23 March 2016

Time for a little catch-up

It's been quite a while since I posted on this blog.... Handler's agility opinions in this area aren't that important hehe

I have spent some time training a little, doing some conformation work, breeding a few litters.... also becoming a Conformation Judge. I am still somewhat in the 'game', and have some new dogs, but I feel that my interest have shifted a little.

This uphill battle with my sport in my area has proved too much for me. I feel that I am a competent trainer and handler... also an OK judge... but feel that there are still so many obstacles in my path to great Agility. It is sad, as I do love this sport and so do my dogs. But I feel that I cannot just go out there and compete as others don't seem to value it as they should.

We are STILL being presented with courses that are not suitable for the grades, courses that are still not to the rules, courses that are not "designed" to test skills, but are just thrown together for the sake of placing obstacles on a field ... and equipment that is still not up to scratch! Some courses are so heavily nested that we end up running the same routes over and over again, same tunnel entrances, same weave entries..... how do you spell b-o-r-i-n-g...........?

Handlers lack the skills to direct their dogs around the courses, and most seem unaware of this fact... the poor dogs are darting all over (if they are not being dragged around) and handlers are clueless to the powerful training techniques that will allow them and their dogs to have way much more fun. So they are not looking to get better............

And on that note... I am still refusing to take classes, although I do take the odd private lesson (Thanks, Sam for taking all the classes!) I wouldn't mind if there was the odd student that really was into learning, that is as dedicated to the sport as I was - that trained every day like I did, that progressed steadily........... I long for the enthusiastic student that researches and reads articles off the internet, that downloads sequences, that buys DVD's, that tries new handling skills, that *thinks* for themselves......! Unfortunately most pitch up to class, stand around and wait to be told what to do, they make unnecessary mistakes, don't pay attention to each other's handling, nor to instructions, they blame the dog for numerous errors which should have been sorted in the early basics (that they invariably rushed through).... students that forget what was taught last week and have to be retaught this week, and next week when it is applied in a course, they have no clue how to handle the exact same scenario...... EISH no thanks! Then the more dedicated bunch that give you one story and are serious about their training, but don't follow though - but rather go to other trainers and ask more advice................... eventually they will find someone that will let them do what they wanted to do all along, until it falls apart.... then who do they come back to, to help fix the situation? Aargh

So once again I am changing things around me in order to have some sanity... For 2016 I am taking back some training days for myself, and I'm varying club training time in order to maximise my own time on the field. I have a new boy that sure can use some more Agility training, and we plan to get right on this!
In addition to the above, 2016 will see my taking on quite a number of judging appointments... if you can't change things as a handler, you sure can as a judge! I am prepared for quite a few moans, but none from the handlers this time! And finally, also in 2016, I am stepping up my conformation showing with my 2 super boys & 1 girl that are SO going to excel! And lastly, I have a couple of litters planned for this year :)

SO... we have some goals for 2016.... let's get to it!

18 August 2014

Don't get caught waiting around!

My apparent problem at the moment.. not moving enough! My dogs are getting ahead of me and sometimes control flies out of the window... MY BAD!

Some of my main main rules, I seem to be forgetting lately:
  • No stopping on course
  • Always move your feet
  • Don't wait for your dog
  • Cue early
So.. it's a step backwards for me, and to remember to think more on course. And...

For those of you that tell me "ah but you don't understand.. my dog is FAST".......... you are not listening! FYI if I stop explaining, and just nod or agree with you, I have given up speaking because you are closed off to opinions, and are just sprouting nonsense.. sorry if this sounds harsh, but if people ask my opinion, and they are not actually open to thinking about other handling options, then they are wasting both my time and theirs!

Run CLEVER - by that I mean think ahead, draw the lines out on course, and see where you dog needs to be before deciding how you are going to handle a specific obstacle. Run on the correct sides, give your dogs space, move sooner to the next position (NO waiting around), perform your crosses neatly, cue way before the obstacles for the following direction + obstacle.

Stop whining.

Stop asking every trainer their opinion.

There is no magic fix, no word you can say that will make your dog brilliant.. you are STEERING your dog - it is YOU!!

TRAIN the moves that you say you "can't" do on course. If you see something on course that "would be great IF..." Then TRAIN it!
If in a training session you are wondering what to do, think of the above. Set up ONLY the obstacles you need to train that specific move and train, train, train! Use up more sessions if you need to!


18 March 2014

Today I made a stand

In my efforts to shed anything unpleasant and adopt a more harmonious and pleasant lifestyle I made a stand. I have distanced myself from one organisation whose members and leaders are the main cause of my dissatisfaction and who are the ones that are ruining my time with my dogs:

I will not be rejoining in 2014 due to all the new restrictions.
I feel it is not in my dogs' best interests to run under these circumstances.
I am trying to build relationships with each of my dogs for long and happy competing careers, but cannot under these conditions.

I will still support the shows as best I can in order to stay on the Province's show league.

I am talking about unpleasantness, and rules being twisted to suit people… General nastiness, unproffessionalism, back-biting, etc
I have respectfully queried things that are not being done according to the rules, on courses, and the responses I have got were rude and dismissive, and I have had to endure further victimisation because of it.
It is any handler's right to query something that is not according to the regulations, as this is the platform on which we are expected to compete.
As a judge I would never speak to people in a way in which I have been spoken to.

Regarding rewards…. I work a certain way with my dogs, and if any Committee is going to tolerate others screaming, shouting, swearing and then not tolerate me praising my dogs the way I see fit, without harming or getting in anyone else's way - then I want no part of it.

In addition, my aim it to promote well-bred, structurally sound working dogs, and that means having b1tches in season that work.

They are penalised in leagues etc, as they are not allowed to be on the grounds or compete, so it's really not worth it to be a part of it. I am a judge, KUSA member and breeder and trainer and working disciplines competitor, and I feel that these new rules being implemented by those sitting on Committees are starting to go against the aims of KUSA and the promotion of well bred dogs all round..

20 February 2014

Win or lose ~ The way it should be..

I have been doing Agility for 16 years, and in all that time I have, by far, exceeded my expectations when it comes to success in the sport. But one often forgets, that with success often comes defeat! I have lost far more than I have won when I look at the results on the scoresheet.. but… even though, in history, frozen in time and ink, on certain days I “failed”, in real life I have not failed at all. The time spent “failing” on paper, is, for the most part, learning. It all comes under the heading “Lessons in life” and should be treated as such!

I have come across many handlers that chase the win, at all costs… handlers that arrive hoping to win and leave with nothing but the vision of someone else claiming the rosette (if they even stay for the prize-giving). The negativity surrounding them is obvious after a “loss”, and often emotions take over (jealousy, hatred etc). I fear that these competitors have lost sight of what is truly important. I often ask myself if they come to enjoy the sport or to fetch a prize…..

It is essential to remember, in Agility, that we are a team, dog and handler, and the journey is actually the most important thing. Am I training well? Am I enjoying the training.. and is my dog? At events, is my dog happy? How am I treating my dog and is my dog understanding what we are doing? Are we walking away with a feeling of fulfillment? Do we smile at our friends after our rounds? Do we play with our dogs after our rounds?

When I arrive home after a day’s Agility competitions, I do not count my rosettes, I do not count my prizes… I reflect on my time with my dog(s). Some of the BEST times I have ever had with my dogs have been when I have been eliminated. Some of the most valuable lessons I have been taught have been concealed in a “failed” result.

