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On playing agility on outdoors artificial turf

November 24, 2015 Leave a comment

The 2016 AAC National Agility Championships will be held in Montreal.

Wow! When I heard the news, I was ecstatic! Just a couple of hours from home. Short trip. Cool!

When I heard we were going to be playing on the soccer field of Ecole Secondaire de la Ponte-aux-Trembles, on artificial turf, I was very happy. I thought it would be great to run on a nice, smooth, even surface, no matter the weather. I did not give the surface a second thought, but then my experience of running on artificial turf/grass has been limited to a couple of indoor trials and training sessions.

Then, last week, the organizing committee posted on Facebook more information about the soccer field we will be using:

“Finding a perfectly even and athletic quality field that could hold 6 rings was an important objective for the organizing committee. In addition, for those who were in Sussex in 2014, it is easy to understand the fear of seeing a field deteriorate from one competitor to another. In Sussex, they had a field that resisted very well to the atrocious weather conditions. However, Montreal Island is known for its clay type soil in many areas. This can be disastrous in wet conditions, to the point where an event would need to be cancelled. Renting a one time use venue (predicting the soil’s capability to resist in wet conditions) was deemed too risky.

The choice was obvious; it would be artificial turf (Synthetic grass).
The site chosen has an excellent quality field surface (recently replaced- approximately 2 years old). New enough to avoid being patted down or worn out, yet old enough to be broken in. Thanks to local government support, we obtained special permission to use it for a canine event.

Many worry about the heat from the turf on paw pads. On a bright and sunny day during summer, it is undeniable that artificial turf is hotter than natural grass. We tested by checking if we could leave an open palm hand easily over 10 seconds on a very hot day, with no clouds at high noon. There was no problem in doing so. There is no danger for burning pads due to the heat. However, the committee acknowledges needing to find ways to reduce the discomfort caused by the heat floating off the turf in the waiting areas and for the volunteers who will be there for hours.”

Reading the text I highlighted above, sent me some warning signs. I had not “clicked” until this post came up on Facebook.

Considering that the dogs will have to spend more than 10 seconds on that surface, and also not having any idea of exactly how hot such surface can become, I set out to find some answers.

The first things I found were journal articles about the 2015 Women FIFA World Cup held here in Canada, outdoors on artificial grass. Here in Ottawa, on a 25C day (air temperature) the artificial turf the soccer players had to play on was at 55C. The women at the FIFA World Cup kept their cleats on ice before going in the field. And developed blisters in their toes because of the heat of the surface. In June.

I then discovered that there isn’t much research done on the issue of artificial turf overheating and most of the research has been concerned with their toxicity. However, there is a reputable source of information: the Penn State University Center for Sport Surface Research:

http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/research/synthetic-turf-research-penn-state

This year they studied the effect of irrigation on synthetic turf temperature:

http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/documents/irrigationsynthetic.pdf

The study was conducted at Penn State’s Center for Sports Surface Research on June 24, 2015 on a FieldTurf Revolution plot that had been installed in 2012. Weather conditions were sunny, breezy, with clouds moving in at about 3:00 PM and lasting for the remainder of data collection.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I highly recommend having a look at Figure 1 on the above article, which clearly shows how the temperature of artificial turf (control – yellow) increases, how lower the temperature of “real” turf is (blue)  and how frequent water irrigation can help keeping the artificial turf temperature down. Also, one can see from table 1 that when the air temperature was 75F (23.8C), at 2:30 pm , the artificial turf had reached its highest temperature for that day, of 155.7F (68.7C). Already at 11:55 am the non watered artificial turf (control) temperature was 143.6F (62C), while the air temperature was only 70F (21C). It is also interesting to note that at 3:30 pm, 30 minutes after the cloud cover established itself over the field, the non watered artificial turf temperature had dropped significantly to 124.9F (51.6C) while the air temperature was higher than at 2:30 pm at 78F (25.6C).

The article also indicates that turf temperature is dependent on how the sun rays hit the surface. On a sunny but relatively cool day with no cloud cover the artificial turf will likely be hotter than on a warmer day where there is a cloud cover or a significant amount of haze.

The above may be misleading as one may think the day is sunny but not hot and not be prepared for a high artificial turf temperature.

Another good image can be found on this article and it shows clearly how between natural grass, sand, cement (pavement) and artificial turf, the latter reaches the highest temperature on a given day: http://turf.uark.edu/turfhelp/archives/021109.html

As for burns, according to AntiScald Inc., at 55C one can develop a second degree burn in 17 seconds and a third degree burn in 30 seconds, while those times go down to 2 seconds and 5 seconds respectively at a temperature of 60C (http://www.antiscald.com/prevention/general_info/table.php). They are referring to human skin and not dog paw pads. But it is still an indication of the potential danger of a hot surface.

Because of the above,  I wonder what the AAC Nationals organizing committee means by “no danger”.

Not only the scientific data indicate that outdoors artificial turf can overheat and become an issue. But the recommendations I received from fellow competitors who have experienced trialling or working with their dogs outdoors on artificial turf on a sunny day are not those one would get if there was “no danger”.

