Sunday, December 28, 2014

Back to the Contact Debate

As a former sworn enemy of the running contact, as well as a current trainer of dual contacts, I feel that I am still grasping the full matrix of pro's and cons, disadvantages and advantages, do's and don't s, yays and nays of running contacts vs. stopped contacts every day.  Currently my conclusion is STILL that both have a place in Agility and will not win or lose the game for you.  It does depend on your own abilities, time, patience and most importantly common sense.  Now a few of my thoughts:

On 2o2o Contacts:

-I don't mind 'over-shooting', if my dog stops dead off the contact, but doesn't self-release so be it.  In a training situation, I will encourage reversing or targetting for the contact with back legs, in competition, I would have released before this moment.
- A slow or creepy positioning will not get rewarded.  This generally means there are huge gaps in training, or problems have been created by handlers not making criteria clear enough, or messing up releases.
- Striding is very important to me, yes, even in 2o2o, I actively train this. It is even more important in 2o2o in the sense that a small 'wobbly' will cause severe deceleration on the contact obstacle, because it is already an exercise in deceleration.
- Position and release, POSITION and RELEASE, position and RELEASE, POSITION and release.  If your dog does not have a 110% clear understanding of these two things, you are lost in the dark without a GPS. Many people tend to neglect their release.
-When it comes to self-control exercises ON an Agility course, I don't believe in over-proofing or over-compensating. We are promoting super high drive and speed and super duper excitement on an Agility course. Personally I don't expect my dogs to hold a wait or a 2o2o or any other seriously controlled position while 15 people are throwing balls, 37 sheep are circling the dog walk with 15 border collies herding them, while 3 Mallinois does attack work on the judge and the president arrives in a helicopter. If a dog is struggling with the position, I won't ask for a 10 second wait, I will ask for 2 seconds and have something to reward.  If a dog continuously self-releases, I won't UP the criteria for holding (increasing time or distractions), but rather decrease it and have something to reward. I work up to high levels of proofing with verbals (I can use tunnel/go go go with all my dogs but they won't release until the 'okay'), physical cues (I can sprint past, none of my dogs will move) and distractions (I can throw a ball or toy, but none of my dogs will move) and combined (so I can say go go go tunnel, while sprinting past and throwing a toy) and my dogs won't move until they have been released.  BUT if a dog should break, you go back to making it easier and working back up to the ultimate proofing.

On Running Contacts

- I believe in very clear understandable criteria for dogs. While hind leg awareness is very important to me in my dogs with regards to Agility in general, I don't think hitting the contact with hind legs while in a full sprint is an actual understandable criteria. I was a long jumper in high school, for me to hit my mark correctly while in full sprint was hard enough, and I was only running on two and had a full comprehension of my requirements.  Striding patterns can be taught easily enough though.
- I believe the egg should come before the chicken.  A dog should be willing to sprint/run/gallop full speed ahead/behind or next to the handler without chasing a toy or food before any contact training is taken on. I don't want my dogs to be running after a toy while they are negotiating any part of the plank/contact.
-Running contacts might never have a 100% consistency rate. Accept it.
- Running contacts are not meant for all dogs.  You have to take the build/size/striding of your dog into account.

Comparing Running Contacts and Stopped Contacts

-It all depends on the scenario and course design.  I have timed many a split in my life, as in tons, from small shows to EO and AWC and I have always found that sometimes stopped contacts still give you the edge.  If you have both... well then you are in the pound seats.
- Neither one is easy to teach, they all have difficulties and all dogs differ, so no predicting in what will be the easiest or the hardest with any given dog.  Don't compare badly trained stopped contacts with running contacts and vice versa.  A high success rate with high speed is possible in both.
- Having trained both, I can assure you that teaching both PROPERLY are equally exhilarating.
-Whether your dog is small, medium, large or anywhere in between is irrelevant, build, forward drive, striding and work ethic are the factors that will determine whether you can teach fast contacts or not.
-If any part of your contact training depends on where you are, what you are doing with your pinkie or your middle toe or whether you get a word out at the right time or not, whether you stop or go, then I you still have work to be done.  Contact performance, if trained properly, shouldn't depend on you.
-2o2o requires more ring training and people often make the mistake of comparing splits/times of when the dogs is released compared to a running contact, instead of thinking when the dog WOULD have been released in a big competition (ie first foot touching contact zone)

All of that said and done, the point I am actually trying to make, is don't knock one method for another, properly trained, anything can be a winner.  Today I did a quick comparison on Dog Walks only, over the next few weeks, I will do a few video studies involving different exits off Dog Walks to expand my ability to read my dog and course we may be presented with.

