Monday, March 01, 2010

Now What?

SUMMARY: Losing it about agility. A longish and introspective post.
Friends know that I've been saying for several years that I'm doing too much agility and I miss my old life and I'm going to cut back on the agility.

Well, I have...from a high of 23 weekends in 2003 down to 18 last year. Last year was tough because a couple of those weekends were because the dog or dogs were injured or other oddball reasons, and I was sad and frustrated at the time.

But, as weekends have gone by, with and without agility, and has the "without" weekends have at first hurt but then became gifts of free time, I have come more and more to realize:

  • How much I hate getting up at 4 in the morning.
  • How much I resent agility taking almost all my vacation days.
  • How stressed I am trying to get in full weeks of work around agility weekends; there is no time for me, ever, it seems.
  • How much I like being around my house and yard with NOTHING SCHEDULED except maybe a movie with a friend.
  • How much I can catch up on, or just relax and enjoy, in a weekend at home.
  • How relaxed I feel during the week when there's no trial the following weekend.
  • How much I enjoy doing things OTHER than agility, like I always used to BEFORE agility.
  • How much happier I am to have money to spend on something other than agility once in a while.
  • How tired I am of fine-tuning dogs' agility performance. I mean, I *tried* to start Boost right, like with Susan Salo's approach to learning jumping. Maybe didn't do as much of it as I should have, because at some point she started knocking those bars, and now it's drudgery for me to try to fix it. I know all the advice that says that you should make ways to make training fun for you as well as for the dog, but, well, OK, it isn't.
  • How crushed I was at deciding--because of Tika's on-again off-again pains and aches-- not to take Tika to the nationals in Performance although she'd had an excellent year...and regretting it and regretting it and regretting it... until she came up injured at that trial just a couple of weeks after when Nationals would have been, completely justifying my reluctance to go. And suddenly it was like I'd been let free from something I'd thought I was chasing. Of course it helps that the USDAA Nationals aren't within driving distance any more.

I've felt that I was coming to this point for a very long time, and I'm starting to think that I'm actually here: I want most of agility out of my life.

We'll see how I do when the USDAA trials start coming fast and furious later in the year. I still want to do some, just REALLY not 18 weekends a year of it!

Which leaves me with the question: So, what do I do with these crazy driven dogs who love agility for so many reasons? I mean, I love agility, too. I've developed such an amazing rapport with all of my agility dogs that I never had with them as pets--and I was pretty close with my "merely" pet dogs. Agility keeps me physically active, which is crucial for me. It burns off their energy. It gives us an excuse to really focus on each other individually. And I've met so many wonderful people whom I now consider my friends--although I almost never see any of them except at agility events. Because they're all always doing agility! There are a lot of laughs and good times in agility.

I'm thinking that, if I take a weekend and don't do agility, I should do somehting else with them. Like, drive an hour to a park where they can run off leash and spend 2 or 3 hours hiking and drive back. Of course, there goes half a day of my weekend right there, and it might very well be a solitary effort rather than with dozens of friends who are all interested in each other and each other's dogs.

Conversely, there's a lot of pain in agility. Dogs die. People's goals are thwarted (mine, too). People and dogs injured. This is all really a very small part of agility, but at times now it feels constant constant constant, and maybe that's a sign of where I am, that the pain grows instead of simply being dips in the background from which one recovers.

I had decided not to do any agility in March... easy enough because it's just 2 of the 4 or so CPE trials I had figured on doing for the year... and now I find that I am looking towards the 4-day trial in April both with excitement (it's a big, fun, exciting event) and trepidation (it's four frigging days of agility).

I dunno. I'm trying to take some time off from agility. I'm trying not to think "but my dogs are getting older and their agility lives are short." I'm trying to remember that, by the time these dogs are gone (gods willing), I'll be in my mid-60s. My arthritic knees aren't getting any better. MY life is going to be short enough, no matter how long it is. I have so much else I want to do in my life and I'm not getting it done.

I think I'm thinking out loud. I think I'm coming to where 230 weekends of agility competition (not to mention seminars and fun matches and classes) over 14 years have just worn out their welcome.

I started agility classes for something fun to do with Remington because he needed more exercise and more of a mental workout than simply tricks and playing in the yard were giving him. It certainly did that. I had never intended to compete, just keep going to classes every week for the fun. Don't know whether I could go back to just that.

Anyway--feels like I'm at a crossroad and I'm not yet entirely sure which direction I'm headed. There will be agility--heck, Tika and I could try again this year for Top Ten!--heck, Boost might actually someday earn a Jumpers Q and her MAD title! (I've almost given up on a championship)--but, like any addict, I'm trying to find a way to do it in true moderation without going cold turkey. Don't know whether that's possible.

Ah, well, yes, Scarlett, tomorrow is another day!

List of competition weekends and number of runs each

Click to see larger images.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Taj MuttHall Year In Review: 2009

SUMMARY: Statistics and observations for the year.

Trials competed in: 16. My lowest number since 2000 (with a high of 23 in 2003). So made some progress on my vow to do less agility and more of The Rest of Life.
  • CPE: 4 trials, one of which was only 1 day. Tika didn't participate in 2 because she was sore. Boost didn't participate in one because she was sore.
  • USDAA: 12 trials, one of which was only 1 day.

