Thursday, July 23, 2009

OK, Last Videos from Last Weekend, plus Standard Analysis

SUMMARY: Three Masters Standard runs: Compare and contrast.

This course was not a gimmee. From my point of view, the toughest parts were 5 to 9, 10 to 15, and 16 to 18. Hmm, that's pretty much the whole course, eh? But I divide them like that because they really presented 3 major handling issues.

From 5 to 9. Coming off the Aframe, the dog's path over #6 is toward the dogwalk, so they have to change leads to get to #7, so now they're heading for the tunnel, and now have to change leads again to get over 8 and to the dogwalk.

You could try a front cross between 6 and 7 if you could leave your dog on the Aframe and trust her to get the contact. But it's a lonnnnng way to go to get to the correct position; you need to be out beyond the North/South 80 line to have a straight line in your path from 7 to 8. So, to cover that huge distance, you're driving towards the dogwalk, which pushes the dog even harder in that direction when what you really want is for them to be turning tightly to get to #7. Some people managed it, but not many even tried.

Most of us sent to #6, hanging back so that we could run in a straight line from near the corner of the Aframe directly towards the far wing of #8, giving perhaps a bit of a serpentine cue for #7. Then rear cross 8 to get a turn to the dogwalk.

10 to 15. Here, you have to ensure that the dog goes through the tire on her way to the chute, which is a Northward push. In an ideal world, you'd like to be on the inside of the curve from 11 to 15, which means that you'd have to be in front cross position on the far side of #12 (around the 40N line) before the dog is coming out of the chute; if you're not far enough, you'll have to veer out around #12 , pulling the dog off #13.

But getting to that position is really tough given the push to #10 and the dog's speed from 10 through 11. You'd have to cover 40 feet in about 2-3 seconds--I'm not that fast! Most people with faster dogs opted, instead, to stay on the Aframe side of #12, give a serpentine cue, and rear cross 13.

16 to 18. The line from the table to the weaves is not straight. If you can leave your dog on the table while the judge is counting down 5 seconds, you could get into front cross position between 17 and 18 and get a nice smooth controlled path into the weaves.

You could also get into serp position on the Aframe side of #17. I think that either of these, if done right, would get the smoothest entry into the weaves.

Boost I don't trust to keep her elbows on the table. Tika might be OK, but I'd have to watch her carefully and not make an sudden moves or gestures or she'd be off the table in a flash. I elected instead to stay on the teeter side of #17, pull as if we were going to #14 until the dog was in line with the weave entry, and then use "left weave". Both dogs executed well, but I think it's a slower entrance than the preceding choices because it's not as obviously a semistraight line to the dogs.

Tika's Run

Tika's time was 43.75 on a standard course time of 54. We lost some time when I didn't get my line from 6 to 8 quite right and she turned the wrong way after 8. Still, it was good for 2rd place out of nine P3 22" dogs--the winner was 3 seconds faster.(3-Dog Video versions.)

Boost's Run

Boost's time was 39.96 (4 secs faster than Tika) with a SCT of 51. I expect her to be faster than Tika--in fact I expect her to be MUCH faster, so with Tika's wrong turn, their times are really disturbingly quite close to each other. The main thing with Boost is the stop on the contacts, which I'm not ready to sacrifice for glory in most cases. Not interested in Top Ten points particularly (except for fun). (3-Dog Video versions.)

Gina's Run

I include this with running contacts for comparison with littermate Boost. Tim has worked very hard on consistency; there was a long time where they weren't making a lot of contacts, but this weekend they were gorgeous. Now they just need to fix the bar-knocking thing. (Sound familiar?) And Gina moves through the course with a bit more confidence than Boost, it seems to me. Her time was an amazing 34.2ish, faster than ANY other masters or p3 dog, including Luka (in the same range) and the fabulous Sweep (36-plus). I love watching them run. (3-Dog Video versions.)

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Saturday Good, Sunday Not So Hot--Literally and Figuratively

SUMMARY: Got a couple of Qs but there's work to do.

Saturday in Santa Rosa was cold but not awfully so. Both dogs ran well: 7 runs each in one day! They loved it, probably because they could go all out in the cold weather and not risk overheating. You know how canine athletes worry about that stuff, especially when they're not drinking Gatorade. It was a long day, though, not done until almost 9 PM. At least the club had planned for that & advertised dinner along with Strategic Pairs. But I felt pretty good at the end of the day with our successes and luck.

Sunday chilled us to the bone. 28F at 7:30 in the morning. Glad I took my ginormous purple down coat, which you can't miss noticing from half a mile away. And wore thermal underwear. Then around 4:00, just as I was ready to start hauling stuff out to my car, it poured. Dogs were still happy to run in the cold for another 4 runs each, but things didn't go quite so well and I had to work myself out of feeling disappointed.

To give you an idea of the chill--I always take an ice-filled cooler packed with my fave diet soft drinks because I can't stand warm diet soft drinks. This time, I skipped the cooler entirely and just left the cans loose in my car. They were plenty ice-cold, thank you very much!
The "Lytle Cow Palace," scene of our glories and disgraces and some really cold Alaskan weather come to visit.

Saturday Tika Team

Five of the runs were for Team. Tika ran clean and fairly fast in Jumpers and Standard, although (as I had expected) even with the new Qing system for Team individual events, she missed Qs by 1.7 seconds in Standard and 0.2 in Jumpers--although had I worked even one of my sloppy turns better, we'd have gotten that bonus Jumpers Q. She had a nice Gamblers opening and we were exactly where we needed to be to try for maximum points in the gamble--but knocked the 3rd bar, so had very high opening points but only so-so closing; no bonus Q there, either.

Tried for four reds in the Snooker, knocked the first bar, but recovered easily to accrue 49 points. Only about a dozen dogs of the 87 competing in all heights managed to do four reds and get through to the end, so she did have enough for a bonus Q here.

Her team did pretty good. After the first two rounds--Standard and Gamblers--where both teammates did even better than Tika--we were in 2nd place overall of 29 teams. One teammate Eed in the Jumpers round, so we lost our prime position, but the rest of our Jumpers and Snookers were pretty good, and we all ran well in the relay in which at least half the teams Eed. So we ended up 5th overall despite that Jumpers E, and with 18 teams Qing, we were well up there.

Can I fantasize for a moment? Without the Jumpers E, we'd have been plenty above the first place team's score. But, oh well, I'm very happy with how Tika ran and delighted with my teammates.

Pretty good, and very happy about that; that finished her 10th Team Q. So, to get our Tournament Platinum, we needed only EITHER the Steeplechase OR the Grand Prix on Sunday.

Saturday Boost Team

We were all younger, less polished dogs on this team. After the first two runs--Standard (where one teammate Eed and the other two of us bobbled and faulted our way through it) and Gamblers (where Boost wouldn't go OUT for a bonus and I dinked around trying to insist that she do it, so got really low points--and our teammates had lower points than that)--I think we were in 3rd to last place. Not promising for Qing.

In Jumpers, another teammate Eed, Boost accrued a ton of faults, and one teammate ran very well. In Snooker, Boost knocked a bar in the opening so missed some points and popped out of the weaves on a rear cross in the closing so lost a bunch more points; One teammate did very well and the other better than Boost.

But we had a wonderful relay run; placed 7th of the 29 teams, and so even with two Es earlier, we all held it together individually enough here and there, and fully half the teams wiped out of the relay, including some of the top ones, leaving us enough room to just squeeze into Qing territory by a mere 2.17 points out of our total of 914.84 (1st place at 1229.79 for comparison), placing 18th overall. So one more bar anywhere, or one more popped contact, or one more missed weave pole that someone had to go back for, out of our 15 combined runs, and we'd not have qualified. Whewwwwwww!

It was quite a surprise and delight to get that Q after what had seemed like a dismal showing. Sometimes I curse the high point value of the relay, but it saved us this time.

The rest of Saturday

Tika earned another Q in Masters Jumpers. Boost and I Eed early in that--serpentine that she wouldn't come in on (which I was lamenting about on Thursday, remember that?) and by the time I got her over the jump, I forgot where I was going and--while I stood there thinking--she backjumped. So still no MAD for the baby dog.

Strategic Pairs filled out the day. 19 teams stuck around for the fun.

Tika's Strategic Pairs partner, Chaps the wonder-Aussie, who just got back from spectacular successes at the Aussie nationals.

Tika and her partner ran clean, but Tika had some bobbles in our first segment when she got ahead of me and I couldn't direct her, and then we had a communication failure among human teammates so there were several seconds where we both were standing doing nothing. We still managed to come in 6th of 19, which was nice--only 6 seconds slower than the 1st place team... who was...

Boost and her partner! Ta-da! We had no faults, we communicated well, we didn't waste any time. Boost was not the dog I'd have ever guessed I'd win a wild game like Strategic Pairs with--but actually the judge(s) designed a course that was very straightforward for switching between two dogs, so it was just short, simple sequences.

So, at the end of the day, I felt pretty good about my agility weekend.

Boost and her Strategic Pairs partner, Taiko, who just got back from winning at the ASCA nationals.

Here is what Boost won for me in Strategic Pairs. I had no idea it would be something cool like this! Thanks, Bay Team SP prize czar!

Here is what Boost won also for me in Strategic Pairs. I don't imbibe, so my renter/dogsitter benefitted from this part.


