Monday, November 29, 2010

Shaping... up

Well this is a multi-purpose post:

Part one, here is a video of the weekend.  It is the national league contact round.  Two bars down, which was absolutely my fault.  My timing is attrocious, although I have actually been training my jumping so Chaos shouldn't knock a bar, REGARDLESS of my movement... oh well.  I am also pretty sure he missed the up contact on the dogwalk (it didn't get faulted though), but I am one of the front-runners of the fight against up contacts.  If you look at this video, Chaos is not jumping on to the dogwalk, but he has a huge stride... it is just the way it is.  It would be MORE hazardous to his health if I trained him to hit/target the up contact.

And then Richard asked me to run Snitch (his son Kraig's dog) literally 10 seconds before he had to be on the start line... we had fun though.  He is such a sweet boy.

Okay so the next part of the update is about the Superboys...  The problem is that I don't have a tripod (note to self, add to xmas wishlist), so I am forever trying to set up my video camera on the dogwalk or the wall or the veranda and this just ends up getting heads/paws/tails cut off in the picture.  Anthony gets home long after dark, but tonight we tried taking some videos of the boys with the night light.  Very unsuccessful, but I am posting them anyway, for those of you that have Superman X-Ray vision.

This is a video of my thirteen year odl BC, Echo.  He still loves to work, despite his physical limitations.  I taught him to 'play  dead' in a few days.  

I am teaching Chaos really random little actions, otherwise he stresses too much about 'getting it right'.

Quake really has amazing balance and control for a Border of his size (he is 56cm at the shoulder and a muscualr but stocky boy, weighing 21kg's with not an ounce of fat on him).  You can't really see that on this video.

I don't know if it is Delta's obsession with food, but this boy loves the game sof tricks.  The 'climbing into the box' trick and the weaving in between my legs trick we literally started today.  I am already looking for very creative things to teach this little dog.  Any suggestions?

Now for the puppy update...  I am completely addicted to this little maniac.Thus far he has been an 'all in one' package!  He is beautiful. He is the sweetest dog ever, but he wants to play with everyone and everything and he will play as 'rough' as I dictate.  He has no fear and all the confidence in the world.  And man is he clever.  I did his first little shaping session today and he is brilliant.  Ants tried to record this for me too, but it is super dark, so doubt you will see much.  He is a little distracted as Ants had literally arrived home minutes earlier, but still a super little boy.

Since this is turning into a super long update, I think I will finish the rest of the post tomorrw...

Btw, I am offering bribes for anyone that is willing to come and tape me during daylight hours :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chaos with Wings

And I am not referring to the flying type...

I will have to explain.  I book Chaos after getting to know a friend's dog very well (Julie's Blitz).  I adore Blitz, especially because of his amazing work ethic.  So Chaos is from the same mating but a later litter.  No offense to Julie, but Blitz has one problem:  He makes herding style turns, halfway to Cape Town.  Blitz is very wide.  So when I got Chaos, my very first priority was to teach him to turn on a tikki and wrap around everything.  And when I say wrap, I mean Saran wrap... Well it worked let me tell you... AND created a whole new problem.  Chaos doesn't knock bars that often, but he knocks wings like its going out of fashion.  Not only was I reminded of this when he once again did it three times this weekend, but also from the (awesome) pics that I got from Melissa:

 He really works hard to keep the bars up, but he never learnt to respect the wings!
 Especially on PVC equipment, which is slightly lighter.
 As I said, knocks the wings, not the bars.

Please take a good look at his tail... which is wrapped around the damn wing!
So moral of the story, do not over do or over train anything because of your OWN paranoia...

Despite this, this intense boy, with all his issues (of which there are a lot, hence the nickname Spaz) is my heart and soul.  So intense...
Second last Agility weekend of the year... it is that time when I look back and try to decide whether I reached my goals for the year.  Still thinking but I will let you know!

Puppy update: Volt is still awesome, his Sheltie personality already creeping very deep into my heart....  In total we spend about TWO HOURS a day playing intensely (I mean just me and him, this does not include the other 18 hours a day that he plays...).  I am scared that it might be too much, but he keeps on bringing me toys and asking for a play...  Still not crazy about his food, but I am not giving up hope.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It has to be me right?

Okay, so in all my Sheltie research a few things became very apparent.  I mean besides the fact that is obviously an awesome breed (still need to decide whether they are as awesome as my BC's though, it has only been a few days). I am referring to things like: 'Sheltie growth can be unpredictable', 'Shelties are cautious of strangers', 'Shelties are noisy'... you know those kinds of things.  Well first of all, I have to say that Volt is different in a lot of ways.  He loves strangers, in the last few days he has met many of them and he bolts toward strangers and proceeds to kiss them to death.  Even one of the African ladies at the office who is terrified of dogs, got licked into a coma (much to her horror AND delight).  He is not noisy at all, he plays like a demon, in fact he never stops, but he barely ever barks.  He will growl playfully when I tug with him and whine when he needs to go outside for a toilet.  I have heard him yap once, when my BC's were barking insanely at the postman (which I hate, but it is his fault, as he smacks the newspaper against the gate and yells at them).  On the growth thing I will still have to get back to you (please, please, please let him be under 34cm)... but the thing that is bothering me most is that Shelties are supposed to LOVE their food...

Now let me explain this to you first, I am not fond of using food in Agility, BUT I love food-driven dogs, as it makes training EVERYTHING so much more convenient.  Well Echo has always loved his food (and his toys... easy peasy).  Then things went south.  Delta never had a remote interest in food until I neutered him (which I only did when he was 7 and retired from competition).  Chaos has never had any interest in food.  He is four and he STILL might eat one meal a day.  I have been to so many vets on so many occasions with that dog, that I have completely lost count, the verdict... he is COMPLETELY healthy.  But give that boy a toy or work and he is go go go, 24/7.  Quake is not interested in food either, unless you leave him in a crate with his food for an hour so...  With my non-food driven BC's I have gazillions of different methods and even more types of treats, they are just not that keen.  They prefer their toys...

And guess what?  Volt is the same (for now), maybe a little bit better.  I do get to click and feed for eye contact and some other behaviours, but this boy is just not that into his food.  His drive for food is 40km/h on the highway in a 120km/h zone...  and his drive for toys would get him arrested for driving an F1 car full speed through a school yard.  If he even spots a toy while I am trying to feed him, it's a lost cause.  Please understand, I won't exchange that toy drive for anything, but why can't I just also have a dog that has both... haha it has to be my right? 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Yet another update - Borders and Shelties

Haha, I will try not to do too many updates about Jonas, now known as Volt, the blue merle Sheltie boy. 

