Monday, February 20, 2012

First USDAA Trial! aka: What is THAT???

Well, the big day finally arrived! On Saturday I packed up the crew -- minus Luke :o( -- and went to our first USDAA trial. Cannon Falls is two hours away, which is pretty darn swell for an away trial, really. We left home at 4:45 a.m. to allow for plenty of time to set up crates, get measured and get acclimated to everything.

Unfortunately, when you arrive at the trial THAT early you tend to have a problem finding anyone you actually know... The rings weren't labeled as to which was which and I failed to notice the crating area at the far end down by the ring which ended up being ours. As a result, I ended up crating next to the Masters ring. Even worse, I crated right next to the entrance/exit of the Masters ring. This meant that I had to wade through a sea of people to get from my ring to my crates AND it meant that Secret barked like a crazed fool whenever she saw a dog playing/tugging in front of her crate. Umm, it's USDAA. Do you realize how many dogs tug frantically at USDAA? Yeah. Thank goodness I had an extra blanket along and was able to completely shield her view, which did help.

I worried about how far from our ring we were considering how few dogs were between Kaiser & Secret, but it ended up being a non-issue. And really, the walk from the crates to the ring was probably a good warm up for them.

The P1 dogs were up first in Gamblers. Kaiser was the first dog on the line. I'm not so sure I chose the best opening for him, as the line from the start jump to the tire was not exactly pretty, which resulted in him going around the tire and straight to the a-frame. I sent him to the tunnel and then ran to get ahead on the dog walk -- he didn't stop, but he did get his contacts. We went from the dog walk to the weaves, followed by the jump and the teeter. Kaiser had the most spectacular fly off on the teeter.... Unfortunately the buzzer went off when he was in the tunnel after that so we didn't get a chance to try to fix the teeter. He sent out easily to the chute but I failed to notice that nobody switched the double out after the course walk before we started our run... And apparently this took Kaiser by surprise as well, as he knocked it pretty hard, and then went wide and didn't get the last jump in the joker. He seemed more stressed in this run than I've seen him in a long time -- but I'm sure it was all because he was reading my own nerves.

Secret was a good girl! I changed my plan with her and opted to start with the dog walk instead. So many good things to note about this run! Secret didn't freak out at the judge (who RUNS along with us for the contacts)! She didn't seem to notice the smaller tire at all. I didn't bother with the weaves for Secret (figuring that's a time waster for her and we *needed* to try the teeter). Our plan went a-frame, tire, jump, teeter. And she GOT her teeter! It surprised the holy heck out of her and she had a major, "OMG, what was that?!" look on her face before I sent her into the tunnel. We still had time to kill, so I made the massive error of going back to the teeter for another try. She went on and froze, at which point the buzzer sounded and I let her just bail.

I can't say I had any concern for her getting the gamble, as Secret has never had a problem with the chute before. She loves the chute! Well, not this one. I was running merrily along the gamble line when I realized my dog wasn't with me anymore. Where was she? She stopped cold in the chute and backed out... What? I tried to send her back out to it, but she was having none of it and just sat and barked at me. Great. The buzzer went off and we ran out and finished the last two jumps. She had something like 27 points without the gamble and ended up in 3rd (I don't take ribbons unless they Q...).

P1 Standard was up next, and only Kaiser was entered. Once I was there I did wish I would have entered Secret (same goes for Snooker!), but then again it's probably best to not overload her brain at this point.

Kaiser was just off for this run -- very stressed. He got his dog walk again. I think the slats slowed him down enough to alter his striding, because he still didn't stop for me. Once again I found myself running by myself, though, when Kaiser hit the a-frame and stopped. He was not a fan of the higher a-frame at all. I went back to fetch him and my motion sent him straight back into the tunnel. So much for that. We continued on and then took several tries to actually get our weave entry, but after that we were fine through the table -- and he actually did stay on the table! Yay! We had another fly off on the teeter, although not nearly as bad as the first..... Then finished fine with the last two jumps.

The score person came running after us as we were walking back to the crating area. He explained that the timers had not worked properly during our run and we didn't have a time. The judge was apparently offering us the chance to run again just to post a time. The two faults would stay with us regardless of what happened on that run. What did I want to do?

I hemmed & hawed, trying to determine what the right answer was for my dog. I had carried treats down to the ring with me and did feel that Kaiser was probably sufficiently rewarded for the first effort, so I didn't think it would shut him down to go again. Ultimately, I thought that having another shot on the equipment was incredibly beneficial, so I took it.

I'm so glad I did! The second run was so nice. Kaiser got his dog walk AGAIN (yay!) and this time I made sure to support his effort at the a-frame and he went up on the first try. He nailed his weave entry and made his way smoothly to the table. I took more liberty with his table on this run since I wasn't worried about the fault. I led out to the next jump so that I could be ahead to stop him on the teeter. It worked perfectly and he *finally* stuck his teeter. Yay! Too bad the run didn't count for anything but time, but it was a good time for his class!

