Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Kili - PACE trial

Kili also attended the PACE trial and ran very well, though we continue to struggle with what just generally seems to be bad luck! On this weekend most of our errors were handler induced, but I was still really happy with my handling. I felt like I made really great decisions for our team and executed some of the hardest stuff very well. Unfortunately we would then have a small bobble or oversight (I called her too hard in one spot and cause her to take the wrong end of the tunnel, I got tongue tied and couldn't get "weave" out of my mouth quick enough, I didn't think I needed to call her in the tunnel and got an off course jump, etc) that was generally my fault.

Kili is not quite as "honest" as Kenna is. An honest dog is one that generally always looks to her handler for direction, rather than just taking what she thinks is correct and checking later. Coming out of a blind obstacle like the tunnel, Kenna generally looks to see where I am and what I am cuing next... whereas Kili will just launch over whatever is in front of her unless I call for her attention. The benefit of an honest dog is that you sometimes don't see every trap while you're walking the course. An honest dog will either just follow you regardless, or at least give you a split second to see that they are looking at a different option on course. With a dog like Kili, if you don't foresee the trap... it's usually too late by the time you realize she's seen something else!

Monday, September 11, 2017

18 months - AAC debut

Kenna turned 18 months old on Friday and weighed in at 27 kg. She had her AAC debut the very next day and I was very pleased with how it went. Overall she was fast and driven, but also focused and controlled.

We started with just a single run on Saturday in Jumpers. She rattled a couple bars, but left them all up, and finished the course clean in a little over 15 seconds... earning herself her first Q and also first place in the entire Starters class.

On Sunday Kenna got to run 3 times. She earned her very first Standard Q-  that first Q took Kili over a year to achieve and Kenna gets it her first try... go figure! She had a few problems with the weave poles, but she was very high (translation: excited, driven, over the top) and this club's weaves aren't perfectly straight which you can actually see in the video. Kili had a hard time with these weave poles  too when she was a novice dog. I was really proud of Kenna for getting through them and it's good for the dogs to see weaves that aren't perfectly straight so that it just becomes another potential problem that you have proofed against. I was happy with her contacts as she hit her 2-on-2-off positions quickly and showed good understanding and control - you can see her begin to release off the A-frame as I'm making the blind cross in front of her, but she remembers and steps back on her own to wait for the release word.

Her second Jumpers run was beautiful, but unfortunately she knocked a bar, and I think that threw her off stride so that she missed the next jump. I was really happy with the way she quickly called off the tunnel though and came back to take the missed jump.

Her final run wasn't videoed but we had a little teaching moment. She was the very last dog of the day and it had been a long day for a young dog! She had a bit of puppy brain and broke her start line, so we ended up spending all of our time working a start line. It's part of transitioning a young dog from training to trialing - they have to learn that the rules still apply in competition! It was a valuable lesson and I'm hoping she remembers it next weekend for her CKC debut!

Overall, I was so happy with this weekend and so excited to see what the future holds for us as a team.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

16 months - Official UKI Debut

A few weeks ago Kenna had her official UKI trial debut. UKI allows dogs to compete in 2 events, Nursery Agility and Speedstakes, starting at the age of 15 months. I don't think Q's in Nursery count for anything, but Speedstakes does. No Q's for Kenna, just a couple of little mistakes, but I was very happy with how she ran. She was fast, focused, and very responsive. She is such a good little puppy for just 16 months old! I can't wait for September when she gets to start AAC and CKC!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Regionals 2017

Kili and I participated in the 2017 AAC Alberta/Northwest Territories Regionals in June. You will remember that last year at her very first Regionals she blew me away and placed 3rd. This year we stepped it up a notch... literally! Right into second place!

We started with warm up day on Thursday. This is when we all arrive and get our tents set up. This year the competition was in Edmonton, so we didn't have to drive or stay at a hotel which was nice. You can also do warm up runs where you just get to do whatever you want with the equipment, and can use a toy reward. And there's also 2 rounds of Steeplechase. The Steeplechase runs are normal AAC sanctioned runs, so you can count them towards your titles if you Q. Kili Q'd both of her rounds, finishing her Master Steeplechase title (requires 10 Q's) and was also one of the fastest combined times so she qualified for the Steeplechase final on Sunday afternoon. Keep an eye out for the bird that made an appearance in our first Steeplechase! That was exciting... but not for me! The Steeplechase final was the very last event to be run on Sunday, and everyone (human and dogs) was exhausted. Poor Kili was SO tired. It was her 10th run over 4 hot days and she was not really on the ball. However, she gave me everything she had left and she finished third!

I was really happy with how we ran overall. We had some missteps, and Kili was Kili, which is always interesting, but I felt like we were really on as a team for pretty much the entire weekend. She was listening and I was hopefully being a good handler for her. I struggled a bit this year with expectations. Last year was very stress free because I didn't expect us to do much except hopefully have some good runs... and she went and placed 3rd! I had anxiety about "what if we don't do as well this year?" and I found it affecting my enjoyment of the trial. I reminded myself that Kili has already proven herself, and no one really cares where she places, so neither should I. And although I had to give myself that pep talk before every run (I'm a competitive person, what can I say?), and I wasn't completely without nerves, it did help and I found myself much more free to enjoy myself. Side benefit: I run better when I'm not nervous!

