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Titlemania 2017!

The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) had this event last year in Ohio and for 2017 they expanded it to three (east, west, central). We had so much fun at the trial doing agility, watching agility, rally, swimming  – we had to come back even though this year it was a bit further away.

We spent last weekend in Tennessee at an ag center building where the big USDAA end of the year event is held every other year.  It’s an awesome facility!  Lots of space! Air conditioning! Internet access (…I did not have any time to work!)!  Nice footing! Organized host club!

Great view!

The not so good parts:  Stairs!  The crating was at the upper levels as well as most of the bathrooms and the drinking fountains. I did find a first floor bathroom on day 3 and that was very exciting!  There was very little natural shade around the building, parking was permitted under the nearby barns but from reading the confirmation letter I wasn’t sure where parking was allowed. We ended up paying to park in a covered area right up against the arena (my dogs typically crate out of the car vs indoors).

The event was definitely not the same as TitleMania last year. No rally, only agility. Hosted by a local club vs by USDAA (benefits of this: the club knew the location, had many local participants, club members were awesome at helping out, organizing, answering questions – overall this was a good change!).  Overall awards were mostly done at the end of the last day vs some things happening on day 2 and 3 too. Results were not posted online until many days later. Fewer vendors. Less presence of USDAA.

Griffin and I didn’t have quite as spectacular of of a time as last year – but it was still a great experience and it’s really special to have a 9 year old dog who can do so many runs in a weekend – and get better each day.  The first two days were a bit questionable – he was showing more interest in the bar setters than usual and had some weave pole problems – I couldn’t tell if it was the surface or if he was stepping on the base and slipping there. But he’s a durable dog and a few runs later was weaving as usual.

On the last day we had two clean runs in the Master Challengers class!!   One was a second place and the other was over time.  I was a bit surprised by that – but looking at his yards per second – he was going about 20% slower than usual by those last runs.

It’s so interesting to me that the MC classes were “easier” for us than the regular standard. We spend more time in  training doing those “harder” things so that’s flipped around what we can and can’t do well.

Saturday MC standard

We had lots of fun watching other teams – some very experienced and detail-oriented and others who are primarily focused on getting through without faults. Griffin and I are definitely more in the ‘detail-oriented’ end of things.

This sequence made me very happy  –


He was so good!  He knew exactly where to go! I was able to signal him in a timely way! However – I recognize we need to practice less of this and more of the things that are hard for us as a team.

If we’re lucky with his health, and/or if Tonks is ready, I hope we can attend next year. Even though it wasn’t quite as exciting as 2016, I recognize the challenges of creating new events ad we enjoyed the experiences.


Testing Your Training

Recently I read a training article that compared a beginner perspective (try something until you can get it right once or twice) to the perspective of someone more experienced (keep working until you don’t get it wrong). We’ve been talking about this in most of our training classes recently – especially when students are bored or think their dogs are bored or think their dogs “know” something.

With my own dogs, I rarely feel like they “know” something perfectly – there are usually ways I can test understanding to improve fluency and creating behaviors more resilient to distractions.  A few variables I can change:

  • Change location
  • Change handler position relative to handler
  • Alter distances between dog and handler
  • Discriminate between cues – add in handler distraction
  • Change excitement level (more or less) prior to the session
  • Tempting distractions
  • Behavior in sequence
  • Delayed rewards

And – combining some of these gives essentially endless opportunities!

Here’s a video we took for an online class – Griffin and I ran the same sequence and did a different handling option at jump 5. We could have tried variations at other places (especially the opening serpentine).

What’s something your dog knows? How can you test understanding? How can you add variation?

Griffin – USDAA Agility – January 8

We’ve had some less than stellar trial days in November and December –  sometimes fast but poor control, and sometimes great teamwork but Griffin doesn’t seem to be trying hard. As a result – we’ve not be en entering as many trials as we try to figure things out. His training has been great, with some of the best intensity and speed we’ve ever had.

