Thursday, December 30, 2010

End of Year Summary

With 2010 coming to an end, Philip and I have now been going to Agility trials for a year, so let's look at how we did!

We attended 15 AKC trials and 2 USDAA trials.

Philip has his Excellent Agility Jumper, Open Agility, and Novice FAST titles in AKC, giving him a fancy name of Crysmont Philip AXJ OA NF

Philip also has his Starters Standard Agility title in USDAA.

Finally, here's the total of the different runs we've done and Qs we've gotten this year.

USDAA:


AKC:


I'm looking forward to Philip's runs in the new year, Happy New Year everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

November AKC Trial

Philip and I went to another trial this weekend. Nothing overly exciting happened, so I'll make this quick.

Saturday Standard was a disaster. I forgot to bring a toy to get Philip focused on me before the run, and with it being early morning, he had way too much energy on his paws. So when he got to the course and off-leash, he went a little crazy and paid very little attention to what I was saying. He took a bunch of wrong courses, got refusals, and skipped obstacles, but at least he had a lot of fun :)

Before going to Jumpers, we met a doggie friend, so Philip got to play and get some of his craziness out. He was much more focused on me during the Jumpers run, but still messed up the weave pole entry earning us an NQ, though the rest of the run was very good.

On Sunday I made sure to bring Philip's toy with me, and it made a huge difference in his craziness level. Unfortunately, the beginning of the Standard course was a little tricky, and I think I should have handled it differently, but in any case Philip ended up taking a tunnel one jump too early, earning himself a wrong course and an NQ.

Last but not least, Sunday Jumpers was a nice course with only a couple of tricky spots, and Philip attacked it like a pro, made no mistakes, and earned a Q. The only Q of the weekend, this was our 3rd Q in Excellent A JWW, so Philip finished is AXJ title and will be moving up to Excelled B JWW!

I find it funny how his ability switched all of a sudden, and Jumpers got better than Standard after all the earlier struggles. I wonder if it'll switch back sometime, or better yet even out to both courses being good :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

October AKC Trial

Oops, I was sure I already posted this, but I guess not... Sorry about that, we had another trial two weekends ago, so here it is!

Out Saturday started out hazy and drizzly, but Philip and I needed to get to the trial, so we packed up into the car and went on our way. A little while back, the little toothy monster (a.k.a. Philip) ate through his portable soft-sided crate, leaving only his bulky wire crate at my disposal. I brought it along to the September trial, but it was a bit of a pain to drag around, so I decided to go crate-less this time. It wasn't hot out, and Philip comfortably stayed in the car for the few minutes that I needed to walk the course without him - the rest of the time, I simply held onto his leash and played "bunny" with him (more on that later). Thankfully, it wasn't wet or rainy at the trial site despite the drizzle at home :)

First up was a Jumpers course, and it looked like a fairly smooth run, so I gave it a quick walk-through and got Philip ready to go. Unfortunately he knocked a bar at the 4th jump, and subsequently messed up the next jump as well (probably because I was looking back rather than focusing on my handling, therefore doing a very ungraceful cross). Other than that little mishap though, the run went much better than most of our runs in the past few month, so even though this one was an NQ, I was optimistic for the next course.

The Standard course was also laid out with a good flow, though had a tricky ending - the dogs were running out towards the last jump, but had to take a detour to the right and turn around, taking the last jump backwards. I saw several dogs sprint straight over that jump and mess up their run. Philip started off at a good pace (not super-fast as he's capable of, but that's how I prefer him right now as he gets a little crazy when he gets fast). When we reached the table he hesitated getting up on it and ended up slowly jumping up from the left side. I was sure a refusal would be called for that, but the judge deemed it clean (I guess Philip never actually stopped dead in his tracks). After that, we had a few jumps to go around before reaching the tricky ending. At one point I wasn't paying much too much attention, but momentarily noticed that Philip headed for the A-Frame off to the side instead of the jump I was heading towards. In sudden realization of that, I shrieked at him, and to my surprise he turned right around and took the jump, whew! Lastly, I made sure to stay clear to the side at the end to lure him away from the incorrect ending, and it went very smoothly. This was it - our first Q in Excellent Standard :) Overall, a very good day considering all of Philip's latest antics over the past few months!

Sunday Jumpers course had a couple of tight turns, but turned out to have a very nice flow once we got to running it. Philip was very focused on me and did everything perfectly - not a single scream was required on my part, his weaves were good, he didn't veer off to the sides, and all the bars stayed up. We haven't had such a nice clean run in a while, so I was very proud of him. Needless to say, it was a Q!

The Standard course was tricky - it had a dog walk and a tunnel right after it, but the dogs were to go off to the side and onto a table before coming back to the tunnel from another side. I was a bit worried that Philip would dart into the tunnel (his favorite thing!), but when we got running he actually listened, and even did the table a little better than the day before. Out of the tunnel we got to the weaves, and Philip started out really nicely, but popped out of the very last pole earning us a refusal - what a bummer! :( The rest of the run was very nice, and had it not been for that pole, we would've had another good run. Alas, we got an NQ.

So now we have 2 Qs in Excellent A JWW, and 1 Q in Excellent A Standard!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Another Results Summary

I think it's time for another quick summary of our progress so far.

So far this year we've attended 2 USDAA trials and 11 AKC trials over 9 months. Philip has successfully advanced to the Excellent level in Standard and Jumpers in AKC, as well as Open FAST. He also has his Starters Standard title in USDAA.

I totaled up all the runs we did and how many Qs we got over all this time, so here it is for both clubs!

USDAA:


AKC:

Friday, September 17, 2010

Paws It Forward

Check out Philip's non-Agility blog for a chance to get in on the Paws It Forward gift-giving! :)

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More Rule Changes

I made a quick post about the pause table changes last week, but that isn't the only thing that has changed in AKC Agility rules this month.

The A-Frame used to be 5'6" for all dogs, but has now been lowered a bit for the little dogs. So starting September 1st, all dogs jumping 4" or 8" get to have their A-Frame lowered to 5'0" - it might not seem like much, but when the dog is under 11" tall, even 6" makes a huge difference.

The tire has also undergone a height change, now being set 4" lower than before for all dogs. So now the 24" dogs will jump a 20" tire, 20" dogs - 16" tire, and so on. The two extreme heights get exceptions - 26" dogs will jump a 20" tire, and the 4" preferred class dogs get the tire placed on the ground (true height depending on the tire wall size, which is regulated to be between 3 and 8 inches thick).

The Dog Walk has also changed to exclude the up-contact, only requiring the dog to touch the contact zone (lower 42" from the end of the board) on the descent.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

September AKC Trial

This weekend Philip and I went to a new venue for our Agility trial. Well, at least it was new for us since we've never been there before :) This place was a horse arena of sorts, and so it had dirt on the floor rather than the usual grass that we are used to. It's also a covered arena, which was awesome, as there was no scorching heat! Overall, I was a little unsure how Philip would take to a new surface, but decided I would give it a try anyway, just so that we know for the future.

Turns out the dirt didn't phase him at all, I don't even think he noticed a difference. They were good about raking over it between the different height classes, and that kept everything fairly smooth. You should have seen the holes that the bigger dogs were creating in sharp turn spots and through the weave poles though! It's too bad I didn't have my camera with me...

On Saturday, the Excellent Standard course was a little tough, but not as bad as I've seen before. Little dogs were on fairly early in the morning, so Philip was full of energy. Unfortunately, while many people want their dogs to be fired up, mine tends to go nuts when he is too energetic. This run was not an exception - Philip took off making up his own course and having a grand time, but paying absolutely zero attention to me and making lots of mistakes. He was so bad that I actually gave up and took him to the exit before finishing the last 3 obstacles. This is the first time I've ever not finished a course with him. I used to wonder why many handlers do that, and now I know... When the dog is being so ridiculous, it's only frustrating to keep going, and detrimental to everyone involved, so no point in continuing. Suffices to say this was a non-qualifying run.

After the Standard craziness, I moved Philip's crate out from the covered area and set him out to bake in the sun a bit. Seeing as it helped a little at our last trial, I figured it wouldn't hurt to try this time either. Meanwhile, I got ready for our first Excellent Jumpers run. The course looked really nice, so I had some hope for Philip. When time came to run though, he again took off without paying much attention to me - sigh... After a refusal and a wrong course within the first 5 obstacles though, he got his mind back and finished the rest of the run nicely. If it wasn't for his silliness, we would've had a great run, but alas - maybe he didn't get enough sun.

Sunday started off with Standard again, and again Philip had way too much energy. Just to quickly sum up the terror since my memory is still fresh - he took a wrong course by crossing behind me (bad dog!), hesitated getting up onto the table, messed up the weaves entry twice, was seemingly terrified of and super slow on the teeter, jumped off the A-Frame while I was trying to front cross (thereby ending up behind me again), and finished off by completely skipping one of the jumps that was right in front of him. Sounds like a wonderful run, doesn't it? Yeah... another NQ.

