Dog Agility Equipment

 Back when we were getting ready for our first trial I kept a training diary. Even though it's not current any longer, it still might give you some ideas.

I know it's weird, but scroll to the bottom of the page and then read up. (It's because when this *was* current, I wanted the latest entry at the top of the page.)


Training Diary Entries
(Most recent entry first.)

Saturday - Feb 12, 2000
Well, no new dog. :( We were going to take her on two conditions -- that she rides well (we take our dogs pretty much everywhere in the back seat of the vehicle) and that she gets along with Alak and Abby. She passed the first test with flying colors. But when she came to spend a couple days with us it became apparent that without a lot of extra time (which I don't have right now) she won't fit in with the current dogs. She's a puppy so she wants to play but since she outweighs the other dogs by 25-30 pounds she feels free to ignore the "Stop it kid, you're bothering me!" hints that they throw her way and s snarl-fest ensues. So, we're helping to find her a home. :( She's a cool dog, just doesn't fit in here right now. So, as soon as she's gone Alak and Abby can relax and we'll get back to learning right, left, and around.

Saturday - Feb 05, 2000
We've decided to switch to clicker-training for our new dog -- which means we'll also switch the "old" dogs, too, so we're consistent among the canines. We've been reading about it and it sounds cool, but also very different than what we've done in the past. To make sure we get started on the right foot, we're taking lessons from someone who knows what they're doing.

Since we have an Alakazam and an Abracadabra we've decided to change the name of the new dog from Daisy to -- well, we don't know what yet. We're leaning toward Genii so as to stay in the "magic" theme. I'd like to come up with another "magic word" name, but Sim Sala Bim and Hocus Pocus don't lend themselves to shortened call names (Hoki? Sali?) and those are the only other ones I know.

Friday - Feb 04, 2000
It looks like we're getting another dog. :) A female yellow lab & golden retriever mix who's about 10 months old. She's been an "outdoor only" dog so she's probably not housebroken. She's also never had any obedience training, so it'll be like getting a huge puppy. :)

We still have about 2.5 months of snow, so by the time we can put up the agility equipment she should be obedience trained.

While doing the obedience stuff we're going to immediately start on teaching her "left" and "right" -- like we should have done with Abby and Alak. :)

Monday - Oct 04, 1999
Talk about slacking off! No entries in months and months. To get caught up, here's what we've been doing in a nutshell. Abby and I took Level III agility classes and that's it. Oh, we did a few demonstrations out in the field when relatives would come over, but I was so busy working this summer we basically pooped out. :(

A couple weeks ago we had an overnight windstorm that blew our agility equipment to pieces -- literally. The A-Frame (2x4s covered with 1/2" plywood) was blown 21 feet before it hit the ground and broke into several pieces. I may be able to repair it. The dogwalk was flipped and will need work on both ramps. So anyway, we carried all the pieces to the barn and put them away until spring when I'll remodel them. :(

Oh, we did leave the weave poles in the field so I send the dogs through them whenever we go out to play. :)

Next spring I'm planning on another series of classes with Alak and we'll probably schedule two trials to enter.

Tuesday - May 04, 1999
Oh yeah, I almost forgot. We just started working on directional commands (left and right) with the dogs. I "invented" a new way to teach it and if it turns out to be cool I'll post the method here. :)

Tuesday - May 04, 1999
Well, our first trial is over, you can read about it on other areas of the site, but all-in-all it was a success. It was a very tiring weekend, there was a lot more waiting around than we counted on, but we had a blast. We had fun, the dogs had fun, we came home with an armload of ribbons -- what more could we ask for?

Okay, getting at least one of the gambles would have been a plus... :)

Problems that became apparent during the trial include:

1) Alak goes too slow on the A-Frame and Teeter. Wanda says she verbally slowed him down so he wouldn't fly off, but he's taken it to extremes so we're going to work on getting more speed out of him on the contact obstacles.

2) More weave pole work for both dogs. If you have to redo the weaves 3-4 times to get it right -- even if you're not faulted -- you use up too much time.

3) Sending the dogs away to tunnels and jumps. That was the downfall in the gambles we tried.

So, that's what we're going to be focusing on for the next few weeks. Along with running sprints up and down the driveway (the handlers, not the dogs). Abby can move up to Open Jumpers now, but with faster times I'm not sure I'm ready for that. But I'm going to work on it.