I review my competition very casually – I often hear of others scoping out their opposition and making lists of ways in which those people can fail, giving the rest an upper hand. I say it is not for me! Helping the “opposition” serves me to no end, as the advice I give is always the best advice I can muster and 99.9% of the time it is exactly as I wish to handle a situation. By doing this it drives me to run against a better quality of opposition, which in turn makes me and my dog, as a team, even better!  
And naturally, I always aim to outdo myself, as opposed to beating someone else… There’s much more satisfaction that can be achieved by beating a standard that meets mine than someone else’s bad choices.

I feel that losing is a part of winning. It lets us remember where we are in the bigger scheme of things. It shows us where we need to work, and reminds us of where we want to be… and makes us more determined to get there! Losing makes us find ways to improve, and it makes us pay more attention and seek out ways that we can try to achieve certain ideals. The challenges of achieving greatness are just so much closer and more intense after losing!

Sometimes after a terrible, technically clear, round, I cringe at the compliments and the congratulatory murmurs as the “win” feels like a loss… because it is not what I was aiming for.. but to grumble back just adds to the negative feeling of the round. Likewise, my fellow handlers reveal their dismay loudly across the field after I have eliminated, is an annoyance to me.. because DIDN’T THEY SEE my dog and I having a fabulous time!?? It surely was a win!

Any apparent “loss” is often analysed to death by handlers and instead of stopping to review the work on the field carefully, from a positive and more optimistic point of view. They focus on the “wrong” without looking at it more simply, and look for what was right in the round, and then merely pin-pointing which minor aspects need adjusting. Trained manoeuvres will always be there in the dog’s mind, but it’s the bit that links our instructions to the dog’s performance that is often the problem.
By presenting the best possible information to my dog is often the solution, and when not complying with this, it becomes the main culprit of a “failed” round

Keeping a positive outlook on my sport is important to me, it keeps me focused on the good side of it, and it keeps me in line while trying to achieve my goals. It keeps me enjoying my dogs, and it strengthens my bond with them.

I will always try and remember to “feel” my dog by my side, enjoy my sport with my canine friends, and not let anything outward interfere with my bubble.

Dance like there’s nobody watching!

03 February 2014

What a backward little town we live in!

After a nice holiday filled with fun fun fun in the sun for me and my dogs, it's back to the sport we love... or we are trying..!

It is quite hard, after training so nicely, and researching so much agility STUFF, to be presented with the unexpected.

And I don't mean "shitty courses". I am sure my sheltie and I can take anything a judge throws at us that is done according to the rules... it's the other "stuff" that comes along with the Agility & Jumping competitions...

As a judge myself, I believe in giving the competitor the best advantage to succeed with their dog, within the rules, and I try and make sure they have a good time, win or lose, clear, faulted or eliminated. But WHY oh WHY do some judges insist on making things difficult!?

We had the first show weekend of the year this weekend... 2 days, with Contact, Non-Contact & Dog Jumping on each day... There was 1 judge per day.

Saturday appeared to be going smoothly (well, as smoothly as it can go with a learner judge loose on the course). When the Agility was finished, the course was changed for the Dog Jumping. The second handler got to the line and was ready to begin, only to be yelled at across the arena by the judge to get rid of her toy... huh?? The toy had been dumped quite far behind the handler on the outside of the arena, not in the sight of the dog. The judge repeatedly insisted that it was to be picked up and moved 10cm (yes, 100mm) to where she wanted it... BIZARRE!

It was explained that the new rule that will be coming into our sport on 1 April would be applied NOW in her ring (with no mention of it in her briefing, I might add). The new rule will state something to the affect that rewards of any kind may not be within 10m of the arena.... ok..... so the date on Saturday was 01 Feb, and the toy was 3m outside of the arena............... what next!?

Actually yes, what happened next was that some handlers let their dogs tug with their leads into the arena... Holy crap what a terrible thing to do! Someone had a dog lying at the start, in the arena, ready to begin when the judge started waving her arms about and yelling for the lead to be removed.... It had been placed behind the dog on the boundary rope of the arena (no, we do not have lead stewards). The judge marched straight at the dog and reached behind the dog and picked up the lead and placed it elsewhere...... Yes, WTF!?

What advantage could there possibly be for any dog by having it's tug lead behind it, while running onto the course? What could the possible reasoning be, for such pedantic (imaginary) rules to be enforced? And why do people think it's ok to approach other people's dogs like that? If a dog HAD left the course, it would be eliminated.. so what's the problem!?

Another handler decided to play along and counted 10m from the boundary opposite the last jump, and placed her toy there (in the middle of nowhere). The dog actually took the last jump and was sent screaming straight out, across the grounds, for a further 10m to get his toy..... in my opinion "baiting" but it was apparently allowed...........

The mind boggles!

Sunday was better. The judge supplied a "bin", that was a piece of equipment turned upside down, in the arena, at no1, for the handlers to deposit their toys in. Hallelujah! Dogs could still be kept attentive and make their way into the ring confidently and happily, and their attention could be held with tugging etc while the judge saw to something in or out of the ring. When the judge was getting ready, handlers could deposit the toy in the bin and prepare their dogs to run. After the round, the handlers could collect their toy and tug out of the arena. Now what the H*&# is wrong with doing that every time!?

Incidentally...... Saturday's judge was a scribe on Sunday.. the scribe table was IN the ring, directly behind the start (and I mean 6m from jump no1).. She was sitting there, with her dog lying under the table........... How on earth does it compute that, that is alright?? Daar is geen woorde!

Then.. amidst the smokey haze of bush fires, the other handler issues, sideline squabbles... my dogs did really well. I stayed out of it all and actually had a super time with them!

And it happens all over again in 2 weeks' time....

27 October 2013

Turned tables: my crappy day

For the past few years I have been silent, just trained and jumped my dogs. I haven't spoken up when things have happened - to avoid being targeted and to avoid being in arguments... but today I am sommer just disappointed! Disappointed in people, disappointed in authority and disappointed in myself for actually querying something... I should have just shut up and taken the usual in my stride.. but, I don't know, I just wanted to believe that people could be better and correct mistakes, so I spoke up.

There is always talk of handlers badmouthing judges, arguing, talking behind their backs - basically showing total lack of respect. Well this is the exact opposite. Where is the respect for handlers? Surely by training up their dogs & paying money to enter a show, they deserve a certain amount of respect and fairness as well? After today I am a little despondent when it comes to actually entering my dogs in events.... we never know how we will be treated.

We had a show today in Port Elizabeth - Contact, Non-Contact and Dog Jumping (all the same judge). Of course I have my own opinions on the courses and judging etc which I won't go into, but I do want to have a little moan about how I was treated.

The last event, at lunchtime, was Dog Jumping. I had a Grade 3 dog (Small) and 2x Grade 1 dogs (Large), and we walked the Grade 3 course (so the jumps were on small height).
When I was called to the line for my first large dog (after running the small dog), I was hurried along more than twice to get there and begin. I left my dog and led out and proceeded to handle her around the course. When we got to a tight section followed by a spread, I carefully negotiated the jumps in order to keep my dog tight and under control. I turned towards the spread (which required a 180 degree turn straight after it) and cued the spread and turn. I actually shouted out loud "oh sh1t" as I looked up at the jump as my dog crashed through it. I could not believe what I was seeing! What I thought was a maximum spread actually looked totally out of place and took me by surprise. We managed to finish the (otherwise brilliant) round and I immediately queried the way in which the spread was built. Of course I was ignored. So I waited for 1 more dog to run and then approached the judge as I felt it was dangerous. I was immediately dismissed.

The jump consisted of 2 sets of uprights (a double spread hurdle). The width of the jump was 65cm. The height of the back bar was 65cm. The height of the front bar was 25cm.....

I fetched my second dog and before running I again queried the legality of the obstacle. The judge added another bar to the front element as I had asked, but it was promptly removed by the scribe who's opinion it was that all dogs should run the same course (legal or not).

