Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jump Wraps

There are many ways to perform a sequence, as evidenced by this "Jump Wraps" video put together by Steve Schwarz.  The video also demonstrates how it's always important to "have the dog's head", holding onto that "psychic leash" I blogged about last fall, which became the basis for my Handling Fundamentals class. You can almost see the leash in this video.

Steve can back wave his dog over a jump while facing the other direction, and he's not afraid of the blind cross either.  Furthermore, he shows that even a border collie can be made to collect, to run at a measured pace rather than full out, using closely placed obstacles and short sequences.

Check this out:

Exercise 1.  I set the first sequence up at my Wednesday night Intermediate Beginners class, thinking to further train all the various maneuvers, but it never got traction.  Not sure why.  We moved on to running segments of an Excellent jumpers course, because it seems students at the lower levels want to run and have fun with their dogs more than they want to train specific handling skills, do their flatwork, etc.  My fear is that bad habits develop this way which can wreck havoc later on if they decide to compete.  It's hard to strike a proper balance in a 1 hour class.

So, I've decided to share this video and blog post with my students, maybe inspire and encourage them to set up these sequences in their own yards and practice on their own time. Most of them have some jumps and weave poles at home, and they can substitute another jump for the tunnel.  There are 7 different handling maneuvers in Exercise 1.  If they did 10 minutes a day without a dog, then 10 minutes with a dog, in no time they would be experts and having more fun pursuing titles than they can even imagine right now.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brandon Trial - Sat Sun

Maxie, 4 runs, 3 Q's (XJ 2nd place, XS 1st place, XJ 2nd place), 1 QQ, 42 MACH Points
Lucky, 4 runs, 1 Q (XS 2nd place)
Videos are posted (see links right column).

Maxie, Lucky, Willow and I attended my 5th trial for 2011, in Brandon, MS this past Easter weekend. The mood was festive and several ladies wore Easter garb between their runs and told stories of previous Easter trials and how they've decorated their bonnets over the years.

Pulling out of BR around noon Friday, I heard a thunk under the left front wheel about half a mile down the road and the car began pulling hard to the right. I turned around and went home, called Sherwood Car Care and they said bring it in. I offloaded the dogs, went, they put her on the rack and said "don't drive her out of town". So I went home and unpacked my Grand Marquis with its clean windshields and ashtray, dusted floormats, filled tires, and full gastank into John's Grand Marquis, with its dirty windshields, un-checked tires, littered floor, and half a tank of gas, and made it to Brandon 2.5 hours later than I expected. I refused to interpret this as a bad omen. I had a second chariot, after all, and had built in a 4 hour cushion for unseen circumstances.  I do that these days because I can't take rushing any more, and because at my age there should be "no surprise to surprises".  It all worked out.

Lucky's crate left, Willow and Maxie's right,
With cooler, duffle bag, a tray for my table, and chairs arranged
on my 5x7' brown carpet, that's our little weekend home, tightly
squeezed in amidst a sea of others.
I set up my crate space on Friday, then went to the hotel to offload, then Nedra and I went to an early dinner at a fried Catfish shack a few blocks away. $8  Delicious! Mark Ostrich joined us so we learned more about his training and dog club activities in New Orleans. It made me appreciate our club having a field of its own, regular classes, a core of willing instructors, and 24/7 field privileges for qualified students.

Fewer of our club members (Nedra, Kay, Loralie, Tracey, Sandy and me) showed up at the trial due to it being Easter weekend, not the usual gang that hangs together.  With various personalities missing the dynamic was different, which I found interesting. 