Today I went into the office quickly, Volt went with and met a whole load of new people.  I have read so much about how Shelties are wary of strangers, that I was expecting the worst.  But Volt is amazing and loves all new people and dogs... and especially my three legged cat, Loki (who personally has no idea what to do with this tiny puppy).  I am probably jinxing this, but thus far Volt has been the perfect puppy:  He plays with everyone and everything, especially with me he plays like a spunky little demon, he gets along with everyone, he eats and does his toilet outside, he travels like a dream, just goes to sleep in his crate, he runs and hops and has a lot of personality, but give him a chew toy and put him in his bed or his crate and he quietly entertains himself.

All we are doing at the moment is play, and click and feed for eye contacts, sits and downs, and play... oh wait and more play...  and then some more play.

And some more play:

I measured him today, 22.5cm (8.9 inches), at the shoulder, at 12 weeks.  I have read and heard that Sheltie growth can be very unpredictable, maybe someone that has more experience with Sheltie breeding can send me a mail or message on Facebook with their opinion?

Just so that all of you don't think that I am JUST Sheltie puppy obsessed now...  I have had a lot of short training sessions with my other boys.  Chaos is working like a dream, his speed and confidence have definitely improved.  I am struggling a bit with Quake's contacts, he has also gained speed and confidence, so much so that he now overstimates the 2 on 2 off and ends up stopping AFTER the dogwalk.  My old man is just being his awesome self...  But the real star is Delta, he is learning 4 new tricks on average a week... he has them all down to command only, and he is LOVING it.  Maybe I should do a little bit of dancing with him... damn, if only there were more hours in a day and more days in a week...  5 dogs, 4 cats, study and work... oh yes and a husband (ducks from Anthony :) ) , sure does take up a lot of time!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Jonas aka Volt has arrived.

Well, my little boy is home... 

I was at the airport early and coincidentally an agility friend's German Shepherd was arriving on the same flight. It was such a relief to know there was another puppy on the flight. Both our documentation was in order and we sorted that out with no problem.  Still it took some time.  Beaurocracy!!!

Finally the moment arrived!

Jonas jumped out and immediately tried to engage me in a game, pouncing, bouncing up and down.  We wanted the puppies to do the toilet and have some water, but all they were interested in was playing with each other, despite the size difference (the GSD pup is already over 4 months and about 10 times Jonas's size).  We decided that it was a lost cause, so we headed home.  First stop was Anthony's office, just so Jonas could meet his 'dad' for the first time (due to work commitments Anthony could not go with to the airport).  Jonas spent five minutes kissing Anthony to death.  And of course Anthony fell in love in the first second.  Next we headed off to the vet, there were no other patients there, but Jonas then tried to kiss the vet to death too.  The vet is very happy with the way he travelled, he is in absolute perfect health, with absolutely no signs of travel stress.  The only thing he did not like was having his teeth looked at, but the vet gave him some treats, then he did not mind that much.

Finally we headed home.  I introduced him to the dogs one by one, and he tried to play with each of them, he got a nice little game in with three of my four boys, but Chaos was just interested in sniffing him and then herding him.  I will sort that out soon enough.  He then met the kittens as they came to see the newcomer, my cats are my dogs best friends, but Jonas did not quite no how to deal with them  He sniffed at our three-legged cat, but is very cautious of our main coone.  He will get used to them soon enough.  I let him explore the garden a bit and he did the toilet, no problem.  Then young Jonas decided he wanted to go and explore... the full height dogwalk, I have now taken the planks down from the stands and put them on the ground, much safer for a little puppy dog, I will just have to put them back up everytime I train the other boys.  I handfed him a small meal, which he ate a bit reluctantly, no surprise considering his big day.  I let him rest for about 90 min in his crate, in order for his food to settle down. (I did a quick training session with my other dogs, which he watched with interest letting out the occasional bark)  Of course he has loads of excess energy from being on the flight for so long, so next we had a quick play session, with him chasing me around the yard at full tilt.

He is now chewing on a nice chewy toy, but he follows me everywhere, bringing his chew toy with if I go into a new room.  I have left his travel crate on the floor with an open door, since he knows his crate I thought it might provide some comfort.  I was right, he is now lying in his crate by his own choice, chewing on his toy and watching me like a hawk.  How good is that?

He is such a well-balanced puppy with no fear!  And even more stunning than in the pictures.  I am more happy than I can describe.

Oh and just by the way... I think we have settled on a call name... Jonas will now be known as Volt!

Here are some pics, but Anthony is the real photographer in the family, so I will ask him to take some nice ones tonight.

 Volt not knowing what to do with our Maine Coone Nox...  and Nox typically 'not being bothered' :)
Volt eating a chew toy

Monday, November 22, 2010

Almost here - Another 'Jonas the Sheltie's journey' update

For those of you wanting to import a dog from a very far away country, like I am doing at the moment.  Be prepared, it is not easy.  I am not talking about the paperwork and expenses, that is the easy part.  Wondering whether you have made the right decision, doubting whether it is the right thing for your new puppy, that is the hard part.  I know that 'Jonas' will have the best possible life that anyone can offer, but that is not the point.  I know Jonas is enough for me, but will I ever be enough for him... that is the question :)

Anyhow, here are the last ever pics I will ever receive of Jonas before meeting him (thanks Silke.. again:) )

Quick update on Jonas the sheltie's long journey

Just a very quick update.

Jonas arrived safely at the pet station in Frankfurt, he has been eating well during his trip and coping brilliantly with the travel.  He will be taking off shortly for South Africa.  I will keep everyone updated about his arrival tomorrow.

I owe Jenny (the breeder) endless thank you's for all the wonderful socialization she has done, it has obviously paid off.  By all accounts she has produced the most wonderful companion.  I am so greatful for that she is trusting me with her little boy.

Also to Silke who has gone to so much trouble for me, a million (and more) thank you's.  And for keeping me updated every step of the way.  Haha, even though she wanted to keep my puppy.

Signing off in super-excitement mode! 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Jonas the Sheltie's Long Journey - Some Photos

Jonas accompanied Silke to her training club, met some other puppies and had a good time.  Here are some photos:

Amazing to see the size difference between the year old Mudi, the 9 week old Malamute and the 11 week old Sheltie.

Tomorrow is the big day, when I get to meet Jonas for the first time!  No decision on the name yet, although everyone seems to lean toward Mrrik.  I am sure he will have his new name by tomorrow night!

