Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Hiking, No Dogs

SUMMARY: Hiking at Castle Rock State Park.

I love my dogs, but love getting out and about, too. The weather was just perfect again today, so I headed out with a friend to Castle Rock State Park. Here we are, pausing for a self(s)-portrait (me on the right in the blue Cynosports World Championships t-shirt...can't get away from it completely!):



To see the complete 10 photos with story and captions, go here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Boost's Weaves are SOOOO Fixed

SUMMARY: I am a happy trainer.

I'd been questioning myself for the last year, after I thought I had taught Boost stellar weave poles from the get-go, but she failed over and over and over. I mean, Tika's were almost stellar from the get-go; had to just practice really fast weave entries over and over because she kept crashing into the second pole. So I knew how to train them, right?

With Boost, after she started out with just beautiful weaves, I worked entries from all angles and distances and speeds. At the end of one day, she'd seem to get the hard ones, and the next day, nuthin'. Even the easy ones were falling apart. I couldn't figure out how I was failing as a trainer. Apparently it just hadn't been 'splained sufficiently to her that she had to work at entering on that side, and that she had to work to finish the poles.

Now that I've found ways to explain these things to her (pick her up and murmur in her ear on the entry; make her stop and come back and do the last d*@# pole to stop the popping out), she's fabulous.

Once again, in class last night, her weaves were, dare I say it, totally awesome. We even had one drill with a tough left-hand entry--the side that had been giving us grief--and of all the dogs there last night, Boost was the only one who got it on the first try, and she nailed it at full speed.

I am one happy momma.

FCI World Cup Videos

SUMMARY: Pay-for-view FCI videos.

Our local agility videographer, Eric, is at the FCI World agility championships and is posting vidoes directly from there:

http://fci2007.agilityvideoservice.com/

However, he experienced a very heavy site load (gee, ya think there's a market for people watching FCI videos as the event happens? ;-) ) and has changed it today to be a pay-to-register site. Some videos you can watch for free, but to see everything through the event, you have to pay a $19 one-time registration fee. If you're hungry for that sort of video, and if you want to support his effort in providing the free stuff, too, you can register. (Disclaimer: I barely know Eric and have no financial interest in this. I did register.)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Boot Camp

SUMMARY: I've signed up to make myself really sore and tired.

I've been pondering a yoga class for years and never could bring myself to make the time or money for it. Don't know why; it seems like a really good idea. But what I think about, when watching videos of me running with my dogs, is that I look like I don't know how to run. And, when I'm loading my car, I'm thinking what a wimp I've become--my shoulders, arms, back, stomach--none of them work the way they used to.

A comment by one of the instructors at Power Paws Camp this spring got me going. She said that she always felt incompetent when running and handling her body (from a perennial nationals finalist--maybe we all feel that way!) and decided that "this problem, like many others, could be solved by throwing money at it," so she hired the local high school's soccer coach (or the equivalent) to give her lessons. I'd been on the verge of going over to the local high school, now that school has started, and asking for the soccer coach.

See, I did one season of track and field in high school, and the coach worked with us on how to run, how to start, how to move arms, shoulders, everything--but the details have fled my head. I'd love to relearn and to regain some body strength (I ended up doing shot put and discus rather than running).

Then, two weeks ago, an agility blogging online pal from New Jersey posted a message about doing an all-women's boot camp, and about feeling so good as a result. That hit fast and center.

But I had doubts. (1) Started at 5:30 in the morning. STARTED. Ha! Bad enough I have to get up that early for agility. (2) Five days a week. I have meetings in the mornings 1 or 2 days a week, plus with everything else going on, I don't have a lot of time. (3) Even if there was a San Jose-area location, it would probably be a lonnnng way from here, probably north, and I'd have to fight commute traffic, and wouldn't that make me just cheery in the morning? (4) 6-week sessions--I'd have to take a week off for Nationals at the end of the month, and don't want to pay for something I'm not going to use, and so might not be able to sign up until late fall sometime, and how off-putting is that?

So I went to bootcampfinder.com/. Lo, there's a San Jose location. And someone In The Great Upstairs just knew what I was thinking:
(1) For the first time, they're trying a 9:00 session.
(2) They don't always offer it, but this time they're offering a 3-days-a-week option.
(3) It's only 15 minutes from home, by surface streets or freeway.
(4) Most sessions are 6 weeks, but in October they're doing a 4-week session, which would finish the week before Nationals.

This particular Boot Camp was clearly meant for me and only me! How could I not sign up? So I did. I'm sure it'll be worth the money; less than the entry fees for 2 dogs for one weekend of agility, although I can't afford ongoing sessions.

I'm looking forward to it with both excitement and trepidation. The trepidation part is--my knee sucks. My back sucks. I can't do a single pushup worth beans. My cardiovascular system is a mess. Am I going to be able to do it without hurting myself more?

I met the instructor today. They have alternative exercises if anything aggravates my knee (or back or whatever). He's the right one to be the leader--his energy level matches Tika's! He bounced cheerily all over the place while taking my initial measurements and talking about the program. Funny thing; he has a 6-month old Mastiff, Bacchus, whose front paw is almost bigger than Tika's head! And Bacchus just lay on his side through the whole 20-minute meeting, dog-napping. Wagged his tail lazily and sniffed my fingers without lifting his head when I said hello. What an interesting match in energy levels! Instructor says that all of Bacchus' energy seems to be going into growing, so mostly he just sleeps. But he does attend all the Boot Camp classes.

They want me to have Running Shoes. Not sneakers, not cross trainers; Running Shoes. I think that my shoes are technically cross trainers. But, especially after paying for the Boot Camp, I can't afford another pair of shoes. We'll have to use what I've got.
So--Monday morning, 9:00. Oboy. But they have only 6 (!) signed up for the 9:30 session. Sounds iffy as to whether they'll offer it again. Who are all these people who can get out of bed in the middle of the night, 3 to 5 days a week, and exercise frantically for an hour at 5:30 in the morning??

If you're in the San Jose area, and feel like you want some exercise, sign up for the 9:00 session to encourage them!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Parvo

SUMMARY: Parvo is alive and well, and some dogs aren't.

I want to share some emails from fellow Bay Team members this week.

Derede, a long-time member and dog trainer:
You may have heard this line: "You never hear of a dog dying from parvo; but you do hear of dogs being put down for temperament problems. Early socialization is very important. It's a calculated risk."

I've used the line myself. Well, you may be about to hear of a dog dying of parvo. Some of you guys know my baby Wings. She's 16 weeks old today, and she has parvo.

If she'd gotten it right after the [late August] trials, or before that when I was taking her *everywhere*, I'd have understood. But [she] hasn't been anywhere since 9/8 except she came with me she I got my car washed eight days ago. She did sniff the flower beds there, so maybe it was that. But also folks come in to see us, and we go lots of places, and one of our dogs was at the vet's a week ago, and the parvo virus as I'm sure you've heard can be picked up elsewhere and brought to a site on shoes, dog feet, even car tires. It lasts up to a year (some sources say even more) in the environment if the right conditions prevail.

