Monday, October 11, 2010

Preparing to Trial - Part Three (you've arrived).

In part one I covered finding and entering a trial; part two discussed packing tips. In the third installment, we'll talk about arriving at the trial site and what you might expect at the trial.

It's pretty unlikely that the Novice classes will run first at a trial - but it's possible. You'll need to figure out what time you need to arrive - allowing time for you and your dog to settle in - without being there ALL day and wearing you and your dog out before you've even had a chance to run. I figure on about 90 seconds a dog for standard classes and 60 seconds/dog for JWW. So a 120 run excellent standard class will take AT LEAST 3 hours start to finish - including walk-throughs, briefing and course building.

Getting Measured

If you do not have a temporary or permanent height card, you'll have to be measured before you run. There are some interesting rules around measurements so understand what your options are. If your dog is over 2 years old you need two "official" measurements performed by an AKC "Volunteer Measuring Official" - either a VMO judge or an AKC field rep. IF your dog is over 22" at the withers you may petition to AKC to waive your right to a second measurement and have a permanent height card issued. If your dog is under 22" you'll need at least two measurements for that permanent height card - but on your first measurement you'll receive a yellow carbon copy which will serve as a temporary height card.

If you have a temporary height card and you arrive at a trial needing to be measured (and the judge is not a VMO) then all you have to do is show the temporary height card to the trial secretary and you're ready to rock. If you have a temporary height card and the judge is a VMO (or rep) you'll need to be measured for your second measurement.

Now, let's throw a wrench in the conversation...Let's say you have two VMO measurements in different height classes? Now you'll need a third "challenge" measurement before your permanent height card will be issued.

Each trial is a little different - but most trials will have several binders with your sticky armbands (unless you need to be measured) - self service. These binders are typically sorted alphabetically or by class (novice, open, excellent). You must wear your number while in the ring.

Course Maps
Typically next to the armbands are a series of course maps on half-sheets of paper. You should pick up both courses at the same time - otherwise you might go back and find that there aren't any Novice JWW course maps left!

Take some time to study the course map - look at the course that's currently setup. In general, judges tend to nest courses. Open will look like the Excellent course minus one or two things and novice will look a bit like Open minus 6 weave poles and a couple of obstacles. Visualize your run with your perfect dog - don't get too into the mistakes that you see other people making on course - they aren't your mistakes :-)

Checking in
Some trials offer advance check-in when you pick up your armband. Find your dog's name and number and place a checkmark next to your name. This will help the scribe and assistant scribe sort through scribe sheets and will let the gate know that you've arrived and intend to run your dog. Pay attention to where you are in the  running order. If you're 3rd or 30th that will give you a lot of information - maybe you potty your dog BEFORE you walk the course rather than after you walk. If it's in a big class, choose a marker dog - pick a dog/handler that you know - or a unique breed of dog. When that dog runs it's time to go get your dog out and warmed up. With Teller I'd rather air on the side of getting him out too early - but with Murphy I'd air on the side of too late. This will take some time to figure out what works for you and your dog.

Walking the Course
Once the course is built, the judge might wheel the course right away or he might whistle for a briefing. Novice exhibitors should go to their briefings :-) Meet the judge and feel settled in the ring. If the judge is wheeling while you're in the ring walking, be kind and let him roll in front of you - don't mow the judge down in the walk-through! The same is true for fellow exhibitors - some folks are out there busting through the crowd in the walk-through - that's just not necessary - there's time and space for everyone. A suggestion though - if you plan to stop and analyze part of the course try to do so out of the flow. No one is happy when they're in their zone and they have to keep stopping and going around people who are stopped "thinking" in the middle of the course. Ditto for strategy conversations with your fellow exhibitors. Don't waste your walk-through chatting. Walk.

You'll have at least 8 minutes to walk the course. My recommendation is to walk the course once to know where you're going. Walk once more with a plan, walk a third time with another plan, then walk a fourth time to know what you want to do. Some people will walk all 8 minutes. Some people walk three times. You have to do what works for you.

