Lorrie’s Agility Dog Blog

Musings on Dogs, Agility, and Being an Instructor

A Fun Steeplechase Course

 Here is the Round 1 Steeplechase course from the 5/16 trial, designed by Scott Lovelis.  He was surprised that it “caught” so many people.  The number of eliminations (for off-courses) was quite a bit higher than he had anticipated, I think.

The first decision handlers had to make was how to perform the opening.  The three most prevalent plans were to do a lead-out pivot of some sort, to run with the dog on the left and rear cross the weaves, and to run with the dog on the left and front cross after the weaves.

The next section, 4 through 7, is where the majority of the off-courses occurred.  People coming into this section with the dog on the right had  a bit of an advantage in getting to this section, but not in staying on course, apparently.  Numerous dogs took the off-course tunnel after 4.  Handlers were trying to race their dogs from the weave poles to the landing side of 4 to do a front cross, which cued the dogs to continue going forward on the angled path straight into the tunnel.  People who kept their dogs on the right had to be able to run with them past the broad jump, or they ended up going off course to 17.

Steepplechase 5-17

The angled entrance to the weaves caused a few problems as well.  Handlers were consistently behind their dogs after the long 8-9-10 backstretch, so many dogs took the handler’s arc around 10 as a signal to move to the right, causing them to miss the entry.

One off-course that I didn’t see as I was walking the course was dogs taking the tunnel rather than the A-Frame at 13.  I believe that was the cause of an E for at least two dogs.

The last long loop, 14 through 20, was fairly straight-forward.  There were a few mistakes when handlers pushed too hard coming around the pinwheel and caused the dog to take the #9 tunnel, and a few dogs came back toward their owners at 8 rather than taking 17.


May 20, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Agility Trial, Course Strategy | , , , , | 1 Comment

USDAA Trial 5/16 & 5/17

We had an amazing weekend at the Pueblo USDAA trial hosted by ACAT.  After missing 80% of his contacts last weekend, Maxx hit all of his contacts this weekend except one dogwalk, including three A-Frames in Snooker.  He qualified in 9/11 runs and got second place in PSJ round 2.  I had start line stays too.  Best of all, he *finally* got that last SQ for his APD (performance ADCH)!  Now he has a championship title in all three venues we participate in.  We have had a hard time getting those SQs both because he is the smallest dog in the class and because we have a heck of a lot of (inter)nationally known competitors with dogs in that class. 

This was a “double games” trial, so we had double jumpers, gamblers, and snooker.  It made for long days, but was a lot of fun.  I had not trialed under either of the two judges, Dave Hanson or Scott Lovelis, and they are both very nice judges who created good, challenging but doable courses.

The snooker course from Saturday created by Dave Hanson is below.  It is the one Maxx got his SQ on.  We did two 7s and two 6s in the opening and made it all the way through the closing.  This was an interesting course for several reasons.  As you can see from the map, competitors could attempt three OR four reds.  Anyone with a relatively fast dog attempted four.  The #6 combo (A-Frame and jump) had to be taken in a straight line.  There were several people – like myself with Storm – that pulled the dog too far around the red by 6b and ended up with the dog taking 6b from the A-Frame side, which negated that sequence.  The #7 combo of three jumps was interesting as well, because although all the jumps were bi-directional, you couldn’t take it the same way twice in the opening.  So if you took the red in the bottom corner and then 7b, you could not take the red on the top left and start with 7b – it had to be 7a or 7c.

There were a lot of different plans, which was fun to see.  A few people started with the bottom right red and ran across the front of the ring to take 7 before taking the two reds on the left followed by 7s and then the red on the other side of the A-Frame and a 6.  Some of the more conservative people started with the bottom left red, followed by 7, the top left red followed by 5, the top right red followed by 3, and the bottom right red followed by 2, 3, or 6.  A lot of people had the same plan as I did with Maxx.  Bottom left red-7c-7b-7a-top left red-7b-7a-7c-bottom right red-6b-6a-top right red-6a-6b-closing for 57 points.  I don’t remember anyone successfully getting four sevens, but I didn’t watch every run.


