Chaos Crew

Chaos Crew

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Neverending Education

I wasn't really sure what to write about this quarter's Dog Agility Blogger event on "continuing education".  There are so many people teaching agility now - it really surprises me sometimes just how many of the people I run agility with on the weekends are also instructors.

So many of us are enrolled in weekly agility classes. At our facility, we have had some students consistently for years and years, with multiple dogs. We've watched them teach their dogs from puppy age, to their eventual retirement. If you hope to be successful at this sport, I think you NEED to continue your agility education with classes. It makes you accountable to someone with your training, gives you motivation to do some training away from class, and keeps you up-to-date with some of the latest challenges we see on the weekends.

It seems we constantly hear about seminar presenters coming in to the area, offering their expertise at a price - usually a steep price. This type of education can be great once in a while. You get a fresh set of eyes on you, and get the perspective of someone at the "top" of the sport. Every agility competitor can get something out of a seminar, but I think for the most part, they are geared toward the very competitive folks with the faster dogs.

I can't believe the explosive growth of "online" classes for agility now. Many of the "big name" people offer this, and lots of not-so-big names too. I think this can be a great option if you happen to live somewhere that is too far from a training center, and have to train on your own. You can at least get ideas on what to work on, and get some critiques on what you may be doing right or wrong. I do think though, that taking some online classes along with your regular weekly instructor lead classes could end with you confused and conflicted unless you are getting the exact same information from both sources. Ever hear the saying that the only thing two agility instructors can agree on is that the third instructor doesn't know what they are doing?

This leads me to another point - there are many people who take regular weekly classes from different instructors and facilities. To me, this has to be confusing to the handler, and ultimately the dog. On our local yahoo group, I also see many posts from people selling classes that they cannot attend. So I can just buy your class, show up with a dog the instructor doesn't know, with a handler they don't know, and I am supposed to just fit right into the class and not be a distraction? Just seems bizarre to me.

Our sport has been transforming over the years, with new and different challenges on course, and new handling moves or philosophies. To keep up, I believe you need to constantly educate yourself and decide if this new stuff is for you, or you would rather keep doing what you have always been doing. Ideally, when you do get out on course, the challenges you see are not going to be much different than what you practice every week and you will find yourself confident and prepared for whatever the judges can come up with!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Envy's First Trial!

I entered Envy in one day of the annual 3 day Thanksgiving weekend AKC trial at Latigo, which is the facility about 10 minutes from my house. I sat on the wait-list up until the very last day before the wait list closed and just made it into the show. I only entered Envy for this one, as it would be her debut and I wanted it to be all about her.

Her birthday is February 27th, which put her at 1 year and 9 months old. AKC will let you compete your dog as early as 1 year, 3 months old, but to me, that is too early. I felt that Envy was finally ready for a competition and I was very excited to see how she would do.

There were only about 10 dogs total entered in Novice at this trial - nearly everyone runs Masters. Her first run would be Standard. In typical novice fashion, the course was pretty straightforward.
Here is the course:

Envy did great! She had a little struggle finding the weaves, which surprised me a bit, but she got them finally. Her contacts were nice, her speed was nice and she ran happy and appeared to be having fun with no sign of stress. She gave me a nice leadout to start and read my cues very well. We ended with the tire, which she scooted under (ha!) but I brought her back and she took it to finish. We earned a Q with this run, though that was not my concern at all.

Envy first AKC Standard, November 30, 2014.

At the end of the day, almost literally, as we were the 2nd to last dog of the trial, we got to do our Jumpers run.
The course looked fun and had opportunity for some nice speed.
This is the map:

I made the mistake of not setting her up well for the first jump - I let her look off to the wrong direction and then just released her, causing her to come into me instead of heading to the weaves. After a quick reset, she hit the weaves and then I sent to the tunnel and took off fast. 
Well, with a less experienced dog, you have to remember to support all the obstacles! She flew out of the tunnel and sucked in toward me and didnt take the #4 jump. I put on the brakes and brought her back so we could run that fast line. She did it like a champ!
I put in a blind cross between #8 and 9 which she read perfectly. I had thought I would do another blind between #13 and #14 but chickened out of it and caused a mishandled rear cross at #14 instead. She then finished up over the double for another awesome Envy performance. 

