Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Flyball "pawness" survey

The concept of "pawness" is familiar to people who train flyball dogs: it's the tendency of dogs to seem to prefer turning one way over the other. Many people (myself included) think it's a good idea to determine if a dog is "left-pawed" or "right-pawed" and then teach them to turn on the box in the appropriate direction to get a nice, fast turn. Now some researchers at UC-Davis are looking into the biology of "pawness," according to this e-mail I got from a flyball mailing list:

Dear Flyball Enthusiasts: The Canine Genetics group at the University of California, Davis, is interested in understanding the molecular basis of asymmetry in the context of developmental biology. A potentially elegant model of this is hand preference or "handedness".The insights of trainers and handlers of dogs competing in flyball presents a wonderful opportunity to establish the biology of "pawness" in dogs and to map the gene(s) underlying this asymmetry. We invite you to participate in an online survey informing us of your dogs' turning preference(s). The survey takes only seconds to complete and will be of great use to us in determining if the direction of choice is random or if there is indeed a biological basis for turn preference in mammals (dogs and humans alike).

Please follow the link below to complete the survey:

The survey is only four questions and takes a minute or two to complete.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Who's a good girl?

Yep, Lucy is a good girl! Yesterday she became ADCH Lucy! I got lucky, because I thought the Master's Gamble was really easy for us (although maybe I wouldn't have thought so a couple of years ago when we first got into Masters). I guess I should say that it was exactly the kind of thing we have practiced, which is what made it easy for us. It was out to a jump and then farther to another jump, followed by a 180 over another jump back to me and ending out to another jump that was only a few feet from the line. Some dogs had a hard time turning back in to the handler because they had already locked onto the last jump as they were going over the second one; others turned into the handler but didn't make the 180 jump, and a few didn't go out to the last jump. But good little Lucy executed it beautifully. In addition to being an ADCH run, it was also the first time we ever got two Gamblers Qs in one weekend. Our norm has been to get none.

Unfortunately, upon watching the video I realized that my last verbal to Lucy was "C'mere, out!" Poor Lucy. What the hell kind of instruction is "C'mere, out"? She puts up with so much from her stupid handler! What a good dog. Anyway, you can see it yourself, even though the zoom is a bit close to really see the layout of the gamble:

Lucy USDAA Gamble for the ADCH 09/07/08 from bunchofpants on Vimeo.

We also Q'd in our Standard run yesterday, the only other event I entered. And I got to run Derrell Stover's border collie L'il J, although I didn't do a very good job of it.

So now I guess I'll move Lucy into Performance and jump her at 12". She has no problems with the 16" jump height, but she's not getting any younger.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

One down, one to go ...

Lucy and I got a Gamblers Q today! That means if we get tomorrow's, we'll get our ADCH! We also got a Snooker Q and a Jumpers Q, which was a 100% Q rate for the day--all in the stupid sand ring. After I saw the Standard course I wished I had entered it, because it would have been a good one for us. But when I entered the trial I had been thinking of my little 10-year-old dog's energy and joints, so I think it was for the best to limit the day to three runs. We're only entered in two events tomorrow ... I think one is a Standard and the other, of course, is Gamblers. I'm feeling pretty confident right now, but we've never gotten two gamblers Qs in the same weekend before. Well, as the saying goes, there's a first time for everything!

Another DAM fine time

I'm waiting for Tropical Storm Hanna to pass so I can go do some more agility. Today's events were supposed to start at 8 a.m., but Hanna's center is passing almost exactly over the trial site (Teamworks in Youngsville, NC) right now (according to weather radar). So today's start has been delayed until 2 pm. Probably only the craziest agility nuts will bother to go. You know I'll be there.

Yesterday's DAM tournament was good. My team came in fourth out of ten teams, not necessarily because we did everything really well, but because a lot of people did worse. That's the cool thing about DAM tournaments: because it's scored on a curve (so to speak) your misfortunes on course need only be not quite as bad as other peoples'.

My biggest issue with Lucy was running in the sand ring. We had been scheduled to run the whole thing in the grass ring, but in an effort to get finished before the rains started they decided to alternate between the grass and the sand ring so they could build one course while another was being run. I hate the sand ring at Teamworks. It's not just because it seems to magnify the sun or that it always fills whatever shoes I'm wearing with sand, but because the edges are infested with mice. If I were to pick the one thing Lucy loves above all other things, it would be hunting (and perhaps killing) little critters such as mice. Whenever we're in the sand ring, Lucy gets this half-dazed look and seems to be barely paying attention to me. This is a big improvement over when we first started competing there, when she would just check out and run to the corner of the ring sniffing frantically. These days she knows that she's supposed to do agility, and she's a very good dog who wants to do the right thing, but I think the rodent smell is just too alluring to let her concentrate. So she gets this half-dazed look on her face and really doesn't seem to have her full attention on me. I can't help but think that she's battling that primal urge: "Must .... kill ... little ... critters ..." Or maybe I'm just projecting and it's something entirely different. But our runs in the sand, especially gamblers, are almost always far worse than on grass.

