Each month, alongside the big Winter Series Shows at Alsager Equestrian Centre, Dig It holds little competitions in the agility arena. Places are limited to 50 to keep the show really small and everyone runs the same course, but results are split between levels and heights.
I’d agreed to judge the jumping this month and decided to enter Guinness into the agility as NFC (not for competition) and then the steeplechase for competition.
Despite the show not starting til 9am I still managed to rock up a little late! But I had plenty of time to give Guinness a good walk and warm up then off we went into a short queue and into the ring. I kept my toy in my pocket and was confident with his wait but after staying in a down for a few seconds he jumped up and ran off. I persevered and waited for him to come back and then left him for a good solid wait and off we went. A few good turns, a nice a frame contact but then on the dog walk he stopped near the bottom of the down plank with all four paws still on. Our criteria is 2 on 2 off so goodness knows what he was doing. I waited for the correct behaviour then released and rewarded.
There weren’t many large dogs so we were quickly back in. This time I worked a bit more in the queue and went into the ring with my hand touching my treat pocket and Guinness’ full attention was on me. We did heelwork to the start line and I asked for a down and unclipped the lead calmly. You aren’t allowed to feed your dog in the ring in case you drop treats and I always have my pocket zipped up, but as Guinness knows that is where treats come from his attention didn’t waver. I think I have a new plan for our start lines!
Off we went and this time we were together and focused. Some lovely wing wraps and an a frame contact with reward, then another practise wait before some jumps, but then onto the dog walk and the same down plank issue, although this time he was quicker into the 2 on 2 off. I released him over the final jump and he tugged out of the ring.
Not bad at all. I was really happy with the use of our ring time, although perhaps I went in with too much of a training attitude rather than a competitive attitude with some training and rewards for good bits. But still, we’ve gotta bridge the gap not leap the gap.
Later on as I was milling around, helping out and watching people run, a girl said to me how well my dog did and that she was surprised that I hadn’t run for competition. I was completely taken aback as I thought Guinness had been pretty rubbish to be fair, especially on his first run as he was lacking some concentration. What a lovely thing for her to say and so kind as she didn’t know me. I explained why we were training and thanked her for her comments.
As lunch time approached I set up my jumping course. While people walked it quite a few of my friends told me it was a nice course.
I really enjoyed judging it, seeing people do some lovely work with their dogs at their first ever shows, as well as watching experienced dogs and handlers pull off a really fast, flowing round. A few people lost their dogs over the long jump as I was expecting, some not commanding soon enough or others calling their dogs while remaining facing the jump, not rotating their bodies and arms away.
I was especially impressed with a lady with a young collie who clearly follows the Handling 360 training program with their unique commands of “tsst tsst tsst” for 180 turns. The dog really picked up the verbal and physical cues and did some lovely turns, driving in the right direction with clarity and confidence. I’m really looking forward to seeing this handler and dog progressing at future shows!
It didn’t take long for all dogs to run and then it was steeplechase turn! It was a fun, fast course with some different options for handling. I wish I had my trainers on rather than my country boots as I reckon I could have got enough distance to send Guinness into the tunnel at #16 and beat him to the other end of it and blind cross to get on the left hand side for #17 and #18 as he comes out of the tunnel.
We did heelwork into the ring with my hand on my pocket again and I felt confident with his wait. I got ahead and front crossed #3 to #4 and he powered round the top circle lovely with some distance. I raced for the blind cross but decided not to risk my legs and did an awkward rear cross as he came out of the tunnel, over the last two jumps and hurrah!! I was celebrating. Guinness was happy. But then in the corner of my eye I saw the judge eliminate me and my mind was telling me that it had all gone a little too fast. “Did I go wrong?!” I asked. Yes… I’d forgotten to circle the top half twice!! I had gone into the tunnel for #10 and then done #17 & #18. I was so busy thinking about how to handle the finish that I missed out half the course!
Oops!! Gutted. I was sure we could have won and would have loved to have seen our time. Ah well. The main thing is that I had great fun and felt like a winner (for a split section) and Guinness ran wonderfully and got a big exciting reward as we finished.
What a numpty though. It’s not often I forget a course!!
We had a final walk and then I announced the results and we packed up the arena and was done for the day. 3pm! Not a bad finish time at all.
Dig It Shows are always lovely, full of kind and friendly people who support each other, but the little club comps are especially special. I saw new members entering their first ever shows and doing some lovely work with their dogs and I saw long standing experienced members helping the new members, as well as enjoying running a flowing course with their dogs. I spoke to some new faces for the first time and look forward to seeing them at next months show. After all, these are the people who could one day be running a ring party, judging or even instructing in the agility world. The Dig It Shows aren’t just for Dig It Members either. If you want to see the dates for the shows and download the schedules see this page here: http://www.digitdogs.co.uk/shows/
Also watching the beginners run made me realise how far me and Guinness have actually come in our training. We may only be Grade 2 but that’s just a number. Our handling and our ability is really good and while there is still a lot of work to do and much room for improvement we were once like those new handlers that I stood and watched in the ring on Saturday, and in actual fact we have come a long way since that time.