I asked questions on the Agility Europe Facebook group, as I know that in Europe they trial on many different surfaces and I sent a private message to a Facebook friend who is very active in agility and plays at a very competitive level.

My post on the Agility Europe Facebook group can be found here:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/383870845005713/permalink/976189345773857/

Kristýna Hrazdilová comments on my post on the Agility Europe Facebook group: “We had a third qualification competition (2 days) on artificial grass in conditions you describe (temperatures about 35°C) – Impossible to step on the grass barefoot, but during the 2 days just several dog paws were hurt. It was very important to keep dogs in shadow, wet and minimize the time spend on the grass. So it is possible (and possibly safe) to compete in such conditions, however not optimal”

Monika Rylska  comments: “plus remember to wet your dog but keep his paws dry – wet paws plus hot artificial surface will surely scratch skin off”

Susan Fallon Paulsen comments: “Yes, our nationals in the USA for USDAA was like that. It can get very hot so wet your dog down. Also, the turf can get very slick.”

My Facebook friend, in a private message, told me that he has done a 3 week-ends camp on 3rd generation astroturf. Air temperatures were 30-35C. They would do a maximum of 4 minutes on the turf, and only from early morning till 11 am. Then they would pause till 5 pm when the sun was starting to set. From 9 am on, they watered the field every hour to cool it down. They also wet the dogs every time they went on the field. With those precautions, a few dogs got minor burns, likely due to a combination of hot temperature of the turf and friction.

Because of all of the above, the statement “There is no danger for burning pads due to the heat.” by the AAC Nationals 2016 organizing committee appears to be a gross misrepresentation of what things could really be like at the 2016 Nationals on an outdoor artificial grass field, given “unfavourable” weather conditions like a bright sunny day. I was hoping the field was provided of an automatic irrigation system, but I just received confirmation from the organizing committee that there is none.

Had I not gone through this exercise, I would not think of the necessity of watering down my dog before a run on artificial turf when the air temperature is, for example, 25C, when the day is pleasantly sunny and not humid. I would not know that the artificial turf, if my run is at 2:30 pm, may be at a temperature close to 70C. I would not know of the need, in such conditions, to minimize contact of my dog’s paws with the artificial turf. And my dog would still risk burning his pads because of the turf temperature and the friction on that surface. Had I not gone through this exercise I would believe, because of the statement by the organizing committee, that everything is fine. Until stepping on that surface, for the first time, on a bright sunny 25C day. That would also likely be the last run my dog would run at that event. Because he would likely burn his pads.

I understand the attempt of the AAC Nationals organizing committee to have all competitors run on the same turf, not on a turf that deteriorates due to unfavourable weather conditions as more and more dogs run on it. However, I do not think they solved this problem. Between the first dog running an event at 8:30 am and a dog running that same event on that same turf at 11:00 am, the turf will still be the same in terms of evenness of the surface . However, the turf will be at a much higher temperature for the latter dog, potentially so hot as to cause burns due to heat + friction or heat alone, depending on the atmospheric conditions. How is this any better? And, how is this the same turf for all competitors?

What I really dislike, however, is the false sense of security that the AAC Nationals organizing committee is giving to competitors. I certainly hope nothing will happen, that the 4-7 of August 2016 will be all overcast breezy days and no sun rays will hit the artificial turf of the six agility rings.

And, I wonder which value would have a waiver signed by competitors under the misleading information publicly given by the organizing committee that “there is no danger of burning pads due to the heat”, if anything happened…

I have been criticized for spreading some of this information on my Facebook wall, I have been told that anything can be made look scary, that the 10 seconds hand test is a well accepted test, that if I can hold my hand for 10 seconds on pavement my dog can walk across it.

However, my Facebook wall is mine to do as I please. I did not offend anybody. I just stated my concerns and some of my early findings. One may take it or leave it. Or just read it and remain indifferent, or of course comment on it. Nobody is forced to read the stuff I post on my wall. Or to take it at face value.  As for making things look scary, I disagree. I am just putting together whatever I found out there. Both from scientific sources and from fellow competitors who answered my questions.

My job, that pays for my agility, consists on finding out information. Both from scientific sources, blogs, patents. Anything I can find about a certain topic, made available to the public in any possible form. And what I posted here is out there for anybody wanting to look and read it.

I am a chemist. I do understand what I have read. I may not get much about politics or economics, but I do understand heat, conductivity and temperature and polymers and so on, even if at first I had not paid much attention.

I also understand that my dog will not be trotting on cement. He will be running full speed ahead on a possibly very hot surface, a surface likely hotter than cement (see above article from Arkansas U). He will be weaving, doing tight turns, accelerating and decelerating. There will be significant friction with a surface that can already inflict friction burns when cool. And while the hand on a surface for 10 seconds may be considered as a good empirical way to see whether a dog can walk on a hot surface, I do not consider it a valid test to determine whether it can run and decelerate abruptly and turn sharply on the same hot surface.

I now have a much better idea of the potential dangers of outdoors astroturf on a sunny, not necessarily hot, summer day.

And I have also read carefully the recommendations of my fellow competitors.