Things fell apart a bit on Sunday. Not a lot. Just enough to take the edge off the general satisfaction for the weekend. It went like this:

Tika ran very nicely, fast, eager. In Steeplechase, almost 4 seconds under qualifying time, which is pretty good for her. But ticked the bloody broad jump. Just barely. I barely heard it and wasn't even sure whether I had heard it. We couldn't miss a Q by whacking a bar or flying off the Aframe or mishandling; no, we incurred 5 faults with a tiny tap of a toenail, putting us just out of Qualifying.

In Grand Prix, she ran fast and smoothly; we got through the whole course with no problems at all, nice tight turns, bars up, got the Aframe contact. The next to the last obstacle was the dogwalk, and she even got a foot solidly in the yellow zone going up, which has been one of our Grand Prix bugaboos. And then, 15 feet away from the last jump (which she kept up), she flew right off the end of the dogwalk, not even pretending to slow down for it. Crapola. Just one little flaw at the end of a lovely run.

So no Tournament Platinum.

Tika had a lovely Gamblers' opening, except that I lost her at one point, wasting time, and decided not to adjust for it; as a result, was way on the far side of the course with an Aframe between us and the gamble when the whistle blew. And she did the dang gamble, too, very professionally. But over time, so no Q.

And, in our opportunity to maybe pick up a placement, in Masters Pairs, I stepped into her path at the wrong stupid moment when I should've been stepping out, and pushed her into an off-course tunnel.

So not a Q all day.

Dogs get cozy crates with furry mats to curl up in during the freeze.

Boost ran very nicely all day, with no refusal or runout problems. She was such a good girl; very proud of her. But still... as I've commented before, there's only so long I can get by on "making progress" without "earning Qs".

I did the exact same stupid trick with Boost in Gamblers; she went into the weave poles in the wrong side so we had to restart, but again I decided that, since she's faster than Tika, I could go the extra distance and not adjust for it. Well--we ended up with more opening points than the first place dog, AND she also did the gamble perfectly, but only after (repeat after me) we were way on the far side of the course with an Aframe between us and the gamble when the whistle blew. Foolish handler trick again.

In Steeplechase, Boost had a lovely run, but had a bar down. Thought we might have qualified anyway, but nooo--there were 10 faults on our scribe sheet, not 5, and I have no clue what the other 5 were for. Another good reason to have your runs videotaped. But will that teach me? Nope, never does.

In Grand Prix, doh, I just skipped a jump. And this was a course I had already just run with Tika. Go figure. So--off-course.

In Pairs, however, she partnered with her SisterDog Bette, and both dogs decided to show the world what a wonderful litter they came from. We both had beautiful, clean runs, and placed 4th of 41 teams. So that was it, my sole Q for the day between both dogs. Disappointing, especially when several were so close.

This is how I end up averaging only 50% with Tika--one weekend with 9 of 10 Qs, the next weekend 2 of 8 or so.

Never did get the final word on what this was about--

And In Other News

Mom is home from the hospital, feeling good, injecting self with drugs (I knew there was a reason we needed to keep her from hanging out with those decadent hospital personnel), trying to get back to where she was muscularly before she had to lie in a bed for 4 days again. Yay, Mom! And I heard that Dad even got a good night's sleep a couple of nights ago, finally, after all that all-night hospital brou ha ha. Good on ya, dad!

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Family Resemblance

SUMMARY: Some features pass through generations...

So I was sitting in the stands Saturday evening, waiting for the Steeplechase finals to start, and I turned around and about 5 rows above us was Boost. Or, wait--Boost at about 5 or 6 months old. I looked away again; there are so many blue merle border collies around these days and I guess they all look pretty much the same. (Like black & white border collies look pretty much the same. OK OK don't land on me, I know I know.)

But I looked again, and it was SO Boost. I commented to friends how much that puppy looked like Boost. And finally I had to climb up there and ask where the puppy was from. Turns out it's one of the litter from Boost's sister Gina, the littermate who looked the most like Boost and their mom, Tala. He even has heterochromia in the same eye as Boost!

Who'd have ever thought I'd get to know Border Collie faces well enough to be able to pick out a nephew (Shazam) in a crowd? I don't think I could do that with my own real human nieces and nephews!

Which is which?

(First is Shazam; second is Boost. And here's Shazam's whole new family. Dang, I didn't get their email addresses to send the photo. And I had a notepad with me, too!)

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Birthday Party With Relatives

SUMMARY: Boost's breeder's 40th birthday.

I didn't take my dogs because this wasn't a dog event, but people who were already there had their dogs, and so did the (very surprised) guestess of honor. Many of them were related to Boost.

Bette, Boost's littermate:
Qas ("kass"), Boost's half sister (same mother):
Rowdy, littermate to Qas. He's got the same half-blue, half-brown eye that Boost does (his right eye) but I wasn't able to get a good photo of it:
Quirk, father to Qas and Rowdy:
Quirk in a less dignified party moment:
Tango, "uncle" to all those Border Collie puppies, and a pretty decent agility dog himself (really, those two dogs were the only ones to suffer the indignity of hats, and each wore won for maybe 30 seconds for a photo op. They were very good sports about it.):
Tango's photo was printed in sugar on the birthday cake:
Boost's mom, Tala, is pregnant again with pups from Boost's father, so another litter of half a dozen full siblings is on its way:
Also there were Coty (Boost's dad), Qwik (littermate to Qas and Rowdy), Derby (Boost littermate), but I got out only the crappy snapshot camera and it wasn't cooperating much with me and they were running around enjoying themselves, so no photos. But here's the birthday card that Boost and I made for Tammy:

View all my party photos (none of me, of course).

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Boost is an Auntie

SUMMARY: More fast puppies.

Boost's nearly twin sister, and really fast agility dog, littermate Gina, had puppies! (Gina, left; Boost, right; look at those ears!)

Their daddy (Yankee) was off at the European Open last week, blazing away on the courses. These should be wonderful agility pups.

Thanks to east-coast blogger Flirt the Squirt and Bodhi, for letting me know. I'm always the last node in the grapevine.

Here's the puppies' blog, with photos.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Family Resemblances

SUMMARY: Half-brother shows family resemblance

BoostRowdy(?) (half sibling)Tala (mamadog)

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Birthday Girls

SUMMARY: Photo of Boost and sisters

I was lucky enough to catch Boost and three of her sisters at this weekend's trial, just 3 days after their third birthday. From left to right, Beck, Gina, Boost, and Bette. Missing is brother Derby, who just wasn't there this weekend (might try again at another trial), sister Kyna (?), whom I haven't seen or heard anything about in a couple of years, and the 7th sister who was mysteriously sold as a pet dog to Hawaii or something odd like that.

Update: Feb 5, 1:05 p.m. PST (comment from Tammy, the siblings' breeder): Derby was practicing being bad at an AKC trial last weekend, Caena has blown out her cruciate ligament, apparently badly enough that they couldn't do surgery to fix it, so it's physical therapy and rest for her. Blue girl (Tinker) lives in San Mateo as a happy pet. I don't think anyone has gone to Hawaii, that I am aware of. :)

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Team Jumpers Videos

SUMMARY: Bette, Boost, and Tika videos

Here's videos of Boost's sister dog (Bette), then me running Boost, then Tika, in Team Jumpers (about 2.6 MB).

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Tika in Advanced vs. Boost in Advanced

SUMMARY: When feeling discouraged about one's babydog, take two databases and call me in the morning.

After this weekend, with 10 runs in Advanced with Boost and exactly one Q out of that, I started feeling a bit blue. This is, after all, Boost's third trial in Advanced, with a TOTAL of 24 Advanced runs, with only TWO Qs to show for it. How pathetic is that? I mean, Tika blasted through Advanced from her first Advanced leg to her last in 5 trials encompassing a mere 18 total Advanced runs, 10 of which were Qs.

Furthermore, Jake finished his Advanced title (back in 1998) in only 4 trials, 26 runs, with 8 Qs.

But wait, said a lurking suspicion. And since anything lurking is bound to be worth paying attention to, I double-checked my database.

Boost completed her novice title in under 4 trials (the first of those we entered only one run a day and I concentrated on obstacles, not Qs). She Qed in 9 of 25 runs and they happened to be the right ones to complete that AD (Agility Dog) title.

Jake's Novice life I know nothing about; he had his AD already when I got him. And although he did his Advanced title in only 4 trials, it spanned 9 months, so there was a lot of training and non-USDAA competition around those trials.

But Tika--now, Tika--yes, a different story. After a couple of lovely runs at her first couple of trials, including placing in the ribbons in the Grand Prix (! -- something that we have duplicated only once or twice in the 30+ GPs since), she suddenly realized that she wasn't in Kansas any more (Kansas being a controlled training situation) and that the yellow brick road appealed far more than sticking to the tried and true. She flew off her contacts and we repeated them (in NADAC) or took her off the course. She flew off her start-line without staying and we took her off the course. She ran out of the ring to go see old friends, or squirrels, or hmmm not sure what that is but worth investigating. She grabbed my feet midcourse and there was no distracting her (something she had never done in a year of training, never, not even once), not with bitter apple or trying to get her to Down (oblivious) or feigning the screaming agony of death or anything. We Eed and we Eed and we Eed, and on the runs where we didn't, she knocked bars or I mishandled her for offcourses or whatever.

Tika was in USDAA Novice for 66 runs at 15 events spanning a year and a half. No wonder that, when we finally convinced her to do the job I thought I had trained her to do, she whipped through Advanced like it wasn't even there.

