We all know Tripp is an agility rock star... at least in his mind. ;-) Unfortunately he's stuck with me as a handler, so we haven't gotten very far in trials. Agility Qs have not been at all easy to come by, compared to Rally Obedience for instance, which is more my forte as a trainer. But we still have fun out there - and Tripp obviously intensely adores it.
We've been out of agility classes for a while now, so my handling this weekend was falling below par again. I just wanted to give it one more try before winter break, and getting even rustier! Tripp just needed one more Q in USDAA Gamblers for his Starters level title. That's all I wanted for Christmas - an agility title. That, and no injuries.
Well, the latter did not look promising when Tripp approached the dogwalk too fast and misstepped. Off he tumbled and all I could think was something got hurt. But he was more embarrassed than anything and continued the run with as much drive as ever. Thank God, no apparent injuries resulted - he is running and jumping in the same good form as before. Surely an extra long warm up and cool down helped, followed by massage and stretching. And extra napping! LOL
After that mishap, however, the former did not look promising either. No way, I figured, would we collect enough points to Q at that point. We continued on through a tunnel then tried the weave poles, which Tripp missed - I pulled him out to try for a jump, but our time was up. He finished the gamble with no trouble, but I did not expect a Q. Oh well, I was too busy worrying about him still (even though he was moving just fine - yes I'm paranoid). Scores were soon posted, and lo and behold, we Qed!! But how?? Thanks to Tripp for making up his own course and taking the teeter a 2nd time, that gave us just enough points to qualify! Smart boy.
I must say, too, that when he wasn't falling off that darn dogwalk, Tripp had beautiful form on all the other obstacles. One of these days we'll get it all in one trial - good form, responsiveness, no mishaps, and good handling! Hey, I can dream, at least. ;-)
I'm not sure how we did it. Blame it on the full moon, or just Tripp being Tripp, but he was absolutely wild this weekend. We started Saturday with Rally trials at Finish Forward Dogs, working on his championship points. I didn't get any "Poodles Gone Wild" video footage, but while part of me regrets not having that reference to decifer his unusual behavior, another part is glad there's no evidence of a crazy dog winning the whole show. LOL
Truly, it was unusual behavior for Tripp in the obedience ring, and actually he did well in the first class, earning a 99 & 1st place, but then it seems he spotted the a-frame (even though it was against the wall and behind fencing) and went into agility mode. From then on he was breaking position and barking like mad. Lucky for us, UKC apparently has no rules against barking (AKC does). Somehow, even with all those faults, we managed to score a 95 in the second class. Our 3rd class went slightly better, with the same behaviors but fewer incidents, and we scored a 98 & 3rd place. I was still not impressed with all the barking & running around and asked Tripp to please behave for our final ring time. He listened and gave a nice performance, though it took much willpower! He reeeally wanted to take off again, but stayed with me, and of course that intensity made for an extra flashy run. We ended with a perfect 100 & 1st place, which was earned by a time tie-breaker. Competition was stiff with many great teams scoring high. Tripp was just quicker.
For special awards, the club as usual offered High in Trial for both trials that day, as well as High Combined, which is the first I recall seeing offered for rally. It is for the highest combined score in levels 2 & 3. In the morning trial, another excellent team took HIT with their perfect score, but to my surprise Tripp & I won High Combined. (I actually had to ask what it was. LOL) Well this is something new! Very cool. Incidentally, our combined score was 194 out of a possible 200. The same awards were offered at the conclusion of the afternoon trial, and I sat vaguely listening to the judge announcing the winner for HIT & HC - the same winner as last time... Wait, what? Who me? You mean both?? Very, very cool! :-) We nailed both awards for the same trial. So, we hit a couple bumps, but it was a really nice finish to the day. Oh yes, our afternoon HC score was 198. Not bad, not bad at all!
As of this event, our rally championship point tally stands at 82 points - we need 100 for UROC title. (Points are earned based on score - 1 pt. for a 91, 2 pts. for a 92, and so on.) We have surpassed the required points in each level (must have at least 40 in level 2 & 20 in level 3), so we can earn the remainder from either one, although I will likely continue entering both to work towards URX, which requires 10 double Qs (we have 4 so far)... although that will depend on next year's show schedule and finances.
