a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Notes from This USDAA Weekend

Monday, March 19, 2007

Notes from This USDAA Weekend

SUMMARY: Tika Qed 4 of 8; Boost 1 of 8. No Steeplechase for you. Focus areas for both dogs. Really long post today--writing it all up after a nice soak in the hot tub Sunday night. Plus there's a supplemental post about the trip home, with photos.

Tika's successes: We're breaking new ground every weekend this year. From this weekend (talking only about USDAA trials):
  • Standard Qs: Tika has averaged only one Masters Standard qualifying score (Q) every 6 months since her first masters run in May 2004. (A more useful number: An average of 1 out of every 8 Standard runs.) She got two--TWO!--Standard Qs this weekend. Never before got two the same weekend. That makes three--THREE!--over two consecutive weekends.
  • Placements: This was a very small trial--only 10 to 20 dogs in the 26" masters class. Still, I'll take my top-4 placements: Tika earned a 3rd in Gamblers and 4th in both Standards, which means that in the last 3 consecutive trials, she has doubled her top-4 placements from the preceding almost 3 years of Masters.
  • Top Ten points: Because of the small trial size, that's a mere 3 Top Ten points for gamblers and only 1 for Standard--but, hey, what the heck. She now has 12 Gamblers Top Ten points for this year and it's only March. She equaled this once before with 12 in Standard for all of 2005. Next highest? 7 for one round of Snooker in 2004. And otherwise just little piddly bits here and there.
  • Weaves: My, she has lovely weave entries and execution! We did some tough ones this weekend without a flinch.

Tika's "rooms for improvement":
  • Dogwalk: WHERE did she learn to slow to a walk on the dogwalk and get slower and slower and then stop halfway into the yellow zone? We never, ever trained anything like that. We backchained with rapid drives to the end, 2on/2off. We always run full speed to the end in training, and if she's too slow, she gets a "good" but no big reward and we do it over, driving her harder. WHERE did she learn that? I hate self-teaching dogs. I believe that alone cost us 2nd or 3rd places in both our standards, although she did 3 seconds better today when I really drove her screaming & yelling instead of just assuming she'd drive herself.
  • Damn bars. Kept them up in Standard but not in Gamblers opening or Jumpers. And she was the 5th fastest of 21 dogs in the Steeplchase, plenty fast enough to have qualified easily with one bar down. But, yes, we had *two* bars down. I despair of ever earning two Steeplechases this year.
  • Bars, dogwalk, tires. In Gamblers, I tried a back-to-back tire, which I haven't done in ages. She ran under it on the reverse, costing us 2nd place. (That plus the bar she knocked plus the jump I pulled her past cost us first place... OR the sloooowwwwwwwwww danged dogwalk... either combo would have put us in 1st, as we were only 5 points out and her gamble time was excellent.)

Boost's successes:
  • Contacts: Fast and lovely 2 on/2 off and sticks them until released.
  • Start line: Beautiful start-line stay and waits until released.
  • Speed: She's just fast! Woohooo!
  • Gamblers: Took 2nd and Qed of 16 Advanced 22" dogs. Would have been first by a mile if she hadn't blown past her weave entry so that we had to go back for it (in the opening--we "had to" go back for it because I don't want her thinking it's OK to blow past the weaves). But the rest of the course was lovely and her teeter gamble done like a pro.

Boost's areas for improvement:
  • Weaves weaves weaves: Gosh, she hardly made any entries correctly the first time this weekend, although we always got in on the 2nd attempt. And now she's decided to pop out at #10 (of 12). Over. And over. And over. And over. Argh! Even when I'm pretending that there's nothing else on course except the weaves like we practice at home, pop! Dang, I hate self-teaching dogs! Of course I don't have it on video, so I don't know what I'm really doing. But I'll just keep working on her exercises for staying in even if the earth moves and a volcano explodes from the earth alongside. We want Tika-solid weaves! I wonder whether practicing with 14 poles would help, or cause some other weird problem?

