Spot On K9 Sports

Fun activities for all dogs

Is 10 Too Old to ADCH?

Me with senior spots,
Jolie & Darby

Aging has been on my mind a lot lately. This October, I will celebrate my 41st birthday and 15th wedding anniversary. In February 2014, I will welcome my first child, a baby boy. It’s a fact that he will change my life – which has largely revolved around my dogs and agility till now – but merely a series of educated guesses on my part as to how exactly he will change it. Will I be able to devote the same hours to my other “baby,” my training business? Will I still have the time and money to train and show in agility? Will friends run the other way when they see me set up a play pen beside their crates and X-pens?


Jolie jumps 22″

Until I found out that I was pregnant, my main obsession was the window of time closing on my Dalmatian, Jolie, and I as we earnestly focused on earning her ADCH (Agility Dog Champion) in USDAA before she turned 10 years old in December 2013. She needs two Master Snooker Super Qs, one Steeplechase Q, and two more Tournament Qs. After a series of setbacks, including back surgery in 2010, heartworm treatment in 2011, and being attacked by another dog in 2013, it’s extraordinary that she’s doing agility at all, much less showing in the highly competitive Championship 22″ class.

Now that Baby Boy Lane is on the way, and my own agile ability wanes, our window of time is a mere crack of opportunity. Earlier this year, I was panicked and anxious at shows, suffocated by desire instead of appreciating time spent with friends and my pretty spotted girl. With the baby coming, I realized I had to either do something different or retire Jolie and cherish her as a beloved companion couch potato.

Thus, Journey to ADCH was born. This new Facebook community is for anyone working to attain their team’s ADCH or PDCH and could use some support and motivation from peers along the way. As the number of likes surpassed 100 within just one day, I realized that this had gone beyond me and Jolie; it was now about many other hard-working teams who had hopes, dreams and aspirations.


Happy girl!

The day after I started Journey to ADCH, Jolie, Baby and I attended a USDAA trial in Naperville, IL. She went 1/3, Q’ing in Master Snooker for the 10th time, but was too sore in her lower back to weave in Steeplechase and Grand Prix. Regardless of the outcome, at the finish of each run, I threw my hands up in the air, excitedly exclaimed, “Good girl, Little Monkey!” and we raced to her container of treats. There was no sign of the panic or anxiety I had experienced at previous shows. Instead, I was filled with joy and happiness at being able to run my dog, visit my friends and their amazing dogs, and yes, I’ll admit, obsessively check for updates from fellow Journey to ADCHers who were sharing brags and support for each other on the page.

After the show, I finally had the emotional clarity I needed to make an important decision. Jolie had earned her last Q at 22″; it was time to move to Performance 16″ and maybe – or maybe not – begin the Journey to PDCH. She will never again be the 8-month-old adolescent that leaped over the couch and inspired my then 30-year-old self to sign her up for agility classes. But our journey together continues, as does the varied and inspiring journeys of many other teams for whom I will be loudly cheering … all the way to the finish line.

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Small Space Handling Skills

dog agility training handling obstacle discrimination 270

Tuesday mornings, I teach private lessons for students whose dogs can perform all the obstacles, but the human part of the team needs help with handling. We use a small matted space (80 x 30) which is often used for group classes such as obedience, puppy kindergarten, nose work, tricks and rally. I find that the small space helps handlers gain confidence in their abilities more quickly, so they’re better prepared for larger spaces in the future.

This course presented a variety of challenges (see color-coded key). Usually, we think of a tunnel beside a dogwalk or Aframe as an obstacle discrimination. In this case, it was a tunnel and a jump, and an opportunity to practice tire turns and experiment with acceleration and deceleration

#1-5 was easy for all teams, with the handler performing a front cross on the landing side of #3. The 270 at #6-7 was smooth if the handler decelerated and rear crossed #6. A few handlers attempted to get ahead and front cross on the landing side of #5, but dog after dog read the forward motion as permission to take off course #16 jump.

Patient handlers who decelerated on approach to #9 tire were rewarded with a nice turn to #10 jump. Those who felt the need for speed sent their dogs right into the off course #13 tunnel.
The #14-16 line worked best for handlers who kept dog on their left, decelerated or didn’t even pass plane of #14 jump to ensure slight bend in dog’s path. Staying behind worked well for rear cross on take off side of #16 jump to follow through with 270 to #17 jump.

Some dogs went around the #17 jump if the handler stretched out arm to indicate it, instead of keeping arm at side and using shoulder to cue tight turn. Dogs would also go around #17 jump if the handler attempted a front cross on the landing side of #17 and kept moving parallel to the jump instead of moving away diagonally toward #18 jump.

Set it up in your yard or training space and let me know what most challenged your team!

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