Saturday, August 27, 2011

Woot, woot and another woot...

For those of you that are not complete computer nerd, woot means 'woohoo', 'yippee', 'happiness', 'awesomeness', 'good' or any other similar terms... often used in funny non-agility like circumstances like World of Warcraft, Conan and Guild Wars... yes those are all on-line games and unbeknownst to all you blog readers, another hobby of mine...

At this point I will get to the actual agility, since this blog is kind of all about agility hey?  But for my non-South-African readers, I will give some quick explanations, which I might have done at some stage before in my blog, but I am too lazy to go and re-read all my posts.  (Yes, I did do an average calculation of the time it would take to re-read all my posts vs. the time it would take to type this all out again and typing won by far... apparently I have made 89 posts already)...  Here in South Africa (aka the Third World), we have three separate 'agility-like disciplines.  Contact Agility - What it says, normal agility, which includes all the stuffs allowed in FCI Agility.  Second one is Non-Contact Agility - This is like FCI jumping, all the usuals, just no table, see-saw, A-Frame or dog walk.  Then we have a third one, called Dog Jumping... Now this one is own to the dark continent.  It started out in the early 80's, mostly supported by obedience handlers.  In the early years, courses ranged from completely ridiculous (as in 5 jumps in a straight line, except all obstacles were from the opposite side of approach, or massive tripples (550mmx750mm) onto pull-throughs or 2m from incorrect tunnel entries), to ridiculously easy... just a zig-zag across the field.  There are different options (versions of running it, Table A, Table B, Table C or Table D), but the most common AND the reason that it the sport still continues in South Africa AND the reason it is different from agility in South Africa, is the (in)famous jump off...  The basic concept is, that course is set, with 15 obstacles (for the 'higher' grade) and all the clear rounds  compete in a run-off, which determines the winner.  Now in the olden days, this meant all handlers playing super-safe in the first round, mostly having atrocious rounds, but 'getting a clear', in order to compete for the prize in the jump off.  Which of course I completely disagree with this mentality and luckily the sport has kind of evolved with agility, although some old-school judges DO insist on clinging onto the insanity that used to be dog jumping.  Now the jump-off is FUN, it is great fun and it is a great competition normally... it is over as shortened course and it leads to great speed and great pushing.

Now as far as our championship statuses go, each discipline is separate ie  Contact Agility, Non-Contact Agility and Dog Jumping.  In Contact Agility and Non-Contact Agility, you need three Qualifying Certificates (QC's) under three different judges to become a champion.  Because we have such small numbers competing, a minimum course speed is set out in our rules.  These speeds are 4m/s for Non-Contact Agility and 3.5m/s for Contact Agility.  There is no maximum limit.  For 1-15 dogs in the class, a QC is awarded to the winner, provided they have a clear round, 16-30 dogs, the first and second places (provided they have a clear round) get a QC and 31+ dogs, three QC's are awarded to the top three places.  However in Dog Jumping, only the winner gets a QC and only provided there are at least 3 dogs (with three different handlers) competing, however there are no minimum speeds in Dog Jumping.  QC's are only awarded at Championship Shows (we also have open shows, which is entry on the day and you can still gain qualifications in the lower grades.)

Got that?  Eish, if I didn't explain it well then go read it all on KUSA's website :)

Now back to today... Since the entries were reasonable for today, I entered both Chaos and Quake...  I knew in advance that the grounds that we were running on would be absolutely covered with dry grass, dead, dry, yellow, wintery grass.  Chaos's word nightmare.  The dog is just weird, on the most slippery carpet in the world (where I have fallen on my ass repeatedly) he motors along, he finds grip and there are no slips... but give him three blades of dry-grass and he is all over the place and keeps falling on his face.  The point is, I honestly went with no expectations with the Spaz, of course I wanted my clears, but I was prepared to take the slips and face-plants into account.  Quake? Well it IS my special needs child after all.  With Quake, there are no expectations, just a 'let's go and have fun', type of thing... so that is what we did.  He did manage a second in a very small contact class...  He decided that he has never seen an A-Frame before and it was going to give him a heart attack or at the very least bit his ear off...  Apparently it was Quake's turn to feed me the humble pie, while Chaos filled my eyes with tears of Spazzie Awesomeness...

