Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bonus Lines

The main reason I am attracted to NADAC agility is because I enjoy distance work. I was pining for a border collie long before I attended NADAC Championships in 2009, but seeing "Super Stakes" for the first time in person really made me long to have a dog that would be capable of doing the "big distance." The vast majority of the dogs succeeding in Super Stakes seem to be border collies, so it seemed obvious that this was the way to go to achieve this long term goal.

As we all know, dogs have minds of their own and I completely shelved this idea as Secret progressed in her training. Building her motivation and drive has been a long journey and she more or less seems to prefer close handling (she LOVES front crosses).

Over the last couple of months I have noticed her growing comfortable with an increasing level of distance. I suppose I worked a bit more on these skills because I knew they would be required at Champs. Perhaps her overall level of confidence is just increasing to a point where she doesn't need me right by her anymore. Maybe none of my dogs want me anywhere near them for some reason (I shower, I really do!). ;o)

Anyhow, I'm very happy with Secret's continued growth in her distance training, especially since I more or less wrote that skill off for her. I didn't think she'd ever in a million years be a NATCH dog, but I'm starting to change my opinion on that.
While Luke is most definitely not a border collie, he HAS turned out to be quite the distance dog. After our super inspiring bonus line attempts at the trial this past weekend, I decided that maybe it was time to actually start to train some specific skills needed to be successful (instead of just setting normal exercises and doing them from further away).

I set the above quickie exercise in the yard last night. While simple, it covers quite a wide variety of skills such as the straight on send forward, layering, turning away and pushing out against the dog's path (maybe it's still a switch, but it doesn't feel like it...).

With Luke I handled everything from behind the first hoop -- It was traditional NADAC spacing, so the tunnel/back hoop were 60' to 80' up the yard from me. It was an educational session. As I learned at the trial, I really need to teach a "back" cue. In this case it's used when they come out of the tunnel and take the hoop straight ahead of them, then come through the pinwheel and back up to the rightmost tunnel entrance. To me it just doesn't feel like a "switch," but maybe that is the proper term to use? Honestly, I never tried it. I made the decision to start teaching "back" to all of the dogs.

I didn't have super high expectations for Secret, especially following her less than enthusiastic showing this weekend. I decided to just make it a play session with the Chuck-it and see what happened. I figured she's more apt to run like a loon for the Chuck-it than if I were to try and use a tug toy or something.

She really surprised me. I started out with straight on sends into the tunnel and threw her ball as she came out. I began by doing a lead out to the third hoop and she quickly progressed to me standing back by the first hoop. I'm sure it was largely pattern training, but it's a good step for her and she was shooting down the line like a little (okay, a tall) bullet.

It wasn't that hard to progress to getting the out hoop after the tunnel, as she would just come shooting straight out of the tunnel looking for her ball. It took a couple of attempts to get her to take the turn out of the tunnel to the bottom hoop in the pinwheel, but once she got it we had an easy "switch" to the top hoop and back into the tunnel.

I mixed it up a lot to vary the pattern and Secret did pretty awesome. I also started using the "back" command with her to send her back up to the tunnel and she seemed to catch on quickly. In general, baby dog gave me some pretty impressive distance last night.

Maybe she'll be a bonus line dog one day after all. Who knows. But I think we both had lots of fun with our little drill last night --- So as long as I'm working Luke on these things, I figure she may as well benefit as well. If nothing else, these types of drills are good for her speed work, too. She goes ga-ga when she sees the Chuck-it.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Burnt Out?

Despite the results you see in the pictures, I think Secret is incredibly burnt out on agility right now. I haven't done a lick of training since we got home from Champs in hope of keeping them as fresh as possible for the trial this weekend, but Secret just was not feeling it. At all.

The baby dog had some really fantastic moments, but overall I just felt like I was pulling & dragging her through the courses all weekend. Her first round on Saturday was not bad, but it went downhill from there. Jumpers was her fourth and final class of the day and I ended up withdrawing her halfway through the course because I felt like I was pleading with her to get her to move. That is not fun for either of us.

I did find a sore/scratch on her hind foot when I was shaving her feet on Friday. I don't think it's in an area that would possibly interfere with anything and she's not moving off, but who knows.

Thankfully she came out with quite a bit more energy Sunday morning. Secret ran a lovely Jumpers course at 5.47 yps, which is pretty good for her. Next up was Elite Chances -- Yes, Elite. Can you believe it? She finished her Open Chances title on Saturday and I figured why not go for it -- You can NQ just as easily in Open as Elite. ;o)

I didn't have high hopes because the course involved the dog walk at a distance as well as sending out to a jump after. It also had a switch to a tunnel at a good distance, but Secret is pretty good at those. She totally nailed the course. Woot! I just hope she doesn't pass Kaiser in points....

She also Q'd the last two rounds of Regular for a perfect day -- The first round of Regular wasn't too bad (it's on the video), but the second round was very sluggish in the mid-section with the weaves. She walked through the weaves again and nothing I did could get her to move faster. Once out of the weaves she was better and she ended well. I was surprised to see she actually made big dog (20") time on that run, so that made me feel a little better, I guess.

It could be that she would benefit from another trip to the chiropractor as well. I plan to schlep everyone back down there before the next trial.

Secret's video -- Just four of her eight runs got recorded:

Then we have Luke!! Awesome, awesome Luke. He needed just one more Weavers Q to finish his second Versatility NATCH and he banged it out in fine fashion. It was a short course -- just 15 obstacles, and we tend to struggle with time on the shorter courses. We actually ran this course at Lindstrom in August and he was 0.24 seconds over time. Granted, it was during the upswing of his allergy season and he was feeling like crap that day, so I knew we could do better. I pushed and really went for it and he delivered -- He nailed his entries and held on to the poles and really made some nice tight turns. We ended up 2 seconds under time! On a 15 obstacle Weavers course that is really good for us. This is Luke's last V-NATCH -- No more Weavers for the big guy. He tries so hard and I know it's hard on his body.

