Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscer Club AKC Agility November 20-21

We had another agility trial last weekend. Different from other trials was that our friends, Rachel, Harry Potter, and Lexi, stayed with us. They showed up on Friday night and we all turned in shortly thereafter with the goal of being up with the chickens and at the trial site at 6:45 am to secure good crating space. Fortunately all the dogs get along so we had no issues there. Harry Potter and Lexi are Boxers.

After arriving, securing our spots, hauling in all the gear, and getting set up, Vegas and I had quite a bit of time to spare. They were running Fast first in both rings and we were not entered. I kept Vegas out for a short while but ultimately decided she'd be better of staying cozy in her crate. It was a cold weekend and I even joked with a couple people that we should have a fashion show at the end of the day with all the dogs wearing their coats. I'm excited to say how well Vegas is doing in her crate. She was quiet the entire weekend and non-distructive almost all the time - as long as I was not within ear shot talking and leaving her locked up. That's major progress for her!

The first course we ran both days was Standard followed by JWW. Here is our Saturday Standard course:
So to start with, the question was whether to go up the outside or the inside of the starting line, knowing I have a dog without a startline stay. The line was not nearly as straight as it would seem. The tire to jump #2 was definitely direct, but jump #3 headed to the outside wall with a jump set up enticingly beyond the a-frame. Fortunately Vegas has an excellent "flip" command and I could send her to the left and the a-frame relatively easily. By going up the outside I wasn't running so far nor was I risking pulling her off of the obstacles or getting in her way. From the a-frame I was careful to make sure she touched the contact then made the turn to #5 and #6, staying on the inside. The weave entry wasn't bad. Her jump landing put her fairly well in line with the entrance and she nailed them. The rest of the course went well. She was running really nice - enthusiastic, smiling, cooperative and in tune with me. She finished the course in 56.86; SCT was 71. Unfortunately we had one minor error on the course. She didn't see the panel following the weaves in time to pull up and clear it, although she tried valiantly. She knocked the top bar.

I don't have video from Saturday because my video camera that's only six months old all of a sudden decided to stop working.

Our second and final run of the day was JWW. Here's the course:
At first look on the map, the #5 to #6 looks difficult with #9/16 thrown in between. Fortunately the angle of #5 and the drive down to #6 didn't cause us any issue. From there though the side changes mixed with the directional changes definitely kept me on my toes. I was behind where I wanted to be at #9 to rear cross and drive Vegas to #10-11, but it worked out. She nailed her weaves coming out of the tunnel too! That in itself was really an accomplishment as the distance and opportunity to become a lookie-loo were there. I was feeling a bit out of sorts with some areas of the course. It's fairly well laid out on paper but as quite a few of us discussed, there were subtle complications only apparent when walking it. Even from the weave to the #13 double presented a challenge. If you pushed out through the end of the weaves a tad too far, the dog might take #20. If you pull off too soon, s/he might pop the weaves. From there, the flow is not as smooth as it looks as you take #13-16. The angulation after #14 is rather sharp and ends up pulling a harder pull back. Then, of course, is avoiding the tunnel again and pulling up the final line. I'm excited to say that Vegas pulled it off! She ran really well and our course time was 39.89 whereas SCT was 45. We earned five more MACH points and our ninth MXJ leg!

I stuck around an extra hour or so to watch one more of Lindsay's runs with Heffner. Then I headed home to the kids and a housefull of dogs. We had a load of laughs and turned in around 10 after making a new collar for one of Rachel's dogs. Sunday was colder than Saturday with the threat of snow on the horizon. We arrived a little later than Saturday and Vegas again spent a good part of the day hanging out in her crate resting and relaxing.

Our first course was again Standard.
In walking this course, I knew right away I didn't like the chute to jump #4. They're quite close on the map and not too far off in actuality. The problem is that the dog is following you blind which can mean pulling on the chute as s/he comes toward you (assuming all handlers were on the inside at that point). There was a risk of not having time to collect and clear the jump. I knew I would use a front cross at the front of the teeter to make the turn to the jump and weaves. That went off without a hitch. From the weaves the map looks like there would be danger of taking the #19 jump, but it wasn't an issue for us. The lines to the tunnel and from the tunnel to the second tunnel (#12) were strong and fast; I just had to make sure Vegas hit her contact on the down side of the a-frame. As Lindsay and I were walking this course we both noted we were the only ones who extended our walk way out beyond the dog walk and tunnel exit because we know our giant dogs need plenty of clearance to turn and head straight onto the walk. Of course Vegas being the smarty girl that she is, surprised me by making a sharp turn out of the tunnel and nailing the dog walk solid anyway!

