Monday, January 30, 2006

Latest Trial Insights

We just got back from a CPE agility trial in Connecticut this weekend. I had a good weekend. I did not get tons of Q's (3 of a possible 8) but learned a lot and had fun which are the most important things. Here is what I learned.

1) Wyatt has great potential. He earned 3 Q's in fullhouse (championship level, first place), jumpers (championship level, first place), and Snooker (level 4, 3rd place). In Snookers, there was a very difficult course. One of the (many) fun things in Snooker is to make it through the closing sequence of 7 obstacles before time runs out. In the lower level course, which was similar, I saw that handlers were not making it through the course very well so I simplified our opening sequence. I timed myself before and did not thinking there was much of a chance of making it all the way to the end. Well, we had a good run going and I was surprised when we made it to the number seven obstacle. The seven obstacle was a triple combination of 2 tunnels and one jump. Well, we made it though the 2 tunnels as I sped up trying to get the last jump before the whistle blew. Then I started thinking about where the table was (which he has to jump on to stop the clock). Sure enough, I lost contact for a second and forget to signal the last jump and we missed it just as the whistle blew. The whole place groaned. No other dog in the whole class of about 100 dogs came as close as Wyatt to finishing. So I was impressed with his ability to run fast and follow me on course in comparison to other dogs. When we are on, we are frequently getting the best or close to the best time/run of all the jump heights in our class.

2) I need to pay attention to him before the run. For our first run of the day, I had set up our chairs in the front row of the ring. I had him with me about 25 dogs before we had to go in. Sure enough, all the dogs running and people and dogs walking in front seemed to get him overstimulated and we had some contact issues on the run. Luckily, it was fullhouse so I could go back and get a better A-Frame contact. I also forgot to deliberately slow down. However, I believe what he sees before he goes in is a major factor in contact and weave entry issues. I see in class that certain dogs will get him barking and too pumped up. Usually, manic German Shepard Dogs and Border Collies are the culprits. After that, I made sure to have him focus on me when manic dogs were running and that seemed to help a lot. His contacts were not perfect after that but I got lots of 2 on 2 offs. On our standard runs, we was getting 2 out of 3. Not enough to qualify but it is great progress to be getting 2o2o in trials. It is much better that I was getting 2/3 and no Q rather than 3 just barely hitting the contact zone contacts.

3) By slowing down my running just a tad, centering before the run by doing a sit and a lead out, and probably just from experience, I am feeling much more in control on the course and much that frantic. It is as if more time is opening up and I am allowing myself enough space to able to respond to things as the happen. This is hard to describe but I am sure many of you have felt it. It is like time is running more slowly. This allows me the space to adjust, react, and most importantly, maintain a connection with Wyatt.

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