Also, the trial was smaller, the days ended by 3 p.m., so everyone was willing to hang around for the last runs of our Open and Novice dogs (Lucky, Trea and Toozie). Since Toozie was the last dog to run on Sunday, Kay kept telling me I didn't have to stay, she understood we wanted to get on the road, etc.  Which gave me the opportunity to explain to her I really truly don't want to miss any of our "doggie debuts".  I find them thrilling, even more so when I contemplate comparing them to videos of these teams 3 years from now.  As in "from this tiny acorn a giant oak grew". Or, "from this wild unrully unfocused dog a highly coordinated champion emerged."  And equally, "from this gangly, eratic, confused student a competent, graceful, sure-footed handler metamorphosized!"  It doesn't happen overnight.  Newbies need to know that.  I need to keep reminding myself, so I don't get discouraged.
Gas prices, $3.65/gallon, make these agility trials more expensive! It took $55 to fill up my tank and I heard many people talking about laying off of trialing for awhile.

Trial Site Summary: (see Trial Site Summaries link, right column)

Our Runs:
The runs all weekend were Small to Tall, so Maxie was the 4th dog to run each morning. I had to be there by 7:15 a.m. to settle in, which was not a problem -- for the first time I felt totally alert. I was able to memorize the courses quickly, without maps, and didn't feel nervous on my turn. Maybe I've finally got the "early morning" issue resolved: Lights out by 10:30. Take half a sleeping pill. Get up at 5:30, plenty of time to do my morning rituals without rushing.

Maxie: When I'm sure of where I'm going on course, Maxie follows pretty well.  There were no great challenges.  He made good time, as evidenced by his 42 MACH points, i.e. 42 seconds under SCTs (Standard Course Times), an average of 10 seconds under SCT per run.

Lucky: Can't say the same for Lucky.  On Saturday she was running fast, jumping low, and I was sometimes handling at a distance!  She hopped thru the weaves, too, never popped out.  Even at that, she was from 1 second under SCT to 5 seconds under SCT.  On Sunday she ran some, loped some, and walked some, resulting in running 2 seconds over and 9 seconds over SCT.  This is way too close, even at her best.  She HAS TO RUN FASTER and MAKE TIGHTER TURNS. PERIOD!

Both dogs' weaves were faster with the daily practice I've been putting them through at home, tossing treats ahead as Maxie exits the last pole, throwing a tug toy for Lucky, building drive and muscle memory.  I followed through with my plan not to "dread" the weaves, to just put them in and trust them to take every pole, kept my distance. But this needs improvement and broke down once as Lucky came to a stop at pole 10 and almost lost her Q.  I reached in psychically and pulled her nose through to the finish.  It was by a thread that she Q'd.  By a thread.  The audience sighed relief when she made it through. And Maxie popped out at weave 10 on his first Sunday run, then ran the first 6 and walked the rest on another run. The videos will show me what I was doing wrong.  My dogs can weave fast.

Lucky's jump chute training is paying off already, after just a few reps. She jumped lower and broader and ran faster, though not consistently. Still, I was pummelled rather brutally (just after her Q on Saturday - odd damn time to pummell someone) for not cheering her on, that she looks tired and uninspired in the ring. I raced back to the hotel, even skipped dinner, to check the videos of how uninspired my dog is, and found the observations were exaggerated. Other than still yelling "over" at every jump (i.e., I still don't trust my dogs to automatically take what's next in the sequence), I cheer them on no more or less than most people including my critic (excepting Tracey, the cheerleadingest person at every trial). Good lord, I'm so busy concentrating on finding the next obstacle, picking up my feet, not falling on my face, etc., it's all I can do to say "here", "over", "come on".  Lucky isn't unhappy, she just has that hang-dog look, and running agility for her mamma is NOT her greatest thrill in life.  It's mine!  But then, playing fetch and tugging with her for hours is NOT my greatest thrill in life.  It's hers! So we trade favors.  She runs like a maniac if she isn't hot or tired, and if I have a tug toy in my hand.