Needless to say, and in order to avoid an argument, I ran my second dog who also crashed through the obstacle. My issue was that dogs approaching the spread could not size up the jump accurately, and in fact more than half of the competing dogs crashed through it.

I then returned to my car, and decided to look up the wording in the rules and was shocked to see that numerous regulations regarding spread hurdles were being ignored:

Firstly, the maximum width for a spread (double) is 60cm. Should the spread be 65cm, it required another set of uprights, therefore making it a triple spread.
Secondly there were supposed to be 2 bars on the front of the spread.

All vertical hurdles in excess of 60cm shall have at least two (2) crossbars on the front element,
spaced not less than 30cm apart.

The parallels of all spread hurdles shall be in ascending order. When the depth of a spread hurdle
exceeds 60cm then the hurdle shall consist of three (3) pairs of uprights and bars.

By sticking to the rules and building the spread correctly, the visual depth of the jump is clearer (and safer) for the dog.

After presenting these regulations to the judge, and offering a solution to rectify things for those dogs that had a problem with the jump - I was sent on my merry way. I did not get the opportunity to run my dog in the jump-off as a result, and my league points for that round were slashed in half.

Only one other competitor stood up and spoke with me, but still we were spoken to in a sarcastic manner then dismissed. There was no one to complain to, as the judge ran the club that offered the show. There was no show manager as the show was a non-championship show..... what to do?? grrr

When I actually queried the fact that the extra bar in the spread hurdle was removed, and asked for it to be replaced, I was bombarded with arguments from the stewards table. WHAT SENSE is there for the entire grade to run the same course if it was illegal? Surely half the grade running legally is better than the entire grade running illegally and dangerously?

Since WHEN should any handler be tested on ANYTHING that is not to the rules? Ludicrous.  Handlers trust that judges know their regulations and they trust that they will be presented with a fair test for them and their dogs. As a judge myself I would NEVER treat a handler the way in which I was treated today. If I make a mistake, I will admit it and rectify it immediately. If its too late for someone, I will give them the benefit of the doubt as it was my error.

I happened to notice the in the jump offs as well that the large dogs of all grades ran the same course, with the jump heights all being the same (also in contravention to the rules), where the lower grade is required to run at a lower height. Never mind... I suppose nothing to do with me as I didn't get to run it and no one else speaks up for themselves......

Oh yes, and another thing..... STOP INTERFERING with other competitors and dogs, people! Each time I set foot on the line someone deliberately interfered with me/ my dog.
1. I was on line and the scribe across the ring had a dog loose at the car and it made its way onto the course and was about to sprint through my line as I started running. I had left my dog and had led out already, and the timekeeper sprinted across to the dog almost stepping onto my dogs tail in the process.
2. Once again I had a dog on line, and had led out, when the scribe's dogs were being unruly across the ring so she proceeded to storm at them, stopping in the ring directly behind my dog and screaming at them to shut up..!
3. Then... I was putting my young border collie in a down stay at the start and took the lead and ball to toss them behind us, when a competitor took control and reprimanded me loudly telling me to get rid of that ball immediately. Since when do competitors order other handlers around?
On one occasion a timekeeper actually ran in front of my dog, between the dog and the first jump and I had to wait and hope that all was ok.

Overall it wasn't a very inspiring day, and I can only think that if this is an indication of dogsports (in my city) to come, it is going to be a very small number of die-hards left, all deciding amongst themselves what rules to follow. A sure-fire way to get left behind in the grand scheme of Agility/ Jumping things in South Africa! Why? Because these are all people that think they are knowledgeable in the sport and training/ handling/ judging etc.... but in actual fact............

12 September 2013

Training, respect and morals

I have been struggling for some time with various things, and one day sat down and tried to formulate a plan for myself and my dogs.

...and the goal: to run and have fun with my awesome dogs, especially Q.

So far I have implemented various feel-good aspects into my training and competing. I have changed my ways of doing some things, and I have changed some routines. In addition I am trying some new techniques of contact training, of handling, and of rewarding dogs.

So far so good.

I am not running specifically to obtain clear rounds, tight turns, wins, etc etc.. I am going for communication and trust with my dog. One of the things I have put on hold is filming at shows. Naturally I will get back to this, when I am feeling better about things, and when I am once again in my proofing stages, but for now it's nothing. I feel distracted by the fact that what I am trying is on film, and to be honest, a little uncomfortable. I don't want to fall into the trap of having to set incorrect targets, having to analyse things that are not my long-term/ main goals.

This brings me to some recent unpleasantness. I requested some input from facebook friends regarding others filming me (for their own use/ gain/ purposes, hopefully not to be published). My question to my FB friends was whether it is worth asking people respectfully to not film my rounds. The general response was, sure, I can ask, and any decent person should respect my wishes, but should they ignore my request, then there is nothing I can do except ignore them.

While this seems pretty cut and dried and I will live with it, but I am just having a hard time digesting some recent comments and threats (yes, nasty threats) due to my request.

Human decency, morals, respect... people don't seem to have much anymore, unfortunately, and I am sad about that. If people want to "learn" from me in any way, they are free to ask me for help, I have never refused to assist anyone, I help people walk courses, I answer questions about why I am doing certain moves/ running certain lines, I tell people how I train things, I am an open book. So please don't shove me aside, not talk to me, but then see me as important enough to go behind my back and film my dog to try and learn things about me in a more underhand way.
My dog is not herself, and I do not like the cameras aimed at her, opening her up to criticism and inviting further comment.

I keep to myself, I don't mess with the other competitors, I keep away from their space on the course as well as off, I don't distract working dogs. Please, people, respect me and respect my work with my dog, and my feelings towards this issue. In fact just leave me alone on course, thank you.

15 July 2013

What is a waste of time..?

I guess that I can exercise my right to freedom of speech here. So, a quick reminder that this is my blog, and my opinon.....

We were presented with a Dog Jumping course this weekend that I found utterly unfair to all competitors in the grade:

  • The above, in my opinion, showed a total lack of respect for handlers and their training.
  • There was absolutely no "test" of skill in this course.
  • The course was set to watch handlers and dogs FAIL, the time set was fast, and hardly achievable.
  • The course, instead of being a confidence-builder, and something positive and enjoyable, was the total opposite - demotivating and depressing.
  • Handlers were made to feel demoralized, cheated, angry, frustrated.. and the list goes on...
Two narrow distances on the course were barely a metre each through which to manoeuvre dog and handler. In the judge's briefing, it was stated: "Here is a nice flowing, fast course for you all to enjoy. If you have any complaints, bring them to me, please." Why would someone say this???

The judge clearly has NO CLUE as to what dogsports are about, about handling, and about training, and that is truly sad for our sport.

Only 1 dog between grades 1, 3 & 5 made it (and it wasn't a pretty sight)

In addition, this was the last opportunity for Eastern Province handlers to qualify for the Nationals (the final Bloem closing date is this week) - just another nail in the coffin of defeat :(

  [dih-mawr-uh-lahyz, -mor-]
verb (used with object), de·mor·al·ized, de·mor·al·iz·ing.
to deprive (a person or persons) of spirit, courage, discipline, etc.; destroy the morale of: The continuous barrage demoralized the infantry.
tothrow (a person) into disorder or confusion; bewilder: We were so demoralized by that one wrongturn that we were lost for hours.
to corrupt or undermine the morals of.

 I wish I had not entered... It was just a waste of time for me..!

12 July 2013

In the spirit of the sport

There is so much more to agility than people think! I mean, just running a course or teaching the dog how to negotiate the obstacles is not really what the sport's all about.

Accomplishment in competition depends greatly on the accuracy of communication between the handler and the dog, and on maintaining motivation through the clear use of cues and well timed reinforcers.

