Friday, December 19, 2008

Lucy and Walter 2008

Our second annual compilation video:



I had a lot of fun making the video as a little souvenir of our year.

Didn't think of it until now but I should have also included mention of Walter's first ever 0 point Snooker. :-)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bo-bo

Walter gets little lumps from time to time. Some of them are growths on top of the skin just like his mom gets (um, by mom I'm referring to his actual mom, not me). Sooner or later those go away on their own. But some of them are under/in his skin and they grow slowly but steadily and need to be removed. His latest of those was on his right arm. Didn't bother him at all until this week when he started to lick and nibble at it quite a bit. So in he went today to have it chopped off. Unfortunately for him and my wallet he had to go completely under because of its proximity to a vein. The good news is he's fine now and will be sporting a lovely Christmas tree decoration until next week. This is the first time we'll have had a Christmas tree in our house, and his even has a fancy golden star at the top! Thanks to the co-op student at the vet's for making the bandage look so darn cute. In this photo, Walter's still a bit groggy and trying really really hard but somewhat unsuccessfully to not look completely exhausted.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Not so agile

Don't get me wrong, I was rooting for underdogs Andrew and Dan (who finished in third place on tonight's series finale) on this season of The Amazing Race, but the scene from a few weeks back where poor Andrew simply could not figure out how to march is one of the funniest things I have ever seen on tv. Here's hoping he doesn't come back in a future life as the dog of someone with aspirations in agility or, heaven forbid, freestyle.

Monday, December 1, 2008

AAC Regionals and Nationals

Exciting news: The 2009 AAC Ontario Regionals as well as the AAC Nationals will be held right here in Ottawa! Both will be at the Nepean National Equestrian Park, a mere 20 minute drive away. Regionals will be on May 29th to 31st, Nationals July 30th to August 2nd.

If all goes well next spring and Walter remains healthy and injury-free, it will be a lot of fun to run him in what would be our first Regionals. Last year's Regionals were a 7 or 8 hour drive away. I didn't go because it coincides with a really busy time at work and would have entailed several days off, but also we were still a really green team back then with only a few Masters runs under our belt, so probably best to wait another year before "jumping" into something way over our heads. Of course, we're still pretty green but at least we've accumulated another year of experience. Lucy will definitely be sitting this one out as she will still be on trial hiatus at that point while we work through some issues.

Walter's the sort of dog who's always very aware of his surroundings, so I've learned that any time we go to a new place for a trial he tends to be a bit unfocused for his first few runs, running past obvious obstacles while eyeing the new scenery. So, my biggest challenge will be to try to keep his focus as best as possible, on top of dealing with whatever course challenges are presented!

Whatever happens, it will be fun to have the opportunity to watch competitors from all over the province and country right here in our hometown.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting itchy for the ATChC

Well, not really; that was my attempt at a clever post title.

After this weekend's trial which brought Walter his first two MTR Qs, he is now 2 Qs away from the ATChC title, which requires 3 Qs in each of Masters Standard, Jumpers, Snooker, Team, and Gamblers. One more Standard and one more Team and Walter will have his ATChC. As Walter has been getting closer to reaching this milestone, I've started to get the feeling that it would be somewhat anti-climactic, that I would be left with the "What now?" feeling. (Of course, there are tons of skills that we could use a "little" bit of work on as you can see if you've watched any of our videos!) The ATChC is the last title awarded in AAC, with awards of merit awarded afterward: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Lifetime, each with a requisite number of Standard and Games Qs. For example, the Bronze Award of Merit requires 10 Masters Standards and 25 total Masters Games.

These awards would be something to keep in mind, but they would be much longer-term, at least with our current Q rate. Compare that with Walter's 2008 year, which has been a really fun year in terms of advancing to higher levels and earning new titles.

Well, what should arrive in my emailbox yesterday evening but a long email from the AgilCan yahoo list describing a bunch of changes to the AAC, including requirements for level move-ups, Masters Games titles, and the ATChC title.

A big change is that the Team Relay component has been removed from the Games and ATChC title requirements, and is now (as of January 2009) a separate stream unto itself. What news to receive on the very weekend Walter gets his first 2 MTR Qs! Heh. I'm glad I'm a pretty easygoing person, so this doesn't actually bother me. So, the new ATChC title "will require four Masters Qs earned under at least two different judges in each of Jumpers, Gamblers and Snooker plus three Masters Standard Qs earned under at least two different judges".

Details have yet to be announced on grandfathering and transitioning to the new system. A lot of great ideas for this have been expressed on the AgilCan list; I'm interested to see what comes out of it. Anyway, I think what it means for Walter's ATChC is that he still needs only two Qs: either, under the old system, a standard and a team, or, under the new system, a standard and a gamble (since he already has 4 Jumpers and Snooker legs). Gee, and just after I thought we didn't need to worry about gamblers Qs anymore with his new gamblers title. Again, it comes in handy to be mellow and not get upset about such things :) (However, I completely understand being frustrated about the changes if one has a dog who is close to retirement and has been struggling to get their final gamblers (or snooker/jumpers) leg only to find now that they need two legs in their toughest event. Hopefully the transition rules will consider such aspects.)

Another brand new change is the creation of a bunch of post-ATChC titles which "include “Expert” awards for each game and “Versatility” awards recognizing a combination of skills". I won't go into the details here, but it will be fun to have some more titles to work toward after the ATChC.

Another exciting change is the creation of a new games event, the AAC Challenge, similar to Masters Standard courses but emphasizing "more technical handling challenges". And, to add a more competitive aspect to it, the SCT "will be determined after each height class runs by multiplying the fastest clean-run time achieved in that height class by 1.2." Yikes! It will certainly be fun to watch but I will probably hold off on entering that one for a while.

So yeah, lots of changes to AAC agility for 2009!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Morning Star trial - Day 2

[follow along in the highlights/lowlights video at the bottom of this post!]

Gamblers #2: Half a second away from a Q due to wasting six seconds in getting to the start of the gamble. (Sent him to the nearby tunnel just as the buzzer went off but wasn't about to call him off the tunnel since we have enough problems as it is with him being a Not Tunnel Suck!) combined with some hesitation in sending out to a tunnel (what else is new). Still, my Not Tunnel Suck did a pretty good job of re-sending out to the tunnel instead of going to the nearby tempting dogwalk.

Team #2: Complete repeat performance of yesterday. Good partner! Bad popped weaves Walter! This time we squeaked in with less than a second to spare when the 5 seconds were added on. Phew!

Standard #3: Decent run in a pokey sort of way, except for entering the weaves at the second pole on an easy straight-on approach. Possibly due to me not hanging back enough. Took him back and he did them fine. Oh and since we had already NQd, I really pushed his frame on the homestretch and he totally missed it, earning what I believe is his first ever missed contact in competition. The video playback showed he came in really deep to the frame, so his first stride hit higher than normal, then he sailed over the apex, landing lower than normal (but above the yellow) and decided a third hit would have been extraneous.

Standard #4: In which I attempt to set a new world record for loudest attempted call-off. Sigh. Any time that any kind of handling is required immediately following the weaves, I am in trouble because if the run is clean up to that point and he weaves clean, I lose it for a second and - poof! - we end up making a mistake. In this case I completely forgot to do the rear cross after the weaves, which means I needed to try a hard push out to the far side of a c-tunnel, and Walter SO does NOT push well, so into the wrong end of the tunnel he went despite my ear-piercing "WALTER COME!" My poor dog and everyone else within hearing range (likely the entire city of Kingston). Not exactly my proudest agility moment.

Snooker #2: A clean but not terribly thrilling run where we did the #7 frame three times and made it through to the end of the closing, including the #3 6-weaves.

So, overall not a bad trial for us. He's definitely a lot more comfy in this ring now, and he did several great sets of weaves on the first try. The courses were fun and presented a lot of interesting handling challenges.

Oh one last side note: The entrance to the facility was being redone so the pathway was makeshift on grass with boards on top, but the worn out grass combined with the rain and heavy foot/paw traffic made for the muddiest trial I've ever been to! Kind of weird since the actual trial was indoors. But, my pants were completely spattered with mud within hours of the start of each day. And let's not even mention the inside of the car...! Still, I'm definitely looking forward to their next trial, muddy paths or not :)

Here's the highlights/lowlights video.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Morning Star trial - Day 1

[note highlights/lowlights video in post from Day 2]

Hoo boy. 6 classes today and 5 more tomorrow, all in the big, wall-less, airy fairy Ring 1 with weird stadium lighting, echo-y sounds, and potential threats lurking at every corner. Walter hasn't run an awful lot in this ring and when he did, he most always lacked focus. Looking around a bit bewildered, running past jumps, slow to respond, that sort of thing. As a handler, kind of like being used to driving with power steering and all of a sudden it's gone and you need a ton of oomph just to move the wheel a few inches. So my hope was that this full-fledged immersion would, by the end of it, help him realize it's nothing to worry about, and oh yeah, can I please have my power steering back?

