Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sometimes I Think I've Had It With Agility

SUMMARY: A whining, self-pitying BUT post, move along now, nothing to see here, I doubt you'll want to read it.

I know that some weekends are better than others. I know that sometimes I'm better than at other times. And believe me after the heartbreaking news about John Nunes after this weekend, I know that there are so many more things in this world that are more important to me than Qs in agility competitions. And yet--but--

This last weekend was not among the best. Not the worst, by any means, but really, as the weekend wore on--23 runs all together--there was not one in which I wasn't disappointed with myself as a handler or as a trainer.

I could gripe about the very few incorrect things that Tika did and blame them on her, but in fact almost all were handling issues this time, and, really, flying off contacts is a training issue.

I acknowledge that her successes were also as a result of my skills as a trainer and a handler, and I know that we do better than many people, and I know that I should just be happy that she's healthy and happy and having a good time (and, believe me, I am happy on all those counts). But--I'm filled with BUTs.

And Boost is a beautiful happy dog who NEVER turns off to doing agility with all her heart and soul, and who loves me dearly, and I know that I should be happy about that (and, believe me, I am). And the fact that she qualified in Steeplechase despite a flaw or two, I know, I can attribute to my skills at training and handling. But--my BUTs just about overwhelmed me this last weekend.


  • Boost Pairs Relay: First run of the weekend, lovely, actually. For 10 whole obstacles on our half. We qualified (teammate had a brief flaw so we BARELY qualified, but at least it's a Q).
  • Tika Pairs Relay: Flew off the Aframe big time [contact training issue] so I made her Down and wait, and she thereby knocked the following bar when I released her. We BARELY qualified but at least it's a Q.
  • Boost Standard: Hit first pole in weaves so hard that she bounced and didn't bother collecting enough to make the turn into the second pole [weave  training], so faults plus time wasted. Knocked a bar [training and/or handling]. Slow down on table [training].
  • Tika Standard: Very fast and happy but WAY flew off the dogwalk. [contact training]
  • Boost Gamblers: In opening, left both Aframes w/out waiting for a release, so made her lie down both times [contact training], which meant that we were on the far side of the field when the whistle blew, so I basically sent her full-speed across the entire field to the jump-tunnel in the gamble, and she knocked the first bar,  [training and/or handling] so no Q although she did the whole gamble beautifully.
  • Tika Gamblers: Very happy and fast, but when I tried to do back-to-back Aframes, I took my eye off her and she ran *past* the second one instead of back up it, costing us 3 points and 1st place [handling]. So it was a Q and a 2nd and top ten points, but, dang it--
  • Boost Steeplechase: Pretty smooth and fast, actually, although she left the 2nd Aframe without waiting for a release, so I made her Down. [contact training]. Even with that delay, she was fast enough and smooth enough to qualify for round 2--by less than 2 seconds, barely.
  • Tika Steeplechase: Two Aframes. Very happy, pretty fast, I thought she had gotten toenails into both Aframe contacts, but the judge didn't think so. [contact training]. She was only .02 seconds slower than the first-place dog in her 22" class, but because there were too few dogs in 22", they combined us with the 16" border collies, whose times knocked us out of qualifying for round 2 because of the Aframe fault.
  • Boost Snooker: In opening, approaching weaves ahead of me, Boost turned back to me instead of going in [training gahhh!] so I ended up on wrong side of weaves from where I wanted to be, so when we exited I had to pull her past an incorrect obstacle but she ignored me and "Boost! Boost! Boost!" [training and/or handling] and that was it. Whistle off after 3 obstacles.
  • Tika Snooker: We had a great run going, but on the last of 4 reds in the opening, I forgot which way I wanted to turn and in my moment of lostness, put her right over an incorrect obstacle [handling], so whistled off. No Q, no top 10 points.
  • Boost Jumpers: Bars bars bars. [training] The run was actually fairly smooth, but, sigh, again no Q.
  • Tika Jumpers: Ran well after dark with OK but not great lighting. Missed some cues [handling] so very wide turns although generally smooth and comfortable. Lucky for us, other dogs were having more trouble with it than we were (I think it's the lighting) and we ended up with a 1st place. OK, happy about that, but you'd think my timing would be good by now. After 16 years of training and 200+ trials.
  • Sunday--

