Monday, April 8, 2013

Random thoughts, change and differences are all good for Agility

First of all, I should be working.  Agility work unfortunately, not actual billable hours, but instead I am doing neither.  I have to mention two things for you to understand this post, which I have neglected to mention in previous posts:

1.  I have a new car.  A lovely HUGE, BIG, SPACIOUS new car, due to research, negotiation and a little help with from The Nerd.  I LOVE the space.  Chaos loves the space even more than me.  So much room?!?! What to do with it all.... (insert evil laugh here).... weeeeeelll....

2.  It has been 26 days since my last cigarette (thank you Champix and Happy Pills, all prescribed by doctor).  I am in the process of weaning myself off both Champix and Happy Pills and it is not easy.  Just fyi, if I only take the Champix and not the happy pills, I go slightly homicidal and The Nerd fears his life. Funny enough, it doesn't get me remotely irritable, never mind homicidal to my dogs... just shows you how friggin awesome my dogs are.  Addiction sucks.  Beating it sucks even worse until you have won the battle.  This I have to mention because 'having a smoke' used to be my 'vent'.  I have had to learn A LOT of self-control in the last 26 days.

On Wednesday I am leaving for the Port Elizabeth Disciplines weekend... it was going to be Thursday, but then I tonight I got an invitation from Psycho Chicken's breeders to spend a night with them (they are on the way) and who can say no to spending some time on a beautiful farm with fantastic working dogs?  I have also offered to drive down some 'stuff' (stuff includes puppy pens, suitcases, and ACTUAL puppies)... How much do I love having a HUGE car?  You have no idea... but the person that mentions petrol consumption will get smacked upside the head right now!

I really can't wait to get away...  We are doing some 'minor' maintenance to the house... there is NO such thing as MINOR maintenance anything!  I am done with having people in my face the whole day, being over-promised, lied to, being treated like an idiot, having to throw tantrums to get results and NO SPACE TO TRAIN at my own house.

Oh wait, to get back to the subject... So I picked up half of the 'stuff' tonight from a friend and we did some brief training together.  This is a friend that I haven't trained with in MANY years (have we really, I know you do read my blog occasionally *big smiley face*) and we generally have VERY different beliefs in handling, although we tend to agree 100% on training (yup, that IS possible).  There was one small section of a course, which she had handled, discussed, timed and dealt with in a class set-up(NO-ONE's fault, this is my point, Agility is NOT about heroes, but about thinking)... her words to me (sorry hope I am quoting verbatim here, otherwise I owe you a beer) 'I couldn't get it right, my dog kept turning the wrong way, but nobody understood what I was trying to do'. I hadn't really walked the course (Well at all), so took me three tries, but then it all just clicked.... we were trying to do exactly the same thing and I figured it out... her dog is MUCH, MUCH, MUCH faster than Spaz Boy, but that was irrelevant.... we both 'wanted to do the same thing' but just had to THINK about it.  There are no words I can use to describe exactly what happened... but the point is, we (two totally different people) found something that worked for US and what WE liked with two totally different dogs.

You know they have that whole 'blog action day' or 'blog action subject' or 'blog theme' or the thinga-ma-jig and loads of famous and non-famous people write about it?  The last one was 'internationalisation' and I could have written a whole book on it!  Very ambiguous theme too!  That could have been directly aimed at the South African AWC 2013 or about handling or course design or rules... or a million other things.  All the posts I read seemed to focus on handling and had 'new moves', 'ketchker turns', 'german style' etc worked in there somewhere, which is all fine and well, but I still think it 'misses a certain point'. Yes our handling differs (example: USA courses are a lot 'simpler' by our standard, but the handlers have a lot more success in teaching dogs to USE their speed and drive, Europeans depend more on handling, the Brits have a lot less concern for distance between obstacles, the USA rewards consistency more, the Brits aim for speed and consistency, the Europeans have more of a 'all or nothing attitude', the South Africans are always just busy trying to catch up to everyone... etc).  This same handler I trained with this evening and that thanked me for 'helping her figure out' what she wanted to do (which she would have done before the week was over on her own in any way), when an entire class and a trainer could not do two days ago... well I probably have every single round both our large dogs have run this year on video and if I had the time, I could do comparisons on every single round and I can guarantee you that at least 75% of the time we make different handling decisions.  Because of handler fitness and ability, because of difference in dogs (speeds, turns, training, trust, strengths, weaknesses, being clever, being stupid (yup sometimes REALLY stupid), ideals, ideas, faith and lack of it, core beliefs EVERYTHING), we make different decisions, however in this case we found something that was PERFECT for both of us.  And THAT ladies and gents is Agility.

