CPE - For Your Canine - Meeker's First Trial

14 Jul 2007Steve Schwarz

I had originally planned to wait until the fall before entering Meeker in his first trial. But due to a fortunate turn of events I took Meeker to his first agility trial two weekends ago. It was a CPE trial at For Your Canine in Schiller Park, IL.

In some ways this trial was a “perfect storm” for Meeker to make his debut:

  • Meeker has been good at practice
  • We train twice a week at For Your Canine so it is "home turf"
  • It was a single ring trial; so there are no distractions from dogs running in adjacent rings
  • I knew Nancy Reyes would set up the facility to allow dogs waiting in line to not see the dogs running on course; I don't want Meeker barking at other dogs running on course
  • CPE is a good low key venue for starting new dogs

The judge was Lisa Potts who is a judge in just about all the agility venues and I’ve shown under her before. I’ve found her courses to be fair and I like that she is patient yet moves the trial right along. Thanks to Lisa’s kindness she has allowed me to post the courses here for your reference.

I entered Meeker at Level 3, the highest level at which CPE allows you to start a dog. After asking around I felt Meeker didn’t really need the simplified rules at the lower levels (no teeter and no/6 weave poles). As it was he only had 6 weave poles on his courses all weekend.


On Saturday we ran Standard, Snooker, and Jumpers. I’ve combined all the runs into a single video below.


The standard run opened with a Pin Wheel and Meeker went a wide on the second jump - I could have used some deceleration to help cue him instead of the unnecessary Lead Out. This course featured the A Frame twice and you can see Meeker is “skittering” down the down side into his 2o2o. I’m still using Stride Regulators at home and in training. The CPE A Frame is also quite low and I think it threw him off. But it was a fine first run and all I could ask for. He Q’d and ended up taking first place.


This was my first time playing Snooker so I don’t have any hands on comparison to judge the course layout. I knew we had enough speed to go for the higher point value A Frame (4 pts) and it was near two of the red jumps that would set me up to go to the 5 pt weave poles. So in the opening I did the A Frame twice and then the weaves and then across the course to start the closing.

In review this was where I started doing what I always train not to do… I was letting Meeker off the A Frame without a solid 2o2o stop. I was getting carried away with the excitement of the competition. You’ll see in the video that I’m early releasing him.

He also sniffed at the tape on the weaves, which I’ve never ever seen him do before. But a number of dogs did that in this specific part of the course. Apart from my contact handling, I think we had a really nice closing on this course. He Q’d and took first place again.


Since Meeker had been doing well I figured I would try a two jump Lead Out on this course as it took an off course out of the picture. He held his stay nicely and this was a really nice run; a little wide in spots, but you can see him scrambling to pick up speed at points in the course. He Q’d again and earned a 3rd first place.

Saturday's Video


I hadn’t signed up for a second day since I wasn’t sure how Meeker would do. Since he did so well and they accepted day of show entries I entered on Sunday also.


In the video you can see me waiting to get solid eye contact from Meeker as we wait at the start line. I could hear the judge shifting behind me but he finally looked at me and I released him. He only paused so briefly at the bottom of the Dog Walk and you can see me hesitate for just a fraction of a second. I should have put him in a sit or down and worked the release on the flat… And then I let him run through the A Frame contact; actually it was a nice running contact, unfortunately that isn’t what we are training.

Meeker ran nicely and I was able to send him away from me to various obstacles. I think I was the only one to Rear Cross Learning the Rear CrossRear Cross on the way into the tunnel under the Dog Walk; but it set a nice line for him. He Q’d and took 1st place.


Wildcard is a CPE game where you run a course and choose between two obstacles at several points on the course. Each of the obstacle choices has a point value and depending on your level you need to take a certain number of higher and lower value obstacles at the choice points.

Again I had to wait for a while to get his focus at the start line. I used my body to cue and wait for the 2o2o at the Dog Walk and he was fine. He popped out of the second set of weaves; I was moving away at an angle and he could see the course didn’t go that way. We have worked weaves at many different distances and angles so I was a little surprised he popped; but he is still a novice dog… He did do the A Frame contact nicely. Q’d and another 1st place.


This was my favorite run of the weekend. Meeker gave me eye contact right away at the start line. I Rear Crossed on the opening and he let me push very hard on his line coming out of the tunnel as I accelerated across his path. I ended up waiting for him to Rear Cross on the final Pin Wheel, I was surprised to be there that early and probably could have Front Crossed Learning the Front Cross - VideoFront Cross instead. It was a nice run to cap off the weekend with another Q and a first place.

Sunday's Video

Lessons Learned

One of the benefits of trialing is it uncovers weaknesses in your training. Here’s the list of things Meeker and I need to work on:

  • Maintain my contact criteria!
  • 6 weave poles (I rarely practice on less than 12 weave poles). Which brings up the need to test 9 poles and other unusual combinations)
  • Tape on weave bases
  • Tighten up turns on 180s
  • Continue to work on start line focus

My “videographer” (Nancy) wasn’t available for the first runs of each day so I have friends to thank for filling in. It is hard to videotape in this facility because you can’t really get more than about 15 feet away from the ring. But everyone did a nice job! Thanks!


Sorry for the long winded article, I’m proud of the little guy. He’s come so far in only a year and I’m looking forward to us playing together for a long time to come.

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