Monday, February 29, 2016

And Then There Were Seven!

Tessa and I just had another perfect Agility weekend!  On Saturday I took Tessa up to Bella Vista just to run Snooker, and then we went back on Sunday to run Jackpot, Standard, and Snooker.

This judge really likes to set out challenging Snooker courses.  The first one on Saturday had a threadle in the course, and I think that is the first time I have ever seen a threadle in a CPE course.  Also, the double sided flags were back, and the jump that was second in the threadle was marked in both directions.  I had walked it several times incorrectly before someone discovered that Jump #5 was actually to be taken in the opposite direction.  I didn't really have much of a chance to walk it properly, but at least this time I was enough aware of those unclear areas on the course that I remembered.

Tessa was in a fine mood, and she did a great job!  She did her opening perfectly and ran the course without missing a beat.  Her back feet ticked the second jump in the #6 jump combo, but the bar did not go down!

Here is her run . . .

That is my only video of the weekend, although I do have some still photos to share.

I stayed to watch Stephanie run Jumpers with Oliver.  I was kind of bummed because the Jumpers course looked like a lot of fun and it had a lot of different jumps in it that we don't normally see, especially the broad jump.  Stephanie and Oliver did a lovely job, earning, I believe, their first Level 4 Jumpers Q!

On Sunday Tessa and I went back.  She was rarin' to go, which was good because we started with a very challenging non-Traditional Jackpot.  The judge said that the purpose of the game was "speed and greed".  Greed for points, that is!

There was no distance challenge in the game, but the closing had to be three, and only three, obstacles!  Not more, not less!  If the dog were to take a fourth obstacle, even if the handler did not ask the dog to take it, it would be an NQ!

So, in order to set up for a good finish, I had to figure out about where Tessa would be when the buzzer went off to end the opening!  I wanted her to be set up to take three obstacles in a row without any "ooops" obstacles!  Two of the closing obstacles would have higher point values - the first of the three would be tripled, the second would be doubled, and then the third had its regular point value.

I thought that Tessa and I could rack up enough points in the opening that I wouldn't have to worry about trying to make up any point deficit in the closing.  I made a plan that included a loop of jumps at the beginning to hit the 5 point jump combo twice.  That is always the fastest way for Tessa to get points in these games.  Then we took a double jump to the teeter.  That set us up for a nice pinwheel of a jump, a tunnel, and two more jumps, which set us up for our closing.

There was a tunnel off in the corner.  I figured that Tessa and I would get to that tunnel before the close.  My plan was this.  If the buzzer went off before that tunnel, I would skip it, and we would go straight to the dogwalk to close.  If the buzzer went off after the tunnel, but before the dogwalk, Tessa would close with dogwalk, jump, jump combo (counted as one obstacle).  But, if Tessa got to the dogwalk before the close, I would have her do a tunnel that was under the dogwalk at the end and then the single jump and the combo.

We got the tunnel in, and the buzzer went off a split second before Tessa mounted the dogwalk.  The judge did not call "close", so the dogwalk was part of our opening.  So, our closing was tunnel, jump, jump combo, and then table to stop the game.

The whole thing was just flawless!

The photographer caught a really cool photo in the midst of this run.  Tessa has never been super excited about tunnels.  She does them, but kind of with an "OK, I do this" attitude.  Just as she was coming out of the tunnel, I cued the jump that came into her sight as she exited the tunnel, and she came to life and burst into a run to go get that jump!

The photographer captured just that exact moment!

Such an awesome shot!

And then, the judge had offered us a bonus.  If, when the dog got to the table, but before touching the dog, the handler called to the judge, "My dog is a rockstar", or something to that effect, we got 5 bonus points for the table!

The photographer also got his cool picture at the moment I was calling out, "Tessa is a rockstar!"

By her wagging tail, it is obvious that Miss Tessa agrees!!

We Q'ed and got second place for that run!!

That was our 3rd Level 5 Jackpot Q.  We only need two more!!  I pray we get more non-traditionals!!  Aside from the fact that we have a better shot at qualifying in a non-traditional Jackpot, I love these unique judge-created games!  They are almost always the most fun games of the day.

After Jackpot, it was on to Standard.  Tessa and I don't need any more Standard Q's for our C-ATCH, but I am still going to run Standard with her because we have come to love it!

