Monday, March 19, 2018

Our First Agility Trial (Recap)

At the beginning of the school year, Barley came to school with me to help me give a mini-lecture on the life lessons that we've learned in dog training. One of those lessons was the importance of challenging yourself even if you're scared of failure because that's part of how we grow and learn.

A couple weeks later, I saw that there was an agility trial a little over an hour away. It seemed like a good time to put this lesson to the test and enter Rye in our first agility trial. I printed off the premium, or the packet that has all of the trial information and the registration forms, and then had to decide what classes we wanted to run in.

In CPE trials, there are the standard courses, which include jumps and tunnels and the contact equipment like the dog walk or A-frame, and jumpers courses with just jumps, tunnels, and weaves depending on the level. Those are the types of courses we do in class regularly, so I knew we'd want to enter those. CPE trials also have a lot of different games, though. They have courses that test your handling skills, your strategy skills, and some that are just meant to be fun. I tried to read the rules in the CPE book to see what those games were like, but ended up doing a Google search to find recaps from people who had actually run those courses before. I decided we'd enter two of the handler games in addition to the standard and jumpers course, which is one of the fun games. 

A couple days after sending in our registration form, I got an email that the trial was already full but we'd be put on the wait list. The April trial premium was already available, so I went ahead and sent that one in for the same games we'd planned to try in March. A couple days later, I got an email that we were in the April trial, so I didn't think about the wait list again.

Until a week before the trial. I got a confirmation email saying that we were in and entered in 2 rounds of standard, one round of wild card, one of colors, and one of jumpers. I had no idea what to expect and our trainer was out with the flu the class before the trial, so I didn't get a chance to tell her we were entered in it. Our classmates were helpful, but there's still nothing like actually being at the trial to understand what a trial is like.

Since it was our first trial, Rye had to be measured for her jump height, which meant we had to be there at 7:05 a.m. We left the house at 5:30 and got to the trial location a little before 7. I went in to get the lay of the land first and set up Rye's crate. We got a great spot--right behind the one person we knew at the trial and near the side door for easy access to potty breaks.

As soon as I got Rye in the building, they called for dogs needing measured and we went over. Rye is super shy and doesn't like to be touched, so I was worried about her standing up straight while a stranger measured her. It wasn't the easiest moment of the trial weekend, but we got a successful measurement of 17 3/4 inches, so she was all set to jump 16 inches in the trial. Since she was under two years old (and only by 3 days!), she'll have to be measured again at the next CPE trial.

Then we waited.

For a long time.

They started with the Level 3, 4, and 5 dogs, so we had to wait until they worked their way down to Level 1 courses. We had almost 80 dogs ahead of us, plus course changes, so our first run wasn't until 10:42 a.m. Our standard run was first and I felt confident Rye and I could handle that course. There weren't really any traps where she'd want to go off course, so I didn't anticipate any problems. And I was right! She ran the course perfectly with no dropped bars, no off courses, and we got our very first Q (qualifying run) on our first run.

We weren't entered in another class until the Wildcard course, which was the very last course of the day. I spent time walking around the grounds with Rye--the facility had a great big field that was perfect for walking--and I watched one of the dogs that's been in class with Barley and I for years and spent some time setting bars for the courses. Even though I spent time with Rye and got her out of her crate many, many times, our next run wasn't until 5:58.

In the Wildcard game, you have a set course, but there are three places where you have options. Some of the options are considered more challenging and they're labeled the B options on the course map. The ones that are considered easier are labeled A. In Level 1, you have to choose 2 A obstacles and 1 B obstacle. I planned out our course and eventually it was our turn. Rye was wound up. I could tell before I even got her leash off that she was a ball of energy. I'd planned to lead out to our second jump to make sure she followed the path I wanted her to, but she took off before I even got past the first jump--and once the dog crosses the first jump, your time has started and you've got to just keep going. She did well sending to obstacles--until she shot out of a tunnel and ran through the weaves, so she had one off course. Then she didn't want to go over a jump and started jumping on me. When I tried to get her to stop that, she went for the cone beside the jump and when she gets something she isn't supposed to have, she usually goes wild. Thankfully, I got her back on track and we finished the course, but we had enough faults with the off course and the cone games that we got a No Time (NT) in that course.

The next day was a little shorter. Since we didn't have to be measured again, we got to leave the house a little closer to 6. Then we spent some time walking around before going in. I'd gotten a good feel for the trial atmosphere the day before, so it wasn't as important to watch the first few runs.

Our standard run was our first again, and Rye flew over the course and we got our second Q.

We were in three classes instead of two on Sunday, so that meant we didn't have as much waiting time between runs. I also decided to spend more time engaging Rye's crazy puppy brain, so we played lots of brain games.

Our second class of the day was the Colors game. This one has two different courses marked with different colored cones. They start the same and on the third obstacle they diverge and you have to pick a course (or go with the one your dog picks). I knew that one of the courses had a jump that we had to wrap and if we didn't do that well, Rye would run off course into the tunnel, so I picked the other course that didn't seem to have any traps for Rye. It was the perfect plan and we got our third Q of the weekend.

Our final class was the Jumpers class. I was a little worried because there were some long lines of jumps and when Rye gets freedom like that, she sometimes does her own thing. I like having the contact equipment so that we have a brief pause where she thinks about what she's doing and I can get her attention easily. My worries weren't necessary, though. Rye did great. She thought about going after a cone again, but got back on track before we got any faults.

We ended up with Qs in 4 out of 5 of our runs, which means we earned our Standard Level 1 title. We'll have to try some of the other games that we didn't try and get a Q in Wildcard to get the other Level 1 titles. Rye also got first place in each of the runs we qualified in. I don't put a lot of stock in that because in one of the runs, we were the only 16-inch dog running and in some of the others there were only two dogs, so I'm still very proud of her for getting those ribbons, too, but they're a little bit deceiving since we didn't beat out too many other dogs.

It was a really good weekend filled with so many supportive people. Everyone was so welcoming and helpful. It was the perfect way to start our agility career and we're looking forward to our next trial in April. 


  1. How fun! Sometimes it is better to suddenly get in so you don't have time to stress out about it. Congratulations! Madison almost has the weaves completely closed, that is a big thing for her. They are hoping to enter a trial or two this summer. We will see how that goes. Enjoy!

    1. Rye loves her weaves! In level 1 of CPE, they only have weaves on the course for games like wildcard when you have an option to not do them, so we didn't end up doing any weaves this trial, but now that we've moved up to level 2 for a few classes, we'll get those in the next trial! I can't wait to hear about Madison's trail experiences--we've got another CPE trial plus two AKC trials on the calendar in April, but after that, we'll probably cut back to just one a month because it's exhausting!

  2. Congratulations! It's so much fun watching her; even when she doesn't do perfect, she just makes me smile. She's such a free spirit, and any part of that you can tame is impressive! :)
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. I love watching her, too! I can't even count how many times I've watched the videos--even the one where she does her own thing. She just has so much fun that I can't get enough of watching her in action!

  3. What a joy she is to watch. You can tell how much she loves it, and that she is having fun with it. I'm so glad you have a found a sport that you both love.

    1. Yes! She really does love it and she's such a natural. It's a little bittersweet doing it without Barley, though, since there would be no agility in my life without her. She would hate the trial atmosphere, though, and Rye thinks it's all fabulous. It's the one time Rye really oozes confidence--the rest of the time she's such a nervous little dog.