Here's Luke's V-NATCH 2 video:

Luke also put in some super fantastic bonus line attempts this weekend! With encouragement from judge Roger Coor, I ended up going for four lines -- three on Sunday, which means that I asked poor Luke for distance in every one of his runs that day. Usually that sort of thing fries his brain a bit, but the last run ended up being the best one yet with just 15 faults. Sadly, I didn't the last two (Regular) runs on video -- But both of his jumpers runs were caught. The run on Saturday was fantastic, but I pushed too soon for a turn and he skirted around that jump, but otherwise ran a great course. Sunday morning was a bit trickier course and we were a bit more discombobulated, but we got through it with me staying behind the line.

Bonus box from Round 1 Sunday:

Bonus line from Round 2 Sunday -- Requires the dog to weave away and send to a jump, and he did it! He knocked a bar at #4 and then touched the a-frame coming out of the 14 tunnel before redirecting back out to the jump. I said, "Back" -- He doesn't know "back," I should have said, "out jump."

So Luke's only Q's for the weekend were Chances (both days!) and Weavers, but I could not be more proud of him. Distance work is addicting!

Poor Kaiser -- He was in the same boat as Secret in that I really think he needed more time off after Champs. I haven't even touched his dog walk since we got home and that might be why we were so off on that this weekend. The closest he really came with his striding was in Touch-n-Go on Saturday, but then he ran right off the side of the dog walk. Oh well.

He had good moments, too. He gave me some super awesome distance in both Chances runs -- His run on Sunday was clean minus the dog walk contact. His Jumpers run on Sunday was AWESOME -- Super speedy (5.6 yps, so faster than Secret!) and I was almost in bonus line land with the distance I gave him. He didn't seem to want me anywhere near him on Saturday, so I thought I'd try to make him happy. It worked! Unfortunately it was his only Q of the weekend, but it was a lovely run.

We have three weeks until the next NADAC trial in La Crosse and it looks like I'll only be doing one day. I don't remember just asking off the shelter for Saturday that weekend, but maybe I was feeling guilty for taking so much time off lately.... And that's our only trial in November, which kind of stinks, but then again I'm broke so it's probably okay. ;o) OH! And Secret won the Q raffle on Saturday, so we get a free day of entries!! Yay!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Champs Videos!! Lots of 'em

I have been editing video until my eyes bleed today. For real. For that reason, I think I'll avoid too much mindless rambling. Not much has happened in the last day, anyhow -- We left the hotel around 10:00 a.m. and got home at 4:00 p.m., so not a bad drive at all! The dogs rode well in the car, but Secret INSISTED on playing ball as soon as we got home (before unpacking anything, mind you!). Then she found the squeaky toys that I failed to give them at the hotel and general mayhem ensued the rest of the evening. lol

I love watching Secret's video. She was just an awesome baby dog. Yes, you can tell she's a baby dog, but what else would you expect for a two year old? I'm so proud of her.

Kaiser, oh Kaiser. You're a fun little turd.

Luke is just a rock star. 'Nuff said.

Team could not have been more fun!

And there you have it -- That's all, folks! It has been fun to share my Champs journey with everyone. I hope we can do it again some time. :o)

Trial this weekend. I e-mailed FDC to add a class to everyone's runs each day. I only signed them up for three runs per day in case Champs totally fried them, but I think we can handle four!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The End :o(

The sad face in the title of this post is meant to express my sadness at 2011 NADAC Championships coming to an end, not a reflection of how I feel about the event. I can't even begin to express how much more AWESOME this year was than my experience in 2009. The reasons are multiple, having to do a great deal with weather (way better this time!), the footing (unimaginably better here!), great friends (we had a HUGE "local" group here and it was so, so, so fun) and more than likely, I'm just a better handler than I was back then.

So here I am at the hotel reflecting on the last four days. What an amazing four days they have been. My dogs are AMAZING. They impressed me in ways I didn't even know were possible. I've had a chance to watch the 3 Pines video once through and I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with my dogs.

Secret. Wow, baby dog! I thought she felt faster down here, but I didn't realize just how fantastic she was moving until I saw it on video. She was hauling! I can't wait to share it here on the blog for everyone. I'm so proud of her. Did she have baby dog moments? Of course, but she always recovered and she tried her very hardest in each and every round. Wow. Seven rounds of awesomeness.

She put in a stellar effort in Round 7 this morning. The course was -- get this -- The finals round from last year!!! Yes, the one I set in my yard a couple of weeks ago. I loved the course and I was stoked.

Secret did just great. She came blazing out of the first turn out of the tunnel like she was on fire! I was concerned about the weaves since she had some issues yesterday, but she nailed them and kept good speed throughout. I thought surely she had another placing run going and then I left her just a little too much to get into place for a front cross on the final sequence. This caused her to come to the side of the jump -- I quickly hustled and told her, "Back" -- Why, I do not know because I haven't trained her for that, but she figured it out and it didn't waste too much time. We finished fast & clean. Unfortunately in the end she was JUST out of the ribbons in 9th place. Had we avoided that bobble it would have been another good placement.

Oh well, the baby dog is still super amazing. Just look how she stacked up in that field of extraordinarily amazing dogs with years of experience beyond her few months of trialing. Words cannot express how proud I am of Secret. She really gave it her all. I believe in a few years she is going to be something pretty special (not that she isn't already!).

Then we have Kaiser. Poor, poor Kaiser. Round 6 last night just destroyed us in the standings. Apparently when you are super fast you can get away with blowing two rounds, but not three. His 30 faults dropped him from the cusp of the finals all the way down to 8th place with not a prayer of recovering. He actually got dead last in that class, which hopefully made the people who said something to me about him being a 12" dog (in with the small dogs) feel better.

I figured we'd just go for it in the last round, have fun and try to get ourselves another pretty blue ribbon. We tried, we really did. The first part of Kaiser's run was just gorgeous. I got him to take the turn out of the tunnel by staying *way* back and then he cruised through the next section. I made the fatal error of standing still as he came out of the next tunnel that required a hard turn -- and as a result he decided the correct thing to do was to keep going straight into the off course tunnel. I should have been running away to get into position for the front cross like I did with the other two, but I was chickening out and opting for "safe" handling and a rear cross.

The good news is that he got his dog walk!! So what is that -- Did he get 5 out of 7 dog walks this week? OMG, how awesome is that?? We are so sticking with the running contacts. Between that and jumping 8" in Skilled, I believe I have found what makes my little man truly happy. He was so, so, so fast this week. My god he is a fun dog to run. He may be quirky, but he has come so far and he only continues to get better.

