Saturday, March 24, 2012

SO much to write about.... so let's start here... oh yes AND the Tyre Jump (well the rigid one)

I have given up on chronological order.... just doesn't make sense in my life anymore.  In fact I don't think my LIFE is happening in chronological order anymore...

So first we will talk about Chaos and the SA Champs/AWC Qualifier Trials... FINALLY all trials have been completed and I can post a video of Spaz doing his bestness with a lacking handler.  Honestly, this it he highest up I have ever been with ANY dog and I do have a small wheel-barrow full of points, so please realise I am NOT complaining about my tied 4th place for the trials, however, it WAS a bit disappointing to drop 2 spots after the last trial because I am a spastic!  Of course this does not mean too much in the long run, at the end of the day we need to go the finals in June and do our thee-ang.  Which, just by the way, we ARE planning to do... I do hope the Czech Republic is beckoning though...

Here are all Spaz's rounds though... as the trials go on (each one was run on a different day), you can see my nerves disappearing and my trust in my dog manifesting...

Thanks Lucy for the lucky shirt btw!

Oh yes and I KNOW I use that song a lot, but since Youtube blocks 99.9999999999% of the audio on whatever I upload, I tend to go for my 'safe, inspiring' songs and this one is VERY  much suited to Agility...

I made TONS of vids through-out these trials, so here are just two of the comparisons I did:

Now in my mind, I was going to take a few weeks off from being competitive and rather get my heightened mental stage back about 2 weeks before the finals, I mean I would enter the show and run with no expectations and only training in mind... although I KNEW this was not realistic, since I KNEW I really wanted my last Contact QC (Champ Ticket)... the first opportunity for that came about on Friday night.... and Spaz did it for me.  After some stressful moments might we add.... Chaos is now a CONTACT Champion!  Of course after achieving this, Chaos decided FOR me that we were taking our 'chill from competition time'... mentally anyway... that means BOTH of us... since that round last night, Chaos has had THE most wild, uncontrolled and brainless rounds I have ever seen.  Seriously, Chaos has completely lost his mind, and I will have to compose a special video to demonstrate his madness... which includes shooting halfway across a course to go and spin himself around into a perfect 2o2o on the DW for no discernible reason.

For those that were there today, don't stress too much, I PROMISE the comments of Chaos being for sale or even FREE to a good home is not true!  I do still love him to tiny, thousand bits that are embedded in my blood stream :)

Now on to Super Sheltie, also known as Jonas of the Golden Fir also known as Volt, also known as Stein and also known as Little Sh!t.  How cool has he been in the last two days?  The answer is super cool!  Mistakes were made for sure, but the boy did what I asked of him (even when I asked it inadvertently)... I will rave about the whole lot later, but for now... so last night Volt got his last qualification (meaning a clear and a win) in the 'lower grade' of our sport called Dog Jumping and won his way into the highest grade....  by the time this morning came about he had the chance to jump for his first for a QC (Qualifying Certificate) which is the equivalent of a Champ ticket in the UK... of course before Volt had even put his feet past the finish poles last night, our little agility community was ragging me that I just wanted to win that first QC (haha, thanks by the way guys, I think you were good 'positive re-enforcement').  I honestly didn't though... I just wanted NICE and happy rounds.  Regardless, Volt decided that he is making a habit of this whole 'exceeding me expectations' thing, and he DID it...  VOLT WON HIS FIRST QC!

Okay so my next post will include course design, consistent judging and some more on Spaz and Stein...  For now I would like to leave you with the next vid.... even if you didn't watch any of the others, please watch this and SHARE and we will talk more about it in the next post:


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

First Agility Show, A Quick Gripe and Crufts

So this past Sunday was Volt's first Agility Show.   Honestly he could have probable done what he wanted, like grab the  judge's shoe and jump in the river with it, I would have STILL been happy.  It was just nice being able to run my boy in all the competitions.  His contacts were slower than in training, but that is just confidence competition thing... from BOTH me and him.  But he held his position nicely, I really am happy!  Of course I had to mess up two handling sections.  First because I tried to over-manage him, I mean seriously, he might be young, but he is not a three-legged cat that has never seen a tunnel.  THEN I try and handle him like an advanced A3 dog instead of the youngster he is.  Moral of the story (as always), bad handler, good Volt.  In Non-Contact we had a small hitch in the poles, I back-crossed him and halfway through he got a bit confused. His poles are also a little bit slower in the ring too, but I am really not fussed, I know that will come.  By the last round of the day both of us had settled and he had a nice clear with a win and a qualification.

