Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Quite the Ride!!

Well this past weekend, we attended the Agility Association of Canada Ontario Regional Championship. It was the third time we have participated in Regionals but this time they were right here in Ottawa.

The weather didn't cooperate, it was cold, windy and rainy all weekend; it seemed more like March than the end of May. But luckily we did have some dry spells and most of our runs coincided with the somewhat nicer weather.

Tucker again was quite consistent. He got the first Gamble and was clear on both of his Jumpers runs but he was very slow in both of his Standard runs. In the second Standard, he was 16 seconds over time. In his second Gamble event, he only got 14 points in the opening. I certainly couldn't use the excuse that it was too hot for him this weekend. Maybe I'll have to up the value of his treats again. Overall, he didn't do as well as he has in the past, he was 6th in his height class but there were only eight dogs. Last year, he also placed 6th overall but there were 15 dogs. Anyway, he qualified for Nationals with 415 points.

The real excitement this weekend came from my little Ceilidh. We finished the day Saturday with only 155 points so while it was still mathematically possible to qualify I thought that it was very unlikely. My goal for Ceilidh going into Regionals was to score better than we had done the previous year and I tried to keep focused on that. Our first event on Sunday was the second Standard. The run went beautifully, it moved mainly to the right and I could do off side weaves which Ceilidh prefers. We approached the last contact obstacle, the teeter, and I held my breathe as I told Ceilidh to "spot"; she got it and then all that was left was just three jumps. A clear round and under time, the first Masters Standard run that Ceilidh has ever run clean in a trial. With that she racked up 103 points and we now had a fair chance of qualifying. The next run was Jumpers run which we completed getting only five faults and accumulated another 70 points. That left us needing only 22 points to qualify going into the last event, a Gamble. I planned a nice safe course for Ceilidh and she continued to get her contacts for me and accumulated 23 points in the opening. The video is of the second Jumper's run, again it was made for Ceilidh, wide open and moving mainly to the right. Thanks to Lisa Routhier for videoing a number of my runs, it is fun to actually see them from a different perspective.


Ceilidh qualified for Nationals with 351.37 points, the score needed is 350. But the best part of the weekend was that she performed so well. She got all of her contacts and stayed in weaves in her Standards even getting the very difficult entry from the teeter to the weaves in the first Standard. And although her first clean Master Standard did not earn her a "Q", she did come home with a 7th place ribbon in that event for 10" Specials.

The weekend was very memorable and to paraphrase the Regionals motto, I really "enjoyed the ride". Now we have some training to do to get ready for Nationals.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bronze Award of Merit

At our last trial at Dream Fields on 18 April, Tucker got the last qualifying score he needed for his Bronze Award of Merit. That award is given for 10 Standard qualifying scores and a total of 25 qualifying scores in the Games events. Tucker already had his Games qualifying scores and needed just one Standard for the award. He also was awarded his Bronze Expert Standard, a new award just implemented by the AAC this year. Ten qualifying scores in any event gives you the Bronze expert award in that event. Three Bronze expert awards gives you a Bronze Versatility award. I'm hoping we can get the Versatility award this year. I'll upload a video of Tucker's Standard run soon.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Boom and Bust

The agility season has started off as both boom and bust. Tucker now has nine qualifying scores in 9 runs, the last Q thanks to his team partner Walter. Ceilidh, on the other hand is zero for 10, she has moments of brilliance (well, at least in my eyes) but we just can't keep it together for the whole run. It will be nice to be able to get my agility equipment out of the shed so we can practice weaves and contacts. I hope we will be able to do that soon. Not if I lived in Moncton, where today on Easter Sunday, we are having a spring snow storm. We have a trial the day after I get back home, I hope Ceilidh isn't too off the wall. Tucker should run well after having a week off.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Great Expectations

Well, the 2009 agility season has started off with a bang. We began practicing at Red Gate arena two weeks ago, the first real practices we have had all winter. I was very tired after the practice but Tucker and Ceilidh seemed quite excited.

Then last weekend we had out first trial, I was nervous and, of course, Ceilidh picked up on that and got quite wild over the weekend. She did make all of her contacts but weaves were another story, she popped twice at the tenth pole and once she popped halfway through the weaves. She also refused the teeter once. She did have a good Masters Jumpers but I didn't give her a very good entry to the tunnel and she went by the tunnel mouth for an off-course. Tucker, however had a spectacular weekend, five runs and five qualifying scores. The hiatus over the winter was just what he needed. We even got a qualifying score in Snooker, which is usually hard for us to achieve with only 55 seconds.

We had another practice on Wednesday evening and Tucker's little streak continued. He did the Standard course twice without a fault and got all of the mini gambles and even the main gamble we practiced with only a little help from me. Even Ceilidh had a clear round on a Masters course, a first for her. She is so sensitive to my body position and timing that there is always something that throws her off course.

