AKC, Course Map Chants, and Murphy’s Laws of Agility

So this past weekend we did an AKC trial. I was smart and entered the 2 days it didn’t rain! I used to do this particular trial all the time but haven’t gone to it in a few years. There’s always a conflict with something closer, but I really want to get going on Jay-ven’s AKC titles so this time it won out. It was fun seeing people I don’t run into that often … and to count the double-takes when they saw me there. Not one but TWO people I knew got MACH’s – that was nice!

Two weekends ago, we were at a CPE trial on a beautiful, secluded site. A gruelling hike to the tenting area, even from the drop off zone, but perfect for a dog like Jayda because everything was far from the rings. This weekend’s trial was a BIG outdoor trial – about 3x as many people and lots going on. I knew it would be challenging for Jayda, I think I underestimated HOW overwhelming it would be.

Re: Jayda’s Agility Skills

When it comes to technical skills and her understanding of handling cues, Jayda is definitely playing with a full deck … but occasionally she gets flustered and drops her cards.

Jayda isn’t afraid of people – she likes most people. She just doesn’t deal well with new things and people sitting elbow-to-elbow all around the Excellent ring watching her run was initially too novel for her. Two jumps into her first run , and she had an “OMFG” moment, leading to a few extra, random jumps. I got her attention back, picked up the course at the nearest obstacle and ran the remaining 2/3 sans weaves but otherwise cleanly – to my surprise, earning us a bit of applause from ringside. It must have been a fairly impressive recovery? Aw, thanks you guys :)!

She was still a little stressy during Open Standard – ran a nice course but lost it in the poles.

Raven fared much better, picking up a whopping 67 pts her first time in Novice FAST (with 7 seconds to spare), and a 1st and Q in Nov JWW. Everything’s interesting, nothing phases her – she played tug with me and kept sticking her head in the equipment buckets looking at all the kewl stuff in there (Jayda wanted nothing to do with those creepy buckets.) If she had a complaint it would be that there was an awful lot of walking for her short little legs.

Murphy’s Law of Agility Trials:

If you have classes in multiple rings, you will at some point in the day have to be in two places at once, regardless of how carefully the trial schedule is planned. The odds of this increase exponentially, depending on how many dogs you are running.

With Jayda popping the poles twice in a row, I was determined get in some weave review work in before Sunday. It was dark when we got home Saturday but fortunately we didn’t have to be there early the next morning, so there I was in my teeny little yard at 6:30 AM Sunday with a tape measure and my stick-in-ground weaves. While setting up, I saw some mushrooms towards the end of the little grass patch – UGH! I’m MAJOR paranoid about mushrooms, so that meant I also had to get out the trowel and dig up my yard before we could practice. By the time I was done, I had just enough time to reinforce a couple of sets of weaves – oh well, better than nothing!

Saturday was perfect weather – moderate and sunny. Sunday was cloudy, cold and windy. Wind is not Jayda’s favorite thing – things blow around, move, make noise … way too unpredictable!

Murphy’s Second Law of Agility Trials:

Your dog will be farthest from whichever of those 2 courses you need to run first. (If you try to cheat this law by setting up your crates equidistant to both rings, YOU will somehow end up on the opposite side of the trial grounds.. like in the porta-johns or something… when they start calling you.)

Murphy’s First and Second laws made an appearance for Jayda’s runs on Sunday. I never take her out early because she stresses, but I thought I had time to check on ring 1’s timing and still get her to ring 3 in time for her run. As luck would have it, 2 dogs weren’t there and I arrived at ring #3 just AFTER they marked me absent and were setting up the next height! Ack!!! Fortunately, the judge let me run at the end of the class. Took Jayda back to her crate, went back to ring #1, which was now just about to walk Ex JWW.

Afraid of missing her run AGAIN, I kinda rushed the walkthrough. There was also a big crowd of people walking, so it’s not like it was easy to get your bearings in a couple of quick passes. I do, however, have a little trick that I use: “The Course Map Chant”.

