Thursday, April 22, 2010

Columbia Agility Team - CPE Trial, Ridgefield April 2010

I've been remiss in keeping this thing up-to-date. Life has been more hectic than usual as I finish my degree and am juggling kids in school and another dog in training. However, the next couple of months are crucial and I know I'm going to need to reflect on what worked, what went well, what I could change, and to watch more videos and see Vegas' performance. I'll get into why in another post, perhaps tomorrow. Today is dedicated to recapping last weekend's trial.

The schedule for Saturday was as follows: Full House, Standard Round 1, Standard Round 2, Colors, and Snooker. We were mostly able to run in that order although I believe I ran round 1 Standard then Colors and then round 2 Standard. This was a two ring trial, something we rarely enjoy for CPE in the area. It was a well-attended trial and we had a lot of fun hanging out with our friends, Jami and Dharma. On Saturday, I had my youngest son with me who was a champ to video for us. I also ended up getting one picture (on Sunday) from Joe Camp who is an awesome photographer that attends most of the trials in the area. Jami did some videoing for me on Sunday. So, without further ado, here is a picture, some videos, course maps, and my recap.

Full House is a great way to start the day - and quite commonly they do start the trial with "fun" games where the handler has to choose a course versus following a prescribed numbered set. Here we needed one 5-point obstacle (weaves, double, or a-frame), three single jumps, and two circles (tunnels or tire). In Level 3, we had 30 seconds to accumulate the 23 points we needed (and 5 seconds to get to the table, although we could go to the table early). With the a-frame being worth 5 points and being allowed to do it twice, I figured I should take advantage of it. The course layout was good for practicing some wraps around jumps, too. I believe the judge called a zero on our first a-frame for which I'm not certain was accurate as it appeared Vegas came down the contact but I could be mistaken. Adrenaline can kick in when you're out there and I am not always 100% certain what happened or did not. Regardless, as the video will show, we got to the table in plenty of time and we had enough points, finishing with 33 in 32 seconds for a qualifying run in 1st place. That run completed our level 3 requirements in Full House.
Next up was Standard level 3, round 1. Going into this weekend, Vegas needed just two level 3 legs to move on to level 4. We had four total chances, two with each judge.
This is the one run out of the entire weekend that I can say was completely poopy. As far as I know, it wasn't me. Vegas just decided she wasn't interested in playing. Surprisingly, this was early in the day (Saturday we had 4/5 runs done at 12:05 pm) and she wouldn't have been sore or anything. She just clearly decided to be moody. I can say that I have something to work on as a result of those moments, though. I need to focus on staying on track and not sighing or getting frazzed. I know she's capable - I just wish I could figure out her "off" switch. So, that is a challenge I am taking on.
Standard round 2 was much better. Maybe Vegas is starting to recognize that when I don't give her a treat it's because she did something wrong? Nonetheless, she was in and out of her kennel repeatedly over the next short while as we ran in and out of one ring or the other, walking the course or running it. Here is the round 2 course.
One thing I'll say about both standard courses was that the weave entrances were really nice. There should be no reason why Vegas couldn't nail them other than attitude. Fortunately shes was cooperative on this one and we earned another leg. The course time was 58 seconds; she finished in 44.19 qualifying in third place.
Next up was Colors. I usually love this run as it's a shorter course that we can run fast. However, it has its tricky moments at times as the game is automatically "over" (DQ) if your dog takes a wrong color obstacle. We chose the square course as it seemed the straightest shot to let Vegas really open up and run a bit more, something she loves to do. It used up a lot of the ring which was also good for her, although tiring for me. She ran it like a champ, didn't balk at the weaves, and finished 11+ seconds under course time in first place.
Our last run of the day was Jumpers. Jumpers is one of the courses that Vegas loves. Perhaps it's easier on her body because she is performing the same action repeatedly, I'm not sure. But she loves, loves, loves jumpers courses - most of the time. This run definitely had some tricks built into it, which I would expect as we progress. For a giant dog, the most difficult part of handling with the tricks that we usually see is queuing early! The earlier the better and yet this can become complicated, too, because if I queue and pull off too early, Vegas may not take the obstacle. The other challenge can be whether the trickiness and complexity of the course come from sharp turns, wraps, cookies, etc. Often they do and that can be hard on the dog's body as it causes them to put pressure on their shoulders to make sudden maneuvers, ensure they choose the correct lead to land from a jump, make sudden lead changes, etc. In this course, areas I identified ahead of time while walking to pay attention to were: 1) the turn from #3 into the tunnel, #4. I started out running up the course on the right side so that I was on the side of the tunnel. Fortunately with a straight shot here, Vegas had momentum over #3 but I was able to queue her ahead of time with my shoulders to move toward the tunnel versus going for the most obvious option, the #13 tunnel. 2) #11 turning into the tunnel looks on paper like it could be difficult but based upon where I was handling Vegas (inside the "circle" of jumps 5-11), I was able to throw my off arm and queue her by turning toward the tunnel. From there it was fairly smooth sailing and she qualified in that run to round out our Saturday with four qualifying runs out of five. 

