Friday, November 23, 2012

Astro's Second AKC Agility Trial

Astro's Novice Standard Agility title ribbon.  Our first AKC agility title.  He's such a cutie.
Astro and I went to the Superstition Kennel Club agility trial the weekend of November 10 and 11.  We were entered in Standard and Jumpers both days.  The trial was in Tempe, AZ.  The weather was cool that weekend and I actually had to wear a sweatshirt all day.  This made for a spunky puppy for our early morning runs.  Unfortunately I don't have any pictures from the trial.  Astro did a great job though and it was a really fun weekend.

Always givin' kisses.
On Sunday we had our third qualifying run in Standard and completed our Novice Standard Agility title.  It was a really nice run.  Our only mistake was that Astro went past the Table before he hopped up, a 5 point deduction.  He also had an Astro moment when all of a sudden he thought he might go say "Hi" to a dog that was sitting calmly on the other side of the ring fence.  Luckily it was only a short distance and he came right back. 

Nice Photobomb Zephyr!  Enlarge photo for the full effect.  :-)
I never thought that we would finish a novice title in only two trials.  I'm so happy with how well Astro is doing, especially with staying focused on me and agility in new locations.  I know we still to to improve in many areas, but I think we can do it.

We also had our first qualifying run in Jumpers with Weaves on Saturday.  I was really happy with this as Jumpers has been a little harder for us.  It was a fun run.  I'm not sure if I'll move us up to the Standard Open class in our next trial.  We will still be in novice for everything else and that can cause ring time conflicts, which would cause some unneeded stress.  I also wouldn't mind having some time for use to gain confidence and smooth things out a bit more before moving up.

"That's what you get for going to trials and taking pictures without me!"
In my defense of "Poor Zephyr" in his Photobomb, I actually intended to take ribbon pictures with both Zephyr and Astro as I'm convinced that Zephyr gives Astro private training while I'm at work each day.  ;-)  However, they could not maintain any self control and bounced around wrestling and generally behaved like the little beasties that they are, preventing any decent photo's from being taken.  :-)  So, Zephyr had to go into the pool area.  In typical Zephyr fashion he couldn't let us forget about him.  But, who would want to?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Astro's First AKC Agility Trial

Astro and I were in our first AKC agility trial the weekend of October 27.  I'm happy to report that it was fabulous!  :-)  It's still a little hard for me to believe that we have trained and learned enough and are doing well enough to be able to enter a trial.  When you are new to something it's hard to judge where you are with your skills, etc.  On both Saturday and Sunday we were entered in Standard and Jumpers with Weaves runs.  Astro and I Q'd (qualified) in both of our Standard runs and we were close on our Sunday Jumpers run.  WooHoo!!

These pictures are from our Standard run on Saturday and were taken by Bruce McClellan.
The trial was in Phoenix and as I suspect it was a very warm weekend with temperatures in the upper 80's.  We were equipped with an EZ-up, shade cloths, fan, cool bed, a sponge and plenty of water to deal with the heat.  I was surprised at how well Astro did with the heat.  He doesn't like heat and direct sun.  He gets tired very quickly and doesn't want to run.  He was slower on our runs, but had plenty of energy to run happy.

I was so happy with how well Astro did with the new trial environment.  This was our biggest trial and there were a lot of new things for both of us to deal with.  Astro can get easily distracted, especially in new locations.  He can also get the zoomies, which can sometimes be from dogs needing to release energy and stress they feel from their handler and/or the situation.  Astro had to deal with all of those things and did a great job.  I think the heat may have also helped in preventing zoomies.

Through the weekend he stayed interested in treats and even played at the trial.  Sometimes when we first get to a new location and Astro's really excited he's not interested in treats until we've walked around and he feels more comfortable.  And, if I'm pretty nervous and he picks up on it the first thing that happens is he won't play as easily.  When I notice this happening it's my signal to chill out and get on the ground and play with him.  It really helps us both feel more relaxed and connected.