As far as I am concerned, when I will decide whether to go to Nationals, I will have made an informed decision, not one based on what, so far, to me looks like a wrong and dismissive “no danger” statement, which does nothing more than spreading a false sense of security. Because us commoners, without looking into the issue, with just that statement, would only consider the usual precautions we take when running our dogs in conditions of extreme heat. We would not think that a surface we run on can be at 68.7C when the air temperature is a pleasant 23.8C as shown by the folks at the Centre for Sport Surface Research of Penn State University.

A last thought goes to the judges of the event, and to the volunteers, who may be faced with sitting or walking for several hours on a surface that can heat up to 70C on a nice ordinary sunny day. The organizing committee mentions that “the committee acknowledges needing to find ways to reduce the discomfort caused by the heat floating off the turf in the waiting areas and for the volunteers who will be there for hours.” I am looking forward to their solution, especially for the judges. As this type of event has been run on outdoors astroturf abroad, I am sure it can be done also here. I just cannot see everything stopping every single hour to water down the whole soccer field at an event where about 500 dogs need to run 2 courses every day, if the need arose. After all in Sussex they did not stop during the downpours unless, like during my gamblers run, the scribe was unable to hear the judge…

Regardless of what I will decide to do, hopefully all the stars will align in the universe and August 4-7 2016 will be 4 great overcast days in Montreal.

——-

As an aside, the city of Barcelona (Spain) public agility field is artificial turf. But there is an automatic irrigation system (according to the info I found online). This appears to be the best way to dissipate the heat and cool this type of surface.

——-

A short summary with recommendations from Penn State U:

http://plantscience.psu.edu/research/centers/ssrc/documents/temperature.pdf

Getting back, up and running, can be scary…

August 27, 2015 1 comment

It has been a long time since Krypto and I have done any “serious” agility, that is trialling. We had stopped last November because of Krypto’s injury due to some scar tissue adhesion that had deteriorated his jumping. We had reached the point where he would refuse to jump the double, spread and tyre. And stutter step more and more frequently.

Then it was my turn. I was not injured, but I underwent surgery to get a second total hip replacement. This time I got a brand new left hip.

Then, at the very end of my convalescence, I discovered that a very small mass on Krypto’s chest (left-hand side), which I thought was gone since I had first seen it in February, had actually grown a bit. In February the vet that had seen him (unfortunately mine was on holiday) had sworn it was a histiocytoma (benign) and that it would normally reabsorb within 4-5 months. I brought Krypto to see my vet, to get her opinion on the mass, and decided to have it removed as it was growing, even if very slowly. That was a good call on my part as it turned out that mass was an early grade 2 mastocytoma, that is a cancer. Luckily we got it in time and my vet was able to remove it completely, so Krypto did not require any further surgeries or chemotherapy. But it was a huge scare for me, and of course we were off any type of activity for an additional couple of weeks.

After my surgery and before Krypto’s, we just had the time to do a couple of Gamblers runs at a small local trial. We did well, but Krypto popped the weaves in a very costly mini-gamble, which is very unusual. I did not think much about it, but after his surgery, he kept popping the weaves in training and at agility class. A visit to the chiropractor explained the issue as he was “a mess” and even his toes were out of alignment. He hasn’t popped them since.

Between Krypto’s surgery and his visit to the chiropractor, we managed to go for a One Mind Dog workshop held by OMD coach Jessica Ajoux in St-Lazare, to learn the techniques. It was mostly young dogs, and we were pretty much the only “old” team, and also the only one who did not know those fancy moves (I think…). It was an extremely hot day so even if we could have worked longer with the coach, if we got things right at the first attempt, we stopped there. It was fun, but I also got a bit self conscious watching these speedy handlers, with their young dogs, doing impressive handling, while I considered it a success when Krypto and I got the German turn or the double lap turn right!

And now this is it. Saturday we have our first trial in a long time.  If I do not consider those two Gamblers runs, it has been roughly ten months.

The one on Saturday is a small local trial at our club, More Dogz. Four runs: standard, challenge and two jumpers. It should not be a big deal but it is becoming a big deal for me. I am concerned about what we’ll be able to do. I am not really fast on my legs. I think I can get better once my left leg is stronger, but now I am so so as far as speed is concerned, and I lack endurance. Not that I will ever be fast…but…

And I see all these young people with legs that go up to their necks, run so that it looks so simple. And they are oh so coordinated. I was never an athlete (and never will be…), let alone coordinated!!

I think I need to get my act together and just trust that my adrenaline will keep me breathing till the end of each course. And go in the ring forgetting about young people with great legs and beautiful smooth “international” handling skills. Remembering the course and what I need to do both in terms of handling and in terms of verbal cues is what I must do. And I’ll be ok.

But,most of all, I must remember that I do not care about the Qs. I care about being as one with my amazing little border collie, to play and have fun together. Then everything will be ok, no matter what.