Today's video shows that, speedwise, 2o2o of dog walks can yield a very different performance depending on many factors, while running dog walks will show marginal differences in this regard. However hits with running dog walks differ a lot more than with stopped contacts. A lot of room for interpretation, thought and growth here...

Friday, December 26, 2014


While 2014 yielded my best, most enjoyable and most memorable AWC trip ever, I can honestly say that I wouldn't want the rest of the year ever again ;)  Here is to hoping next year is a better one!  But here are some of our highlights... bad year or good year, one thing that never changes is the fact that I have dogs that will make any experience better...

Friday, November 28, 2014

Project Dog Walk

Let me preface this post by saying that I am a big believer in Agility Evolution. Collectively as a sport, we are growing, learning, adjusting every day.  And so we rightfully should.  I have very little respect for trainers that get stuck in a rut due to prideful arrogance or ignorance.  Obviously I have training 'rules' and systems in place, not only when running my own dogs, but also when teaching students. All trainers should, having criteria (and being consistent within your criteria) is the basis of dog training after all. However it is of utmost importance that through careful analysis, observation, research and logic, we constantly ensure that our methods, criteria and systems are the most efficient and effective training and handling methods.

So for example, I at once stage encouraged and actively taught 'reverse pivots' as a method of doing a pull through sequence. It fit in with my handling criteria.  I depended on my shoulders as my main source of physical cueing.  By doing a reverse pivot, I was opening my shoulders, encouraging what was effectively a recall to the front, before redirecting.  Over the past few years I have improved/changed my training to greatly increase my dog's sensitivity to mere hand movements.  I now actively DISCOURAGE reverse pivots as a method of doing pull through's, my reasoning being that it sacrifices the handler's ability to get course position, risks off course due to movement timing (due to increased sensitivity of dogs to hand movement) and the recall to the front act may cause hesitation.  I don't just say these things willy nilly, I took video, analysed, timed splits, tried several different options that all support my current hypothesis. I never asked Chaos to compromise on his criteria.  To this day, he still knows a perfect reverse pivot.  When I made the 'change', I taught it as a brand new command, a brand new behaviour, with different criteria, different foundation. Similarly I at one stage discouraged blind crosses, back crosses, a down as a startline position etc. I have since learnt that all those things DO have their place.

I think trainers that evolve and admit their evolution (not try to pretend that they were always right, but package their 'new solutions' under false pretences) are the future of the sport.

So let's get back on track.  Those that know me will know that I have been the world's biggest doubter of running contacts.  The criteria attached to the available methods were just not clear enough in my mind.  I am very much a 'black and white' kind of girl and there was just too much grey out there for me. I have great respect for Silvia Trkman, Jenny Dam (this handler is on a pedestal for me even, I have endless respect and admiration for her and often turn to her writings and teachings as a guide and inspiration) , Daisy Peel etc etc, that have achieved great success with running contacts.  Their methods and input, while influencing my thought process, just didn't work 100% for my mind. That part hasn't changed.  Not quite.  But after a lot of observation, calculation (yup the actual mathematical kind, I LOVE math) and some calculated guesses, I determined that there was a way that I should be able to teach Volt running Dog Walks on top of his 2o2o (he already has a duel A-Frame).

Currently my process is still one giant experiment, but I am starting to feel a lot more comfortable in my experiment parameters.

Below you will find 5 videos of our recent Dog Walk training. The training process, however, has not been the most interesting part in this journey though.  Running contacts is one of those 'it' subjects. At the last few competitions, I have been running Not For Competition (NFC) with Volt, taking in his toy to try and bridge the 'training to competition' gap with minimum fuss using running Dog Walks.  Unfortunately they have all been 'national' competitions, so I cannot post those rounds for now, but I am VERY happy with the result. It HAS however gotten some tongues rolling...

