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!