Looking at the NADAC event schedule we see there're no trials close to us for two whole months! I'm ready for another one this weekend. :)

Friday - Apr 30, 1999
This afternoon we had our last practice before our first trial and it went quite well (if I do say so myself). We ran a 15-obstacle course and came in under our SCT each run (barely, a couple times) so I'll quit worrying about that part so much. Wanda and I both pulled the dogs off the weave poles right at the last. We thought they would finish the last pole so started moving laterally toward the next obstacle and the dogs came with us! Lesson learned, let's hope we remember this weekend. :)

We also set up a gamble and gave that a shot. How will that turn out? I'm not sure, but we're going to take some advice we received today -- if the gamble is before the regular agility, use that time as a "warm-up" for the real thing. Since this is our first time, we both really like that idea. And if things happen to work out fine, cool!

Wednesday - Apr 28, 1999
Monday morning I woke up with my back just killing me. It was so bad I took a half day off from work -- and I work at home! I have no idea what happened, but I could barely walk, let alone run up and down the driveway to get in shape. Yesterday was a little better, I could cripple around like a little old man, but running was still out of the question.

Wanda and I took the dogs out to the equipment right before it got dark and did a few send-aways over jumps, through the tire, etc. I was impressed that both dogs could be sent away to do the weaves! Both of them popped out soon to look back at me, but on each second try they went all the way to the end. I'm trying not to get too hopeful for this weekend, because I know that running in a trail is much different than doing it at home, but if we (the handlers) can keep our cool, I think we have a good shot at some qualifying runs this coming weekend.

We have our regular class tonight, the last one before our first trial. I'm already a little nervous so I think I'm going to try and psych myself up this evening so that the class will feel like a real trial, then maybe I won't be so nervous at the real thing. I know, it's weird. :)

Monday - Apr 26, 1999
Saturday afternoon we held our "test trial" with about 20 friends and relatives helping out. I downloaded a Novice course from The Dogpatch and set it up in the field. Oh, I was 3 hurdles short so I spent 90 minutes Saturday morning making some new ones. They didn't get decorated, but they worked well.

We used a volunteer out in the middle of the course as a judge and since a couple of the kids wanted to "help" there was a little judging "group." I figured if the dogs could ignore a bunch of people in the middle of the course, in a real trial just one judge wouldn't be a problem. :) We also had someone act as a timekeeper a third person kept "score." All the rest were spectators.

When we finally ran the dogs it went well but was very eye-opening. I thought I would be unaffected by the people watching, and the situation, but in the heat of the run I did things like forgetting to switch sides at one point, didn't make Abby do a "wait" at the bottom of the contacts, etc.

The biggest "challenge" had to do with the fact that in our training up to this point we've been running short sequences. The longest "course" we've done before Saturday was about 9 obstacles. Saturday we had 15 and those extra 6 make a big difference. So, this final week before our first trial our focus is on handler training as much as dog training. We're doing timed sprints up the driveway and back twice a day until Friday. Up and back is about 180 yards which (I believe) is a bit longer than a normal Novice course. The SCT for our driveway is 71 seconds so that's the time we're looking to beat.

On the dog side we're working on weave poles and sending away to the tunnels and hurdles. Yesterday at the Top Dog trial we noticed quite a few people could have shaved several seconds off their time if their dogs could have finished the course on their own. Instead, dogs would jump a hurdle and wait for the handler to catch up, jump the next one, wait, etc. Also, sending them away to a tunnel or hurdle makes crossing behind the dog easy.

Thursday - Apr 22, 1999
Alak and Abby are doing pretty well. Last night at class they did everything we asked them to. Of course, there were a few times when our mouths said one thing and our bodies said another, in those cases they went with the body. Oh well, Wanda and I are getting better at that as well.

They had a set of 12 weave poles (for the next class) that I just had to try out with both dogs. They did great until close to the end where there were a couple channel wires. Coming upon the wires after doing a long line of weaves threw them for a loop and the either stopped or tried to go over/under them. So my dogs like wireless weaves, what can I say?

This week we're going to work on tunnels. Abby needs a little work on going to them alone. If I'm running with her right up to the entrance she has no problem. But when I stop a few feet away, she tends to stop, too. So we're going to haul out the really good treats and do a bunch of tunnel work this week.

