Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm only happy when it rains

Saturday at 5:30 a.m. I had another one of those moments where I marveled over the weird and unlikely course my life has taken as I inspected an unusually foul smelling pile of poop to see is it liquid or solid or what. I think poor Jonny must have been having similar thoughts at 2:30 a.m. when he was up cooking rice for her. Rice is Jonny's cure all for all things runny and stinky. No, I did not suggest he cook rice for her at such an unspeakable hour and in fact I lost an hour's sleep or so because the kitchen is right across the hall from the bedroom which does not have a closeable door thanks to Strummer's crate. I gave Lola a marrow bone on Wednesday knowing full well that the consequences might not be happy but I figured whatever the outcome, so to speak, she'd be fine by trial morning. Unfortunately her stomach was not running on my schedule. Fortunately whatever gymnastics her stomach and associated digestive tubes were going through did not effect her mood or performance but of course it added some worry to my day.

We had a nice cloudy, cool weekend, a bit of drizzle and light rain on Sunday but not while I was running any classes. Perfect weather for dogs running and jumping and carrying on, especially if your name is Lola. Throw on some fleece and Gore-tex and it's no problem but I heard a lot of grousing. Me, I'll take that kind of weather any day for agility.

Lola only ran 2 runs per day and we were done by just past noon both days which was perfect. I think I see a lot of half days in my agility future. Both of us had plenty of energy and enthusiasm for our runs and I didn't feel like I'd been run over by a truck when I woke up Monday morning. Well, no more so than usual anyway. No Q's to speak of but we had some fun out there and best news of the day was that she did her tables for both Standard runs no problemo. Next thing to work on is getting her to understand what releases her because she broke her stay both times on my motion which led to NQ's further down the course.

Saturday's Master Standard class was hilarious, it was so crazy there were no Q's in the entire Performance class, all heights, and only 1 for the entire 26"/22" Champ classes (31 dogs I think). I was scoring so I know. I think there were a couple more Q's for the wee Champ dogs but I didn't score them since I had to warm Lola up for her run. The course was deemed unsafe by some and there were a number of injuries caused by an unsafe teeter approach. One poor woman had driven 9 hours only to have her dog injured in the first class of the day so had to turn around and drive right back. I knew about the problem area and was careful handling Lola through it but there's no way I would have attempted that course with Strummer. I wish USDAA would be more strict about their course design requirements. There's no reason to have unsafe contact approaches, ever, there are plenty of other ways to challenge us. And that crazy course was full of them. I'll post it if I can find my course map.

Gamblers was easy peasy but somehow Lola wasn't for doing the gamble. I guess I'll have to do something drastic and start practising distance or something. Or maybe not. I don't practice much with her any more in hopes of keeping her sound. Snooker was a beautiful run until I forgot to redo the #2 obstacle in the closing after doing it for my last color in the opening. Doh. Standard run #2 was a more reasonable course and looked very do-able for Miss Lola but she broke her table stay when I moved after the table count and I couldn't quite pull off the front cross I was planning which led to some not so successful creative handling on the fly.

Below is the Masters Standard course map from Sunday which had some interesting challenges.

I handled the opening for Lola by leading out to just before jump #2 with her on my right and front crossing before the #3 tunnel. If I was running Strummer I'd lead out to between 2 & 3 and send him into the tunnel on my left but Lola doesn't know how to do that and she would have skipped both jumps and run right to me. I only watched some of the 12" and 16" Perf. class and some of the 22" & 26" Champ class (if you can call 1 dog in the 26" class a class) so I don't know how most of the big dog people handled the course. Of the people I did see quite a few started with their dog on their right and pulled to the #3 tunnel which typically worked o.k. except then they had to rush to get the front cross in between #3 and #4 and ended up blocking their dog a bit. Having your dog on your left as it entered the #3 tunnel was definitely an advantage.

