Monday, May 7, 2012

Reflections on World Team Tryouts

As Kory Kaye said: "It IS much more fun to be on the other side of the plexi-glass" at AKC's World Team Tryouts in Hopkins MN.  I have gone and watched many times and this year I had a dog capable of the speed and technical skills to attend as a participant. We have been lucky to have it be here in Minnesota all these years. In addition this year docked tails were allowed in the hosting country.  My plan was to attend as a participant to see how prepared I am for the courses, how much I like the environment and whether it is something fun to do in the future.  I never really thought I was a candidate for the team.  I wanted the experience.

The first challenge however was to have Sinco measured.  In practice she can measure consistently at 16.75 but when she is excited she can measure as high as 17.75.  In order to compete she had to measure under 16 7/8.  We measured once when we got there and she was a "little high" so we did our practice session on Friday, had a shoulder massage by Michelle Bame and walked a lot.  Then she was measured about six times by three different people.  When three different people measured her at 16.75 we were given the OK but warned if we made the team we had a lot of work to do to get her to measure in consistently.

We had a good practice on Friday.  She did the weaves and had no trouble with the viaduct jump and she was really pretty amped up there.  I was happy with the warm-up.

Saturday was Rd 1 Standard first.  I felt confident that we could do everything on the course.  I had a plan on one section that was unique but it worked well for us.  I had no doubts as to how to handle it.   Sinco and I handled the beginning part of the course well and then 2/3 of the way through the course she popped out of the weaves at pole 10 three times and I moved on to finish the course.  At first I thought it was my handling because it was a hard exit but when I got on the other side of the weaves and she still popped out I realized it was something else.  Yet otherwise she seemed to be feeling ok.  I  had Michelle check her and she was a bit tight in the TL junction so Michelle worked on her before the next run.  

On Rd 2 JWW I again felt confident about my ability to handle the course and the weaves were in an easy exit location so I hoped that she would do them.  I knew we were out of the competitive picture and I was not stressed at the line.  I felt confident that the courses were challenging but they were within my ability to handle them.  I handled the opening well and she did the weaves and I said  "Yay!  Good Girl!" when she did them.  Well that got her really high and I could not keep her on course after that.  So we had a number of off course issues after that and I tried to recover and keep going but she was rather silly and made me smile out there.  When she gets silly like that and starts to lose focus there is not much that can be done to get her back on course!

Michelle checked her and she was given the ok that she was feeling fine. 

On Rd 3 Standard the weaves had a hard entrance and exit but were near the end of the course.  I felt it was a challenging course but I felt confident in my ability to handle it.  We handle the entire course well and I was very pleased.  I got there to the weaves and she got the entrance but could not hold on to it in the weaves.  I finished the course anyway since I knew the weaves were our weakest link.  I was pleased with my handling and how she ran otherwise.

Sunday Sinco checked out ok and ready to go.  The rd 4 was JWW and I was excited to handle it because I felt confident in my plan.  It had a very collected start and then an opening straight line so I thought she would like that.  Sinco was really slow at the start and then didn't open up well on the straight line so I had to ad-lib my handling which is not always good.  It caused an off course and I kept trying to get my dog back but she was not running happily for some reason.  Then she lost her confidence and didn't want to send to a tunnel and I tried to keep going and we recovered at the ending and she did her weaves.  I realized that at that point I needed to do something to get her more excited about running these courses.  She didn't seem to be barking but was more worried.  I think the micromanaging on the opening parts of the courses was getting to her and shutting her down and she didn't trust opening up again.

The weekend before at a local AKC trial I had figured out if I play with her too much before a run she gets too high and loses focus.  Therefore I try to do a more controlled focused warm-up.  That is what I was doing at the try-outs.  But I realized as she was not enjoying the courses I need to try amping her up again.  So I got the toy out again at the warm-up jump and she was doing tight turns to play tug with the toy.  Then she got excited and barked while waiting to run so I was happy to have my dog back.

Rd 5 was Standard and again I felt confident in how to handle it.  It started out tight but she came out of it fast and was sending into tunnels.  She was slow on the aframe and got called for her aframe contact when I released her and she didn't take one more step but leaped off.  I didn't realize it until I was done.  We were in sync handling the rest of the course and our lines were tight.  I missed a tunnel near the end of the course so we again had an E but I was happy my dog was barking and happy on the course again.  So we ended on a good note and as a happy team - both dog and handler.

In summary I enjoyed running those courses and having technical handling challenges.  I am excited to prepare Carmine for these challenges because she is not as much of a worrier as her mother and so I think she will be able to enjoy this kind of competition more than her mother Sinco does.  I'm hooked... 

Sinco enjoys NADAC Championships as does Feisty so we will be going there in October and enjoying every minute of it.  Meanwhile I will still continue to do international style training with Carmine as well as distance training.

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