Our "faux agility trial" is coming up this Saturday and we still don't have the new dogwalk painted. It turned cold and hasn't been warm enough for that yet, although the forecast for today makes it look like we're going to get it done.

I have a load of PVC waiting for me to chop into pieces. We're making three more hurdles and another set of weave poles. I bought some acetone last night to take the print off the PVC. We've left it on in the past but I'm getting picky in my old age. :)

Monday - Apr 19, 1999
Wow, I'm quite impressed with our dogs. Working a few short times a day for the past week has really improved their weave pole performance. They're about 80-90% accurate and are picking up speed all the time. We can call them through the poles fine but trying to send them through is still rough. But they're doing great and we're using straight poles, no wires. Woohoo! I actually think they'll be able to nail it in competition in a couple weeks.

After a few days of nice sunshine it rained today -- the day we were going to paint the new dogwalk! But we moved the pieces into the barn and as soon as it gets above 50 degrees tomorrow, the brushes and rollers come out. Wanda picked out a plum-purple color for the dogwalk. We may paint the slats on the ramps a contrasting color but haven't decided on that yet.

Wednesday when we head into Seattle for agility class we're going to go early so we can stop by Eagle and get some more PVC for 3 new hurdles and another set of weaves. We'd like to start introducing 12 weave poles to the dogs soon (a little at a time) and with 3 more jumps we'll have enough to put together a jumpers course. Oh, and we need some 2x4's to make taller legs for the pause table. They're so used to it being at 18" that trying to jump on a 24" table might freak them out.

We've raised all the jump bars to 24" now. Abby may end up jumping 20" but since we don't know how she'll measure we figured we'd better train her at the higher level. We also haven't done any spread-bar jumps until today...Abby's first try over she crashed ALL the bars to the ground. But after that she was fine. Alak's first try was a little different...he sailed over them with about a foot and a half to spare. I think he could be a way-cool hardcore agility dog. I hope we can give him the handling he deserves.

Yikes, only 13 more days to the trial! We have our room reserved!

Thursday - Apr 15, 1999
Okay, it really hasn't been 11 days since we last practiced, it's just been that loong since I've had a free moment. I'll update the training stuff later today, but I just wanted to let everybody know that we got in to the May 1/2 NADAC trial in Vancouver, WA! Yeehaw!

I feel pretty good about doing well in the trial if two things happen...1) The dogs do the weave poles correctly, and 2) The handlers don't do something stupid. We're working on both of those. Now that the snow is pretty much gone we're able to do sequences out in the pasture, and we have another set of weave poles in the front yard and we've just started "scheduled" weave practices, rather than the sporadic ones we've been having.

The RAT classes are going well but both dogs have problems with some of the equipment. For example, Abby didn't want to jump through the tire last night and it was either because she was busy chomping a bunch of sheep poop, or because the tire was set at 12", rather than the 24" we practice at home. And Alak had a lot of problem with the weave poles. They're set so the dogs just run a channel through the middle of the poles, and Alak was really confused. He knows he's supposed to go around poles, so he kept veering off and trying to "do it right." Poor dog. He did straight weaves here at home this morning with no problem.

We still don't have a chute (collapsed tunnel) or dog walk in our pasture, but almost. The dog walk is almost done (last ramp is cut out but not put together, then we paint) and we have the barrel for the chute, we're just waiting on the fabric part (Mom's sewing it).

To get ready for our upcoming trial Wanda and I are having a "dress rehearsal" the weekend before (April 24). We're inviting a bunch of friends over for lunch and then we'll make them act like spectators, judges, stewards, etc., while Wanda and I run the dogs. If you're in our neck of the woods (central Washington state) and would like to bring your dog over to run, let us know! We'd love to have more than two dogs at our faux trial. :)

Sunday - Apr 04, 1999
Training in the pasture yesterday went very well -- which means not only did we get in some good practice, but I didn't smack into the ground, either!

We received the latest issue of Clean Run magazine yesterday and saw a setup consisting of a tunnel, table, and four hurdles. We set it up and had great fun running different sequences. It was also very educational because after trying a certain sequence we'd stop, figure out where the trouble spots were, decide on different ways to handle them, and hen try them again.

After that session we did a few weaves with each dog and they did pretty good. I still don't have the wires on the poles, so they tend to go slower than they need to, but they weren't blowing them (much).

