Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Getting there

Baxter and I are starting to get there as a team. I've got a fairly good idea of what he understands well and what I have done a less than stellar job of teaching/proofing - like his running dog walk or independent contact obstacle performance. Since Baxter is a small dog, as a handler I am forgiven a multitude of sins - but we have a different set of struggles that large or drivey dogs don't see.(I suppose the word is actually driven, but I like my word better!) 

Yep - this is another gamble post!

Gamblers is likely my least favorite game. Ranks right up there with Steeplechase. Mostly because my dog and I struggle with it.

It took 6 months for Baxter to get his first Starters Gamblers Q. I try not to think about that often, but as we're moving up getting closer to that big title it's on my mind a little. There is always that one last thing you're stuck on to get your ATChC - usually a game since you play fewer of those and it's just a numbers thing. With Baxter I'm fairly sure it's going to be Gamblers and not just because it's a numbers thing.

Since I know distance is a weakness it is something I'm working on. I've done several distance work classes and it's something I try to practice each time I'm out with the dogs. Happily, there are a lot of failed gambles in my little collection of course maps that I can draw from!

The other thing I find a struggle with gamblers is planning a path and getting enough points. It's bad enough that the gamble itself is hard, but getting enough points for the run to qualify IF you manage to get the gamble is a stress in and of itself. I find my biggest quandary is the mini gambles. They're the quickest way to get the points, but if your dog struggles with the mini's they're a huge time suck and a motivation suck for your dog as well if they become frustrated or confused about your handling and then disconnect just in time for that buzzer to go. But, not enough points and it doesn't matter if you get the final gamble. It's catch 22 type situation.

However, I had a great time with both Gambles runs at CAA's Remembrance Weekend Trial (my name for the trial, not theirs!)  Come to think of it now, I've had good luck with CAA's trials and gamblers runs. Baxter actually got his first 2 Starters Gambles to get his SGDC title at their trial in Feb!

Our first gamblers run was good. I found a good path, tried a mini that I didn't need to get as a actual mini for enough points and was even able to "practice" the weaves for the Standard run following Gamblers. As if that wasn't enough, I not only got to have my cake I got to eat it too, when he actually got the final gamble. Walking the course and looking at the map I thought the final would be harder for the small dogs than the large ones, but the off course teeter/jump discrimination on the gamble actually favored the little guys.

The gamble on the second day was much more challenging for us. The mini gambles were both tough independent contact obstacles (Aframe and dogwalk) and I was beginning to panic about a plan. So I talked to a friend, actually, the same friend I talked to this time, in the summer when I was struggling. She didn't point out a plan, just talked about hers, but she wasn't worried that her dog couldn't do the mini's either. I stopped freaking out in my mind and built a nice little path for my dog to get his points once I wasn't blinded by panic/worry.

No, really no one else would be walking "my" path, but the whole point in agility is to know and run YOUR dog. So I did. I even had a sneaky "cheater" part to my plan to show him the hard pieces of the gamble in a legal manner.

Long story short, we did a good opening path. He had enough points. We were in a good position when the buzzer went. We didn't get the gamble, but that was okay. On our way off the course the judge told us it was a good opening. I was happy with that. Heck, I was more than happy, I was ecstatic with that! I'm moving in the right direction. I honestly was thought I'd need to put him into veterans for more time/fewer points needed because we just weren't making enough points in the time. Now, it's a maybe, not a for sure thing.

And I'm slowly learning the mental management side of the game. I didn't screw up either of our jumpers runs, which are usually the hardest to memorize because of how twisty they are! There is still much more work to be done as I messed up the easy part on Team and totally gave him the wrong handling directions in Challenge, but it doesn't feel like a insurmountable challenge anymore!

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