Sunday, September 27, 2009

Aaaaaaand We're Home

SUMMARY: An OK weekend. Some things to write home about and others to just hope they're better next time.
OK, for all you short-attention-span theater types, here's what happened in a nutshell (almond probably):

  • Tika earned her 25th Championship Jumpers Q to complete her Silver-ADCH. Woooohoooo! Thrilled thrilled thrilled! (And a relief to get it done.) Now to do it all over again in Performance--
  • Tika Qed in Pf Steeplechase and Grand Prix yet again and had a lovely 3rd place Steeplechase finish to bring home a whopping $6.30. Better than a poke in the eye with a Snooker flag.
  • Tika Qed with a 2nd in today's Pf Gamblers, missed 1st by 1 point, would've ALSO been good for 2nd in Ch 22" and Ch 26"! AND that also finished her Performance Gambler's title. Yowza!
  • Tika and partner Qed and took 2nd in Pf Pairs.
  • Boost had an amazing Snooker run. Amazing. Like the Border Collie I've always wanted. (Too bad her clumsy mom negated the run with her elbow--more later.)
  • It was hot. Like, 99F hot (and I'm not sayin' what the F stands for). (37.2C) Observe the hot and sweaty:

  • USDAA has given in and now calls Performance Grand Prix "Performance Grand Prix" instead of "Performance National Standard" (try pronouncing "PNS" or "PeNaS" or whatever out loud). Now if only they'll do the same for Performance Steeplechase.
  • Boost had zero Qs on the weekend. Ze. Ro.
So--how hot was it? It was so hot that today was only 1 degree lower than the record-setting temperature for this date.
It was so hot that the dogs' fabric crates, under a canopy, were hot to the touch in midafternoon.
It was so hot that, instead of leaving the dogs in their crates as usual, I surrounded the fronts of the crates with the xpen and left the crates open to give them more air and access to the grass to lie on. (In this photo, moved xpen to one side to start packing up.)

It was so hot that even us delicate flowers of femininity poured profuse perspiration. OK, now try peeling off those sopping tight jeans so you can put on shorts. Yeh uh-hm.
It was so hot that, in the last run of the day, most of the Performance dogs didn't want to go down on the table. Even Tika. I'm thinking it wasn't that the table was hot; it was that they knew that if they lay down, they'd have to eventually get around to standing up again!
It was so hot that last night I left the van's doors & windows open 6-8" (any more & certain border collies might have gone exploring) and I *still* fried most of the night. (They claimed it was in the 50s overnight. Didn't feel like it.)
It was so hot that people were applying cold asparagus poultices to their necks to cool down.
However, I might be lying about at least one of those things. Well--maybe exactly one.

How did the awesome Performance Tika end up Qing in only 5 of 10 classes, yikes? It was a weekend of mostly so-closes:
  • Saturday Standard: Flew off the dogwalk big time. Rest of run lovely. Time would've been good enough for a 2nd place, despite heat.
  • Saturday Gamblers: missed her weave entry in the opening and I went back to pick it up again, which means that when the whistle blew we were starting UP the Aframe instead of leaving the Aframe, which meant that Tika did the gamble perfectly but was over by .17 seconds. Arrrrgh!
  • Sunday Jumpers: I led out about 6 steps and turned to discover that Tika had left her down stay and was standing about 6 inches from the first (26") jump. Think she can get over that without knocking it? Not a chance.
  • Sunday Snooker: FLEW off Aframe in opening, which meant I had to do a front cross where I needed to do a pull, which meant that she turned the wrong way after the next red, both of which meant that she was jumping up & barking at me profusely for  not being clearer in my instructions instead of RUNNING FULL OUT which is what we needed to do, which meant that in the #7 closing (tunnel//jump/tunnel) she was only at the jump when the whistle blew. Argh. 
  • Sunday Standard: For the first time in a VERY long time indeed, when I sent her out to a jump, she ran towards it, peeled away to bounce back and me, and then turned and took it. Refusal.  Jeez. Of course this time she stuck her start line and got all her contacts and kept her bars up.
How did Boost have a zero Q weekend?
  • Several runs with meltdowns, and not because of the heat (I don't think), but runouts, refusals, bars going down, missing weave entries--I WANT MY *NEW* BOOST BACK!
  • Sunday's Jumpers--OH so close! Pretty nice but one bar down in the middle.
  • Pairs: One refusal, but with Partner's 10 faults, we were .69 (!) seconds over time. So we were fast but not fast enough with the time-wasting bobbles. Sheesh! 
  • After assorted mess-ups, Eed entirely in Standard, Grand Prix, Jumpers, and another Standard.
  • Second-LOWEST points of 20 dogs in Saturday's gamblers.
  • And then there was Snooker.

OK, so here's the Snooker thang. It was worse than a speed course; it was a super-speed course. To do all three sevens and get thru to the end in 48 seconds required running around 3 sides of the field three times! It was just a bloody awful lot of yardage. I tried to think of a smoother, easier course for Boost, but there WAS no smoother, easier course.

But to get the full 51 points, you'd have to be VERY fast and, furthermore, you'd have to be PERFECT, not a bobble or wasted yardage anywhere. And, of course (and especially this weekend), Boost and I do not HAVE runs that have no bobbles or wasted yardage.

