Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Not a Bad Weekend (another NADAC trial)

We all had a reasonably good weekend at The Bay Team's NADAC competition this weekend at Twin Creeks in Sunnyvale.

Had a few cruddy runs and a few lovely surprises (things that I thought we wouldn't be able to handle but did), and we brought home a few more ribbons, so I guess altogether it wasn't too bad.

California Cup
I had hoped (I always hope) to be in the running for the Seventh Annual California Cup, which combines your scores for 6 of the weekend's runs (4 Regular and 2 Jumpers) and the best performance wins the trophy. There were over 110 dogs eligible for the trophy at the beginning of the weekend. Primary filter was how many faults you had overall, and for those 6 runs, after the weekend's carnage cleared, only 2 dogs had zero total faults. Actually it's pretty amazing that *any* had zero faults; that's a difficult thing to do over that many runs, ever.

The tiebreaker was average yards per second for those six runs. The winning dog's avg was 5.68 yps--very wow. The runner-up made only 4.12 yps! There were actually 1st-3rd place awards for big and little dogs at 3 different levels of competition for a total of 18 ribbons (we didn't win any of those, either), and the next fastest dog out of all of those 18 had only 4.93 yps (and 10 faults total, which actually isn't bad--could have been one moderate mistake out of 6 runs, or 2 dropped jump bars).

Jake blew me off the second round of the first day (it's a long odd story as to why--and I can't remember when, if ever, he has done that before) and earned an elimination, so it put him out of the running right away. He's not that fast on average, anyway. For the other five rounds, he had two 10-point faults and an average course time of 4.03 yps.

Tika didn't eliminate in any round, which is above average (out of the original 110 qualified dogs, 50 had eliminations in at least one round), but she just kept knocking bars left and right, and those 5-pointers add up. It's a problem that we're working on, but not very consistently (because I'm too lazy to keep setting up the working equipment).

Tika is very fast, except that on the contact obstacles (places where she has to make contact with her paws rather than jumping over the contact zone), I make her stop completely and touch her nose to the ground, tell her she's good, and then let her go. That adds probably 10 seconds to our course time for each of those courses. I'm saving up on accuracy for the day when I finally decide that it's time to release her the instant she stops to try to win, oh, say, the $150 steeplechase or some such. If we ever get to that point and stop knocking bars... At least, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

ANYway, blah blah, she accrued 45 faults over those 6 runs, almost all knocked bars (sighhhhhh), and averaged 4.42 yps even including those long holds on the contact points. If I'm right about the 10 seconds per course for those four courses, and had released her immediately, then we'd have been at, hmm, let's see, add this, divide by, hmmm... 5.34 yps (oh, wait, we did have one off-course through an extra tunnel and she had to come back and do the correct obstacle... oh, well, never mind, I can't really keep guesstimating the "what ifs").

Over her two Jumpers courses, which have no contact obstacles, only jumps and tunnels, and where we made no mistakes (other than knocked bars), she averaged 6.35 yps, whereas the dog who won averaged only 6.30 over those two courses. But then, that Cal Cup winner didn't knock any bars. (Tika knocked only one of 20 and two of 20... really...)

The fastest of all dogs competing made 6.95 yps, and also knocked one bar; all the other dogs were at least 0.3 yps slower. Fortunately this dog is one of our partners for the upcoming Labor Day Dog Agility Masters Team Regional Qualifier. So if we can keep up the speed and keep on not eliminating and not knock those dagnab cornswaggled bars, we could do good...

OK, was that really interesting?

You can see that speed isn't particularly helpful if you're not accurate in your performance of the course or the obstacles.
Ghosts of Competitions Future
But what's really interesting (OK, from my POV) is that most of the top dogs in the area weren't at this weekend's trial. We face some *really* tough competition at September's trial. And at our two August trials. Many national champions and dogs who have earned their championship titles multiple times over. And who are also really fast--and tend to be a little less bar knocky.

Tedious Details: Regular (2 runs each day each dog)
Jake blew off almost all of his dogwalks all weekend, and I'm referring to nuclear holocaust kind of blowing off, where he's not even in the blast zone distance of the contact zone when he makes a leap for freedom. The only round that was different was Sunday's first round, where I walked onto the field with one thought in my mind: "If he blows off the dogwalk contact, by gum I'm going to blow off the whole round and we're going to train in the ring until he gets it right." And--dash it all--he did it very nicely, and stopped and looked up at me as pretty as you please!

