Charley has an excellent start line stay but even he stood up with all of the excitement in the air. I had my eye on him as I took my lead out and told him to sit before I passed the plane of the first jump. I led out between jump #2-#3 to pick him up on my right hand and released him with “OK”. As he approached #2, I moved across the front of A-Frame to get my front cross in. I decided that I needed to perform the A-Frame with him on my left rather then risk having him run into or behind me after he came down the A-Frame.
My plan was to cross behind him on the A-Frame side of the next jump but the distance between the A-Frame and jump #5 was tight so I ended up taking him over the #5 jump and crossing behind him after he landed. Understandably he thought the next obstacle was the yellow tunnel. I waited until I was on his left side and used his name to turn his head. He responded quickly and came to the correct obstacle, the chute. Veering in the wrong direction increased his yardage which cost us some time.
On the way to the teeter several good dogs took the wrong course to the dogwalk. I watched his head and slowed down until I was sure he was looking at the teeter. His teeter performance was great. He accelerated to the end of the board and road it down to the ground and I quickly released him with “OK”. In my mind I was thinking about the extra yardage the tunnel cost us. He was running fast so I counted on him being able to take the #12 jump at a slight distance from me so that I could get ahead on #13 and push him into the weave poles. He came very quickly and could have very easily run by the weaves like many dogs did, but he got in smoothly.
On the down contact of the dog walk I had planned to do a front cross like I did with Acie, but as I was thinking of making up some time, I decided to work the contact, make sure we got it, but to just pull him on my left to the tire and then cross behind on #17 to pull him to the yellow tunnel. I also decided to get one last front cross in after the tunnel to help give him a more efficient turn over the remaining two jumps.
I’ve competed at the USDAA Nationals every year since starting in 1998, so 9 years. I’ve been in the finals (with different dogs) 7 of those years. I’ve had great runs where I could not have had a better run with my dog, and I haven’t won. I’ve placed 4th, 2nd and 3rd, but never 1st until now. This wasn’t the best run that Charley and I could have put together, but it was close, and fortunately it was good enough to beat our competition. I am so very proud of this dog - I can’t wait to defend our title next year!
I always thought that it would be an advantage to run the course with a veteran dog before running with a Championship level dog, but unfortunately Acie and Charley have different strengths and weaknesses so I needed to handle the course differently with both dogs. Acie was the first dog to run on the course so any traps I had to discover on my own. :)
With Acie I don’t have a lead out so I needed to start at her side on my left hand. The veteran dogs do not have spread jumps so the #3 jump was just a bar jump. After she committed to #3 I crossed behind her to pull her up the A-Frame. As she climbed the A-Frame I was able to get ahead of her and point my feet toward the #5 jump and then I pulled her to the chute. As she took #7 I watched her head to make sure she was looking at the teeter and not the dogwalk. She came right with me.
The #11-#13 jump sequence went well as I was able to keep her on my left hand and accelerate to get her into the weaves. In the past Acie has been known to stretch out and miss the down dogwalk contact. Years ago I tried to re-train her dogwalk to a 2-on 2-off contact performance but it only confused her so I gave up and now just hope for the best. At the bottom of the dogwalk I got a step ahead and did a front cross. I think this surprised her because she scrambled down but was clearly in the yellow. Our finish was clean and fast. I was very happy with our run, the best that we could do. Acie ended up coming in 2nd place .28 seconds behind the winner.
Below is a copy of the course map of the USDAA Grand Prix Final round to help you understand the video a little better :) The veteran final run was the same course so I was able to run the course with Acie before I ran it with Charley.
Click here to watch the video of Charley's winning run.