I was so happy to see all of the jumps that I had missed out on in the Jumpers course the day before.  The broad was in there, and the panel, and a triple!  Tessa and I both really enjoy variety in the jumps.

We had a bit of an adventure when we went in to start.  Just as we set up at the startline, as we had been instructed to do by the steward, it was discovered that something had gone wrong at the scoring table for the team ahead of us.

Tessa and I had 3 - 4 minutes to just chill in the ring together.  I sat on the floor next to her, and she sunk into a down and then rolled on her side.  I was petting her and talking to her.  It was so nice.  We had the whole ring to ourselves, and it was quiet and pleasant!

When the judge was ready, I got up and Tessa jumped up, ready to RUN!  Her run was flawless!  I think those few minutes just hanging there actually put her in the perfect frame of mind!

I'm really glad it was us and not a team that would have been stressed by such a delay.

Here is a photo from the Standard run.  Another burst of focus and energy as Tessa exited the weaves and headed for the next jump.

Tessa looks like a Border Collie in that picture!!

We got the Q, which is our 11th Level 5 Standard Q.

We were both tired after that and I considered scratching Snooker.  But . . . I figured we had just better stick it out and run it.  If I left, we would have to sign up for Snooker at another trial - maybe on a day when that would be all that we would run - and it didn't make sense to leave and make it necessary to do that.  Tessa could do it, although I knew she would not have the same vim that she had at the beginning of the day.  But I knew we could get it done.

The Snooker was difficult, too.  It took some planning and the opening I chose was going to require a lot of course coverage and jumping.

Tessa was slower than she had been earlier, but she was a trooper and she put her all into it.  We managed to qualify in spite of the fact that she did not finish #7 which was a jump-weave combo.  The buzzer went off just as she was entering the weaves.

No matter!  We didn't need those last 7 points!!  We qualified and got 4th place!

So . . . now we only need 2 more Snooker Q's!!

And then there were seven:  3 Wildcard, 2 Jackpot, 2 Snooker

That's it!!  We just may finish this C-ATCH this spring!!  It depends a lot on what we get as Jackpots, and on keeping Tessa's energy up to run late-in-the-day Wildcards . . . but we just may do it!!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Shaking off the Rust

Two Saturdays ago, I got together with some friends at the building to do some Freestyle.  It was difficult to decide which dog to bring.  Bandit is working on a new routine that is almost finished, and he could have used a run-through.  I am doing some discovery mode work with Tessa.  And I want to attempt the pre-Bronze dances for the Cyber Rally-O Dance Division with Dean.

Since he hadn't been out to do anything in a very long time, I elected to take Dean.

Dean was plainly thrilled to go.  And when we got to the building, he came in and dashed into the crate, eager to get out on the floor and do something!

When I took him out and started working patterns with him, he was eager and excited.  However . . . as I started to taper back the food I immediately noticed that he was not as "sharp" as he typically is.  He was losing motivation and focus almost right away.  And on the left turns and circles, he was actually forging out ahead of me and disconnecting!  Dean's left turns and circles have always been among his very best, and favorite, skills!

I realized that Dean and I have done absolutely no duration work whatsoever since last summer!  He has done little fitness exercises, and tricks and so forth in the house, but we have not done heeling, nor worked on any aspects of performance that would keep his duration skills fresh.

Dean and I have gone for long periods of time before without a whole lot of training and I have never seen his skills deteriorate to this point before.  It was really a rude awakening.  I realized that I am either going to need to start working with Dean on a regular basis and shake off the rust, or I am going to have to let performance with him go altogether!

We did manage to get a good take to submit for the Dance Division.  We stuck with the Multi Circle Waltz, which is the most straightforward pattern at pre-Bronze.  I completed the whole pattern with my hands on my hips, and that helped Dean keep his focus on the inside circles.

He really did a nice job!  It did take us about three tries, though.

This experience really got me thinking about Dean and what I want to do with him.

On one hand, I could just retire him altogether.  Stop filming videos.  Keep doing little training things with him for fun, but consider ourselves finished with video, with submission, and with titling.

On the other hand, I could start working with Dean on a regular basis, shake off the dust, and get him back to where he could make really nice performance videos.

I know he would absolutely love to get back into regular, and more rigorous, training.  This will necessitate training in the yard, which is not his favorite (he thinks outdoors is for chasing toys), but he will enjoy it more than not.