In watching the 20" class run this course, the BCs had a ton of problem with the next little sequence. They were taking the #10 jump (or the tunnel!) as an off course. Fortunately Craig was nearby when I walked the course and he pointed out three options for handling the #15-17 sequence. He also noticed one thing I was doing walking it that could get me in trouble. I was front-crossing after 15 and again after 16 but then as I turned toward 17 I didn't keep my eye on Vegas. It also meant my shoulders were then pointing toward #10 instead of 17. Whew! Thankfully I managed that okay in the actual run. Home free from there, right? Here it is.
Vegas rocks! Her course time was 59 and change; SCT was 70, giving us 10 MACH points and our first MX leg. I was so, so, so very happy with her. She ran like a complete champ, fast, clean, and sure.

We had a break for a short time after that and by then it had started to snow a bit outside. Lindsay and I are both crazy for snow so immediately went running outside. It really started coming down good albeit the tiny flakes that don't accumulate quickly. It was pretty exciting though. Vegas loves snow!

Our last run of the weekend was JWW, a course that had some pinwheels and full box jumping sequences.
I was trying not to think about qualifying in this run - just thinking about the run itself and what I needed to do to tell Vegas where to go. Our knack for rear crosses were valuable here and she was running well even when I got behind in a couple spots. At the weaves she moved her head a little out just after she started like she was going to pop but she kept moving. After the weaves I pretty well thought we were home free but kept moving and handling the course as I should. The only spot that gave us trouble was the home stretch. I felt like I had to dig in and run hard at #16. My posture must have changed - did change, according to friends, Rachel and Jami - and that cost us the run. Vegas ran right by # 18 in favor of the tunnel and, while I pulled her back before we incurred an off course, it was too late as we had a refusal. Bummer!
And that was our weekend! We went home with two more legs toward our MX and MXJ titles (one a piece) and 15 additional MACH points. Not too shabby for a giant, black dog.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sno King - Day 3

We showed up on time! Actually, just barely. What a whacky trial. Usually the trials are small to tall one day and alternately the next. Plus, they usually have Excellent running in one ring and Novice or Open running in the other, too. Suffice it to say, nothing about this trial was normal.

So we showed up at 7:30. First dog was to be on the line at 8:00. When I arrived general briefing was in progress. I ignored that and got the dogs situated. Before I knew it though, I learned that big dogs were running first again. What?? Turns out standard was up first; JWW would be later. Stowed the dogs and walked the course. The judge was Scott Stock and, for the most part, I've always felt his courses are fairly challenging. There was only one spot I really had cause for concern - the early weave poles. Vegas tends to take off like a shot so making sure she could head straight into the weaves and not choose to bypass them or "skip" a pole....

I don't recall the yardage but the SCT was 66 seconds for 24" dogs. I'm happy to say that Vegas nailed the weaves and then promptly dove into the tunnel. Everything was going fantastically. V was running smooth, fast, energetically, and we were completely in tune. Although I carefully monitor contacts for the most part, I have never had an issue with her contact on the dog walk. She usually isn't going too fast - although she's doing well - because she walks it versus runs. She ends up walking straight through the contact. As you can see above, the next obstacle was the table. From the video it's apparent I was at the end of the walk waiting for her and then as she approached I turned and moved toward the table. That's all it took. With a sinking feeling I pressed on. Our finish was spectacular; our time was amazing. Everything was clean - everything but that one contact. I thought, though I had felt more than seen, Scott's arms had raised indicating a failure to complete an obstacle. As I leashed Vegas and walked out of the ring, heart still pounding, Vegas panting - and smiling, reaching for the treats I had stowed away outside the ring as a reward, I caught Craig's attention and asked, "Did he call a missed contact?"

Sure enough, that "feeling" had been right. I accelerated at the end of the dog walk instead of pointing down and giving the "touch" command. Crap. Crud. Crap. Bummer. Okay, those words lack the true frustration and disappointment I felt - still feel. It was all my fault. All my fault. I was devastated. Our time was a smoking 16 seconds under SCT. 16 seconds!!! Those kind of runs don't come along often enough for a Great Dane running agility. Oh, did I mention that was our first Excellent B Standard run? Yep. There went 16 MACH points down the tubes because I messed up. I was, still am, so proud of Vegas. She ran so well!
Unfortunately that was the highlight of our Sunday. Vegas pulled her "12 for the price of 22" weave pole stunt again in JWW. Dang if I can figure out why. It used to be JWW that she was rocking in and giving me fits on weaves in Standard. Now she's doing the opposite - although not the same weave problem. I can't figure it out but am sure going to try. Next time I get a chance I'm going to get more weave poles and set up random numbers for her to weave so she learns to keep weaving no matter the number. I really debated on pulling her out of the ring when she popped her weaves but with no more runs for the day there was little point.
The weekend was fairly heartbreaking as we had so many almosts but so little to show for them. I am happy with her earning her AX though, and guess we just have more to work on. The thing that worries me the most is how, as a giant breed, we have so much less time than most other breeds in this sport. Ever run; every point; every second counts. Perhaps we'll have better luck next weekend.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Catching Up - A little about a lot

It's a sad thing when I start to type the title of my blog and the same - or something similar - comes up already. Especially when the title is catching up. Electronically I've been notified that I'm a blog slacker. Oops. I vow here  and now to try to be better and at least blog weekly, if for nothing else than to keep up my diatribe of Vegas' activities.