We have another trial tomorrow. I still have as my goal for Ceilidh to get a Masters Q in any event other than Jumpers and now with the practice we had on Wednesday I know that is achievable. A Masters Jumpers would be nice too as that would be her Expert Bronze Jumpers title. My goal for Tucker has changed somewhat, we now are working toward his Bronze Lifetime award, we need two Standard qualifying scores and two Games qualifying scores. I hope that I don't get my expectations too high after Tucker's performance at Morning Star and a good practice by both of them.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Early Takeoff Syndrome

I found an article on Linda Mecklenburg's website Awesome Paws that talks about what she refers to as Early Takeoff Syndrome. What got my attention is that she thinks it is a problem with depth perception which is something I have always said I thought was the problem with Ceilidh. Ceilidh jumps the tire, doubles, and spreads usually without too much hesitation but with single jumps especially with the ones with small metal uprights, she hesitates or stutter steps. At 16", her Regular jump height, she would go around and then back jump as if she had to figure out exactly where the bar was. She never did that with winged jumps, doubles, spreads, or tires which led me to believe that those types of jumps have more cues about the depth of the jump. Ceilidh also doesn't like toys (or anything for that matter) thrown in her direction. She also doesn't like it when I take a jacket off over her head. And in poor light, she has trouble jumping off a bed or going down stairs when she is not familiar with them. All of these things indicate she has some problem with her eyes so I had her eyes tested to ensure that PRA was not present. There was no indication of retinal deterioration so I am left believing that it is, in fact, a depth perception problem.

Below is an excerpt from the article on Linda Mecklenburg's web site, there is also a short video clip on the web site of a border collie displaying the hesitation or stuttering just before the jump.

Early Takeoff Syndrome

"Early takeoff syndrome describes a jumping problem seen in some agility dogs where they do just that: they take off too early for the jumps. The syndrome ranges from a subtle hitch on the dog’s final stride to severe stuttering. The dog typically inappropriately chooses to shorten its last stride before takeoff. This results in the highest point of the dog’s jumping arc peaking before the bar and the dog is on the descent phase of the arc by the time it actually clears the hurdle. This should not be confused with simply a long takeoff distance which, if balanced with an equally long landing distance, simply means the dog is jumping with a flat jumping trajectory.

Early presentation of this problem can be very subtle and takes close observation. The faster the dog is, the more likely it is to be apparent because the shortening of the last stride results in a more noticeable change in the dog’s speed. Obstacles with components that extend forward of the jumping element, such as the tire and triple, may cause more problems. Many affected dogs will also shorten their last stride on the approach to the A-frame and/or table. For some dogs, the problem will increase with changes in the lighting on the course.


If a dog begins to show changes in his jumping habits, the very first step is to rule out any physical problems that might account for it. With ETS, the dogs are physically sound. There seem to be certain breeds of dog and certain lines within those breeds that may be affected. This includes some of the breeds that are known for jumping problems but Shelties and Border Collies can also be affected. I do not know the cause of this problem. I do not believe it is a training issue although as I said a lack of confidence makes the problem worse. It appears to be a problem with vision and/or the dog’s perception of where the bar is in space. Many dogs with this problem have had normal cerf exams and some have even been tested for near and farsightedness (with variable results). To my knowledge, there is no test for depth perception in dogs at this time. I’m hoping with increased awareness and demand from agility competitors perhaps that will change, so that a definitive cause for this syndrome can be identified and perhaps steps taken toward treatment and prevention. "

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ceilidh Run Away

At the same time as I did Tucker's video, I did one for Ceilidh. For her video, I chose the song Run Runaway by Great Big Sea. It's funny I had listened to that song many many times but it wasn't until I did the video that I actually heard the lyrics, " I like black and white, dream in black and white", quite a good choice of music for my little Bi-Black sheltie. I can't wait for the agility season to start and do more videos, highlights and perhaps a blooper reel.

Tucker gets Around

I bought a new camera last year and it takes pretty good videos. I had some friends video a few of my runs at Morning Star in November. I also learned how to make videos with Windows Movie Maker adding music and credits to the video, thanks to Lisa. Here is one of Tucker's runs to the music of the Beach Boys, I Get Around. Very appropriate for Tucker as he is one laid back little dude.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Goals and Desires

Well, we begin trialling next month and I have a few goals for the upcoming year. The number one goal is, of course, to just enjoy doing agility with Ceilidh and Tucker. But we do have a few objectives that we would like to attain this year if all goes well. For Tucker, I'd like to get his Expert Bronze in Jumpers, Gamblers, Standard for his Bronze Versatility title. I'd also like to qualify for and place in Nationals in his height class. All of these goals are attainable for him since he is such a consistent dog. I hope the agility vacation we have taken over the winter will give him a little burst of energy.