First of all, without exception, most people have assumed that I am using Silvia Trkman's training method. Immediately offering input that applies to this method.  I always (try to) listen politely, thank the handlers and then inform them that I actually have not used the method at all.  This is generally met with great suspicion (as if they don't believe me) and then criticism. While I can see some of the things she uses in Volt when he is running, it is just a cross-over, not intentional training. I do appreciate input in general, but it seems that even people that have not USED this method are stuck in this manner of thinking, while the followers, trainers and believers in this method struggle to accept that there is another way.  Well maybe there is, maybe there is not, that is what my 'Project Dog Walk' is all about.

At this point in time, I don't know where this project will end for us, but as I always do with Volt, we are having a very (VERY, very, Very, very) large amount of fun with Volt. I assure you (because many people have confuse this issue), I have the greatest respect for 2o2o and will most probably never stop using it.  Running contacts are not better or more fun for me, I enjoy the process of training a dog to achieve success with great enthusiasm, regardless of what I am doing. I don't think that running dog walks will ever be a 'must' to achieve amazing things, which include winning World Champs and European Opens.  I am pretty convinced running dog walks will NOT be for all dogs (the same way I feel about 'four on the floor' or 'down' contacts). I am not nearly far enough along in the process to tell you whether what I am doing will work categorically.  But I am looking for some 'sucker' students for next year to further develop my thought process with other dogs and handlers.

It might be worth a mention, that after timing many, many, many splits at this year's AWC (as in many, you should SEE the spreadsheets), I will not be trying to teach super tight turns off my running dog walks, but rather use 2o2o off for that.  Even the best of dogs lost time in subsequent sequences to tight turn dog walks, where 2o2o were FASTER in total, despite the slower dog walks. But once again, let's see where we go with this.  

13 November 2014

20 November 2014

21 November

26 November

28 November

I will keep you updated in my little training experiment.  Until then happy training...

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Overdue Post Travel Trivia

The team maketh the trip... that is a very sweeping statement, but also rather true.  I had the best trip ever this year.... of all holidays and overseas trips ever, that has ever existed.  I had the world's best travel companion, the ever relaxed and easy going Voltensteinenmeister dog. I had the world's most adventurous and hilarious team mates. We had an awesome team leader that truly understood the importance, the stress, the excitement, the meaning and the agility of the trip! We had an exciting and busy itinerary. Things to see and places to go. And German beer... lots and lots of German beer.  The world is not complete without German beer. I had friends for laughter. Training partners for advice and support. Beagles for amusement. A German bus for precision, A Nigerian bus for seeing the sights. A camera to capture the moments. Spectators offering to carry all the heavy stuff, help at every turn. My ever faithful video camera for AGILITY. We had a crazy supporter that was willing to paint his face. There was lots of hiking (my favourite). There were butterflies. And rivers. And pretty scenery. There were caves... or cavelike things. There was sparkling wine and barrels. There was a HUGE hill and a race. A pretty city. New friends made and old ones reunited. It really was an amazing trip! I won't go into a day by day recount, I will get lost in foreverness if I did that. I have already forgotten so many things... I will try and share a FEW select photos that is not included in my videos...

 But now I am guessing that if you are reading this, you care a little bit less about the beer and the views and the butterflies and a bit more about the Agility... Please be sure to read my previous post before I left before reading further (if you haven't yet of course... what is wrong with you, haha, are you not an addict of blogs like I am?) I went with very different ideas this year. Ideas of living and running and having fun and sharing an amazing time with my truly amazing dog Volt.