Sooooo I guess Boost is doing her apprenticeship in Advanced rather than in Novice. And it has been only 2 months since she moved up from Novice. She's not being a bad girl (like certain Aussieprobablies whose name needn't be mentioned yet again), but every little flaw or missing element in our training shows up in capital letters because of her speed.

I'll try to remember that. While all of her siblings are competing in Masters and we're still hangin' in the intermediate world of Advanced. (Well, OK, Bette's still in Advanced with us at the moment, but she's far more consistent, as shown by their 4+ Qs--they Qed in Grand Prix, too-- this weekend.)

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Another Three Days of USDAA

SUMMARY: Tika 5 Qs including Team; Boost only one, but finally nailed weaves. Plus rain. Plus the usual post-trial whining.

For the third year in a row, I'm so glad that I didn't sign up for all four days of Haute TRACS. Three days is just too much, plus when I miss the Steeplechase cut so narrowly by stupid handler mistakes, I don't think I could sit and watch it and really enjoy it. In addition, I've taken the opportunity today to dry everything out--but I get ahead of myself.

Wednesday night

Wednesday night I fell asleep at home pretty quickly, with the alarm set for 4 a.m. But I woke suddenly about 1 a.m. with the horrid realization that I hadn't sent in my entry for the SMART trial in 2 weeks, with Grand Prix and Steeplechase qualifiers, and closing was the next day. I had to get up, fill out the forms, send email to the secretary, make copies to take with me in case the sec was there this weekend, and stamp and address an envelope.

Then I couldn't get back to sleep. Finally gave up about quarter to four, assembled myself, and headed on out to Dixon May Fairgrounds, so I looked and felt my best that morning-- I wanted to run like the all-American competitor-- man, I wanted, I wanted to feel like-- I wanted to BE the all American agility competitor.


I had entered Boost and Tika in everything, which gave me 14 runs on Thursday (5 for DAM Team plus Standard and Jumpers). AND I was signed up to be co-chief ring steward in one ring with Boost's sister Bette's mom, Mary. The site was laid out in four rings end-to-end with a large swath between them with a roadway, grass, and vendor booths. It was a long walk. The DAM and Masters runs were in three of the rings and Advanced (in which Boost and Bette were entered) were in the fourth, far ring.

I did a lot of walking. Pedometer said 14 miles on Thursday. I hardly ever sat down. Apparently we were supposed to be avoiding using the loudspeaker very much to avoid annoying the neighbors, so there were only occasional announcements. Thank goodness that three of the rings were synchronized, but trying to keep an eye on Starters vs. Advanced in the far ring and set up ring crew for 12 rotations in our ring was overwhelming. Fortunately Mary didn't have a dog in Masters, so she ended up doing most of the work.

Tika teamed with Brenn (from our National finalist team last year) and a Papillon, Roxee, run by Rob, a very experienced handler--has been doing agility since the very early '90s, so almost from the beginning of the sport in the U.S. But Roxee's still a bit of a wildcard--still young, and trained by his owner who can't physically run her. Still, we asked them to join us for fun. 53 teams entered, which meant that at least 27 teams would qualify for nationals. Since Team consists of five full classes, you really don't want to have to keep paying for and trying to Q over and over.

Team Standard course was murder: fully half of all dogs eliminated, and since Team is all about not eliminating (if you want to qualify), the fact that Brenn and Tika both had lovely runs (Tika with a bar down)--although Roxee Eed--meant that we were above average to start with. Our team rated 18th of 53 in this class.

Team Jumpers also killed a lot of dogs. I think that, as the day went on and people watched earlier handlers making fatal mistakes, the non-E rate improved, so that there were fewer than 50% Eing. Although Roxee again Eed and Brenn had a couple of bars down, Tika's clean, fairly fast run and Brenn's fairly fast time placed us 10th in the Jumpers class, which surprised me immensely.

In the afternoon, we moved on to Team Gamblers, in which I once again found a course that I really liked for Tika both in the opening and closing, we executed it perfectly with no bobbles or complaints from the girl that I wasn't being clear, and we placed individually 2nd of 39 dogs; Brenn's score was good and Roxee's low but not terrible, and our team placed 18th.

In Tika's Team Snooker, I chose a not-too-aggressive course that I thought Tika and I could handle easily, with only one oddball turn and angle off to one of the Reds, but while Tika was in the weaves, I apparently started looking for that red because she popped out of the weaves, and we fumbled around a bit to get back in--and then, disoriented, I put her back over the red we had just come over. So we had only 8 points on a course where pretty much everyone was going for four reds and doing well, so we essentially Eed on that course. Brenn did well but Roxee backjumped after getting 24 points and our team was only 42nd of 53 in this class.

Typically, you can still Q if your team collectively has only one E, and sometimes with 2, but almost never with 3 Es, and we already had 3 Es with the Team Relay still to go, which is very heavily weighted. None-the-less, because so many dogs had Eed in Standard and Jumpers, we were in 17th place before the Relay, which meant that probably if we managed to avoid any one of us Eing, we'd be among the 27 Qing teams.

I don't remember exactly who did what in the relay--Brenn might have had a bar down--Roxee popped out of the weaves and almost went off course before Rob could get her back and fix the problem and then had a refusal somewhere, too-- But overall it was a pretty easy course so almost no one Eed on it, which meant then that your team's time was the critical factor in placing within the Relay, and with the bobbles and our generally conservative approach, we were a mere 35th in the Relay--

BUT combining the five events with their weighted values, we ended up 20th, safely in the Q zone. Woo hoo.

Boost's Team Snooker was more of a disaster. I had been feeling pretty confident with Boost when we set up the team--after all, she had done well enough for a baby dog at the Nationals in November and had finished her novice title in just a couple of trials. But we've not been doing so well in Advanced.

In Team Standard, none of the three of us went off-course, which was astounding on that course with three young dogs. However, Boost had 3 bars down and 5 (!) refusals, and 3 refusals automatically becomes an E. And Bette kept popping out of the weaves, so their run was almost 70 seconds, which cost us a lot of points. But Maiya's run was lovely and we were 30th of 53 in that class. And Boost in fact had no problems whatsoever with the weaves, which I'd been worried about since that's been our bugaboo this year. It was everything else that messed us up!

Team Jumpers proved problematic for both Boost and Bette, both of us Eing, but Maiya was beautiful again. Team Snooker was going OK for us until Boost knocked a red in the opening, I had to scramble to rearrange my course plan on the fly, and I couldn't call her off an off course. So we had only 17 points on a course where the best dogs were getting 59--OK, better than Tika, but not much. Bette had problems even earlier, but Maiya hung on for 43 points. That was our lowest point, placing overall 47th of 53. But at least we weren't last!

In Team Gamblers, I don't know what we did at the end of our opening but I know that we got more points than what showed on the scribe sheet and possibly a lot more. BUT in the closing we bobbled the weaves badly and got no gamble points. Bette did the weaves successfully so had a bunch more points, and Maiya did well, but overall none of us were stellar, so we ranked 41st in this class.

For Team Relay, Boost and Bette redeemed themselves partially in this high-value class by running fast and clean, Boost even doing weaves again, but Maiya went off course, for a change of pace. We placed 43rd in the Relay and 43rd overall, a long way from the 27th cutoff to qualify.

In Normal Land, Tika's Master Standard was beautiful and fast but she knocked the next-to-last bar. Masters Jumpers got us an E in an odd way. I had walked it at the same time as the Team Jumpers, and when I raced up to ringside with Tika after various conflicts, I had one dog to look at the course, and I couldn't remember it! So as I walked Tika out, put her in a sit-stay behind the starting jump, and walked out to my lead-out position past the 2nd jump, I was still looking around the course, trying to remember my path. When I turned around, Tika was waiting to go--in a crouch BETWEEN the first and second jumps.

Well, I had no idea whether she had gone over the first jump, but it didn't really matter, as this meant that she had left the start line without any ready signal from me of the least kind. So I walked her back to her crate and that was that.

Boost's Advanced Jumpers and Advanced Standard runs were generally chaotic, with no course faults on the Standard but so many corrections of runouts and such that we were over time. Oddly enough, only 3 of 11 dogs ran clean on that course, so we actually placed fourth.

I fell asleep instantly and slept soundly Thursday night in the back of my van. I've always slept with my head behind the driver's seat, and every time it feels as if the van slopes slightly downward, so my feet are higher than my head, and every time I'm too exhausted to want to get up and move my pillow to the rear. This time I remembered while setting up. It was much more comfortable in that direction for many reasons.


Started out cool like Thursday, but not quite as cool, and got fairly warm as the day wore on. Only five runs per dog, but one was the Grand Prix qualifier. Tika knocked a bar on a tough opening where a large percentage of dogs went off course. Then somehow we ended up with a refusal at a jump, which right there put us out of Qualifying, and then when I got her turned around again and made a U-turn to the dogwalk, she slipped on the up ramp and took quite a nasty-looking, twisting spill, hitting the dogwalk on her way off the side. It knocked the breath out of ME, seeing that happen, but she bounced up, twice as excited as before, so with the judge's encouragement, I put her back on the dogwalk and we finished nicely. Boost was a handful. Seems that we were running past or fixing or refusing or redoing every third or fourth obstacle all the way around, and we managed an E one way or another. The judge bipped over to us as Boost was holding on the Aframe (after our E) and asked in a friendly voice whether this was a baby-dog. Really? Was it obvious? Sigh. This puppy just might not compete in Nationals this year.

