Monday, June 20, 2011

CPE Nationals Trip 2011: Lake Elmo, MN

From Munising, MI, we made our way across the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin, and arrived in Lake Elmo by early morning Thursday.  We set up camp, visited with friends, walked the dogs, and prepared for three fun days of agility at the CPE National event.

The trial was a blast.  All the rings were outdoors on grass this year, which Django loves, and the weather was pretty much perfect for a dog event.  While it rained overnight a couple evenings, the days stayed dry, and a bit overcast for most of it.  Temps were in the 60’s.  While for some people this might seem somewhat cool, the dogs loved it.

IMG_0993 We had three runs each day, two games classes and a standard run.  Django, at about nine years old, ran great for me in every run.  He came in to the ring every time motivated and focused, ran with speed and enthusiasm, and followed my handling cues very well.  Our runs were by and large some of the fastest and smoothest we’ve had, and he was up and happy the entire time.

On Friday, Django closed out the day with a Full House course, and ran agility at a speed I’ve never seen him run before.  I was stunned, as were Lowell and our friends watching on the sidelines.  I ran at an all-out sprint to keep up with him, and he ended up earning second place!

We had one off course in a Wildcard run when he missed a weave entry and in my effort to re-start them, pulled him in to a tunnel behind me.  His Standard courses were all run very nice, but I think he has decided never to hit a dogwalk down contact again in competition.  And, honestly, I am trying to decide if I care.  Initially, Django was never trained with any clear contact performance criteria.  He just was always moving cautiously and slowly enough on them that he almost always hit the yellow.  In the last year or so, we have been working a lot on drive and confidence, and he has picked up speed considerably.  But, that has also meant that now he is all-too-often launching off his contacts.  I have tried this spring to re-train them, but haven’t translated this into competition successfully yet.  After all the work we have done with motivation, there is no way I would walk him off a course and risk shutting him down when he misses the contact.  Plus, he is about nine years old, and although he is in great health with no sign of slowing down, I can’t guarantee how long he will run agility.  So, for now I am not setting goals beyond have fun and try to push ourselves to run fast and smooth and clean.  If Standard Q’s aren’t in our future anymore, I think I’m fine with that.  I’m having the most fun running him that I’ve ever had, and I think the feeling is mutual. 

IMG_0996 Maebe and Lowell had amazingly fast runs all weekend, as usual.  She took first place in Jumpers, even with a spill coming out of a wet tunnel.  Unfortunately, she was having a bit of a bar-knocking weekend, otherwise I’m sure they would have taken home several more blue ribbons.  They had fun and had some great runs other than the occasional bar down though, which is what really mattered.

We had some non-agility successes over the weekend also.  Therapy Dogs International had evaluators on-site during the trial, and were offering testing if you wanted to certify your dog to do therapy work.  The TDI test basically consists of the AKC Canine Good Citizen requirements (basic obedience and manners with other people and animals).  It also includes a few other components which really test the temperament of the dog as well.  Dogs need to be OK with loud noises, novel sights, people using wheelchairs or other assistive devices, and they need to be friendly and accepting of other adults and children.

IMG_1010 Cadence has always done well when I’ve taken him to public events for Dog Scouts.  I’ve thought of TDI testing him at some point, so decided this weekend to give it a try.  Lowell decided to test Maebe as well, so Saturday we signed up for a couple test slots.

As far as testing sites go, I think this was a pretty challenging one.  We did most of the testing in a pavilion set back from, but within view of the four agility rings, and they had to be able to walk through the crowd closer to ringside.  The pavilion itself was in a grassy field that was being mowed right as Cadence and Maebe began testing.  When Cade was doing his sit/stay and recall, the riding mower was cruising along right next to the pavilion, providing considerable distraction.  Nonetheless, both he and Maebe did great, and passed the evaluation.  Once all the remaining paperwork is complete, we are excited to start looking for volunteer opportunities with them.

IMG_1017 Finally on Sunday evening after awards, we prepared for the return leg of our journey, all of us tired but proud of the many accomplishments of the weekend.

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