Lessons Learned:
  • People's observations aren't necessarily accurate. They don't know all the factors being dealt with.   A woman who seems to run like a clutz might well be a polio victim who was told she could never walk!  Then "look at that clutz" becomes "wow, look at her run."
  • The "butt push".  One lady's dog took the wrong end of the tunnel when she pointed to the correct end with her arm, but bent over in such a way that her butt was pushing to the path of the other end.  Dog ran behind her behind and took the other entrance.  I couldn't believe it when, discussing this with Nedra, she called it "the butt push" and said she had been warned against this at a seminar!
  • I'm tired of "barely got that Q" runs.  I want flawless Q's.
  • Lucky didn't get her Open Jumpers Title. No problem. Next time.
  • Lucky needs to run faster -- keep up the jump chutes and weave pole practice. Get her involved in Lure Coursing.
  • More practice on rear crosses.  Too many push offs and near push offs witnessed and experienced.
  • 3 more XJ Q's for Maxie's MXJ title
  • 5 more XS Q's for Maxie's MX title
  • 3 more 2Q's (at least) for Maxie by October, making a total of 6, qualifying us for an invitation to AKC Nationals, leaving 14 for next year.
  • Sign up for the next trial.  Monroe?  Birmingham?  Definitely not Galveston, which is unairconditioned and will be hot.
  • More practice on front crosses.  I don't do them, but need to.
  • Get the LCCOC crawfish boil organized for Mother's Day weekend.
  • Plan next session of classes for Intermediate Beginners.  Nice group of novice competitors developing there.

With all the videos I'm taking, last week I conceived the idea of putting together an e-book called "What Can Go Wrong In The Ring", with hundreds of snippets.  I ran the idea by a few people, who liked it. All I need is a good video editing program.  Still haven't found it.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jump Chutes (Continued)

Lucky takes the 5th jump in the chute.
I first discovered and blogged about Jump Chutes last year, tried to measure my dogs to see what "body type" they are, and of course, mine don't remotely fit the 4 types described in The Clothier Natural Jumping Method, so all the charts Susan Clothier gives about calculating your dog's stride and how far apart to set the jumps to train proper jumping style were pretty much down the toilet. I played with it awhile then got discouraged.

Lately I've set up a few jump chutes for my students, including Lucky, and today I am revisiting the book, setting up my video camera and trying to determine how Lucky really jumps. She jumps so high, I would like to teach her to jump lower, which should improve her course time on competitive runs.

Stride is briefly defined as the distance between one takeoff point and the next takeoff point, and is ideally, according to Clothier, Body Length x 3.

Bounce is briefly defined as taking no strides between jumps, dog just lands between jumps and immediately bounces over the next jump, supposed to be Body Length x 2.

I took Lucky's measurements again: 22" long, 20" high, 11" ground to elbow.
If I take the closest ratios Susan gives for those dimensions, Lucky is:
a rectangular dog, elbow at 11" from ground, which is greater than 1/2 her height at withers.
Lucky's Stride is supposed to be, more or less, 22"x3, or 66", or 5.5 feet.
Lucky's Bounce is supposed to be, more or less, 22" x 2, or 44", or 3.6 feet.
(with different body styles, you might have to add + 1/3 to body length to get the right footage).

With this intel, I should set 5 jumps in a straight line, 2 strides apart, or 11' for Lucky.
Lucky bounces over 5 20" high jumps set at 8' apart, and has to work to slow down and collect between jumps. So did all my students' dogs. Same at 9' apart. At 11' apart, Lucky easily bounces over each jump but still holds power in reserve. Trying to determine when she would begin taking a stride between jumps, I moved them to 12' apart. She still clears them in a single bounce, but she jumps with much less clearance than the foot or so she usually clears her jumps, which I caught on video today. The first time, she knocked 2 bars, the rest of the runs she nailed them all perfectly, which indicates she learns as she goes, and has at least a 12' extended bounce stride, which is 6.5 x her body length. WOW! This video was her 3rd pass, with a little tugging reward at the end. In it, she shows just the right amount of clearance for efficiency and speed without knocking bars, and jumps very rhythmically. She covered 60 foot of ground in about 4 seconds/about 5 YPS.  In her 6 competition Jumpers runs to date, she is averaging about 3.4 YPS.

