Big thanks to Don for putting these videos up to share with our pals, especially the slow-motion ones! Only in slo-mo can we see that Andretti naturally “cross-canters” (runs on one lead in the front and the opposite one in the back, no matter which one he is on). And can see how amazingly l-o-n-g some of his takeoff spots are on the jumps – he really loves to jump! Don has nicknamed him “Air Andretti”
As you may imagine, it is really challenging to have no physical connection to the animal (they have to run with no leash, and ANY touch from the handler is cause for elimination). The other challenge is to keep everything FUN for the dog, since all participation is completely voluntary on his part! We do travel to events, and stat overnight in hotels. Unlike the film “Best in Show”, it is not about looks or pedigree – just performance!
NOTE: We are in this sport because Andretti is naturally athletic and learns quickly. He is bored at home, and runs and jumps into the air for pure joy (no obstacles). He definitely needed a channel to direct his high energy and drive. We thought he was part greyhound (when he runs, he looks just like the guy on the side of the bus, waspy waist and all) and maybe Italian Greyhound, because of his small size. He is clearly a “sight” hound (our previous dog was a Beagle, so we know scent hounds) and he is also really fast, hence the name “Andretti”, after Mario. However, we have since changed our minds and think he is part German Short Hair Pointer and part small terrier. Maybe we will run a DNA test and see what turns up…
His registered name is “Andretti Spaghetti” b/c Andretti had been used before, and we wanted to keep it light-hearted & fun. We began our first agility class May 1, 2011. What a blast! Our first competition was November of that year at the Novice level. May 2012 we titled into Open, September to Excellent, and in April of 2013 we reached the highest level in AKC competition – “Masters”. We are still taking classes, btw. I told Andretti since we were now competing against the best in the league, forget those rosettes - we may never see another one! But we have since earned a 2nd, a 3rd, and a 4th place against the “herding” breeds like Border Collie, Australian Cattle Dog, etc. We are earning lifetime points toward our AKC “MACH” (Masters Agility Champion) award. We need 18 more qualifying runs at the Masters Level and 670 more “speed points”.
February 2014 Andretti will turn 6 year old – he is amazingly healthy and free of physical problems (knock on wood) perhaps because of his mixed heritage, and also because he stays in great condition racing up and down the stairs of our house to get outside to chase squirrels & birds.
A few things to look for:
CONTACT OBSTACLES: These are the (non-jump) ramp-type obstacles that require the dog to leave the ground. For safety reasons, dog are not allowed to LEAP OFF of these, but must touch within the colored “contact zone” the last 3 feet of the off-ramp. Andretti is fast and loves to jump (he takes the staircase in our house in two touches) so we were forced to abandon the classic “running contact” theory and go the hard route to learn the alternate “2 on, 2 off” behavior. This requires that he come to a full STOP at the base of the ramp with his back feet still on the obstacle and his front feet off of it, until verbally released. We use the “Feet” and “Break” commands for this. Especially challenging is the “Teeter” because the dog must tip it and ride it to the ground (and it lands with a loud “bang”).
DISCRIMINATIONS – this is when two obstacles are placed very close to one another and the dog must “discriminate” and choose the correct obstacle. (See tunnels set immediately adjacent to A-Frame or DogWalk). All obstacles must be completed in the correct order, within the time allowed. When given a choice, Andretti ALWAYS prefers to leave the ground, so the tunnels are a real challenge for him. We occasionally enter in a class with ONLY TUNNELS so he can have fun with them without a difficult decision.
WEAVE POLES: The dog must always enter with the first pole on its left! They must complete all 12 poles. This is a tricky one to train, and we struggled with it our first year until we switched to the “2 by 2” method. Even then, the angle of entry can be very tricky so we have to keep “tuning” our weave entries as well as our “contacts” on the ramps & such.
AND, Special Thanks to Georgeanne Marks and Beagles and More Rescue www.beaglesandmore.net/ for hooking us up with this fabulous and fun doggie in December of 2008.