Last but not least was our second try at Excellent Jumpers. The course looked quite a bit harder, and had a repeating pattern of two jumps that the dog had to take 3 times, twice coming out into the far end of a tunnel (usually not good for Philip). I watched the dogs before us run and devised a plan - one with lots of running for me, but one that should help Philip stay on track (if he pays attention!). Philip started off very fast again, but I yelled at him as usual, and this time he seemed to have gotten his head back right as he was about to take a wrong course. The mistake was averted and I took him along the planned route. When we reached the tunnel first time around I called him away pretending like we'd go in another direction, then yelled "Tunnel!" as he was running past the far end. You should have seen the momentary confused look on his face, but surprising it worked, and he darted into the tunnel as I repeated the command - so far so good. Out of the tunnel we came to the weaves, which he took very slowly but thankfully accurately. Then we were back around the jumps towards the tunnel for a second time. Again I pulled the same trick on Philip, and again he gave me a very confused look, but yet again the strategy worked well! A few more jumps out of the tunnel and he crossed the finish line. Another Corgi owner watched our run and I asked him if the judge called anything (those tunnel confusions could have easily been refusals), but he said he didn't see anything. Excited, I waited for the results, and indeed we got a Q with no mistakes, and even a first place :)

Funny thing is I didn't have much hope left for Philip before this JWW run, so I packed up his crate shortly after walking the course in anticipation of a quick get away after a failure. The guy sitting next to me noticed it and said "Packing up already? What if you have to wait for a ribbon?". I laughed and said that in the unlikely event of that happening, I would just wait with Philip's leash in hand - I think he foresaw the future :)

So now we have our very first Excellent Q. It's funny how Philip has struggled so much in Open JWW, but got a Q in Excellent JWW on his second try. At the same time, he started off great in Standard, and has been in Excellent Standard since May, but still has zero Qs in that - go figure! Ah well, we'll get it eventually, and this whole weekend of frustration was totally worth it for that Q! Let's just hope Philip's energy madness isn't gonna stick at next trials.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pause Table Changes

Since Agility is a relatively new sport, the rules under the different organizations are constantly changing. This year AKC has introduced several changed starting on September 1st, and one of the biggest ones affects the Pause Table performance.

As you might remember from my original Pause Table post, AKC's rules were requiring the dog to either sit or lay down on the table for 5 seconds in order to perform the obstacle correctly.

This has been an issue for many dogs and handlers, so the complaining finally got through. Starting September 1st, the dogs are no longer required to perform any particular action on the table, but rather just stay on it for 5 seconds. The dogs may stand, sit, lay down, or balance on their hind legs - so long as they stay on top on the table, the count continues.

This new rule gets rid of any time loss when dogs would break their position, but getting off the table before the 5 seconds is up will still count as a fault, and require the dog to get back on it and the count to be restarted before continuing on. I think it's a good change overall. The one bad thing I can see coming from the new rule is that the impatient dogs will be tempted to break the count early if they are allow to stand "on guard".

Judging on what I heard from the people attending trials last weekend, everyone is very happy with the change so far - things are moving along faster, and many dogs are really benefiting from this. You have no idea how often I've seen a dog get up on the table and sit when it's supposed to lay down or vice versa, with the poor handler practically doing cartwheels around it, but no more of that!

I'll be attending a trial this weekend, so it'll be interesting to see this new rule in place first-hand. It probably won't have much of an effect for Philip though, since he's always been very good with sitting or laying down on the table. Since we also compete in USDAA, which always asks for a down, I'll continue making him lay down in AKC as well.

Monday, September 6, 2010

August AKC Trial

Philip and I went to another trial in mid-August, so let's play a little catch up :)

This was a 2-judge trial and had FAST scheduled for both days, so I was excited and entered all three run both days. Shortly after entering, my instructor warned me that this particular club (one holding this trial) was notorious for being very slow. So when the time came to go to the trial, I had prepared for things to be a bit slower than usual, but how bad can it be with two judges and two rings, right?

Excellent standard run was to be the first run for Philip, and I calculated that getting there around 9 should give plenty of time for previous runs to finish. When I got there though, I noticed that they weren't even half way done with the previous runs… As a matter of fact, we didn't get to our first run until about noon! I was so frustrated at this point, that I was ready to just pack up and leave, but I was already there and the runs were paid for, so I stuck it out.

Our run didn't go so well, probably partially to my frustration with all the waiting, though I had a feeling Philip must have gotten worked up too. He wasn't paying any attention to me - running totally wild and taking obstacles he wasn't supposed to. He went so far that he ran for a jump, and right when you would think he was going to jump, he just changed directions and went right around it. Sigh… of course a shameful NQ.

My instructor watch our run and said that Philip looks like he has too much energy. Not surprising really, considering he'd been sitting in his crate for 3 good hours waiting for something to happen. So she suggested I have him sit out in the sun, so that he "bakes" a little and hopefully mellows out. I estimated an hour wait or so for our JWW run, maybe two seeing as to how slow these folk were, so I sat us out in the sunny spot to wait.

Of course this was all wishful thinking as we ended up waiting another 3 hours before the Open JWW ring was even open for walking. I wasn't prepared to sit in the sun that long, so I had long retired back into the shade by then. The jumpers course didn't look too hard, but the sun-baking was all reversed in the shade, and Philip again made a fool of himself on the ring, earning us another NQ.

It was close to 4pm when we were done with the run and I had made previous plans to meet a friend at 5pm (I was sure we'd be done by 5, even one-judge trials usually finish by then!). Of course, we still had FAST scheduled, but before that the Novice dogs had to finish their Standard and Jumpers runs. So seeing how slow the day had been, and unable to stay past 5 anyway, I decided against waiting, and we left to go home. Good thing too, as I found out the next day that the FAST dogs didn't finish until almost 7pm! Seven!!!

Sunday morning I took my time getting to the trial as I now knew just how slow things were trudging along there. I believe we got to the site around 10:30am, and still ended up sitting around for a couple of hours before our turn to run. This time I came prepared for sun-baking though, so I armed myself with sun screen and a hat, and took Philip with me to watch the other dogs in the sun rather than resting in the crate.

The Standard course looked tough - it started out with a jump follow by two C-shaped tunnels right behind it to each side, with exits and entranced facing each other, and then another jump straight out. The dogs were supposed to go over the jump, to the far end of the left tunnel, out the close end and into the far end of the right tunnel, and then out the close end and over the far jump. I'll see if I can dig up a picture, but basically the dog had to do a figure eight in the tunnels between the two jumps. When Philip's turn came to run, I set him up for the jump, and lead out towards a tunnel. I called him over the jump pointing to the tunnel, and he ran right past me to the next jump - sigh! I don't think he was even listening to what I was saying, though he was a little better for the rest of the course.

Now, the jumpers ring was moving quite a bit faster on Sunday, and the Open runs ended up catching up to our Excellent Standard. I has them move Philip up, and still ended up having almost no time to walk the Jumpers course - only got to walk it once before being kicked off. Of course I could have asked them to let me walk more seeing as it wasn't my fault, but I didn't want to hold up the trial any longer. Instead I parked Philip in the sun for some more baking and watched other dogs in front of us to memorize the course better.

The course wasn't very difficult, and I paid good attention to the could of tricky spots while watching gopher run. Our turn came up and I set Philip at the start line to lead out a little. As I called him over the jump I saw that the "baking" was actually working! He was a little slower than usual and almost looked slow-motion, this was a good sign. I decided not to push him and just went along with his pace. He gracefully took every jump that I pointed to, mastered the weaves on the first try, and paid good attention to me even when I almost messed up one of the turns.

We finished the run cleanly! I couldn't believe it! Oh yes, let me remind you that we've had 2 legs in Open JWW since May, and been needing the one last one for all this time. This was it, Philip got his last needed Open JWW Q!!! It was practically surreal - I probably made lots of weird noises and I cheered in excitement, and our instructor and a few other people in the know clapped for us. All the waiting was worth it to me at this point, finally we are out into both Excellent levels, and it even means we no longer have to stay as long at the trials waiting for the Open run. Yay! Philip got a beautiful ribbon for his new title too :)

The day wasn't over yet though, we still had out FAST run to go, and this one also needed only one more leg to move out of Novice. Philip has never had any problems with FAST, but it's offered so rarely that we just haven't had a chance for 3 Qs. Seeing as he was finally doing well, I was determined to wait this one out. I don't remember exactly now, but I think I waited another 4 hours before it was finally our turn to run FAST. Meanwhile, I baked Philip in the sun some more :) The course was very easy as usual, and Philip did great. I decided not to wait for results and took off as soon as we finished our run, but I did check to make sure the scribe sheet was correct, and the results came in affirmative a few days later - Philip earned a total of 64 points, and took first place, finishing our Novice FAST title.

So there you have it, our very long weekend, but one that was totally worth it in the end. Next time this club holds a trial, I will most definitely not entering FAST though, as there is no way I would purposely want to wait around till 6-7pm again.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oops

It looks like I've neglected the blog a bit :( Life got a little busy over here, but Philip is still enjoying Agility and doing great! I do have some updates, and I promise to write it all up before the end of the week! This way I have a goal time frame, so stay tuned :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

July AKC Trial 2

Well, we spent another weekend doing Agility, so here's the usual recap :)

This was a two-judge trial again, which was really nice, and it also had a FAST course on Saturday! We get these so rarely in our area, as a matter of fact this was just our third try at it since we started competing in January without missing any local trials.

Hold the horses (or dogs?) though - we had our Standard and JWW runs first. Both were simply a disaster on Saturday. So much so, that I lost track of all the mistakes Philip managed to squeeze into just a couple of minutes. From what I remember though, Standard included a couple of wrong courses, a refusal on the weaves, and even a table fault! Philip actually decided to get off the table right before "Go" and we had to do it all over again - ugh! The jumpers course started just like I thought, with an immediate wrong course to a very lucrative tunnel. To top off the embarrassment though, Philip pranced in a circle before getting back on track, and also went completely around one of the jumps towards the end. I'm pretty sure his mind was on another planet during these two runs... It goes without saying that both runs were NQs.