For Ceilidh, my goals would be to get a Masters Q in any other event but Jumpers. I have the feeling once we get one the flood gates will open; I hope I am right about this. I would like to get one more Masters Jumpers Q as well which would give her the Expert Bronze title. I hope that this year she will also qualify for Nationals. It would be nice to compete at Nationals with her before she is a Veteran dog, although she is not showing any signs of slowing down yet so I may just leave her in Specials even after she turns seven.

But I guess we'll see soon how the season goes. Our first trial is at Morning Star in Kingston, Ontario, the weekend of 14/15 March. Hope we see you there!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2008 - The Year in Review

Well I haven't been very faithful in updating this blog. But here goes, the agility year in review. In May 2008, at Morning Star in Kingston, Tucker got his final Masters Gamblers for his Veterans Agility Trial Champion title. The Gamble was designed by Mike Bita and judged by Laurie Keith. It was 12 weaves with a flip out to a jump then out to a tunnel, finishing with another jump, the last three obstacles were layered with the weaves. I knew Tucker could do that gamble going into it, the question was would he pop the weaves. I held my breathe as he went in the weaves until the last pole was done. It was really exciting to get his VATChC since when I started trialling with Tucker I thought we would have difficulties even getting his SADC. Ceilidh who started trialling a year after Tucker actually got her SADC the day before him. Tucker always has been a good gamble dog as I can see him thinking about what I want him to do. Ceilidh was also entered in this gamble run; it was her first Masters Gamble and she actually got it but ran out of time heading for the last jump.
Tucker also qualified at Regionals to go to Nationals with four clean runs in Standards and Jumpers. He placed in every event and was 6th overall at Regionals amongst 6" Veterans. Ceilidh did much better this year at Regionals, she had 279 points up from 175 the year before. She had one very good Jumpers run but in her second Jumpers run, she seemed to be spooked by a dark purple tunnel. Luckily, you can only incur one refusal and one off course per obstacle but those 40 faults plus all the time faults gave us zero points for the run.
Ceilidh still had difficulties this past year popping weaves and missing contacts but we managed to get both her Advanced Standard title in Jul at The Agility Connection in Kingston and her Advanced Games Title at Hilltop in Williamstown in August. The Advanced Team run at Hilltop that gave us her Games title was just beautiful, both she and her partner had clean and extremely fast runs. I think we were more 20 seconds faster than the allotted course time. Ceilidh ran the first half of the course and was doing her happy dance and so wouldn't come into the box; not thinking I grabbed her and signalled my partner to go, afterwards the judge told me he had to award 5 faults because I touched Ceilidh outside the box. Thankfully, the time plus faults rule had been brought in for team and we still had a qualifying score. Ceilidh also ran a second Advanced Team at that trial and had another clean run and qualifying score which was her partner's Advanced Games title. Tucker and Ceilidh's last event at the Hilltop trial was a Masters Jumpers which they both ran clean, each getting a qualifying score. It was a great but exhausting way to end the trial as I ran those two Jumpers runs with only one dog between them. My legs were giving out by the last three jumps.
No review of the year would be complete without some news of how we did at Nationals. My goal with Tucker was to get one main Gamble. The first Gamble had no weaves or contacts so I thought it would be our best shot at getting a Gamble but it was not to be. I got Tucker out to the right tunnel mouth but couldn't keep him out to the third obstacle a jump. I was certain that the second Gamble would have either the teeter or weaves which would make it extremely difficult for us to get but it didn't, it had the A-frame. I got Tucker out over the first two jumps and put him in good position for the frame, then he scared me by just standing there and looking at the frame, then the little brain went into gear and I could see him say "Oh yeah, frame!" He did the frame and the next two jumps and was the first dog (but not the last) to actually get the Gamble in our group and he placed 8th in that event. Tucker also had four clean runs in the Jumpers and Standards runs and placed 15th overall out of 29 x 6" Veterans.
I had planned to semi-retire Tucker this year as I thought the Lifetime Achievement awards would be difficult to attain. However, with the addition of the Expert and Versatility titles, I think Tucker has a good chance for those titles. He has 6 qualifying scores in Team, Standard and Jumpers so getting four more in each shouldn't be too hard.
I'm hoping that 2009 will see good things for Ceilidh as well. I tried training in the ring with her the last time she missed a contact and she calmed right down and got back on the teeter and hit her spot. So hopefully, a Master Standard qualifying score will be in the cards for 2009. She is only one qualifying score from a Bronze Expert Masters Jumpers, her favourite event.