Even with the off course he managed to pull out 7th place in Round 7. He had the second fastest time, although without the error he would have easily been first place.

We don't mind 7th place, though. Seventh place gets a pretty purple ribbon.

Not only that, but our team run KICKED BUTT today. Oh wow was that ever a ton of fun. I wasn't sure about the third round of Team, as they always play a game named, "Batters Up" and I am not exactly what one would call coordinated.

In short, the game is played like this: Person 1 bats a ball through a large hole in a plywood wall. You get three attempts and if you don't make it you get 20 faults. When you get it (or hit your three tries) Person 1 runs a short course of tunnels with their dog. When Person 1 leashes their dog, Person 2 is released to run the course. Then Person 2 leashes their dog and hands it over, then has to throw a ball to Person 3 on the other side of the hole. Person 3 must catch the ball (otherwise you keep throwing, again for three tries) and once they do, they get their dog and run the course. Time runs until everyone is done.

Robyn got the ball through the hole on the FIRST try! That is not terribly common in this game. lol I managed to not throw like a moron and Chrissy managed to catch it, so we had a really good time. We ended up placing THIRD in Batters Up!

Unfortunately it wasn't enough to get us into the overall Team placements -- They give out three. They didn't post an overall standings yet, but we must have been close, even with our mid-standings placement yesterday. Oh well, it was more fun than I imagined it could be and I think the dogs enjoyed it as well. I would totally do Team again!

Luke would agree! We may as well start there with him since we're on the subject. I believe I explained yesterday that we lost one of our team mates and gained a replacement, so we were out of the overall standings. That wasn't going to stop our team from going for it.

I was NOT going to do the batting portion until it was explained that we were allowed to put our dogs on a down stay with the leash off while we did the batting portion. IF you have a dog that will hold a down stay while you are batting balls all over the place, this could be a HUGE advantage since some people could waste upwards of 5 seconds just going to their dog and getting the leash off.

Because Luke was the only dog on the team capable of doing this (or so I hoped, at least...), it was decided that I would give it a try. I hadn't practiced the batting part AT ALL (since it wasn't my job on Kaiser's team), but I got a chance to give it a few whacks outside before our run and that went fairly well.

Luke, bless him, didn't move a muscle! Even when I hit the first two balls off into Timbuktu. The balls we had were different than the practice balls and I sucked! By some miracle the third ball went through the hole, so I whipped around, dropped the bat and told Luke to run. I tell ya, it really did save a lot of time to have the leash off. Although it took Linda & Lynn a couple of tries to get the catch, our dogs were awesomely fast on the course. I hoped for a placement because they really did do great. And guess what?!

Ha!! They got first place! That is AWESOME. So while we couldn't have a shot at the overall, at least we did our job to upset the standings. lol

I somehow failed to upload any more of Luke's photos from today, and Blogger is a giant pain in the butt on my Netbook, so words will have to suffice.

When the results from Round 6 last night were posted, I was ecstatic to see that Luke placed 6th!! He was actually only 0.01 seconds away from 5th. Crazy, I couldn't believe he'd done so well in such a great, competitive class. With his crazy consistency, it got me wondering where he was in the standings. I had kind of been keeping tabs on Kaiser, but I hate to admit that Luke wasn't even on my radar for Finals. So after seeing that he placed again, I sat down this morning and did the math for his entire class. Much to my surprise, Luke was in 9th place with the top 7 going into the finals. I didn't feel too much pressure, though, as there were almost 20 points between him and 7th. Two people would have to do pretty poorly for him to move up.

Well gosh darn it, we got close. Luke put in an AMAZING run in Round 7. I pushed him hard and boy did he respond. I heard one rub as he turned over the jump before the dog walk, but it was a gorgeous run. I was so proud of him after that run, and the whole arena erupted in cheering. I knew it was good -- but I had no idea it would net him.....


The giant 78 pound, 26"+ Lab/Shepherd managed to get THIRD PLACE in his class of border collies and whatnots. :o) He is awesome. Not only that, but get this. Final standings? Luke moved up to 8th place overall (out of 27) and was only SEVEN points out of being in the finals. Seven points. One error, more or less. Wow. Just wow. I am so proud of him. Six clean rounds, three placements. We have come a long way since 2009!

Not only that, but yesterday was the two year anniversary of when he was diagnosed with Addison's Disease -- just two weeks after returning from Champs. I am proud that he is such a good ambassador for what A-dogs can do.

So that's that. I'm tired, the dogs are tired, but I am just happy beyond words. It has been an amazing week and I couldn't have asked them for any more (well, maybe just one more clean round from Kaiser, lol). I wish I could say, "I can't wait to do this again next year," but it sounds like Champs 2012 will be located way out yonder west. Since I can't justify that trip, I shall wait until it comes closer to home again. Just imagine what a couple more years of experience will do for us!

I wouldn't mind at all if they had it back here in Springfield. It has been one fantastic week.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Day... Umm.... 3?

The days tend to blur together here at Champs. Even worse is trying to discuss any course that we've ran over the last three days. If someone brings it up, it requires a massive amount of brain power to try to recollect the course they are speaking of -- and that is brain power we don't have to spare at the moment. ;o) It's pretty bad when I can't even recall which of my dogs placed in which rounds...

The super fantabulous action photos on the blog today are courtesy of my friend, Jen! She lives down by St. Louis and drove up to see us this morning. We met for lunch on my way home from Champs in 2009, so it was nice that she was able to actually see the dogs in action this time. It was her first time seeing it in person -- And hey, if you are going to experience agility, what could be better than viewing it on a National level? She seemed to enjoy it, she got to see pretty good runs by all three of my dogs and she got great photos! Score! :o)

I'll recap Secret's day first since it IS her blog. She woke up with a bee in her bonnet this morning. She was racing laps around the hotel room and trying to get the boys to play with her, which I brought to a quick end because Luke is incapable of playing without barking.... I'm not doing any extra activity/exercise with the dogs to keep them as fresh as possible and I think Secret is starting to boil over.

