Surprises and Some Luck, Some Training and Not Luck

We survived our mind-meltingly hot AKC go-round this weekend. Both dogs surprised me in different ways, and I am really proud of both of them.

Forest usually all but shuts down in the heat. It had to have been 90-plus including humidity, out in the sun. I kept him under the tent as cool as I could for as long as I could, warming him up with little stuff in there and not worrying about the practice jump or getting to the gate too early. He’s finally trialed enough and is relaxed enough around other dogs that I dont really have to acclimate him to the environment like I used to. His first standard run was a mess—missed both Aframe and DW contacts AND even came off the table (I was trying out a new theory of seeing if I didnt have to make him lie down—turns out I do), but he was happy and relatively fast even in the heat so I didnt care. Our two jumpers runs were predictably smooth and we Q’ed on both though our times were slow, but he hung in there like a champ with me and my barely passable blind crosses pulling him along. As fast as I run, he runs, at least in JWW.

Standard on Sunday was, well… an emotional rollercoaster. He ran great, if not slow as molasses. He did get his contacts and I was thrilled with that. We got to the table and he slammed on the breaks for a second, then popped on. I didnt think much of it. We made it around the rest of the course clean and I thought we had Q’ed and started to celebrate that last, goddamned Excellent A Q. I was immediately told by someone at the out gate that the judge called the table. Fuck. I was bummed but… Whatever. Later on I meandered over to the score table where lo and behold, the score sheets said we Q’ed. What the..?? I even had them pull the scribe sheets, and there it was—100 points. I don’t know what happened—looks like the scribes missed her call. Not exactly the way I want to get our final bitterly fought Q, but… I’ll take it. I looked at our stats last night in detail, and it turns out it took us 21 Ex A STD runs over the course of 21 months to get those 3 measly Qs. Whether that means we deserved it or that we should just quit running AKC Standard altogether I am not sure, but at this point I am taking that effing Q thank you very much. On to Ex B STD and those dastardly double Qs.

Honestly though, Forest’s goal at this point is just to get his MXJ—which we are already halfway to, and his MX. And maybe T2B because thats fun and he actually enjoys that class. That’s it. I cant push him to be a double-Q MACH hunter, that would drive both of us insane and its just not what I need to do to him.

Phin. Oh Phin, you are so, so, so much fun to run. He shocks people. I don’t know why, but no one expects much when they lay eyes on him, and then they see him run. He was a complete blast all weekend. My surprise with him was his Jumpers runs. He dropped a bar in each—which is unusual for him. He also broke his startline(!) on Saturday which was another rarity. All of this I am going to chalk up to baby dog excitement so I’m not losing any sleep over it. He was a fast and furious freight train and man does he love his agility. He’s always screamed while he sees me walking the course, but this weekend he had a special intensity to it. He knows now its finally HIS turn to join the party and he wants to GO. NOW. He also tried to nose his way under the fencing while we were waiting for our turn in Jumpers. This dog cracks me up and I fall in love with him a but more each day.

His Standard runs were both good and we Qed. Sunday was much prettier than Saturday, but both times my biggest hangup was not getting to the chute (super short I am guessing for Novice?) before him and him blasting through it at 100MPH and me lagging, causing him to spin on the backside. Something to learn how to handle better… He only missed one Aframe all weekend and his DWs were very good—YAY. We also Q’ed in FAST on Saturday and he got his first ribbon, 4th. Man the 20″ class is competitive, even at Novice.

One funny side note—I lost my voice on Friday due to a nasty cold/flu thing thats been hanging on since early last week. I was worried about not being able to talk to them, but it seems to have worked out just fine. I was able to make noise when it really counted but I was definitely not overly chatty. Turns out your voice really is one of the least-important cues. Heh.

Two more things from this weekend (there were/are a lot more but I’m trying not to overdo it); I met a few new people who I really enjoyed. I ended up sitting off on my own like I usually do at trials and camped out next to some really lovely people. All very very nice, and all very good handlers with very different dogs. I really enjoyed meeting them and they all asked me when/where I was trialing next and said they’d look for me there, so I must not have been that bad to sit next to either. 🙂

Lastly, the “training” thing. This got under my skin a bit, not sure why. I was walking the course with someone I know quite well and whom I have a lot of conversations with about handling etc. We were walking Novice, and there was a particularly nasty entrance to the teeter, especially for a young, fast dog. Instead of the obvious pull, I chose to lead out from the table and do a recall to heel over a jump to then shape the turn to the teeter to avoid any carnage. Then I was on the far side and just had to run straight down the line to the finish. My friend said, “Well you’ll never get ahead there after the teeter unless you have a stopped contact.” I said, “Well I do, so not an issue.” Friend said, “Well that’s lucky.” I looked at them, and said (probably a bit peevishly), “No, that’s training.” Maybe it was just me feeling some heat from said friend but something about that ticked me off. I know my dog is fast. So I try, to the best of my ability, to train behaviors that I can work with. Why on earth would I train a running teeter on a dog that is 10x as fast as I am? I dunno, cant put my finger on it. Or maybe I’m just being a bit of a snot. Either way… 🙂 Luck was obviously part of the equation this weekend, but not in that instance. Some things we can control, some we cant–where I can control them I will. And if I actually can’t, then I’ll let it go.

Thrilled with my dogs. Didnt get all the runs on video but quite a few of them, will post them as soon as I can.

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