specials run

Finally was Standard #2. At this point it was quite warm and getting on in the day so I anticipated he might have issues at the 6-weaves again, but no! The weaves were led into from a jump at a slight angle that required a slight wrap and he nailed the entry and didn't pop, yay! The base of these weaves were the usual shape that we train on in case that made any difference. Anyway, another Q and first place ribbon and another brand new tug toy for the best Specials run! (out of 10 dogs). Here's the video, highlighting my crouched over starting position and late dogwalk and teeter cues. I really should stop babysitting his contacts and table and lead out before releasing him from them.

Starters Standard #2 - best Specials run

Walter received a number of compliments from people including strangers and the judge! They said he ran smoothly with focus and was fast (ok, not FAST fast, but fast enough!). I must admit, he is a wonderful dog to run which makes learning the sport of agility that much more fun and easy for me. Some of his German Shepherd traits I'm not crazy about, but his good work ethic sure is a nice one.

In summary, no sniffies/zoomies, and no problems with starting off the line together. I'm sure when we move up to advanced, competing against other fast and experienced dogs our lack of a lead out will be a more significant disadvantage placement-wise, but for now it hasn't kept us out of the ribbons so I'll enjoy it while it lasts! Tomorrow, just two more runs: Standard #3 and Gamblers.

Here are the stats of the day:

Facility: All Dog Sports Club (outdoors on grass)
Weather: from 19 up to 22 degrees and sunny
Pre-event exercise: 15 minutes long-leash in neighbourhood then 30 minutes long-leash at BP
Crating: x-pen between rings, he was quiet most of the time
Warm-up jumps: Didn't do the jumps, did other exercises instead
Classes entered: 4 (Starter's Standard #1/Snooker/Jumpers/Standard #2)
Qs: 3 (Starter's Snooker/Jumpers/Standard #2)
YPS: 1.9 in Standard #1 (darn weave refusals); 4.98 in Jumpers; 3.03 in Standard #2
Time/SCT: 72.57/66.00 Standard #1; 51.23/60.00 Snooker; 29.49/47.00 Jumpers; 51.80/73.00 Standard #2
Difficulties: 6-weaves in Standard #1, but fine in Standard #2

And the brags just wouldn't be complete without a photo:

(digitally fudged the 2nd place Snooker ribbon for a 3rd place ribbon which is what we should have gotten!)

Wednesday June 6th 2007 - practice

12-weaves - great! all but one of the 5 or so tries were clean. The goofed up one was where he didn't check his speed in time so couldn't wrap the second pole. Timing from the video shows first to last pole takes between 3.5-4.0 seconds. Hmm, I don't think he'll be turning in times like that at flyball! ;-)

"mark" starts - the problem is although it looks from my vantage that he's looking at the object I'm pointing him to, he isn't necessarily. Like today when I was pointing him to a jump in front of us, he went around it to go to the weaves which we had just been practicing.

threadles and serpentines - have gotten quite rusty, need to practice more often.

Looking forward to the trial coming up this weekend but a bit nervous about the starts since if we're not on the same page then it will not be too good!

Saturday June 2nd 2007 - practice

12-weaves - missed entries often tonight but no popping

dogwalk to tunnel - improving

"mark" starts - if I was pointing to the jump ahead of us with Walter on my left and there was a jump 90d to Walter's left he sometimes wanted to take the wrong jump.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

May 2007

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Sunday May 27th 2007 - Fun Match

For some inexplicable reason I tried leading out on his first run of the day. After I got that goofiness out of my system the rest of our runs started off the line together using "mark" and worked well though it was hard to run fast enough in my big clunky rainboots. He did fine with the table and the 6-weaves in the standard (didn't include the 12-weaves in the gambler's) and we bypassed the dogwalk since it was raining. He did very well with the mini-gamble and less well with the main gamble which I will blame on me not giving him a very good lead into it.