Jonas the Sheltie's long journey - Part 2

The latest emails that Silke sent about little Jonas:

'Hi Alett,
Jonas (I really like Mrrik and find it fits him) stayed solid for 8 hours overnight in his crate. I guess the playing with Tink tired him last night.
He ate, did a pooh, played (wash, rinse, repeat..) and we just returned from our walk at the river. The grass is covered with frost on this sunny but cold day. I carried him almost half the time in my jacket. He greeted strangers on our way on a VERY friendly way (unusual for a Sheltie) and made contact with foreign dog, but on a typical gentle Sheltie way.

So, now a cup of coffee and then we go to the dog club. I have to train with Tink for next week’s obedience test. I am sure I will find a “Sheltie-holder-with-a-warm-jacket”, while I train.

More news tonight..


'Today at the dog club we went into the puppy play pen, an area for the youngster. Because there was no official training, only my friends puppy was there, a 11 week old Alaskan Malamute. At first he was a bit afraid of Daiquiri, who is 9 kg (!) and twice his height and three times his width. He tried to ran away and landed in a small water feature. Because of the cold weather I took him in my jacket so he could dry and kept warm. He watched Tink playing with Daiquiri and after about 10 mins he started to join the game. In the end he played also with a young Australian Shepherd (chasing her!). He had fun, but always came back to me and checked or looked for temporary shelter. All those dogs are bigger and much more heavy, he is really tiny and very very sweet.
After that we went to my mother’s house to fetch Shumba. Also in this new environment he was very curious and happy.
Back home he ate some kibble. I am not used to this slow eating (my dogs gulp down their food…). So it takes quite a long time for him to eat. (you clicker treats need to be minuscule…hihhi).

Neither he nor the other dogs of Jenny are barkers. He only occasionally barks while playing. My loud Mudis seem to impress him, but I guess he will not take on their bad habit..
That was it for today.
Don’t worry, soon you and Anthony will hold this little furball in your hand.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Jonas the Shelties long journey - Part 1

 So Jonas's long journey started today.  In total he will travel about 9 640km (5990 miles).  Yesterday Silke picked him up in Belgium and drove back to her house in Cologne, tomorrow she will take him to Frankfurt for his flight to South Africa!  Below is an email she sent last night with some pictures of Jonas and Silke's Mudi, Tink.  Can't wait!

Dear Alett and Jenny,
Jonas arrived safely at my house. He was exploring with a wagging tail, did a pooh and will probably start playing with Tink soon.
He behaved very well in the crate, went to sleep after “killing” the blanket and did not make a sound during the whole trip.
He is too excited to eat, but hunger will probably come later tonight.
I will let him sleep the whole night in the crate, so he can get used to it. He loves is, so this is great.

Thank you Jenny for a wonderful meal. I enjoyed my trip to Blankenberge.
Alett, you will definitely get an awesome puppy. I am very tempted to keep him…
I will write more news tomorrow.
Good night


P.S. While downloading the picture, Tink and Jonas played…

Just some Fun... and what is in a name...

This afternoon, I saw the two of the kittens, in what would have been a lovely pose and called Anthony to take a picture, but of course they decided to move before we could capture the moment... that's cats for you... Anyhow, we ended up taking some picures with the boys.

 Delta was NOT impressed by the photo session... but that may be because he heard a motorcycle go past and probably wanted to go and chase it...
 Quake loves to pose.
 My old man... the dog that taught me everything.  Doing so well for a 13 year old boy, love him to bits.
My heart and soul, Chaos.  What a nice photo, thanks babe!

Of course  Loki (the kitten) did allow us to take one very amusing picture...

With the day of Jonas's arrival drawing very close (61 hours and 48 minutes until his plane is scheduled to arrive at O. R. Thambo), our lives have been very, very busy.

We have gone puppy shopping, buying food, beds, pillows, collars, leads, chews, toys and training accessories.  We have prepared the house, removing all hazardous and valuable objects.  Spoken to our vets and other sources.  All the paperwork has been done.  We have had endless conversations about Jonas's upbringing.  Just to explain that comment...  This will be Anthony's first experience of 'raising an agility puppy'.  When I moved in with him, Monster (Quake) and Spaz (Chaos) were a year old, past puppy-hood and into their teens.  Ant's is not an agility person, he absolutely adores the dogs and spoils them rotten, but he is not particularly fussed about the 'rights and wrongs' of raising an agility dog.  In the end, he asked me to create a document about the do's and don'ts of raising this pup, because he is terrified of doing something wrong...  I wrote this document (which by the way is turning into a whole book of information), which actually helped me.  I was forced to recall basic information that was long forgotten about puppies.  What an amazing husband I have, being so supportive that he is willing to adjust his whole life to accomodate me and my dogs. 

Anyhow, to get back to the subject, the thing that has been discussed the most, is Jonas's new name (his call name).  We started off with a list of  27 names, 99% my suggestions/contributions.  Although this will be my little boy, I feel that Anthony also has to approve of the call name.  So between the two of us, we have narrowed it down to seven possibilities.  The comic thing however, is our motivations behind the name.  We both want a strong name, depicting power, speed and grace.  Spent hours on google translate, wikipedia and loads of other websites to get ideas... But both of us have such different ideas.  Anthony feels for example, that if the name is going to be ambigious, ALL the meanings should fullfil those qualities, Static was on the list, but since static could also mean stationary, he was against it, where it did not bother me.  I am quite addamant on having a V in the name (no I don't know why either, its just a 'thing'), which he does not understand.  He does not like 'funny' spelling of names, while I don't care.  I want a one syllable name, while Ant's just wants a suitable name...  Believe it or not, but all these silly things have been discussed.  At the end of the day, a name means a lot, maybe not to our dogs, but to us as humans...  On one thing we both agree, we do have to meet our little boy before we decide, he also has a 'say'...  The short list is:

Volt; Vycan; Vykhor; Mrrik; Psych; Torden; Cato...

Please give me your comments!  So interested to know...

Anyhow here is the last picture I received from the breeder before his arrival in South Africa (thank you so much Jenny):

Our little boy starts his journey today...  A very good friend (Thank you Silke), has picked up my boy in Belgium and will be returning to Germany tomorrow and dropping Jonas off in Frankfurt on Monday for his flight...


Friday, November 19, 2010

Our System... Part 2

I shouldn't have called this series of posts 'Our System' really...  it is more a general article about the challenges that we face in Agility in South Africa.  Basically our agility community has heart, we have the desire to feature on the international stage, but there are just a few obstacles that we have to overcome first.  In the second part of this series, I will mention the potential problems we have with the dogs as such.