We started of with contact, where the judge for some or other reason put the bars down to 550mm... now I train over different heights and I expect my dogs to keep bars up regardless, but I also know that Chaos has a tendency to just crash straight through lower bars, as he has no regard for them.  Anyhow it was a super easy course and he had a nice rounds... with perfect releases on his contacts... well done Spazzo!  Fastest time of the day, but with one knock :(  I felt very relaxed today... no I hadn't smoked/sniffed/popped anything, I was just chilled.  Went for my clear in the first round of Dog Jumping, got that right... but when the jump-off came along and I walked the course, I was kind of disappointed... the judge had left the poles in (oh yes, in most jump-offs, which are over a shortened course, judges take out poles and tables).  Chaos's poles are slow... normally only around 2.6 seconds.  Now I have been actively working at speeding the dude up since October last year and I have made a lot of progress (down from a 3.1 average to the 2.6), but still left a lot of room to beat me... Haha, to make it even more... erm interesting... a dog ran onto the course with my first attempt at the jump-off... luckily a very friendly dog, that just wanted to play and herd, NOT an aggressive one... but I had to stop Chaos mid-course, which confused the hell out of him... then I replace him in his wait, but he moved... now in Dog Jumping, once the whistle has blown, you are not allowed to touch your dog, this is faulted, so I just kind of went with it, released him and ran... a very nice clear to win the class... with a QC... good Spaz!  A video of all the dogs in the jump-ff:

The non-contact course was quite tricky... hmmm, doesn't really look that way on the video, but the judge promised to send me the courses, so will post them when I have them.  Oh yes, that brings me to the video thing... the police still has my video camera in the evidence lock-up and I have NO clue when I will get it back... I  MISS my video camera, I long after it, I yearn!!!  Yes it is REALLY that bad!  So all these video's were taken on my still camera, that cannot zoom while recording.  Sucky, sucky, sucky... so the video footage is crap, from a million miles away, and I don't even know if it is worth posting it here, but since I am a video slave, it is better to post something than nothing...  Okay, back to this round... It was a tricky course and Spaz had a nice run... and won the class with yet another QC!  Woot boy! Ja I know the Jump-Off rounds are a repeat of the previous video, but I just FELT like it, okay!

So this leaves us needing one QC each to become a champion in each discipline...  I am happy with him...

For tonight that is all, although I have tons more to say... but all that for a later date... among the subjects up for discussion will be:

Measuring of the course... have a look at my rounds today... and I especially put the m/s up there for you to lift an eyebrow at... another one will be course design and then I might do another few paragraphs on dogs and their jobs!  Until then, over and out...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Murphy, The Police and Heartbreak...

Well, well, well... Shall we do this in chronological order for once?

I don't like Murphy... in fact I f****** hate Murphy and his stupid law. I only judge two shows in our province a year, since I prefer competing... so that is roughly 2 shows out of the 62 we have in a year.  Of the 62 shows we have in a year, about 15 shows are on Saturdays (as opposed to our normal Sunday shows).  This year I judged one show on a Sunday.... this past weekend I judged my only Saturday show of the year... so out of 52 Saturdays this year, I was at a show on 1 Saturday... that is 1.92%.  Ants works over weekends relatively often, 99.99% of the time he does this is from home, however last week he encountered a problem with his remote log in... so he had to go into the office.  When I compete my video camera is ALWAYS with me... as you all know from the insane amount of videos on my blog.  In fact on the other day this year that I judged in Jo'burg, I took my video camera with and asked a friend to record some rounds.  But on this ONE Saturday of the year, that both me and the hub were out and the ONE show this year that my video camera did not attend...  Some f*****s decided to burgle our house.  Now I am not remotely surprised by this fact... we live in South Africa... you kind of wait for it to happen.

Of course the biggest concern are my DOGS... it is a catch 22 of the worst kind.  Around here, burglars simply poison dogs to commit which ever crime they wish to commit in your property.  So my dogs are left in the house when we go out... more comfortable for them, they can lounge around and they won't have access to any Ratexed steaks that the morons chuck over the wall.  BUT what if some moron criminal gets trapped in the house with my dogs???  Anyhow, to make a long story short and get you to stop worrying, my dogs are fine, didn't even seem traumatised at all (although I am still quietly hoping they took a big chunk out of the guy that broke in).  Thanks to very diligent builders that were working down the street, alerting the owner of the house, who in turn pressed her panic button, alerting her alarm company and the police.  Our alarm system was triggered by the way, but the bright spark that responded left us a little note with the 'all okay' box ticked... what a friggin moron.  But the F*****S that broke in still managed to get away with ONE thing... of everything we have in the house, just ONE thing.  And that ONE thing was my video camera.  My beloved (if aged) video camera which I am severely addicted to.  What is up with that?  The police caught one of the guys and found my video camera though!  But now it is stuck in evidence and I am wandering around like a little lost lamb without my video camera... *wipes away a tear*