Jumpers: Actually not too bad a start to the day. Took the wrong end of a c-tunnel, could be because he was in his la-la land but more likely it was bad handling. Handled a four-jump serpentine well (well enough anyway) to my surprise as we haven't practiced serps in ages. Then ran past the second last jump in traditional la-la land style.

Snooker #1: Losing position on course + taking eyes off dog = backjumped red + TWEET

Standard #1: Argh - a tunnel refusal early in the course took us out of the running for the third Q we need for MAD title. Bummer since the rest of the course went fine including fabulous weaves (offside, sending him ahead and keeping wide lateral distance).

Standard #2: A dogwalk/tunnel discrimination right off the bat and for some reason I decided to try it running with him instead of leading out. Needless to say that didn't work - ended up with a refusal. Great weaves again (same as before: offside, send, give him lots of space) but this required a hard push to the next jump and Walter does not push well so another refusal as he ran past the jump.

Team: Walter popped his weaves close to the end but, being Team, 5 faults such as for popped weaves are "ok" provided you come in at least 5 seconds under SCT, so I hand-waved him through the last three poles. Walter's partner, a steady little sheltie vet, went clean and we were fast enough to get a Q, Walter's first in MTR.

Gamblers #1: Scratched him from this event as it was the last of the day, he and I were tired, and it was a hard gamble that he didn't have a chance of getting anyway (send-ahead to the far end of a c-tunnel).

Off to the motel where a good night's sleep was challenged not only by the usual insomnia but also by a couple of doofuses who kept knocking on each other's door and speaking at full volume in the hallway at 1:30 in the #@$^&*&% morning. The dogs, however, had excellent motel manners and were quiet and relaxed the whole night including when other dogs started barking. Seems they're maybe finally getting used to the whole motel thing?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dream Fields trial - Houston, we have a gambling problem!

Wow the day was a long one, first run around 8:00am and the last run around 8:00pm. Walter spent most of his down time in the car where it was cooler and certainly quieter. He must have been able to catch some z's because his energy and enthusiasm level wasn't too shabby at the end of the day. He was entered in team, three gamblers, a jumpers, and a standard. I was hoping we could maybe pick up one of the Qs Walter still needs for the big title, i.e. team, gamblers, or standard.

Team Relay: Our original partner had to scratch due to an injury (get well soon!) so we ended up running with a lovely black GSD mix rescue who was willing to run twice. Walter and I had to run the second half of the course since our partner had run the second half in their official run. Unfortunately the second half had a most brutal soft side weave entry, and due to the proximity of several jumps on all sides it was impossible to give him a nice straight-on running approach. Anyway, he got the entry but popped right away, and then he was in Weaveless Walter mode, where despite several attempts he was unable to get the entry and then popped at the end to boot. Sigh. Oh well, our partner had also made an error so at least I don't feel too bad.

Gamblers #1: Consisting of three jumps and a tunnel, the two tricky bits were a send-ahead to a tunnel which Walter is notoriously bad at (not a tunnel suck and I've neglected practicing such things), and a sharp turn away to a jump with a very tempting trap jump at the line. Walter impressed me by taking the tunnel no questions asked, and then for the turn away part I cheated by calling him in and then sending back out. Good boy - he sent back out, but wasn't sure about where he should be sent out to so he went past the last jump instead of taking it. Close but no cigar, but I was still glad that he had done pretty well. Oh and he did a 14-point mini gamble consisting of non-double jump, teeter, and tire at an easy lateral distance.

Gamblers #2: Another jumps/tunnel gamble, and surprisingly/deceptively easy-looking. This one I thought he had a better chance at since the tunnel send was more lateral than straight-ahead. However, he surprised me early in the gamble by pulling in after jump #1; I had thought it would be an easy line for him. Never thought I'd be able to send him back out, but yep, back out he went. Handled 4-5 as a front cross and he easily sent out to #5. So he got his second MG Q! Kind of a close one though as he had been dangerously close to refusal territory when he came in after #1.

Gamblers #3: The instant I saw the course map for this one I thought "oh well, at least we have a chance at the other two gambles" since this one involved not only the weaves but also a slight turn away afterward with a tempting decoy jump at the line. Well can you imagine the shock I was in when he nailed the main gamble! Yes, I was pretty much over the moon. After his noncompletion of the weaves in his earlier team run, for him to nail the weaves like that... Well, he sure does keep me guessing in the weaves department. Perhaps not all that surprising though as I already knew Walter needs lots of space at the weaves, which was impossible to do in the team course but which that gamble line forced reminded me to give him. This was Walter's third MG Q and therefore his Special Masters Gamblers Dog of Canada title. Woot! (um... for the record, I never use that word, but figured this was an appropriate time to try it :)

We sat out Snooker and Steeplechase so I could get some volunteer time in.

Then it was Jumpers. I had a front cross planned at the tire and my front crosses aren't as good as my rear crosses could use some improvement suck so I asked someone to record our run (our only run of the day on video). Good thing too because it clearly shows how messed up my front cross was. While walking the course I didn't plan to be in the pocket so deep like that, but there I am running right up to the standard for crying out loud. So the best I can tell is my front cross ended up way too late with me ending up in his way and by the time he saw the jump it was too late. Oh geez and what is my arm doing fully extended when I'm right next to the jumps? Argh!



Finally, Standard. Wonder of wonders, even after a long day Walter was able to weave all the way to pole 10, but then POP! Hand-waved him through the last bit, not sure why but whatever. Then he didn't hold 2o2o on the teeter so we went into training mode and did it again. (Not a punishment, just a way of reminding him to take his time to stick the 2o2o.) Then he came in between the two jumps on a 180 which I hadn't supported enough, but I didn't bother "fixing" that.

So yeah, it was a long but fun day especially with Walter's one-day gambling addiction. I would have been thrilled to get just one MG Q today, but to get two on the same day was a blast!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dream Fields mini trial

What better way to spend one's Friday night than running in circles making strange gestures and sounds to one's dog? :-)

First up was Gamblers #1. Walter had a reasonable chance at doing the main gamble. He did the mini twice (teeter at 18' lateral distance) and racked up a good number of points in the opening. On to the closing: jump heading away from you, to lateral frame 18' away, 180 turn away to tunnel under frame, then back over jump #1 and back out to one more jump. We didn't have quite enough umph for him to go all the way out to the frame (that was the part I had been worried about, especially with the tunnel being a possible offcourse), so he came in. But wonder of wonders, he let me send him out again, looking unsure but he did go out and do the frame, yay! He easily nailed the turn away to the tunnel which was 21' away from the line -- all that "pip" work has been sinking in, woo hoo! Then he took jump #4, and just before he was over the final jump the buzzer went. This is the second MG main gamble that he has successfully completed but over time due to a handling bobble early in the gamble. This time only .58 of a second kept him from the Q. Next time!

Gamblers #2: Hmmm, gonna have to save that "next time" for another time! This main gamble was brutal, involving a frame/tunnel discrimination where the dog has to take the "out tunnel" not once, but twice. No surprise, couldn't even get Walter to take the tunnel the first time. Next year to work on: send-aheads to tunnel!

Snooker: The $%^& weaves were #5 instead of the usual #7. Since Walter's weaves are unreliable, I always try to plan the opening so that we don't need them. Usually that means doing three #6. So I did the math and hooray! We could still Q without the weaves by doing four #7s (frame/jump combo) (or three #7s plus 1 #6, but I liked #7 better, and besides, why not go for gold!), so that's what we did. Walter did just great, a really nice opening. For Walter's frames I try not to watch the yellow to see if he hits it (que sera sera, though he's never missed a contact in competition), so I was listening to hear if the judge called out the points or not; sure enough he got all four 7s. Our transition to the closing wasted some time because his last #7 took him right to the exit gate, but after a few seconds he consented to come and do the rest of the course. The buzzer went as he was half-way through the weaves, which he did perfectly, yay! I was so out of breath by the time we got to the weaves, it was all I could do to squeak out the usual "gogogo" for him. He took a Q, 1st place out of 9 22" specials dogs, and best run (which Walter hasn't seen many of since we made it to Masters) although the 1st place and best run are kind of silly since he only had one point more than was necessary for a Q; for some reason he was the only 22" specials dog who Qd.