There ARE rights and there ARE wrongs in Agility, but there is no golden recipe.  I admire Lisa Frick, Natasha Wise, Silvia Trkman as much as the next person does (probably more, because I am the ultimate Agility Super Nerd).  I read all the blogs, I buy the books, I watch the dvd's.  I subscribe to EVERYTHING.  But Agility is about finding what works for YOUR EXACT RELATIONSHIP (between dog and handler)... THAT is the secret, the trick, the recipe, the magic...  THAT is what I try to bring out in my students and what I feel is a trainer's job.  I have had another PHENOMENAL handler run my Spaz boy and he has always done a better job than I could have, but because of the difference in relationship, I could never handle it the same.

There is only one EO and one AWC every year.  The reality of winning either event (both being my ultimate dream by the way) in each dog and handler's lifetime is lower than 2% (I actually worked it out... ). So the first obstacle is setting your own obstacles (Don't call them dreams or goals, because obstacles can be overcome)... after spending a year with your pup, you should have a pretty good idea of what your most ultimate achievements COULD be... and that is where you (and hopefully your trainer) will start.

When Spazo, my awesome Chaos boy started competing, he got ignored... honestly and utterly discarded.  No-one but myself saw any potential.  But when he was a pup I realised a few things and developed a long-term plan.  Fair enough I made my mistakes, as we all tend to do, but now, at the age of six, Chaos IS a dog that people watch and check and follow and REGARD as competition locally, regardless of the mistakes I made (that still haunt us yes, but at least I LEARNT).  My Spaz child is my rock, my world, my 'something to grab hold of when I am falling off the cliff, whahaha, my cigarette when I can't smoke', he will never BE an international top 10 dog and I don't care, he is my heart dog...  Then I got blessed again, with my Steinenmeister Volt dog... whole long stories behind him as regular readers will know....  a whole new breed, an import... and what I got, was this fantastic, AMAZINGLY talented, reliable, working, loving... well kinda perfect dog (except for one aspect, which I can't mention on my blog).  Even though I have been doing Agility for 17 years and I had one of the most raw talented dogs I ever met, I still made huge mistakes that we are fixing every day.  The lack of Small dogs competing in South Africa makes it even harder!!!  But he truly is a talented dog.  In the hands of an experienced, well-educated small/medium dog handler (like Sabrina Hauser or Daniel Schroder) he may very well have been an AWC medallist last year.  And then my newest Pscyho Chicken Child.... I kind of feel guilty, as I am literally robbing a herding competitor of a world champion dog.  I have had herding handlers approach me about her.  I can see it.  I can actually FEEL her herding potential, however, I do not have the opportunity to pursue this and she is my girl and we will figure each other out to become as perfect at Agility as our partnership will allow.

All this thinking about the evolution (that is a MUCH better term than internationalisation by the way) of Agility, made me go back and watch OLD videos of myself and others and finding satisfaction that we have at least GONE somewhere (mostly gone somewhere better) rather than stagnate, so for tonight, I will leave you with this video of my 2012 PE Agility trip and if I get asked nicely, I will make a similar 2013 vid and we can all bask in the evolution and fun and absolute awesomeness of Agility...

Please comment on this post, as I really look forward to other's opinions on training, handling, dogs and agility in general.

Learn from yourself and others, discard what you don't need, but no information is invaluable.


  1. First, well done on stopping smoking. Ive never smoked but Ive had lots of friends and family members quit over the years. Its a hard road but will get better and easier.
    Agility is very different all over the world. Fun to see the differences. People here would have a hissy if you set up an agility ring with no netting to define the rings. But in England, thats all you see. People walking by with dogs and the dog in the ring continues to work. LOL. I always feel like we, the USA, are behind everyone else. First you see things over seas and then it will finally happen over here. Im not sure why that happens. I think our courses are starting to get harder as people keep complaining.Even the AKC is looking at setting up a class with more international course design. (whoohoo).
    Keep up the good work on quitting smoking. Awesome!!

  2. I think most of my best training has come when just playing around with friends and exchanging ideas. :-)

    Thanks for the nice words. Since I helped you get Mr. Volt he must now be an invited member of Team Obay! :-)

    1. Haha, what an honour, Mr. Volt being an honorary member of the most Team The Most Awesome Shelties Ever :D