Sunday, January 29, 2012

Dedications, Tributes and Top Dog

For those that do not know yet, I lost my amazing Echo this past week, just short of his 14th Birthday.  I am not ready to write about him yet, that will come with time.  It took me a few days just to be able to tell my close friends and please know that I am not being rude or dismissive to anyone, I am just not ready.

However, I dedicated all Chaos's rounds to Echo today.  Chaos took my dedications to heart and went on to win the Over-All Agility Competition at the NAPC Top Dog Invitational this morning.

While my neither of my rounds were perfect, I think Chaos worked well and I am happy with it.

Thank you to everyone that shared their wonderful memories of my boy at the show this morning!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Things you have never done....

Tonight's post will mostly NOT be about Agility... Imagine that...

As I mentioned in the previous post, these past 10 days, we had the absolute privilege of having well-known, successful Agility trainers, Lee Gibson and Lucy Osborne here in Johannesburg.  I will rave about the awesomeness of the workshops and seminars later on.  Some GOOD agility, the boys really enjoyed it!  Lucy seems to be a tiny little bit in love with Volt, which of course is SUPER COOL. She ended up taking a TON of amazing pics of him. But now back to non-Agility things...

Photo by Lucy Osborne

Of course we wanted to show them some cool-arsed South African things, so a couple of months back me and J began hunting for things to do... as the time came closer we settled on some activities and sight-seeing trips.  Lucky for us they are both really nice, easy-going people, so it was FUN to entertain them too.  Lots of laughs, sore stomach muscles even...  Those that are befriended with me on Facebook (oi, are you THAT desperate for friends :) ) would have seen some of the pics of the past 10 days... We went to Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves (, where we had an ice-fight in the 'elements ride', but couldn't manage to tip the boat, damnit.  We got some pretty cool commemorative pics though.The Craft Market at Rosebank (, where we witnessed Lee's bargaining skills.... apparently 'Morning Prices' weren't good enough for him!  For those that have not been to Africa... here we bargain baby and there is always some 'special price' for something... Lucy the Pole (NOT), got the 'Polish Price', but turned out the British price was just the same???  We went to The Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens (, taking a short, but very steep hike up the mountain, but unfortunately the black eagles that breed there didn't want to come to the party and remained elusive...  We did have a fantastic lunch though and spied the sneaky finches stealing and eating sugar packets.  All the 'in-between' times were also filled with a lot of jokes and 'jackassery' (there is always a jack-ass somewhere right Lee?)

The most amazing day was on Saturday, when we went to the Anne van Dyk Cheetah Centre ( to see the Cheetah run and pet some real live cheetahs as well as take the tour.  The best part for me was seeing the African Wild Dogs, they are just such phenomenal animals and I haven't seen one since I was a little kid of 8.  We had a fantastic tour guide and the whole experience was just amazing.  After a brilliant Wimpy brunch (shame, poor Lee, it is the only thing he will miss apparently :) ) we headed off to the Elephant Sanctuary ( , where we got to meet, greet and interact with some amazingly affectionate African Elephants.  They were the most brilliant creatures.  And so considerate... the one even retrieved Lucy's sunglasses when they fell off during her Elephant back ride!  Scary enough, we also witnessed a BRIDE in a full-on white, fluffy wedding dress get on an elephant (I mean REALLY people?).

We followed this with a fun-filled (and bruising and stiffening) two days at Sun City (, which involved so many things I don't know where to start!  Water games, water slides (oi, or flumes as the Brits call 'em), sundowners, lots of FOOD (especially for W), semi-drunken charades, which was HILARIOUS and trust me, video will follow....  followed by a slight anti-climax today at a our local theme-park... neither me, nor J had been there since little kids (when it was pretty cool), but today was NOT cool!  Literally half the rides were 'closed for maintenance' and it was dirty and neglected.... luckily we are the kind of people that can make the best of any situation and we fully utilized two of the best ever thrill rides that were open.

The sad thing is that even though I live here in deep (not so deep, just South), dark (not at all, the friggin sun is always shining, which SUCKS when you are hung over) Africa (is a tough country baby).  And most of these things are a short drive away from my house, I would have never gone and done them if it wasn't for Lee and Lucy's visit.  Of course the good company helps make it even better, but the lesson learnt is to DO things!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Quicky, Ice Fights and Learning

Just a super quick update... I fully intended to say another million things about my Sheltie, then another two million things about Spaz and my shocking handling of Sunday and then another three million things about agility in general... but we are hosting Lee Gibson ( or if you are just blog addicted and Lucy Osborne ( or if you are just blog addicted here in Johannesburg at the moment, so will have to do full updates next week.  Hosting them has thus far included ice fights, to-the-minute planning NOT and awesome seminars!

For now I will include Spaz's video from Sunday:

Terrible rounds from my side....

And one of the awesome pics that C took of my Stein-man on Sunday:

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Goals, Expectations and UnadulterateEod Happiness

In 2012 I started a serious goal setting process.. but I am disappointed to tell you that both my competing dogs surpassed my bloody expectations already.  I am disappointed because I will now have to raise the bar... not for my dogs (since they are already super friggin awesome), but for ME.  And that after only one show.

