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.