Now back to the FAST run - we are still in Novice (due to its rareness), and the course was extremely easy. The send portion was a tunnel followed by a jump and was no problem at all. It was worth 9 and 3 points respectively, plus the 20 bonus points, for a total of 32. So we only needed to gather 18 other points for the required 50 to get a Q. These were easy to get on the way to and from the send area. So, going all the way around the outside of the course, this path would give us a total of 53 points. Just looking for an easy Q, this was my plan, but Philip seemed to have missed the 4-point jump at the beginning. I thought I heard the judge call it, but I didn't see him jump it, so just to be sure, I added a little extra path to our plan and had him go through the 10-point tunnel on the way out. This way we would have had enough if the 4-pointer didn't count, but it turned out that counted too, so we finished with 63 points, got our Q, and took second place. Only one more Novice Q to go in FAST!

On Sunday, Philip started off with a great Standard run. He listened to me well, got the weave poles entry spot on, and held his contacts as needed. I heard him tick a bar with his nails, but hoped for the best, and while that one did in fact stay up, unfortunately he stealthily knocked another one in the middle of the course. It's really too bad as this was a beautiful run and we would have gotten our very first Q if it wasn't for that one bar. But alas - another NQ instead.

The Jumpers course started out nicely as well, Philip was paying attention and got the weaves right again. The end was a little tricky though, having to turn away from me and wrap around a jump. Philip managed to knock a bar while maneuvering through that turn, and another at the finish line. So NQ for us, and we are still hanging in Open JWW with just one more leg to go.

Oh, and here's something interesting from the weekend - the Excellent JWW course on Saturday had the most curious tunnel set up. There was one tunnel in a fairly tight C shape, and another in a wider C going right around the back of the first one. The dogs approached the outside tunnel first and then had to do a U-turn over a couple of jumps and into the inside tunnel. I really wish we would have been in that class just so that I could try it - it looked fun and challenging!

Monday, July 5, 2010

July AKC Trial 1

I hope you all have a wonderful 4th of July! Philip and I spent a good portion of it going to another Agility trial :)

This weekend was a two judge trial so it went by much faster than the one judge trials that we usually have. We had an early start at 8:30am both days, but it was nice since the weather stayed cooler.

Saturday's Excellent Standard run didn't look too difficult, but unfortunately Philip knocked down the panel jump right at the first sequence. It was weird because he doesn't usually knock panels, but it did look like he took an awkward approach to it, so that might have been the problem. When we got to the table, the judge counted it off really fast, which I thought was funny, but I understood that she was saving time since we had NQed already anyway :) I actually wish more judges would do that so the trials can move a bit faster! At the end of the run, Philip messed up his weave pole entry yet again as well. I really don't know what's with him and the weaves lately...

The jumpers run looked really nice on Saturday, and I was very hopeful, but again Philip managed to knock the fifth jump in the course - sigh. Shortly after, he messed up the weaves entry for a good measure, and then I remembered that I'm supposed to be hurrying him through (he goes at a snail's pace in the weaves, and we are trying to break the habit in class). So I picked up the speed and he did okay, but then I continued going fast and totally forgot one of the jumps we needed to take - oops. So I gave Philip another wrong course and a refusal, went back to fix it, and we finally finished with 6 seconds over time!

Sunday's standard course was kind of crazy looking. The course was laid out in such a way that we had to run on a spiral (around a circle twice while closing in towards the center of the course), and then turn out of it for the finish. This presented a couple of lucrative wrong courses, one of which was a jump with the A-Frame straight ahead from it and a tunnel to the left. The first time around we were supposed to keep going straight, but on the second pass turn into the tunnel. When I watched other dogs run before us, all the handlers did a front cross between the jump and the tunnel to change their dog's direction. It was a good choice, and if I had a well trained dog, I'd probably go for it too, but I knew in my mind that Philip would prance for the A-Frame before I had time to front cross if I tried that. So instead I decided to hold back and cross behind Philip once I got him to the tunnel. I don't think I saw anyone else do it that way, but it worked wonderfully for us! Everything was going great through the whole spiral and I could almost taste the Q, but unfortunately Philip messed up the weaves entry, again! In retrospect, I might have messed him up there because I was being cautious and told him to weave 3 times. I think he knew what to do after my first command and might have gotten confused when I repeated it. Oh well, so close, but no Q because of that of course. Still, this was a very good run, we both handled some very difficult parts nicely, and there was no knocked bars!

Then we had a mishap on the field... skip this paragraph if you don't want to read a hurt dog story (I'm tearing up just thinking about it). While I was walking the Open JWW, some Excellent dogs were still running Standard, and I happened to be looking at them as a lab was running and took the teeter at a wrong time. His handler was trying to call him off, so he stopped in the middle and tried to turn around. Being a big dog, his right back foot slipped off the board, he flinched and stepped on the upper side of the board to catch balance. This in turn made the teeter start tilting and it pinched his fallen leg between the board and the metal supports. Words can't explain the screaming that followed this, and to add to the terror he fell off, completely twisting his stuck leg, as he lay there screaming. Of course, everyone rushed to his help, and while it probably only took seconds, it seemed like forever before they finally freed his leg. He couldn't step on it for a while and got carried out, but I found him later with lots of people huddled around him. They were icing his leg, checking the range of movement and feeding him lots of cookies. Thankfully he seemed okay - no breaks or dislocations, what a lucky boy!

This incident just goes to show what a dangerous sport this is for dogs. It might seem like all fun and games, but there are so many things that can go wrong. Even with all the rules that are there to ensure safety, we can't foresee everything. Please be careful with your dogs!

When our Open JWW run started after this, I think I was a bit out of it because I totally messed up my handling at the beginning. I planned to do a front cross, forgot about it, and ended up with a very awkward cross behind instead. This caused Philip to turn the wrong way while looking for me, and earned him a refusal on the following jump. Shortly after, we approached the tunnel - Philip was supposed to go into the far end of it, and I tried holding him back, but he was focused on the close end, and no yelling on my part could turn his head around. Tunnel entries like this have definitely been a problem for us, but we've been practicing them in class and doing well, so I'm not sure if I did something to cause it, or if he was just being a brat. The rest of the run went smoothly - no knocked bars, and amazingly, Philip hit the weave poles right on target this time, so that was a nice surprise of the weekend :) Since no wrong courses are allowed in JWW though, this was an automatic NQ.

So again we had a weekend with four NQs, but we have another trial this coming weekend, and I really hope we'll break this no-Q spell then!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Judge Signals

If you watch a trial, you'll see that the judge raises hand to signal various things as the dog runs. These are the signals for various mistakes that a dog can make that the scribe is writing down. The signals are slightly different in AKC and USDAA, so in case you are wondering what each signal means, here they are:

AKC
R (Refusal) - one hand raised up with closed fist.
W (Wrong Course) - one hand raised up with open palm.
T (Table Fault) - hand raised up with index and middle finger forming a "V". Can also be seen as one hand straight up and the other horizontally over it to form a "T".
F (Failure to Perform) - both hands raised up with open palms.
E (Elimination) - whistle or one hand horizontally under the chin.

USDAA
R (Refusal) - one hand raised up with closed fist.
S (Standard Fault) - one hand raised up with open palm.
F (Failure to Perform) - both hands raised up with open palms.
E (Elimination) - whistle or one hand horizontally under the chin.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Volunteering at Trials

When Agility trials (or any event for that matter) are run, there is always a need for volunteers to help out with odd jobs. When signing up to run for a trial, you can always pick to be a volunteer as well. The volunteers are scheduled so that the jobs they do don't conflict with their own runs, and they also get some compensation in return. I've volunteered at two difference AKC trials, and one USDAA trial so far, so I thought I'd tell you all about what I got to do.

Let's start with the actual jobs available:
Jump Setter. You get to sit in the ring off to the side from the run, and whenever a dog knocks down a jump bar, you would run over and pick it back up to its proper place. Jump setters also help adjust the equipment for jump height changes. Usually the ring has 3 jump setters, so that each covers a small part of obstacles right next to them.
Chute Straightener. One of the jumps setters normally doubles up to this job. You do everything a jump setter does, plus fix the chute material after each dog runs through it.
Leash Runner. The entrance and exit are normally at different ends of the ring, and the handlers drop the leashes down at the start line. To save time and hassle, the leash runner gets the leash and moves it to a stool near the finish line, so that the handler can clip it on the dog and be out of the ring quickly.
Scribe. This one involves writing down everything that the judge calls out for every dog. Each dog has a scribe sheet generated for it before the trial - these show the dog's name and breed, handler, and class being run. On the bottom is the space for the dog's time, any errors, and points (for point-gathering runs), which is what the scribe gets to write in. The judge has a set of signals that are used to depict each type of a mistake. For points, the judge simply calls numbers out loud.
Timer. When everyone is ready, the timer presses a button that makes the mechanical voice say "Go" or "Ready" and means the handler may start the run. Nowadays, electronic timers are used for the most part, so the stopwatch device starts and stop automatically, and the volunteer simply has to read it off for the scribe at the end. For some runs, the timer has to manually start and/or stop the stopwatch though, which involves a bit more work and precision.
Score Runner. This simply involves hanging around near the ring until several dogs have run. The scribe then hands over their scribe sheets, and the volunteer takes them over to the score table where someone records them into the system (computer at AKC and some special score sheets at USDAA).
Gate Steward. The gate steward makes sure that the dogs are running in their order and are ready to go on time. They will normally call out the name of the dogs coming up and also announce the one that's running to the scribe to make sure the correct sheet is used for recording.
Course Builder. Course builders help build the course before each class, as well as tear it down at the end of the day. I've noticed that these generally ten to be the same people over and over again at our trials. One thing I know for sure is that I wouldn't want to drag all that heavy equipment around!
Check-in (USDAA). At USDAA there is a separate check-in line (AKC does this in self-serve style) at the beginning of the day, and this volunteer just checks people off the list when they arrive, double checks their jump height, and sends them for measurement as needed.

