Looking Back at First Agility Trials

28 Nov 2009Steve Schwarz

I was consolidating data from my various old computers in preparation to loading my new laptop and I found videos of Mr Peabody and Milo’s first agility trials. Watching them was fun, embarrassing and enlightening. I thought I’d share the video and some of my thoughts.

Mr. Peabody 2000-Oct

Mr Peabody and my first trial was at Car-Dun-Al on 29-Oct-2000 (yep almost 10 years ago). It was an AKC trial with Joan Marec as judge. It was inside a gymnasium, probably on obedience matting. According to my notes we only entered JWW and he qualified with a 3rd place in Novice-A.

Looking at the video I’m struck by my old handling style (don’t think it would count as a “system”!), lots of shoulder pulls, off side arms and I’m late in my cues. I’d also finish Mr. P around my back to resend him to the weaves on my left side :^) But Mr. Peabody didn’t care though, he had a few seconds of fun running around and I’m sure I was very happy at our first Q. I’m certain I showed the whole family the video. Once Mr. P deemed me “acceptable” to work with :^) he would do whatever I asked. Back then we trained once a week at class and I would set up a jump or two in the backyard. I might have made some stick in the ground weave poles. So any success we had was solely due to Mr P’s abilities.

Milo 2001-Feb

Milo was more explosive running than Mr P but he’d also tire himself out. Mr. P always left some “gas in the tank” so he could be ready for more action. I love Milo dearly, but in some ways he is the dumb jock, if he just puts more energy into whatever he is doing it has to be better (aka he goes to 11). With Milo I started to think I knew “stuff” about agility and he progressed quickly through classes. We practiced more and I’d get ring rentals occasionally. He could rocket around an agility course in practice beautifully.

Since Mr. P’s trial had gone so well I decided to enter them both at the big IKC show in Feb 2001 at the McCormick Convention Center in downtown Chicago. All our agility friends were going and I thought it would a nice debut for Milo.

So many lessons learned with Milo at that trial! First off the environment was just overwhelming for him. Class courses on grass outside with a dozen other dogs around (we had multiple rings going at once in class) are a long way from a convention center with bleachers full of spectators surrounding the ring! In jumpers he took one jump, and then I couldn’t convince him to go in the tunnel. Then he spotted his Mom filming and ran to her. At least I knew enough to not try to force him to complete the course so I ran for the exit and he happily came with me.

Standard was more comical, it started with the tire, which he wouldn’t jump. I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the first time we’d had a course start with the tire. Then I sent him into the wing of a jump (he probably hadn’t seen a wing jump like that before either). So I stopped the run and we ran to the exit.

So even though I had this powerful, fast dog when working in our comfortable areas, Milo was still a puppy in his head and the “big show” was too much for him. It was really dumb of me to even think of starting him at that trial. Luckily he was no worse off for the experience.

Many years later I had learned some things before Meeker’s first trial. I didn’t trial him until he was proficient on all the equipment. I waited to show him until there was a trial at the facility in which he trains weekly. We’d been to fun runs at that and other facilities. He’d been exposed to agility in different facilities and I could crate him in a comfortable and quiet location. So for him his first trial was almost a non-event. It was just running a course in a very excited state, he did get very excited in the trial atmosphere. I tried to set him up for success. I also had no expectation for qualifying or placing, just getting around the course was all I was looking for.

So I guess I’m saying I learned to pay more attention to my dog’s needs and not the abilities of other teams our age, nor the calendar, nor my ego. The challenge for me is always to stay confident in our abilities as a team while not letting any success we have go to my head…

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