a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Thursday at the Big Agility Event

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Thursday at the Big Agility Event

Backfill: April 17 To save money (vs. motels) and frustration (driving from hotel to agility site in a.m.), I tent camp at agility trials whenever I can. The weather reports said that this lonnng weekend would be clear, although on the cool side, so I drove out Wednesday evening and set up my tent in the near-dark.

The event drew so many people that they had to measure the entire fairgrounds and number well over a hundred separate spots for campers, motor homes, trailers, vans, and tents. They did a great job, I thought. It was nice to simply drive in and have a spot rather than dealing with the usual wandering-around-looking-for-a-space-to-squeeze-into dance.

It was very cold overnight. I had to wrap my down comforter (itself in a comforter cover) under me as well as over me, like a down sleeping bag, to even come close to being warm. Also under me: air mattress, old thin ensulite pad, mattress pad, two flannel sheets. Also over me: wool blanket.

The wind blew hard and cold during the night and on into the following day. It was cold enough in the morning that I dreaded getting out from between the covers, even with a full bladder (and a large furry dog with a full bladder) egging me on. The wind lasted all day; the sun came out for most of the afternoon but I remained glad the entire day for my long underwear and double-layer fleece jackets plus windbreaker.

As a result, I never really thought about sun lotion and my face became a bit red.


We competed in three regular events and two Team events (for the national qualifier) on Thursday.

gamble course mapGamble: The day started poorly, with a Master Gamble that only about 5% of the dogs were able to complete. Neither Tika nor Jake (in his one appearance of the day) even came close. It was an interesting set-up, in which you shot the dog through a tunnel to the far side of a dogwalk--thereby leaving you and the dog separated by a large agility obstacle. We have practiced gambles in class on the far side of a dogwalk, but usually parallel to the dogwalk. This one not only started perpendicular to the dogwalk, but then sent the dog parallel away from you with a gamble line preventing you from moving in that direction.

Standard: We also did a Standard run--in USDAA Masters level, you have to be perfect and they fault refusals (dog hesitates or turns away from obstacle before taking it) and run-outs (dog passes entry to obstacle and then comes back to take it). Those alone make it hard to earn a Q. Tika managed to both knock a bar and (I guess) earn a refusal on an over-handled tunnel entrance.

Pairs: Then, in the Pairs Relay, we went off course for a complete E(limination). We've been so good lately about not going off-course that it was a bit of a shock to me. And depressing, too.

A brief interlude on Team scoring: The Dog Agility Masters Team Tournament consists of four individual events and one 3-dog relay. For each individual event, a maximum number of points is given to each dog and then points are subtracted for things like how much time you take or faults that you have--or else, in point-accumulating events such as Gamblers, they multiply the number of points by a predetermined factor to determine each dog's score. For example:
  • In Team Standard, each dog starts with 130 points. If you go off course, you lose all 130 points. Otherwise, your course time and your faults are simply subtracted from the 130 (knocked bars are 5 pts each, e.g.). So it's not possible for a team to earn 390 points because at the very least their times are subtracted from the total. Jumpers is similar.
  • In Team Gamblers, each dog's total score is multiplied by a factor (say, 1.5). So, in this example, if we earned 30 points in the opening and got a 25-point bonus gamble, we'd end up with 55*1.5 = 82.5 points. Snooker is similar.

All the individual scores for the 3 dogs on a team are added together to come up with a total that determines overall team winners and those 50% of the top teams who qualify to go to the Nationals.

It doesn't matter what height you are--all teams of all heights compete against each other. There were 60 teams entered this weekend (180 dogs). I tend to compare my scores against other dogs in our height, but actually the important comparison is against all the dogs. You'll just have to extrapolate.

So the trick to qualifying for the Nationals in the Team event is: Don't "E"! (Or the equivalent. Like--not getting any gamble points, or not getting any Snooker points.) It's very stressful. Two or three Es among your three team members over the various events almost undoubtedly drops you to the unqualifying 50%, unless you do astoundingly well in the remaining events.

Team Standard: We all started stressing immediately about not going off-course. That took first place against any other possible criteria--which becomes an obsession. My team did well in the Standard event--none of us "E"ed. Tika knocked a bar, which dropped us to 27th of 50 in our height; one partner was right behind us at 29th; the other partner ran clean and was 25th of 83 in his group. Tika is very fast; partner number 2 is "fast enough" and #3 I'd say is "reasonably fast". But I'd also say that the other two are more consistent than we are (sigh)--e.g., we might be able to do more obstacles in a given time period but we might knock more bars or miss more contacts or whatever. We'd never win on combined speed; it would have to be accuracy and simply trying to stay in the top 30 teams.

We were delighted to discover that we were in 17th place after the first round! Huzzah!

Team Gamblers: Things brightened up a bit in the Team events. The gamble was nontraditional--no distance work, and after the first whistle blew you could accumulate various quantities of bonus points by completing certain combinations of obstacles. The trick was that, if you didn't thereafter cross the finish line before the 2nd whistle blew, you lost all bonus points.

Tika was a very good girl and I also ended up exactly where I wanted to be to try for a 25-point gamble (three contact obstacles) and we crossed the finish line barely in time. Some dogs managed to complete both a 25-pt AND a 15-pt gamble within that time--this was a case where fast dogs with fast running contacts have an advantage over fast dogs with stop-and-wait contacts, like I trained Tika with, even if the wait is almost instantaneously released.

We completed a 7-pointer in the opening that we didn't get credit for because someone's bad handling (the theme for the weekend) pulled Tika around the up contact on the dogwalk. AND we almost completed another 5-pointer before the whistle blew, but didn't quite get credit for it. Even so, we were 15th overall out of about 50 dogs in our height--probably about 40th (?) out of 180 dogs in the team event. I'm not displeased with that.

In theory, this particular gamblers event had no top score possible. As it turned out, the highest-scoring dog earned 91 points (!) compared to Tika's 57 (dang, wish we'd gotten those extra 7 plus maybe 5 more pts). Then multiply by 1.5 (or whatever the exact factor was)...

One of my three teammates didn't get any bonus gamble points, which was a bad thing. But at least he got a reasonable number of opening points so he wasn't dead last in his group. The other did well enough, placing in the top half of her height class.

Still, the lack of bonus points for one dog dropped us to 20th place for the day. We'd have to hang on tomorrow...

No comments:

Post a Comment