If we do this, we could work up to being able to film the rest of pre-Bronze, and maybe even Bronze in the Dance Divisions!  We could make more Skills Test videos for Rally FrEe.  And, we could do a few more performances for the Dogs Can Dance Challenges.

I think it is worth a go.  I have upped our training a bit since we made the Multi Circle Waltz video, and Dean Dog seems to be all for it!

So, I think we will . . .

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Perfect Trial!

Tessa and I went to a CPE trial this past Saturday, hosted by the Dulles Gateway club at Periland.

It was a perfect trial!  Perfect in every way.

I had been excited about the trial all week.  For some reason, after our experience at Bella Vista last weekend, I was looking forward to this next one from the moment Tessa and I pulled out of the Bella Vista driveway!

I constantly had to remind myself that a week is not something that happens in between Agility trials, but I could not shake the sense that this particular week really was just that!

Finally, Friday evening rolled around.  I got things ready for us for Saturday, and got to bed at a decent hour.

I had the strangest dream that night.  I dreamed that a man showed up to fix our furnace just as Tessa and I were leaving for the trial.  The trial was going to be at Bella Vista, not Periland, but we were signed up for the same classes that we really were going to be in - Fullhouse and two Standard.

Strangely, it didn't seem odd to me that there was a man at my house to fix the furnace when: A)  Our furnace isn't broken and B) In the dream the grass was green, there were leaves on the trees, and it wasn't even cold out!

I wanted to get him settled so Tessa and I could get going, but by the time we got on the way, it was too late!  We had missed Fullhouse and our first Standard, and we would not make it on time even for our second Standard run.

I was very happy to realize that was a dream!  When I woke up, even though it was waaaaaay earlier than I ever want to have to wake up, we had not missed anything and nobody was coming to fix our furnace that wasn't broken in the middle of summer in February!

So, off we went, and we got there on time.

There was a moment of trepidation when I looked at the course map and realized that there was no jump combo in Fullhouse!  Of all of the 5 point obstacles in Fullhouse, the jump combos are our best friends!  Tessa is fastest at those.  Dog walks kill us in Fullhouse, and even six weaves take up too much time.

I was happy to see that there was a triple jump.  We were not going to be able to take it twice, based on how the equipment was arranged on the floor, but I knew that with the triple in there, we had a shot.

I made a plan.  I walked it.  I knew Tessa could get it done.  It wasn't super point heavy, but I just wanted to get enough points in time!

We ran it and everything went perfectly!!  Tessa hesitated for a couple of seconds, uncharacteristically, when she was going over the A-Frame, but it was just a slight hesitation and it didn't cost us much time.  Other than that, she didn't miss a beat!

The buzzer went off right between the last piece of equipment we needed to take and the table!

Here is our run . . .

I was thrilled with that!  We qualified and earned fourth place.

That was the last Level 5 Fullhouse Q that we need for our C-ATCH!!

I was so pleased that I told Tessa that we would treat her two Standard runs as "yahoo" runs.  Although we did only need two more Level 5 Standards, Standard is almost always the second class of the day and there is never any problem for me to sign up for Standard at the vast majority of trials.

So, I set my mind on having fun with her.

And the two Standard courses that the judge had set for us were perfect fun courses for Tessa!  There were some turns that were tricky for a lot of dogs, but that really suited Tessa's running style well.  There were many places where I could send her off to take jumps and leave her to do her job.  She loves that!

Tessa started out a little slow on the first Standard run, but she was solid and steady and she did the two jumps to the weaves perfectly.  She picked up speed after the dog walk and she flew through the rest of the run!

She had two moments of brilliance in this run!  First, there was a 90 degree turn on the line to a jump and then to the A-Frame after the jump.  She found a beautiful line to execute that section beautifully!

Then, way back at the back of the course, she did a rear cross that actually ended up being a 180 turn from the approach line to the jump to the line leaving the jump.

She qualified, but even better - I can't remember having more fun with her on a Standard course!

It was a Q!  And second place!

I didn't expect this to happen, but our second Standard run was even more fun than the first!

The course was a bit odd.  It started out with a huge loop around the outside of the ring.  I found that when I got to the third jump after the dogwalk, there was a sudden 180 degree turn!  So, I had to remind myself to pay attention because running around the outside of the ring did sort of put my mind into a bit of a lull!!

