R.A.C.E. Agility Trial - July 03 2005

04 Jul 2005Steve Schwarz

R.A.C.E Agility hosted a NADAC agility trial this past weekend in Crystal Lake, IL. The trial was held at an indoor soccer facility on artificial turf with rubber pellets. It was a nice soft surface with good traction for dogs and handlers. Normally we can have hot and humid weather this time of year, so I was glad for an indoor trial. Of course the weather was beautiful outside... sunny, highs in the low 80s and lower humidity.

I had only signed up for one day of this trial since I’ve been busy with the non-Agility part of my life a lot lately :^) If this trial stays in the same location next year I’ll definitely sign up for both days.

The trial moved along surprisingly quickly. The RACE folks started around 7:30 and we had run 5 courses by 3:00 PM. So I doubt I had as much as an hour of down time the whole day. To help pass the time I helped a little setting up the second Weavers course; I’d rather build courses than any other volunteer activity. As usual all the folks were nice and it was a very supportive atmosphere.

Novice Regular 1

After Milo’s jumping off the upside of the (non-slatted) dog walk at previous NADAC trials I was concerned with the straight on jump to dog walk opening. I made a point of having Milo see the up side of the dog walk and he showed no hesitation on the obstacle - leaving me in the dust. All his contacts were pretty sketchy, he was sliding down into the contact zones and not getting a solid 2o2o contact before releasing himself. I didn’t hold my criteria and let him go on…

I had good distance with him throughout the course. The gamble was a tunnel and a three jump arc which he took with no problem. So that gave us our first Novice Gamble points. He didn’t collect enough for the jump to weave entrance - he was moving fast and the jump was about 10 feet from the weave entry. So we had to restart the weaves.

So we ended up Q’ing the run, took 1st place, and Milo earned his Novice Regular title too. He was running the course at 4.8 yards per second which is pretty good for a standard course; he had the fastest time of all novice dogs by over a second. It was nice to earn two Qs but I’ll not let him skip a contact in NADAC again.

Open Jumpers

This course was what I now recognize as a classic NADAC Jumpers course. The opening was a three jump jump chute with a turn to the right with an off course fourth jump straight ahead. There was a Serpentine Serpentine SequenceSerpentine Handling Techniques in the middle and a five jump jump chute over 60-70 feet at the closing.

I had Milo setup with a slight offset to the first jump to help him not see the slightly offset fourth jump. Our start was strange. I used my usual start line ritual of having him “Finish” to my heel side and sit-stay. He kind of broke for the first jump as I went forward. I rocked back onto my back foot in surprise of him starting without me. He paused, took a step forward and jumped for the first bar… and knocked it. It is very strange because Milo never breaks from the start line without my verbal release…

So the rest of the course ran nicely. He turned easily away from the off course jump, I Rear Crossed Rear CrossLearning the Rear Cross going into the jump circle prior to the Serpentine. I Front Crossed on the landing side of the first jump of the Serpentine and pulled him through the other two jumps with a Post Turn Post Turn/Shoulder Pull/Pivot TurnLearning the Post Turn on the way to another jump circle. He looked briefly at an off course jump coming out of the Serpentine but a “Come” brought him back on track. The closing jump chute had one scary moment in the middle where Milo added a stride AND jumped early for a jump - I’m lucky he is so athletic. I was able to just keep ahead of him through jump 4 and sent him over jump 5. He was 1/2 a second slower than the fastest dog and was running at 6.6 yards per second.

Novice Weavers 1

Well the little work I did with Milo on running full speed into weave entries seemed to have paid off. He hit all his weave entries even when approaching at full speed. He did, however, pop out of the twelve pole weaves at the 10th pole with a tunnel looming directly in front of him. I had to bring him back twice and give him my “all the way” command (don’t think that is an official agility command…) to get him to stay in the poles.

I was further behind him than I’d planned at one set of poles, I had expected to be ahead of him at the end and pushing him out to the correct side of the next tunnel. But he was ahead of me and bolted from the last pole straight ahead and took the wrong entry before I could react. So a “Slow Handler” moment with some weave pole improvement but still more weaving training to do.

Novice Regular 2

I had decided I was going to insist on my contact criteria for this course. Milo slid so he had one foot into the A Frame down contact and jumped toward the next jump. I gave him an “ooops!” and brought him back around; he then positioned himself with a proper 2o2o contact.

Two jumps later was the teeter. He got into the yellow and bolted off again before getting in position. “Ooops!” and back around and into the correct position.

One jump and into the Gamble containing the Dog Walk. Well this time Milo must have realized I really meant “touch” - he stuck his 2o2o and only released when I asked him. Had we not been training in the ring we would have earned the Gamble points. He also didn’t hesitate at the “tip point” of the Dog Walk - I’m starting to think that because he could see it from the side as he approached he had no confusion as to which obstacle this was.

The course went through an arc of obstacles and into the weaves and I got way too far ahead of Milo - my original plan required that I pull him through the gap of the last poles and directly over the jump 90 degrees to the right of the weaves. I’d practiced many 90 degree weave entries but hadn’t done a 90 degree weave exit in a while. When he completed the weaves I turned and found that I was right in the middle of the jump and there was no way to get Milo over the jump… Doh! So it was “Good dog!” and out we went over the final two jumps.

So ultimately a success with our contacts and one “Bad Handler” moment.

Novice Weavers 2

Again Milo nailed all his weave entries and also stayed in the poles for all the weaves. This course was actually a little tougher than the other Weavers courses I’ve run (6 courses? :^). There were two sets of weaves parallel to one another with a U-shaped tunnel at the end of the weaves. After running weave - 180 degree tunnel - weave - 180 degree tunnel and back to the same weaves, the course then skips the tunnel facing the weaves and goes through a 180 turn directly into the other set of weaves. This was definitely the hard part of the course, the dogs had to “know” the tunnel was next and it was up to the handler to get the dog across the 15-20 foot horizontal distance from one set of poles to the other.

I faded horizontally from the first set of weaves as Milo was completing them; I’ve practiced it many, many times, and he stayed the course. So I was less 5 feet horizontally from the next set of poles when he finished. I stepped slightly forward and towards the far side of the weaves, called him to me and executed a Front Cross to turn him to the weave entry. Ended up with a nice weave entry as Milo shot across my feet.

The course ended with the weaves facing a straight on tunnel and the entrance of an off course U-shaped tunnel. He would exit the left side of the weaves and I wanted to also be on the left side to pull him towards me and into the correct tunnel. I was able to beat Milo across the tunnel preceding the final set of weave poles so I could be on the left side of the weaves. I wish I had a video of what happened as Milo came out of the weaves and rocketed to the right into the off course tunnel. That meant he turned away from me as I was moving to the left. I was probably thinking about celebrating our success and didn’t give him any command - I might even have had my right hand out; indicating the right side tunnel. By giving him a choice without a clear command I couldn’t fault him for choosing for himself…

So another bad handler moment that cost a Q… But Milo did his part perfectly!

Practice Tasks

I think I’m going to finally order two 15 foot tunnels so I can setup tunnel - weave, tunnel - jump - weave drills in my backyard. Luckily we got a small sales bonus at work last month… I’ll also look for a Fun Match somewhere we haven’t been before and try to treat it like a trial; to try to recreate that trial atmosphere.

So some of the same training issues to keep working on:

  • More jump chutes.
  • More contacts in high excitement environments.
  • Setup high speed weave entries - jump to weave also.
  • Work high distraction start line stays.

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