October 30
Our Great Dane group was invited to a local, indoor dog park for their Halloween party to benefit the Oregon Friends of Shelter Animals. A last minute Halloween costume had to suffice for Vegas; Leo's costume never got made. In Bark was kind enough to give us an entire room to let the Danes romp together and, of course, we took part in the other festivities as well. Here are a couple of shots they posted to their Facebook page:
Vegas getting a thorough ear sniff from the owner's GSD
Walking the "runway" during the costume contest
I'll have some video I'll post later to show the Danes all playing together including Vegas actually participating a bit. We had a blast and I hope the donation made to OFOSA helps out. Our group was able to contribute a big box full of items they requested including treats, toys, and washable bedding. 

October 31
On Halloween we had our second ever rally trial. The event was being held at a location we have run agility frequently and, unfortunately, rally and obedience were being held in the barn on the dirt floor. Both the mental adjustment this required for Vegas as well as the abundant smells in the dirt made for an interesting day. Rally was supposed to start at 11:30. My oldest son came with me and helped with the dogs as much as he drove me nuts with impatience. We checked in around 9:50 or so - I got there early on purpose so I could see the Danes and Pomeranians in the conformation rings. When we checked in, the steward gave us our badge and told us they were running on schedule and "it wouldn't be like 4 o'clock when we ran." 

So hours went by as we alternately watched conformation, chatted with people, watched obedience, and worked the dogs on their individual rally moves. Leo's first rally rundown can be viewed here. By the time we got around to it, let's just say I was about to hit the roof, so was my son, and so were my dogs. They were bored, tired, mentally exhausted, and just plain done. Maybe wondering about the significance of the quotes up there.... Well, it was 4:15 when we got our turn in the rally ring. Yeah. 'Nuf said. 

So here's our course and our video:
The course wasn't difficult overall. We are out of practice and Vegas was definitely more interested in sniffing cones, etc. I will never compete in rally again in a dirt barn that's used for horses and so many other events - at least until I have a dog that's training is more rock solid and I'll need some professional guidance before that is likely to happen. 
We did end up qualifying but it's kind of like in CPE when you're allowed to knock a bar in the upper levels in a Standard course, I didn't feel our performance was worthy. The score was 81 - certainly a far cry from our first run back in July, but it serves as our second leg toward our RN. I also entered both dogs into their next rally trials for the second week in December. With two chances Vegas ought to complete her title but more about that then....

November 7
Another venture we've recently started is participation in a drill team. We have gotten together three times; once was just people so we could plan out what we were thinking of doing. Lindsay, as usual, was prepared for us and provided a bit of research and options to discuss. Here are the main organizations: 

After discussing things a bit and getting a feel for where each of us were in training, we felt the best approach would be to work toward an freestyle obedience style and eventually submit to the Canine Freestyle Federation because we can video our final performance for judging. Lots of pros in that plan. 

So after that we met a couple weeks later and did some heeling on both sides, halts, and went over some of the components we'll each need to know. During that meeting we had Lindsay's Dane, Bess, Vegas, and another PDX Danes' member's Dane, Echo. Since that time it appears Echo won't be working with us. We are now two Great Danes, a Bullmastiff, a Tibetan Mastiff, and a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Last weekend's meeting was a lot of fun - albeit brain draining and wet toward the end. Lindsay's friend, Rene, offered to choreograph for us which was incredibly nice and sweet. And boy is that girl on it. Already had music for us and 40 counts of eight choreographed. It was fantastic once we all started to understand it. We practiced without dogs, with dogs, and individually on the first eight counts of eight. Our next meeting is not scheduled yet but we plan on working on one section at a time with just a review of the previous ones. Hopefully we'll have video soon!

And that brings me to this weekend...

November 11
I took two days off work. Finally. Finally, finally. Boy was I overdue. So Thursday the dogs and I got up and got ready then went for a little hike. Our idealic little hike didn't start out that way though. This was a place I'd seen driving to one of my son's football games not too far from our house, Parrott Mountain. We arrived and the gate was closed. No good. Across the road was a place to park with a very clear No Trespassing and Violators Will Be Towed sign. No bueno. So off down the road I went and found a large pull-off about a half mile down the road. Unfortunately the road is super narrow and windy so the walk was a bit treacherous. But once we were there, boy were both dogs happy to romp. Here are some pictures. 