My fleeting hope of making rank in UKC's Rally All-Stars was dashed earlier in the year. This is an annual list of the top 50 highest scoring teams in the country. It is divided for each level. We made level 3 rank in late winter with our first trial, but come spring we were quickly bumped off by teams who apparently have far more opportunities for competition. Unfortunately we are not so lucky here, with only a few trials to attend in the region. As it currently stands, the #1 team (a Poodle, by the way) has over 500 points (I am baffled at how they accomplished that - must compete every weekend!), although the lowest at the moment is only 46 in level 2 and 50 in level 3. Perhaps there is hope yet... We are up to 47 points now in level 2 and 51 in level 3. So just maybe we'll make the list again, at least briefly. However, this was likely our last trial of the year, so I'm sure more active competitors will take the lead. Oh well. It was a cheap thrill while we had it.
Here is our win photo, with his haul of ribbons from the day!
Marshland Obedience Club
Sept. 29, 2012
Judge: Barb Burri
UKC Rally Obedience
Trial 1 - Level 2: 95
Level 3: 99, 1st place
High Combined score
Trial 2 - Level 2: 100, 1st place
Level 3: 98, 3rd place
High Combined score
Highest Scoring Dog in Trial
On Sunday, we entered an agility trial at All Dog's Gym. Tripp had a little more fun, of course, but our results didn't turn out nearly as good as they did in rally. His behavior was no less crazy, although he's always wicked amped up in agility. Still, he was a bit more over the edge than usual. As always though, he proved to put on an eye catching performance regardless of scoring badly. And as usual, most of the faults were due to my handling, but a couple were all him!
I included details of our performance (and my frustration ;-) in the video description.
For best viewing, and reading about the day, go to http://youtu.be/Z7Wae7ofP_Y.
After a busy and HOT Saturday, I questioned if Tripp would be up for an agility trial on Sunday. Thankfully it was scheduled for afternoon, but I still wondered... No worries - after a good night's sleep, Tripp arose with energy to spare.
Quite some time ago, I entered us in the ACNH trial at American K9 Country on 8/5. Entries fill quickly, as this club's prices are low (for AKC), so you must enter early. I had only done one other AKC agility trial last year (our very first trial, also ACNH) and enjoyed it, but had no serious plans to pursue it. However, now that we are taking a break from creative grooming, I decided to try it again. I do like that, while still challenging, you don't need an absolutely clean run to Q, as in USDAA, plus the jumps are a tad lower, so it's easier on Tripp's body. He certainly had no trouble navigating these courses, and didn't drop a single bar on the jumps. Not that he was without faults...
First up was regular agility class. Overall, we had a nice run. Tripp did go off course once (which loses points, but still qualifying), unfortunately, being amped up at the beginning, he blew the contact off the dogwalk. (Contact zones are required to prevent the dog from jumping off too soon/high and risking injury.) As a safety violation, that was an automatic failure, so we NQed. He still was a hit - so many people asked "who's that dog?" and complimented our run. One person exclaimed, "he's a rockstar!" LOL Yes, he is one awesome boy.
After a nice break, we were back in the ring for Jumpers class. This is a fast course with no contact obstacles; just jumps, tunnels and weave poles. Here, you do need a clean run to Q. Standard course time was set at 40 seconds. Tripp was the very last dog of the day, and he was raring to go - into the ring that is. He zipped through the course beautifully, without fault, and we earned our first leg/Q - in only 19.65 seconds! See, they saved the best for last. ;-)
I also put Tripp's Jumpers run in slo-mo... because watching him once just isn't enough. ;-)
USDAA agility is tough. High jumps (26 inches for Tripp, who is 25 inches tall) and perfect "clean" runs to qualify for titles. What was I thinking starting out here? LOL (Well, as you may recall, it's simply because they allow colored dogs, so I wouldn't have to forgo trials due to creative grooming.) As competitive as it may be, I generally find it to be a pleasant experience. This weekend was particularly good. I really loved this judge, who was very helpful and nice, and obviously having fun. Makes for a great day, regardless of results.
On the plus side, Tripp earned a 2nd leg towards his first Gamblers title. I am hoping we can finish it later this year. We still have one in Standard class, but I may leave that outstanding and move to Performance division where the jumps are lower. Although this will be easier on Tripp's body, it won't necessarily make titling any easier!