Whew, I think that's all of them. I've done all of these except for the last 3 now and they've all been fairly easy and straight forward. I probably wouldn't volunteer when I don't have to be there, but since for now I have to be there for most of the day anyway, it's nice to have something to do in between the runs.

While these are referred to as volunteer jobs, the volunteers actually get a little something for their work. I'm not sure who decides what the compensation will be, so I'll just share what I've gotten.
Both of the AKC trials I volunteered for were put on by the same people, and in these I got a free lunch for the first job of the day, and a $5 voucher for every other job on the same day. So if you work 3 runs of Saturday and 2 on Sunday, you would get both lunches and $15. The lunch is brought in and the same for all the workers (for example pizza, sandwiches, or Chinese food). The vouchers are only good towards trials put on by the same people, but thankfully they put on most of the trials in this area, so that's not a problem.
For the USDAA trial, we were given a $2 voucher for every job done (even the first one) and lunch was automatically included. One of the runs I helped with had a lot of dogs, so we got two vouchers ($4) for that one. Generally though, 3 Saturday and 2 Sunday jobs would get you both lunches and $10.
Interestingly, while it's less money per job, there are actually a lot more runs in USDAA, so I ended up making more voucher money at USDAA than I did at AKC.

Well, I think that about covers it :)

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

June AKC Trial

Whew, it's been a busy couple of weeks, hence the lack of posts - sorry about that. We went to another trial this last weekend, and it was certainly very eventful, so let's get to it :)

Most trials in this area are organized in a way that Excellent is split into two size groups (4"-16" and 20"-26"), and in one-judge trials, the big dogs usually get to go in the morning, followed by the smaller dogs. Every once in a while they switch it up though, and the small dogs go first thing in the morning. So that was the case this time, and Philip's Excellent Standard run was supposed to be around 9-9:30am.

For some reason, I stayed up pretty late on Friday, so waking up on Saturday was tough. I managed to sleep in later than I had planned, so I rushed out the door once I finally woke up. Of course that meant I'd mess something up... and so I forgot to bring a bottle of water and a bowl for Philip - sigh. Thankfully, there was water available and Philip can drink from the palm of my hand pretty well! To add to my troubles, I got lost a couple of times on the way...

When I had finally made it to the trial, the Excellent Standard ring was already being walked, so I rushed to grab a map and survey the course. This was the toughest course I've seen thus far - with several tight turns and lucrative off-course obstacles. I talked with my instructor and she recommended a couple of interesting maneuvers that I hadn't practiced. She is obviously more experienced though, so I trust her opinion, and practiced the moves while walking the course. Funny thing though is that she was running one of her own dogs before it was my turn, and I saw her mess up one of those tough spots.

We were soon ready to run, and Philip started off pretty well (he seems to always start well). However, when he got to the table, he got up on it and flew right off - something he's never done before. I couldn't believe he did that (I still can't!), but nonetheless, I got him back on the table and continued the course. The first tough spot was coming off a jump into the chute, with a tunnel right behind it. Due to the approach, the dogs were coming off of the jump pretty wide, and naturally aiming for the tunnel rather than the chute (and many took that wrong course). The plan was to turn back before aligning Philip with the chute, and it actually worked pretty well - he went right for the chute. Right after was the second tricky spot (the harder of the two). Here, Philip was coming off of the teeter, with a jump right in front of him, but was supposed to take the weaves to the right. My original thought was to pull him right off, but our instructor recommended lining him up with the weaves before turning, so as to not mess up the weaves entry. This is the spot her dog messed up (taking the jump), and of course Philip also went straight for the jump. Looking back, while this plan was good for an experienced dog/handler team, I probably would have been better off pulling him off to the side right away. Oh well, it didn't matter at that point anyway - NQ with a table fault and a wrong course for Philip.

The Open jumpers course looked very nice - it was laid out such that the whole course could be run without ever switching sides, and I was sure we'd do great on it. Philip was the first dog on the line, had a nice start, but unfortunately knocked down the 4th jump bar. I was hoping that after his wonderful performance at USDAA this month, the bar knocking would stop, but there it was - messing with our runs yet again. Philip ran the rest of the course beautifully, but of course the bar gave us an NQ yet again.

On Sunday, I got up on time and had no trouble getting there, but came to find an even more difficult Excellent Standard course (and here I thought that Saturday's course was bad). There was a spot of two jumps next to each other, and the dog was to go over this place twice, taking the less intuitive jump both times. I talked with our instructor again, and she recommended layering (leaving the wrong jump in between Philip and me and pointing to the correct one) the first time, and rear-crossing the second time. The rear-cross seemed like a good idea, but I wasn't sure Philip would ignore a layered jump - we have only practiced such a thing once in class. So I came up with a second plan that would simply require a lot more running from me, and decided I would choose which to do once I get there.

More than half of the dogs before us had messed up the jumps, so it wasn't looking good. When our turn came, I was ready with both plans, but Philip had another plan in mind - before even getting to the pair of jumps, he went way off course and climbed the A-Frame while I screamed "Philip, over here! Philip! Philip!" at the top of my lungs. I could have done cartwheels and he would have still ignored me... So I got him off the frame and decided that since the run is a mess up anyway, I would try the layering thing. What do you know - it worked wonderfully! Philip didn't even look at the jump in between us and went straight for the correct one! Later, he messed up the weaves entry though, and knocked a panel jump down. I had some iffy handling too, and the second pass through the evil pair of jumps didn't go as smoothly as the first, but we got it right anyway. Of course this was an NQ, but weirdly enough all the mess-ups were not what I was expecting at all! To put it in my instructor's words - "what a bad dog!"

The eventful part of the weekend came soon after the Standard run - as the big dogs were finishing up the JWW course, someone pointed to some smoke on the nearby hill. Was it a just a BBQ? Nope - it was a brush fire, a quickly spreading one too!


I checked if someone had called 911 (they had!) and we all watched while the big dogs got ready for Standard. The fire trucks seemed to have taken an extremely long time to show up, but we finally heard sirens. It was pretty funny actually - most of the dogs broke into howls when the siren approached, what a chorus! What shocked me though, is that some cars weren't moving over for the fire trucks, on a two-lane road at that (one each way)! What's wrong with people? Can't they see the burning hill?

More fire trucks followed, as well as a helicopter and a couple of planes. Another helicopter and plane joined later as well. It was pretty cool to watch them put out the fire - red fire retardant being dumped from the planes, water dumped from the helicopters, and firefighters with hoses on the ground (though there are apparently no fire hydrants in that area, so they didn't have the needed pressure).


The whole ordeal continued for several hours. The helicopters flew over to a nearby reservoir to pick up some water and came back to dump it over and over again. I was amazed at how well these guys can aim the water! We had to continue with the trial of course, but some dogs didn't enjoy all the noise one bit. At one point, a helicopter flew super close to us - it was pretty scary, and the dog on course was really terrified. Thankfully, the judge let them re-run though.


The main fire was contained and put out eventually, and it was nice and quiet by the time the Open JWW run started. It was a pretty good course, a bit harder than Saturday, but still not bad. However, Philip still managed to take another wrong course while ignoring my screams - sigh! No other mistakes, but since no wrong courses are allowed in JWW, it was another NQ for us.

As we got ready to leave, I could still see the firefighters roaming the hill, checking for any left over hot spots, but thankfully nothing flared up. So we ended the weekend with no Qs, but at least the fire ordeal added some fun :)

Monday, June 7, 2010

June USDAA Trial

USDAA trials are structured differently than AKC - with Masters dogs in one ring, and Starters/Advanced dogs in the other. So if you enter in all the offered classes, the trials tend to drag on all day no matter what level your dog is at. It was certainly a very long weekend, and so here's a very long post to tell you all about! :)

The check-in was at 8am on Saturday, so I woke up around 6:30am, and arrived at 8:15am. I checked in and went to get Philip measured. Funny thing here - Philip has been measured twice at the January trial, with measurements of 11 1/2" and 11 3/4". Following the pattern, he got measured at 12" on Saturday - my dog must be invisibly growing!

For USDAA, a dog needs to be measured by 3 different judges, one of which needs to be a certified measuring judge (CMJ). The two measurements we had from January were not CMJs, and the judge measuring on Saturday wasn't either. So that meant we had to get a 4th measurement from a CMJ before applying for a permanent jump height card. Thankfully, the judge measuring on Sunday was a CMJ, so we took care of that then. Now I just have to mail in the current card, and then wait for the permanent one to arrive in the mail.

Alright, back to the trial... As I quickly mentioned earlier, we had a total of 7 runs over the two days, so let's get to all of them at once:

Saturday Starters Standard
First run of the day - I didn't have big expectations, and took Philip nice and easy as I planned. He took off at a nice pace and I went with him, not rushing ahead and not trying to slow him down. Philip hesitated a bit before getting up on the table (maybe because it's a bit taller than in AKC), but got up on it shortly thereafter. The rest of the run was clean and beautiful - he did everything as I asked, tackled the weaves cleanly on first try, and most importantly kept all the jump bars up! The table hesitation would have been a refusal in AKC, but since there are no refusals for Starters dogs in USDAA, we got a clean Q and a 1st place! I should note that the whole weekend Philip was the only dog in his jump height, so our 1st places were basically automatic.