So back to judging...  I ran my own courses too, unofficially of course, so that was a bonus... I did manage a clear round on both... it was fun.  Unfortunately I had a VERY small entry, due to the insanely high entry fees.  A lot of people let me know before hand that it was nothing personal, but they were not prepared to go bankrupt to enter one show.  Which I completely understand... now for what they charged, you would expect 9 carat gold trophies, but no such luck.  Anyhow, I am not going to moan about the neglect of agility at this particular show, might do that in a later post...  My courses, were as always severely debated with varying opinions... the biggest problem it appears, is that people dislike the fact that my courses tend to test independent obstacle performance...  Here are the grade 3 courses, please feel free to comment, criticise, b!tch, moan, compliment... I always like feed back.

10 is from the other side... I am too lazy to go and edit and re-upload.

On Sunday we had another show, competing this time around.  It was not as bad as the Saturday show, but also pricey, so I only entered Chaos.  Now the of course since I have no video camera at this stage, I have NO VIDEO... /cry.  arg, I am going to be moaning about it after every paragraph by the way...  Anyhow, the first round, non-contact I screwed up (by standing there watching Chaos, giving him no command, no signal no STUFF ALL)... poor dog.  He was running like a little demon, well a big demon, he is not a small dog.

The contact round... okay I am going to cry now... for the first time in a very long time... Chaos leapt of his contact, as in leapt.  No self release, not even a hint of trying to get his 2o2o, just a huge jump.  I was so disappointed, I really thought I had my contacts down 100%.  But I guess Chaos felt he needed to serve me some humble pie.  Needless to say I put him back and had a big fat E.  We will see what happens at this coming weekend's show but I am going to run with confidence, I am pretty sure it was a once off event.  However I have been doing some proofing and A-Frame games with him this week, just to be sure.  But that one moment kind of broke my heart, if only temporarily.

In the dog jumping, Chaos had a serious brainfart, he just did not take the turn cue I gave him very clearly and with perfect timing, realised his brainfart in mid-air, flailed all four legs around in the air, damn near taking the bar and both wings with him... oh well, the rest of his round was very nice, so not going to complain.

I cannot believe my little Stein Sheltie dog will be turning a year next week.  Time really flies when you are having fun... The one thing though, that I honestly do not consider great fun, is teaching weave poles.  I have been doing agility for a long time and weave pole training is the part I enjoy least.  But alas, the time has arrived... now of course AGAIN there is no video, but Volt is loving his poles training and picking up on it pretty quickly (as he does with everything else)... he has definitely 'gotten it' more quickly than my BC's, but then I have also learnt a lot since I last trained weave poles (can you believe it FIVE years ago).  Hopefully I will my camera back soon and then I am going to flood the blog with videos :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

My new project...

A online course for South African handlers...

Click on the image to view it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Job descriptions, multi-tasking and the word 'annoy'

My most recent word obsession is 'annoy'... now words are the only thing, other than agility, that I get slight OCB about.  My weird little mind just fixates on random words and I cannot seem to stop using them... past examples are 'umbrella', 'Zeus's hat', 'confoculate'... as you can see their is absolutely no discernible pattern or explanation or theme or even any rational thought attached to those words, they are just another quirk... oooh, yes, now I remember how much I like the word quirk...  Anyhow, I have been telling things (including the fridge, the step in the passage and my bedside table) that they annoy me, just to be able to say the word...  oh and I am not intoxicated in anyway as I write this, it is just how weird I REALLY am.

Now the actual topic of this post, doesn't actually annoy me, as much as it breaks my heart... okay it DOES annoy me a little, but that is not the point.  Before you read this I need to clarify that me, Alett Reedm the harker of independent obstacle performance, is actually not referring to that aspect of agility in this post at all, whatsoever in any way, shape or form.  So even if your dog has perfect contacts and poles, I might still be of the very biased opinion that this very long ranting post is applicable to you.  I also have to categorically state that the theme of photos in this post is 'Alett pulls funny faces while running agility' all for your amusement.