But I just couldn't come up with a better course. We were the next to the last dog of *all* dogs to run, so I had already seen that, out of 70 dogs who had already run it, only 3 who had attempted all three 7s had made it to the end, and (a) they had run their buns off, and (b) they were top-flight competitors with super-fast dogs, and (c) two of them had made it with only a fraction of a second to spare, and the third with maybe a second.

I came up with a plan where we'd do two 7s and a 5, which was also pretty smooth and we'd be more likely to get all the way through if we had any bobbles.

So. We lined up, I led out halfway across the field leaving her facing the first #1 red, and I released her, and we were off.

Well, jeez, she was PERFECT! Sure, there was the stupid thing where, on our way to the 2nd red, I hit the #2 jump's wing with my elbow on the way past and knocked the bar off. But after the 3rd red and Boost was flying and doing great, I decided to try for all 3 sevens. And she was AWESOME, just AWESOME! Did everything right! We did not complete the last 7--she was IN the last tunnel but had probably a stride to go to get out--but I was, needless to say, absolutely hyper-jazzed. THIS is the Border Collie I want! WoooooooohhoooooooO!

But there's that little issue about the knocked #2. Judge had to think about it (or she'd have whistled us off earlier--glad she didn't!), but essentially the rule is that the *handler* took the obstacle out of play, so Boost didn't have to actually jump it in the closing (bar was down), which negated all obstacles #2 and after. So we got none of our closing points.

I wasn't too surprised; I didn't know the rule, but I knew when I hit it that I was probably going to pay in one way or another. So our only class where Boost was not only excellent enough to get Q points but in fact Super-Q points, I screwed up by being clumsy. Sigh. But I am still buzzed from that run! What! A! Bordercollie!

What feels good after packing up on a very very hot day? Clean hands and clean, dry shirt and socks!

What feels good after a long, hot weekend of 21 runs? Air-conditioned MUTT MVR, ready to head home!

Dogs are ready to go.

What is a really really good idea after a long, very hot, very perspiring day before a 2-hour drive home with all the ice in your soda cooler melted? Stop at the Quick Mart and get a 44-oz. cup packed to the top with ice for $1.19 and then pour your soda over it!

What's a really really good idea to keep you focused and alert on the road after a long and tiring weekend? Funny tapes!

Okily dokily, good neighbor, I think I probably have lots more I want to say about lots of things, but I'm thinkin' that lots of lying in bed and sleeping would be an exxxxxxellennnnnt plan right about now.

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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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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Videos Videos Videos! GP and Pairs

SUMMARY: Grand Prix and Pairs Relay vids.

OK, trying something different for these videos from this weekend, rather than directing you to the 3-Dog Video site. These are all lower-resolution MP4 vids, displayed larger than their actual size so they're sort of grainy. You can click the 3-dog video link to have your option (like the prior day's vids) of which size/resolution to play.

I was able to purchase these videos on an introductory special price. Can't do it every weekend, but it was nice to get some for a change.

For discussions of these runs, see Saturday's and Sunday's posts.

Grand Prix

Grand Prix Boost
See the Dread Border Collie Spin in two places, one for a runout 5-point fault. But the rest is nice. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Grand Prix Tika
See her try very hard in 2 places to take the off-course obstacle but come back to me thank goodness gracious. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Pairs Relay

Tika goes to investigate the judge and gets a runout. (3-Dog Video versions.)

Boost pops weaves, knocks bar, and skips a jump. (3-Dog Video versions.)

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Boost Steeplechase Round 2 Video

SUMMARY: Thanks, 3 Dog Video!

Here is Boost, just two steps to the right from taking home a big Steeplechase purse. :-)

Between the first jump and the tunnel there is another jump; you can see that she is NOT jumping between there. Really, the jump was almost in her way (I lined her up deliberately pointing at it and not at the tunnel) and it wasn't very much of a lead-out pivot at all, but dang she didn't get it. Rest of the run is lovely, though.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Boost Steeplechase Video

SUMMARY: 3-Dog Video comes through again, thanks Steve.

Boost's Round 1 Steeplechase video. Same deal as Tika's; pick the resolution at the top (when you click the play arrow).

Boost's run was 5.46 seconds slower than the winning dog that round. I've used my stopwatch to figure out some differences; held her on the two Aframes for a total of somewhere around 1.5 seconds; the place nearing the end where she slows down to look back at me, turns back to me, spins, and then finally gets going again is at least 3 seconds.

Running contacts, I tell ya-- plus a dog who'll just keep taking obstacles in front of her!--would be handy.

And here's the course map:

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

Fun With Course Maps

SUMMARY: Detailed comments on some courses from this past weekend's USDAA trial.

For you course-a-holics, you'll be delighted to know that our tireless KK has put ALL the course maps from all 3 days up on the Bay Team site.