Friday May 11th 2007 - practice (KK9)

I've decided to take a different approach to practice time this year, which is to choose one or two specific skills or exercises to work on in a session and have a plan that targets them instead of goofing around more or less aimlessly, as much fun as that is. This will keep the practice sessions short and therefore hopefully prevent the doggy boredom factor from arising. Anyway, today was Walter's first time at a new practice field. Today's plan was to expose him to the equipment and do some of the exercises in Go the Distance week 2. His first time on the table he did the sniffy thing, so I silently took him by the collar and removed him, then sent him again and this time he downed promptly. No problem on the dogwalk, and he held the contacts well when I ran past him. Didn't try the teeter because the wind was tipping it up and down. Good job with the 6-weaves on all three attempts. For the distance work, I was too lazy to set up the tunnel or chute so we did a pinwheel as well as sending over jump to table. It's so fun working with Walter because he "gets" my cues... I know Lucy will get there too but she's got a ways yet. He did some excellent stays while I moved things around.

Monday, April 30, 2007

April 2007

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Saturday April 28th 2007 - Fun Match (Dogz at Sunset Farms riding stables, indoors on horse-pooped-on sand)

The good:

  • he held every contact even though I ran a couple of metres past them

  • no problems with the 12-weaves except for the first run when he popped at the second last pole (the entries were easy, basically head-on). rewarded with game of tug.

  • no signs of nervousness on the dogwalk when it followed the snaked-under tunnel although I stepped a meter or two past the tunnel and gave him a treat before turning him around onto the dogwalk

  • nice flow throughout except for the opening of the first two runs and a couple of horse-poop-sniffing moments

  • some nice rear crosses over jumps

  • he crated well in Lucy's crate, in the main area adjacent to the ring. A sheet was draped over to block his view and keep him quiet. Time to get a good-sized soft crate for him which will make set-up and take-down a lot easier.

The not-so-good/needs-more-work:

  • the first two starts Walter decided to make up his own opening, must have thought I was pointing to the wrong jump. So I used a target after the first jump and by the third and fourth runs he was back on track.

  • a couple of horse-poop-investigating moments but nothing too bad.

The bizarre:

  • once at a tunnel snaked under the frame, he turned around midway in the tunnel and came back out the entry. He never does that; best I can figure is he paused to sniff some interesting scent inside the tunnel, then got confused about which way was which and chose the wrong way.

Monday April 9th 2007 - practice

Following on something Lucy and I are learning in obedience, Walter is learning "mark" which will be incorporated into our start line. So, rather than us running off the start with him looking at me and then having to look around to find the first obstacle, he'll already be looking ahead to it. This should reduce the chance of a dropped bar or worse, a collision with the first obstacle! Our home-made jump is coming in handy for this. Also, a few days ago started to teach "turn", the opposite of "around", using a music stand in the living room, and he's got it down now. Next steps will be to do both "turn" and "around" in the same session and to reduce the size of the prop, say to a can of tomato soup! Not strictly agility-related but I may try using this as one way of working on challenging weave entries... I read an article about it somewhere, but darned if I can find it now...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

March 2007

(Backfilled in October 2009 due to impending closure of Geocities)

Saturday March 24th 2007 - Walter's and my first ever trial! (Dream Fields)

Back in the middle of February I took the plunge and decided to sign Walter up for his/our first ever trial! I had been really happy (for the most part!) with how he had been running in the course we were taking at the time, and thought since I was going to be driving all the way there to volunteer anyway, why not bring Walter and give it a go in a class or two. Also, I was attracted by Jumper's being the very first class which is a nice low-stress event, no having to make up a course or "worry" about weaves, contacts, or tables so a good way to ease into the whole trial thing. Then I thought, well, since I'm going to sign up for Jumper's, why not just give Standard a try too, which was the class right after anyway, so we entered those two classes. After submitting our entry, some attention problems cropped up, and then due to his benign lump removal we had some unexpected down time. So, going into the trial I wasn't quite sure how it would all pan out! Oh, and I made the decision once and for all to run him in Specials. He doesn't have the best build in the world, being pretty deep-chested/top-heavy, so I decided it was not worth putting his front end through the extra stress of higher/wider jumps and steeper frame. Ego be darned!