Standard: By this time it was about 10pm. That probably sets a record for Walter's latest agility run! It was a nice straightforward course, the only tricky area being a tunnel/jump set close together where the first time they take the jump, the second the tunnel. Walter ran fine except for problems at the weaves. First, he entered at the second pole (I should have hung back which helps him get the entry); let him finish them and he skipped a pole somewhere I think. Took him back to try again; this time he got the entry but again skipped a pole or two and/or popped, can't remember. Sigh. Why couldn't he have goofed up the weaves in Snooker and saved his good ones for Standard? Oh well, isn't that always the way. :^)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's the end

of green fee season 2008. As of this weekend both of our green fee fields will have been put to bed. Won't have a chance to get out this week, so that's that. Glad to have had the use of two nearby fields again this year; who knows what next year will bring.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Last KK9 practice of the year

Have been working on discriminations lately but still really struggling with getting him to take the far obstacle. A past instructor suggested that Walter's space bubble might be smaller than a lot of dogs' due to his GSD blood (thinking of protection work stuff), so maybe that has something to do with it? Oh well. On the bright side, 180 turn from contact to tunnel "pip" is going great. A recent Clean Run article on this confirmed that I was kinda sorta going in an okay direction with that, e.g. using the verbal only, no arm cue. Decided that pip has a built-in release component, and Walter finally seems to be buying that, at least on the dogwalk. However, when I tried pip from teeter to jump, he really really wanted an "ok" first. Also, using a jump to pip to after the teeter was too confusing so instead we used a toy.

The other practice field is open for another week or so and then green fee season comes to an official close.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Startline fun

Came upon this entertaining video while surfing today. Too bad it's only border collies, but fun to watch nonetheless. Ever seen a dog back up on the start line? Me neither until now!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Out practice

With the limited time left before the agility fields close for the winter, "out" is the focus again. We worked on it earlier in the summer and made some progress -- it even got Walter his first MG Q -- but we haven't maintained it and being a new skill it's kind of gone by the wayside.

Anyway, worked on outs today using side by side jump/teeter and jump/jump. Tested him with some heres too and he does seem to be picking it back up but lots more work is needed.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

2-day AARF trial (Kingston)

This was Walter's second time at AARF. While driving home from his first AARF trial on October 7th 2007, I swore I'd never ever EVER trial Walter there again. (Not because there was anything wrong with the facility or trial itself, which are great!) A few hours after coming home from that trial, the sting started to wear off; I tried to keep an open mind and opened up the possibility of going back. Then a year passes and the memories of that trial now get a "them's the blows" chuckle from me, so... After vowing never to return, what did I do but sign him up for not one, but TWO days at the very same trial one year later. If he would have the same sniffiness this time around, this had the potential to be a very long and depressing trial! But, I was curious to see how he'd be, and with the need to make the most of the cool-season trials, well there ya go.

Well, he was a different dog this year! None of the constant sniffing that he did inside and outside the rings last year, which he had never done anywhere else except for one run last summer when the dog before him had ripped a toenail on the second obstacle unbeknownst to all and bled allll over the course. Is his 180 turn-around because the weather was cooler than last year's trial? Is it because the rings have been moved down further towards the woods and for some counter-intuitive reason the track-laying critters don't come around anymore? Is it because Walter has matured and is more into the game now? Who knows but I sure did like what I saw this weekend.

FRIDAY (weather: nicely c-c-c-ool for much of the day, requiring warm coats and even mitts from time to time. Perfect agility weather for Walter and for many of the other dogs who were looking so peppy out there. 3 degrees in the morning, slowly warmup up to a partly cloudy 12 degrees)

Started with Jumpers #1. Whaddaya know, he was terrific and clean and got a Q! Last year's sniffyholic was nowhere to be seen.

Then it was Standard #1. Clean except for a wrong weave entry plus he popped out afterwards.

Standard #2: Woo hoo! A nice run with several crazy "TRUST YOUR DOG" moments and he got a Q! Weaves were on-side, "yesgogogo".

Gamblers #1: There are good things about having a dog who's not a tunnel suck, and there are bad things about having a dog who's not a tunnel suck. Walter, the Not Tunnel Suck, had a hard time being sent out quite a distance to the tunnel of the main gamble. He finally got it, but then instead of taking the out-teeter he took the here-6-weaves so it was an NQ. Brilliant job on the weaves though. We tried one of the mini gambles which was tunnel under dogwalk to layered jump on far side of dogwalk. I thought it would be no problem for him as he's done these before, but he came in instead of taking the jump.

After the trial we headed to our motel. I had brought along a kettle and some insta-noodles to supplement the cold but delicious fried tofu I had brought, but thought what the heck, I'll just have a quick peek at the yellow pages to see if maybe, just maybe Kingston has a vegetarian restaurant? Well what to my hungry eyes should appear on the last page of the restaurant listings but an ad for a veggie restaurant, yeah!! So off we went.

First though we stopped at the first place we could find for the dogs to get out and stretch their legs a bit.


Beautiful big tree on the banks of the Rideau Canal.


Another photo op on the banks of the Rideau Canal.


Memorial cross for the workers who died building the Rideau Canal.


Apparently even chimney thingies are in on the ribbon trend. No idea what this ribbon is for.


Lotus Heart Blossoms Vegetarian Restaurant. Associated with Ottawa's Perfection Satisfaction Promise Vegetarian Restaurant, but a completely different menu.


Not to play into the stereotypes, but there were a ton of Green Party signs in the neighbourhood of the restaurant. Of note, this election campaign was the first time that a Green Party leader was invited to participate in the televised leaders' debates.


Back at the hotel. It might not look like much, but the pasta was actually quite tasty. Garlic, salt, and pasta, what's not to love?


Lucy was not entered in this trial but happily came along to hang out with us and enjoy a feast on the cow patties in the pastures surrounding the agility fields.


SATURDAY (weather: coolish in the morning but quickly warmed up to sweater-only for much of the day. Too warm to be ideal agility temps for Walter but still not too bad. 5 degrees in the mornin, quickly warming up to a partly cloudy 14 degrees.)

Standard #3: I was maybe feeling a bit cranky from getting hardly any sleep due to the @#$%^&* motel doors that kept opening and slamming shut and opening and slamming shut and people making no effort to speak quietly in the hallways even past midnight. So I wasn't going into the run on the best of notes. Then, I came this close to forgetting to remove Walter's collar for the run. Scratch that -- actually I *did* forget to remove his collar but someone kindly alerted me about it just as I was starting to lead out. He ran past a jump and probably got a refusal at another messy point, but his weaves were perfect. (offside, "yesgogogo")

Standard #4: Walter had a loopy moment at one point, then at the weaves he got the entry but then immediately popped, doing his best imitation of a dog who's never seen weaves before. Took him back to restart and he entered on the wrong side but what the heck he kept weaving so I let him and we just kept going. On the bright side however, he had a brilliant startline stay while I led out to the far side of the second jump to be able to overhandle the #3 tunnel/frame discrimination to make up for our lack of skills in the discrimination department.

Gamblers #2: Bummer, this gamble was very much like yesterday's, with the exact same sendout to the tunnel, same direction and end of the tunnel and everything. So we never got to the rest of the gamble which included an out-over with two side by side jumps which he likely wouldn't have gotten anyway. One of the mini-gambles was identical to yesterday's: tunnel to layered jump behind dogwalk and he got it fine this time.

Snooker: Ok, would be really nice to get a Q today and running out of chances... No weaves in this course, just jumps, tunnels, frame, and a ton of combinations. We played it safe and did the #5 tunnel three times; not our prettiest run ever but not terrible either and he picked up his 6th MS Q.

Jumpers: Last run of the day. Walter was surprisingly perky and animated despite it being close to the end of a long couple of days. He ran beautifully and picked up his 5th MJ Q.

So yeah, the two-hour drive home was quite a bit more enjoyable this time than it was last year. Yay Walter for being so much fun to run!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Dreamfields trial

I wasn't overly optimistic about coming home with any Qs today since three of Walter's five classes have mandatory weaves and the other two classes are Gamblers where ya never know what you're gonna get. Walter has however been practicing his weaves at home almost every day for the past few weeks -- a quick pass or two before breakfast and supper.