First of all we are back to the problem of the agility community being so small.  This time in regards to breeding.  Although the conformation side of the dog world in South Africa is larger than the disciplines, it is still smaller than most countries.  Needless to say this limits the sources of our dogs. The majority of Border Collies competing in South Africa derive from 5 different lines.  Shelties are 10 times worse, with only two lines being represented and only 6 Shelties competing in the whole country.
Not only this, but often breeds that are recognised as good, working and agility breeds in other countries, do not feature in South African agility.  This is definitely not only due to training,  a lot of working instinct has slowly but surely dissapeared from many breeds in South Africa.

The problem is that 'agility dogs' are in demand, in our small community it is not uncommon for one handler to have 4 competing dogs at any one time. There are quite a few good lines in South Africa, but with very little new blood coming in on a regular basis.  So the reality is, we have very very good dogs in South Africa, but they are very very limited.  This year at the World Champs, I overheard some people (Hungarian and Czech I think), while a South African (Carmen and Seis) was running and they made a comment that South Afirca has such fast border collies.  And this is very true, but if you want one of these 'fast Border Collies' you have the option of maybe one or two breeders, who only have a few litters (some not even annually).  And currently the only breed that really has dedicated 'working lines' is the border collie.  Small and medium breeds are very few and far between and hard to find, with mile long waiting lists.

One of the biggest problems is our isolation.  As I have mentioned before, South Africa is the only African country to have  a full Agility program.  There are some limited dog activities in both Namibia and Zimbabwe, but nothing much.  So that leaves roughly 9000km between us and the closest sources of new blood.  Being in the process of importing a dog myself and being in contact with 6 other South African agility handlers that have imported dogs in the last 12 months, I cannot begin to explain the effort and money it takes to achieve this.  I will list the problems just to give you a better idea:

1.  By law ALL livestock, regardless of size and weight, have to arrive in South Africa via manifest cargo.  This implies that all dogs, have to travel in the cargo hold of a plane and are off-loaded in the cargo hangers.  South Africa has no pet stations.  Personally I know that this is viable, as our dogs that travel back and forth to the AWC and EO have to travel this way.  We have been doing this for more than 10 years and never encountered a major problem.  But, especially for small dogs, this is a foreign concept to Europeans and Americans.
 2.  Finding a breeder and puppy.  I spent 11 months researching breeders and dogs, sending endless emails, making phone calls, asking advice from friends etc.  In my case I am importing a breed that I have never owned and is relatively rare in South Africa, so I had to rely on a lot of advice from friends overseas.  Once I had shortlisted the breeders I was interested in, I had to find a breeder that was willing to let their pup fly half way across the world, in the cargo hold of a plane, to a person they have never met.  I do not blame any of the breeders for turning me down, I have no doubt that I would be very cautious too.  I also wanted breeding rights on the pup (of course only if it turned out to be a good specimen), as I was spending a lot of money on the dog, I at least want the option of being able to promote the breed.  The breeder also had to do endless heaps of paperwork and trips to vets and phonecalls and and and on my behalf, as the process is quite involving.  In total, I contacted 83 breeders across the world, of which 9 ended up on my shortlist, I rejected some offers and a lot of breeders rejected my offer.  That is the way it works. After speaking with some of the breeders and receiving more information on their dogs, I realised that some dogs were not what I wanted.  Some breeders were only planning litters in 2 or 3 years time.  So after 11 months I finally found a puppy from one of my very top choices.
3.  The expenses are massive, especially with the exchange rate not being in our favour.  Few people in South African agility can afford this expense.
4.  As I have mentioned before, the paperwork, tests, processes and general beaurocracy is very time consuming, frustrating and painful.
5.  It is a very time-consuming process and you have to wait some amount of time for your puppy, where often people will just decide on getting a new dog and be able to arrange it within months, the process with importing is much more involved and thus not for the impatient.

If you consider all these problems, it is no wonder that there are so few imports for working purposes in South Africa.  In the past 12 months, 7 dogs have been imported for agility:  3 Border Collies; 1 Australian Cattle Dog; 1 PyrShep; 2 Shelties.  It will be an absolute minimum of 24 months before any of these dogs can be used to breed and then another two years before the progeny will be able to prove themselves.  This is provided that suitable matings can be found as there are very few of some of those breeds in the country.

Now of course we will always have brilliant local dogs competing, but those of us that aspire to make our mark on the international stage and those that want to promote diversity and growth in the sport, have to aim higher. 

Right now we have found our perfect agility puppy, the problems do not stop there.  South Africa is not a dog friendly country.  First of all the amount of good training schools and advisors are small and limited to major cities.  There are quite a few dog schools that still practise very 'old-school' ways of training, so for a beginner, the chances of starting off your agility career on the right foot is not 100%.

Dogs are barely allowed anywhere in South Africa.  Not on public transport, in malls, in some parks or for that matter any public venue.  Dog friendly accomodation is also rare, so travelling through the country to shows and such takes careful planning.

Compared to Europe and America, the range of pet products and especially pet food is very limited.  This is not a huge problem, as we do have good imported foods such as Eukaneuba and Hills, however their full ranges are not always available.  And because of the fact that these brands are imported, they are rather expensive.

The point is that dogs are not as much of an integral part of life in South Africa as they are in Europe and the States, if you are a 'doggy person' you really have to know the ins and outs and make an effort to involve your dogs in your life.

We in the dog world do very well in making our own lives doggy lives, but it is not as simple as elsewhere. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our System... Part 1

I would like to do a short series of posts about the challenges that face in Agility in South Africa.  Mostly I am referring to the standard of Agility here compared to international levels.  To start off I will quickly explain how our system works (I will keep this as short as possible):

1.  We are a very small community, if I had to guess we have MAYBE 200 handlers nationwide, roughly 300 dogs.  I live in Gauteng where we arguably have the largest contigent...  in 2010 we have had 85 handlers that entered shows, with 120 dogs (81 large; 16 medium; 23 small).  This includes all participants, those that attended one show and those that attended all of them.  The largest entry being 50 dogs (over all grades and height categories) and the average entry being 35 dogs.  Of all these competitors, roughly 150 dogs nationwide entered the AWC/SA Champs trials.