Masters Standard Sunday

I didn't run this course with Tika; did run it with Boost and our only notable flaw was on the turn from 9 to 10. I front crossed between the weaves and #9, sent her over #9, then--worried about the back side of #16--I did a silly thing: I gave a threadle cue. The result was, yup, she threadled right between 9 and 10 (which is what a threadle cue is SUPPOSED to do, but I didn't mean it this time!).
But, working the score table, I was able to watch parts or all of many dogs run this course. It ended up with a 25% Qualifying rate, but I've seldom seen a course that ends up taking people out in so many ways. Here are some observations:
  • 1-2-3: Didn't see any off courses 1-2-4. Some people led out next to the tunnel on the inside; some people did a lead-out pivot and had the dog on their right going into the tunnel and rear crossed the tunnel. Most people had the dog on their right all the way through the loop. I led out just beyond 1 so that I could take a couple of steps forward and then slow and start lateral motion as the dog approached 2 to pull her in towards me to the tunnel.
  • There were off courses from 4 to the back side of 1. I did basically the same thing as starting; waited for them to exit from the tunnel, took just a step towards 4, then slowed and moved laterally (also signalling verbally).
  • There were off courses from 8 to 10, from 9 to back side of 16, or 10 to 18.
  • Some folks front crossed between 10 and the Aframe, but I wanted to be on the side towards 12 rather being on the far side and having my motion towards 12--either a longer front cross or a push--propel the dog out to the back side of 4. There were several off courses 12 to 4. I either pulled to 12 and rear crossed it, or front crossed as the dog descended the Aframe, so that I had no motion towards the 12-4 line by the time they were off the frame.
  • The bar at #12 came down a LOT.
  • The surprising offcourses were some 13 to the right side of 19, or quite a few 13-14-19. Everyone that I remember had the dog on their left for 13-14-15, and if the handler wasn't careful about the line they were running, they were basically pushing the dog into the tunnel rather than pulling the dog towards the chute. Ideally, you'd be at least to the tire as your dog left the teeter. Don't recall seeing any 14-to-18 offcourses, but I think that most dogs' momentum did not bring them towards the 18, even if the handler fell behind.
  • 16 through 20 presented some huge challenges. There were some off courses 16-17-Aframe. With the dog on your right 14-15-16-17--which was really your only option--you had to hang back a bit to keep the dog from going up the Aframe after 17, but then the dog's path 17 to 18 took them to the wrong end of the tunnel. If you hung back to pull them into the correct end of the tunnel, the dog would most likely beat you out of the tunnel and could end up running past or refusing the last jump, which I saw with several dogs. Most people did pull the dog to the tunnel, and most dogs turned towards the handler coming out of the tunnel, wasting a couple of seconds.
  • Since we were already NQed, I decided to try what a very few people tried (some successfully)--sending the dog out to 16 and then racing for a front cross between 18 and 19. Boost almost ended up with a foot on the Aframe that way, and although she missed that, her momentum combined with my motion pulled her past 18 for a runout.

Masters Snooker Saturday

I misjudged this one while walking it. With 54 seconds in the opening, and with only 3 reds, there was no question about there being plenty of time to get three 7s in the opening, and the closing course struck me as being smooth and flowing, so I figured that it would be a speed course: Everyone doing three 7s in the opening and easily doing the closing and then it would just be all about the speed.

The only things that I didn't like about three 7s was that I'd have to run out around a couple of obstacles at one point, which Tika has never been thrilled about (that's about the only place on course where she's likely to go for my feet or jump on me), and with Tika's "modified running contacts", I had to get my hand in front of her face for 4 Aframes in one course. With Boost, the issue was a long lead-out and her propensity for knocking the first bar, which would have made the rest of the course a bit challenging.

However, with two dogs with known bar-knocking issues, I wanted to stay away from as many bars in the opening as possible--which mean I had to do Aframes. What can ya do?

My plan (using "E" for east/right of the center line, N for north of the bottom of the map): Set dog at the 25N-35E (near the (F) in the lower right). Lead out to about 10E40N and call the dog to my left side, moving about 3 steps towards the W as the dog approached, then swinging them around on my left side (slapping my leg with "Close!" command, which means come to my left side) and shooting them up the Aframe. Worked perfectly.

End up at about 10E 55N, calling the dog to my left side past the tunnel opening, then pulling the dog in close to me and running towards (my) right side of the middle #1 jump, front crossing between the 1 and the Aframe, and sending them back up the A. Worked perfectly.

End up at about 5 yards south of the lower end of #3 and pull the dog past the tunnel on my left, now, running at the (my) right side of the western red, shoot the dog over the red (so they're aimed southwest) and then pull the dog, still on my left, out around past 2 and 3. Pull the dog in CLOSE on my left side until I'm at about 5W70N, where I can then safely line up the dog for the Aframe. WOrked perfectly, in part because both dogs were uncertain where they were going as we raced past 2 and 3, so it was easy to keep them with me for the approach to the A.

Then push the dog over 2, break for a front cross between 3 and 4, holding back far enough so that as soon as the dog is committed to 4, haul butt to get myself far enough to keep the dog off 6A and going straight into the #5, but hold back enough to do an easy front cross between 5B and 6A, then hang back as the dog does 6B and do a little RFP (or threadle) to get the dog onto the Aframe instead of back into 4 and there you go. Worked perfectly. Both dogs took about 40 seconds to do it.

The problem was that Boost brushed 5B with a toenail and the bar came down. Sigh. Since we were already on our way over 6, I just completed the course as planned.

However, I was wrong in that not everyone tried the three 7s, although quite a few did. Three 5s proved to also be popular, or two 5s and a 6 or two 7s and either a 5 or a 6.