Sunday dawned chilly and yet turned out to be a much warmer day - almost too warm as it was very humid. Everyone was feeling it - but, in my opinion, in a good way. I think the spring fever ran rampant and everyone was having a good time.

Our first run of the day was Jackpot. This course offered three chances to get the jackpot requirement and we were even allowed to take all three, if possible, for point accumulation. They were valued at 15, 20, and 25 points. Vegas and I were able to easily get the 15 pointer and the 25 pointer, but the 20 pointer I attempted at the end on our way to the table was a long shot because it is always more difficult to push a giant breed dog out to a tunnel when faced with the entrance to an a-frame along side. Either way, we got the points for the obstacles even if they did not account for a jackpot. This was a great course and run to start our day.

Vegas did qualify in this run with plenty of points and in time.

Next we ran Standard round 1 and 2 almost back to back. The standard courses this day were combined levels 2 and 3 which meant we had a set of 6 weaves versus 12. One area of concern another large dog competitor pointed out to me is the #8 tunnel. It was wedged under the dog walk and the judge did not want to move it. However, they did have the trial staff get some padding for the support bar under the dog walk so that it would be more comfortable going through the tunnel if the dog came into contact with it. The weave entry was nice as it was a straight shot from the tunnel. I walked the area between 9 and 10 several times to get the best feel for pulling Vegas on that corner versus heading to 16 prematurely. Fortunately with the tunnel leading up to the weaves, I was able to be on the inside and it was not the challenge I initially thought it might be. Plus, coming out of the weaves Vegas was on the inside so she really never even looked toward 16. As she headed into the #13 tunnel, I did move to the outside so that after the a-frame I was able to pull her over 16 after 15 versus being in her way.

We ran Standard round 2 next. The turns here were a bit trickier and I started out handling on the outside with a cross to the opposite side of the 5 - 6 - 7 jumps while Vegas was in the #4 tunnel. I wanted to be on the inside so as to better direct her to the weaves and then into the tunnel without any more difficult maneuvers to switch directions, etc. Vegas did decide to be a pill about the weaves again initially and it is frustrating every time I see it as I'm not sure what is causing it. But we'll get there!
Third run of the day was Wildcard. There was no easy choice with this one...lots of people very experienced struggled mostly with the beginning where the entrance to the tunnel was in such a position as the dogs really felt like the wrong end was the correct entrance. Regardless, Vegas did it! I chose to do 2b, 6a, and 11b (2 Bs required and 1 A). I think the video probably picks up how I had to holler to pull Vegas off the 11a tunnel or it would have been "game over." She did great.
Last run of the long but fun weekend was Snooker. A lot of people scratched and headed out. Some of us were debating the wisdom versus irony of having snooker at the end of the day, at the end of the weekend, when participants canine and human alike were tired. For me I felt like it would probably work out. It meant I wouldn't have a crazy cooped up dog with the zoomies. Or at least I hoped. There was no easy way to look at the course we were given. It was one of the tightest, most difficult snooker courses I have seen to date. Further, several places were numeric sequences comprising a single criteria. Always presenting interesting challenges....
As this trial wrapped for the weekend, Vegas had added two more titles to her name. She has just three legs left to complete level 3 in CPE and is now KKZ's Apache Vegas Rose CL1, Cl2, NA, NF, OAJ, CL3-R, CL3-F

On the way home, I stopped and got Vegas a little treat. She loves vanilla ice cream and with trials not always frequently, it became somewhat of a tradition to offer this little treat. Leo, of course, gets a spoon or two now. 

Friday, April 16, 2010

I'm late, I'm late....

Okay, so the rest of this goes: "for a very important date!" I saw Alice in Wonderland last weekend, what can I say?
I will catch up hopefully by the end of the weekend; that is my goal since we have a trial and I'll certainly have pictures and video. Lots has happened in the last week or two since I've posted and I surely want to fill it all in - if only for my own record.