First up were Gamblers 1 and 2 and the main gambles were potentially something Walter could have gotten. The first gamble was a tunnel passing under the dogwalk, layered tire, far side of a c-shaped tunnel, dogwalk, jump. Walter checked in with me after the tire and while I was trying to redirect him out to the tunnel he stepped on the dogwalk. Tweet. The second gamble was a teeter heading at a sharp angle away from the line, then a lateral jump, turn left towards the line for a jump and then two more jumps close to the line. He did the teeter but crept in towards me while in 2o2o so didn't have a hope of seeing the far jump. Tweet.

Standard 1, Standard 2, and Team: In Standard 1, the weaves were the #4 obstacle in. Well, lo and behold he didn't pop! So then the pressure was on for the rest of the course since we now had a chance at a Q. Walter got the job done, pretty slow but still well under time so he got his first Masters Standard Q after three almost-clean MS runs save for popped weaves. Standard 2, yes! another clean set of weaves! But we had already goofed earlier in the course with a refusal at a tunnel and taking the frame instead of tunnel at a discrimination. Our Team partner was Tucker, a debonair sheltie. Walter ran according to plan (and yes! another clean set of weaves!) but I had walked the course wrong and included a bonus jump. Our partner got an offcourse, so it's just as well.

I was so glad and surprised that Walter did three sets of flawless 12-weaves, especially since it was warm and humid. For all the weaves I hung back to let him get the entry which was marked with 'yes', then followed along at his side saying a steady 'gogogo' through to the end. I never used to do anything like clapping or tongue-trilling or saying anthing while he weaved, but given his popping issues I've been open to trying anything. We've been using the 'gogogo' in practice recently too. I wonder if it helps him know that yes he's doing the right thing, so just keep going. Anyway it seemed to help today. Oh and for all three sets of weaves today he was on my left side in case that has anything to do with it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Weave practice at field

12 straight weaves, nice coolish and cloudy evening. Said "yesgogogogo" every time. Popped halfway through on first try. Then, it was hit or miss as to whether he'd pop towards the end or not. Seemed to do better with me on right side which is the opposite of how he used to be.

Only did the one session because it was getting dark.

Walter has a WORLD-CLASS startline stay!

Got a kick out of seeing a dog competing at the FCI agility worlds who has the same scootchy-butt startline stay as Walter, only minus the barking.

Here's Walter's startline stay:


And here's the world-class dog's startline stay (the first dog in the video): fciagility2008.cleanrun.com/usa-large-team-standard.

;-D

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Practice

Weaves: Took a different approach this time. Put two sets of six weaves and a set of 12 slightly angled wams at different spots in the field. Included one or two sets as part of a few different 6-8 obstacle sequences. The idea is that the weaves are just part of sequences, not a big deal, so just do them, darn it! ;-) He did just great on all attempts, no popping, woo hoo!

"Out": Was going to set up a little sequence we saw at this weekend's trial, but it turns out a similar sequence was already set up. It's just a c-shaped tunnel with a few jumps along the outside of it. You take the jumps on the outside. It looked a little bit like this:
/
- C
\
At the trial, about half the people ran with their dogs between the jumps and tunnel (that's what I did). Others had cooler skills to rely on and layered the jumps behind the tunnel. So today we worked the "out over" skill. Ok we don't have that skill yet apparently! He kept wanting to take the tunnel, but once he took the first jump then the rest weren't a problem. Gotta keep working on our "out"s.

"Pip" (turn 180 away from me): Frame/dogwalk to tunnel/chute are coming along really well, but today he had trouble with frame to jump. He wasn't responding to the "pip" and instead went ahead to some non-obvious jump out in front of us. Tried pip on the flat and it was weak there too so we'll need to do more maintenance work.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

All Dogs trial - day 2

First up was Gamblers, first thing in the morning. The main gamble included 12 weaves so I wasn't very optimistic. Well, even our opening was pathetic. We couldn't even get the very do-able mini-gamble of jump-tunnel-jump; he kept doing his best sheltie imitation and spinned in front of the tunnel. And overall we weren't in tune and had only 21 points in the opening. Yikes. We didn't try the other do-able mini gamble of jump to frame because it was raining and the frame was known to be slippery even when dry. On to the closing: the #1 was right at the exit gate and Walter could not be convinced that in fact the run was not yet over and demanded his end-of-run reward. So we didn't even get to the weaves! Ha!

Jumpers: About a 4 hour wait between Gamblers and Jumpers might be part of the reason that his usual crispness wasn't quite there. Not a terrible run, but an uncharacteristic knocked bar in the opening line; also took the far end of a c-shaped tunnel instead of the correct close end. Video below.

Standard: I hereby declare a new title which Walter has proudly earned: WlSMADC (Weaveless Special Masters Agility Dog of Canada). Haha! This was the third MS run in which our only glitch was the weaves. It was really hot and humid and the sun had just come out but I thought he had a chance of doing the weaves because they were only #3 in. Shortly before his run I hosed him down and pumped him up with his soccer ball that he gets in practice for doing clean weaves. I made sure to hang back and send him ahead to the weaves but he popped 5 or 6 poles through, then weaved between a few more poles of his own accord. "Good try" and we continued with the rest of the open and flowing course which he handled really well including sticking his teeter and dw.

Here's video of the only run that was filmed, today's Jumpers.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

All Dogs trial - Day 1

Yay, the September two-day trial at one of our favourite venues!

After hearing earlier this week about the tragic, sudden, and unexpected loss of a local agility competitor's wonderful dog who should have had many, many more years of life, the concept of really enjoying the day regardless of the q situation or other "problems" was fresh in mind.

Jumpers: One glitch where I inadvertently pulled him off a jump in anticipation of a sharp turn to the tunnel to the left. Otherwise a good run in typical Walter style.

Snooker: With Walter's weave-popping issues and the 12-weaves being almost always #7, Snooker for Walter and me is becoming a simple game of how-to-do-the-#6-three-times-for-the-Q. (Ok, to add some spice maybe I should try for four #6s sometime.) This was a nice course with the teeter as #6 and the obstacles were all spread out so not a lot of offcourse potential. Walter is really a great dog for Snooker (when he hasn't got it in mind to pay his dues to the zero points club) so he made my job easy and yes we got our Q, as unexciting as it must have been to watch. :-D Didn't bother asking him to do the weaves in the closing -- if he's only got a finite number of clean weaves in him I'd rather save them for Standard and Team!

Standard: I had signed him up for this in the hopes that it would be a cool or even better, downright COLD weekend so that Walter would have a chance of doing some clean weaves. Bummer, it was a nice hot day so no surprise, weave issues. But the saving grace is at least it wasn't our THIRD MS run botched only by botched weaves: he had pulled a strange manoeuvre earlier in the run by exiting the tunnel from the same end from whence he had entered.

Gamblers: This was a totally doable gamble for us (a couple of jumps and a tunnel to a laterally distant teeter followed by an out-over with two side by side jumps -- exactly the sort of thing we've been working on), and in fact he actually did complete the main gamble, but a bit of a glitch between the jumps and tunnel ate up some time so he was over time. One of the mini gambles was right up our alley too: tunnel to dogwalk at lateral distance; he had no problems with that and sort-of held 2o2o so he did it twice so we had plenty of opening points. Certainly I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get the Q, but at the same time WOO HOO! he did the gamble, timer be darned. Plus at the end of a long day, for him to have any go/out oomph left in him was fantastic.

Another try at Gamblers, Jumpers, and Standard tomorrow.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Practice - weaves

Hoo boy, Walter's weaves were nowhere to be seen tonight. Popped towards the end every time we tried the 8-poles. To get any success I had to bring them down to 6 poles. Dang! Also played around with some miscellaneous distance stuff.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Guides Canins trial

Our first time at the gorgeous Guides Canins trial in Saint Lazare, Québec. The facility is just fantastic, three rings going at once, hundreds of huge trees all around the site providing plenty of shade, shower facilities and indoor washrooms available, and even their "outhouses" are fully equipped washrooms with plumbing and sinks.

Since the first walkthrough was to be at 7am Saturday morning we arrived Friday evening around 5:30pm to set up camp and here I was thinking we were plenty early to find a site, but actually it was already Tent City Extravaganza. However, there was lots of space around the Starters ring so that's where we set up, which turned out to be convenient since it was easy to watch our friends' runs in that ring.

Friday night in the tent Walter was a bit restless at first but eventually we all fell asleep. It amazes me that with all the dozens and dozens of dogs onsite, not a bark was heard all night long.

Thanks to friends and a kind stranger, all but two of Walter's six runs were caught on video.



Here are some run-by-run notes.