Runs: 270
  • Tika: 139, 76 of them Qs
  • Boost: 131, 30 Qs
  • CPE: 42, 32 Qs
  • USDAA: 228, 74 Qs

Tika titles earned:
  • GCH-Silver (Gamblers Champion silver, 25 Qs in championship)
  • TM-Platinum (Tournament master platinum, 50 Qs with at least 10 in each tournament class)
  • SACH-Silver (Standard champion silver, 25 Qs)
  • PR3 - Performance3 Relay (equals RM in championship, 5 Qs)
  • ATD - Accomplished Tournament Dog (equals TM in championship, 10 Qs with at least 2 in each of the 3 tournament classes)
  • PK3 - Perf 3 Snooker (equals SM)
  • JCH-Silver (Jumpers Champion silver, 25 Qs)
  • ADCH-Silver (equals 5 ADChs -- 25 Qs in each of 5 regular classes plus tournaments)
  • PG3 -  Perf 3 Gamblers (equals GM)
Boost titles earned:
  • CPE CL4-S (strategy games, level 4)
  • RCH (relay champion--10 Qs)
  • GM (gamblers master--5 Qs)
  • SAM (standard agility master--5 Qs)
  • TM (Tournament master--10 Qs with at least 2 in each of the 3 tournament classes)

  • Tika earned all those P3 titles only between March and September, moving gradually into Perf as she completed silver in each Championship classs.
  • After only 6 months in Performance, Tika is just one Standard Q away from her PD3 (MAD equivalent) and actually needs only 3 standards and 4 Jumpers for her APD (ADCH equivalent).
  • Tika qualified for Nationals in all three tournaments (Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and Team)--in BOTH championship and Performance!
  • Of Tika's 6 performance Snooker Qs so far, 5 have been Super-Qs.
  • Boost qualified in Steeplechase 3 times this year--which is 3x more than she had qualified in her entire preceding agility career. ( I mean, before 2009, she had only ever qualified once.)
  • Boost might hold the record for the most consecutive Masters Jumpers runs with no Q (36). But we keep coming very close--might get some someday!

Buster Cubes cracked open: 1 (as of this morning. Congratulations, butthead Boost.)

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Monday, September 28, 2009

About Tika

SUMMARY: May I brag? And list some statistics, too?
Just occurred to me: Hmmm, OK, Tika has been in Performance only since the end of April, but she's done very well in Steeplechase, Grand Prix, and Snooker, and I wonder where she shows up in the Top Ten listings? So I go to the USDAA page and look:

Heh, cool. I know we won't hold this (especially after this past weekend's Snooker disaster, and especially because I'm not planning on doing that many more trials this year, and also because who's likely to beat us at most trials? Hobbes and Brenn), but it's always fun to see our name in lights: Top Ten Performance 22" Snooker as of roughly the end of August.

Although, oh, interesting:
  • According to my records, in the last 3 trials we've earned another 13 points that aren't on there (but then, so has probably everyone else).
  • Out of Tika's 8 P3 Snooker runs, four have been Super-Qs (jeez, wish we could'a done that in Championship!).
  • Because I mucked up something in my database, I just realized that Tika earned her P3 Snooker title LAST trial! Woot all over again!

Not bad, for only a partial year. Not bad, for a dog who took 36 tries to get her first 3 Super-Qs in Championship.

How about Tournament Top Ten? Pfah, nothing listed on the web site that I see. But she has Qed in 6 out of 7 Performance Grand Prixs to date, and 5 out of 7 Steeplechase. Not bad, for a dog who Qed in only 11 out of the 42 Championship-level Steeplechases she entered--almost all the non-Qs with 5, and sometimes 10, faults. Now we're clean. Go figure. We like 22".

So how is my challenging, attention-deficit, fun-loving and now-getting-reliable Tika girl doing in comparison to other dogs? According to this USDAA page:
  • Only 192 dogs have ever earned the Silver ADCH.
  • Only 247 dogs have ever earned their Tournament Master Platinum.
  • If/when Tika finishes her LAA-Silver (only, hrm, 28 Qs to go), that's be one of only -- uh-- don't know because that's not listed on that page or anywhere that I'm finding. Gol dang.
Compare that to 9,946 dogs who have ever earned their Agility Dog (Novice) title, and who knows how many more who've competed some and never gotten even that far.

I think we're doing pretty OK.

Tika's Round 2 Steeplechase run from Sunday. Fairly smooth, not super-fast. It's 7:30 in the morning and we're starting behind the jump right in the center of the video, and I lead out towards the left.
My only real handling faux pas is that I was going to go for a front cross before the blue tunnel but wimped out--which was stupid, because I ended up coming to a complete stop and waiting for her, so I had plenty of time to get there and probably would've eked another second or so of speed out of things. Not sure it would've mattered--1st place dog was 4 seconds faster.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Last Weekend, This Week, This Weekend

SUMMARY: Surviving in agility

Last weekend's summary:

1 Q for Boost out of 9 runs (Pairs. Yeah, well, I got a million of 'em. Need some other kinds of Qs, please, thank you very much).