"Mom, please don't goose me at a time like this!"
To say I was a little nervous on Saturday would be an understatement.  But, I held it together enough so that Astro was still happy and we had a good time.  My goals for the trial were to do our best, keep Astro happy and with me, have fun, and to trust all our training.  It was a very very proud moment when I walked into the ring with Astro for our first run.

I have to admit that our runs on Saturday were not my smoothest because I was nervous.  You'll see this in the videos below.  :-)  My voice was at least 10 times higher than normal and just a tad bit panicked sounding.  I also didn't do my best with timing of cues and my positioning.  Astro did really well ignoring these things as best he could.

Love that tail!
We came close to not qualifying on our first Standard run and I think my nerves were to blame for the trouble.  Astro missed the weave entrance after coming out of the chute and we didn't get them until the third try.  He doesn't miss weave entrances very often and we've never had to try more than twice before he got them.  You can try three times and still qualify.  I knew we were doing well and close to the end of the run.  So when he missed the weaves I became even more nervous about getting him back to me and getting the weaves.  He almost took the chute again and I think that was because of my screeching, poor body position, and generally confusing the poor boy.  I'm sure I made a lot of mistakes there.  But, we managed to pull it together.  

Here I come!

Flying through the end of Astro's first Standard run.  We did it!
 I was so happy after our first run.  Despite the weave bump we had done well and, unless there was an error I didn't know about, I thought we had qualified.  After your run you pick up a score sheet to see how you did.  When I saw it and confirmed that we had qualified I had to hold back a few tears.  It was such a great feeling to have all of our hard work succeed and to be able to run a course as a team with Astro.  A blurry video of our run is below.

Asrto's first Standard run and first AKC qualifying run.

Alas, I think I need one of the agility t'shirts that says "We may not always Q, but we're entertaining".  Our first Jumpers run was rough.  Astro wasn't able to get the weaves.  In looking at the video I don't think I was bringing him to a good entry point, I was leaning way over, he seemed a little distracted, and I'm sure he was still picking up on my nervousness.  Jumpers has always been a little harder for us too.  But, Astro didn't disappoint in the cute and entertaining category when he decided he needed to share the love and make-out with the jump setter.  For your entertainment I offer the video below.  ;-)

First Jumpers with Weaves run, Saturday.

I'm happy to say that I was much less nervous on Sunday and our runs were a lot better.  Astro Qualified in Standard again.  Our only bump was that he broke his start line stay while I was leading out.  I wanted to release him as I was just past the white jump.  He released himself before I got there and I was late with my front cross so he passed me.  I was really happy that he didn't take other obstacles and came right back.  Again, video below.  This ones not blurry, but it's a little far away because my parents were taking the video and I told them they had to stand back in case the happy boy wanted to go say Hi to his grandparents. 

Astro's second Standard run and Q.

I was really happy with this run.  I was still feeling a little panicky, but I thought it was much smoother.  I was really happy that we were able to smooth out our turns throughout the run.  It's hard to see but there was a turn of about 90 degrees from the jump after the table and into the weaves (which are behind the A-frame and he got the first try, yay!).  I knew that if I sent Astro straight over the jump he would land past the weaves and have to make an awkward turn to come back and get in line for the weaves.  In fact I saw many dogs do that while waiting for our turn.  Astro is a big boy, 29.5 inches at the shoulder, and I want things to be as safe and smooth as possible for him.  While walking the course I planned to try and swing him out a bit on the way to the jump so he could take it an angle and not have such an abrupt turn.  And, YeeHaw, it worked!

Our Jumpers run was also much better on Sunday.  Again he got the weaves on the first try.  Our only mistake was that I started a rear cross before he was far enough ahead of me and pushed him out and around a jump.  That's okay if you can call them back and continue on course.  But, when I called him back I didn't stay far enough to the side of the jump and he back jumped it which caused us to have an off course.  A bad habit of mine that I need to work on.  Otherwise it was a great run and I was so happy that we improved from Saturday.

We were the last team of the trial to run.  I was just as happy and proud as we took the last jump as when we first walked into the ring on Saturday.  It was an excellent weekend!