Friday, 17 October 2014

UpAndOver Revisited

Well it is strange planning the UpAndOver training session for tomorrow.

UpAndOver is the club Mark and I formed when we lived in Andover. We had previously been travelling miles to get training and decided it would be easier to be closer to home.

Easier may not have been the word. We never regretted it for a moment. Our aim was to train to be able to afford a decent venue with good up to date equipment and people to a standard to compete with. Well we certainly did that and a lot more. The people we trained helped us to be better and together we all achieved agility success and developed great friendships too.

All that is another story - or probably book :)

Today I am thinking of the strangeness of having had to plan out the afternoon for "my" groups.

Week on week I had plans and knew exactly what we all needed working on. In the later part I was lucky enough to have a great team of instructors to help but mostly in my mind I knew what was needing work on.

It is important to me as an instructor to ensure I help everyone get what they need from my training, and everyone is different. In a group you get to know how different and it is easy to cater for all.

Suddenly I am expecting myself to deliver this same specialised service to a group that I mostly know with a few additions, that will have progressed and developed past what I remember. No pressure :)

Usually we plan a workshop around a subject and people interested in that will come to the workshop. We write a brief of what will be covered and check we cover all we advertised.

One to Ones are all individually planned around each individual partnerships.

Keen to give of our best as usual on our visit back to UpAndOver we asked everybody to tell us what they would like to concentrate on. Just counted and that is 35 individual lesson plans! It seemed a good idea at the time. We love a challenge :)

With years of experience and love of agility training I'm sure I'll be able to help with everyones hopes and at the least I know we will all work hard and have a great time.

Most of all so looking forward to seeing all their lovely, lovely dogs - just thinking of how I can justify spending half the lessons on fussing over them all - restrained recalls anyone?

Friday, 19 September 2014

Last Goodbyes

Hopefully we have said the last of the last goodbyes for a while.

It all started with the shock of Oddjobs illness and subsequently having to have him PTS, followed by the slightly earlier than expected passing of our best friend Tim and now finally the last goodbye to Flint.

In each case the immense pain of loosing them is repaid a million times by the joys of knowing them.

A huge learning curve of coping with mortality and valuing the lives we have.

Each of them knew how to embrace life and brought so much into ours.

Till we meet again

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

The Waiting Game

Start line waits can be a mystery and another one of those incredible gifts our dogs can give us. Being able to walk off confidently to get to a good position to help each other around the course has so much value.

I often compare it to going on a long car journey.
Everyone on the journey has things to do and important things they want to take. If no planning and agreement is made then things can get forgotten or not taken because there's not enough room or are packed incorrectly etc.

Everyone can have their own idea of how quickly they want to be off.

Sometimes people may even have a different idea of what is the best way to go.

Then there is the locking up process and not forgetting who needs to go to the toilet etc. Thank goodness for shotgun so there is no argument as to who sits next to the driver LOL

These things can be avoided with a clear plan or discussion of what each person is expecting to happen pre journey. With agility shows most weekends we have got departing off to a fine art now.

With our dogs it is important to consider if they understand their part on the start line and how it improves the game we play.

This weekend I saw an example of a lovely man with a lovely dog that clearly did not understand this fact. The more the man asked the dog to wait the more anxious it was to be near him to try to get something right. It didn't go off and take any obstacles just came off the start line with him. After the final warning the dog was taken off the course without them doing anything. I've seen this partnership work and they look well tuned on the course. I had not noticed a start line though so possibly it has been an issue.

The next day I overheard somebody - possibly his trainer saying that he should walk the dog back to the van and not say a word to it and eventually it would learn to stay on the start line. The lovely man was uncomfortable with this but agreed to give it a try.

This "training" method has been tried and tested. In inexperienced cases it has a high degree of failure. People that have had success with it with their own dogs is because they would only need to do it once, then rather than sacrifice runs/the season they would very quickly ensure the dog understands criteria before allowing it to fail again.

If it has to be done for a whole season then I am sad for both the handler and the dog and would love to hear from anybody who had success following this method when it didn't work after the first show i.e it took several shows and then suddenly worked.

Mark took Kodi out of KC competitions for a whole season to go to UKA where he was able to use training runs to reward correct criteria and build up a clear understanding for both him and Kodi to get their start lines right.

