Monday, October 22, 2018

An Excellent Dog

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Rye and I had been trapped in purgatory--or the second level of AKC agility, Open.

Two weekends ago, we partially escaped our purgatory. We earned our Open Standard Title on our first Standard run of the weekend.

I was a little nervous going into our run because Rye had had a meltdown when I took her out of her crate. The trial was in a wellness center where the staff does a great job keeping the floors clean by running large brooms over the floor several times throughout the day. Rye has seen this happening without any reactions, so I didn't think anything of it when I went to take her out of her crate for our run and there was a man sweeping in the corner near our crate.

Rye definitely thought something of it, though. Usually, I take her out of her crate, let her stretch, and then grab our treats so that we've got snacks while we wait for our turn and have the really good rewards waiting on the bleachers by the exit gate. When I did that this time, Rye lost her mind. Her hair raised and she bounced and barked and wanted to chase that man out of our corner. He, of course, was oblivious to her distress and kept going over the area again and again.

The only way to calm Rye down was to pick her up and carry her away. We went several feet away and talked to one of our former classmates while keeping our fingers crossed that the man would move on in time for us to grab Rye's chicken.

Rye was still agitated while we waited for our turn at the gate, but we played some focus games and it seemed like she was going to be willing to work with me. Then we had the prettiest run we've ever had--minus a table fault when Rye bounced off of the table for a second.

The only effect the broom guy seemed to have on Rye was making her suspicious of the judge. Rye can be weird with men and once she got on the table, she kept looking at the judge and then looking back at me and barking. But our table fault was the only fault we got, so we got our third Standard Q for our Open Standard title and were able to move up to the next level, Excellent.

The next day was bonkers after we moved up. Our first run was our first Open FAST course. I've mentioned before that I love fast because it's a good warm up for Rye. Her first run is always a little wild, so having one where there are only 2-3 obstacles that you have to do in sequence is always nice. She can get a little energy out and I can predict more of what she'll need from me in future runs that day. 

For this course, we had to go over a jump and then send to the far side of a tunnel without me crossing the line on the floor. We'd watched several of the Masters and Excellent level dogs miss the correct side of the tunnel, but I felt really confident in my plan. I knew what line I needed to set for Rye to go to that side of the tunnel and I stuck to my plan. We missed a couple jumps that I'd planned because I didn't set clear lines, so I knew to pay attention to that later in the day. We also had the same judge we'd had for the Standard run the day before and at the end, he was a bit in the way when Rye came out of the send challenge and she was not happy to see him. I was actually a little nervous that she might nip him! But she did a great job coming back to me and we just went straight to the finish line before she had a chance to get distracted again. We ended up with 72 points and only needed 55, so we got our first Open FAST Q.

About an hour later, we were running our first Excellent Standard course. Once you move to Excellent, you're only allowed time faults (which I can't imagine ever being an issue for my speed demon!). The second obstacle was the weaves and this was a day Rye was not feeling the weaves. She missed the entrance on our first try, which meant we got a refusal and already hadn't Q'd by the second obstacle. That meant we could go into training mode. We missed a couple other obstacles, but she got her contacts and stayed on the table. I'd watched the areas that had given the taller dogs problems and come up with a plan to help Rye in those spots and I couldn't be more proud of our first Excellent run.

We were the fifth 16-inch dog to run Excellent Standard and as soon as we crossed the finish line, the briefing for the Open Jumpers course was starting in the other ring! I ran back to our crate and got to the ring just as the briefing was ending and the walk-thru was starting. The course was big and flowy--exactly the kind of course Rye loves--but I set terrible lines from the very beginning (I'm blaming the lack of oxygen to my brain after all of that running!) and Rye took the wrong end of a tunnel twice and we didn't Q on that course, either. She did do exactly what I asked her to do, though, and she did the weaves like a champ, so this one was all on me.

We have finally had some success in Open Jumpers, though. Earlier this month, we got our first Open Jumpers Q! Once again, Rye did such a good job of listening. For some reason even though I don't even take Rye's leash off until I see that the dog before us has its leash clipped on, the dog before us was still on the course after we went over the 4th jump. Rye wasn't entirely sure what to think about that and thought about going to check it out, but she came back when I called her and even though we missed the weave entrance, she got right back on track and finished the course strong.

This weekend, we got our second Open Jumpers Q when we went to another new location.

Rye didn't know what to think of this large cat in the lobby of the trial site!

Of course, we didn't ask anyone to video us since our normal group of classmates and friends weren't at this trial, so we didn't get it on film, but she was such a good little girl! This judge had some challenging courses with lots of opportunities for off-course jumps and Rye sometimes thinks the judges make the courses too short and wants to add on to them. We usually do best on wide open flowy courses, and this course made us change directions almost every 2 obstacles, so I had to be really clear with my cues and let Rye know where we were going in plenty of time.

We're really starting to feel like a team. Every weekend we go to a trial, Rye pays more attention to me and I'm learning more of how to communicate with her. Running courses with Rye is some of the most fun I've ever had--even when things don't turn out perfectly. It's hard to believe she's only been doing this for seven months! We're taking the next month off from trials--mostly because our usual locations don't have any, but also because Barley's entered in a C-WAGS scent trial one weekend and I just need a some time at home to do laundry and deep clean the carpets and sit on the couch. Our next trial will be our first time doing all three days of a trial because it will be Rye's adoption weekend and I couldn't think of any better way to celebrate two years together than by spending all weekend doing what Rye loves best. 


  1. Agility is a new sport to me, but I definitely feel Madison and I are starting to get our groove together after our third trial. She is more confident, and so am I. One more leg to get out of novice standard. Time is our enemy since we are not fast. Ran a perfect open jumpers, but not fast enough. It is what we have to work on. Two days is definitely more our thing too. Glad you had so much success despite the scary start with the sweeping man!

    1. I'm glad that you two are starting to gel together more, too! Time is the one thing that we don't have to worry about--and the only type of fault you're allowed in Excellent. In our first Open Jumpers Q, Rye was faster than all of the dogs that ran clean even after thinking about going to check out another dog and missing the weaves on the first try. In our second one this weekend, she was running over 4 yards per seconds! We're anxious to see how three days goes for us!

  2. Rye is an Excellent Dog in all ways! It has been really fun to watch her mature and learn to be a team with you. Two years together (soon) - wow!

    Chris from Boise

    1. I'm not sure that Barley agrees that Rye is excellent in all aways, but I definitely think so! She has grown up so much in these 7 months we've been competing--I can't wait to see where we're at after a few years of this!

  3. Speed is definitely not an issue for her - the weaves in that first video were amazing! It's great that the two of you have so much fun with this, and don't get discouraged even when it doesn't go perfectly.
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. I wish I could convince her to weave like that every time--I'm hoping that will just come with more practice! Rye has so much fun no matter how we do that it's impossible to stay discouraged for long ;)

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