Saturday Starters Gambler
Saturday's Gambler was a nice course - there were several 5-point contact obstacles near the beginning, so earning the 15 minimum needed opening points was a breeze. I stayed away from the weaves just in case, and Philip followed my plan perfectly. We even timed it just right so that we got to the end of my planned route (and near the gamble portion) just a couple of seconds before the buzzer went off. I did flinch in another direction to waste time, but recovered back on track shortly after when the buzzer went off. The gamble portion was pretty nice - a jump right at the line, leading straight into a tunnel about 10 feet out from the line, another jump from the tunnel back to the line at a 45-degree angle, and another jump out from the line at a 45-degree angle. Philip naturally loves tunnels, so he went straight for it after going over the jump. I called him to me over the next jump and easily pushed him over the last one. Overall a very nicely executed gamble, and a Q with 35 points total (20 opening and 15 gamble bonus). Of course, we got the automatic 1st place here too.

Saturday Starters Pairs
We partnered up with Willis for the Pairs run again, just like back in January. We had planned this back when signing up for the trial and I warned Willis's owner that Philip will probably knock bars, so we decided that when time comes Philip should take the half with fewest jumps. Looking at the map in the morning, I counted 6 jumps in one half and 5 in the other - no big difference really. Since Philip has kept all the bars up on the first two runs of the day, I figured we'd let Willis pick the side and then take whichever is left. Willis had blown a couple of contacts earlier in the day and is usually especially bad on the dogwalk, so they picked the first half, which had only the A-Frame for contacts. We got ready for our run, but right as we were about to go into the ring, Willis got stung by a bee in his leg! Poor guy was trying to lick up the spot and wasn't stepping on his leg :( We let the next pair go and I suggested giving Willis some Benadryl. Another dog we know got stung earlier in the day, so her owner pointed to the vendor who they got some Benadryl from. So Willis and his owner took off over there while I contemplated if Philip gets to run at all. While we scrambled to see if anyone would substitute for Willis, I saw them running back. Apparently, Willis saw treats and forgot all about the sting, so he was running happily and they decided to get the run out of the way before any swelling occurs. We quickly got next in line, and were in such hurry that Willis took off before the "Ready" signal - oops, but no biggie, everyone was ready anyway, so they didn't stop him. I stood in the baton exchange area and watched Willis run - he was just so happy to be running, like nothing ever happened! He did his part perfectly, and so we grabbed the baton and took off. Philip again surprised me with great speed, and a very clean run, even getting the weaves right on yet again! We got a Q with plenty of time to spare, and again took 1st place (this time we had one other pair in the same height class (12"-16") who ended up taking 2nd).

Saturday Starters Snooker
The map for this course looked tough, with one of the red jumps being way in the back corner, and the other two in the two front corners - basically lots of running in sight! I thought of a couple of ways to tackle it, consulted with my instructor and settled on a running plan. When I walked the course it seemed easier than it looked on the map, but it definitely promised lots of running space as expected. I watched several dogs Q, and then we went in for our turn. Philip went over the first red jump, and as I took him to the 2-point jump that I wanted him to take, he went wide and took the 4-point jump instead. Being the end of the day, I didn't think quick enough and decided to just call him back towards me as I continued to the next red jump. Of course, as he was running towards me, he took the 2-point jump that I originally intended for him to take, and we got the whistle. NQ for us, but I didn't really care at this point - we already had 3 wonderful Qs for the day, and I was getting really tired and ready to go home. I packed up Philip's things quickly, and we took off for home, it was past 6pm when we finally got back.

Sunday Starters Jumpers
Sunday got started a bit earlier (7:30am check-in) and I was super tired from lack of sleep, so I probably wasn't in the top shape for the first run of the day. The course was pretty nicely laid out, with just a couple of crosses needed on my part. I should note that one of the things I aimed to avoid is crossing while Philip takes jumps, as that can cause a dog to hesitate and knock a bar. Well, seeing as I was a bit out of it, I didn't think that part through and planned a front cross right after a jump in this run. To get a front cross in, you have to race in front of the dog to avoid clashing with them, and that tends to rush them since you are running away. Of course that blew the whole don't-rush-Philip plan when I sped up ahead of him. As I turned to him ahead of the jump, he was coming in fast, flinched at me in his space, and the bar went down. This was 100% my fault - I shouldn't have done a front cross there, and even if I did, I should have given him more landing space. The rest of the run was clean - it's all just jumps and tunnels, so no weaves to worry about. NQ for the bar of course.
An interesting side fact - when the Advanced dogs ran their Jumpers course (which was just slightly harder than Starters), almost every dog knocked a bar or two! Don't know what it was, but they all just kept messing up, and only 3 dogs got Qs in that whole class.

Sunday Starters Standard
The Standard course was a little tricky, but nothing like the Excellent courses we've been running in AKC, so I wasn't too worried. Philip stopped for a split second before jumping up on the table again, but better than the previous time. Then we got to the weaves and Philip did what I originally expected out of him - he entered two poles in instead of one. I took him back, and again he skipped a pole, so back we went a third time. On the third try he started correctly, and went along, but that wasn't the end of it. He decided he would finish after the 10th pole (another Philip favorite to do!) and tried to go ahead. Thankfully I managed to quickly correct him and get him back in the last two poles. I know it's okay to fix the weaves like that in AKC, so I assumed it would be okay in USDAA too, but wasn't sure. So I waited for the results - we had a Q! Guess it's okay after all :) We got no faults since all these mistakes are refusals, and again didn't count against us.

Sunday Starters Gambler
Last run of the weekend was another Gambler. This one looked harder than the one on Saturday. Again, we needed 15 points minimum in the opening. It was a bit trickier to plan, and I decided that I'd give the weaves a try since they were worth 7 points and nicely on the way. Philip went over the first two jumps, and approached the weaves, but unfortunately pulled with pole-skipping trick on me yet again. Somehow I was fast on my feet and decided that I'm going to wing it and do something else rather than waste time trying to fix the weaves. So I turned around and ran Philip back to the chute, followed by a jump and the dogwalk. This was supposed to be the last 3 obstacles in my original plan, but now we still had time and not enough points yet. Again, I winged it and took him to whatever obstacle was in front of me, which was a jump. He jumped over and I called him back for another point. At that point it hit me that this still wouldn't be enough points, so I saw the teeter and ran for it - it would put us in bad position for the gamble, but give us the last needed points. As Philip finished the teeter, I turned back thinking how to get to the gamble and heard the buzzer. I ran fast past the dogwalk with Philip in hot pursuit, and I actually think this played in our advantage since it gave Philip some really good momentum for the closing gamble. The gamble was a bit tricky - a jump right on the line, out to a tunnel that went right under the A-Frame (a couple of dogs took that instead of the tunnel), then out parallel to my line over a tire and a jump, all 10 or so feet away. So with his momentum, Philip plummeted over the jump and into the tunnel. I yelled "Tire!" and pointed to the tire as he came out and he went straight for it - what a good boy! "Jump!" I yelled pointing, and again he went straight for the jump. What a beautiful gamble! So we earned another Q, all with lots of improvisations :) We got a total of 33 points (18 in opening and 15 for the gamble), and our usual automatic 1st place.

All in all we got 2 Standard Qs, 2 Gambler Qs, and 1 Pairs Q - a great end to a long weekend. Philip performed amazingly, and I can't believe he kept all the bars up, at 12" height at that! Hopefully that means we'll see an end to all the bar-knocking in AKC too. I also did some volunteering during the trial, but that's for another post :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Superstar!

I'm way too tired to write much, but just letting you all know that my boy is a superstar! He did so amazingly well this weekend, and I'm very proud of him :) I didn't expect anything like it, I have no clue where this dog came from!

So for a quick recap - we had a total of 7 runs, and we got 5 Qs! That's right, five out of seven runs! Can you believe it? Oh, and just one jump bar knocked down the whole weekend, due to my own mistake at that. All those Qs have also finished Philip's Starters Standard title, so he'll be moving onto Advanced Standard next time!

So yeah, lots of excitement, but a very very long weekend, so I'm going to go rest, and I'll write a more detailed report in the next couple of days. Lots of fun USDAA info coming up later too!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Getting ready for USDAA

We have a USDAA trial coming up this weekend, so we've been getting ready in our Agility classes. Why do we have to have this special "getting ready" time, and what are we doing for it? Well, while it might not seem like a big change from any AKC trial, USDAA actually has enough little differences to make the switch difficult for some dogs.

For Philip, the biggest reason for the special practice is the jump height change. As I've mentioned before, while Philip got happily moved down to 8" in AKC, he has to stay with 12" jump height in USDAA because they don't even have an 8" height! Being the bar knocker that he is, I thought that having to go up a height suddenly (after jumping solely 8" for a good couple of months) would present quite a problem. So I ran him at 12" in last week's class to see how he'd do. My worries were justified, Philip knocked bars left and right all class long, and so I persistently stopped him and made him redo every bar he knocked until they stayed up.

Since Philip didn't do so well last week, I kept him in 12" this week as well. Again the bars went flying at the first run, and again I made him redo every single one. At one point our instructor speculated that he might be rushing to keep up with me and being careless. So for the next run, I took my speed down a notch. Eureka - Philip was being noticeably slower, but also much more accurate! Half way through, when we reached the table, our instructor commented that while he's being accurate, he's too slow (I didn't tell her I was going to slow down), so I should encourage him to go faster. Hmmm... so I did, and the next bar went down again (though it was also a terrible approach angle). We fixed it and were mostly done for the day.