This I did. Volt absolutely loves being in Europe, not that surprising since he comes from there. He ran and partied and played his heart out all the time we were there. I was also privileged enough to meet Volt's breeder Jenny Vandenhole of Golden Fir Shelties.  She travelled all the way from Belgium in her motor home (I say all the way, since she is not even an Agility competitor) to support all her pups that were competing.  As far as breeders go, all I can say is wow!  A woman that really remembers each and every pup she ever bred and got tears in her eyes when meeting up with them again. She truly has a passion for the breed and her contribution to it.  She has a true interest in every dog she has ever produced.  Needless to say, I will no doubt get a puppy
 from her again.  In fact, I nearly stole one her current pups that she brought with and promptly attached herself to my sleeve for a huge tugging game! I want to thank Jenny AGAIN (I have done it in a few ways already) for coming and supporting us. I really do appreciate it!

Next up I would like to make some general comments about the AWC.  First of WOW and well done to the organisers this year!  By far the best organised AWC I have been to, to date and I can really say that I felt they had the competitors best interest at heart. The volunteers themselves were amazing and friendly, the surface was good, the equipment in general was brilliant (except for the TABLE), the logistics was thought through and accurate. The venue was beautiful with plenty of running space and nice crating space.  The arena itself was maybe not as ideal as previous years (being on ground level with the spectators and not 'below them' as many arenas in the past), but perfectly acceptable. All in all I was really impressed.
 But speaking of the table... me (and many other spectators and competitors), felt that it was really surprising (and not a 'nice one, wow' surprise, an 'argh WHY?' surprise) that the table was used in all three rounds of team Agility. First of all because we haven't seen the table in many years in the AWC, but mostly because it is, in my opinion, an outdated obstacle that doesn't quite belong in modern Agility.  A silly concept that breaks the beautiful fast flow and excitement of a good Agility run.  To add to this, the table this year was made of a very slippery plastic surface and the electronic programming of it was not accurate.  It put quite the damper on some rounds and cost good teams medals on the final podium. I hope that this obstacle gets reviewed and removed from FCI Agility.

Next up is a subject that has been very dear to my heart for many years, although it did not affect me at all this year (as I was only running my small dog).  This is the up contact of the dog walk, see saw and A-frame (particularly the dog walk). That small fault cost several large dogs very good placings in the Individual Agility round this year, because the approach was a nice fast +- 7m approach from a tunnel.
 None of these dogs came on at an angle, or compromised their own safety (the original reason for the contact points) or leaped it or jumped it. The reality is that we have all been training our dogs to run faster and faster and with bigger and bigger strides. Nothing wrong with that.  Realistically many handlers are teaching their dogs to hit the up contact straight on like a target/fly ball box which is much less safe and more harmful for the dogs.  I think we need to either increase the size of the up contact or think of another way to ensure a 'straight entry' onto the obstacle.  Just my opinion, but if you want, the firing squad may now commence... just my opinion, but you are always welcome to share yours.

Very unfortunately for me, Super Woman with Super Immunity that hardly ever gets sick... well the flu hit me BIG time the night before the competition started. I was man-down and had to be drugged by my local vet that doubled as a pharmacist. It was utterly heartbreaking actually. I know that it did affect me... but in this story there are only reasons, no excuses :)

Here is a video of some of our Agility adventures and training before the competition started. How much more heart can one little dog have?

Now we can get to the important stuff... the beyond awesome Super Sheltie Voltensteinendogenmeister... but before we get there, here are some random pictures of butterflies and stuff...

 The first round will always be the most nerve wrecking if you ask me. Especially since it is a team round. In team rounds you always have the added pressure of not disappointing your team mates. When we first got the course plan, I though that maybe it was rather on the easy side (you can find the courses on the website, or contact me if you can't find them and I will send them along. As I mentioned before, I was sick as a dog and drugged out of my skull, but I can super proudly say that my and the Bean Machine ATTACKED this course right out the start gates. We ran our hearts out until Volt came out tunnel 15 and I realised that I had NO clue where we were going... I actually had to search for the *insert swear word here* number. I eventually spotted number 16, but Volt was already wiiiiiide coming out of the tunnel and jumping in completely the wrong line for the line from 16 to 17, luckily he is such a super honest little dog and we could recover and come back with a clear, but that little mistake cost us a lot of time.  I don't know if the moment was too big or if my drug clouded brain just malfunctioned for a second... it is all irrelevant though, since Volt still had a ball and couldn't care about the 2 odd seconds we might have wasted.  He was my rockstar.