Wings was on a 4-week vaccination protocol, due again this Saturday. Some sources speak of a 2-3 week protocol, and I'm kicking myself for not asking the vet if I should be DHLPP-ing more often. (Giving more frequently than 2 weeks is counterproductive since the two administrations are likely to cancel each other out.) The problem is maternal antibodies. I thought a dog was protected, more or less, until the vaccine kicks in, but actually, according to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, there's almost always a "window of vulnerability" when the maternal antibodies combat the new vaccine but provide no protection themselves. Somehow the virus found a window of vulnerability in my baby Wings here at home.

As you know, Parvo has no cure, no treatment, just palliative care (fluids, antibiotics to ward off possible secondary infections), and you hope the pup is strong enough to pull through on its own. 3-5 days will tell. I'm writing you guys all this to warn you, I guess, that parvo is out there, maybe less known than it should be. When symptoms began Thurs night (vomiting, lethargy; no diarrhea or fever, the classic signs), neither the emergency vet nor my regular vet the next day tested for parvo because I told them her vaccination protocol and added that she hadn't left home lately, though dogs and people come in. So they didn't suspect. It took two days for a proper diagnosis. Parvo presents in many forms. Older dogs can even be asymptomatic.

Eradicating it is very difficult. I've just started on the bleach disinfection regimen here at home -- how do you disinfect a woodchip agility field? She wasn't out on the course but our dogs were and we were, and we were all in contact with her, walked through the lawn where she pooped sometimes, and any of us could have brought viruses out on our feet. Basically you figure everything she touched, and everything touched by anyone who touched her or walked where she walked is contaminated. I don't even know where to begin. Together with contacting everyone who's been here, it's a Herculean task -- but it keeps my mind off Wings.

So herein lies my cautionary tale. I'm not sure what I'd do differently: I still believe keeping a dog cooped up at home until it's 4 mo old is a recipe for trouble itself, and not foolproof anyway. I guess I'm writing in part to inform, in part to lecture to myself, in part to solicit (if you believe in that sort of thing)
healthy thoughts. Please think good thoughts for my baby Wings.

In response, here's Pat, long-time dog owner and owner of one of the very few pet blood banks in the country:
Sounds like you did everything according to the book, but just hit that one moment of susceptibility.

The next time anyone tells you they have never seen a dog die from parvo or vaccinations don't need to be given, call me. I'm not a vet, but I have seen hundreds of dogs die from parvo. It can happen even if your pup has never left your bedroom. My friend lost an entire litter of Aussies. They had never left the whelping room, they were being vaccinated regularly, and we had to disinfect ourselves completely before entering the house. Sometimes there is nothing you can do to avoid it. Our shelter periodically has to purge the entire facility because of parvo breakouts that kill the dogs. I have personally had 5 rescues die from parvo shortly after I had brought them home. Period of exposure to time of death is very short. These dogs had obviously picked up the parvo during their incarceration. Most were adult dogs.

Bitches that are hyper immunized before whelping present an even bigger problem, since their maternal antibodies may last beyond what is normally considered the safe window of vaccination. Better to have less antibody response so the vaccine can kick in sooner. Some breeds seem to be especially prone to needing puppy vaccines for an extended period of time. Rotties and Dobies seem to fit into this catagory.

I cannot tell you the amount of money I have made from the belief that Parvo doesn't kill or vaccinating excessively has no value. Every Parvo season the orders for plasma pour in from vets trying to save dying puppies. We sell thousands of units of it. Unfortunately, plasma is often a last ditch, to late effort, or the owner can't afford it. Consequently, the pup dies.

We get calls from all over the country, but areas where wild canids roam are especially bad, compared to city dogs. Don't take pups anywhere you hear the call of the wild. Coyotes are little parvo reservoirs.

We get calls for many adult dogs as well. Wherever there is a stong belief against vaccination, Parvo breaks and I'm the one who gets the middle of the night, desperate calls.

It is my understanding that there is now a vaccine that counteracts the maternal antibodies and provides parallel protection. I have not had any pups, so I can't say for sure, but it would be worth looking into if you are getting a new pup. If over vaccinating is a huge concern, you can use just a straight parvo vaccine for the vaccinations over and above what is necessary for immunity to distemper, et al.

And a note on the use of plasma. Plasma does not work by supplying antibodies to fight the virus. All it does, in the most simplistic terms, is provide the material that plugs the holes through which the fluids are leaking, thus maintaining osmotic balance and preventing dehydration.

Hope this helps someone in the future. And yes, adult, healthy dogs who have had parvo can shed virus for a long time.

A couple of members wrote that they follow Dr. Jean Dodd's protocol; here's one link to the info. (This is not an endorsement by me; I haven't researched this and know nothing about it. I'm just passing along information.)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Speed

SUMMARY: Boost is fast.

Yow. Boost's Advanced Jumpers run was clocked at 7.54 yards per second. Tika's fastest time ever was 7.05 for a Novice Jumpers run.

Titles and Statistics

SUMMARY: Back to the database for AAD analysis. Because I can.


That was Tika's SACH-Bronze, by the way (Standard Agility Championship, with 15 Masters Standard Qs).

And Boost's AAD (Advanced Agility Dog).

My first agility dog, Remington, earned his AAD three years and three months after our first USDAA trial. That was 27 trials worth of experience, 12 of which were USDAA trials. It seemed like forever!

My second, Jake, earned his AAD one year and 9 months after his first USDAA trial. That was 19 trials total, 8 of which were USDAA.

Tika took two years exactly to get to her AAD; that was 45 trials, 20 of which were USDAA. That also seemed like forever, but in a whole different way.

Boost took 1 year and a couple of weeks, over 18 trials, 14 of which were USDAA.

What does this prove? That I've got a database! Wooohoo!

Master Dogs

SUMMARY: Sometimes you feel like a Master, sometimes you don't.

Master Gamblers Tika no Q. Did hard part of gamble but turned wrong way.
Boost No Q. Didn't stick start line, didn't stick her Aframes. Good: did DW in gamble.
Steeplechase Tika No Q. Bar and ran over broadjump. 28.86 with fastest at 26.94. SCT of 35.20, but our 10 faults gave us 38.86. Zut alors!
Boost No Q. Didn't stick start line and made her come back and sit. Followed by a flawless run but over time.
Saturday Standard Tika (Masters) Q and 2nd of 20
Boost (Advanced) Q and 3rd of 9. AAD!
Saturday Jumpers Tika (Masters) No Q. Smooth but one bar. 27.46 with winner at 26.67.
Boost (Advanced) E? Couple of bars plus bad handling for offcourse.
Pairs Relay Tika (Masters) No Q. Tika clean, partner offcourse
Boost (Advanced) Q and 1st place
Masters Snooker Tika Q and 8th of 21; popped one Aframe in opening which = superQ points
Boost Ha! 6 points! Tied for 37th of 39
Sunday Jumpers Tika (Masters) E; knocked 2 bars so tried risky layering = offcourse
Boost (Advanced) E; 20.55 seconds compared to winners (very fast) 22.00; beautiful but sent her into the wrong end of the tunnel twice, plus bar
Sunday Standard Tika (Masters) No Q; Knocked 1st bar, popped dogwalk AND aframe
Boost (Advanced) No Q; bar, refusal, handling mistake for offcource
Grand Prix Tika Q and 2nd of 21; only 3 clean, only 4 Qed; 13 Eed.
Boost Q and 11th of 46; only 15 Qed; 24 Eed.


