Sunday, August 19, 2007

trial in Ostrava and camp in Vetrkovice (Czech Republic)

We went to a trial in Ostrava before the camp in the Czech Republic - it was a tempting trial to enter for me, because all they had were two standard runs (so-called exams), so I got two tries at Uma's second leg for her A1 in one day.

However, it was raining very hard, the trial was outside, it was very slippery and on the first run Uma didn't hold her dogwalk and A-frame contacts. I think she was trying, It's just that I don't think I've ever trained in such conditions and on such equipment (the contacts were rubberized) She also dropped a bar in that run.

Her second run was much better, it looked like she learned what to do with those wet contacts, her dog walk was still very iffy, but it was a qualifying run with a first place and a time of 34.18.

Which doesn't change the fact that now I know I need to practice contacts also when it's raining, with particular attention to safety issues, she certainly needs an easy command before she goes on the teeter when it's that wet.

The Czechs are well.... so similar and yet so different. It's not my first time here in the Czech Republic, but each time I'm here for longer I have similar issues. It seems to me when training they rely more on instinct than on methodology, which is not exactly my strategy for doing anything. But then again since it's so clearly instinct and intuition which I lack as a handler, then maybe it was the right thing to do to come here and see what they have to offer. The camp starts tomorrow morning.

And an update after two days of agility camp. Sadly, in terms of the ideas our instructor has to offer, it is disappointing. Mainly, there's just a set up that everybody in the group (4 dogs, not a big group) has to do. If you do it correctly, there's a "vybornie" ("excellent") comment and if you don't, then you do it again until you get it. If you don't get it after some 4 or 5 tries, that's pretty much it. Our instructor, who will remain nameless here (but the instructor is a multiple WC participant), because I don't want to spread bad news about someone over the internet, rarely gets up from her chair. I honestly cannot understand the purpose of these exercises... Anyway, the only good thing is that the sequences are interesting, I can experiment with different handling strategies to see which one works for me and well... that's pretty much it. I get a good workout, Uma and Malcolm (who's in a different group) also get a good workout.

I've been spying on the less advanced classes to see how they teach certain beginning stuff and I am amazed. I am absolutely amazed at how it is possible that this country has had World Championship medalists, both in the individual and team categories.... It seems there is no theory whatsoever, there's just plain running. Contact zones are taught by physically placing the dog on the zone and yelling "zona" (zone), there's a variation used for running contacts which includes rolling a ball off the contact (and yelling "zona"), weave poles are taught by luring the dog with a ball. They begin agility with sequences, not individual obstacles. To be honest, I did not see many excellent weave pole performances at the trial in Ostrava and I did see A LOT of missed contacts, so the methods are well... not working. I don't know, maybe it's the fact that there are SO MANY people competing, that there have too be a few good ones in the bunch? It is true that for a country as small as the Czech Republic the sheer number of people practicing agility is overwhelming. There can be three FCI trials in the country (which is the size of well... maybe Massachusetts) on the same weekend and they all fill. Maybe it's the fact that they have so many dogs to choose from, there's just bound to be a few really good ones in the lot.

Update after 4 days...
The disappointment continues. There is absolutely no commentary whatsoever. Several of the sequences were well known setups (like serpentines, threadles, 270s), they also seem to love geometrical X-type openings. When people struggle with a particular handling sequence because they haven't taught it, they just struggle, that's it. There's a lady with a standard schnauzer in Uma's group who clearly cannot do serpentines if her life depended on it. She struggles with these serpentines each and every time they're set up and it would really have been such an easy thing for the instructor to get up and show her what to do.

I admit to having been a rebellious camper. When the instructor sets up long and twisted courses (and it's hot hot hot here - finally) I break them up into pieces and finish after some type of accomplishment. The good news is she has stopped yelling at me, but it's strange that I actually feel like I'm not being honest when I'm trying to teach my dog.

The Czechs also don't have startline stays, practically all of them run with their dogs from the startline. They also don't seem to be teaching jumping. When the dog knocks bars, the dogs knocks bars and that's it. There doesn't seem to be any method to teaching it. In general, I was thinking of going home early, but well... it's just one more day and maybe we can survive that. And there's a 1-day official trial on Saturday.

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