Monday, April 06, 2009

2-Ring Circus

I made it to both days of the USDAA trial this past weekend despite the blizzard. It was weird, some places got slammed hard but the roads were mostly dry for me both days. 50 mph winds but not much blowing snow and I made it to and fro both days without incident. Conditions at the trial site Sat. morning were terrible though and as I stood throwing a filthy tennis ball for dogs in a full on blizzard at some ungodly hour when normal folks were tucked up all warm in their beds I had a full on soul searching questioning of my sanity. Because people who spend their precious weekend mornings pleading with dogs to poop while the 50 mph winds are blowing stinging snow sideways in your face are simply not right in the head. I know this and yet somehow I'm powerless to stop myself from signing up for these things.

The other side effect of the weather was that both dogs were off their heads with energy and excitement and while I thought this might work to Lola's advantage I surely didn't need Strummer to be any higher than he normally is. In the end though both dogs had a good weekend overall. Lola picked up her first ever Masters Standard Q and second place (she's only been in Masters what, nearly 3 years?) and had beautiful tables for both her Standard runs. I was nearly in tears with those tables and she was amply rewarded with sardines for both runs. Her second run was already an NQ by the time we got to the table so I rushed her out of the ring right after the table for her vile treats. Judge looked at me like I was crazy when I excused myself but it was worth it, Lola was so happy to get her stinky fishies. Jonny complained of her sardine breath and the scary thing is that I didn't even notice it. I think I'm turning into the equivalent of those parents who walk around smelling of baby barf and don't even realize it anymore.

Strum's Standard run on Sat. went much better in that there was no running amok and he finished up with no off courses. The downside was that he blew both his A-frame and dogwalk contacts, or so the judge said. During the run I was sure he got them both which is worrying because maybe in practice I'm rewarding misses. I've been getting lazy with using the video to keep myself honest so I'll have to be better about that but from the video I had shot lately I was 100% with my rewarding correctly for quite a few practices. Could be the judge made incorrect calls but that tells me I need to make his performances more obvious so there is no room for doubt. His weaves and table were perfect and his teeter was iffy and not at all what I wanted. He went flying to the end, slammed it down and went sailing off of his own accord. It's possible he didn't realize it was the teeter until it tipped or maybe he was too excited. The run went so quickly, I felt like I'd barely blinked and it was done. I checked his time against the rest of the class just for laughs and he was second fastest and within .09 of the fastest dog who was being run by a top handler. That team also had faults though so maybe they had some wide turns/refusals.

He had a nice Gamblers run too, got both his A-frames that time and his weaves. I did a really bad thing and inadvertently pulled him out of the weave poles the second time when the whistle blew. I got impatient and ran ahead of him without thinking about what I was doing and he popped out. At some point I plan to have him proofed for that so the weaves are totally independent but he's certainly not there yet. We didn't get the gamble and it was a tricky one for baby dogs I thought. I've not been training distance skills at all with him because that's not a priority right now and because of the whole handling system thing I'm not sure how much I will end up teaching him.

Snooker was a crazy course for baby dogs, even for masters dogs and I wasn't the only one who thought so. I managed to come up with as flowing a plan as I could but Strum was a bit wound up and we were off course after the second red. It was probably for the best.

Sunday's Standard was a bit more crazy. The weave pole entry was too challenging for him and the weaves had a wall on 2 sides which I'm supposing is the reason he popped out near the end. Lola completely freaked out at the weaves during her Standard run and I didn't even bother trying to make her do them. I've tried a little bit of weaving into walls in practice with Strummer but he's not ready for that yet so I didn't try to make him redo them when he popped out. He really blew the dogwalk this time. He got his A-frame but had a little leap over the apex which I wasn't thrilled about. He hit o.k. on the other side but I'd prefer no leap at all since that could ugly quickly especially in a trial situation. His teeter was better but still not quite what I wanted. Table was great. There was a bit of running amok but that could have due to some poor handling on my part. It wasn't a horrible disaster, certainly better than anything he's done at the fun matches, but not as nice at Sat's. run.

Sunday's Jumpers run was nice though especially considering he'd had no warm up. Somehow after sitting around for 3 hours I managed to need to defy the laws of physics and be in the 2 jumpers rings at exactly the same time. To make matters worse I had to crate Strummer in the car because the little stinker had figured out how to undo the zipper on his soft crate. I took Lola out of her crate and was on my way outside to take her for a walk when who do I see strut by but Mr. Guaranteed Personality off to sign autographs for his adoring crowd (he loves mugging everyone for attention) or maybe to join the dog in the ring. Thankfully when I called him he came right away, a big stupid grin on his face. I put him back in his crate, clipped the zippers together and he immediately starts clawing at the mesh door. So that was that, into the car he went and we were parked roughly in Zimbabwe so I had a good workout running Lola out to the car and getting Strummer back to the ring. They had to hold the ring up for me because they'd run out of dogs. I came to the line all red faced and no proper warm up for Strummer other than the jog from the car but he did great. I had the same handling mistake I had at the NADAC trial-sending him to a jump then rushing somewhere else to get in position for a front cross and the bar came down. I noticed that during the walk-through too (oh and they had both Jumpers walk-throughs going at the same time which might have gone o.k. if I wasn't going half senile but you try being my age and memorizing 2 Jumpers courses at the end of the weekend) and made note to be careful but got caught up in the moment during the run. Rather than worry about handling around that I think we should train it better. I've worked on it a little but obviously not enough. Again he had the second fastest time in the whole class, all heights.