And I was wrong in it being just a speed course with 51 points: Out of 46 22" championship dogs (Boost's group), only six managed the full 51 points, and the 7th super-Q went to a 48 pointer. In Performance 22" (Tika's group) only 3 of 13 got the full 51 points, and for a change Tika was fastest of those. Out of 8 16", only one got 51 and no others were higher than 46.

There were a few others like us who blew it with knocked bars or popped contacts, but not many--there were lots and lots of wrong obstacle-whistle-goodbyes, which surprised me.

Masters Gamblers Sunday

This was a tough gamble; for example, only 6 of 43 22" dogs Qed.

As usual, the drawing doesn't entirely reflect reality; one could exit the tunnel near the upper right and be aimed comfortably at the dogwalk; in fact, that challenge was really to get them up the dogwalk and keep them out of the chute. So imagine that change in the layout. :-) And notice the special rules in the box at the top.

The most popular opening started with tunnel-teeter on the right. Several variations after that. I was one of a few who started jump-Aframe. We continued with jump, weave, weave, tire, left side of tunnel, right side of tunnel, dogwalk, and the whistle blew right on or after the end of the dogwalk for both dogs (Tika running through but not as fast; boost faster but held on both of her contacts briefly). This proved to be high opening points of all 37 Performance dogs, and 7th highest of 84 championship dogs. I don't know the paths for the higher-scoring dogs, but I believe they all had running contacts.

Ending on the left side of the dogwalk lined us up perfectly for the start of the gamble. Boost did 1-2-3 but knocked the #3 and then came in towards me; Tika I just ASSUMED would keep going out over the #2 and so I started running towards the end too soon and she pulled off the 2 just a stride early.

I don't know what the successful strategies were for getting dogs over #4. I tried "right" with Boost, which she sometimes gets and sometimes results in "let me come closer and look at you so I can see what you mean!"

Photos by Sarah Hitzeman from our June CPE trial.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

Exercise and preparation

SUMMARY: How the dogs and I are preparing for our long agility weekend.

Updated July 6 2009: Added course map for yard layout.

Seems to me that Tika tires out faster than she used to. OK, sure, she's 8 and a half now, but it also occurs to me that, since I'm now combining 2 dogs into one class and mostly focusing on Boost, she hardly ever gets a lot of long agility sequences to do. In the yard, we tend to focus on maybe 3 or 4 or 5 obstacles for some particular thing we're focusing on.

I've been getting better again about getting out for a mile-or-more brisk walk with the dogs nearly every day, but that's not the same as running.

It was just wayyy too hot over the weekend to want to do anything--here's my indoor/outdoor temps midafternoon on Saturday; I missed the 105 and 106 showings Sat and Sun!-- but on Monday I set up a sort of course in my little crowded yard that allows us to do 16 or more obstacles over & over to get into shape. Discovered some interesting handling & performance issues with both dogs, so we got to do some actual practice on stuff as well as doing 16-obst courses several times each day.

Here's what one layout looks like, showing the challenges of laying out a big course in my yard. Notice how very tight the spacing is on the path between some of the obstacles. The "tr" circles are tree trunks.

I'll probably do once around today with each dog, plus bar-knocking drills, because we're coming up on a 3-day USDAA trial starting bright and early tomorrow morning. Fortunately the heat has dropped way back, and so last night I got my Wednesday hike in with the Sierra Club for my own physical conditioning (it's still not running, jogging, or wind sprints, but it gets my heart & lungs & legs working for sure).
Hike started at about 2300' above sea level (long drive up from the valley), dropped to below 2000', and peaked at 2572, so we got some good ups and downs.

As is typical on hot summer days, it's hazy looking out across the coastal range.

And as the sun sets, we had this intriguing view of the top of Mount Diablo, 100 miles away, floating disembodied above the (cough cough) haze that hides all the mountains between us and it, with just a bit of gleam of the san francisco bay upper center (you'll want to click to see the larger image on this one for sure).
Parts of the trail that were fire roads, and well-traveled by vehicles and bikes, were incredibly dusty, with that superfine dust with texture finer than talcum powder, so no matter how gently you set down your foot, a puff of dust rose. And we were hiking in a large group. Stayed well back from the people ahead!

OK, so this weekend: Team on Friday. Tika's first Performance team, and we're teaming with our ofttimes partner Brenn (from our one appearance in the finals at Scottsdale). How can these dogs be old enough to be in Performance? Gah. Brenn has arthritis in her feet, Tika in her neck. Me in my knees. Pfooey.

Saturday and Sunday is everything else plus Steeplechase and Grand Prix. You know that I'm getting my expectations set high for Tika in those in Performance--her first two times out, she won 1st round steeplechase (and 2nd round, too, the one time we stayed for it) and came in 2nd in grand prix. I'm going to try not to expect too much, but it's hard to avoid.

Mind you, there's a difference between expectations and goals. My goal is to win. But if I *expect* to do well and don't, I have trouble letting that go.

Tika still needs a Standard and 3 Jumpers at 26" for her ADCH-Silver. We've been practicing the last 2 weeks at 24" and 26", so hopefully she can keep her bars up, although mixed with the 22" classes all day friday and some the other days--dunno. We'll see.