It seemed to be a good thing for round 5 this morning. She started out really, really fast! It was a weavers focused course with three short sets of weaves and one set of 12. The set of 6 that you took twice had a fault line on both sides, but the only way you could really get faulted was if your dog missed the entry, as the line was so close it was almost impossible to fix without the dog crossing it.

Secret was flying along putting in another stellar round, until we got to the set of 12. I know it was my fault -- I pulled my shoulders a mili-second too early to get the turn into a hoop and she pulled out at pole 10. Darn it, I knew that was it for us in terms of placements for that class. What I didn't expect was for her to momentarily forget how to weave. She entered on the wrong side twice and then backweaved towards me, earning 10 faults. She ended up in 29th place for that round (*note, she was 22nd in Round 4 last night).

Round 6 tonight was considered the "speed round," although I'm not sure why because it had some fairly technical moments. It was a long straight line diagonally across the arena to the weaves (facing into the wall), to the dog walk where you had to send out to a jump over the line, call them back to a tricky serpentine and then send them back out over the line to a jump and then through a tunnel under the dog walk. The ending was a staggered serpentine to the a-frame and out. Twenty obstacles total.

I was behind when Secret hit the weaves, but not by much. She pulled to the right of them and I had to reset her. She was weaving slowly and around pole 10 got a glassy look in her eye and she veered left. I knew there was no point in resetting them again, so in the interest of not stressing her and keeping the baby happy, we just went on. She ran the rest of the course flawlessly, including that tricky distance sequence. While she isn't consistently scoring terribly high, I am SO impressed with the fabulous parts of each run, that she is nailing all of the distance challenges and that she's managed to keep it together and have fun for six rounds!!

Should we go to Kaiser next? I suppose we can start with results from that FABULOUS Round 4 last night. :o) It turns out I had nothing to worry about -- Kaiser came in 1st place by a full FIVE SECONDS. Holy cow!! Little dude was haulin'.

I figured the Weavers round this morning would appeal to him. He does love weaving, after all, and the dog walk was right at the end with a straight shot out through a hoop & a tunnel. We had one close off course when turning away from the finish tunnel to the set of 12 weaves, but we recovered quickly. I was ahead of Kaiser when he entered the dog walk and I just ran hard for the finish. His dog walk was GORGEOUS. Just text book! I made sure to mark it with a huge, "YES, GOOD BOY" and then ran right out to give him treats. What a good, good boy.

Results of that run? Oh yes, another first place!!! :o) This time by only about a second, though.

I wish it weren't so, but my wacky little northern breed was back again for Round 6 tonight. It doesn't surprise me terribly, though, because this course had about every one of his stressors. He's not so good with long straight lines with me falling way behind. His distance skills are all lateral to me, not in front of me. The weaves went into the wall, so he had nothing in front of him that he was driving to -- So he came out of the poles slower than normal and didn't have a whole lot of get up and go for the dog walk.

I was behind and sent him on -- I think he got called on it, but who knows. I was more worried about getting him to turn off a jump in a pinwheel, as the correct course was a 180 into the serpentine. We got that, good boy! But the next part required him to cross over my feet and that is never a good thing in his book. It violates his space bubble rules. I do believe we incurred a back jumping fault there. He did the next part of the distance challenge flawlessly, but then I once again had to do a rear cross in tight quarters, which was in the space bubble. He went around that jump and did another back jump. We ran out super fast with a gorgeous a-frame, but we wasted a LOT of time on that run and incurred 30 faults most likely.

So what does this mean? Well, tonight I finally sat down and did the math. Previously I was kind of going by, "Hey, he has two first places, how could he not make the finals?" Well, when you bomb three out of the six classes.... Long story short, after round five he was 0.24 points out of fourth place, and four dogs go into the finals for our group. Our only hope is that the two dogs closest to us (6th place was 6 points behind) also bombed this round. I didn't watch and I have no idea. In addition, of course, we have to pretty much kick ass tomorrow morning -- I'm hoping it's a more Kaiser-friendly course.

Since Champs is won via an accumulative score, not a winner-take-all format, we don't have a hope of winning overall -- But my goal was to get one dog into finals, so I guess we'll see how things pan out tomorrow morning.

And now for Luke's update. I have to say, I am so proud of Luke. He has now put in five clean runs out of six. That is AMAZING. Sadly, I knew that his speed was not going to be on par with the rest of his competitive class, much as it was in 2009 when he was jumping 20+. Regardless, he is staying consistent, running well and just doing an overall superb job.

His run this morning was FLAWLESS. I find it interesting that he performed so well on a weavers focused round since that class has been our nemesis in NADAC ever since we moved to Elite. With Luke one Q from his second V-NATCH, though, I think perhaps we can say we've conquered that demon. And even further proof:

CHECK IT OUT. The old man got 7th place in Round 5 this morning!!!! Isn't that the most awesome news ever? I honestly felt more proud of that ribbon than I did of Kaiser's first place in that round. With Kaiser it's almost a given that he'll place well if he manages to run clean, but poor Luke can run his heart out and still place behind a dog with faults in his division, simply because his size prohibits him from running as fast as them. But look at that, he proved that big dogs can hold their own -- and with 36 weave poles, no less!

He was just as awesome in Round 6 tonight, but I don't know that it will be enough to place. I really collected him at the weave entrance because the sun was shining straight into the first three poles. I didn't want him to miss it from being blinded, so I figured a slower entry was safer. He nailed the rest of the course, so we'll see. I have no idea how successful the rest of the class was. Maybe we'll be surprised, who knows.

Not too much to write home about for Team today. I knew I would have trouble getting Kaiser to turn off a tunnel and I was right. CeCe also went off course, so despite being really fast, our team had 20 faults and ended up in 17th place today. The good news is that it sounds like we have a really good shot at Best Team Outfit!!

Luke's team had a replacement dog, as Zeus had to pull out due to a muscle strain. This means that we are out of the running for final placements, but we can still run for individual placements in each round. Luke was phenomenal with really sweet, nice turns. He loves the short team runs!! Our second dog, Dax, incurred the same fault that many dogs did with that off course tunnel. So we had a decent time, but 10 faults which put us in 5th place. Unfortunately the Vet Team division only ribbons out to fourth, so we just missed out. Oh well, it was fun!

