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

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