Saturday

Standard (ring 3): I didn't take the time to set him up properly at the start resulting in a runout on the #2 tire and often when we make a mistake at the start, or more specifically when he knows we've made a mistake at the start, the whole run falls apart. Should have just kept going with him when he went to the frame, but oh well. However, despite the myriad of mistakes, he still seems fairly upbeat throughout. Oh and for the first time in a while he weaved all 12 poles beautifully on the first try! Woo hoo! Anyway I can't stop laughing at myself while watching this run so I thought I'd share it with the world so y'all can feel better about any tough agility runs you might have had lately.

Gamblers (ring 1): He was uncharacteristically flat while waiting his turn, but in the video he doesn't look too bad. The first part of the main gamble was the weaves and of course he got the wrong entry and popped so no cigar.

Snooker (ring 1) (didn't get caught on video): This run was around 4pm after a long break for us. The 12-weaves were #7 and I knew I couldn't count on them for the closing (nor the opening obviously), so I had planned a nice course that covered the #6 teeter three times for an easy Q without the weaves. Well, I set him up in front of a red, released him, and he went around the jump and directly onto the nearby dogwalk. Woo hoo! We have now become official members of the Zero Point Snooker Club!

Jumpers (ring 2): Not a terrible run, but an uncharacteristic knocked bar due to my cueing the turn too desperately kept us from a Q.

Sunday

Jumpers (ring 3) (didn't get caught on video): Several mistakes and runouts but some decent parts too. Can't remember the details.

Snooker (ring 1): Again with the #7 being the weaves, we had to go for three #6s (two-jump combination) in the opening to get the Q. I can't get over how much Walter forgives my pathetic attemps at handling. Anyway we made it through for a Q, our first and only Q of the weekend! :-D

Some general notes:
- He didn't do 2o2o at all but not once did I go back and make him do it again (training in the ring is allowed in AAC). Maybe I should have, but I guess I figured since he can be a bit weirded out at new places I didn't want to risk demotivating him. Not that he necessarily gets demotivated by redoing contacts, but well you never know.
- In retrospect from watching the videos, he wasn't all that unfocused considering it was his first time here and that his runs were constantly changing from one ring to another. Actually he handled himself pretty darn well all things considered and was upbeat throughout.
- I led out on several runs and he did minimal scootching-forward on all of them, yay!
- Ok I really need to work on providing less foggy and crouched-over body/arm cues. Honestly how he manages to decipher from my wimpy arm positions and everything else what I'm asking him to do is beyond me.

In summary: despite our ultra-low Q rate, it was really a lot of fun and I am definitely looking forward to trialing at Guides Canins again next year.

Monday, August 25, 2008

More weaving fun

I think I've been pushing Walter for too much too soon weave-wise recently, in anticipation of an upcoming trial. I need to slow down and ensure success to get Walter to be a Happy Weaving Boy. So today we did 8 and only 8 poles. All of his four attempts were clean, woohoo! From watching the video, he's single-striding all the way through every time which is good since his footwork has been inconsistent lately. (Lately as in the last six months or more!) I wonder if throwing the reward lower would help encourage him to lower his head a bit? I kept a wide lateral distance on every pass tonight, wonder if that partially explains the lack of popping.



The plan as it stands at the moment is to give him a day or two off, then next time do only 8 weaves just like tonight, perhaps making it as part of a short sequence. If that goes well, then next time up it to 10 poles, and so on until voilà, he will be a Happy Weaving Boy with all 12 poles! Thinking positive here :-)

Of course we worked on a few other things too:
- flip away from dogwalk to tunnel on far side - good
- dogwalk/tunnel discriminations - still need to clarify my body language when he's to take the closer obstacle

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Photos from July 27th Krazy Kanines' fun match

Forgot to post about the fun match back in July. For the first time ever in an event situation, Walter actually broke his start line sit-stay to take the jump before being released! gasp!! The game was Gamblers; he did the minis well but the main gamble included the frame to the far end of a c-shaped tunnel, one of our weak areas for sure, so no cigar.

Here are a few photos from the day. Walter jumped 16", our usual practice height, instead of his competition 22" jump height. Many thanks to the photographers who offered all their photos at no cost to everyone.


The week before the match we had a painting party to freshen up all the equipment, some of which dates back to the 90s. Doesn't the see-saw look so bright and happy. Please excuse the bird droppings next to Walter's foot.


Apparently Walter wanted to try a 1RTO contact on the dogwalk today. Actually I think what happened here was I had started to praise him up for sticking 2o2o and he started to self-release but caught himself just in time to stick the one rear toe. I love his eager expression and high tail in this photo.


Nice on-the-flat photo but too bad about that jump standard!


Here's a jumping photo from an uncommon angle. Would have been neat to see it with him jumping 22"; oh well.

Weaving practice again

Started with the 8-weaves. Tried a few times putting his toy as a target, but then when he popped and went to the toy, it sucked to have to tell him that no I would not play with his toy with him because he had goofed.

Couldn't get a single popless pass on the 10-weaves so we went back to 8 poles and no target. Finished with three good, clean passes in a row on the 8-weaves and lots of soccer ball fun.

I think I noticed today that he didn't pop the 8-weaves when I was at quite a lateral distance. So maybe I've been crowding him and distracting him from his job of finishing the poles.

Plan for next weaving practice:
- start with 8 poles; increase to 10 if 8 are very strong
- give him lots of lateral space
- have him do another obstacle or two before throwing the toy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Weaving practice

Warmed up on the 6-weaves then jumped straight into 12. Walter was popping left, right, and center. Well maybe not center, but if he could have, he would have. Eventually I smartened up and reduced the number of poles so he could be successful again. Poor dog!

Here's the video...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Practice: Weaves

Went to the field that has the good weaves. Brought his half-deflated soccer ball which he loves-loves-loves but which has been collecting dust on the top shelf of the bookcase. Alternated mini-sessions at the weaves with some general distance stuff. Didn't use the wams at all today.

First mini-session: 6-weaves. First couple of tries he blew most of the way past them and weaved only the last 2-3 poles. But he was in a good mood, excited, anticipating his soccer ball so we tried again. After a few tries he was doing it right.

Second mini-session: 6-weaves. Only a few attempts and all were right on. Teased him before each set with "do you wanna weave"? and then he'd get all excited and dive into the poles. Rewarded with thrown soccer ball and game.

Third mini-session: 12-weaves. Amped him up before each send. First pass: me on left; he pops on my side between poles 9 and 10; I hand-wave him through 10-11-12; he gets cheese treat (lower value than soccer ball). Second pass: me on right; he pops on my side bewteen 10-11; I hand-wave him through 11-12; he gets cheese treat. Third pass: me on left; again he pops on my side between 9-10; I point to the poles and say "more weaves" and he goes and does the last three poles; he gets cheese treat with excited praise. Fourth pass: me on left (I think); he does them clean, yay! We stop there.

General notes: Once he's excited and high, sending him ahead to the weaves from quite a ways back, hanging back until he's in the poles then catch up to him and walk alongside.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

August K9 Kup

I was really happy with Walter's level of enthusiasm today! He actually wagged his tail on the table, which must be a first for him. AND, he barked on course for the first time ever not including start lines! Ok, so it was while lying down on the table, kinda sorta the same idea as being on the start line. He was nice and peppy in Snooker, the second run of the day, despite the increasing heat.

Weaves: I was bound and determined that one way or another, Walter would complete the 6-weaves in the standard, even if I had to hand target him through every single gate. After several tries he did it (without hand targeting), yay! The trick seemed to have been to start him from quite a ways back and use a peppy voice, and throw in a rear cross to help pull him into the entry, although I have tried those approaches with him before without success. The 10-weaves in the closing of Snooker got his goat but he did weave a few of the poles including the last three, so it was a good try.

Frame: OH MY! Like in the July K9 Kup, I decided to push his speed on the frame in standard. Well, unlike in July, this time he came within a hair of his toes of missing his first ever contact in competition! Actually I didn't check the results so I'm not sure if the judge called it or not but I would guess he probably did, as would I have! The rest of his frames today were fine.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

More gambling

Played around with some more gambles today. I keep all the gamblers course maps from trials I've been to together in one envelope. It's our homework file and it's fun to pull a course out and see if we can make progress towards being successful on a tough gamble.

One of the gambles today included an "out over" where there are two jumps side by side as well as an offcourse jump at 90 degrees, along the gamble line. At first he took the closer of the two side by side jumps so I stepped in to help him get it. He seemed to pick up on the concept but it could be he was just patterned to it.