One more day.....

Friday, October 14, 2011


I think this picture sums up how we are all feeling right now. Wow, I am so tired -- well, at the moment I'm rip-roaring wide awake -- But a couple of hours ago I was so exhausted that I felt physically ill. Amazing what a good run will do for that, but more about that later!

We had a good, good, GOOD day at day two of NADAC Champs!

Secret ran first, but not until dog 70-something so it was a bit of a wait. Baby girl came out raring to go and just had so much fun. It was a 20 obstacle course that was fairly standard. We had to do the a-frame twice and there was a dog walk/tunnel discrimination (dw being the correct option). The distance challenge was a fairly simple pinwheel configuration following the first a-frame.

I had no option of fitting in a front cross on the serpentine in the first sequence, but Secret drove really well with the rear cross. I kept good distance to call her back to the jump after the tunnel and then rear crossed her to send through the pinwheel. She nailed it! Then back over the a-frame and around to the dog walk discrimination. I kind of held my breath -- I have a tendency to over handle these (as I did with BOTH boys...), but she got it! I fit in a front cross after the next jump, as we then had a really tight slice into the weaves. She *nailed* it and her weaves were pretty speedy. It was a really nice run. Really nice.

With as competitive and FAST as the 16" class is, I thought she'd be around 12th. Her clean run last night was 20th place, after all. Well guess what.

THIRD PLACE!!!! Secret got THIRD PLACE in the most competitive class at Championships!!! I am completely beside myself and so very proud of her. Wow, just wow. She got a ribbon!

Her second round today (round 4) was pretty nice, but I handled a tricky serpentine sequence like a doufus. I almost caused her to back jump towards me, but I saved it. Then she recoiled at the weaves -- they had just raked them before our run (they held us up, that's never fun) and who KNOWS what went through her mind. I quickly reset her and she weaved fine. She ripped through the final sequence with nice speed, but I'm pretty sure my errors will keep us out of the ribbons for that round. We'll find out in the morning!

Luke is doing well. He got 13th place in Round 2 yesterday and moved up to 12th overall. We had zero faults and ended up 15th in Round 3 this morning -- As I mentioned, I way over handled the dog walk discrimination and he cut in and came to me. We wasted a good deal of time fixing that. Otherwise it was a lovely run.

Luke ran on a Vet Team between the two Regular rounds. The Team course was the first ten obstacles of the course we just ran, only with hoops replacing the jumps. Luke did his job and put in a beautiful run, but unfortunately one member of our team (the dog, I should clarify) seems to not be doing well -- His handler thinks strained muscle or something of the sort. At any rate, it looks like our team is at the bottom of the Vet standings. Oh well.

Luke had a lovely Round 4 this evening. If he got called on his a-frame it was completely my fault because I released him early. We'll see in the morning, I guess!

And now.... Kaiser. Oh Kaiser. He has a fan club down here and let me tell you it's pretty fun. He's getting noticed, and thankfully it is in a good way!

Kaiser did get called on his dog walk in round two last night, which placed him 9th in the class (just out of the ribbons). He slipped to fourth place overall. He didn't run his first round until after noon today and he was just good old classic Kaiser. lol He had fun, but he was all over the place. He had two off courses, missed the dog walk and took three times to enter the weaves correctly. So he got 30 faults and not a very good time, landing him in 13th place that round.

But Team! WOW, Team was so fun! I am teamed up with two junior handlers with really awesome (and fast) dogs. I knew we'd have fun and that if things went well, we would have a shot at placing -- And that's saying a lot considering we are in a field of 32 or some odd teams in the standard division. All three dogs blew it away. And guess what!

Yes, we got FOURTH PLACE! It is worth mentioning that the three teams that placed above us are comprised of super fast large dogs (border collies, etc.). I am totally stoked with our Team placement. Not only that, but our outfits got a lot of attention -- So I am crossing my fingers for a "best dressed team" award! :o)

Poor Kaiser had to sit around forever again before running his last round of the day. I will say, though, thank heavens we ended up having an earlier day today. It was 7-ish before we got near Kaiser's turn. He was completely crashed in our stall (as was I...) and I worried about getting him to wake up for his run.

Silly me.... The second I grabbed his agility leash he was ready to go. When he saw me get the cheese, he was on fire. He was throwing tricks at me left and right to get my attention. He was doing spins at lightning speed. Oh yes, the boy was high.

The dog walk was the third obstacle on course with two hoops before it. The chutes at Champs do not allow for slingshot starts like I usually do at trials to get ahead, so I begged and pleaded with him to PLEASE stay. And he did! I mean, I didn't do a huge lead out, but any little bit helps. Then I just told him, "GO, GO, GO!" as he crossed the dog walk and he gave me a *gorgeous* running dog walk. I was concerned about him running straight through an off course tunnel so I called pretty hard and took a couple of steps back to get him to turn -- and he did! Then there was a tricky serpentine sequence that I had to handle from waaaaaay in the back since I was so far away. Normally Kaiser will give me one switch at a distance and that's it -- but OMG, he did it! And it was tight & fast! He came flying out of the tunnel and I sent him into the next one, then I pushed a bit hard to keep him over the line, as when I told him "out tunnel" (under the dog walk) he started to go around the outside of the tunnel. We fixed it quickly and then he blasted into the weaves. He hit them so hard that he got hung up on the second or third pole, but he hung on and got through them. Then up the a-frame, another hard turn right into the tunnel, a 180 jump sequence back through a tunnel under the a-frame and out the finish tunnel!

It was THE MOST AMAZING RUN OF MY LIFE. It was like driving a Ferrari. We just clicked. It was so beautiful. I went to the 3 Pines area to watch it before leaving for the night and it was just as pretty as it felt. I don't want to jinx myself, but Kaiser has consistently been the fastest dog of the class, but has been bumped back because of faults. There were NO FAULTS in this run, so is it too much for me to hope for 1st place? Oh wow, who could have ever imagined?? I can't wait for results to be posted.

I was just floating after that run. I almost cried I was so happy & proud of my little man. I had so many people compliment me on the run as we were leaving. Oh wow, I'm just on cloud 9.