Snooker 5-16-09 APD

 Aside from the common faults of knocked bars, refusals, and missed contacts, the fault I saw most frequently was taking the red jump after 5 in the closing.  I’m pretty sure they were closer as built than they look on paper, and a lot of dogs overshot 5.  The handlers were at a full run from 3 to 5, which indicated extension to the dogs.  Successful handlers either got close to 5 at the same time as their dog did and were able to direct the turn, and/or used deceleration to indicate to the dog that a change in direction was coming.  Another common fault was the dog taking the bottom left red after 7b.  Those were also closer as built, I believe, and handlers that couldn’t get a cross in or pull to 7c suffered the heartbreak of seing their dogs drifting out to the red instead of completing the last element of the combination.

I hope all of you had a wonderful weekend as well!

May 18, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Agility Trial, Course Strategy | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

USDAA Trial 5/9 & 5/10/09

We went to a USDAA trial this weekend.  It was a trial fraught with injuries, including my dog and myself, unfortunately.  On Storm’s first run Sunday, she slid coming off of a jump and pulled a muscle in her shoulder.  She was lame the rest of the day, although she appears to be better today.  While I was lifting her out of the car, I felt something give in my lower back.  Oh joy, I couldn’t move Monday.  I’m guessing she will heal faster than I will!

Our weekend was fairly successful.  Maxx qualified and got first place in both Gamblers and Jumpers.  He Qd in pairs and won $21 in Performance Speed Jumping (2nd place).  Storm didn’t play on Sunday because of her shoulder, but on Saturday she Qd in Grand Prix and Qd in Advanced Pairs with a 1st place.

The PIII/Masters Jumpers course was interesting.  It presented several handling challenges to solve and could be run a variety of ways.  The yardage on the course was 142, and SCT was 37 seconds.

Masters Jumpers 5-10-09


The opening was pretty straightforward, with a serpentine into the #5 tunnel.  The serpentine was a bit straighter than it looks on paper.  Handlers were split between running it with the dog on the right and crossing between 2 and 3. 

After the tunnel, handlers picked up the dog for 6 and 7, and then had to decide how to handle 8 through 12.  Some fast handlers front crossed between 7 and 8, between 10 and 11, and again between 11 and 12.  Most of them did not manage to get all three crosses without getting in the dog’s way at least once.  Others crossed between 6 and 7 and pushed the dog out to 9 before crossing again between 10 and 11 and rear crossing before 12.  Since 12 was a triple, a few bars came down with the rear cross.  I was the oddball and picked Maxx up on my right at the exit of 5, pushed him ahead of me through 6, 7, 8, and 9, and crossed next to 8 while he was moving to 10.  I then picked him up on my left for 11 and 12. 

Jumpers 6 thru 12

Jumpers 6 thru 12 2

Jumpers 6 thru 12 3

The next section was 13 through 18.  Everyone had their dog on their left when they got to 13.  The choices after that were to front cross between 14 and 15 and again between 17 and 18, to rear cross between 15 an 16 and pull hard to 18 before rear crossing to get to 19, or to combine the two for one rear cross and one front cross.  There were a few refusals at 14 when handlers tried to cut across to 15 too aggressively and the dogs missed the jump.  Many dogs went long at 16 because the handlers were too far behind to cue 17 well.  The rear cross between 15 and 16 went well for some, but for others it caused a spin after 16 when the dogs saw jump #4.  I was the oddball again, and sent Maxx from 12 to 14 using distance.  I cut straight across from 12 to the landing side of 15, front crossed between 15 and 16, and front crossed again between 17 and 18.

Jumpers 12 thru 20

Jumpers 12 thru 20 2

Jumpers 12 thru 20 3

All in all, a fun and challenging course!

May 12, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Agility Trial, Course Strategy | , , , , | 5 Comments

NADAC Trial May 1 – 3

We enjoyed our first outdoor trial of the year this past weekend.  My son sprained his ankle, so I ended up running all three dogs on Friday and Saturday.  He hobbled through 4 of the 5 runs on Sunday with Emma.  I had a good time running his dog.  She is as fast as, if not faster than, my two dogs.