In other news, Tika's Master Gamblers I bobbled a rear cross, pulling Tika off a teeter, resulting in us missing finishing the weaves for points by 2 poles, and then the gamble was virtually identical to the one at our CPE trial, where I managed to send her from #1 directly to #4, and despite thinking I was handling it differently, I managed to do the same thing again. There went our first chance at dreams of glory of staying in the USDAA Top 25 for a while longer. If we had finished the weaves and made the gamble, we might have been placed high enough for a couple of TT points, but not way up there anyway. We Qed in Relay with Brenn with a couple of my bobbles that wasted time (9th of 43 teams, not bad but it's always better to get a ribbon).

Tika Qed in Standard with a nice, flowing, but not super-driven run. Still, it was 5th of 23 dogs, so I think that's enough for 1 more TT point there--AND that finished her Standard Championship (10 masters standard Qs). In Jumpers, she once again kept her bars up, but I've been trying to run more aggressively, so I left her to her own devices to take a slight push-out to a jump and raced ahead, but she came past the jump for a runout, so no Q there.

Meanwhile, Boost wowed the Known World with a completely gorgeous Advanced Gamblers run and win. I even started her on the weaves to see whether she could do them, and she did. We got compliments from a few talented people with wonderful dogs. Truth is that's just a course that was built for us to do; no major handling things, which is where we fall down, but lots of contacts and tunnels in an arrangement where we could do them all over & over. But in her other three Advanced classes, we Eed--although I felt we were getting smoother, we had no offcourses, but I had already decided that it's more important for my dog to keep driving at a competition, so when she ran out past jumps, I just kept her moving rather than going back and fixing it. I like that super drive and I don't want her to start worrying that I'm going to stop her and bring her back, like I did with my first dog before I got smart.

There was a fund-raising dinner that evening that was announced only once and did no publicity that I saw. It was a phenomenal spread of food hosted by one competitor, and by the low turnout I'm afraid that they spent more on the food than they brought in. But we had a good time chatting and eating.

There was supposed to be a chance of showers on Saturday, so I wrapped everything outside the van in plastic, set up my canopy over the dog's crating area with side rain panels, and slept. It showered somewhat off and on during the night; heard it on the roof.


In the morning it seemed to have stopped but remained completely overcast. The pacesetters for the Steeplechase Q times ran fairly early in the day--we didn't know that they were pacesetters until it started raining again partway through the morning and then never let up. This meant that the dogs and handlers never ran as fast the rest of the day, although some came close.

Tika's Steeplechase run nearly broke my heart. If she can keep her bars up, we can Q. She did her job and kept her bars up. And I love Steeplechases with 2 weaves, because she can make pretty tough entries and is pretty darned good about staying in, both of which give us an advantage that we don't always have in speed in other areas. BUT the first approach was a very hard turn, and I called her but trusted her too much and she barely skidded in--to the 2nd pole, not the first. Aughhh! In steeplechase, that's not a fault, but it wastes time, and I'm sure that it takes 2 seconds to pull the dog out, bring her back to the beginning, and restart. So I really really pushed the rest of the course, and she was so good! And the second approach required a front cross for a really tight, fast entry, and I over-crossed, so I pulled her AWAY from the weaves and she spun towards me. Probably another 2 seconds to turn her and get her back in. We missed the cutoff by less than a second. I just about collapsed in a heap of seeting frustration.

In fact, my whole day was like that. Gamblers was another one where I found a course that I thought was perfect for us and that I didn't see anyone else doing, and the gamble was a give-away with weaves. BUT. Again the handling thing. I've been releasing Tika instantly on her contacts all weekend, trying to go for the higher placements, and at one key point, I needed her to flip left from the Aframe into a tunnel, which she's usually a star at. But I didn't think about all those early releases all weekend, and she went straight out from teh Aframe over a jump before coming back, which I'm guessing was a 3-second detour. Now I really raced, because I knew I'd have to adjust the end of my course, which was supposed to end on the teeter before the gamble, but I hadn't walked the ending that I was creating on the fly. The whistle blew just as I was getting to the new turn that I had to make, too far from the gamble, and I muffed it so that Tika turned back to me and barked, and then she headed out correctly, did the gamble perfectly--and was over time by 3/10 of one second. My seething frustration was boiling over. What's worse, I was right about our course--our opening points were good enough for 2nd of about 30 dogs if we had done the gamble on time.

(In case you hadn't noticed, this is where the whining comes in.)

Meanwhile, the rain just never let up. It was pouring so that we could justify shutting the rings down, it was simply maddeningly drearily raining. Early in the day, everyone had rain gear and hats, but by the end of the day I could see that everyone, like me, had given up--no hats, dripping hair and clothes, soaked through to the skin everywhere except possibly my tummy. My course maps turned to mush in my pockets. I had several species of fungi growing between my toes and evolving into advanced lifeforms. Wet wet wet.

Tika had a awesome standard run--I'm enjoying really driving her through courses--but found out afterwards that she had 5 faults. Since she did hit and stick all her contacts and we had no bobbles or bars, it must have been that danged up on the dogwalk again.

And in Snooker I forgot where I was going during the closing at #5. With the bobble and taking an extra obstacle and then getting her away from barking at my feet and running off, we STILL had 6 seconds left, which would've been more than plenty of time to finish a 2nd-place Super-Q. Crap crap crap was my summary for my handling of Tika for the day.

On the other hand, she was such a joy to run at all times, fast even on the contacts at all times, even in this big crowd of high-ranking competitors. She has matured so nicely and I come off the course with quite a high, working this dog.

I think Boost will be even faster. It seems to me from watching that she is faster than any of her 3 siblings competing up here--Derby, Beck, and even Bette, although I think that Bette is pretty darned close. None of them are slouches by any means, and Derby's pretty close and handled by a good trainer and competitor. But I keep thinking--if they were blasting around courses at Boost's speed, Derby & Beck wouldn't be in Masters already. Maybe I'm just making excuses for being a poorer handler than the others. But I sure give Mary credit with Bette--for all of the unfamiliar challenge of a very fast, driven dog, Bette managed to qualify in all four Advanced runs on Saturday, and Boost in none. But I felt smoother than the previous days, AND she did several sets of weaves beautifully, including two in the Steeplechase--although she ran past them the first time, when I got her lined up, she did them all the way through perfectly, and the second time through nailed them on the first try, but then later ran past a serpentiney jump and by then I knew we weren't making time anyway so didn't go back for it, Eing out.

But she also is such a high to run with on course. I love seeing her working, and the last class where I just aimed her at the weaves at an angle and she blasted ahead of me and made the entry perfectly and zoomed through and then when I caught up to her and turned her back for more points, she did them again perfectly, and I felt like flying.

Yeah, the usual ups and downs, I suppose.

The rain let up long enough to load all my sopping-wet gear into my car, and then it broke into a downpour, so it was tough even to stay dry going into the restroom with dry clothes to change into for the ride home, but I managed it, so I took Tika's five Qs and one placement and Boost's one Q and 2 placements--out of 34 runs-- and we were home about 9:30 p.m.

Had no trouble falling asleep and sleeping through again.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Sunday's Nontraditional Jackpot and Friendly Competition

SUMMARY: It's more fun when placements are for fun, so you can challenge each other. Sunday's Jackpot COULD have been that kind of run--

Friendly Competition in CPE and Motivation

One of several reasons why I enjoy CPE is that placements are irrelevant--unlike in USDAA, where they count for Top Ten points, so--although people are usually still willing to discuss their handling and strategies with their friends--those placements are important to many people.

Sometimes in CPE we actually go out of our way to ensure that our friendly, fast-dog friends have the same best course so that we can compare speed and execution rather than it being a test of our planning skills.

Not all my favorite CPE competitors were there Sunday, but we still always end up in height/level classes with dogs who can potentially beat us. Which is odd, because at the simplest veneer in CPE, there are 36 height/level classes: six levels and six heights in each level. It's not surprising that out of 125 dogs entered, only four dogs earned the highest-possible 51 points in Sunday's Snooker (as I told my housemate: "And two of them are in the kitchen with you.") But it's just strange odds that two of them (Tika and Brenn) are in exactly the same height/level class, and the other two (Boost and sister Bette) are in their own same height/level class. So we can't all take 1st places--one of us will beat the other.

OK, it's fun anyway, we tend to split the glory, and we still like to challenge each other. I find it motivational to handle cleaner and find smoother courses and to train my dog to better understand her job so that we can push our limits even further. Which will (in theory) help me to do better in USDAA, too, where we are almost never in the top tier. It's much more motivational to me in CPE to try to be at a point where I can earn 1st rather than 2nds, whereas in USDAA it's less motivational for me to try to move up to, say, 8th instead of 9th.

Tika's Sore Snooker

However, that 51-point Snooker barely happened for Tika. It was our second class of the day, after her lovely 1st-place Standard. She came out of her crate hunched over, wouldn't play with her toy. OK, fans, she did this once last summer right before a Steeplechase, and I ended up scratching her from the rest of that weekend; the on-site vet looked at her an hour later that time and confirmed soreness in lower back on one side. And then after packing up that day, when I opened her crate to let her hobble for a last potty, she flew out of the crate and blasted across the field full speed after gophers. I was so annoyed. It must've been a cramp or gas pains or something, and I wasn't going to let her do that to me again this time.

