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step by step with Emme dog| How to get started in Dog Agility Sports

Puppy’s First Agility Trial

Emme, our Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, is now 19 months old. This means she is finally old enough to compete in some agility competitions. We have been training for agility since Day 1, learning to be comfortable on new things and starting out with the right training. So I was really looking forward to finally getting into a real competition to see how things would go. We had a little experience in a ring, as we’ve done some AKC Rally competing prior to working up to agility, so I knew she had an inkling of paying attention to me when the time came.

emme-agility2

So, Saturday morning we packed up our gear and headed to the agility site. We are starting out in Novice, which means we are generally last at the shows – so at least we were able to take our time and get there with plenty of time to spare. I took Em for a good couple of walks to tucker her out a little, and we settled in to wait our turn.

THE NERVES were horrible waiting for that first course! It didn’t help that it was a course I had never run before: Time to Beat. But I was trying to look at it as a good “warm up” to the other regular courses: Agility Standard and Jumpers With Weaves. I thought I was going to DIE from the nerves and I am sure Em felt it, too. We managed to get about halfway through the course before time was up, but I felt like it was a good start!

emme-agility1

Thankfully, my nerves quieted down after that first outing, and when it was time for Agility Standard we ran pretty well. Had a few refusals (missed jumps and had to run back to re-do it). Missed weaves entrance, but completed in the end. BUT – we nailed all of our contacts which I felt was very impressive and we finished under time. No Qualify, but I wasn’t expecting anything but giving Emme a good experience.

For Jumpers With Weaves, Emme was really finding her stride (and so was I). We had not had a lot of practice this spring/summer with the weather and travels, so this was a lot of practice for us in the ring, but again she did really well. One off course, missed weave entrance, but boy she was FLYING over the jumps and having a grand time. It was great to see, and it felt good to have her follow what I was saying so well! Again NQ (expected), but it felt like a really great way to end the day.

I’m really looking forward to spending the summer training some more and trying out a couple more competitions. Emme LOVES agility so much (as you can see in the photo!) – it’s a great way to spend time with her where we both are having FUN!

Our First USDAA Agility Dog Sport Trial Recap

Dog Agility Trial


My 20-month-old pup and I just returned from our very first USDAA Dog Agility trial (United States Dog Agility Association). I have only competed in AKC in the past, but a group of friends were going to this trail so we decided to make a fun weekend of it. We headed off Friday afternoon (it was a 4 hour drive to the site), got checked into our motel, took a long walk, chatted with our friends and headed for bed as we were to be up early Saturday.

Saturday morning arrived too soon, but I made sure to get in a good long walk with Emme. Grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed off to the agility field (a transformed soccer field for the weekend). We had to get there by 7 to get settled in and have Emme measured. New dogs have to get measured a certain amount of times by a judge, before they can get their height officially recorded for future trials. Emme was a little spooked at the measuring device, but we finally managed. We got our tents, crates, coolers and chairs set up, and settled in to start! It was a BEAUTIFUL sunny day as well.

First up was a course called Gamblers. This is a fun course where you can do as many or whatever obstacles you want – each obstacle is worth a certain amount of points – you need to get a certain amount of points under a set timeframe. When the buzzer goes off, you have to do the “close” which is 2-3 obstacles, set at a distance. In our case, it was a jump, tunnel, jump – all set up nicely so I was looking forward to it. Being our first run of the day, I really just wanted to get Emme out there and do some jumps and other obstacles to get the idea. Plus, we had to run with no collar on (AKC you can have a collar on, but not USDAA) and I was a little hesitant about this as the course was only a taped off soccer field with no real fence, and our first outdoor trial.

Turns out I had no need to worry! Emme did great, mostly paid attention to everything and me. She kinda made up her own course out there, but because it was Gamblers, it was OK as long as I went with it and got her to the “Close” at the end. We did OK – didn’t get the “Close” because she missed the first jump, but she did the Tunnel & 2nd jump which I was very pleased with. WHEW! It’s always a relief to get that first course out of the way.

Onto our 2nd course, Standard. This is your “standard” course consisting of all agility obstacles: jumps, contacts, weaves, table, etc. Did all right again, though Emme’s hesitation doing the Tire Jump threw us off. I expected this though, so we moved on and I was very happy with how we did.

