Monday, July 15, 2013

CPE Agility Trial Report @ Breakaway Action Dogs [Westminster, Maryland]

Let me start this off by saying that despite NOT having a perfect day .... it was all about personal bests -- which, quite frankly, is all I can ask for! This may also end up being something of a novel, so if you make it all the way through -- bless you.

I've been working with our coach Melissa in tweaking a few aspects of Bristol's training regimen, from downgrading her to the 12" jump height from 16" to different methods of handling her weave poles and the one-two-skip-a-few routine. Needless, I was excited to put all that we practiced into play.

Got ourselves up at 4:30 in the morning (before the crows no less!) and made our way to Westminster via 95/695/795/97 with zero problems. Carroll Indoor Sports was extrememly easy to find, and seeing as we were there 30 minutes before judge's briefing -- gave me plenty of time to pick my spot. I've learned that I value my geography. I want a good view of the action without being directly in
the flow of traffic.

Bristol, as per usual, was energy for miles -- and usually? First thing? I snag a ball and throw it for her to burn off some of the excess to keep from having an out of control dog, but apparently, I'd forgotten our tennis ball in the mad dash this morning to hit the road. (OOPS)! It also wasn't immediately apparent to me where the warm up jumps were ... so I shrugged and thought, "Welp. Heregoes nothing ... she'll be quicker than lightning, but she's *usually* good
about focusing."

I was already mildly concerned about Jackpot (similiar to FAST in AKC). Distance is *not* a forte of ours by any means, but I was confident that as long as I could show her the path and be pretty clear with my body language -- we should be fine. Not having played this game before, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Here's what I've learned: when you have a fast dog? It really blows during the first part of the game... "playtime". :35 is a heck of a lot of time to fill. But here's where things get interesting: leave it to my dog to start doing things she's never done before. I had a great, flowing course mapped out in my brain and all of that got shot down in say, 10 seconds? For the first
time, she not only got herself a case of the zoomies ... but blew her dogwalk. I've never, ever seen her leap off the contact before the yellow zone before. I've also *never* had her directly ignore me on course so that she could do whatever she wanted to do. And in this case? All she wanted to do was play with tunnels. Why in the world go up an A-frame when there's a tunnel right there just begging to be raced through? Nevermind the fact that your handler is blocking it -- go ahead and plow right through her. (GRR!) By the grace of God, the buzzer *finally* sounded and I was in a good position to hit the gamble, but we blew it at the end when Bristol skipped the last jump in the combination and
dove into the tunnel instead. (Dang!)

I left shaking my head and mumbling "What in the WORLD was that?! Who are you and where did all of these problems we've never seen before come from?!"

And at this point? I was frankly nervous. I had no idea if all of that was a fluke and we can call the first run a Mulligan or if I really just developed a series of problems that needed addressing. I stuck her in the crate, grabbed all of my course maps -- and went outside to mull it over and potentially re-think how I was planning to run the rest of the day. At this point, the trial chairman found me outside and she took me by the shoulders and said, "Hey, you know? I run my dogs in level 5 and sometimes, our first run really stinks. In fact, at our last trial, the theme of the day was 'What was THAT?!' -- so hang in there! Happens to the best of us."

I thought that was a really nice thing to say. Made me feel a *little* better, but ultimately -- I still wondered what was going to happen with the next (4) classes.

Turns out? That first run *was* a Mulligan. I kept in mind that today in particular, she was all about the tunnels above everything else and I adjusted accordingly. I was a little more aware of the fact that she might need some more help on her contacts to ensure that she hit them and didn't depart early. She ROCKED the remaining (4) classes and qualified Standard, Snooker, Wildcard and Jumpers ... all under 28 seconds ... and came home with *two* titles: CL1-H and CL1-F ! WOOHOO!!!!Considering her last 2 trials have been a little shaky -- it was a huge victory purely for personal reasons. I know where she was and I\look at her now and I think "YES! That hard work is paying off."

Wildcard was singlehandedly the surprise of the day. When I looked at the line between jump 3 and I had to choose between 4a and 4b ... her line of vision was straight in line with the triple jump, not the weaves off to the right. Imagine my surprise when the dog swerves out in front of me from the outside to dive into the weave poles. (Frankly, I'd had her set up to do a straight line and was
preparing to book it). If you had met Bristol 6 months ago ... she hated weave poles. And now here she is CHOOSING the weaves over a jump straight in her line of sight -- and believe you me, she loves to jump and she loves to do it fast. While on the one hand, I'm pleased that she apparently loves to weave .... I think we now have a new problem to trouble shoot: a dog that is making her own
course choices rather than listen to the body language/verbal cues her handler is giving her. Gosh, I love agility -- you solve one problem only to have a new one show up.

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