I wasn't planning on running Strummer at all at the USDAA trial this weekend but with Miss Lola on injured reserve I decided to let him have her runs (Gamblers and Standard) and use the opportunity to work on the weaves some more. This is not ideal dog training, I should be trying to find ways to proof him away from the ring. But after finally having some small amount of success last weekend I was sure he'd do better this weekend. In conclusion, not so much. On the plus side he was finally making his entries but still popping out with 4 poles to go. I kept redoing the poles each class until he finally got them and each class it took 3 tries. By the second class I could feel his frustration growing and I did not feel at all good about it. It's important that he learn that he has to complete them all the way just like at home but doing them over and over in the ring does not feel like a good plan. Agility trials should be fun for him, they shouldn't feel like a drill or a chore. 2 more weeks until our next trial but I'm so busy the next 2 weeks, not sure how much I'll be able to train him. It is what it is though, work is so much more important right now.
I also spent a good part of the day yesterday beating myself up over some appalling handling in the Standard class. Probably the worst run I've ever had in an agility trial, or close anyway. Then I realized how utterly ridiculous I was being, Strummer had forgotten about the run about 4 seconds after it was over. Still, there are those days when I feel like I have such a special, awesome dog and it's a shame I can't seem to do a better job for him.
What agility run? Do you see my cool bottle? Cool, huh?!!
The Standard run was challenging for a running dogwalk. My plan was to put a front cross between 4 and 5 but I was maybe midway between the teeter and the chute when Strum hit the entry to the chute and I could hear my brain saying, 'No way Jose' so I held back and did a rear cross between the chute and the dogwalk which was the worst option because I was so far behind. Strum turned back to me and lept off the side of the down plank without even trying to hit the contact. We've been working on turns but not with me located at the halfway point of the dogwalk. By that point my brain was fried and I should have left the course but we went on. Strum hit the table then flew right off, I got lost and left off jump #8 and then got so far behind on the last run of jumps that he ran past the finish jump then back jumped it, a common problem we've been having with those novice courses. I didn't think it was possible to make so many mistakes on a novice course but there you go. I'm not sure if any other teams got that front cross in or even attempted it. The only other run I saw had the handler on the right side of the dog walk and she attempted to flip the dog away from her to the table. This led to some confusion and a call-off I think from jump #15. I think the best option would be to hold the dog on the teeter, get ahead a step or 2 then release to the chute so that you can get ahead enough to get that front cross in after the chute. I can't see any other way. My mistake was stopping at the teeter to make sure he didn't go flying off and this put me way too far behind. Need to work on getting a more independent teeter in a trial situation. The theme of this post is that I suck at proofing.
Gamblers was nearly the exact same course with the gamble being the #14 tire to the #13 jump to the obvious end of the #12 tunnel with the gamble line running from the right side of the tire to the end of the tunnel near the #12 mark. Easy peasy. I ran the course as #1-5 then headed into the gamble. But Strum took so long to get the weaves (and added in an A-frame on his own while trying to get them) that the buzzer went off after the teeter. He's such a freaking rocket ship that he still managed to do all those obstacles and get the gamble in time. So we got a Q but it wasn't a very inspiring run due to working on those weaves.
I didn't run in Pairs but there was an interesting challenge from the #2 dogwalk to jump #4 that most teams struggled with. Most if not all of the teams kept their dog on their right all the way to the weaves but the problem was that most handlers ran to the end of the dogwalk then the wing on the #3 jump forced them to set a terrible line to #4. Some people were able to get enough ahead and use a 'get out' cue to redirect the dog to #4 but many had general confusion and call-offs. I think the only way to do this nicely with the dog on the right is to have an independent dogwalk and stay back even with the #3 wing and move towards #4 as soon as possible. The more appealing option to me is a front cross after the dogwalk, #3 to #4 with the dog on the left then a front cross to #5. Or maybe a rear cross on the flat between #4 and 5 if I couldn't get far enough ahead for the front. I didn't notice anybody try that but I was jump setting at the other end of the ring and it took me several dogs to notice the challenge so I wasn't paying close attention to all the runs.
The entry for this trial was so small, I was done with my 2 runs by 10:15 a.m. I stayed to work for a bit, stopped for cheap gas and a mocha at the most awesome Bananalope coffee house and was still home by 2:00 p.m. The entry was down by about 50% or so from last year. Could be due to the economy but maybe also some rising discontent with USDAA in general. Hard to say.
I did have the fun of helping out a newbie a little bit. He had sent an email to the club wanting to join but not knowing anybody to sponsor him so I told him to send me an email telling me about himself and his dog and his interest in agility and I'd sponsor him. I think it's silly needing sponsors at all especially for the newbies but I figured I should ask for some info. in case someone from the club questioned me about him. He ended up coming down from Wyoming to the trial with his lovely BC mix and he asked a bunch of questions, even volunteered to set jumps for some classes and he was a nice guy so I think he'd be a great member. Heck, we need as many guys as we can get to help move the heavy equipment, right? I hope they vote him in, I'm not sure how picky they are about such things and I doubt I'll go to the next meeting.
A weekend off then 2 DOCNA trials in a row. It exhausts me just thinking about it. At least I'm out of Novice in DOCNA, maybe I'll have a fighting chance of keeping up with Rocketman. That is if he doesn't trade me in for some faster, younger thing in the meantime.