3 Qs for Tika out of 9 runs (Pairs; Gamblers, in which she placed 2nd of 15; Snooker, in which she placed 2nd of 14 for a Super-Q). Also got 3rd of 17 in the other Gamblers--high opening points but only 2 dogs got the gamble.

Human Mom forgot course or blatantly mishandled, resulting in non-Qs:
3 on Saturday of 10 runs:
* Boost's Standard, overran a rear cross for a refusal, our only fault!
* Tika's Steeplechase, got ahead in wrong place and pulled her offcourse--not our only fault, but our only offcourse fault
* Boost's Steeplechase, forgot where I was going & sent her off course. Boost was clean in what I asked her to do.

3 on Sunday of 8 runs:
* Tika's standard: Forgot to do key front cross, so course looked wrong, so pulled her off obstacle for a refusal. Our only fault.
* Boost's Grand Prix: Tried for a tough serpentine and wasn't even close, causing a chain of disasters on that & ensuing 2 jumps; the rest of the course was clean.
* Boost's Jumpers: Tried to front cross in wrong place, therefore sending boost past a jump that she then backjumped.

I have seldom been so frustrated with myself. I'm not always perfect, but this was one disaster after another.

And then there were the Tika issues--the Tika's Evil Twin issues--
* Tika's Pairs: Missed dogwalk up (ok, sometimes happens) and FLEW off dogwalk down. Luckily we still qualified.
* Tika's Saturday Standard: Knocked 2 bars, FLEW off the dogwalk, FLEW off the Aframe, putting her way ahead of me so she turned back to me instead of taking the next obstacle, earning a refusal.
* Tika's Steeplechase Rd. 1: Hit the broad jump, knocked a bar, flew off the Aframe.
* Tika's Grand Prix: I was on her correct side coming down the dogwalk, working hard to get her to hit the contact, which she did, but barely slowed down and zoomed into the wrong side of the next tunnel although I YELLED "Tika! TIKA! TIKA!!" because I know that "COME!" doesn't work for her. Now, apparently, "Tika!" doesn't, either.
* Tika's Jumpers--only class at 26"--the only Q she STILL needs for her ADCH-Silver--. Got her out early. Used a handful of food plus toy to do bar-knocking drills on a 26" jump. All kinds of angles & directions & crosses & everything. She was great. Then in the run, she knocked the 2nd jump. The rest of course was perfect.

I could hardly believe it; she has been running so beautifully at 22" with hardly a fault. How could my weekend come to this?

I am abashed to admit that I finally could hold it back no more and sat in MUTT MVR for about 10 minutes--twice--and sobbed. It's been a long time since I gave in to that impulse, but in fact it got to where I couldn't NOT cry, and I didn't want to be taking it out on my dogs or on other people. It was so hard to be cheerful with my dogs when I felt like such a failure as a handler and a trainer. And I KNOW that I just came off of two or three really great weekends, and Boost actually ran very well this weekend, and I REALIZE that my dogs are happy, healthy, love doing agility, love being with me, and are still relatively young.

I blame it on 4 hours of sleep Friday night, 5 Saturday night. Various reasons for sleeplessness, a good portion of which was the heat. And I'm sticking to that story. Like I was sticking to the sheets.

So this week I'm just not feeling motivated to practice. (OK, I wasn't feeling motivated last week, either.) I did rearrange things to practice some gambling yesterday based on Saturday's gamble that almost no one got (despite this being the 3rd time in about a year that we've seen almost this exact gamble). And of course dogs did everything perfectly almost every time, even as I made it harder. Bah.

I should be doing a billion rear crosses with Boost. I should be doing a zillion contacts with Tika--although she's always perfect here and in class and seldom in competition, it would be good to get a lot of reminders into her head.

I should at least be doing SOMETHING agility-like with the dogs all week.

BECAUSE this weekend is the Southwest Regional! Three and a half days of agility! In which Boost will not be competing for the gorgeous Grand Prix winners cups because we couldn't get a single bloody grand prix leg all year!

Starting Friday night with Pairs, then all day Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, down in Prunedale again. We're praying it won't be anywhere near as hot as it was last Saturday!

Here's what I've said about Nationals: If Boost wins local GPs and/or Steeplechases, or wins or places at the regionals, I might reconsider going to Nationals. She's been running so much better these last 3 weeks, it seemed like it might be a possibility. But between us, so far no luck. At least she's earned ONE measly mumble mumble Steeplechase Q so far, so can compete in THAT this weekend.

Tika is on a Performance DAM team with our old nationals partner Brenn. They could do well--they have before (won earlier this year; also finals at Nationals a few years back). They could crap out--they have before, and Brenn is coming off of several weeks of rest for an experimental bone marrow transplant (I think) to try to help her recurring arthritis pain. Our team name: "Here We Go Again."

Boost is in a DAM team with new partners Sheila--not super fast but pretty darned reliable black & white Border Collie--and Cayenne--pretty danged fast but (her Human Mom claims) not so reliable--a red and white Aussie. We'll be "Cayenne Boosts a Sheila."

Attendance is down--10% fewer dogs than last year, which had 10% fewer dogs than the year before. Economy? Agility fatigue? Less reason to attend since 1st place no longer earns a bye into the finals at nationals? Dunno.