We also tried a tough one where a frame and straight tunnel are side by side, parallel to the gamble line; the dog goes out to the tunnel, then turns around to go back in that same tunnel, then turns around AGAIN to go back in that same tunnel, then goes straight over a jump. I remember watching that gamble back in the spring (during Walter's gambling hiatus) and it was brutal. When a dog got it, the whoops and hollers could be heard for miles, no doubt. Anyway, yep it was hard!! We'll have to work on that one again.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Gamblin' practice

Had a lot of fun trying several gambles. Walter really impressed me today!

First we tried this gamble posted on Johann's blog a little while ago. Lo and behold, he got it on the first try, although just like Johann he turned right in to me after #3 but sent out to the tunnel. Tried it a couple more times to make sure it wasn't a fluke. We'll have to work on the turn-away because each time he turned in to me but he always sent out well to the tunnel. A few months ago he would never have been able to do the out tunnel. What a good boy!

Then we tried 1-4 (too lazy to set up 5 and the second dummy jump) of this gamble from the 2008 AAC Nationals held this past weekend in New Brunswick. The distances I set up were probably not as far as they should have been, but he couldn't put a foot wrong. Well, to my low standards anyway! :-D

We also tried the two mini gambles in this course, also from the 2008 AAC Nationals. The teeter one wasn't a problem but we (and I do mean "we" - my shoulders are always pointing precisely where I don't mean them to!) do need to work on c-shaped tunnels.

However, just because he can do this in the comfort of his home practice field doesn't mean he'll be comfortable working so far at unfamiliar venues! Hopefully his overall comfort level will continue to improve as he gains more confidence.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Practice

Turn away from contact to tunnel: "pip" coming along well. Starting to get some distance on it.

"Go": Realized this has been severely neglected what with all my focus on increasing lateral distance. Did some work on this using baited target or toy, over a straight line of jumps/tire.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Practice: discriminations. Also a swim and a walk.

Today's video reminded me of the value of reviewing video of one's practices when training alone. Yikes. Here's a video of today's practice and for the first time on this blog, some video of Walter just being Walter!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Practice

Oh my my, Walter got all the "out"s and not-"out"s in our short practice today. Can it be that he's not actually fluking his way through it?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

K9 Kup #2

Jumpers: Well, we had a first today when a loose dog ran onto the course while we were running. We were just starting the homestretch when I heard the crowd's "uh ohs" and "oh nos" and saw a white blur out of the corner of my eye so we immediately stopped. Upon seeing the standard poodle Walter was like, "what the heck? what's he doing here?" and was a good boy. Tried to get him to do an obstacle (the chute) on his way out of the ring just to end it on a normal note, but he was not liking that chute and didn't take it. In our re-run, again he ran great but he got what would be a refusal on the chute which was the last obstacle. Oh and I led out on both of the Jumpers runs -- he was scootier than usual (note in the video how far back from the first jump I set him up! lol) but didn't break his stay (well, granted my definition of breaking the stay is verrrrry loose!).

Gamblers: Poor Walter and I couldn't even do the mini-gamble today, nevermind the main one! I think I was being really lazy in my handling, taking it for granted that he would get them. He did get them eventually but only because refusals don't count at K9 Kup. Didn't lead out because there really was no benefit to doing so. Didn't catch this one on video.

Standard: Didn't lead out, again because the opening line was easily done without it. He had a good run but alas, more weave woes! The first go at the six-weaves he just ran right past them, then on the re-try he popped out half-way through! This was a bit surprising because there were only six poles, but on the other hand not that surprising because it was hot and it was the last run of the day. Those were the only weaves we attempted today.

Here's the video of the Jumpers and Standard. My favourite part of the video is his running frame in the Standard: One could almost think his striding had been deliberately trained ;-) Actually it's kind of funny, while running that last line I thought to myself, I'm going to really sprint this line just to see how his frame holds up. And I really felt like I was sprinting. Alas, the video shows I was just poking along as usual. :-D

Thursday, July 10, 2008

All Dogs mini trial

Gamblers: Our first line was a three-jump slice for which I started off the line with him. Well, he had his sights locked on the nearby chute instead so he crossed in front of me to take it; glad we avoided a collision there! Then he couldn't even do the mini gamble which was a simple send to a jump followed by a tunnel, and you were allowed to cross the line after the dog committed to the tunnel. On a good day he should be able to do that but I think our goofed up opening hurt his confidence. The main gamble was pretty neat: send to a-frame facing directly away from you, dog turns right into chute to come back to you, send away over the frame again, then dog turns left to a jump. On a really really good day Walter could probably get that one, but today he came back to me without taking the chute. I think I was in spectator mode and didn't give him instructions in time after the frame. We would have had just enough points to Q (28 pts) if he had done the gamble.

Jumpers: Ooo, a fun course with a few twisty tight bits at the start. Walter was feeling good again and ran really great. Our flub was when I thought he was committed to a jump but then he pulled off at the last minute. Part of the run was caught on video including the part with the goof so it's neat to be able to see exactly what happened, although being not much of an expert the best I can figure is I gave him the tunnel cues too early? If so, on the bright side at least he was being very responsive which sure comes in handy on twisty courses with lots of off-course potential! :-)


(Kindly ignore the part where I scream "Walter argh!")

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Dogz trial; the "out" practice pays off!

What has been a fantastic venue for fun matches is now also a fantastic venue for trials! Today's Masters mini trial was Dogz' first ever trial and it went off without a hitch (as far as I could tell, anyway), a great judge and an easygoing, relaxed atmosphere. So fun!

Gamblers
This was Walter's third try at a Masters Gamblers course. Will wonders never cease - he got a Q! His first MG Q; I'm super happy about it (in case you couldn't tell!). The main gamble incorporated an "out tunnel" and I guess all the work we've been doing on that has started to sink in since he nailed it! Tried the jumps/tunnel mini once but he took the wrong end of the tunnel. Didn't try the other mini gamble. For my reference here's our opening sequence: teeter, jump, "double", tried the jumps/tunnel mini but didn't get it, teeter, jump, "double", 4-pt jump, tunnel, 4-pt jump, jump, frame, tunnel, TWEET, frame, jump, main gamble.

Standard #1
Decided in advance that if we hadn't blown the Q by the time we got to the weaves, we'd try them, otherwise we'd just run past them due to the issues we've been having. Well his whole course was really nice, flowy and felt great but yes he popped at the very end of the weaves, so this is our second MS course where one weave pole kept us from a Q. Oh well; if we can fix this weave issue then maybe we'll have a chance. Oh and he did another "out tunnel" at a tunnel/dogwalk discrimination, yay!

Standard #2
This was a nice course but a sucky run. Walter's focus wasn't quite there, or at least our connection wasn't, and he had a look about him that said the heat was maybe getting to him. He didn't even make any effort to weave at all: he passed through two poles and that was it so we just kept going. Tried using "pip" on the dogwalk at a tunnel snaked under it. Didn't quite work as I had to support it with an arm and "tunnel" cue; we'll keep working on it.

Jumpers
Walter was feeling good again! It was our only run of the day where I led out on him, to help get a tricky opening line. His stay was a bit shaky (he scooted forward more than normal) but it seems like after I've led out the first few meters then he settles down and stays put. Let's just say Susan Garrett would so not be impressed. After the first 5 obstacles the judge had us stop and restart because the timer had malfunctioned. When all was said and done it was a really fun run where Walter was listening beautifully, reading the front and rear crosses really well. However, he missed what I thought was an easy, obvious tunnel so no Q but I really didn't care because he had run so well.

In summary, only one Q today but he ran three of the four courses super well, holding 2o2o on all teeters and dogwalks, such a good boy. I had so much fun and hope Mr. Serious Walter did too. To top it off, at the end of the day the judge gave us a really nice compliment :-)

Friday, July 4, 2008

Practice

Weaves: 12-wams only. 1st pass, several inches off center: Good. 2nd pass, 2 inches of center: Great! Speedy, enthusiastic, and single-stepped the whole way. 3rd pass, 2 inches off center: Was slower and popped at 10. 4th pass, a few inches wider: Good. Have scratched him from the standards in next week's trial due to the weave popping issues but it was too late to scratch from this Sunday's two standards. Should probably run him past the
weaves but... will give it a try, at least the first run. After that no more weaving in trials until the weather cools this fall and he gets his normal speed back; in the meantime we'll get in lots of wamming.

