So I got suckered into a USDAA agility trial this past weekend, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Showcase at that. Big trial. Three rings. Steve’s never run in a trial with more than one ring before. Steve’s never played USDAA before. But hey. Fine.
We entered Gamblers, Standard, and Jumpers. I didn’t really know the rules of USDAA at all, what qualifies, what doesn’t. How to, you know, play Gamblers. I was afraid Steve was going to be sky freaking high with all of the chaos of a big three-ring trial. And he was loud and whiney in his crate, but other than that, he did really well.
I ran him in Performance 1, which meant that he jumped 22″ instead of the 26″ he’d have to jump in their regular “Championship” program. I felt no need to jump him at 26″. He jumps well at 22″, and while he’s faster and I have less time to think, he is also better able to save my bacon when I am late giving him information.
Friday went really well. He was the only dog to Qualify in P1 Gamblers, which is a choose your own adventure game at the beginning with a distance challenge at the end on the opposite side of a line that the handler can’t cross.
In standard, he did not qualify because he missed his a-frame contact, but everything else went smoothly. He was listening. He was high and he wanted to take some off-course obstacles, but I was able to call him off and redirect him every time.
His jumpers run was absolutely beautiful with the exception of he started himself before I released him, so he ended up on the far side of the first jump before I did. He also had one refusal where he ran around a jump, but I was able to call him back and restart him, and everything else was clean. Qualified and took first place in that, too.
This is my dog that I took out of classes and was going to quit agility with altogether because he’d knock or crash 75% of jumps. Yes, that dog. I think he took one bar in his first Gamblers class and that was it all weekend.
Saturday we just ran Gamblers and Standard. Gamblers was wonderful again. My plan worked beautifully to get me to the right place when the buzzer went off, and again we got the gamble, even though it was pretty hard for a baby dog. He didn’t do it the way I had planned for him to do it, but we got it. Again, the only Qualifying dog in P1 Gamblers.
His standard run was nothing to write home about. We had some moments of poor communication which caused an off-course tunnel and an off-course jump. Of course, he’d missed his dogwalk contact on the third obstacle, so it didn’t much matter by then. But he wasn’t being wild, I was just slow and discombobulated and things didn’t quite work out the way I’d intended.
I am really really proud of my guy. He did far better than I hoped. He got both his tables in Standard without any question. No springboarding and no discussion about downing. That is HUGE. I got a couple lead-outs. He didn’t actually STAY on any of his contacts, but he got most of them. And he kept his bars up, which is a good indication of his frame of mind– that he wasn’t too wild to think.
He did have a moment in his first run when he noticed that there was a dog in the ring next to him also running agility and his face went OMG DOG but then he switched his brain back to what he was doing and that was the last he bothered with it. That was a big relief for me. I think that’s a benefit of flyball- he’s used to working with a dog running right next to him. But agility is different for him. Agility requires so much more thinking than flyball.
So here’s his second Gamblers leg. For those who don’t know the game, all the obstacles have different point values (in this case, jumps are 1, tunnels and tire are 3, dogwalk/teeter/weaves are 5, and a-frame is 7) and you need to rack up at least 21 points in the 30 second opening. When the buzzer goes off, you have to go to the numbered gamble and complete those obstacles in order without the handler crossing the line marked on the ground. The gamble was worth 20 points. Succeed at both parts, and you Qualify. Steve had 52 points in this run.