Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Right Stuff, The Debate and The Small Dog

Hmmm, be prepared for a controversial post and be warned I have put on a bullet-proof vest!

As I have mentioned before, we have started a training group.  Just a few friends that meet, have a couple of drinks (and Sprite), run short courses, laugh and discuss tons of agility.  What more do you want in life?  Honestly it has been the best influence on my personal agility that I have had in years... Chaos will agree, but basically only because if it involves work he is happy.  Quake agrees, cos he loves the stress free environment.  Volt doesn't know it yet, but he WILL agree, it has helped him bridge that gap between comfort zone training (home) and the real world.  And trust me 'the real world' with Volt is hard.  First of all, when you import a dog, people watch, they really do.  They watch your every move, it is a little bit stalker-ish.  Second of all, you put pressure on yourself, since you spent so much research and time and money and effort, you feel the NEED to prove yourself.  It might sound stupid to you, but it is the truth.  I am NOT saying I need to JUSTIFY my choice.  I will love any dog I get, regardless of how they perform, I get dogs because I love them and I love having a relationship with them (of any kind).  But it is an inexplicable need  to prove to yourself that it was the right decision.  All the more so, when you take a risk like me and get a whole new breed!  But our little training group has provided me with The Right Stuff and I have never felt better about agility.  It has given me AND my dogs a new-found confidence.  Thanks guys!  On top of that, I have two agility friends out of province, that have dogs at similar ages and the information that we share is invaluable!  I have been involved with many clubs and training arrangements, but I have really found 'my magic' now... how corny is that!  No disrespect against any of my previous trainers or training partners, but you have to find what works for you, that is just the way it is.

Now I have to rave about the small dog again.  Everyday I thank Jenny Vandenhole of Golden Fir Shelties ( for sending me this spectacular boy.  Not only is he everything that I wanted (which I depicted in a 5 page document), but he is more.  Tonight was the first time we did 12 weave poles away from the comfort of home, so what does he do?  He gives me a 10/12 success rate and one of the failures was me very obviously handling like my big fat arse....  Point is for a 14 month old dog he is going like a Boeing AND having fun doing it.  Now I consider myself to be very lucky and have had very successful and talented agility dogs, but the Stein is in a league of his own.

Which brings me to my next point... THE most controversial point....  First a bit of history, my agility history consists of 6 Border Collies and 3 small dogs.  One of my first dogs was our pet maltese, Roxan, she was slow as molasses and honestly only did it for me, so I don't really count her.  Then I assisted in the training of and eventually ran and competed with my mother's 'brak' (that was supposed to be a pure-bred schnauzer, but then life happened).  Quite a talented dog, that placed in the National Dog Jumping Champs.  While I am not proclaiming to be a small/medium expert, I have a little bit of experience.  Now the numbers in small and medium in South Africa are a bit atrocious, locally a maximum of 5 dogs is normal, so when getting a small dog I KNEW that I would have to 'compete' against the large dogs (time wise), which is a bit unfair... BUT it is unfair both ways.  A 50cm BC jumping 65cm jumps giving two strides in between obstacles, compared to a 33.5cm Sheltie jumping 35cm giving 4 strides in between jumps....  Honestly though, the small dogs I have trained have been easier to train.  They just have.  PERFECTING that training is a whole different story, that is equally hard, but pure training?  Easier on small dogs, because I have so many more strides to correct my bad training and crappy timing on.  Therefor Small dogs are a lot more forgiving.  While it will be much harder to perfect Volt's training, since he IS faster than Chaos (proven by the stopwatch), he is capable of being a lot more perceptive, purely because of his size.

I am out of my league on this statement I suppose, looking at phenomenal dogs like Hoss winning the large AWC at age 2 (and again at 3) or La, winning the medium AWC at round about 2 (a very special moment for me, seeing as it was the first year I competed at the AWC) or Bernadette Bay and Zaz winning a bronze this year this year in small AWC before that amazing Sheltie even turned 3.  Another special moment for me, seeing as watching all Bernadette's puppies convinced me to get a Sheltie in the first place.  And here I go comparing my first 'real agility small dog' to my talented, but not World Champ large dogs.  Some audacity I have hey?  Now please understand, I give those best of the best small/medium dogs all the credit in the world, they are phenomenal, but in MY experience (and only in mine) it IS easier to train a small dog.  Whether I will get it 'right' with the Stein still remains to be seen though.  Definitely time to up my game as a handler.

Now it is time to give Spaz his credit as well.  He performed like a star at training tonight and I am always amazed by how hard that little (huge) BC tries.

Tonight, let's all love our dogs and appreciate them for what they are.... our whiny neurotic old guys (Echo, my first born), our insane, selectively deaf mad things (Delta, the motor-bike chaser), our hard-working honest tryer-harders (Chaos, my heart and soul), our weird, autistic miss-fits (Quake, my special needs boy) and our put-no-foot-wrong Golden Boys (My Sheltie man, Jonas of the Golden Fir).

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