Teaching a dog correct obstacle behaviour, varies in difficulty, depending on the obstacle and the dog.  Teaching a dog handling behaviours (turns, crosses and such forth), depends the dogs natural tendencies and your ability to compliment these natural tendencies with training and handling.  Now those are the two basic elements of agility, right?  Obstacles + Handling = Agility... true, but only to a certain extent... the missing ingredient is 'getting it ALL together'... this is actually a very vague concept and some dogs just 'get it' without being asked while others need some help and nudging in the right direction.  

Now the first few shows/trials/competitions with any dog, are possibly the most intimidating, nerve-racking, nail-biting, soul wrenching experience for all of us(yeah yeah, exaggerating again, I know, deal with it)... even though most of us won't admit it and will really try to play it down.  Regardless of who and what we are, we are proud of our dogs (and if you are not, then why the hell do you have dogs?) and it is in our nature to want that first experience to be memorable.  Most of the time this is not the case, seeing as we put so much pressure on ourselves and our dogs that things... well I wouldn't say falls apart necessarily, but they don't always go as planned...  Okay so I am getting slightly side-tracked again, so let me get to the point.

The thing that annoys me (I have thought about it some more and it actually DOES annoy me), is that in the last year, I have seen an alarming amount of young/new dogs that enter shows that actually have no clue what their job is.  Now here I am not referring to dogs not knowing obstacles (even though there are a ton of those as well), I am not referring to those that allow their dogs to break waits and self-release or even leap contacts (although this annoys the beliving Apollo out of me too though)... I am referring to those dogs that do not understand their job... The keep looking back to check, they cannot identify straight lines, they cannot negotiate two obstacles in a row without showing a sign of insecurity...  I could post videos here, but that would definitely offend some people and get me completely black-listed in the local agility community, so I am going to refrain from doing that...

Now I know those first few months competing are... well interesting would be my positive term, nightmarish would be slightly more correct... You tend to discover new little issues that need to be fixed, you need to adapt to your dogs 'show performance' etc etc... and that is just fine, I mean if you take my poor special needs child, the Awesome Quake... in his very first round he was convinced that he had NEVER seen the poles before  and got his trade-mark panicked 'OH MY ZEUS' look... we went back and corrected it and by the next round he was doing nice confident (albeit considerably 'slower-than-home' poles).  Now I am working on his confidence issues, no problem, but I can assure you my dog knows his job, you line him up at the start and he will take any line you point out to him...  And I am hoping to vastly improve with Volt and looking at his training, we seem to be on the right track.

Now the things I have seen include dogs missing several jumps on dead straight lines because they are too busy looking back/sideways/skew/horizontally/cross-eyed to ask their handlers what the hell they are supposed to do.  I have witnessed dogs circling the poles... seven times... all the while watching their handlers... once they get INTO the poles they are fine, but getting their... eish.  Dogs that stop on the down ramp of a contact, looks back and when they don't get positive feedback, they will creep down two more step and look back again, wait for positive feedback, creep another two steps... rinse and repeat...  It would have still been frowned upon, but accepted in my books if it was one or two of their initial shows, but I have been forced to witness some of these dogs for months, with NO improvement...  The sad thing is, that these are more often than not dogs with immense potential, because after all it tends to be harder to 'get it right' with faster dogs.

Now with my method of training and my beliefs, my dogs are trained with following philosophy:  I will create a straight line for you, you negotiate that line until I tell you to do otherwise. Of course it gets a lot more complicated than that, but that is the basic principle. 

Now I don't train with these unfortunate souls (referring to the dogs, not the handlers), so perhaps they do it perfectly at training or at home or anywhere else, but since the whole point of the training and practising and proofing is that your dog understands its job at trial/show/competition... well then you should be devising a plan to kind of achieve this right?  From my experience teaching, I would probably guess one of the following as the cause:

1.  Sloth - People are damned lazy... some agility handlers really remind me of those floaty chair people in Wall-E...  Even if you are a 'weekend warrior', you should ensure that your dog understands it's job... now this might take a lot longer for you, since you only train once a week (probably more of a social event) for an hour long at a local club, your dog lives boundary-less for the rest of the week, eating the mail man, eating out of your fridge and pee-ing on the couch... haha okay, so really embellishing again... you should try it, it is fun.
2.  Multi-Tasking Extreme Disorder (MED) - Some people feel the need to attempt to train every single behaviour (needed for agility) or seven different disciplines all at the same time.  Now even though I am a COMPLETE agility addict... and I mean seriously, if you could bake agility and slice it up into little juicy bite sizes pieces, that would become my staple diet.  If you could liquidize agility, I would stop drinking beer.. okay who am I kidding, I would never stop drinking beer, but I might replace my coffee with liquidized agility.  Despite that severe addiction, I have NO issues with cross-training and often encourage it... I am actually starting to teach my dogs flyball for some variety.  BUT (and this is the point where many, many, many people will disagree with me), there is a time for everything and you cannot possible expect your dog to learn everything at once.  First of all, unless you are a complete moron and train your dog for hours on end every day, there is NOT enough time to teach your dog poles and contacts and pull-throughs and go-rounds and obstacle discrimination and tracking and heelwork and scent and manwork and box turns and tricks and stays in the same month.  Just not going to happen.  Let's take the Stein as an example, you have all seen my videos, I have done a lot of end position work for the contacts, but this week I started weave pole training (sigh the training I hate the most), so for a little while, we will take a break from the contacts.  Yes, I will still do some jump training with him and a few tricks... but no need to completely overload his little brain.
3.  The Rush-Hour Traffic - And this one is very often applicable to those dogs with the vast potential that I spoke of earlier.  These people are like those cartoon pictures where people get the little dollar bill signs in their eyes right?  Except in this case it is agility trophies and AWC podium places that appear in their eyes...  so they rush things, because the sooner they can get there, the better... ironically these shortcuts often get them caught in rush-hour traffic where they encounter many obstacles.
4.  The Giver-Uppers aka The Inconsistent Crowd -  They are the bunch that will jump on that pyramid scheme so quickly that you just see a puff of dust in the distance.  For a dog to understand their job, they have to understand their job-description... so the equation is as follows:

Dog's Job = Agility
Dog's Job Description = Training (method)
Frequent Change = Confusion

Those that have read my blog for a while, will know that I moan about this last lot often and I often give them new creative names because they irritate the crapzamoli out of me!  In this context however, it is a very simple concept.  If you read a new book, watch a new dvd or make a super-duper smart new agility friend and subsequently decide to subscribe to their Agility Bible, you have to kind of stick to it for longer than three training sessions and seven failures... by changing your methodology at the drop of a hat, you are 100% guaranteed to confuse the beliving Apollo out of your dog.

Oke dokes, I could go about this for another three hours, but if you haven't gotten my point already, you never will... I am by no means professing to be perfect, hat, if only was, wouldn't THAT be awesome.  I have made oh so many mistakes including a good number of the ones that I have already mentioned... and in fact I should thank those that inspired this post, as you taught me a whole bunch of new things...  So thanks and gooood night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Projects, Tunnels and Cold Fronts

It is damn cold again... as in ridiculously damn cold...  Now please understand, I am a winter person, I LOVE winter... much prefer being cold to be hot... mainly because you can always put more clothes on, but you can only take that much off...  But I don't like endless months of winter, I am ready for warmer weather now.  Cold makes training unpleasant.  Regardless, I have actually been training this week... the dogs think it is awesome... I think it is cold, but they are always more important right? 

I read through my last few posts and realise it has been ages since I bored you with how much I am enjoying Volt...  he is just so keen and excited about everything.  That enthusiasm even overrides the extremely high-pitched annoying screaming that comes from that tiny little throat when I train the other dogs.  Since Volt is so responsive and has been 'getting' the technical skills so quickly and I don't believe in pushing technical skills too soon with young dogs, I have been working on some very plain and simple tunnel drive exercises.  It has been fun.

I do use a really annoying high-pitched voice when training him though.  That HAS to stop... it is just NOT on...  Why do I do it?  Who the hell knows, but perhaps it is a sub-concious reaction to him being a little dog.  No excuse though, I will now be concentrating on that, before I burst Volt or the neighbour's eardrums.  Or slit my wrists for being that ridiculous :)

On other fronts... I have decided on a new project... not giving any details yet, but here is a teaser :)

Hmmm, what else can I ramble about?  Oh yes, normally I just play with Delta with a ball to rid him of the excessive insane and schizophrenic energy that consumes his little body...  but when making the above video, Delta dusted off the cobwebs to go and do some contacts for me... and man, oh man, it has been a LONG time since I have seen a BC smile THAT much.  While dogs do agility because we love agility (I have never seen a dog teach itself the weave poles by choice after all), they love it just as much.  My 10-year old mad child proved that...  so I will let him do a bit now and then... just because he loves it.  Maybe he will run into fewer trees and stop climbing into the tub and out the bathroom window.  Haha, I have high hopes.  I did however discover that Delta LOVES butter lettuce... he will do any trick in the book for it.  Odd ball dog...

