Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 October GCOC Trial Recap

This past weekend was Harley and Mo's second trip to Columbia since AKC started allowing mixed breeds to compete. You might remember, our first Columbia trial was the very weekend AKC opened to mixed breeds and we had a very warm reception. Since then, we've been very welcomed at every trial we've attended, and this was no exception.

Also, Columbia is outdoors in a covered arena, making photography conditions much better. As a result, we finally have some action shots of Mo on the course! The beautiful weather all weekend was also very helpful for both pictures and performance - sunny with cool-mild temperatures.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Trial Recap: CPA AKC September 4-6 Charlotte

We had the pleasure of celebrating Labor Day weekend at Carolina Piedmont Agility's AKC trial in Charlotte. Since it was a holiday weekend and both Kristen and I had Monday off from work, we competed in all 3 days. Another milestone was we started Mo running 2 classes a day - we had been just doing 1 class a day just to see how he performed in a trial setting. He's been doing so well, we thought it was time to up his workload slightly.

The event was at the Charlotte Sports Center, the same site as CPA's July 4th trial. Greg, president of CPA, really listened to all the feedback, positive and otherwise, from the July trial and what resulted was a very smooth operation. Crating was much more spacious and organized, and the vendors easier to get to. The running surface was superb, as always. The sports center has artificial turf with embedded rubber pellets, giving excellent grip and cushion.

The weekend ended up being VERY productive for both Harley and Mo, and we had a great time hanging out with all our friends.

With all the runs in the weekend, I'll just go over the hightlights:

Excellent A Standard - Harley - Harley had a great run on her first Excellent Standard course. She had earned her Open Standard title at the end of her last trial (Greensboro). Best way to start the day, with a 2nd place & Q! [video]

Open FAST - Harley - Harley continued her streak with another 2nd & Q in FAST. The send was a gracious jump-tunnel-jump combo in flow, which Harley nailed. [video]

Mo - Mo had some difficulty his first day. A wrong course in JWW, and some issues on the dog walk kept us Q-less. That's all part of being a novice dog though! Plenty of things to work on!

Open FAST - Harley - Despite a hard send bonus (A-Frame-Jump-Jump), Harley nailed it, and finished up her last Open class with a 3rd place! All Excellent from now on! [video]

Excellent A JWW- Harley  - Harley was being a little slow on this course, which ended up being a very good thing. A very tight, twisty course led many of the faster dogs off course, or knocking bars. She still came well under time, and most importantly clean for the Q and a 1st place! [video]

Novice FAST- Mo - Mo had his favorite obstacle in the send bonus - the A-Frame - which made things pretty easy! He burned up the course, earning 72 points in 23 seconds(!) for a 1st place. [video]

Excellent A JWW- Harley - Harley was clean and accurate on her JWW run, earning a 2nd place & Q. [video]

Excellent A Standard- Harley - Harley traditionally has had trouble in Standard, but not this weekend! I think we're finally getting all the wrinkles out, and she's becoming more and more consistent. Harley blazed through the course for a 1st and Q! While it doesn't really count until we get into Excellent B, it was a double-q for the day in Standard and JWW! [video]

Novice JWW- Mo - Mo capped off his weekend with a stellar JWW run. He had one refusal (which, in my opinion, was a debatable call). Regardless, you get 2 refusals in novice, so it was still a Q! And a 1st place! [video]

A very successful weekend bounty!
With all that, Harley only has 1 more leg in Standard and JWW to earn her Excellent A title. Once that's completed, we can start working towards our Excellent B title and a MACH! A MACH title is very hard to accomplish - it requires 20 double q's and 750 MACH points. A dog earns MACH points by each second they are under the Standard Course Time (SCT) in Standard or JWW. We were very happy with Mo's performance, despite an odd fear of the dog walk in the Standard ring. It seemed to be something with that particular dog walk, since he did the one at DogHaven just fine Sunday night, and went over it backwards just fine on Monday. We're very happy with his progress so far, with 1 leg in each class!

Our next trial is October 3rd in Columbia, SC. See you all then!

Titling Progress: Harley
ExcA Standard (AX) - 2/3 legs 
ExcA JWW (AXJ) - 2/3 legs
Open FAST (XF) - 3/3 legs ** NEW TITLE

Titling Progress: Mo
Novice Standard (NA) - 1/3 legs
Novice JWW (NAJ) - 1/3 legs
Novice FAST (NF) - 1/3 legs

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Trial Recap: CPA AKC August 22 in Greensboro

I just plain forgot about recapping our last trial, so this is going to be short since we have another trial coming up this weekend!