2.  Our system for qualifying for the national championship and the AWC try-outs are as follows:

-  Between November and March, four trials, consisting of one contact round and one non-contact round (this is the equivelant of Jumpers) each, are held regionally.  The national course co-ordinator selects the courses and forwards a copy to each provincial co-ordinator (baseline co-ordinates are used), each province then determines their owns dates and run the selected courses.  All dogs are eligible to enter the trials, as long as they are older than 18 months.  This gives you a total of eight rounds, of which two scores (the lowest contact and the lowest non-contact round) are dropped.
-  The point system works as follows:  A dog with a clear round is awarded 10 points.  If you are 2-3.99 seconds under the SCT, you are awarded 1 bonus point, 4-5.99 seconds = 2 bonus points, 6-7.99 = 3 bonus points and so forth.  Furthermore 0.01-5 faults will earn you 8 points, 5.01-10 faults = 6 points, 10.01-15 faults = 4 points etc.  The national winner in each height category earns 1 bonus point.
-  The speeds for the courses are determined by using the average speeds at the previous years AWC.
-  Once the trials are completed and the scores calculated, the top 40 large dogs (with the next 5 on standby); the top 10 small dogs and top 10 medium dogs (with 2 dogs each on standby) are invited to compete in the finals.
-  At the finals, 2 judges (one from the host province and one international or out of province judge) set up one contact course and one non-contact course each (that gives you four rounds) over two days.  Points are awarded the same as the qualifiers and your final score is calculated using 1/3rd of your qualifying points and 2/3 of your points at the finals.  The top 9 dogs qualify to compete individually (as far as the rules allow, seeing as each country is only allowed 6 entries per height category at the AWC) and the top 3 dogs in each height category qualifies for the team event.

3.  Although our rules allow for two seperate events, because of the small number of dogs and serious financial considerations, the National Championships and the AWC Qualifiers are always run in conjunction (well it has been since 2000 as far as I know).  Although the speeds for the SA Champs are slower, using our 'championship' system's speeds of 3.5m/s for contact and 4m/s for non-contact.

4.  Just as a note, this system originated in the late 90's, even though it has been tweaked a bit since then.  It has produced two gold medals in the large team event at the AWC, as well as a dog that won the small agility round and about four top ten placings over-all.

5. For the AWC qualifiers only (not the national champs) In 2010 the top large dog qualified with 85 points, medium with 46 points and the highest small dog had accumulated 75 points.  Sadly the lowest qualifiers all had 0 points... yes it is true, the entries for the AWC qualifiers were small enough that it did not even fill the entries.

6.  Due to the financial implications of the trip (it is a huge expense), which I will discuss in another post, only 4 small dogs, 4 medium dogs and 13 large dogs could pay the deposit to secure there eligibility.  So in all fairness, we had a pool of 21 dogs to choose a squad of 12 dogs.

The problem with this system is that it does not promote perfection, it promotes safety.  An example to illustrate:  An average course is 160 meters, if it is set at 4.5m/s, the SCT is 35.55 seconds.  A dog that is running at 5m/s, but drops one bar, can earn the same amount of points as a dog that is running 3.94m/s.  A dog that goes clear running 4.5m/s can also earn the same points as a dog that is running 4.76m/s.  0.26m/s in agility makes a world of difference.

One of the big challenges we face is the fact that our National Championships is seen as a synonym for the AWC trials, since it is run over the same courses.  The majority of competitors are only interested in competing locally and have no interest in meeting international standards, they want their slower dogs to have a chance, which is all fair and well on a national level, but that is also the reason there have been so many arguments regarding our selection system.  Since they are indentical for both events, people have been kicking against changing one or the other.  In my eyes we have to face reality, and realistically, a dog that is struggles to run at 4m/s will undoubtedly end up with time faults at the AWC and even if you want to include such a slower, but consistent dog in the team event, I feel they should not have to take up an individual spot.

Another limitation that we have due to the financial implications and small 'non-competing' helpers, are the fact that each province has complete freedom over their trials, since we are not able to have a person or persons that can travel to each province to observe and advise.  I am sure that we are all as honest as we can be and the A/B co-ordination system of setting up the courses are the best we can do to ensure equal oppertunity, there are always small discrepancies that creep in.  Since some agility equipment have a range of legal measurements, obstacles in all the provinces differ, and may for example give an advantage to some dogs.  If we had a person travelling around the country trying to ensure that the standard is equal everywhere, this would go a long way to even out the field.

Another aspect is that the courses that have been used for the regional trials, have further promoted safety over speed.  In the last few years, we have seen more and more severly technical courses (often more difficult than has ever been seen at the world champs) being used.  And of course I agree that there should be a certain degree of difficulty that should be strived for when selecting these courses, but combined with a system that awards slower dogs, who accumulate time faults, points (as it is easier for these dogs to negotiate more technical, tighter courses with less hassle) I think these courses have been to our detriment.  Recently there was a huge (very public debate) regarding this matter, which made it very apparent to me that people might be missing the point.  I do agree that often the standard of course design at our weekly local shows leaves much to be desired, often Grade 3 courses are on the level of a Grade 1 course, some even pure speed circles.  On the one hand, this promotes the those that just wants a hobby for the weekends, which of course increases numbers, on the other hand the more serious competitors do not get a lot of practise.  But the courses that have been used for the selection process has been of a different level, quite acceptable in fact, it is just combined with our scoring system that it presents some problems.

Theoretically a dog can miss every single contact on the A-frame or dogwalk or have a fly-off in every single round and still qualify to represent South Africa at the AWC.  There are no minimum requirements, no selection criteria, it is merely a fact of 'getting around' and scooping up enough points to beat a handful of dogs.

My problem with the selection system is that it does not inspire perfection or competition.  It encourages people to 'just get around', which might be one of the reasons we are always three steps behind the rest of the world.  Despite the fact that a growth in numbers in South African Agility would certainly help the cause, I do feel that there are certain measures that we can take to encourage people to try and be the best.  Of course I am not only going to name the problems without giving some suggestions.

First of all I feel that there should be some minimum requirements.  At some stage the dogs that want to declare their eligibility should prove small things such as contact and weave pole performance.  There should be minimum speeds that need to be met.  This can be done at the finals, or the day before, it will not take up a large amount of time and does not need to be subjective.  We can have two judges that judge the obstacle and if a dog has a consistency rate lower than 75%, it is not eligible to put down its deposit.  There should also be a minimum speed requirement.  A dog should get at least 3 clear rounds (2 contact and 1 non-contact) through-out the trials and the finals, these can be used to calculate an average speed for each dog to ensure that we send deserving dogs to represent our country.  Consistency is also important, so we need to determine a certain number of mandatory clear rounds at the trials and the finals, this way handlers can also prove that they can handle pressure.

I am not trying to be negative with this post.  I am certainly not trying to take anything away from those that merely want to enjoy their shows every Sunday and fun with their dogs.  I am not insulting any of the dogs that have represented South Africa in the past.  I am just saying that we have to up our game.  The handful of handlers in South Africa that wants to end up on the podium or have good results at the AWC or want to make a stamp internationally, needs inspiration and motivation to WANT to be better, not 'get around'.  We have the potential, we have the dogs and the handlers, now we need to find the system to improve these handlers.