The Course Map Chant™ (“CMC”) Method of Course Memorization:

When walking the course, make up and memorize a silly little ditty (optionally set to music), telling yourself what handling you plan to do and which direction the course goes. For example, a jww course may go something like this: “One two cross, three four cross, bear right 6 7 8 – weave – 10 … eleven cross, push out, ser-pen-tine and done!”

When I’ve adequately walked a course, I do my little chant in my head while running and everything just flows. If I haven’t walked the course enough, I have something to fall back on (besides the numbers) to me keep from getting lost, though my timing will suffer. It may not be pretty but it can salvage an entry fee, and with AKC entries at a going rate of $24 for the first run in these parts, … well … salvage baby, salvage!

So I did my quickie-walkthrough grabbed Jayda and headed over to the other ring … only to have a dozen things cause delay after delay after delay. With the dog that stresses when she waits – wonderful! Between that and the wind and course builders starting to anticipate setting the next course, by the time I got her into the ring I was sure we were headed for a one-way trip to Meltdownville. I took off her leash, squeezed her shoulders, told her she could do it…

And we had an AWESOME run! We used our one-refusal ticket with a false start at the poles, but once she went in my 7AM training paid off and they were perfect.

How awesome? The judge actually came up to us afterwards and told me how much she enjoyed watching us! She thought it was “very pretty” and liked that I was nice to my dog the entire time – wow, and what a sweet thing to say :)!

Ran from there back to the Ex JWW ring, where it was almost our turn. By this time I was feeling more confident and knew Jayda had at least run off some of her nerves, but that was the “busy” ring again.

We had a little hesitation in the poles when she eyeballed the crowd for a second, but I got her through clean and ran the rest clean and under time! Had some wobbly spots where I had to rely on “the chant” because I wasn’t 100% sure where I was going, but Jayda’s such a good egg – she made us look good.

After a LONG break, I ended the weekend with an exhilarating JWW run with Raven, where “sticky-pup” amazed me by going into obstacle focus for several jumps, diving ahead into the poles at full speed …and sticking them! Damn, that girl can weave! Woohoo, Babydog! Just one little moment of “the bouncies” near the end to slow us down, but that was good enough for a 29″ run, a 1st place Q and a title. On to Open!

Raven also saw her cousin Zinna at the trial – the two girls thought this family reunion called for a party, but since we were waiting to run, the timing (not to mention the location) was rather innapropriate so Terry and I had to be the fun police. A play date may be in order – can you say “22 lbs of cuteness :)?”


  1. Nancy says

    Just found your blog/website from a link from Skyline Agility and just wanted to say I found it fun and informative!

    I am a “newbie” to Agility and live in Central/Western Maine. I have a currently 15 month old Eng springer Spaniel and we’ve been in Agility training for 8 months now. I am interested in AKC and CPE agility trialling…I have just mailed out our entry for our very first trial, and that will be the Skyline “Novice Only” trial Dec 4-5th. I felt that with this being for Novice only, it may help to ease some of the anxiety I will no doubt feel because this will be our first trial. Will you be at this trial?

    Unfortunately, because of the rather remote area of Maine that I live in, as well as there only being the one AKC agility trial even in Maine…I have not met anyone else that trials with AKC. And again because of my remote location, I travel every other week for private lessons…of which are a 2 hour drive each way. So most of our practice is here at home, luckily I have a lot of space, time and all the equipment. Here is a link to my youtube where I post an occasional video of our practice for our instructor to review & critique http://www.youtube.com/user/bonannye

    Again, nice blog…can tell that you really love your dogs and enjoy the time you spend together in agility!!

    Nancy & Bella

  2. wpadmin says

    Hi Nancy – glad you’re enjoying the blog! Wow, sounds pretty challenging being so far from everything – you’ll enjoy the Skyline trial – it should be quite small and we have a nice indoor facility. If it hasn’t filled (and as of a week ago they still had runs available), I may enter Raven just in Nov FAST – she only needs one more for her title. I’m holding off on her in standard until the rule about the 6′ chute goes into effect (January.)

    Good luck at the trial and (maybe) I’ll see you and Bella there :)!