I don’t find NADAC as challenging as some of the other venues as far as handling is concerned.  However, it does take a different set of skills to be able to successfully complete a course when the dogs are running full-out.  Weave entries and contacts definitely become more challenging.  It is always fun to test our distance skills as well, since the distances in other venues are much shorter.  I stick with it because my dogs love it so much.  You can see how happy they are when they are flying through the courses.

Maxx qualified in 8 of 13 runs.  Our retrained contacts are definitely not trial ready, so I wasn’t expecting much.  He actually hit the yellow more than I thought he would.  

Storm qualified in 7 of 13 runs.  She finished her Superior Novice Weavers title, her Open Touch N Go title, and her Superior Open Jumpers title.  She had some smoking fast runs.  Both Maxx and Storm had jumpers and tunnelers runs that were 6+ yards per second.

I’ve linked to some video below.  There is one run of Emma’s, three of Maxx’s, and three of Storm’s.

Emma NADAC 5/09

Storm NADAC 5/09

Maxx NADAC 5/09

May 5, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Agility Trial, Course Strategy | , , , , | 4 Comments

Tip Of The Day – Driving Through The Last Obstacle

Always make sure you drive through the last obstacle to the finish line.  One technique is to choose an imaginary point after the last obstacle to run to.  It is important because crossing the finish line stops the clock in games like Snooker and Snakes N Ladders.  Also, many dogs will drop the last bar if the handler slows down or pulls up short.

May 1, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Course Strategy | , , , | 1 Comment

Tip Of The Day – Setting Up At The Start Line

Always set your up dog far enough from the first jump for them to be in full stride when they go over it.  This allows them to get up to speed before starting the timers and can cut 1 – 3 seconds off of your course time!

April 22, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Agility Trial, Course Strategy, Teaching Agility | , , , , | Leave a comment

Executing Your Plan on Course

How many times have you walked an agility course, come up with a plan, and then run the course differently, resulting in a NQ? How many times have you successfully changed it and done better than you thought? My experience so far has been that changing your plan mid-stream is almost always a bad idea.

Maybe you saw other people running a different plan and succeeding. Perhaps you found yourself in a different place on course than you thought you would be. Or that snooker SQ was calling your name but other people had a better strategy. Whatever the circumstance, you decided either right before running, or actually during your run, that it would be a good idea to run differently than you rehearsed in your walk through.

This happened to me at the last USDAA trial. Storm actually (!) qualified in Steeplechase in that ultra-competitive 20” class, so we got a chance to run round 2. As we came around to the weave poles, I was much further ahead than I thought I would be. Instead of sticking with my plan to rear cross after the weave-jump-tunnel sequence, I hesitated, and then quickly completed a (not so smoothly executed) front cross, pulling Storm out at pole 10. Once our rhythm was broken, we had a hard time recovering, and rather than frustrating her with my untimely cues, I took her off the course and gave her lots of cookies.

I frequently walk a course with a Plan A and a Plan B. I plan for front crosses, but realistically know that I might not get there in time and will have to switch to a rear or a blind. If you know ahead of time that it may be necessary to change your plan, and have actually walked the course both ways, you are mentally prepared to execute either choice. Without that mental preparation, trying an alternate plan is usually detrimental to your run.

So, what do you do if you are faced with the temptation to change “on-the-fly”? If it is before your run, I would weigh the risks and benefits. Are you trying to finish your ADCH and you have 6 or 7 or 8 snooker Qs but only 2 of them are SQs? It might be worth changing your strategy if yours won’t get the points you need. On the other hand, just because something worked for a different team doesn’t mean that it is the right thing for your team. You walked the course based on your team’s strengths. Don’t disregard that walk-through based on another team’s success. If you do, you may end up like I did – rolling up a newspaper, smacking myself with it and saying “Bad Handler!”

April 20, 2009 Posted by | Agility, Course Strategy | , , | 9 Comments