Well, I'm very happy to report that our first trial was a success! My goals were (a) to handle consistently with what we've been doing in practice, yet leaning on the conservative side to prevent refusals and therefore keep everything as happy and positive as possible, and (b) to maintain Walter's attention for the duration of the runs. Both goals were met, with some bonuses too!

Our day started with the measurement. I had temporarily taken apart my pvc jump and constructed a wannabe-wicket with it, getting Walter used to it over the last 3 or 4 weeks so that he wouldn't be too nervous about being measured. The measuring took place in a crowded little room and it turned out they were using a different type of measuring device, but while he was a little nervous there was no problem getting the job done. Walter measured in at 24", so he doesn't have to be measured again.

We were in the first and second classes of the day, starting with Starter's Jumpers. Our start was him sitting, looking at me, then off we went, and the run went extremely smoothly until the very last jump which he ran around the far side of, incurring a non-completion penalty of 20 faults. Looking at the course map at home I realized that for some reason I had never noticed the angled line between the last two jumps. Considering he tends to go around the far side of jumps if I run too close the standard, I can totally see why he ran round that last jump. Lesson learned, look at/walk the course *carefully*! There were no other refusals, no obstacle issues, no sniffing, no being nervous of the judge or ring crew; the run felt great! I was very, very happy with how it went. He ran the course in 24.99 seconds and had a YPS of 4.72. I played around with him a bit afterwards but since we were the second last on course I thought that the Standard walkthrough would be starting soon so I rushed somewhat in putting him back in the car. Then I realized the course had yet to be built, so there was actually lots of time to spend with him afterwards, which I'll remember for next time.

Next was Starter's Standard. The most bizarre thing happened at the table! Going into the run I was wondering if Walter might notice the judge at the table and become nervous, but no! With the judge standing only a couple of meters away, he lay down promptly and stared directly at... my navel! The whole entire time that the electronic count thing was counting down, his gaze was glued to my stomach, very strange indeed! So, no problems there, off to the 6-weaves which he nailed on the first go, yay! I had planned to be on the left side of the weaves but somehow ended up on the right. Front cross at the tunnel, then to the chute and the last two jumps and I made darn sure to handle them carefully so as not to mess up the ending this time. We got our first Q!! He ran the course in 53.26 seconds with a YPS of 2.74. It was good enough for first place in our height division (22"/16" combined, in which a total of only four dogs ran!) so we got a nice shiny red ribbon, and a bonus: it was the best run of the Special division (total of 7 dogs, ah the joy of small trials!) so we also got a little squeaky duck as a prize. Like the Jumpers, the run felt terrific with no sniffies, refusals, obstacle issues, etc, and contacts were fine.

Here are the courses we ran:

Here he is with all his accoutrements (it's not often that we'll take a first place so may as well enjoy it!):

In closing, I'm glad we gave it a go but I'm also glad we entered only two classes, a nice "lite" way of easing into the trial thing. I deliberately haven't/won't be entering the next several trials because I really just wanted to get my feet wet at this point and want to get in some more practice and skills improvement first. I'll be the first to admit that the courses weren't very hard, especially being used to nested courses at fun matches where there seem to be a lot more off-course potential and decoy obstacles, but that made it all the more an enjoyable introduction to trialing since when we make it into Advanced it will be a lot more challenging. Also, in a bizarre way, I'm kind of glad that we didn't Q in Jumpers. Jumpers is really fun, and a Q would mean having to move up to Advanced which means we wouln't get to do Jumpers again in a while since I'm not going to make Walter hang around a full day.

