my club’s agility trial was this weekend. Due to family commitments today, we only attended yesterday. I was happier we went than I expected I would be. Because all last week I just plain didn’t want to go to any agility trials. The health effects during and after the trial 2 weekends ago were hard, very hard. But to support our club and because I’d previously volunteered to run the fundraising raffle, we went. And I think because I was engaging so much working folks to part with their hard earned cash and enter the raffle, I had a good time. It was beyond exhausting, and my dogs really got the short end of the stick all day, but I helped the club raise some much needed funds.
Like I said unfortunately yesterday my dogs got less of my attention than they usually do at a trial. Tom near had a panic attack until I let him actually do his job guiding me around and hanging under the table. Zora and I had some pretty good runs. We are 20 points closer to our NATCH, and with the open barrelers Qs we earned, now in Elite in every class.
Even more fun though was in a number of classes, I pushed myself and Zora. She’s already shown me if I handle her conservatively and in our comfort zone, she has no problems qualifying. I mean she’s 2.5yrs old and has over 2500 points, that’s 250 qualifiers. And we only trial about 10 weekends a year. But conservative isn’t so much fun for me in the long run. we have our first year of trialing under our belt, I’m feeling more comfortable with her on course and it’s time to push ourselves the way we do in training. So I really tried to do that in many of the courses, knowing it meant we likely wouldn’t qualify but work towards other goals.
The primary area I’m working to push our teamwork with is in the distance area. Working on connection, communication, commitment and teamwork at ever increasing distances.
Our trial day started with 2 rounds of tunnelers. I was super pleased with our first round. Zora was moving at a nice clip, and working really well driving her lines away from me. We trained the final switch out, which I thought we might end up doing, I was very pleased with her efforts! She gave me her best! The second round (same course) she was slower and more hesitant, waiting until I was really clear with each cue before taking it and continuing to move forward. I noticed this all day yesterday, first round was always faster, more confident, 2nd round slower more cautious. I think a factor is likely mental for me. I think likely in the 2nd rounds of a same course, I get lazy thinking ‘oh we already did this once, it went rather well, we’re good to go for round 2!’ instead of really working to be as clear and crisp in round 2 as I was in round 1. Something I will have to make a point to remember and practice!
Our 2 regular rounds were both Qs and again I was very pleased with her distance commitment! I was able to run round 1 from a 10′ or so line in the center of the ring. The 2nd round I needed to move off my line in 2 spots to support her further when she slowed questioning my signals.
Barrelers, like I mentioned we qualified in both rounds. And I ran those courses rather conservatively, trying to assure as best I could we’d qualify as I wanted to be done with open. The strategy worked, we are now in elite barrelers.
Chances, first round went ok. She’s a good dog. I was a sucky handler. Round 2 was a complete hot mess, Zora was convinced I really couldn’t want her to go up the a-frame. The course started hoop, a-frame to an out loop of jumps back to the a-frame for an out tunnel discrimination before ending on a fast line of hoops to tunnel and done. In round 1 she had steamed up the a-frame the start, nailed the loop of jumps, then couldn’t find the out tunnel and we had a lot of messy redirects before she finally found it and took it. Meaning I’d stopped her 3x in a row from taking the a-frame or any other more obvious to her near by jumps to redirect to the tunnel. I can’t fault her in the least when about 10min later on round 2 I’m honestly wanting her to take the a-frame and she’s like ‘you’re nuts lady! didn’t you just spend 15 seconds telling me I was wrong for thinking you wanted the a-frame last run?!’ So after she finally believed me and went up the a-frame, we did a quick silly line of jumps out to a tunnel and were done.
I seriously need to remove the concept of ‘fix it’ in that way from my trialing repertoire. I don’t do that crap in practice! In practice had we had the struggle to the out tunnel discrimination like we did in chances round 1, I would have sent her back around the loop of jumps, worked to set a better line for her so that coming off the jump loop she had a chance in hell to actually know the tunnel was there. And that builds her trust in me and confidence. Instead I did this stupid focus on the tunnel fix it to try to still manage to qualify and all I did was degrade my wonderful little dog’s trust in me! Stupid stupid stupid! Take the long range view Katrin! The q’s are shit if they end with a dog who second guesses everything you ask of her.
At our next trial in 2 weeks, I vow to do better. Trial like I train. Keep the trust we have in practice alive in competition. That is my goal!