Monthly Archives: June 2011

Volunteering at Trials

I think everyone should volunteer at agility trials. Why? Because it’s a great way to learn more about the sport.

When I scribe, I learn how the judge thinks, what faults are scored, and how judging works.

When I leash run, I learn to observe how the dog behaves at the start of the run–while waiting to start–and at the end, when finishing his run.

When I bar set, I notice that some bars come down more than others, and I’m challenged to understand why. Looking at just the three or four bars that are “my job”, I learn how different handlers face that particular challenge–and I figure out the smoothest possible line. And I get to do it without distractions!

When helping course-build, I am deeply aware of how obstacles relate to each other. The angles, the distances, the sequences are crystal clear.

Volunteering focuses the attention on one job within the realm of agility. You can sit and watch, and think you’re really looking at something, but when it’s YOUR JOB, you learn more and do more.

Volunteering has another advantage too: trials wouldn’t be possible without volunteers. It’s just awfully nice that it’s really to your advantage to volunteer.

Distance traveled

I used a GPS tracking program to measure how much I walked today at the RAT NADAC trial. Crated out of my car (about 100 yards from the ring); did 5 runs; leash-ran one class. Total: 7.73 miles at average speed of 3.5 mph, with a peak speed of 7.5 mph. 2 hours 15 minutes of walking; 6 hours 40 minutes stopped.

(Dancer got two Qs in Elite regular this weekend and one in Elite Hoopers.)

Getting obsessed with puppy training

I have been reading all manner of puppy training books. Sue Ailsby’s Levels (how to order the book). Susan Garrett’s various books and DVDs (most of them listed on my Books page). Ian Dunbar. Jean Donaldson. Intriguingly, neither Garrett nor Ailsby start with house training. I think the assumption is that, if you’re trying to train seriously, you understand house training. In fact, house training is not something I’m worried about, so apparently they’re right.

Anyway, I love Ailsby’s step-by-step approach to training. She is an excellent bricklayer. She lays down brick after brick after brick, created an approach that is strong and complete. She starts with what she calls “zen”–which is all about helping the dog learn to control herself (himself). Susan Garrett has her own step-by-step approach, a much higher energy approach that calls for playing all kinds of games with the dogs, many of which involve sprinting away from the dog so she will chase you. She starts with “itsyerchoice” (grammar and spelling hers, not mine)–which is all about helping the dog learn to control herself. Sharon Nelson starts with hand feeding and a ten-step program of hand-feeding that is all about helping the dog learn to control herself.

Hmmm. Three great trainers. They start with hand feeding. So do Donaldson and Dunbar (once you get past the two or three chapters on house training). (I wonder if Milan uses hand feeding. Oh well, not going to find out.)

So looking at all these methods of hand feeding as a way to start: what do they have in common? It’s all about teaching the dog to control herself in the presence of food, in the presence of people, teaching the dog to make good choices (“bite me, and the food goes away”; “jump on me, and the food goes away”; “sit nicely… and the food gets placed in front of you!) and keep on working with you (“hmm, what else makes food arrive?”).


Finally home after a trial, a trip to Kansas, and another trial. I’m exhausted. I had a good time with my sister, however, and enjoyed seeing my brother and his wife and one of my nephews.

Dancer has been doing very well indeed in NADAC, including one of the most amusing two-on-two-off contacts ever on Saturday…. She stopped just above the yellow–because I’d stopped–and then dropped off the side in a very nice stretched-out contact. The judge laughed; I laughed; spectators laughed. But the fact is, she gave me great contacts this weekend. We took second in one round of Elite regular today–and first in the other. I should add that she was the only 20+ dog to Q in both rounds. People thought they were tough courses with tight call-offs; I thought there was plenty of room if I cued the turn well, and I would say that Dancer agreed. She finished her Elite Regular title today.

She Q’d only in Jumpers yesterday, but we were both re-syncing after my five days away, and parts of every single run were great–just not the whole run. Even in the Jumpers run, I felt she could have done better (she was fifth–how embarrassing!).

Dancer got her first ever Q in Elite Chances today, including a TWENTY-foot distance line parallel to the dogwalk.

I was very pleased yesterday with Elly, who got her third Q (ever) in Novice Touch-N-Go and now has her NADAC Novice Versatility Award. To my knowledge, only about fifteen standard poodles have gotten the award (Dancer of course is one of them). As I said to a friend (who knows Elly well), for Elly, the Novice Versatility Award is like a MACH for any other dog, given her challenges.

Official results:
Dancer: Elite Jumpers: 147 yards, 30.67 sec, SCT: 30.95 sec (5th)
Elite Regular 1: 183 yards, 45.37 sec, SCT: 48.8 sec (2nd)
Elite Regular 2: 183 yards, 47.11 sec, SCT: 48.8 sec (1st)
Chances: Q

Elly: Touch N Go: 169 yards, 41.61 sec, SCT: 52 sec (2nd)