a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Maybe Practice Is A Good Thing

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Maybe Practice Is A Good Thing

SUMMARY: A not-very-successful or satisfying agility day. (Plus Gamblers and Snooker course analysis.)
Saturday started with the alarm at 4:30. I was SO tired. And--wait--hadn't I kinda said I wasn't going to do this part any more, this getting up so early being among the things I like the least about agility? Maybe I'll pull the blanket back over my head and go back to sleep.

Uhhh, nah, can't, promised to be score table czar. Plus the dogs are on to me.

Good thing I didn't, because I'd have missed our best run of the day. Here's how the day went, in order:

  • Tika  Gamblers: Very good opening and got the gamble. First place, Q, only dog of 8 in P3 22" to get the gamble. In fact, one of only 5 dogs out of 38 in Pf to get the gamble. In fact, one of only 14 of 90 dogs total to get the gamble. Pretty low Qing rate.  (I'll talk more about the gamble at the end.)
  • Boost  Gamblers: Didn't stay at start line. Took her off and put her away.
  • Tika  Jumpers: Didn't stay at start line. Took her off and put her away. Were they, like, plotting against me?
  • Boost Jumpers: Left start line as I was raising my arm, but decided to run her anyway. Except she ran past roughly the 3rd jump and we were therefore immediately offcourse and E'ed. The rest was kind of OK except for one refusal problem on the incoming jump in  a serp.
  • Tika  Standard: An almost gorgeous run. But judge called our dogwalk up contact. Dang up contacts! Just, dang them all to heck! I do not like them, Sam I Am! I wish they'd stop faulting them. So, no Q or placement on a fairly straight-forward course in which neither Tika nor I really did anything wrong. (Except she didn't want to go down on the table so lost several seconds there--still well under standard course time but wouldn't have placed with that delay.)
  • Boost  Standard: Lovely beginning--including start-line stay--for 4 obstacles. Then she came off the side of the teeter when I crossed behind, and wouldn't lie down when I kept telling her to while trying to get in front of her. The judge whistled us off for training in the ring. (As she really should have.) 
  •  Tika Snooker: Tika did everything I asked, except that I ran the wrong course at #6 in the closing. Enough points for a Q but no placement or Super-Q. It's not a straight-forward course, and people are crapping out all over the place just trying to get through the opening. Performance 8/12" left an unclaimed Super-Q; so did Performance 16". (That's because not enough people Qed--and SQs go to only the top 15% of competitors, so you know the Q rate was low!)  But, of course, in *Tika's* group (Performance 22"), 5 out of 8 just HAD to Q, competing for a mere 2 SQs. Dang those 22" Performance dogs! (I'll talk more about the snooker at the end.)
  • Boost Snooker: Got away from me at one point in the opening and took a 2-pointer instead of a 6-pointer, but that's OK, because so many people were crapping out completely. Got all the way through #6 and all she had to do for her first-ever super-Q (with a mere 48 points!) was one set of weaves. Aaaaannnnnd she skipped the first pole. Crap! So, yet another plain garden-variety Q.
  • Tika Pairs: Tika and partner ran really well. Yay! So did another pair, who beat us by barely more than one second. But I'm happy with the run and happy to take 2nd out of 11 teams.
  • Boost Pairs: Boost's partner does very well. Boost knocks 2 bars but only one ended up on the scribe sheet. Do I talk to the judge about it? I don't, and here's why: We Qed with or without that fault, and our placement remained the same with or without it. So it made no difference. Happy about the Q, not thrilled with 2 bars.
Three Qs for Tika, one 1st (our only Top Ten Points), one 2nd.

Two Qs for Boost: Pairs and basic Snooker, both of which she has a zillion of and I don't care so much about.

I should practice more on fixing our weaknesses. Duh! For weekend:
  • Tika one start-line stay complete blow-off (my back still turned, still walking away), boost one like that, one when I was raising my arm but said nothing.
  • Table down crappy: Tika (since boost never got that far, don't know whether hers was, too.)
  • Cross-behind screw-up on teeter: Boost
  • Bars down: two in one 10-obstacle run: Boost
  • Serpentine FAIL: Boost
  • Forgotten course: One, plus one where I stood flatfooted while dog was in tunnel trying to remember--fortunately did so in time to save an off-course, barely.
  • Weave entry fail: Boost. (Hmm--the only one she actually got to do all weekend!)

While waiting for my turn to run Boost's first run of the day,  I realized the following and commented  to a friend: I was really looking forward to my Sunday hike and not so much to the rest of the day of agility. I really need to decide what to do here. I enjoy being around my friends at agility. But my enthusiasm level has waned so much. But I've already committed to being pairs and/or DAM team partners and/or score table czar for the next 2 or 3 trials. Just have to fish or cut bait. Still thinking about it.

