Both the Poodles take a break from competition from late Spring though to early Autumn. Neither of them enjoy running in the Summer heat so we don’t push them to do something I know they don’t like – agility is meant to be fun for both of us after all.
Instead we use the cool early mornings to train new skills and improve on existing ones.
There is one exception to the no Summer competition rule and that is a local AKC trial hosted by the Chuckanut Dog Training club up in Lynden WA. This is a small trial held in a great facility, the competition starts at 5pm on Friday evening so I only need to take the morning off from work. The rings are huge, the dirt surface is good and the lighting is excellent and because its further North it does not get too hot.
Friday was the start of a new journey for Sky – for the last 6 years he’s been running at his full AKC jump height and for 4.5 years this has not been a problem for him at all. Then, in early 2015 he got injured, he recovered but after only 2 months he got injured again. Nothing major but I could tell he wasn’t running with his usual enthusiasm. He’s very stoic so he was probably hurting quite badly. This injury recovery cycle has gone on for 18 months but now I decided it was time to start running in the AKC Preferred class, he has been running in USDAA Performance since January 2016. So from now on Sky will be jumping 20″ in both venues that he competes in.
Sky’s first run on Friday was Standard Agility, the course was great and ideal for a large striding dog like Sky. Sky had a stunning run, he was clean in 38.00 seconds running at 4.92 yards per second. He was the second quickest dog of all jump heights, he beat the top 24″ dog by 4.5 seconds and only NAC Mynx beat him from the regular 20″ class. Sky scored 36 speed points on this run, his highest ever score. He still hasn’t fully adjusted his jumping style to the new height – he’s clearing the bars too high, so he’ll probably get even quicker at this height once he gets this figured out.
I made a timing error on Sky’s jumping run so we missed out on the double Q.
Next it was Icy’s turn. I’d only entered him in Jumping for this event, so he got to run after Sky had finished both his runs. Ice took off like a rocket from the start line and kept up the speed all the way through the course. In fact Ice was running so quickly I was hopelessly late performing a front cross before the second to last jump that I caused a refusal. Ice didn’t seem to care, after we finished the run he tugged on his leash all the way back to his crate to get his jackpot.
So overall I was very pleased with both dogs performance, my only regrets were not being able to record any of the runs and hurting my knee on Sky’s standard run which forced me to withdraw from the competition early.
Both Sky and Ice return to competition next weekend after a 2 month break. I’ve been running Ice in class each week as well as doing Dog Walk and Weave training with him. Sky on the other hand has not done much agility during his 8 week break, but he has been doing a lot of obedience and rally with Penelope.
In order to get him ready for next weekend I created a short jumping sequence specifically designed to challenge Sky’s weaknesses.
This looks simply enough but Sky had a really hard time completing this course clean. Sky’s main jumping weakness is he doesn’t perform the parallel to perpendicular jumping effort very well at speed and this course had several points that tested this skill.
Here’s another great (but slightly modified) course from AgilityFlow. I chose this course as it allowed me to train several skills in one small space with minimal equipment (I hate course building). Skills covered include:
- Extension to collection sequences – Ice approaches #3 in extension but needs to collect to get a nice turn for #4. The same pattern is repeated between #5 and #6.
- Blind cross and Pull A-Frame exits. I did a blind cross between #7 and #8 so that I could do a Jaakko turn from #8 to #9. I did a pull between #11 and #12 so that I could do a deceleration rear cross at #12.
- An (easy) tunnel A-Frame discrimination at #9 and #14.
Here is the course map, you need a space 18m by 11m (60 feet by 36 feet).
Icy ran the course twice this morning, both runs had nearly identical times although I liked the second run better than the first. I was particularly pleased with how well Icy handled the rear cross at jump #12 – we have not practiced this skill much.
Here’s a side by side of Sky and Ice – Icy was over a second quicker.
Here’s another great small space course from AgilityFlow – this time we are looking at Serpentines. I ran both Sky and Ice over this course, Sky ran first.
Here is the course map:
I ran Sky over the course first, here is a video of his runs.
Things to note with Sky’s runs:
- I need to stay very close to the wing on jump #2 to ensure a tight line to jump #3. Compare my path on the first run to all the other runs. The first run was 0.5s quicker than all the other runs.
- Performing a landing side front cross between #5 and #6 was the quickest way of performing the middle section of the course – although I only attempted this on the first run.
- On run #5 as Sky emerges from the #4 tunnel I raise my threadle arm too soon. Sky see’s it moves towards me even though jump #5 is right in front of him. Sky clearly understands the threadle arm much better than I thought he did – good boy Sky.
- Reverse spin on jump #9 yielded a much better turn than a straightforward shoulder pull.
Next it was Icy’s turn. He ran the course 3 times. He was clean on each run and all runs were quicker than Sky although not by that much.
Finally here’s the side by side comparison of Sky and Ice’s best runs.
Ice and Sky both ran another short jumping sequence today. I tried various options with both Dogs. Ice was quickest by almost a second!
Again Sky’s superior ground speed allows him to get ahead when the course has straight lines but Icy can accel/decel very quickly and turns very tightly, this allowed him to catch up and get ahead.
Here’s a fun jumping sequence designed to test some of my and Icy’s handling skills. I plan to run both Sky and Ice over this course – will be interesting to see which one is quickest.
The course is inspired by this post from Agility Flow.
Sky was quicker, but not by much and probably only because Sky has a rear cross skill that Icy doesn’t have yet.
Until recently Ice was always slower than Sky on pure jumping sequences. Ice’s lack of confidence and desire to keep the bar up under all circumstances often resulted in him adding small additional strides just prior to take off.