Gamblers P2:  I entered the wrong class, but the secretary was able to move us up. I was glad I asked!  Some events are very strict and the secretary gets grumpy about the request/question and other times it’s not a problem. Gamblers is one of our strengths – even though we can “design our own” course we try to go for as many points as possible. We intentionally did the weave poles twice to prepare for standard. We ended up running my ideal plan with about 2 seconds to spare. The gamble/distance challenge was easy for us but Griffin knocked the last bar.  The jump was really close to the jup and I’m not worried – he was trying his best!  I loved how fast and responsive he was – this was just like he runs on good training days.

Standard: P2:    Mostly good, he was a little slower and less responsive – and popped out of the weaves.But we did the ‘hard’ parts and his table stay was great, I was confident enough to get quite far away.

Snooker P1: Our favorite strategy game. We took a greedy plan to try and get a lot of points without being unreasonable.  It worked,  great run and our only qualifying score for the day.

I’m still not comfortable enough to ask other people I don’t know well to do video, so here’s part of a training session.

Our next event isn’t a trial but one of the many informal competitions that are now occurring.  2 weeks!

Sweden 2016 :: Our Agility Trial!

akc-excellent-2016-aug-jwwA week before we left we did AKC agility. Our first time in Excellent for jumpers and then we got our  last Open Standard pass.  This let us jump into the level 3 (of 3) in Sweden.  Over on the left, you can see the course map for that  first excellent trial.

Our first weekend in Sweden we went to a big agility trial. All 3 levels, Jumping and Agility (standard).  And 60-90+ dogs in each class. Super exciting. A few weeks ago I wrote about some general observations.

Our friends helped get Griffin registered and entered in the trials. Note that the registration with the kennel club took less than 24 hours and was online. I’m trying to get Tonks (Canadian Kennel Club registered) registered with AKC and it’s paper, mailing it in, and very expensive.  Registering for the trial? Done online. Online!!   And results are posted online while the trial is going on – people can check results that are almost immediately  posted.

No barrier around the rings. A chain laying on the ground.  Tents and people all around the ring. For most of the sequences I knew we could do any of the parts as a sequence, I was not as sure that we could do it all together.   A few fun things:

  • No course maps.
  • Run order was dry erase boards with numbers on them. You’d be marked to indicate you were there and numbers were erased as teams ran.
  • 30+ people on the course walk!
  • I think jumping higher than he does at home? There’s some flexibility in what the judges can allow, and the last day was lower than the first few runs.
  • Formal awards presentation

Unfortunately I didn’t take enough notes right away and I’ve been slow to report about all our adventures. Each run mostly got better and better. He did leave the ring on the first 3 runs (barely on two!). On one we did a good job of coming back and continuing on and I know  if we had more time I would have been more and more confident about how he could handle the environment

The train in the ring rules are so different! I missed opportunities to use this early on because I am in the habit of “keep moving! don’t make the judge mad!” I regret not doing that. But, one run when he left to consider friendship with a little cocker, we heeled back in and finished the course (fairly well too!). The next run – much  more on task!

9 was  tunnel so between  5 to 6, getting the dogs to the weaves, that tempting off course tunnel was a challenge!
9 was tunnel so between 5 to 6, getting the dogs to the weaves, that tempting off course tunnel was a challenge!

On our very last run, Agility/Standard we a course I was not as confident about. There was a long opening threadle situation which is not a strong (or needed) skill at home. I had a plan for handling it snooker-style (way, way more and excessive turns). There was also a few areas with very tempting off courses and the tunnel entry after the dogwalk seemed impossible. But, somehow, we got through most of it with refusals but not errors that would be an NQ – but at the very end, when I was amazed we easily got the tunnel entry after the dogwalk, I didn’t cue enough deceleration and he put his front paws on the aframe.  But, we mostly did it, he was focused, not super fast, but steady!

The environment was so exciting. Most people were so enthusiastic and trying to encourage dogs to go as fast as possible. The intensity! I don’t see as much of that as home and I know I’m not that intense. I try to not slow my dog down, but I probably focus more on being precise than fast because that matters more for the things we do. It was thrilling to watch so many people trying to go as fast as they could.