Hang on the regular readers of this blog will say I thought that was to sort his contacts out. Yes it was that as well. With stopped contacts there is often a clear connection with the dogs lack of understanding on the start line with it's misunderstanding of contact criteria.

When we do training days we can devote a whole hours session to wait training and then a totally different hour dedicated to how the make the most of the dog waiting and how to help the dog be confident in staying. We have even done a session purely on how to position yourself and your dog to have an effectual running start :)

Yes with many partnerships a running start is better for everyone. Mark got his dog Deacon to Advanced without a decent start line wait and even Kodi's was a little dodgy in the early days. Even at Crufts there were dogs who were a little wobbly due to handler nerves etc.

To me taking a dog off the line when it doesn't understand the situation enough is as confusing as putting some dogs back on the contacts.

I like to use the word WAIT to break down the elements of start line.

W is for willing.

By that I mean the dog has to have the will to wait. If in nowhere else in it's life it doesn't have to wait it will not have the will to wait on a start line. If you think of self control as a muscle then if it is not exercised enough it will be weak.

Look outside agility for fun ways to develop your dogs willingness. I like crate games, waiting to be let off lead, waiting for their turn to go through the gate or out of the door etc. Even a basic of waiting for the command to eat their food can help. Please keep these fun though. Keep everything a game/challenge. Dogs love challenges especially if they get to win by working them out and if they get good rewards after.

A is for able.

Some dogs lack confidence and seek reassurance from their owner. Reassurance usually comes with being close as that is were the treats or fuss or toy comes from. They are not able to have the confidence to wait and the more stress that is applied the more the dog will want to be near the owner.
Some dogs are environmentally challenged and are working really hard at concentrating on the handler when they would really like to join in the game behind or the young lady in the queue that may fulfil a basic need etc. Staying still is the hardest thing to do.
They may be concerned by the lead picker upper etc etc.

Loads of situation training to mimic these things will help strengthen the dogs ability with lots of opportunity for reward.

I = Interested

To me a dog that is interested in you on the start line is showing that it is fully understanding that it is you that holds the key to the release. I liken it to when dogs are playing and they are watching each other intently to see who is going to give the signal. There are so many other interesting things going on around an agility show that if you dog doesn't maintain interested in you they will lose focus and the easier more fun part of doing the jumps will take over.

Great games to play at club to make waiting more interesting is for one person to nominate how to walk out e.g skip, hop or mimic any number of well known handlers. This takes so much stress off the dog and it will be totally interested in what you are doing. Others include walking to position and scratching your head or other parts :)

If the dog is not able to cope even in training with you walking off then increase the length of time to stand beside them with things like star jumps, sitting on a chair and getting back up etc. Being near makes it easy to keep those rewards coming provided the dog keeps the criteria set.

Some dogs love the challenge of position change - sit down stand and release on a different position. Taking it further a sit to a stand can help the dog engage it's rear end ready for jumping.

Rhyme demonstrating position change in front of a jump

Games in training to keep you laughing and enjoying asking your dog to wait whilst increasing the challenge to the dog should help keep waiting fun so you are motivated to include it in every training session.

T = Trusted

Trusting your dog can wait, is willing and able to wait and you both find waiting interesting is so important to helping get the most of your agility run.

I also look at this from the dogs point of view in that I think it is equally important that the dog trusts that you are going to behave in a particular way. So along with the fun ways of challenging your dog to cope with changing behaviour as you move off I always ensure that the release signal is consistent.

My routine is to walk off, look around the course to check my position, look at Rhyme then as I raise my arm I give him the release command.

Mark's routine is to walk off, raise his arm and then drop his arm as the release cue along with the command.

As a young dog Rhyme occasionally lifted as I turned my head to look at him so I would go to position and as I turned I step back towards him to go and reward him without lifting my arm. This helped him distinguish between when I wanted him to stay or that I was going to call when ready. Until I could turn my head, praise and even count to ten before I called him.

When Torro was a youngster he could not understand me going back to him to be rewarded. He acted like he had failed at something so for him I would stay in place until I had thrown a toy for him and release him back to the toy. We had to work on loads of duration training with me next to him.

I have just tried to film this to demonstrate but obviously over the years he is now comfortable with this. I was hoping to show his ears going back and him licking his lips and scared eyes. Instead look at the high held ears, comfortable stance and relaxed eyes.