Tika's Contacts

Well, the saga of "Tika has running contacts" continues. Flew off an A-frame in Gamblers and barely stuck the 2nd one and didn't try to fix 'em. Should have. Somehow she hit A-frame and Dogwalk in Saturday's Standard, a challenging course that only 5 of 20 dogs Qed on. But she didn't even pretend to hit bottom. Still, she placed 2nd! Only the second time she has placed higher than 3rd in 70 Masters Standard attempts. In Snooker, we did four A-frames and she popped one of them in the opening, which would have given us Super-Q points. In Sunday's Standard she flew off BOTH the dogwalk and the A-frame--and I made her come back and lie down each time.

So, after that, in the Grand Prix, she actually got feet into the contacts both times (but by slowling way down, and even so, not a hint of a two-on/two-off pretense) and not only Qed on a course where only 3 of 21 of the 26" dogs ran clean, but also placed 2nd! That's the first time she has placed higher than 6th out of her 38 Grand Prix attempts. And only her fourth clean Grand Prix ever.

She didn't get called on her dogwalk up contact all weekend; that's two weekends in a row. So we go from the up zone to the down zone, I guess. Sigh. REALLY need to retrain contacts over the winter and STICK WITH IT, DANGIT!

Tika Over All

So those two second-place finishes were to be proud of, and I'm pleased with them. But getting only 3 Qs out of 9 is low for us. Bars, contacts, and a couple of Stupid Handler Tricks. Back to bar-knocking drills, too-- I think she knocked 6 this weekend, 2 (?) being the first jump of a run, and one triple on a send/front-cross/pull in an otherwise beeeeyutiful Jumpers run.

And what about that Broad Jump in Steeplechase?! RAN across it! Never seen her do that before, and I don't think it was much of an angle, either. That's twice that a broad jump has taken us out in Steeplechase. Guess I gotta haul mine out from under the deck.

Boost's Weaves

Woohoo! Perfect weaves! Every time! Like she's been doing 'em for years! What a difference from Labor Day weekend. We did 5 sets of weaves, from all angles and directions, and she nailed every entry and stayed in even when I moved way away to get into position for the next obstacle. I am SOOOOOOO happy about that, as that has been our killer in plenty of runs in the last year where we were otherwise clean. Still, watching one video, I timed them at about 2.7 seconds, which is half a second slower than we've timed them in the yard and class. They looked pretty fast, but I guess there's still a little confidence issue in competition. Oh, well, that'll come!

Boost's Handling

Boost also seems to be almost over the runout or refusal problems that we've worked on over and over. Only one really bad jump refusal muckup on a badly done rear cross where I meant to do a front cross, and only one runout where I left her in the weaves and ran ahead but didn't give her any clues where to go after the weaves. She handled really smoothly in almost everything else, except Saturday's Standard--where we had a couple of jump refusals (not counted in Advanced) and held it together for a Q, which is all we needed to MOVE UP TO MASTERS in everything! Scary and also a relief to be in the same level as Tika.

Her Grand Prix run--again, a tough one where only 15 of 46 22" dogs Qed--was beautifully smooth. She knocked a bar on a very deeply angled serpentine, but at least she's doing the serps, which a couple of months ago we were still struggling with. She's now really starting to work to take the jumps instead of going around them or stopping.

Her Steeplechase was a thing of beauty. I could not have asked for a more gorgeous Steeplechase run. The run itself was flawless. But...

Boost's start line and contacts

So, my comfort through all those botched weaves and refusals and runouts was that my baby dog has rock-solid start line stays and 2 on/2 off contacts. Naturally, now that the other things seem fixed, BOOM! everything else breaks!

In the first run of the weekend (Masters Gamblers), while I was leading out, a little gray blur shot over the first jump and past me. I called her back and said "oh my goodness!" or something like that and told her to sit, whereupon the judge told me to continue immediately or leave the course. Of course, that would be training in the ring. I decided that that very brief sit was sufficient, didn't attempt to finish my leadout, and ended up behind her all the way through the opening, so we had lots of wasted time and space--PLUS she hit her A-frame bottom but did NOT wait for the release! So on the second A-frame, I really held her. So our opening pointage was low.

In the second run of the weekend, the Steeplechase, I again put her into a sit and confidently led out--and a little gray blur shot over the first jump and past me. I managed to scream her name a foot before she actually hit the A-frame, called her back to me, made her line up next to me, and put her into a sit again. This judge didn't give me any verbal warning, so I completed my lead-out, released her, and continued in that absolutely gorgeous flawless run. But, as a result, we were almost 4 seconds over time.

Still, that and the Grand Prix give me hope for our future in Masters. Plus--we had no more problems with the start line for the rest of our 7 runs, so if that fixed the problem permanently, it was well worth giving up the Steeplechase for.

But she was fighting her sticky contacts all weekend. In that smooth Grand Prix, she came off her dogwalk before I released her, so I made her come back and lie down. That was a 4.5 second delay; the rest was lovely including a teeter that she SLID down the last foot! And stuck it! Beautiful! Her time of 36.34, with that extra 4.5 seconds, was .15 slower than Tika (who was NOT holding her contacts) and 2.03 slower than the winning 22" dog. So she's moving!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Tips for USDAA Nationals

SUMMARY: Link to Bay Team page.

I've just filled in a lot of accumulated wisdom about the USDAA Cynosports World Championships in Scottsdale on this Bay Team page; includes some info about renting RVs, what to expect at the site, background info, and maps (from last year's program that most of us never saw).

There's also a lot of stuff specific to traveling from the Bay Area.

If you are a Bay Team member, you can log in and add to the wiki page. If you're not a Bay Team member--we'd like to allow nonBTers to edit it, and I think I can figure out how to do it. Just email me if you want to try (webmaster (at) bayteam (dot) org; mention that I said to do this in case someone other than me gets the message).

Crazy Driven WEAVING Border Collies

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves are SO much better! Plus she loves watching those Border Collies!

Boost's weaves in class last night were fannnnnnntastic! She missed only a couple of entries when turning to the left, but this time they were barely missed--went in early (wrong side) instead of just running past them on the far side. And she didn't pop out EVEN ONCE, even when I was bearing away from her, running ahead to make a turn, lagging behind for a pull. What an awesome weaving dog!

These are the weaves that I thought I had a year ago. Perhaps they'll stay fixed, if the good lord's willin' and the tide don't rise.

Our midday Wednesday "puppy class" is on indefinite hiatus, since attrition had us down to only four members (one injury and three off to other classes). That's OK; an evening class is better for my schedule, anyway.

For the last 3 weeks, and probably for the long haul, Boost is now in a class with all Border Collies. You could not have a happier dog. And it was fun for me, too. These are all Masters dogs (well--OK, Boost is one Standard leg from being a Masters dog, too; and frankly the people in our "puppy class" were working at the masters level even if they weren't competing much yet), and includes two current and former World Cup team members. (Silvina Bruera and Maja, representing Argentina for the 4th (?) year in row, and our instructor, many-time competitor and current world team coach, Nancy Gyes with her dog Ace aka Mace.) (And that's compared to a mere one world-team-type dog in Tika's Wednesday night class. ;-) (Luka.))