It was such a fun experience to trial outdoors with Griffin and to have him do so well in that environment. He’s not a dog that likes agility a lot but he is a dog with quite a bit of training skills. He was on very different equipment; small tire! indoor/outdoor carpet on the contacts!  very “open” jump wings, and  massive looking long jump.

DCIM460GOPROThe kinds of challenges were perfect for us – it was the kind of hard that makes me want to do more training and more trials, not so hard it seems impossible. I love watching agility and it was great to see so many teams of various skill/training levels participating. It was amazing to see the training differences – especially with where dogs would commit to obstacles. The dogs had completely different focus/commitment points than what I see at home. Having space was so nice, especially at the start and finish areas.

On one hand, I’m very eager to trial again and succeed. But also, it seems like a bit of a disappointment to go from a course with such intriguing challenges. Again – compare the two course maps above!  The intensity was great – so fun to watch and made agility more of a ‘sport’ than it sometimes feels at home. I think it was good for me to be exposed to that. And it was exciting to go back each night and see training friends checking the agility club website page to see if their yearly rankings have been updated to include the day’s trial. We had such a fun time. I’m really happy we had these opportunities!

I’m not very patient waiting for our next chance to trial – 2 weeks until we can do AKC!

Sweden 2016 : Seminar

In the  middle of the trip we had a chance to attend an agility seminar!  This wasn’t a planned part of our trip but was a great opportunity . We did two half days with Isabelle Emanuelsson and Jouni Orenius. The set up was excellent – the seminar host had two outdoor agility rings, one big/’normal’ sized area and a smaller area. There was a pond very close so the dogs could cool down between runs.  Even though we were only there for the morning portion, we got in a -lot- of training. The 8 working dogs were divided into 2 groups – I’m not sure how it was decided, but it worked out as 4 small dogs and 4 large dogs – and all the large dog people were apparently fine with the lecture/course analysis part being in English!  We would talk about the course for 15-20 minutes and then  2-3 ten minute sessions with one instructor. We spent the second part of the morning in the other area with the other instructor.

Griffin is great, I don’t think we did too badly – there were only two moments where something seemed completely impossible for us. The overall things we need to work on are no surprise – it’s a lot of what we get told to work on during lessons at home.

DSC_0528More cues: I know Griffin needs more cues/understanding of cues to tell him about turns/how to take a jump. We’ve started this but he doesn’t understand it very well yet. I’ve also started this with Viktor and Tonks but not followed through well. Jouni talked about this being one of the important more recent additions for his dog/s. At the trials/seminar I could see where the cues would help (and at home too!).

Push Griffin for more speed: Easier said than done. He’s not a slow dog, but he’s also not trying very hard. He’s not crazy about toys but I’m back to trying to use more toys in training to increase his arousal even if I can’t use the toys as a reward.

Go faster: Our usual agility instructor has been very politely been saying this for a few months. She says it in a way that’s sort of “You could go faster. you don’t have to if you don’t want to, but really you could.”  At the seminar the prompts were a lot more enthusiastic.

However – this has been one of the harder things to apply. The more I’m thinking about where I need to be, how to cue my dog, and when I need to cue – the more I slow down!  This also happens when I’m driving my car – if I think about more things I start to go slower and slower…

And running faster is not just actually running faster – there were many times when I’d be too early to cue some areas.  The strategically running faster is going to be an important part.

Skills: I didn’t feel Griffin was too behind in skills. We could push to backsides of jumps, he had good independence on contacts and was decent (but not perfect) about weave entries.. One of the fun things we did was two blind crosses in a row – this had never occurred to me even though I must have seen it. It will solve a few handling challenges with a lot less training.

Outdoor agility trials.  One ring is left of his head, the other ring is to the right of his head.
Outdoor agility trials. One ring is left of his head, the other ring is to the right of his head.

Misc: On the first day we did courses that were about 24 obstacles. When we arrived the second day, we saw folded pieces of paper….to add numbers up to 32.

The presenters had a lot of enthusiasm for timing handling options  and were eager to pull out their stopwatches.