I did just post our week 15 for our 52 Weeks of Dogs photo though, so at least I can pretty up this fairly boring post. =)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Crate Training

Crate training is an auxiliary component of Vegas' agility training. For agility trials to run, workers are needed. Workers are the handlers. So, that means Vegas often has to spend a good amount of time crated between runs. Especially as a day progresses, I think this is good anyway. I know she should have down time to relax, rest, and just have a quiet space. For whatever reason she has separation anxiety, it really comes out at trials when I crate her. I have a giant wire crate I've been bringing, but that thing is a beast. Plus, I have to bring umpteen large blankets for it to cover it as it's otherwise wide open. She has chewed the bars in so many places, the crate is more of a mottled black and rust now. She has cracked the crate from her frantic digging which scoots the tray out of the crate. The first crate cover I made to fit it she pulled inside the crate and chewed a huge hole in. I'd been really giving thought to getting a soft crate but it wasn't smart to do until Vegas is trained to love her crate. So, when someone gave me one, it spurred me into action. Here is our first night with the crate set up and my week 14 photo for 52 Weeks of Dogs.
I also have Susan Garrett's Crate Games DVD on the way. Friends swear by it and I really need to get Vegas to that place where it's her haven - for dog shows, hotel stays, and when company comes over. I just found this video on YouTube and I thought I would share as it really is a goal to have her that well trained and focused on the crate being the "cool" place instead of the "dreaded" place.

The DVD is supposed to arrive next Thursday and in the meantime, the crate is set up downstairs and her comfy pillow bed is inside. The top is open to make it more airy. When my son came home from school today and was opening the front door, she was just getting out of it so that was super exciting. Of course her alternative was the floor since we put baby gates on the furniture during the day!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Weekend AKC Trial

This weekend's trial was really enjoyable. Not only was there agility going on, but there was a dog show hosted by the Chintimini Kennel Club. The show had conformation, competitive obedience, rally obedience, agility, eye exams, and lots of vendors. We really enjoyed ourselves and I was so driven to go that I even rented a car Friday night because my truck was not repaired yet. Vegas rode to Albany Saturday with her head nearly touching the ceiling of a 2010 Mazda 6. It was quite comical and I was extremely excited to have my truck back to drive there and back today.

Saturday -
I have never arrived "just on time" for a trial before. In fact, I tend to err on the side of extremely cautious (or over-excited) and show up 60-90 minutes early. Well, I was tired. So, I arrived, set up the dogs' kennels, went to get my run sticker, find out they had already walked, find out that we were listed as third to run and the second dog wasn't there, sprint to the other end of the arena, get Vegas, sprint back, and get on course. The first class scheduled was FAST and I always enter this to get Vegas' zoomies out. It turns out she was totally on and did everything I asked - but I forgot the objective of the game. I was accumulating points, putting her in wraps around jumps, and doing great. The whistle blew and I went for the send (9 > 4 as seen below) and the judge says, "You have to leave." I honestly said, "Huh?" She says, "You have to leave the course." Basically I was like, "Oh, okay," and left the course. Yep, I forgot to do the send before time. Oh well. No Q.
Next up was Open Standard. To date we had no legs in Open Standard. Every single run we'd had Vegas balked at the weaves. You only get one refusal. She consistently took the correct entry and kept going. I brought her back and she would repeat. By the third time she usually nails the weaves - but of course we were NQ at that point. Saturday she even popped out at number 10 on the third try and I just went on. Normally our run is fairly flawless otherwise. There was a down on the table and we seem to have conquered that demon. She's not the quickest but it isn't a 35 second process either. In this case, she took off at the start line, too, and that put us behind. I am learning to be much  more cognizant as we run - less adrenaline and more thought behind my actions. I remember thinking at least three times that I should pull her from the run and did not. From now on I will pull her at the point she makes a mistake that is clear and blatant disobedience or a break from the partnership. I can't fault her for my handling. I can't fault her for timing issues or accidental missteps, but I can fault her for ignoring me, not listening to me, or her intentional disregard for the obstacle such as we're experiencing with the weaves.

There is a lot of debate between people with different schools of thought on how best to handle this type of issue. On the one hand, the objective is to have fun. Some people just give up the obstacle and go on so their dog ends on a positive note. This is fine for some people. Others believe in quick and swift punishment - not in a bad way, but how do you correct a problem that you haven't identified with the dog in this instance it occurs? I have tried going on and Vegas repeats the same behavior the next time. We're going to try pulling out if she pulls her "weave stunt" from now on and she'll get some down time in her kennel without a treat and see if that works.

That said, and for some who may disagree with me, keep in mind, too, that I have changed how I prepare her for the ring. I dearly adore my dog and I want her to have fun. The great thing she is having fun - but she has to mind and remember we're a team, too. I don't bail on her; she doesn't get to bail on me. I have set some pretty high goals for us but we won't get there without teamwork. She needs to remember that we are a team and remain cohesive. So, before every run, after I have walked, I always take her out as early as I can. We play, we walk, we practice sit/stays, obedience and rally maneuvers, I tease and harass her into tugging with me, she gets lots of treat bits, I cuddle with her and talk to her and tell her how awesome she is and generally just love her up one side and down the other. Then when we go in the ring she always gets loved on at the start line and a kiss on the head when I take her leash off. It's just our practice and how I make sure she goes in linked to me and knowing that I love her.