After class I talked with our instructor and told her that I think it might be better if Philip is slow but accurate, rather than bar-knockingly-fast. I could tell she was apprehensive about that idea, and I totally know why - Philip has just started picking up speed in the last month, and it would be a shame if he slowed back down because I'm suddenly not pushing him. We are really going to need the speed once we reach Excellent B in AKC, which should hopefully be soon, so I probably shouldn't sacrifice that just for some Qs in USDAA.

So the verdict was that it might be okay to not rush Philip when going over a series of jumps, but really encourage him to go at super speed on non-jump obstacles. I think that's a good compromise, plus it would only be for the weekend runs before we go back to fast 8" runs. So that's what I'll do, at least I'll start it off that way on Saturday and adjust as needed as we go along.

Another noticeable difference for Philip was in the weave poles. The weaves have always been a bit of trouble for him, and even though he has certainly gotten better over time, he consistently had trouble with them at the last AKC trial. I hear that dogs constantly go through phases where they seem to "forget" how to do some obstacle, so that must be what happened there for Philip. To add on to that trouble though, the USDAA poles are placed tighter together, making them more difficult for most dogs (some petite dogs enjoy the shorter distance). In AKC the poles are usually 24" apart, in USDAA they are supposed to be at 20"-22" by the rules. Per our instructor's observation, practically nobody in our area has 22" weaves, so we have to stick with the 20" kind.

Thankfully, our instructor has a 20" set and had set them up for the last two classes. Philip had noticeable trouble at first, going through slower than usual, and skipping a pole or two somewhere in the middle. I took him back through several times over and over again and rewarded him generously when he did it right. In the end, I think he got the hang of it by the end of yesterday's class, so we should hopefully be good there.

Some other differences for USDAA:
- The contact zones are shorter on the A-Frame, Dog Walk, and Teeter. That shouldn't be a problem for Philip since he usually sticks his contacts well.
- The A-Frame is steeper for tall dogs. That doesn't affect my short dog, so no problem there.
- The dog has to run without a collar. Again, doesn't affect us since Philip has always ran without one.

That's all the major differences, there are other nuances, but most of them are unnoticeable as far as the dog's skills are concerned. This weekend shall be interesting - we have a lot of runs, and will be there all day both days. Can't wait to see how we do!

Monday, May 24, 2010

May AKC Trial 2

Sigh. I wish I could say this weekend was as awesome as the last one, but it was actually quite the opposite...

The larger (20" and up) dogs ran Excellent first, so we arrived around 10am on Saturday for the smaller dogs turn. The trial was moving slowly though, so when we arrived, the big dogs has just started their Standard runs. With time on hands, I went to watch what we'll be doing when our turn comes. I stood by the side of the ring and watched dogs NQ one after the other - they were mostly taking wrong courses in the cluster of jumps that the judge had set up. I knew that couldn't be good, and went to see the course map to figure out the correct path. The part where many failed indeed looked tricky - the dogs had to run through a "box" of jumps a couple of times, taking tricky turns while being tempted by a wrong jump right in front of them. The NQ rate was pretty astounding to me, but maybe it's common on Excellent courses - I haven't watched very many, so I can't really say.

I walked the course while the small dogs ran Excellent JWW, and I just had a feeling I wouldn't call Philip off those tempting wrong courses correctly. Our turn came and we got to the first box approach - Philip wanted to take the wrong jump, and I barely manages to call him off. We went through a few more obstacles and approached the box again - this time Philip needed to ignore a jump and go to the table instead. I practically did a cartwheel to get his attention, but he took the wrong jump anyway, happy as a clam. He later missed his Weave Poles entry as well, but it didn't matter at that point - NQ for us.

The JWW course looked a bit nicer, though I wasn't expecting much from it either. Philip took off nicely, but as he went over the 3rd or 4th jump, I heard my least favorite sound - he hit a bar! I always finish the course even if we mess up, so we went on. A few jumps later we were running past the judge, and she suddenly said "It stayed up!" to my back. I almost stopped dead in my tracks to make sure I heard her correctly, but thankfully realized that if it was in fact true, we had better keep going. We reached the weaves, and Philip messed up his entry again, but did it right on second try. The rest of the course was clean, and so I went to my instructor - "Did it really stay up!?" I asked. Yes, yes, it really did! What a nice gesture on the judge's part to reassure me, she must've heard me sigh when Philip hit the bar. I still can't believe it, but much to my amazement, we got a Q with just one refusal on the weaves!

On Sunday I took my time getting to the site, and still ended up getting there too early. I took the course maps, and while the Standard course looked nicer this time, it again had a couple of tricky spots. The start of the run was over two jumps, around the second one, and back to the first - Philip did that part nicely. Then he went on the dog walk and I wanted him to wait for me, so I could switch sides to take him into the correct side of the tunnel. I was worried he wouldn't stop since he loves tunnels, and indeed he tried to plow right on through, but I managed to get him to pause before the tunnel and got him into the right end. Right out of the tunnel we had the weaves, Philip had a nice approach to it, but still decided to mess up his entry yet again (what's with the weaves this weekend!). That of course meant an NQ for us, but I wanted to fix it and took him back. Again, he did it wrong, and again the third time. I got frustrated at this point, and so I had him skip the weaves all together. He ran nicely afterward, though I slacked on getting him to one of the jumps, earning us even more errors, but this one was entirely my fault. Then I rushed him at the end since the buzzer went off and he knocked a bar to add on to our troubles.

The JWW course looked fairly smooth and I felt good about it, but unfortunately Philip knocked the very first bar (I actually saw this one go down). As my instructor later said, I must have been "mourning the bar" after that, as I totally messed up my handling causing a few more errors. Philip did get the weave entry right this time, but managed to pop out early instead (ugh!). I didn't bother fixing it, but in retrospect, I probably should have, as to not teach him that it's okay to mess up. Actually, I probably shouldn't have continued running the course at all while thinking about the bar. I'll know better next time.

Oh well, this was a pretty embarrassing weekend, but we'll just try and forget all about it, and wait for next time instead :)

Monday, May 17, 2010

May AKC Trial 1

We had an awesome trial this last weekend! Lot's of exciting news, so let's get to it :)

On Saturday, we had an Open Standard run and a Novice JWW run. It's been a while since our last trial, but if you remember from my last recap, Philip only had 1 more leg to go in each in order to move up. The whole day before our runs, I was thinking that if Philip would Q in Standard and not in JWW, we'd end up in Excellent Standard and still Novice Jumpers the following day. That would mean we'd have to be at the trial all day, and I really didn't want to have to do that.

Both courses looked very nice on the maps, and soon enough we were ready for our Standard run. Philip was the first dog on the line, so I didn't get to see any possible mistakes a previous handler would make, but I wasn't too worried. We took it at a good pace, and Philip went over everything nicely, letting me get all my turns in as I wanted. He did mess up his weave pole entry, so I had to get him to start over, but he went through smoothly on the second try. Otherwise a very nice run, and since 1 refusal is still okay in Open, we got our Q. That completed Philip's Open Agility title, and we request a move up to Excellent A for Sunday!

The JWW run was a very nice and easy layout - with just one pinwheel maneuver, and the rest as nice straight lines. Again, Philip was the first dog on the line, and I crossed my fingers that we would pass and not have to be there the whole day on Sunday. Off to a good start, and again Philip missed his weave pole entry. I remembered my mistake from an earlier trial and made sure he wouldn't back-weave this time. After a couple of tries, the weaves were done right, and Philip practically flew the rest of the way! Since weaves don't count in Novice, this was a clean Q, and we finally had our Novice Agility Jumper title! Lucky for me, we moved up to Open JWW for Sunday as I hoped :)

We had to get to the trial much earlier than usual on Sunday in order to get to the Excellent run. I almost overslept, but thankfully Philip's fussing woke me up just in time :)

We got to the site and I went to walk the Excellent Standard course. Again, the run was laid out very nicely, but it certainly had a couple of tricky spots. With many dogs participating, Philip wasn't first this time. I got to watch other handlers before me and picked up a couple of good moves that I ended up using to our advantage, so that really helped. Philip started off to a beautiful run, you wouldn't even know he was a first-timer there. He looked to me for all the commands, he did the tricky spots gracefully, he even hit the weave poles spot on! I was excited - maybe we'd get a Q on the first try, but those dreams shuttered as Philip went over the last jump before the dog walk. You probably guessed it already - he knocked a bar down. What a bummer, but nonetheless, I am very proud of that run! He did very well for his first try at an Excellent course. He looked to me at every obstacle and he did everything like I asked. We'll get that Q another time!

Last, but not least, we also had our first Open JWW course. We were first on the line again, and this one started off to a tricky turn into the back end of the tunnel. Thankfully, Philip has a very solid lead out, so I had no trouble walking out to the tunnel and directing him to the correct entrance. Then we were off to some jumps and weaves (good on first try!), and a final turn out to the finish line. Funny thing happened here - I meant to get a front-cross in between a couple of jumps, but somehow spaced out. This put me on the wrong side, so I pushed Philip to the next two jumps with really awkward back crosses. What an ugly move on my part, but amazingly enough, Philip handled it like a pro (probably thinking I'm insane), and we finished cleanly. No faults at all in this run - a beautiful clean Q and 1st place for Philip :)

So there you have it - we got 3 out of 4 Qs this weekend, and Philip earned his OA and NAJ titles now. Another trial next weekend - I can't wait!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Weave Poles

I mentioned in my last post that I think the Teeter is one of the hardest obstacles for dogs to master. The other one would be the Weave Poles. However, while the Teeter is difficult because it's terrifying, the Weave Poles are not scary at all, instead they are just a very unnatural kind of an obstacle, so dogs have a hard time understanding them. Think about it - our dogs are often jumping, climbing, and going through things in every day life, but they never encounter a situation in which they have to weave left and right like they would through the Weave Poles.

