Friday, July 14, 2006

Agility update: a first, a fourth, and a fiasco

Last weekend we had agility competitions on Saturday AND Sunday, both in Ljubljana.

Saturday (July 8) was nice. It was cloudy for much of the day, hence not so hot. This competition took place on a soccer field borrowed for the occasion in Slovenia's capital and largest city, Ljubljana. Very little shade, and no natural bodies of water. The cloudiness made it much more bearable. I do have a strong preference for competitions located in scenic alpine settings with mountain streams and forests located conveniently nearby! Like this one, in Hrušica :

Lyra relaxing by a mountain stream in between agility runs last year at Hrušica

But back to Ljubljana last Saturday. Lyra had a clean run on the agility--a first for us. She's had a couple of clean jumping runs (the second of the two runs at each competition) in the past, and she did have one clean agility run in a team competition (on, ironically, a more difficult course), but this was the first time she's done it in an individual run. Two more of these, and we can advance to the next level, A2.

There were six clean runs in the A1, an unusually high number and an indication that the course was relatively easy. Our time was the fourth-best.

On the second run, she was unfocused and all over the course. We had several near-misses, coming within a hair’s breadth of disqualification, and I did not run it at all as I'd planned when I did the walk-through. Nevertheless, despite a sub-standard performance overall, we got off lightly--just five faults for entering the slalom incorrectly (my fault for standing too close, not giving her enough space). Foruntately she got it right the second time. With the five faults and a very slow time (due to all the extra ground she covered as she wandered from obstacle to obstacle), we were 11th in the jumping run.

We still managed to end up in fourth place overall. Not bad. Out of the money, but good for accruing some points towards the 2006 national championships (we're currently seventh in our category), and our first ever clean agility run in A1 is a notable landmark.

In contrast, the competition on Sunday, July 9, was a fiasco. On the first run, Lyra and I had no connection whatsoever. She was completely unfocused and scatter-brained. It reminded me of our performances when we were just starting out: wild, out of control, and invariably ending in disqualification.

I can't blame it on Lyra; it's always the handler's fault, not the dog's. But I was annoyed and disappointed, and she felt it.

The second run was much better. Following Primoz's advice, before the run I spent some time offering her treats and a ball to get her attention; we were connected when we went in and maintained it throughout. We accumulated fifteen faults on the slalom, but there again I have to take responsibility for not giving her enough room.

But in any case the result for the second run was irrelevant to the outcome, since we'd already been disqualified on the first run. No bags of Eukanuba dog food for us this time around. We're not doing so hot in the Eukanuba Cup. Our third-place finish in the first of the six competitions has been followed by two disqualifications, dropping us down to tenth place in the standings.

Poor Olivia became increasingly stressed out and overstimulated as the weekend wore on. On Sunday the sun and heat were oppressive; everyone felt hot and bothered. Oli needs her naps during the day in this hot weather; she doesn't sleep away from home, except in a moving car if very tired. And she didn't have Monika for comfort, since Monika was away at the seaside. Oli regressed behaviorally, and was easily provoked, striking the pose below on a number of occasions:

To be fair, she was worlds better than that time I was on my own with the two of them in Ptuj earlier this year. There were many sustained periods where she was in close proximity to other dogs and people, with lots of activity going on around her, and she lay quite nicely at my feet or in my lap. Still, the hotter and tireder she got, the more likely she was to react to stimuli. After a point, the best solution seemed to be to get the hell out of there, so we left for home, with relief, right after Lyra's second run. And hit major rainstorms and even hail once we got to Primorska.

We'll get another whack at moving up in the Eukanuba Cup this coming Saturday, in Portorož. At training yesterday she ran quite well, but competitions are always full of surprises, so I wouldn't lay any bets.


Blogger Tess said...

Hello, Jean. I've just stumbled onto your blog -- I'm a new immigrant to Lj from the U.S. and found it interesting. My father has three Aussies (but does not train them in agility--more in guarding the house and herding each other!) and we have a lab mix we've always thought might benefit mentally from such training, even if it's just for fun on her part. If only she didn't persist in sleeping all day in this warm weather, that is...
Let me know next time you will be in the LJubljana area and perhaps we can go to a competition to see you and your lovely dogs in action!

12:14 AM, July 19, 2006  
Blogger Jean said...

Hi Tess,

Thanks for the note--it would be good to get together, yes. How can I get in touch with you? Competitions will start up again in September (one in Ljubljana September 2).

9:37 AM, July 19, 2006  

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