I really couldn't be happier with our first runs! She has so much potential and I think we are off to a great start. 
I plan on debuting her in USDAA in January. Before that, I will work more weaves in sequence and getting her to recognize them in flow, and maybe I will put her through a tire or two again :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Skye's Retirement - 2014 USDAA Cynosports

Skye is my first agility dog - the whole reason I play this crazy sport and why I now have 3 dogs that follow me around the house.

My wife had been teaching and competing in agility for many years before I decided to give it a try. We were fostering dogs for Rocky Mountain Border Collie Rescue (now defunct) and at some point we got Skye. He took an immediate liking to me, and would climb up in my lap while I was watching TV and lay upside down looking at me. Pretty hard to resist his tactics. We heard from the rescue org. that he was found abandoned, tied to a tree in a park. I guess someone thought that would be a way to get him a new home. We guessed his age to be around 1.5 yrs old, a real common age for border collies to find their way to rescues.
One of the first pictures of Skye after he arrived as a foster.
So sometime in 2006, I thought I might try doing some agility with Skye. It really was pretty fun and Skye caught on pretty quickly. We trained for a little more than a year before entering a competition.

Here is the earliest video I have - from our second trial in July 2007. It was a NADAC show - that is where we started, but didn't do too much of that venue after we reached the Elite level. It's hard to watch the video as I clearly didnt know what I was doing - but isnt that the case with our first agility partners?

Skye turned out to be just the right dog for me to start doing agility with. He was medium fast and really listened well.

Over time we competed in AKC and USDAA agility. Because of USDAA's jump height measurement cutoff, he ran in the Performance program his whole career so that he could jump 22" instead of 26". That was closer to the 20" height he had to jump in AKC.

Eventually we earned MACH2 in AKC and Performance ADCH Bronze in USDAA, and his Lifetime Achievement in USDAA.

His big accomplishment was getting to run in AKC Nationals Finals in 2013, finishing 18th out of over 400 dogs entered.

In the summer of 2014 Skye hurt himself chasing a rabbit. His back was really sore and he had a hard time getting around. I thought at that time that I probably would not get to do agility with him any longer. Fortunately he did heal with no ill effects. I thought a fitting retirement for him might be to enter the Veterans Showcase at USDAA Cynosport in Morgan Hill, CA in October 2014.

He did really well. We ran just 5 runs over 4 days, starting with a warmup run called Power and Speed, where you have a set time to complete the contacts and weaves, followed by the timed portion of the run which is jumps and tunnels. Skye got 1st place in his veterans group in this run.

The Veterans Showcase is like playing DAM team, but with only 1 dog on the team. Your 4 runs, Standard, Jumpers, Snooker and Gamblers are scored just like team, and the top 3 dogs in each height get to participate in a 'showcase' event before the Grand Prix finals.

Skye got two more 1st place scores - in Standard and in Gamblers. He did not do so well in Snooker as he popped out of his weaves and took out a jump in the opening, so no points for those, and then he knocked the #3 jump in the closing. Jumpers is what did us in though - after the weaves we had a threadle sequence that I mishandled. I was not in the proper position, and I caused Skye to take the wrong side of a jump, giving us an "E" and zero score for Jumpers. That kept us out of the running for top 3.
Still, I couldnt be happier with how he ran. He had a lot of fun, barking his fool head off before his runs, and was super eager to run from the start. I am so glad I got the opportunity to run him this last time in competition.
Here are his runs from Cynosport

Skye-boy will now get to spend his time sleeping next to me at my desk, and playing frisbee and ball in the front yard, along with the daily rabbit chasing that I cant get him to stop doing!