I keep saying that I'm not going to enter Teamworks trials on days when the Masters classes are on sand, but then I go and do it anyway. So today we will be in the sand rig again. I'm hoping that all the rain will dilute the rodent odor a bit and give me at least a fighting chance for a Gamblers Q.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

*shakes fist at sky*

I'm really ticked off at Hanna, the tropical storm/maybe hurricane-to-be that's making a beeline almost right toward the site of the USDAA trial I entered this weekend (Youngsville, NC). Friday's DAM tournament should be safe because the storm isn't supposed to make landfall until early Saturday, but I'm sure Mother Nature is going to rob me of one, if not both, of my chances to get a Gamblers Q, dang it! Why can't the storm deflect into a big land mass to the south of us or something? And yes, in case you don't know me, I'm kidding. I'm always kidding.

Oh well, I'll just go ahead and post some videos. From last weekend. Please note that I am wearing skorts in these videos. I've been inspired by Laura to be a fashion-forward handler. Several other handlers were wearing skorts, and we all exchanged tips on where to find the best skortage (turns out to be Wal-Mart, if you can believe it). I apologize for the fact that my videos are always crappy. Someday I'll get a real video camera and I won't have to rely on my Sony Cybershot for this stuff.

So here's Lucy running the Standard course that would have been a lovely Q had she not suddenly veered away from the teeter:

Lucy USDAA Standard 08/30/08 from bunchofpants on Vimeo.

Here's Lucy on the DAM turnament Snooker course. She was going sloooww ... but, after the buzzer sounded and I was driving toward the finish line, she conscientiously took the set of weaves that was in front of her, even thought I was way ahead of her and heading away from the weaves. Now why can't she do that in Gamblers?

Lucy USDAA Snooker 08/29/08 from bunchofpants on Vimeo.

And here's me running Derrell Stover's dog Envy. Not successfully:

Envy USDAA Snooker 8/29/08 from bunchofpants on Vimeo.

Monday, September 01, 2008

PBH USDAA Labor Day trial: No ADCH, but more fun with dirt-kissing and DAM team

Lucy and I spent our Labor Day weekend the way we always do, which is doing agility, of course. My big goal, the ADCH, was not even possible to achieve this time around because I need two Gamblers Qs and there was only one Masters Gamblers class offered all weekend. And we blew that gamble, so we still need the two Qs. Next weekend we have two chances, so we'll see ...

All we got as far as individual Qs was one in Jumpers (with a first place finish!) today. We had a really lovely Standard run yesterday except for the part where Lucy refused the teeter which, y'know, sort of spoils things ;-)

I also kissed the dirt again. It was actually running someone else's dog. On Saturday Derrell Stover let me run two of his amazing border collies, Li'l J and Envy, in Masters Snooker so he could devote his complete attention to running his young dog Qwest in the other ring. During Li'l J's run I was in a position that would have been perfectly safe had I been running Lucy, but it was not the right place to be for Li'l J, who's blazing fast. She exited a tunnel and before I could think "Crap, I shouldn't be here" she ran right into me and knocked me down. Fortunately she's accustomed to dealing with falling handlers, so she waited for further instruction while I jumped up and we continued the run. Time ran out before we completed the last obstacle, but apparently we Q'ed and, I'm told (I didn't look to verify) got first place (no Super Q, though--the P16 height class was combined with the 22s, and the first-place 22" dog got the SQ). I'm bummed that I didn't get the fall and my quick recovery on video.

The highlight of the weekend was probably the DAM tournament. Lucy and I were teamed with Janice Jones and Machias, an Akita, and Melanie Miller and her Visla Austin. We called our team "Irving" because, hey, it's a name, and no one thought of anything better. It turned out to be a good combination: Lucy is consistent, usually has decent speed and doesn't drop bars, Machias is no speed demon but she stays on course (the most important thing in DAM) and usually keeps her bars up and Austin is just usually awesome. The number one team, the FReaQs (Melanie's Regan, Derrell's Qwest and Nancy Burnapp's Fling, all great dogs with great handlers), would have been really hard to beat. So we did the next best thing and came in second (out of nine teams).

I have a few videos that I'll probably post this week. Then next weekend I'll do it all again ... DAM team and all.