This is just one of the challenges, then there are financial and travel restrictions, breeding in South Africa and many more, but more on that later!

I would love some comments and suggestions to this post, not only from my fellow South Africans, but also from Agility people all over the world.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Mindsets, pre-routines and Sheltie planning

Well, another Agility weekend gone and drawing closer and closer to the end of the year.  Once again I realised how important it is to have your mind in the game before you enter the ring.  On Saturday we had Best of the Best, I was very happy with Chaos's Contact round, for the first time I handled like I would like to, really attacking the course, this caused him to bring down two bars, but I will work through that.  I have exactly eight shows left before the first AWC trial to sort that out...

Here is the video:

I also did some quick releases on my contacts... which cost me dearly, as he released himself off the dogwalk today and I had to put him back.  But that just proves that I still need to work on that too.

Before going in for my non-contact round (over a VERY tight course), a friend started chatting to me about this and that.  The next moment I saw the dog that was running right before me was in the ring... rush rush rush.  I was so flustered that I ran my round that I forgot from which side to take number 3 and dq'd myself.  A star and a noddy badge for me.  I failed my poor dog.  I really do need to keep my mind in the game for his sake.  Today I made sure that I did that and it paid off... well to an extent.

As I have already mentioned the Chaos Spazzie released himself off the contact and I had to put him back, thus eliminating himself.  The Dog Jumping, firstly I don't want to critisize the course design, but I don't like courses where you have to call off your dog every five seconds.  In the first sequence of 10 obstacles there were SIX sledgehammers where you had to scream at your dog to call them off.  This could have been solved by opening the course up, as all the distances were 5m.  Chaos's round was as nice as it could be, with one refusal where I had to call him off a tunnel and by the time he recovered he had already passed the next jump.  I uhmed and ahhed about putting this video on, but in the end it was not a bad round, so here it is.:

In the non-contact Chaos had a really brilliant round, except for one moment where I kind of lost him.  But he recovered nicely and sometimes that is just as important in this game... more about that in another post.  That little bubble cost him second place and pushed him in to third behind his brother from another litter, Blitz, but well done to Julie.  The one round I wish I had taped was the winner, Carmen and Seis had the most perfect round, beating everyone else by at least 5 seconds.  It was spectacular... so it would have been really nice if I had actually recorded the round as Carmen asked... so sorry!  Anyhow here is Chaos's round:

Meanwhile the day of Jonas's arrival draws closer and closer.  Despite the stress of the paperwork and the import I am beyond excited... and of course nervous.  Not only am I starting training with a new puppy, but a new breed in a new height class.  This can be very stressful.  I am spending hours and hours reading up about the breed and agility training with Shelties, lets hope I do the boys justice, but one thing is for sure... Game on!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Trick and Treat

Anthony tried out some new settings on the camera when I did a trick session with the boys tonight.  The pictures are experimental, but I still think they are awesome... hahahaha, probably because I am biased about the subjects of the photos.  Maybe my very bright orange holland sweatshirt had something to do with the camera struggle...

Echo learning how to play dead... not bad for a 13 year old boy... Man I love this dog.

Echo did his 'where is your nose' trick (Anthony missed it slightly, so this is a before and after photo)...  I taught him this trick years ago for an add campaign that never aired.  Used some masking tape to teach it... and of course the 'border collie prodigy' never forgets anything he has ever learnt...
 Chaos has always been the kind of dog that just wants to know what he can heard or to which obstacle he can run as fast as possible next, but he is starting to 'get' the whole trick thing... and actually enjoying it, lol, despit his lanky body.

The Quake monster is loving his dancing trick...  and the amount of muscle that has developed (on his already muscular back legs) since I have started doing this is quite amazing.

 These pics of the lunatic Clown Delta are not the best, but you should see how into his tricks Delta are.  He is absolutely loving it, knowing him it might just be the individual attention he is getting...  he should have been the only dog in his household, he is such a pleasure, but he does not like sharing the limelight...  Get him on his own and he will do anything for you.  Except of course on an agility course, where he will do everything (and I mean every obstacle at least twice) for himself.

Anyhow, it became has become apparent that the super-boys love their little training sessions, which is good, since I have just as much fun... now if only I could get better at it...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rain and Train

Well it is raining here to the extent that the South African Weather Service has issued storm warnings...  a predicted 50mm over the next 24 hours and some severe thunderstorms in between...  Well that all remains to be seen.

But the point is that I will get a little bit wet when training (which I don't mind) and I will have to invent some nice creative training exercises in my very small house.  This always becomes quite amusing and very loud...  the rest of my dogs go ballistic while I am training just one.  I actually find this to be good distraction training, I mean it is very hard to concentrate when you have three mad borders barking at the top of my lungs.

I know I should do something about it, especially considering I am the first one to bitch and moan at other people's noisy dogs.  But in there defense, my dogs NEVER bark at nothing.  They are allowed to bark when there is someone physically touching the gate to the property (it is handy since we do not have a doorbell), they are allowed to bark at the ever painful street corner vendors when they try to shove their various knock-off  sunglasses and battery  operated teddy bears through my window and they are allowed to bark when I give them the command to.  And except for the whole training thing they are very good an really quiet.  Quite frankly I like their enthusiasm towards training, I dont really WANT to do anything about it... hahaha, but Anthony completely disagrees with me on that one.  I dont blame him...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Puppyhood and four years later

Well, yesterday's show was not a complete disaster, at least not from Chaos's side...  I am very irritated with myself.  I was completely unaware yesterday, in the contact round I didn't handle the course until the very end and ended up getting the dreaded 'last jump refusal'.  In the non-contact I just hung around flatfooted and got my dog eliminated.  Jumping wasn't so bad, with a double clear.

I will post the videos later today, but at the moment I am busy analysing what happened yesterday.  The fact that it is the end of the year and I am not only tired, but also hectically busy with year end work arrangements, is no excuse.  I need to find that perfect mental state for the 10 minutes I need to warm-up, prepare for and run each course.  That is not too much to ask from myself and yesterday I just could not cope.

Although that is my biggest concern, it is definitely not my only concern.  Chaos's average speed is about 4.70m/s on a course at a show, the fastest speed he has recorded on a Grade 3 Contact course is 5.30m/s (which I am very happy with), but my point is that he is not going all out.  I am sure it will have something to do with my training... doesn't it always?  If you see Chaos run free at my house or when I take them for a walk, you would be amazed.  He looks spectacular, covers the ground beautifully and smoothly and in general is elegantly athletic.  And he is damn fast...  He will beat most border collies on a flat race... haha of course if he doesnt have to run on dry loose gras which is his Achilles heel. He does not do the same on the course, although he is going at a decent speed, I know there is so much more to unlock.