  • Boost Steeplechase Round 2: OMG what a disaster. [training mostly, maybe handling]. Well, we didn't "E", but that's mostly all I can say about it.
  • Tika Jumpers: I rather yelled as she was going over a jump and she knocked the bar.  [handling and probably some training] Otherwise smooth and happy, 2nd fastest time but this course was SO EASY that we were the ONLY 22" dog not to qualify! Argh!
  • Boost Jumpers: Two bars, including the first one, two runout attempts that I barely blocked, wide turns and calloffs--[handling, training, I dunno]
  • Tika Standard: On one 180-turn, I forgot how far out the 2nd jump was and pulled her past it for runout faults. [handling] Two very wide turns that were almost off courses when I didn't remember where I was going soon enough. She still was fast enough that she would've placed 3rd [of 13 dogs] if not for the fault. 
  • Boost Standard: Knocked a bar early. [Training] A major disaster on the table [apparently training--to give you a clue, our course time on this run was 76 seconds, compared to a Standard Course Time [max allowed] of 58 and a winning time of 43]. However, the closing sequence of 9 obstacles after the table flummoxed many handlers including some top ones whose dogs made wide turns or turned the wrong way etc--and Boost and I got through that sequence perfectly. I mean, PERFECTLY. I liked that. But still, would be nice to Q once in a while.
  • Tika Gamblers: I guess I got greedy in the opening after yesterday's mess. I knew that trying for one more Aframe might put us out of time, but I knew that tika was fast enough and good enough that we could still make it so worth trying even though there was a safer path. Except 1: The whistle blew as she jumped from the ground to the Aframe before she even hit it, so wasting about 3 of our 16 seconds. We STILL could have made it except 2: I left her on the Aframe and ran towards the gamble instead of collecting her, so she ran in the opposite direction at first. We STILL could have made it except that when I reversed myself and gathered her up, I proceeded to put her over the wrong lead-in jump to the gamble, so after the first gamble jump she didn't see the tunnel, so turned back to me, and I kept saying "through!" and she turned around, saw it, did the whole thing perfectly--but .98 seconds over time. [ALL handling crap, multiple times in one run]
  • Boost Gamblers: Didn't stick either Aframe in opening so made her down each time [training], so doing 2 dogwalks after that I held her for a long time on each contact, so we were wayyyyy out of position when the whistle blew. Even so, I managed to threadle her around the aframe and to the other side of the course where she did the gamble spot-on perfectly--but .49 seconds over time. Gah!  [Not often in one weekend where your dogs get all 4 gambles but you have only one Q to show for it]
  • Tika Grand Prix: Sent her to a jump and moved away too soon, pulling her off the jump for another runout fault. [handling] So I turned it into a contact training run and made her "down" or held her on all contacts, and even going back for that jump and those long contacts, she was 4th fastest, but no Q of course.
  • Boost Grand Prix: Good lord. Yikes. Got killed when she didn't come in to me on a 180 so ran past a jump despite me trying to stand in her way and to the next obstacle for off course/E. [training]
  • Tika Snooker: A speed course that was going to require 51 points for a Super-Q or even to place. She did everything I asked her to except once again I forgot which way I was going to turn, so spun suddenly to do as wrap as she was going over a jump and she knocked a bar.  [handling] We got all the way through the course with 44 points (that one 7-pointer short of 51). We  completely lucked out on this one--in all other heights, "everyone" was getting 51, but in our height, everyone else crapped out more than we did so only one dog got 51 so we ended up 2nd with a Super-Q and top ten points.
  • Boost Snooker: Didn't come in to me on a 180-turn and didn't respond to "Boost! Boost!  Boost!" [training and handling both] and once again off course after 3 obstacles.


For the weekend, out of 11 runs, Tika got one 1st/Q, two 2nd/Qs, and one Q no placement. Out of 12 runs, Boost got two Qs, no placements, no $ in steeplechase.

It was Boost's 15th Pairs Q, so now she's got her RCh-Bronze.

I have had worse weekends. But--

And so--

I have come away from the weekend realizing deeply that I need to change something, in my attitude or my schedule or my approach towards training or probably all of those interconnected things, or I will spend many more weekends regretting the things I haven't done and the mistakes I've made and the money I've spent to make the same mistakes again and again rather than reaping the rewards that my dogs are capable of and that I *think* I'm capable of (although at times I wonder). I haven't entirely decided what that means, but I have pretty much decided that I'm not going to trial in March at all, scratching 2 of the only 3 CPE trials I was planning on for the year. Beyond that--I dunno.