I managed to remember Lola's Jumpers course as well and she had a nice run and a Q. She didn't get her Gamblers Q which she needed more than jumpers. It was an easy gamble if you have independent weave poles but it was too much for Miss Lola. She now needs 4 Gamblers and 4 Standard Q's for her championship. We'll keep plugging away and hopefully one day we'll get there. I feel a lot better now that I seem to have her table problem solved. I'll need to see it in a few more trials and different conditions, especially outside when it's hot, but I feel like we're on the right track and I'm going to continue on with what I'm doing. Phew, what a relief that is, I hate watching her stress out over things and she's such a little drama queen.

One last highlight of the trial was that Strummer measured 20 3/4". I was thrilled with that, it means there's a chance he can run in Championship if I can get 2 more measurements. I'd been working with him for weeks, shaping him to stand still under whatever straight object I could find. I used a whole bunch of different things hoping he would eventually generalize it to the wicket since obviously I don't have my own wicket. Is it unprofessional to ask your coworkers to play at dog agility judge? I know, crazy dog lady in the office workplace strikes again. It worked though, he was so good for the judge and stood still for his measurement no problemo. One down, 2 to go. Would be fun to be able to compete in the really competitive 22" class. I don't care all that much about beating other people but it would be fun nonetheless to be able to compete in Championship for once.

No more USDAA for Strummer for awhile, we'll have some DOCNA in May if I can get off my butt and get my entry in before the trials close. Gonna spend the next few weeks on those contacts, I will have a successful running dogwalk darn it!


  1. I really liked Sunday's jumpers by Mr Strummer. Maybe it worked to your benefit that there wasn't time to worry about the run - just do it!
    We will have a couple of Strumm's runs for you probably by tomorrow, I believe Katrina recorded his Sunday STD and Jumpers.

    And Big congrats on the Lola table - you would have never known there was an issue. Hope it keeps up!

  2. Thanks SO much for taping us! The video I took on the tripod didn't come out all that great and I didn't get the Jumpers run at all. Jonny will be happy to be able to see the runs since he wasn't there at all.

  3. I know you said Strummer was a bit crazier on Sunday but I thought his Standard run looked awesome! He was quite focused. He's very fast. You are going to have so much fun with him.

  4. Sounds to me like it went pretty well, considering. Congratulations to all of you.

    I know I shouldn't laugh, but the image of him unzipping himself and seeking his own adventure is pretty funny.

  5. Thanks Morganne, sometimes I think the runs feel worse than they look, esp. since he'd done so much better the day before. Strum is a lot of fun, quite a shift from running the vet dogs. I'm going to have to get into much better shape if I'm going to keep up.

    Yeah, Strum looked pretty pleased with himself after he escaped. Hopefully that will be the end of that. I'm afraid I'm going to have to pony up some money for a wire crate to keep the little escape artist in check.

  6. Ok Elayne, you can grab the two Strummer videos I have here:

    Just right-click and Save Target As to get them on your computer.

    They'll play on Quicktime or probably any other player that can handle .mp4's

  7. Wow, thanks for that, they look great! What kind of video camera do you have? Mine is a million years old and starting to malfunction. I've been eyeing up the new cheapo hi def ones but I don't think my old laptop has enough oomph to process the video.

  8. Congrats on what sounds like a successful weekend. I can sure relate to your "what on earth am i doing here-- in the cold & the dark at 4 a.m. with my dogs?" feelings. And that's *without* blizzards. Congratulations to you for sticking with it and doing well despite everything.

  9. We have a Panasonic Mini-DV camera, its a model that isnt sold anymore of course. It has the 3CCD sensors and records video really clear - you should see the files before I compressed them down, very good quality.
    I just picked up a little portable HD camcorder though - its a Creative Vado. I will let you know how it works... havent had chance to try it yet.

  10. Gorgeous jumpers run! Did that clock say 20 seconds? Yeesh.

    Way to go with Lola's table! It's gotta feel good to see such an improvement.

  11. Anonymous9:18 PM

    A hint about training for the shortest possible measurement... Make sure to teach him to stand for the measuring arm to be pushed down hard on his withers. It doesn't just have to sit there, which could add a bit just from the hair, it can be pushed down as far as it can go on him. It really can make a difference.

  12. Thanks for the tip! I was practising pushing the stick down but not very hard. I suppose in the end it's up to the judge how hard they push but it doesn't hurt to have him trained to tolerate that. We've got about a month until our next measurement so I'll work on that for sure.