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Chin Agility
by Rosemary Strasser

I started agility with a Basenji mix we rescued that just needed an outlet for her energy. Tia couldn't stand all the attention the Basenji was getting, so the next thing I know, I'm practicing at home, and it's Tia clearing the hurdles, and the Basenji is off chasing squirrels! Tia has always been agile and attentive so I don't know why it didn't dawn on me earlier. I think many Chins would do well in agility, it is amazing we don't see more.

I started training Tia in agility last spring [2000] at the age of 5. We continued training through the fall and we entered our first AKC sanctioned fun match. Although the match was held in the same area that we have our agility classes, the equipment was all different. So, in true "Chin fashion" she wouldn't complete some of the obstacles until she could inspect them first and make sure they were up-to-par! Unfortunately, that is considered a "refusal" (and you can only have two of them in Novice). We did complete the course, learn a lot, and had a great time.

We started training again this spring and competed in our first AKC trial June 30th-July 1st 2001. In the AKC there are two types of courses, standard and jumpers with weaves. Dogs compete based on shoulder height. So for example, Tia competed against other dogs jumping at 12 inches - Corgies, Miniature Schnauzers, Miniature Pinscers, etc. (She actually should be juping at 8 inches but we didn't get her officially measured until the day before the trial, so she had to stay at 12 inches for that trial.) Scoring is based on dogs completing a novel course in an assigned order with a minimum number of faults/mistakes. Points are deducted from your score for mistakes such as refusing to complete an obstacle the first time the dog is asked, or for running off course. A perfect score is 100 points, and a score of 85 points or higher is a "qualifying score". You need three "qualifying scores" or "legs" to earn a title. The dog with the highest score in each height division can also receive a placement ribbon (1st - 4th usually). In case of a tie (two perfect scores of 100 for example) the dog with the best time wins.

Tia's first day of the trial was a complete surprise to me! usually I'm ahead of her when we run a course. That day she was EVERYWHERE! I don't know why, but she had so much energy I couldn't control her. She'd be off one obstacle and sailing off to the next one before I could direct her (and unfortunately it was usually the wrong one - an off course). It was as though my sweet little Chin's body was taken over by an alien on amphetamine! So we did not receive a qualifying score on either standard or jumpers with weaves. However, I did learn two very valuable things:

  1. Tia responds to my mood and 90% of the mistakes were made due to my handling. I should have been quicker with the commands.
  2. Expect the unexpected. All week Tia was stepping on the broad jump (a disqualification). I obsessed over it. What did she do at the trial? Sailed over it perfectly! But she hated the table. She NEVER has problems on the table! She kept "popping up" on her sit for 5 counts on the table (too hot maybe, different color, different texture, who knows). She finally did it but was slow so we lost time there.

The next day we finally got it together. Started out with a very nice jumpers with weaves, but she knocked a bar down (disqualification). Had the standard course in the afternoon and she ran beautifully! Instead of being out ahead, we were together working as a team. Our only mistake was going in the wrong end of the tunnel, a 5 point deduction (my fault). Sailed over that broad jump again. Even did a down on that nasty table (in her own sweet time and with some begging from me). Final score, 95 points out of 100 - our first leg! On top of that, we got the second fastest score in our height division. I think the failures are as important as the successes. I think some of my biggest challenges training Tia in agility were convincing her why she should do something one way when she obviously knows another way to do it! Another big thing is that "new" or "different" things need to be investigated first, then they're just fine. And last, when we hit a wall in training, best thing is not to get upset or push it. She's so sensitive and knows when I'm frustrated/upset and will just shut down. Leave it, and move on to something else for a while. This really hit home when she did the broad jump perfectly at the trial. If I'm having fun, she has fun.

For more information on AKC agility events, click on the icon to visit the AKC website.

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