The point more being that, in this class, Boost, who seems to me like the world's fastest, most driven, most spectacular Border Collie, is nothing special. In this class, there are nothing BUT super driven, super fast, spectaclar BCs. Every time I blew something, I felt like such a doofus. But then--everyone was blowing stuff. And these two same world-cup-type people both had experience handling Boost's mom when she was young, whom Boost so greatly resembles, and had challenges with her. Which makes me feel less like a doofus...when I take time to remember that.

We ran a lot of short, fast drills last night along with the usual longer courses. So we ran a lot. My knee felt great (unlike the night before with Tika, where it grieved me), my body felt great, Boost ran fabulously, and I was near exhaustion by the end of the class. But that high-endurance Border Collie thing sure showed up. Not only did Boost do all the drills at top intensity, but sometimes parts of them several times while I figured out my handling. Between runs, she stood up and lunged eagerly at the end of her leash, quiet except for the loud gleaming of her bright, wide eyes, all the time that thos other really exciting dogs were running. For almost 2 hours. When we got home, she leaped on a toy and begged me to play.

"I'm a Border Collie, mom; GIVE ME STUFF TO DO!"

This weekend will be the test of the weaves--and everything else. It seems like, in just a very few short weeks, she's stopped refusing jumps, she's figured out serpentines and turns and taking jumps at an angle, weave poles... AND still maintains really lovely contacts and start lines. I feel like I'm living on the edge-- Maybe she did need more time to mature. Maybe I did, too. :-)

Today's bonus: A machine-translated version of an older Argentinian article about Silvina and her dogs Trompita, Aira the doberman (note translation of name, too),and Maja the BC (name also translated). I love machine translations. Almost as good as some of those badly translated instructions on commercial products.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Comparing Jumpers and Coming Weekend

SUMMARY: Four agility dogs, different results.

My first two agility dogs, Remington and Jake, hardly ever knocked bars. It just wasn't something we ever worried about. Tika knocks bars. Looks like Boost is a bar knocker, too.

Some numbers: Remington's USDAA Starters/Novice record is vague; Jumpers didn't count for anything back then, so all that mattered was placement, which was time plus faults. I didn't track the faults. He placed anywhere from 1st of 13 to 3rd of 5 before he moved up to Advanced, where he quickly Qed in 2 of 4 Jumpers to move up to Masters (things wuz different then).

Then, he often didn't make time. (This was the long period when I was discovering that he slowed down in reaction to my stress.) When I finally figured that out--and how to deal with it--well, he Qed his last four Masters Jumpers in a row after Qing only 2 of the previous 17.

In all those Advanced and Masters runs, he knocked a bar only once, and he was running with someone else at the time.

Jake didn't come to live with me until he already had his novice AD title. With him, so much faster than Remington at the time, my problems were all learning to handle all over again; lots of runouts and refusals. In the 56 Masters and P3 Jumpers that we did, the only knocked bar I have recorded was after he had already run past a jump and then knocked the bar backjumping.

Tika. Well. 21 starters/novice Jumpers before she got a clean one--actually got TWO that same weekend. Then, in advanced, she Qed her second one, and I thought I was on a roll. ...I was, and it was all rapidly downhill. 13 Masters Jumpers until our first clean one, and that's what had held us back from our MAD forever. Then another 7 until our next clean one. Then the legs are sporadic--10 of the next 24. This spring, we got five--FIVE!--in a row, and I thought I was on a roll! Well... you know what happens... downhill again.

The Booster isn't as bad as Tika, but probably only because I'm not making as many handling errors (I hope). She got 1 out of 4 Startes Jumpers; knocked bars (and other problems) in the others.

Has earned only one Advanced Jumpers Q out of 11 tries. That's enough to get us into Masters if we can get that third Standard leg! (2 out of 16 tries so far) ...Two more chances this weekend at TRACS in Woodland.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Database for Tracking Dog Agility Results

SUMMARY: What I track and how.

A reader asks what I track from my agility competitions, and how I track it. I'm a bit obsessive about some things, but in looking over other people's shoulders with their agility record books, I think I track the same sorts of things that detail-minded people track everywhere.

Available trackers

First, let me tell you what's available to the public at large that are used locally.

You can get very nice record books from DoggoneGood or from Clean Run (and probably other places as well).

Some of my fellow Bay Teamers are also creative in their record-keeping, and have made available their nifty trackers:
  • Member Karey Krauter's one-page crib sheet for tracking your progress towards USDAA, NADAC (older-style NADAC--could be used for ASCA), and AKC titles. (Print and mark up.)
  • Get member Holly Newman's nifty Excel spreadsheet for USDAA titles—you fill in the dates you Qed, it calculates what titles you've earned!
  • Get member Dave Connet's spiffy Windows program for managing your Qs and titles in most venues, Agility Record Book, free software! Because he's a nice guy! (Though he does ask that you make a donation to a local animal shelter or rescue group. And runs only on Windows, sorry.)
  • My paper tracking sheet, which I fill out at the trial (and later take home and put into my database, but you don't have to), is available here in Word format or PDF.

What I Track

You can see from my tracking form that I gather quite a bit of info. I track every run, whether I qualify or not, and whether it's even possible to qualify, because I am as interested in the things that we don't do well, not just titles. (Caveat: I don't do AKC, so any AKC-specific data isn't in my list.)
  • Trial info: Venue, host club, location.
  • Date of each run
  • Level
  • Class
  • Jump height: This used to be just for my own info, but now USDAA in particular has rules about participating in the Championships at the heights you earned the Qs.
  • Qualifying: Did I Q? Super-Q? Or not? Or is it a nonqualifying class? (e.g., DAM team Jumpers by itself isn't qualifying; runs at USDAA Nationals aren't qualifying.)
  • Placement and number of dogs competing directly against us: This was originally for fun for me, but in USDAA you can use this to calculate your Top Ten points and to figure out the number of Snooker Super-Qs.
  • Number of dogs running same course: Any height/any level; this isn't on my official tracking sheet, but sometimes I like to know that, although we competed against only 2 other dogs in our height and level, in fact 50 dogs of various heights and levels ran exactly the same course, so I can see where we fit more globally.
  • Judge
  • Faults or Elimination: I note just course faults, because my database calculates time faults using SCT and our time.
  • Our time: This is most useful in Standard and Jumpers, but in Pairs Relay, your team's score is time plus faults, and Gamblers and Snooker it may help to determine your placement and also give you an idea of how much time you had left in which you might have done something different.
  • Standard Course Time (SCT): In point-accumulation classes, this is the total time (e.g., opening plus closing in gamblers).
  • Best time: I vary on this; sometimes I note the time of the 1st place dog competing directly against us; sometimes I note the fastest dog competing directly against us but maybe they knocked a bar or had a refusal. Sometimes I go to the back of my sheet and note the fastest times of all heights and levels on the same course to get that global idea.
  • Yards: I wish I'd thought to track this from the very beginning, but I was more concerned then about whether we actually completed the course without faults and it never occurred to me to figure out whether our average yards per second (YPS) was improving, or where it fell in comparison to the rest of the world. (My database calculates YPS from Our time and Yards.)
  • Points: For gamblers and snooker, I note our opening and closing points and the best opening and closing points (usually from the first-place dog, but sometimes in gamblers the dog with the best opening points doesn't get the gamble; I write what I want to write, as this doesn't actually have any effect on any titles.)
  • Partner(s): Dog and human for pairs relay and DAM teams.
  • Handler: Not on my official tracking sheet, but if someone else runs my dog (like when I was injured but still entered), I note that.
  • Notes:
    • I always note what our faults were (e.g., "2 bars", "Aframe down"). I try to be specific about the circumstances, because that's what'll help me figure out what to work on to improve. (e.g., "I called her on top of both jumps", "I did running front cross on Aframe and she didn't bother stopping".)
    • I also note anything else that I think might help me--dog was faster or slower than usual (and maybe why); my physical problems; etc.
    • I also note things that I think are interesting and help me to put our success (or failure) in context, like "10 of 15 dogs Eed", "only 1 of 53 masters dogs got the gamble".
    • For snooker, I note our obstacle numbers--e.g., 1-4-1-0-1-7+2-5.
    • For Gamblers, I might note the opening time allowed and the point system used; might also note how many obstacles we did and of what type (e.g., 2 weaves, 2 contacts, 5 tunnels, 4 jumps). Quite a few people figure out how much they can do in a certain amount of time by counting obstacles; mostly now, though, I use other methods for figuring that out.
  • title earned: I figure this out manually.