 On Saturday we were running 2 rounds, one team and one individual.  It is not always easy to switch your mind from one to the other, but being our 'third' (2013 was different) year at AWC, I really felt my and Volt's relationship was right up there and ready for what the world could throw at us.  The morning was Individual jumping and the course was AWESOME!  Tricky and fast and tested some nice skills.  I walked several options and I was ready to go. I was determined to maintain focus all the way around the course, unlike the previous day. Once again I was very happy with our start, especially the blind against the flow tunnel entry, which is not our strongest point. But as I sent Volt over the long jump, I realised that I had completely lost peripheral course positioning and I had to look around for the next obstacle. I was gutted, as this left me completely out of position for the very hard pole entry which I knew Volt could actually nail!  I scrambled for a few seconds, managed to recover and get him in and run the rest of the round, which was a bit wide and uncontrolled from my side (as always my dog was awesome), as I was still flustered.
 I walked off the course feeling proud of my dog, being happy that we at least had no course faults, but our time would be off pace.  As I turned around I saw 5 faults on the scoreboard.  I was completely rattled.  I turned to my friend that had walked to the start line with me and queried where I had gotten faults... he looked at me like I was crazy, and told me I was clear. He had also not seen my faults called. Turns out the judge had called me for handling before the weave poles. I will admit that I was quite devastated, I took Volt for a looooong walk.  And he played. And bounced. And smelled the flowers. And fetched me a leaf. And he just didn't care that we had some number written on a score sheet somewhere. And the less Volt cared, the less I cared.  I still got to go home with the best dog!  This got us back on track quickly.

The next round was team Agility.  Once again a super awesome, super technical, super skills, super lines, super duper course.  I really like it!  The only problem was... that again it had the table in it.  The table had already malfunctioned several times during Large and Medium and I was very surprised that the FCI commission and judges STILL decided to use it in our course.  Our team made a deal to slow down our dogs drastically before the obstacle to ensure that our dogs didn't have slips like the medium dogs the day before. The judging on the table was a bit inconsistent due to all the problems that it had been giving throughout the competition, but such is life... some calls go your way and others don't.  Volt had an all in all awesome round on this course, other than the refusal fault at the table that I caused with ridiculous mistrust and over-managing in my own dog (seriously, if I was Volt, I would have bitten me). His A-Frame was one of his random Crazy Super Sheltie A-Frames where he under-estimates his own power and then still desperately tries to meet his striding criteria.  Have to love this awesome honest dog!

Our last round was the individual Agility.  A very nice course again (I personally think the smalls had the very nicest courses at the AWC).  There were two sequences where I had two distinct choices where I knew we could do both, but I couldn't decide what was the best.  I often walk plan A, B, C, D and E... and kind of make up my mind on the spot.... so this part is nothing new for me, but somehow I managed to make the wrong choice at the weave poles... Volt was flying and my forced front cross was just too late, I physically pulled my dog into the wrong entry!  The other maybe not so good choice that I made was back crossing the dog walk.  Normally this is one of Volt's best 'moves' as he drives very hard, but at this big event, his dog walks slowed down when I tried this.  A lesson learned, don't worry and watch this space for my solution... heehee *she says rubbing hands together secretly in anticipation*.

Here is our official AWC videos:

All in all, I felt that Volt really held his own with the world class dogs this year.  Of course we have a lot of work to do, but that never stops in Agility.  We had an amazing time together and we did ourselves proud. I couldn't be more happy! Of course I cannot predict what our journey together will bring along next, but we are both ready for whatever the world may throw at us!

In my next post, I will write about more recent teaching travels and training projects of my own....

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Preparing for Luxembourg...

In 5 days we are flying the approximate 8963km, from Johannesburg to Frankfurt. We will then drive the 198km from Frankfurt to Luxembourg, where we will be spending the majority of our stay.

Each 'World Championship Event' has it's own feel, format, it's own personality.  I don't think preparation for any final that an Agility handler might run is the same... my take on the South African road to the FCI Agility World Championships is just a single view, a single opinion, a single way of preparing.

