a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: A Thing That Made Me Cry In Agility

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Thing That Made Me Cry In Agility

SUMMARY: Because there is crying in agility.

Boost got a Super-Q!

It's one of those things that I'd just about come to accept that would never happen, that we'll never get the 2 more Super-Qs that we need for her USDAA championship. That I might retire her (or anyway move her to performance) and never get that championship.

And today was particularly bad:
  • Gamblers, not taking obstacles, several, in fact, and in the opening. And no way, of course, that we'd get the actual gamble.
  • Standard, not taking obstacles, knocking bars, a complete melt-down.
  • Pairs--we were spot-on perfect. Why can we do 10 obstacles perfectly over and over? But not a complete course?
  • Jumpers, not taking obstacles, knocking bars, a complete melt-down.
Once again, Tika ran beautifully--very nicely in pairs for a Q and a 1st**, darn good in Jumpers for a Q and a 1st (some bobbles that were my fault, but she just recovers so nicely!). And it made me even more aware of how nice Tika is to run and what a challenge Boost is. I mean, Boost is happy going into the ring, always. It's just that... sometimes... 

So I wanted to pack it in and head home early, especially since my back is not doing really well.  And talked to Boost about how maybe she'd like to become a herding and nosework dog.

I mean, really, she's 8 and a half. Many, if not most, dogs, move down a height into the Performance group by that age, where the counting for a championship resets and starts all over.

Plus, 112 attempts at Masters Snooker, and out of all of these, we had earned one Super-Q. One. One of 112 attempts. And that one was 2 years ago. (oh, interesting--2 years ago exactly plus 2 days ago.) And she's getting older and it feels like we're getting worse, not better.

And the day had been SO bad, so really very bad, I mean, we did not even come close to completing all the obstacles--let alone successfully--on three of four courses.  But I paid for my entries, plus I'm on score table, so I talked myself into staying and not scratching Boost from Snooker.

But the snooker, yikes. Three or four reds, your choice. A very wide circle of obstacles with a three-part #7. And everything was jumps jumps jumps. Yeah, well, we knock bars and we do refusals at jumps, and I did not have the heart to try to design a course with 4 reds or with very many points, because it was pointless anyway (given all the jumps in the course and given how bad our day had been). I just picked nearly the simplest circle with only 3 reds, not much in the way of high points at all, because at that point in the day today, I needed to have a successful run far more than I needed a Super-Q.

I didn't even bother to watch anyone else's runs or look to see what kinds of scores people were getting, because I had given up on getting a Super-Q today.

So we did our simple run. She ticked the 2nd bar but it stayed up.  She ran past the 3rd red but I was able to get her back to it and over it without knocking it. On the closing, the distance from 2 to 3 to 4 was so wide and so not-obvious to the dog and I was so slow that I called her back to me after 3 and we kind of hobbled our way to #4 before continuing through the rest of the course. I figured that we were going to run out of time, but it didn't matter because I had picked a small, simple, wimpy course that wasn't going to be a Super-Q anyway, so I didn't push things. Took the time to tell her that she was a good girl for holding her A-frame contact near the end (the only thing that wasn't a jump on the whole course).

Got over the last jump and, wow, we had successfully completed an entire course today! It wasn't entirely pretty, but it was legal and it mostly worked, and the buzzer went off just after that, so we just made it in time.

Feeling  happy that we did it, but kinda sad, too, that I had to give up my hopes of a Super-Q just to be able to feel good about doing a very basic course.

But you know what happened. Everyone tried to get four reds and lots of points and crapped out.  So our little piddly simple run left us in 4th place, and there were 4 Super-Qs.  I could hardly believe it when I went to check our score. I thought that I had to be misreading it. But, no, there it was, in black and white!

And I cried. So happy.

But. There's this little thing about operant conditioning--the most successful way to get a creature to continue repeating behaviors to get a reward is with RANDOM rewards. So I've just been randomly rewarded for attemting Snookers by earning a Super-Q, which means now I'm back to thinking, oh, wow, it just *might* be possible for us to get that one last Super-Q and a championship.

