Saturday, February 09, 2008

New Venue, Old Issues

I was really looking forward to my first DOCNA trial this weekend, especially since it will be my last trial for 4 months or so. I went into the thing so full of heady optimism and enthusiasm to try something new. Ah, how quickly a pair of high maintenance, sensitive dogs can put those notions to bed. 9 millions refusals, 3 blown contacts, 2 missed weave pole entries, 1 off course and a partridge in a pear tree. I'll confess to being a bit worried about Lola. She ran off after 3 obstacles during the first run of the day (Traditional Gamblers) to sniff. She very, very rarely does this and it's hard to say if it's stress related or she's sore/injured again. She was running nicely Monday night at this same venue and she hasn't done any agility or anything else strenuous that I know of between than and today so I'm leaning towards stress. She also took an off course dogwalk in standard and again I think she was stressed. She stopped on top of the A-frame on her second standard run even though the judge was miles away and that's also one of her stress behaviors so hopefully she's not injured. Still, why she was so worried in such a laid back atmosphere and with me in such a relaxed, happy mood is a mystery and points more towards injury.

It wasn't all bad though, both dogs picked up Q's, titles and first places in Specialist (DOCNA's term for 'Masters') Gamblers. The gamble was easy peasy and though both dogs got it I wished it had been prettier. Lola balked at a send to a tunnel but eventually went in and Cody had a wide wide turn but still got to the last jump under time. We had been practicing similar but much more difficult gambles for the past few weeks so this one should have been a piece of cake. Cody had a nice opening, held his dogwalk contact beautifully but went flying off the A-frame. He got the contact but without the stop at the bottom, argh. Aside from running off at first Lola had a nice opening too and I had to make the whole thing up on the fly since she had run off and come back to me in an unexpected place. Somehow I managed to be in decent position for the gamble when the horn blew. Cody's run was time almost perfectly, whee, I love Gamblers when it all goes right.

One of my least favorite course designs is the one where the dogwalk is the second to last obstacle. We've lost at least 10 NADAC and 1 USDAA standard Q's because of the this setup. Cody has only ever held that contact once that I can think of, all other times he doesn't just bail, he goes flying off. I'm sure it's because he knows he's done and he's excited to get his treats. And he always gets them because I have to reward him for the rest of the run. Even if I didn't give him his end of run reward I doubt he'd realize the reason. For some reason this setup is very common in NADAC and I wasn't too happy to see it yet again today. And yes gentle readers both dogs did their flying through the air with the greatest of ease routines right over the yellow to blow an otherwise clean run in standard. Sigh. Is it too late to take up golf? I'm up for suggestions is anyone has any ideas for a slightly less aggravating hobby.

Just to add insult to injury, here's some video of our 2 standard runs. Jonny surprised us and showed up in time to film our standard runs. This is merely a public service, you can watch these and feel better about whatever you did this weekend. Watch as I get lost on the easiest of courses. Marvel at Lola's sassiness as she admonishes me after her runs. Yes, I can run faster than that. Why didn't I? Duh, I dunno.


  1. Anonymous7:54 AM

    Those runs looked a lot better than the way you described them which I find is often the case when I look at video of runs that felt horrible but don't look all that bad.
    You have a couple of very nice, large-strided dogs who--in my experience--can be hard to run with unless you want to send them into outer space. So I think that sometimes those kinds of dogs are best handled without a ton of running.
    Could some of the wider turns and off courses be due to training for Gamblers without the same amount of time spent on training for discriminations?
    And despite all the talk about running contacts, I still believe that for most of us the best contact is a 2 on 2 off. It's very clear to the dog (when trained correctly) and very easy to reinforce and maintain.
    But as far as agility being frustrating...I'm often as frustrated as I am happy with my training and handling. It seems that one not-so-great run can make much more of an impression on my mood than any number of good runs. For me, that's the most challenging part of agility.

  2. Ditto on most of what Cedarfield said. I also thought that the runs looked pretty nice for the most part, and I also notice for myself that the ones where we have only one or two mistakes make me more miserable than the ones where we mess up over and over and go offcourse dramatically multiple times and such.

