Monday, March 29, 2010

March AKC Trial 2

We had a great trial this past weekend, and here's the promised full recap!

We started off with Novice JWW on Saturday, and as has been common lately, Philip knocked a bar on one of the jumps, earning us a yet another NQ on JWW. It's getting a little repetitive to write that about our JWW courses, but that is what he wishes to do. Our next run was much more exciting - Novice Standard. It was a beautiful course, not too hard, but not too easy either, and Philip nailed it perfectly, finishing his third Q, and getting his Novice Agility title! I was beyond excited after this run, my little guy is all grown up, getting a title :) He also got 1st place in that run, and we got 3 ribbons - a blue one for first place, a green one for qualifying, and a pretty multi-colored one (purple/black/teal) for the new title.

Of course, finishing the title meant that Philip could move on to Open Standard, so I filled out the paperwork and we were set for our very first Open run the next day, though I was nervous just thinking about it. Sunday started off interesting - we signed up for a local fundraiser walk which was taking place that morning, so we got up at 7am and headed over to the park where the fundraiser was taking place. We had a whole team of Corgis and friends assembled for the walk, and we raised lots of money for the Humane Society benefiting from this fundraiser - a great deed for a great cause! We walked 2.5 miles along with hundreds of other dogs and their owners, and then hung out at the park a bit before heading over to the trial site.

When we got to the trial, I think both of us were a bit tired, but luckily we still had a couple hours before our turn to run. I put Philip up in the shade and went to check in and look at the course maps. My jaw practically dropped when I saw the Open Standard course we would have to run. It included several tight turns, tricky off-course obstacles, and a tunnel under the dog walk with one pass onto the walk, and another into the tunnel. How in the world was I going to make Philip do all this?! I walked the course once it was set up and I was absolutely sure this would be a miserable fail, but what did we have to lose? After all, the worst thing that could happen is an NQ.

Soon our turn came, and we took off on the course - into the chute to start, over a couple of jumps, and onto the dog walk. I did a funky front cross before the dog walk, and saw Philip think about the tunnel, but he took the walk after I pushed him out further, first danger avoided. After the walk was a jump and a set of 12 weave poles - we've been doing 6 for a long time, I was sure Philip would mess up, but he practically laughed at me as he zoomed right through it - wow! Then we had a 180-degree loop of jumps, made sure not to take any wrong ones, went over the A-Frame, another jump, and onto the table. So far so good, you'd never think this dog just finished Novice! From the table we did another 180 through a tire and a jump, and onto the teeter. Philip walked it confidently (a rarity lately), and happily pranced over another 180 of jumps. We then had another approach to the dog walk and tunnel, but this time we needed to take the tunnel. This was a super close call, but somehow I managed an awkward front cross, and got Philip into the tunnel, and then over the last jump! So there we were, with a beautiful clean run and our first Q in Open Standard! What's even more amazing is that Philip was the only dog in his jump height to Q in that run, so we even got first place :)

Last but not least we had Novice JWW left. While in Novice, we've been doing JWW followed by Standard, and I had a theory that Philip was doing so badly in JWW because it was always the first run of the day. This time it switched due to being in Open Standard, plus the course looked really nice and easy (especially compared to the Open Standard), so I has my hopes up. Philip took off nicely, but messed up the weaves entry, so I called him back and redid it - no biggie. He then tried to take a wrong turn, I called him off, and then he almost immediately attempted another wrong turn, this time crossing my path unexpectedly. This forced me to kind of jump over him and I kicked him right on the head, poor guy! That definitely stopped him before taking a wrong obstacle though :) The rest of the run was clear, we had finished without knocking a bar off! You are probably expecting me to say that we got that ever-elusive Q in this run... I thought so too, but came to find the results with an NQ for Philip, marking 1 wrong course. You aren't allowed a wrong course in JWW, which is what caused an NQ, but where did it come from? I was confused, and so I went to the judge for clarification. The result - Philip had back weaved the poles when I was getting him back to restart them! How could I forget? Of course, when I had called him back, he turned right around and weaved! I was so mad at myself, if only I had remembered this one little rule, I would have stepped to the side and gotten him out, but no, my mistake caused us to NQ :(