Our 2014, from when we left the blog to December’s “revelation” and more…

January 19, 2015 1 comment

Our agility year (2014) continued pretty well as Krypto succeeded beyond my expectations. We became a better team and brought home several titles, and finally one sunny day of July, at the Ottawa Valley Border Collie Club, Krypto and I succeeded in “conquering” the last Masters Jumpers Q we needed to obtain the ATChC! Not only that, but we also earned the Bronze Award of Merit (10 Masters Standard Qs + 25 Masters Games Qs)!!

with judge Wendy Beard, showing off our ribbons

with judge Wendy Beard, showing off our ribbons

Before that “epic” day (for me), we had competed at the Quebec Regionals and with 507.95 points and a 10th place in 22 regular we had qualified for Nationals. Again, something I had only dreamed of!!

However at Regionals one thing started haunting us again, after some time we hadn’t had that issue. Krypto was stutter stepping before jumps. But, it was not consistent. Outdoors things were going better and the stutter stepping was minor. Krypto also started taking off very early on for a jump, and I started worrying. However it was hard to work on this issue since it was not always present and I could not figure out its cause.

At the Quebec Regionals.  Photo by Jacques Beauvais.

At the Quebec Regionals. Photo by Jacques Beauvais.

Regardless, off we went to our greatest agility adventure: the AAC 2014 National Agility Championships, that were held in Sussex, NB. I still remember discussing things with our trainer/coach/instructor/friend J.L. and telling her the same thing I had told her about my strategy for Regionals. I was going to give it all and push our limit. We’ll go for it. Playing conservatively when there were other 96 dogs in our category was really not an option. And I remember her agreeing with me.

So off we went, with a friend and her dog. And we had the grandest of times! We ran our heart out, we rose to 11th place after day one, then an unfortunate run under the downpour and my mistake brought us down to 33rd place after day two, but we managed to keep our cool and to climb back 6 places to finish 27th out of 97 dogs! And we even brought home a 7th place ribbon in Gamblers. I was on cloud none, and thinking of it, I still am. That was the most amazing competition ever. Before our first run I could barely breath! I had so much adrenaline running in my system that I had a hard time sleeping even if we were waking up every day at the crack of dawn! I learnt so much and I am so so proud of what we accomplished for our first time playing with the “big” dogs!

7th place Gambler 1

7th place Gambler 1

Once back home, things started deteriorating. Krypto’s stutter stepping, almost absent at Nationals (although I think it cost us a clean Standard 1 and 5 points in Standard 2), came back with a vengeance. Not only that. After an accident with a small non-breakaway tire, Krypto started refusing this obstacle. I spent lots of time training him, reading jumping books by Linda Mecklenburg, Chris Zink, Susan Salo and Suzanne Clothier. I started thinking that what was gong on was due to lack of confidence. But our trainer convinced me to go see a canine rehab therapist. And what she found was amazing! 
Krypto’s neutering scar, which is a tad different and a bit bigger than a normal one as he had an undescended testicle, has adhered to the underlying tissues, e.g. the fasciae. This is exerting a pull on his muscles and is causing a lot of discomfort, and a tightness in Krypto’s left psoas. The pull has gotten worse over the years as has the tightness and the pain.
This could be the reason why Krypto takes lots of small steps instead of a couple of nice strides before jumping, why he has started tucking his back paws under his back when jumping while he used to extend his paws backwards, and also why he tries to avoid certain obstacles…He may be trying to protect his leg while still doing what he loves to do.
Of course this is not necessarily the only cause of what he does, but may certainly be a contributing factor.

Krypto underwent therapy, the adhesion is almost completely gone, and last Saturday we went for the first training session since we have found out about this injury. I must admit that I was very concerned about not seeing any improvement, especially since after over a year of jumping the way he did, he may have created a habit that may be difficult to break.

We did extension grids, set points and speed circles. Krypto was extending beautifully doing grid work, but he kept tucking his back paws under while doing the speed circle…until we were almost done and he started extending his back paws back while jumping! Now, this may not mean much, but I am really hopeful that he may have understood that his muscles do not hurt anymore and it is ok to kick his paws back!

And this is it, in short, what we have done since our last post. In the next months we’ll keep working on Krypto’s jumping skills and try to break his bad habits. Until then, no trials for us…

Two to go!

March 29, 2014 1 comment

Last night Krypto and I went to Dream Fields for a “self-serve” evening trial. Which means that the volunteers are the competitors. So we build, we run our dog, then we do ring steward duties and so on. It was games night, 2 Masters Gamblers, 2 Masters Snookers, and 2 Masters Jumpers. While I wanted to do well in all classes, my main goal was to succeed in jumpers, since we needed 4 Qs to get our MJDC (Masters Jumpers Dog of Canada) and also our ATChC (Agility Trial Champion of Canada).