Briefly, Harley got 2 1st places, Qing in Standard and Jumpers to get her Open titles in both. Other than that, some handler mistakes NQ'd us from our other runs.
Harley's JWW Run
Harley's Standard Run

Mo had 2 great runs, but FAST was a little much for him (gotta work on those outs!), and he did an off course on the Standard run.

This weekend is Carolina Piedmont Agility's Charlotte trial. It's at the same location as the July 4th trial, which has a great surface (Charlotte Sports Center) . Wish us luck!

Titling Progress: Harley
Open Standard (OA) - 3/3 legs ** NEW TITLEOpen JWW (OAJ) - 3/3 legs ** NEW TITLE
Open FAST (OF) - 1/3 legs

Titling Progress: Mo
Novice Standard (NA) - 1/3 legs
Novice JWW (NAJ) - 0/3 legs
Novice FAST (NF) - 0/3 legs

Monday, August 16, 2010

Trial Recap: GMKC AKC July 14th in Concord

We have come to the Greater Monroe Kennel Club's Concord many times before, but always as spectators. After AKC opened their doors to mixed breeds earlier this year, we were excited to attend this trial that was so close to home.

Our excitement turned into minor frustration, as the stories of the running surface from friends and how it affects large dogs turned out to be true.

GMKC rents an artificial turf surface from the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center. We've ran on artificial turf before, with great success. This turf was different: it's basically just fake plastic grass over concrete. No padding, and no traction. This is a big problem for the larger dogs with speed. Harley's just under 60 pounds, and turns on a dime. This weekend, however, every time she made a hard cut, her legs came out from under her and took a spill. Even Mo, who is about 15 pounds lighter than Harley, took a slide after turning coming out of a tunnel on the novice course. We saw many other large dogs doing the same.

Harley had a tough time adjusting. We tried a few different things on her paws to gain traction (coke, paw wax, and finally anti-slip grooming spray...Thanks Bob & Darius!). The anti-slip spray turned out to be the best, but not before Harley lost some of her confidence while running on it. Thankfully, Harley's last run went well, so it was good to end on a good note.

I'm not going to dwell on sour grapes, but I think we'll be holding Harley out of the trials here unless they make modifications to the surface. Mo seemed to do well, so we'll probably still enter him, but it's just not worth the risk of injury to Harley.

In other news, this was Mo's first trial at his full height! We entered him in 16" preferred in Charlotte just to see how he would do. Given his success there, we raised the bar (literally!) and started practicing at 20" in the weeks afterwards. He adjusted quickly, and so we entered him in the 20" class for this trial. He knocked one bar, but other than that, I think he did very well!

Saturday 8/14
Open Standard - Harley - Kristen and Harley were doing very well until Harley left waaay early for the triple. What resulted was her crashing the bar, and sliding across the slick surface. The rest of the run went well, but Harley seemed a little more timid for the remainder of the run. Looking at the results, if we had gotten the triple, She would've placed 1st by 7 seconds! Oh well....

Novice Standard - Mo - James and Mo had a very crisp run! Mo's contacts were spot on, and despite some lag laying down on the table and having to redo the last poll of the weaves, he was fast and accurate. He had a slip coming out of the tunnel near the end, but recovered well and finished in 2nd with a Q! [video]

Open JWW - Harley - Kristen tried some paw wax on Harley's paws to get some traction, but to no avail. Harley looked visibly slower, trying to compensate for the turf's slickness. She took a nasty spill trying to make a cut after the double, and then decided that she didn't want to go over one of the single bar jumps, so she decided to shortcut and go under it. Kristen didn't want to make Harley go back and fix it, so the run ended with a refusal and a missed obstacle.

Sunday 8/15
Open JWW - Harley - James' game plan was to try to be ultra-conservative, and try to slow Harley's speed down as much as possible to maintain her traction. Bob & Darius were also kind enough to give us some Anti-Slip spray that's used for confirmation dogs when they show on slick surfaces. Unfortunately, Harley just isn't used to going slow. The anti-slip spray seemed to work, but Harley looked like she still didn't trust her feet to stick. She dropped the bar on the triple again, but the rest of the run, despite awkward handling, was ok.

Novice JWW - Mo - Kristen took Mo out on the jumpers course, and had to do some in-course adjustments, as Mo was running much faster than he usually does! It put her slightly out of position, and an awkward cross made Mo drop a bar. Other than that, the run was very fast and clean.

