British Flyball Championship 2012

Mollie I can’t believe it was a full week since we were sat outside at Arbury Hall, sorting out the last minute arrivals and putting up tents. It was a bit weird being there with just Mollie and Dylan; Rio was at home recovering, and we didn’t want to take Kim for her to be sat around all day. She’s a lady of luxury these days!

It rained Thursday night, and we got scattered showers throughout the day on Friday. By the first division it was clear we were going to be running in some serious mud. Mollie’s team got in to the Champs at the last minute due to another team withdrawal, and ran on Friday morning, first thing. They did so well, running their socks off, and came 3rd in their division. There’s a good chance that this is Mollie’s last Championships, and this is the first year she’s not won. She had a blast though, as always!

Dylan’s team also ran on Friday. We did not have such a good day, although we also finished 3rd. Unlike the third team,, I don’t think we ran our best and we lost some legs on silly mistakes that shouldn’t have happened in what is theoretically an experienced team. I have to admit I came away extremely frustrated and very disappointed, but a few hours of reflection and time with the camera gave me some perspective. Dylan ran really well, I am very proud of him. We hopefully have several more years to reverse our bad luck at the Champs, and he was just happy to be there.

Dylan

Our top team were on Saturday, for the first time. The ground staged some miraculous recovery and the team actually smashed their seed time (which went unrecorded on interference, although all four dogs were able to complete their legs properly). I was on the line for this team and I was so proud of them, they kept cool under pressure and held it together to come 3rd in a very tight Division. They simply weren’t fast enough to beat the Division winners, but this team is still a relatively new lineup (a month old!) so we have high hopes for next year.

Ring 1 Sunday

Division 1 was amazing to watch, as ever. Very close racing between all the teams! Live Wires took the title again, but it came down to their last race, which went to 5 legs, against Extreme Racers. I was rooting for Extreme to win, along with most of the Northern contingent, since they’ve taken the British Record to new levels this year and were the fastest team in the Division. They have a history of having some bad luck when it comes to the Champs and it struck again, with a light in the final leg. Next year! I’ve also never been as hot in my life as on Sunday, baking sunshine but hot, still air that made us all feel like joining the dogs in the pools. Probably a good job we didn’t!

I always really enjoy the Champs and this year was no different. I do want some major changes within our team however, and without them I don’t know whether I’ll be back for next season. We are due some team talks in the next few weeks and so I will wait and see what the outcome is.

Larden Green 2012

This was such a fun tournament. I think everyone knows what an absolute Olympics fangirl I am, and I was gutted not to get tickets for our home games this year. Instead I’m glued to the television 24/7 watching all the coverage, so I was panicking going into this weekend knowing I would be missing some of the events. Cue DAB Radio purchase … thank goodness for that impulse buy, as it got us all through the weekend! The whole team was huddled around the radio between divisions – and even between races, at times! – and it was a little bit special to have us all crammed into a caravan, cheering for our athletes on Saturday night as they brought home all those gold medals. Immensely proud of being British at the moment.

The dogs also ran well this weekend. Kim was in Starters with Diva and Mylo, and we borrowed a Chilli Pepper dog in Scoot. A four dog Starter team, and they won all their races! It was a four team Starter division so we raced everyone twice (same format as a 7-team div) so very proud of all of them.

Dylan’s team had a bit of a shake up as we have some dogs returning to the team, so he was running over 9″. We tried to reduce any changes for him, so he continued running second, into Chip (or on the front when Chip was out). The dog running in third was different, but is the small height dog and one he’s comfortable with. He is massively overjumping over 9″ and his box has deteriorated, as expected … he takes a long time to adjust, especially as he’s been running over 14″ all season. However, we were able to get splits this weekend and he was running fairly consistent 4.7s (including my changeovers!) and I’m happy with that. If he stays at 9″, he should improve on those times and if he transitions to the new box ok I’d expect him to be running 4.5-4.6s. Which would be awesome! We came 2nd with a fastest time of 20.12 (OLYMPIC TIME!), so very happy.

Mollie finally got to compete again, with the new dogs we had the few extra we needed for three teams. She’s not as fast as she was when she was pulled at the start of the season, probably running about 6s now, but she’s consistent and having a blast, as ever. The team came 4th, not too shabby!

No idea what we’re doing for the Champs now as we’d only entered two teams, and unfortunately now have more than enough dogs for three! In some ways I want our “normal” team to go, as we have run together all season, but the dogs and the team are not consistent at all. But reshuffling the orders at this stage is a little late. We’ll see …

Swallownest May 2012

We stuck with our original lineup for Dylan’s team and it worked well, we were running more consistent times but not nearly as fast as I would like. Chip and Dylan were running just over 10s as a pair pretty much all day, which I was pleased about as a consolation. They’re running over 14″, and taking into account starts and changeovers, must both be running under 5s. We desperately need a height dog as it would drop us from 21-22s times to 19s easily. Dylan’s boxturn was sharp but not perfect, 3 paw hits most of the day, but it was slippy underfoot and he actually fell over completely at one point (nobody but Dyl could capsize on a boxturn) so I know he was just being overcautious. Where is the real summer weather?!

Mollie was slated to run with the top team (our only team to actually have a height dog at the moment) but circumstances meant it was easier for us to run a 4 dog team instead. I was ball collecting and helping Lucy work on her changes (running anchor), and we got it to perfection by the afternoon’s racing. A much better seed time now of 18.83 and the team still have plenty to find in there. I can’t see them breaking 18s with the current lineup, but 18.20 should definitely be possible.

Rio was really well behaved, apart from using people as launch pads or targets. She has a lot of love to share, and apparently that means she needs to sit on your head. Unfortunately she’s figured out that if she launches herself and clings like a limpet to my chest when I’m stood upright, I have to either drop her or pick her up properly. I always pick her up, apparently I’m a soft touch. At which point she usually lays over my shoulder and kisses people, I don’t even know what I have created some days.

She did some great recalls, and we took our dead-toy training on the road. She was foot perfect, including running to the dead tug and then fetching it to me to continue tugging. Progress!

As Mollie didn’t get to do flyball, we took Rio, Mollie, Chip and Fly into one of the crop fields for a run. Wish I’d had my video camera, hilarity ensued and it turns out Chip is quite the sneaky lurcher. Fly didn’t approve, she is a serious and thoughtful kind of girl who does not see the point to silly behaviour.

Gap Farm December

Rio’s first visit to a flyball competition!

That is the most important thing that happened all day, of course. Dylan ran very well, not as well as he could have done simply because he was running with unfamiliar dogs, and so was I. Our changeovers were not consistent! He ran steady 4.8s over 11″. I have to admit this was a bit disappointing as I feel like he has been running his heart out at training, and I definitely did not have that feeling from him at Gap Farm. On the other hand, his boxturn was reasonably good, he was running into the first hurdle without flinching on his changes, and he swapped for his tuggy 95% of the time (he’s 100% at training but it tends to drop in competition; like any retrain, it doesn’t always hold up under a competitive atmosphere!).

Both the older girls stayed at home in the warm, and I sadly did not get to pick up Kim’s Ice Blue Moon as apparently they weren’t posted or something. Hmph.

I was really impressed with my crazy puppy. She took the atmosphere, the noise, the hundreds of dogs and people, the Christmas costumes/tinsel/hats into her stride. She was polite with every dog she met, and we ticked lots of boxes, meeting hairy dogs (Bearded Collies), big scary looking dogs (Dobermans), tall pointy aloof dogs (Madeleine the Saluki), noisy small dogs (JRTs), some lovely lovely Staffies (Roxy and a big brindle gentleman), plus all the collies/crossbreeds/others. She played with Lolly, who is the least likely puppy lover ever, and she also played with Diva. She and Diva are going to be a pair of troublemakers, it’s clear already! Almost all the dogs she met were polite but disinterested, barring a few over-friendly Spaniels who she said hi to and then walked away from, and grumpy Ella, who gave her very clear “go away” signals which she obeyed. Very pleased with those responses.

She met all the people without any bother, not demanding attention but happy to go say hi if they asked her to. Not bothered about the hats/costumes/reflective jackets etc etc, which I was very pleased about. She made me laugh by noticeably favouring the people who had fed her, but she does recognise Emma and Claire now anyway. Also wasn’t bothered by the people carrying boxes or other weird items, or prams/wheeled objects.

I wasn’t sure whether to let her offlead or not, but we hit the enclosed exercise area with Roxy, George, and Lolly and it was empty apart from one other dog on the other side of the arena. I’d already done some recall-rewards with her there earlier, so I let her off for a mooch around. She was very well behaved, explored confidently but knew her limits, played with Lolly and did a few mad laps, and then came back when called. I like puppies to have plenty of freedom as early as possible, otherwise being off-lead becomes a massive adrenelin rush and all the training falls out of the window. So far this is working, let’s hope it holds up!

She freaked out a bit at the very loud and static-y tannoy, but it kept making me jump as well so I don’t blame her. She also wasn’t very happy about the unpredicable 7yr old girl doing weird things, but I know we need a bit more socialisation with children. I don’t know anyone with dog-friendly kids, so that needs thinking about.

She also didn’t much care for the flyball, which is fine by me! She was relaxed and maybe a bit bored when we sat watching the rings, not interested in the noise or the action at all. She is a tugging fiend however, she stole or tried to steal every passing tuggy so I bought her one of her own and she turned into a fierce little tuggy monster. There is no doubting her tug drive, it overrides even tasty food.

Everyone we met mistook her for a Collie, I lost count.

Sutton Fields

Lovely day at Sutton Fields. I love this venue, I am going to continue my pestering of the team and hope we get to go again next May.

Two mix teams as we had several dogs on holiday (how inconvenient!), although Dyl’s team was actually the same as usual but with a fifth dog change.

Dylan and Mollie ran brilliantly, the team ran a new seed time of 20.16 and finished … last. Well, 5th. We can’t have everything. The 20.16 was on a break out and yet we managed to lose nearly every leg all day, oops. Really do feel like this team is gelling now, the dogs are getting comfortable running together and we’re pushing down the seed time even though ditzy Biba still isn’t running as consistently as she can. Unfortunately we now have the winter break and by next summer who knows what the team will be!

Kim’s team was made up of three top team dogs and then Kim and Bailey from the third team. We were on a DF time but I always thought we’d be pushing for break-out and we did, but nearly everyone in the division was. Lovely fast ground at Sutton! We ran a fantastic 19.40 with Norah, Roi, Kim and Bailey over 11″, and both height dogs were running over 5s. With Jet in there and a fast height dog this team would easily be running 17s times, so we’ll have to see what winter brings!

We finished 1st but it was tough racing, especially against Fylde in the last race where we were a leg down and had a dead heat before pulling it back. Super stuff!

I have all my fingers crossed that Kim has picked up the final points for her Ice Blue Moon at this venue as well, for various reasons, but we’ll see what happens when the points go up.

Hayfield Lakes

Good weekend, close racing and Notts were excellent hosts. Shame the venue wasn’t as wonderful as everyone else seemed to think (we camp in a tent, flat clean ground is important).

Dylan’s team broke their seed time and won their division, which was great. We also managed to get splits on the dogs for all their races, which was useful for a variety of reasons but from my point of view, confirmed what I already knew about Dyl. He sat out the first race, and then in the second 2 races in the morning session he was running into the same dog (Roi). He clocked consistent 4.8s for those races. In the afternoon Roi was dropped and he had to change into Norah, and his times dropped immediately, and then got worse when he switched back to running into Roi in the second afternoon race (I think his times dropped off to 5.3s at that point, and he normally runs better in the afternoon). He has to change into the same dog otherwise he begins to stutter into the first jump (which is also awful for changeovers).

So, I’m not sure if Dylan will continue running with this team, and if he does, we will have to change the lineup which is not the best option a month before the National Championships. This is slightly frustrating as there’s very little I feel we can do at training; Dyl isn’t comfortable with these dogs away from flyball, it’s not something that will be overcome by practise (although that will help). I feel bad for our team as well, as we’re the weak link.

The girls were in two mixed teams as we’d lost height dog Bailey to injury. We bumped Mollie up a team so she could run 9″ (12″ is too much for her all day), and Kim took up height dog duties in the bottom team, with usual second-team dogs Chip and Buddy to bring a little more speed.

That all fell apart slightly anyway when Mol’s team lost a dog through injury, leaving a 4-dog team! They finished 5th in Div 5, but ran 21s which really wasn’t bad considering we had 12-yr old Mollie, blonde Beardie Biba who is really only in her first season, and 10-yr old Beardie Buffy who hasn’t trained for 9months! Poor Ronnie was the only one left of the original team.

Kim’s team won their division but didn’t run great times, we weren’t exactly on top form but we got lucky on a few legs and pulled a few nose-in-front legs out of the bag.

Champs prep at Nantwich next time, another new venue for us. We’ll be giving our Champs lineups an outing (barring disasters) although I don’t think we know what they will be yet!

Dogs Unleashed

Saturday was flyball day, as per usual for this weekend. We only had two teams in but both were 6-dog teams, which I hate, but as we had some dogs coming back from injury etc it was really the only option.

Kim and Mollie both ran very well, Kim back to her usual self and being her usual Kim-of-all-trades, running in every position, even lead! We were a bit off on the start (0.09) but not too shabby to say we haven’t done it in forever. Think we finished 3rd. Or 4th, I can’t remember.

Dylan did not have a good day, and I ended up pulling him from racing. There was nowhere for me to keep him away from other dogs and so he spent the whole time getting more and more stressed and unhappy, and that was before we’d even got in the ring. Once we were in the ring, we had a minimum-distance type runback (about 70-80ft?) with crowds down both sides, and there was just too much going on. Really disappointed and frustrated with the situation (not with Dylan!) but there was no other option.

Sunday was agility day. Lovely lovely courses all day and loads of room to let Dylan chill and relax before his runs. Because Dyl’s classes were small, I was able to warm him up off lead and then walk him into the ring lead-less, which keeps his stress levels low, and it worked brilliantly because he ran fantastically all day. Super happy and super keen and smooth, perfect. We got a scrappy clear in the Novice Plus Agility but finished 2nd, and then had a nice clear with some wide turns in the N+Jumping and finished 4th, just out of the rosettes.

Fantastic Wicked Weaves course that Dyl and I rocked, except for the refusal on jump 12. I pulled him off too soon and I was kicking myself as we’d have been pushing for first or at least second, but oh well!

Kim was in her first Veteran classes, she wasn’t fully convinced by the Micro height but kicked up the gears in every run. She absolutely loved it, and we promptly got E’d in every class apart from the Circular Jumping where we came 2nd. Mollie picked up a 4th in the same class, and had a couple of high 5f placings as well in her other classes. Love running my old ladies, they’re so much fun.

Photos will be added to this post once my computer stops being a complete arse.

Pontefract Flyball

The girls’ team wasn’t quite on form, it still feels like a very new lineup and we aren’t all on the same page a lot of the time. Kim was much better this week, lots of comments on her improvement. Many thanks to Kath for that!

Dylan’s team was … weird. We had a 4-dog lineup that should really have been reasonably fast, but we never really pushed under 21s all day. Lead dog Lucy was back to clocking solid 4.8s and Dylan was absolutely flying as anchor, steady 4.8s when we got the splits at the end of the day. Just not sure what happened! We had nothing on starts (0.08 at worst) and absolutely nothing on changeovers.

