March and musings

I can’t believe it’s March already. See this is another thing wrong with the whole human time framing system. (In addition to the whole childhood/teenage education thing). Time should feel like it is passing slower the older you get – but seriously when you’re little everything takes sooo long and yet when you’re an adult and getting older years seem to go by even faster. There’s just something wrong with that!

Irrespective of my grumbles about the rapid passing of time I am here to update and update I will. Although it is barely March really and I will probably be breaking with tradition and posting more than once this month. Staggering I know but there you have it, call me my own rule breaker.
First off – news about the 2010 National. I have none. As in I am not involved with the committee this time except to offer my services as website maker/manager etc. I am still on the Agility Committee so I will kind of be kept in the loop about what is going on however there has been no schedule finalised yet, all I can tell people is that it will go for four days and runs from the Thursday the 29th of April to the Sunday May 2nd next year. And the Agility committee is currently training up stewards for it so we shall have plenty. I have managed to combine my work place with agility by asking students at my school if they would like to help us out. Now yes they get a small fee and given dinner and refreshments but most of these kids are now attending because they enjoy it and it gives them something to do. It’s weird though – having the kids call me Miss in front of everyone at agility who just knows me as Simone. But so far the feedback has been great and they are certainly conducting themselves well. Their enthusiasm and energy is good for the sport and who knows maybe some of them will want to try it out with their dogs so it works out for everyone all round especially with year 10 students having to complete 20 hours of community service each year.

So onto the first trial for March. Last night it was held as a Games trial fundraiser for the Obedience committee who are hosting the October 10th Obedience National here this year. I faired fairly well in this one gaining six passes out of nine runs and finishing a few titles off. Spryte ran with partner Guirmere Snazzy and gained a quallie and 2nd place to finish off their titles. We were a couple of seconds behind the first place getters and I am blaming Cathy entirely for that one because her idea of yelling and my idea of yelling are probably about ten decibels in difference. But YAY title! Then Nifty and Raven won Masters Strategic Pairs despite Raven always managing to fit in extra obstacles. Can only find six cards though so yeah still waiting on one more leg there! Cypher and Smudge also ran clear in Masters Strat Pairs and finished 4th or 5th I can’t remember except to say we must have had some seconds wasted somewhere – probably when Cypher decided barking and jumping all over me between sequences is the best fun ever.

Snooker and Cypher won Excellent Snooker and I am feeling very virtuous by saying that I held his criteria throughout the whole game his four on the floor contacts were held before I gave the release word each time. Masters Snooker Raven came second in to Terra – the girls had the same points but the four year age difference definitely came into play with the speed as Terra beat Raven by about 5 seconds! I can’t believe Raven is going to be nine years old next week! Spryte and Snooker Novice was going great guns till the closing when she decided to do her trick on the dogwalk contact and I picked her up and walked out.

Gamblers and Raven was going great guns in Masters, the scribe telling me she was running out of room to write points down however I made the stupid error of trying to squeeze in another dogwalk just as the whistle blew and I couldn’t turn her around off the dogwalk and had to finish it and thus those fifteen seconds to get the gamble done was just too tight for her but I was absolutely thrilled with how she’d run as it’s a very taxing run the Masters gamblers and far more running than she’d do on any regular courses. Excellent Gamblers with Cypher ran just how I planned it and I was very pleased with everything he did, nailing his contacts, jumping well and just very in tune with me. We connected well on that course and even though I felt like I needed oxygen at the end of it I really enjoyed it. That was his GDX title finally and a third place. Spryte had issues in Novice Gamblers and not just with a dogwalk – for some reason doing 12 weavers was deemed too hard. We eventually got our points for them but she popped them at least three times that I remember. We left after doing (or not doing two on two off) the dogwalk. Needless to say dogwalks and weavers will be DRILLED this week.

And in my usual style of posting random real life thoughts at the end of my entries – I want to learn piano. As in the playing of it. Not so much the reading of sheet music thing. Surely the expression play it by ear evolved from doing just that with a piano? Besides YouTube is great for teaching me where to put my fingers on keys. Bizarre moment of the week at school – there’s this new energy drink out called Rock Star (clearly not aimed at any kind of market demographic with that labelling is it? *rolls eyes* – could have just called it Just For Egocentric Teens with Stars in the Eyes). A can was intercepted by one of the teachers at our school. A 750ml can. A can that has on it, in tiny letters – “not suitable for children and you should not consume more than 500 ml per day”. Did I mention the can contained 750 mls?? It was taken off a kid who bounces off the walls quite well without any kind of artificial help – the can contains 100GRAMS of sugar and a 120 mls of caffeine! *shudders* Seriously people should have to provide a driver’s license to buy this stuff and here we are with 12 to 14 years olds drinking it like it’s just your average soft drink! That’s just crazy.

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And now in new MONTHLY fashion…

Doing my level best to try and keep this blog more of a monthly and less of a quarterly edition thing this year. Hence I am getting this post in BEFORE work takes over my life once again. So trialling successes of late…we’ve only had two trials back this year so far and I am for the most part very happy with how the dogs are running and how my calf muscle has healed up allowing me to go run again. On the Saturday the 17th Cloverdale held their fun teams and gamblers event. Games in WA are still a rarity although looking at the Canine News we seem to have quite a few coming up thank goodness. There is a reason why so few dogs have their Masters titles in any games over here and it is really form a total lack of games being offered. There seems to be about three lines of thought when it comes to games – there are those who would rather games were dropped all together in favour of regular agility and jumping events because there are serious arguments for the fact that doing the games with our dogs is actually counter intuitive with their training. To a certain extent I agree (that it is counter intuitive not that they should be dropped all together). I refuse to do anything less than 12 weave poles in the gamblers classes as I have seen plenty of evidence that weave pole performance in regular events can decline due to dogs repetitively doing 4 or 8 or 6 poles in games. Some die hards may argue if the poles are trained correctly then the dog should just weave however many are in front of them regardless of what they have just done in a gamblers class. My answer is our dogs are not robots and that muscle memory is a strong element of their performance and there is no way I should be calling my dog out for not completing 12 poles when I have just asked her to do 4 and 8 poles only over and over in another ring. Weaves for high drive dogs are a huge control issue. Most dogs who like to run flat out and have strong drive to complete obstacles and just run as fast as they can would see poles as a frustrating obstacle. Our fastest dogs here in the West frequently can be witnessed barking, growling, yipping vocally whilst stuck doing the poles. I may be anthropomorphising a little here but frankly I think they get pissed when their handlers can take off on them to get further ahead and they are stuck doing the poles, they literally have to apply serious self control to make sure they get all the poles done properly – letting them do 4 and 8 poles over and over is just like giving them the okay to do that elsewhere. So hence in a gamblers class I will rarely use the 4 or 8 pole option and must admit I get a little grumpy if the 12 poles are not an option because automatically my possible points are restricted. Another element of retroactive behaviours seen and allowed in games is dogs getting to do whatever obstacles are in front of them irrespective of handlers plans, on the way to gamble lines or sequences in Strat Pairs if dogs take obstacles the handler doesn’t intend them to take it has no bearing on qualifying. This does lead to slackness on the handler’s part and also more out of control behaviours by the dogs on courses. So I can see the point of view of those who don’t like games and want to see them dropped. However I truly believe that with the right approach and outlook games can serve an excellent purpose in training as well. Again people are probably thinking – Here she goes again…she’s training in the ring Ummmm Ahhhhhh! Well. Tough. The only person it affects in games is the judge, myself and the dog. I don’t use up any extra time so I don’t see a problem. Example: The other night in Excellent Gamblers Cypher didn’t quite give me his proper four of the floor behaviour on his dogwalk the first time round. Rather than rush off and try and stick to our plan of doing a course that would give us all the needed points I decided then and there to work his contacts. So we did the dogwalk, aframe and seesaw several times over till I was happy with the performance he gave me and the whistle blew. We were completely out of place when the whistle blew but I tried to get us down there (he took a seesaw on the way which I should have insisted on a finished behaviour for him but I rushed him which was stupid) however we ran out of time to do the gamble. I’d rather blow a games entry like that (making sure his contacts are consistent because no way could I have done the contacts that often in a regular agility event) than get all hung up on getting the pass. Gamblers allows you to correct things straight away if you are not happy with them and that’s why I will always play that game. Snooker is a little different. But again it comes down to clever handling. I think people get all hung up on where they have to go and what they have to avoid and what points they get and stress themselves out way too much about these things. Snooker can be just like a normal regular Novice/Excellent or Masters Agility course. So long as you can cope with not having your course numbered in the usual way. Yes you have to have a course planned in your head. But really all it is, is single bar, obstacle, single bar, obstacle, single bar, obstacle then closing sequence. You can make it as easy or as hard as you like especially in Novice and Excellent. Masters might be a little more difficult (well okay sometimes it’s a LOT more difficult but hey that’s why it’s called Masters) but for the most part you can run a course. Strat Pairs is a little different from both Snooker and Gamblers in terms of negative and positive aspects. And probably I can see with some high drive, very fired up dogs that it could create huge problems but it also depends on how well you handle and plan your attack. You don’t have to rescue if you don’t want. That can be an agreement right there that will make things easier for you. You don’t have to have a gazillion change overs. You can choose to work particular sequences according to your dog’s strengths or even if you want to reinforce behaviours you can choose to take on certain obstacles. So the games, ultimately can work for you or against you and I think it’s up to the individual on how they want to approach them. Me? I am of the – well I love running agility and doing trials so if games are all that’s on offer I will take them up and still do my level best to maintain the same criteria I have for any other agility or jumping event. So the three train of thoughts are (returning to my clearly derailed point I was trying to make from earlier) – 1) Games suck, get rid of them 2) Games are great because I can get away with crap training and crap handling and still pass 3) Games are good because I can treat them like regular classes and it’s just more opportunities to play agility. Also people might have the concept that the games are less competitive than regular agility and jumping – which is quite possible but is certainly not going harsh my sense of pride in achieving three games wins at the last Nationals that’s for sure.