In 2007: ?529 dogs, 340 humans, 4670 runs, 75 championship DAM teams, 41 PVP DAM teams.

In 2008: 487 dogs, 313 humans, 3939 runs, 64 teams, 26 pvps

This year: 430 dogs, 298 humans, 3598 runs, 59 Teams, 37 PVPs

Not that I'm complaining; should make the weekend not quite so long and exhausting, but still--we're losing a bit of that feeling of the Nationals Warm-Up Event for all the people & dogs who show up who might also be at Scottsdale.

I'll be on score table, as usual. I'll be sleeping over in MUTT MVR instead of driving the hour home every evening.

I'll be trying to recapture the I'm Doing This For Fun feeling. Because, really, why else do it? I have enough stress in my life without VOLUNTEERING for more stress.

See you all there.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obstacle Times

SUMMARY: Are we competitive? Are we excellent? Or are we just dawdling along?

Kathy Keats has did a lot of work over several years accruing statistics on how quickly dogs do various agility obstacles. She was one of the first to start treating agility as a professional sport, where details like exactly how fast your weaves are or how quickly you cover ground is extremely important competitive information.

The latest post that I've seen of her data goes back to 2004; I've tried Googling for more recent info and haven't found any. Anyone seen anything more recent?

AGILEDOGS Digest - 23 Aug 2004 - Special issue (#2004-679)

From Kathy Keats

These have changed quite a bit in the last year or

Respectable 2.5
Competitive Less than 1.8
Excellent 1.3

Dog Walk
Respectable 3.0
Competitive Less than 2.2
Excellent 1.6 (fastest big dogs are pushing 1.4)

Respectable 2.0
Competitive Less than 1.5
Excellent 1.0 (big dogs only)

Weaves - a lot of people think that weaving is faster than it is. In
the 60 weave pole challenge dogs are going just over 12 seconds for 5
sets of poles. 12 seconds divided by 5 is 2.4. Although you can argue
the dogs slow down as they get tired, even a dog weaving at 11 seconds
which no one has come near yet is only going 2.2 seconds per set. The
first 3 poles of a set requires the dog to slow a tiny bit and get his
Respectable 3.5 to 4.0
Competitive Less than 3.0
Excellent Less than 2.5

Taj MuttHall times

I'm operating off the videos with a stopwatch, rather than working in real life with electronic timers, so it's hard to know how valid these numbers are. Here's how I timed them:

Contacts: From first paw hitting the obstacle to first paw on the ground on the other side.

Weaves: Head past first pole to head past last pole.

I thought that Boost's contact obstacles were significantly faster than Tika's; in execution, to my great surprise, they're very close on the Aframe and the Dogwalk because Boost runs up from the bottom and down to the end while Tika flies onto the up ramp and leaps off the down ramp in her "modified running contact." The main differences are the teeter and the weaves.

Here's what I got:

Aframe: 1.6 seconds
Dogwalk: 2.4 seconds
Teeter: 1.3 seconds
Weaves: 3.3 seconds

Aframe: 1.55 seconds
Dogwalk: 2.4 seconds
Teeter: 1.18 seconds
Weaves: 2.5 seconds

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How Many Trials?

SUMMARY: Just don't ask how much it all cost.

This last weekend was my 200th trial.
  • 106 USDAA
  • 54 NADAC and/or ASCA
  • 40 CPE

Taken another way:
  • 12 with only Remington (when I first started agility)
  • 66 with Remington and Jake
  • 6 with Remington, Jake, and Tika
  • 1 with Remington and Tika (Jake on injured reserve)
  • 69 with Jake and Tika
  • 11 with only Tika (while Jake was retired from USDAA but not CPE)
  • 1 with Jake, Tika, and Boost
  • 34 with Tika and Boost

Taken another way:
  • 6 in 1996
  • 7 in 1997 (broke foot and was out for months)
  • 10 in 1998
  • 11 in 1999
  • 14 in 2000 (back injury, continuing into the next year)
  • 17 in 2001
  • 18 in 2002 (skipped Nov/Dec with Rem's cancer)
  • 23 in 2003 (we all stayed healthy)
  • 21 in 2004 (I started vowing to cut back)
  • 20 in 2005
  • 18 in 2006 (knee injury/surgery kept me out Oct/Nov/Dec)
  • 19 in 2007
  • 13 so far in 2008, with only 2-3 more planned

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Who Are You and Why Are You Paying All That Money?

SUMMARY: Who we are and how much money we're paying. (Duh!)

I can thank my Dad again (nonagility parents who've been pretty faithfully slogging through my blog) for today's topic; he responded to my Statistics post:

Okay - Interesting.
* Are there statistics on the handlers?
* How many have serious problems with their lower limbs, from the hips down?
* What are their ages?
* How much would they have to spend, just on entry fees (forget travel and motels, restaurants, etc.) just to get all of the required wins to be a lifetime champion?
* How does the organization get all of those handlers to fork over that much money?

It sounds as though you really, Really, REALLY enjoy the whole thing. Keep it up.

I do enjoy it, or I guess I wouldn't keep at it even on the discouraging days.