As a South African, I travel halfway across the world, spending a large sum of money. This is a choice I make, it is something that you work towards over many months. Once you are selected for the team, there are mounds of paperwork and technical details: flights, cargo costings, titre tests, EU Health Certificates, Customs Clearing, Schengen Visa Applications, flight crates, to mention a few.  On top of that most of us need to do some serious fundraising (we are talking a trip that costs in the region of 2800 Euro or 3700 dollars here). In between holding a day job and planning logistics, this trip is not something to be underestimated.

In between worrying about all of the above there is the actual preparation...

This is not all 'running AWC judge courses'... If I ran one full course a week in the last month it is a lot... It started with analysing my own weaknesses (weave poles speed, full wraps and a million other thing), improving those, thinking of better ways, videos and analysis, dreams and sleepless nights.  Only then did I analyse courses from the AWC judges, A LOT of courses, pulling them apart and separating the small individual sequences and then analysing the patterns and calculating the repetitions percentage for each judge... yes I am VERY technical.... Then overlapping my own skill strengths and weaknesses with judge habits and determining the best ways to train these individually to build our partnerships as strong as possible... have the most skills possible available at our finger tips. There is of course also fitness and muscle building exercises to ensure we are both as strong as we can possibly be. And then my best friend, The Mental Game. Making sure that I am prepared for every step from leaving South Africa, to stepping on the start line. Coping with disappointment and failure, just as much as success and triumph. Prioritising, shutting out, keeping in. Practising startline routines and exiting the ring and rewarding. I have two team rounds, where I owe it to my team mates to keep it together, to make sure that we stay in the game, recovering from mistakes and making it through. I know Volt runs at his best when I run all out, with everything I have, but balancing that with not incurring a disqualification is the key.  I have two individual rounds where there is only one rule, all or nothing, those are the Agility rounds that I live for. I will have to be sure to run each round as it is called for.

Now I am starting to get excited. I am a traveller after all. Sight-seeing and laughs with good friends. A European 'Braai' (barbecue). A local show. A team that wants to. A fun fair. My runs in the morning. Seeing 'old' Agility friends and making new ones (if you read this blog and you are going to Luxembourg, come and say hi). Quality time with Volt. New food. Good BEER! Walks with my dog. An unforgettable experience.

The support from Agility South Africa has been absolutely mind-blowing this year. People from near and far have been showing their enthusiasm for our team in so many ways and I hope we will do everyone proud!  I want to thank everyone, sorry if I forgot to do it personally. All your messages, all your good luck gifts, all your kind words and all your positive thoughts will be going with me to Luxembourg. I want to especially thank my amazing training partners and friends, the journey has been one that is bigger and more important than words.

I don't go to the AWC to win. If I had to spend all the time and effort and money to have the goal of winning, the outcome has a very small chance in being successful.  I go to the AWC to have the most awesome Agility holiday ever (this year I am fortunate enough to have awesome friends on the team even). I go to learn from people across the world. I go in with the knowledge that I have given the preparation my all, I am ready.  I will give every round, every second my all, I will run to the absolute best of my ability. I go to do Volt proud, do him justice and give him the rounds of his life. I go out there to make my country proud, regardless of the results on paper. This entire journey has brought me and Volt so much closer and our relationship is stronger than ever.  Those 30 seconds (x4) we are going to spend out in that Arena, the Arena of Dreams, the Arena that has made some and broken some, those few seconds are really just a small part of our story, but without that Arena, this journey would not have happened.  I go with no regrets and I am not planning on returning with any.  My journey might include podiums, disqualifications, top 10s, unexpected moments, medals, but it will not change the outcome. My time with my amazing partner.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I have been terrible at blogging this year... mainly because things don't stop happening in 2014... bad things, some good things, more bad things, neutral things, bad things, good things... that thing called life you know.

Today all I want to say is that me and Volt are going to Luxembourg! We will take part in the team and the individual events... if I had won the lottery, maybe Chaos would have been going as well, he really did perform well over the weekend of the Try Outs (he walked away Reserve South African Agility Champion 2014), however without the added pressure of competing for a spot on the team, things do have a very different dynamic.

