a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: A Pretty Good CPE Weekend

Monday, May 09, 2005

A Pretty Good CPE Weekend

Saturday was a lovely day; a little overcast, which kept it cool for the dogs. We competed in two rings: One outdoors on a beautifully refurbished grass field and one under cover in an ex-horse arena on dirt. I arrived later than planned Saturday morning (could not drag myself quickly out of bed at 4 a.m. For some reason.) and ended having to set up my canopy et al at the absolute farthest distance that one can set it for this site. That's good in terms of whether I want to get more exercise walking back and forth, but bad in terms of whether I want to spend my whole weekend walking back and forth.

Saturday evening, lots of people left (Mothers Day Sunday, I guess, prompted many people to depart), leaving big gaps for me to walk by. I briefly considered uprooting everything and moving it down 50 or 80 feet, but that's a lot of work, so I stayed where I was. I set up my tent there, too, and it sure looked to me like it was going to rain at any moment (although forecasts all said rain late afternoon on *Sunday*).

Sure enough, it drizzled some around 1:30 a.m. that night but stopped; started drizzling again about 6:15 and the host club disassembled the entire course from the grass field and crammed it inside in the same dirt ring with the other judge's courses. So neither would be very wide-open, fast courses because the space was just too small. I'm thinking that the smaller of the two indoor rings wasn't more than maybe 40-50 ft by 70-80. That's smaller than my back yard.

Most dogs don't care one way or another about dirt or grass. But everything gets dirty in that arena. By mid-morning, everyone except me and one other person had dismantled their outdoor set-ups and had found nooks and crannies under the arena cover in which to crate their dogs. I just kept walking back and forth, getting wet, getting tired. But it's so NOISY under that cover--every barking dog and the rain pounding on the metal roof reverberated through the arena. It was so much more peaceful to be outside.

My right shoulder has been bothering me more and more all week. I don't know what I've done to it; maybe picking up the puppy, although I didn't think I'd been doing it all that often. Saturday night it was painful enough to wake me up periodically. Sunday packing up was more painful than Saturday setup had been, and about halfway through something popped in my arm and then it verged on excruciating. Last night it woke me up repeatedly, every time I changed positions in the night. It's OK if the upper arm hangs straight down at my side and only my lower arm moves.

That's kind of limiting.

I don't know what I'm going to do--apparently I can type OK but it's going to be tough for me to keep working on the painting and yardwork that need to get done for my sister's late-July wedding. I've been icing and heating and taking drugs. Fortunately it's another 2 weeks until the next agility trial, so I don't have to do more setup or teardown until then. I hope that's enough time.

Agility Varieties

Currently, I'm competing only in two varieties of agility: CPE and USDAA. I used to do NADAC, but their rules and the owner have gotten stranger and stranger over time and I'm no longer interested. AKC requires that the dog be registerable with AKC, which none of my dogs (until now Boost) have been eligible for.

Some comparisons

USDAA is probably the most challenging. It is also the oldest variety in the USA. One thing that makes it challenging is that you almost always have to run clean to earn Qualifying scores; NADAC and AKC allow some faults in some cases; CPE allows quite a few faults in many cases. The level of difficulty varies by venue, also. USDAA courses tend to be handling courses that also require decent speed; NADAC courses tend to require high speed; CPE courses are more on the handling side, but they don't fault errors commonly caused by mishandling, such as runouts (going past the next obstacle before taking it correctly) or refusals (turning away from the next obstacle before taking it) (nor does NADAC), whereas USDAA and AKC do.

I don't know whether any organization has a specific written goal for what percentage of dogs should earn qualifying scores in any class (if they do, I haven't seen them), but they all have at least unwritten guidelines; judges must design courses to try to fit that goal. For USDAA, it's probably something like 15 to 25%; for CPE it's 50% or more—the owner of CPE says she wouldn't object if all dogs Qed all the time but they do design higher-level courses with quite sufficient challenges.

It is probably easiest to Q in CPE classes. Still, it's not a cakewalk: We and other clubs often offer High In Trial awards or Perfect Weekend awards, and it's unusual to have more than one or two dogs in an entire weekend earn Qs in all their classes. I don't think that I've ever done it, although I've certainly earned 7 of 8 or 9 of 10 a very few times.

On the other hand, most of the top dogs and handlers in the area concentrate on USDAA and AKC agility--both are challenging and both provide international championship opportunities against the best teams in the world. So you don't see many of them at CPE trials; if more of them came, we'd probably see an increase in Perfect Weekends.