Torro relaxed on return to reward

Knowing your dogs body language is important so you can trust your judgement on whether your dog has actually got full understanding of what you want and equally importantly be sure they really understand what they are being rewarded for.

I am confident the man mentioned earlier will find a way to enjoy his agility with his lovely dog - with or without a wait. Meanwhile as instructors using reward based training, as we all do these days, please consider how taking a dog out of the ring, walking it to the car & not speaking to it for not understanding what is required comes within positive reinforcement.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

ISS - it is rocket science

Wow just seen the ISS.

No not internet show services - although that does feature a lot in our lives at the minute.

The International Space Station.

It passed over our house at the predicted time of 9:50 and we saw it for the predicted time of 4 minutes.

It is incredible that science has enabled us to build something like that and launch it into space and for us to know where it will be - again because of science.

I do wonder though why some of this capability of gaining knowledge is not used on more day to day things.

Dog training for example, yes I know its not rocket science but that saying implies anything that isn't rocket science is easy.

Conversely it may mean it has not had as much research put into it.

With dogs being a bigger part of our lives and us living in a capitalistic society that equals more money, science is now looking at our relationship with our dogs more deeply and scientifically.

I am all in favour of this too and would pose science many a question about Rhyme.

For example on Sunday we were all happy around The Old Potting Shed. I was learning to dig my vegetable plot and Mark was enjoying clearing dead wood with his chosen tool of a chainsaw.

The dogs were mooching around between the two of us.

I hadn't seen Rhyme for a couple of minutes and initially thought he was with Mark when I caught sight of him outside the paddock gate.

Wondering how he got there I called him to see his route but he just stood by the gate so I walked over to let him in.

A lady was walking up the lane and asked if he was one of mine.
"Yes I am not sure how he got out though."
"I live in that house opposite and I was just checking he got back ok" she replied.
"Sorry was he in your garden"
"Oh no he was in the house and finished up the cats food"

Well it was great to meet another neighbour who likes dogs and was pleased of the opportunity to meet us. Embarrassed was not quite the word though.

FB confirmed other tales of peoples dogs being the instrument of introduction to their neighbours so science I hope you're up to the challenge. Tracking a personality free piece of hardware in space is not rocket science compared to the workings of the wonders of dogs.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

For the love of dogs

Agility is my main hobby - dogs are my main love.

Through agility my dogs and I get both mental and physical stimulation.

When we created Wag and Tone we partly wanted something equally stimulating and rewarding that would be fun for people and dogs that were less competitive in nature and didn't have whole weekends to dedicate to agility.

For my agility dogs it is a class where we can slow down and focus on key muscle groups to improve performance.

Rhyme GymBall Tap

I am so excited about starting a new class near to were we moved to but also a bit nervous. Most of my initial class came from people who knew me through agility and were either agility dogs or older retired dogs so I was in a comfortable place. Once started we had a few pet dogs join us and it was great to spread the word about movement helping build a relationship with your dog.

It is a beautiful thing watching person and dog wrapped up in their own little world stepping in time with the music (or not depending on their want) enjoying the moment.

Watching other dog sports which revolve around a performance it is easy to get locked into that performance and appreciate the bond and work that helped create the performance. I don't think we fully appreciate the dogs enjoyment of that moving together.

In the Wag and Tone class the focus is on fun, on getting a bit fitter, on teaching the dog to do movements on command. It doesn't take long to discover the dogs don't really need the commands - they understand what you are trying to do and how to do it.

Some dogs even put their own slant on it - Herbie would lift his legs higher in time with Jenn when we were doing high steps in the warm up.

Sue's Dexi would go to the ladder when he heard the track we initially used on that exercise.

Sue and Dexi Ladder

As I have been writing I notice my nerves have gone:) I am so looking forward to sharing the Wag and Tone experience with a whole bunch of new dogs and people.

The only thing I have to worry about is if the hall is big enough :)

If you're interested in running your own Wag and Tone class the eBook Wag and Tone available through
will tell you all you need to know and we're happy to hear from you and help when we can :)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Contacts Re-visited - training in the ring?

Something that I have been thinking about is when dogs are put back on contacts in the ring it is deemed "training in the ring". Some judges will send you out after, others will let you continue.

But IS it actually training in the ring, which quadrant of operant conditioning are you using and what is the dog being trained by this behaviour?