Maybe monthly private lessons instead of regular weekly classes. Maybe get back to a disciplined list of specific skills to work on each day during each week, like when I was first training each dog--it's so clear then what you need to work on. Like, from class, you'd come home with an assignment to work very certain exercises with, say, 4 weave poles, or two jumps, or a target and a clicker. Small, easily identifiable pieces.

The difference there is that progress seemed to happen so fast, I was always going forward, but now, it's like backing up two steps and trying again, over and over.

Hey, yeah, Boost hasn't popped out of the weaves early in two whole trials now, I'm so happy about that. But now we have to work on table issues again and contacts again and bars always.

I'm tired of not being a better handler, I'm tired of my dogs making mistakes, I'm tired of trying to be circumspect about the fact that I don't train enough or correctly to fix the problems and so I should accept the consequences and not bemoan them. But. But. But.

Funny side note

Rereading this, I note that I'm still saying "whistle blew" to start the gamble--since we started using electronic timers all the time a few years ago, it has been a buzzer and never a whistle, yet I still think of it as "whistle blew," not "buzzer buzzed". Sort of like "dialing" a telephone, I guess.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

USDAA Qualifying and Titling Rules

SUMMARY: Some of the arcanity of USDAA scoring.

I'm skipping Starters and Advanced qualifying (Q) requirements (sorry, nonmasters) because they're fairly straight-forward (I'm speaking relatively, of course).

On to Masters/P3 and Tournament, because that's where one accrues the most Qs over your competition lifetime. As a source of entertainment, qualifying requirements and title requirements change periodically, so keeping up with it could be a regular hobby.

OK, there are two somewhat parallel sequences of titles that you achieve with your Qs: The basic titling sequence and the lifetime titling sequence.

The basic titling sequence includes things like your MAD (Master Agility Dog), RCh (Relay Champion), TM (Tournament Master), ADCH (Agility Dog Champion), and so on. You can follow this sequence in either Championship program ("Masters") or Performance program ("P3". You have to start anew with each program; masters Qs don't transfer to P3 and vice versa.

The lifetime sequence is just that: Lifetime Achievement Award bronze, silver, gold, and platinum. This counts ALL Qs of any type that you earn in Masters, P3, or Tournament (performance or championship). For example, it takes 30 (specific) masters Qs to earn your ADCH. If you then move to performance and earn your APD (Performance championship), it takes another 30 legs. You now have 60 legs towards your LAA awards.

To earn your basic titles, you need Qs in the regular classes of Standard, Gamblers, Jumpers, Snooker, and Pairs Relay. For the major titles in this group, you also need Tournament Qs (Steeplechase, Grand Prix, Dog Agility Masters (DAM) Team).

For your ADCH or your APD, you need: 5 each of the regular classes plus 5 tournaments, with at least one of each tournament type.

Is that all perfectly clear now?

Here's the annoying thing about the DAM tournament: You have to do a DAM jumpers, DAM gamblers, DAM standard, DAM snooker, and DAM relay to get JUST ONE DAM Q. None of them count towards titles in your basic titling sequence. All that work for ONE Q?!?

Back in The Day, Team Snooker and Jumpers, if I recall correctly, could also be counted as regular Qs for your snooker & jumpers titles, but they did away with that because they operated under different rules than the regular classes.

However, starting last year, USDAA finally saw the light again and allowed the four individual DAM classes to count towards your Lifetime awards. That is, they don't count towards your basic title sequence, but they do count towards your Lifetime Achievement Awards (LAA), which is wonderful.

But the qualifying requirements are different. In regular classes, there's a certain known minimum standard that you must achieve to earn a Q, which means that in theory everyone at a trial could Q in every class, no matter what anyone else does. For the Team individual Qs, however, you must be within a certain range of the best performers in each class.

To do this, you take the top 3 dogs (in your height and program) and average their scores. Anyone within 15% of that average earns one of these bonus Q. Yeah, in theory, everyone could also Q, but that raises the bar high enough--especially at the regionals--that it's more difficult to earn those Qs.