That was the only Regular round in which he qualified, because in the next round I did not go in with that thought in mind, and he just flew right off that little downramp and I just kept on going (after a stop to tell him that I didn't think very much of his performance, and he didn't look like he cared a whit).

Tika had lovely contacts, although she was working hard at leaving the teeter before receiving the "OK" release. But she didn't take off, either--stopped as soon as she realized that I wasn't giving her the everything's OK cues.

She knocked 1 bar the first round, 1 bar the second round, and on Sunday in the first round we had a tough patterning situation where I didn't realize that I needed to give her a big push out and she went off course--and two bars down--and then, in the final Regular round, she saved my butt on some very difficult turns (for a fast, long-strided dog) and left up all the bars and, with her lovely speed, took first place. Wahoo! (She was 2nd and 3rd in her rounds with one bar down.)
Tedious Details: Jumpers (1 run each day each dog)
Jake ran nicely and smoothly both days, with only a couple of veers away from me on challenging cross-behinds, which I had been expecting with his recent hearing and/or seeing problems, and often at the Elite level in NADAC that's enough to have time faults, but he managed to Q both runs, although just barely (0.7 seconds under on Saturday, actually 3 seconds under on Sunday, which surprised me). Sunday's run was good enough for 2nd place; Saturday's only for 6th (of 9 dogs).

Tika was quite fast and oh, so smooth. We had no bobbles in either course, and she carried out on her own over the final jump beautifully. Her average yards per second (yps) over these two courses was 6.35. She seemed slower to me on Sunday than on Saturday, but then it was danged hot and she had been going all weekend (OK, yup, Saturday's was 6.64 yps; sunday's only 6.10, and I think it was a more open course; only the one additional run (Weavers) an hour or so later seemed slower). So she can and does slow down--I need to start considering that.
Tedious Details: Gamblers (1 run each day each dog)
Saturday's Elite Gamble looked like a complete giveaway. The dog went over a jump on the gamble line, angled directly towards a tunnel that veered slightly away from the gamble line; blasting out of the straight tunnel, there was a jump ahead of the dog and slightly towards the handler (who has now encountered the end of the handler area, even with the end of the tunnel), which should be a giveaway for a dog to go straight out and over; then the dog had to continue to bear left and come back in over another jump towards the handler. Piece of cake. I don't know how many full serpentines Jake has done in gambles, and blasting through a tunnel and continuing out over a jump is *so* easy.

However--Jake jogged out of the tunnel, turned towards me, stopped, looked mystified, looked around a bit, and finally went back into the tunnel.

Tika blasted out of the tunnel, glanced at me to see what I was doing, and was over the first jump in a trice, stayed out nicely and came back in quite smoothly over the final jump for a Q. Didn't even have to think about it, and *she's* the one who's still figuring out this gambling thing while *Jake* is supposed to be the old pro. Sigh.

Sunday's gamble was a different matter. There were 3 jumps more or less parallel to the gamble line--the third one was slightly further out. The fourth obstacle was an Aframe, much further back from the gamble line and whose entrance was more or less even with a line between the second and third jumps. So you had to either turn the dog away from you over the 3rd jump and keep him pushed out to the Aframe, or have the dog turn towards you over the 3rd jump, then send him straight out away from you between the 2nd and 3rd jumps to take the Aframe at a sharp angle. Most people were opting for the second choice, and some (not many) were making it. Both of my dogs are perfectly capable of doing turns away from me, but I haven't done a lot of them with Tika at a distance, so I wasn't convinced that she'd really do it.