So, after that little diversion - a NQ on our umpteenth attempt at Open Standard.
Our last run of the day was Open JWW. Going into this run we had zero Qs for the day but two previous Open JWW legs. I put a lot of pressure on myself to get that third leg....and I'm super excited to say it worked (although I did let that pressure go before taking Vegas out)!!!! The weave entrance was interesting as I had to get a front cross in after #8 so she wasn't tempted by #11, plus she works better right now (in trial) with me on her right so I wanted to use that advantage. For whatever reason, despite her balking at weaves in Standard, she's rocking the JWW courses - that was our third leg out of three tries and we finished our OAJ title, too!!! What a great way to end the first day of the trial - she got DQ soft serve on the way home - her favorite.  

Sunday -
My dad finished my truck Saturday night but we weren't totally done and had not dropped the rental off until about midnight so it was a super late, super tired night for me again. Which meant I didn't get up early. As I was pulling into the show grounds, my friend, Rachel, called me asking if I broke down again. They were already walking our first course. As you can imagine the creative words that went through my mind...again, I parked and this time ran from the parking lot into the building with Vegas. Fortunately they were running small to tall today so I had some time. Bless Rachel's heart, she offered to hold Vegas so I could walk the course. I walked it thoroughly once and about halfway again and saved Rachel from the incredible, lunging Vegas. We had a bit to wait but I somehow did not feel nervous. Vegas and I played and I treated her and we used the practice jump. Another change I decided to make today was to give up our start line stays - at least for the day. As you'll see from the map below, the weaves were early in our run and dead ahead from the start. Vegas nailed every last one of them without fighting about it!!!! The rest of the course was smooth sailing since I was riding along on cloud nine at that point and we finally got our first open standard leg - whoohooo!!!

Today was a shorter day without FAST plus being Easter I think some people decided not to stick around or show up at all. It was our first day running with the "big kids" as I've come to call it. We got to move into Excellent for JWW and I was so nervous - it was like my very first agility run ever! I had umpteen butterflies fighting for position up to and through walk-through. BUT, my wonderful mentor, Craig, was such a gem he walked with me part of the time and gave me some additional pointers. I thought I pretty well had things figured out but he had some other good ideas as to body movements. For instance, I probably would have started off too close to the first jump. As he indicated, starting farther back gives you more opportunity to build speed before the first jump. Plus, after obstacle #2, he encouraged me to watch as I sent Vegas out to #3 and keep her in my sights as I stepped toward #4, drawing her with me into a front cross/pivot to send her straight into the weaves. I was glad to be able to be on her right again, too, in this course. I know weaves becoming more independent is something we have to work on, but for right now I am glad I recognized what she needed and how it works better for us. After the weaves, Craig made sure I was front crossing at a 90 degree angle from the weaves as that would turn Vegas directly at the next numbered obstacle as opposed to setting her up to look at #9. From there it seems a bit easier - and having completed the weaves, it was - but we still had a couple challenges. He suggested doing a front cross before #9 where I was going to lead her through 9 but throw my opposite arm to turn her and rear cross. She responds really well to the "arm throw" technique but I went ahead and did as he suggested. Vegas has worked on serpentines recently so I wasn't too worried so I just sent her out and pulled her through and then sent her back out again to accomplish that task The last real challenge was making sure she went in the correct end of the tunnel. I, again, used Craig's suggestion with arm motions to send her out to the correct end then made tracks down the line toward #18. Everything fell together beautifully and I could hardly think for all my excitement when we got through with our run. I knew we had done it; I just knew it as I let out a whoop and almost forgot to leash Vegas. It was an incredibly invigorating moment and Vegas knew it - boy oh boy did she get the royal treatment. We have our very first Excellent level leg!!!!
So as of this evening, I am the proud partner to
KKZ's Apache Vegas Rose, CL1 CL2 NA NAJ NF OAJ

Friday, April 2, 2010

Marmaduke - The Reality of Choosing a Great Dane (Part 1 of 3)

Usually the purpose of my blog is about training Danes in agility and other sports to which they are non-traditional. At times I feel there are other areas I would like to share, most particularly those which I feel passionate about. Here is my soapbox:

Buying a dog should never be an impulsive decision. Buying a dog that may outweigh you should be even less so. Great Danes are not for everyone. I know they are incredible, wonderful, amazing, and I cannot imagine my life without one. However, when Hollywood does something "cute" like the making of 101 Dalmatians or Beverly Hills Chihuahua, or the upcoming Marmaduke, I get really nervous for some really great breeds. I believe strongly in breeding for the right reasons and following the right procedures. Those things being, proper structure, conformation, temperament, having health tested, know your lines, know color genetics, and proofing the breeding to allow for the best specimin and improvement to the breed. Too many people don't and this movie has surely already got the proverbial "buns in the oven." This sickens me. So, without further ado, please read part one in a three-part series that I have written that will be published in Spot Magazine, a publication for "Everything pet in the Northwest."