Except that Tika the wonder-performance-dog, who seems to love being at 22", has Qed in every one of her Team events in the two tournaments we've entered. Huzzah.

Hey, is any of that clear? It made sense while I was writing it--


In Masters/P3 Standard, to earn a Q towards basic titles, you must have a clean run and be faster than the Standard Course Time. This Q *also* counts towards your LAAs.

In Championship/Performance DAM team Standard, to earn a bonus Q towards your LAA, your time plus faults must be within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs' time plus faults. These do *not* count towards your basic titles.

Well--so--since I suspect everyone's eyes are now glazed over, let me just say that, between Masters and P3 and all Tournaments, Tika now has 217 Qs towards her LAA awards. 150 was her LAA-bronze. Another 33 to go to her Silver.

And over and out.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Clarifying DAM Team Bonus Qs

SUMMARY: Just a little more on how well Tika did but still didn't earn those new Qs.

I explained in this post that you can now not only earn just the one Q in DAM Team based on all 5 runs of all 3 dogs, but also in the individual events if your score is within 15% of the average of the top 3 dogs. I expressed doubt that even Tika would earn many Qs that way; I expected that it would shut out most dogs just like Steeplechase does and SuperQs do.

Yesterday I noted that she got only one (Snooker) of the four possible bonus Qs this weekend. But I also want to point out that, for example, she was 8th of 24 dogs in Team Jumpers and didn't Q, and 7th of 24 in Team Gamblers and didn't Q. Only 5 of 24 Qed in Team Standard; Tika had a clean run that I thought was particularly fast, but apparently the open course and cold weather had all the dogs running particularly fast, as she was still 8 seconds behind the winning dog.

Oh, well, I'm glad to get one additional Q towards our Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA), but it just means that all of my faster, more talented, and/or better trained friends who already stack up awards that I try hard (but don't always succeed in) not to compare myself to will stack them up even faster. Run, little handler, run!

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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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Thursday, November 20, 2008

USDAA Rules Change to Qualify in Team Individual Events

SUMMARY: Now your individual events in DAM tournaments can count as Qualifying scores (Qs) towards your LAAs. Maybe.

Effective Sept 19, dogs can earn Qs in the individual events in the DAM tournament.

This will be calculated similarly to Steeplechase: Average the top 3 scores in each jump height, and dogs within 15% (Steeplechase is 25%) will earn a Q.

It's nice to get additional Qs towards the LAA. But. Take Tika, who always is within Steeplechase time at 25%, but just barely. She'd never be in steeplechase time at 15%. So she'll probably never Q in Team std or jumpers at 15% of the top 3 dogs.

I did a quick look at our Team Standard from Labor Day. Forty-eight 26" dogs ran. The top 3 did Standard in 29.39, 30.52, and 31.98 seconds. This averages to 30.63. Add 15% of that, and the qualifying score is 35.22. I see only 9 that would've Qed: Dan, Reya, Icon, Rusty, Jester, Apache, Cirque, Aiko, and London. All very fast border collies, I believe, except Apache (Terv--34.68) and Rusty (Aussie--32.71, actually pretty good). That's under 19% Qs.

Tika was clean but 2 seconds over. I didn't note anything in particular that we did wrong on course. Still, hmmm, we're often comparable to Apache's and Rusty's time, so maybe on a good day...

Once again, rewarding the very top dogs and blocking out those who aren't at the top of the sport. USDAA is less and less a venue for Just People with Just Dogs.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

It Sucks or It Soars

SUMMARY: Why some classes I like better than others for some dogs.

Just thought I'd share with you Remington's least favorite class (and a model for my perseverance) and Tika's most favorite class (one that I can really relax at).

Note the Q or n (not Q) history for each.

The single Q for Remington was under time by less than a second. The single non-Q for Tika was a required obstacle that didn't get written down on the scribe sheet, and although I had it on video, the judge said he couldn't use the video as evidence. Oh, well! We got a few more Qs after that anyway.