Aside: How stupid of me to be training in my wooden clogs. I can barely walk!  Could easily twist an ankle! Yet I was too lazy to go put on my tennies for just 10 minutes of training. Shame on me.

After a few weeks of this, I am to add "oxers" (double bar jumps), which is supposed to cause her to put a stride in between, improving her "impulsion".  I still don't know her capacity and probably, neither does she.  (NOTE: Susan recommends training jump chutes no more than 3 days a week, 3 reps, 2 times, with a 10 minute break in between, so this will take awhile to find out.

Upwards and onward,

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Excel Spreadsheet for Agility Competition Records

Maxie clears the 8" tripple
on a beautiful QQ day.
Photo by Michael Loftis
Finding myself far behind in hand copying Maxie's records into his Agility Competition Recordbook, and realizing I need a second book for Lucky, and I'm doing more trials this year than last, I decided to scratch that inefficient, labor-intensive plan.  Besides which, it doesn't calculate.   Instead, I've been working on an Excel Spreadsheet to more easily keep track of all their runs, including all the stats.  It's taken me 3 days to scrounge up all the ribbons with their sticky tags on the back, find all the emails reporting my Trial Results and the photos I've taken at the trials of my "unofficial results" (which contain important fault data), etc., get them in chronological order and compile all this info into one place, plus devise formulas to let the program calculate things like Yards Per Second, Seconds over/under Course Time, etc.

Is my dog running faster now than last year?  Faster in cold weather? Does the score reported to AKC tally with the info given (it doesn't always, I've notice!  Those who tally the data make mistakes.) There's a place for such comments in the right column of each run.

Here's a tiny pic below of Page 1 so you can see the layout.  It prints on an 8.5 x 11 sheet.  Blogger doesn't allow me to upload a .pdf file at this point, in full size. I wrote them about that.

If anyone wants this form, let me know and I can customize a spreadsheet for your dog (Dog's name, typical # of runs per trial, etc.).  It would take me a few hours, so about $30 to work it out and email it to you.  All you need is Excel 2007 or higher on your computer to open and use the file, but you may have to further customize for each additional dog, so some familiarity with Excel is probably necessary. 

Or, for free, I can send you a blank page, headings only, and you can fill it in by hand, which is still labor intensive but far less so than flipping pages in the Agility Competition Recordbood.  And, you get to see your dog's career, Q's and Titles spread out on one page.  It's neat.  Just email me your request.

Upwards and onward!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Port Allen Agility Trial

Maxie: 6 XB runs, 3 Q's, 1QQ, 1 1st place, 1 2nd place, 1 3rd place, 38 MACH points
Lucky: 6 Open runs, 5 Q's, 4 1st places, 1 2nd place, Earned her OA Title

John drills the weave nails into place, while Anna, his
assistant, reads the Course Builder's map.
The Port Allen trial was put on by our local dog club, so there was a lot of work involved in addition to running my 2 dogs.  John took 2 days vacation, initially to help me video our dogs, plus he volunteered to drive the U-Haul on Thursday morning and Sunday night to and from the arena to our field, and be an Assistant Course Builder. But he ended up having to step in as Course Builder some of the time, with almost no experience, because our scheduled Course Builder had his dog die over the weekend and could not attend all the sessions. John worked his butt off the whole 4 days, I mean worked, sweated, figured his way through 9 course changes per day, and worked, which earned him lots of kudos He came home dog tired every night, bathed, ate a bite, and went straight to bed with the alarm set at 5:00 so he could be at the arena for 6:30 each morning.  He toughed it through and learned a lot, and maybe has found his niche in the club and in the sport. I'm sure he will be called on again.  When asked if he would volunteer for next year, he said "I know better than to ever volunteer. But my wife volunteers me anyway." He may say that, but he is usually happy to help and proud of his volunteer efforts.