I front crossed between #3 and #4 then did another front cross between #6 and #7 and pushed Lola over the #8 jump after the dogwalk. Some opted to stay on the left side of the dogwalk which sometimes led to an off course at the A-frame which is what I feared with Lola. Of those that stayed on the left, some fronted the dogwalk which is what I would have done while others did a rear/flip.

The course was set with the #10 jump in line with #9 and #11. The judge did this supposedly because of the wet grass conditions but I think there would have been a mutiny if there was yet another course with a bad entry to the teeter. I kept Lola on my left all the way to the table which was also more in line with the #12 tire than is indicated on the map. Quite a few people front crossed the #11 teeter and I'm not sure why. All that did was switch the dogs lead and draw them to the A-frame. Some dogs made a straight line for the table but some drifted toward the frame and had to be called back though I don't think I saw any actually take the frame.

My intention was to front cross the table so Lo would be on my left going over the A-frame then I'd rear between #14 and #15, front between #16 and #17, front again between #17 and #18 then keep her on my left through the chute since the #20 jump was actually set more in a straight line with the chute. Instead she broke her stay when I moved after the table count so I was forced to keep her on my right and push over the #15 jump and since I wasn't prepared for this I botched it and she went straight between the #15 and #16 jumps. Some people handled this way on purpose and it worked nicely for them.

Since I had a refusal and NQ anyway I decided I'd try a pull between #17 and #18 instead of my planned front cross just for laughs. This strategy worked for a lot of the small dogs but Miss Lo was committed to that tunnel before she took the #17 jump and there was no convincing her otherwise. That was a tricky section and I think a lot of Champ dogs fell victim to it since they had a triple and if you had a fast dog there was no way a front was happening. The one 26" dog handler with a super fast dog used a rear cross between #16 and #17 and it worked nicely but that didn't work for all handlers. If I had it to do again and I had to do the triple (no spreads in Perf. so Lola had a single jump) I think I'd try a rear. Definitely one to set up and practice with Strummer.


  1. Nice course analysis! I too could not figure out why so many handlers were front crossing at the end of the teeter. It just didn't set a good line to the table. I posted the #13-18 section to the APHS Forum and asked how people would handle the 270 to the triple and the tunnel. The handlers path was restricted by the chute so no lateral motion was possible to cue #18 if you were behind your dog. The best suggestion (by Daisy Peel and Carrie Jones) was to do a FC on the landing side between 15 and 16 and then a FM FC after 17 close to the tunnel entry (to avoid sending the dog into the chute). I set this up at home and it worked very well. The FC on the landing side of 15 and 16 allowed me to get slightly ahead of Summit and plenty of time to get the FC after 17.

  2. Interesting! I was curious what those folks would have to say about it. That's one option that did not occur to me. I did see someone walking a front cross between 15 and 16 for her younger dog but she didn't sound confident about it, more like she was doing it to avoid some issue with her youngster and I'm not sure if the reason for it was to put in the front cross before the tunnel. I didn't see her run with her young dog but I did see her run her experienced dog and she did not do the front between 15 and 16. I'm going to try to set this up for Strummer to see how we do. It's good practice for his A-frame as well.

    What does FM mean? I'm afraid I'm not totally up on the jargon.

  3. FM = Forward Motion. So a FM FC is a front cross that is not cued with lateral motion. The handler is maintaining forward motion. The cue for the FM FC is outside arm and shoulders turning in towards dog.

    I think you'll have fun trying this with Strummer!

  4. My first agility dog loved damp weather. Always excited him. I could sometimes simulate that by spraying him with the hose, but he didn't like that, so hard to say whether I won on that one.

    Half day shows--don't know hat I could manage that, but I'm seroiusly looking at maybe doing just 1 day of some 2-day shows this year. The idea of going home and having sunday off is really starting to appeal to me.

  5. A half day was just about perfect for me. I never got to that burnt out, I've had enough already feeling that I usually have by the end of the day and it was nice to get home and have the afternoon for other things. I actually had time to sit down and read a book-shocking! And a nap as well, how decadent is that?