On the down side, Tripp had a setback during training last week, slipping off the dogwalk and aggravating an old injury. Thankfully nothing serious enough to keep us from running agility, but plenty to make me worry. Of course, it doesn't take much to do that - we're all paranoid about our babies. I was actually a bit surprised to see him moving as well as he did when I played back the trial footage in slow motion. However, I also see movements that are not normal for him, confirming a slight imbalance (which we've been struggling with for a while). While he may be well enough to perform, we also don't want to push too hard and delay truly full recovery. Now I'm glad there are no more USDAA trials to tempt us for a couple months.
I set the video to slo-mo to evaluate Tripp's performance, but also found it helpful to see the subtleties of my handling. I included this & my notes in the footage below, since it may be of interest or helpful to other handlers. But since I am obviously FAR from being a pro, I would also welcome constructive feedback from knowledable agility folk.
Dec. 30, 2010 Re: Tripp's awards... "At just 18 months, that boy has sure developed quite a resume of his own, plus given me a nice collection of show ribbons. I joke that he’ll have to retire by the time he’s 3, as I’ll run out of wall space!"
Memorial Day weekend, 2012. Just a couple weeks shy of Tripp's 3rd birthday. We are officially out of wall space, with his current configuration of ribbons and other awards. Have no fear, he will not be retiring any time soon... but I will need to find new space for displaying prizes. It'd be a shame to stash any of them in a drawer. Perhaps it is time to get creative and make a ribbon wreath or quilt or something crafty like that...
So, I entered the ASCNE agility trials after much deliberation on which classes to do. I settled on regular agility for Sat. and gamblers/jumpers on Sun. And then nothing went right. I didn't get my entry in soon enough and ended up wait listed. I figured that was it, no agility for the weekend, and local ASCA sanctioned events are few and far between. Major lost opportunity. But surprise, I eventually got a message saying I was pulled from the list and could compete on Sunday after all! Too bad I didn't enter regular classes that day - I was really hoping to work on finishing that title. I didn't have any points in the other classes. Still, I accepted (of course!) Then we had to figure out how to adjust my payment, as they had my check for two days and now I was only running one. After discussing it, we decided I'd write a new check and include a SASE for them to mail my old one back to me. Literally a day after I put that in the mail, I got another message. Entries opened up on Sat. as well, and now we could run both days if desired! You'd think that'd be exciting news, but after just switching things around, it was only more hassle. For various other reasons, I decided to just stick with the one day. While I'm still bummed at missing the opportunity to finish Tripp's RS-N title, I am glad we didn't do both days. Esp. if Sat. would've started out as crappy as Sun. did...
Did I mention that after I decided on classes according to the tentative schedule, they went and changed the running orders? They do have that right, but how annoying! Turns out I would have bigger gaps between classes than hoped for. Plus they moved gamblers to the end of the day. We'd have to run in jumpers first. That's the toughest class, requring clean runs. It's nicer to do gamblers first so if the dog acts up, it doesn't necessarily mean an NQ - as long as you get the points in time, the dog can zoomie like a fool and hopefully get it out of his system before the other classes. ;-) Minor detail, but the new running order was just one of the little things that added up into a big mess.
I rose with the dawn (way too early!) as I had to be at the trial for general briefing at 7:30. Yet another hiccup - I planned to check in on Sat, so could skip the meeting on Sun and come later. Now I was stuck with no ring times until the second half of the day. I had no idea how long the day would be! So I get there just in time for breifing, after a lousy drive, taking wrong turns (because the written directions were wrong, and my GPS doesn't know the right way, and even though I'd been to the fairgrounds several times and even had my own correct written directions I failed to look at them or remember the way or just read the stupid highway signs properly!) plus forgetting my water bottle (I did have a cooler with waters, but no ice for me). Not a good start. When I finally arrived at the trial, honestly, the briefing didn't seem all that essential. I mean, yes, it was somewhat important, but if I'd missed it, I think we wouldn't gotten by just fine. That wasn't the biggest annoyance though - turns out the trial was likely to go on until after 7 pm! Our first estimated ring time wasn't until around 3:15! Great. So I got up early just to sit around doing nothing for nearly 8 hours, on a hot day, in my car or travel chair (either of which kills my back after so much time), with nothing but friggin port-o-potties (like I said, it's the little things - I just prefer real plumbing, ya know), not to mention one bored Poodle who would probably be so frustrated by the time it was our turn he'd instantly NQ. I paced back and forth, and sat and stressed for about half an hour, then said screw it and left. There was no way I'd make it through the day. The way things started out, I seriously considered scratching the whole thing! Prospects for a good outcome we not looking promising.
