a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Agility Photo Album

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Agility Photo Album

SUMMARY: Photos from last weekend, and the thoughts that go with them.
A friend loves dogs (doesn't have one of her own at the moment), loves to take photos of them, and will go out of her way on occasion to take zillions of photos of dogs at agility trials and then upload them to my photo site so all my agility friends can get copies for no fee. How cool is that? Probably annoys the pro photographers who can take gorgeous photos and spend hours sorting and color correcting them and then charge $19 for a 4x6 print (!), but very many of hers are lovely, too.

You'd think from this that Tika has a super-fast dogwalk. Well--she does, in class, but in competition, she slows to a lope (?) on the down ramp, then to a walk, then LEAPS off the end and I just hope she's in the yellow zone when she does so.

People talk about tunnels being dog missile launchers. Never doubt it for a minute!
Tika runs onto the teeter, waits just before the yellow zone for it to get past the horizontal point, then runs off the end just as it hits the ground. It's not super-fast, but pretty fast. That's not how I trained it, but that's how it ended up working. I haven't used two-on/two-off or any other kind of hold for her on the teeter for years, and she never gets called for flyoffs. I can leave her there and run far afield, because she's developed her method and it's very consistent and I can rely on her completing it properly while I get into position for the next bit.
Boost is one of those toy-focused beasties who will tug on almost anything almost forever. Our competition ritual has her on the Purple Riot Tug until the dog before us runs, then I set that aside and we switch to tugging on the leashie. That excites her even more, having learned the ritual. When I tell her that's all for the leashie, she releases it and starts scoping out the field--she knows we're going into the ring and she gets to RUN RUN RUN! Just before that, I'm scoping out the field to be sure I remember the course.
Boost has an excellent start-line stay in a sit. Once in a while she can't bear it and takes off early, but not nearly as often as Tika did or still does. But I may have worked harder at it with Boost--in class and at home, I still try to remember at least once a session, maybe more, to reward her by returning to her and playing at the start line, or by tossing the toy behind her and releasing her to go get it there. But it's also true that, in all things, Boost's impulse control is much stronger than Tika's. (Note that I'm wearing my semifinalist polo from the Grand Prix national championships in 2000 or 2001, a memory with Jake.)
Boost does NOT slow down on the dogwalk until the very end. The only reason I'm even with her here at the beginning of the down ramp is because I was able to get a huge lead-out ahead of her.
Boost's teeter varies from darned fast to astonishing. The latter is when she runs to the end full tilt so it smashes to the ground and her front feet hit the ground right about the same time it does. She tends to be a little more cautious as time goes on, though; that kind of performance must be pretty jarring although it is also tremendously exciting to watch. I've had people tell me that they want a dog who does teeters like Boost does. That's usually after one of those spectacular teeter displays. But I CANNOT leave her while I run off to do something else; she may well fly off to catch up to me. We have worked on this. Sometimes life is just too exciting to want to come to a stop, however briefly.
Smaller dogs might be able to run or bounce through the weaves, but bigger dogs really do weave their bodies through there. Every organization in the agility universe that I know of has gone to 24"-spaced weaves (instead of the 20"/21" that USDAA still uses), and you can see why it's better to give the dogs' bodies more space, so they're not wrapped quite so tightly. I'll bet USDAA will go to 24" soon despite everything--the only possible reason any more to stick with the narrower spacing is sheer stubbornness. Oh--and just had a discussion on another blog that NADAC doesn't stake their weaves because they want to prove that the dog is actually weaving, not pushing the poles aside. I have many things to say about the safety issue of that, but you can see clearly that, with these staked poles, this large, fast dog definitely cannot push the poles aside.
(Preceding photos by Sarah Hitzeman.)
At the end of every run, Tika burns off the last of her adrenaline by letting out a growl-bark and dive-bombing my foot; she grabs the shoe and tugs and shakes furiously, growling intensely until I manage to gimp out of the ring and detach the dogmouth. I've told the story before of how she had never done it before until the middle of competition during her first year, and it took forever to extinguish it during the run. I tried for a while to redirect that energy to a toy or leash, but since the only place it happens is real trials, that's the only place I can work on it, and I've just given up. As long as we're past the finish line, we seem to be legal.
(Preceding photo by Richard Todd; very low-rez, partial photo screen capture. Will have to buy this photo, I guess, even at $19, because it's such an iconic Tika thing and it's really a nice photo of it.)


  1. These are wonderful! You have a terrific friend! The explanations beneath each one made the whole thing so much more interesting! And I was laughing about Tika holding your shoe at the end of the run. She's so excited she has to have SOMETHING to take it out on, what better than Mom's shoe? The image of you limping out of the ring with a big dog attached to your foot is hilarious!

    Loved that both dogs seem to love being there with you!

  2. Wonderful photos! And how kind that your friend just does that for free!