Not sure whether to be happy or sad about that random reward. But, for tonight, I'll take it.

Everyone had cheesburgies for dinner.

Both dogs finished their kibble before they finished their cheesburgers. Very strange indeed.


Boost got a Super-Q.

** Technically Tika did not Q in pairs because we ran Veterans pairs, which is a just-for-fun competition, no qualifying scores. But our score was plenty good enough to have qualified in the regular divisions, both dogs ran well and clean. And technically we were the ONLY veterans pair, but we earned that first place anyway!


  1. Hey heyyyyy!!!! Big congrats on that Super-Q! It was meant to be, you know -- I mean the ribbon colours are TMH-perfect.

    In AAC, if you change to a lower division you don't have to start any titles or anything over again. I'm curious -- in USDAA, if you move to Performance do you have to back to Starters or can you continue on in Masters?

    1. I know, SMART has had the BEST colors for Super-Q ribbons, but now it looks like they're going to plain red that look just like the regular Q ribbons but with "Super-Q" on them. I need to express my opinion about that.

      In USDAA, moving to performance level 3 is equivalent to masters, but you have to start that level's Qs over again. (But you do not have to go back to Perf 1 or Perf 2.)

      The reverse isn't true--e.g., if you earn titles in Perf without having done the regular ("championship"--vs "performance") program, you do have to go back to Starters and start all over.

      Clear as mud?

  2. Ah ha, I think I get it. Makes sense I suppose. That would really suck if you had to go back to Starters after moving to Performance so I'm glad that that is not the case.

  3. As someone who is still waiting for their first SQ, posts like this one always give me hope. :o)

    If you are considering moving Boost to the Perf program, there is no reason you cannot move her down in everything except Snooker until you get that last SQ. I have seen several people do that in my area, typically running Gamblers and/or Snooker in the CH program and everything else in Performance.

    1. Thanks, Karissa, and good luck with your SQs! The interesting thing is that a couple of other friends who've wanted a SQ for quite a while got SQs this weekend on Saturday's course (ours was Friday), including 6-yr-old Drover. Tika was 5 when she finally got her 3rd SQ, and it had seemed like *forever*. Difference between Tika & Boost is that Tika was pretty regularly one or two spots out of the SQs fairly often, whereas Boost & I almost never completely get through a course. In fact, looking back--we have only EVER gotten through a complete course 4 times; two of those were our two SuperQs and the other two were enough points for a SQ but missed it based on time wasted. So getting through the course is our biggest challenge. I think that dogs who can get through their planned courses regularly are much likelier to get their SQs quicker.

      When Tika was about Boost's age, I started moving her into Perf in every class she completed 35 masters Qs in. She started knocking the first or 2nd bar more often in the championship classes, even if I put her over a 26" practice jump beforehand, so with Boost already knocking bars, I'm a little reluctant to try splitting heights again. Of course, she's a different dog, and you never know, maybe jumping lower most of the time would make it easier for her to jump 22" the rest of the time! But of course jumping lower wouldn't make her refusal/runout issue go away. Dogs, always keeping me guessing.

    2. Now see I had the opposite feeling -- I thought that having the jumps 6" lower might make it much less likely for her to refuse/run out. My small dog is far more likely to say "nope" the higher the jump gets, I know that much.

      My border competes at 16" in NADAC, 22" in USDAA and 24" in AKC. They figure it out. And you're talking about Snooker, where it would be possible to avoid jumping as much as you could -- although knocking the reds would kind of stink. ;o)

    3. Ah, hmm, that's another interesting way of looking at it. If I could only get that last Super-Q, I'm pretty sure I'd move to Perf in everything.

      I think for Tika jumping the different heights on the same day didn't work completely well, for whatever reason. But I did it anyway with her and we Qed enough. :-)

  4. I'm happy for you and your girls. I don't understand all of it but I'm happy! :) Simple wins! :) She's such a good girl, they both are.