Before I start raving about my own dogs for today, I just want to say thanks to my training partners (you jackasses all know who you are), I will edit all of your phenomenal rounds today soon soon.  Thanks for your support, you have made such a difference.  And to my Spaz Chaos boy, you were also coolio and met all our aims.  Tonight however belongs to Steiner, the sheltie man, Jonas of the Golden Fir...  My official (written and recorded) goal for him, was to have a NICE round.  I was expecting some faults.  That first show with a young, baby dog is always so daunting and nerve-wrecking.  All I wanted was a round I could be proud of, regardless of the faults or placing... Volt however took that VERY literally... oh you want to be proud?  Coolio, I will go clear, win my class with a qualification AND beat all the other dogs (small, medium and large) by at least four seconds.

From the video, you can SEE how nervous I was (walking next to the poles? Since friggin when?).  Baby boy just went out there and did his thing, even WITH a retarded handler.

For those that don't know, I sent Volt's breeder a four page email with my 'requirements' for my pup and not only did she meet every single one of those wishes ( to the T), but she provided me with a once in a lifetime dog!

The next post will be all about the super awesomeness of my Spaz boy and all our training friends, but tonight the blog is Stein's.  Thanks baby boy:

Friday, January 13, 2012

Idiots, Reputation and Taking a Stand

Normally I wouldn't blog about this kind of thing, but at the moment my blood is boiling and if I don't start venting soon, the steam will be coming out of my ears and not long after that, my tiny little agility filled brain will explode...  I already have huge issues with these fantastic (being sarcastic), skilled (being very sarcastic), knowledgeable (being so sarcastic I deserve a smack), so-called (not being sarcastic) 'dog whisperers'.  In other word dominance trainers that actually have no understanding of the modern domestic dog.  But this one takes the cake.  I invite you to watch James Lech, the (so-called) South African Dog 'Shaman's' (so-called) rehabilitated Rottweiler and (so-called) therapy dog in a shopping mall last year:

Now I am NOT a qualified dog behaviourist, however I have worked with dogs for 18 years and I have come to my own conclusion just watching that stupid little video.  Did you also come to a conclusion?

As if that was not bad enough.  As if that did not embarrass and compromise responsible and semi-knowledgeable dog owners enough, he levelled to the following:

While I am not going to get into controversial arguments regarding the training methods (or misunderstanding there of), I DO want to mention the situation that so-called experts like this put us, as responsible agility dog trainers in.

No, I am not exaggerating, I have met this guy on a few occasions. It is not just a media induced opinion. Regardless of that, the said Rottie is A RISK TO SOCIETY, I do not trust that dog with myself, my dogs or any other living thing.  My instincts in that regard are pretty reliable.  And even if it was not, the response on FB was so extreme from those that have met him, all agreeing with me, that he really should not be allowed in the dog-world.

South Africa is NOT a dog-friendly country.  Around here dogs are not allowed in ANY shopping malls, absolutely not in public transport.  Finding accommodation when we travel to shows are a nightmare (and very expensive).  Hotels and motels?  Forget about it!  Only privately owned B&B's and cottages for us.  Even when we do take our dogs to public parks, people run in fear and hide behind bushes (Okay, so this time I might be exaggerating a little bit).  Basically dogs are not allowed anywhere (and just by the way, by LAW not on the beach that he was walking his dog off-lead).  Now with his wonderful reputation (yes sarcasm again) and all this fantastic exposure to the dog world (even more sarcasm), we do not stand a chance.

I am writing about ONE country and ONE irresponsible #$^%@#$^%^ (remember my blog is family rated).  While I blame the uneducated 'so-called dog trainers', this incident DOES prove one thing.  Us, as responsible dog-owning public need to take a stand and make it KNOWN.  We need to make the general 'non-dog-world' pet owners understand that people like this and other very well known 'uneducated but charismatic' public dog figures are not acceptable.  We need to promote responsible pet-ownership.  We need to get our Kennel Unions and Kennel Associations to MARKET themselves, so people know what it is all about.  We need to get the information out there, so people can make the right decisions.  Even if you can give this information to ten people, it will make a difference.  It is time to pay it forward in the dog world.  It is time to disprove fallacies, correct stigmas and reveal truth.

If that truth comes to light, fame-hunting, uneducated trainers will not survive.  If we make human kind realise that in dog training and behaviourism, the 'ideal result' (in their eyes), does not actually mean that the issue has been resolved.  If we make them realise that cruelty and unreliability exists in their 'solutions', they might understand where we come from.  Instead of starting public debates (and thereby creating more support for the uneducated), let's give them the facts.  Let's make the information available to anyone that has access to Google.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012, Flooding and Philosophies

I cannot believe I haven't blogged in almost three weeks.  I guess with no shows, I don't always feel the 'urgency' to blog.  I have also been busy with some random things, new on-line syllabuses,  training plans, round analysis and then of course the house and The Nerd, shame the poor dud deserves some attention every now and again.