Yesterday morning we drove east to Moses Lake, WA to be spectators at an AKC-sanctioned agility trial. We have mutts so we'll never compete in AKC, but watching any agility is better than none! It really fired me up to see that some of the dogs running in Open seemed about the same level as Abby and Alak. But yes, I know watching from the sidelines is nothing like competing. I think the dogs are pretty close to ready for a Novice trial, but also realized yesterday that a lot of the errors that happen are the fault of the handler. If my dog blows something during a run I'll say it's no big deal, but if (when) I blow something, I don't think I'll be as easy on me.

Friday - Apr 02, 1999
Class #2 last night was fun. Some of the stuff was "too easy" for me and Abby but I got enough handling tips to keep me from being an egotistical snob. And Wanda loves it since she hasn't been through a complete agility session yet.

Abby's been doing well with weaves and we even have the slanty poles all straight up and down now. She's been going through them kind of slowly and last night I saw what wires on weave poles can do. I've never been impressed with weave wires before but Abby went through them very quickly last night so we dug out the last issue of Clean Run and made a trip to the hardware store for the wire. I'll be adding wires to our weave poles tomorrow. I know people leave them on for months (sometimes it seems like years) but since we have our first trial in a month I'm kind of thinking we'll use them for another couple weeks and then phase them out over the last couple weeks.

If you felt the earth move this afternoon it wasn't an earthquake, it was me tripping over something in my field and smashing into the ground. I'm NOT a little guy, so I imagine a lot of you felt it. I was in the middle of a series of hurdles with Abby and she was doing very well until... Now we're checking to see how much leveling the agility area would cost so we don't have to worry about that.

As soon as we fix the field and get the gate installed (we have the front fence up and waiting) we'd like to have a bunch of people and dogs over for a Saturday or Sunday agility fun day. If you're in Washington (or farther away and love to drive) and would like to get in on this, drop me a line and I'll keep you informed. It'll probably take place in the middle of May.

Tuesday - Mar 30, 1999
Mother Nature has been playing with us the past several days. The snow was clearing out of the pasture, we set out the agility equipment, the new tunnel was delivered...and then it snowed 4 inches. The next day it snowed 4 more. The last couple days we've had snow flurries broken up by sun breaks. The good news is that even if the sun isn't strong enough to clear the entire pasture, one end seems to become clear by midday so we're able to get some outside practice in.

Yesterday I set up what I thought a Novice course might be like and we ran that a few times. Today we turned the teeter around and ran it backwards. It was a nice little course that ran nice and smooth, but there were a few places in it where crossing in front of or behind the dog would give you a better line for upcoming obstacles, so we practiced it both ways to get a feel for "taking the long way around."

Indoor weave practice with the slanty poles has really helped. A week ago in class Alak couldn't do the weaves unless you "baited" him through it with a treat. This evening I stood at the opposite end of the poles from him and called him through them. He was a bit on the slow side (border collies all over the world were rolling on the floor laughing), but he came through them perfectly. Just to make sure it wasn't a fluke, we did it several more times. He didn't get 100%, but he came close. Three of the poles in the set are slanted about 5-10 degrees (very little slant) and the other three are straight. I think tomorrow evening we'll go ahead and straighten them all up.

The hurdles we're using outside are at 16" high. In competition Abby will jump 20" (unless she stands tall that day) and Alak will jump 24" so I'm wondering at what point do we want to "raise the bar?" We're planning on entering a trial the first weekend in May, so we have about a month to get them (and us) ready. We're going to practice with Abby at 24" some of the time just in case she measures up when show-time comes.

Friday - Mar 26, 1999
I can NOT believe it. We had almost 1/2 of our pasture clear of snow and dry, we had the equipment set up, got the new tunnel yesterday, and woke up this morning with 4 inches of new snow! And it's been snowing off and on (mostly on) all day. Gak! I guess you know what that means -- more weave pole practice inside!

It's too bad Clean Run doesn't make a Macintosh version of their course design program. I have a hot Windows machine and a hot Mac -- and I prefer the Mac. But other than Over! there are no other choices for course design that I know of. I guess I could write one (I make my living as a programmer) but who has that much free time? I have to practice, for pete's sake! Maybe if there's not one available by next winter when we're snow-bound for months...