Here endeth the unplanned rant about games. Geez. I have no idea where that came from – whatever, we have lots of games coming up so maybe now’s a good time to say it. Where was I? Ah yes Cloverdale. So whilst Cy and I had a good practice run in the ring in Excellent Gamblers he pulled off two lovely runs for the team in Agility and Jumping, going clear in both helping the team to 2nd place out of 23. Raven had two nice runs as reserve for the team – one bar in Jumping and one missed bar in Agility. Gamblers was a little different and brought home to me the full impact really of her dislocated hip from last year. We were in Masters and she was flying round the course – running contacts being her forte meaning she could gather all her points fairly fast and in good time – whistle blew and I knew we couldn’t mess around so I head down for the gamble line and she must have though we were heading out so I had to make a sharp call to get her to turn to the gamble line. She turned but then for the first time in seven and a half years of competing in trials she stopped dead on course and just looked at me. No yelps or cried of pain just stopped running all together. Looking at me with the oddest expression, ears up and alert. My stomach dropped immediately and then I just patted my leg to see if she’d trot over to me and she trotted over to me fine. No lameness or soreness. She was, to all intents and purposes, totally sound. We left the ring and I let her warm down, watching her all the while, she was keen as usual for her treats and I started wondering. I recalled the course and then the turn she made and realised that was the exact same kind of turn on that side of her hip when she dislocated it. I daresay she felt a twinge or something and that rather vivid memory I am sure came crashing back about the day she had slammed it into the dislocation on course. Here is my nearly nine year old seriously kami kaze Border Collie who looks like she might just have developed a skerrick of self preservation for once. Whilst I wish I could take that day back in hindsight it really does look like it has given her little bit more caution about throwing her little body round the course without a care in the world. She went onto run the agility course last night and it was all good. So I may not have the fiercely lunatic insanely mad Raven on course anymore and I think that has to be a good thing in terms of her own safety.

Spryte had a very good night for her first trial back. She ran as a reserve for another team and had two beautifully clear and super fast runs that I was extremely pleased with. Start lines were great, contacts were good and we ran very in tune with each other. The Novice Gamblers we went in uncovered the dogwalk contact weakness though as she started to do her four in the colour trick again. So I made the decision then and there to just work her contacts not caring if we passed or not. Somehow she still managed to get enough points to pass even after working the contacts several times over. So that was a nice surprise at the end of the night.

The following Friday was a fundraiser trial run by the Agility committee, gearing up for the Nationals here in 2010. Spryte had a great night going clear in three out of four runs (picking up three first places in the 400 class and three third places overall) only missing the Open jumping pass because I momentarily forgot she’s still a baby dog really and doesn’t just do obstacles in her way. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was her dogwalk contact and I am going to be working on that intensively for the next month or so before the BC Nationals. Cypher had two runs and ran clear in Masters Agility, saving my ass a couple of times when I didn’t give him the clearest of directions and knocked one bar in Masters Jumping (probably because I was in a huge hurry as the judge had measured the course wrong and given a wrong course time – Cy was a second over course time) but I was very happy with his efforts. Raven had two runs and did a cracker run in Agility but I gave a late turn command (probably my subconscious still worried about her hip) and she took a jump off course and in Masters Jumping…well let’s just say various factors came into play causing me to get the course completely wrong. And that’s all I have to say about that.

But speaking of Spryte I would like a comprehensive inexhaustible list called 1001 Ways to Proof your Two On Two Off Contact. So far I have:

1) Will send over dogwalk and get into position without handler moving. (Handler can be at any point within a 20 meter radius)

2) Will wait and be called over dogwalk getting into position without handler moving (Handler stands at any point with 20 meter radius of the end of the contact)

3) Will hold position when handler blows by at any speed and at any angle on either side.

4) Will hold position when handler front crosses with side.

5) Will hold position is handler runs in opposite direction past the contact.

6) Will get into position if handler only runs halfway, quarter way, three quarter way and stops dead.

7) Will hold position even when other dogs blast by chasing favourite toy

8) Will hold position even if handler throws favourite toy or food past the contact

9) Will hold position even when handler is talking, praising yelling and wait for release word.

10) Will run into position regardless of how far laterally the handler runs away from the contact.

Can anyone thing of anymore??

Back to work Thursday. Movies I’ve seen on the holidays (this is me comforting myself with the affirmation that I actually did non job/chore/errand related activities on holidays):

1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Do NOT see if you are looking for light hearted, uplifting movie that will leave you feeling all happy) Very good dramatic film, excellent acting even more superb makeup and a truly unique story. F.Scott Fitzgerald deserves his vaunted place in literary history.

2) Yes Man – Yes, yes I know you are probably not a huge fan of Jim Carrey (the number of people I speak to I have to wonder how the man makes money as so few people actually list him as one of their favourite actors but I digress) but anyway. This story was good, light, funny and very entertaining and with an underlying message that pops up in my head on a disturbingly frequent basis. Here’s a quote from it that I like: The world’s a playground. You know that when you are a kid, but somewhere along the way everyone forgets it.

3) Tropic Thunder – Irreverent and hilarious – it’s worth it just for Robert Downey Junior and Ben Stiller’s performances alone, also it has reduced the size of the stick I envision up Tom Cruise’s ass as his performance is really quite jaw dropping (and that’s more in the “Oh my god I can’t believe he looks like that and says those things” than the “Oscar performance right there” way)

4) Gabriel (Aussie made movie on DVD) – I’m all interested in the stories at the moment…the whole Angels falling to Earth, What’s Michael’s gig and wow Gabriel is really a bad ass warrior arch angel isn’t he? I like reading about the mythology around the fall and the creation of Lucifer and all that kind of thing. Possibly Supernatural the TV show is seeping a little deep into my psyche these days but I just find it all profoundly fascinating. And this movie scratched that itch. It has a Dark City feel to it and it was a good watch for me.

5) Zack and Miri Make a Porno – This was funny and amusing and also irreverent in a South Parkesque kind of way. Besides it had two actors in it from the Kevin Smith films and I have always been a fan of theirs. Good for a light hearted fluffy comedy hour and a half. And no i did not pay money to go see it at a cinema – we downloaded this one.

6) Madagascar 2 – Awesome! Loved it and the Penguins get way more screentime and I have decided they are the best animated characters EVER. It was as good if not better than the first one and at one point I laughed so hard I had tears of laughter running down my face. David Schwimmer as the hypochondriac giraffe is a sight to be seen.

7) Australia – Don’t care how many critics bagged this they clearly had the wrong expectations going into it. I loved it. Showcased outback Australia absolutely beautifully, the cinematography was stunning and Nicole Kidman was not only tolerable but even amusing in parts. Hugh Jackman was…well Hugh Jackman, nice to look at, good to hear and he played his character very well. Of course there are all underlying issues of race and gender and historical recounts etc etc but I don’t go to the movies for the visceral, critical academic conversations I plan on having with myself later, I go for the escapism and I poke my tongue out at anyone who wants to frown on my escapism parade.

8) Twilight – Saw that one twice. But with good reason. Read the book like 13 times already. You think I jest. Sadly I do not. The Twilight saga is kind of like the equivalent of my guilty crack literary addiction. Dare I use the word ‘literary’ in the same context without invoking the wrath of the critics of Literature with the big ‘L’? Yes I do dare. Twilight has hooked so many teenagers into reading it’s perceived trashiness and popcorn quality is far outweighed by its positive effects on kids and reading. Anyway – it’s a good vampire romance flick with an awesome Vampire baseball scene and a very amusing Bringing the human over to meet the Vamp family scene that makes me smile just thinking about it.

And that’s about it on the movie front. In other news I have decided that the Nintendo Wii is the BEST invention by a gaming company EVER. Seriously I cannot speak highly enough of it and I spent the first year after it came out mocking anyone who talked about it because honestly how lame is the name WII??? *smirks* Heh, wanna come over to my place for the wii? Wanna wii together? Yes I am probably five years old but I really do think the PR or marketing division of Nintendo should have anticipated the inevitable mocking of the name ‘Wii’. Anyway. We have one now and it is AWESOME. Finally a video game a kid can play all day and have done some exercise by the end of it. We have Wii Fit (plus Sport, Play and Guitar Hero 3 & World Tour) and I can tell you know that game is a workout and a half! Yoga, Muscle, Aerobics and Balance exercises that have been turned into GAMES. I’m sweating within 15 minutes of doing the stuff in that game but I never feel like stopping because it’s addictive. And I have this thing where I have to keep improving my score or I get very pissy. I have even changed my mind about the Utopian Classroom being filled with laptops. I want it filled with Wii consoles and monitors because you can do EVERYTHING interactively and using multiple muscle groups. So yes I am a born again wii convert addict. And Guitar Hero is very neatly scratching that itch I had a while ago to learn music…yes I know it’s not real music but seriously the hand eye coordination needed and the fact that you can make nice sounds and music happen is all good enough for me. Plus the fact that I think I’ll be in my 60s before I even get to look at expert level means the longevity of this game is limitless!

