A funny realization about Jake’s GO ON out the ring exit and back in the entrance

At our recent NADAC trial,  I was a bit baffled by the fact that Jake ran out of the ring after a perfectly smooth and fast Chances run.  I love having video tapes of runs because often they show me something I was unaware of in the moment.  On the video tape, I heard myself say GO ON while Jake was ahead of me when he ran through the last hoop so  the last thing he saw was me running behind him with my arm supporting a GO ON.   At the time I thought the moral of the story was to make sure I give a turning cue when the last obstacle is facing the exit.  However, after watching the video a couple of times and chewing on a few random thoughts that passed through my mind that day, I think there were more forces at play than I realized.

When Jake left the ring, it came as a total surprise to me because he did not appear to be stressed.  As a matter of fact he seemed totally connected and confident from the moment he left his crate to the start line where he had a great start line stay, and then he ran fast and confidently throughout the course without even a single little bobble.

So why did he leave the ring?

The first clue emerged while I was course building after Jake’s run.   I remember looking back towards the ring exit and saying to a fellow course builder:  “The exit looks very exit-ee” but I didn’t think much about it at the time.  What looked “exit-ee” about it was the ring fencing constructed white lattice, was very visible against the dark background of the barn.   Whereas the exit consisted of a wide mesh natural wood baby gate, set an an angle so there was a very dark and visible gap, especially in contrast to the white fencing.   BTW–Ring exits are typically invisible from inside the ring due to overlapping fencing that creates a channel that dogs exit through.  This ring was not set up that way.

A second clue emerged later in the day when a fellow competitor said to me: “This ring fencing would make great NADAC Gates.”  My response was they were a little too short but yes, they did look like NADAC Gates.  But I still didn’t put it together.

A third clue emerged when I randomly thought about how much fun we had at the EGC workshop the previous weekend, which was held at the same site as the trial.

The next day, the 3 clues merged to form a highly probable hypothesis:  The white ring fencing with visible gaps looked like the set up for Extreme Hoopers, so when I said GO ON, Jake WENT ON through the visible gap, then ran OUT and AROUND the “Gates” and back in at the next visible gap, which was the entrance to the ring.  I’m smiling as I type this.  If you don’t know what Extreme Hoopers looks like, I posted a video of that game last week:


I think this hypothesis makes perfect sense because Jake seemed so proud of himself when he came running back to me.  I believe he thought he was being an outstanding dog.   I am sooooo very happy that we had a big party after that run and I was happy and smiling vs. acting disappointed.    I think Jake is such a fun and great little dog!  I totally love and adore him.


Thoughts about jump heights plus new videos from last weekends trial

For me agility is the most fun when my dogs are running courses super fast and like most dogs, my dogs can run faster with lower jumps.   I am not suggesting speed is what makes agility the most fun for other teams.  I also must admit that I enjoy getting Qs but I’d take a fast and fluid NQ over a jerky Q any day!

I recently learned that AKC is now allowing the transfer of points to Preferred so teams don’t have to start all over again in Novice if they want to lower their dog’s jump heights.  YEY for that!   I hope this results in more people moving their dogs to Preferred if they feel their dog’s current jump height is too high based on either structure or age.

I have given jump heights a great deal of thought over this past year and over the past 6 months, I have only been competing in NADAC, where my Australian Terriers can jump 4″.   I may never raise their jump heights back to 8″, even for Lil who looks quite good jumping 8″.  My thinking is that when Lil jumps 8″ she often does a little butt flipping action over jumps, which a lot of BCs, who barely skim over bars, also do.  Granted it looks a lot more elegant when a long-legged BC butt flips, compared to my long-backed Australian Terrier, but regardless I suspect any repetitive motion like butt flipping could cause discomfort or undue wear and tear if done repeatedly for many years.  This thought is based on what I learned from an orthopedic specialist, whom we took Jake to see in July for an on-again, off-again NQR issue.  The vet didn’t find anything wrong with Jake but said that he had a little arthritis in his lower back which was VERY NORMAL for an agility dog to have at the age of 7….and he sees a lot of performance dogs.

Here are a few of Lil’s runs at a NADAC trial, December 15-16, 2012

There are two reasons I may not raise Lil’s jump height back to 8″.  The first is because she can run agility courses faster jumping 4″ and appears to be having more fun as a result.  The second reason is that she rarely butt flips over 4″ bars and I’m guessing that will be better for her long-term well-being.   I am not suggesting that everyone should lower their dog’s jump heights.. but just hoping to bring awareness to the choice we all have to jump our dogs lower in the USA.  Plus as far as I know, dogs don’t care about titles or jump heights. 🙂

The reason I will not likely raise Jake’s jump height back to 8″ is because of his rather unorthodox style of jumping, which I suspect is caused by his tendency to run and jump with his head held high.   I think it will take many months for him to fully adjust to jumping lower bars but at home he is now able to jump 4″ bars with ease so I know it is possible for him. I anticipate that over time, he will jump with more and more ease and  consistency at trials too.

Here are a few of Jake’s runs at a NADAC trial, December 15-16, 2012.  Unfortunately, what may have been Jake’s best run of all times, Touch N Go on Saturday, was not video-taped.  😦  It was super fast and super fun with awesome NEW running contacts!

I suspect there are other obstacles like weave poles and contacts that could contribute to the development of lower back arthritis, as well as day-to-day activities, but it also seems logical to me that the arching of the lower back to flip rear legs up high enough to clear bars over hundreds of jumps every year could result in arthritis or perhaps soreness at times, since there are so many jumps on most agility courses.  ps– One of the many things I am loving about NADAC is that many classes don’t have jumps and even Standard courses have a combination of jumps and hoops, so by the end of a full day of trialing (even running 6 classes) my dogs have jumped far less than they would have in 2 classes in other agility venues.

Regardless of the validity of my previous statements, why would I not want to lower my dogs’ jump heights if I have the option to do so?  All of the Australian Terriers I know are great agility dogs but agility specs are not designed with this particular breed in mind… and why would they be?   That said, I know several great running ATs who jump 8″ with  ease.  All of these dogs have good ground speed and good handlers and they look totally fine jumping their current height.  I am certainly not trying to suggest all ATs jump 4″.  It’s just a choice I’m making for my particular dogs and who knows, I just might end up raising their jump heights back to 8″ over time.

I do think there is a reason so many BCs and Shelties compete and win major competitions with full-height jumps though.  I will go so far to say that I think obstacle specifications suit these two breeds particularly well.  YEY for most BCs and Shelties out there!  GO GO GO!  As far as dogs whose structures are not perfectly suited for current obstacle specifications or jump heights, why not jump your dogs lower for a while and see how they look (and feel) if you have the option to do so?

And how about this radical thought? Imagine what agility trials in the USA would look like if a huge number of people decided to lower the jump heights for their dogs.  I’m guessing YPS would grow exponentially and make agility far more exciting to run AND to watch.  And perhaps American agility enthusiasts would start to feel better about what the USA has to offer in terms of competitive agility vs. always comparing our courses to European style courses and feeling that we are falling short!