This Weekend at CPE

Goals for Tika for this weekend (entered in 10 runs):
  • Earn one Jumpers Q and one Colors Q at level 4; these are our last legs needed to be all in Level 5 or C. (When you're all finished will all Level 5, that's your CPE championship!)
  • Earn our first Qualifying score at the Championship level (besides Jumpers and Colors, we're still in Level 5 in 3 classes, but have moved up to C level in the remaining 2).
  • Bonus: Earn our last Level 5 leg in Snooker and 2 Level 5 legs in Wildcard so we can move up to Level C in those classes.
Ongoing goals: Stay in a sit at the start line. Don't knock bars. Don't do any stupid handler things. Hit all contacts 2-on-2-off and wait for "OK" release. Goals for Jake (entered in 2 runs): Have a good time. Give him a chance to run fast and stay on course so neither of us get frustrated by his deafness.
  • Sat Gamblers: Tika had a spectacular opening sequence; we worked very well together, she did everything I asked, except she'd hit the teeter end and then leave immediately--that might be why we ran out of obstacles before the first whistle blew. And then she didn't even make it into the first obstacle in the gamble. We were doing good for a while on gambling but I seem consistently to be picking the wrong approach for her. So--no Q right off the bat.
  • Full House: It's almost impossible to NOT Q in this class; Tika historically earns many many points and whups everyone's butts. We twice bobbled wraps from the Aframe into a tunnel underneath--another basic move that we haven't practiced in a while and has gone south--and she wasn't really sticking her Aframe contacts. Still, e Qed. We earned many points. But there's a superfast little sheltie with running contacts whose turns are very tight and who didn't waste time bobbling Aframe-to-tunnel turns who beat Tika by 2 points. (Different height, though, so we took first.) And--Wahoo! our first C-level qualifying score!
  • Snooker: Tika and Jake have both turned out to be excellent Snooker dogs. Very fast, very responsive, don't get confused by running *past* obstacles to get to higher-scoring ones. The highest possible score in basic Snooker is 51 points; in CPE, we need only 32 to Q. Tika had a lovely run and earned 51 points; only 2 other dogs out of about 50 on the same course came close, and one apparently popped out of the weaves early so missed one 7-pointer, and another knocked a bar in the wrong place so had to take a lower-point obstacle instead of a 7. It's not that I'm competitive or anything... But now we're in Level C in Snooker!
  • Jumpers: So far we're good on bars--one bar down in the gambler opening which doesnt' count against us. We have a very nice, smooth, flowing, pretty fast run, although she just ran Snooker about 10 minutes before so hasn't rested and I think she didn't drive as much as normal. And we knocked a bar. Fortunately, in CPE, at non-C levels you can knock a bar and still Q, so Wahoo! we're now out of Level 4 Jumpers. As a bonus, there's only one of about 50 dogs on the course who beats our time--who happens to be in the same Level and Height that we are, so Tika gets a 2nd!
  • Jake Jumpers: I manage to lose him somehow three times on this course so that he veers off in other directions--fortunately there are no offcourse opportunities in any of those directions, so he eventually rejoins me each time and amazingly enough (because CPE times are so generous) we still come in half a second under time and earn a Q.
  • Wild card: A lovely, fast, flawless run. Once again, only one dog of the whole crowd is faster--a different dog--but, guess what, same Level and Height, so again we're in 2nd. But that's one of our 2 level 5 wildcards down--one more to Level C.
  • Colors:We're on a very tiny indoor ring, and I'm not sure that Tika has enough room for a full stride before getting the first jump and I'm worried about knocking the bar--but she zooms through the whole thing flawlessly and Wahooo! we're now completely out of Level 4!
  • Gamblers: A different kind of gamble: This time there are 3 possible gambles and you can take them all at any time. We not only get all of them, but we get a zillion other high-point obstacles as well, for a total of 84 points. We rock! -- although Tika's contacts are *not* sticky (hits them but leaves immediately). But I mishandled the very last obstacle and get one point instead of 5, so we could've had 88. But one of our competitors had 89 and another little fast sheltie had 84?! Sometimes when I see that big a difference, I go back and check the scribe sheets to be sure they added correctly, but I don't do it this time. Not sure what course she chose for it, but that's a wayyyyy lot of points.
  • Full House: Once again, an easy Q with a lot of points--although she doesn't stick her Aframe the first time and the second time actually flies off it, so we miss 5 points in our score. We end up with 44 points along with a couple of other dogs out of the whole group; Chance the little fast sheltie had 46 but that missed 5 points of ours would have had us way out in front. But it's well more than a Q.
  • Jake in Full House: We start out great, fast, smooth. Then I bobble an Aframe entry and have to take him away from it and reapproach, wasting a whole lot of time--and then he pops the contact! But we get the next 2 Afame attempts, and Q easily with 37 points, but if we hadn't spend all that time screwing around on the Aframe, we might have gotten in a couple of tunnels for another 6 points and beenvery close to Tika's score.
  • Snooker: The 7-point obstacle is an Aframe, so if I pick an aggressive course and don't knock any bars (or make stupid handling errors), we can practice getting her to stop on the down contact FOUR TIMES. The first time, she hits and goes--I make her lie down, then continue. The second time, she hits and goes--I make her lie down. We continue. The third time she hits, hesitates slightly, and goes--I make her lie down. We continue. I don't know whether I'll get through the whole course under time, because it was an aggressive course, but the whistle remains quiet. We hit the Aframe for the fourth time--last obstacle of the course--and she hits the contact and sticks it! Yay! And as I release her, the whistle blows, meaning we've succeeded under time. This time 8 of 51 dogs got 51 points, and Tika's time was the slowest of that bunch--but consider that she had to lie down three times during the course and still made it.
  • Wildcard: A short, quick course with some challenging turns that we manage flawlessless. She's flying ahead of me and steering effortlessly. She is far faster than any other dog this time, but all of our fast competitors have gone home by now. But--another goal reached--we're now in Level C in Wildcard, too!

So, for the weekend, Tika 9 Qs out of 10! Stayed at the start line every time, although once (and only once) I had to remind her to sit back up as she started to lie down. Hopefully hasn't ruined her contacts. Knocked only 2 bars for the weekend, I believe. Seven firsts, two seconds, and a third in the one she didnt' Q in. I'm pretty pleased.

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