While jumpers used to be easy peasy for us in starters and not that hard in advanced, as we hit masters we started having to cope with much more handling, a lot less straight lines, and a lot more movement required to me. And we had a lot of difficulty, until we started getting better at it, and we had the odd jump bar down. And then of course we had the big debacle of last Sunday’s trial, when Krypto messed up even the easiest of lead outs, one that he can normally do blindfolded, so to speak – it turns out he needed to pee and of course he could not both hold the pee and think (I had brought him out to pee before our run and he had repeatedly refused)…

Friday night was our night. After a successful Gamblers run, a nQ in the other Gambler caused by my inability to blurt out a “mememe” at a very critical moment, and a nQ in the first snooker due to some missed weaves in the opening, we got a shot at Masters Snookers 2, which led to the two jumpers runs. There we did not Q because the judge called a refusal at #6 in the closing. How he could possible see Krypto’s back paws from where he stood is a mystery to me, and some people that were watching us did not understand why we were whistled out…Truth is Krypto turned his head to look at me, but I believe he did not move his back paws. But, I am not 100% sure because he is so fast, and I am running him, and it is hard to be certain about such a detail. Anyways, we had a little conversation with the judge, who had no clue why he called us out, and we did not have a chance to get a re-run on that (I think we deserved it but…), which is probably better because I then had time to focus on our jumpers runs. They were two relatively flowy courses, with quite a bit of handling, but definitely feasible. So when I went in to run the first one, I just focused on it, and on Krypto. And we nailed it! As we nailed the second one!

Wow! Before last night we were so far from the ATChC. And now we are so close it is scary!! I never would have thought I could get a ATChC with one of my dogs. It has always looked like something so far away and unattainable, and I have always watched in awe the people and dogs that succeeded in earning it! And now, we are there. Almost!!!

That is all the positive. Let’s talk about the negative.

I am far too late too many times with my commands. And sometimes I do not say them clearly enough.  This is why Krypto sometimes turns to look at me. Every time that he turns his head and he stutter steps because he needs direction and I am late, we not only loose time. We also risk a refusal.

And, we have once more the creeping down the A-frame. This issue has been plaguing us since the very beginning. Whatever I did, or did not do, has definitely left a mark on Krypto. However, I had already decided to go back, once more, to square one, and start over again. I have an idea of what to do, I read books and watched DVDs, and I have observed Krypto. And I have a plan. I will take it easy. Slow and easy (the approach, not the A-frame performance!). What really worries me is that at the last two trials (5 days apart) Krypto’s A-frame was terrible. He would just stop above the contact zone, and not come down. He has never stopped there, that high, before. Also, before he would not be consistent in his creeping. He would have some good ones, and some bad ones. And just the week before, in training, his A-frame was very good, he had stopped creeping down. He was not the fastest, but he was definitely coming down easily. I am now wondering whether he is hurting. This is definitely the first thing I need to rule out before doing some more training. The plan is to get him to see a massage therapist or his chiropractor to see if there is anything wrong. At the next trial things will depend on whether he is ok or not. Sure thing is that there is no point in me trying to have him repeat the obstacle if he is hurting. And even if he is ok, then it is clear that he doesn’t understand what I want. So why asking him to repeat it? So perhaps the best course of action is just avoid that obstacle and burn some runs…at least for the trials runs I cannot get out of…And start over once more!!!

 

 

 

Last agility trial of the year.

November 26, 2013 2 comments

And agility year 2013 ended for Krypto and me last week-end at Absolute Agility (AARF).

I had entered only four events, two masters standard, one masters jumpers and one masters snooker, but I ended up adding two masters gamblers at the very last minute, the morning of the trial, since we were going to stay there the whole day anyways…

I have been repeating to myself over and over that when I am at a trial, I have to note, even if succinctly, what goes wrong, and also what goes well, so that I can use it to plan our next training session. Well, hopefully next year it will happen…

Masters Standard (3) and Masters Gamblers (2)

Masters Standard 3 and Masters Gambler 2

Masters Standard 3 and Masters Gambler 2

Since I did not note what happened in Masters Standard 3, I have no recollection of what went wrong. I remember we knocked a bar, but I bet we also had an off course. But where?!!! Bad bad me!!!

Masters Gamblers 2 was one of those gambles that you go and give it your best shot, but you know they are going to be hard for your dog to manage. I think we had a beautiful opening, tyre-dog walk-tunnel-tunnel-spread-complete 3 obstacle mini-jump-tunnel-spread-complete 3 obstacle mini-seesaw (?!) then the buzzer went off and we tackled the odd/difficult gamble. The first two obstacles were multidirectional. So we did: dog on right, jump 2 going towards the S-F line, threadle between jump 2 and jump 1, jump 1 going towards the weaves, weaves. Up to then everything went splendidly! I am veyr very happy with the threadle, my timing was good, and Krypto’s response to my commands and his weave entry were perfect. Then I sent him to jump 4 through the space between the weaves and jump 1. Krypto never saw jump 4. As Scorch and other fast dogs … Oh well. It was a beautiful run!