Only 6 helpers showed up to unload, with John
deep in the truck, handing stuff out,
sweating like a pig.
Preparing for the Thursday match and Fri/Sat/Sun trial included securing the location, washing and re-labeling all the equipment, repairing 4 sets of number cones (my job), loading and unloading the U-Haul, organizing people to help with all this, etc.  Of course the job of Trial Secretary and Gate Steward were enormous and continuous and how Nedra and Georgie also run their dogs I have no idea. There was also the job of organizing food and icing down beverages for the workers all 4 days, which Sheryl did very well.  I'm not sure what the Trial Chairman did.

My self appointed job of videoing as many of our club's teams as possible for our club's web album, was all shot to hell with me running 2 dogs, in 2 classes.  Seems I was always missing someone because I was prepping my own dog to run, or Gate Keeping.  I barely managed to get my own dogs filmed (letting John know when to video us), and catch all the newbies as they are the ones who seem most anxious to see how they did.  When Lucky moves up to Excellent Class (and I'm only 1 Q away in Jumpers), I'll only have 2 courses to walk and memorize, then I should have an easier time of it.

Two nice surprises:  Nathan and Allison came to see Maxie run on Saturday morning, and Audrey showed up Saturday afternoon and caught a Lucky run, and one of Maxie's too, and all 3 of those runs were Q's.  They brought me luck!

  • For the first time, I didn't need the course maps!  I walked the courses early, found them easy to memorize within about 5 passes, recognized the patterns more quickly than ever before.  It's true what Susan Garrett says, course memorization skills do improve!  I did the visualizations she taught me, and they were very effective.  More than ever, my dogs seemed confident I knew where I was going, and they followed along, resulting in a lot more Q's.  I also benefitted from the Handling Fundamentals course I've been teaching, doing my own flatwork homework, so my handling was a bit smoother.  Not perfect, but improving.  And, there was so little difference between the Excellent and Open courses, by the time I had memorized one, the other one was easy.
Lessons Learned:
  • Move Up Deadlines: If your dog titles at a trial, be sure and get your Move Up request into the next Trial Secretary as soon as possible.  We titled on Sunday in Amite, I unpacked on Monday, and I waited until Tuesday to move Lucky up to Open for our club's trial the next weekend. Alas, Tuesday was one day past the Move Up deadline.  Nedra, bless her, did me a favor and moved her up, because I didn't know there was a deadline.  She said "Read The Fine Print"!  Of course, I hadn't.
  • Never curse in the ring.  I didn't realize it, but on Lucky's last run I said "SHIT" when she ran right up to a jump then stopped and I almost tripped over her trying to rear cross.  The judge called me over afterwards to advise she could have taken my Q away, but would be lenient this time.  We NQ'd anyway, because while Lucky had only 1 refusal fault, she exceeded course time by 13 seconds, strolling through those weaves. 100 - 5 - 13 = 82 (takes 85 points to qualify) in Open.
  • Time to focus on speed and weaves.  Both Maxie and Lucky can race through the weaves, but at trials they barely walk through.  Why?  Don't know.  Gotta fix that.  They each lose precious seconds in the weaves, and with the loss of rhythm Maxie often pops out.  Could this be because I anticipate a problem with weaves, slow down and babysit them through it?
  • Pick up your ribbons, stickers and toys as soon as possible after the last dog runs.  The trial crew packs up and goes home as soon as they can, so if you shilly shally, you may not get these items.
The Port Allen arena is wonderful.  Much better than the Parker Collisium!  I posted a short video tour and description on the Trial Sites Summary page.