Remington's Least Favorite Class

PlaceDog qty
USDAAStandard8/18/2001City of IndustryMastersn5
USDAAStandard8/19/2001City of IndustryMastersnE
USDAAStandard8/24/2002City of IndustryMastersnE
USDAAStandard8/25/2002City of IndustryMastersnE

Tika's Most Favorite Class

CPEFull House2/9/2003Elk Grove1LevQ4516
CPEFull House6/8/2003Elk Grove2Levn302
CPEFull House8/10/2003Elk Grove2LevQ3912
CPEFull House11/8/2003Livermore2LevQ4212
CPEFull House1/11/2004Elk Grove3LevQ41-3313
CPEFull House3/27/2004Sunnyvale3LevQ4216
CPEFull House5/8/2004Elk Grove4LevQ4913
CPEFull House6/6/2004Turlock4LevQ4611
CPEFull House6/11/2004Elk Grove5LevQ37-136
CPEFull House10/23/2004Turlock5LevQ41-114
CPEFull House3/12/2005Turlock5LevQ49-233
CPEFull House3/27/2005Sunnyvale5LevQ41-224
CPEFull House5/7/2005Elk GroveCLevQ3512
CPEFull House5/8/2005Elk GroveCLevQ4411
CPEFull House5/21/2005Elk GroveCLevQ3412
CPEFull House7/3/2005Elk GroveCLevQ4812
CPEFull House7/4/2005Elk GroveCLevQ5011
CPEFull House7/23/2005SunnyvaleCLevQ4214
CPEFull House3/11/2006TurlockCLevQ4611
CPEFull House3/25/2006SunnyvaleCLevQ4612
CPEFull House6/2/2006Elk GroveCLevQ3859
CPEFull House6/17/2006MaderaCLevQ35-1113
CPEFull House8/5/2006Elk GroveCLevQ41-111
CPEFull House2/24/2007Elk GroveCLevQ4913
CPEFull House3/10/2007TurlockCLevQ5013
CPEFull House3/24/2007SunnyvaleCLevQ4111
CPEFull House7/21/2007PetalumaCLevQ49-1111
CPEFull House11/23/2007Elk GroveCLevQ5012
CPEFull House11/24/2007Elk GroveCLevQ5313
CPEFull House3/8/2008TurlockCLevQ3511
CPEFull House3/22/2008Twin CreeksCLevQ4623
CPEFull House3/23/2008Twin CreeksCLevQ4614

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Grand Prix vs Standard

SUMMARY: What's the difference?

OK, you agility geniuses. Grand Prix is basically just a Masters Standard course without the table, right?

So why on earth does Tika run clean in Masters Standard more than 20% of the time, but only 10% of the time in Grand Prix?

(As a side note, 45% of her Grand Prixs are 5-point-fault runs, but only 20% of her Standard runs--which brings up the question of why she gets 0 or 5 faults in 55% of her Grand Prixs but only in 40% of her standard? Only 6% are table-related, near as I can tell, so that doesn't make up the difference.)

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

DAM Team and Strategies

SUMMARY: My teams. Our plan: Run fast, run clean, don't get greedy.

For all the thousands of photos I've taken, it never occurs to me to get photos of us with our pairs partners or DAM teammates. Dangies.

Tika and Brenn the Border Collie have been on the same DAM team continuously for two years now. Unfortunately we've not had constant partners. I still think of it as Brenn's team that Tika's on; that's because, originally, at the beginning of the 2006 season, Brenn and Skeeter the ACD were looking for a 3rd (their moms are good friends) and I invited myself to join them.

The team of T/B/S failed to Q our first time out (that story, a tragicomedy of errors, was told elsewhere in this blog: here and here). The second time, S's mom had committed to a different team, so T/B found another dog--who had to withdraw at the last minute due to an injury. We found yet another dog, a good one with a good handler. On the day of the trial, that handler messed up her knee and couldn't run and her dog wouldn't run with anyone else.

For the next Team event, T/B/S were back together with a new name, "Three's a Charm," and we barely squeezed out a team Q. We went to Nationals with that name, where--much to our surprise--we made it to the finals and placed 22 of over 200 teams. We were ready to be together forever. We even had nifty team shirts, which you KNOW is critical to success.

Then Skeeter went blind. Well--she's actually doing not badly, for a dog with glaucoma. There was a while where her mom thought she'd be completely blind in a very short time, but with medication, she's leading a pretty normal life. It's just that her vision is limited, so, her agility career is mostly over. Which is particularly too bad for Three's A Charm, because she was the most reliable dog on the team. Not the fastest, but I'd say the least likely to E.