Masters Snooker (1) and Masters Standard (4)

Masters Snooker 1 and Masters Standard 4

Masters Snooker 1 and Masters Standard 4

On Sunday Krypto and I were 3 Master Snookers Q away from his Masters Snooker Dog of Canada (MSDC). I went in the field and walked the course with a plan in mind. That plan was not what is written on the map above, and is not what we run. The original plan was to do the red jump below the S-F line, then 6a-6b, red marked 2 in the map, then seesaw, then red marked 4 in the map, 6b-6a, then bring Krypto to 2 for the closing. I was, however, very concerned about having to then do the 6a-6b combo in the closing, because going from the seesaw to 6a, as written, for the closing, was not going to be easy for us. As I was watching other teams run (we were very far down the running order), I decided that I “had” to change my plan. And so I did. What we ran, and I did not walk, is written down on the map above. Doing four 6 in the opening allowed me to complete the closing only up to the seesaw, and not needing to get to 6a as written on the map. And we nailed it! Funny think is, we could have done 6a, Krypto actually came through from the seesaw, following my “me-me-me” command, and I was leading him to do a “round” (back of the jump) with dog on right, when the buzzer went off. We got 42 points and our second Masters Snookers Q!!!! Two down, two to go!!!!

And then came Masters Standard 4. Three times into a straight tunnel!!! How on earth was I supposed to manage that and get down to 11-12 to help Krypto with a nasty weave entry since he is a wide jumper (for now, we are working on that!)? I led out from the middle of the tunnel, between tunnel and A-frame. I started repeating “left” as soon as Krypto had his head in the tunnel, and he came out to the left (well, I was also on his left, that was easy 🙂  ), and did the A-frame as expected. Meanwhile I was moving up, I told him “left-tunnel” which worked perfectly, then I flicked/pushed him to the tire, “8-8-8” to the jump, then “tuneel-tunnel-tunnel” and when he came out of the tunnel I had moved diagonally towards the centre of the field. Then I said “jump-left-go-la-la-la” and he breezed through 9-10-11. As expected he turned left a bit wide at 11, thus he missed the weave entry and that was it. nQ. However, we kept going. I put him back in the weaves, then seesaw, then it was supposed to be “jump-left-weave” but my mouth said “jum-right” and of course he went into the chute. No big deal, we had already lost our chance to qualify. So I put him back into jump 14 and I said “jump-left-weave-right-right-right” and he executed if perfectly, then “out-jump” for 17, which Krypto nailed like a pro, steering towards the jump since he had curved towards me when in the chute. I was at about 80 horizontal/50 vertical. The rest was a breeze.

I am so very proud of this run. Krypto managed incredibly well the first 11 obstacles, had a glitch and missed the weave entry, and then if I had blurted the correct instruction, he would have definitely finished the course breezing through the whole thing, thus with only a weave issue. I never would have thought we could do this!!! I am so so happy!! This was definitely the highlight of the day for me.

Masters Gamblers (3) and Masters Jumpers (2)

Masters Gablers 3 and Masters Jumpers 2

Masters Gablers 3 and Masters Jumpers 2

Then it was time of another gamblers run. This time we did not have a pretty opening. We did the mini twice (notice, the judge moved B to the easier opening of the tunnel), which was a no brainer, then I played a bit at the weaves/chute, we did the A-frame and something else I forgot (again, bad bad me for not taking notes), then the buzzer went off. The only problem with this gamble was the time, and flipping the dog onto the dog walk. Krypto’s “jump right” worked as expected and we nailed the gamble and earned another Master Gamblers Q.

If is funny how people kept congratulating me for this run, which was really nothing special. We got only 36 points in the opening because I played around with things, and the closing was good, but for us is usually easy. I think our Snooker and Standard 4 runs were much much better. Or even Gamblers 2. But hey, I’ll take the compliment!

And last, but not least, we attempted a jumpers run. On Sunday we need 4 Masters Jumpers Q for our title (Masters Jumpers Dog of Canada). Today we still need 4!!!!

Again a straight tunnel, twice, in jumpers run! It was going to be a fast run for sure! I led out on the right of the tunnel, mid way. Everything went smoothly until I found myself above jump 9 when Krypto took jump 8. I was supposed to be below. That was the way I had walked it. I could not blurt out any directionals since I had not walked and learnt them for that particular spot!!! And despite my attempts at calling Krypto, he went for the dummy jump as if he had already decided…After that we continued nicely until we reached the very tight part 16-17-18…I do not remember what went wrong, but everything fell apart and we had an off course…Definitely that spot was very tight for us, and I need to work on handling in tight spaces…So, no matter what I had done previously during this run, we would have ineluctably failed somewhere between 16 and 19…

To sum it up, six runs, two Qs. But one that counts a lot us (the snookers), and a great (to me) standard run that made me smile the whole day.

I am very happy with what we have accomplished this year…let’s see what the next bring us!

GSP_7433_se

Categories: Agility, Agility Trials

Krypto’s (and my) first experience at a big trial…

September 2, 2013 Leave a comment

…went pretty well all considered.

On Saturday we headed off to Guides Canins (Saint Lazare, QC). I had entered Krypto in two advanced jumpers and two advanced snookers on Saturday, and the same thing on Sunday. I was trying to finish his advanced games title.

We arrived at the trial site bright and early (we woke up at 5 am…), I had already set up our tent the day before, I set up Pongo’s and Krypto’s crates, put the boyz in them, and off I went to get my courses. Then I started looking at the snookers map. The start and finish lines could be interpreted several ways, so it was not so easy to plan a course not knowing how to use those lines. What I thought, since there were two distinct lines, a D-D (depart) and an A-A (arrivee), was that I had to use the diagonal line as a start line and cross that one. Those green pen lines represent my plan for the opening, taking into account that interpretation of the map. However, when the judge gave us the briefing, it was clear that both lines were start lines, and the horizontal one was also a finish line. So I planned my run better, but..I do not remember which way we went!!! Too many runs in two days!!! I should have noted it afterwards. Regardless, we did three times the A-frame then went for the closing and completed it! A total of 51 points for a nice Q and second place (by 1 point).