  • Lucky's OAJ title in Brandon.  Only 1 more leg needed.
  • Lucky's Excellent Titles, only 6 Q's needed, 3 each in AX and AXJ.  We can concievably do this within 2 more trials.
  • Another QQ for Maxie, in Brandon, and more than 50% Q'ing average.
  • Perfect the weaves with both Maxie and Lucky.  Work on speed.
  • Keep practicing how to run.
  • Keep building my stamina
  • Keep reducing my packing.  I still bring too much.
  • Move Lucky up to Excellent Standard for the Brandon trial.
  • Fix my red wagon (new cotter pin on wheel, weld the cross bar back on).
  • Upload videos.
  • Toss around the idea of a blog post on "Things That Can Go Wrong In The Ring".  Ask Michael Loftis to photograph the 'oops' moments: refusals, wrong courses, sniffing, stalling, stopping, cross behinds, etc.
  • Interview Nedra on what the Trial Secretary does, start to finish.  Sit with her and make a list, which she has agreed to do. Post in our club docs, in case anyone else wants to learn the job.
JWW EXC B  Not Qualified   Yards: 133   SCT: 44   Time: 41.5   Score: 0
STD EXC B  Qualified   Place: 1   Yards: 165   SCT: 71   Time: 59.79   Score: 100
JWW EXC B  Qualified   Place: 3  Yards: 148   SCT: 49  Time: 42.54   Score: 100
STD EXC B Qualified   Place: 2   Yards: 168   SCT: 72   Time: 64.22   Score: 100
STD EXC B  Not Qualified  Yards: 163  SCT: 70  Time: 70.29   Score: 0
JWW EXC B  Not Qualified  Yards: 146   SCT: 48  Time: 48.01  Score: 0 

JWW OPEN Qualified Place: 1 Yards: 129 SCT: 37 Time: 39.34 Score: 96
STD OPEN Qualified Place: 2 Yards: 156 SCT: 64 Time: 63.56 Score: 100
JWW OPEN Qualified Place: 1 Yards: 124 SCT: 35 Time: 42.26 Score: 86
STD OPEN Qualified Place: 1 Yards: 156 SCT: 64 Time: 69.95 Score: 90
STD OPEN Qualified Place: 1 Yards: 143 SCT: 59 Time: 56.55 Score: 100
JWW OPEN Not Qualified Yards: 125 SCT: 36 Time: 48.71 1 Refusal Score: 0 (actually 82)

Home on Sunday, long hot soak in the tub, dinner, fall into bed.  Next day, John off to work at 5:45 a.m., me play catch up on house work, emails, wash and groom the dogs, then out to the field to help set up courses for practice all this week.

Upwards and onward!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tight Turns and Collection

I teach the Post Turn and the Pull Through in my Handling Fundamentals For Beginners class, basically how to get your dog to go over, then wrap around, a jump, either on your same side (Post Turn, or ending up on your opposite side (Pull Through).  After watching videos of many dogs' trialing runs, their wide turns and wasted time on both of these techniques, I became intensely interested in learning to teach Tighter Turns and better Collection.  I found this video, by Steve Schwarz, The Agility Nerd, on YouTube, and I offer it to all my agility friends and students.

This video shows several more variations on that theme, Blind Cross Pull Through, Scoop, etc. -- plus how a seasoned dog trainer uses a tug toy to inspire their dog.  Steve always inspires me because I am also very interested in looking less like an elephant on course.  Steve is incredibly smooth, with minimalist movements.  Watch, and learn.

Roundways and sideways, upwards and onward!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lucky's Mobile Photos

Just got my disk in from professional photographer Michael Loftis, with 2 photos purchased of Lucky in Mobile.  Here's the first one, which I love for the way it captures her beautiful coat and build, enthusiasm and focus:

Photo by Michael Loftis
  and here's the same one, which I printed out and decorated with her 4 1st place Q's earned that weekend, jumping at 26":

Here's the other one, with her jetting thru the tire like a border collie, with dead center aim and a look that's all business:

Photo by Michael Loftis
Even though she's still a novice dog, with a barely past novice handler, I think she has enormous potential in this Agility gig!  I am really looking forward to running with my All American Girl.  For those who insist that pure bred dogs are far superior to mutts, that mutts should never have been included in obedience and agility trials, I think the challenge is now on for them to prove their claims.

Upwards and onward!