My database calculates time faults, yards per second, USDAA Top Ten points.

Having the data in a database allows me to obsessively calculate things like what Q percentage did I earn at a trial. And to search in every possible way and get results back (e.g., "Tika, USDAA, Jumpers, Masters, sorted by date... or sorted by YPS", or "All of my runs that have ever earned any Top Ten points").

What I Use

I use my own database in FileMaker Pro. It's not ready for prime time--it's a mishmosh of experiments, old stuff that doesn't work any more and I didn't bother removing it, assumptions about what I need to enter to make it work correctly. I hesitate to offer to let anyone else have it because I have a feeling that it would fail miserably in anyone else's hands and be a frustrating experience. But I enjoy it.

Boost's Weaving Poles--Fixed?

SUMMARY: Sometimes the simplest solutions...

I've picked her up only a few times when she's missed that left-turn entry into the weaves. You should see her working to get in there now! It became clear that she had to work on it after the first couple of times, when she'd blast full speed to just beyond the first pole, then visibly stop for the fractioniest bit of a second and DIVE into the entry, but she's getting smoother all the time.

Now I'm wondering whether it's just that she's stronger with a lead to one side, which makes it easier to turn sharply in one direction, and she just never figured out (or was never forced to figure out) how to change lead to make the sharp turn in the other direction. It's a thing of beauty! We'll see how well it translates when we get to class this Thursday--and in the trial this coming weekend. But it's lookin' good--

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Taking the Weekend Off

SUMMARY: To Monterey, without the beasts.

Since I didn't do the USDAA trial this weekend, I did something entirely unrelated to dogs. Again! This is getting to be a pleasant habit!

See photos, with captions and everything, here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Fixing Boost's Weaves

SUMMARY: Getting the left-hand entrance.

It dawned on me at the ASCA trial a few weeks back that Boost was getting all of the weaves she entered with a turn to the right but not those that she entered turning left. Training since then has focused on that.

I continued to use my little wire fencing pieces to mark the entrance in most cases, or, if I didn't have those, any other object in the vicinity. As long as something was there, she usually (but not always) made that entry. Sometimes, however, she ran right through the wire fence and seemed to give it no second thought.

A couple of days ago, I noticed that, when doing "left" and "right" when sitting, she turned her head to the right but her whole body to the left. Made me start thinking that perhaps there's something structural or somewhat out of kilter. Yesterday I almost called the vet/chiro up in Lafayette--but I just hate the thought of the 90-minute drive, so I thought I'd wait until after class.

Before class, I set her up with the fence in position and tried several runs with her turning left. She got almost all of them. But, when class started, she just blasted through or around the wire time after time. Instructor N pointed out that she's more hyped up in class than beforehand. Said maybe it could be something physical, but if she can make the turn with the wire there, even though it's not much of a barrier, there's no real good reason why she can't make the turn without it there.

The three things we discussed:
  • If she doesn't make the entry, just stop, give the "uh-oh, too bad, bummer" talk and just walk her off and let her sit out while the next dog runs. We tried that several times, and on the 5th try, I believe, she made the entry (but now she's seen that same entry all those times). The next try, she didn't.
  • Put up a "maze"--basically bits of x-pen or more substantial gates than my little fencing--in places where she's NOT supposed to run, so that if she's blasting through full speed after making the wrong entry, she'll suddenly arrive at a place where she can't get through/over/around. N. said that this has worked for several dogs except one, who figured out that you could skip *two* poles at the beginning and still have it work. So we tried it several times with Boost, and she made a couple of correct entries, and then also skipped two poles. N. did mention that eventually they might figure out to look for the gates up and adjust accordingly. I hate clever dogs.
  • Just picking her up and telling her not to do that. I don't know why I didn't think of this before. After a zillion different strategies for trying to get Tika to quit grabbing my feet in the middle of a course, this is something that I came up with on my own, and that's the trick that finally gave me back the ability to run a full course with her. So today in the yard, I tried a couple of fast, drivey weave entries with the "uh-oh, bummer" strategy, and she missed 3 in a row. Then I picked her up, carried her around for about 10 seconds, saying that I was disappointed in her and she needs to get those weave entries. Set her down on the ground at the beginning of the weaves, and she did them. Then we did more fast drivey entries and she got them all. Hoo-ah. We'll see whether that sticks until tomorrow.

Waiting on Tika's Up Contact

SUMMARY: Training plan for this winter.

I've decided that, with all the USDAA competitions going on between now and nationals, this isn't the time to give a serious effort at retraining Tika's dogwalk up contact. Maybe it's just an excuse, but it seems to me that the more successful retrainings keep the dog out of competition where they would only reinforce the old behavior. So--AFTER the Nationals, I'll have almost three months before our next USDAA--with a couple of CPE trials thrown in, but I'm less concerned about skipping our Standard runs there.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chasing Bronze and Gold

SUMMARY: Tika's USDAA title chase, post-Labor Day.

How many legs (Qualifying scores) until Tika's ADCH-bronze?
  • Jumpers: Have: 11. Need: 4 more. (Got at regionals: none; that's 2 in a row)
  • Gamblers: Have: 13. Need: 2 more. (Got at regionals: none.)
  • Standard: Have: 14. Need: 1 more. (Got at regionals: 1.)
  • Pairs Relay: Have: 16. Need: none. (Got at regionals: 1)
  • Snooker: Have: 20. Need: No more. (Got at regionals: 1.)
  • Steeplechase: Have: 6. Need: No more. (Got at regionals: 0.)
  • DAM: Have: 6. Need: No more. (Got at regionals: 1.)
  • Grand Prix: Have: 20. Need: No more (jeez, PLATINUM requires a mere 10 of these! Bring on those 5-fault Qs!). (Got at regionals: 1.)

What about that TM-Gold?
  • Steeplechase: Have: 6. Need: 1 more. (Got at regionals: 0; that's 3 in a row)
  • DAM: Have: 6. Need: 1 more. (Got at regionals: 1.)
  • Grand Prix: Have: 20. Need: none. (Got at regionals: 1.)
  • Total among all 3 tournaments Have: 32. Need: 3 more (including the one more steeplechase and team). (Got at regionals: 2.)