This year we've teamed with 3 different partners and Qed with all of them, but two had already committed to other teams for Scottsdale and the third had to be arm-twisted to do team at all and doesn't feel that his knee and skill are up to Scottsdale. We just want to go and have fun again, and have a chance to let ourselves really drive without worrying about Qs.

Team Strategy

Which brings us to strategies for Team.

First, you must decide whether you want a Q or to go for the proverbial gold. Jim Basic says that DAM is basically a gimmee and it's almost impossible not to Q. Well, fine for him, but 50% of the teams don't qualify at every DAM event, and I and my dogs have been in that lower 50% most of the time. So my focus, if we haven't already all Qed, is on merely Qing.

Which means that our team strategy has been: "Don't eliminate and don't get greedy." The first applies to Standard, Jumpers, and Relay, and the latter to Snooker and Gamblers.

Don't eliminate: Team scoring for Standard, Jumpers, and Relay is similar: The team starts with a certain number of points per dog and then you subtract your time and your faults--but if you Eliminate (go offcourse or get at least 3 refusal faults), you lose all of your dog's points. For example, in the relay, each dog starts with 150 points (450 for the whole team). If all three of you run clean, your total time might be 60 seconds, for a final score of 390. But if one of you Es and you still take 60 seconds, you lose 150 for the E and then your 60 seconds also, for a score of 240. So Eing really hurts.

Standard gets 130 points per dog; Jumpers 110.

So the "don't E" strategy is to run conservatively, to do anything you have to do to avoid Eing because 5-point faults don't matter nearly as much as losing the whole kit and kaboodle. Might mean don't rev your dog up as much so that they're more under control when you run. You probably won't win the class that way, but you're more likely to avoid the E.

Don't get greedy: In Snooker and Gamblers, your earned points are multiplied by a factor to make them comparable to your other scores. So, for example, if it's expected that the highest-scoring dogs might earn 50 points, they might use a factor of 1.5 to give a total of 75 points towards the team total.

It's harder to "E" in these classes and earn 0 points... well, er, I've done it... but you're more likely to earn *some* points. If your focus is on Qing, though, you're in god shape if your scores are near or above average. (Interestingly enough, if all 3 dogs achieve average in all their classes, the team overall is likely to place fairly high because of the high price for crashing and burning.) So you want a reasonable number of points, but you don't want to be aggressive with risky courses that might drop your point totals too low if you blow it.

In the Gamble, which has typically been a Time Gamble, the "don't get greedy" really comes into play. You earn points in the opening as usual, then, when the first whistle blows, you get double the points from there to the finish line. The rub is that you must cross the finish line before the second whistle blows, or your lose all your doubled points. So it's better to have some points doubled than to go for a huge number of doubled points and lose it, because you drop way below average if you don't get some.

How our Strategy Worked

Our team had a couple or three popped contacts (5 faults each in Standard and Team) and some refusals (2 faults each), but our dogs are all naturally fairly fast, so our times were good. We had only one E in Jumpers, with a fairly aggressive send to a jump that the dog came around and took the next obstacle for an offcourse. But it was a tough jumpers course--fully 1/3 of the dogs Eed, so it was a survivable E--with 38th being an average placement, we were 39th in Jumpers overall.

Huh--I thought we all survived Standard, too, but apparently one of us Eed there, too, so we didn't do well in that--61st of 75 teams.

We all did comfortable snooker courses that were all different, since we have different strengths (e.g., Tika did two A-frames, but the others avoided that since they have contact issues). Again, the dogs are fairly fast and we didn't do anything sexy, and we ended up 9th of 75 teams in Snooker.

In Gamblers, there were lots of choices for flowing courses, and some good options for doubling points, so everyone could choose courses for their dogs' strengths. Don't get greedy, I reminded myself repeatedly, but I timed my planned doubled obstacles over and over so that I'd know, based on when the first whistle blew, what exactly I could do in the 12 seconds I was allowed. So--Tika was a tad slower than I had planned in the opening, so instead of finishing my opening with a teeter and ending with a chute/teeter, I started the closing with the teeter/chute...and I had timed it so that I knew that it would take me about 10 to 11 seconds to do two teeters and the chute and get over the finish line. That's aggressive and probably greedy, but dammit I had timed it. We just couldn't afford any bobbles, not one, and I had to release her off the teeter contact the instant her foot was in the yellow and the teeter hit the ground. So I did it, we raced for the finish, we made it, for a pretty high closing total. With--as I checked later--.14 seconds to spare from losing it all.