There went a quarter tank of gas for a pointless and irritating drive.
After getting back home and putting some good food in my stomach I felt somewhat better. Sleep deprivation and low blood suger just don't mix well for me. I got a few things done, but otherwise relaxed and considered our options for the day. In the end, I did go back. Mostly because I'm too cheap to just throw away an entry fee. Things went smoother. It may have been a rough start, but everything turned out well in the end... VERY well, in fact...
Tripp ran beautifully in jumpers! It was a trickier course than it seemed at first glance, a good test of handling skills. Tripp was right with me, focused, and fast! Standard course time was set at 31.33 seconds - Tripp did it in 18.79! He took 1st Place out of 7 dogs, and earned a 10 point Q. He needs 20 points for that title, so we are halfway there already. :-)
We had quite a bit of time until gamblers, and I thought about scratching and just going home so I could be back at a reasonable time. But I didn't want to walk out on the trial again. Things moved along more swiftly than expected, and I passed some time by volunteering as leash runner, as they were short on workers at that point in the day. I also couldn't resist trying the gamblers course we were in for. It was the screwiest looking thing I'd ever seen! They call it a "box gamble" - the closing sequence is in the middle of the course. Apparently it is not done often. Lucky me. LOL I'd never seen anything like it, so it really threw me for a loop, but I took it as a challenge. Had no expectations of succeeding at it, but if nothing else I wanted to be able to tell my trainer about it, and say "what the..?" I studied that map forever, and figured out the best way to send Tripp for maximum points. Amazingly, it turned out to be one of our best gamblers runs yet! We racked up 29 points in the opening (we only needed 15!) for a total of 49 points with the gamble. When the timer sounded, we were in just the right spot to do the gamble, so got through that in plenty of time. I had hoped to do one more obstacle first, but it worked out just fine. Another 1st Place, this time only out of 2 dogs, and another Q & halfway to that title as well.
The lesson of today's story is: Don't give up. Like the ears on a blue Poodle, every cloud really does have a silver lining. ;-)
This could be the start of a favorable year for agility!
After winter break, my handling had gotten so rusty, however Tripp was just as good as where we left off. A refresher course brought me somewhat up to speed, and I prepared for upcoming trials. Last year qualifying scores eluded us in most agility venues, and I hoped this year we'd finally start making points towards titles.
We entered a USDAA trial on Mother's Day to start off the new season. Standard agility and Gamblers were our only classes for the day. I am still flying high, as we Qed in both classes, and got 1st place (out of 2 dogs in our height division). Ironically, Tripp was not 100% focused to start, and could've had a nicer run, but he managed to not do anything that counted as a fault, so we squeaked out our first Q. I was very proud of him for staying on the table, as well as doing so well on some tricky obstacles he hasn't seen since last year.
Then in Gamblers he was more focused, though did take a detour towards the A-frame (which actually would've been better bonus points, but oh well - I should listen to him more out there, LOL)... that messed with my timing some and when the buzzer sounded to do the gamble we weren't quite where we should've been. That is our usual struggle which makes us just barely time out before the finish line. I pushed him on to go fast, and unbelievably we made it through in time! I was, and still am, just ecstatic. :-)
We're on a roll... here's hoping we stay there!
