It's been a crazy two weeks with work, family stuff, and getting ready for Nationals. Meanwhile, Summit earned his ADCH! As you can see in the picture, Summit is very proud of his accomplishment - LOL! Actually, he is very happy about his flying squirrel laying on the ground next to me while I was taking the photo. I however, am very happy we've earned the ADCH and will be floating on air for some time to come. Especially since the three Snooker Super Q's were very difficult for us. I am Snooker challenged (although I am improving somewhat) but I can't say I like that game (Gamblers is my favorite).
We are leaving tonight to drive down to Monument for a three day USDAA trial. This trial is the first for the 2011 qualifying year. We have DAM team on Friday and then steeplechase, GP, and titling classes on Saturday and Sunday. This will be Soleil's second road trip and I'm hoping to get lot's of training and playtime with her ringside in between running Summit and working the other classes.
Soleil is changing every week (puppies do that I guess). Not just physically but her personality too. She's gotten taller and leggier and cruises around the backfield like a young race horse. Her coat is changing. The black guard hairs are coming in and also some softer, straighter golden hairs. She growls when she tugs and is really starting to lay back and put all her weight into tugging. She's also becoming very affectionate. She is less distracted by her environment and more focused on me. She is also beginning to want to cuddle more.
I will take some new photos of her and post them after the weekend.
Summit and I haven't done a lot of training this week. Just proofing contacts (he was pushing them at the last trial) and working on the rear cross drills in the October Clean Run (Clean Run Central by Annie Pyle). These drills are really teaching me patience - something I always need to work on.
Summit had a great AKC weekend. Saturday he double Q'd with two first places. He had two great runs and I'm feeling pretty good about our teamwork in preparation for Nationals next month. Sunday morning he dropped a bar in jumpers. That afternoon in standard, I decided to execute a handling strategy that would not have been my first choice if I wanted to run clean. However, if executed correctly, would create a much tighter turn on a 180 and would give my dog better turning information quicker. Well, my timing was slightly off and we had a refusal. The rest of the run was nice though. I had several people tell me later what a great run we had and too bad about the refusal. When I explained that I wanted to step outside my "handling box" even though I knew I may not execute correctly, they were shocked. "But didn't you want to Q? You could have won!"
The one thing I dislike about AKC is the double Q requirement. The one thing I really like about AKC is the double Q requirement. Hmmm.. let me explain.
If I have a clean run in the morning, I will choose to run conservatively in the afternoon in order to get a QQ. By conservatively I don't mean slow (like I could really slow Summit down on the course anyway). But I don't take risks. I handle efficiently. Unfortunately this doesn't really teach me anything new. The handling choices I make are based on a history of success.
However, if we do not have a clean run in the morning, the afternoon is wide-open for creativity and trying new strategies. Pushing the envelope so to speak. This is when I really learn about our teamwork and what skills we may be weak on or possibilities I didn't know existed. Yes, you can try this stuff in training but it's when a team is under the stress of competition that is really where the good feedback comes.
I have video from this weekend and will post as soon as I get them. Meanwhile, here are a few videos from the USDAA trial a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, I don't have any of his Gamblers, Snooker, or Jumpers - just these few.
Grand Prix - 2nd place. Really wide turn at the beginning. Lot's of dogs went wide here. Not sure why. Although I think I could have improved my location (closer to the jump where the turn occurred). Also, my backward motion (albeit just a few steps) also cued the extension.
Steeplechase Finals - 3rd place. I caused the bar with my late FC at the end and then I almost fall on my face before the last jump.
Masters Standard (Saturday). Would have been 1st place. One bar. He actually only dropped three bars the entire 3-day trial but the only video I have is of those with bars (except GP) ;-)
Masters Standard (Sunday) - one bar. The grass was dead and slick on the takeoff side so may have contributed to the dropped bar as quite a few other dogs dropped the same bar
We had a fun three-day USDAA trial outdoors at a beautiful park at the fairgrounds. The weather was pretty nice. A little hot on Saturday but nice on Sunday and Monday. This location has very thick tall grass and there are usually quite a few dropped bars. Summit did have more bars than he usually does but I thought he did very well overall.
Saturday: Qualified in Snooker (4th place and one placement out of a SQ because I left out the #6 combo in the closing - duh!), Jumpers (forget placement), and Pairs (3rd I think), and placed 6th in Steeplechase Round 1 (with a dropped bar). Had a nice standard run too but dropped a bar. Had a great opening in Gamblers but the Gamble involved sending to a tunnel under the dogwalk to the teeter on the other side (layering the dw). I didn't even attempt the Gamble. As soon as I sent Summit to the tunnel and moved laterally, I expected a tight turn out of the tunnel in the direction of my motion, not exiting straight forward 15 feet ahead to the teeter. He was a good boy (and I told him so) and had a tight turn and came back to me on the other side of the dw.
Sunday: Qualified in Gamblers (a fun gamble involving a serpentine), Another nice Standard run but I sent him off course when I forgot for a split second where the course went next... but it was a nice run other than the wrong course jump. NQ in Snooker (we didn't get very far in the opening), 2nd place in Grand Prix and 3rd place in Steeplechase Finals.
Monday: Another nice run in Standard (one bar), Q in Snooker (again, one placement out of a SQ), NQ in Pairs (he missed a wp entrance and I didn't see it), and 2nd place in Jumpers.
By the time we ran Masters Jumpers there was a very high wind and the jump wings had to be weighted down with sand bags. I almost scratched since I saw no reason to run a jumpers course in high wind knowing a bar or two would come down. But when I walked it, it was so much fun (it included a pushout and a threadle), I wanted to run it and didn't care if we had a bar. Well no bars and second place (just 100ths off of first).
Summit earned his Tournament Master Bronze title this weekend. And he still needs that one SQ for his ADCH.
I am so happy with our teamwork. We are very much in-sync now. My timing is good and he responds instantly. I'm getting much better at setting efficient lines. What I did discover that we need to work on is his reading my turning cues for a FMFC (forward motion front cross). There were two places that needed a FMFC and Summit jumped fully extended and turned on the flat which gave him a very wide turn. I need to re-evaluate how I am cueing this. I'm pretty good at picking up the OA and rotating my shoulders into him but obviously those are not enough collection cues for him. Thoughts? Maybe more eye contact? his name?
I don't expect a lot of collection but at least some attempt to turn over the bar and not 20 feet on the landing side of the jump. The turn actually happens when I've stopped moving. We'll be working on FMFC's the four weeks before Nationals.
Soleil had a great time at her first outdoor trial. She played with a couple of BC puppies and met lot's of new dogs and people. We had our chairs ringside of the Masters ring and I was sitting there during one of the classes holding Soleil on my lap. She screamed at every fast dog that ran. I told Stacy, "I sure hope I'm up to handling this high-drive puppy!"
I put her on her long-line and we practiced circles. She's getting very good at reading my acceleration and deceleration. She was quiet in her crate unless I took one of the other dogs out of their crate and then she would bark "Hey, what about MEEEEEEE!" But after we left, she would stop barking and settle down quietly (according to friends).
So I'm getting excited about USDAA Nationals coming up in October. Our DAM team for Nationals is:
Donna Thomson with Indy, Stacy Peardot-Goudy with Sobe, and me with Summit. A FAST young dog team. Should be lot's of fun!
Next weekend is free and I think that Soleil may get to go for her very first hike (not offleash yet though, she'll have the long-line attached).