ASn2

Advanced Snooker

We were out of Advanced Snooker!!!!!! I was in heaven!!!! Then off I went to plan our first advanced jumpers run, a very cute course. It did not go well. Krypto dropped a bar, did some odd things like going off to a wrong tunnel entry because I was too close – he is used to distance after all. I checked the video of our run that our instructor took, I listened to her comments, and I set forth to do the second jumpers run with those comment in mind. And…we nailed it. First place and best run overall. (see map). We were out of Advanced, period!!!!

 

Advanced Jumpers

I then went to the registration area and asked to move up our next runs to the masters level. We then ran the second snooker in the Masters snooker. It wasn’t a tough course, but I had a bit of a brain fart when the judge called “zero” at the weaves (obstacle of choice – I caused Krypto to pop out). I should have clicked and gone for another red, but I put him back in the weaves. Oh well!

I packed the dogs up and we came home. we were home at around 9 pm, I took a shower, the dogs had supper, I chatted a bit on Facebook, then off to bed. On Sunday I woke up at 4:45 to be at the trial site earlier as our first run, now Masters Snooker, was at 8 am. Once at Guides Canins, I decided to use the fact that I had to stay there until the end to do the last jumpers run. So I added 4 runs: two Masters Standard and two Masters Gamblers. I wanted to see how we would perform in a full day of competition. A total of eight runs. All in masters. One after the other.

Masters Snooker 4 went really well. I did 1-3-1-5-1-6 and went for the closing. All went well until Krypto dropped a bar at 7. We ended up with 37 points, not enough to qualify, but very good for me considering that we have so many issues in snooker.

Masters Snooker 4

In Masters Jumpers 4 Krypto dropped the bar of jump #1. We then managed to get to 11, but my “right” did not work at all. So he went in the chute. We did it another couple of times before getting that piece correctly. Then I believe the buzzer went off before we could finish. I say “I believe” because I had no time to write down what happened, and I thought that I would remember and I could do it today. But I do not remember…

MJ4

Masters Jumpers 4

In Masters Standard 4 Krypto knocked another bar, and we fell for the tunnel-seesaw trap. So I used my time to work that and I realized that I hadn’t said “out seesaw” but just “out” to Krypto. Did he not hear the “out”? Was the tunnel too appealing to pay attention to the “out”? I cannot tell, but by this run I had noticed that my verbal cues, even the most solid ones, were not working. It was not a matter of timing. I am wondering whether the music was affecting his hearing. And his level of arousal, that was quite high….

Masters Standard 4

Masters Standard 4

The music was very loud and the loudspeakers were pointing right into ring 1B. So before our gamblers run I went to ask if the music could be turned down a bit. Some competitors were even having a hard time hearing the buzzer. I was told a very firm “no”, I did not argue (am I learning?!!!) and went to get my dog. No point in insisting…When I went to take Krypto I noticed that he had hurt himself. He had a large round scratch under his right eye. It had stopped bleeding and was all red from the blood.There was no more fur there. So I went to run our gamblers 4 with my mind on his scratch and what could have caused it. Was it something in the crate? Had it happened in one of the tunnels/chute? So let’s say that I was not that focused for our gambler run. We still did the mini twice and we Qd. But yet again it was clear to me that my verbal cues were very weak….

Masters Gamblers 4

Masters Gamblers 4

I would say that Masters Standard 5 was the best run of the day for both of us. It is funny because I was quite stressed out by this run. I wanted this Q quite badly and my heart was pounding in my throat. I also went in there changing my opening on the fly because I knew that my plan would not work having seen other dogs fail. Also, my change was going to put me in a better position for what came past tunnel 3. Krypto ran faster than usual. I had no time to think but just execute, and he kept going like a speed bullet. Unfortunately Krypto dropped a bar at 14. My 180 degree cue “eight” did not work yet again. So I had to call his name. Very loudly. He did not crush the bar with his bum, he just touched the bar with one “claw”, it was quite subtle. Perhaps if I had trimmed his claws before the trial LOLLL

It was really a very nice run. I got a kick out of it. We were playing as a team like on Saturday. I gave all what I had and Krypto did the same. I really had a blast!!!

Masters Standard 5

Masters Standard 5

Again my cues were not working in Masters Gamblers 5. We did the mini twice even if “left seesaw” did not sink in either times. It was my arm and legs movement that told him were to go. I knew that for the final gamble I had to position Krypto well after the 180 (“eight” worked this time) to get the right weave entry. That took a little time but we succeeded with only 0.12 seconds left as our final time was 59.88! He was the highest scoring dog of all the participating dogs, with 45 points in the opening, even if it was not our best gamblers performance as I lost my concentration after the second mini and Krypto went to play with the chute before I could regain control and bring him where I wanted him to be. There were 59 dogs entered and only 7 Qs.