The rest of the day was spent running errands and getting ready to leave town early Friday morning for an AKC agility trial at Argus Ranch

November 12 - 13
This weekend we're at an agility trial. Friday was for Excellent classes only; they're not running Fast this weekend. The trial is hosted by Sno King who puts on a great event. The trial is packed with a full 660 runs today. I've never seen the parking lot or barn so full. 

Yesterday we left about 6:15 am and arrived at 9:30. I ended up helping to set up some equipment initially and, in turn, was able to choose a crate space and set up a little bit early. Then I got the dogs out to run about a bit, stretch, potty, and then went back in to hang out a bit until course maps were out. Here is what we were facing yesterday:

We had one judge and two rings plus a lot of dogs to run. Not starting until 1pm meant we were there quite late for an AKC trial. We had about three hours between runs with our JWW course around 3pm and our Standard around 6pm. Jumpers went well. Vegas was running fast, although not her fastest, and we were doing great until the weaves. She nailed the entry but I think she looked up and wasn't sure if that was what I wanted her to do or what. I don't have any video yet this weekend so couldn't tell what I was doing. I'm starting to think though, that the problem lies with me and I need to just tell her to weave and keep going as if she is and stop worrying about it. Even with the weave bobble she was done under time so that's always a good thing to keep in mind. And I continued to push her to run fast all the way through versus just giving up. That's a kudos to me because with these giant breeds, you really have to encourage that speed and never try to work issues and figure you'll get the speed later. I know Vegas knows how to do these things; now it's just a matter of doing it quickly. She's fast for a Dane, too, but we can always use more speed. So no go on JWW yesterday.

Standard was another story. There were two places I was worried about, just a little. The first was the tunnel to dog walk wrap. I really wish AKC had done away with those moves as another concession to large/giant dogs. It is so important for them to properly get their footing from the start of the dog walk. Their leg stance is often right at the width of the walk and stepping up onto it in a hurry without attention to the feet can be truly detrimental. Speaking from experience, Vegas has had three falls off the dog walk in addition to several slips resulting in gashed up inner thighs. And I'm lucky my back didn't break the one time I caught her. 

That said, oh boy did she handle it well. What a girl I have. I was sure to be in place to make sure she came well out of the tunnel before making the 180 to the dog walk and off she went, hitting the end of it with some force - somewhat unlike her. Go Vegas!

The second issue was the weaves. Doggone it they were just out there enough from the dog walk and slightly turned out so the angle presented concentration. I had walked the course with me on the inside but decided right as I was going to walk off the course and get Vegas warmed up and ready to do a front cross at the end of the walk - knowing I would be there ahead of her - and go through the weaves on her right. This also solved another possible groundwork challenge of getting in a front cross at the right spot after the weaves without throwing her off going into the tire. Voila! It worked perfectly. Wow what a run it was. The SCT was 62; she ran in 50.22. I was so, so, so proud of my girl. We finally, finally got our AX; that was the third leg we desperately needed to move out of Excellent A Standard. Whoohoo! And we got a really pretty new title ribbon, too. lol

Saturday, November 13
Today we were running tall to small. But my brain obviously didn't register all of the pieces because we were starting both Excellent Standard and Excellent JWW at the same time - one in each ring - with alternating heights. Crap! That's right; I showed up too late to run Standard. I was so, so, so very bummed - and while I have not completely stopped kicking myself, there is a silver lining. That run today would have been an A again because, duh!, I forgot to fill out a move-up form yesterday! Ugg. Needless to say, I did that today. 

So, we were at Argus for about an hour today - hardly worth hauling anything in after all. We ran JWW about 45 minutes after I arrived and, I'll spare the delay, didn't Q. The run was beautiful. Vegas was fast considering the course setup and some of the challenges. She was really revved up going in. I got her jumping on me and full on jumping up almost like she wanted to jump into my arms. She was being a real goof. The first obstacle was a tunnel followed by a line the depth of the course complete with a triple and a double then another line the width of the course. I sent her into the tunnel and just trusted she'd come out following. She did for sure and I don't know what happened but the she knocked the double. Again, I don't know if it was a misstep or if she got off stride or if I could have turned sooner and by not doing so brought her out too far. Anyway, nonetheless, we kept on moving, just like yesterday, hauling butt. At the end of the "L," she had a 180 then a 90 degree turn back up toward the score table then a 90 degree turn into a 180 back down the line to a tunnel. She did everything else perfectly including the weave entrance. Yardage was 144; SCT was 40; our time was 33 and change. Considering the Dobermans were running it in 25-26, that's not too shabby for a girl that outweighs most of them by about 40 pounds. So Vegas got vanilla ice cream this afternoon and that catches me up through today. Whew!
Tomorrow is another story and that'll have to wait until Monday or so to update. But I'm determined to stay on top of it now.