Blogging is kind of lonely.

I’ve been writing in this blog since Dylan was 5 months old. I started because of a community called Ruffdogs, which has long since disappeared. I made some friends there that I still have today. They kickstarted this whole thing.

I’ve documented Dylan’s entire competitive agility career here, from the days when he started his first training sessions to his retirement. The other dogs have made appearances, but the intention was always to talk about Dyl. And it has been wonderful and cathartic and personal, and then Dylan retired and I have no real motivation to blog any more. I couldn’t figure out why, for a long time.

Every single one of my dogs has many, many lessons to teach me. I’m still learning from all of them, every day. Dylan retired from competitive agility but he is still teaching, and this most recent lesson wasn’t about patience, or frustration, or persistance, or overcoming fear. It was about recognising that sometimes there is a better way to communicate with the world and the people around me.

Blogging has been me talking into the void, and not really looking for a reply other than what’s in my own head. Blogging has been kind of lonely. I’m beginning to realise that right now, there are better ways for me to talk to people.

Come talk to me on Twitter (that’s public, so you don’t need to follow me).

The dogs and I have Instagram too (that’s private, so you’ll need to send a follow request).

Or talk to me in person too; come find me at agility shows and say hi. (Just run up and say hi, no stalking required).

Rio + IThank you.


No training this week because snow. January. Coldness. Snow. Disappointing.

Trekked all the way across to Myerscough for 2 Jumping classes and an Anysize run for Dylan.

C1-7 Jumping P1 was A+ for good use of space, lots of running with some tight demanding sections, well pitched. 12 weaves, no problem. Ri’s jumping was pretty terrible, lots of early takeoffs, so she had a pole. Lots of wide turns, and then she wrapped the pull-thru like a badass, obviously. She’s not responding terribly well to static front crosses, so we need to work on that. She would have been placed without the pole, which is pleasing.

C1-3 Jumping was much too difficult for the grade. Sort of the opposite of the C1-7; too many obstacles crammed in to the space. Removing just two of the jumps would have made the course lovely, by giving the dogs chance to extend and removing a few of the more awkward traps. The C4-5 Agility preceding it was also very challenging for the level. Not sure what that was about, but the course was not my favourite. Our run was a shambles, oops. For some reason I decided to do a wait start, totally forgetting that Rio stresses about being left with lots of unpredictable dogs behind her (ie. a situation that is never more evident than at Myerscough). She set off and then fell over and scratched (yay stress). Weaved nicely, decent pull-thru (still slow on the static front cross), then flew off down the line and did the last jump, then came back through the tunnel, tried to bounce the jumps at the top and then brake (fail, pole!). Nice flick-flack, then waaaay too much acceleration down the line, missed the turn and then missed the pull-thru as well. SHAMBLES. Not sure if that was due to the ridiculously long queue, or just the poor course. Maybe she was just fed up of boring pull-thrus and wanted to run some. Her jumping was better in this course, so I’m not sure what was going on with the early takeoffs in C1-7.

Dylan’s Anysize course was theoretically really nice, but actually too much accel/decel for the old dogs. We got E’d pretty early so we made something up, and Dylan had a great time, so it was a win nonetheless.

Slowly and Clearly

Some days I really feel I should apologise to Rio. She has spent three years telling me to let go of my expectations and to just focus on being awesome, and I’m just not getting the message. Whatever, she tells me. Get hung up on these small details, your criteria and your goals. I’ll be over here doing my amazing fun stuff.

In all seriousness, over Christmas, I decided to change my approach to Rio’s seesaw training again. One of the best tips I got from the first ever Rocket Relay seminar was that if a plan isn’t working, change the plan. So I changed the plan.

The new plan is called Simplified (and lower your expectations). Forget the classic seesaw criteria. I just want a seesaw behaviour. Any kind. Any speed. Throw out everything except Rio tipping the seesaw. She tips it, she gets a reward. Actually, she gets a party, called snuggles with me whilst she mauls my hand for a sausage, but I’ll take that.

Our last training plan has not gone to waste, because Rio’s confidence coming off the seesaw has dramatically improved, and she’s not bothered by the tip-back. That’s a massive improvement.

The Simplified Plan worked! We essentially shaped the whole thing, from basic paw touch, to jumping on the pivot, to moving the board. Always with the focus on Rio controlling the action, and controlling the pace of training. At the end, we had a basic seesaw behaviour. Ri walks up the plank, tips the board, gets cuddles and treats, and exits. It’s not fast, it’s not pretty, it’s got a long way to go.

Lots of blogs about seesaws in the near future. Grade 4 by the end of the year means Rio needs to do a seesaw. Can’t not do a seesaw in Grade 4.