By the time we got whistled off in Standard, I felt pretty grumpy. Had to just shut my mouth and not talk at all because I knew I'd just whine. Luka's Human Dad helped perk me up a bit--with the trial being a one-ring trial--and everyone can't work at once--he was at loose ends and so watched several of my dogs' runs (fun having classmates, former classmates, and friends around to give feedback). He was in a good joking and jollying along sort of mood and pulled me with him. That, along with laughs and good random conversations with friends at the score table, helped me survive the day.

Masters Gamble:

Most people either did a loop with weaves and dogwalk, with teeter thrown in or not. Some got in 2 of those loops. Or they did an up and back through weaves with or without the teeter at the other end. Pretty much everyone tried to end up in the tunnel as a lead-in to the gamble, because it was a looooonnnng way from #1 to the #2 tunnel. Not a lot of dogs managed that part successfully (bigger, faster dogs got it more than smaller or slower dogs). The second hard part was turning the dog after #3 to the Aframe. Most dogs that made it that far either took the #1 again or, because they had come so far out towards the #1 when they finally turned towards the Aframe, were already too far along to make the turn and ran past it. And the heartbreaker, one do who did it all but missed the Aframe down contact.

Pleased with Tika and myself on that run; I SO ran out of obstacles before the first whistle, which means my planning wasn't perfect, but boy, was she wired for her first run in so very long and running fast! But I managed to find something to do that didn't go too far afield (the jump I labeled 10). When the whistle did blow, I kept my cool and am proud of that: I wanted to do the tunnel again to lead into the gamble, and even though the whistle had gone, I followed through on that and things worked great. Ended up even having plenty of time left over. I wish I could've run Boost--had a more aggressive course planned.

Masters Snooker:

The closing 2 through 5 was fairly straight-forward, but nothing else about this course was. Clever layout on the judge's part. Almost too clever; you'd like all the Super-Qs to be claimed, at least, and they weren't in two of the groups and barely claimed in a couple of others.

My numbers marked my plan. The fact that I did #6 backwards twice in the opening is what led me to do it backwards in the closing, too. Stupid, because I actually went back in at the end of the walkthrough to walk JUST 5-6-7 a couple more times to remember to do the #6 correctly. Dumb dumb dumb.

Most people tried some variation of my opening: 4, 5, 6, and either 6 or 7 after that. Some skipped the 5 and did 4, 6, 6, 7. Out of all the dogs competing, only 2 dogs got 53 total, which was probably 4, 5, 6, 7. Faster dogs had plenty of time, but I didn't like the entry to #2 if we finished with #7, so I went for the two 6s (would've been 52 pts if we'd finished).

Fortunately, my visit with my cousin and the next day's hike were WONderful. More on that in another post.


  1. Those up-contacts, oye. The teeter is the only up-contact judged in AAC and I sure am grateful for it after reading about all the troubles the big dogs have with the dogwalk up contact in USDAA. I appreciate the intention of entering the obstacle safely, but surely it could be up the judge's discretion if the dog missed it due to their natural stride or if they dog missed it because they jumped onto the side of the plank halfway up.

    Oooo, that gamble does look tough and I agree, it's a heck of a long way between 1 and 2. I doubt I could have gotten Walter way out to that tunnel, and even if I could have he probably would have come in over 1. Must have felt pretty darn good to get that with Tika. Thanks for sharing the map; I'd like to set it up and give it a try sometime.

  2. Would be interesting to see how it works for you. The way to handle it--I think, based on what I did with tika & on what I saw other people do--is to put the dog into the left side of the approach tunnel (marked with "whistle" and arrow and be on the far side of the tunnel (where the little swirly arrow is) when they blast out of it so you can run hard towards the gamble without them slowing down at all and still hope that you can remain back at least 5 feet from the gamble line while the dog does 1 and 2. Then as the dog blasts out of the gamble tunnel, turn towards the Aframe and blast at it towards the gamble line (since you weren't at the line yet), and probably also give a really good "out"). Handlers approaching from the other side of 1/2 didn't seem to get the dogs into the right place, and handlers already moving when the dog came out of hte tunnel seemed to not give the dogs enough of a signal that they had to turn. Some people tried pulling the dog in to them after the #3 and then sending from there to the Aframe. I don't think that worked for anyone, but I didn't see all of the successful gambles.

  3. It's interesting how, now that I'm taking a break from trialing, I never catch myself thinking, "I wish I'd gone to that agility trial this weekend" but I do often think about how glad I am to be out hiking with the dogs.
    I've decided I'm not going to trial again until I really, truly want to.

  4. Yeah, I saw your post on that. I'm trying to see whether I can get myself there. I also keep thinking about how much I'd miss the people I know and like who mostly do agility.

  5. I know what you mean about missing the agility community. If you're not going to trials, you're not going to see them because they don't/can't/won't have time to do anything else. Makes me wonder how many people I've hurt by not making time for them.