Our club has no stats like that on the handlers. We need the dogs' ages because they can't enter until they reach a certain minimum age, but there are no restrictions on handlers' ages. We've seen some VERY young handlers move dogs around the course better than I can. Brats.

Clean Run (the agility magazine) did a demographics survey in 2003 and published a summary of the results in their January 2004 issue: "90%...are female and between 31 and 60 years of age. 40% are between 41 and 50. 80% chance that you live by yourself or with only one other person. 48% chance that you have been competing for more than 4 years. 36% attend 12 or more trials a year." [Wait--their phrasing is unclear... last one might be 52%.]

I've often wondered about the lower limbs thing; if you just sit and watch some of the classes at a USDAA trial, particularly at the Masters level, you'll see an amazing number of knee supports. There are also--somewhere out there in the world--an estimated 50-80 people doing agility from a wheelchair or similar device. Seems like half the people I talk to have had knee surgery of some kind. But is that from agility or is that because of the age demographic or maybe just because the people who do agility have always tended to be very active in sports and maybe it's a lifetime of pounding on the knees? Interesting question.

How much would one have to spend...? Yeah, like I really want to know that answer. When that topic comes up, our universal response is "don't go there." I think we'd all just about turn inside out if we added up everything we've spent doing agility. I have a fairly good idea of how much I spend in a year, because I have a household budget in my computer, but I try not to add up all the pieces (e.g., gas costs go into my "vehicle" budget, stuff like that). Entry fees are a big chunk of it, but I don't know that it's more than 50%. There's all the equipment and/or the lessons or field rentals and traveling to class every week (or twice a week...or three times a week...) and extra seminars and training treats and, well, like that.

I've periodically threatened to add up everything I've spent on agility, but then my heart quavers and I go back to burying my head in the chute (hey, does that work as an analog to "sand"? Maybe?).

It's a lot.

It's not a low-income sport.

We fork over the money because we like doing it. We gripe about it when the sanctioning organization raises its fees, or insists on higher fees for no apparent reason. (For example, why does our club have to charge $20 to enter the Grand Prix when it's exactly the same as a Standard course which we charge only $12 to enter? Because USDAA says so, that's why. Bay Team tried to lower it once--because really, we make quite a bit of money on our regional, at least-- and they said, Uh-uh, you have to charge the higher rate.) There are occasional mostly joking comments about "Ken [the president/owner] has kids to send to college," but in the case of Tournament fees, I don't get it, because USDAA doesn't profit from the excess fees, the club does. I dunno how much Ken really makes in a year from this. I've never seen what kind of house he lives in or what kind of car he drives or where his kids go to college. It's not a public corporation, so the books aren't open.

So how do they convince us to pay it? Well, some people pay to enter bridge tournaments every Tuesday night. Some people pay to go to movies every weekend (wait--I do that, too!). Some people pay to learn how to jump with their horse and compete (like my sister and nieces). Some people pay to play golf. I dunno, it's just something that I do that costs money. Bummer on that score.

But I'm still here, having survived since my first view of agility, up at Power Paws in early Spring 1995, when I went up one evening to see what it was all about, and took in the bright lights, and the beautiful, brightly colored equipment in a rainbow of patterns across the lush green grass, and dogs doing the most amazing things--and off-leash, too! and running full out, too! and everyone having a good time, too!-- that I doubted I could ever get my dog to do but, oh!, wanted so badly to try!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Trial Statistics Because I Can

SUMMARY: I love it when trial secretaries extract interesting info from the trial database!

So I'll share the info for this weekend's Bay Team CPE trial with you again, because I know you care. (And, for the more studious of you, you can compare and contrast with my stats from our USDAA trial 2 weeks ago.)

Total dogs entered: 204 (but usually there's a small set each day that enters only one day, so Saturday has 179 dogs, sunday has 173).

Classes: We offer 6 classes a day of the 7 defined by CPE, although CPE restricts dogs to 5 runs a day. That way, we can more easily distribute the classes among 3 judges in 3 rings, plus people can choose what they really want to enter. This time, we're offering 2 Standard, 2 Snooker, 2 Jackpot (Gamblers), 2 Jumpers, 2 Wildcard, and one each Colors and Full House.

Experience Levels: The trial sec didn't pull out the number of dogs by level, but just f'rinstance, in Saturday's Standard (which tends to be the largest class):
* Level 1: 23 (complete beginner)
* Level 2: 26
* Level 3: 29
* Level 4: 18 (Boost's level)
* Level 5: 22
* Level C: 20 ((championship), Tika's level)

Number of runs: 1482 for the weekend. That's only about 240 per judge per day, a moderate level.

Weather: It's supposed to get up into the mid-80s. Yuck. But it could be worse. And dang all that smoke; wonder whether it's clearer 2 hours north of here?

Most common breeds:
* All American (39)
* Australian Shepherd (34)
* Border Collie (26)
* Sheltie (21)
* Golden Retriever (12)
* Welsh Corgi (Pembroke) (7) (Bonus #6 on list of top 5)
The other 65 are scattered among 37 other breeds.

Ages: There's one 14-year-old dog entered, two 13, two 12-yr-olds, then the count rises as they get younger to peak at 41 4-yr-olds, with about 25 each at 2, 3, 5, and 6 years. (Dogs can't compete until they're a year and a half.)