So there you have it, an eventful trial that ended with two more Standard Qs and still no progress in JWW. I better remember the weaves thing for next time, and let's hope all the bars stay up. Our next trial is this weekend, in just a few days. It'll be interesting to see what comes first - Excellent Standard, or Open Jumpers. We have 2 Qs to go for each...

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Novice Standard!

I'll do a full recap of this weekend's trial on Monday, but I have very exciting news to share today!
Philip got his last needed Q in Standard, so that completes our Novice Agility title and we've moved up to Open Standard for tomorrow! Yay!!!
Sill in Novice for JWW, but we'll get there :)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Agility Pictures

Photography has been my hobby for a long time, and I never miss a good opportunity for fun photo shoots, so I've been taking my camera to the trials with me. Of course, I can't take pictures of myself running with Philip, but I thought I'd share some shots of other dogs running the courses.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Why Agility

I've been asked several times why and how I got into Agility. The short answer is, believe it or not, by random luck! The long answer is, well, it's long :)

I've been obsessed with dogs even since I can remember - I was one of those children that wanted to hug every doggie on the street and bring them all home. I also got into reading about dog training early on, for some reason it just fascinated me. At some point in middle school, my family finally gave into getting me a dog, and I got my hands on training an actual dog rather than just reading about it. When I had to move for school, the family dog stayed back at home, and I was back to theoretical learning and no hands-on practice.

In college, I decided to volunteer at a local no-kill dog shelter to get my dog fix. I applied my self-taught methods and learned lots of new ones. Lucky for me, I met and got to know one of the long time volunteers there, who saw my potential, and taught me so much about dogs, I couldn't possibly tell you all about it. He even let me work with the "lead only" dogs - these were difficult dogs with issues like aggression, biting, fear, etc. It was hard work, but I loved it, and am so thankful to have had that opportunity!

When time came that I could finally get my own dog, I started my research. Somewhere along the way, I ran across the various dog sports, and thought it could be fun to try one. When I finally settled on getting Philip, I had decided that I would give either Herding or Agility a go, just to see what it's like.

Yet again, by pure luck, Herding wasn't readily available, while an Agility training opportunity practically fell into my lap. I knew next to nothing about the sport at this point, but I took the opportunity. It would be something fun to do with my dog, and he was reaching the right age for the sport, so why not, right?

Philip took to training like he was born for it. Other handlers had trouble teaching their dogs going over a jump or through a tunnel, while mine pranced through the obstacles, and made it look like he's been doing it all life long. Not to say we didn't have problems, but he certainly made it look easy in comparison! Again, I was lucky to have a dog that made the beginning process so easy for me. After a few classes, I realized that both Philip and I had a ton of fun learning Agility, and so I decided we'd continue the training.

The class I was enrolled in at the time was more for fun, so when faced with continuing training, the trainer suggested that I go to another local instructor, who teaches purely competition-focused Agility classes. Lucky for me, this instructor wasn't too far from me and is amazing - she competes with her own dogs, and the classes are very well structured (I'll tell you about our classes another time).

All in all, the whole experience has been simply amazing, and so, by pure luck, I was training Philip to compete. Several months later we entered our first trial. It's been an amazingly fun and rewarding experience, I never looked back, I love Agility! As for Philip, you only need to see the expression on his face when we enter the class, and how impatiently he waits for his turn, he most certainly loves it too!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

March AKC Trial 1

Whew, we just got done with a long weekend of Agility! Talk about a slow day at the trial - Novice dogs were supposed to be on around 2pm both days, instead we started past 4pm, and been coming home around 6pm. Wow, I'm sure glad that's over with! Now on to the recap of the weekend, sorry - no funny stories this time.