However, that 180 degree turn was fun.  I was able to send Tessa to that jump and do a front cross way far away from her!  Then into the weaves for the rest!

That one was a Q, also!  And 4th place!

I couldn't have been happier with Tessa, who had as much fun as she had success!!

Those were our 9th and 10th Level 5 Standard Q's, and the last that we needed for our C-ATCH!

So we are down to needing just TEN MORE now!

4 Snooker
3 Jackpot
3 Wildcard

We have a two week break until our next event at Bella Vista.

Maybe we will have green grass and leaves . . . well, I will be happy with a fun Agility weekend!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

January Bella Rose Trial

This past Saturday, Tessa and I headed to Bella Vista Training Center for their January Bella Rose trial.  We were entered in Jackpot, which I hoped would be non-traditional (it was!), and two rounds of Snooker.

The day started off great.  The non-traditional Jackpot offered very interesting options.  The judge had three separate distance gambles set out.  The one at the way back, worth 20 points, consisted of a curved tunnel, weaves, and then a jump.  The one to the side, sharing the last jump of the first gamble, was a jump to an A-Frame, to a curved tunnel that was sitting under the A-Frame.  That one was also worth 20 points.  The final gamble, worth 15, came in on a diagonal off of those two, again sharing that same jump, and it was a serpentine of three jumps.

I elected to have Tessa do the serpentine.  I knew she could do that, and, given that there was a 5 point jump combo that we could use for points, I knew we didn't need the extra 5 points we could have gotten from one of the other two gambles.

The run went beautifully!!  I have no video, but this is how it went:

Tessa and I started off taking two jumps and then she went into a gently curved tunnel.  As she was in the tunnel, I booked to set myself up to send her into the serpentine.  The judge was sort-of in the way, but he moved.

The serpentine was lovely!!

After the serpentine, I had Tessa come back around to take that same jump and that set us up for the A-Frame.  You could only get points for one distance gamble on the course, so we did not attempt this as a gamble.  She did the A-Frame, and ran off to take a double that I did not intend for her to take!!

Back on track, she did the jump combo, and went back into that gently curved tunnel.

Then it got . . . interesting!

The judge really seemed to like hanging out in that particular section of the course.  And, from the other runs that I had watched, it did seem that a lot of people didn't end up in that particular area.  Well, as Tessa came out of the tunnel, he was right smack in her path!  It took him a few seconds to realize that I needed him to move, so when Tessa came out, there he was.

That girl didn't miss a beat!  She glanced at him for a second with a happy, curious expression, and he quickly stepped back.  Then she got right on track, took the jump combo again, did the double (this time cued!), and then we finished on the table!!

It was a Q - our second Level 5 Jackpot Q!

Also a huge personal Q in running by the judge, not caring that he was in her space!

Next was Snooker, and it was TIGHT!!  This was the second trial in a row where the judge had smooshed the entire Snooker course into the equivalent of half the ring.  I am not sure what this is all about, or if it is becoming a "thing", but it is extremely challenging with a bigger dog.

Tessa did awesome.  I got messed up.  The course was marked by flags with numbers on them.  That is normal for Snooker.  But the flags were double sided with the numbers.  Obstacle #3, which was not bi-directional, was immediately after a bi-directional tunnel for #2.  So, whichever way the dog came out of the tunnel, it looked like you were in flow for Jump #3.

We did it backwards, even though I had walked it properly.

I am generally a good sport about the "things happen" elements of Agility, but this royally ticked me off.  I feel that the course part of the game should be marked clearly.  If that ever happens again, I will ask the judge, during walk-through, to mark the direction that the third obstacle must be taken clearly!

I checked, but can't seem to find any CPE rule stating that, in course games, the course markings must be clear.  But there should be such a rule . . .

Livid as I was, I had to pull it together to run our third Snooker.  That one was better.  The judge had three straight tunnels in the course, and #2, which was one of those straight tunnels was not bi-directional, and the flag was clearly sitting at the end of the tunnel that you had to enter.  So, the course was marked in flow.

Tessa did an absolutely lovely job, and we got the Q - our first Level 5 Snooker Q!!

Aside from that one blip, it was an excellent day!

Now our "Magic Number" is 13!!

We need:

1 Fullhouse
2 Standard
3 Wildcard
3 Jackpot
4 Snooker

Onward and upward!