At one point Isabelle made a comment about Griffin being “..an angel about jumping!… an angel about handling!”  which I found very amusing. Other people often seem to think he’s more biddable and cooperative than he actually is.

Griffin’s fitness was not as good as the other dogs. Not far behind – but we had to cut some of our turns a little shorter. In training I may be keeping our sessions too short.

At one point there was a comment that it was very “American” for me to not be cuing him a lot. I don’t know how true that is- I think our obedience experiences make me want to give Griffin more responsibility and less cues.

Walking at a trial. Nature area - so much nicer and safer - than warm up walks at home!
Walking at a trial. Nature area – so much nicer and safer – than warm up walks at home!

One of the sessions had a theme of “flicks” – a variation of rear crosses. We did really well with this even though that’s not something we ever really do. Apparently doing other kinds of rear crosses transferred over very well. Not only was I confident we could do it, but he actually did well. This did mean we had to then get harder tasks for us – but it was fun to do something very well!

I’m so glad we had this opportunity.  We’ve done a few agility seminars this year and it’s a lot of fun. I love the location and it was a great balance of successes and challenges.

Sweden 2016 – Agility Trials

During our trip we went to 2 weekends of trials. We got to participate the first weekend! The second weekend was watching and helping. There’s so much to say about our experiences.

Outdoor agility trials.  One ring is left of his head, the other ring is to the right of his head.
Outdoor agility trials. One ring is left of his head, the other ring is to the right of his head.

Of all the things I learned, the most surprising to me was that agility makes me very anxious. And I learned it’s more about the procedures in trials and expectations of following written and unwritten rules.

I was so nervous about this part of our trip. Griffin is a reasonably skilled agility dog by local standards. At home, he’s often one of the fastest dogs in his classes at trials. In point games we tend to score well. Our Q rate is above average and his YPS is decent. We have no major weak areas. I knew I would be worried about harder courses – so we found Swedish Kennel Club class 3 courses and did these weekly for a while before our trip. I knew we would be trialing outside without any sort of fence, so I visited parks and other areas and illegally did some off leash work whenever it seemed safe.  But what I didn’t know  – there’s a lot about US agility programs that has -made- me nervous!  Here are a few things that made me worried.

Entering and Leaving the Ring: At home, there’s often a rush to get dogs in and out efficiently. Wasted time means lost money for the club/group and a longer day. I cant tlel you how often I hear we need to move fast so judges can leave to make their plane/get home before bad weather/before dark. Teams get rushed in and you need to quickly leave at the end. But, even if you’re nervous and your hands are shaking and you’re out of breath, you MUST put that leash on all the way before leaving. If it’s not on properly – you can loose the run. If you take too long to start, you could lose your run or at the least, have people annoyed with you.

In Sweden there really wasn’t a rush. Dogs can come in and out of the ring off leash. No need to hurry and put that leash on as you leave. Many dogs ran down the last line and to a table/box with the leash and where handler’s have left a toy/treat container/etc. There might be a tug game or treat party as they walk away from the ring. The party might continue for a while before putting the leash on.  Also note – I don’t know that I saw any dogs knock the last bar or get refusals at the very end of the course – know where that reward is has the dogs going fast and efficiently. And not leaving the ring to run back to a crate. My concern for getting on the leash at the end of the run meant a delay in rewards for my dog – a rule we have to follow at home, but wasn’t necessary in Sweden.  I sometimes saw handlers run the last line, grab their toy out of a pile and then just throw it out into an empty field to do a game of fetch!

Pockets: At home, one challenge is having enough food treats for Griffin while we wait to go in the ring – but not too much or else I have to find somewhere to put it. On our trip – we could have food in our pocket in the ring!  We can’t give it in the ring, but this means no treat counting/careful rationing/ hurrying back to the crate/station after leaving the ring.I  don’t feel it gave us any advantage in the ring for me to have food in my pocket – that just doesn’t matter with Griffin. But it made ring entries less stressful -other than it felt ‘wrong’ since it’s not allowed at home!