One of my goals from last year was to do better in Gamble. I think we did achieve that goal, but I was still a bit disappointed as I think we could have done better. The first Gamble was our very first run of Regionals on Friday and she came out absolutely wild. When she's wild she can't hit weave pole entries. If she'd been a bit more settled, we definitely would have had that Gamble. Oh well. More stuff to work on!

Sadly, I made a last minute decision not to attend Nationals again this year, despite it being close by in BC. I am also playing competitive Ultimate Frisbee this year and I have several trips to attend for that, as well as a trip home. Nationals ended up being at the bottom of the totem pole and I decided to cut it to conserve money. Also, I found out that it was being run on sand, and Kili can be such a princess about sand. I was concerned about spending the time and money to go and her not running properly because of the footing. It is sad though, because this is the last year for Kili to be competitive as the jump heights are changing as of January 1st and she'll be competing against large border collies. I'm okay with that though. This dog has absolutely nothing left to prove to me. She has attained all of the career goals I set, and shattered any other expectations I had of her. I'm happy to just go along for the ride and see what else she plans to achieve!

Here's Kili with all of her swag! Where will I put it all!?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Kili - First UKI trial

Kili also attended the UKI trial last weekend. We struggled a bit with the footing in the barn. We do trial at this barn a lot and generally don't have any trouble, however sometimes the footing can be a bit softer and fluffier, and Kili absolutely hates this. I have no idea why, but it's very demotivating for her and she'll be slow, she'll pop her weave poles, etc. It is incredibly annoying, especially since there doesn't seem to be any way to train through it. I also find it particularly annoying because she LOVES to run in sand otherwise. If you take her to the beach she'll run like a demon. At our one practice barn that is VERY sandy, she'll muddle through practice, but then when we turn the dogs loose to run while we clean up... she will gallop around like mad. I have just come to accept that she is a princess and there's not much I can do about it except try to cheer lead her through, so you can hear me talking and yelling a lot more than usual in these runs.

All said though, she came away with 2 Q's (her Jumpers run wasn't videoed), so not a bad day.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

15 months - UKI (unofficial) debut

Recently the girls and I tried out UKI agility for the first time. We already play in two other organizations (AAC and CKC) and really didn't need a third one to split our time and money to. However, I decided to sign up because they allow dogs to compete at 15 months in select classes (Speedstakes and Nursery). Unfortunately, those classes weren't offered at this trial, but they ended up offering some unofficial fun runs which was just as good. Kenna is ready to trial, she's just not old enough, and fun runs and the younger start age in UKI are great for exposing her to running in a trial environment.

Trials are a different environment from what most of us train in. There are lots of other dogs around, it's loud, it's busy, and handlers are often a bit stressed or nervous. Some dogs find this environment scary, and others might find it overly exciting. And then there are dogs that become trial-wise: they learn that at trials there are no food or toys in the ring. Many young dogs struggle at first in trials because of these reasons... they get anxious, or they get too excited to focus properly, or they just realize that it might be more fun to run around on their own since you don't have anything for them anyway. Since Kenna has all the skills she needs to start trialing, I want to start exposing her to running in trials so she learns to focus and stay with me until the end and that her reward is coming... it's just delayed a bit!

Kenna did absolutely wonderful. I was so pleased with her. I alternated taking a toy in to reward her with, and making her run the entire thing and giving a jackpot outside of the ring. This keeps her guessing for now, and I'll slowly start to phase out the toy in the ring until we never have one. She was beautifully focused, she listened very well, her contacts were perfect, her weaves were perfect. I am just so happy with her and it was so much fun to get to show her off for the first time.

Here are her runs (or portions of her runs... my videographer was a little late on a few of them!)

The other reason I signed up for UKI is because it is the only organization our friend can run her dog in. Fisher is her almost 3 year old English Setter. He developed cancer on his leg as a 3 month old puppy. He was treated with radiation several times to control it, but just before his 2nd birthday last year, it stopped responding to treatment and the leg had to be amputated. Unfortunately, this meant he was no longer allowed to run in AAC or CKC agility. Fortunately, she found out that UKI leaves this matter to the discretion of the judges. Most of the judges around here have seen Fisher run before, and they know that he is safe and not in pain. Fisher just has so much fun doing agility. He is such a joy to watch on course, and we had a great time getting to hang out at a trial again. We are joking about attending World Team tryouts next year... just show up with a greyhound and a 3-legged dog. Can you say #underdogs ? It just goes to show that ANY dog can do agility. Go Fisher!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lure Coursing

A couple of weeks ago, I took the girls out to their very first lure coursing practice. I'm not that interested in lure coursing personally as I prefer sports that involve more training and partnership, however it is really cool to see sighthounds doing what they were bred for. And there is nothing more spectacular than a hound in full sprint.

Dogs are typically started on "straights" which is just the initial straight run from the start. This allows them to really get on the lure and stick with it. I also only wanted my girls running straights because I'm afraid they'll hurt themselves on the turns, though I'm assured that this isn't a common issue.

I was a little surprised to find that Kili had to be encouraged to chase the lure. She's probably the more prey drive of the two, and I thought she'd be really excited. As it turned out though, I don't think she really saw the plastic bags as prey (smart dog I guess!), but she did catch on after a bit of encouragement. Kenna was a rock star. She saw the bags and just went for them. At the end of the straight when the lure was dead I then recalled them back to me and was very pleased with how promptly and enthusiastically they came back.

The girls had fun, so I think I will take them to another practice sometime, but it will remain a side activity for us.

Check out the spit flying!