The Weaves are a set of 6 or 12 poles sticking straight up from the ground, about 20-22 inches apart.

The dog must enter from the right side, i.e. with its left shoulder passing by the first pole. Then it must continue weaving left and right through each opening between the poles, similar to a skiing slalom.
Since the number of poles is always even, the dog should come out to the left side, i.e. with its right shoulder passing by the last pole.


The most common number of poles is 12. In AKC, Novice dogs have 6 poles to go through, and move on to 12 for Open and Excellent. In USDAA, there are 12 poles for all levels.

Training a dog to weave is a very slow process, and usually takes the longest of all. There are many methods designed to help the dog understand how it needs to move through the poles. Some of these are the Weave-O-Matic, the channel method, guide wires, brute force muscle memory, as well as the new and upcoming Two-By-Two method. Philip and I stated off with the muscle memory method at first, but quickly moved to the channel method when we changed instructors. I'll cover all of these in as much detail as I can in a future post, but in the end it really comes down to whatever works for you and your dog - each method has people that swear by it, and others that can't stand it.

There are many things that can go wrong with the Weaves - the dog isn't supposed to stop in the middle of weaving, and any wrong direction is counted as a refusal. If the dog weaves backwards several poles (usually 3 or 4), it will be counted as a wrong course. In AKC, refusals don't count on the Weaves at the Novice level, but a back weave will count as a wrong course, which automatically earns an NQ in JWW.

This post finally concludes the obstacle overview series. There are other obstacles in various organizations, but the ones I talked about are the most commonly used, and are the only ones seen in AKC and USDAA, which are the two organizations we compete in.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Teeter Totter

The Teeter is a very scary obstacle for most dogs. It's a plank that rests over a swinging base in the middle

The dog has to run up on it from the side that's on the ground, cross over the center point causing it to tip, wait for the other other end to hit the ground, and then exit down the side that's now on the ground (opposite of starting end).

Like the other contact obstacle, the Teeter has a sandpaper-like surface, and also has the yellow contact zone on both ends. The dog has to touch the contact on both ends before entering/exiting the obstacle. The dog must also wait for the exit end to touch the ground at least once before exiting - it's okay to jump off while the teeter bounces back up, but not okay to jump off while it's descending for the first time.


Most dogs are not very fond of falling to the ground together with the board and are often tempted to jump off to the side as they feel the board to begin moving. The banging sound of the board hitting the ground can be scary too.

The preferred performance is for the dog to run well past the center of the board, causing it to tip very quickly, and then exiting off the board. The problem with this though is that it causes the board to move fast and make a lot of noise, which is very scary. Hence, many dogs prefer slowly crawling to just the point where the board will gently slope to the other side, but that's a big waste of time.



The first thing to do when teaching the Teeter is getting the dog used to the bang sound. Usually, you would hold the dog next to the Teeter, and move the board down with your hand, letting them see and hear it. Start off gently, and as the dog gets confident move up to slamming the board down as hard as you can (making sure you don't hit the dog of course). Once the dog gets used to the motion, it's time to get the dog on the board. It's best to start off by holding the Teeter motionless, letting the dog go up towards the high end, and slowly moving the board down as to not scare the dog. Even this exercise can prove to be very scary, but with lots of patience (and yummy treats), the dog should eventually learn to stay on. After that, it's just a matter of getting them to go on their own, letting go of the board earlier and earlier, until you no longer need to hold it at all. Keep in mind that you want the dog to go far up and get the board moving fast. The crawling method is best discouraged as it would be a very hard habit to break in the future.

Another thing to remember is that the bigger (and heavier) the dog is, the faster it will get the Teeter to move. Smaller dogs are at a disadvantage, but at least they tend to be a little braver of going farther up :)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Contact Equipment

We are getting to the harder obstacles now :)
There are 3 different contact obstacles - A-Frame, Dog Walk, and Teeter Totter.
Today we'll look at the A-Frame and the Dog Walk. The Teeter is one of the hardest obstacles in Agility, so I'll dedicate a separate post to it later.

The A-Frame consists of two wide panels that are attached together to form a climbing obstacle that resembles the letter A (hence the name).

The panels are about 9 feet long each, and the top of the frame is 5 feet 6 inches from the ground - the picture above gives a good perspective of it.

The panels have a rough, non-slip (like sandpaper) surface, as well as small wooden slats going across the width to provide better footing.

The dog must climb up one side of the frame and descend down the other.

You can see that the panel is painted in two colors - the top color can vary, but the bottom part (lower 42 inches in AKC) is almost always yellow to indicate the contact zone. On the ascending side, this is usually called the "up contact", and on the descending side - "down contact". In order to clear the contact correctly, the dog must touch the yellow zone with at least one paw before going past it. In AKC, only the down contact is required for the A-Frame. In USDAA, the up contact needs to be touched as well. This is a safety measure to ensure that no dogs are leaping off of (or on to) the top of the A-Frame, as they could easily hurt themselves that way.

Touching the yellow can be okay with as little as a toenail (judge's call), and many handlers just hope their dogs will hit it on the way. It's hard to teach the up contact to a dog, but is usually only a problem for very leggy dogs. However, the down contact is very easy to be missed, even for very small dogs because they think they can fly!
Obviously, we can't explain to a dog that it much touch the yellow paint, so instead there are different tricks to get them to go to the bottom. Some handlers have their dog lay down at the bottom of the A-Frame, others slowly guide the dog down. In our class we use the "two on, two off" method - I'll cover it in more detail later, but basically it requires the dog to place two front feet on the ground while the two back feet are still resting on the panel.

Blowing the contact (i.e. not touching the yellow when required) is considered a failure to perform and will earn the dog an immediate NQ.

The Dog Walk is constructed of three wood panels (two ramps and a center section) that form a bridge-like obstacle (it's so long, it doesn't even fit in one picture!).


The ramps and center section are 12 feet long each, and the center section is 48 inches from the ground. The surface is the same as that on the A-Frame, and the ramps have similar slats for footing.

The Dog Walk also has contact zones, but unlike the A-Frame, both up and down contacts are required here. Normally, once a dog can perform the A-Frame correctly, it will pick up the Dog Walk quickly after that. The only extra thing to get used to at that point is the thin nature of the planks (they are only 12 inches wide), so some dogs need a little encouragement, as it can be scary, especially for the bigger guys.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tunnel and Chute

We are getting closer to our next trial, so I guess I better get all the obstacles out of the way :) Today we have the tunnel (also called an open tunnel) and the chute (also called a closed tunnel).

The tunnel is made of flexible spring-like core and a material pulled over it. Weighted anchors hold the two ends down in place.

This construction allows the tunnel to be bent in all kinds of directions. On the picture above, it is shaped like a flattened out S - there is a bend in the middle causing the dog to go a bit left and right, and coming out facing the same direction as it entered.
Another common setup is a C-shape. This one can differ from a fairly flat curve (like these parentheses), to a full 180-degree turn.

Dogs tend to either love or hate the tunnels, though it seems that the majority love them. Sometimes the initial introduction to the dark bent tunnel can be scary, but once they understand it, it can be hard keeping them away from running back and forth :)
When training the tunnel, usually it is collapsed to be very short at first, almost like a ring, so the dog can simply walk right through it. Then the length is slowly added on while the tunnel is kept straight. Once full length is achieved, curves are introduced as well.

The chute has a rigid tunnel-like entrance...

...with an attached sleeve-like soft material that the dog has to push open in order to get through.

It is very important that the chute material is straightened out before each run through it by a dog - nobody wants the furry ones getting tangled up in there! So at a trial there is always a volunteer sitting near by that runs over and straightens it out before each dog.
Even so, the chute does tend to get a bit tangled as the dogs run through, especially if they are going fast. Unfortunately I don't have any shot demonstrating this (I'll work on that next time), but I've seen dogs come out in all sorts of ways - sometime it even looks like they take a tumble and roll over themselves while inside :)
Some dogs find the idea of the chute pretty scary, but like with the regular tunnel, they usually get the hang of it quickly.
Similar to the tunnel, the chute is also trained fully rolled up at first, with length added slowly, and person holding the material open for the dog. As the dog gains confidence, the opening is made smaller and smaller, until the dog can push all the way through on its own.

For both of these obstacles, the dog must enter from the correct end and exit at the opposite end. If the dog enters the tunnel correctly, runs back and forth inside of it without coming out, and then exits correctly, it will not receive any faults, rather just lose time. However, if the dog runs in, turns around, and comes back out of the same end, it will get a refusal. A refusal is also given if the dog goes past the entrance without going in the tunnel. If the dog completes the tunnel backwards (in at exit, out at entrance), it will get a wrong course. Note that if the exit of the tunnel is farther than the entrance, and the dog does it backwards, it will get a wrong course and a refusal since it will have to go past the entrance in order to reach the back end.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pause Table

Continuing with the equipment theme, and inspired by Bailey's woes, here's the next obstacle - the pause table.