Volt and me had a bit of a roller-coaster ride leading up to the Try Outs.... for the whole year I have been very concerned that Volt is just 'not right', but the vets and physios could not find anything wrong.  Then 10 days before the finals, the chiropractor saw Volt... and FIXED him ten times over.  He fixed him so much that Volt quadrupled in speed, leaving me jogging behind with dust in my eyes.  Literally in every single training session leading up to the finals me and Volt dq'd... generally spectacularly because I was not used to him running The Flash.

I decided that I would take it as it comes, in actual fact I couldn't care less about our result or whether we would go to Luxembourg or not, I was just happy I had my super speedy super Sheltie back.

The first course was a very enjoyable technical course and Volt was running so amazingly that I did not foresee our elimination AT ALL.  So we started off on the back foot. In the next round we had 5 faults due to another timing error on my part.  Admittedly I ran my last two rounds a bit more carefully, but still very happy with how Volt handled it all, finishing 2nd in the third round and winning the last round.

And more importantly we qualified as the second highest qualifier for the South African Agility Team (highest qualifying small dog).  So now the FUND RAISING and preparation for the World Champs begin!

Chaos was beyond amazing the entire weekend, after a dog walk fault in our first round, he managed 3 clears to become the Reserve South African Agility Champion. SO proud! This amazing dog has given me everything he possibly could in the last 8 years and he keeps on giving more, getting better and stronger.  He really is my heart and my soul!

I am really looking forward to seeing many of my international Agility friends in Europe in September. And making some new ones! And now I would like to introduce you to Team South Africa 2014:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

An Away Weekend...

So on my return from a weekend of HOT weather, the beach, fun, drama and lots of Agility, I guess I should contemplate things a little bit... I will start off with my awesome dogs, travelling with them is always a pleasure and I appreciate every moment I get to spend with them.

Volt never used to have environment issues, as a youngster (okay he is STILL a youngster, but I mean a YOUNG youngster), he travelled a lot, both in the car and on flights, before and after the start of his Agility career and never showed any signs of stress. However last year, in Port Elizabeth, things changed, even though I still don't know why.  Twice we travelled there last year and twice he was stressed, unwilling to run, slow, distracted and all those other qualities that breaks my heart. With changing handling plans, running some rounds with a toy and the help of fantastic friends with regards to rewarding and de-stressing, I feel we made progress as the weekend went along, although not nearly running to his full potential, we definitely got somewhere.  I am determined to work all the way through the Bean-en-Stein's environment issue and insure he is a Happy Sheltie Dog under ALL circumstances.  Regardless of his issues, the little dude DOES know how to be consistent, raking in a total of 10 Qualifying Certificates and over-all Small wins for all his categories. Honestly I think his results mostly reflect the lack of Small competition in South Africa though.  Regardless I had a ball with Beans in Port Elizabeth, he loved the beach, had some tugging games of note with certain Border Collies and made sure he made his V for Volt mark ;)

This was Psycho Malycho Slinky Malinky Chicken Licken dog's first 'show weekend'.  On top of this, Psycho has been a very different challenge since day 1.  While being the dog I have bonded with the most easily and while crawling so deep into my heart, she is a very difficult Agility dog, but I can definitely see why she was the herding pick of the litter.  While everyone has their mouthful about how she runs, what I should be doing, what I did wrong and why I will never get it right, the handful of people that have actually been involved in her training, understand the long journey this has been and how long it will still be.  I think she has a bright future though and I enjoy almost every second of the challenge.  What was even better than the Agility is the manner in which the Malycho handled the travel, playing with everything human and canine when she had the chance and sleeping when I wanted her too, playing games, herding on the beach (even with waves crashing over her head) and being generally good!  She even pulled of a stunning winning clear round with a qualification (which was unfortunately not caught on video).