I have no idea where this year will take us. I know what I want, and that’s to compete again. We’ve been in training mode for two years, in agility and flyball, focusing on criteria and improving performance in different environments. I would like to push that now, put the training to the test and win some stuff.Fast as you canIn a related sense, I want to get out of our comfort zone this year. I’ve already started, since Dylan is entered in our first Obedience competition at the end of the month. Actual obedience! I don’t find obedience very exciting but that’s part of the challenge. It matters more that Dylan enjoys it. Obedience has very clear criteria, and he likes that. I’ve also missed working with him, so it’s nice for us to find something we can do together.DistinguishedI want to set goals, because I feel like I need goals to push me on. But I wrote out some goals and then decided they were too unattainable. Impossible goals are no good for me. I need goals that are reachable. It’s a matter of when, rather than maybe.

So. Goals.

  • Rio and Daisy to get their 200pt Flyball Dog awards
  • Rio to win out of Grade 3
  • Dylan to get his P-Beg Ex award

Daisy Edit

A Final Glance

One last look back at 2014, mainly to wave goodbye. It had it’s moments, but it’s wasn’t much of a landmark year for the us. It was certainly unpredictable. I don’t yet know whether that’s good or bad.DylanDylan has stepped down and then stepped up, taking on the mantel of the girls before him. Who would have thought it? My scared mouse is my rock. I never could have foreseen it at the start of the year; we were racing around in Grade 6, and now he just does the occasional Anysize run. I miss competing with him. He’s not my flyball dog anymore either, as my lovely mother has taken him on for next season. But he started going to classes, and then he passed his Good Citizen Dog Scheme Bronze, Silver, and Gold. I take him places when I need a dog that I can trust to handle whatever we face, and he does it without batting an eyelid. He comes to work with me, and plays demo dog for student canine physiotherapists. He has spent eight years disliking being touched by strangers, and now he passes tests on it and teaches people how to manipulate joints and muscles. Dylan is a Good Dog.

RioRio didn’t step up. She was frustrating and disappointing and wild and beautiful. Of course, it’s Beans, so she can do what she likes and I will still worship the ground she walks on. She runs on her own path, not the one I choose for her. She finds her own adventures, and if I worry about what we should have been doing, more fool me.

Ri does like flyball – it is fast and involves racing other dogs – and she does like jumping classes. Jumping is also fast, and involves racing me. She does not enjoy agility classes. Seesaws are hellish contraptions of torment, and dogwalks are untrustworthy, sneaky things that might actually be seesaws in hiding. She will concede that Aframes are cool. It doesn’t actually matter what we do. I love this dog more than I love most things.

HiDaisy, my Daisy, my messed up pup. She waxes and wanes like the moon. Who has ever met a dog afraid of snow? The world went white and cold overnight, and it took two days to convince her this wasn’t the oncoming apocalypse. This is an insight into the mind of Daisy. Well, one of the minds. The working personality is everything you could want in a working dog; determined, fast, driven, unflappable, utterly focused and committed. She can be extraordinary, could be the best agility dog I ever own. However, would not recommend the normal-dog personality. Fear and panic and was that a noise? For all that she’s special, she’s come a long way. She has nearly made up all her minds that we are good people and that she is a good dog. She needed time, and 2014 was time. Her greatest achievement this year has been learning about belly scritches, and how to sleep. Good learning, Daze.

KimFinally, the most important dog and Queen of the World. My old Lady Jane turned 14 in December. She refuses to be old, and she glories in it. She chases birds and tries to jump the river, and she is angry with peasants when they get in her way. She demands food and walks when she wants them, and she gets them. She sleeps where she wants, and has basically given up any pretense of doing as she is told. Or, in fact, following any basic manners.

I worry about her; her muscle tone isn’t … existent, really. Her mind isn’t as constant. Kim has always been razor sharp, and it breaks my heart to see her occasional confusion, or worse, her ignorance of what she normally would be so aware of. It comes and goes.

Dylan: Official Good Dog

Dyl passed his Good Citizen Dog Scheme GOLD this weekend. I was pretty sure we were going to fail, so every exercise we passed was a relief and a bit of a surprise! We have trained, but not as much as we should have done. Emergency stop gave me the most worry, since Dylan wouldn’t hold his wait correctly. He did his cheeky agility wait instead, which involves creeping forward as soon as I turn my back.

Very pleased with his off-lead work however. He offered “proper” heelwork, shoulder to leg, for the whole duration, instead of the looser off-lead type we’ve been working on. He was a bit bemused as to why I wasn’t encouraging the flashy obedience heelwork, but he was determined in his own mind that he was correct.

We’re going to start training properly for obedience now! That’s the goal for 2015, a few Pre-Beginners, maybe the GCDS Qualifier, and see how we get on. We have passable heelwork on and off lead, need to neaten up the turns quite a bit. Down stay is good, sit stay needs work! Recall is alright, I’d like a neater present but we’ve been working on it and he’s improving. I need to train a retrieve if we’re going to do Beginners, since we have absolutely no formal retrieve at all.

May end up auditing one of the heelwork classes at, but the Dec 1st term start was not good financial timing. Maybe when it gets to February, but March is always incredibly busy so maybe not!

Dig It Dec (Daisy & Ri)

Goal with Rio was weaves. The Intermediate Jumping course was lovely, but I trained it anyway. Rio was … consistent in her errors? She is hitting the entry and then skipping the second-third pole and continuing. This is still a too-much-speed problem, and she is learning to control it. Slowly. She’s gone up a couple of gears in competition and is attacking those weaves now, and we just need to work on controlling it a little more.

Agility was more weaves, more Aframes, all easy. Training training training, but we made the most of it. Maybe eventually Rio will be able to do dogwalks and seesaws as well.

Daisy’s two jumping runs were on a lovely straightforward course. We had fun with it! One little pull-thru that she rocked so we rewarded that. She was picking up obstacles really nicely, driving on to tunnels beautifully, we just need to work on the drive to the finish. She knocked a couple of poles, but her jumping judgement will improve as we go (I hope!). Her confidence has improved dramatically, and we’re developing a start line routine that I’m reasonably happy with.

Large Steeplechase for Rio was a really straightforward course, very appropriately fast and flowing! We got E’d, because I didn’t cue the sharp left turn at the end of a row of four jumps early enough. Rio was in full forward mode, and overshot the turn completely. She nailed the rest of it though, beautiful running. Love handling her when she’s in full flight, it’s epic.

Daisy’s Steeplechase course was awful, however. Pull-thrus and push-outs on an Open Steeplechase?! I trained it and we did our own awesome run instead. Nailed all the rear crosses, she was demanding and driving and we stopped halfway for a play. She set off again and got her speed up and then we nearly had a happy-zoomy moment … the little nubbin tail got tucked and ears back and the silly smile, but then she contained it and kept focused. Very proud of her, moreso for zooming than anything! I want her to feel joyous and happy at agility.

My only grumble for the day was Oblivious Small Dog Handlers. I had to run interference for Daisy in every queue, and twice had to take her out completely. Daisy will snap at dogs in her space, which yes, not appropriate and not good. However, I had her focused on me in each instance, totally engaged in a calm manner (rewarding for sits/downs, playing Look at That, etc), and I kept a 5-6ft distance between us and the next dog. Or I tried to. In every queue, the other people found it totally acceptable to either a) watch their dog walk up to Daisy and sniff her, or b) totally ignore their dog and let it wander at the end of the lead. Really frustrating! It was nice to see some of our non-agility training pay off, as Daisy initiated Look at That a couple of times, and also asked to leave the queue (in search of space) at one point.

Rio’s First Wyre

Went all the way to Preston for 2 jumping runs. I’m that desperate for agility competitions. Rio had C1-4 Jumping and G3 Jumping. I really wanted to see how she’d handle the atmosphere at Myerscough, because I wasn’t sure if it might be a bit overwhelming for her. Didn’t want to enter anything else there if she found it too much!

I loved the C1-4 Jumping course, just Rio’s kind of thing and exactly what I’d been hoping for. Unfortunately I was really late in the running order and so didn’t go to run until they were calling to the end. Apparently this was not appreciated by the ring party, who were pretty rude and demanding about my running NOW NOW NOW. I didn’t have time to warm Rio up properly, or to even look over the course before I ran. And so I made a total shambles of it! Rio was awesome, she bailed me out the whole way around and ran it beautifully. She hit the weave entry too hard and popped, and then I didn’t reset her again properly, so we picked up 10f. Oops.

G3 Jumping was a very uninspired course, exactly the same as the Small/Medium 1-2 and basically the same as Medium 1-7/Juniors. The spacing was minimum distances and the judge didn’t use all the space available. I couldn’t muster much enthusiasm and promptly got in Rio’s way, so she had a pole down, and then forgot to turn her for the weaves so she missed them completely. Took her back and she got the entry beautifully.

Super happy with Rio’s attitude and focus through the day, just those weave entries that scuppered us, and it’s something we’re working on.


Rio’s seesaw is still progressing, but not quite as fast as I would like. She’s just not confident on the first attempt, although she gets faster and more confident with each subsequent approach. E nicely shouted at me on Tuesday, and reminded me to stop being impatient. (She wasn’t as blunt as that!)

Daisy has hit the awkward part of the V-weaves, where they’re upright enough that the channel is gone and suddenly it’s got more difficult. She’s still looking good and working hard, just needs to control her speed some more. I haven’t been able to work on her weaves as much as I’d wanted – maybe twice a week? – but she’s getting there.

Both girls are at Dig It on Sunday. All I want is happy, confident girlies. I would like Rio to nail her weaves and for me to get my timing right, and it would be nice for Daisy to get a course where she picks up all the obstacles right off the bat. But those are bonuses! Rio is at Wyre on Saturday as well, because I want to see how she gets on at Myerscough. Could go either way, she’ll either love it, or it will blow her mind.

Both Rio and Dylan are looking lovely at flyball; I’ve finally got the stride regulators where I want them for Dylan, and he’s getting much better rotation through his turn. Rio has also reached a stage where she needs regulators, but she’s getting her three strides now and getting less distracted on her changeovers, thankfully.

Daisy needs more work … she’s making lots of progress in some ways (other dogs!) but her ball obsession is back so she’s failing to engage her rear on the box and her turns are incredibly … over-rotational. This is where our brand of Phantom-perfectionism comes in, because I spent a good ten minutes today explaining to my team members that her turn sounded wrong and could they watch more closely? A few more turns and we get the consensus that she’s driving off her front and not her rear even though her paw, head, and body placement is perfect. I actually suspect she’s probably double hitting with the ball in, hence the driving off her front, because as well as basically back-flipping off the box, she’s driving up instead of down and forward, which is a classic double-hitting symptom. But she’s only got little paws, so it’s hard to tell by eye.

Anyway, it’s all because she’s ball-obsessed, so I need to do more training with that. Handler-enforced lead tension is a major stress for her so I can’t use that as we usually do (to prevent her to re-engaging with the ball), so I need to figure a way around that as well otherwise I’ll make her lead-shy. Such an awkward little terrier.

Operation Seesaw

Christmas Collar!Operation Seesaw is going so well I’m all for dancing on the way home from training. Theory into practice, and the new reward structure works! We haven’t worked on it for a few weeks, but the seesaw was out at training this week. Ri’s first attempt as a little hesitant, but after that she was fast, confident, and driving right to the end. Beautiful! Even better, she’s really getting excited about this game, pulling out of my hands and stalking/targeting the seesaw. She’s not freaking out about the movement behind or around her anymore, and is actually now staying on the seesaw end for longer than she needs to, to get more treats. We did six reps, all faster and better than the previous.

Our training group did quite a bit of work this week on obstacle avoidance and timing of cues. Rio and I are definitely finding a rhythm now; I am still hopelessly late at times, as Beans is so much faster than Dylan and has a very different style of running and jumping. I trained with Sarah McLean a few months ago and she told me that I need to get braver and work harder to get to where I need to be. This is partly down to laziness (mostly. I’m really lazy!) but also I’m more wary running Ri, and less likely to race to position, because she has no qualms about taking me out if I’m in the way. So I’m lazy and a wuss as well, not a good combination with an Aussie. I’m trying.

Weaves are still looking super, she’s controlling the speed better and we just need more competition practise. That will come! I’ve been working on her picking up entries with me in front and behind, she’ll recall through six now and drive on with me 6-10ft behind her. I’ve added in some more rear crosses, and she’s also getting much more consistent on the right. I could have done all that 12months ago, but there was no need and she’s so much more confident now. Aframe is also looking great, and hopefully dogwalk will come once we’ve got this seesaw confidence back. We’ve got another competition at Dig It in December, and a couple of jumping classes at Wyre, and then we’ll wrap up until January. I have to decide when to enter her back into Agility classes – probably Easter? It’s going to depend a bit on Daisy!

Pawprints!It feels too early in the year yet, but Rio’s new Christmas collar arrived today as well, and it’s so pretty! Even has a tiny little Christmas bell. Love the little details on the packaging as well, A+ from the Dog Co. Handmade Collars from Facebook. Love it! Unfortunately Rio was a bit muddy for modelling today. Red isn’t really her colour, but it’s impossible to get orange or brown Christmas collars! Collar shopping is still ongoing, since Rio has been running in her bat-collar this year, but I actually want it to be her everyday alternate with tags on etc. So she still needs a competition collar! I’ve been eyeing up some really pretty leather collars, and a few more tweed ones, but there is Daisy to buy for as well. Can you tell I’ve got a bit of spare cash for once?!