It should do a lot to help Kaiser's overall standings. I'm really hoping we can hold on to a spot in the finals. It would totally make my entire year.

So now it's 9:30 and I do believe we will go to bed early tonight!! That is, if I can sleep. :o)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Day One: In the Bag

It is 10:17 as I start this post and I am back in my hotel! That is the good news! The bad news for those still running is that it's 10:17 and they aren't done yet. ;o) Really, though, it shouldn't be much longer. I hear on Facebook that the Stakes classes are running. I feel bad for not staying to cheer them on the second round, but holy heck, we were totally beat!

Day one is in the bag and I have to say it was a very good day. Obviously this is Secret's blog, but Kaiser gets honorable mention today because HE ROCKS. His first round was *gorgeous*. Round one was a FORTY OBSTACLE course that was Hoopers focused. The only jump on course was the start jump, which didn't event count. It also had one performance each of the contacts & weaves.

Overall I really enjoyed the course. It had great flow and wasn't tricky to remember -- for a forty obstacle course, at least. The hang up was the distance at a discrimination to be taken not once, but twice -- including a two hoop sequence following it. The first time we had to go up the a-frame (not so terribly hard for most teams) do a 180 through the hoops and back through the tunnel under the frame. The second time was the opposite and holy heck was that out tunnel a challenge for the majority of teams. Not a single one of my three got it, if that tells you anything.

Kaiser went up the a-frame and came back through the tunnel. I opted to cross the line to help him into the tunnel, figuring if I didn't he would likely go up the frame again and waste time. I was able to redirect Luke to the tunnel without crossing the line. I crossed the line for Secret, but even in doing that it took quite a while to actually get her in the tunnel... She was certain the a-frame was the way to go!!

So anyhow, Kaiser had a blazing fast and beautiful run. He EVEN GOT HIS A-FRAME at the end of the course and had a lovely, lovely drive to the finish. No surprise there, he's great at blowing me off and running in a straight line. lol

Secret was my second dog, a good 100+ dogs later. She was pretty overwhelmed when we were waiting in line. I was bummed to see her tail touching her belly button -- She hasn't been that ooged out around agility for some time. Thankfully she got much better once we got into the separated waiting areas and it was quieter.

She started really well! I rear crossed a tight turn into a tunnel and wasn't in place to support the hoop after it, so she cut in there. Did we have to restart our weaves? I don't think so (I think I'm thinking of Luke). She got the "up frame" at a distance, but she cut in without taking the hoop so I had to cross the line there. She cut in on another hoop before a sharp turn to the tunnel -- my fault for assuming she would go and trying to leave her to get into place. The tunnel/a-frame ordeal followed. Oh my, it took what felt like forever to get her in that tunnel. Then she shot through a tunnel/hoop sequence so fast that I wasn't able to get her to turn in time, so she got an off course hoop before going to the dog walk.

Long story short, she ended up with 50 faults and a time of 90 point something. It's all written down in my stall -- She was like 32nd place, so not great, but it's a super competitive class. Luke ended up 17th in his division -- He only had the 10 faults from the discrimination, but we had to reset the weaves and then he cut in on the dog walk when I called too hard, wasting time there as well.

It took six hours to get through round one, not counting the Stakes classes. We expected round two to be shorter and it was -- 20 obstacles. This round was Tunnelers focused, used all the obstacles, but only had two jumps. Honestly, I have to say I don't mind the heavy hoop influence today. We'll see if it keeps up over the next few days.

Kaiser had another smoking run -- I think he got his dog walk again (a friend confirmed it), but I was too far behind to see (dog walk was second -- no start line = way behind, lol). He went rip roaring through the next sequence so fast that I wasn't able to get him to turn away in time, so he took an extra jump. The rest of his course was super awesome. His weaves were so lovely. I have no idea how they pick it, but I think it would be awesome for the little guy to get the Judges Choice award for best weaver. :o) Considering the course was so short, I'm not sure if his speed will save him on this fault. We'll see tomorrow.

Secret was GREAT!! She was way more relaxed going into the ring this time and she had FUN! (Not that she didn't have fun the first time, lol) Her run was perfectly clean going into the weaves at the end when all of the sudden she got distracted (poop?) and paused, then skipped past a pole. We reset quickly and finished well. I have no idea of her time.

Luke was pretty awesome as well. The big guy had a lovely clean run with no faults or bobbles. The 16" Vet division is pretty competitive, so we'll see how he stacks up in the morning when results are posted.

So there you have it! Day one = Awesome :o)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We Are Here!

Check it out! I actually managed to fit everything we would need for five days PLUS the dogs into the back of my Vue! I wasn't sure it would be possible, but I made it work. The bungees that I picked up last night on my last minute shopping trip no doubt helped, as it allowed me to stuff quite a bit more behind the crate without worrying about it plopping over on top of the dogs in transit.

They were a little cozy back there, but they seemed okay with the arrangement. They changed positions a few times, but there was room for all!

The hard part is going to be getting everything back in there for the trip home....

We had an uneventful drive if you don't count the torrential rain we experienced for about 1/3 of it. We left home EARLIER than planned -- I had a goal of noon at the latest and we pulled out of the driveway just after 11:00. Granted, we then had to drive a half hour out of the way because I had failed to go to the bank, so in all we were on the way by 11:30.

We stopped in Lancaster, WI at 1:30 for a potty/coffee stop. Then we made it to Galesburg, IL for our next stop around 4:30 or so. Our stops were brief and the dogs were quite well behaved. I was shocked that Secret actually went potty on the first stop! Not so surprised that she didn't on the second. I swear she holds it all day...

We got to the fairgrounds at 6:00. I managed to find barn 14 and a coveted parking spot in the unloading area. The stalls are... Less than desired, but they will work. Thank goodness I have the giant floor mat to cover the grossness, but it doesn't do much for the giant crater in the center of the stall. I think we could build a swimming pool in it -- if the stall weren't so small. I'm thankful I decided to splurge and get a stall of my own, as it would be pretty cramped quarters. It's a nice space for my three, though. Secret settled right in while I finished hauling stuff in.

Since they seemed fine in the stall, I left them to go check out some of the EGC action that was finishing up in the big ring. I can't wait to see how it's set up tomorrow -- It's a very nice, big space and the footing looks great!