Thursday - Mar 25, 1999
Yay! We finally got our tunnel! It's a green, 20' tunnel and the dogs, of course, love it. We've made all the other equipment we use, but it's really hard to make a tunnel... :)

Took the tunnel out to the field and set up a sequence that was kind of two intersecting loops. Teeter, jump, 180-turn to the tunnel, 180-turn to another jump, 180-turn the other way to another jump, table, and weaves. Both dogs did very well -- oh, except for the weave poles. We're still working on this inside with the slanty set. Wanda just striped them with red electrical tape so they look very cool (and make me hungry for candy).

Wednesday - Mar 24, 1999
We heard back from the instructor about switching to the Level 2 class but unfortunately it's full. She gave us the option of staying in Level 3 (she said we could probably swing it if we're committed to lots of practice during the week) or switching clear down to Level 1. I have no ego problem with that, and Wanda is very glad. The beginning class this session is full of dogs who've been through at least one session, so we won't be doing, "This is a teeter" type of things.

More practice in the pasture this afternoon. I'm going to start keeping a list of the exercises that we're doing and see if I can post them -- well, at least in the case of sequences that seem to work well, etc.

One thing we did after class last Monday was to set up a series of obstacles that matched those in the class. That way we could practice without worrying about holding up the class. I'm also going through the Clean Run notebooks and trying some of the exercises from there.

Tuesday - Mar 23, 1999
Agility class last night was interesting. We entered the Level 3 class (Level 4 is the top) and I believe that was a mistake. We're not as good as I thought/hope. Both Abby and Alak didn't want to do the dog walk or tunnel at first, although after a success they handled it well. In their defense, the last time they did either of those obstacles was about a year and a half ago.

We ended up as the two worst teams in the class. Which meant that people had to sit and wait for us to finally get a sequence right. Now, we weren't complete losers, but it was an eye-opening experience.

I ran Abby and Wanda ran Alak. I'm glad we did it that way because if Wanda had been handling Abby she probably would have become so frustrated she might have quit. After class we compared notes with each other (class was split into two groups, we were in different groups) and there were some things we were very pleased with, but we think we should be in the Level 2 class. We're going to check tomorrow to see if we can move.

For one thing, I thought both Wanda and I had gone through two rounds of classes in the past but after having my memory jogged, I realized Wanda had participated in 3-4 classes, not even a whole session. So she really wants to switch to the Level 2 class.

Monday - Mar 22, 1999
I found out yesterday how much Alak doesn't know about agility (okay, I probably know even less). Our driveway is finally clear of snow so we have a 9x300 strip we can use. We set up a bunch of jumps, the teeter and the tire. Everything was going great until I decided to set up the tire and the teeter next to each other. Alak goes on one side of the obstacles, I go on the other. "Tire!" I say. Alak happily trots up the teeter, tips it, then comes down and waits on the end. Ooops, now what? Do I treat him for stopping on the contact zone? Or do I withhold the treat since he didn't do what I asked?

We didn't get notice that we didn't make it into the agility classes starting this evening, so we're packing up this afternoon to head into town. Wanda is going to handle Alak and I'm going to handle Abby. Alak _loves_ agility, he can't seem to get enough. Abby, on the other hand, will do a jump and then look over at the trees thinking, "I wonder if there's a sqirrel over there?" She can do all the obstacles correctly, and sometimes she appears to be having a good time, but most of the time her attention seems to wander quite a bit.

Maybe she loses interest because I'm just too slow for her. In which case, if I can teach her to work ahead of me that may help. On the other hand, maybe she'll never be a champion agility dog. Or maybe she'll learn to like it. We'll see.

Wednesday - Mar 17, 1999
I've been so bummed out the past week...we didn't get into the Top Dog trial for the end of April. They filled up much faster than I thought they would. We're going to try for a NADAC trial the first week in May down around Vancouver, WA. And if we can't get in that one, the next one (within a few hours drive) isn't until JULY! Well, I guess we could do USDAA, too, but there don't seem to be many of those trials around here anyway.

Since the snow isn't going away (we got 2 more inches yesterday) we decided to try and get into some upcoming agility classes. It'll be a 2-hour trip each way, but I think it'll be worth it. My wife is glad that we'll have a bit more "formal" instruction before actually competing. Of course, we won't know for a couple days whether one or both of us gets into the class. They have a drawing of all applications. We're crossing our paws. :)

More weave poles in the house. I added another pole to our 5-poler so we can start from either end (we have the poles leaning out) which is handy.