The table is a raised square platform that the dog has to get up on and pause for 5 seconds.

The table surface is normally 36"x36" in size, give or take a couple of inches. Like the jumps, the height of the table is determined by the dog's height. There are only 3 table heights though: 8" for 4"/8"/12" dogs, 16" for 16"/20" dogs, and 24" for 24"/26" dogs.

To perform the obstacle correctly, the dog must jump up on the table, and either sit or lay down while the judge counts "5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Go". In USDAA the dogs always lay down, and in AKC the judge will select one or the other for the whole day. I've noticed that on weekend trials, one day will be a sit and the other a down.


If the dog passes the back side of the table (determined by the direction the dog should be coming from), it will get a refusal. Interestingly, one judge explained that once the dog breaks that plane, its approach changes, and what used to be the front become the back. So if the dog does a 360 around the table, it will get 2 refusals - it's confusing!
The judge will start the count when the dog assumes the correct position. If the dog breaks position, the judge will pause, and continue the count once the dog is back in position. The count doesn't start over and no faults are given for that, other than the obvious loss of time.
However, if the dog jumps up on the table and gets off before the judge says "Go", it will count as a table fault and the dog will have to get back on and restart the count from the beginning.
The handler may not touch the dog or the table at any time. Also, if the dog is anticipating the count and leaves right as the judge says "Go", it could earn a fault as well - it should be listening to the handler's release command, not the judge!


Several things make the table a difficult obstacle:
Large breeds tend to approach the table too fast and jump right off of it before they have the time to stop. Some of the taller dogs also have trouble laying down on the table because it's simply too small for them. Small dogs often confuse it with a jump or contact obstacle and do various silly things too.
The table's surface (as well as all other contact equipment surface) is made similar to sandpaper to provide good traction. Unfortunately, this causes many dogs to not want to sit or lay on it because their precious butt and belly are too dainty to be placed on sandpaper :)
Most importantly though, many dogs are so focused on go-go-going that it's very difficult for them to pause in the middle of the run and stay in the same position for 5 seconds. This is the whole point of the table though - the dog must show the ability to calm down and pause. A good solid table performance is great to have, these dogs will let you lead out easily (from the start line, or the table), and that gives a great advantage to the handler.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tire and Broad Jump

I covered the regular jumps last time, and here are the last two kinds of jumps as promised :)

The tire jump is just what it sounds like - a hoop that resembles a tire, and the dog has to jump through.

The height at which the tire hangs depends on how tall the dog is, just like regular jumps. Unlike the regular jumps though, it's nearly impossible to knock this obstacle down, but the challenge here is for the dog to jump through the tire, and not just through the frame. Some large breeds also have trouble with the tire due to it's constrained size - the bigger the dog, the tighter the hoop feels for them.
This is a very common first obstacle on the course since it's very easy to put the electronic timer around the tire (you can see it on the picture above). A common mistake people make in this case is placing the dog too close to the tire, making it harder to jump through.

Last, but not least, we have the broad jump.

Unlike all other jumps, the broad jump focuses on the jump length rather than height. Here, the height of the dog determines the length of the jump, and it is twice longer than a regular jump would be high (so a dog that jumps 12" will have a 24" long broad jump, dogs jumping 22" have a 44" long broad jump). The jump is slightly raised towards the end, and the dog still has to catch some air to clear it. Stepping on the jump would earn a failure to perform, and is a very common problem with smaller dogs.

Stay tuned for other obstacles :)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jumps

We don't have another trial coming for a while, so I figured I'd cover some obstacles in the mean time. The most common or all is the jump. The rule for getting over the jump obstacles is very simple - the dog must jump over it, without knocking any bars down. The bars sit on small ledges and can easily be knocked down with just a slight nudge, so ideally the dog should pass right over the jump without touching the bars at all. If a dog knocks a bar, it will immediately earn an NQ in the run because this is considered a serious fault (failure to perform).

There are many different kinds of jumps, so let's take a look at a single jump for starters:

As you can see, it's simply a horizontal bar that the dog has to jump over. The height of the bar depends on how tall the dog is (see the jump height post for a bit more info). Other than learning to pick up their feet and not knock bars, these jumps are pretty easy and a natural obstacle for most dogs.

Another kind of jump is a panel jump.

This one is very similar to the single jump, but has a solid wall-like panel going from the ground up to the jump bar. The solid wall can be a bit scary for the large breed dogs as they can't see what's on the other side that they will be leaping to. However, with just a bit of practice, most dogs have no problem with this jump. Smaller breed rarely notice any difference at all since their jumps are very low anyway.

For a slight challenge of jumping abilities, there are also double and triple jumps. I don't have a picture of a double handy, but here's a triple.

You can see that it has 3 bars in a row, slightly ascending. The dog had to clear all three bars, which usually requires a longer and curvier move than that for a single jump. The double is similar, except that is has only two bars and they are both at the same height rather than ascending. In USDAA, there is also a spread jump, which is similar to the double, except that the bars are set further apart and require a longer jump. Larger dogs rarely have trouble with these since they tend to have a long stride anyway, but many smaller breeds land too soon, knocking the last bar.

All of the above jumps can come with or without wings on them. Wings are decorative additions on each side of the jump.

They don't make much difference to the dog, but they are harder for handling since the handler can't run right next to the jump, but rather has to get around the wings. Wings come in many shapes and color, but the basic idea is the same for all.

There are two more kinds of jumps - broad and tire. While they still require a dog to jump, they are quite a bit different from these, and have different rules too. I think I'll dedicate another full post to those two next time.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Agility Student

After writing the last post, I thought I'd revisit the timeline of Philip's Agility training. We've been training for about a year now, and have moved through 6 different classes.

February-March 2009: Beginner Agility course, just for fun.
This was the start of it all - a 5 week course, focusing on learning the very basics. We started with regular and panel jumps, tire, and open tunnel. We then added the table and the weave poles. Lastly, we worked on very low height A-frame, dog walk, and teeter. Nothing overly fancy in this class, just the very basic introduction to Agility.

May-October 2009: Basic intro course, focused on competition.
We started this class at a different place than the first one because I wanted to focus on competition. This was also a beginner class, but structured very differently from the other one. Here we focused on all the obstacles individually for accuracy, learned to put 2-3 obstacles together, and covered basic handler techniques - front and rear crosses, lead out, etc. Philip had to go back to basics on several things, but we stuck to the plan and went to class week after week.

October-November 2009: Transitional course, refining details.
After the very long beginner course, we were almost ready to move on. Before moving on to the next big class though, we attended a short transitional class. This was a quick class (30 minutes, once a week) with just 2-3 dogs total. It was basically individually focused on each dog to raise the A-frame to full height, and refine any other obstacle performance.

November-December 2009: Novice Agility.
This class, and all others after it, is structured more like trials - dogs run full on courses and we fix mistakes along the way. There are several levels of difficulty (just like in trials), and this was the lowest of them. I had to get used to remembering 10-15 obstacles per course, and running the whole thing, so that was a pretty steep learning curve for me. On courses, we had to stop and redo some parts often since Philip was still perfecting his skills, so lots of learning for him too.

January-March 2010: Another Novice Agility.
In December, our instructor said she thought we were ready to try a real trial. I decided to wait till after the holidays though, so I signed Philip up for his first trial in January. I got a new job at the same time, so had to switch to a different class time. The class we moved to was technically the same level as before, but in practice was a little more advanced, and with more serious student. All in all I still felt like we moved up in difficulty a bit.

April 2010 - Present: Excellent Agility.
Due to time constraints with work, I basically had to stick with the Novice class while Philip advanced, and couldn't attend an Open class. Since we have moved into Open level in trial though, we needed to start practicing harder courses. So earlier this week we moved to the Excellent class - a huge jump. You can read a bit more about that in my last post. The courses are much harder, and the dogs are much more advanced. It would have probably helped to go through Open level first, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right? :)

So there you have it, you can see that we spent a long time as beginners, but I think it was well worth it in the end since we skipped through to trials and other fun pretty quickly once we moved out of the beginner course. If I had to go back and do it all over again, I'd definitely stick to the same general plan (though add in the Open class transition) - good solid basic knowledge is the key to running solid courses.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Class

Today Philip and I moved to a new Agility class. Not at a different place or anything, just a higher level than before. As a matter of fact, we have now moved to the highest level of class that is offered by our instructor! Wow, to think that just a year ago we were struggling in learning the very basics of Agility, and now here we are - just back from our first super advanced class.

The class was pretty difficult compared to what we are used to, but it was super fun. We got to run two courses - one standard, and one jumpers. The standard course had several tricky turns, but it was doable. Philip only messed up the weave poles entry on the whole course, and it was a good warm up. The jumpers course was basically a killer though! It's not that it was overly difficult, but it was long, and I had to run. Boy, did I have to run - I was still out of breath in my car on the way home! There were a couple of stretches that were just straight, and Philip has really gotten fast apparently because I just could not keep up with him.

We also got to practice an evil tunnel entry where I had to be on the outside. I think I've mentioned before that Philip thinks that what ever side I'm on is the inside, so even if I'm way off to the left of both ends of the tunnel, he tends to go to the right end. I knew this wouldn't be an exception, but the way the course was set up, a cross would be hard and counter productive to do, so the instructor said I might as well practice the proper way. First time through Philip took off to the wrong end like I expected, so we went back to fix it. This time I used his name much earlier to get his attention, and we did it right - yay!

Overall, I was pretty happy with our performance considering the difficulty of the courses. This class will definitely be tough at first, but we love challenges, so I'm looking forward to it :)