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Wednesday, May 28, 2008


After getting home late from Nottingham on Saturday night; I got up early on a rainy Sunday to judge. It was really tough to get up at 5am!

I like to judge occasionally; you really learn so much about training and course design. I am probably a bit over the top in that I always set up my courses in my garden before-hand so that I can see how it runs. At least this way I am 100% sure about my course. It is one thing to put a course on paper and another to see it run in real life. My goal in setting this course was to set up something different from the usual straight up and down courses that Grade 1/2 usually gets. Especially in Large, many of the handlers are stuck in Grade 1/2 for years if they do not have fast border collies. It must get boring running up and down in straight lines especially when you know you dog can do so much more complicated stuff. I also wanted to set up something that someone who could not run fast could handle; the course flowed from one thing to another in curves rather than straight lines. Yet it did require some control and good obstacle performance.

Well......I got to the show early to work on my course. Yes it was raining as usual! I think it has rained (and rained and rained) EVERYTIME I have judged! Hopefully this will put off anyone else asking me to judge in the future. HAHA!

It was a bit upsetting to be greeted first thing by a club member by being asked to change my course. I sent my course to the club in advance so that they could set it up the night before and my mistake was sending them the course with the numbers on it. This gave them the opportunity to evaluate MY course and decide that it was too difficult for the level. I was confident in my course; so I politely said "No it is staying as it is" but this really messed up my confidence! The complaining continued by some of the ring party and then by one or two of the competitors walking the course. I am used to the competitors complaining when walking as we all do this somewhat don't we? But some of them were very aggressive; stamping around and saying loudly how bad the course was when they realized I was standing waiting to start. I have never had this happen in the higher grades; I wonder how Grade 1 handlers are taught if they think this is proper agility etiquette?

Anyway off we went and the first 20 dogs ran. Now I was just praying that I would get clears! Well... Almost all were clear! The course ran exactly as I knew it would; there was no nagging, no need to slow the dog down and no handlers struggling to keep up with their dogs. I was really pleased with the level of the dog and handlers. The main issues were the normal missed contacts or dropped bars. I really appreciated the people who came up to me and said how much they liked the course and that they were really pleased to have run it clear. My winner was a Belgian Terv and 4th place(I think) was a lovely powerful Labrador. I had some super GSDs run also and one or two of them placed. Maybe I set ABC courses? :-) The club placed to 23rd place (there was 200+ dogs in Grade 1)and all the places were clear and well in course time. 23rd place was a older lady with a golden retriever and she thanked me for setting a good ABC course. hehe I really like judging Large Grade 1/2 and watching the non-border collies run. Does that make me anti-border collie? Not really, it is just such a nice change! Viva Variety!

This is the course pretty much as it was. The tunnel was more curved than shown and pointed at the right jump. I had very generous spacing; there was almost 5-6m between jump #2 and the see-saw and probably about 10 metres between Jump #3 and the off-course tunnel. Those were the most common off-course mistakes but only if the dog did not respond AT ALL to body language or verbals. The weave pole entrance was easily managed and you could either push the dog to straighten them out or micromanage the entry if they needed help or, if you had good entrances, just send them. Some dogs faffed (is that how you spell Faff?) about here but only lost time. The ending sequence from the dog walk to the tunnel was actually easier than most handlers realized and the dog naturally took that tunnel with out much help.

I saw some strange handling techniques! The one that really confused me were the handlers that held up their opposite arms for everything. Basically they led the dog around indicating obstacles with the arm furthest away from the dog. This was a clear handling technique as a few of them did this; so it must be a certain trainer or club that teaches it. It was NOT the typical throw your outside arm up (wrong arm) in desperation; this was a deliberate running around with that arm up and shoulders turned into every obstacle. The other interesting handling that made me giggle was the "me me me" technique. Obviously I initially thought the dog's name was Mimi; but realized this was not the case after a few dogs came in called Mimi. It seems this is the command for the dog to check into the handler. I call it the "All About Me" technique. I may adopt this system for my own soon if people keep stealing my "Finger Pointy" system.

So that is my judging for the year done and dusted. It may take me awhile to recover and agree to judge again! And I promise I will not complain about any courses again (well we know that is not really true but I will try!) I will just try and remember that Variety is the spice of life!


kerry martin said...

i was in your grade 2 agility, and really liked it, we did get the big E but like you said it is very very boring just running up and down in straight lines, we need more courses like yours. so thank you for making it interesting.x.kerry

Karen said...

so glad you stuck to your guns the course looked really good to run, I hope Todd gets a few like that when he comes out x

Anonymous said...

Meanie!!! Seriously though, a very nice course Bernadette! Gosh, they should see some of the things I set, right Terry????

Ann Marie

Diana said...

Try not to take it to heart. People, in my opinion, like to complain. I dont think Ive been to one agility trial were someone wasnt complaining about the course. It really bothers me if they are complaining while I'm trying to walk the course. I think that most of us want to be challanged or we wouldnt be there. Thanks for all your hard work. Diana

Lian said...

I like to run that course, it looks nice to me, maybe you should agree to judge some Medium grade 1-3 classes?

Macfarlane Dogs said...

Looks like a great course to me!! I'm sure lots of G1/2 handlers would love the opportunity to do more interesting courses. Too many of them are so boring. Glad you stuck to your guns!!

Hudsondoglets said...

Looks a really good course to me. It flows naturally so I can't see any issues with the level at all. Maybe people panic if they don't see straight lines of some formation.

People always complain if they see something different. It's nice though that some of them swallowed their pride and came and paid compliments after they'd run it. I hope the club member had the decency to do the same!


Hi- the course is great for the ABC dogs, i expect half the people that moaned only did it cause' they knew they couldnt get round with their dog!

Sophie, Oki and Dash

P.S. lou wouldnt have got around it ;-) LOL.

Johanna said...

Brilliant course!!! Perfect for the level set for!!!!

Leanne said...

I'm a Grade 2 handler and I'd love to see more courses like that, both my Medium ABC and my Large WSD would have really enjoyed it.

It's a shame more judges don't put this amount of thought into their courses, and it's definitely more interesting than the boring up-and-down lines.

Sarah and Leslie said...

Its a good course! I hate people moaning which is why I'm terrified to judge, I'd probably cry if they were mean to me....lol

Eleanor and Price (75 lbs. and a lot of dog to get around a course. :-)) said...

It looks like a wonderful course to an American like me. I run German Shorthairs in agility, too, and I would hate to think of them being "stuck" running straight up and back. And straighter, easier courses can favor pure speed as opposed to a course with nice flow and some curves which requires some handling.

Good job.