Here are the stats of the day:

Facility: Dreamfields arena (sand)
Temperature: 4 degrees
Pre-event exercise: One hour off-leash at BP
Crating: In the car
Warm-up jumps: Didn't do the jumps, just heeled around them
Classes entered: 2 (Starter's Jumpers, Starter's Standard #1)
Qs: 1 (Starter's Standard #1)
YPS: 4.72 in Jumpers, 2.74 in Standard
Time/SCT: 24.99/37.00 Jumpers, 53.26/68.88 Standard
Difficulties: Last jump refusal in Jumpers (handler error)

Saturday March 19th - practice at Red Gate

no weaves for Walter, but the stitches are nearly healed now. Didn't work on anything specific today, just made a point of having fun and whipping out a super-duper special treat every now and then.

Saturday March 10th - Fun match (Red Gate)

The courses today were standard and steeplechase. Like last night, I forbade Walter from weaving due to his stitches. We had someone "judge" us for every run so that Walter remembers to expect to see someone out there, which went just fine. The start for every run was Walter sitting attentively at my side, "okay", and off we went. I was surprised at how smoothly it worked, and it was REALLY really nice to have stress-free starts to the runs. My plan is to start runs like this for some time and very gradually work in a step to the side, a step to the front, a couple of steps, and so on, ideally ending up with a decent leadout. But if that doesn't happen, then I am happy to live with us starting together! The first two runs (starter's and advanced standard) Walter continued his recent habit of sniffing (I think it's actual scent sniffing rather than stress sniffing, but I could be wrong) and just not being very attentive. Of note, he was leery about the dogwalk when exiting the snaked-under tunnel and turning 180 onto the upramp, I'm sure due to the scramble incident he had with that scenario in a class last fall. But, he made the choice to take the obstacle without any coaxing, and it was only one of the 3 passes that he displayed the hesitation. For the last two runs (starter's version of steeplechase), I brought out some super-duper special treats, rewarding occasionally with them, and it made a world of difference: He was attentive, responsive, and didn't sniff, and the runs felt great again like they used to. Driving home, a lightbulb went off: I have been really slacking off in properly reinforcing Walter in agility lately. The nature of most of our recent agility outings have been no-treat full runs, and I believe he's just gotten bored since verbal praise only goes so far for so long. Fortunately, spring is around the corner so it won't be long before we can soon get back into regular practices. Oh, and today I pushed the contacts by running past him a bit and he held 2o2o every time.

Friday March 9th - AAC Games course: Snooker #2

It was a decent note to end the course on. No imaginary Qs because I didn't allow Walter to weave tonight (stitches on hip still healing) and I planned the courses for flow rather than points. The good thing is our string of cursed 3rd-runs-of-the-night didn't follow us this evening. The first run of the day Walter had several sniffy moments, but these generally faded for the rest of the runs, although Walter refused several obstacles by running past them. Overall I wasn't feeling the connection the way I'd like to and have in the past, but now that I think of it, I wonder if it's because it's Snooker and you have to be ready to change your plan on a dime which changes the whole feeling of the run, even if you don't end up having to change it, which we didn't. I led out on every run to just past the first jump and practically every time he broke his sit so I had to go and put him back. Thing is, he gets anxious the moment I step away, or even before that since he's anticipating it, and tonight it was really bad, he'd break as soon as I started walking away. I am really going to have to figure this thing out. A lead-out or at least a SLS is obviously a big tool to have in one's toolbox and I'm not prepared to give up on it just yet, so we'll see.

Saturday March 3rd - field practice

Walter's known "around" for about a year now (turn clockwise around an upright object). At one of the fields we go to for walks, there are poles which I've started to ask him to "go around" before I throw his frisbee, to tucker him out more. I'm starting to ask for more distance, emphasizing the "go" part of it. We're at about 15 metres or so, and he drives ahead to the pole. Hopefully this will help with gambles and other distance work. I should also teach him a lateral move away, but haven't got "around" to it yet. :-D