The excuse for this 3-week roadtrip was the USDAA Nationals in Scottsdale, AZ. After driving thousands of miles without a hitch, I hit a pigeon at 5 mph in the parking lot at the competition site and destroyed the bug guard on my van. This will probably cost me a few hundred bucks when I get home.
My dog, Gripper, was entered in the agility competition but I had no fantasies of winning or even placing at this event. The competitors come from all over the country (the world, actually) and the dogs are simply amazing. We had fun but there was way too much downtime and too few runs per day. I’m not the spectator type. In addition to the agility, there were many other dog sports. Here’s a quick overview.
An average course is about 20 obstacles or so. At a Nationals competition like this, the top teams might perform a course in about 30 seconds. A course with just jumps and tunnels, they might do in under 20 seconds.
Handlers walking the course to figure out how to best direct their dogs (ideally with no faults and running the fastest time):
jumps (don’t want the dog to knock any bars):
the dogwalk (faults if dog misses touching yellow on way up or down):
the teeter (aka seesaw) — dogs needs to stay on when board hits the ground:
the weaves (aka weave poles) — dog must slalom all 12 poles, starting on right hand side:
I don’t compete in this sport but many agility competitors do. Here’s the simplified explanation. There are four dogs on a team. Two teams compete against each other at a time, running down two lanes of four small jumps to a spring-loaded box to get a tennis ball. Once the dog banks off the box while grabbing the ball, he/she returns down the lane for a wild game of tug with his/her handler/owners. The four dogs on each team run relay fashion. The fastest total team time wins the heat. Several heats are run per day.
There are lots of different games in this sport. Some are distance tests, accuracy tests, some are combinations thereof. This is a Japanese competitor doing Freestyle (various tricks set to music) with his dog:
I did participate in this sport with my dog, Sputnik, who seemed a natural for this. He loves chasing things, loves to swim, and is fearless. His longest jump over the 5 days was 16 feet (damned good for a small dog). A few of the experienced big dogs were jumping 24 feet or so. Proper form (shown below) is for dog to jump up in the air off the dock in pursuit of a toy which will carry them a longer distance over the water. Nik would pretty much just run straight ahead.
This is an exciting sport especially for Sighthounds and Terriers. A piece of fur is attached to a wire on the ground and dogs are released to chase it through an obstacle course. I don’t know how many yards the course was but the average dogs did it in about 20 seconds and the super fast dogs did it in about 10 seconds. Noisy, primal, fun!
I didn’t stay long to watch this as it always seems the least interesting to me and I always feel bad for the sheep being bossed around.
Back on the Road
When the competition ended this afternoon, we moved on towards Las Vegas. It was great to see some dinosaurs and signs after seeing nothing but dogs for five days. While in Peach Springs, I encountered this strange sight. It appeared to be lemons growing on the ground but up close seemed to be some sort of vine-growing squash. Can anyone enlighten me as to what this might be?
And to wrap up the day, we were treated to a great Arizona vistas and a glorious sunset.