I did have fun at the trial even though that last post may have sounded tired and grumpy (I've had a good night's sleep and some caffeine so I'm feeling better now). I got to visit with people, work on Strummy's manners, watch some great runs, play with the dogs, hang out in the sun. Better than mowing the lawn and doing the chores though that always catches up with me in the end but it's good to have a day of hooky from the endless 'to do' list.
Heard a great word for A-frame from a novice handler-'Upstairs'. Always funny to hear some of the untraditional words people come up with. Though I suppose that bites you in the butt if you ever need someone else to run your dog if your dog is heavily dependent on verbals for the obstacles.
I was jump setting for 2 rounds of standard for both the novice and advanced classes so I got to see a lot of new dogs I've never seen before. Lots of mutts and rescue dogs running in the novice ring, very cool to see. One awesome little dog handled by a junior handler looked for all the world like a McNab but when I asked him he said no, it's a Dobie mix, probably Dobe with BC. What a cool little dog though and he did a great job of handling her. Also lots more small dogs, big dogs and variety of breeds than you normally see at a USDAA trial.
Overall though watching the novice ring was something akin to enduring fingernails on a blackboard. Let me preface by saying that Cody had many stress/distraction/control issues when we started out so believe me I am more than sympathetic to the teams that have these issues, especially those handlers just starting out who don't know what to do about it. If you could have seen Cody's Time Gamblers run you'd have wondered how on earth this dog ever made it to masters. But the amount of dogs taking off after 3 or 4 obstacles and the ensuing screeching, clapping, yelling and cajoling that followed was something I've never experienced before. And the judge let it go on and on and on. One woman was chasing her dog around the ring for 4-5 minutes and the judge never forced her to leave. Believe me I realize that if you have these issues sometimes the only way to work through them is to keep plugging away at trials. However if a dog is taking the first 3 obstacles then running off to a far corner of the arena to cower and then maybe a minute later taking a jump or 2 and running off again, well, chasing them around the ring and screaming their name a million times and clapping your hands is not going to solve the problem. The shocking thing is that it was not one or two dogs either, I would say 1/2 to 2/3 of the class had some serious issues. There were also quite a few handlers who had handling and/or baby dog mistakes (eg run bys on jumps) who insisted on stopping and making the dog 'fix' the mistake, screeching and clapping all the while. Many of these dogs were trotting by the ends of their runs or simply shut down and refused to continue which only brought on more screeching and clapping. I've never seen so much ring stress in the novice ring in my entire agility career. Very strange and somewhat depressing. Hopefully just a weird day and not a foreboding of the future of agility.
Along those lines though I wish the instructors out there would place more emphasis on the importance of it all being fun rather than getting titles. I talked to one woman who's dog was actually shaking just walking around the grounds and by the middle of the day still had it's tail tucked under its legs. I told her some of the things I did with Cody, including keeping on running even if he missed a jump or did something wrong, I didn't worry about the NQ. She said 'oh, running by a jump is just an NQ and not an E? Because I don't mind an NQ but I don't want an E'. I told her so what if it's an E? It's not like they kick you out of DOCNA or you get a bad report on your permanent record. She looked at me like I was crazy and I'm not sure why. I told her none of it matters if her dog won't run with her so go out and make it fun for your dog and don't worry about the rest of it. Take 3 obstacles, run out of the ring and have a big party with the treats. She smiled and looked like she was about to burst into tears at that point. She was a nice lady, I hope she works it out. With agility becoming more popular I wish the teachers would focus more on fun and motivation rather than Q's and titles for those dogs that have stress issues. In the end it's supposed to be about fun with your dog right?