Boost still needs one--just one, dangit!--Jumpers leg for her MAD... funny to see that she also just needs one pairs leg for her Relay Bronze! Of course, that's the only course where knocked bars and refusals don't wipe you out. I won't even go into looking for the ADCH--Snooker Super-Qs and Jumpers legs evade us at every turn.

But the weather should be nice, the friends should be nice, and we'll just see what happens.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

All the Agility Course Maps You Could Want--Eventually

SUMMARY: New site--visit, download, contribute.

Team Fernandez-Lopez emailed me a week or so ago about a cool new site that they were in the process of implementing. I got to be among the first lucky non-TFL persons to play with it and to upload a few course maps. TFL was pretty excited about the idea and spent a ton of hours on it in the first few days, and from the looks of it, since then as well.

Check out

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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Gamblin' Tika, Why She Gambles, No One Knows

SUMMARY: She's such a reliable, experienced dog.

Despite my unclear handling techniques, none-the-less, she got the Masters Gamble last weekend. About 1/3 of the dogs got it, so it wasn't undoable, but I'd say maybe half of those used the technique that we did--swing the dog into you and back out, or around you, then send to the correct end of the tunnel.

We just barely made time--you can see how much time we spent getting lined up after the buzzer and then getting Tika onto the Aframe and then into the correct end of the tunnel. And she did it all because she's a good reliable experienced dog! There was a time I never thought I'd be able to say that about her--

A friend, Mary P, just let me know that she videotaped our run and posted it on youtube. Here's the video and the course map with my scribbles about our plan and what actually happened.

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Saturday, June 06, 2009

Actual Agility Video Footage!


Last weekend I promised to post some videos. OK, here ya go. I take my camcorder to every trial with me, but almost never remember to ask anyone to tape us. Last weekend, I finally did--on 4 runs only.

When transferring from my camera to computer, there was this odd jumping thing it was doing, like it was skipping frames or something. Not sure whether camera, tape, recording, playback--and I didn't feel like futzing with it to figure it out.

Round 1 Steeplechase

Tika wins in Performance, Boost Qs in Championship even with a bar down, because she was plenty fast.

Boost's run: Note that, on the first A-frame, I release her quickly, and on the 2nd Aframe, she doesn't bother actually doing 2 on/2 off or waiting for a release. And at the very end, instead of running ahead of me over the last line of jumps, she's kind of waiting for me and looking back a bit.

Tika's Run: Note a huge wide turn after the first Aframe, because I'm trying to get in front of her to make sure she gets a foot in the yellow zone so she thinks we're going straight instead of turning left.

Boost's run:

Grand Prix

Tika takes 2nd place.

Masters Jumpers

Boost and I still have some issues. Like, I'm trying to give her plenty of room to take a jump right in front of her before rear crossing, but she just won't do it, backs around it, and backjumps it. Most of the run isn't awful; she sends out nicely to one jump but, near the end, comes in around a jump I was trying to send her out to. And a bar down. Ah, well. Mostly she's starting to run instead of looking at me all the time.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Strategic Pairs

SUMMARY: What chaos looks like on a course map.

Of course Strategic Pairs isn't chaotic for a well-tuned, organized team who runs clean. It should be a thing of beauteous communication and stunning agility competence. But--ta-da--not many teams run clean all the way through, hence the chaos.

A course might look like the one shown here. (Ignore the colors; just look at the numbers.) It's designed so that one dog can't run it effectively. On this course, for example, dog A lines up behind the start line for jump #1, while dog B goes out to the far side of the field and lines up for jump #4.

When they're both in position, dog A starts by doing 1-2-3 and then signals somehow (their choice) that they're done, maybe by yelling "Go!". Dog B then does, say, 4-5-6 while dog A is maneuvering to get into position for #7. Dog B signals that they're done, A does 7-8-9, and so on.

This particular course was designed with 3-dog teams in mind, and the colors show how our team opted to do it. (By Susan Rappillus of Western Agility Group for the 2005 Turkey Trot.)

One nice thing is that usually dogs can take out-of-sequence obstacles on their way to get to the next sequence that they intend to do, so it's not too Snookery getting around the course.

Of course, there are myriad options. For example, maybe dog A is lousy at the dogwalk and dog B is lousy at the weaves. So, even though 7-8-9-10 is a little awkward for one dog to do, maybe this team will decide that dog A does that sequence to ensure that the weaves are done correctly the first time.

This "doing it correctly" thing is really important in Strategic Pairs, because IF YOU FAULT AN OBSTACLE, the other dog has to take over and DO THAT OBSTACLE CORRECTLY. Then you can go on from there in any way you want.

So, for example, let's say dog A knocks bar #1. Dog B, who was in the far corner anticipating doing #4, has to run back and take #1 correctly (one or the other of the teammates has to set the bar back up, of course). So maybe dog A yells "Help! #1!" so dog B runs over to do #1-2-3 while dog A runs over to #4 to do the 4-5-6 series.

But remember, dog A has a crappy dogwalk, so they'll probably blow it, so dog B had better be ready to EITHER redo the dogwalk if it's faulted, OR if by some miracle dog A gets the dogwalk, continue on to #7.

You can imagine that emotions run high for both handlers and dogs, and many interesting things have been known to happen on course.