This was also our 10th Masters Gamblers Q, and Krypto earned his Expert Gambler Bronze title and a little badge:

bronze

In Masters Snooker 5 we made a mistake in the opening. I was going to do 1-3-1-2-1-7-1-7, we got to the see saw, then I was trying to position Krypto for the red in the lower right and as I stopped saying “me-me-me” to give the command to go around the red, just a split second was enough and he left me and went for 7B…And that was it.

Masters Snooker 5

Masters Snooker 5

In Masters Jumpers 5 all was well up to 7. From 6 I used ‘de-de-de” to wrap him around 6 and go to 7. I was down near 7. He took the tunnel. Perhaps “me-me-me” would have worked better? I could not make it up to 6 because I had to do the back of 3. I doubt a wrap around left (la-la-la) at 6 would have worked… On the positive side, my “in-in-in” command was successful, as was my “round”.

To sum up, I think Krypto and I did quite well. Great Masters Standard 5, even if we had a bar down. As Lise said, “we were in the zone” 🙂  Solid start lines. Solid contacts. Not so well on our verbal cues. But I think the problem was the amount of people/dogs at the trial around the masters rings. Loud music also? Krypto was very very aroused. I have never seen him that aroused (apart from when we do dock diving). We still managed to work, and I think that we need experience in this type of setting before going to the Regionals next June. On Sunday I made it a point of using all the cues we had worked on instead of calling his name all the time. I was very happy with the “in-in-in”.  The “la-la-la” and “de-de-de” for the tight wraps are still weak and Krypto’s turns were wider than in training. The “eight” for 180, one of his most solid cues, did not work at all. Lefts and rights were a 50-50. I would think that this was due to his state of arousal… Probably the bars down too. We had not knocked that many bars in a long time…

Overall it was a good experience. I learnt a lot. I saw what effect a large trial has on Krypto. I managed to memorize all the courses in the little time there was, I did 8 runs, one after the other and my legs held up pretty well. My brain worked all the way to the end, even if I had forgotten Jumpers 5! Someone told me that he saw me walk the course and shake my head. Yup, that was me. I was so so tired. Yet I gave it all. Once more. It was worth it, even if we did not Q.

To sum it up we came home with 4 Qs and two titles (Advanced Games Dog of Canada and Expert Gambler Bronze) 🙂

Krypto and his ribbons

Krypto and his ribbons

And, through these two day, I was lucky to have my friends to be there with me to listen to me being proud of Krypto after our Advanced Snooker and Jumpers runs, wining about the bar down in Masters Standard, waiting all the way to the end of my last run to take our pic with all our ribbons and badge. They know who they are 🙂 Thank you!

Categories: Agility, Agility Trials

Long time no see…

August 17, 2013 2 comments

It has been a long time since I sat at the computer to write a blog entry. Not that I do not sit at the computer. I even bought a nice laptop stand at Ikea so that I have my computer next to me when I relax watching TV…Still, it takes some commitment and discipline to write a blog post.

So there we go, what have we been up to lately?

Qs

 

On the training front, Krypto and I have been working a lot on the tight wraps (cik/cap) which for us are “la-la-la” (wrap left) and “de-de-de” (wrap right). Since I am not guiding him but I handle at a distance, it has taken quite a bit of time to acquire them so that we can go and try them in a trial. Also, we were working on the “round-round-round” (back of the jump) at the same time, and Krypto got a bit confused at times. I think that we are ready to try the three of them at a fun match to begin with, and the next step will be a trial.

Our classes with Janet are very inspiring, and I always come home with a few things to try and a deeper understanding of my own training issues and how they affect our performance as a team.

On the trial front, after the June 27th Masters Trial, we did a few more. We managed to get some Qs we had been seeking for a while, especially a couple of Advanced Snookers Qs. We had lots of fun at a trial away from home, in Kingston (ON) and we came home with quite a loot (4 Qs out of 5 runs) (see video below) There we also experimented a hotel for the very first time, and things look promising for when we will go to the Quebec Regionals next year. We also did another Masters trial here in Ottawa, at More Dogz, and that is when I decided that we were going to step back for a while and work on our skills before going to another Masters trial…It’s a long story, but I finally realized that I better stop, fix things, and then go back more confident, than keep hoping to have a good day just because…You can’t really do it when you handle “remotely” as one of our friends defined our way of doing agility.

One new thing we are working on is the “easy” or collection/slow down cue. I definitely need to teach that, and this has been our biggest issue since we made it to Masters. Since I do not run with him, Krypto cannot know from my body language (e.g. a deceleration) that we are going to change direction and he needs to slow down, for example. First attempts to teach this cue were unsuccessful, but I think I finally found our way around this difficulty. I inserted a collection jump grind in a speed circle, and I started using the cue “easy” when Krypto was approaching the collection grid. It seems to be working. Now I need to keep working on this until the new cue sinks in. Things are looking up…but this is yet another cue I need to articulate in the 30 seconds of an agility run…oh well….I better start doing tongue twisters 🙂