Saturday's first run was JWW, and Philip took off running super fast. I could hardly keep up, even our instructor commented on how fast he was after we finished. Unfortunately though, he knocked a bar with all that momentum, so NQ for us. The second run was STD and a pretty nice straight forward course. Philip didn't pretend to be a lightning in this one and had a very nice clean run, taking a Q and first place!

I had hoped Sunday would move along a bit faster, but we actually ended up starting our runs even later. I was worn out by then, and some dog stole Philip's treats while I wasn't looking :( Nevertheless, we took on the JWW course. Not such a good run - Philip took a wrong jump before the weaves and knocked a bar on another jump. He wasn't paying much attention to me in general, and I didn't even have treats to encourage him afterwards - poor guy. I tried to pick up the mood for the Standard run, and after strolling slowly at first, and hesitating before the table, Philip picked up a bit of speed and finished nicely. Clean run and first place - another Q in standard! I improvised and rewarded him with an empty water bottle for a toy - he was in bliss!

All in all, we got 2 Qs in Standard this weekend, so we only have one more to go before moving on to Open in that. I hope that'll happen at the next trial, I'm pretty excited! Still 2 more left in JWW, but we are working on it - gotta pick those short little legs up :) I never thought he's be doing better in standard than in jumpers!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Catching Up - February AKC Trial

Boy, do I have a story to tell! A fair warning - this will be a long one :)

I had planned to take Philip to his first AKC trial in January, but it got canceled due to rain. The next trial was taking place at a local annual dog show, and my instructor had warned me that the weekend of that show is notorious for rain as well. Nonetheless, I decided that I would take chances and sign up for it anyway.

As the date was approaching, the weather had been sunny for a couple of weeks, so I was hopeful. However, only a couple days before the trial, the forecasts changed to rain... on Friday the forecasts boasted 100% chance, but the skies were still clear. I figured they must be lying as usual and went to bed expecting a great Agility day.

I was awakened around 5am on Saturday by the sound of water hitting the porch outside my window. My instructor was right after all, and it wasn't just raining, it was pouring out of a bucket in the sky! Our check-in time wasn't until noon, but the trial would be taking place on a dirt lot, so it couldn't be good no matter what. Geared up in layers and with lots of towels on hand, we headed out to the trial site. We arrived to find a pretty empty lot, and I went to see what the rings looked like

Wait, let's take a closer look, I dubbed this one "the lake ring"

The other ring wasn't much better, though it didn't have standing water in it, rather just lots of slushy mud. I made my way through the deep sticky stuff to the check-in table and found out that more than half of the Excellent dogs didn't show up, hence why it was so empty.

Philip got measured and we waited for the FAST class to begin. It would take place in the lake ring, but the course didn't look very hard, so I devised a minimal-point plan and hoped for the better. Philip took off to a good start, taking 3 jumps and completing the send bonus, at which point we only needed the tire and the A-Frame to get the rest of the points. This is where everything changed - the tire and the frame were both surrounded by water, and my normally water-loving dog looked at me like I was completely insane. He moved at a snail's pace and barely jumped the tire after lots of coaxing. There was no way he could get enough momentum to get over the A-Frame at this rate, so I took him to a tunnel instead - fewer points, way out of the planned path, and through more swampy water. The buzzer rang as he entered the tunnel, and we made our way to the finish line. Not enough points and way too much overtime - NQ in FAST.

"I can't believe you made me do that!"