Your Quarterly update (looks shamefaced…briefly)

Hmmm. September 21st was the last update. That’s over three months ago now. There’s an awful lot of news to update on. My brain hurts just thinking about it all. I’d love to just give a dot point list but I just know that my particular brand of OCD runs to actually writing way more than I have to once I get started. So bear with me.
Next event up after September 21st was probably the Royal which took place from the 27th through to the 6th of October.
Unfortunately there was a touch of bad news in between the Sept 21st update and the Royal. Thursday the 25th of September. Lying on my bed reading a book and Raven jumps up for a brief pat (Raven never likes too much physical attention so the pats are always brief or you receive that disdainful look of ‘I am only tolerating this now because you somehow manage to feed me everyday’) and as usual, my automatic response is to check for her nodes. My stomach dropped immediately when I felt two pea sized nodes that were not there previously. An hour later I’m with her at Murdoch and seeing Dr Amy Lane with what I am sure is a rather depressingly pissed off expression on my face telling her that I think her nodes are up. Amy can feel them too and asks if I want to leave it for a week or two and see if it’s just an infection. At this point I think a blithely fatalistic attitude comes over me and I shake my head, tell her that she should take a fine needle aspirate now and I’d like to stay for the results. So off Raven goes and within a half hour or so Amy comes back to confirm what I already knew really but still had that silly tiny persistent hope that maybe it was something else. The lymphoma was back the bone marrow transplant had not worked and now there really was no hope for a cure at all. Raven was a little confused in the car on the way home, on the one hand she hadn’t been left there for treatment but on the other her human was making some weird noises with some salty wet stuff running down her face, she gave me one of her rare displays of affection with a lick on the cheek that made me smile even whilst I raged at the unfairness of it all.

I had an appointment with Ken the following week, Amy had made it clear that nothing needed to be done urgently and to go home and start thinking about what we were going to do next.

In the meantime the Royal arrived and we competed as per usual. Cypher had a good Royal this year, the team he was in winning both the Agility and the Jumping teams events (Hurrahs all round for Karen and Riot, Kriszty with Jess and Terra!) and putting in a nice run in Masters Agility ending up in 4th place. Raven had her usual blast with the spectators and put in some nice runs with just one or two faults in each. I wasn’t fussed I just wanted to see her have a good time because of course being so close on the heels of the return of the lymphoma I had all these morbid thoughts that it could quite well be her last Royal show ever. So shoving that aside she managed to have a lot of fun, especially on the course with two dog walks and helped keep the spectators entertained. Spryte? Well Spryte had her first Royal and thoroughly enjoyed herself albeit with some very baby dog mistakes on courses. She did a ripper Novice Jumping run but knocked two bars, Novice Agility she missed the weaver entry and in the Open runs I think she had issues with some contacts and maybe the distance challenges. She wasn’t fazed by the atmosphere at all though and continued to show me that she does still have a few more gears to go through in terms of speed. She also got to have her first go in the show ring on the Wednesday and handled it all very well even without any show clothes on since the bath the night before was apparently her cue to drop all of her coat. She’s on the small side as it is, having no coat certainly didn’t help her chances! But she moved very nicely and was solid as a rock with the judge going over her so no complaints from me.

After the Royal we moved into the last couple months of the trialling season. In terms of Raven I met with Ken in the second week of the school holidays and he examined her and basically said that we should leave her be for now, she is still a well and healthy dog, the nodes, whilst up were still small (pea sized really) and that we should try and delay treatment for when she is really starting to feel the effects of the lymphoma. Me, being slightly paranoid about it all, was concerned that I’d delay too long and one morning wake up with a sick dog on my hands. Ken felt fairly safe in assuring me that due to her previous history whereby I tend to notice other signs prior to her feeling really unwell that it would be the right move to carry on the way we were and to just monitor her for any changes which thanks to the fact that she does agility I would more than likely pick up on due to her behaviour there. Raven is feeling unwell when she slows down on course, holds her start lines and contacts and keeps all her bars up oddly enough. Ken also said the longer she goes without the chemo (since the last dose) the more likely the chemo treatment will be effective. So we tried to last as long as possible and I checked her nodes everyday.

After the Royal was a couple of trials one held by Perth and a double header held by Rockingham. Perth was some expensive training runs for us I think. Cy had bar issues as did Raven and Spryte had multiple issues of which I, being the diligent trainer I am of late *lol*, of course made a list of to remember to work on. However we did have a good Rockingham trial – Raven actually won a very tricky Masters course which felt all very excellent except I finished the course with her with this vague sense of her actually having done most of it without me, she was that far in front of me it was as though she was reading numbers by herself! Spryte also pulled off an Excellent Agility win and I got to run Kriszty’s Terra in Open Agility for a win as well. So it was a successful day all round with Cypher also picking up a couple of cards and placements. ACWA’s trial was also in the month of October but we didn’t have any joy there and was notable for me for one reason only – it is the one and only time I have ever gone home from a trial early and scratched from runs because I was just too damn tired. Of course it now being Jan 2009 I cannot remember why I was sooo tired but only that I left a trial early. The GSDA trial also was held in October and I distinctly remember that trial being purely training for young Spryte. Here let me list her issues (all trainer related of course):

1) Startlines. She has this thing whereby she will come in on lead, sit in position, I go to clip the lead off and/or hand it to the steward she stands up. I say ‘Sit’ and she apparently has no idea what that means. This happens in trials only. And I won’t walk off on her unless she sits and it has started becoming a habit of which I am not fond of.

2) Contacts. Yes yes not enough reinforcement or consistent sticking to criteria here by me I know this. So I’ve started being tougher on them in trials. If I know at training that previous week she has done a 150 two on two off perfect contacts and she doesn’t give me the behaviour in the ring, I stop , say ‘Too bad’ ask her one more time for ‘Contact’ if she offers it I say ‘Good girl’ and leave the ring. If she runs through, I stop, ask for ‘Contact’, get the behaviour off her and leave the ring. It’s completely fixable. But it is simply time, effort and repetition and consistency. Which sounds simple when I type it like that but I must be slow when it comes to this one!

3) Bars. I am now stopping her for dropped bars. This dog jumps 600 with not too much effort, I always train on 500 and warm her up on 500 and she does that height with ease. There is absolutely no reason she should drop 400 bars even if I do say stuff over the bar, give her crappy angles onto them, surprise her with them or whatever. Again training issue. And see I know this is not a line of popular thought but to me a trial is a training session. Or it should be. People say train like you trial. I’d rather trial like I train. There will be frowns saying ‘Well that’s just taking all the fun out of it, or its disrespectful of the judge, or you are making your dog unhappy’. To me trialling/training should be the same. And I am lousy as making it that way. So that is what I am working on. If we stop in training for dropped bars we are gonna stop in trialling for dropped bars. Spryte knows (like all my other dogs know) when we leave a course without running for the usual amount of time that something went wrong. Doesn’t mean I don’t go straight up for my next run and we start with a clean slate again. She doesn’t get any less enthusiastic to run because I pulled her out of a ring less than five minutes ago. It’s fun running agility, it’s even more fun to go clear and you know what the most fun is? Going clear CONSISTENTLY. Sadly consistently is NOT a word that could ever apply in my case and that’s a goal I want to work on.

So yes those are my three main issues with her. Things that will always be worked on over time are the tightening up of turns, her acceptance and adaptability to spur of the moment, no doubt last second decisions front crosses. Never my forte but I insist on doing them sometimes (how else does one improve?) and yes dogs I am going to be doing them in some crappy places at crappy times and really I don’t need a bark or growl of abuse because I got in your way! Sheesh. I don’t know how it is for other breeds but all three of my Border Collies feel the need to vocalise their disagreement with my decision to perform a front cross right there when clearly all I am doing is slowing them down. Which, typically if front cross is performed poorly, I am doing but sometimes you know I’d just like a little more flexibility. On their part not mine.

Where was I? October….yes tick that month as done. November and this is the month where I decided enough was enough with Raven and took her back in to see Ken at their new facilities in Osborne Park. Ken had moved from Murdoch due to his expanding clientele and lack of space at Murdoch. So brand new facilities in Selby Street along with a specialist surgeon and two radiographers. Raven christened the Consultation room by being the first consult in there, along with about 8 vet students. She is currently on the front page of their promo pamphlet as well doing her agility thing. That’s a little bittersweet – I’d much rather she’d never have to have anything to do with Oncology at all but then again I like the fact that she’s seen as a fighter and so far successful cancer patient. Raven told me she was tired at Judges practical exam (which by the way WA has three brand new agility judges from Woohoo!!!) when running some simple courses and at a couple of trials in November. She resumed chemo on November 14th without any complications. The same protocol as the first time – 16 treatments in all using three types of drugs. The only thing that changed was the use of the hardest hitting drug Doxorubicin. She had met her limit for that drug as she was at risk of heart failure should she continue using that one so they changed it to Epirubicin which has the same effects in terms of potency without the heart muscle damage but is harsher on the gut.