Names: The most common dog's name is Sadie, with 3. 16 names are duplicated once, including Izzy and Ceilidh, for interesting ones that you might not guess would be duplicates. Place-type names: Two each of Sydney, Dakota, and Alaska.

Dogs per handler: 117 people are running only one dog, 35 are running 2, three are running 3, and two totally insane folks are running 4 each.

Our competition: The number of dogs in direct competition (same level and same jump height) to Boost looks like about 8; in direct competition to Tika, about -- um -- 1 or 2. (But both can vary by day and by class.) But note--that I actually consider, being a competitive sort of personage, ALL 204 DOGS to be in direct competition to my dogs. If Tika can't beat everyone at the trial in at least one class, I'll be gloomy.

Predictions: Tika will take a lot of first places.

What I'd like to do: Earn a perfect weekend--10 Qs (qualifying scores) each--for both dogs. Chances--for Tika, decent: She's done it once before and missed by one several times.

What I need: Since it looks like I'm mostly dropping out of CPE--not enough time or money to do both CPE and USDAA--I'm not focusing much on CPE titles. However, Boost needs:
* 1 Jackpot (Gamblers) to move up to Level 5 Jackpot (2 chances!)
* 2 Snooker to move to L5 (2 chances!)
* 4 Standard to move to L5 (2 chances)
* 3 Wildcard to move to L5 (1 chance)
* 4 Colors to move to L5 (1 chance--and she has to keep her bars up to get it)

Tika needs a megatruckload'o'Qs in everything to earn her CATE, and we might never get there with only a couple of trials a year. She's only halfway there. Oh, well. Most legs she can earn in any class, but she must first finish earning:
* 5 more Colors (danged bars)
* 3 more Wildcard
* 1 more Jackpot
* 7 more Jumpers (2 chances)

In total, she must earn (approx) 250 Qs; so far, she has 126. It'll be a lonnnng time getting there with only a trial or two a year. Can you say "14-year-old dog"?

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Smallish USDAA Trial This Weekend

SUMMARY: Some stats for your browsing entertainment.

Our trial this weekend is on the smallish side, for our USDAA trials.

Total dogs and DAM Team: Friday is DAM Team only, and there are only 115 dogs entered, which makes 29 Championship teams and 14 Performance teams (translation: Ch = higher jump heights and tighter times). We'll be running it in only two rings. This means that, on average, probably only about 15 Ch teams and 7 Perf teams will qualify for the Nationals. Boost really needs that Q!

Classes and total dogs: Saturday and Sunday we've got Steeplechase, Grand Prix, 2 Standards, 2 Pair Relays, 2 Jumpers, plus Gamblers and Snooker. An average of 280 dogs per day, and for these two days we add a third ring for the Starters and Advanced (intermediate-level) rounds.

Experience levels: Of the dogs entered, 57% are Masters level dogs, 27% are Starters level, and 16% are Advanced. It's pretty typical for the distribution to be like this, because once a dog get to Masters, she remains at that level for the rest of her agility career, so of course that class would be larger. Starters would be the next largest because any dog starting in agility has to start here, and stays here until they earn enough Qs to move up. Some percentage of dogs never pursue an "agility career." And it also seems that, once a dog/handler team has gotten it together enough to get out of Starters, they (usually) get through Advanced fairly quickly and on into Masters.

Number of runs: Saturday has over 1200 runs! That's 400 per ring, which can be a long day depending on how efficiently things work. On Sunday, fewer than 300 runs per ring and maybe we'll be out of there a little early.

Weather: It's supposed to be unseasonably cool tomorrow, but working its way back up to Hot Hot Hot over the next three or four days, so Sunday could be toasty. At least we should have a breeze.

Breeds: The five most-common breeds this weekend are 115 Border Collies, 35 Shelties, 34 Australian Shepherds, 19 All-Americans, 11 Golden Retrievers. The rest are scattered among 25 other breeds.

Ages: There's one 14-year-old dog entered, one 13, four 12-yr-olds, then the count rises as they get younger to peak at 49 5-yr-olds, 48 4-yr-olds, and 49 3-yr-olds. The older dogs amaze me. Jake was still running in CPE at 15, but not in USDAA--I believe he was 13 when I retired him from that. Remington lived only to 9.

Names: The most common dog's name is Chase, of which there are 4 entered. 22 other names are duplicated once. The most common human's name is Nancy, of which there are 6 entered. My sisters' names are Ann, Linda, Susan (or Sue), and Sharon, all of which except Ann appear in the Top Ten human names for the trial.

Jump heights: 150 dogs jump in the 22" height category (Boost's height), 80 in Tika's 26" jump height, 61 in the 16" jump height, and 28 in the 12" jump height. I keep thinking maybe my next dog will be a 12-incher, but I don't know what kind of dog! But there are a couple of cute ones in this group--from Nike Animal Rescue Foundation, through which both Remington and Jake passed at some point. But my requirement is that my next dog must be 6 years younger than Boost, and she's only 3 1/2, so we've got a ways to go!

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Big Show Statistics

SUMMARY: Haute TRACS 4-day trial is coming up; how big is it? And a comparison with our smallish March CPE trial (well--what Bay Team considers small). And a comparison to the February Turlock CPE trial (which was really tiny for around here).