Anyhow until next time then!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bloem (possibly only part 1 - depends on how tired I get), car doors and electric blankets

So last weekend, the gang (me, Spaz, Special Needs, Stein) headed off to an icy cold Bloemfontein, for the Montego Classic Weekend 2011.  I left at 02h30 on Friday morning, firstly because it meant one night less away from home, secondly because I love driving alone in the dark... yes, yes, I know, it is an unhealthy habit, but so be it.  The nice thing about driving like this is that you have an excuse to stop at every Engen 1-Stop for Wimpy coffee... gotta love Wimpy coffee.  Anyhow, as per the usual, my post will NOT be in chronological order, in fact it won't be in any order... it will be in the order that my slightly insane, agility addicted brain decides to interpret it.

So first of all, I am a bit of an 'accommodation snob'... I want a really nice shower, with enough hot water and good pressure and I want a very comfortable clean bed... since these are the only two functions of a B&B/hotel/cottage/chalet/broom closet/shack I ever use when I travel to dog shows.  And I could not have been more pleased.  I had a stunning room, a huge property for the dogs to run and a very friendly labbie for the boys to play with.  The owners were SO accommodating and friendly and helpful it is not even true.  Even the other GUESTS adored the dogs and came for cuddles with them.  Let's not forget the fact that I got completely spoilt by the fact that they switched on the heater AND the electric blanket every night before my return.  Haha, those of you that want to know more for next year will have to negotiate with me, since I want to make sure I book first!
I went with a few goals in mind this weekend.  First of all there was my Quake-e-star, the Monster Man also known as Special Needs.  Now I was frowned upon the entire weekend for calling Quake, 'my special needs child', but honestly people, he IS special needs... I don't mean that in a bad or horrible way, but the little (big) dude is really a weird dog and I have to accommodate him.  This was his first 'away weekend' and considering the struggles I have had with him, I had ZERO expectations... I was prepared for 10/10 Eliminations.  My goal with him, was to have just ONE round, where he was enthusiastic and didn't shut down... I wasn't worried about the semi-long drive... Quake LOVES driving, he gets to nap with his head by my elbow.  But for little special needs boys, EVERYTHING is oh so very exciting, people and sounds and pretty colours and other dogs... all of those normally cancels me out.  The worst part is, that when I stress about this, he becomes worse and has been known to run off and greet judges by completely bowling them over and licking their faces.  I have done various experiments with him to try and de-sensitise him...  This weekend, my plan was just to socialise WITH him... I got him out of his crate early, a good few dogs before his runs, I chilled in my chair with him, I let him say allow to handlers and dogs (after asking for their permission of course)...  I basically let him be.  The one thing I DID do, was withdraw him when I felt he had to much on one day or when the course was too difficult for Grade 1.

So to cut a long story short... oh sh!t, not so short, I have already been rambling... Anyhow, Quake surprised me and nearly brought me to tears this weekend (NEARLY, nothing more than that mind you).  He absolutely loved being there.  As a minor bonus he managed some clear rounds, some qualifications and placings in 5 of the 7 rounds I ran him in (I THINK, lost track of all of that)... But A LOT more important... Quake was completely comfortable in the environment, both at the show grounds and at my accommodation... even better... for the first time EVER on Sunday, Quake came screaming out of his crate and shot off towards the rings, looking back at me saying 'come on ma, lets go play agility'  and the best ever?  Right next to the ring, with people and dogs about Quake started tugging at his leash, growling playfully and asking to play.  I also went back and was able to correct mistakes without Quake freaking out and refusing to do the rest of the course...  Okay so this sounds stupid to most of you... hell it would have sounded stupid to me before I actually got Quake, but trust me, this is THE biggest leap he has EVER taken forward... *smiles contently*.

Those that know me, will remember that I said in May this year, that Quake had 6 months... if he enjoyed agility that would be AWESOME, if not, that would be cool too, he would continue being a house dog and beloved pet.  Of course I knew his potential, living with him and training him and all, but if he didn't enjoy competitive agility, I wasn't going to force him down that road.  His agility career was looking bleak and the next ultimatum was that if he shut down the week before Bloem at local shows, he would not be going... then he surprised me with a super clear round and a first place... he obviously wanted to go to Bloem.  And he didn't disappoint.  He really is special needs and he might always be... I don't mind treating him differently than my other dogs, as long as he enjoys it!  It has been hard for me, for the past 14 years, I have had highly motivated dogs, and yes, there have been a ton of mistakes, but nothing has been harder than this.  I always stand ringside (as I did this weekend) and express y disgust for people that FORCE their dogs to do agility... it could not be more apparent that said dogs do not want to be there, so where did I draw the line for my own unmotivated dog?  Well apparently I will have to wait and see :)  Haha, one thing I will say is that it is A LOT more exhausting running, my slower boy Quake than it is Chaos... Jeez, I came of the course completely out of breath a few times, even though Quake runs about 1.5m/s slower than Chaos. Here are some of his highs and lows of the past weekend:

Volt, well he just went with for funsies (yes you are allowed to shoot me now... I am NOT the teen girl movie slang type).  He did get me a bit concerned, as he wasn't recalling off other dogs, but oh well, just something for me to work on.  He played... A LOT... with tons of dogs, BC pup (still awaiting the pics btw J), mini Aussie girl, adult BC's, some Puli's, a couple of poodles... etc etc.  We also did some serious tugging right next to the rings and a few waits.  Volt is a dream, so easy to work with and take along everywhere, since nothing phases him.  He is convinced that the entire world loves him... not always a good quality, but oh well. He did also peak the interest of some handlers that have not seen him before... haha even made a very... erm how do I say this nicely... egotistical small dog handler stress big time and poor Stein is not even a year old yet!

So on to my heart and soul boy, the one and only Spaz.  I went with two specific goals in mind this time around... and I managed to achieve neither.  But then my boy surprised me by achieving something else which I did not remotely expect (Thanks Dawn!).  Please understand me, he ran like a friggin dream, with me making some serious mistakes (as will be so apparent in the video, which by the way is also in absolutely no distinguishable order).  The biggest problem of the weekend is that he cost me no less than 6 rounds with one bar each (spectacular times though), that was heart-breaking.  It DID remind me, however, that I haven't done my own special version of knock-training in more than a month.  *Bangs head against wall*.  When I KNOW he responds so well to this... okay all together now 'JACKASS'.  He did manage some good clear rounds though and his I could not have asked more from his contacts!  What a man.  His see-saws did slow down towards the end of the weekend... think he was just DONE, kind of like me.  The grounds in Bloem are very hard and has almost no grass... not complaining, but considering how stiff I STILL am, I think the dogs must have taken strain. The courses over-all were surprisingly easy and I only though of 1 course as challenging.  This did make for good competition on time.  The other thing which is becoming more apparent with every bumper weekend is the following:

Most dogs + tons of rounds = tired
Chaos + tons of rounds = Insane and full of energy

What an odd boy, but it does get my timing off badly... hmmm... yet another thing to remember and work on. Anyhow, I have adjusted my goals now and the year goes on... I am so happy with the Spaz... and on that note... Happy B-Day my boy, 5 years ago, today you were born and MAN am I glad you came into my life! Anyhow, herewith Chaos's highs and lows in Bloem:

Other random thoughts:

1.  I dislike judges that do not set up appropriate lower grade courses, some are just lazy, some just cannot 'see' it, some have never run a dog, some are just ignorant.  Regardless, I have a philosophy NOT to complain about grade 3 courses, I should be able to do whatever you throw at me, however my grade 1 dog should not be subjected to the same circumstances.
2.  Phrase of the weekend.... Terminal Disappointment.  Thanks W, it is STILL stuck in my head.
3.  I ended up stewarding for Flyball this weekend... jeez, I though agility people were bad, but MAN, those flyball oaks can get disjointed about things hey?  Really exciting sport though... hmmmm, might my dogs be learning FB soon?  Let's wait and see.
4.  I don't like arrogant people and bad attitudes.
5.  If your dog is aggressive or particularly unpredictable in ANY way... do NOT tie it up on a rickety stake right next to the ring and do NOT take it into a crowded hall, filled with other people and dogs.
6.  Do not throw a ball in a 100 square kilometres from a braai (barbecue) or any other object containing hot coals... dogs have the ability to change the trajectory of a ball so they land on TOP of the coals.
7.  Do not shut your finger in the car door (yes I actually managed to do this and I am pretty sure I will lose my right index finger's nail)
8.  Judges that don't call handling faults really irritate me... seriously if 'touching your dog' aided your dog in any way (for example to get the pole entry), this should be faulted.
9.  I have had an over-stimulation of tunnels under dog walks, I promise for the rest of my judging this year, there will be no tunnels under dog walks.
10.  I LOVE the camaraderie of 'away shows'.  I like seeing people that live half-way across the country from me.  I like seeing new dogs.  I like catching up with friends.  I like getting input from other people.  I like giving input (haha, yes sorry to those of you that didn't know me from a bar of soap).
11.  Apparently when I go away for 5 days, my hubby starts baking... I like it.
12.  LK breeds DAMN fast mini-aussies/NAS's... wow.
13.  People and dogs are equally unpredictable.