So I walked her around a bit. I massaged her a bit. I let her potty. I asked the gate steward to move us to the end of the order (which gave us 3 more dogs). I had her do some flat-work tricks and moves for treats. She was slow, but gradually warming up. At first, she wouldn't stretch out for me, but gradually, she stretched more and more, so I put her over a low jump. She want past it twice, then took it enthusiastically, then started bouncing and looking for her toy as usual.

I went ahead and put her in her sit-stay for Snooker. She wasn't wanting to wait, which is a good sign of enthusiasm. Boost had already done her 51-point run and I wanted to finally get both of them on a successful identical course so I could get some real idea of their relative speed. I suspect that Boost will be faster than Tika, but I can't yet prove it (there's so much more than flat-straight ground speed).

But when I released Tika, she hopped rather than blasted over the first jump, ran to but then barely more than trotted through the first tunnel, and I waited to see what she'd do in the first set of weaves, which she did cautiously (for Tika--still probably faster than, say, Remington or Jake ever did them). I was ready to pull her right then, but she had other ideas because she suddenly turned on the jet fuel coming out of the last pole and we had a beautiful, smooth, lovely snooker run--2 seconds slower than Boost, not surprising given the slow start. Not a fair comparison.

We went through the same routine for the third run of the day, Colors (basically half a standard course--we did no contacts). On coming out of the crate: Ooooh, mom, I'm sore... After the goodies came out: oh, no I'm not!

So on to the Jackpot story.

The Killer Jackpot Plan

Do you ever have a Jackpot (Gamblers) course where you suddenly realize that you have the killer plan and no one else is walking the same course? That happens to us more often in CPE than in USDAA, mostly because of the level of experience in CPE.

Sunday's nontraditional Jackpot was such an animal. I found a flow that I felt that both Boost and Tika could do easily. With a quick mental estimate, I that it was worth 80+ points. Here's the course layout for you to ponder:

We had 50 seconds in which to accrue points. That's an eternity for a fast dog! I walked my course three or four times with a couple of variations, and came up with one variant of 42 seconds and one of about 49--a little risky, but maybe...

I looked around for my favorite competitors so that I could say, hey, wait, I've got a wonderful course!--but Bette's mom was already gone, and although Brenn's mom was still there, the judge picked that moment to tell us to clear the course. So I couldn't share it with anyone.

Here's my plan. As labeled (when i finally counted it last night), it's 89 points. My option was, after the 20/21 jump sequence, to serpentine onto the teeter for another 5 points before going out to the 23/24 tunnel. But I was probably going to bag the teeter, because if you didn't get to the table before your 50 seconds were up, you wouldn't Q even if you had twice as many points as everyone else. So 89 points was just fine.

Boost's run and a moral and strategic dilemma

I ran first with Boost. She dropped the first bar going into the 25-point gamble, but much to my surprise the judge called out "25" as we completed the tunnel. So I continued on my plan, with my brain trying to process what to do even as I was trying to manage my green dog:

OK, do I say right now that we knocked the bar? But then what would I do after distracting myself and/or the judge? Ask for another run? That would be dumb? OK, I'll wait til I'm done and then mention it--but then in that case I should'nt do THREE Aframe-tunnel combos, because the last 2 wouldn't count because I blew the gamble so the first two counted for points not the gamble... But if she gave it to us anyway because it was her mistake and I DIDn't do my course then I'd be struggling towards the end to figure out what to do on course having skipped things I othewise would have done--

Oh, I don't know, let's just do my plan and deal with it afterwards.

But I was definitely flustered, and I did something odd after the first gamble--I think I was just not paying attention--so on Boost's first or second set of weaves she skipped the 4th pole. I walked her calmly back next to me, calmly lined her up at my side, and put her back into the weaves. But then on the 2nd gamble, she went in the left side of the "B" tunnel--legal but not the right line for me--and I managed to pull her past the "C" jump. So I walked her calmly back next to me, calmly lined her up at my side, and put her over the "C" jump to earn that gamble.

Because of all that wasted time, we can't do my whole plan. So I cut out the 18/19 and 23 tunnels and one 5-point combo and we ended up with 75 points. And that's WITH the gamble that the judge gave us erroneously. As soon as Boost hit the table, I said to the judge, "We knocked the first bar on that 25-point gamble," and pointed to it, and even though the bar was still on the ground, she said that, well, she hadn't seen it, and since she had given it to us while running, because of the type of gamble, she felt that she had to give us credit for it. So although there were some things about the judge that I wasn't happy with, that particular case was in our favor. Don't know how the other competitors felt about it--

So with Boost's high points even with those bobbles, I confirmed that my timing was absolutely right on and I should have no problem at all with Tika getting through my plan (assuming that she didn't knock any of the bars in the gambles or the 5-point combo). I was really looking forward to it, in fact.

But this time, when I opened her crate, she wouldn't even stand up (the dog who is usually pounding at the door to get out). She whined just a fraction of a second when she finally stood. She wouldn't turn or twist at first; same tiny whine when she did. She started to loosen up a little with some goodies and flat-work again, but her back wasn't curving at all--she was keeping it straight and using her feet to turn herself. And she whined again at some misstep, and I scratched her from the Jackpot and one other remaining round for the day.

In conclusion

So Brenn ended up with 83 points using her own course plan--which, I might point out, was 8 points higher than any of the other 82 dogs competing on that course. Which REALLY drives me nuts that I never got a chance to do my full 89-point plan. And simultaneously I feel weird about being annoyed about not running it when my dog is obviously sore. And simultaneously I'm worried about my dog. And simultaneously I'm not wanting to spend a lot of time on diagnosis & vets & chiropractors and such because she's only 6 and because I *did* let her play a lot more and a lot harder the previous evening and that morning than usual. And of course maybe we'd have knocked a bar or maybe even 2 and not beaten Brenn's points anyway. But isn't it mean of me to be downplaying Brenn's excellent accomplishment with a run I never even did?? And I feel a little in limbo about Tika. But she's fine this morning.

And why am I incapable of making a SHORT post?

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Boost Photo

SUMMARY: For comparison to Bette photo

Boost watching Tika
OK, here's a photo of Boost from the same side as Bette. Compare and contrast.

Here are a few things right off the bat:
  • Boost's ears don't stand upright; Bette's do.
  • The white on Bette's muzzle surrounds her nose; Boost has grey right to her nose.
  • Bette's left foreleg is all white; Boost has grey almost to the paw.
  • Boost's eyes are different colors; Bette's are both golden brown.
  • Bette seems to have a lot more black on her left side than Boost, but it might be the lighting, too.

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Sisters and Cousins and Aunts

SUMMARY: Christmas card photo from a friend

Skeeter the Australian Cattle Dog and Bette the Border Collie
(Scan from an injet print)
It's very different for me, having a dog with known parents and littermates. Fun in a big way, and stressful, too--you want to do at least as well as all of those relatives. Plus, besides littermates, there are full siblings from different litters, half siblings from different litters... and step-sisters and step-brothers, too. Like Tika and Boost are step-sisters. And the dogs' owners are now Boost's Aunts and Uncles, on the theory that we're all "mom" and "dad" to our dogs--but yet we're not related to each other.

Here's a Christmas card photo from Boost's Aunt Mary. Mary and Skeeter (the cattle dog in the photo) were one of Tika's two partners in the Team event at nationals this year with whom we made the finals. And Bette is Boost's littermate. There are a lot of similarities, and a lot of differences. I'll have to see whether I can get Boost to sit in a similar pose and take a snapshot.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Thursday and Friday at the Nationals

SUMMARY: Some good, some bad, you know, a typical agility event.


Tika Team Snooker: knocked bars that lost us 4 points and 7 points in the opening but made it all the way through to the end, for 43 points, putting us in 43rd place out of maybe 150 (need to check) 26" dogs. Not a lot of dogs were making it all the way through to the end on this course, either getting whistled off early for course mistakes or not being able to do it all within the 43 seconds allowed. If we hadn't knocked the bars (you know how this "if only" game goes), our 54 points would've been good for 3rd place. Of course--I'm sure that all the other low-scoring dogs have their own litanies of "if only I had called harder..." "If only I had planned what to do if they knocked a red bar..." "If only I had pushed instead of pulling..." "If only I hadn't had that fourth beer last night..." "If only my dog was as good as Tika, I'm a much better handler than that Finch woman..." (I'm sure that that last thought was foremost in most handlers' minds.)

Both of our teammates also made it all the way through to the end; Skeeter the superreliable but slowish Cattledog did lower-point obstacles in the opening but didn't knock any bars, so she probably got the most points among us; Brenn also knocked the #4 and the #6 in the opening, so she and Tika had similar scores. That puts us all well into the top half of teams competing. Yay, Three's A Charm! Three more Team events to go, though. "Don't get cocky."

Boost Team Snooker: I pulled her off the 4 point and 7 point in the opening, although I managed to spin her around and get them, but it wasted a lot of time, so we wouldn't have made it all the way through to the end anyway. But she made her weave pole entry and did them all nicely without skipping any(!) (practice DOES pay off!) and we did get through #5 in the closing, blowing it at #6 which was a serpentine, which we still have trouble with, so it didn't surprise me. Lots of dogs didn't do nearly as well. We ended up with 37 points for about 130th place out of nearly 300 (need to check) dogs in her jump height.

