Thursday, May 20, 2010

More lovely Q's

Last weekend saw our first mad dash to Geraldton for the year to complete two days of agility trialling. Entries were a little bit lower than normal as quite a few of the regulars were overseas watching and competing in the IFCS Agility Worlds in the UK which meant I had to get up there a little earlier to make the first event. Sonic, Lexi and I left Perth at 5am and with a pretty good run on the highway made it to Geraldton by 10am. The course was in the middle of being set up when we arrived so we didn't have much time to do anything other than stretch our legs and get the dogs toileted.

I didn't hold up much hope for our first class (Open Agility) and was expecting it to be a bit rough, however I couldn't have been more wrong. Sonic ate the course up, handled the distance challenge like a pro and ended up not only going clear, but taking out first place. The rest of the weekend followed a similar theme with a total of six clear rounds out of nine starts. Sonic is starting to get confident reading my body and it's making a huge difference. My favourite run of the weekend was a Masters Jumping run on the first day. He moved out beautifully and on some parts of the course was really powering on. There is still room for improvement but he is definately getting closer. Agility on the whole is good. His contacts and weavers are solid but he's not moving out between his obstacles as much as I'd like. Although I can see that his confidence is growing I can also see that he is still cautious in between obstacles and isn't really driving out between turns. There are moments when he does but it's not consistent.

But even being my normal overly critical self I have to say that Sonic was fantastic. It is so great to have reached a point where we are having some really solid performances and starting to find that groove where we are reading each other successfully on course. And he was really trying his little butt off for me and having a fab time in the process. It's hard to ask for more than that. On the training agenda for the next couple of weeks will be continuing with the revision of Crate Games. I'm working on Stage 3 which includes doing collar grabs and the dog coming out and going into the crate. Seems to be going well and Sonic is getting really amped up when I grab his collar. It was something he really didn't like before. I'll also keep working on him driving out of turns because that is still what costs us the most time. I was watching some of the IFCS Worlds and you see the dogs just hit the ground after an obstacle and they power straight off. Most definately something that I aspire to having Sonic do!

Riot has also had to contribute to the household over the last week filming a commercial for the Sids for Kids Red Nose Day annual campaign which is 25th June 2010. Better Pets & Gardens are sponsoring Sids and Kids as part of Red Nose Day so Riot teamed up with Shannon MacGuire who is the Sids and Kids ambassador for this year with her gorgeous son Marley. Shannon is totally stunning and both her and Riot made for some beautiful footage. Riot was a good boy and was as compliant as ever. There were no great training demands on him other than to look handsome but I had to chuckle when he was trying to offer behaviours to the sound boom as it hovered overhead. He obviously thought it was a target stick and managed a well timed paw wave so hopefully it will make it to the final cut of the ad. I even make a brief cameo as I stroll through the BP&G store....

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Agility Nationals WA 2010

Oooops.... (photo by Robyn Evans)

I think all of the WA agility community has released a collective sigh of relief. The 2010 National Agility trial is complete. Peace has been restored.

The ANWA organising committee did a spectacular job. I know they copped a really hard time over how the different heights were going to work but to their credit it all worked amazingly over the four days. Having separate heights for a National was long overdue. Now we just have to hope that future states take on the challenge and continue to make it even bigger and better. The Dogs West grounds looked brilliant with all of us parking around the edge of the rings which gave it a real carnival atmosphere.

Sonic was brilliant. Never did I think that he had the maturity to compete for four days solid and give me everything he had in every run. I have been frustrated by his inconsistent focus so I tried to improve our transitions when I was preparing him for our turn in the ring. I did the usual routine where I get him out of the car get him relaxed, build up to a game of tug followed by focus games but this time instead of walking into the ring and then losing him when I get to the start line I tried really hard to keep the connection going by talking to him with his “rev up” words. It means pretty much ignoring the judge until the very last minute but so be it. He did glance around a couple of time but they were more quick flicks and then back to me rather than gazing into the distance and me having to call him to get his attention back. I will continue to work on it though to try and get him not looking back at all.

Another awesome picture by Robyn Evans

His contact behaviours were spot on every time, straight down to two on two off, no creeping or stopping in the colour. I didn’t hold him in position but released as soon as he hit position. Ever since his contacts got broken at ADAA where the judges chase the dogs down the dog walk to check the colour, then proofed them (thanks Simone!) at training, they have been absolutely rock solid. I can’t wait until I can do early releases to help improve our course times but right now I just don’t think he’s ready. It’s certainly not worth wrecking his contacts at this early stage of his career. After the first two days of perfect contacts and no reinforcement I did take him to the practice ring and give him a couple of belts over them with high value rewards just in case I wore them out!

In the end Sonic came second in Novice Gamblers, seventh in Novice Snooker (all dogs that placed higher than him were competing at the last Nationals almost two years ago, some in Novice Snooker…), second in Novice Strategic Pairs (no thanks to me and some seriously dodgy handling) AND the big one, made the Masters Jumping final!!! Considering the calibre of the dogs in Masters Jumping I thought that it was a pretty special achievement for a baby dog. Masters Jumping was the very last final on the last day. I was a little nervous but didn’t feel any pressure as I had no expectations of grandeur, rather I just wanted to see how he’d cope. The ring was totally surrounded by onlookers and the atmosphere was very different to a normal trial. I did my set up routine and got really great focus from him. Sonic got up from his sit position when I led out but didn’t actually break so I didn’t go back to him to reset. It was naughty but he was so keen. We made it to obstacle 18 which was a broad jump without error, but unfortunately I think his legs were going quicker than his brain was so he hit it good and proper. Then he knocked the second last jump. Other than that it was a great run with his speed building as we went. I actually didn’t handle jump 4 to 6 the best. I used a rear cross when a front would have tightened him up a lot more. It probably cost me at least a second, maybe more. In the end the winning time was 27.64sec and an awesome run from Julies and Mac’s Disco Diva, with Sonic coming in at 30.23. Taking into considering my sloppy handling and his stumble it was a super achievement. Once Sonic matures and I am able to get him powering out of his turns and tightening up more I have no doubt that he will be a force to be reaconed with.