    The dogwalk near the end--I think you can practice that kind of set-up. Dogs can see that they're heading for the end of the course (even if it's not--the mere fact of heading straight ahead towards that side of the ring makes them act that way). Even without running a full course, you could probably set up situations with goodies or toys or whatever at the end, get them really excited about it, then go back and do a tunnel/dw/jump like you had here and work on them holding their contact.


  3. I just clicked into your blog from ELF's.

    Your whole first paragraph about high maintenance, sensitive dogs, is it soreness or stress basically could have been from my blog a couple weekends ago.

    I have mini dogs that are fast and high drive some of the time, and stressed out, freaked out and/or lame or sore some of the time. Who can go from winning a Grand Prix run to a puddle of mess in zero-60. Go from Super Q run to runs that I know people see and probably wonder if I shouldn't go back to Starters. And I have to unravel the mystery every time this happens. Sore back? That bicep tendon sheath injury and weave poles? The train noise? Too many dogs near start line?

    I don't have any good advice because you probably get lots of it already and you still are left with the mystery and the issue of "they train so great when I practice." But I just thought I would tell you this so you don't think you're the only person with dogs that have whole weekends of meltdowns. Because I know I always think I'm the only person with these issues.


  4. I hadn't thought about the possibility that the recent distance training we've been doing might have an adverse effect on their regular runs. Cody has always had a problem with jumping too big, even when I cue for collection so it's hard to say if the distance work was a factor for him. I've had many instrutors point out that he doesn't read/heed cues for collection and I've got a few exercises they've given me to work on that but it's been a while since I've worked on them. I think Lola's issues were either stress and/or injury related, if anything she doesn't move out ahead of me enough these days. When she took the offcourse dogwalk after the tunnel in her first run she wasn't even listening to me. She came barreling out of that tunnel barking her head off and there was no pulling her off that dogwalk. For whatever reason she was a bit unhinged.

    As for the running contacts, uh yeah, those were actually supposed to be 2 on/2 off and that was a big part of the frustration for me this weekend. Such lovely contacts out at the practice field last week, where did they go? Cody had a nice stop on the dogwalk on his first run but never had any stop all weekend on the A-frame. He's the poster boy for contacts in class. Really. Both dog's contacts had been so improved the past few USDAA trials, I don't know what happened this weekend. Setting up some goodies at the end of a dogwalk jump sequence is a good idea, I'll have to put that on my list of stuff to work on.

    Thanks to all for saying the runs look nice. It's just that I know we can do so much better, esp. on such straightforward courses and I feel so bad when either dog seems stressed out. I don't mind little issues here and there but I want them to be having fun.

    And Laura, thanks, it is good to know there are others with the same issues. Not that I'd wish them on anybody but still. Agility is frustating enough without having to worry about what mood the dogs are going to be in on the start line. I was wondering if the judge for the Grand Prix Quarterfinals at Nationals last year was going to double check with the office to see if we actually had qualified to be there because Cody was acting so goofy.

    Sunday was a bit better in some ways and I'll post some on that in the next few days.

  5. "I was wondering if the judge for the Grand Prix Quarterfinals at Nationals last year was going to double check with the office to see if we actually had qualified to be there because Cody was acting so goofy."

    This is why I love reading your blog. Makes me laugh.

    I had that same experience the first year I ever went to Nationals, with my first agility dog, and he sort of walked off the start line, browsed around the edge of the ring, went to visit the judge, never moved beyond a trot the entire course for the first run of the weekend, and I remember thinking at the time that the spectators surely would be writing a letter of complaint to the USDAA office about what kind of riffraff they were letting in.


  6. roxanne4:46 PM

    Since I'd be thrilled if Lilly ran AT ALL, your runs look good to me. I especially like the jump after the tunnel, where you nearly got goosed. ;o)

  7. That's where I got lost for a moment. I hate taking my eyes off the course for front crosses, sometimes I get confused when I turn back and I'm not sure which jump is next.