The hours and hours of time spent by dog and handler connecting in training, working towards a goal, enjoying the puzzle that is our sport.. is priceless

...and then not to mention the thrill of running in competition, the challenge of the dog's favourite obstacles, the games played in training... the REWARD.

In a recent meeting in Port Elizabeth it was suggested that NO rewards/toys be taken into a Dog Jumping arena when getting ready to compete. How ludicrous is that??? Firstly I cannot think of any possible motivation for the proposal... what harm is there in tugging your dog to the startline, a good and positive thing between dog and handler.

Now I understand that baiting or similar while doing the exercise should be penalised by elimination... but how can the powers that be think they can include the pre-run bond between handler and dog in the exercise that is about to be judged???

I guess those doing the proposing truly know nothing about working a dog :(

11 July 2013

Connect with your dog!

How many times have we seen handlers going one way and the dog going another... Handler stops and the dog runs behind her.... Handler runs at a jump, and the dog ducks in a tunnel... Handler calls the dog from the start and the dog is glued to the spot..

This, and plenty more happens at every Agility competition. I see it more and more now that I have actually decided to pay attention to minor details and stay technical in my training. People are just not one with their dogs a lot of the time!

Some of you may not know or be aware.. but there should be an invisible link between you and your dog - both in training and on course. I like to think of it as my "elastic"... it can stretch - be longer or shorter, but I can always feel when I am "attached" to my dogs.

When turning them on course, I feel like I am catching them right at the eyes, hooking them to the elastic and taking them by their faces, and scooping them in the right direction so that they follow the preset path of my fingers.... When I push them away from me on course, I use my arm to shake off the elastic in a fluid motion, cue at the next turn and re-attach the elastic in the turn to guide them smoothly back to me...... change of arms work in exactly the same way - smooth and fluid - I always tell my students: handle in slow motion, but fast :):)

OK... I know that all of the above sounds like a fantasy movie, but it really works. If your dog is going off course, you are not properly connected. Use your body, use both arms, manage footwork, get into position, accelerate in places, don't get caught waiting around...

Get less serious

Often I can see training and dogs break down - either at shows or on the training field. The handlers instinct is almost always the same - to try and encourage the dog, complete or redo an obstacle/ exercise - now I am not saying that this is right or wrong, and I am not talking about anything to do with fear.. been there done that... I am talking about real confusion and lack of understanding, leading to the dog eventually breaking down completely to the point of stopping dead, as does your training session(s)... and eventually the exasperated handler too! The handler, in this case may not be doing the right thing by trying to correct the exercise or redo the sequence...

The dog's behaviour can vary, and you may not even pick it up at first - maybe the dog keeps turning the wrong way when you (think) you specifically asked him to turn the other way.. or maybe he is not looking at you at the startline, but looking away or maybe it is really blatant - he leaves the course while you are working!

No matter how he shows you, your work will not be as you want it while this is happening. Often handlers blame the dog, get irritated or angry and will start demanding better work, and this is definitely not the way to go if you want to achieve and have great rounds with your dog!
At events I have seen stroppy, argumentative handlers, yelling at do-gooders on the sideline that were asking them to go easy on the dog "X KNOWS this", "X is being sooo naughty" and "X WILL get this right!!" I feel sorry for their dogs because those handlers will never get it :(

How to deal with it?

Take a time out - and I don't mean just from that round or event, but from some training sessions! Take more time to play with your dog. Get silly. Laugh. Wrestle on the ground.... create a fun game that doesn't involve right or wrong.. Get less serious!

I am one for being serious, I admit... I have been doing agility for 15 years, and I have been learning new stuff all the time.... but only recently did I get the whole picture.... What really matters??? Me and my dog(s) together, our relationship, enjoying our sport together. Don't get me wrong.. I am SERIOUS about the sport. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing correctly. I even try and surpass that to learning new things, having faster rounds, training to higher levels to be able to compete against the best in the country...  but.... it's not everything.

So... train.. enjoy.... you and your dog need to have a mutual respect. Take a chill pill, a moment to smell the flowers :) Have fun with your dog!

And then when you start up again, build up his confidence by doing really easy tasks/ sequences that he can ONLY get right. Reward exuberantly! Use your voice, your hands and have a great game! Redo the basic exercises with enthusiasm after the first set of rewards and rev your dog up so that he is pushing you. Only then increase the level of difficulty or the complexity of the tasks.

I like to have sessions in between training to do clicker tricks with my dogs - there's no better way to get tons of behaviours thrown at you :) My dogs really enjoy this!

And when you get back to your 'real work' and running courses, REMEMBER: to avoid breakdowns, give CLEAR instructions to your dog. Keep your mood light, keep the energy fun. If he gets it wrong, clearly it wasn't CLEAR enough! Keep praising what you like, and keep remembering to keep any corrections in handling light, but firm.

Most of your time will be spent training (not competing), so make it count.

Stay less serious....

17 July 2012

Judging and testing dogs

It is most frustrating at times, being a judge as well as a competitor. For me I am a competitor first, and also a trainer. I like training and running my dogs. Although I like judging as well, I would always prefer to handle than judge.

But there are times when I am asked to sit out of a show and judge for the rest of the Agility fraternity. I honestly don't mind, unless there is something important coming up and I need to work on course, so then I don't take the appointment.

But lately judging around here is frustrating beyond words. Where did the respect for a judge go? When did clubs and handlers stop treating judges well? I am most disappointed.
Recently I had the misfortune to be the judge where a competitor made me wait in the cold and rain because she didn't want to learn 2 courses at once, and then proceeded to take her time in walking my course and then even more time to fetch her dog. Unfortunately the organisation allows things like this. At the same judging appointment, I was left to put my briefcase on the floor, I wasn't offered lunch or a snack, not a single cooldrink or cup of water for 2 days. Thank goodness I took my own!

But the worst of it, for me, is the lack of understanding of the sport by the competitors!! I mean, I don't just churn out courses. I actually sit and plan and design for weeks. I get told what sort of competition it is for, and I design accordingly. I test specific types of handling, and specific types of training that the dog should have at the level in which he is competing. It really is not my problem if your Agility 3 dog cannot do a pull-through, or a go-round.. or layer 1 obstacle - you should know this! As a handler, in the top grade, you should KNOW how to give your dog a line, how to use your voice and body to give your dog the information it needs to understand what to do. And people, it is a RACE, not a Sunday afternoon stroll (and then complain because you don't make the easy time!)

I am really tired of being abused as a judge - and being told that I put up cr@p because some twit can't do it! I am a handler and trainer as well, remember, I KNOW how to do each thing that I am testing. I am not just putting obstacles anywhere to see how many dogs fail!

Some judges think they are doing people a favour by putting up really basic courses, so that lots of people gush with praise.. yet these poor people must then go to another competition and actually get a test at the appropriate level and then they get a SHOCK...... hmmmm unfortunately also not my problem.

Moral of the story - I think I am on a judging break. I just can't take the abuse when I can actually rather be running my dogs! And if there are no competitions because the blackmail didn't work - then so be it. I still have grounds and equipment and I can still enjoy my dogs, and train properly and do the things that I WISH the judges were testing! 

18 June 2012

Course comments, offence, and whatnot...

Oh where do I start?

My dogs are no1 for me, being with my dogs, playing with my dogs, and training my dogs... so naturally I have views on everything pertaining to my dogs and the things I choose to do with them. And they are just that, my views! No one has to agree with them, and those that get their panties all up in a bunch because I air some thoughts on training and courses I run, then too bad. I think people need to stop being babies and wingeing constantly about silly things. If you don't like what I have to say, don't read it, delete my blog from your list of things to do...

