Sunday, June 30, 2013

Who is this dog?!

Secret has found her calling, and apparently it is AKC agility. I'm not simply referring to the fact that her Q-rate for AKC is standing at 100% (granted, it's Novice), but she is just a totally different dog at these trials.

Yesterday we all got up at 4 a.m. and traveled to Burnsville, MN for the North Star Herding Group Club AKC trial. I'm pretty sure that Secret has shown at Soccerblast prior to this, but I'm having a hard time remembering when that would have been. Probably not since we were chasing her Champs Qs in 2011? It's a big place and this was a big trial, which could be pretty imposing, but Secret was in a great mood.

It's hard enough finding a crating spot at this place for NADAC trials, so I was not looking forward to trying to find two spots together (Luke stayed home and got to play with Grandma & Grandpa) on Saturday morning after everyone had already set up on Friday. I wasn't sure if I "lucked out" or not when I was able to squeeze my crates into an open spot right next to the entrance to ring 2. Oh sure, one of the busiest spots I could possibly put my reactive dog...

But apparently because AKC trials are Secret's happy place, there was no problem with this arrangement! Granted I covered up every inch of those crates with blankets, but I didn't hear either one of my dogs make a peep the entire day. They both appeared relaxed and calm every time I had to walk by and peered in the top of their crates to check them out.

The other big change in Secret at this trial was that she PLAYED. She honest to goodness PLAYED (see photographic evidence of my arm, which tells me that either I need to trim nails several days in advance of a trial or teach Secret about dremels).

On Thursday evening I set up the latest drill posted by Ann Croft on her Agility Coach Facebook page to give us one last training session before the trial. I know, the challenge level of this course is about as far removed from Novice as possible, but I had the jumps set at 24" for Secret and we had fun. I did not video this training session, but for the record (after several failed attempts) we actually ended the night with a clean run!!!

At any rate, for whatever reason I decided to use the Coon Tail Tug that was sitting on our toy pile in the garage. Secret was going loony for the thing. When we were done playing agility I decided to reward her by letting her chew on her Jolly Ball for a while before we went in the house. She didn't want it! The Jolly Ball has been one of Secret's TOP toys for the longest time, and she was snubbing it because she wanted the coon tail! Hmm.

I decided to throw the CTT in my agility bag to take to the trial on Saturday just to see what would happen. When we went to wait for our first run I took the CTT and the usual bag of treats (chicken and Charlie Bears). The bag of food was sitting right there next to us, but Secret was ignoring it and actively chasing and tugging on the CTT! And NOT for a food reward like I've taught her to do with her leash. There was no food involved at all. I was just like, "Who are you, dog???" She just seemed so happy and so NOT stressed for a change.

Speaking of stressed, we have been having a LOT of storms lately. I've had to dig out Secret's Thundershirt a few times over the last week. She'd been coping well with noise stuff, but I think it was just starting to build up and it got to be too much for her. I think Secret knows the TS makes her feel better because she seems to come and ask for it to be put on now. Once it's on she is more likely to stay out with the rest of us versus hiding in the laundry room, whether that be under my computer desk if I'm there, or hanging out on the couch next to me.

Our trial yesterday was not completely stress-free for Secret, either. We had to endure another height measurement, but thankfully there was an official measuring person there and now she is DONE with that nightmare. Secret would not stand up for the life of her and was slouching so much that her first measurement  probably would have put her into the 20" class. I assured the official that she was at least 23.5" and he said, "Well, if that's what you want we'll just go with that," and we stopped torturing the poor dog. I checked the box on the bottom of the form that said I was only requesting the single measurement for my dog that was over 22" and we should be getting her height card in a few weeks.

Then there was Kaiser. Oh good lord, Kaiser, since when did you stand on the measuring table without slinking or crouching at ALL? That little turd got on the table, puffed himself up and more or less stood in a perfect free stack without me touching him. Kaiser, no! Slouch a little, would you?! Even when the measuring arm swung over him and touched down he DID NOT MOVE. Gosh darn it, Kaiser. I thought we were totally screwed when our official first came up with 14.5", but thank god he was a blessed saint and he "worked" with Kaiser to get that 14" measurement. Huge sigh of relief. Now we only have to do this one more time and jimminy Christmas I hope the darn dog doesn't bloat himself up so much the next time...