We unexpectedly were convinced to do the Pairs course next. I wasn’t signed up because I had never seen it done and wasn’t sure how close you had to get to the other dog. Well, as it turned out they only had one beginner in Pairs and needed another person. So we discussed it and figured we’d be able to keep the two dogs far enough apart. It was fun to run – you each run 1/2 of the course and then hand off the baton and the other person finishes. So we were each able to pick the half that suited us best. Unfortunately, Emme hopped off the Teeter so we were eliminated but still was great to get out there.

Dog Agility Trial

Our 3rd course of the day was Snookers. I *hate* Snookers! Snookers is a “game” of sorts that is a bit complicated and you have to think fast if things don’t go as planned. Basically it is this: there is a course set up, with 3 red jumps set up in various areas of the course. You are to do 1 red jump, obstacle, 1 red jump, obstacle, 1 red jump, obstacle, then the “finish” (a 5-6 obstacle course). Each obstacle in between red jumps is a certain amount of points, and you need a set amount of points to Qualify, as well as finishing under time. There are some other rules about knocking red jump bars which make it even more complex! I was confused from the start and couldn’t get a good plan in my head to start, let alone even walk the finishing course. So we didn’t do too well, but it was fun anyway.

As the day heated up, and went on…. it got pretty late and we were all tired and hot, but still had another hour or more to wait for our last course, Jumpers. So… we decided to pack it up and head to dinner. By the time we had dinner and cleaned up, it was time for bed to start all over in the morning!

Weather-wise, Sunday was the exact opposite of Saturday. Rain. Cold. Windy. Wow. It was not fun. We were signed up for just 2 courses thankfully, but by the time our 2nd course came up it was POURING buckets of rain. No lightening, so the competition continued and boy were we soaking wet by the time it was over. But I guess it was good luck for us because we actually got our very first “Qualifying” score – EVER! In all things… Snooker! Dang that Snooker course. I learned from my mistakes the 1st day and had a solid course planned out which we actually executed well and under time.

Dog Agility Trial

We had such a great time at the trial. It was a lot of fun, even in the rain. I found this to be quite a lot more relaxed than the AKC trials I have been at, but I’ve also never been at a big outside show like this which I think helped. We will definitely be trying more USDAA agility trials in the future.

2nd USDAA Agility Dog Sport Trial Recap

Agility Ribbons


My 21 month old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever pup and I headed out to our 2nd USDAA agility trial a couple weeks ago. After enjoying our first one earlier this summer, I scoped out a few more in the area to try. This one was indoors at a newer facility we had never been at so we were looking forward to it.

It was in a great location because it was only about an hour away from my brother’s home – so we made base camp there and were also able to enjoy some time with my brother’s family! It did make for an couple early mornings (no weekend sleeping in here!). We arrived nice & early on Saturday as Emme needed to be measured again (new dogs need 3 measurements before they can get their official Height Card and not have to be measured each time). I knew Emme was at a minimum 18″ so there really is no question that she has to jump 22″ in USDAA. So we got measured and settled in with our friends, enjoying the air conditioned comfort as it was very warm & humid outside.

Gamblers was up first, which I am loving – because it allows us to get used to the ring and play around a bit. Basically Emme can run whatever she wants and do whatever she wants as long as we are under time and get the “Gamble” at the end (usually a 2-3 sequence of equipment, set at a distance). And in fact, Emme DID do whatever she wanted! Run over here… run over there… Say hi to that person… say hi to the judge, all while I was frantically running behind her trying to at least get her to do a FEW things I said. It was comical, but her tail and head were UP having a grand time, and in the end she finally settled down and listened to me and we actually got the “Gamble” – a teeter, tunnel, jump sequence. So that made me happy.

Next up was the Standard course. Always challenging! We fared pretty well, given that Emme was still a bit distracted. We finished the course pretty well, but were under time so didn’t place or Qualify. Then that was it for the day! Being a new place that has not had USDAA trials in the area, there were not too many dogs so we were able to get back to my brother’s in the early afternoon and spend some time with the kids.