Tent where the announcer/score people hid from the rain/sun.
Tent where the announcer/score people hid from the rain/sun.

(Not) Anonymous: When Griffin first started trialing, I would drive further away to events so that there were fewer people I knew. I was more nervous about trialing around people who had been past classmates or instructors.  In Sweden it was hard to be anonymous. There were announcers  at most rings! Introducing dogs, breeds, handlers, and the club they are from. Not only did I have one of two goldens at a very big trial, but everyone around the ring know I was from very far away.

Training: Training is a big part of most dog sports/activities. The dogs need to learn to do the tasks. The dogs need to learn to be able to do it in the trial environment and put all the parts together. Almost every US agility organization will disqualify/fault/penalize a team for training in the ring. An exception is UKI’s option to do training/toy in the ring – but you must make that decision before starting.

In Sweden teams could train in the ring in many ways. A handler could go back and reset a dog at the start of the course. Sometimes many times. If a dog missed an obstacle or had an off course, many handlers would go back and repeat a section of the course before continuing. If dogs missed a contact behavior (and especially if they had already disqualified) some handlers would have a dog repeat the a-frame a few times before going on.

Handlers could also pull a toy out of their pockets and reward on course. Teams did this sometimes if the dog had already been disqualified – they would use the opportunity to reward a contact behavior later in the course. This can be such a great thing for building behaviors!

Walking at a trial. Nature area - so much nicer and safer - than warm up walks at home!
Walking at a trial. Nature area – so much nicer and safer – than warm up walks at home!

Sometimes a handler would repeat one piece a few times and then head out of the ring – out the side.  They might go to where their tent was, send the dog back to his owner (across a field!), or to go and stand with friends while the dog lays at the handler’s feet. Eventually they go back for the leash.  I had fear when there was no asking the judge to be excused/giving the formal “thank you!” or other absurdly formal things we have to do. It was like the judge was there for scoring the exhibitor, not to make money for the club by judging as many dogs, as quickly as possible. I never felt a judge was hurrying  an exhibitor in or out of the ring.

This was very stressful for me to watch. It was mostly good training with only a few moments of dog frustration or handler’s seeming too angry. But all I could think was “Oh no! Keep going! The judge isn’t going to like this!”  and then would remember that there are different rules. Once a team disqualified, the judge would use the time to get a drink, fix tunnel bags,or be sure things were ready for the next dog. I really regret not repeating contacts or sections on some of our first runs – I’ve been trained for 15 years to not do that  and wasn’t able to think fast enough to take advantage of the rules.

More to come about our agility runs, an obedience trial, an agility seminar…. lots of excitement!

Another Big Adventure – Sweden 2016

Birch trees. Lichen covered boulders. Yes, we’re back in Sweden!  It wasn’t something I planned really far in advance, and maybe not the most responsible thing to try to quickly find someone to teach all my classes and take care of the 3 dogs staying at home.  But it was a good choice and we’ve had a great time! Griffin and I visited 2 years ago, you can read more about our trip here and about flying here.  This time, I was much less stressed about the travel.It was also a little easier because SAS airlines have different policies than KLM – meaning we didn’t need a vet note within 48 hours of leaving.

DCIM460GOPROWe got lucky with the weather and when we left on the 14th it was a cool day, plus we were leaving Chicago at 10pm. Getting there was an adventure, a friend went with us and to drive my car back to Ohio. The current plan is for Ohio friends to pick us up in Chicago on their way home from a trial in MN. Hopefully it will go as planned!

Griffin loves it here – so many opportunities for off leash walks and a lot of individual time for petting, training, and time together. He’s  not had as much of this since Viktor and Tonks joined us.  Early in our trip we had a scary moment with a moose – probably 25’ away or less. It got startled very close by and momentarily may have turned towards us before running away. One of the dogs definitely ran after it – and Griffin may have too… he came back after a minute or two.  Very scary and far too close.

Outdoor agility trials. No ring fencing. Adventure!
Outdoor agility trials. No ring fencing. Adventure!