I have to admit that Dylan’s box was terrible, I finally figured out why in the last race and we kind of fixed it in warmup, which it made an immediate improvement. Kicking myself over that! He loves running over 11″, it’s a height that really suits him, but he’s back over 12″ next time with Kim in the team and he’s losing his nice anchor spot.

More importantly, we’ve got plenty of time off to train and it’s Redcar this week, I’m so looking forward to me and Dyl off on our travels!

BFA Committee Nominations

Who are you going to vote for? Are you even going to vote?

This post isn’t going to address any of the candidates directly as I don’t think that’s fair, I’m just going to make a wishlist of what I hope to see, as my voting slip came through the post today. It hasn’t been opened yet, and I haven’t read the candidates “vote for me” bits on the BFA website (or FB or wherever else!). But here’s what I’m hoping will be in there:

  • Someone who talks about flyball; what they do now, where they want the sport to go, why they think their idea is a good idea. I don’t care what you do in your non-flyball life unless it’s relevant. I can give or take judging experience.
  • I would love to hear someone say that they either do other dog sports, are involved in training non-flyball dogs, or are something to do with canine health and welfare. I think I’m probably holding out too much hope that one, but I think a broader dog (sport) knowledge can often be the catalyst for new ideas and can get rid of some of the out-dated or “traditional” bits of flyball.
  • Someone who runs with a fast (sub-20s) team. I’m sorry to all the over 20s teams out there, but I want to see someone who is up-to-date with the best training methods around at the moment, and if your top team isn’t running under 20s then you aren’t doing it right. I can’t think of an excuse for that one. Likewise, I don’t care how long you’ve been flyballing for, because for many people that doesn’t mean anything. I know people who’ve been flyballing for 10 years (who started out with me) who know bugger all. I know people who’ve been flyballing for 2-3 years who I will happily say are better trainers than I am. (Europeans experience is an added bonus).

I really don’t expect anyone to meet all those criteria! The final (and admittedly the most elusive and subjective) thing is that if I’ve met any of these candidates, they’d better have been nice. I’m not going to vote for someone who has been a sore loser or an obnoxious winner, or who has been rude or acted childishly to either myself or someone on my team. Those people are very rare in flyball, thankfully, so I’m not expecting any of them to be up for election!

Gap Farm February 11

Excellent flyballing, some very good racing.

Dylan was on brilliant form, the specialised training we’ve been doing recently has been hugely and noticably beneficial for him and a few of the other dogs. It was very cool to see real results so quickly! His boxturn wasn’t brilliant, he is coming away much sharper now rather than turning wide, but he isn’t executing the swimmer’s turn as he should be.

Dylan was also very confident as he was running with his best girls Kim and Jet, and his old Labrador friends Buddy and Lucy. All dogs he feels very comfortable with! Kim wasn’t quite on her usual form, I’m beginning to think that the Gap Farm matting just doesn’t suit her, she never seems to run at her best there. She’s unusual in that respect as I think most teams have found that their teams run equal or better times on the matting. Kim has always prefered very hard ground though, like sports halls or sun-baked turf, so maybe I shouldn’t be too surprised. She brought the hurdle height down for the others though, so it was worth keeping her in that team.

Mollie unfortunately drew the short straw. We knew she was going to be unfit and really needed the spot in the bottom team, who ended up running in the second arena. It was more dimly lit than the main arena and although it was perfectly fine for most dogs, Mollie really struggled to see. It was exactly the kind of light she has the most difficulty with, a kind of muted half-light with deep shadows but no real bright spots. She ended up interfering a few times simply because she lost my mother, and she kept mistaking various non-ball objects for balls which caused some chaos as well. We are just going to have to pull her if the team ends up in that arena again, although I think by this time next year it’s unlikely Mol will be running indoors at all as her eyesight will have deteriorated further by then.

Next flyball at the end of March, plenty of time to get Mollie back up to fitness and hopefully work a little more on Dylan’s box.