Don't change your plan because someone else did something you didn't think don't know what kind of dog they run - or how their dog handles - or the athletic capabilities of the handler. Don't get sucked into conversations with strangers who say things like "wow, that's an impossible weave entrance" - I believe in self-fulfilling prophecies... if you think it's impossible, it probably IS impossible for you.

I bought a really inexpensive mp3 player ($20 from Kinney Drugs) and I always walk the course with it. It helps me get into my mode and it tunes out negativity from my fellow exhibitors. I don't mean to imply that everyone else is negative, while I'm polly positive - but I don't need to think about what other people are worried about on-course. I've got enough to worry about with my plan of attack. By the way - I walk the course with Lady Gaga (Ke$a and Katy too).

Warming your dog up...
You've just finished walking the course, you go running back to your car/crate/etc to get your dog (he's been recently pottied right?). You have factored in how much time before you run (if there are 50 dogs ahead of you, he probably doesn't need to come out NOW right?). You bring him ringside and stand there watching the action, talking with spectators and laughing off nervous energy. What's wrong with this picture? In addition to whatever stretching and physical warm-up you do with your dog, you need to contemplate your relationship warm-up. Get and keep your dog engaged with you - block out the "distractors" - focus on your dog. Pay your dog with your attention in warm-up before you ask him to pay attention to you in the ring.

This process will vary from dog to dog - and you probably won't know what your dog needs for warm-up until you've had a bit of mileage - but put your attention on your dog. 

Running the Course
So it's your turn. You walk out to the startline - butterflies are raging! You should wait with your dog - be patient, take a couple of deep breaths and wait for the timer to give you a "go". You must wait for the timer. Run, have fun - enjoy the moment - enjoy having made it this far and being lucky enough to go out there and play with your dog on the weekend

After your run
Take time to reward your dog. It's really tempting to get caught up in conversation outside the ring: yeah, that was great - why did that bar come down, did he get his a-frame contact, etc...There is a time and place for that conversation - but first go tell your dog how wonderful he is, give him his cookie, take him for a walk to cool him out.

Scoring and Qualifying
You should read the AKC regulations that pertain to the classes you are running...but at a super high level you need 85 points to qualify in Novice standard and Novice JWW. There are three applicable 5 point deductions: Refusals, Wrong Courses and Table Faults. In Novice standard you may have one of each, or two refusals and a wrong course, etc - but you cannot have two wrong courses or three refusals. In Novice JWW you can have two refusals - but no wrong courses. Wrong courses are always non-qualifying in JWW.

Refusals at the weaves don't count in novice - but you must finish the weaves in three attempts. More than three the judge will tell you nicely to go on (finish the course).

Non-qualifying faults (which show up on your scribe sheet as an F) include missing a contact, knocking a bar, touching your dog and touching equipment.

If you are over course time, it will cost you 1 point for every FULL second you are over course time. So if SCT (standard course time) is 42 seconds and Fluffy finishes his JWW run with a time of 45.12 seconds and two refusals, Fluffy will qualify with a score of 87 (5 points for each refusal, plus 3 full seconds over course time = 13. 100-13 = 87). Remember over-time always rounds down 45.12 = 45 - but when you start counting MACH points you round down - 45.12 = 46.

In AKC dogs can run with collars on them - BUT the collars cannot have anything attached to them. Make sure that if you're running your dog with a collar, that you've planned ahead and removed the tags (or swapped collars).

AKC came down with a mandate a year or so about leaving the ring on-leash. You (and your dog) must leave the ring together with the leash on. If you choose to carry your dog out of the ring that's still fine - so long as the leash is attached to the dog. So when you finish your run - be sure to get that leash on your dog - it's a silly way to lose a Q.

If you are the first dog to run after a jump height change the judge should visually check the jump heights on course before giving the timer a thumbs-up - however - it is the exhibitor's responsibility to make sure that the jumps are correct. I've seen dogs run clean courses at the wrong height and it's heartbreaking to see those people celebrate and then not qualify.

Touching your dog - You can't. Your dog also can't touch you....I remember a local trial with a junior handler and her labrador - she asked him for a down on the table, he sat, she bent over to persuade him to lay down and stretched out and kissed her cheek...

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