  • Blind crosses on front crosses: Another thing that has suddenly appeared--for the first time in class this week, and then on at least 4 occasions this weekend: I do a front cross and she slips *behind* me. We've never done blind crosses and, according to the current fashion, I've not even taught her any tricks that take her around behind me, ever. Really--I had my video camera *right there* to remind me to find someone to tape, but I'm not thinking about that when I'm getting my dog out and ready.
  • Table problems: She has had a beautiful table and down forever. Again this started in in class this week, where she somehow hit the table on the way up. Looked like she was trying to Down simultaneously with jumping up. Then she refused several times in class, and refused a couple of times this weekend, too, although she finally did them. And THEN she wouldn't stay down when I started to move! Carnfoundit, I've *always* moved when she was on the table and it's been at least a year since I remember her ever moving until the release. WHERE do they LEARN these things?!
  • Bars: Bars bars bars. Not another bar-knocking dog! Arghhhhhhhh...
  • General confusion on course about taking obstacles in front of her. This is now only 1 Q in advanced out of two full trials. Maybe I should pull her again and not compete? Except that I'll be there anyway with Tika, and I *think* I can go back to concentrating on treating the rings as training exercises and not necessarily on attempting the posted courses. I have to remember my friend Nancy D's snooker experience from this weekend. Everyone trying for SuperQs (which is usually pretty much everyone) was wiping out. She just wanted a very simple, very flowing course without any attempt to do 4 reds or high obstacles because her dog needed practice on left-hand entries to the weaves so that's all she cared about. As a result, she got a super-Q.

Random notes from the weekend:
  • Judges: Had an oddly controlling judge. Courses were interesting and he seemed pleasant enough in general and no complaints about his judging that I heard, but he just barged in and did everything--made course builders listen to his instructions for really basic stuff and had to tweak *everything* no matter how it was set; took scribe sheets out of scribe's hands to figure out the running order himself; moved and set the timers himself; told the score table what to write and where; just lots of things like that that added up to teeth-gnashing from lots of experienced people.
  • Jake: Last weekend was much worse for me thinking "dang, I've not pottied Jake all morning--" and then suddenly remembering why. This weekend I was managing to mostly start setting him in the past instead of the present, until the very end as we were packing up and someone I hadn't seen in a while asked, "And how's Jake?" That question put the ton of bricks back in my stomach where it hadn't been all weekend, and after I managed an explanation and brief conversation, I went off and actually cried. That and right after picking up his ashes on Friday have been the most I've cried so far. I haven't cried a lot about him, just feeling oddly hit. Maybe I'm getting to where it can come out. Dunno.
  • More t-shirts: Back in January I asked my friend Wendy, of WendyWear tie dye, to do my Scottsdale shirt. It was white. I hate white t-shirts. She accosted me this weekend and said, well, I did it but I hate it. So I'm making you another tie dye shirt to make up for it. Ellen groaned inwardly--oh, yeah, I forgot about that t-shirt: another dog-related one! But Wendy handed it over and the colors are exactly what I wanted and the pattern's good. The logo's a little more hidden under the dark colors than ideal, but it shows up better on the back. It's a fine tie-dye for me, as I knew it would be.

  • I've been watching my van's odometer. 99,990 as I prepared to leave the Madera trial site where the club was just packing up the Steeplechase ring.

1 comment:

  1. I think I went through something very similar with Jaime when he had already been trialing for years. He started missing weave entries in almost every class, he would pull off jumps if I twitched a facial muscle, etc. He even started popping out at 10 poles which he *never* did in his entire life. It was quite discouraging because I thought we were finally getting somewhere with our handling system.
    So, I went back to basics. Jump squares, working on 4 poles to be able to reward him right away for his entry, proofing poles by having people hold toys about 3" away from pole #10.
    We worked through this stuff pretty quickly, just a few weeks, and it seemed to fix him because we haven't had those problems since.