November was also the month I decided to take up Softball. What the hell? I can hear all the agility readers yelling from here. Yes well it’s always been a sport I’ve been interested in. Last played it very loosely in Primary school I believe. Anyway there is something incredibly satisfying about the sound of a bat hitting a ball and whacking the thing as far as possible. And I’ve always liked throwing stuff. J So I started training on Tuesday nights which is actually ACWA Club training night but I figured I could still train on Wednesday nights for Agility and even Thursday if I felt really hard up training wise. The games though are at a perfect time. It’s evening trials in Agility from the end of October onwards and all Softball games at either at 2 or 4pm and only go for an hour and a half. The season goes until the end of Feb. So the games NEVER clash with trials. Softball is a much more complicated sport than you think. And it’s a very different way of thinking with so many different permutations of what could and can happen and what kind of things you need to remember depending on A. Your position B. Whether there are 1, 2 or 3 players on bases, C. The weather! I’m enjoying it anyway and I don’t think it’s going to detract from my agility too much. It’s also another social circle really – new people, new friends and so vastly different from the agility world. Of course my agility friends all think I’m completely mad I’m sure but I think you can make room in your life enough if you really want to enough. And quite frankly watching those A Grade games? The skills involved and the level required – easily as difficult and awesome to watch as top level agility. I am still trying to get my head around how fast an underarm ball can actually be pitched – accurately!!! And the training won’t conflict with agility – short bursts of running and the ability to think quick and remember plays. Cypher’s affinity for incredibly strenuous tug games cannot harm the old throwing arm either. Eh whatever keeps you young I say!

So then December (and yes you can deduce form the lack of info regarding trial results that November wasn’t a successful month wins wise!) Hang on a sec. Raven did have another win in November! That’s right the Southern River trial she won 1st place in 500. I remember because it was the day after a chemo treatment! And I think she picked up a second in Masters Jumping somewhere in November as well!

Only a couple trials left in December and nothing too exciting happened there although I was a little side lined (okay a lot sidelined) by an old calf muscle injury which twinged slightly on training night at softball and then one week later tore properly since clearly I wasn’t allowed to get away with just a minor setback! This calf muscle was torn initially back in 2004 in Sydney in the middle of a BC Speciality trial. That was the weekend Robyn had to take over running Raven for me last second – still in her show clothes and everything. So yeah an old injury that unfortunately once done is always weakened and this was my second visit back to the physio for it since 2004. She said 6 weeks for this one but I have been doing my stretching and exercises religiously (and I am hardly, if ever, religious so that shows you how seriously I am taking this) and I have purchased new calf muscle supports and stuff. I really don’t want to stuff this up again since the plane tickets and accommodation are all booked for March and the Border Collie National in Canberra. So yes was somewhat restricted by that and entirely pissed off when it happened. ‘Oh dear’ was understating the issue massively and some fairly vulgar words were used that I would no doubt tell my students off severely for using. Sometimes obscenities are really the only satisfying way of dealing with these sorts of things. So Karen got to run my dogs at the last trial of the year and I have to say with little *snort* try ‘no’* training she managed to get them round their courses quite well with no more than one tiny fault on each run and some lovely handling. And so the agility season for 2008 came to an end and I have to say that of my list of highlights for the entire year several could be found in my achievements with the dogs in the trialling rings. The 2008 National and the States will always be memorable and some of the sweeter runs with Raven will be cherished.

So now here we are in January 2009. Spryte is currently in season right now and Cypher is doing his level best to convince me that he is the man for her. Sadly for Cypher he is not going to get a belated Christmas present. Part of the reason for attending the BC Nationals this year is to have a look around at the males there. Robyn will probably be breeding from her this year (maybe in June) and a suitable husband for her must be found. So she will likely be having her first litter of puppies this year. After that who knows? I have yet to decide if I will sterilise her or keep her entire. I think it will depend on her first litter and how that goes. She still needs to have her hips scored but all other health tests are passed, mostly clear by parentage. There has certainly been enough interest in puppies from her. Most non agility (and some agility) people who meet her seem to like her small size and want one just like her – she is, temperament wise, a fairly placid and incredibly gentle Border Collie who suckers people in with her dark liquid brown eyes, her small stature and her affinity for cuddles. She is the first cuddly female BC I have come across. It’s all a ruse though. If sheep or agility or other dogs racing around are involved it unleashes her inner demon very quickly and you wonder if that is a Border Collie or some kind of deranged meerkat hopped up on sugar on the end of the lead. She’s bossy with those dogs she thinks she can get away with being bossy with and sneakily grovelling with those she can’t. She knows exactly what buttons to push on Cypher to get what she wants and could quite easily steal a bone from his mouth if she wanted to.

As from next week we embark on a swimming regime to build up the dogs (and mine) condition to get them ready for the start of the agility season. As usual my fitness can also do with much improvement and I will be endeavouring to get up really early and take them walking (in this heat with the snakes around it’s crazy to be walking any later than 8am or before 7pm at night) and getting a routine going with training in the back yard and at club. So far I have booked three dogs on the plane for the BC Nats and will be entering all three. Only Raven can tell me if she will be coming or not closer to the time. I am under no allusions that this is probably her last Eastern States trip if she does go. She won both Masters Jumping and Open Agility at the last one, it would be great to see one more BC National with her but we take each day as it comes.

Spryte will be competing in the Excellent class, the showing and maybe some herding with Robyn. Cy will come for the agility. Raven has five more Masters Jumping wins to achieve for her Agility Champion and who knows? She may just make it. Stranger things have happened. This year saw two of our veterans achieve the title – Kriszty’s Jess (just turned 10) and Nicole Ford’s Corgi – Beauty who is also ten years old. So that was a great way to finish the year for the WA Agility crowd and absolutely spectacular achievements in light of the tough competition here in WA. Goals for this year? Spryte gets up into the Masters Classes and gets some games titles under her belt along with her ET. Raven stays in remission (really every other goal for her kind of pales into insignificance next to that one) and Cypher finishes off some games titles and I work towards making him as competitive as he can be and maybe finish off his CCD title. Raven is 9 in March, Spryte is 3 in July and Cypher is 5 in October. Three odd numbers must add up to a good year I hope.

In terms of my own personal goals – saving towards a huge holiday in 2011 when long service leave is due, surviving another year as a teacher in a hard to staff school, getting fitter and healthier and trying to stay a little bit more in front and less to the side or utterly behind of the general busyness that is my life. In other words try to overcome my chronic need to procrastinate about just about everything! My final goal is to come to terms and accept the fact that whilst I may be in my 35th year I am still, literally, quite a child at heart. Perhaps accept is not the right term, more like ‘ignore the guilt’. I shall not feel guilty if I want to spend a few hours playing Wii console games with friends, watch trashy popcorn television whilst defending it’s worth to all and sundry or perfect my score on various facebook word games. Also batting cages are good! The place where you can go to hit the crap out of a ball for a good hour has got to be cathartic in some form or another and it is perfectly alright for me to want a brand new softball bat.

In other non agility related news – have seen three movies recently that I enjoyed. Twilight (saw that twice and I’d say it’s because my sister dragged me to see it but in all honesty I was quite happy to watch it again) The Day the Earth Stood Still and Australia. None of them were out of this world oh my god twelve Oscars right there kind of quality but good enough to feel not ripped off by the $16.50 ticket charge these days. Also I am a Twilight addict. Have read all four books several times and shall not apologise for doing so. No they are not the literary equivalent of Bronte, Austen, Dickens or Tolstoy however they are as addictive as trashy television so hence the fascination. Also I have fondness for any kind of supernatural sci fi fantasy genre.

I’m afraid I have no images to make this entry pretty with and I really must fix that oversight as soon as possible. So for the rest of the holidays I shall do my level best to take some photos of blogworthiness quality. The rest of my holidays (which are going way too fast I might add) are filled with social lunches, dinners and drinks, softball and agility training, batting cages, movie going (plan to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button because…well I am curious), tv watching, wii playing, word game playing, reading (the line of books waiting to be read on my shelf right now is rather daunting) and just enjoying the company of Tim, my dogs and family.

First trial back is Jan 17th and is a fun teams event plus Gamblers so looking forward to that plus playing softball on Saturdays from January 10th and also have entered Spryte in a few shows to see if she can pick up some challenges. Lots to do and only so many hours in the day to do it so I find myself obsessively making TO DO lists for each day and trying to make sure I tick off at least two things each day lest I should feel unproductive. Though frankly I think the word holidays really should equal unproductive minus the guilt. Where did this idea come from that on holidays one must be productive? It’s highly overrated and yet I feel suckered into ensuring it remain so, even just a little. This is why people go away for holidays – somehow not being in your own house on a holiday means that you can get away with doing absolutely nothing all day long and feel exactly zero in the guilt department! Solution? Be rich enough to go away for every holiday period. Ahhh such simple solutions to pertinent problems. If only. 🙂

State Titles & SuperSpryte!