With modern positive dog training techniques being used widely in most training schools these days we use positive reinforcement to get our dogs to perform the desired behaviour within agility.

Take a stopped contact. The dog stops on the contact and we give it some kind of reward - a treat, a play with their tuggy etc. We focus on making the contacts a great place to be and then check our dogs understanding with various proofing methods which usually result in the dog getting a reward for the correct action.

I understand training to be setting a situation up for my dog to do the correct response to which I give him a positive reward.

What happens when we go to a show and the dog does something different to what you wanted it to?

I frequently see people stopping their dog from going further, placing them back on the end of a contact and then either leaving the ring or carrying on.

If it is training lets explore which part of Skinners operant conditioning this may fall under.

Positive re-inforcement - adding something the dog enjoys to encourage that behaviour again. Putting the dog back on the contact and praising (unable to give other type of reward in a competition).

Negative reinforcement - taking away something that was undesirable to the dog. Shouting at the dog and not stopping until it is back on the contact.

Positive punishment - adding something unpleasant to stop a behaviour.  To some dogs this can be something as small as a rebuke. In extreme cases it is a physical reprimand. So if you tell your dog off for jumping off the contact you are using positive punishment for that action.

Negative punishment - taking away something that the dog is finding rewarding. Stopping the dog from continuing on the course which it is finding rewarding to place it back on the contact.

So now you have considered which quadrant of operant conditioning you may be using on your dog when putting them back on contacts in the ring, lets look at what we have possibly trained the dog. I say possibly as I suggest the dog is not actually learning what is trying to be taught.

Picture the perfect stopped dog walk contact - drive up, along and down the 3 planks until the dog reaches the bottom where it stops confidently waiting for the release command.

Consider the approach, your position, the next obstacle and your position in relation to the next obstacle. The dogs strength both physically and mentally in its understanding. What is going on in the next ring, where the judge is and any other external circumstances. Is the perfect stopped dog walk contact really an easy decision for a dog to understand and make?

When your dog missed the stop did you realise you were flailing your arms and out of position? Did you see the dog race through the tunnel in the next ring? Did you notice your dog loose it's footing slightly along the down plank? Just a few observations and any one of these plus a hundred more could make your dog fail in its performance.

Once the contact is missed and the dog brought back everything has changed. The dog will not be moving at the same speed, you will be in a different position etc etc.

Nothing will be the same.

Are you teaching the dog to cope with the things it failed on or have you just given your dog a whole different picture to deal with? Will your dog understand it failed or maybe it will think the process is to leap off and then rush back to be put back on?

I have no answers to these questions, no golden pill for getting contacts once a dog gets confused with them in the ring. I too have stopped a dog when I felt it did not understand its criteria. I believed in that instance more confusion would arise if my dog continued to fail without me having opportunity to break the behaviour down and then use positive reinforcement to regain understanding.

A few years ago Mark withdrew Kodi from competition for several months to go to shows where he could take a toy with him into a ring and help Kodi understand his job better. He had been marked for a high contact at a main event. If it wasn't good enough for the judge then he needed a better performance. The following year he won his final 2 tickets and was made up to Agility Champion Bekkis Carbon Copy :)

In contact sessions at our club we used various proofing methods around the performance in an environment where if the dog gets it right it can have a jackpot reward and if the dog fails it can try again with the same distraction or with a slightly lesser distraction. An example is throwing a football along the ground as the dog comes over the apex of the Aframe. If the dog fails it can be changed to just having the ball dropped or thrown after dog in position etc until dog can learn to maintain criteria even when the ball is thrown.

Those are examples of what I consider to be training.

Below is a lovely run that Rhyme gave me where I rewarded his criteria of waiting for the release with an exciting ready, steady go that he has learned to love. Is it training in the ring or just reinforcing the behaviour I want in a testing environment?

As I said I don't know that I have the answers to the questions I have raised so your comments and own thoughts are appreciated.

If you are struggling to think of ideas of how to up the anti in training environments where you can train your dog successfully to avoid the need to think about replacing your dog on contacts please drop me an email and we can see if we can arrange a training session or two :)

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Mind over things that used to matter

We have done quite a few Sports Psychology for the Agility Handler seminars this Autumn/Winter. Mark demonstrated that his mental approach can reap great dividends by coming 2nd at Olympia in December - see previous post - Walking Advertisment :)

This weekend it was my turn. 