Naturally my views on training pertain to HOW I train, and I just exclude the things I don't like, the things others do, and the people that do these things... My views on training are very "straight laced" and I only train the things I believe in.. all revolving around positive reinforcement, the clicker and building a relationship with each of my dogs.

And my comments on courses that I have run throughout my dogs' careers are not aimed personally at any judge or course designer, nor any specific person, or club. They are just that: COURSE COMMENTS. I am a judge, a trainer, a competitor and a teacher, so obstacle placement, angles, speeds, course design etc etc.... oh and not to forget actual obstacle performance - is all something that is very technical to me. I like to think out and "blog" these thoughts about some items that caught my attention - whether they are something I particularly like, or something that caused me stress....  just observations about minor things.. and so far nothing particularly rude or offensive!

Bottom line, I do not mean to offend anyone, nor do I mention any specific person in my views. I do not hold anything against any judge that puts up something that I don't like, and I will speak up if presented with something that is dangerous.

Take a chill pill all u peeps with probs!

19 March 2012

The Answer: Training nice contacts...

haha if you think this is an exact recipe for perfect contacts.. it's not! BUT I will give some pointers as to what's worked for me. Each person and each dog is different and what works for some may not work for others.

This is what I work towards, if I don't have everything on this list below, I DO NOT TRAIN contacts!

  • My dog is not under 6 months when I start contact training... I feel that I want to bond with my puppy first, and have a good working relationship before I train anything serious with the pup.
  • My pup must KNOW how to play, and be SUPER enthusiastic about anything that I ask her to do.
  • I have 100% focus - and by that I mean my pup must 'drive' to be with me, so toys and reward types are very important here, as well as a good recall and retrieve.
  • I decide on a method and stick to it - no changing methods halfway through because something is not working - rather go back and retrain the same method!
  • I break down my method into all its individual parts, and train each one separately until it is brilliant - the pup does not even know that she is in training (the parts of the performance are so simple!)
  • I clicker EVERYTHING so there is no misunderstanding! And training aids, if I need them, are brought in, but only in the early stages of working each part. I fade these as soon as my dog has understood the requirements, and bring them back briefly later if I need to!
  • I never EVER discipline a dog on any contact obstacle, NEVER raise my voice on a contact obstacle, NEVER correct an incorrect behaviour by reprimanding a dog on a contact obstacle. It is a happy place and the dog  MUST feel GREAT being there.
  • Any incorrect behaviour is gently corrected followed by a reward for the correct behaviour. Severely incorrect behaviour is ignored and I simply try again.
  • I try to be as consistent as possible. Inconsistency leads to the breakdown of behaviours, and accepting less that you want will result in not-so-good contacts. My frame of mind is also a huge factor - I must be in a great mood when I train contacts :)
I feel that there is no hurry for contact training - I go by the dog's pace, as well as mine. A lot of people start their puppies early on (some as early as 10 weeks!) but I feel that this is perhaps a way to create the opposite effect of the desired performance! I rather wait before training contacts and weaves, and rather focus on all the fundamentals and foundation behaviours in a young dog. After all, entering agility can only be from 18 months of age, and to train the obstacles you need perhaps a few months. Waiting until the growth plates have closed is a given, for full obstacles anyway... so counting back from 18 months (if you want to be extreme and enter from day 1, which I don't even do), I reckon starting contacts at 10 months is probably the soonest I would ever do it.... Having said that, if I had begun nicely with training focus and drive with my baby puppy, that would allow me to start early 'contact training' (not on an actual contact). By this I mean I can prepare my dog to learn the desired behaviours... from about 6 months of age... all in a fun and "game-like" way. So I have 4 months to play around with light hearted fun introduction to contacts!

Aim for confidence and full understanding, and you should have great contacts!

24 January 2012

Are judges testing us...??

...or are they just 'throwing courses together'??

I thought I had better get this post up before we have any more rounds in case someone thinks it is specifically about them................

I have been going over some international courses lately, and then having Lee Gibson here made me think about this some more. Lee put up a course of his own, or rather I was given a course plan to see that it was erected correctly. Now if anyone knows me when it comes to courses, I insist on PERFECTION. If I have a course (mine or anyone elses), I put it out to the "T". I check angles, I measure EVERYTHING, I pace out each gap, and I check every approach and get it just as the designer wants it..... It MUST be right!

Why?? Because a course designer is meant to TEST the handler and dog combination on various things! And the course designer puts obstacles in relation to other obstacles for a reason - to make them do certain things on the course.. whether it be layering, distance handling, or just to see if they can work a box or serpentine etc... Remember, like any other KUSA discipline, this is a TEST. It is not a bunch of obstacles laid out to go and toss your dog over and say that you do Agility... :)

Back to Lee Gibson...
He went on to explain WHY he did certain things in his course design! I love this! Every judge needs to be able to say WHY they did something!
For example, he encouraged a good lead out at the start by placing 2 jumps and then the weaves at a reasonably difficult angle, as well as a dogwalk in full view of the dog. He tested a good startline stay, he tested the length of the handler's leadout, the positioning chosen for the weaves, and the timing of the cue to get the dog straight into the weaves without looking at the dogwalk... and THEN to add some difficulty, he placed a tunnel to the side with an opposite side entry to test if the handler could LEAVE the dog in the weaves and be in position for a neat tunnel performance!! And the beauty of it all was that a dog properly trained (no matter what grade) could do this, and he could see the level of training in each dog running :)

Unfortunately, I have been on too many courses where the judge has put no thought into the placement of obstacles, they just plan a route and often don't even think in terms of the grade they are designing for, let alone what they are testing :(. Unfortunately this can get a little boring, especially those where you run up and down and have nothing to do other than say "over" and run forward....

So I guess the best I can do is keep at it, keep my own designs purposeful, and aim to test specific things,and I am always happy to explain my courses to anyone that would like to know why I placed obstacles where I did. The BIGGEST reward is seeing the well trained dogs negotiating things that I placed in areas to see that they can be "handled" and not just run. Thanks to all that give me this satisfaction :) :)

18 November 2011

Respect and space

I attended a training session at another venue last night - I figured that I would give my dogs a run on other equipment, at another venue. And so.. I was reminded why it is imperative to have RULES...!

I love my own training grounds... My training, my rules: and ALL rules pertain to myself as well as anyone that trains with me (remember, training with me is free so basically I can be strict on this)
Rules aren't there just 'because'... and certainly not to be broken! The rules are for the good of all the handlers, all the dogs, to make things run smoothly so that the people can enjoy and get great work done! I am serious about my training and I don't want things and other people/ dogs interfering in my work.....

So... training last night OH  MY WORD. Deep breaths, mouth shut and try and concentrate!

There actually aren't words.... But I am going to try and keep it polite!

Handlers need to have respect for other handlers! They really need to try and be fair to ALL handlers and dogs attending. But I can see that this doesn't apply to some people, and saying anything directly to the person will be scoffed at and ignored as it has been before.. and saying anything to the Committee in charge will be ignored as well (deal with it yourself). So basically, anyone that is serious is actually in the way and can either suck it up, or not come back, hence keeping the group small and elite as everyone stays away - great for them!

For example.. last night...

A few obstacles were placed on the field and numbered (great)
We all had the opportunity of walking the exercise as per the numbers, or our own route that suited us and our dogs (great)
However, 1 specific handler with 4 border collies insisted on the dogs running loose while we all worked out our routes. The dogs weren't just loose.. they were all trotting around the obstacles! I tried my best to ignore it, but in one sequence I wanted to see if I could outrun my dog and put in a blind cross, so I worked out the line I wanted to take (inbetween dogs and people) and started working it. There was an error in my judgement and I thought it may not work, so I wanted to try it again... and as I stepped back I almost broke my neck over a dog. When eventually I was able to weave between the dogs again in a higgeldy piggeldy 'line' I came across another area where I wanted to try something - an outward 'flick' and back cross to draw my dog in a u-turn away from me... up came my hand to work out timing, and I smacked it into a dogs face, the tooth bruising the side of my hand. Eventually I just gave up and went to sit down.