Not bad for the babydog's third trial, and at the National championships, too boot, where most of the dogs had to qualify to even get the right to compete! (Although I suspect that there are quite a few nonqualified third dogs on teams; Boost's sibling Gina is also running as the unqualified dog with 2 qualified teammates; they had a little trouble with their Snooker run and got only about 10 points, I believe. Among other siblings, Bette's here but not competing; not sure how Beck and Derby are doing, but I believe they're both competing here this weekend, too. I have no idea what Kayna (Caena?) is up to; maybe they do only AKC.)

One of our qualified teammates (Kathie Leggett and Griffin) knocked the first red bar and couldn't recover, so got 0 points, and the other (Greg Louganis and Gryff) didn't get all the info they needed, which was provided AFTER the walkthroughs so I think a lot of handlers didn't get it, so got whistled off early in the opening. So I'm especially pleased.

Note to handler self: It's interesting that the jumps I pulled Boost off of are exactly the same jumps that Tika knocked when she ran. Tells me that I'm doing some weird handling thing on those wrap jumps. I think I've got them all on video so I can watch carefully and see whether I can figure it out.

Tika Steeplechase. I don't know how many times I said, "Well, if she can keep her bars up, I'll be happy," since she's knocked a bar in both the previous years' semifinals rounds. I hoped secretly that I'd also be fast enough to make the finals, although last year's time was too slow by quite a few dogs, worse than theyear before. BUUUUUUUT... SOOOOO.... be careful what you wish for: She kept all her bars up, but (a)I had a brain hiccup in the middle and for some reason decided that the Aframe we were headed for wasn't the right obstacle, so called her off it and stood there for a full 6 seconds with her bouncing around asking for something to do before I realized I was correct to start with and went on, and then we were offcourse on the next to the last obstacle. Sigh. But she did NOT bite at my feet on course during those 6 seconds of silence, which pleases me greatly. And she ran VERY nicely. Just the dang handler.

The offcourse was a known handler issue, I believe. My instructors have been after me for years to keep my hands from "flicking" to try to get the dog to do an obstacle, and I walked that straight path over and over, concentrating on keeping my hands glued to my sides. She sort of hesitated when we ran, then turned and went over an offcourse jump instead of running straight with me. Video review: There's a little flick where my arm just comes up, I'm trying to send her straight ahead to the tunnel, but she reads it as a get-out, and out she gets. Dang handler!

So, anyway, am I getting better or worse? Bars stayed up but, for the first time, we were off course.

My knee was fine for competing. Wore my new knee brace, and I ran full out in all the classes, not even thinking about taking it easy, and I held up much better than I thought I would. I iced it at every opportunity, probably 5 or 6 times today at least (jeez, I hate spending the time sitting here doing nothing for 20 minutes so many times a day--but I had dreaded being miserable with an agonizing knee, and I'm doing very well, so it's worth the sacrifice and I am in fact delighted about how well it's doing) and rode the bike whenever I didn't have the dogs with me. By the time we went out for pizza in the evening, sitting at the table for an hour really stiffened it up and it was a bit sore, but frankly I think it was more sore this past weekend at home after a week of rest. This bicycle has been a godsend; I'm so glad I was able to borrow it.


Knee feels great first thing in the morning! I can walk comfortably at my normal brisk pace without favoring it. Wahoo! Good thing, because I have 5 walkthroughs and 5 runs today. On the other hand, just to prove that my body isn't going to let me get away with anything, I fought a headache all day yesterday, and have already taken 2 of the 3 migraine (Maxalt) tablets I brought with me, and we've just barely started the week. Obviously large doses of ibuprofen is doing nothing for the head.

Tika Team Standard: We didn't E, which is paramount in Team. Last year she had a superfast, tight, exciting run until she was offcourse right before the end. This year, although we stayed on course, I pulled her off two jumps for a refusal and a runout, and she also knocked a bar, so that was 15 faults. Teammate Skeeter ran clean; Brenn I believe had a bar and a refusal (can't remember for sure). And she mostly stuck all her contacts, although she released on the "Gooo...." on the Aframe, which was the third contact in the course.

Teammate Brenn I think had two faults (refusal and bar?) but got through without E-ing. And Skeeter got through it clean! You know, we could end up near the top just by getting all the way through all of our courses! Although I doubt we'll ever make it into the top 20 teams of 208 for the final round. Still--it would be exciting to be above 50%, if we can hold it together.

Tika Team Jumpers: Clean! No bars down! But really wide turns, so I don't think we'll be in the top 8, which is all they have ribbons for for the 26" class (out of 150ish dogs). But that's danged good for that jumpers course, which had some good opportunities for bars down and offcourses, and I saw an awful lot of dogs with turns as wide as ours in the same places. That's usually where we can beat those top-of-the-line border collies, on those turns, but I was letting her drift out to avoid calling her on top of the jump and risk knocking a bar. Always a trade-off. I'm pretty happy with the run, though, no bobbles at all.

Teammate Brenn also got through it without Eing, although she had two bars down. Just before Skeeter ran at about 2:30 this afternoon, the computer scoreboard showed us in 15th place! Of 208 teams! I never in my wildest dreams imagined that we'd be in the top 20 even for a little while. By the time Skeeter ran, we had dropped to 26th as more dogs completed their runs, but Skeeter's clean run popped us back up to 16th for quite a while. When I last checked about 5:30, we were in 24th. Still amazing! And there were more dogs still to run, so since we had all already run, we could only move down, not up, but that is just soooo cool. And tomorrow all that's left is Team Gamblers, and you can't really "E" (eliminate) in that, but you can get a low score that will hurt you almost as much. I don't think that with Tika's & Brenn's propensity for knocking bars, my propensity for brain freeze, Brenn's propensity for missing contacts, and Skeeter's reliable but not super speedy style will prevent us from possibly earning enough points to get back up into the top 20 and stay there; I suspect we'll drop down into the 40s tomorrow at least. But that's still pretty darned good for us.

Boost Team Jumpers She missed her weave pole entry (but so did tons of more experience dogs), but when I lined her up again very quickly, not even a stop-and-get-next-to-me-calmly line up, she entered perfectly, did well through the first half, and suddenly the I-know-what-I'm-doing rockets kicked in and she blasted through the last half. Wow! Practice DOES help! I'm SO pleased about our work on the weaves over the last two weeks.

However, that tricky jump right before a sharp turn into a tunnel that had so many people worried did us in. I planted and called her, trying to do a cross behind, but it was too sharp of an angle for the inexperienced girl and she ran right past the plane of the jump. Then I brought her around to try again and somehow pushed her past it on the backside, then on our 3rd approach she just stopped and veered away in front of it--poor puppy, she was looking at me intently the whole time, trying to understand what I wanted. But that was our limit of three refusals and caused an Elimination, so I just ran her as fast as I could over the last couple of jumps so she'd come out of the ring happy and excited, and she did perk right up and we played enthusiastically afterwards.

My knee is hanging in there (2 p.m.) although it's been feeling the effects of 5 walkthroughs and 4 runs full out already, with no chance between 6 a.m. and noon to ice it. I've iced it twice now, though, and it'll survive. Again, not nearly as bad as it was after the CAT trial 2 weekends ago. I am SO grateful that's it's doing so well. Headache is toying with me. Do I break down and take the last Maxalt now or wait to see whether it goes away (then I don't need the maxalt) with liquid and caffeine.

Boost Team Standard: Missed the weave entry but got them all when I realigned her, then once again there was a jump that I couldn't get her over, adding up to our 3 refusals for another elimination fairly early in the run. OK, so now I know what to work on. I'm pretty sure that I'm starting to turn my shoulders away, assuming that she's committed to doing the jump, but her commitment point is so much closer than Tika's, in part because she's inexperienced, but I think in part because she runs closer to the ground and so has a lower center of gravity longer before she jumps, so can change direction a little more quickly. Dunno.

Herding Instinct Test Tomorrow: I've always wanted to do a herding instinct teston my dogs. Tried to do it with Remington one year but the person I was referred to never answered my messages. Too bad. But they're doing them here at the event, so I've got both Tika and Boost signed up for tomorrow afternoon. I watched one little Aussie go out into the ring and look like she had been herding sheep forever, although this was in fact the first time she had ever been around stock animals. Very cool to watch! And that's what they're looking for. I'm looking forward to this. I'll have to make sure it's videotaped.

Knee, at 6 pm, is still doing pretty good, much better than I had ever expected, and I haven't had to take it easy during my runs at all, although it does get more sensitive to turns and pressure just walking around as the day goes on. Icing like crazy (a good time to type into the computer, I decided).


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Monday, October 23, 2006

After the Weekend

SUMMARY: No championship, no weave poles, no knee

Once again, Tika failed to earn that final Snooker Super-Q. On Saturday, all we had to do was complete my planned course, which was a nice, smooth, fast course that I was confident that we could do, even with me not running much. BUT she knocked a bar in the opening, which took us out of the Super-Q running right there, and then had a refusal on #6 in the closing, which was probably me slowing down because I didn't care much any more. So it was another regular Q but nowhere near Super-Q range.

On Sunday, the opening was tricky and I mishandled it right away, so we did exactly 2 jumps--one of them the wrong one--and we were whistled off. It's doubtful we'd have made the Super-Q on that one, anyway, because it became another speed-through-the-weaves competition primarily, not a versatility and sendability course, and sometimes we can compete in that crowd and sometimes not.