We found our hotel around 8:00. We're staying at a Red Roof (no dog fee!) and it's actually quite lovely! There is a huge grassy lot not that far away that the dogs can run around in. I think we'll be happy here the next several days. :o)

So that's that -- We are here, it is starting. I will try to update how things go each day. Tomorrow we start with the briefing at 8:00 a.m. Kaiser is something like dog 21 tomorrow, Secret doesn't run until like 120 or something like that. No Team tomorrow, so I'm hoping we get done at a decent time. Sharon was guessing 8:00 p.m., but we all know how that goes... Regardless, I don't see it going past midnight with this format as it did in 2009. Hope I don't have to eat my words!

Off to bed!!

Monday, October 10, 2011


A friend at the shelter asked me on Saturday if I was nervous yet. I confidently answered that no, I wasn't. Typically I don't really experience nerves until right before the start of a run or event.

Well, apparently now is "right before." lol

Uhhh.... Yeah. Truthfully, though, I think the majority of the somersaults my stomach is experiencing at the moment is more related to the items on my list of things that needs to be done before we leave. Nothing like putting everything off until the very last minute -- Although many things really can't be done in advance.

Important things like an oil change are being taken care of this afternoon, the preparing of the massive quantities of treats has began (pictured above -- Two packages of chicken are cooked, shredded and sitting in the freezer), and my trial binder is complete. Things on my list that might be considered a bit more trivial would be "paint nails purple" and "dye Kaiser's tail." Although since that last part is now expected of me, I'm not sure how trivial it is. lol

I have now reached the stage where I am terrified of injuring one of the dogs. As such, they were lucky they even got to play fetch this weekend. I had good intentions of taking them for a run one evening, but it was a busy weekend at the shelter and I was wiped out. Considering we are having another gorgeous 80 degree day, I believe I'll shoot for taking them to the river after the oil change.

Speaking of weather (kind of), I finally looked at the forecast for Springfield. They look more or less to be experiencing similar weather to ours, with a similar cool down coming this weekend. But still, I'm glad I didn't go overboard buying cold weather wear in purple because it's supposed to be mid-60's to 70 each day. Lovely weather for agility if you ask me! Maybe my purple sweatshirt will come in handy as a pillow. :o)

Friday, October 7, 2011

Last Practice!!

Last night was our last practice night before Champs! No activity tonight because everyone saw the chiro this morning, I'm working at the shelter all weekend (and now it's almost dark when I get home, sadness) and then have way too much to do Monday & Tuesday.... So yes, last night was it for us!

Because of this, I thought it might be a good idea to set a course. I planned to go through my course book and just find a "normal" Regular NADAC course to run through -- but then I came home to find this:

*SOB* So much for limping it through the rest of the season. Upon seeing the picture posted on Facebook, my dad responded with, "We can fix that." Uhhhh.... My dad is pretty amazing, but I don't know about that. I told him he'd have to look at it. We'll see. But regardless, there was no way I could use it last night. That left me all, "Hmmm..." about my training plans for the evening.

I scratched my head a bit, thought about what things I wanted to work on and then just started to wander around the yard with obstacles. I knew we absolutely needed a discrimination, and with only one contact it was a given. I needed a tunnel at the dismount of the dog walk for Kaiser, so that placed itself as well. I wanted an opportunity to practice rear crossing the weaves, figured it wouldn't hurt to throw a wrap at a hoop in there somewhere (since many of us are expecting to see this at Champs this year!) and of course a few changes of direction. This is what I came up with!

Yes, the spacing is off and I'm a pretty horrible artist, but it was actually a very nice course to run! Not nearly as boring as what I usually come up with. :o)

The start of the course with the big loop around the outside was fairly Champs like. I was able to layer the inside jump & hoop with all dogs to allow me to take a shorter path and be ready to push out for the discrimination. I really tried to stay back and work on doing the discrimination at a distance and it worked well.

I handled the next part in several ways. I worked on rear crossing the weaves (Secret rocked!) and wrapping left at the hoop as well as running ahead and doing a push with a wrap to the right. Really, both ways worked. In this situation I think the push/wrap right might have been faster because it presented a straight line through the next two jumps.

I did try a front cross between 12 & 13, but overall I liked rear crossing between 13 & 14 better. Staying outside the pinwheel and doing a front cross on the back side of 17 seemed quite a bit faster than pivoting on the inside and rear crossing at 18 -- Plus doing a rear cross puts you behind for the upcoming "up" discrimination.

Secret was pretty awesome through everything -- AND for the record, she held her contacts until released. Yes, I actually maintained criteria. :o) Might not hurt to try to find time for one more "deposit" session this weekend.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, we made another trip to the chiropractor in Viroqua this morning. All three dogs came in this time. While it certainly is a handful, everyone remarked at how well behaved they are together. That's always nice to hear. Everyone was very relaxed and well behaved today.

Secret was up first, mostly because she was mugging everyone this morning and seemed to want attention. She was a good girl, didn't put up too much of a fight about getting into position and more or less relaxed pretty quickly. She kind of zones out in my hands while Dr. Engel works on her.

Secret was still pretty flinchy through her mid-back, so Dr. Engel spent a bit of time getting that all worked back into place. Everything else was pretty good and Dr. Engel was impressed with her elasticity in the hind end. By the end of her session the flinching was gone and Secret was a happy camper. It does look like she will be a dog that needs continuous maintenance going forward. Perhaps monthly, but we'll see.

Next on my list of "Things to do to prepare for departure" is to go buy our 20 pounds of chicken... (Okay, maybe a *slight* exaggeration, but not much, lol) Who wants to help me cook and shred it? Anyone? Anyone? No? Well then, you can get started cutting two pounds of cheese into cubes. :o)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Money in the Bank

That's what we did last night. We put a great big (long overdue!) deposit into the contact bank. I have gone a very long time taking advantage of Secret's super awesome foundation training, failing to admit that if you don't go back and revisit those foundations, they eventually start to fade away.