It’s so fun to travel with a dog who is happy and comfortable in different environments. I both want to stay here forever and get home to see my dogs, train them with new standards in mind, and enter Griffin in as much agility and obedience as we can.

Summer Dog Shows

Summer has been so busy!

In June we did one day of a CPE agility trial that went fairly well – the jumpers course was one of the most beautiful I’ve seen. The next weekend we went to watch some of the CPE nationals (30 min away!), taking 4-H’ers and students to observe. It wasn’t quite as exciting  as when we were able to go and watch AKC nationals in 2007.  The CPE format makes it hard to build much suspense while watching and it had the feel of a big but local trial. I also left feeling not-so-great after some students make comments about how unengaged, unhappy, and slow many dogs were. That’s not the kind of impression I wan them to have while watching their very first real trial.

Puzzled  look from us.
Puzzled look from us.

The next week Griffin and I went to the USDAA TitlleMania event. I don’t know that I’ve had more fun at an agility trial. Great weekend for us!

In July we did one day of UKI – four great runs. We did an AKC obedience trial that was one of my worst trial experiences. Griffin did great. Someone made a not-so-nice comment – mistaking my distracted/stressed expression as being dislike to the person and/or her dog. I missed a sign in rally and when I exited I had 4 people come up and thank me/joyfully comment about the  missed sign because it gave them a placement in the class. In Novice we got our first ever qualifying score – and somehow a 1st place- with a great score (193 – losing at least 2 points on the Stand for Exam).  During the awards there was the awkward moment of the exhibitors in the ring doing the ritualized “congratulations” while some were obviously unhappy they didn’t score better. I didn’t want to politely reply back “Thanks” to a person I saw fairly severely correct her dog in the ring and yet not get too penalized for it. I like training obedience. I like being in the ring at obedience trials.

Tonks and a Friend
Tonks and a Friend

We hosted a WCRL rally trial the next weekend. Some judging for me, some great runs with Griffin, and Tonks did her first trial – and last chance in the Puppy class. She does not have good (any?) heeling yet but somehow it came out fairly well. I’m excited for her to grow up and be ready for more!

Last weekend we drove 3 hours to Indianapolis to an AKC agility trial to try and finish our Open Standard title – this would allow us to have a more entertaining time at a trial next weekend.  During our Standard run Griffin went off course at the very beginning so I thought we were disqualified –  I pushed him on the rest of the course and he ended up  coming off the table early. But apparently those errors still allowed us t qualify!  In Jumpers we had our first Excellent run which was great. I was very happy with how well he did in a new location. I was really tired so we spent most of the day sleeping int he parking lot.

We hopefully have a few more trial days this month – those are going to be extra exciting and we’ve been practicing a few additional skills to be prepared.  This year is going by so quickly and we definitely won’t be reaching all the dog show goals for the year, but I’m happy with the experiences and opportunities we’ve had this year.

TitleMania: Our Agility!

Click here for an overview of the event. Click here for general agility. Click here for Rally!

We signed up for the whole agility tournament – 3 standard, 3 jumpers, 3 snooker, 3 gamblers. I also entered the Masters Challenge classes on Sunday – thinking that I would be sad if we had to pull due ot the busy environment or being tired but that I woudl be more sad if he was running well and we didn’t try it.

Standard:  We ran clean on 2 of the 3 runs – I’m fairly certain we NQ’d due to his collar being left on.  Some of the runs were in a particular ring that, by Sunday, he really needed to smell a very specific area.  I will admit there was a moment where I ran around the whole set of 12 weave poles to try and persuade him to continue on.

1StrStdTitleMania crcd3 rnd2
A very unusual standard – look at 3-4! We did it!


Snooker: The first two courses were great – but we had a back jump over a red in one and an off course tunnel in another. The third Snooker course seemed very, very difficult to find any clear path so we went for an adventurous high-point option. I chose a handling strategy that heavily employed our obedience heeling as well as front position to get us between tricky spots. Funny enough, the ‘hard’ course is one where we Q’d with a great score.

DV_Fri2_AdvPII_Snooker rnd 3 (wBRF)
Two 7’s and a five. I had Griffin in front position going between jumps 5 and 2 to take him over to the 7’s. It was amazing! I can’t believe we did it!


