I have been a little leery of USDAA … it has a reputation, shall we say, for being a bit more cut-throat and difficult than, for instance, CPE. I can honestly report that I saw nothing cut-throat this weekend: quite the contrary, in fact everyone was quite friendly and welcoming. (Of course, it helps that there’s a big cross-over between the two venues, so I wasn’t really a stranger. Who knows, maybe they be-head strangers :).) As far as the courses … I ran Gromit in Performance 1, and Clewe in Starters — basically the same courses, with a lower A-frame and no spread jumps for Gromit. I entered in Gamblers, Relay, Standard, and Snooker. I found the courses to be fair and fun. If anything my dogs ran better than usual this weekend.
Let me say openly, I never expected to do QUITE so well this weekend. Here are Gromit’s runs — he was a consummate professional. I was a little worried about the table — he is accustomed to just bouncing off at the end of the points classes in CPE. But, he was fantastic — hit every contact, kept every bar up, not a single off-course, and only a handful of wrong-way turns. He Q’d in all four classes! Delightful.
Clewe also Q’d 4-of-4, though his runs weren’t the smooth perfection of the G-man. He needs more support than Gromit, and I often fail to provide it. He wants very much to be Right, and sometimes this makes him turn his head or hesitate if he’s Not Sure — and cause a mistake. I’m confidant we’ll continue to come together on this — I’ll give more timely, more clear direction, and he’ll learn to read my half-assed cues better :).
I was most worried about him BITING me. To be perfectly honest, he has the potential to be a very bite-y Border Collie. Throughout training and trialing, this behavior sneaks in — each time somewhere new(ish), and each time I work hard to figure out what’s causing it, and fix the problem. In a nutshell, he bites when he is excited, a little frustrated, and doesn’t know what else to do — lately it’s been right at the last obstacle (especially if it’s the table) because he hates to be done with agility. I compound the problem by getting excited at the end of the run …. and in my excitement I give even less clear cues, and maybe flap around a little bit. I went into this weekend with a plan to help him (and me) avoid the dreaded BITE. I am pleased to report that he did not land any bites, nor did he try to. He may have thought about it a little bit, but I managed to redirect him to either the last obstacle or the leash.
Beyond the whole “yay no biting!” success, we had a lot of other great moments. Using the video, I timed his poles at 3.12 s and his dogwalk at 2.38 s in Standard — speed is his middle name! He took down a few bars, missed an up contact on the teeter and a down contact on the A-frame (both in Gamblers), but he hit everything else. He had some spins that would probably be refusals at a higher level … but all in all, he was awesome. Here are Clewe’s runs: