Wilmslow

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.

2015

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.

Waiting on Winter

Dylan has been lame. No particular reason for his lameness, he just came up sore one day. Left fore, I think carpal, hence a slow recovery. He is bored. Tough cookies, old man, you rest. I miss having him around. Dylan and I have been embarking on all kinds of adventures this summer. Not super-exciting-jetset adventures, but normal-dog adventures. We explore new places. We go to Good Citizen Dog Scheme class. Dylan passed his Bronze and Silver on the same day, in September. We’re working toward Gold. We started class and I realised I’ve never taught Dylan normal-dog stuff like loose-lead walking. Or how to be normal in a class full of other, normal, dogs. Normality is new for us.

Hey Daise

Daisy is cheerful. I want to practise ball retrieves but we’re on our flyball break until the end of October, and I want to enforce that. We have been working on agility instead, but not as much as I had wanted to. Sheep, in our field, ruining plans. Weaving is next on the list, after minor things like getting her KC registered, and major things, like getting her measured. Measuring is the next big hurdle, since it combines Daisy’s biggest fear, strange people reaching over her and blocking all forms of escape. Hopefully I can minimise this to me reaching over her and offering her exits if she wants them, but we shall see how generous the measuring folks are feeling. She’s an obvious Small, which should help.

Squirrel Watcher

Kim is Kim. Increasingly deaf, and therefore both more and less noisy. She looks like an old dog now. Not so much muscle mass, gets a little bit confused by simple things like how to turn around. But she is still sound, still hungry, still demanding, still opinionated. She still does her normal walks, although it’s at a slightly slower pace. Sometimes she still wants to chase birds, and does so. This is not particularly good for her old bones. She’s getting a little wiser about squirrels, and just watches them with narrowed, thoughtful eyes.

Squirrel Hunter

The squirrels have it hard. Rio is a mighty huntress (in her mind).

UKA Osberton – Competing (etc)

Osberton

I elected to go NFC in Beginners Jumping just so I could reward Rio’s weaves, which have been awesome recently. We have no weave problems, but I thought it would be nice to let her know how good she is. Of course, she promptly blew her mind with excitement and broke her weaves. First run of the day and she was away, no waiting, all barking, too fast for weaving. All my baby dogs (in fact, all young dogs that have trained with us) go through a phase of overpowering the weaves, where they get too confident and too powerful and too fast, and inevitably either a) pop the last 2 poles or b) pop out at weave 2/3. Rio did both! Not concerned, I’ll reward when she’s right and she’ll learn how to control it.

Steeplechase was … really boring. Accel – decel – pinwheel and repeat. Minimum spacing straight lines, no curves, no tunnels (!). Not my kind of course and definitely not Rio’s kind of course. It didn’t start well anyway as I dropped her toy behind her, assuming someone would pick it up, and they did not. So Rio released to her toy, oops! That messed up our start and then we added in some extra jumps, missed a few others out, knocked a few poles off … eh. Steeplechase II was the same course but one straight line of 2 jumps had been replaced with a straight pipe tunnel. More boring! Sorry judge; I do feel extra bad when I criticise courses now, but this was not my idea of fast, flowing Steeplechase.

For the Agility class, I just did a ton of Aframes. I’m adding the stop back in and wanted to get some aluminium Aframe experience under our belt. Rio nailed it, beautiful drivey Aframes with a lovely low stop. No worries on the aluminium either! Maybe one day we will be able to do agility classes again.

DylanDylan got to play in the POTD Triple-A, he blew his first contact and we had a short discussion about contacts, so he got the others. He has decided that after eight years of being a good boy, he doesn’t need criteria anymore. He had fun, so it’s cool.

Daisy also got to play! For a few minutes, anyway. There was a practice ring set up after Power & Speed finished, so Daisy and I went to play on the Jumping section. She was very excited but did apply her agility skills to new equipment and in a new environment successfully, so it counts as a victory. She also did great with fake-queuing. We just need to work on control and timing. There will be no “small-dog-handling” with Daisy, I need to be cueing early, or she’s off, taking whatever she sees. (Maybe I should get on with teaching her to weave, then she can do proper shows.)

We were all done with agility by lunchtime! It was a small UKA show and the scheduling of Rio’s classes meant we were done and dusted pretty early. But Osberton had the Horse Trials running and Saturday was the 2* Cross Country day, so we took Rio and Dylan to watch the horses doing their stuff. I love my horses and the weather brightened up to lovely late September sunshine, so we had a good trek around the XC course. I’m going to have to do this show again just for the horses, it was great!

Dylan didn’t care at all for watching the XC, but Rio couldn’t get over it. If she could have had a jaw-drop moment for the first horse she saw jump the big XC fences, she would have done! She didn’t bark, lunge, or generally act inappropriately, but she was fascinated and would definitely have done a little chasing if allowed. (It wasn’t!)

Daisy did do some wandering around the show, but it was all a bit busy and overwhelming for her. She did much better on the XC course proper, where there was loads of room. She is a hooligan for barking and “chasing” horses on the TV, so was quite entertaining to see she is a bit wary of horses in the flesh. Sensible choice, especially coming from Daze.

XC

Agility Wrap: A Summer of Hope

I could have said A Summer of Despair, or A Summer of Frustration. A Summer of Hard Work and Lots of Training. A Summer of Going Nowhere. A Summer of Going Somewhere.

We started at Easter. Rio did not like competing. Competing was stressful, overwhelming, and pressurised. She could do a few obstacles at best, and then she would come unstuck. She went into classic avoidance; refocusing her attention to judges, spectators, anyone but me or the equipment. She did not want to engage with competing. Persistance, says I. This happens, we have never competed outdoors. It may take a while. Inside, I panic, because Rio was my confident, sassy puppy. I have broken her somehow.

We persisted. We don’t improve in any noticable way. Her jumping classes are very slightly better than her agility classes. Everyone nodded doubtfully when I told them that. And then she encountered the aluminium equipment at Wigton and very promptly said No More Agility. She said, I hate this with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. I hate seesaws and dogwalks, I can’t trust them any longer. Her last agility class at Wigton was jump > dogwalk, and she refused to break from her wait. Sat and looked at me patiently, and said, I don’t know what that is, and I’m not doing it.

(I don’t know how I create dogs who hate aluminium equipment, but so far I’m 2/2.)

Racing

So, by the end of Wigton show, I have a stressed Aussie who doesn’t want to know. There are small moments of brilliance; half a course, a short sequence, which is fluid and focused and fast. Small, tiny glimmers of hope, like sparks for a fire.

We started again after Wigton. New plan; dramatically lower expectations, quit agility classes, and reward. Reward reward reward. I finally started doing all the things I tell my complete beginner class to do. I went into the ring in July and aimed for 6 obstacles. If we did 6 obstacles with full focus and drive, it would be counted as a win, regardless of how the rest of the course went. I stuck, rigidly, to the plan. Next show, I wanted 8 obstacles, next show, 10-12. And so on. One day, I remembered what it was like with Kim when we started. She did this. We did this, the stress and pressure thing. We worked though it, and we can work through it again.

Posing

The plan worked. I entered Dog Vegas, a Monday in July. Nobody I knew was going. No distractions, just me and Rio. And Dylan. I entered Dylan in Anysize because a) he misses agility, but mostly b) I need to remember what it was like to like agility. Not necessarily love it, just like it for 30s whilst Dylan was easy and reliable and comfortable. He won the Anysize Agility and got a shiny rosette. First shiny rosette for over 12 months, and I needed that bit of positive reinforcement (thanks Dylan). This was our turning point show. Two runs for Rio, and we finished the course both times. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t clean but it was focused and driving and working.

And now we’re in October and Rio is catching fire. We have a two clear rounds under our belt (and two 5th places, respectively). Every course is a full course, focused and driving from start to finish. No more stressy Beans. I love running her, she loves to run. We’ve got the joy back.

It’s not all awesome, of course. We’re still only running jumping courses. Our wait has … diminished. I have a new theory that is germinating, about waits and seesaws, and the desensitising process begins this month. That’s for another day. Today you get a whole blog post reducing six months into 628 words.

 

Back

The blog is finally back online.

Dylan isn’t getting a lot of extra love now he’s officially retired; he isn’t coming to agility training any more, although hopefully I will have some new equipment to play with shortly so perhaps he can come and demo a few things for my outdoor classes. He is still doing flyball, and is finding his feet again, but disappointingly he won’t have a team to run with this year. We have only got one height dog now Daisy has been pulled from training, and we won’t run a team without a height dog. Dylan just isn’t fast enough for our first team, so I’ve pulled him from the lineups. Flyball is a team sport and our club was established on that premise, so it would be hypocritical of me to demand he gets to run just because I’m me! It is disappointing but it’s one of those things. I’m not holding out much hope for 2015 as Dylan will be 9, and should be starting to ease back from flyball competition anyway at that point. With what amounts to three years off, I’m a little doubtful he’ll even get on to the starting lineup at 9yrs old, but we’ll see!

We are going on a Working Trials day tomorrow though, although I’m not sure if I’m going to work Dylan or not. I already know that he will physically struggle with the Agility elements, but I’ll see if there is anything he does enjoy. One of the perks of working for a dog trainer, getting to crash seminars and workshops on a whim.

Daisy is both improving and … not. She has been doing very well with her agility training, but we had an unfortunate incident this week where she was “shut down” by another dog at training. It was an unfortunate circumstance where Daisy ran past a tunnel just as the other dog (let’s call her E) was turning off a jump. E is a little fear-reactive but as long as other dog’s respect her space, she is fine. Daisy ran up to E a few weeks ago and scared her, so E thought she was doing the same again and got in a pre-emptive strike. Neither dog was hurt but Daisy took a long time to stop hiding. She only really came back to normal-Daisy once the arena had cleared. Whilst I’m glad she didn’t react in any other way than to be scared, I’m a bit worried about how long it took her to bounce back. Another thing to work on.

All the dogs had a quick boxwork session this week (including Daisy!). Dylan is looking sharper, although he has a tendency to fall back into old habits and go wide, especially on full runs. It was nice to work on some close up stuff with him. Rio is looking excellent, we’re continuing to build on the Robbins’ Recalls and she’s slowly getting the hang of it. She’s swapping the ball for the tug fantastically though, I’m so proud of her! Daisy also did well, she stayed reasonably calm and worked hard. She always works hard, it’s the calm that’s tough! We’re chilling out this afternoon and watching some of the Winter Olympics.

Wilmslow 2014

I am so glad I entered this show. Dylan had a great time; he was so excited and enthusiastic to be running, I can’t imagine a better retirement show for him.

G6-7 Agility first thing was a nice course, nothing horribly challenging but some interesting handling options. I tried to flick Dylan away from me at the bottom of the Aframe, and Dylan interpreted this as … go take a jump 20ft away. Oh well! We had fun finishing up. His contacts were great, nice and confident. The difference between his performance on aluminium vs. plastic/wood is really amazingly different.

C6-7 Agility was ok. Not really my kind of course, although apparently lots of people loved it. We got E’d early on when Dylan bounded off to add in the jump after the weaves (he was all about offering jumps this weekend). I also didn’t like the tunnel-under-dogwalk discrimination, mainly because the course didn’t give me room to handle it appropriately. That’s a very specific Dylan problem though, he has a big “bubble” and to pull him off the tunnel I needed to be much further away than the course-design allowed. And the weave entry/weave-tunnel discrimination was something we’ve seen all over the place recently, so we’re getting pretty good at that.

Large C6-7 Jumping Wilmslow Jan 2014Got both those classes run by 10:30, and then had to wait until 3pm for the Jumping. Which was the most boring course ever (sorry, judge). I’m all for giving the dogs a nice blasty course occasionally, but there was a C1-7 Jumping on as well which I didn’t enter because I wanted something challenging. I did not get challenging with this course. Having said that, we got E’d, so … ! The E was a result of my being lazy however. Let that be a lesson to me, just because I don’t find a course interesting or inspiring, I shouldn’t be lazy about handling it. Dylan actually ran it fantastically, his jumping was smooth and free and he didn’t even stutter going into the double. Hasn’t managed that for years!

We had a good day; Dylan was happy and confident, and we got E’d in every class because he was feeling brave and offering obstacles. His jumping was fluid, his contacts were great, and his weaves were perfect. I can’t ask for more. He is now officially retired from KC competitions. He might do a few UKA shows here and there, depending on whether they’re using aluminium contacts or not.

Rolling On

Everything has started again for 2014; we’ve been back to agility training and done two flyball sessions now. Dylan and I also went on a Maintaining the Canine Athlete workshop with Veterinary Physiotherapist Hannah Michael, which was excellent. Would highly recommend! I learned loads and I’m trying to make changes now, which isn’t as easy as I had hoped (in terms of exercise). My dogs do a lot of free running but not much structured exercise, but I need to change some of that to get them as fitter.

As we did the muscle and joint checks, it was clear that Dylan was sore in his “usual” places; shoulders and lumbar. It doesn’t confirm my decision to retire him – that was comfortably made – but it makes me feel happier about it. He really enjoyed the stretches we did on the workshop too, he got very relaxed and comfortable about it all.

Dylan’s retirement day is this weekend at Wilmslow. I’ll still run him despite the soreness, which sounds terrible. It probably is, but I feel ok with it. It’s the kind of minor tension which doesn’t merit pain for a dog, just means they won’t run at 100%, and I don’t want him to do that anyway. He’s not quite 8yrs old but I am absolutely sure retirement is the right decision for him. Just as I was with Kim! I’m finding it very hard to explain why this is, but I feel very content with the decision. It makes me feel that our relationship is a good one, that I can see the very small things in my dogs which tell me that they are reaching the end of being able to physically give what is required.

He will carry on doing flyball. We trained on Sunday and he looked great, smoother and more confident than he’s looked for ages. I hope he has a team to run with over the summer but it’s not looking promising right now. We don’t have enough height dogs as we pulled Daisy from training.

Speaking of Daisy … she is learning to control herself around the other dogs again, and we’re going through her socialisation all over again. It’s frustrating at times, especially when some family members make small errors which set us back, but we’re on the right road. Right now it all seems worse because she’s in the dramatic teenage phase as well, which amplifies all the other issues. She is learning to trust us again, and we work on changing her stress responses. She is turning on the box now, without a ball, and she’s learning her agility foundation. She’s got her first class this week, although it’s just a environment introduction. She’s a dog who needs a job, and hopefully my Intro to Agility class will work for her. Rio is her biggest problem right now, because she can’t handle Rio’s energy levels.

Which nicely leads on to Ri! I love this dog, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that. Her joy is infectious. She’s triggering the box with the ball comfortably now, and did her first session of jumps to the box last week. No problems, although toward the end she started clowning around. She has a sense of humour, that’s for sure.

This week we started her Robbins Recalls, which didn’t go quite so well. Lots of ball spitting! Nothing we didn’t expect and we are making progress. Her striding and turn held up well, and she’s collecting the ball from the box at least. I think this will be the hard bit for her, she likes RUNNING and ACTION and that means glossing over the small details. We’re back on to using a toy instead of food though, and her focus and enthusiasm and drive is fantastic.

We still need to do some more work at agility, I’m starting to find the best handling options for her now. We need to do a bit of work on her jumping again, she’s a little bit hit/miss with take off points. Similar to above, Rio likes to GO, and thoughtful gets thrown out of the window. Instead of thinking, shortening, putting in an extra stride to find the appropriate take off, she just launches. K called it “bambi jumping” and that’s pretty much it. She’s like a deer, springing over things. We should probably do some of the extension exercises which would encourage her to skim the pole but most of them involve pole-knocking, and I fear it would be all too easy to have Rio think pole-knocking is the aim of the game.

Dogwalk and seesaw are still the mission. She does not like the seesaw, even with the RunAway game. I need to build her confidence on the dogwalk. It would be nice to run some agility classes before her 3rd birthday!

December Flurries

I wrote my last post in haiku, and I make no apologies. Dyl and I had a good time at Wyre, we always do. I said Wyre would be the last one, but I’m going to enter Wilmslow as well. That really will be the last one. He enjoys Myerscough, for reasons I can’t explain.

Rio came as well, and was her usual social self. She mugged a few people, and cast longing glances at all the puppies and Vizsla’s she met. She loves puppies, and the Viz affection is all Diva’s fault. She’s going to Dig It in February and March, and then she’ll probably run at Hare’n’Hounds in April. Need to really nail the dogwalk and seesaw, and do some jump work for Large height. And get her to 12 weaves (that’s this week’s mission).

Daisy stayed at home and worked on being quiet, and calm, and channeling her adrenaline into positive and socially acceptable behaviours. That’s what Daisy works on every day, at the moment.