Amite Agility Trial Thurs-Sun

Maxie: 6 runs, 3 Q's (two XS and one XJ), 2 1st places, 1 2nd place, 1st QQ, 87 MACH points
Lucky Lucy: 6 runs, 2 Q's (one each NA and NAJ), 2 2nd places, 2 Novice Titles: NA, NAJ

The RV Parking area, right up next to the arena.
My pop-up camper on the right.
Just got back from 4 days in Amite, about an hour from home. Spring breezes, clear skies, but still got into the upper 80's and I broke a sweat a few times.

I brought the pop-up camper. John followed me there on Thursday morning, we arrived around 11 and had 3 hours to set up then help the ring crew set up for the match at 4. He stayed thru Lucky's novice runs on Friday before heading home. Then I was on my own, including packing up the camper to leave on Sunday afternoon. I was the very last one to leave, except for Michele S. who mercifully stayed behind to help me. It was hot, windy, I had trouble getting the awning zipped up and was running on fumes by that point, just short of tears. When I got home I was totally exhausted. Michele S made a good point -- that the pop-up is good for "testing out whether I want to do agility", but if I decide I really do, I should get something more comfortable and easier to fool with. Also, she said motor homes don't really give much trouble if you use them regularly. The problem comes in with them sitting up.

Lucky with her Novice Title Buttons
and 2nd place Ribbons

LUCKY: We got a shaky start from home, leaving a few hours late because Lucky was throwing up and had diahrrea. I believe she ate some poison grass off the club's agility field on Wednesday night while fetching her tug toy from the grass. The field had been sprayed the day before. She was the only one of our 4 dogs who got sick, so it wasn't a virus. At any rate, she had an empty stomach on Thursday, half rations on Friday and more diahrreah, and she had NO BOUNCE IN HER STEP whatever. I lowered her jump height to 20" from the 26" she jumped in Mobile. She managed to get her 3rd leg and TITLE in Novice Standard on Saturday, though, so moved up to Open Standard on Sunday where she scratched horribly with a "Where The Hell Are You Going" kind of run. By Sunday afternoon, though, she was clearly feeling better, and managed to get her 3rd leg and TITLE in Novice Jumpers, too.  I took her photo when we got home, but never could get her ears up. She seems not very fond of her wearing her ribbons on her collar.

WILLOW:  Maxie did much better in the crate with Willow along, no howling or yapping, earning Willow the official title of "Crate Mate Extaordinaire". While she is virtually untrainable in doing anything but whatever she wants to do (which is eat, speak, and be close to me), she now has an important job at trials and does it very well.

MAXIE: As to performance, Maxie nailed the weaves 4 times, ran fairly fast and fairly smooth, didn't sniff a single time or run off to visit anyone, mostly paid attention to me, made very good time, QQ'd for the first time, and got double MACH points for 2 1st place runs. His success was helped by the fact that Gee!, a long haired dachshund with more experience and very fast, was not behaving well this weekend. Found out later his owner/handler, Sharon, had hurt her foot on Friday and Gee! must have picked up on that. Also, two other Papillons, Jet and Lilly, who usually smoke Maxie on time if they Q, weren't running this weekend. All that spelled good luck and placement for us.

PLACEMENT: Just goes to show there are all sorts of angles to placing, and it's not dependant solely on your dog's performance. Only Q's and Time are a pure measure of performance.
VIDEOS: I was not able to video the 8" Excellent dogs, as usual, but I couldn't video the Novice dogs either, including Lucky and me, Kimberly with Beau, nor Jane with Bean. John caught us on Friday, Kimberly came back all day Saturday to help with the videos, Nedra, Loralie and a new friend, Lisa Jones got us Sunday morning, and Tracey hung around til the bitter end on Sunday to, in her own words, "support our club's novice teams", which I greatly appreciated and she videoed us all with my camera. By the time the novice dogs run, see, most of the Excellent teams have cleared out. I find it odd that our instructors don't hang around to see how their own students are doing! If it was their child or family member, I bet they wouldn't even think of leaving.  Be that as it may, unless I get a willing video crew together, it's going to be impossible to film the 8" and 20" Excellent dogs shortly, when I have a dog running in each height category. I enjoy filming and reviewing everyone else's videos, but if I can't get my own dogs filmed, I won't be filming everyone else!