Depending on which forecast you look at, we'll have snow or sun this week. But it's sunny today so I think I'm going to take a break from work and head to the barn to finish cutting out the dog-walk pieces. It's just about ready to put together, so we'll be ready as soon as the pasture is clear.

No sign of the tunnel yet, but I start drooling ecery time I see the UPS truck drive down the road.

Thursday - Mar 11, 1999
Okay, we've given up on the idea that the snow will melt in time for us to do the training we need, so we're scoping out some covered horse arena-type places to see if we can find one that's cheap enough to rent for a few hours a week. Of course, that means loading and unloading (and then loading and unloading again) all the agility equipment into/out of the pickup every time we want to practice. Bummer. I think we'll end up doing a different "big" piece of equipment each time along with lots of jumps.

We've been focusing on weave poles for two reasons. First, they can be done indoors easily, and second, it's the one piece of equipment that neither dog can do. :) If I could get them doing weaves well I think I'd be fairly confident in entering a trial.

While watching TV the other night I put together three new hurdles (I cut out all the pieces the day before). The only problem I have with PVC jumps is what to use to hold the cross bars. I was close to using modified closet-pole holders, but I don't like the finished "look" since the back of the holder is flat and the pipe is round. I know, I'm being picky. But I wish I could find the PERFECT cross bar holder. I scoured the hardware store the other day and came up with a few possibles, but nothing definite. Yet.

I also came up with a new idea for weave poles. I know, someone might have came up with the idea 14 years ago, but I doubt it. We'll see when I make a set and post the picture.

Thursday - Mar 04, 1999
Thanks to Ann B. who sent me email about how judges figure the SCT (standard course time). Using the numbers she sent me it looks like my "exercise course" from the house to the road and back has an SCT of 116 seconds. In a follow-up email, Ann said the longest SCT she's seen in novice/starters is about 75 seconds. So, if I can do the 116 I should be okay when it comes to doing a real course.

Reading the Intermediate Agility Workbook this afternoon I came across something that my wife and I have been doing wrong. We'd been teaching the dogs to stop with their front feet on the ground and their back feet on a contact zone when we gave them the "contact" command (coming off the A-Frame, etc.). Then when we'd release them we'd praise them. In other words, we were reinforcing the notion that coming off the contact zone was the good thing, not staying on the contact zone. Oops.

I also got to thinking about using the "contact" command to make them stick to the contact zone, and I think I like the idea in the book better. Which is, no command is used, you just teach them that they don't come off the contact zone until you release them. That's basically how we taught them to use the front door. We can open the door, go in and out, hold the door open, and the dogs don't go out until we tell them to. They'll get their paws right on the threshold of the door and stay -- without any command at all (okay, if a squirrel runs across the porch they'll break it). So if they can do that at the front door, why not teach them to do that coming off a contact obstacle? That would take care of problems like not giving the "contact" command at the right time.

Our tunnel still hasn't arrived, but we're really looking forward to it. Of course, a 20' tunnel isn't going to fit in the living room very well, but we'll make do for a bit until we take it out in the snow (yes, it snowed again today -- almost all day long).

Wednesday - Mar 03, 1999
Another 3 inches of snow today. That makes it about 3 feet out in the course. So, even if it starts melting tomorrow (please please please!) it'll be a while before the field is dry enough to run and jump safely. So, we're doing weaves in the house (2-3 short sessions a day) that are going very well, and as soon as the temperature gets into the 40s during the day we'll do a 2-3 piece sequence in the old hay barn. I'm also giving some thought to finding someone with a covered horse arena and seeing if I can rent it for a few hours a week. On the other hand the thought of loading and unloading that A-Frame makes me cringe.

So, we're getting the dogs ready, but what about the other half of the team? 15 years of sitting at a desk has created one big guy. There's not a lot I can do about that in a short time, but there is time to build up my stamina, so that's what I'm doing. It's 350' from the house out to the road and my goal is to jog that (there and back) in under the "standard course time", wait 2 minutes, then do it again. When I can do that I should be ready to do a novice course, even with all the extra heart-pounding that will be happening.

Now I'm trying to figure out how judges come up with a SCT -- is it based on just distance? Distance plus number/type of obstacles? Anyone?

Monday - Mar 01, 1999
Wow, "emergencies" at work and snow in the pass conspired to keep all of us (people and dogs) away from the equipment over the weekend. I didn't even think to throw in weaves and hurdles when we left for Seattle on Thursday. And what good's a pickup if you don't fill the bed with stuff?