I can be a great worrier and often about things that are not my concern. Even now I feel embarrassed for asking the visiting head of the secondary school we were going to go to if the boys needed to wear black or blue trousers! Well nobody else was asking any questions and I thought it was rude not to ask something. It was the only thing that came to mind. He very unkindly made me look even more stupid than I felt the second the question left my lips :(

At shows there is so many things to worry about as we discover in the seminars. 

Two major ones for me are inappropriate queues - not keeping to rough numbers then not letting people join because the queues are too long and missing a class. The latter can be a because you have been back and forth several times and not been able to join the queue and then don't hear the final call as happened to Mark on Saturday.

Rhyme's name is Devongem Dante - Dante is the poet that wrote
Divine Comedy which is about heaven and hell. Luckily Rhyme's heavenly part comes in the ring. Not so good is the hellish demon he is round the show and particularly in a queue. 

We started the day will Rhyme running off to chase a ball with the people with 2 collies using a chukka in the small exercise area. He has a higher chase drive than recall skills. Another thing I had thought I conquered last year. Something else to have fun practicing more of.

After lunch I checked with the G4-5 jumping class and was told yes, if I got my dog I could join the queue. No mention they were near the near of the class. I explained I didn't have my dog and would go to get him. His running order was earlier in the agility so I thought I should run him in there first. I went to get him and whilst warming him up the the exercise area I heard an announcement saying that if you were in the agility queue to let the ring party know and they would get the jumping ring to hold the class for you. I had not heard a call out for dogs or the end of the class. One of my worst nightmares.

I could not rush with Rhyme as further excitement would make him uncontrollable so I had to keep calm and accept that if we didn't get to the far ring where the jumping was in time we would miss our run. That was a big mental challenge for me. 

The good news was that we made it and not out of control either. The bad news was that although I had not been ticked off the running order somebody had run on my ticket :( 

I am sure I would not be alone in being nearly hysterical about that usually. This is where the mental skills training really came into it's own and it happened nearly on autopilot. Instead of being emotional I accepted that things can go wrong, the ring manager was great and calmly they found the initial ticket and wrote out a correct one for me. The other person had had time faults and I defended myself in case they thought I was cheating (that is an even worse nightmare) by saying "If you've seen my dog you would now he is capable of various things, time faults not being one of them" LOL The ring manger said yes he had seen my dog and agreed. 

During all this Rhyme had been near the beginning of the queue seeing dog after dog go past him to the start and being released to run without me being able to distract him. I did mentioned the chase drive earlier.

Last time I had run in this ring at Ribble I was distracted after having won the G4 Agility and done a lovely controlled agility clear in the other class and thinking this agility lark is easy. The resulted was a disaster of a round.

I had words with myself that I would not on any account have the same experience this time and in spite of everything Rhyme switched straight into work mode on the start line. Heaven part again :)

I walked to my start point and concentrated and focussed just on the run, just on getting him round the correct course, just on giving him good well timed commands, just negotiate the last few obstacles and we went clear.

Overwhelming success on my mental skills ability.

The RM cheekily confirmed I was clear 10 seconds quicker than my last run!

I was still so focussed that I then went and joined the agility queue without checking his result on the score sheet etc and it wasn't until later that I heard our name being called and found out we had actually WON.

It is amazing that it was Rhyme's first grade 5 show and he won a grade 5 jumping. It was even more amazing the way my mind was so able to park all the issues.

I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to all the course participants as along with your learning I have created the correct pathways to help my own performance. Not so much leading by example more, come on guys this stuff does work and if I can do it so can you :)

We already have confidence of the power of our minds and how our courses help. This performance only adds strength to it.

It does require practice and we can all come across failure (those on the Inner Agility group will know of mine around setting goals LOL) so keep on working at it.

 We are happy to catch up at shows or email or even on the Inner Agility Facebook group if you have been on a seminar.

We are already taking bookings now for next Autumn/Winter seminars so please contact us if you are interested or if you want a follow up with a group that came this time.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The A Team

We were very proud of how quickly we settled in on moving but I noticed that there were still 4 boxes in the garage that hadn't been done. I found great treasures in old photos, records and achievements. I will take my time sorting these out to display more of them.

Clearing the garage highlighted a hidden idea of Mark's. He thinks it will be great fun to park the van in the garage. Then when we go to a show load the dogs into the van and burst out the door in an A Team style.

