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