So, we went right back to square one. Using food, we did the good 'ol "jump on from the side and drive as quickly as possible into position." Secret thought it was about the most fun thing in the world -- Shaping! Tricks! Food! All of her favorite things in life. :o)

We moved on to doing the whole dog walk and tried to focus on getting into the end position faster. You know how she is with food, though; not the fastest dog on the planet. But still, she was happy, eager & having fun -- So in all, I consider it a good, successful session.

Why didn't we do the full a-frame?

This happened during our last coursework night. :o( That side of the a-frame has started to look bad the last couple of months (warping/separating), but I think it was Luke who finally punched a hole through the wood.

When it happened I thought should be able to limp it through the rest of this year -- If I set the course so that they go up that side, it should be safe enough. But I put it back up on my mover and last night I noticed it is warping & separating significantly more. Major sadness. I should probably just put it back on the ground so it doesn't get any worse.

I'm open to suggestions if anyone has any. Otherwise, I started looking around on the internet for my options. I found this web site that has a pretty reasonably price aluminum frame. I'm contemplating buying that this fall, storing it in the garage for the winter and then hoping my dad would like to do a "craft project" with me in the spring. That would help to separate the investment, at least. I'd have to order rubber for it in the spring; that way we could just attach the plywood and slap on rubber. Easy peasy, yes? I hope so.

But on the subject of this post, if anyone has some spare money sitting in the bank, I'd be happy to help you out there. ;o) The timing just sucks. With equipment that lives outside all the time, I suppose I should have thought more strongly about aluminum from the start.

Hopefully I can get my dog walk through another year so that I don't have to make two big investments....

Prior to doing our contact reinforcement session, all the dogs worked through the big arc. Our setup last night was three hoops leading into a 15' tunnel at the top of the yard followed by three more hoops. It was a 50 yard sprint more or less.

Secret really hauls ass on the last half the arc, but she is slower on the first half. I hoped having the tunnel at the top would help suck her, but alas I just don't think she's super motivated by tunnels -- Not because tunnels aren't fun, but I think she has a bit of a disconnect when she can't see me. We worked a bit on making driving away from me super fun and overall it was a good session. Any time the jolly ball is involved, Secret has fun.

All this is, of course, because in a mere single solitary week we will be running at NADAC Championships. :o) Run orders were posted last night and it just makes it ever so much more real & exciting. We're getting close! I'm quite tickled with the run order, as I somehow ended up in line with friends with every dog. How awesome is that??

I have so much to do before leaving. I haven't really given a thought to packing yet, as I'm more consumed with everything that needs to done prior to that.... Today's project was stall signs, as you'll see above! SO much more to do.

Monday, October 3, 2011

A weekend... At Home??

It's a shocker, I know. I took off from the shelter this weekend because we were supposed to go to the Zumbro Falls NADAC trial. As you know, I opted to skip that trial to rest up (and save $$) for Champs, wanting to go in on the high note of our last (highly successful) trial.

This resulted in spending two whole days at home with no plans. I totally fail at having weekends. It's been so long since I've had one that I kind of just implode and become a hermit. Ah well, hermit weekends aren't that bad. The dogs would tend to disagree, though. They were thoroughly disgusted with me on Saturday. Eventually they just make their own fun -- This was one of their tamer indoor play sessions this weekend. Makes me wonder what they do when I'm gone all day at the shelter....

I was thankfully a far more productive human being on Sunday. In addition to four loads of laundry, cleaning (don't worry, I didn't go overboard) and grocery shopping, I actually managed to work the dogs! I figured I'd be a failure as a human being if I let the whole weekend pass by without taking advantage of the beautiful weather -- It would have been a lovely weekend to trial outdoors in Zumbro Falls, that's for sure.

I feel like I brought out this course a week early, but I set the Finals round from 2010 NADAC Championships. Oh yes, the Finals. :o) It is my goal to get at least one dog into the finals -- It might be a lofty goal, but gosh darn it there you have it. Anyhow, this is the course:

It was a wee bit of a squeeze in my yard, but we managed. The start hoop was simply about a foot away from the fence, that's all. :o) And the 8-9 hoop sequence ran directly next to the deck, which Kaiser didn't really care for (Mr. Space Bubble-n-all), but Secret didn't give a rip. In my course, the number 12 tunnel was replaced with two hoops to simulate the entrance & exit to the tunnel -- I figured if I had to omit a tunnel, that was a better option than #4/14. And lest you think it dampens the tunnel sucking effect one might see in the original course, Kaiser & Luke were fully capable of blowing off my turn signal and running through the off course hoop. ;o)

But Secret? Secret says, "I got this, no worries!"

I played with a few different handling options, such as rear crossing into tunnel #4 vs. a front cross between 3 & 4. That didn't make much of a difference to Secret. In a moment of brilliantly stupid handling I found myself behind her in the line going to the tunnel under the a-frame. Not that I would ever recommend it, but I started to cross behind her and gave her the verbal "tunnel" command -- and she took it! I suppose it's nice to know if we get in a pinch that we have options... After that I handled the turn from 4 to 5 from much further back and took off running as soon as she came out of the tunnel.

I was quite impressed with her switch turn from 13 to 14. She apparently thinks switching into tunnels is super fun because she would really dig in and push through that turn. I handled the closing sequence with a rear cross from 17 to 18 which, leading into the dog walk, was also apparently highly motivating to Secret. Nice to see that the front cross queen is having more fun with rear crosses these days.

It should come as no surprise to me that Secret's stopped contacts were officially *gone* in this session. I've been asking for it. We ended our first session with a couple of stopped contacts with the toy reward. I skipped doing any course work with Secret on her second turn and opted to instead put some deposits in the contact bank with food rewards. It's been quite a while since we've done any of that -- Secret thought it was pretty awesome.

In addition, I asked for some dog walks with HUGE distance. She is so used to me babysitting her end performance, so I wanted to focus on getting some distance. She did great, even when I ran laterally halfway across the yard -- AND she sent out to the jump after the dog walk, even! That's pretty good for the velcro baby dog.

I figure we have one more night of course work prior to Champs. I haven't decided what course we will do -- The remainder of the 2010 Champs courses are quite tunnel-heavy and I don't feel I can do them justice replacing them with hoops, but I might try. It might not hurt to plan one more discrimination session into our training schedule as well. Tick-tock, it's getting close!!