Gamblers:  This is our best game – it combines two things we’re good at – points and distance.  We do really well with points games because I like the stragegy of finding the higher-point paths, plus griffin is reasonably fast and doesn’t have any obviously weak obstacles, making anything possible. We’re also great at distance work so I don’t usually worry about low-level gambles. We Q’d all three runs and with great scores.


Jumpers:  Two good runs and one was an NQ – I think I missed a jump when I ended up so much further ahead than I anticipated. The jumpers courses were all really great – tempting off courses.

4StrJmprTitleMania crcd3 rnd 2
How is this not fun?!


Masters Challenge: I’ve not run this class before. I didn’t really read the rules.  When it came time to walk the course on Sunday I got a little intimidated by all the very experienced teams there. I knew some from our region and others are names I recognize from youtube videos and from lists of big-event results. I got worried someone would ask why I was in there for the course walk so I only walked it twice, quickly.   It ended up being very fine, the ‘hard’ parts were all in our skill set. We ended up with an off course when I forgot where we were going, but looking at our time later, if we hadn’t had that we would have been within time.  Masters Challenge Jumpers was great too – so, so exciting to have a dog with the training and skills to do it.  After getting through one tricky spot I paused and that again got us an off course.  These were two of my favorite runs all weekend because

DV_Sun1_MChallenge_Std rnd 3
We can do it!


As this was a different type of event, there were overall awards of various types using formulas about Q’s and points and time and I only glanced over it.  On Saturday morning I was warming up Griffin and then found a tick on his belly.  As I was pulling it off – we were called up for PII Snooker awards – even with just one of three qualifying scores!

PII Snooker dog of the year runner-up!

And so I then knew to check results to avoid an embarassing run across the room and through the crowd.

Saturday morning: PII Standard Dog of the Year!

And PI Gamblers!

And, on Sunday, Jumpers PII runner up.

The other golden is a ‘cousin’ to Griffin – but actually more closely related to Tonks.

So while part of it was “making less mistakes than everyone else”  but also he did a really great job considering the conditions, environment, heat, and our experience level at actual trials.  I left the event seriously considering getting a ‘real’ job so I can have weekends free for trials and more time for training.  And it definitely made this starters/advanced team want to work towards bigger events. Griffin doesn’t have many years of agility left – but I’m feeling a lot more optimistic about our skills.

I think this is a great event to get starters teams addicted to agility and wanting to work towards more.


Rally World Championships!

This is the third post on our adventure!  Click here for an overview of the event. Click here for the agility overview. 

On Friday a regular titling trial was held and one run for the start of the tournament. On Saturday we did three runs and on Sunday we did our final two. Initially I was a little annoyed about this being stretched out over so many days – especially considering some Level 3 dogs often are doing 6-9 runs a day at a normal trial!

The titling trial seemed to go well – we saw quite a few people attend that event that were not participating in the tournament. Some of the tournament teams used the trial as a warm up. We did not enter the titling trial as we were doing so much agility.

Three rings were set up side by side using normal ring gating. Griffin hasn’t ever done rally in adjacent rings and I knew he could easily leap the gates if he wanted. His last attempt at rally (off leash) away from home resulted in him leaving the ring… but that wasn’t a good day for us and he’s had a lot more training since then!

Photo by WCRL.
Photo by WCRL.

The tournament was set up with scoring that was different from the normal rules and supposedly some of these will become rule changes next year. Breaking stays would be a retry (-3) rather than a nonqualifying score. Bonuses would be within the course and timed as part of the course. Revised standard course times. Over the days, scores would be added up to determine the placements for the tournament classes.

I didn’t feel like I got to see/interact with the judges as much as in agility – so I don’t have much to say about that part of the experience. I know that they each had slightly different preferences for when to enter (be invited in vs come in once the other dog is leashed) and when to take off the leash – and with everything else going on, I just forgot which judge had which preference and that part was a little difficult. The courses were fairly typical for WCRL, though I did think it was weird to see paired signs like “Halt-Sit” and then “Halt-Sit-Walk-Around” where there really wasn’t a point to pairing them other than you could give an extra treat after that first sit and before walking around.