More Info In Response To Questions

Added: Fri, Dec 12, 10 AM PST

In my agility years, I've seen strategic pairs only at Bay Team USDAA trials and this once as a bonus game at this particular CPE trial. It is not an official class in any venue; it's a fun game from back in the days when judges made up fun games so that everyone didn't have to go home after a couple of hours because they ran out of classes and dogs. It's in the same category as Power and Speed or Time Gamble that USDAA had at its Nationals for quite a few years. Just a fun game, some of which stuck in people's minds as wanting to do again but not make into official classes.

Because it's extra, the rules are totally up to the judge (or the club who asked for it, I suppose). Hence, hmm, maybe it's ok if dog B gets loose and follows A on the same obstacles; hmm, maybe there should be a minimum number of obstacles per dog, but would "1" be OK? (Although I've never seen a course where it made sense for either dog to do only 1 obstacle.)

The idea is that the obstacles must, at some point, be taken in order. So if one dog does 1-2-3-9 and the next dog does 4-5-6-12, and the first dog does 2-7-8, that's usually OK because 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8 have been taken. But it's up to the rule-maker what's legal.

It does make some people's heads explode. Especially if, for example, BOTH dogs KEEP knocking the same *#&@ bar over and over, or missing the same contact over and over... Tika went nuts when I did this course with her--it's the only time I've seen her fly OVER the top of the Aframe.

But the excitement and not having to worry about a Q is usually worth it. You can learn a lot about yourself and your dog in these 60 seconds!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Boost's Speed and some Gambling Strategies

SUMMARY: Boost is very fast. Very. But does it ever show?

Hint #1 that she's very fast: Weaves. Jim B suggested in class last week that I should arrange a 60-weave-pole challenge at a future trial to see whether she could break the record. That was unsolicited, and a nice thing to say! Now that her weaves seem to be fixed again. I tried to find Official Scoring Info for the 60 Weave Pole Challenge, but it doesn't seem to be on the Clean Run site any more. Anyone know who's handling that event and tracking of results these days?

Hint #2 that she's very fast: Gamblers. When we can get our act together. I try to pick courses that we can do without bobbles so that we're not rehearsing garbage. It's not always easy to do, and sometimes is a lower-point course than ideal. But when we get it--we get the "how the * did you get xx points?!" from handlers of other very fast dogs. We were SO close last weekend, but no cigar.

In the walkthrough, I had picked out about 3 course plans that I liked, with some variant openings on each, and hadn't entirely decided which to do. Plans with the dogwalk were right out for Tika, because her dogwalk is so unreliable. Plans with the teeter were iffy for Boost--although her teeter is really fast, there was no good approach to it for us at our current performance level.

I was watching the scores come through before I ran. A talented friend with 2 fast dogs ran early and scored 60 and 61 points, more than any other dogs to that point. I hadn't added up the points from my plans; I usually don't, just try to maximize the number of higher-point obstacles and assume that it'll result in a bunch of points. But I commented to her that I wanted to know what her plan was, so she told me. It mapped almost perfectly to one of my options--mine had one more obstacle at the beginning--and I decided that if she was getting to the right place with her dogs with one fewer obstacle, I was probably overreaching.

Boost and I were not perfect on course. First, she ran under the tire going from the Aframe to the chute--that cost us 3 points. Then, after the chute, I had trouble getting her onto the dogwalk and ended up having to spin her around me to line her up again. Must have wasted at least 2 seconds. At the other end of the dogwalk, our "perfect" ability to say "left tunnel!" and have her blast right in there failed, as instead she came off the dogwalk towards me, and so we had to bobble a bit to get her into the #7 end of the tunnel--another second or two wasted.

Everything else was lovely, but the whistle blew before she exited the #12 tunnel (I thought that she was out when the whistle blew, but we didn't get our 3 points for it so apparently not). So our total points for the run was 60 (including the gamble). If she hadn't run under the tire, and if we hadn't had silly bobbles at both ends of the dogwalk, she'd have had at least 66. Which would've been 5 more points than anyone else at the trial. Now, OK, Luka and Beadle and Heath and Cap weren't there, but damnit I still think we'd have been in there.

At the start of gamble, we were in perfect position and she did 1-4 perfectly, but came in to me before #5 and it took several lonnnng heart-stopping seconds to get her to finally go out. BUT because we were in good position and because she's so fast, we achieved it with about 3 seconds to spare.

Hint #3 that we have a whole truckload of work to do: Snooker. Getting Qs in Snooker should be easy. Especially ones like this weekend's, where getting three 7s was basically a speed course, not so much a handling course. In Tika's height, 6 of 9 dogs got 51 points, for example.

Two trials ago, Boost and I had so many bobbles--runouts, refusals, knocked bars--on what I thought was a fairly straight-forward course that we got only about 7 points before we finally had to leave the course. Someone looking only at the accumulator sheet said, "How is it possible for someone to be out there for 45 seconds and get only 7 points?" I laughed and explained.

This week: Deja vu.