Despite the absence of work it would seem that so many things have been piling up recently that I haven’t had the chance to notice I’m on holiday. It shall be definitely noticed Monday morning though. I’ve not updated for a couple weeks now so there’s been a few happenings to report on.

Saturday before last was the Perth Training Club Agility and Jumping Trial and there I was very pleased with most of the runs I did. Spryte did a lovely clear round in NFC Novice Agility (her first one at a trial so far) and then in NFC Novice Jumping she just mistimed her take off for one bar, crashing and face planting through it. Other than that she did a lovely clear round.

Cypher did quite well picking up 5th places in both Masters Jumping and Masters Agility. In Open Jumping he knocked the very last bar on the last jump – a spread. Other than that the run was smooth. Open Agility he missed the distance challenge, an unusual angle on the broad jump causing him to splice it. So all in all very happy with his runs. Raven did a cracker of a run in Masters Agility and I was extremely pleased with it – she got a tough call on the seesaw which I felt she had done correctly so I kept running like we were clear and she handled the course beautifully. Masters Jumping I wussed out on the lead out and let her go before I should have causing all sorts of problems. Open Agility I pushed her over a wrong jump, admittedly because I was caught on the back foot with her speed, she seemed to step up a gear and I just wasn’t ready for that. Open Jumping I did a crap front cross on her and pushed her over the wrong jump.

I joined up with Linda Mecklenberg’s AwesomePawsHandlingSystem email list last week and have found the posts to be extremely interesting in terms of discussion about handling and what we have been training our dogs to do with regards to understanding the combination of cues Linda uses when she handles. Great stuff and very high volume so I’ve flicked it to digest now.

I am still not happy with Spryte’s dogwalk contact and this week will get the contact board out again and do reinforcing sessions of her 2o2o position. Her weavers also need lots of proofing. I know these are all issues with baby, green dogs just starting out in Novice but it’s something you just can’t let slide if you don’t want to have to be paranoid about things when you are out in the ring competing. She had a glitch a couple weeks back with standing up on the start line and of course I drilled the sit/waits every day for two weeks to help overcome that little startline behaviour.

I think avoiding that chronically bad habit (and very hard to kick) of handling to cover gaps in training is one of the keys to success. I handle Raven like this quite often. Just the other night we couldn’t seem to get round a simple oval circuit of 6 jumps with a u shaped tunnel at either end unless I slowed off a little with my driving/running forward. Always bars kept being dropped. The minute I stopped running flat out she kept bars up. That really pisses me off no end. Clearly, there are and always will be, huge gaps in Raven’s jump training. Handling to protect bars or to ensure all the weavers get done or to ensure your dog hits that contact is completely restrictive and will never allow you to handle to your maximum best. So Spryte’s DW contacts will get a work out this week as will her weavers and some handling drills to extinguish this occasional occurrence and extremely irritating little behaviour she has of shooting off behind me from time to time.

Onto the State titles. The Agility Committee of the Canine Association of WA hosts the WA State Titles each year and this weekend the two qualifying trials took place Friday night and Saturday morning with the Finals being Saturday afternoon. Friday night was cold and windy but thankfully not very wet. Spryte was entered competitively in both Novice Agility and Novice Jumping. The older two were in their usual four runs. Spryte did a cracker run in Novice Agility (despite a very tempting contact just asking for her to shoot behind me at one stage of the course) yet I didn’t have enough faith in her for her weaves and my hesitation meant she halted in the weaves (after finding the entry beautifully) causing her to pop out. Her run in Novice Jumping was so smooth it went just how I planned and she came in clear with a 2nd place and a time 19 point something seconds. First leg of JD accomplished and spot in the Final!

Raven had Open Jumping first up and when she knocked a bar we withdrew. In Masters Agility she pulled out a full effort and we ran clear albeit with a few hairy moments, she came in 4th and thusly qualified for the Finals Saturday afternoon. Cypher was really disconnected in Open Jumping – it really seemed like he got halfway round the course and thought we had finished as he headed back towards the start gate! Not sure where his head was at there. Then In Masters Agility we were going great guns until I didn’t cue a turn soon enough and he pinged off over an off course jump. My fault entirely there – he went exactly where I told him! Open Agility and Raven was first in. She did a blinder of a run and the whole 28 seconds felt very smooth, she ended up with a clear round and a first place and a spot in the Final. Cypher was also switched on but had one bar down. We redeemed ourselves with Masters Jumping, quite a technical course and he ran clear in that one. Raven had a bar down in Masters Jumping which actually happened just before I got the course wrong and pulled her off the wrong jump. It is one of those rare occasions where you are actually grateful for a dropped bar.

Saturday morning was fresh and a little chilly, the grass definitely being a little slick till the sun came out fully. Spryte’s first run was in the Novice Agility and instead of handling like I had no worries in the world I got paranoid about the weavers and completely stuffed her up again. *Rolls eyes to heaven* yes I do sense a pattern. Of course every other part was perfect. No Novice Agility final for us! Raven was next up in Open Jumping and we were nearly home when she knocked the second last bar from the finish. Not happy! I did quite vocally express my disappointment when the bar dropped I must admit. Raven, who likes to give everyone who expresses such opinions the furry finger, obviously took it a little to heart because pretty soon we were in the Masters Agility ring and she didn’t put a paw wrong! Another clear round, very fast and I was over my little internal hissy fit on the OJ course. We humans are so mercurial. We ended up in 2nd place (less than half a second off first place and an Agility Champion leg ARGH!!!). Cypher missed the weave entry on that course, I’m pretty sure I stood in the wrong place but he did a really nice Open Jumping run and his Open Agility run was even better. That run earned him a spot in the Open Agility final due to dogs who had double qualified. In Masters Jumping Raven dropped a bar and this time we did withdraw, it wasn’t a bar that had any difficult angle on it and I was running quiet and without any confusion in my signals. Cypher decided that he really couldn’t pull off an inviting spread jump which DQ’d us but I finished the course anyway. Novice Jumping Spryte and I did a really sweet run together and she ran clear to win first place and gain her second leg of Novice Jumping title. I was extremely pleased with the run as everything went to plan.

That afternoon the finals were held and Novice Jumping was first up. I think there were about 8 dogs in the Final. Spryte and I ran the course clear with one slight glitch in direction towards the finish line but other than that smooth and clear. I think a couple of other dogs went clear but it turned out that Spryte’s time had won it. She was the State Novice Jumping Winner – not bad for a little pipsqueak! I was more than just a little proud of her performance over the two days – she handled the environment and the courses really well and seemed to enjoy herself as much as I did. She is certainly a little rocket to run.

Raven and I had a bash at the Masters Agility run but unfortunately I just didn’t get into the right spot on course and caused an off course into a wrong tunnel entry. Apart from this she handled the rest of the course well and was still rocketing through her contacts like she was as fresh as the morning.

Open Agility and it turned out to be a tricky entry onto the seesaw (multiple dogs getting refusals on it) and also the distance challenge turned out to be too difficult for some. My two had no problems with the distance challenge but both had seesaw entry issues.

And that was it – another State over and done with. A tiring but ultimately fun weekend – some of my runs felt really good, others not so much but most of all I was happy with Spryte’s first taste of a full on competition weekend. Raven is feeling really very good and it’s hard to believe I have to take her into Murdoch Tuesday for her chemo, to look at her you would never suspect the stuff she’s gone through. Her whiskers have grown back from when they all fell out at the conclusion of her last round of chemo. Now I wonder if these newly grown ones will disappear as time goes on. Hopefully after another couple of months this will all be over for good.

2008 WA State Novice Jumping Winner –
Winpara Out of Sight HT – Spryte (20 months old)





Cathy Slot Jumping Weekend

Finally my notes are ready. Apologies in advance for the mixed fonts in this post. Can I just say that the Blogger Post editing sucks. And I don’t do HTML.

A few weeks ago now I attended and worked Cypher at a jumping weekend conducted by Cathy Slot from Queensland. Cathy has had the honour now of working with Susan Salo’s methodology a number of times now including a whole week in Canada with Susan Salo herself in 2006. She emphasised she was sharing, to the best of her ability and recollection, what she had learnt from working with Susan and also through working with handlers and dogs on the East Coast. Cathy regularly reiterated through out the whole weekend that she was by no means an expert in jumping she never the less felt that Susan’s training methods had helped a large number of dogs who struggled with jumping and even dogs who needed to make their style more efficient and tidier. Cathy said that she was happy to share as much as she could, given that Susan Salo had indicated she wouldn’t be able to come to Australia to teach everyone herself.She also referred everyone to Susan’s articles in Clean Run (US) magazine. The following notes and images were transcribed from my scribbles at the three day weekend. If you are working from these notes, please remember that there isn’t a “set recipe” for all dogs. I must say it required a quite radical change in my usual methodology towards teaching jumping. I have been of the belief that keeping grids low for too long will results in dogs’ becoming lazy over jumps especially if when toes are clicking against bars or bars are being dropped that we do not mark it in some way. I’m all for getting them jumping at competition height asap so that there is less repetition on heights they will not see in trials and less chance for bar touching/knocking. The following weekend meant a rather big change in that approach however it is the first time keeping grids low has made sense to me. I can see that there is very good rationale behind it. I am using the following grids with all three of my dogs – only one of which has a bar knocking problem, the other two are needing improvement on their general style and ability to scope and take off points. Cathy did mention that once the dog is jumping full height, Susan will continue get them to jump a variety of heights, including during sequencing/exercises, usually including higher than their competition jump height.