Ashley (classmate who's run her in class for 2 preceding weeks) tried to run Tika in several classes, but Tika kept leaving the ring to go find me. Didn't seem to matter whether I was standing where she could see me or not. They actually made it halfway through one course, but missed an Aframe entry, and when Ash brought her back to make another try at it--which is where in real life she'd likely be yapping and leaping and maybe biting at my feet--she bailed and headed back to me. Oh, well. I considered it part of her education (would *like* her to be able to run well with other people) and am grateful to Ashley for making the attempt.

Boost couldn't do weave poles. Period. 6 weeks ago (5?), she had trouble with each first time, but when I'd pull her back next to me and settle her and then send her, she made them all. This weekend--nothing doing, no way. The closest she came was doing 10 and then popping out. But the rest of the time it was skipping, skipping, skipping. So perhaps I need to rent the Power Paws field for half an hour a couple of times and work only on weave poles up there, since we've established that she often skips poles in class.

But most of everything else she did very well and very fast. At Tika's second full trial, she started flying off the contacts, taking off out of the ring to chase something more interesting, leaving her start-line stay without a release, and grabbing my feet and hanging on (the first time that she had ever done it, and boy did it take me by surprise!). But--her weave poles were almost flawless.

This was Boost's second full trial, and she held her start-line stay perfectly every time until my release, she ran to and held her two-on, two-off position on every contact and waited for the release, did some nice sending away when I didn't want to even try to run--including an experimental but perfectly done double loop through a tunnel 20 feet away from me! And never jumping or biting at me. But--she can't do weaves!

She finally earned one Q the last run on Sunday, in Gamblers, and took 1st place as well. (And that's even with a failed attempt at doing weaves.)

I watched her siblings Gina and Bette all weekend--2nd full trial for each of them, too, I believe--and alhtough they each missed some weaves here and there, eventually they both got them all well, and fast, too (Gina flies! like boost when we started!). And Gina is very fast and confident around the course. They're working on running contacts--which is dangerous, as on Saturday's Standard run, where they got called for missing both the dogwalk and teeter contacts--but also glorious, as in Sunday's Standard, where the judge didn't call the contacts and they not only Qed and earned first place, but were 10 seconds faster than we were--and Boost was only 40-some-odd seconds around the course. Of course, I'm holding her a LONG time on the contacts while I walk up to her (minding my knee), and I did try twice for the weaves before going on. But, still--when Gina and Tim get it together, they'll be tough to beat.

Still, when I looked at the scores through the whole weekend--Boost Qed only once, Gina and Bette each Qed only twice. And Gina took only one 1st all weekend, too. So in fact the scores don't show us that far apart...

My knee is not happy with me. (Although it's already better now, at 3 Monday afternoon, than it was when I got out of the car last night.) I think I'm going to be in for a rough time with 5 days at the Nationals. I'll take my cane-with-a-seat and my crutches, just in case. (Heave deep sigh.)


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Saturday, August 26, 2006

Saturday At The Races

SUMMARY: A good day. Not perfect, but good.

Notes from today:
  • Tika did 5 Aframes today. She stuck one correctly, flew off one entirely, and the others were legal but she's not waiting for me at all.

  • Tika had a nice, smooth, fast steeplechase run but I heard a bar clank behind me as we went. And there were something like 50 dogs at our height entered. Since only dogs within 125% of the top 3 dogs qualify, and with all this hot talent present, I figured we had just blown our chance to Q. So, when we got to the Aframe and she didn't even pretend to hit bottom or stick it, I stopped and waited for her to come to a stop and look at me and I made some rude comment to her about her Aframe and then we went on and finished.

    Well--turns out that we did NOT knock a bar, so we not only qualified, we were in 5th place out of the 14 dogs who made it to round 2 for tomorrow. We were 4 seconds off 1st place, but some of that is the waiting at the Aframe. (Of course, we also *gained* time by her not bothering to hit bottom and wait...) But I'm pleased about that.

  • Tika's gamble opening was bad on contacts. She flew off the Aframe, costing us 3 points; she didn't stick her teeter so I made her wait before going on; she did stick her second Aframe and I held it a long time to be sure she got the idea; then as a result of the long holds on the contacts she was 2 poles away from finishing a 5-point weave, which cost us another 5 points. So she had only 21 opening (needed only 15 to Q) where most of the competitive dogs were in the 26-29-point range.

    The tricky bit, however, was that only (I believe) 4 out of all the Performance dogs got the gamble itself; none of the 16" dogs got it; only 2 of the 12" dogs got it. We were the 8th 26" dog up and the first ones to get the gamble in our height class, so I was pretty excited. But, dang, then a total of 9 of the 34 dogs in our height class ended up getting the gamble, so we ended up in 7th place because of our low opening points. Once again, no placement ribbon. But that finishes our Gambler Master title and I'm very pleased about that and about the difficulty of the gamble.

  • Our Standard run was a mess. It was a very hard standard course; I don't think that 25% of the dogs Qed. But once again she didnt' stick her Aframe; didn't stick the teeter when I crossed in front; knocked 2 bars (although one was on a rough sequence that I think I didn't handle well).

  • But then in Pairs Relay, Tika and her partner both ran clean, so we Qed, earning our Relay Champion title. We weren't collectively fast enough to place, but we were in fact 10 seconds under course time, so I'm not dissatisfied with the results.

  • Two of Boost's siblings competed in USDAA for the first time this weekend, Derby and Gina (from L.A.). Both are reportedly doing very well. They both also apparently are doing full-height Aframes, which Boost still isn't.

  • I came home this evening, set my Aframe to at least 6'4", and had Tika do several Aframes with correct contacts, some backchaining from partway up and several all the way across. We'll see whether that fixes anything tomorrow.

  • So, tomorrow, it's Jumpers, Standard, Snooker (hoping for that Super-Q), Grand Prix, and Round 2 of Steeplechase. I'm tired already, and all I did most of the day was work the score table!


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  • Friday, June 09, 2006

    Boost and Her Siblings

    SUMMARY: Boost's training continues casually; but when night falls, the spooks take over. And...what about AKC? (From an email to a friend)

    Q: How's the Border Collie? My little fella's great but going to be a candidate for neutering if he doesn't get his act together....

    A: My puppy girlie is great! She's a lot of fun and is going to be a very fast agility girl; I'm not being very ambitious about training her, but most of her siblings are in similar places in training (except for her southern California sibling, trained by a pro (sigh) for her owner who looked like she could win the Grand Prix at six months, from what I've heard). Anyway, none are competing yet--they're barely old enough, anyway, so that's fine.

    Except at night she turns into The World's Alert System. It's funny--the sun goes down, and all of a sudden every noise is a potential danger and worth barking at. And it's not casual barking--hackles up, wary pose, eyes turn into flashing red lights, the whole works. Even the other dogs trotting casually over to check out whatever she's alerting on doesn't convince her it's safe. If I go over to the flower bed or shrub and poke at it with a broom, she'll streeetchhh her nose wayyyy out to sniff at it, since Mom is apparently bold enough to go near, but even that doesn't always fix it. As soon as I leave, she's at it again the next time there's a sound or a rustle. Last night it was a toad. The night before it was a cat. I suspect often it's roof rats, which the other dogs either chase and bark at challengingly or simply ignore, but she sees them as a Great Threat that she's not going to get within a distance where they can attack and rip her throat out, thank you very much.

    I have no interest in the whole genetics and breeding thing, so Boost was spayed at 6 months. ... I registered her with AKC because I could, but in retrospect maybe I shouldn't have, just on principle, and registered her with the working border collie association, because I don't plan on ever competing in AKC, but then ya never know.

    I've been training Boost to go into a Down the instant she hits the table, which is what's required in USDAA. It occurred to me in class last week, when we were practicing tables, that in fact AKC allows the judge to specify whether the dog does a Sit or a Down on the table, so I should be training her to wait for a command when she gets on the table, just in case I or someone ever wants to run her in AKC. Pfagh! (It keeps running through my head that, if she does really well in USDAA, maybe her breeder(s) might want to run her in AKC. She sure does love Tammy and Greg. But I dunno.)


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    Thursday, April 06, 2006

    Boost Classes

    I'm trying to settle in on a class for Boost. There are so many good trainers around here. But our Saturday class with Lisa, an excellent trainer, wasn't giving us enough class time (even though half her siblings were in that class off and on: Derby, Caena, and Becka. Have had one session with one of Tania's classes, which was very helpful, and I was planning on finishing up one session, but it's been rained out (Tuesday seems to be The Rainy Day for this year) and I'm not sure whether that'll work.

    Met with Nancy at Power Paws last Wednesday to see where we'd fit in their "puppy class" that's been meeting for 5 months now while we mostly trained on our own and those occasional Saturdays. Her evaluation: We're ahead on weave poles (yay!), a wee bit behind on jumping comprehension, and quite a bit behind on clicker work leading into contacts. But they're not yet doing contacts, still (I believe) working on backchaining from the end of the boards. I'd like very much to be in a class with Nancy--and Bette (Boost's sister) is in that class.

    On Thursday, we went just to watch the class and see whether we thought we'd fit in. The biting wind froze my extremities and we didn't stay for the whole class, but we watched their basic obedience work and their basic jump work and I think that the class is really right about where we need to be. Being in a group always motivates me to achieve more, too, so it'll be good to be in a regular class situation. (Witness how a classmate getting the weave poles got me moving to Just Do It with Boostie.)