But the most jaw-dropping performance of the weekend came from the Spaz.  At almost 8 years old, Chaos keeps surprising me, while my handling was off on a couple of rounds, I forgot two courses and I made a couple of bad choices, Chaos managed to pull off 13/19 clear rounds, knocking only 3 bars in all those rounds.  He won 3 x Agility, 2 x Non Contact and 1 x Dog Jumping QC's and maybe could have added to that if his handler didn't turn into a ditz on occasion.  What made me the happiest is that he came off the weekend perfectly sound with not even a hint of stiffness!  It will never stop amazing me how much heart this dog has and how he somehow just manages to find a little bit more to give me every single day of his life!

A few things caught my attention this weekend...

The lack of rewarding dogs.  Rather sad to see how many dogs give it their all and storm out the ring into nothingness for nothingness.  Well done to those that did!

The commitment and success of handlers against all odds.  Those handlers that have no support system or mentors close by.  Starting schools from the bottom up. Training on their own.

Running for 'clears' and not for running.  The screaming, over-managing, lack of handling, nerves, stress, unhappiness and blame is not always fun to witness.  Wish more people could find the enjoyment of running for yourself and your dog.

The willingness to ask for advice from random 'strangers'. Handlers that recognised their shortcomings and recognised the strength of others and tried to bridge the gap.

The lack of contacts. Well not so much as the bitching and moaning OVER the lack of contacts while in the same breath failing to be consistent in actually training and running the contacts.

The willingness to share advice.  The handlers that were willing to share the information on their strengths and promote other handlers fixing their own problems.

The lack of knowledge in the rules. From both judges and competitors.  Worse than that?  When politely pointed out or rudely confronted (yes both happened), instead of admitting and correcting, getting hackles up and trying to defend the lack of logic or blatant ignorance.  Would love it if the whole country could attempt in a friendly manner to get on the same page, recognise short-comings and understand difficulties. Incompetence is a reason, not an excuse.

As you may notice, there was good and bad to the weekend, but I had a thoroughly good time!  So did my dogs!  So did my travel companions! I might share some more thoughts on Psycho and rules and training and rewarding soon... but for now I will just enjoy the afterglow of a fun weekend.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Where have I been?

This year... 2014... well if it has been a crazy one so far.  If I updated you on it all you would still be reading tomorrow morning and the day after.

So concisely then where have I been?

Fixing stuff that is broken. Everything in our house broke. Gate motor, freezer, cars, it didn't stop.

In Hospital... some undiagnosed, unidentified, mystery disease that left me with a fever of nearly 40 degrees (Celcius btw), nutso crazy bloodwork and general 'feeling-like-crapness'.  All fixed now, but still no idea what it was.

Studying. Yes in my old (haha funny me, I will never be old :) ) age I decided to study again.  I am now officially a Basic Ambulance Assistant.  Hoping to start working on the Ambulance soon. Absolutely love it.

Working. A lot.  After I initially decided Luxembourg was off the table this year, I have decided it is back on the table so now the race to save up enough money is on.

Losing and finding Chaos.  Well we kind of lost each other and we are currently busy finding each other again.  We have been terribly disconnected of late. But yesterday we had one hell of a rocking day at our second SA Champs/AWC trial. They boy knocked my socks off let me tell you. Videos on these trials of ours will follow much later, as I will wait for all provinces to finish all trials before posting any.  Chaos has always been my special boy. Most other people will say 'special' in inverted commas.  That is what makes life with him so rewarding.  

Wallowing and wading in the awesomeness that is my awesome Voltensteinenmeister Sheltie dog.  We have a lekker training group going and it is doing the already cool Volt another seven worlds of good.  And me, probably mostly me.  He has always been close to perfect, me not so much.  He is doing well in competition, and kicking ass and taking names in training, here is some of that:

Psycho Malyko Girly Whirly Slinky Malinky Chicken dog finally came into season, only took her 16 months.  Now THAT was a pain in the butt... just not being able to compete with her.  How painful with outdated, stupid rules.  Please note that my ENTIRE male dogs trained with her in a crate a few meters away with no problems, so honestly get terribly annoyed when people tell their crazy stories of how it is impossible for entire males to work through a bitch in season.  Moving on.  At her second show back, my baby child ran her first clear round!

All in all I have many Agility related thoughts that I may or may not have the time to share in the near future...

The End.