First, I led out so that the dog saw nuthin' but tunnel when looking over the first jump (I made sure that the teeter was out of sight behind the wing, for example). I released and started running straight at the tunnel. Dog is supposed to come with you, right? Especially a dog who ran around jumps on lead outs something like 5 times this weekend trying to get to where you were? But noooo--she veered right and ran across the teeter, so I had to regroup, work her around to get her lined up to do the teeter instead of the #7 in the opening.

Then, trying to get her over the 2nd red (to the right of the teeter), we went into the "this jump? this jump? this jump?" refusal dance. Got it, got into the 7a tunnel, hit the first weave pole and then skipped, so had to spin her around and retry--reentered in the wrong place. Spun her around and retried and finally got it. On the 3rd red, I front-crossed after the weaves so that it would be an easy handling thing with her on my left to do the #1 and back to the weave, but nooo-- "this jump? this jump? this jump?" and then she crashed into the bar trying to do it sideways at the last minute.

So then I had to line her up for the 2-3, but now her brain is over the top and she's bouncing every which way. I am standing completely still and telling her in a calm voice "here" (which means line up on my right side) and patting my right leg. I'm not sure how long it took before she actually lined up and stopped bouncing bouncing bouncing. I made sure that she was looking straight across the #2 to the #3 (not looking at me) and I had a straight line to run to get to #4a.

I told her "through!" and she blasted across #2 and into the tunnel like greased lightning while I hauled my butt from a complete standstill--and she came back out the same end of the tunnel! I was ready to strangle her.

So there we were, looking at the accumulator sheet, with about 46 seconds used and only 9 points to our name.


If only we could harness that speed for the good of all mankind instead of using our powers for evil!

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Some USDAA Weekend Classes

SUMMARY: Maps, videos, and brief discussions from this last weekend.

Saturday Masters Standard

The opening of this course was interesting, because I was the only one I saw who ran with the dog on my right. It worked very nicely for both of my dogs, but I have a good "Right Through" (which goes against the Darrett system but is OH so handy in cases like this). Saw lots of dogs knock the #6 jump or get a refusal, as that was a pretty challenging rear cross to get in. 15 of 47 big dogs Qed on this course.

NOTE: As always, the course map doesn't exactly reflect reality: you could actually set the dog into a stay before jump #1 so that she could see the Aframe from that position. Made a difference (to me, anyway) in whether you worried about the dog going off-course into the tunnel--which we saw some of, even with handlers on the opposite site.

Another frequent problem was 12 to 13. Several people who handled it with a single front cross before 13 got an off-course onto the back side of 17. I saw some successful serpentines of 12 and also the front-cross equivalent--both before and after 12. I did a rear cross, as did others, thinking I'd get a tighter turn to the table. Worked OK for Tika but Boost still went wide, although we survived. The other main off-course problem was 15 to 19.

Saturday Masters Gamblers

Posting this mostly because I have videos, in which you can see:
  • while I think that I am directing the dogs clearly and distinctly--my body is flapping around all over the place
  • Tika miss a send-out to a weave entry--and she's supposed to be my GOOD dog-- (and that was twice in one weekend with the same sort of send in gamblers); something to work on
  • Boost go under the tire repeatedly
  • that the reason that I couldn't get Boost out over the jump after the teeter was because she didn't stick her contact and wait for a release, self-released to come towards me.

Steeplechase Round 1

Another case where the course map isn't a perfect reflection of reality. The line over 3-4-18 was a bit more obvious to the dogs than shown here. That's very important to note, because that was the most common off-course.

People probably split half and half on whether they kept the dog on their left and pulled to #5 and rear crossed #6, or led out towards the tunnel to do a lead-out pivot and run with the dog on the left over #5. And about the same number of dogs went over #18 instead of 5 using both handling methods, so your timing and body language had to be good in both cases. The down side to the pull method was that it left the off-course tunnel wide open, which some dogs took.

The most successful lead-out pivots had the handler standing pretty close to the entrance for the #12 tunnel, so that when they turned and ran towards #5, they were running straight at 5, not having to veer past #4.

#7 to #8 was more of a time waster than anything, with the dog turning back to the handler often. Some people ran around the left side of #7 and the Aframe, but I don't think that worked any better.

Lots of people worried about the 10-11-12 line. There were lots of refusal-type errors at #12 tunnel entrance, usually with the handler over-pushing and blocking the dog's entrance into the tunnel, but I don't recall seeing any actual off-courses over the #4.

Another big choice was whether to front cross between 17 and 18. I tried that with Tika, who flew off the Aframe and went straight for the offcourse #6, which I saved her from, but she hit the #18 at such a bad angle that she knocked the bar.

Master Snooker Sunday

Of interest because of the unusual layout and no contact obstacles. Hope you can read it with all my scribbles.

Most Super-Qs were earned with a 4-5-7-7 plus 2-7, although there were also some 7-7-7-4 and sometimes a 5 instead of a 4 in both sequences.