Jake rather made up his own opening--we weren't communicating well--and he wasn't all that fast, but apparently faster than I thought, because I ended up skipping the final dogwalk/tunnel that I had planned because I thought he was too slow and we were almost out of time, but the whistle didn't blow and I had nowhere to send him except away from me over a couple of jumps, which is dangerous these days because he keeps going rather than looking back at me, which is what he did, and he finally turned and headed back towards me and then the whistle blew, so our timing was excellent to start the gamble (although we didn't get as many opening points as we might have) but our position was at a bad angle (and that was all one sentence). He veered away from me after the first jump rather than continuing on to the second because of that bad angle entry, but somehow figured out what was going on and came back in the correct direction, went over the 2nd and 3rd jumps, turned much more nicely than I had thought possibly away from me over the third jump, looked as if he was about to start wandering aimlessly as he sometimes does lately, but saw the Aframe, went up it, GOT the contact (which he almost never does on Aframes in gambles--something weird about the distance), AND despite the hesitations, managed to even get over the bonus jump for an extra 10 points, putting him in first place out of 7 dogs in his class.

Tika had a lovely opening, but because Jake had had so much extra time (even though he got 45 seconds instead of Tika's 40 seconds, I thought he was wayyyy slow), I inserted an extra two obstacles into Tika's opening, and then, dagnabbit, I sent her up the dogwalk at the instant that the whistle blew. I didn't want to pull her off it, so I let her get to the end and stop, but immediately told her to go and aimed towards the first gamble jump--the entry from the dogwalk was a perfect angle--but instead she came around in front of me, barking and snarfing, which is the old thing she had been doing when I wasn't giving clear signals or some other confusing thing. I *thought* I couldn't have been clearer, but I haven't watched the video, and Gina says she thinks that I was NOT clear and did it while standing still. So she had to spin and circle a couple of times before I got her to successfully do a BEhind and then go over the first jump. So we wasted all the time on the dogwalk (probably 3 seconds of our 15-second gamble time) and then with the chitcatting (probably another 5 seconds). She sent beautifully over the first 3 jumps and started to slightly turn away and I started yelling "left left left!" which we've only barely started practicing with agility obstacles (rather than simply standing and turning), and then she turned crisply, saw the Aframe, went straight up it--and the whistle blew, so we didn't complete the gamble in time. But she *did* do it, even waiting on the contact, and continued gracefully over what would have been the bonus jump.

Not one dog in Tika's class of 6 got the gamble, and so she easily placed 1st with all of her opening points.
Tedious Details: Weavers (Sun) and TouchNGo (Sat)
Weavers consists of only weave poles and tunnels. Jake usually has trouble making the Elite course time for these, as he doesn't generally weave quickly in competition. Never figured out why--he can do them quite rapidly in practice. It was the last run of the weekend on a miserably warm and muggy day, and both dogs were hot and tired. But it was a good weavers course for Jake--I could cross in front of him on all of the crucial turns so that he never had a chance to turn away from me or drift away from the correct path. He actually made time by a second and a hair. Good thing I've spent a lot of time combing out all of his shedding fur the last couple of weeks: I think those 30 or 40 fewer pounds made the difference.

Tika is doing simply beautifully in weave poles, hasn't missed an entrance in quite a while. But she was noticeably slower in this run than in any of the others, and I commented to someone about it at the end of the run. Sure enough, she was ten seconds (30.34) under course time (40.18) but yet 3 or 4 seconds slower than the absolutely fastest dogs, which I wouldn't normally expect. Still , in her class, it was good enough for first.

Touch'N'Go is all tunnels and contacts. It was the last run of the day Saturday, and Tika was the last dog. When I put her into a sit stay, the timer and scribe (whom I knew) and judge were in a sort of it's-almost-over relieved jokey mood, and so I had to actually ask whether they were ready for me to go, and when we got that cleared up, I think I said "OK" to them, and poor Tika took off to the wrong obstacle because I hadn't gotten into position, then I was kind of behind her and flustered and partway through the course I ended up giving her insufficient direction and again she went off course, but I tried to finish the rest correctly. She was a very good girl. And then the judge came by and said it wa their fault that we had messed up and they'd like to give us another chance to run. How often does that happen? So I said yes, but I hadn't given Tika any good-run goodies, and it was danged hot, and she was panting like crazy, and we had no way of hosing the dogs down-- But I decided to run it again right away. Tika was noticeably slower the second time through, but we executed the whole thing perfectly for a Q. She was so good. Again, she was 9 seconds under course time but 2 whole seconds slower than the first place dog, so good for a 2nd place. If only she hadn't slowed down so much the 2nd time-- but of course this is *Tika* slow.

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