I really don't understand how this is classified as TRAINING!

And what's more laughable, is the fact that half these dogs are not tied up when the owner is "working" and at any given time there are more than 1 of her dogs on the course at the same time! Every handler has to wait while this one handler plays around on the course with not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 dogs/ times a session, attempting to direct one dog haphazardly, while shooing another off the course and out of the way.....
But anyway, this bit has nothing to do with me.. it's the memorising of the exercise that I can't get past!

I have rules for a reason - to be able to concentrate and work. Strictly - ONE dog per handler per session, two if the number of handlers is very small. BUT there is 1 dog allowed on the exercise at a time, and NO dogs out while we are walking the route! Dogs are benched in cars/ crates/ tied up with leads.
We are all able to work in harmony, think, concentrate and achieve lots in a session!

Have consideration, please people.. I think I will try and speak up next time and will be prepared for sarcasm again.......

Thoughts & frustrations

Recently I have had some unpleasant situations... but what remains constant is my dogs, and my training...
Just a few thoughts on the way things are in my life.. nothing serious, just making sure there's no 'mud' when it comes to training and my dogs.

I am not a selfish person, but I am really trying to work on this for my dogs' sake. I want to spend more time on my own dogs and their training, and their fun, and less with people that so often let me down. I want to be more selfish. So.. I have narrowed down my group training to one day a week, and stuck with a training partner for the rest of the time, plus of course, I train at home alone.

Often I wonder what people expect of me... How many times have I heard: "Oh PLEASE can you help me" and "I will do ANYTHING to have my dog do xyz". I am always pretty strict. I do not force my "ways" on anyone, but I make it clear if YOU come to ME for help, PLEASE TRY what I suggest, and every step, not just for 2 days! I am sooo despondent with people's lack of commitment after they SWORE blind that they will do whatever it takes to achieve great things.

Someone came to me a while ago and begged me to help her with her new border collie puppy. I really didn't have time, I had my sheltie puppy to train up, plus some other puppies that I was working with. I know this doesn't sound a lot, but I work a full day (8am to 5pm) and need to train my own dogs, and then fit in other people as well.. it is really hectic! This person continued to beg and beg and said that she had not received great training previously and she was desperate to learn new things and do things the "right way" with her new dog. Of course, I am soft, so I gave in and spent hours of my precious time with her. I was disappointed as she sometimes didn't listen to strict instructions and raced ahead and missed steps, and I spoke up about this. "Yes.. yes.. yes.." was the response but it continued happening.

I am very strict when it comes to the dog's health and prefer to "max out" on foundation work and not do anything very strenuous for the dog before it is ready. I never train full courses, only exercises and little scenarios. This is one thing that I try and drill into my students, DO NOT ask your dog to do something, in any situation, that it doesn't already know how to do.... ie dont ask your dog to run a course and go from a tunnel into a go-round-spread, if you have never trained go-rounds, if your dog hasn't done a spread and hadn't ever learnt the go-round spread!

So what happens, this student goes to another club, runs her young dog on full courses. It is now competing, and cannot string 3 obstacles together without veering off the line or circling, cannot enter the weaves from anywhere except 1 specific spot, at 1 specific speed, cannot do a left or right turn on cue...

I am sorry, people I cannot work like this :(
I have very high standards but I cannot help someone that doesn't follow the program.

Another person (that I also spent hours and hours on) went to great lengths to get advice from all and sundry and flitted from one training 'tool' to another, and eventually settled on another 'trainer' and ignored my valuable advice on training a border collie for agility. I continuously got "so-and-so and I have decided that I am doing it this way.. which forced me to have to work around this. I was her "Agility trainer" who was in fact not able to train her in Agility due to all these obstacles in my path. Mega problems ensued and the controlled drive that I was trying to install is off-the-wall, the tools I suggested for a "connecton" to the dog for reward and release were challenged, the time-outs I begged for were hyped isolation.. the basics that I instill in all my dogs and all my student's dogs were unreliable to the point that further work was difficult.. the bond between handler and student just wasn't on the right "plane" to work... All these things made stress in my life and took time away from my own dogs and my training and no matter how many sugar-coated, kind times I tried laying it out, explaining, going through things, nothing ever seemed to sink in. Excuses, excuses, excuses were all I got in return and more pleas for help until I finally came to my wits end and said it as plainly as I could, in black and white, BLUNT. Needless to say I cannot work with this person any more because I can teach them nothing.

I do not charge for training, I do it because I want people to achieve and have great rounds with their dogs.
All the cost of the equipment, the ground rental etc is on me. I ask for nothing except for the people to enjoy it and to achieve.

So I will say it again, I cannot work like this, people! I am an agility trainer and instructor, and if you come to me (I am not saying do it "my way"), please take in the ENTIRE picture, decide what you want to achieve and we will set out a plan for you to get there. I have certain methods of training contacts, weaves etc, and you may do a different method, fine - I can steer you in the right direction, and help you with all the steps - but the basics, the foundation the reward types, the control, the drive, PLEASE let me help you with this!!!

Being strict about these things, and using my previous track record of champions to relay certain points across to my students, I have been accused of having an "ego". I am really sorry that anybody feels this way, I do not believe that I am better than anybody, or that my dogs are better than anyone else's. I DO, however, believe in my training methods, I have proof that they work, other great trainers use the same methods that I believe in, and they have proven that they work.... and THAT is what I "harp" on when students argue silly points and insist on doing things in an unproven way. And when they don't work, I hold back the "I-told-you-so and focus on the best "fix" (against my better judgement).. thereby taking up more of my (free) valuable time, only to be confronted with more of the same.

I don't have any more time or energy for this, so I have to say this: from now on my time is my time. I am taking on no more students, except my new puppy owners, that I will spend a little time with to get you all going and answer questions and offer advice. This is my hobby and my dogs are my family, and I would like to enjoy my dogs and I won't put up with ungrateful people and sacrifice my own life any more.

I am known for "saying it like it is", and so anyone that is offended, get over it, this is just me. At least I am honest. I refuse to sugar-coat anything!

19 August 2011

Agility is FUN

For me.................. Agility is FUN...YES!

BUT.... I don't do it "for fun". The serious aspect will always overrule the "playing around" aspect.

A lot of people use the excuse FOR FUN, and I must say.. it is starting to bug me!

Why is it that when you go to an event, club or training session, and someone is faffing around, half-heartedly sending their dog to random obstacles, jogging up and down slowly, and seemingly not that into the whole thing... do they say "Ag, I'm just doing it for fun". Or when the dog cocks up chronically, they shrug, ag well, I am just doing it for fun...
So far, not a real issue for me, because I can turn away, as my goals are not the same as these people's goals. I don't have to draw their philosophy into my training ideals at all. Each to his own, you do your thing, and I do mine! (Although neither they nor their dog look like they are having fun!)

What I say is: what you put in, is what you get out.

Now the bit that bugs me is that you get some people, just like those mentioned above, that compete. And here is where it mingles within my realms of Agility. They compete without the forethought of what they are trying to achieve. What is success to them? Getting a prize, rosette or a placing?? Getting their dog around the course.. whatever it is, they are doing it on the level of COMPETITION and not JUST FOR FUN.

I saw this on the net:
What is your definition of success? Before you can achieve success, you need to define what success means to you. Unless you have a clear vision of what success is to you, you cannot work towards it.