The staff/judges/everyone was so very nice about being accomodating for ring conflicts. A handful of exhibitors were doing both agility and rally and they did long walk-through times, let me have a separate walk through on one course, and moved the run order as needed so that everyone was able to show.  I know some exhibitors were very stressed about missing things but it really wasn’t an issue for me and as long as I let the ring stewards/etc know – everyone was so, so nice about it.  At one point on Sunday I had walked 2 agility courses and needed to get right back (2nd and 4th dogs in those rings) and I was supposed to be walking a rally course.  But it all worked out, we had enough time to do what we needed to.

We didn’t see very many people we know. Despite a lot of WCRL in Ohio, the participation has gone down a lot since I started in 2006 with Luna.  Even though there are quite a few trials up in that part of the state, we didn’t get many of those people attending. I didn’t watch much of it – the agility had my attention!  But my favorite moment was seeing a young Terv gently nibble the corner of the sign, look at the owner, and take another gentle nibble.  So, so cute!

Griffin was amazing! He did better than at our normal trials, he never thought about sniffing or moving away!  We had to retry two signs when he stared at me and kept heeling instead of doing a task and he had a hard time with the bonus for call front and backing up – he did it perfectly outside the ring but somehow I cued him differently once we were in the ring.

I didn’t check scores other than the very first day. Unlike in agility, our runs don’t count towards titles, so results only mattered for the event. I’m guessing/hoping in future years these runs will count towards titles and that will likely encourage more teams to enter. At $150 for the tournament – it’s a bit hard for some people to want to participate without “getting” anything other than the experience, a neat shirt and a pin.

On the first day I did check our score – I wanted to see if I had lost points for Griffin bumping into me. The judge had not counted off so I knew I wouldn’t be too careful about that for the rest of the weekend. Looking at scores was probably a bit of a mistake – I saw that for the Level 3 tournament we were in first place (3 tied) with the best time!   That made me a little more nervous!

Most of the exhibitors!  Photo by WCRL
Most of the exhibitors! Photo by WCRL

Even when we had mistakes, we would just retry and keep going, I tried not to think about it very much. I wanted to stay focused and do the best we could, not losing additional points if I was thinking too much about the the ones already lost.  Like a training friend says …it’s often about “making less mistakes than everyone else” rather than being perfect.

The awards presentation was nice, almost all the teams were there, a few who checked results and knew the outcome did head out early.  It was a great experience to be there for the first event and to see the proud teams get their recognition for the weekend – and some agility exhibitors stopped by to watch as they passed by.

Later in the week we were emailed the final results – I didn’t read the title of the email before opening but was happy to note we were only 4 points away from tying for third place and not too many points away from the other placements too.  Considering how much agility we were doing, the few mistakes we had in rally, and his overall focus, I was so happy!

On Saturday night they did a get-together for the rally exhibitors and the WCRL staff and some of the USDAA staff were present. I will admit I arrived late – Tonks and I were watching agility and having an awesome time watching some of the MC classes there – it was hard to break away!   I ended up sitting at a different table than most of the group – but was able to hear some of the conversation about the WCRL program, opinions about this event, and potential changes.  After a while, Ann Allums who is the coordinator? for WCRL came and talked with me. She’s been very helpful for us while we’ve been learning to host  trials and while I’ve done my judge’s application process.  She’s just as helpful in real life!  I got to hear about some of the upcoming changes (new rules, sign changes!  better judge’s training!), how some groups handle trial registrations/scheduling, and other things too. There’s going to be a modified program that’s going to hopefully better help beginners get into rally that I’m especially excited about!

Overall:  I’m glad we entered rally and that we did so well. I didn’t leave inspired to drive across the country to do it next year, but if we go for agility we will be entering and encouraging everyone who is in the area to participate.  I’m hoping I will have Tonks ready to participate and I wished Blaze’s health had been a little better so he could have at this one.