Our first run of the day was JWW, on a course designed by David Hirsch. The courses at this trial were about as wide open as you could get, with some of the distances between obstacles pacing out further than we would see at NADAC! Even the Excellent/Masters courses were like this, so it was kind of like being at a NADAC trial, only with real obstacles.  ;o)

Secret was the second dog on the line and I had 13 dogs between my two, so it was nice to not feel pressured and rushed between dogs (like when they both started USDAA together and we had like two dogs between them...). I wanted to be able to start on the left, which meant that both dogs would have to give me at least a slight lead-out. I have been trying to avoid leading out with Secret lately because I feel like she runs better when I restrain her and then run with her, but I did opt to get a little ahead of her on this one. She did okay with it, though, and I kept eye contact and talked to her the whole time (revving her up with "ready?"). I only needed to get about halfway to the second jump to get the turn, so we were fine.

I was further ahead than I thought I'd be (I was running barefoot yesterday due to still not being able to wear shoes and I think I might actually be able to run faster this way!), so I ended up throwing in a blind cross between five and six instead of the landing side of six as I'd planned. This worked well for Secret and I stayed ahead of her for the whole course, making sure to NOT crowd the weave entrance and leaving her to do it on her own. I was probably almost up to the double when she came of the weaves and I just took off and left her to catch up on that fast finish out. It was a lovely run -- Clean with 100 points, 1st place, a Q and her Novice JWW title!

Kaiser... Kaiser was a good boy and gave me the lead-out. I think I released him too soon, though (not trusting he wouldn't break, most likely), which means I got into his space a little too much and broke his rules.  ;o)  He retaliated by not coming in to me on the landing side front cross I was doing after jump 6 and instead went straight after five and took the off course jump. Okay, if I'm fair I might say that I was late and under-rotated for the turn and pushed him over that jump, but still the dog could do me a favor and respond to my verbal call-off once in a while. lol The ending of this course was just Kaiser's style and he flew like a little bullet. Even with the bonus jump, Kaiser had the fastest time in the class with 20.89 (SCT 44...). There was one other dog around that time and then Secret's time, so she did great, too (22.32, SCT 36).

We ran JWW around 9 a.m. and then the dogs sat, sat, and sat some more until we ran this Standard course by Karen Wlodarski around 3:30 p.m. (I think the trial was actually running ahead of schedule, though!).

Once again Secret PLAYED before this run! And once again she was flawless. I was able to do a running start with her on this run and she was a happy girl. I made sure to actually use movement towards the table this time instead of standing there like a zombie like I usually do and she dove onto it and landed in a down (barking at me). Good girl! She nailed the teeter, nailed the weaves, I overhandled the down of the a-frame and she barked at me and then I might have called a little too sharply after the 10 jump to avoid an off course. I stayed on the right and rear crossed her at the panel jump and we finished clean in 38.96 (SCT 67) for another 100-point Q, 1st place and Secret's Novice Standard title! Yay, we get to move up to Open in both classes now!

Kaiser was also in a good mood for his run. I elected to ask him for a lead out, just to practice it and give me a shot to beat him to the end of the dog walk. I did, he paused and I sent him on to the tunnel. Like I did with Secret, I made sure to use motion to support his send to the table, but because I know he is more prone to bouncing it I think I did stand up a little taller to make sure the little bugger stopped. He did, and I let him stand for the majority of the table count because I don't really care what he does so long as he stays on. lol He was acting a little unsure about what he was supposed to be doing, so I did ask him for a down before the count ended, at which point he pretty much got to release immediately.