To explain my current train of thought I will compare two of my own dogs.  Echo, although from a conformation breeder, had 'the perfect puppyhood' if I can call it that, his breeder socialised all the puppies, drove them around, introduced them to different sounds and situations, people and creatures.  She had them temperament tested before she homed each puppy.  He came to me with absolutely no issues.  He is not sound sensitive or skitty and he is a pleasure to travel with, fly and just to take anywhere.  You could see that when Echo was running an agility course, for those days (I am talking almost 10 years ago) he was spectacular and wasn't scared to throw his whole heart into whatever he did.  Tricks, obedience, dancing, tracking, playing, you name it and Echo did it without any hassle.

Chaos has a different background.  His breeder is an elderly lady, that lives with her sister on a farm in the middle of nowhere.  Her pups get born in the puppy pen and this is where they spend the rest of their puppyhood until they go off to their new homes.  The only things they ever see are the two old ladies, some sheep and their mother.  The results was a very over-sensitive puppy that was so insecure for the first year of his life that I did not think he would ever do agility.  Despite this he is the amazing boy that you know today.  What I am wondering is what his brilliant work ethic would have developed into if he had a more balanced puppyhood.  Would it have made a difference at all?  It is so hard to compare different dogs, that it is hard to answer this question.  And since I am not a breeder, I cannot say what difference it would make.  I do know that I will in the future do my best only to acquire puppies from socialised and balanced litters.  I love my boy, but it is hard work (and sometimes heartbreaking) to have to work through issues.

For this week I think I will put up nice, spread-out speed circles and see if I can speed my boy up some more and instill a bit of confidence.  Whatever the case, I am sure he will enjoy it very much!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Training and Space

Arg, I need to find grounds to put my agility equipment...  I mean there is enough space in my garden, but the severe slope and the 12 proteas makes training quite a challenge.  What makes it really frustrating is that there is only one spot where the dogwalk is stable and it is virtually impossible to include it in a sequence or course.  Nevertheless, here is the setup I had in the garden this week, with some of the sequences I ran.


I have done a lot of jump training the last few months, so I was testing to see how far I could push Chaos.  With most of the go-rounds I remained on the landing side to push him to the next obstacle.  To be honest about 30% of the bars dropped the first couple of days, so I had to remain calm and work through it.  By yesterday only about 15% of the bars dropped, with me doing very funny things, like waving my arms and purposefully being in his way.  I really do want him to leave AT LEAST 90% of the bars up, regardless of my position etc.  So there is still some work to do.  Next week I want to work on pre-curving and single obstacle drive again, but I think I will set similar challenges for him the next week.

With Quake I continued working on curving lines and his poles.  He took a slight dip in his poles work, which was to be expected, that is the normal cycle.  But he is trying his little heart out, so it is easy to perservere.

Old dogs and New tricks


When I got Echo, I was still a kid (about 14) with endless energy and time (despite the horses and athletics and netball and oraters and and and...).  Not only that, but Echo was my first pure-bred, competitive dog and the first dog that I started training from puppyhood.  This meant that I spent a lot more time exploring the various aspects of dog training with him.  I competed in obedience, did some informal tracking and even some dancing.  And I tought him endless tricks.  To this day Echo will start going through his entire repertoire the moment he hears a clicker and smells some treats.  He is also the dog that made me realise that Agility was my game and that is all I wanted to do, so subsequently my other dogs never got the benefit of being taught tricks or anything else if it was not related to Agility.

Many people might believe that Delta's screaming is a trick, because no dog could make a sound like that naturally, but I assure you he figured that one out all on his own.

With the new pup coming soon and also taking into account the experience I have gained in the last 13 years since I got Echo as well as the evolution in Agility since I got my last two pups (Chaos and Quake) four years ago, I have decided that I am going back to teaching some tricks.  Added to the excitement and amusment for myself and my dogs, there are the benefits of co-ordination and skill.  So for the last few days I have dedicated one of my training sessions a day to teaching some new tricks to my old dogs.  I actually wish I had surveilance cameras in my house, because I am sure it must be really hilarious.

Echo now a healthy thirteen years old, completely retired for four of them, still loves his tricks (or maybe it is the treats), but since I haven't done ANY formal training with him, he is convinced that he will just earn the treats by performing his entire repertoir.  I am trying to teach him to play dead, but it goes like this...
I down him and try to lure his head around into the'play dead position', which he does, I click and treat and then Echo does 2 full rolls one to each side, gets up, waves at me with both paws, spins left, spins right, backs up about ten paces, runs back jumps over my shoulder, all this while barking like a mad hatter...  All this with not one cue, verbal or physical, which I have to admit is impressive for a such an old boy.  After he has done a routine like that he is ready to listen to me again and try the new trick.  I dont expect him to learn anything more in life, he has already given me more than I could ever ask for.  I am mostly doing it for him, to keep his mind active and give him something to do.  But it is very funny how a dog never forgets.  Echo understands the value and excitement of performing tricks and he makes me laugh.

Delta is a different story, I got Delta when I was in matric, so he spent his puppyhood in the turmoil of me finishing school and starting varsity.  Any spare moments I had (between socializing, studying and stressing for exams), I spent on his agility training.  It is not that I did not want to teach him any tricks, I just didn't consistently have the time to teach him.  His training session starts off with the screaming.  I don't think it is possible to accurately describe Delta's screaming, it is somewhere between a bark, a high-pitched squeel, a whinge, a whine and an actual scream.  And it's LOUD.  So after a minute of waiting for him to stop screaming we can start the actual training.  I am teaching him to wave and I have to say I am impressed that he is picking it up very quickly.  It shouldn't be a surprise, as he is very food driven and very responsive to the clicker, in fact I have added a couple of tricks already. He is now learning how to back up while standing on his back legs and weaving in between my legs.  If it was up to Delta I would reward him, by allowing him to race up and down the property chasing and screaming at the motorbikes (or cars, or cyclists, or joggers, or kids, or dogs, or birds, or helicopters, or aeroplanes...) that pass our property, but of course that is out of the question.