I like this because it sort of describes what I am trying to say. And the below is MY FEELING on ME competing in Agility, with MY dogs.. (again I remind you all, each to his own)

Success for me is having FUN with my dog on an Agility course (my dog who WANTS to be there with me), and running the best we can according to the work I have put in. I find that I have the most fun after knowing what I have trained, and, having a clear plan in my head for a round, then just knowing that my dog and I will run well together. And the feeling continues until the end of the run.

Success is not about winning the round with the fastest time, clear, if I am not happy with something. (Yes, it sure can be - if I have enjoyed the round as well!) Success is a great feeling after a round, regardless of the faults or mistakes, it is just the feeling of achievement in one or more areas of the performance. And through the enjoyment, and the knowledge that you are doing something well, often comes the kind of success that the general population wants: WINNING!

If I have not trained something that I am presented with on a course, I formulate a plan of action in order to make it a success somehow - either by changing the route according to my dog's training (and then train that aspect in the next training session), or I decide how to attack that area with my dog so that she is asked, fairly, to attempt it. The success part comes in with a performance that is of the level of our training, or above.

I have come to a time in my Agility career when I can quite easily see problems and shortcomings while competing. Every single one is either lack of training in a specific area, unclear handling (and errors in handling), or external conditions (venue/ people/ etc). Knowing and being in control of the first 2 items, I believe, is making the chance of success much greater while competing.

Now, back to those "just for fun" people that decide to compete. More than half of them are the ones guilty of "losing it" in, or next to, the ring, the ones screaming and shouting orders at their dogs, the ones that have not trained the necessary skill and done the proofing to ensure that their dogs are ready to compete... the same ones that aim to win a prize or rosette!
Unfortunately it is also these ones that want to be given lower jumps, more time, easier angles etc etc.. why? Because their chance at success is so much lower because their training level and Agility outlook is "just for fun" rather than "for fun and success".

For me, I believe that doing something correctly is worth more than any prize or placing, and I will always aim to set my dog up for success and walk off with my dog knowing that she still loves me and still wants to work with me, and more importantly, still wants to learn more!

05 August 2011

How LUCKY am I???

Okay so this blog was inspired by a post on Facebook recently by Shannen Jacoby, a poster that read:
Most people NEVER
see the hard work and effort you have put in
all they see is the END RESULT
and think its EASY

Well, I just loved this as it reminded me of things people say to me, regarding my dogs... I mean silly things that I think are supposed to be compliments or something... but in actual fact arent!

I went out of town to a weekend of Agility events last year, with a brand new dog that my out of town buddies had not met yet. I arrived on the grounds and set up camp, and although everyone greeted me and waved, chatted etc, I was left to my own devices. My dog went by very unnoticed as she is a private-type dog, not very social. In addition she was not looking very pretty at all as she had lost her entire coat and looked a bit like a brak. So to all intents and purposes, she wasn't even there! 

We went on about our merry way and everyone was busy doing their own things until there was a lull in the events and some handlers moved across to the other side for some special events. There was a break in the agility, and the morning's courses were left up in the rings. I took the opportunity to have a little run and to proof some things. So off we chugged into the deserted arena, and I decided on a short little route that would end in the dogwalk so that I could try a few things. Little did I know.. I was being watched by one of the top grade handlers.... Well, I played around and had some lovely successful contacts on the dogwalk, then moved to the frame on my way off the course. This too, was done very nicely and we played on the "course" with her favourite frisbee, and she really enjoyed it.

Well, when we were done, the handler came across and asked me the most bizarre question: "How do you get such good contacts?" Um.... I  t-r-a-i-n  them...??!! "Ja, but HOW? My dogs don't do such nice contacts!"  You are so LUCKY...........
ok................. So what do I say..? It will take me 45 minutes to give the OUTLINE!

Later someone else came up to me and said "you are so LUCKY! Your dog works beautifully!"

You are so LUCKY: your dog plays tug
You are so LUCKY: your dog brings the ball back
You are so LUCKY: your dog doesn't bite your hand when you feed treats
You are so LUCKY that your dog runs ahead of you
You are so LUCKY that your dog lets you back cross
You are so LUCKY that your dog listens (?)
You are so LUCKY that your dog waits at the start............

Lucky, lucky, lucky (well maybe I should go buy a lotto ticket!)

PFffffff lucky my ASS

When I got this specific dog, she came out of the box all sweet and cuddly and beautiful..... BUT...
balls - tugs - toys - food......... NOTHING aahhhhh I wanted to CRY! In fact I think I DID cry!
What did I do then?? I had to THINK...!

It took months, but I had to clicker train her to WANT a toy! Ever tried that with a dog that doesn't like treats? Not even the BEST treats! What a mission! Hardest I have ever worked with a dog! Train train train with the dog!! PHEW. It's NOT LUCK! Then I had to train her HOW to play... all before I could TRAIN... sigh (saddest thing is a dog with natural drive that is suppressed - so doesn't know what to do with it for reasons beyond your control).

But we got there!

I am LUCKY to have such beautiful and clever dogs that love me.
I am LUCKY to have my health that allows me to run and train my dogs.
I am LUCKY to have people who will share their knowledge with me so that I can train new methods.....

I am not lucky to have dogs that are trained - because that was HARD work, and not luck.

If my dog can do something that yours can't, I probably trained it and you didnt... simple as that :)

03 August 2011

Bean Soup and Carrots

So we all use toys while training Agility, right??? Okay well, if you don't, then I don't know what you're training... but I do!

So this blog is all about the sheltie, right? .....Q! So I thought to write about her a little bit... about all the interesting toys that we use while training in Agility...

The first week after she arrived she fell in love with her little baby tuggie... grabbing, pulling, tossing, you name it.. the tug was IT. We could recall to the tuggie, send her to fetch the tuggie, the works. SUPER.

Then..... she spied the little mini flexible frisbee! OOh wasn't this fantastic, because as mum throws it, it glides and I can run and it lands as I get there!! And lekker flexible too! Like a nice tuggie that flies. This was a good day!

Next came little plush toys - a bit bigger than we were used to, but she liked them noneltheless... as long as a leg could fit in her little beak and we could tug, it was great! A duckie, a puppy, a giraffe, a frog, and then a monkey... yes, these were all nice. The best of these... a white ducky with a long neck.. so she could pretend it was a tug.

But still the favourites for training Agility were the tuggie and the little frisbee, even though the little puppy tuggie was replaced by a more appropriate tug.

Meanwhile her big sis had a litter of fluffy border collie puppies.. and these were included in her pile of favourites, especially the biggest boy whose head made the perfect sheltie-seat! The ears were also pretty nice to chew on and yank around, as were the wagging tails! But alas.. these fluffies grew fast and eventually got to the same size as her, and the kind hearted baby that she was.. she shared her beloved toys with them and helped teach them what each item was, and how it was used!

As big sister got back into training with HER favourite flying squirrel frisbee, this became the object of Q's fascination.... watching Chak charge after the bright orange flying toy excited her to no end, but the toy was just too big for her. But as good luck (for her) would have it, the squirrel got worn out pretty fast and it tore in half and lucky Chak got a new one. This left 2x little mini squirrel bits for someone to claim as her own.... So.... happiness and her squirrel pieces were firm friends, and she added these to the top of the favourite toys list (with the tug and the mini frisbee).

Little did we know it, but the tug was soon to drop drastically down the list..! One day a friend arrived with a toy that was given to her staffy years ago by me, that he no longer played with. She thought one of the Aussies would like to play with it, but once the Q-bean spied this, it was TICKETS to the Aussies' new toy! A long, thick, massive, ropey TUG.. and I mean a HUGE TUG - one that would actually be appropriate for a Bernese Mountain Dog! Day in and day out she would beg for the TUG.