April 10-14 is the mongo four-day Haute TRACS trial (technically, two 2-day trials hosted by Haute Dawgs and by Two Rivers Agility Club of Sacramento). This event is huge, even though it's not a regional. It's LIKE a regional but with a whole extra day! These people are insane! I signed up for only three of the four days because it kills me!

I'm always fascinated by trial statistics. (Well, you knew I had a sorry excuse for a life anyway.)

TrialHaute TRACSBay Team March CPEVAST Feb CPE
Dogs entered407201100 (est)
Number of runs / scribe sheets4,6301,383600 (est)
Most common breeds173 Border Collie
42 Australian Shepherd
39 Sheltie
24 All American (under assorted breed names)
12 Jack Russell Terrier
36 All American
33 Border Collie
28 Australian Shepherd
10 Welsh Corgi (Pembroke)
8 Sheltie
Most popular dog names4 Piper
3 Callie
3 Chase
3 Maddie
3 Murphy
3 Sadie
3 Sydney
People entered267155
Number of judges/rings5/43/31/2

I'm meeting with the secretary and friend(s) to assemble those scribe sheets this weekend. That's putting 4,600 stickers on individual sheets without getting anything out of order. Oh--and watching the Iditarod on TV! And eating! (Agility is all about the food. Contrary to what you might have ever heard me say before.)

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Database for Tracking Dog Agility Results

SUMMARY: What I track and how.

A reader asks what I track from my agility competitions, and how I track it. I'm a bit obsessive about some things, but in looking over other people's shoulders with their agility record books, I think I track the same sorts of things that detail-minded people track everywhere.

Available trackers

First, let me tell you what's available to the public at large that are used locally.

You can get very nice record books from DoggoneGood or from Clean Run (and probably other places as well).

Some of my fellow Bay Teamers are also creative in their record-keeping, and have made available their nifty trackers:
  • Member Karey Krauter's one-page crib sheet for tracking your progress towards USDAA, NADAC (older-style NADAC--could be used for ASCA), and AKC titles. (Print and mark up.)
  • Get member Holly Newman's nifty Excel spreadsheet for USDAA titles—you fill in the dates you Qed, it calculates what titles you've earned!
  • Get member Dave Connet's spiffy Windows program for managing your Qs and titles in most venues, free software! Because he's a nice guy! (Though he does ask that you make a donation to a local animal shelter or rescue group. And runs only on Windows, sorry.)
  • My paper tracking sheet, which I fill out at the trial (and later take home and put into my database, but you don't have to), is available here in Word format or PDF.

What I Track

You can see from my tracking form that I gather quite a bit of info. I track every run, whether I qualify or not, and whether it's even possible to qualify, because I am as interested in the things that we don't do well, not just titles. (Caveat: I don't do AKC, so any AKC-specific data isn't in my list.)
  • Trial info: Venue, host club, location.
  • Date of each run
  • Level
  • Class
  • Jump height: This used to be just for my own info, but now USDAA in particular has rules about participating in the Championships at the heights you earned the Qs.
  • Qualifying: Did I Q? Super-Q? Or not? Or is it a nonqualifying class? (e.g., DAM team Jumpers by itself isn't qualifying; runs at USDAA Nationals aren't qualifying.)
  • Placement and number of dogs competing directly against us: This was originally for fun for me, but in USDAA you can use this to calculate your Top Ten points and to figure out the number of Snooker Super-Qs.
  • Number of dogs running same course: Any height/any level; this isn't on my official tracking sheet, but sometimes I like to know that, although we competed against only 2 other dogs in our height and level, in fact 50 dogs of various heights and levels ran exactly the same course, so I can see where we fit more globally.
  • Judge
  • Faults or Elimination: I note just course faults, because my database calculates time faults using SCT and our time.
  • Our time: This is most useful in Standard and Jumpers, but in Pairs Relay, your team's score is time plus faults, and Gamblers and Snooker it may help to determine your placement and also give you an idea of how much time you had left in which you might have done something different.
  • Standard Course Time (SCT): In point-accumulation classes, this is the total time (e.g., opening plus closing in gamblers).
  • Best time: I vary on this; sometimes I note the time of the 1st place dog competing directly against us; sometimes I note the fastest dog competing directly against us but maybe they knocked a bar or had a refusal. Sometimes I go to the back of my sheet and note the fastest times of all heights and levels on the same course to get that global idea.
  • Yards: I wish I'd thought to track this from the very beginning, but I was more concerned then about whether we actually completed the course without faults and it never occurred to me to figure out whether our average yards per second (YPS) was improving, or where it fell in comparison to the rest of the world. (My database calculates YPS from Our time and Yards.)
  • Points: For gamblers and snooker, I note our opening and closing points and the best opening and closing points (usually from the first-place dog, but sometimes in gamblers the dog with the best opening points doesn't get the gamble; I write what I want to write, as this doesn't actually have any effect on any titles.)
  • Partner(s): Dog and human for pairs relay and DAM teams.
  • Handler: Not on my official tracking sheet, but if someone else runs my dog (like when I was injured but still entered), I note that.
  • Notes:
    • I always note what our faults were (e.g., "2 bars", "Aframe down"). I try to be specific about the circumstances, because that's what'll help me figure out what to work on to improve. (e.g., "I called her on top of both jumps", "I did running front cross on Aframe and she didn't bother stopping".)
    • I also note anything else that I think might help me--dog was faster or slower than usual (and maybe why); my physical problems; etc.
    • I also note things that I think are interesting and help me to put our success (or failure) in context, like "10 of 15 dogs Eed", "only 1 of 53 masters dogs got the gamble".
    • For snooker, I note our obstacle numbers--e.g., 1-4-1-0-1-7+2-5.
    • For Gamblers, I might note the opening time allowed and the point system used; might also note how many obstacles we did and of what type (e.g., 2 weaves, 2 contacts, 5 tunnels, 4 jumps). Quite a few people figure out how much they can do in a certain amount of time by counting obstacles; mostly now, though, I use other methods for figuring that out.
  • title earned: I figure this out manually.

