Sunday, May 09, 2010

Deliver me from Novice

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.


  1. novice is hard because it's so easy and fast, and flowy.
    I feel your pain. Wicca is in CKC Novice- probably forever. :)

  2. What about a rear cross on the flat to the table? Once he entered the chute, could you have taken off for the dogwalk and then turned him on the flat to the table? Summit doesn't have running contacts but I've had to turn him on the flat when he comes shooting out of tunnels.

    I remember that run. I think that was the only one I got to see. I remember you repeating the weaves. Does he pop out because he's in a hurry to get to the next obstacle or because of stress? Summit never popped out but he would miss his entries because he didn't take the time to collect in competition. Because doing obstacles was so rewarding for him, he wasn't allowed to go on until he entered correctly. If I though it was stress that was causing the missed entry, I would repeat until he entered correctly, mark it, and then after the poles, leave the ring for a big reward.

  3. I don't think he's popping out because of stress, I think he's overexcited and wants to get to the next obstacle and because I let him get away with this for a few runs in the beginning he probably thinks it's what I want in a trial setting. However making him repeat the poles is confusing to him and is stressing him out. I think letting him continue on with the course is a bigger reward than taking him out of the ring for a reward otherwise I'd do that. I reward him when he finishes runs and he seems pleased to get the rewards but I think the big fun for him is running the course. He doesn't finish up his runs looking for his rewards like my other dogs do.

    I was way too far behind for a rear cross on the flat after the dogwalk, he would have been flying towards that #15 jump while I was reaching the end of the walk. Plus it's not a skill we've practiced all that much, esp. at the dogwalk. Definitely something to set up in practice. Would be interesting to see if anyone else pulled it off. I don't think anybody qualified in 22" Perf. which was the biggest class of Champ. and Perf. Not sure how the smaller dogs or the few bigger Champ. dogs fared. I think Joy ran the course, I'll ask her what she did.

  4. I have this problem with Gustavo's weave poles at trials. He is so wired, he blows by misses entry, then once he's in, can pop out at 10. He still misses hard entries when we practice, but never pops.

    A hard entry for him is very much like entries we see in Starters and Advanced courses-straight on straight lines. Because he is flying along and just blows by. If I can collect him in a turn, much easier to get in the poles.

    He also has a hard time with holding it together under stress.

    I had best success when I ran him 2 days in a row, which I usually never get a chance to do. The first day, I ran jumpers (this is USDAA so without weaves and just fast running, no stops), a snookers course that had mostly jumps, tunnels and a-frames (all nice happy no stopping things in his book) and gamblers.

    I used the gamblers run to test drive the poles, he did the pop out, but I was able to send him out to a jump then go back thru, which was way less stressful than restarting, which completely fries him.

    The next day, I did one standard run with the dreaded stopping-table, and accuracy-poles, and much success.

    The weekend after, I ran just one day and first run, Standard. I decided to put more pressure on him, he missed the pole entry, we redid. He popped out. We redid. Huge mistake and huge explosion of dog brain right there on the field. Kaboom.

    If I could trial 2 days in a row on a regular basis, I think this carefully crafted schedule would help Gustavo HUGELY doing it this way. The bummer is I work on the weekends so am lucky to make it out on a Sunday. We just keep practicing those poles with as many distractions and entries as I can find so I can keep trying to get him to both have rock solid poles, and not fall apart if I put more pressure on for him to finish if he comes unglued inside them.

  5. Sending out to an obstacle before redoing the poles is a good idea and I was doing that a little at the NADAC trial. It's the calling him back to my side to resend him that's confusing him and frustrating him I think. If I can send him around my back in a circle to reset the line to the poles that helps as well. But I think a better solution is to work on proofing so he doesn't miss in the first place.

    I've found that with 2 days of trialing sometimes the dogs are more relaxed on the second day because they ran out the craziness on the first day but sometimes they're more stressed (or overstimulated in Strum's case) and do worse the second day because they're burnt out so maybe you're not missing out on too much on that second day. Will be interesting to see how Strummer does with a heavy schedule 2 weeks in a row.

  6. Wow, starters courses are a lot harder than I remember starters courses being, if these are typical!