November brought on our final agility trials of the year. After mostly rough performances over the summer, Tripp finally kept his focus in the ring and gave beautiful runs. No zoomies! My handling had vastly improved, and I managed to keep ring nerves to a minimum this time. Everything gelled and it felt like just maybe we'd grab a qualifying score. And then a blonde moment struck. I honestly have no idea why I misunderstood directions in the gamblers run, but I do know I will never make that mistake again! Studying the map more closely probably would have helped. LOL And certainly I will be sure to get very clear directions from the judge next time... plus remember that the obstacles are numbered in the closing sequence! Duh! So first lesson of the day: know where you are going. ;-)
Our standard run was great, unfortunately I pushed out too far at the table and Tripp flew off it. Automatic NQ in USDAA. But the rest was awesome, and well below standard course time, and I am so proud of Tripp for his best performance yet! We beat another dog for 2nd place, and I took my first USDAA agility ribbon. We had some default placements before, but this was our first time winning over competition. After that lovely run, I am happy to have a little something to show for it. I also bought Tripp a new toy as a prize. He sure earned it!
I also got the chance to watch some of the masters/champion level runs. It was very educational, I picked up some good tips, esp. in gamblers. And I was relieved to see even top level teams making the same mistakes/faults as Tripp and I. USDAA is tough, requiring perfectly clean runs, and it's typically a fairly low percentage of teams that Q, regardless of level. While I root for everyone to do well, it is comforting to know we're not alone out there with our oopsies. On a more positive note, it was also very cool to see some of the more experienced teams taking a similar strategy to mine in gamblers... I even received compliments on my strategy. Which is kind of funny, because (as usual) after the fact, I thought of a few better ways we could have gone to maximize points. Not that we have any problem racking up more than enough to Q; just some competitive strategy to file away for the future.
I am very encouraged to continue in USDAA next season. Hopefully we won't forget everything over the winter! ;-)
This was one busy weekend! Though I must say we were more successful in rally on Sat. than in agility on Sun. (no surprise). But Tripp has been doing great in practice, he just needs trial experience at this point. So we entered with yet another organization, USDAA. This is where I intended to focus our efforts, simply because they will allow him to run when creatively groomed. Apparently we have our work cut out for us! Usually I'm good about learning rules before a trial, but I missed one important point on scoring... to get a qualifying score in USDAA you need a clean run. No "off courses" allowed. Not just in jumpers, but standard agility as well! Who knew? LOL So does this mean I'll enter less? Well, probably not. After all I'm not going to "waste" all the training we've done so far. In fact, I may actually enter more - add jumpers to the list. Hey, why not? Just as much of a shot Qing there as in Std. now! ;-)
Anyway, no Qs this weekend. Gamblers was a bust - distractions made us lose time and though we racked up more than enough points, once again the buzzer sounded with just one obstacle left in the gamble. Oooh! But it still makes for a good warm up run, and I do enjoy the strategy of the game. I'm determined to finish the course one of these times! If Tripp could just focus he would make an awesome gamblers dog. Maybe some day... I set up my tripod to film us as best I could. Most of our gamblers run can be seen. Unfortunately, I suffered camera malfunction with our standard run, so missed the opportunity to review my handling mistakes. We didn't do too badly out there, and I thought we had just barely squeaked out a Q, until learning the scoring methods. Oh well. It was also an educational experience on set up and handling. Tripp is a totally different dog in agility - thinks he's a wild Border Collie! Can't handle seeing other dogs in "his" ring, and is always in a hurry to get started (hence the barking). I need to get focus, and keep him out of sight until it's our turn. Trickier than it sounds, as they want you ringside and then in the ring setting up while the last team finishes their run! Uh... yeah, right.
We shall try again, but I'm not holding my breath for ribbons in this one! When we do finally Q and title in USDAA, it will be quite an accomplishment!
After playing catch up on training this summer, I decided to take a chance and enter some Agility trials. Were we ready? Maybe, almost. We wouldn't know for sure until we tried. I entered the most affordable ones I could find that fit in my schedule and planned to treat them as run thrus. Maybe we wouldn't Q, but maybe we would; either way it'd be good practice.
First up was an AKC trial in Amherst, NH on July 3. Agility Club of NH has lower entry fees than other AKC clubs, so I limited my options to their events. I entered Standard and Jumpers. We NQed both runs, but actually did somewhat better on course than I expected. I was bummed that Tripp fell off the dog walk (he was okay), esp. since he slowed down so well on command for a safer entry... an experienced competitor saw the incident from another angle and said he was distracted/surprised by the steward, who should not have set up so close to the dog walk in the novice ring. Too bad, I think we might've actually had a chance at qualifying if he'd run the whole course. But it was still a great learning experience, and the club was super helpful to this newbie, nice atmosphere, friendly competitors, encouraging for a green team. On the plus side of not earning any legs, I have no pressing need to continue in AKC agility... although I am likely to try again once we have more experience competing. That is, when Tripp is not covered in dye for creative grooming.