My database calculates time faults, yards per second, USDAA Top Ten points.

Having the data in a database allows me to obsessively calculate things like what Q percentage did I earn at a trial. And to search in every possible way and get results back (e.g., "Tika, USDAA, Jumpers, Masters, sorted by date... or sorted by YPS", or "All of my runs that have ever earned any Top Ten points").

What I Use

I use my own database in FileMaker Pro. It's not ready for prime time--it's a mishmosh of experiments, old stuff that doesn't work any more and I didn't bother removing it, assumptions about what I need to enter to make it work correctly. I hesitate to offer to let anyone else have it because I have a feeling that it would fail miserably in anyone else's hands and be a frustrating experience. But I enjoy it.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Fun With Databases

SUMMARY: Tika and I are improving; the data proves it.

At each of the last five trials, Tika has come home with at least one new USDAA title. That reflects two things: one, we're right in the numbers where we just need a couple of legs here and there to fill in some of those titles; two, we're actually getting Qs more consistently. In fact, we're approaching a 50% Q rate over the last year.

Got me a-wonderin': It seemed like ages and ages between legs for Tika for the longest time. How long WAS it? So I turned to my handy-dandy database of all of my runs, ever, in agility, and figured the following about Tika's Masters level runs:
  • The first ten Qs took 62 tries over 12 months. (The length of time, of course, is somewhat reflective of how many trials are available and that we attend.)
  • The second ten Qs took 50 tries over 8 months.
  • The next ten took 31 tries over 4 months.
  • The next 10 took 21 tries over 4months.
  • The next 10 took 25 tries over 6 months. (oh--that included several runs where I couldn't run worth beans because of my knee and several more where we tried having Ashley run her and she'd have none of it. So these numbers are a little skewed.)
  • The next ten took 22 tries over 2 months.
  • This last weekend, we got another 5 out of 9 tries.

I like the way the numbers are going.

But it's going to be a while for more titles, most likely, because we're now entering the gap between 15 Masters legs per class (Bronze title in each class) and 25 Masters legs (Silver titles) per class. That's a lot of Qing for us. Although we could finish our Tournament Silver the first weekend in June if our re-reformulated team manages a DAM Team Q.

But here's what really intrigues me: My impression was that, of all those missed Qs, we've missed a million legs by single knocked bars or missing the dogwalk up contact--but no! Only 17 were single knocked bars, and 4 missed dogwalk ups! We've had combinations of those, and those with other faults, but our single-fault non-Qs aren't as many as I had thought.

However, if you toss in Grand Prixs... another 4 one-bar runs, another seven dogwalk-up-onlys. Huh--wonder what it is about the GPs and our dogwalks? Go figure.

Meanwhile, I'd love to have the consistency of Luka and Ashley, who have now won every major AKC event this year. Sucks that Norway won't let them in to be on the US World Cup Team because of her docked tail. We'll have a big celebration in class Wednesday night, though, I'm sure, for this latest win at the Tryouts. And I'll just have to keep remembering that I'm not Ashley, I'm me.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Tika's Masters Qualification Record

SUMMARY: Some statistics on Tika's qualifying and nonqualifying masters runs.

I keep all of my competition info in a database, and I can pull it out in various ways if I think it'll help me to understand where we need work. Here's a very simple list of nonqualifying (N), qualifying (Q), and Super-Q (S) runs in the various events. To read it, start at the top and go left to right.

For example, in Masters Relay (below right), our first run was a Q, followed by 4 nonqualifying runs, two qualifying runs, 5 nonqualifying runs, and so on.

This shows me that we've improved tremendously in Gamblers, have a real problem in Standard (and Snooker Super-Qs), and have made inroads into Jumpers. Then I could look at the detailed records to see what has been causing our NQs (which I've already done, over and over :-) ); might be interesting on this chart to also list "E" (elimination usually for off-course) NQs separately from mere fault NQs (e.g., knocking a bar or a refusal at an obstacle).

Gamblers Jumpers
12NQ 12NQ
9NQ 6N2Q
N3Q 4N2Q
10NQ 4N2Q
2NQ 2N3Q
Grand PrixSteeplechase
2Q 4NQ
2NQ 2N2Q
2N2Q 2N

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