Yes even Mark can have moments of boyishness.

In 2013, a crack agility unit was sent to live in Nottinghamshire for a crime they didn't commit. These dogs promptly decided to go to agility shows in their van. Today, still wanted by the Kennel Club, they survive as Grade 5 to 7 dogs. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

We have even decide who is who:

Devo is always rushing around trying to keep charge of any situation and will think of ingenious things that he thinks we need him to do to sort things out - so without a doubt he is Hannibal. He loves it when a plan comes together.

Rhyme with his good looks and charm has to be Face. He certainly conned Mark's Mum when she was staying and has been declared her favourite which gains him many advantages. He will have no qualms about becoming anybody else's favourite when they come to stay.

Torro is an unusual dog and it is easy to match his personality to Mad Murdock - weird but totally loveable and a good guy deep down. When there is something on the course that needs attacking Torro is your dog.

So who could be our BA? Well that would have to be Oddjob. He is the first to react to any noise and has a natural bring it on stance. He'd probably also look cool with loads of gold chains but that is not happening.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Dreams really do come true

Crufts is labelled as the greatest dog show in the world and having not been to any others I can only confirm that it is a great event if you are interested in dogs.

As well as the top breed dogs the Kennel Club have gone a long way to include many other dog activities that all dogs pedigree or not can have fun with.

I was told Wag and Tone would not be able to be included in displays as there are no rules and as such it is not governable. Part of the essence of it is that it is non competitive and everyone and dog can work at their own pace. The dog would never be under pressure to perform better than it wanted to. It may be that somebody will come up with some kind of competition equivalent as has happen with Rally O. For us it will continue to be marketed as just fun

Mark and I had a busy week starting with the arrival of his parents for a couple of days as they were looking after our boys while we were away. The down side was preparing extra bedding and cooking for more the total upside was they not only love dogs - they love gardening too. With the great weather we had the dogs spent all the time out in the garden and our garden is ready for spring.

Crufts had many areas for us -  Agility 1st has been awarded KCAI preferred educational provider status and we had a pod on the KCAI zone, watching the squad preform ready to help Mark's decision on the Teams had the Performance weekend and the Wag and Tone ebook was featured on the stand. Possibly a good thing neither of us had qualified this year 

Agility was in the arena and the KCAI zone was in Hall 5. They were at opposite ends of the NEC so we had plenty of exercise going between them. Saturday was too busy on the Agility 1st stand to be able to see any of the agility at all.

Mark was given passes to get into the collecting ring so was able to observe how the squad was doing. Very interesting viewing. I try to keep a relative low profile.

Greg had 2 dogs in the singles and as I know them and his requirements I gave a hand by holding Rehab whilst he ran Detox. It is great knowing you played a part in someone's success. A few years ago we looked after GT whilst Greg was away and so also felt part of that win :)

It is great for Team GB that 3 members of the squad won the main events. 

There was so many great runs and the atmosphere was brilliant.

It is all over so quickly and it's all back to normal except for the inspiration given by those fantastic dogs and handlers to get out there and do the best with our own dogs and who knows next year.

From having a long old nearly forgotten dream of being an author come true with help from my friends I know anything is possible.

Amongst all this excitement I had my birthday celebrations. Mark had arranged a lovely hotel with flowers, champers and chocolates plus a lovely meal (sorry to turn you down Howard). We had cake on the stand and then on Monday we had a meal with our closest friends and another cake.

My niece Donna also sent a cute photo of my great nephew but forgot to write some important words on it. I'll forgive her this time.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Oops I did it again

Well we usually do Ribble show to try and get the Olympia Qualifier done. So far we have never qualified there but there will be a first time.

Mark is running Torro Laker for me this year. Well I say for me but to be honest it is also for himself. Torro is 8 this year and is looking good. Having two dogs to run in the same course can be an advantage plus Torro is always fun. He tries his heart out every run, growls with excitement and never takes himself seriously. Sometimes he doesn't take his handler seriously either.

Mark set him up on the start line and you could tell from Torro's face that fun was the only item on the agenda.