Kaiser rode the teeter down nicely and waited for it to hit the ground, but then he jumped off the side of it again. Maybe I need to get the teeter out of the garage again. I was concerned about Kaiser catching big air over the a-frame again and probably didn't push enough, so he hit a little high, but was still in the yellow. If I over-handled the turn from 10 to 11 with Secret, then I REALLY over-handled it with Kaiser, but it got the job done. Unfortunately I used my motion in that turn so much that I got way ahead and was almost to the panel jump (but waaaaaay off to the right) when Kaiser did the broad jump. I started to step in a fraction too soon for the rear cross and pushed Kaiser off his line. He started to go straight for the chute (R), but then turned to come back to me, taking the panel jump the wrong way on the way back (W). I was like, "Damn...," but then I heard the judge say, "It's okay!" and then I remembered that weird rule about being able to have an off course in Novice Standard. Oh yeah, we can still Q! So I sent him back over the panel jump and finished the run in 42.81 (SCT 77). So apparently Kaiser can't get a JWW Q to save his life (um, Jumpers is his strongest class in NADAC...), but he's 2/2 in Standard so far!

To end our day, I won a $10 gas card in the worker raffle! It was for Holiday and I don't think we even have any of those around here, so I kept my eyes peeled on the way out and found a station selling gas for $3.25/gallon -- Win! It's $3.49 here at home, which is still pretty good considering how high it's been for the last many months.

The dogs were super quiet on the way home and zonked out pretty much from beginning to end. Do you see a hint of Kaiser's new harness, there? I finally got him a Julius K-9 harness, in a manly shade of teal blue. His "glittery rainbow" labels are on order.  :o)  I love our ComfortFlex harness, but it's almost two years old now and the velcro has started to give a lot on our walks lately. The harness is still held on by the nylon strap and clasp, but it looks bad and isn't as stable when the velcro gives out. I struggled a little because Kaiser seems to be right between sizes, but we settled on the "mini-mini" and I think it will work well for us. I'm sure I'll set him up and get actual pictures of him wearing it one of these days -- or maybe I'll just wait until his labels come in. I didn't do anything clever -- Just one that says, "Kaiser" and one that says, "Klee Kai." I'm sure it won't stop people from asking what he is, though. We got to educate several more people at the trial yesterday and I got numerous compliments on what a lovely dog he is.

We are off now until our next trip up to Burnsville for the MAC AKC trial on July 13. Secret's move-up request has already been sent! We did receive notice that Border Collie Rescue of MN is going to have a dock diving fun day next Sunday and I was very tempted to go... But I did not want to make the drive to MN three weekends in a row because I'm trying to actually be responsible about finances at the moment. Especially hard to say no to the AKC trial at Soccerblast at the end of July, but there is one in La Crosse in August so we'll live. The surface at Soccerblast is just so much nicer...

I have not decided who will run what at the NADAC trial in La Crosse in July. Right now I *am* leaning towards entering Secret at Champs, but I don't really feel like she needs to run that much NADAC to prepare. Heck, maybe running less NADAC will make her run faster at Champs because she'll be like, "Whee! 16" jumps!" lol

Oh, I totally forgot to mention -- I didn't get that psycho vibe from this group of AKC handlers at all.  ;o)


  1. :) See, AKC isn't all that bad. Congratulations on a great day!

  2. Congrats! I've been looking over USDAA website but find it fairly confusing as I've yet to figure out how you actually get a Q!

    1. It's not too bad and you learn as you go! In Std and Jumpers you need a clean run/zero faults to Q -- but in Starters there are *no* refusals and in Advanced they only call refusals at contacts and if you pop out of the weaves. Snooker needs 37 points to Q, and there is some formula out there for Gamblers that I haven't memorized yet... Some judges are nice enough to tell you how many points you need in the opening, but it's usually pretty hard not to get enough (unless you are Kaiser and blow all of your contacts and run around like a fruit-loop). Relay is time plus faults, as is Steeplechase, but the Steeplechase Q is based on how fast the rest of the class ran, too.

      See? Easy peesy. ;o) Just don't ask me about DAM team scoring, because I'm still trying to understand that. lol

    2. Well that clears up some of it!