During training her eyes lit up when presented with the TUG.... she would come harder, faster, teeth bared to chomp this monster TUG, yank it roughly and even lift herself off her own feet to keep control of the thing. On winning the game, she would drag it around her like a crocodile attached to her face (that's how big it was compared to her!).

While training, I always try and keep a toy/ toys on me somehow.. most often tucked into my clothing...... now picture this....... Me, Nadine, running this little Miss Q-bean, all sweet and delicate, with enough rope tucked down the back of my pants to tug with the whole CLASS of dogs at once! Not a pretty sight, and quite hampering on the occasions when it slid down a pants leg! BUT... that's what she wanted... that's what she got...

I always try and vary the rewards, so we try loads of different things. After the TUG came a series of plastic coffee tin lids (disposable frisbees).. not so easy to tug with, but nice for chasing....

A Rogz toy, a faceless hedgehog, and a stuffed fake toy were next in the string of toys, but none graduated to the top of the list. A wubba toy seemed to peak her interest for its flying and tugging qualities... and this was a little better for mum to tuck in a waistband (although the drool DID stick more loosely to this toy, and often sloshed off and drenched my outer-and-under-wear!) 

Then came a tennis ball (yes, late in her little puppy life!) The ballie, used mainly for contact releases grew extremely popular, and was sometimes replaced with a rubber ball.
So........ Bean-soup LOVE LOVE LOVED this contact release game because the ballie is her first toy to shoot off, and bounce off things, and change direction fast. Yes, the ballie definately made it to the "list".

So essentially, we have a TOP 5 list of Bean-Soup's favourite toys: (in this order)
1. The doebis TUG
2. Flexible frisbee/ frisbee squirrel bits
3. Ball
4. Long necked duckie
5. Wubba

So there we have it. A nice selection of interesting and lovable goodies to work (play) with!

So the other day I was making supper and I dropped a carrot..... by the time I bent down to get it.. it was gone! I followed the crunching sounds, and lo and behold, Bean-soup was eating the carrot on her dogbed! Cute, I thought, and left it at that. Somehow it just did not occur to me to use "what she likes" for TRAINING... but she was up in a tic.... bouncing around me with her cute little play growl as if to say "take it... take it... I dare you!" So I did, and what a nice game we had with a CARROT.... haha I thought, CUTE.. Tug tug... crunch!

A week later I wanted to play with her, and went to get a toy and remembered the carrot... so I got one out of the fridge. Once I got outside, her eyes lit up and she raced onto the bottom of the A-frame and offered me the position for the CARROT!!

So... we have a new training tool.... and it's pocket-sized!!! Woohoo! And best of all.. on the way to the trainaing area, I can have a little snack (only before the first throw, of course!)

Bean soup and carrots..... who knew!

02 August 2011

When to speak up

Okay, so you are at an Agility (or Dog jumping) event, and you notice that there is someting wrong with the course, or the ring or whatever.... it is fairly obvious that you shouldn't yell at the top of your lungs for all and sundry to hear - it is possible that the judge has made an error. If you really feel the need to have it corrected, then go over to the judge quietly and ask diplomatically if it is correct, and  you can even reason that you think it says otherwize in the rules. If the judge is unsure, offer to obtain a copy of the rules and go through that rule together. Most judges, after being 'caught out' in this way, will quickly make amendments, and thank you for pointing out what he/ she had missed.

As a judge, I know it is easy to make a mistake, and would never ever crap a competitor out for coming to me with a query. Of course, don't take advantage and come to me with something silly like you don't like the design because you can't do it........ I will send you packing :)

So when is it okay to say something?? Well... each to his own, but this is how I feel.
When I see something not 'to the rules', I ask myself 3 things:

1. Can my dog *do* what is on the field?
2. Is it unfair to me and my dog? (in the context of what I m trying to achieve in that round) 
3. Is it dangerous?

Providing that it is not dangrous, and that we can handle it, I say nothing!

Recently there have been a few instances where I have asked myself these questions:

A few weeks ago the distances between obstacles on a course were far less than minimum, and it was impossible to get the appropriate side changes in the small spaces while my dog was negotiating the obstacles - she would surely have had to crash through at least 3 hurdles if we were to take them in the correct sequence. So I said something.

Then in another event, the judge started the course with the tyre. This is illegal in our new rules. People were milling around complaining to each other, trying to rally up support and looking for a scape-goat to go and moan to the judge. I simply asked myself the 3 questions.. and my answers were:
YES, my dog can wait at the start while I do a lead-out, and then do the tyre on cue.
NO, it is not unfair as there were 6m at the start for me to place my dog perfectly in line, and at whatever distance I desired from the tyre.
NO it is not dangerous.
So I never said anything.

In that same event, the judged numbered the course, and there were 4 contact obstacles on the field. Again, handlers were walking around muttering... trying to convince the judge that he was not allowed to put 4 contacts in the intermediate grade... but for no reason -other than people HATE extra contacts because there is more chance of getting faults - and the reason... not the judge or the course.. but lack of training! Here I decided to remove myself from the mutterings and went to sit down until it was confirmed that 4 contacts are allowed in this grade (which of course I already knew). But no need to say anything. I have trained contacts and welcome the training opportunity! Even if this was illegal I would have kept quiet.

Looking back further I recall a certain judge's funny habit of talking to the competitors while they were running his courses! Um... a little strange, yes, and he didn't mean any harm by it, but it was a little off-putting to say the least. I am not talking about a conversation on course here, but rather little comments regardling handling techniques in certain areas... comments like "niice"  and "brilliant cross" etc. Needless to say I never said anything because I had NO clue what to say!

My point is this: why make it unpleasant for all, plus the judge by moaning. Either speak up correctly and appropriately, or shut up. We are all adults and we should be able to distingush what is right and what is wrong in this regard.

As a judge I encourage handlers to approach me - while I am busy if I have made an error, or afterwards to discuss training or handling for a sequence. I am always happy to get input regarding course design, especially, and always glad to be asked for the course plan for handlers to use later in training.  I am a handler too, and I understand what it is like to get onto a course and really want to sink my teeth into it because it is "lekker"! So I always try to put up something interesting and unique, not to mention enjoyable, for the people that have paid money to compete unde me. I see it as unfair to give them less than my best. Then again, we are all human and can make mistakes, and I would appreciate a quiet word from anyone that can point out a mistake to me!

01 August 2011

I train Agility

YES: Agility is similar to Dog Jumping
YES: The dog should enjoy both
YES there is handling involved in both
Does the dog know the difference between the two on it's way to the line?? NOPE, probably not...

But regarding MY training - I do not train for Dog Jumping. I train Agility. I train smooth fast concise handling with correct foundation. When I take my dogs on a course I WILL handle the Dog Jumping as I would the Aglity to ENSURE that my dogs do NOT know the difference.
Ever noticed a handler's jerky and odd handling in the DJ compared to when they handle in Agility? That's because the sport has a run-off and people reckon that they can slow their dogs down because they will get anbother chance.... now HOW do the dogs know the difference then? All of a sudden mum is acting odd and shouting and running differently.... Hmmm

In addition the course design requirements in the rules for Dog Jumping is different, often pulling people into the trap of training specifically for untidy scenarios - which I won't do.

At least my dogs know that they can count on me for good training and consistent handling to ensure great rounds, no matter what they label them. So YES I train in AGILITY! And I try my best to HANDLE in Agility, even while on a Dog Jumping course.

To sum up this hasty blog post: I do not train Dog Jumping. I train Agility.
Please feel free to disagree with me, but this is MY blog and how I train.