  • Jumping Grids are a lifelong training skill

Every time your dog jumps there are multiple components to that skill/behaviour performance.
It’s like a question with multiple parts and if one part is wrong then the whole question is wrong.
The components of Jumping:

  • Path
  • Distance
  • Appropriate Judgement of Take Off Point
  • Weight transfer
  • Angle of Elevation
  • Height

Dog needs to be able to SCOPE which equals reading ahead and adjusting their stride. We want dogs to anticipate the job ahead.

The Dog’s job is to have a focused mind and be physically able/skilled.

Susan Salo’s Theory is that as handlers we interfere with the dog’s process.

Dogs naturally want to carry 75% of their body weight on their front, in front of their shoulder line.

The efficient dog often seems to be slower in appearance when being watched but in reality is quicker.

Agility equals a hugely complex problem solving exercise.

In weaving we don’t want the ‘pitter patter’ effect but we do want to see them driving into the weaves and maintaining their rhythm. The reason why Susan Salo uses jump grids is so she can control the environment and teach the dog rhythm.

Good jumping sounds soft and rhythmic. We need to listen more carefully to our dog’s jumping style. We do not want to see the dog pulling on shoulders or being inverted over a jump.

A lot of grids will be bounce work. The grids are designed for the dog to be successful not to catch the dog out.

  • PROOFING

We are not to do these exercises to death. We do not have to perfect #1 before going onto #2 etc. Susan Salo is changing everything all the time otherwise the dog learns a habit.
There are only two scenarios in all the grid exercises where you have the heights of grids at full height.

Jump humps are for 6 month old puppies. See image.

We need to think about the bars we use for proofing and make sure we use a huge variety of colours, sizes and looks.

With regards to speed the speed will come once the dog gets understanding.

Distance Exercise – Most important because every time the dog does it the picture has changed. IE a jump has changed distance in relation to the jumps prior or after it.

On Bend Work it’s important to note that the dog’s weight is inequable in distribution. The longer the stride the harder it is for weight transfer.

Susan Salo: You cannot have a dog who is perfect across the whole realm of jumping components.

Puppies & Jump Humps – Designed to help with:

  • Spatial Awareness
  • Path
  • Extend and Collect
  • Look Ahead and Read

The Dog always determines how fast you move on.

Plus independent performance of the jumping skills is what also determines progress.

Susan Salo: The dog should do what’s in front of it unless I tell him otherwise.

When doing grid work a lure or toy is used. High drive to a toy is very beneficial however food on a target plate can also be used.

When watching the dog jump we are looking for:

  • Ease of Motion
  • Fluidity
  • Smooth movement between obstacles

Dropped Bars are a matter of Cause and Effect

The cause is often outside of the dog’s power. Therefore both Susan and Cathy believe that punishing dropped bars is inappropriate and unfair.

Every hour of agility training that you do you should be putting in two hours of conditioning work.

Susan Salo: Prior to commencing bend work get a dressmaker tape measure and measure the width/circumference of your dog’s thigh muscles on both sides. If your training is more on one side than the other then you will notice a difference in the thigh measurements from one side to the other.

Most important repetition is the one you do the very first time because that reflects the dog’s natural way of jumping and ability to read the “puzzle” set.

Dog should use minimal effort to get over bar ie just enough to get the job done.

In Foundation Work:

For an unbalanced dog – give the dog the easy side, then hard side and finish with the easy side. Always finish with the easy side for the dog.

Perch Work – the weight should be on the front. Add a jump hump to each side of the perch so the dog has to step sideways with hind feet over the jump hump.

Ladder Work – Looking for trotting and rewarding low.

Tugging – Shouldn’t do it from side to side or up and down. Tugging should be back away from you in a straight line.

If a dog is knocking the same bar in a grid then you need to make the jump before or two jumps before look different visually.

BE CAREFUL OF NOT OVERFACING DOGS.

When Proofing only change one thing at a time:

Walking

Running

Sending

Coming in from behind

Throwing of the toy

We need to constantly ask ourselves Are our expectations too high for the dog?

Sit position is recommended at the start line however not with crunched shoulder position. The angle of the shoulders in the sit should be open and not closed via the dog crouching or going ‘vulture’ like.

Susal Salo: In her opinion the dog sees each jump as a specific jump they don’t generalise well.

Bar type and stripes affect the value of the jump to the dog.

Colours & Shape – Yellows and pale greens fade into the background.

Susan Salo: Some days it may not be what you think is successful as long as the dog is still trying you are successful.

  • SET POINT – this is the place at which the dog organises their body to leave the ground. The head should be low and the back soft and relaxed.
  • REPETITIONS – The Set Point Exercise can be done up to three times a week.
  • Whenever you do BEND grids should always start and finish with STRAIGHT lines

We always start off with the SET POINT exercise because there is no speed. It presents the correct take off point to the dog.


HURDLES

  • With Wings
  • Without Wings
  • Round Bar
  • Square Bar
  • Flowerpots at Wing
  • Flowerpots Under Hurdle
  • Something flapping
  • Panel Jumps
  • Tyre
  • Double Spread as a straight oxer
  • Triple spread as a rising spread

NEVER DO THE GRIDS NEXT TO A FENCE. Why? Because then the dog is not choosing and we don’t see it’s natural style.

Susan Salo: Does not like shaping the tyre. Trains hurdle first.

When the dog jumps two bars at once in the grids: lower grid then go in and reward between the two jumps in question.

PROGRESSIVE GRID Measures: 1 jump hump plus 5 jumps at 5, 6, 7 and 8 feet apart. IE Each grid is longer than the one before.

If dog puts an extra stride in then you should compress the jumps.

Cypher was not reliant on my movement as to whether he got his rear end under him well.

When training the Broad Jump put the bar at the beginning of the boards.

MOVING GRID – (helps dogs judge distance) 4 bars plus jump hump
Jump hump then 3 ft to first hurdle, then 6ft to 2nd hurdle, 6ft to 3rd hurdle then 15 ft to 4th hurdle. 6 Repetitions.

Rep #1 – Start as above
Rep #2 – Move last hurdle out half a foot
Rep #3 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #4 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #5 – Move last hurdle out another half foot
Rep #6 – Finish with the same as Rep #1

The amount of distance to move out or in on each repetition is determined by the dog. It does not have to be a minimum amount, the main thing is that it moves every time.

Once dog is understanding the above grid and is bounce jumping then can start with the 4th hurdle at 16 ft, 17ft, 18ft and so on. Should be able to move out to 21 feet for medium/large dogs after much practice. The last jump bar only can be moved up to full height. All other bars should stay low no more than 300 and can be lowered if necessary. If dog is surprised by placement of the last bar (or perhaps you want to check if they really intended doing what they did, eg after a bounce to 15 feet, instead of one stride) then do not move that bar out to see if they repeat the same performance. If so, it was intentional, if not it probably did catch them by surprise.

For small dogs the measurements are 2ft from jump hump then 4, 4 and 9 feet.

If dogs are two striding between 3rd and 4th bar then still move out at least one inch and
lower the jumps.

Reward effort EVEN IF dog puts two strides in or jumps two bars at once. Up to 21 feet is average for a Border Collie. 23 feet expected for average large dog.

The last bar can also become a tyre, flowerpot jump or spread.
Always be assessing the mental attitude of your dog.

When do you do what grids?

BALANCE GRID – Standard maintenance is just before a competition and once after the competition. For a high maintenance dog – then 3 times a week. Once a week is sufficient for a dog with no jumping issues. Once a fortnight do the SET POINT exercises.

Maintenance should happen before working in seminars and you should do the balance grids after these and competitions.

Bend Work should be done once a month for standard maintenance.

Basic Bend Work once a fortnight.

TURNS – Most dogs can power in or power out of a turn but cannot do both.

Susan Salo: The average speed dog can beat the superior speed dog many times over if it can use what it has and knows how to bend.

SLICE: What dogs do when taking jumps at angles. Susan Salo works the tyre into the slice.

GRIDWORK SUMMARY

Start with – Straight Grids then go onto Bend Grids and then Slice Grids

Always Finish with Straight Grids.

SET POINT EXERCISE. See images.



There are two options for where the handler can stand. Option A: In line with the toy or lure but at least 2 to 3 meters away parallel. Option B: In line with the dog but at least 2 to 3 meters away parallel. Handler needs to be out of the picture as much as possible. Handler may take one step forward.

Cypher needs to work on feet not moving when I go back and reward with food on the start line.

Dogs front two feet should be as close to jump hump as possible. Dog does not have to be perfect but you want the dog to be making eye contact with the lure/toy.

If the dog just launches and doesn’t put a stride in over jump hump and he does that twice in a row then move jump hump back away from jump in 3 inch increments. Also reward in the gap between the hump and the hurdle.

