On Friday Jedi slipped in a tunnel on his standard run and came out running slowly. A massage yesterday found that he was very sore on his right side. We iced him and applied heat last night. This morning he warmed up well and stretched well. He was a short striding slightly. His attitude seemed great. It was standard this morning.
If you follow along with the course diagrams on the AKC site... The start of the course is pretty straightforward with a tire, aframe and right turn to a jump. Jedi starts out fine. He is on my left as we make the turn to the teeter and I cross in front of the end of the teeter. Then he is on my right going back through the tire to the triple to the weaves. He starts to bark and to pick up speed. I do a lateral send on 10, the panel jump, and a front cross on the landing side of 11. Jedi comes in nice and tight over 11.
This sequence proved to be interesting for many handlers. I believe all of the 26" handlers did the front cross on the take-off side of 11. The 12" and 16" handlers I watched were split about 50/50 on where they did the front cross. Almost all of the 20" handlers I saw did the front cross on the landing side of 11. Keep in mind that while all courses were technically the same it is impossible to set a course identically. In my opinion if you could not leave your dog in the weaves and get far enough ahead for doing the cross on the take-off side then you didn't get a tight turn. Linda M. did it beautifully but she could leave her dog in the weaves. Unfortunately I knew I couldn't leave Jedi in the weaves that much nor would it serve him well to do so and therefore I opted to do it on the landing side.
Jedi is on my left over 12-13 and 14 tunnel. I pull him into the correct tunnel opening and take off to the dogwalk. I'm thrilled that he ran into the same red tunnel that he had slipped in yesterday and so I take off. I find myself cheering him on a lot on this course.
The next part proved to be the first difficult part of the course for many handlers. The 13 jump to the close side of the tunnel for #14 and then up the dogwalk. There were two main ways to handle it - one was to front cross between 13 and 14 and push to the tunnel or hang back and pull the dog into the tunnel. Jedi pulls better than he pushes so I opted to pull him. There were quite a few off courses at this point of the course as well as some very close calls.
The last difficult part of the course was still ahead. I use lateral distance on the dogwalk and found myself almost forgetting to get moving and I start running toward the take off side of the #16 jump so I can front cross. I get the cross in and successfully pull Jedi into the chute and then I do an impromptu rear cross between the chute and final jump in order to pull him over the last jump. It was a clean run and his time is 38 seconds - in the middle of the pack of 12" dogs. Jedi is not fast enough to be in the top dogs at this calibre of competition.
After the dogwalk, was a right turn to a wingless jump with a wing jump nearby making it a tight handler path. Then it was # 17, an offset wingless jump, and a discrimination between the #18 chute and the weaves. The chute angled out and it was a right turn to the final jump. This sequence was especially difficult for the big dogs and there were lots of refusals and off courses in this section. Many handlers were caught behind at the chute and there were lots of spins before the last jump - some close enough to be called refusals and all costing valuable seconds of time.
Many of the big dog handlers did rear crosses at the jump before the chute and again at the chute to zig-zag through the finish. If you couldn't leave your dog on the dogwalk it was hard to get in a front cross on the jump after it. Others were caught behind their dogs on the dogwalk and then it was hard to squeeze between the wing jump and the wingless jump after the dogwalk. Some of the handlers caused the dogs to pull in because they were trying to get around the jump and this brought the weaves into play more.
For some reason in the 12" class there were a handful of dogs who hit the aframe hard or at an angle and lost time and probably incurred some sort of minor injury as a result. I'm not exactly sure how that happened or what caused it.
Jedi seemed to be fine after his run. It is now raining hard and steady outside but fortunately no thunder. Jedi has had a chance to rest for quite awhile before JWW. The JWW course definitely has a lot of turns in it and requires handling. I walk it with 6 front crosses planned. The footing which is moist clay is getting really packed down and very uneven in many spots. Handlers are tripping and some are falling. Many of us are really worried about staying on our feet for all of the crosses needed. I warm Jedi up well, gently massage him and stretch him. He is not showing any signs of soreness. We set-up for the JWW course and I plan a short lead out so he'll be fast off the start. I do a front cross between 2 and 3 and send him out on the pinwheel of 3-4-5. He runs around #5 barking at me. I already know we are not in the running for anything so I opt to not fix it and I'm puzzled as to why this happened. If he runs around any jump it would be 4 because I didn't support it. It was a hard push and I wanted to front cross on the landing side of 5. Many small dog handlers opted to front cross on the take off side of 5. I go on to 6-7-8 pinwheel and he runs around 6 and 7 and is barking at me. I'm really puzzled and we are told we should try to finish as much as possible so I keep running as if he is jumping. He does the weaves fine and then one jump and I continue crossing and trying to find my way off the course as he takes some of the jumps but not others and is barking at me like crazy. It was very out of character for him. I immediately suspected he was too sore to jump. Fortunately he was scheduled for a massage in about a half an hour.
Jedi was massaged and was in fact very sore again. We suspect he landed and turned over one of the jumps and it hurt and he was taking care of himself and not wanting to do any more turning and jumping. We are now doing more ice and heat tonight and he is scheduled for a massage and check first thing tomorrow morning. It is very possible he is done for the weekend.
As for the course analysis of the JWW class... Anne Braue handled it with all 5 front crosses that I had planned and in the location I had planned but unfortunately Scream took the last bar. The front crosses were between 2 and 3 (or the lead-out that Anne took care of that one), landing side of 5, landing side of 8, end of the weaves, landing side of 15 and between 17 and 18. Today's JWW course required the ability of the dog to weave into the pressure of the wall and the ability of the handler to front cross at the end of the poles which almost every handler I saw did.
It was really a course made for front crosses. Those that handled it with rear crosses often had wider turns or lost time. There was a very fast dog in the 8" class who had a very fast time but it would have been even faster if she had front crossed, I believe. Her dog slowed down every time she slowed down to do a rear cross. I saw this very often with any cross, either a poorly timed front cross or rear cross will slow a dog down too much. Again timing is everything and it is so important to practice, practice, practice these so you can learn to do them both smoothly. If you always do one and not the other then you won't improve your skills. At this level of competition the time is measured in thousandths of seconds. Poorly timed crosses can cost time.
The majority of participants here are happy to be able to play on challenging courses and to be a part of the experience of being able to watch some top handlers and friends run their dogs. What was also fun for me to watch was the number of handlers who were able to use distance skills on these courses. That is a real challenge because the courses are tight and obstacles are often in the handler path. There were some handlers who are physically not able to run every step of the course with their dogs so they have done a lot of distance training with their dogs. It was also interesting to have courses that encouraged independent obstacle performance - like being able to run ahead to the next obstacle while your dog is doing the weaves or the dogwalk. It really expanded your handling choices.
Now back to more ice and heat for Jedi, eating pizza in the hotel room and hoping the winter weather will hold off so we can fly home Monday night!