Spaz was being good too, just a shame I let him down, hey?  I am very happy with his contact round, even though I dq'd him.  In Non-Contact he had a nice round, even though I changed my handling plan last minute.  Haha, see if you can spot it.  In Dog Jumping he took the first bar, eish Spaz, lift those foots.

This coming weekend we have the last trial and I will finally know what our qualifying ranking is.  Volt is running in the last trial, but looking at the points in Small, Volt can't really make the SA Champs.  That is okay with me too, I just want to RUN him some more,  he is just so much fun!

Unfortunately the competition in the small class in South Africa is REALLY lacking and I have no way to compare myself... So at the moment I am chasing the large dog times... so I made a small comparison video to see how Volt is doing. (I have given up making videos to music, as everything just gets blocked)

I spent the entire weekend watching Crufts like the Agility Addicted Zombie I am.  I really enjoyed it.  The quality of the agility was very good.  Watched some awesome dogs.  The weekend DID re-iterate the gripe that I have been having that with the immense improvement in the speed of Agility dogs, we need to do something about contact judging.  I am not blaming judges or handlers or trainers, but unfortunately I DO have a slow play function and can see the tons of missed contacts and see-saw fly-offs that do not get called, purely because the dogs are just too fast.  I have heard and read about all these fantastic new electronic contacts, but I am yet to see one in a major final.  I really hope that the sport of Agility will try to fully convert to these as soon as possible.

When I heard that Crufts were having 15 high-risk breeds checked by vets before allowing them in Group, I thought 'ja, right, it is all for appearances'.  Imagine my surprise when some of those dogs were actually not allowed in group?  I really think Crufts is on the right path here.  There are so many breeds that I feel are a disgrace to dog lovers. I realise that this superficial check is not nearly enough, in an ideal world all dogs would be DNA tested, X-Rayed, Cat-Scanned, have a full blood work-up etc before even being allowed to compete, but we know that we don't live in an ideal world.  At least this is a START.  Of course I just look at some of the dogs that still made the group and I have to wonder how the hell these people think that those dogs can still do the job they were supposed to be bred for.  Of course we have the same problem in breeding for Agility.  In South Africa I know of so many dogs that have been bred to supposedly produce 'agility litters', when the lines are riddled with genetic problems, never mind the fact that their structures or temperament are far from ideal.  People breed these dogs because they have done reasonably well in the ring and NO other reason.  This lead to new agility people who have little knowledge, to be disappointed by puppies that are unhealthy or don't meet their expectations.  The even SADDER thing is that some very knowledgeable people that are completely aware of these problems SUPPORT these breeders and keep them in business.

Of course we all have our own preferences of what we want in a dog.  Structure and temperament-wise (I am pretty sure we ALL want healthy dogs) we all like something different.  I like tall muscular Borders, others like their dogs smaller and slighter.  I don't see a problem with that, as long as these dogs that are being bred actually have a good structure and have been thoroughly tested and their work ethic and temperament is good.

Anyhow I watched the storm of comments that arose from the vet checking at Crufts and all I could do was shake my head.  While I prefer pure bred dogs because I want to know what I am getting, I just don't see the point of breeding pure bred dogs when they are unhealthy when we already have SO many unwanted dogs in the world?