When doing this exercise do not alternate between lead out and send. Pick one option and repeat a few times on both sides. Then do the one you didn’t start with. This exercise starts with bar low and works up to normal height.

If the dog is not rounding nicely over the bar and is pulling with shoulders change the look. See picture below. Start with one piece of long PVC coming down one side. If still not happy then add the second piece on the other side.


For Puppies

Start with both pieces of long PVC forming a V from each upright and use a jump hump on the ground instead of a bar.

Don’t Forget: For all SET POINT exercises change the look of the bar/uprights (whole picture) in order to PROOF.

BALANCE GRID

5 Jumps plus 1 Jump Hump

For Medium/Large dogs

Jump Hump – 3 ft – Bar 1 – 6ft- Bar 2 – 6ft – Bar 3 – 6ft – Bar 4 – 6ft – Bar 5.

This is the Basic Standard Grid.

Always place Lure or Toy 2 stride lengths from the last bar.

Things to Look For:

  • Is dog landing in centre between two bars?
  • Does dog gets it’s back end underneath them?
  • What does the dog’s jumping sound like? Loud or feather like
  • What si the dog’s head and rear end doing?

Cypher’s style/form changed when I sent him as opposed to when I did a lead out.

BALANCE GRID VARIATION

Have 3 bars low and 2 of the bars high. (Still never at full height)

Bar 1 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Bar 2 – High (Medium large dogs 300/400)

Bar 3 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Bar 4 – High (Medium large dogs 300/400)

Bar 5 – Low (Medium large dogs 200)

Still 4ft apart for Small Dogs and 6 ft apart for medium/large.

Ultimate aim: To remove Bar 3 in order to one stride between 2 and 4.

PRIMARY BEND GRID


Exercise 1. 8 Repetitions.

Rep 1 – 3 have dog bend round one side three times. Keep the dog on a circle path with the placement of lure/toy.

Rep 4,5 6 have dog bend round the other side three times. Again keep the dog on a cicle path with the placement of lure/toy. Handler always positioned on the inside. May take a step forward if dog cutting inside of uprights.

Rep 7 and 8 – One in each direction

Cypher good at bending left, bending right more awkward.

Don’t forget should always do the STRAIGHT BALANCE grid before and after BEND and SLICE work.

Exercise 2

See Image

This exercise can be worked as a figure 8.

SLICING

See image.

This exercise teaches the dog to slice jumps (ie take them at acute angles)

To make slice angle more acute move jump humps out sideways. Three reps on one side then three reps on the other side.

The middle bar can be moved up to full height.

With slices it is important to work both equally.

Basic Grids can be turned into slicing grids. Exchange the bar in the slice exercise for a tyre and for a spread.

PROOF SLICES LIKE ANYTHING ELSE.

BEND WORK IS NOT PRACTICED ENOUGH – REMEMBER TO TRY AND KEEP HANDS AND BODY OUT OF THE PICTURE.

Troubleshooting:

For dogs that jump with heads high and gazelle like do the SETPOINT exercise that is set up for puppies except instead of jump hump as a bar you use solid panels. The two pieces of PVC are also V set on the landing side of the jump (the BACK of the jump). Jump hump is 3 ft away from jump panels.

Dogs with Early take off: MOVING GRIDS.

HALF CIRCLE WORK – A progression from Bend Grids.

See Image.


AIM: Want the dog giving 3 performances irrespective of where the handler is.

Rep #1 Dog does Bar 1, 2 and 3 (Toy placed on ground between 3 and 4)

Rep #2 Dog does Bar 3, 2 and 1.

Rep #3 Dog does Bar 1,2,3,4 and 5.

Rep #4 Dog does Bar 5,4,3,2 and 1.

Problems: Change things in the following order if not successful:

1) Lower the heights first

2) Break it down into segments second

3) Bring Arc in or out thirdly

Make sure you return to a balance grid variable heights after this work.

DOUBLE OXER GRID

See image:

  • AIMS: Trying to get the dog to have rhythm
  • Cathy noted our dogs have good toy drive
  • If you do run down the lane then you automatically increase drive and length of stride and you’ll never know if he actually understands/scopes/judges well

Progression: Not testing to see if the dog bounces each jump. If the dog is not bouncing then bring the heights down THEN bring in the last two.

Testing to see if dog judges that it needs more effort for each bar.

WHY WE USE A TOY. It decreases the impact of the handler.

Susan Salo: A dog can take anything up to 12 months to develop a good jumping style. Earlier for scoping skills to develop.

SCOPING: The dog’s ability to read and adjust stride over a number of variable distances and jump heights. This only starts to happen after a dog is completing the BALANCE GRIDS very well.

Six Meter apart jump lanes can be used for handling practice.


An Eventful Week

Phew. Deep breath. I think I’m sleeping in Monday. The past seven days have been a flurry of activity for me and I need to chill this week. Did the movies on Tuesday and watched The Golden Compass with some friends. I liked it, not Movie of the Year material yet still very entertaining and absorbing. It stayed quite close to the Philip Pullman books and I liked the theological aspects present in both formats. The bears were impressive and pulled no punches in the brutality of their hierarchy. Lyra was played by a girl who looked very much like the image I had in my mind of the main character when I was reading the books. Worth the movie ticket price. Cloverfield wasn’t. I left the cinema with a vague sense of being ripped off and a growing desire to write the film makers demanding my money back for what was obviously a fairly cheaply made movie with an underhanded marketing ploy. Last time I fall for that one. If you like hand held dodgy film work for an hour and a half combined with a few special effects of a monster, very little character development and no story apart from Monster destroys city then this is the flick for you. Just make sure you don’t suffer nausea with watching a screen constantly in motion with someone’s hand holding a mini-cam.

Wednesday and Thursday we (Tim, myself, Cypher and Spryte) took a trip to just outside of Dongara to stay on a rural property with family. 4 hours north of Perth, the property is huge and the beach side of the highway and is really in a great location. We had a relaxing yet energising stay taking the dogs on long walks, checking out the property, swimming in the pool, doing some dune 4 wheel driving to the beach and generally engaging in very pleasant chatter about what animals would be raised there, what improvements would be made and the benefits of a rural life. I have to admit I am very much taken with the idea of being able to step out the back door and just walk for ages without signs of neighbours, traffic, city noises, other dogs or people. Tranquil, serene and peaceful are all adjectives that apply.

There were a couple of other dogs there and Spryte learnt to deal with them whilst Cypher suffered in not so much silence but more with much vocalising of his displeasure with the arrangements. The boy really needs to realise that if I am within 10 feet of him he doesn’t have to do his manly macho posturing in order for me to feel safe and that everyone knows he’s full of the proverbial as when push comes to shove he’s the biggest piece of chicken faecal matter out there. So that was a very nice but short break from suburbia and one that we hope to repeat sometime soon! Photos posted below.


Some of the gardens round the house.



Cole – the most chilled out cat I’ve ever had the pleasure
of meeting. So does not give a stuff about dogs and can
intimidate them all with a single swipe of his paws.

This is Molly and no she is not fat…
that’s 11 puppies in there born 4 days after we left!


Beans – 8 months old and probably a cross between
a bully something and a kangaroo. She has the most
gorgeous temperament and is probably quite ADD.








Spryte likes to use her pointy end in playing.

Got back in late Thursday night and then was up again early Friday morning to ensure that I was down in time for the start of the seminars by Greg and Laura Derrett. Greg and Laura came out from the UK and gave us three days of tuition. Despite the stinking hot weather we’ve had around here recently (38 degrees celcius in the shade) I do believe that everyone got something out of their workshops. I had to help out a friend that day with an event up in Whiteman Park (remote control cars – buggys they call them). The State Championships were being held and I helped out with the canteen whilst Tim took photos. A couple of good ones posted below but he has more at his www.yourdogphotos.com website.



Back in the afternoon to get ready for a trial. Spryte was entered in NFC (Not For Competition) but I scratched her as she had run pretty hard at the beach and given herself a blister which broke causing her to limp. I trimmed the skin off and she was fine after a while. Cypher was feeling pretty wiped out I think. He’d swum quite hard at the beach the day before as the current was quite strong and spent a long time running up and down. I think he must have been feeling it because he dropped bars in a couple of courses, went clear in two classes but was feeling quite slow to run. Raven was very good. I pulled her out in her first run – Open Jumping as she dropped a bar. Then in Masters Agility she tried so hard and I was a completely crap handler and cost her a qually. In Open Agility she dropped a couple of bars and then in Masters Jumping crap handler came out again and opened mouth unnecessarily and pulled her off a jump. *Sigh* Of course she kept all her bars up. Grrrrr ARGH!! I seriously do not know when I am going to get it through my head that our silent runs are always our best runs. That was proven beautifully on Saturday night. Masters Agility was our first run and I was a wuss and released her before I got to the point I wanted to be and she dropped a bar so we withdrew. Then I had Open Jumping with her and said maybe three verbals at the most and she ran clear there. Open Agility she ran beautifully in a very fast time and I apparently kicked an upright as I ran past it knocking the bar off! Clutz! I didn’t even realise I’d done it till after the Judge and timekeeper told me. Then last run of the night was Masters Jumping again, kept mouth closed through most of it and she ran clear and came 2nd. I think my 2008 mantra for running Raven will be ‘Shut Up’. Or perhaps I should just invest in some gaffer tape.