Chaos is probably the biggest challenge of all.  Food?  Food??? Why would I possibly want food woman?  I mean I can see that look in his eye.  Not surprising when you think that I only ever used toys when training Chaos as a pup, combine that with a dog that naturally doesn't eat... and you get a dog that spits out liver bread, chicken, biltong, sausage, raw mince, kibble, cheese or any other from of food.  After some work on his food drive, I have managed to get him to the stage where he will take between five and seven treats in a session before starting to run around like a lunatic looking for a toy (which is quite hilarious considering I never ever let toys lie around).  I had to think carefully to find a trick to teach him first. Chaos hates lying down, he always herds standing up and his downs are generally attrocious, so anything involving that is out for now.  He hates having his legs and feet touched, he has hated that since he was a puppy (a bit better with a lot of desensitisation, but still an issue)... Wow, it always amazes me how many issues my special boy actually has...  Anyhow, since it would strengthen his co-ordination and hindquarters, I decided on teaching him to stand on his back legs.  A difficult feat if you can only do five to seven repetitions a day (for now), but he is deffinitely picking it up very very quickly.  Proud of my little spaz, but I don't think that he will be a 'trick dog', agility is definitely what he was made for.

A few months ago I started teaching Quake to stand on his back legs, and this he has down.  Reminder to self, take a video of that because he is very cute.  So now we are working on a wave.  He is loving tha attention and stimulation, so it has really been a pleasure to work with him.  I can't believe how he has matured the last few months, working full obstacles and short sequences and now learning some tricks... sigh now if only we could get him over his seesaw issue.


Hmmmm... this has even made me contemplate to teach the Madame Nox (maine coon) and Loki (three legged cat who thinks he is part cat, part human and part dog) some more tricks... but then I remembered how much effort it was to teach them the few tricks they had to know for their movie debut.  No I don't think I am that ambitious...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Catching up

Okay, so it has been AGES since I have posted here, but I have been busy busy busy... It is going to take me ages to catch up, but I will try to be good from now on. So many thin
gs have happened, I am not even going to bother to try and post them in chronilogical order, but I will try and update you on some of the important things that happened.

Bloem Weekend - Bloem weekend was VERY unsuccessful for me this year to say the least. I think I was putting too much pressure on myself and Chaos to be honest. I have been so obsessed with improving our consistency that I over-managed almost every course this weekend which of course led to one mistake after the other. Of our 16 rounds over the four days I only managed one clear round. This caused me to do some serious thinking about mental management and this is my next goal... getting my mind right. In all fairness Chaos also did some very funny things over the weekend... which was most likely caused by my stress, so he is forgiven.
Can you spot the fault(s)?

Vanderbijl Weekend - Although these were very enjoyable shows, I do wish that the hosting club would add a couple more licenses to the weekend. It is a LONG way to drive every day to run three rounds and we had all the time in the world to fit in another show each day. We had a successful weekend though, finally qualifying out of Grade 2 Contact (woot woot!) and produced some other clear rounds as well. This despite a 24 hour stomach bug that I managed to pick up somewhere. In fact the only faults that I had over the weekend was a few dropped bars. Which of course was frustrating as hell, considering all the jump training I have done over the last few months. Of course most of the bars were actually Chaos knocking wings again because he is of course of the opinion that you only turn tight enough when you physically brush the wing with your entire body.... For such a tall boy he sure likes to wrap. Anyhow I was happy with the weekend, so I will leave it at that.

World Champs - We took a two week holiday in Europe which included supporting the South Africans at the FCI Agility World Championships in Rieden, Germany. First of all the venue was absolutely spectacular, set in the most beautiful country side I have seen in a long time.

It has been SEVEN years since I competed at the World Champs (feels like yesterday) and this experience reminded me that it is time to make the team again. I love the atmosphere and camaraderie that goes hand in hand with this event. The quality of the agility was as always spectacular and once again made me realise that South Africa has some serious catching up to do. Then again it seems like every years story... our team goes to the World Champs, comes back thinking we know what level of performance needs to be reached , but by the time next year rolls around the Europeans are two steps ahead of where they were the previous year again. Living halfway across the world and being the only country on the continent to have an agility program does put us at a disadvantage, but surely there has to be a solution? One thing is for sure, our system is not working and it is time to change it.

Oh look, there I go rambling completely off-topic again, back to Germany... The quality of the Large and Medium dogs were breath-taking, the Small dogs were good, please understand me, but I do think that the quality of agility was slightly lower than in the other height classes. Except for the Large Team Jumping, I felt that the courses were a bit on the easy side, looking at past years courses. Easy is actually the wrong word, in my eyes it was not challenging enough, but it did create a sense of excitement as everything came down to time. There were also some very odd calls from the on judge in particular (a team that won a medal with a dq???), but I will not even get started on that topic. I know how easy it is to make a mistake when judging, I have done so many times myself... and this at local shows. Add the pressure of the World Champs, a few thousand strong crowd and hundreds of dogs to judge each day? I think it is harder judging at the world champs than competing there.

Have I said it before? The venue was spectacular. The surface appeared to be the best we have ever had at an AWC and I am really hoping that this kind of surface will be used in the future. All in all the event inspired me to beef up my preperation for next year's try outs.

We arrived back in South Africa on a Friday, by this stage I was coughing my lungs out and I had one hell of a flu (or so I thought), but I dragged my jet-lagged body out of bed on the Saturday morning and off we went to the TKC Champ Show. I wasn't expecting anything whatsoever from my boy, as he hadn't seen me for two weeks. And in two of our rounds that was completely apparent... we were completely out of sync. Then my Spazzie gave me a very nice welcome back surprise by running clear on the contact and getting his first qc.

I know I should rather have held his contacts, but I knew we hadn't been training and I was just running for the fun of it. My plan was to start catch-up on my training the next week.

The next day at the SALKA Champ show the wheels came off again, but I didn't expect anything less. And besides it motivated me even more to do some serious training.

We have had a few open shows in between, but no results worth mentioning. In the meanwhile I have been putting some serious training into Chaos... and... wait for it... Quake. My Monster-Man is actually doing quite well, running full contacts and CLOSED POLES. Well at home in anyway, I am now starting the frustrating journey of environment training. I had him at a friends house during the week and his jumping was brilliant, but his poles left much to be desired. Here is a video of him doing poles at home:

Shame he is actually doing well for a dog who's training got completely left behind. It is hard to imagine that Quake and Chaos are only a few months apart. Fair enough, Monster definitely matured much later than Spaz, but at the end of the day we KNOW it is all my fault. Repeat after me 'never get two puppies at the same time, never get two puppies at the same time, never get two puppies at the same time'

Okay, so I have saved the biggest news for last. Hold on to your hats ladies and gentleman, I am getting a puppy... and it is NOT a Border Collie. For those that do not know I have been looking around for a year at Shelties in Europe and the USA, looking for a suitable dog to import. Even though it happened quite suddenly, I have found what I am looking for and my new little boy should arrive in South Africa late November. I can't wait to welcome Jonas of the Golden Fir into my home.

Well that is that for now, I promise I won't be lazy anymore and do regular updates.