 * All pictures courtesy of Melissa Wilson

Monday, March 5, 2012

Third Trial, Handling and Perception of Understanding

So two weeks ago we had the third qualifying trial for SA Champs and AWC Try-Outs.  The courses were at least slightly more technical than round 2, but still not the difficulty I was hoping for in this kind of event.  Regardless, as per the usual, you put some pressure on people and watch many bomb out.  The Agility Round for me was a complete heart breaker!  Chaos had a really nice round, but as in really really, I promise.  Just to touch the second last bar with one tiny little tippy toe.  Oh well, such is life.  And in all fairness he did make up for it with a nice clear in the jumping round.  So we are still lying right up there in second place.  One more trial and then the finals in June... what a looooong drawn out process.  It can't possible be good for my nerves!  I just want to know whether I am going to Czech now or not.  Chaos doesn't care though, he doesn't care about nerves anymore (which is quite cool), Chaos just cares about doing something.  Something exciting.  A lot.  At this exact moment Chaos is trying to tell The Nerd to put on pants and go and throw a ball for them.  Volt is agreeing with Chaos.  Delta couldn't care, obviously a lot of people are ordering pizza tonight... the delivery guy on his little motorcycle has been tormenting Delta endlessly.  Quake is chill-o's.  I like living with dogs.  It is very amusing.

Although it annoys me every time, it annoys me a little bit more this week that people blame their dogs unfairly. Which is almost always.  Half the time they blame their dogs for their own mistakes, the other half of the time they blame their dogs because their perception of understanding is wrong.  I don't often outright say someone is wrong in agility, but seriously people.  If I hear ONE more time 'he is just being naughty, he ALWAYS does it at home, just never anywhere else', I might just shoot someone.  Obviously your perception of your dog's understanding is seriously warped.  Understanding INCLUDES generalisation, in case you did not know.  If your dog can only do something at home this means that he has not generalised the behaviour and there for you cannot categorically state that he has an understanding.  This includes those that have actually not had the same criteria in other environments (shows or different training venues) than at home.  Yes, I am talking to those that releases their dogs (with supposed 2o2o contacts) as soon as that first toe touches the very top of the contact at shows.  Then they are surprised when the dog eventually starts leaping from the middle of the dog walk (yes I am exaggerating again).  You want me to explain it to you?  At home you train a 2o2o... get to a show and all of a sudden there is no criteria?  Your dog has no clue what they are supposed to do.  That is just an example by the way...  If your dog doesn't 'do stuff right' at a show or new venue, then you need to help them generalise the behaviour, by doing some foundation of said behaviour in different venues.  And ALWAYS have the same criteria... Okay honestly, I will do a quick release that the World Champs and maybe at the National Champs, but if you don't expect some form of criteria 90% of the time, you are really just screwing yourself... and your dogs, not that our dogs care about the criteria, but because you are bound to get pissy with them...

In line with that argument.... we had a training day yesterday.  Our provincial committee organises them, basically we stick up two courses, one novice and one advanced, it is our competition equipment, on our regular competition rounds, rings set out like normal etc.  Then you pay your 30 bucks (2.50 pounds, 4 dollars) for the day and you can do as much training as you want, provided of course there is no harsh handling or other plain STUPID things and training 'methods'.  Handlers ask other people to act as judges, they are allowed to take food and targets and toys in the ring or you can run it as a 'competition' round.  It is all really for the good of the sport and it has been very well met.  Anyhow, this gave me to give Volt a go over the full competition contacts and ask for criteria and get a full on reward in the ring!  Of course we had some 'less than perfect' moments too, Stein was only 18 months old (exactly) on the day, but I LOVE that, because I don't want him to be perfect now already.  I am still super happy with what he did, so I felt the intense need to make a'pretty video', but it does include his mistakes in the beginning too.

Now just sitting there yesterday watching other people it just made my opinion so much clearer on the whole training/handling relationship.  There are a few situations (these aren't necessarily a full time scenario, we ALL make mistakes sometimes).  You get the bad handler/bad trainer combo... I have no clue what they are asking their dog to do and neither does their dog, because it changes all the time.  The one moment an opposite arm is suppose to mean get out and away from me, but the very next second that same opposite arm is supposed to mean come to me.  You get the bad handler/good trainer moments, the dog is doing exactly what it has been taught to do, but the handler had an...erm shall we call it lapse in judgement... so what the handler is asking is actually for the dog to go off course.  And then of course the good handler/bad trainer scenario, the handling is technically speaking perfect, except for the part where they never actually taught their dog to do what they are asking.  The trick is analysing your partnership with your dog and figuring out which parts falls in which categories... or finding a trainer that can do that for you accurately and actually believing them.

Anyhow, I promise I will post some more vids of Super Spaz soon, just that all the trial videos have to be held off until ALL the handlers have run them...

*All photos courtesy of Melissa Wilson