My numbers on the map are close but not actually the way I handled it. If the top of the map is north and the left is west:
  • West over the first red (southwest corner) to the back (west) side of 4a, to 4b.
  • to the southeast red, run around the outside to the 6a tunnel and the 6b jump.
  • South over the northeast red, turning the dog toward the west, which made a straight line over 7a to the south end of the 7c tunnel, to the 7b jump
  • south over the northwest red, wrap to the east, over 7b into 7c and east over 7a.
  • Threadle past the northeast red to the east side of #2 (which was NOT bidirectional in the closing).
  • Might be hard to read, but the jump that serves as both #3 and #4a is set up to force you to backjump. The 4a was bidirectional in the closing, so that if you felt strongly about it, you could bring your dog around and do sort of a figure 8 over the 4a after doing the 3. But that wasted a lot of time, set the dog up badly for the straight line 4b to 5, and also provided more off-course opps to either side. I saw only a couple of handlers try the figure 8. It actually worked very well to blast the dog straight out over #3, because there were no obstacles out there, and as you and the dog blasted into the open area, then you turned, called the dog, and went back over 4a-4b-5 in a straight line, and because the dog had moved fairly far beyond the #3 jump, it didn't have the look or feel of a backjump.

Masters Jumpers Sunday

It was 6:30 in the evening. I was really tired. Tika sailed comfortably through it, taking 4th place of the 12 remaining dogs (lots of attrition at the end of such a long weekend), and I never really did communicate clearly with The Booster--too bad, because I felt that it was a nice, flowing, speedy course.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

Got Video?

SUMMARY: Selected videos and course maps from regionals.

If you want to see nice weaves, all of Boost's runs look pretty good in that way. Otherwise--see notes. Click dogs' names to view videos.

Grand Prix Round 1: Tika , Boost (Tika is called on Aframe; Boost hits 3 bars & has a couple of refusal/runouts)

Team Jumpers: Tika, Boost (Tika is clean; Boost has a wide turn, a runout, a refusal, and a bar before backjumping near the end)

Team Standard: Tika (clean run)

Grand Prix Round 2: Sweep (22" winner), Tika (clean and bye into semis)

Sunday Master Standard: Tika, Boost (Tika dogwalk up, Boost not too bad, one bar, then finally a refusal just before the end when I'm trying to get ahead for a front cross probably)

Steeplechase Round 1: Tika, Boost (Tika bar, Boost runouts and refusals galore, leaving the Aframe without a release, and not the best handling for an early off-course)

Monday Masters Jumpers: Tika, Boost (Tika clean, Boost a mess)

Monday Masters Standard: Tika, Boost (Tika clean but slow table down; Boost slow table down, just a couple of spin refusals)

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Where We Did What We Did

SUMMARY: Some of the weekend's course maps

NOTE: You can view the images in another window for a larger view.

Saturday Masters

  • Masters Jumpers: Tika's off course (where I forgot the course) is shown. Otherwise it ran smoothly (except for Boost!). There weren't many Es on this course.
  • Masters Snooker: This is the funny one where only 2 of 49 22" dogs earned 59 points but 8 out of 27 26" dogs did. It was soooo obviously a speed course from the get-go, not a strategy course.
  • Masters Standard: I noted that about half the dogs Eed on this course, but I don't particularly remember why this was so hard. I saw some dogs take the wrong end of #8, maybe a couple did 9-10-2, or take the tunnel instead of #15, but I was so busy with the score table that I really didn't get a chance to watch much.
  • Masters Pairs: 11 of 32 big-dog teams eliminated on this course, 9 were over time (usually with faults but sometimes just wasted time trying to get through it) and only 12 teams Qed. The first half was pretty straight-forward, although a lot of dogs wasted seconds blasting far beyond the 3-4-5 sequence before coming back to 6. The second half presented the greatest challenges with the sequence from 3 to 6 and 7 to 9. I saw very, very few handling options that worked smoothly on either one, especially for the faster dogs. It didn't help that the wind was coming from the upper right corner, keeping the chute wide open most of the time, giving most dogs a beautiful view of the off-course jump immediately after it.

Saturday Tournament

  • Grand Prix: Lots of opportunities for problems; I don't think that the Qualifying rate was very high, but I didn't write it down. The 1-2-3 was fairly straight-forward; I saw a couple of off-courses from 3 to 14. The 4-5-6 sequence made the #6 a challenge for many teams, but I don't recall any 6-to-19 offcourses.. Saw a couple of off-courses from 7 to 17. The entry from 9 to 10 was a little challenging for some. 13 through 19 took some running and handling but wasn't stunningly difficult. Some people got a front cross in between 18 and 19, but most opted for a push/rear cross between 19 and 20, which wasn't always smooth.
  • Steeplechase: A very fast course.

Sunday Masters

  • Gamblers: Many dogs opted for our path, numbered on the map; several dogs besides Boost earned 33 in the opening. A very few dogs had 36 in the opening and I'm not sure whether they did the same path and got in another teeter, or whether it was some other, cleverer path that I didn't see.
  • Standard: Dogs looked hard at the #13 after 1-2-3 and had to be called off very hard, if they didn't actually take it. The push out to #14 was interesting; there were several different ways of handling that sequence and out to the finish and I think I saw them all. Don't know what the general results were.
  • Pairs Relay: For the square numbers, the 3 to 4 gave a challenge; most people pulled their dog into 4 to stay on the dog's left but it was a tight balance between pulling too much and not enough, and there were a lot of missed entries there. During the walkthrough, people were worried about the square 9 to 10 but it handled very easily.
  • Jumpers: This was a killer jumpers course. Not many dogs came through it clean. So many calloffs and sharp angles and turns! No straight line until you got to the last two jumps.

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