Devo is another matter - all he wants to do is work. He is so intent on the start line, watching Mark and ready to follow his every move. With a dog like that you can't afford to be rusty (well maybe just for Olympia LOL) and unfortunately a bar came down followed by Marks concentration. Never mind, it is early in the season and with only one semi to go for now I'm sure it might be a bit boring to qualify too early :)

So that leaves me and Rhyme in the graded classes. Well at this time of the year Mark and I are busy doing his Psychology Seminars with all the talk of goal setting etc. Over the years I have found myself to be a process driven person and so getting a clear round is my main objective, especially with a young dog. Getting sucked into writing outcome related goals was my downfall. It seems with a well trained and motivated dog winning up to Grade 4 at this time of the year is not as difficult as I thought it would be. Oops there goes the first short term goal and now I need to think of another one. It is scary how my mind is like a sponge. The down side is that it also absorbs some negatives and eats into my confidence as the season goes on. So more work will be done on my mental skills this year to ensure I keep my dog where he belongs - at the prize givings :)

In case you missed it on Facebook here's the run :-

Rhyme Ribble 15/2/14 Grade 3/4 Agility 1st place

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Walking Advertisment

It's obvious that I'm going to be proud of my husband but talk about a walking advert for his own products and a little bit of mine too.

We didn't write much about the not so good a time we had with our change to a new home preferring to write positively.

One thing that changed was our ability to use the field behind our house. That plus a couple of weekends spent doing things for other people meant Mark & Devo had very little opportunities to practice in the month or so before Olympia.

I did a programme using Wag & Tone exercises for them to work on core strength which they did a few times. Mark thinks Wag & Tone is great if a little girlie and thinks the name could be changed to encourage men to try it. He suggested in a not very pc moment that something along the lines of farts & boobs.

Other than that the main exercise Devo got was road walking followed by free running on Pewsey hill. He also had a few days with Ruth MacGill who even got him doing some canicross.

Devo likes to run, run everywhere. He is either running or stopped.

In order to help him develop better quads we made him walk on a harness. This did seem to work as unlike many he did not drop a jump.

For the last week before Olympia we did not even have a jump to practice on. Thanks to the people who did offer use of their equipment locally but time restraints made it not possible to do with moving our main priority.

We moved into our new house on Wednesday 18 December. Our equipment was being brought up from storage with Linda & Tony the weekend after Christmas. So a lovely flat field to use but still no agility

All the dogs had been great at my sisters and when we were in the States and they are generally ok left in the van overnight or daytime at shows. We thought freedom to settle into their new home was more important than me accompanying Mark. With the limited preparation leading up to the event it would not be surprising to see him back by lunch time.

Well although Mark & Devo had not any recent practice we are strong believers in lying a solid foundation before starting on equipment. Once agility training starts we focus on consistency & relationship. Marks training on concentrating on just the events/wins he wants means he never compromised on training for quick gains as their partnership developed.

Setting goals is important and doing it in a structured way will show the best results. Mark is a strong believer in you get out what you put in. His goals for the year helped him achieve qualifying for the event and the foundation and his ability after years of practice to be able to focus on his performance when it mattered ensured that clear. So the scene was set.

A brilliant dog and a bit of luck got him to the final. (Those at recent seminars will laugh at that one).

Once in the final anyone of those dogs could win.

Running first puts added pressure as you're off the course after walking it and then straight into your run.

Great dog not to lose it and good mind strength to keep it together.

I didn't even see it and didn't know the result for ages. Selfish to say 2nd was best result for me. How bad would I have looked to have missed being there for one of his greatest achievements?

Guaranteed I am going next year LOL

Monday, 6 January 2014

Home Sweet Home

We moved in the week before Christmas. We didn't actually complete until the Monday after but............ well, it's been a long story.

Mark & I worked very hard & amazingly were ready for Christmas & our first visitors the day after Boxing Day.

Mark even squeezed in a little trip down to that there London village with Devo & came back with a lovely little trophy :)

It was unlike us to have so many problems with things and this moving lark was unusually difficult.

I suppose it wasn't actually moving as that went like a dream in the end but the buying & selling of houses.

Now we are in we are so glad the other properties fell through. Yes I know there we're many of you that kindly listened to my woes and assured me that it would all end well. Thank you :)

So now to decide shall I reveal all now or keep you all interested with a couple of pictures a week.
Not one to spoil things or to show off I go for the latter.

Here's a couple of moving in clips including improvising went you can't find the scissors :)

Rhyme and Kodi help out

And once he saw how it was done Oddjob perfected the technique

And here's a sneak preview of the garden and paddock beyond