And how about the Lifetime Achievement Award Bronze? Have: 94. Need: 56 more (Got at regionals: 5.) (Jeepers, Batman, that's a lot of legs! For some reason they don't count the Steeplechase and DAM towards the LAA awards. On the up side, although Tika earned only 33 towards this in all of '06, so far in '07 she's earned 35 and we have 3 trials to go.)

Monday, September 10, 2007

More Labor Day Photos

SUMMARY: I took hundreds of photos over Labor Day, myself, mostly of people.

Boost discovers that we're set up right next to her breeder--her mommy, daddy, "uncles" Tango and Quirk, etc., and goes into submissive groveling every chance she gets.
My classmates' team, "Jim's Bars Sluts," from a running gag (gag might be right) in Wednesday night class. Plus the barstender himself.
The opposite side of Jim's Bars Sluts
To be SURE that there was a photo of me, I jammed my other camera into a convenient friend's hands and said, "please take a picture of me!" This is how I looked to almost everyone all weekend except when I was at the score table.
At the end of the weekend, almost everything was packed up, and people's dogs were starting to run around the field for some extra play time, when I had to go attend to something. I told the dogs to get into the car and wait there, not entirely believing that they'd still be actually in the car (by my definition of "in"--meaning not outside it sniffing around in the grass) when I returned. But there they were, the little angels! (This time.)

Labor Day Photos

SUMMARY: Thanks, Sarah, for the photos.

A friend from work stopped by our Labor Day trial and took a ton of photos. Here are some interesting ones of my dogs.
Boost demonstrating her really nice start-line stay.
Ellen and Tika both moving very fast.
Tika demonstrates that, in competition, it's "2-on/2-off yer momma!"

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Agility Cows

SUMMARY: Too much time on one's...

Way bay a long time ago in the dark ages, I found this fun cow site. (You really have to take a look at it to appreciate this. Or maybe you won't appreciate this anyway, but at least I tried.**)

After serious study, I determined that an entire class of ASCII cows were missing, and created these, which have since been slowly decaying until I just discovered them in a "do something with this" file behind a cobweb in one corner of my email system:


(__)
/---------------/_(oo)
*--( (_ \/
\_______________\ \\_
\-|
Running thru cow agility tunnel


*
|| \| || (_|) ||
|| |\___||_(oo) ||
|| ||___||__\/| ||
__||___|//__||__\\|___||___

Weave poles in cow agility

----------------
* | | |
\ | ***** |
\|__ **_(__)** |
/-| ** (oo) ** |
// |__**__ \/| ** |
//| ** \\ \\* |
// | **\\*\\ |
| - - |
- -

Cow agility tire jump





**(He has since put a Flash front end on it for fun, and you click on various things to get to various other fun, strange, interesting, or useless stuff; go here.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Tika Videos

SUMMARY: Not our best runs

Huh, just discovered that Agility Video Service taped two of Tika's runs this weekend--and, of the 10 runs we did, he managed to get the only one where we Eed (Masters Jumpers) and the worst of the rest (Grand Prix round 2 with a refusal and her falling off the dogwalk).

But, for what it's worth, you can view them here. I kept thinking most of the weekend that she seemed slow, and she sure looks it in parts of these videos.

DAM Team and Strategies

SUMMARY: My teams. Our plan: Run fast, run clean, don't get greedy.

For all the thousands of photos I've taken, it never occurs to me to get photos of us with our pairs partners or DAM teammates. Dangies.

Tika and Brenn the Border Collie have been on the same DAM team continuously for two years now. Unfortunately we've not had constant partners. I still think of it as Brenn's team that Tika's on; that's because, originally, at the beginning of the 2006 season, Brenn and Skeeter the ACD were looking for a 3rd (their moms are good friends) and I invited myself to join them.

The team of T/B/S failed to Q our first time out (that story, a tragicomedy of errors, was told elsewhere in this blog: here and here). The second time, S's mom had committed to a different team, so T/B found another dog--who had to withdraw at the last minute due to an injury. We found yet another dog, a good one with a good handler. On the day of the trial, that handler messed up her knee and couldn't run and her dog wouldn't run with anyone else.

For the next Team event, T/B/S were back together with a new name, "Three's a Charm," and we barely squeezed out a team Q. We went to Nationals with that name, where--much to our surprise--we made it to the finals and placed 22 of over 200 teams. We were ready to be together forever. We even had nifty team shirts, which you KNOW is critical to success.

Then Skeeter went blind. Well--she's actually doing not badly, for a dog with glaucoma. There was a while where her mom thought she'd be completely blind in a very short time, but with medication, she's leading a pretty normal life. It's just that her vision is limited, so, her agility career is mostly over. Which is particularly too bad for Three's A Charm, because she was the most reliable dog on the team. Not the fastest, but I'd say the least likely to E.

This year we've teamed with 3 different partners and Qed with all of them, but two had already committed to other teams for Scottsdale and the third had to be arm-twisted to do team at all and doesn't feel that his knee and skill are up to Scottsdale. We just want to go and have fun again, and have a chance to let ourselves really drive without worrying about Qs.

Team Strategy

Which brings us to strategies for Team.

First, you must decide whether you want a Q or to go for the proverbial gold. Jim Basic says that DAM is basically a gimmee and it's almost impossible not to Q. Well, fine for him, but 50% of the teams don't qualify at every DAM event, and I and my dogs have been in that lower 50% most of the time. So my focus, if we haven't already all Qed, is on merely Qing.

Which means that our team strategy has been: "Don't eliminate and don't get greedy." The first applies to Standard, Jumpers, and Relay, and the latter to Snooker and Gamblers.

Don't eliminate: Team scoring for Standard, Jumpers, and Relay is similar: The team starts with a certain number of points per dog and then you subtract your time and your faults--but if you Eliminate (go offcourse or get at least 3 refusal faults), you lose all of your dog's points. For example, in the relay, each dog starts with 150 points (450 for the whole team). If all three of you run clean, your total time might be 60 seconds, for a final score of 390. But if one of you Es and you still take 60 seconds, you lose 150 for the E and then your 60 seconds also, for a score of 240. So Eing really hurts.

Standard gets 130 points per dog; Jumpers 110.

So the "don't E" strategy is to run conservatively, to do anything you have to do to avoid Eing because 5-point faults don't matter nearly as much as losing the whole kit and kaboodle. Might mean don't rev your dog up as much so that they're more under control when you run. You probably won't win the class that way, but you're more likely to avoid the E.

Don't get greedy: In Snooker and Gamblers, your earned points are multiplied by a factor to make them comparable to your other scores. So, for example, if it's expected that the highest-scoring dogs might earn 50 points, they might use a factor of 1.5 to give a total of 75 points towards the team total.

It's harder to "E" in these classes and earn 0 points... well, er, I've done it... but you're more likely to earn *some* points. If your focus is on Qing, though, you're in god shape if your scores are near or above average. (Interestingly enough, if all 3 dogs achieve average in all their classes, the team overall is likely to place fairly high because of the high price for crashing and burning.) So you want a reasonable number of points, but you don't want to be aggressive with risky courses that might drop your point totals too low if you blow it.