Happy New Year!

2012 is off to a very good start training-wise, goal-wise and attitude-wise, hat but NOT weather-wise.  I am sitting here like a welted flower, sweat dripping down, trying to maintain consciousness and fighting heat-stroke.   And this is while a thunderstorm is going outside. THAT is how hot it is.  Of course that is a limiting factor in the  whole 'agility training' deal.  Not that I am fussed, the very short sessions we have been doing very early in the morning and late in the evenings have been ALL good.  Thus far all short-term training goals achieved.  I have a lot planned for agility in 2012, I will be trying out for the team again, Volt's career will officially start and I am aiming for clears and placings and 'agility harmony'.  We have also been doing walks and up-hill sprints for conditioning and the dogs are LOVING that.  A lot to look forward to this month too, first shows of the year, seminars with Lee Gibson and Lucy Osborne from the UK, lots of agility stuffs *claps hands together like only an insane agility person can*.  And a (very) mini-getaway, which I am REALLY looking forward to.

After a conversation with a friend who started Agility less than a year ago, it dawned on me... I am SO glad I am NOT starting out with Agility now.  When I started in 1997, there just wasn't THAT much information available.  There were a handful of schools, limited methods.  No on-line class rooms, no blogs, only a few dvd's and books.  I could develop on my own and kind of evolve 'with' the sport.  This friend of mine, is completely flooded by information.  Different methods, big names, specialities, opinions.  And let's be fair, how SHOULD he know what to believe?  Or what would work for him?  There are of course the undeniable massive advantages to all this information.  This evolution is critical in our sport.  But it also creates so many more opportunities to 'get it wrong' or 'try to many things' (haha, face it, you all know someone like that, that wants to try everything, but follows through on nothing).  It floods 'newbies' with so much information, that only the most sensible with common sense will make it through the gauntlet without scars.  Yes, I am exaggerating, I am not predicting 'agility dooms day' for all alike.  I am just sympathising with those souls that are wading through the floods.

Now some of my 'training philosophies' on compensating, as requested: (Quoted from my 'Analysing and Planning Agility' document).

When designing your handling system, you want to keep the following in mind:  You want a system that suit your needs, on the long term teach your dog to compensate for your weaknesses, but will give you the room to improve your own handling, without affecting your core handling.  You want to create handling rules for your dog, that you will be able to improve on yourself, without changing your dog’s understanding of his job.

I will use myself as an example.  I am not always a running handler and often lack in aggression.  It is not that I do not have the speed, I have just not reached full capability of using all my speed as a handler on an agility course.  I lack in acceleration in my own running.  I am not a sprinter, I am a long-distance runner.  I sometimes lack the confidence to attack a maneuver or obstacle.  I have a constant fear of falling if I run or turn too fast. Obviously these are things I want to improve over the long term, but seeing as this may take months or years, I cannot wait until I have perfected my imperfections, before commencing training with my dogs.  Therefor I want to create a handling system, where my dogs can do complicated turns with me further away from them or still accelerating towards them.  I want them to be able to do this at full speed.  But I also want them to be comfortable to perform these complicated tasks with me right on top of them touching their tail hairs (in case I have a moment of brilliance and attack the course).  Just because I lack in the speed NOW, I do not want to create a training method where I HAVE to be far away from my dogs or where they will drive away from me if I try to get closer.  I want my dogs to be able to compensate for my weaknesses (if I am just too far away because of a lack in confidence in running) but I do not want them to be trained according to my weaknesses (I have to be far away).  All of this while maintaining consistency in my expectations.  I want my physical and verbal cues to have the same meaning to my dogs, regardless of my course positioning and movement.


In order to negotiate pull-through’s (threadles), I teach a ‘come’ command (verbal) which is combined with my physical cue of turning my body into my dog, opposite arm is lead arm pulling the dog back to me, slightly rotating my body (continual movement) towards my dog.  This means come towards me at full speed, without negotiating any of the obstacles in your path, regardless of MY movement.  The end of this behaviour is signaled when the lead arm is changed to closest arm, body rotates in the opposite direction and a verbal marker ‘yes’.  My dog will then reverse their path and move away from me and take the next obstacle in their path.  Ideally I would be as close as possible to my dog, while not obstructing their path.  This would leave me in the best position to judge the tightest path for them, but as I mention repeatedly, our handling cannot be based on ideals, due to course design and our own weaknesses, so:
I do not want ‘come’ to mean come ALL the way to me every time.  Then I would not be compensating for my weaknesses.  I might be 10 meters behind my dog and the ‘come’ would signify that the dog would have to come 10m back, reversing their path back in the opposite direction for another 10m, there by adding 20m (and 5 seconds) to their course.
In this case, I do not want my movement to affect the behaviour.  I do not want my forward movement to cause my dog to continue his forward movement (away from me), because I might want to use this moment to get course position.
I want my dog to negotiate this behaviour regardless of the distance between us.  I do not want to force myself to always be 5m away.  Then I am not creating room for my own improvement. 

It all boils down to thinking plans through, before initiating them!

Okay, I will leave you with that for now....