We watched the few brave Open dogs take on the slush and mud. Some seemed to love it, others did a similar stunt to Philip's. It rained on and off and the ring conditions weren't improving one bit. Our next run would be JWW, in the drier muddy ring. The course wasn't overly complicated, but the mud was sticky. I walked the course, what did we have to lose at this point? I went in expecting another failure, but Philip surprised me and ran fast and with no faults - we earned our very clean Q and got the 1st place in the group! Maybe mud isn't so bad after all, the prince simply wishes not to get his lovely self wet

Unfortunately for us, the Standard run was to be in the lake ring again, but I thought maybe Philip would have gotten used to it by now. Not so - as soon as we hit the swampy lake, he practically refused to move. Nonetheless, I made him complete every obstacle, and despite barely making it up the A-Frame, and redoing the weaves several times before getting it right, he actually completed everything without faults. We were 25 seconds overtime due to the lake stalling though, so we got an NQ.

"Whew, mud fest is over! Time to roll in excitement"

By Saturday night, the rain had stopped, and Sunday morning looked like a promising sunny day. I got to the trial site to see the rings nicely cleaned off, most of the mud pushed to the side. Many more dogs were there, and the trial had to start a couple hours late due to the cleaning efforts, but it was all worth it!

Summer shows off the better ring conditions (as well as how to jump properly)

The FAST class is often offered on just one day of the weekend (if at all), so we only had two runs on Sunday - JWW and STD. Philip started off great on his jumpers run, but half way through he knocked off a jump bar, and another, and another. Wow - 3 knocked bars in one run, I've never seen him do that before. I hoped it was just a fluke, but the standard run wasn't much better - he knocked another bar right at the beginning, and later took the wrong end of a tunnel.

Both runs were NQs of course, and I'm not sure what caused all the bar knocking. Maybe the more packed surface was slipping from under Philip's feet? We practice on grass, so this was a bit new to him. Thankfully, most trials take place on a grassy surface, but just in case I'm going to try and find a dirt lot to practice jumps on every once in a while.

Well, that's the end of our muddy adventures. Tired dog is tired

Monday, March 8, 2010

Catching Up - January USDAA Trial

Well, we have a trial coming up this weekend and I'd like to catch up with the two missed trials before posting about that one, so here's your first installment of a trial overview! I actually covered this one in detail at my other blog here and here, but I'll do a quick recap so as to keep them all in one place.

This was a USDAA trial in mid-January, and the first Agility trial we ever attended. It was a great opportunity to practice before our upcoming AKC trials (which I'm focusing on as that is the predominant organization in this area), and we got to run lots of different courses.

As with most Agility trials, this one took place over the weekend, and we had 3 runs on Saturday (Standard, Gambler, and Jumpers) and 3 more on Sunday (Standard, Pairs Relay, and Snooker). We were of course running at Starters level.

Saturday was off to an interesting start with Philip knocking off the very first jump bar (immediate NQ in Agility) in the Standard run. On top of that, the course was set up much tighter that I'm used to, so I had trouble getting him to the correct obstacles. No worries though - good practice run for the both of us :) Next up was the Gambler run and Philip did very well, he even got the gamble portion right on the second try. Unfortunately we ran out of time though, so this was an NQ as well. Last run of the day was Jumpers and Philip passed with flying colors - no faults at all, and our first Q!

Sunday went a bit easier in the morning, with me knowing what I'll need at the trial, and not having to get up quite as early. First run was Standard again and Philip did great earning us another Q. He even mastered the weave poles on that run - slowly, but surely! Next run was Pairs, and our partner in crime was a Rat Terrier Willis. Philip and Willis had gotten to know each other earlier in the weekend, so we were a bit worried they would want to play rather than run the course, but thankfully they behaved. Willis had the first half, and Philip second. It was a good run, but we went a bit over time, so NQ for the both of us. Last up was Snooker, and that was the funniest run I've ever had with Philip so far. He took matters in his own paws and I had to change my plan on the fly, but we miraculously managed to get through the whole thing anyway, earning our 3rd and final Q of the weekend.

All in all it was a super fun weekend, and I was quite happy to get 3 Qs out of 6. I was certainly not ready for such a busy weekend, but it was so much fun that I'd do it all over again. So much so that I think we'll continue attending USDAA trials when they appear in this area (usually only twice a year).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Agility Terminology

Before we get going, I thought I'd clear up some of the commonly used vocabulary for anyone that isn't familiar with Agility.