Open Standard - Harley - James' plan on this was just to stick with what we know, and just see how it goes. We appied the anti-slip spray right before going in, and that seemed to make a difference. Harley seemed more comfortable with her footing, and was more confident with speed. The run went without a hitch, and we were relieved to end with such a good result. Harley earned a 2nd & Q, but more importantly, gained her confidence back. [video]

Titling Progress: Harley
Open Standard (OA) - 2/3 legs
Open JWW (OAJ) - 2/3 legs
Open FAST (OF) - 1/3 legs

Titling Progress: Mo
Novice Standard (NA) - 1/3 legs
Novice JWW (NAJ) - 0/3 legs
Novice FAST (NF) - 0/3 legs

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Who Can Run Your Dog?

While we were in class the other night, a classmate of ours asked me to run her dog for her, just to see if he would run for me. I was more than happy to oblige, as I like seeing how different it can be to run a dog not your own. Her dog ran for me just fine, despite not having a full grasp on his commands.

Kristen and I were talking about it later, and it raises a good question: If someone else had to run your dog, would your dog run for them? There's several reasons why you might want to try it, and when to try it.

First off, for dogs that are beginners or are still training for their first competition, it may not be the best idea. Consistency is key when you're training, and you might confuse the dog by running with someone unfamiliar with their idiosyncrasies. In addition, your verbal/non-verbal commands are very important when starting out. Every command should be consistent from run to run in order to build up. Once your dog has a firm grasp of what they are supposed to do, then you might want to see if someone else will run them.

You might be surprised by your dogs reactions to a new handler. One dog I ran a while back stopped halfway through the course, looked at me with a very confused look, then raced back to his owner as if he just realized his owner wasn't running with him. I've seen other dogs that just outright refuse to run for another handler. I am not saying a dog that won't run with someone else is badly trained; I just think it's to your advantage that they could.

You never know when your dog's ability to run with anyone can come in handy. For example, say you sprain your ankle on the first run of a 3 day trial. Would be sad to just not run them the rest of the weekend, losing both your entrance fees and your dog's enjoyment of the sport. Having a friend that can step in is invaluable. However, if someone is to run your dog on at least a semi-regular basis, it would be best for them to train with your dog.

Watching your dog run with a different handler is very surreal, and valuable for your own knowledge. It gives you a different perspective on how your dog moves which may lead to trying something differently. My wife and I run both of our dogs equally. But even when we see someone other than ourselves run them, it really is informative (and entertaining!).

Lastly - it's so much fun running someone else's dog! If you have a big dog, try running a small dog, or vice versa. You'll learn very quickly that for an experienced dog, it is mostly about body language, and that you'll only need the most basic of verbal commands (i.e. contact bottoms, release commands, etc) for a decent run. You'll find yourself paying more attention to your run than you might with your own dog since you don't know all the little body language intricacies that comes with a team that has worked together a long time.

The most important part is make sure you, your dog, and whoever else's dog has fun! That's what it's all about in the end anyway!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Trial Recap: Carolina Piedmont Agility AKC Trial in Charlotte, NC

This past weekend was our first hometown trial in a loooong time. Carolina Piedmont Agility (CPA) hosted their AKC trial on July 4th weekend at the Charlotte Sports Center. We are more than happy to enter trials in July that are hosted indoors in A/C, especially if it is close to home! We've come to enjoy the trials that CPA hosts, as they are always well run and know what competitors expect out of a great trial site.

Many people came into the trial with reservations about the running surface. Indoor turf has not earned itself a great reputation in the agility community, especially in this area. I mainly attribute this to the turf surface at another local trial site that has drawn the ire of large dog owners due to the turf's lack of grip, resulting in dogs slipping. I, however, had no reservations about the Charlotte Sports Center turf - I play on it regularly in a soccer league! It's cleat-friendly and is infused with small tiny rubber pellets that A) give dogs a nice grip since their claws can really dig in for traction, and B) it has a nice "spring" to it so you don't feel like you're running on carpet over concrete.

Needless to say, we were excited about a local, indoor trial at a great facility. But that was only a small part of why we were excited: This would be the first trial for our youngest dog, Mo! Mo started training in late November at Dog Haven under Deb Knowles. We decided that we would try to enter him in this trial, as he turned 15 months old on July 1st (AKC regulations state that a dog must be older than 15 months to compete).

We also decided that we would only enter him in 2 classes, 1 each day. It's always an adventure when your dog goes to its first trial. You never know how they are going to react when they get into the ring for the first time. There are so many other things going on, it makes it very different from the controlled environment we have at our weekly classes. While Mo has been coming to trials with Harley for over a year now, we wanted to ease him into competition. Part of this was also entering him in "Preferred."  AKC Preferred classes allow a dog to run in a jump height below what they measure. Mo measures 21" at the withers, which would put him in the 20" height class. We're working him up to to 20 inches, but in the mean time we decided that running 16" Preferred would be best, and we can build up from there.