In the Gamble, which has typically been a Time Gamble, the "don't get greedy" really comes into play. You earn points in the opening as usual, then, when the first whistle blows, you get double the points from there to the finish line. The rub is that you must cross the finish line before the second whistle blows, or your lose all your doubled points. So it's better to have some points doubled than to go for a huge number of doubled points and lose it, because you drop way below average if you don't get some.

How our Strategy Worked

Our team had a couple or three popped contacts (5 faults each in Standard and Team) and some refusals (2 faults each), but our dogs are all naturally fairly fast, so our times were good. We had only one E in Jumpers, with a fairly aggressive send to a jump that the dog came around and took the next obstacle for an offcourse. But it was a tough jumpers course--fully 1/3 of the dogs Eed, so it was a survivable E--with 38th being an average placement, we were 39th in Jumpers overall.

Huh--I thought we all survived Standard, too, but apparently one of us Eed there, too, so we didn't do well in that--61st of 75 teams.

We all did comfortable snooker courses that were all different, since we have different strengths (e.g., Tika did two A-frames, but the others avoided that since they have contact issues). Again, the dogs are fairly fast and we didn't do anything sexy, and we ended up 9th of 75 teams in Snooker.

In Gamblers, there were lots of choices for flowing courses, and some good options for doubling points, so everyone could choose courses for their dogs' strengths. Don't get greedy, I reminded myself repeatedly, but I timed my planned doubled obstacles over and over so that I'd know, based on when the first whistle blew, what exactly I could do in the 12 seconds I was allowed. So--Tika was a tad slower than I had planned in the opening, so instead of finishing my opening with a teeter and ending with a chute/teeter, I started the closing with the teeter/chute...and I had timed it so that I knew that it would take me about 10 to 11 seconds to do two teeters and the chute and get over the finish line. That's aggressive and probably greedy, but dammit I had timed it. We just couldn't afford any bobbles, not one, and I had to release her off the teeter contact the instant her foot was in the yellow and the teeter hit the ground. So I did it, we raced for the finish, we made it, for a pretty high closing total. With--as I checked later--.14 seconds to spare from losing it all.

So Tika placed 7th of 53 in the team gamble and our team placed 15th of 75, and Tika earned 10 points more than she would have if I had been conservative. This is important later.

In the Team Relay, the other important strategy is: If you E on your portion of the relay, race back to the finish line or to hand off the baton to the next person on your team, because you've already lost your 150 points and any more time you take is like taking it away from other team members' points.

With a really off-the-wall E on Brenn's part (she had a beautiful dogwalk contact but apparently, in stopping quickly, moved all 4 feet off the dogwalk and then put one foot backwards onto the contact zone), Brenn's mom had the presence of mind not to continue her portion of the relay--two u-turns, a teeter, a chute, and 2 jumps, I believe--and hand off the baton. We figure this saved about 10 seconds. This is also important.

Because--with the Es in standard and jumpers and the E in the relay, we barely Qed, placing 38th of 38 Qing teams. The thing is--we were only 10 points away from the 39th-place team. So--if Tika hadn't gotten that last teeter in the gamble--or if Brenn hadn't run back and handed off the baton in the relay--we probably wouldn't have Qed.

But we did. I'm happy, they're happy, now we just need a team for Nationals.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Scoring for the USDAA Regionals

SUMMARY: USDAA's documentation for rules is typically unhelpful.

All of the agility organizations have the same problems with their rulebooks: They're miserably unclear and incomplete--and sometimes just so dense with meaningless verbiage that one can't find any real info anyway--in so many areas. They all need to stop having attorneys, athletes, and executives writing the rules and hire a good technical writer, preferably one who has experience with agility rules and/or scoring as well.

So I'm singling out USDAA today only because it's fresh in my mind from this weekend.

When proofing the premium before it went out, my heart sank at all the thick and useless verbiage that USDAA required us to put into our premium. Back when I was doing the premiums, I tried very hard to rewrite text to be clear and concise and provide only what competitors were most likely to need to know. One of the frustrations with doing premiums was that most of the orgs complained if they noticed that we changed the wording.

However, I thought, at least--hidden in all that garbage that no one cares about except the USDAA's legal team--at least, surely, there are the rules for the tournament events. And that's what I continued thinking until I had to score the Grand Prix Round 2 on Sunday. I knew that some percentage of the dogs, based on some criteria, earned byes into the semifinals at Scottsdale. But what percentage? What criteria?

The premium verbiage is: "Competitors that earn five (5) or fewer faults in the final round may earn "byes" into the semifinals or finals of the World Championships based upon their placement in the final round. See the complete rules and regulations for Regional and World Championships, which are hereby incorporated by reference."

As an editor, I object to "competitors that" versus "competitors who"; the "five (5)" is insane legalese; the "which are hereby incorporated..." phrase which is more legalize that provides absolutely no (0) info to anyone that the first (1st) part of the sentence doesn't already convey. Gah!

But now I'm the head score-table person and I need to figure out what to do. Here's what I did over the next 45 (forty-five) minutes or so, striding briskly around the trial site while trying to keep tabs on the work going on at the score table and two (2) walkthroughs and a (1) run for my own dogs.

Talked to: Karey Krauter, Jim Basic, Tom Kula, Stacy Peardot-Goudy, Dave Grubel, Erika Maurer, Kate Moureaux, Candy Gaiser, Leslie Bickel, Nancy Gyes, Scott Chamberlain, Mark Wirant, and a variety of other people whom I thought might have definitive knowledge of the rules. This list includes assorted judges, USDAA board members, score table wizards, rules gurus, and the trial secretary and chair for completeness, most of whom I was directed to by other people. After some early uncertainty from a couple of people on whether it was 50% (fifty percent) of the dogs who had qualifying scores (five (5) or fewer faults) or fifty percent (50%) of the dogs running, it was quickly established that it was the latter, and that only those with five (5) or fewer faults among that 50% earned byes.

My question that sent me around the hinterlands, however, was this: If there are an odd number of dogs running, do you round up or round down from the 50%?

As I asked the question, I got answers like "I'm pretty sure they round down," "I'm pretty sure they round up," "I'd guess that they round down," "I'd guess that they'd round up," "I'm 99% sure that they round down," "They round up"--"are you sure?"--"Yes."--"are you sure enough that if I give a bye to the odd person that USDAA won't take it away from them and they'll be disappointed?"--"You'd better check with ---x----." And so on. At the end of my long list of people who PROBABLY knew or were PRETTY SURE, I had fifty percent (50%) of opinions in both directions.

A couple of people suggested calling Ken Tatsch, but either no one had his number or he was a trial (or maybe both--that wasn't clear).

I found three (3) people who had printed what they thought were the complete rules and regulations, and the phrasing was exactly the same as in the premium (and you'll note that those words do not say anything about 50% of anything--this is all word of mouth so far). Scott, who was judging, had additional material from USDAA out in his car that he kindly went and got during a walkthrough. The additional material included the same text that everyone else had, but there was also a lovely flowchart with decision boxes that says that dogs (I believe the phrase was) "within 50% of the first-place dog" earn byes. So, in the GP, what does that mean? It can't be within 50% (more) time, because there are also faults. It can't be within 50% (more) faults, because 50% of zero (0) is still zero (0). And it still doesn't say anything about rounding up or rounding down. One could read it literally as "well, rounding up would make it 50.01% and that's out of range." However, at a convocation around the score table in Scott's ring with several of the relevant parties, we decided that, since DAM Team rounds up at 50%, and Snooker Super-Qs round up at 15%, it would be completely consistent to round up here, too. And if they're inconsistent about rounding up or rounding down, the rules are stupid. (There, I've said it publicly.)

