a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Perfect Dog, Imperfect Handler

Monday, July 23, 2007

Perfect Dog, Imperfect Handler

SUMMARY: Tika has an outstanding weekend despite her handler.

Well, on my 180th weekend of agility--averaging almost 2 dogs per weekend (so that's 360 dog-weekends)--we finally had a perfect weekend, and I have the ribbbons to prove it. That's 10 out of 10 Qs for Tika. As icing on the cake, she also hit 10 out of 10 first places.

In all fairness, I have to point out two things. First, three other dogs out of the 225 competing had perfect-Q weekends (10 out of 10). (I don't know whether they were all first places. )

However, this is CPE, where you can Q with faults until you get to Level C (Championship), where you must run clean and you must have the highest number of points of any level. Tika is one of only two of that group who did it in Level C (the other being another long-time Bay Teamer and sometime classmate with her second sheltie, Jagger Glantz).

Second, for most of the weekend, Tika had no other direct competitors in her height and level, so a first was a given if we didn't get a No Time (same as elimination in other venues). However, let me say all of this about that:

(Note 1: Handling issues are for my own reminders; they're important because these flaws matter immensely in whether we place or merely Q in USDAA.) (Note 2: Comparisons are versus other dogs who had the same course layout, so the number varies by class.)
  • Full House Saturday: Second highest points of 142 dogs. (The only one who beat her was...Boost. A great way to start the weekend!)
  • Colors Saturday: 6th fastest of 75 dogs. That's after I managed to pull her past one jump (overcorrecting for a mistake I made with Boost) and we had to back up to get over it. (CPE has no refusals or runouts.)
  • Jumpers Saturday:6th fastest of 60 dogs; of the 5 faster, 3 were within half a second of us. But Roxy the border collie was 2 (!) seconds faster. Tika had 3 very wide turns, meaning that I wasn't telegraphing the turns well, and she actually slipped and fell on two of them, so I was overcalling in an emergency situation, where she gamely turned as fast as she possibly could on slick, drying grass.
  • Snooker Saturday: Not a stellar round. I didn't do a comparison. In the opening, I tried a risky pull-through to #5 but she missed the pull-through and took #2, for 3 fewer total points. It was tricky course and I don't know how many dogs Qed, so she was probably up there, but not at the top.
  • Jackpot Saturday:7th highest points of 146 dogs (Boost was 6th :-) ), but 3 of the higher-scoring dogs were 12" dogs, who get 5 more seconds. Bah. One of the other two big dogs beat us by only a point--if I had handled my wide turns (there they are again) more neatly, we were half a second away from another 3 points. But...Wren Obermiller, that other lovely fast young border collie (Boost's age) had 9 (!!!) more points.
  • Jackpot Sunday: Highest score of 180 dogs.
  • Jumpers Sunday: 2nd fastest of 58 dogs. Dang wide turns again, including a couple of hard calloffs indicating that I wasn't signalling well once more.
  • Snooker Sunday: 7th of 72 dogs; we were one of 15 dogs who got the maximum 51 points but others had faster times. LOTS of hard call-offs on this one, and she started visibly slowing, so I think she was getting disheartened because she'd be blasting towards something at top speed and I'd call her off. Another sign that I'm not telegraphing turns correctly, because actually our path had a flow to if I could have communicated it better.
  • Colors Sunday: Fastest of 75 dogs.
  • Wildcard Sunday:3rd fastest of 79 dogs. I think it was a pretty good run, but it was our last run of a long, warm weekend and I was as nervous about this run as about my championship runs or Super-Q runs. I was very aware that we had 9 Qs and 9 1st behind us and only this run--and keeping the bars up, because the course itself was simple for us--stood between us and a Perfect Weekend.

(I'll come back later and cover spooky Boost and the weekend in general.)


  1. Wow, that's amazing, I guess that makes you both a perfect 10.

    I'm a little lost in the numbers though, was Tika really the only dog in her jump height in her level? Was it just a fluke or does CPE have a lot of levels and height options that maybe spreads people out a lot?

  2. CPE has basically 6 height groups and 6 levels, so that's (theoretically possible) 36 different groupings at a trial. So, for example, with this weekend's 225 dogs entered, that's an average of 6 dogs per group.

    (There are two new additional parallel paths ("Enthusiast" and "Specialist") that make it theoretically possible to have 72 more groups, but in reality only a couple of dogs enter those, so they don't skew the numbers much.)

    However, not all dogs enter all classes to begin with, plus we offered 6 classes but you could choose only 5, so that drops the average per class somewhat. Snooker and Jackpot in particular have fairly low entry rates in CPE compared to the other classes.

    Next, only the very largest dogs are required to run at 24". Tika is eligible to run at 20" but, since she's required to do 26" in USDAA, I see only problems if I get her used to jumping 6" lower in competition. So there are very, very few dogs in 24" at all.

    Thirdly, CPE's new titling structure has made it very unappealing to move to Level C. You're eligible for C after you've completed the requirements for your C-ATCH, but the next title at Level C is your Extraordinaire title (C-ATE), which requires in the vicinity of 250 *clean* legs, whereas to earn your C-ATCH 2, 3, etc, you stay at level 5, where (a) you can Q with faults and (b) it's only 40 legs per C-ATCH. So most dogs could complete their C-ATCH 6 in MUCH faster time than their C-ATE. So there's no motivation, really, to go to Level C unless you're competing with yourself.

    And, lastly, there are just always more dogs at the lower levels, it seems, than at the higher levels anyway.

    So, for example, Boost competed at Level 3 as a 20" dog in two classes; she had between 10 and 12 other dogs in the same group. In the classes where she's in Level 4, she had between 0 and 8 other dogs in the same group.

    But Tika was the only 24" Level C dog in 7 of her 10 classes.

    Interesting, huh?

  3. WOW! Now don't go getting a fat head. :-D.


  4. Congrats, that is wonderful! The titles and ribbons just show how much work you do with your dogs. :)

  5. That's a lot of levels/heights to keep track of. They must have generous height cut offs for the big dogs to have so few in the 24" class.

    For a brief time NADAC still had a 24" height class after they invented the 20+ class and I would enter Cody in it because it slowed him down just a fraction and made it easier for me to handle him when we were starting out. There were usually only 2-3 of us at most who opted for 24" so they'd usually combine our scores w/ 20+ which put us at a disadvantage for placements. I didn't care but some people sure got bent out of shape. Of course now you don't have the choice at all but that's a rant for a different day.

  6. The CPE jump height is the lowest dog height required to jump it--so dogs 24" and taller jump 24". But they also have the option of entering the Enthusiast or Specialist tracks, which jump 8" or 4" lower. Still, how many dogs are out there doing agility who measure 24" or taller? My Remington was exactly 24", but he was nicely built for jumping and not a thick, heavy build--he weighed in only between 50 and 55 pounds.

  7. Holy moly!!! **Awesome** weekend -- congrats!

  8. Many congratulations to Tika! What a weekend, and such a long way from leaving the ring and also grabbing Elf pants legs.

  9. It's the feet, not the pants legs. Still does it at the end of a run, but I've been working hard at shuffling her rapidly to the exit gate with my hands under her neck while she TRIES to get to my feet, and cramming a toy or leash into her mouth so I can walk and also give her a play reward. It took a long time before she'd take anything but my foot, but now if I can get it into her mouth, she'll play with it. She'd always prefer my foot, though.