After a bit of a break (for the dogs, I was volunteering), Performance Speed Jumping/Steeplechase was up next. It was definitely not a bad course at all and offered many different handling opportunities.

After running past the a-frame at #4 the first time, Kaiser actually went off course between 7 & 8 to start going up the a-frame. Come on, what is up with you little guy? So we were whistled off there, but allowed to continue. He really collected himself at the broad jump, but did it without a problem (granted, it's pretty small for the 12" dogs). He again ran past the a-frame at the end, but I didn't bother to fix it.

I was quite happy with Secret's go at PSJ! We all know how much she *loves* weaves at the start of a course. Add to that, because of the course design and lack of exit gate, the finishing dog is stuck in the ring while the next dog starts the course. If you're lucky, the dog before you will wait until your dog has gone over number three before leaving the ring. If you aren't so lucky, the previous dog & owner will walk right past your dog as you are in the weave poles.... Sigh.

Secret missed her first entry, but went in on the second try. When she missed that entry I prayed that the previous dog would PLEASE stay put in the corner. I had a mini internal panic attack when I realized that was not the case, but THANK THE LORD Secret stayed in her weaves and didn't seem to notice the exiting dog. Not only that, but she weaved fast & happy -- at the start of a course!! And she hopped; she didn't do her dreaded double-stepping that we see so often at trials. One of my friends was wondering at the FDC trial if she was doing that because she didn't want to slip -- and granted, that's not an issue on dirt, so maybe that is part of it.

Secret looked at the judge coming down the a-frame and this might be part of the reason why she was so slow going to the tunnel -- who knows. She was doing nicely.... Right up to the broad jump. Remember how I said she's never seen one before? And how everyone said, "Oh, she'll go over it no problem." Yeah.... Not quite. She slammed on the brakes and gave me a very clear WTF look before she started barking at me. Tried again -- Nope. Tried again -- Nope. One more time -- She sniffed at the planks and gave a little hop to come through the side. I figured there was no point in pushing her more and continued on to finish the course, so we got E'd. Guess I know what I need to build next!

The dogs had another break while Snooker ran. It was a nice course and I wish I would have entered them. It originally had the teeter as #7, but the teeter in the Masters ring broke and they stole the one from Ring 2, so Snooker actually ended up having the a-frame. Darn, that would have worked nicely. Oh well. ;o)

Last up for the day was Jumpers. Kaiser was slow. :o( But he tried hard and stayed on course, just knocking a bar at #14 for an NQ. I think the tight spacing between 13 & 14 took him by surprise. Guess what buddy, it's not NADAC.

Secret really shined on this course. As I always expected, this type of stuff is right up her alley. She was a happy girl when we went in the ring, as she had just been playing with my friend's dog, Tazer. She even lined up with a "peekaboo" at the start line (going between my front legs) which I've never actually had her do in the ring before. Her speed seemed to increase as we went through the course and she put in a lovely run for a Q & 2nd place! It was a great way to end the day -- I so wish I would have had that run on video, but oh well.

There was a lot of great stuff to take from this trial. Secret exceeded my expectations with how well she dealt with the judge in the ring. I'm very happy with how she handled the 22" jumps, too. She had fun and stayed happy -- she did her teeter! She didn't seem bothered by the different contact equipment (slats and higher a-frame).

Obviously there is still a lot we need to work on. I really need to get her on other teeters -- and apparently more chutes as well. Of course, we also need to find a way to train the broad jump... Thankfully the next USDAA trial isn't until the end of April, so we do have quite a bit of time on our side.

Yesterday I set up the chute in the back yard (which is snow free again for the time being). As I expected, we had no problems with it and Secret shot through it for her Jolly ball. I also went down to the basement to assess her teeter, as the last time she was scared by a new teeter she wouldn't even go on mine for months. Phew, no problems there. I even raised ours again to make it more in line with the height we saw at the trial and she was fine with it. That's good, at least we didn't regress this time! Hopefully we will be better prepared for the next trial, as I really would like to enter her in all of the basic classes.

Bottom line -- I really enjoyed our first USDAA experience! Even at the Starters/P1 level, I found the courses to be more interesting than what we have come to see trial after trial in NADAC... I am so ready for change.

Missy did really well at the trial all day! She was quite the popular little puppy when I took her out and about to socialize. The popular opinion of the day is that she is a Border-Staffy. I lost count of how many people offered that thought. What are the odds that she was a purpose-bred dog (for sport) vs. a backyard oops? Not high, but hey, if we can increase her value with the sport folks by calling her a border-staffy, why not go for it? lol There were several people who were just absolutely smitten with her, so we'll see if it manages to go anywhere. I still haven't heard of any bites on her yet. Training continues to go well -- now we are learning to shake!


  1. Sounds like you had a good experience. Always nice to know what you need to work on.

  2. Congrats on the first USDAA - sounds pretty successful! That broad jump can be a bit daunting as it's pretty big in USDAA compared to AKC.