Out: More progress! Still not 100% by any means but he does seem to be catching on. Used side by side jump and straight tunnel as well as a side by side teeter and jump which he had more trouble with. Sometimes asked him to take the close obstacle to make sure he's actually thinking. Realized today that the trouble we're having learning "out" totally reminds me of the trouble I had getting Walter to graduate from offset wams to fully upright poles back in the fall of 2006. At the time it seemed like it was taking forever and it felt like I'd never be able to teach a dog to weave, but it was the best feeling when he finally did get it, and in retrospect it didn't take that long, just a few weeks of frequent short practices. So hopefully later this summer I'll look back on these initial "out" practices with a grin knowing that he's "got it". :)

Pip: Tried pip from dogwalk to tunnel. At first he steadfastly refused to move from 2o2o when I said pip. Instead, he offered to bow, which is what once upon a time I required for 2o2o. Silly boy. Tried again and this time said "ok" before pip, and he got it no problem. Silly me. Forgot he was trained to require an "ok" before moving from 2o2o.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Practice: Out and pip

Out: Set up a jump and tunnel next to each other, "out over". By jove, there is a slight possibility that he's starting to get the concept.

Pip (turn 180 away from me): How come some things are easy for Walter to understand, like pip, which will maybe come in handy on course once in a blue moon, while other much more useful skills, like out, are a million times harder to get the point across? Today for the first time we tried pip using two obstacles: two jumps side by side, we run together to the first one, then "pip" and he flips away 180 to take the far jump. He was doing pretty
good at that. I'd much rather have a nonexistent pip and a good out though. :)

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Practice: weaves and "pip"

Used canned food to reward the weaves today. Started with 12-wams a few times. Then did a couple of passes on the 6-fixed, then 8, then one pass on 10. No popping, but he's not single striding the whole way so probably I should keep him on the wams only for a while? It's just so annoying having to raise the poles after every pass on the wams since he practically flattens them every time. Bad lazy handler! Would channel weaves also help in the footwork department? maybe we'll try that too.

A few weeks ago I introduced a new verbal to Walter. It means turn 180 away from me (and take the obstacle if one is there). Called it "pip" just cause I think I heard some people using that word as a command for something at a recent trial and it sounds different from all our other commands and I'm just not very creative. The sort of thing we'll use for contacts to snaked-under tunnels on the far side and for flip-aways on gambles, etc. Well in theory anyway. So after working it on the flat for a few weeks, today we tried it out with equipment for the first time. Started with just a straight tunnel, walking alongside it then when we reach the entrance, "pip". Seemed to work! Later on we tried it with the snaked-under tunnel and dogwalk. There was also a jump in front of the dogwalk as a decoy. He was a bit confused, sometimes taking the jump, but at the end I think it was starting to click.

Didn't get a chance to practice "out" since it was hot and Walter's heat tolerance isn't great (his brain melts) which forces me to keep his practices nice and short!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Whining about the weather; not whining about Walter's frame

< whine mode >
Now I remember why we don't get nearly as much agility practice in during green fee season as I dream about during deepest, darkest winter. Is it because I'm so darn lazy? Well, maybe, but in this post I'll blame it on the often-awful Ottawa summer weather. While I'm thankful that we don't typically get some of the extreme types of weather and the related effects described by some agility bloggers, I have nothing nice to say about the ridiculous humidity that accompanies our summer heat. Daytime highs of 35 degrees (86 Fahrenheit) which, when the humidity is factored in, feel like 40+ degrees (104 F), lessening only by a degree or two at night, are way too common an occurrence. We haven't quite reached that "degree" of heat yet this summer but it has been hot and muggy and all of June has been RAIN, RAIN, RAIN and THUNDERSTORMS, THUNDERSTORMS, THUNDERSTORMS.
< /whine mode >

Here's something I'm not whining about: a shot of Walter doing the frame at last weekend's K9 Kup Steeplechase run. We abandoned 2o2o on the frame last fall after I saw video of him doing it (shoulder impact - ugh). Never officially retrained anything to replace 2o2o, but unlike Lucy he just seems to have a natural stride that takes him into the yellow. Granted it could be because he's in specials and has a lower frame height, but he just doesn't seem prone to leaping the way Lucy and many other dogs are. Walter has yet to be faulted for a missed contact. (Hmm, did I just jinx myself by putting that in writing?) But don't worry, we get our fair share of grief in the agility ring, more often than not (lately, anyway) thanks to the weaves. :-D

Sunday, June 22, 2008

K9 Kup match #1

K9 Kup is a for-fun team trial, four matches over the course of the summer, three events per match. All the same rules as a trial but it's not a sanctioned event and costs a fraction of the real thing. It's geared towards people and dogs just getting ready to start trialing, but titled dogs are also allowed to participate although a handicap is levied against their scores since all courses are run at the Starters level of difficulty. I entered Walter and Lucy because it's a good chance to try things that aren't quite so tempting in a trial where a Q is at stake (I know, I know, agility's not supposed to be about the Qs...) and heck, it's just plain FUN running easier starters level courses once in a while! Not to mention the whole team aspect of it, which is a really nice change from the usual trials.

Walter had no problem with the 6-weaves in the first run of the day, Standard. HOWEVER, come the 12-weaves in Steeplechase, he popped around pole 5; didn't bother retrying since that just doesn't work. Shoulda stuck to my game plan of taking him around the weaves in the first place since I knew this would happen, instead of teaching him that it's ok to keep going without finishing the poles, but oh well!

Here's a video of Walter's only clean run of the day: Jumpers. Make sure your speaker volume isn't turned up too loud.


If I may, I would also like to post a video of Jasmine doing her Standard run. This was Jasmine's and her human's very first run in a trial situation. Jasmine is a little dog with a lot of zest for life and one of her favourite ways of displaying it is, you guessed it, zooming! Jasmine was feeling especially zestful in this run, but I love how seamlessly she transitions from zoomies back into doing the course. I look forward to watching this wonderful team develop!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Practice

Weaves: Went to the field that has the wams. Ran him through the 12-wams and still he was popping at the end unless they were widened a fair bit. Time to take the time to go back to some wamming basics I think.

Then we ran a nice flowing course. It was fun but I'm noticing that I am running him so totally pokily lately (as evidenced in that fun match video from last weekend). Gonna try to bring our speed back up at K9 Kup.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

ADSC mini-trial

Two tries at Standard today.

Standard #1: Once again, popped at pole 10. On the bright side, that alone isn't what kept us from Qing since he ran past a jump that I thought was obvious but he apparently didn't. :-)

Standard #2: Surprise surprise, popped out of the poles somewhere (can't remember where). This time I took him back to retry them but again, no success. Earlier in the course I had fumbled a front cross so he missed a jump, so at least the weaving problem isn't the only thing to blame for the NQ.

M-u-s-t g-e-t b-a-c-k t-o t-h-e w-e-a-v-a-m-a-t-i-c-s ! ! !

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Practice

"Out": set up a tunnel/dogwalk discrimination. Blocked the offcourse dogwalk with a lattice wing so he would do the "out tunnel". After a few tries removed the lattice wing. Success! Well, not really. Later on, after a break, he was back to taking the dogwalk. Some day, some wonderful day hopefully in the not too distant future we will start to acquire this elusive "out" skill!

Weaves: This field doesn't have weave-a-matics so we warmed up on some 6-weaves. He did very well with them so we moved on to the 12-weaves. Not good. Not good at all. I think his new nickname should be pop-corn. And a trial coming up tomorrow... yikes!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dogz fun match

Walter ran one course at today's fun match: starters standard. He did lovely moving contacts on the dogwalk and teeter; too bad that's not what we train for. Went back and redid them each time. This summer he has developed a dislike of flies and they seemed to be hanging around at the table, so twice when he was almost at "go" he sat up, chomping at the air hoping to catch a little extra protein. The weaves were a disaster: he'd enter at the second pole and/or pop. Hanging back and letting him enter ahead of me got him entering properly, but his footwork was way off so he inevitably popped. Then we ran out of time. From looking at the video (I will spare you all and not post it here... but if you really want, here it is), his footwork is definitely getting messy. Time for some weave-a-matic fun I think.

Then, the skies opened up for a thunderstorm moments before he was to go on for his try at Gamblers. Of course, he would have laid down a perfect course, nailing every gamble on his first try. Or at least, that's the story I tell myself to make up for our lousy first run. :-D

Oh wait! Walter did something stupendous today: he held a fantastic sit-stay while I walked out to replace a fallen bar! Yay!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Camping

Earlier this week we packed up and went camping. It was Walter's second time there and Lucy's first. I wasn't sure how it would go with having both dogs there together as they are a handful, but they were awesome so I'd definitely bring them both again next time.