Sunday we packed up and headed back to the trial site, under gloomy skies. We started the day off with a bang with the Snookers course… We Q’d in this in our 1st trial, which I still can’t believe! I was SO NERVOUS about this course – it seemed a bit challenging for a Starter course, personally, but I committed to my plan and went with it. Emme did GREAT and we were only 3 points away from actually getting a Q again, except that I mis-cued her into the tunnel near the end (you can see it in the video below). In snookers, any mistake like that and you are basically done – but you can still get your points if you get to the finish line in time. So close! But proud of Emme doing the teeter twice, and making her contacts and listening to me very well. We even got a 2nd place!

Last up for the weekend was the Jumpers course. I have always loved Jumpers! My dogs seem to, as well. It’s just plain fun! Emme again did fantastic. And we would have Q’d but were slightly over time, but we did get 3rd place. I was concerned with her doing the 22″ jumps, but she seems to have no problem at all, and I think when we do AKC in the future, we will be blazing fast because she only has to jump 20″.

Overall it was another fun weekend. We met several new people, even a few Toller owners (or soon-to-be!), and had fun with our friends. Came away with some great experience and are really looking forward to more competitions in the future. Stay tuned!

Emme become experienced in agility dog sport

Emme is ready for some FUN


Emme and I headed to another AKC Agility trial this past weekend for just a day. We have not had any practice since our last trial about a month ago as Old Man Winter has blown in with quite the fury. We had a good 16″ of snow on the ground in just a couple days. I barely was able to scramble and pack up my practice equipment it came on so fast. So I was definitely not expecting much and hoping just for some good ring practice.

Agility

We got there a bit earlier than I anticipated, but I was able to settle in, take Emme for a nice long walk, and have plenty of time to get her measured. She just turned two, so she had to be measured again. We now need to get measured twice by an official in order to get our final height card. She again measured 18″. I don’t think there is any shrinking her so we will be jumping 20″ in AKC for good. Once all the Excellence level competitors cleared out, we found some crate space and settled in to watch the Open group run Standard. Next up was our Novice Standard run.

What I have found with Emme as we progress in agility is that any fumble on my part or confusion on her part, and she immediately gets frustrated and starts this thing where she jumps and mouths me. She also “growls” when she is doing this, so it looks a little bad. Sometimes I am able to ignore her enough and get commands out quick enough that she stops and focus on the agility equipment and we recover. Sometimes not. Our Standard runs was one of the “not” times. And unfortunately, our judge was less lenient than others we have had so far… We started out GREAT! It was a jump-jump-plank start, which was solid. But… She slipped off the end of the plank, and the judge came over to explain what we could do next: 1) Check her out to see she’s ok and re-do the plank and then leave the course, or 2) Check to see she was ok and continue on. I chose to continue on, but at this point Emme was confused and starting the jumping/mouthing. I was unable to get her to fully recover and although we made to obstacle 12 of 15 (the table, where I was hopeful she’d calm down and focus) – the judge called us off for inappropriate behavior. Bummer.

Course Map

It took me awhile to recover from this but I did my best and squared my shoulders and put on a big smile to prepare for our next course, Jumpers with Weaves. I was very happy the course started with 4 jumps right in a row! This would be a great opportunity to keep Emme on track and focused. And sure enough, jump-jump-jump-jump she did! But… she was much faster than me! I was pleasantly surprised to have her actually run out and do 2 of the jumps while I was back at #2! Way to go Emme! But this left me on our “weak” side for the weave poles by the time I caught up to her so we bobbled there. I wonder now if I had just told her to Weave from where I was if she would have? She did try a few bouts of jumping on me, but I quickly folded my arms and turned away telling her no, and then just as quickly directed to the next obstacle. It seemed to work, thankfully. We continued on really well although I did not get into the positions I wanted at the right times but we FINISHED so I was extremely happy. Unfortunately, we were so close to being under time that we didn’t Q due to knocking a bar on one of the jumps. BUT – this was probably the best run we ever had and really left me feeling very confident in our abilities out there.

Agility

I think I just need to have a little more faith in Emme’s abilities and perhaps work with a little more distance from her. Does anybody have any tips on how to dissuade the jumping/mouthing behavior? I am not going to be able to practice much now with winter her, so any competitions we go to will have to be our “practice”. Onward and upwards!

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