So Tika placed 7th of 53 in the team gamble and our team placed 15th of 75, and Tika earned 10 points more than she would have if I had been conservative. This is important later.

In the Team Relay, the other important strategy is: If you E on your portion of the relay, race back to the finish line or to hand off the baton to the next person on your team, because you've already lost your 150 points and any more time you take is like taking it away from other team members' points.

With a really off-the-wall E on Brenn's part (she had a beautiful dogwalk contact but apparently, in stopping quickly, moved all 4 feet off the dogwalk and then put one foot backwards onto the contact zone), Brenn's mom had the presence of mind not to continue her portion of the relay--two u-turns, a teeter, a chute, and 2 jumps, I believe--and hand off the baton. We figure this saved about 10 seconds. This is also important.

Because--with the Es in standard and jumpers and the E in the relay, we barely Qed, placing 38th of 38 Qing teams. The thing is--we were only 10 points away from the 39th-place team. So--if Tika hadn't gotten that last teeter in the gamble--or if Brenn hadn't run back and handed off the baton in the relay--we probably wouldn't have Qed.

But we did. I'm happy, they're happy, now we just need a team for Nationals.

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Friday, January 05, 2007

Progress--And Back to Square One

SUMMARY: Knee is good. But about those November Nationals--

I started making a point of doing a little bit of sprinting with the dogs in the yard during training this week, and it worked fine. Took Tika to class Wednesday night for the first time since before Christmas and only the second time since November 15. She seemed happy to be there, ran off to explore only once on a missed tough weave entry that I didn't handle very well, and actually paid attention on the down contacts instead of snuffling for food.

course map showing layering challengeI went ahead and ran full out where I could, and it felt good to be doing it! The knee is still marginally puffy and I could feel that it didn't bend quite as nicely as my good knee, and I felt like a lump of lead trying to accelerate, but at least I was able to make the effort. I even tried for a really tricky send-dog-to-tunnel, layer-the-aframe, get ahead of the following jump for a front cross and actually made it--barely, as Tika's turn before I captured her on the front cross was very wide, but I got there and made the turn and was very pleased that my knee didn't complain. (It wasn't an official class exercise but I wanted to see whether I could do it. The diagram shows Tika's path in red solid, mine in blue dotted. Squares are 10 feet. Distances are my rough recollections from 2 nights ago.)

By the end of the evening it was feeling a little achey, though, so I didn't stay for the last run, but I have no complaints--except that I really felt those additional 6 pounds I've put on since my knee surgery (from being sedentary AND eating too much crap).

Boost's Thursday class was cancelled due to rain again, so I haven't had class with her for 2 months, argh! Instead I went to physical therapy, and walked nearly a mile at a brisk pace in 15 minutes on the treadmill, then did 6 minutes of exercycle but knee was starting to complain then--plus there had been all the other assorted quad exercises before that. But I did all kinds of things that I wasn't able to do without pain the last time I was there--gee, a whole month ago, December 7--and haven't been able to do even for a couple of months before the surgery. So i guess I really am making progress.

It was sore and stiff Thursday night/Friday morning, but just a very little bit--I want to emphasize that--and by afternoon it felt fine, and I worked out with the dogs a little in the yard and did fine, and walked into the Home Show and was on my feet for 3 hours working the Home Composting Education booth, so I'm getting so close to normal! Wahoo!

Dogs are dying for more exercise and entertainment, though. So, instead, tomorrow I'm taking Tika and Boost to get tattoos, which I'm sure they'll love. They'll be big hearts that say "Mom". OK, kidding, they'll be ID numbers as additional backups to their microchips and ID tags. I really want my dogs to come back to me if they get out.

Meanwhile, I'm already starting to fret about whether we'll qualify for the Nationals again! Tika has one Grand Prix qualifier and needs one more; needs 2 Steeplechases; needs Team. Boost needs everything. And we had to cancel out of two trials in October with GP and Steeplechase because of my knee, so our opportunities are fewer and fewer... argh! I hate this! We just hardly got back from Scottsdale and already I'm thinking about next November! Sighhh

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