  6. I set up #14-18 and tried several different handling options with Strummer. I didn't put the chute in place though and I think I'll have to go back and try it again with the chute. A pull worked the best but that was only because the chute wasn't there to block my path so in reality the pull wasn't an option for the course as shown but it's nice to know that it works if I have the room to move laterally.

    The first time I tried the front cross he went right in the tunnel even though I'd used the opposite arm to cue him. Next try I used his name and that worked well but I only barely got there in time and I felt like I was in his way and he had to wait for me to get into position to tell him where to go. I tried several more times and couldn't seem to get there in time. I'm going to go back to the field and measure off the course properly, I think I had the tunnel too close. Also I was so late with the cross that he was turning mid-air over the triple which is asking for a knocked bar though as it happened he didn't knock any. I couldn't seem to get in a reasonable position to get that opposite arm up quickly enough to cue before the turn. A couple of attempts turned into RFP's when I simply couldn't get the cross in and that worked better than the cross but I don't like RFP's and avoid them.

    I also tried a rear cross and first time through it didn't work but the second time I made sure to cue early and it worked great. I was practically at a stop as he came over #16 so he knew a turn was coming and as soon as he was out of my way I started the cross. One attempt I even pulled him off the triple because I started the cross too soon.

    With the rear I felt like he knew where he was going before he was committed to the triple which is one of the main ideas of the APHS system so I'm surprised they opted for a front in that situation though maybe I set the course up incorrectly or something. With the front I felt like Strum didn't know about the turn until he was airborne over the triple. Maybe there is a way to get that opp. arm up before he's committed to the triple but I couldn't seem to pull it off. Clearly I need to go back out there and practice some more and set up the camera so I can see what's going on.

  7. I think the rear also worked. I think the reason it wasn't as popular as the FM FC was because the dog was still jumping extended over the triple which put them close to the wrong end of the tunnel. And without lateral motion (as you mentioned with the pull), because the chute was in the way, your motion cued the wrong end of the tunnel. The whole key to this course being so challenging was the chute. If it wasn't for the chute, a pull would have worked very nicely.

    A FM FC is an advanced skill. Sage reads it very well but it's still a work in progress with Summit. The trick is to turn your shoulders into the dog, eye contact, and opposite arm comes up all at the same time that your body is moving forward:-)

    Also, in order to be ahead, you had to be able to move downstream towards 17 as soon as your dog committed to #15. You could not wait until he landed #15 to cue #16 and then expect to get there for the FC at #17.

    But I think the RC would work well too. I think the general consensus was that the FC on landing side of the 270 would allow the handler to get ahead better. It also required independent contacts. If you had to babysit the down side of the AF, you couldn't get ahead enough to FC after #15.

    When I set this up at home, I did all different strategies.

  8. "Also, in order to be ahead, you had to be able to move downstream towards 17 as soon as your dog committed to #15. You could not wait until he landed #15 to cue #16 and then expect to get there for the FC at #17." I suspected this was part of my issue. The FC between 15 and 16 was no problem but I found myself waiting not only for Strum to jump 15 but also for him to be moving towards and committed to 16 before I started moving forward and it was enough for me to lose the advantage of being ahead. So in addition to working on the FM FC I need to work on being able to leave him and have him take that 16 jump while I'm still moving ahead. So many little skills to work on from this one little course section.

    Were you able to get enough ahead to start the FM FC cue (ie turning your shoulders, etc.) before your dog was committed to the triple? Not that I'll necessarily be able to do it but it helps if I know it's possible with a super fast dog.

  9. Yes, I had plenty of time to start the FC cues before he committed to the triple.

    I train forward and lateral sends frequently with both my dogs. If I didn't have those, I would be limited to just rear crosses with Summit.

  10. Thanks for the tips! We'll give it another try.