When I'm referring to Philip getting a Q, that means he got a qualifying score in his run. Qualifying scores, or Qs, are gained in order to achieve various titles. For example, in AKC a dog has to get 3 Qs in Novice in order to move up to Open. Similarly, an NQ means a non-qualifying run.

Classes are different types of course set up. I'll explain particular ones below, but the thing to remember is that they are (for the most part) separate from each other. A dog could easily be advancing to Excellent in one class, and still be in Novice in another.

Levels are meant to separate dogs based on their experience. Most organizations have 3 separate levels equivalent to beginner, intermediate, and advanced. Each dog starts out in beginner level classes and moves up as it gets enough Qs. In AKC the levels are called Novice, Open, and Excellent. In USDAA they are Starters, Advanced, and Masters. I'm not familiar with other organizations, but the labeling should be similar.

AKC Classes
AKC offers 3 different classes - STD, JWW, and FAST.
STD is a standard course, in which all the regular obstacles are used.
JWW stands for jumpers with weaves, and the course consists strictly of jumps, tunnels, and weave poles.
FAST stands for fifteen and send time, it's a newer class and consists of 15 point-valued obstacles to be completed in whatever order in a given time. However, a certain combination of these needs to be completed in order and at a distance, it's called the send bonus and gives extra bonus points towards the total score.

USDAA Classes
USDAA offers 5 different classes - Standard, Jumpers, Gambler, Snooker, and Team Relay. They also have several different tournament matches, but I'm not familiar with those.
Standard is similar to AKC's STD, and is just a normal course with all the regular obstacles.
Jumpers is similar to AKC's JWW, but without the weaves, i.e. just jumps and tunnels.
Gambler is similar to AKC's FAST, but with a few differences. The distance work portion is called a gamble here, and it must be completed at the end. The time is limited for both - the point gathering and the gamble.
Snooker is another point gathering game, but here you are presented with 3 red jumps and a series of 7 point-valued obstacles. The dog has to take a red jump successfully, followed by one of those 7 point obstacles. Then another red and point obstacle, then another. Finally the dog has to run the 7 point obstacles in order.
Team Relay is just like Standard, except that more than one dog competes. The most common relay competition is Pairs Relay, i.e. two dogs on course. The course is split in half with one dog running first half and the other second.

Whew, I think this will do for now, but let me know if there is any other terminology you'd like me to clear up. Some of the classes are hard to explain with just a few sentences, so I could go into more detail about them later if there is interest.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

What's a better way to kick off a blog than with a bunch of pictures? A bunch of Philip's Birthday pictures of course!
Today my little guy turned a whopping 2 years old!

He started off his day by receiving a yummy bone to chew on.

"Mmmmm, tasty!"

I left him with it while I went to work, and came back to only find a little stub left... "Bone? What bone?"

We then went to a local pet store for some more presents and came back home with a delicious cupcake,

which was promptly scarfed down.

"I think you only gave me crumbs..."

Philip also got a brand new lobster to play with,

and an antler to chew on.

All in all, I think the celebration was a success - the Birthday boy is nicely tuckered out from his long day now. Here's to many more wonderful years together!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Hello, and welcome to the Agility Adventures blog!

The main star of this blog is Philip. Philip is a red and white Pembroke Welsh Corgi, who will be exactly 2 years old as of tomorrow (March 3rd).

Philip has been training in Agility for a little over a year now, and we've just started attending trials! Our instructor recommended that I keep a journal of his progress, so I figured I'd put it all into a blog, and hence Agility Adventures was born.

We have attended two trials so far - one in USDAA, and one in AKC. I will post reports on both of those shortly, and then keep this updated as we attend more trials. I might even throw in some other random stories too :)