The highlight for me on Saturday night was running young Spryte. I entered her in Novice Jumping in NFC and walked the course to see if I would actually run her. It was a very nice first course so I decided to go ahead. The SCT on it was 34 seconds I think. I was very pleased with her by the end of that run as not only had she run it clear she had also run it with the quickest time of the class in 19 seconds. That was a really nice way to start our trialling career. The judge wanted to know why I had her in NFC as she would have won but I explained the reasoning. To me this was like a show n go or a fun match just to see where she was at. Although she ran well I know she can run faster so I’m hoping with a few more NFC runs under our belt her confidence and speed will increase. A friend videoed it so it was good to watch it back. She took a couple of seconds to orient herself after the chute tunnel so I perhaps should have spoken to her there.

Tim was there taking photos with the new Nikon D300. I really like the speed of this camera, it can take up to 8 frames per second. Below is a four shot sequence of a seesaw by one of the fastest dogs in the country. Domino obviously executes a two on two off seesaw (and is one of the only dogs either brave enough or kamikaze enough to have his front paws hanging off like this) and is trained and handled by Gina O’Keefe. He’s owned by Gina and Liz Alcock. I daresay his seesaw is around 0.5 to 0.7 from paw on to stop.





During the day on Saturday I audited Greg and Laura. The Advanced session with Greg in the morning and the Puppy session with Laura in the afternoon. Both workshops were good in that they gave me exercises, drills, little games to work on with all my dogs. We watched some footage of the nose touch seesaw application and some of the jump grid work they do plus flatwork and how they use tugging. Greg spoke about teaching a running a frame and the issues associated with it. His Detox and Susan Garrett’s Encore are currently the only two dogs who have been taught it. He’s still not sure if he will teach his next dog a running a frame till Detox is 4 and showing evidence of it’s benefit over the nose touch. Lots of interesting discussions took place and I will write up some of my notes soon.


Sunday I had booked private lessons with Laura and we had one first up in the morning. Sue and I had our young dogs there and Cathy had Snazzy. She set up the double box grid and tested our dogs initially just to see if they were up to doing some drills on there. To be honest I wasn’t sure that Spryte would be, unlike Raven and Cypher she is not a dog you can train over and over and she’s still giving everything she’s got. I take the less is more, quality over quantity approach with her. So I brought Cy with me just in case. However she was great, she had several runs on several different sequences and she coped very well, Even when I brought the Frisbee out after using food she was keen to get to it. Not Cypher level keenness (let’s face it….that level is more a manic kind of keenness) but keener than I thought she would be. An absolute bonus was that we broached the cutting behind tendencies that show up from time to time not just with Spryte but with the other youngsters. I wasn’t sure how to combat that however Laura broke it down and explained very specifically what to do in this situation. We need to avoid at all costs the cutting behind to the extent that if we see them doing it we whip around and grab them to make sure they don’t complete the cross behind. It’s an issue that can become a huge bane in your training and trialling and it’s something we need to work on everyday. I also covered Cy’s seesaw behaviour (different in trials compared to training), the cue we use combined with deceleration to indicate a turn, rear cross timing, front cross timing. So much stuff to do I’m glad I took notes. I really need to write up a training program for me as I can easily see that everyone misses out training something. I think the best way to avoid that is to write up a training program. Yes because I have so much time to write these sorts of things! Hmmm….perhaps I shall write up a book, a week by week break down of what to train, the duration of particular training and when to train it; it should give, in the long term, complete coverage over everything! Sounds very technical and methodical to me (and so not my modus operandi) but surely it has to be better than the haphazard approach I have now which is “Oh crap that went wrong, I now know what I’m training next session”.

I have been mucking around with photoshop and some images. There are some really nice backgrounds out there on stock image websites and learning how to manipulate them, render and lift off foregrounds has been interesting. Not that I’ll ever use this name or prefix to breed but it’s fun to play around with it.

The next big event on the calendar for us is Friday night. I finally get to see The Police live in concert for the first (and no doubt the last) time ever. All I’ve heard about them so far has been excellent and I cannot wait! Agility people will realise how much this means to me when they know I’m actually giving up a trial for this concert. It takes a lot for me to miss a night of agility! However there was no hesitation on my part. That said, Rave and Cy are still entered, I figured Robyn can have some fun with them and she can remember all over again the joys of running Masters courses. *Evil grin*

2008 – Better than 2007 surely!

January 21st 2008

Well still have lots of updates to do here. I am just waiting on approval to post my Cathy Slot jumping workshop notes and the Stacy Peardot seminar review will be up here soon. Stay tuned. On other fronts things are moving along quickly. I’ve realised today there is ten days left before I have to go back to work. I really wish time could slow down during holidays that would be a very handy trick.

So the Spryte is 18 months old today! Officially legal for competition now. Our first real competition will be at the beginning of March at our Western Classic. I am entering her in the NFC (not For Competition) entry for a while first though – she’ll get a few runs in just to get some experience and for us to figure out what we need to target in training. I know we still have loads to work on and she is no where near the skill level that Cypher was at this age but then again I now have three dogs training and less time to train them with. We have made a concrete decision on the contacts – she is doing a 2on2off dogwalk and a running a frame. She’s played on the seesaw a couple of times but we’ve done no formal work on it yet. The weaves and the dog walk have had the most attention and now I am focussing on flat work and body cues and the turns/change of sides. She is not one of these dogs who will just train and train and train, so in a way it is good that I have three to train because it means I don’t overface her on stuff. Her toy drive is slowly increasing and I have to be very careful about when I use them because bringing them out at the wrong time certainly causes them to devalue in her eyes. It’s exciting though, having a new dog to take into the ring, I’m looking forward to it whatever it may bring.

Cypher had a great start to his 2008 trialling season on Saturday night. He had one run in Excellent Gamblers class and finished 1 point behind the winner yet quicker by several seconds. So that was a well earned 2nd place and his 4th leg of GDX, one to go! Then he had one run in Jumping and one in Agility for the fun teams event and pulled off two lovely clear rounds. I really think the grid work and exercises I have been doing from the jumping workshop have helped. So he helped our team to first place. Things I want to work on with his trialling this year is tightening up his turns and experimenting with transitioning to running contacts in trials.

Raven also had a great start to the year, still in remission (despite Simone being paranoid at one point, booking an appointment with Ken and then being told quite happily that I should go home and enjoy Christmas with my very much still in remission Border Collie) and enjoying life to the full. She has the equivalent of a puppy coat on now, which is great for summer but does make her look so much smaller and younger (till you spot the grey on the face!). I was a bit concerned that perhaps I had been too relaxed with her over the break as when we came back to training she was knocking bars all over the place. Then I started to do some grid work and set point work with her and it must have helped. Three runs last Saturday for three clear rounds! She won the Masters Gamblers class with 99 points for her 2nd leg (her third go at GDM) and then she pulled off two clear rounds for the teams event despite being the Reserve dog! So she helped us get rid of a DQ and faults score and put in a cracker agility round. She was quite simply a star and I was absolutely chuffed with her. I really hope this sets the tone for the year but one can never count on *anything* with Raven!

So the big events coming up – Greg and Laura Derrett arrive on Thursday and are here for workshops on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We have two trials on the weekend – Friday and Saturday night as well. So it’s going to be pretty hectic. The club goes back on the first Tuesday in February and that is going to be full on, we have so much to to try out this year. The big event for today – apart from Spryte turning 18 months, is that Tim’s new camera arrived, a Nikon D300 and of course we had to go down the Canine and test it out (despite the heat and the rather stark sunlight). So below are some pics we took today. I must say trained dogs are certainly easier to get photos of.

Cypher – throw the damn frisbee!

I shall use the ‘look’ and see if that gets me any joy.


Up…..!

Up….!

And away!

The Cypher Toy – World’s First Live Dog Tug Toy

Mouth open…

Mouth closed….

Does the hippy swivel shake aerial maneuver whilst
catching frisbee…see boys *can* multi-task

The joyful romp of the holder of the frisbee

Oh well least he won’t be unbalanced…she tugs on
both sides with equal exuberance

Raven – I don’t even like the frisbee that much

But if there’s a chance I can catch it before that riff raff does…

Then I will do my darndest!

Uh huh…there you go! That’s what front paws are for!

The Ready Steady Go! Shoot.
Take 1. Spryte can’t bare to look.

Take Two – and we all know Raven cheated and broke her start,
just look at that face!

Take Three – we’ve nearly got the hang of it

Take 4 – Hurrah! Perfect!
Ready! Steady! Go!!!

I had to do a closeup crop of Spryte with her eyes squeezed
shut! Hilarious! Think I’ll have to buy her some sunnies or something!

Spryte is very good at beating Cypher to the frisbee now,
much to his disgust though he pretends otherwise.

She definitely does the Nyah Nyah Nyah face quite well.

Spryte likes running. Fast.

Very Fast.
Especially when she gets the opportunity to
beat Raven somewhere. For a girl with short legs
she sure knows how to use them!