On July 31 the Aus. Shepherd Club of New England held an ASCA Agility trial in Canterbury. ASCA performance is open to all breeds and mixes, offering an alternative competitive outlet. Trials are downright cheap (but what isn't relative to AKC?) and perfect practice for other venues, and ASCA registered dogs can earn titles while they're at it. What's not to like? Membership/registration (a one-time fee) was affordable too, so I figured why not sign Tripp up for a chance to put some more letters after his name. Yeah, he needs more of those, you know. LOL Just like he needs more silk for the 2/3 full ribbon wall. ;-)
Anyway, it was a super hot day for outdoor agility. I went nuts and entered us in FOUR classes (those irresistable prices, I didn't even think of all the work it'd be for a single day). All things considered Tripp did great. Many of the Aussies were melting out there; Tripp was feeling the heat too but kept his momentum up pretty well throughout the day. The facility offered a kiddie pool and hose for the dogs to cool off in, so I'm sure that helped.
We started off with 2 runs in Standard Agility. While nowhere near perfect (the twerp is developing a pattern of taking off after a couple obstacles, but once control is reestablished he does pretty good, and as long as he doesn't go "off course" we don't lose points, just time - but I'm trying to nip that zoomie behavior in the bud before it becomes a habit) we actually Qed in both runs and earned 2nd place (though I think that was by default - only 1 other dog in our height division as I recall). First trial, Tripp managed to give a "clean" run - at least, no course faults - I got a time fault for taking way too long setting up at the start line. Man, if only I had my act together we could've got a perfect score! Oh well. Good learning experience. That's what we were there for! Second trial we beat Standard Course Time, but Tripp went off course, getting one fault. Still great for beginners. I wish I had video of those Standard runs. I bet my handling caused him to go off course (it usually is the handler's fault). Video has been great for critiquing my handling skills, it's an awesome educational tool for competitors.
I did catch our afternoon trials on camera. We gave Jumpers and Gamblers a shot. Both were NQs but lots of fun, and overall well played. Tripp went off course in Jumpers, which automatically non-qualifies us, but we made good time and earned a respectable 4th place among a decent size class of speedy herding dogs! I didn't understand the time placements including NQs at the time, which seemed undeserving (it's just separate scoring systems, makes sense actually), now I regret not taking a ribbon for our wins, esp. considering we actually beat some competition in those. But like I said, it's not as if he needs more ribbons, seriously. LOL Next time, however, I'm taking everything they offer, just like any other show. Hey, at least it's something tangible in return for our efforts. ;-)
Gamblers was really interesting. I had very little experience with this game so my expectations were not overwhelmingly high, but of course I had hope. It was more challenging than I'd thought - in a good way. Very strategic. Not nearly as easy as one might think. Lots of fun! Unfortuately I was unprepared at the start line and ran in without setting up, which sent Tripp out of control. Regaining focus ate up lots of time, and while we earned plenty of points and nailed the gamble (plus earned another 2nd place), the buzzer went off just as Tripp sailed over the final jump. Missed it by that much! We still had a great time, and I consider it another very good learning experience. (I know I keep saying that. But it's true!)
As much as I enjoy Jumpers, I'm not sure if I will compete in that class again until Tripp is delivering more clean runs. In this sport, it's wise to put your money where your best odds are. Though knowing me in dog sports I'll probably chance it. I definitely want to try more Gamblers; it's a very cool challenge, possibly addictive. I will absolutely be back for more ASCA agility (an infrequent local offering it seems) - after all, we have legs, now we need to finish that title... and maybe go for more! ;-) Meanwhile, I'll be focusing our agility efforts mainly on USDAA, which allows dyed dogs, so we're all set to keep trialing when creatively groomed. Hopefully we start those trials later this fall. If we seem ready, I might throw in one more attempt at AKC before winter closes in. What can I say, I'm a glutton. LOL