This weekend I built a small course that required some collection to tightly wrap a jump wing as well as lots of extension and for the first time Icy ran the sequence faster than Sky. We tried two different handling options, Sky did a good job, he did not have wide turns but Icy beat him by over a half a second on one option and a quarter second on the other.
Here is a video of the individual runs.
And here is a video of a side by side comparison.
It’s been an interesting 9 months – there has been lots of progress and as you would expect the journey has not been a straight line. There have been some significant setbacks but on both occasions Ice was able to bounce back stronger.
The biggest surprise was just how consistent his performance is, he might not yet be running at full speed but he hardly ever makes a mistake. We made it through to Master’s in both Jumping and Standard in 10 days of trialing. Since qualifying for Masters he got 4 double Q’s and 8 Standard Q’s. The main reason why he’s not got 8 double Q’s is because occasionally I’ve deliberately scratched him from his second JWW run.
Ice has also had success in USDAA – he’s only had 3 runs but he Q’ed in 2 of them earning a Grand Prix leg and a Master Challenge Jumping leg.
Some observations of our first 9 months:
- Ice is not the most confident dog. He’s very sensitive to his environment and this can (and does) affect how quickly he runs in the ring. To counter this I’ve started to put a lot of effort into a consistent ring side warm up routine. The goal being to increase Ice’s arousal state before we enter the ring making him less concerned with all the noise and activity going on around him.
- Ice does not like to knock bars – he’s only ever done it a handful of times and I don’t thinks he’s ever been hurt, but it destroys his confidence. The net result of this is Ice makes doubly sure he’s going to clear the bar and the way he does this is to add extra strides prior to takeoff. This of course slows him down.
- Ice always seems to be quickest on his first run of the day. I don’t really know why this is. I’m pretty sure its not because he tired. At first I though it was that he didn’t like JWW courses. Then one day the schedule had us running JWW and he ran significantly quicker on that run than previous JWW runs and he slowed down for Standard.
Here’s a video of Ice’s latest AKC run – which was also his fastest ever Standard run.
Well today is labor day and summer is almost over. On Saturday Ice ran in his first real AKC agility trial and he did great.
I had entered him in Novice FAST and Jumpers. But I planned to use FAST as a warm up event and would only attempt the bonus if I thought it was something Ice could do safely. There was no way I was going to attempt any contact equipment in the “send”.
When I arrived at the trial venue I could see the course builders staking out the pink ribbon around a jump and See-Saw. That confirmed it, there was no way Ice was doing his first Teeter in a trial 8 feet away from me.
Here is a video of his FAST run.
I think Ice could sense my nerves because after be missed my FX on the third jump he ran off into a corner of the arena. I called him and he came straight away (which was good) but this was the first time I’ve ever lost his focus during an actual run. After he returned I continued on my planned course. I got too far in front of Ice cuing the A-Frame and he bypassed it and ran to me. I put him back in the tunnel and waited for him to emerge before cuing the A-Frame and moving forward. This time Ice did the A-Frame, but he put in 3 strides on the down ramp rather than his usual 2. He made the contact but clearly his drive was lacking a little. The buzzer sounded before we completed the course but I decided to complete it anyway as we were nearly home.
Things that went well.
- After the initial loss of focus Ice stuck with and reacted appropriately to my cues.
- Ice performed the weaves first time with no hesitation.
- Ice made the A-Frame contact, although I’d prefer it if he’d done it in 2 strides rather than 3.
- Ice was not distracted by the judge or ring crew even though the leash runner was someone he trains with regularly. Ice was also not bothered by the pink ribbon on the ground, the judge calling out numbers as we took obstacles or the sound of the buzzer.
- At the end of the run Ice was happy for me to put the leash on him.
First Real Run
As I said above I had not planned to attempt to Q in FAST if I was not happy with the send bonus. So Jumpers was going to be our first real run. The course was straightforward enough and I was confident Ice would not have any problems.
Ice ran the course clean and placed 3rd overall. He was beaten by the current AAC National Champion and another dog run by the same handler – neither of these dogs could be classified as “Novice” :).
A video of the run is below.
Thoughts on the run:
- Ice was happy for me to lead out and waited on the start line until I released him.
- Again he had no problem reading my cues and he maintained focus on my throughout the entire run.
- Another set of perfect weaves which were followed by the tunnel. This is significant because Ice likes the tunnel and I was a little concerned that he’d leave the weaves early to get to the tunnel.
- He ran the course at 5.34 yards per second which is not too shabby for a baby dog. He was certainly faster than Sky in his first JWW run and Ice ran it clean whereas Sky had a refusal.
- I think Ice is adding at least one extra stride between obstacles than is needed, so he has the potential to run the course a lot quicker. Probably 1 yard per second quicker.
- My front cross after jump #2 was intentionally late, I needed to make sure that I could run jump #3 without doing a zig-zag movement. So I held off do the FX until after Ice was committed to the jump.
Overall I am very pleased with Ice’s debut performance, he ran quicker than all the other dogs (all jump heights) with the exception of the two “ringer” dogs – good boy Ice.
Ice continues to perform well – his focus me is also getting better.
There are a couple of things that still need some work, he’s not running as far to the end of the Teeter as I would like and his dog walk performance is beginning to get a little lacks, which is something I’ve probably caused. I need to be much stricter only reward average or better runs.
In a bid to increase his speed, drive and motivation I’ve sign Ice up for a long distance learning class with Katarina Podlipnik – class starts next Monday and lasts for 12 weeks.
I’ve also decided to train Sky and Ice in the same class at IADW on Wednesday evenings – ultimately this will mean one less trip to Sumner each week but for now Ice will continue his Monday classes.
Here is a video of Ice running this years EO large dog finals course. He did a pretty good job of this considering how old he is.