I think (I hope) that we told all of the people on the cusp about the issue and agreed to let USDAA be the bad guys if they wanted to be, since they're the ones who don't appear to have published comprehensible rules, or certainly not where anyone knowledgeable could find them.

This morning, after our show secretary emailed USDAA about it, we got this response:

"everyone has been rounding up. Next year that won't be the case......it will be stated specifically."

In other words, it sounds like their rule is going to be stupid.

The other thing that's relevant here was noting the opinions about USDAA expressed by people as I asked them the question. Those who prefaced their responses with "USDAA is always generous to competitors and makes decisions in their favor" were pretty sure that we should round up. Those who prefaced their responses with "USDAA is pretty stingy about stuff like that" and/or "USDAA is so inconsistent with their rules and I wish they wouldn't be" were pretty sure that we should round down.

So there are some image problems that USDAA could work on, too. If anyone's listening.

(Final caveat: I didn't list specific people's names to disparage their knowledge; au contraire, I listed them because many are acknowledged to be among the most knowledgeable people in the country about USDAA rules, even among their peers, and if they don't know and can't find the specific rules, it's a communication failure from the organization.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

End of a Long Weekend

SUMMARY: Not as many successes as I'd have liked. But some.

Out of ten opportunities to earn qualifying scores this weekend, Tika earned 5, stubbornly maintaining our 50% average. Would be nice to start seeing those numbers edge upwards. And they weren't spectacular Qs, either. Qed in one of two Standards, but the run felt slow and the time was 7 seconds behind the winning dog--we were merely 10th of 37.

Qed in Snooker but missed pulling her in to the last #7, so we had 44 instead of 51, and (on a 4-red course) most dogs with SuperQs had 52 or more points and only one 51-pointer earned a Super-Q, so we were hosed anyway. That put us 17th of 42.

Qed in Pairs Relay, with both Tika and partner having faults, so we placed 30th of 60--and even without it, our time wasn't good enough to get into the placements (although Tika's fault was a refusal when I pulled her off the A-frame, so 2-3 seconds might have helped).

Took my eyes off of her on a twisty Jumpers course to be sure I was in the right place, and she pulled inside the jump she was supposed to be taking, and then it all went to Hades, so no Q there.

Weren't even close in the Gambler's gamble--although I had thought it was something that we'd be able to do fairly well-- and her opening points weren't spectacular; I ran a similar course to Boost's and Boost got a full tunnel more in than Tika did, and even that wasn't close to the highest opening points.

Qed in Grand Prix round 1 with a clean run, which I'm pleased with, but again not superfast; however, I really wanted the "Q" to bye into the semifinals in Round 2, and there she was excited and turned on but first I bobbled a tunnel entry for a refusal and then she fell off the downramp of the dogwalk--no one was able to figure out why--so we wasted a lot of time and had 10 faults as well, so once again we'll have to start in the quarter finals at Scottsdale.

Really wanted that second Steeplechase Q, but knocked a bar and, while trying to make up the time, I pulled her off a jump, which wasn't a fault, but wasted enough time that we didn't make it--although it would have been iffy even without the bobble, as we were over by 4 and a half seconds including the 5 faults, and I'm not sure that that pull-off and fix really took that long.

Boost had ongoing weave issues--I think made one entry all weekend; popped out 3 or 4 times. Earned only one Q all weekend out of 7 possibilities.

With all of our screw-ups in the Team events, our partners did well enough that the team still placed 52 of 75, but we needed to be 38 to Q.

Our two standard runs were a complete mess. We Qed in Pairs Relay because we merely messed up the weaves a couple of times and our partner was clean. She had a pretty smooth Jumpers run--no runouts or refusals, which made me very happy, but knocked 3 bars, and a friend said that's because I called her on top of the jump every time.

This was her first trial doing anything in Masters. Her Gamblers opening was nice, as I mentioned, but that's because I can plan a course that goes to our strengths, but I couldn't send her out to the 2nd jump in the Gamble itself. She started her first Masters Snooker course nicely, but on a reallllllly wide pull-through that I thought would be a no-brainer, I proved that I've been concentrating too hard on fixing the serpentines that we didn't used to be able to do and not enough on pull-throughs (threadles), so we bombed out after the 2nd red again.

So, no placements for anyone (except Tika's 7th and 9th in 2 of the Team events, but no ribbons for those...). But at least Boost's contacts and start line remain strong, and a friend who hasn't seen TIka run much in several years said that she had tears in her eyes watching her runs, remembering what a disaster she was in "real life", in training, and in the agility ring when we first started. It's good to have a reminder of that, too.

AND I got to meet another agility blogger, Wishy the Writer, and her family, who came out from Arizona for this big event.

I have more to say, but it'll have to wait because I thihk I'm about to keel over from fatigue.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Saturday at the Regionals

SUMMARY: Tika does well, Boost doesn't

I'm tired so this will (probably) be (mercifully) short. Not posting general results, which is silly--I was there and working score table and could have gotten them. But nooo, didn't occur to me until now. But I was busy enough that I haven't even written down my own dogs' scores yet, just kind of glanced at them.

We did DAM Team and Grand Prix Round 1 today.

Tika did reasonably well in Team; one refusal on a Standard course that claimed a lot of dogs; one bar in a Jumpers course on which maybe half the dogs went off course; 7th of 53 in Gamblers, and I think 9th in Snooker. And she didn't E in the Ream Relay, either. Her partners weren't quite as lucky this time around--including a heartbreaking E in the Team Relay where the judge Eed the dog because, he said, the dog had stopped at the bottom of the dogwalk all the way off and then stepped backwards with one foot onto the contact. Oh, well. But 38 teams Qed, and we were--38th. By the hair of the whiskers of our teeth!

Boost's teammates did fairly well today, too, and Boost did credibly in Gamblers. In STandard, I thought we had Eed on refusals again, but in fact survived with only a weave pop-out and 2 refusals. However, in Snooker we had catastrophic weave failure in the opening so ended with 7 points; in Jumpers we looked like we'd never been on a course together before; and in Team we Eed with a zillion refusals plus popped out of the weaves pllus finally at the end ran past a jump for an offcourse.

So Boost won't be running in anything at Nationals this year.

In Grand Prix, Tika was uninspired--it was hot, she probably needed to potty; I was hot and probably needed to potty--she edged her way down the dogwalk rather than running--but in fact we Qed with 0 faults, only the 4th time (if I'm remember the count correctly) in her whole life where she Qed without 5 faults. But this was the same thing last year--in round 1, 0 faults; in round 2, where we really needed 0 faults to be in the top 50% to get a bye into the semis, 5 faults.

So we'll see what happens tomorrow.

Interestingly, we got through well over 400 runs per ring by (I think) 6:00 or a little after. Things went very well overall, and it was quite warm and humid for here but really not stunningly hot, and we had a firm breeze all afternoon.

OK, dogs barking, me tired, bedtime.