The place is situated on the north shore of Lake Ontario.

On the way there, we took the Loyalist Highway and the free ferry. Way too hot to wait for it in the car so we hopped out for some fresh air (dogs wearing their seatbelt harnesses -- my car is way too small for crating the dogs).


Our site, #77, was terrific. It's the last site on a dead end roadway and is set back a fair bit from the road, a feature that is very much appreciated when one's dogs like to sound the alarm if anyone dares pass by.
One of the great things about this place is that they actually allow the dogs on the beach and in the water. Well, at a couple of designated sites, anyway. The down side is that dogs are supposed to be kept on a 6-foot leash the whole time.

Hanging out on the beach. Hot sun, warm sand, cool water, two well-behaved, calm dogs: This is the life.



Well, so much for the two well-behaved dogs.


Back to business: Surveying his domain.

Walter did not appreciate being forced to pose in front of this terrifying monster carcass that had washed up on shore.


Taking a break at a lookout point on the Cedar Sands trail near the camping area.

Beggers at home; beggers away from home. Some things never change. :-) Supper was a couple of those packaged add-water camping meals: vegan pesto garlic fry bread (YUM) and black bean soup (not so yum) which had to be eaten with a fork due to forgetting to bring a spoon.

Climbing the gorgeous sand dunes that rise as high as 25 meters. It's hard to beat the awesome feeling of hot sand between your toes while the sun warms your back.

At the bottom of one of the sand dunes. A trio of swans (I had no idea there were swans in Ontario) entertained us as we watched from shore.


Photo op at the top of one of the dunes.



Hanging out at the campsite at night.


After three days and two nights, the dogs are exhausted, buckled in the car and ready for the three hour drive back home.


En route back home, an exhausted puppy dreams of her holiday adventures.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All Dogs trial - Day 2 - New title

The weather today was just about identical to yesterday's, if not a smidge hotter and more humid. Thank goodness he was only entered in two events and they were the first two events of the day.

Gamblers
I was excited when I saw the course being built and the main gamble seemed to include the dogwalk since distance dogwalks is something we've been working on. Alas, the dogwalk was a trap; the dog was supposed to take the snaked under tunnel on the far side. Needless to say, we didn't get the gamble. But actually he didn't even make it to the dogwalk/tunnel as after a different tunnel he came back to me over an offcourse jump. But, he did a mini gamble twice (jump to layered tunnel) so that's a step in the right direction and he got about 36 points in the opening.

Jumpers
It was a twisty but fun course on which the dogs had "lots of options" as one fellow competitor put it! Walter was listening super well and I managed to not completely bungle the handling so we squeaked in under time for a Q and Walter's Masters Jumpers title! Future jumpers courses will be more relaxing now that he has all the Jumpers Qs needed for The Big Title. (Now we "only" need 3 Team, 3 Standard, and 3 Gamblers Qs... in other words, all the hard ones! (Well, hard for us anyway.) I'm not holding my breath! lol)

To summarize the weekend, it was HOT but Walter ran super well and seemed happy.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

All Dogs trial - Day 1

What was originally supposed to be a very hot, wet, and thunderstormy day actually turned out to be a very hot (31 degrees; 37 with humidex!) but sunny day. The strong breeze was the saving grace.

Jumpers
Hoo boy. Poor Walter. He was sooo good, but I was sooo bad. I totally messed us up in several places and even came close to getting lost on course for the first time! :-P One of the jumps was used FOUR times throughout the course! But, on the bright side, we did a ton of rear crosses and he seemed to be reading them well. For some reason I've been avoiding rear crosses lately. So it's good to know he can still do them.

Gamblers
Our first try at a Gamblers course since last September, and our first try at Masters Gamblers! My goal was simply to get enough points in the opening and be in a decent place when the whistle went. Walter in his infinite wisdom decided to offer his own contribution to the opening but it didn't mess us up too badly. We didn't try the mini gamble because it involved the weaves; Walter's not crazy about weaving so I never choose them in Gamblers or Snooker. The main gamble was generally considered pretty easy and was doable with our current skill set, involving a series of 5 jumps with no turning away. Unfortunately I fumbled the approach so he had no momentum and in the heat of the day didn't have a lot of get up and go, so the gamble was a no go. Oh well; it's so nice in Gamblers compared to Snooker knowing that you get your full at-least-40-seconds on course. :-)

Standard
Walter was such a good boy and came within a few weave poles of getting his first Masters Standard Q. He popped out around pole 10, no surprise as his weaving footwork gets all messed up when it's warm due to running slower. But, he was listening really well and held his teeter/dogwalk contacts (which he didn't hold in Gamblers...). It was a good run to end the day on, and I was very impressed with how well Walter kept it together given the crazy heat!

Two more events tomorrow: Jumpers and Gamblers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Practice (KK9); teeter and dogwalk

Meant to do some good work on outs, but instead ended up focusing more on improving teeter and dogwalk independence.

For the teeter, I can send him from a few meters behind it. He checks in with me around the tipping point, but I say nothing and stand in place with my arm up to support him, and he continues to 2o2o all by his lonesome.

For the dogwalk, working on veering off laterally and hanging back a bit. Like the teeter, he checks in with me a few times, but with an arm to support him he goes to 2o2o.

Should do some work to get his 2o2o straight at the end of the boards since if I'm hanging back he's crabbing around and risks not being in the yellow.

Neither is exactly a blazingly fast performance -- ok, it's slow as molasses actually -- nor independent as such, but it is an improvement and gives me a bit more confidence for entering gamblers this summer. He's registered for his first three MG classes this summer! Should be fun since I haven't entered a dog in any Gamblers class since last September. Still got to get those darn Outs under our belt though!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Out, out damn Spot!

(no I was not yelling and swearing at Walter to get out. just couldn't resist that post title :-D)

First time at KK9 for the season. Worked on "out obstacle". A useful setup was to put a non-takeable obstacle as the obstacle to go out around. E.g. the wrong end of the teeter, or the dogwalk with the entrance ramp blocked. Got the feeling that maybe, just maybe he's starting to catch on? But I wouldn't bet on it just yet. Also practiced for the first time a bit of layering with obstacles on the other side of the dogwalk: did curved tunnel to jump and tire. That went pretty well.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Obstacle names / layering / out

Did some work on verbal discriminations with a tunnel and jump side by side, either sending him ahead or recalling. Started with tunnel closed down, clicking for the "over". All went haywire when the tunnel was opened; clearly this sort of thing needs lots more work.

Then did a little sequence layering the teeter behind a turned-down tunnel. He kept just running along the far side of the tunnel. After some patterning he was getting the hang of it but wow do we ever need to do a lot of work on layering/out/discriminations. (no surprise.) It will be fun to work on and I look forward to the day he starts to get it!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Dream Fields trial: new title but not much else!

Today's first class was at about 8am and the last one was at about 6pm so it was a bit of a long day!

First was Steeplechase. It was a nice, doable course except that Walter couldn't do the right weave entry on the second pass of the 6-weaves. Oh well. Plus he knocked a bar later on which I think was due to a really badly timed front cross.

Second, Jumpers. We were so not in sync and he got an offcourse as well as a few almost-offcourses. I had led out on him and he doesn't much like that so maybe it was his revenge! (or, more likely maybe I was just doing a really lousy job of handling!)

Snooker went alright, not the smoothest run ever although he stuck his teeter really well each of the three times. Did the teeter twice and a tunnel in the opening; in the closing he remembered how to weave (it was only 6-weaves) so he got his third Masters Snooker Q and therefore his first Masters title: the Special Masters Snooker Dog of Canada title (SMSDC). It will be soooo nice to have the pressure off now for future Snookers! (For any readers not familiar with AAC, all you need are three Masters Qs in each of the main events to get your big ATCH title.)

Walter's first try at Masters Team: The ideal team run, where both partners either go clean or goof up. In this case, we both goofed up. :-) Walter skipped a pole halfway through the 12-weaves and I didn't bother having him redo them because just the fact that he wasn't in Weaveless Walter mode was a good thing. He stuck his teeter and dogwalk very well.

Walter's first try at Masters Standard: Not a great run. It was a very doable course, but again Walter skipped a pole in the middle (and again, I didn't bother to fix it), then he almost got an offcourse at a chute/teeter trap, then he missed the tire. Oh and he did 2o2o on the dogwalk but self-released so we redid it and went into training mode.

All in all he was in a pretty slow mode today, even for the first run of the day, but overall he was a good boy, and I try to remind myself that any injury-free trial is a good trial in my books!