Thursday, January 14, 2010

Venues We Compete In and Why

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to highlight the abilities of one of the largest breeds of dogs. So many misconceptions exist about their abilities, their purpose, and perhaps even doubts about their athleticism. If I had even a dime for every time I had heard comments about "horse" and "saddle" when walking around with Vegas, I could take a really nice vacation. Then there's the idea that Great Danes are only couch decor. Seriously? So my blog is about debunking some of those misconceptions in a fun way that showcases the fun Vegas has being a gigantic dog doing quite well in what is often a Border Collie sport. That said, many breeds are now competing in agility and succeeding. However, in today's post I want to discuss the venues I have chosen to compete in with Vegas and why. I began a while back to break down the differences between venues and will likely resurrect it again at some point when I have the time. But for now we'll just discuss what we're doing and why this suits us best.

CPE is a venue that is a lot of fun and, possibly, less competitive than other venues. At least that is what I'm told but I guess competitiveness is all up to the individual. One of the reason I like it is because there are so many kinds of runs and a full weekend would be 5 each day for a total of 10. Frequently, the hosting club will schedule two runs of Standard each day so you can really make progress if you're dog is on. Another reason why CPE works for us is because the highest jump height is 24". Vegas measures 32.5" at the withers so could easily jump higher. However, with a large dog that is as heavy as she is, what is the point in jumping the highest? She will clear a 24" jump by quite a bit anyway. The difference is in the landing. She will land much heavier than any other dog competing and this translates to increased pressure in the shoulder, legs, and back as she lands. Another reason we like CPE is because there are fewer tunnels than at least one of the other venues. Tunnels are 24". Tunnels are belted down so they don't move with all the dogs going through them. If a belt slips between the ribs of a tunnel, it could reduce the size by up to 4". All of this translates into comfort for Vegas and added wear and tear on her body.

Lastly, when I started training in agility and finally began hearing about the different venues and their differences, I was told CPE could be a bit easier to succeed in. Originally I was told the times were a little bit more lax and that would help, too. However, I do believe AKC is less restrictive on time. What I have learned though is that in most cases the courses in CPE are a little less tight. This makes turning and maneuverability easier - particularly with a larger dog who lands longer, strides farther, and can't move quite as quick mid-air, etc. So far this is working for us. Since our first CPE trial around March or April of 2009, we have completed Level 1 and are only 2 legs away from completing Level 2 with a good start on Level 3.

 AKC is a venue I avoided for some time. I had this misconception that it was too difficult for us and the fear of failure and embarrassment kept me from it. Then I started hearing some other things such as that times alloted were more forgiving than some venues. It also began occurring to me that since I do run a non-traditional breed, this would be a great way to gain recognition for Great Danes and show people what they can do. Someone told me it would be pretty easy to get invited to a regional invitational with Vegas because there just aren't many Danes competing in the area. In fact, other than Lindsay and another friend, Shana, I've seen two other Dane competitors in the year we've been competing. One has been around for 20-some years and lives in the Olympia area. The other person I saw at just one trial and never again, although it's possible we just compete at different venues.

Our first AKC trial was in November of last year, and I was still very nervous going into it. However, shortly before that I was fortunate enough to have been able to get a lesson in with Craig French and he went over all the rules and set up an AKC styled course for me to run the day of our lesson. That made a big difference for me as I felt like I had been debriefed - and in many ways I had; Craig is a former AKC judge and long-time competitor with Dobermans. Plus, he was at the trial that weekend for moral support and guidance. It turns out we did okay! Vegas had two qualifying JWW (Jumpers with Weaves) runs that weekend plus one Standard putting us halfway through completing our novice title (NAJ and NA).

AKC is also not completely crazy with tunnels like NADAC and the courses are not ridiculously tight like USDAA. The most runs in a day at this time you can have is 3 which means it can be a lighter weekend which may be better on Vegas' body. However, their trials often run 3 days so it's possible to have nearly the same number of runs as we would with CPE but stretched over 3 days as opposed to 2. Nonetheless, we're competing in AKC for breed recognition, because we like the people we're around, we like the courses, and because I want us to earn the prestigious Master Agility Champion title, MACH, an award just two Great Danes in history have earned. Those two Great Danes are Morgan and Mr. Bojangles.

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