On a special note, a well done to my god-daughter-dog Seis... what a weekend!

Hmmm... I think that is enough for now... I may or may not post a part two with some more thoughts... who knows!

All photos courtesy of Melissa Wilson.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Preparation, Irritation and Red Wine

Sitting, relaxing and having a nice glass of red wine.  Well and writing this post of course.  This coming weekend we have our biggest Agility Weekend of the year in Bloemfontein.  It varies from year to year, but this year it is a five day weekend that includes 5 Championship Shows, the KUSA (Kennel Union of South Africa) Nationals, an Inter-provincial Dog Jumping event AND an FCI show.  For Chaos this means 20 rounds, Quake is running 10 rounds and me... well I am running my arse off apparently.  This will be the first time that Quake is travelling with me.  Now some people might disagree with me, but dogs are just as different as human beings when it comes to travel.  Echo never had issues travelling and was always just his good old self.  No jet lag so to speak. Delta was a nut job... put him in a car for a few hours and sleep at a different venue and Delta lost the few brain cells that he had.  It was always entertaining that is for sure!  Chaos is awesome to travel with and tends to be even BETTER at away shows, provided I keep it together of course!

I don't know what Quake will do, so I have entered him very conservatively, running only two rounds a day.  Considering his up-and-down performance over the last while, I am really not expecting anything, I will withdraw where necessary and just take it as it comes.  The problem with leaving my house for five days means leaving a husband with two sick dogs.  Delta's ear is still stitched and Echo is still up and down.  Not only that, but there is always a ton of things that need to be done.  Washing, pre-cooking meals for the better half (haha, he doesn't mind cooking, but I prefer NOT to come home to a kitchen that is a complete disaster)... and today I had to ATTEMPT to sort something out at the bank... it was NOT successful, which lead to some serious irritation.  Oh and pack and make sure all the dogs and cats' meds and food and emergency supplies are in order.  Oh yes and have to still have my car cleaned and wash and dip the dogs.  Lets not forget making sure that all my admin is in order... okay my brain is frying so I am just going to stop thinking about it now.

The dogs of course don't understand why I am not really training them this week and the more I explain to them that they are going to be knackered after the weekend, the more they bug me and bring toys and spin in circles and bark at me.  I AM doing little things with them, some conditioning and just running a contact or two daily, but apparently that is not good enough.

On a completely different note, I DID train Volt a bit today.  And the monkey knocked a bar for the first time.  Before I even had time to react, or NOTICE it for that matter, he had already gotten a heart attack and birthed a squirrel and ran off into the far distance.  Now the bars are still on about 10cm and he just mis-judged his take-off, so I really was not concerned.  I called him back and he came as close as 3m from the jumps, but that was IT.  He ran circles and circles and squares and triangles around the jumps, but would not come closer.  What now?  I decided to just take a break and returned to the yard about an hour later, he was just fine, the earlier cardiac arrest and squirrel birthing apparently forgotten.  True as bob though, he knocked another bar and the same thing happened.  Aah the presence of new training challenges, gotta love it.  When I went out this afternoon he was fine again and ran like a dream, however this is something I need to think about.  First of all, I don't want a dog that regularly knocks and demolishes courses, so on the one hand I am at least glad that Stein is CONCIOUS of knocking.  But I do NOT want a dog that becomes a skitty rodent birthing pup that needs a pacemaker.  He is not overly sound sensitive or movement skitty and has no issues with being touched in any way.  In fact he couldn't care less about any other movement or noise and doesn't mind any object touching him.  So why did a silly little knock affect him so much?  Well I have the WHOLE weekend to over-analyse it, over-think it, start stressing, stop stressing, find a solution and apply it. Needless to say the monkey is also going with to Bloem, he gets to socialise and do all those fun things.

One thing I WILL tell you is that this weekend is going to be VERY VERY interesting, and not only in good ways.  However looking forward to seeing out-of-province friends, having a few drinks with buddies and running the boys.  Bring on the weekend baby!

Oh yes and awesome news another round of mine from WODAC (the one I really wanted has been uploaded) Here it is:

All photos courtesy of Melissa Wilson.