RV CULTURE: The RV'ers outdid themselves every night. After all the teams went home and the crew had laid out new courses for the next morning, out came dish after dish of food, the RV'ers and some crew gathered around a rectangle of cafeteria tables in the atrium, and the laughter could be heard for 2-3 hours after that, from all the way out in the parking area. I was invited over and over to attend, by Joe, Michele S, and others, and I made a brief appearance on Friday night for a few bites, but I was so darned exhausted on Saturday night I couldn't even lift a spoon to my face, much less walk back to the arena. I was asleep by 9 p.m. and didn't regain consciousness until 5:30 a.m. Apparently there is a strong RV culture I didn't even know about -- people who camp out routinely at the shows have created a strong agility family. Sometimes the hosting trial crew provides a few dishes, games, etc. I don't think our club does that, but the RV'ers all invited me to take the initiative in Port Allen. I think I'll bring them a pot of my chili, but just on my own behalf.

STAMINA: I am utterly astonished at the stamina these agility regulars have. I mean, up at the crack of dawn to set up courses, reset courses all day, run several dogs, solve problems, after the last run and everybody else leaves, show up to lay out courses for the next day, then party for hours afterwards, day after day. And all with the greatest good cheer. Then poor Michele S, the Trial Secretary, after all the other RV'ers have left, stays behind for an extra half-hour to help me finish packing up my camper and hitch it to my car. That girl has incredible strength and speed, always good natured and sweet. I couldn't get over how fast she works. Even at her age, I don't remember being that fast. But she made me realize how slow John and I move these days, especially me.

Trial Site Summary: See here.


At one point, while walking a course, some of us complained to the judge about an obstacle being directly in the path between two other obstacles. It seemed it should be moved to the side a few feet. She explained that Agility was a test of handler's awareness as well as the dog's ability to follow, and she refused to move it! This compared to last week, when the judge moved a see-saw out of the way so handlers would not trip over it as they rounded the corner.

On one run, after the last jump, Maxie and some other dogs ran out the gate and could have been disqualified.  It is important to continue to direct your dog away from the gate opening after they complete the last jump, and if they do appear to be running out, call them back sharply.

  • Lucky's Novice Titles, but not quite at Maxie's record of 6 Q's in 6 runs. Lucky made 3 Q's in 6 runs for Novice Jumpers, 3 Q's in 5 runs for Novice Standard. This in 2 trials, Mobile and Amite. I also got her measured for the 2nd time, so she should get her permanent jump height card from AKC within a few weeks.
  • Maxie is on track for 2011 with an equivalent of 1 Q in each category at each trial (of course I would prefer we did better, but this is my minimum goal). We've done 3 trials: New Iberia, Mobile, Amite, and he has 3 MAX Q's, and 3 MAXJ Q's (10 needed for each Masters title). As a bonus, he now has 1 QQ, and 87 MACH points, which count towards his MACH titles. I don't have any goals set for qualifying for Nationals 2012, which requires 6 QQ by later this year.

  • Lucky: Two more trials, 12 more runs, 6 Q's at least, 2 Open titles. Improved speed. Placement.
  • Maxie: Try to exceed the current average of 1 Q per trial per class. Try for QQ's and MACH points. Improved speed.
  • John and I want to attend a Nationals Championship, not to compete but just to see how it is. I've heard the dogs at those levels run so fast and so accurately, it puts our local standards to shame. I want to see if that's true.
  • Continue to improve my stamina.
  • Ditch the camper. Get an RV. While the camper is cozy and comfy as can be and I love being in it, it takes too long for one person to set up and take down. It's best if set up in one location for a week, with no rush to vacate or fear being left alone in a strange place
 Upwards and onward!