Without further ado, here are the results!

Saturday 7/3
Open JWW - Harley - Harley opened her weekend with a BEAUTIFUL run. She was fast, accurate, and clean, earning a 1st place & Q. [video]

Novice FAST - Harley - Oops. We forgot to move Harley up into Open after titling in the last trial...Oh well. We ran this just for fun and, it turns out, infamy. Our run was going very well, racking up 78 out of a possible 80 points. All that was left was the last jump which stops the timer. James was paying too much attention to directing Harley and not enough attention to where he was on the course that he put himself on a collision course with the final jump. Luckily it doesn't effect our run, as that jump is only used to stop the timer and has no bearing on whether or not you Q. Plus, Harley jumped the jump simultaneously to me knocking it down, so the time difference would've been negligible. We ended up in 2nd place (1st place tied with points, but had a faster time) and a Q. Be sure to check out the video!

Novice Standard - Harley - Same as above, we forgot to move her into Open. Regardless, Harley steamed through the course, earning a 1st  & Q!

Novice Standard - Mo - The big debut! Mo did extremely well for his first run at trial. He was un-phased by the change in environment and ran exactly how he would've in practice. He had beautiful downs on the contacts, and ran clean with no bars down. To our surprise, Mo ended up in 2nd place & Q, only 0.40 seconds behind 1st place! [video]

Open Standard - Harley - AKC allows dogs to move up, so on Sunday we moved Harley up from Novice to where she was supposed to be: Open. Kristen had a nice clean run with Harley. Harley was a little slow on the table getting to a sit, but no faults led to a 2nd place & Q!

Open FAST - Harley - A difficult send bonus doomed this run (A-Frame - tunnel - A-Frame). Otherwise, the run was a success!

Open JWW - Harley - A nice start then led to an off-course. This particular course was VERY tight, and a lot of dogs and handlers were having problems with it.

Novice JWW - Mo - Mo had a small refusal on the 3rd jump (he just went around it), but James recomposed him and finished the rest of the course clean. Novice dogs get 2 refusals, so Mo Q'd and came in 3rd place! [video]

So all in all, a great success. We're very proud of Mo earning 2 Q's his first trial, and he showed us that he can handle the pressure of a trial environment very well. Harley was her usual consistent self, earning several Q ribbons. We are looking forward to CPA's next trial at the Sports Center.

I also want to say thanks to our parents for coming out to see us on Saturday, and a special thanks to Deb for all her hard work getting Mo (and us!) ready for his first trial.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Trial Recap: Fletcher AKC May 29th

Just a quick recap this has kept Kristen and I very busy!

Leaving for Blue Ridge Agility Club's AKC trial in Fletcher, we had one main goal: Get 2 Q's in Standard for our Novice title. We really wanted Harley to be in all Open classes at our hometown trial in Charlotte on July 4th weekend, and this was our last chance.

Novice Standard - James ran this one with Harley and had some scary close jumps. Harley nearly nicked the bar on the double and final jump. In typical Harley-jumping form, she tucks her back feet in and clears the bars when she jumps too early. Some of the jumps on this run were just a little too close for comfort. Nonetheless, she was clean, and we ended up placing first & Q! (youtube)

Open JWW - Kristen had some bad luck....Harley dropped the 2nd bar in the course. Apart from that, the run was beautiful and clean.

Novice FAST - James ran for an impressive 74 points with 7 seconds to spare. We came up 1 point short of first place, but walked away with a Q and our NF title! James was kicking himself since he had plenty of time to go pick up a couple more points for first, but it's the Q that counts. (youtube)

Novice Standard - Kristen had a flawless run, earning a 1st & Q and Harley's final Novice title, NA! (youtube)

Open JWW - This run almost started with disaster. After a 2 jump lead out, James looked back and Harley was sniffing the ground and wouldn't respond to her release command! I walked back trying to get her attention, and suddenly as I neared the first jump, she started to go! Although it wasn't as smooth as planned, the run was clean, and Harley earned another 1st & Q.

Open FAST - Kristen showed superior planning, racking up 78 points for a 1st & Q in our first Open FAST run! This beat her previous personal best of 77 points, and continues our 100% Q-Rate in FAST. (youtube)

For convenience, I created a youtube playlist with our runs from the weekend. The lighting in the outdoor ring was too much for the camcorder to handle, so I only posted video from our indoor runs.

Titling Progress:
Novice Standard (NA) - 3/3 legs ** New Title!
Novice FAST (NF) - 3/3 legs ** New Title!
Open JWW (OAJ) - 1/3 legs
Open FAST (OF) - 1/3 legs