Thanks for the terminology lesson from Carlos. I said my new weave poles were a channel-type, but they're actually a weave-a-matic type. Channel type weaves are usually those with guide wires (creating channels the dog runs through). Oh well, I'm a novice (A). :)

Thanks for everyone who wrote about the weave poles. I figured the design was so basic that umpteen people had built weaves like that, and I was right. The only bad thing I heard about them is that after a few years they can get brittle and break at the joints. But for what it costs, I'd say it's worth it.

I slanted the poles of my weave (that does not sound right) about 9" off center today, and took turns running the dogs through it. Abby did great (as I knew she would) and Alak really surprised me. The 3rd or 4th time through he was going quickly and bobbing back and forth. I want to be careful and not straighten the poles too quickly, so I think we'll keep the slant the way it is and work on calling them through the poles, sending them through, etc. Right now they seem to "need" us to go along beside them.

Got my order from Clean Run Productions today. Cool! I bought the three agility workbooks (after I title a dog or two I'd like to teach novice classes), the "Designing Agility Courses" book, and a subscription to Clean Run magazine. I'm going to go through the intermediate and advanced books tomorrow and come up with a training schedule Wanda and I can use to get the dogs ready for the trial in April.

Tomorrow I'll let you know what I'm doing to get the handler part of the team ready. :)

Thursday - Feb 25, 1999
Go over to the equipment page and check out the pictures of my new cool weave poles. The second best thing about them is the ability to lean the poles out to make a channel for those "special" dogs who haven't quite grasped that whole serpentine concept. The best thing about them is they're 100% PVC -- yeah, I'm cheap! :)

Wednesday - Feb 24, 1999
Didn't get anymore stuff set up in the barn; emergency calls from the office have kept me too busy for the last 19 hours. But, we did get the weave poles set up in the living room. I was right...Abby needs just a smidgen of help to get started and then she goes through by herself, but Alak has to follow a biscuit through the poles. I'm waiting for that "ah-ha!" moment with Alak when he realizes what he's supposed to do. I think they'll be doing pretty well in a week or so, but training them so they always enter correctly sounds hard.

The weave poles we use are made from plans out of the Simmons-Moake book and we just bought materials to make another set (since we only have a 5-poler). However, I was fiddling around today and came up with an idea for a new set of weave poles. No, not just weave poles, but Super Cool Weave Poles! I can't really believe that the idea hasn't been thought of before, but I haven't come across anything like it. I'm going to crash for a few hours and if the office doesn't scream for help all day long I'm going to make the new Super Cool Weave Poles later today. When they're done I'll post some pictures (and then 47 people can email me since they had the same idea 14 years ago).

Tuesday - Feb 23, 1999
Since we still have 2 feet of snow outside it's a little hard to practice, so I brought the weave poles inside. Abby was fairly good (although slow) on weaves last year but I'm not sure Alak has ever done them completely unassisted. The plan now is to do weaves right before breakfast and dinner and then another couple times during the day. Short sessions each time, just 2-3 times through the poles.

I also moved some stuff around in the old hay barn so we have room for a couple pieces of equipment. I set up the teeter yesterday and today I'll add the A-frame and a hurdle. I think three pieces at a time is all I can reasonably fit. If I had an extra $100 I'd call the snowplow guy and have him clear a spot in our pasture. But then it's probably snow right after that anyway...(sigh)...

Monday - Feb 22, 1999
It's just about two months until our first agility trial. I have a little voice in the back of my head telling me we won't be ready, but I don't want to turn out like my Uncle Fred. You see, Uncle Fred was quite the singer in his day. He'd pull out his guitar and entertain at family gatherings, parties, etc. People would always tell him he should "go professional" and Uncle Fred would always say, "You know, I think I will. But first I'm gonna practice for six more months." Unfortunately, there was always another six months after the previous one expired. So, my wife and I decided to register for the trial and then get ready, instead of doing it the other way around.

We have both (and both dogs) been through beginning and intermediate agility classes about a year ago. After those classes were over we got busy finding a new place to move to, selling the old house, blah blah blah. But a couple weekends ago we drove over the mountains and through the woods to be spectators at an agility trial. And we remembered how much fun we (and the dogs) had last year. Thus, the decision to go for it.