    Regular--hah!--we'll join them next Thursday for the first time as part of the class (assuming it doesn't rain: This March has now tied the record for the March with the most rainy days, and if it rains again today, it'll set the new record for San Jose). But the following week is the "Haute TRACS" combined 4-day trial, so we'll all be off in Woodland or Dixon or some such place on Thursday and Friday trying to qualify for the Nationals in the DAM tournament. And the week after that is Power Paws camp; although I couldn't manage to go this year, Power Paws will all be there.

    But what a surprise to walk in on Thursday and discover not only Mary with Bette, and the lady from Tika's Wednesday night class (with her young dog) who's been trying to get me to sign up for this Thursday class, but also two or 3 other people from what had been Tika's Tuesday daytime class with their young dogs...So I think I knew everyone or almost everyone in class. (Don't know why that should surprise me exactly, except that in the last 2 classes Tika's been in, half the people I didn't know.)

    Exercises to Work On

    In any event, we got tons of tips of things to work on with due diligence.
    • Eye contact! Particularly when releasing from sit-stay.
    • No circle zone: For Border Collies, avoid anything that gets them circling, either spinning or wide circles around outside of jumps that they're supposed to be taking, etc.
    • Jumping 1, facing dog: Set dog facing the jump straight on. Face her on opposite side. Release. Goal is that she'll take obstacles in front of her. Vary distance and angle (of me and or her across jump). Toy (or food) in front of the jump, not in front of me or way out past the jump.
      Note: Food might be quicker because you don't have to play with toy each time.
    • Jumping 2, back to dog: Set dog facing the jump straight on. Stand past the jump with my back to her (but remember eye contact). Release. Toyin front of jump. Vary distance past jump and distance away from jump laterally as well as angle.
    • Jumping 3, pinwheel: Pinwheel w/out using arm or bending shoulders or having to give command every time. Both directions. (And from class on Thursday--try front crossing last jump, try threadle from 4 to 2.)
    • Jumping 4, 180 turns: Start with jumps pretty close to each other. (Similar to pinwheel but w/out intervening jump: Turn body but shouldn't have to direct to jump or bend shoulders.)
    • Weaves: Work on focus forward and head down, whatever works. Put toy out in front, or toss or reward toy out in front & immediately when done, shorter sets of weaves so reward is quicker, and so on. If she skips poles, just keep her driving forward, or if I must start her over, don't bring her in a circle around me (no-circle zone).
    • Nose touches: Insist on firm hard press, no swiping, no gentle pressing. Don't be so quick to click any related behavior, be sure it's what I want. Same with hand touches.
    • Contacts: Work on board on the ground or end of dogwalk or whatever, getting to do nose touch.
    • Sit position: Work on shaping with clicker to clean up her Close (left) and Here (right).


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    Saturday, February 18, 2006

    Boost's Training

    We had our first puppy class today for the first time since Thanksgiving weekend. Boy, do we need work!

    Coming when called

    Ha! When we arrived, Boost was completely overwhelmed with excitement about seeing other dogs, particularly her siblings (two were there, Derby and Kayla (oops--it's Caena; I keep hearing "Kayla".). She acted as if we'd never practiced walking on a loose lead. And, even at the end of the day after getting used to being there and working solidly for an hour, when we released the puppies together briefly, she was more interested in active dogs than in me. Derby's really good about coming when called. Caena didn't always come directly, but at least on hearing her name she turned her head and looked at her dad and weighed her options. Boost? Nada. Not a clue that she was even aware that her name was being called or that I existed in the universe. I might need some extra help on this one because I'm not quite sure where to go.

    I've been trying to work through it at home. If the other dogs aren't playing with their toys, she's fine to work with me. But if she thinks that there's a chance that the other dogs might be chasing a toy, she loses all interest in me plus toy. I've been trying to work through it by letting Jake have a toy, which he'll drop at my feet. Boost drops toy and goes into cicling mode. I keep at her until she's back on her toy again. She's getting marginally better as long as I completely ignore Jake. But let's say she and I are actively tug of warring. I subtly stick one foot out to the side and touch--just touch---Jake's toy: Wham, she's off.

    Weaving poles

    The challenge is on! We've been working on 2-pole entries, but her brother decided to learn weave poles last week and badda bing, badda boom, he demonstrated very nice complete, fast weaves in class today. We haven't officially started them in class at all. OK, dammit, if Tammy can teach Derby weaves in a week, I can teach Boost weaves in a week. She used the hand-in-the-collar method, which is what I did with Tika. We did our first session late this afternoon with just 3 poles, and I've been having her drive so much through those first two poles that it was a real physical challenge to me to direct her just through that first turn into the 3rd pole, but we finally did it about 3 times with her on each side of my body. She's REALLY pushing, though, which is great.

    But it's agony on my right shoulder, which is still completely messed up from Mulch Moving. I've been NSAIDing twice daily, icing it a couple of times a day, doing some simple exercises from the last time I messed it up, trying not to do too much tugging or throwing with that arm, but I'm still waking up in pain in the night, even after a 3-day break at Disneyland with no dogs (Linda and Paul just *wouldn't* play tug-of-war with me).

    Lisa says she's going to start the whole class on weaves next week. Great. So now I *have* to teach them to Boost in a week so we can look like experts. :-)


    Boost didn't do too badly here at all. I was actually able to walk away from her, walk around the other dogs also in sit-stays; Lisa and others walked by her a few short feet away (but didn't say anything or look/interact directly), and although she lay down a couple of times, and although she wagged her tail and thought really hard about it a couple of times, she did beautifully. I was pleased. But I know I'd still lose her if someone else walked up to her. Need to practice. Dang.

    Hands-on control

    This is simply holding dog at side, them relaxed and completely in your control. We practice this often, and she did fine. we've practiced moving her from sit to stand and back again in this position, but almost never into down (it's just a bit harder physically for me), so we tried it today and she was completely compliant. Another success.

    Moving sit or down

    This is where the dog is walking at your side and you give the command without stopping and the dog should immediately obey. Boost and I practice the "down" version a lot, in particular because it's useful for the Table in USDAA and also a handy way to get the dog to wait a bit while I attend to something else. We can even do it at a trot. But we hardly ever do a moving sit. (It's needed for AKC Table, but I don't know whether I'll ever do that.) We tried it; first time she hesitated and started to sit and then didn't. Next few times she was doing it if I was slow enough, and stayed there as I kept moving. But we're still ahead of several of the dogs in class.

    And she was just great on her moving down. See what I can do when I actually practice? Huh.

    Nose touch

    Argh, Lisa pointed out that she's still scooping at it with her nose when it should be a solid plonk. Same problem we've always been having,a nd I've been working so hard at feeding exactly right on top of the target. Lisa suggested moving the target in closer to her feet, and also (since we usually get a good plonk on the first touch but not subsequent ones) just taking the first one and rewarding enthusiastically rather than trying for repeats for a while, or try maybe one repeat and break off immediately if it's not good.

    Also need to work on remembering that, when we're finished with it each time, to use release word and to have her drive out to her toy rather than handing it to her.

    The Bang Game

    Don't know whether this originated with Susan Garrett or elsewhere, but it was at a Susan Garrett seminar 3 or 4 years ago that I first encountered this. Basically you start with the end of the teeter slightly elevated so that when the dog leaps onto it, it bangs to the ground. Goal is to have dog leap onto it and drive to end, enjoying making it bang as hard as possible (and not be spooked by it). We haven't really done this (thought I had started this months ago, but if so I sure didn't continue it. So much to do!) and so it took her a few tries to think about getting onto the board. First she jumped over it to see what was going on elsewhere, then got a foot or two on, etc.

    I need to remember to stand still and let her decide to do it; feed slightely ahead of her to direct her towards the end; remove hand immediately so I'm not luring and see whether she'll move further towards the end.


    Derby is one wild and crazy dog when Tammy starts blowing bubblestuff! He flings his whole body into the air, throwing legs in all directions. It's hysterical. He's hardly even grabbing for the bubbles any more, just loves the excuse to do aerial acrobatics. Boost didn't even seem to notice the bubbles; too interested in Darby's activity. I'll have to try it with her in the yard. Remington used to love bubbles and chase them endlessly despite sour soap-in-mouth faces, but he'd just jump straight up from hind legs, not throw his whole body around like this. Jake and Tika have never been interested in bubbles. (Oh--no, this wasn't part of class.)

    BTW, Derby is almost 23", I think Tammy said! Wow and yow! I'm still hoping that Boost stays below 21 so we have the option of jumping 22" in USDAA.

    Driving through turns

    Lisa showed us how to use just a large bucket or orange cone or anything to get the dog to drive tightly into a turn all the way around it to chase a toy. That'll help them to do really tight, driven turns as they go over a jump and need to change direction or even wrap 180 degrees.


    I haven't asked boost to come over a jump straight at me while I face her; this plus food treat for reward confused her completely for a while. The exercise was the Linda Mecklinberg trick of having your dog jump straight up and over and turn immediately between you and jump as you turn as they come over, without ticking or knocking the bar. Need to work on this.

    Actually had her going over 22" jumps in class today. I just haven't done that because at home, with her driving through jumps, she keeps knocking the 16" and I didn't want her to get into that habit. But we did some 16", just single jumps, not driving through, and then up to 22", and she didn't even blink. So I guess I can do more of that.

    Is that it?

    It was actually a lot for an hour. I think there's still more but I'm blanking and of course didn't write it down *during* class. Maybe I'll think of it tonight.


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