Wednesday, 31 August 2016

An Agility Dog she is then

We're looking forward to Gillingham Show again this year. Last year we somehow found ourselves saying we would have this little girl.

Now a year on I am pushing on with her agility training. Getting a terrier cross to do agility with was not our thoughts. TBH we still have no idea what our thoughts were but hey ho sometimes what will be will be.

We don't generally do much training with our youngsters. Ideally that should be not much equipment training but realistically it somehow becomes no training.

Pikachu did go to a couple of puppy classes though and graduated from NTU too.

Other than that she has been working on waits and play and eating. Well mostly eating if she can.

Then her first birthday happened and as she is no way a lap dog she is going to be an agility dog.

I have done bits and pieces here and there but not any proper training sessions. Today I thought right lets get on with it.

The following clips are her definitely getting on with it. OMG she is amazing.

She works for tug, she works for treats and she works for tennis balls. What more can you ask for. She likes to go fast, she likes to perform a task, she likes to go fast, she likes to jump and did I mention she likes to go fast.

Small jumping sequence for a ball.

She has done a bit of just doing one jump either as a recall from a sit or a send on to and back to a toy. This is the first day I have done this set up. I did it twice on the other side and then this is the best clip and the first time we did it this way. 

Waiting is something I have done loads of with her. I believed she was very strong on it. Then I discovered in front of a jump that if I did it from a tug as soon I took the tug away she completely disengaged. I tried practicing taking the tug and rewarding quickly with a treat but would still get a off switch look. I tried just using treats and as soon as I passed the wing she would disappear off in the other direction. I thought it was something I was doing differently in front of a jump than I had been doing without one. Sure enough she will wait no problem with no obstacle in front of her but that's not much fun. 

Luckily I had discovered that she loved tennis balls. One tennis ball is pointless as it only has one use. Once it's thrown it is never coming back. Two tennis balls however are great fun and she will continue to play with me until I can gain procession of both balls again. Armed with two balls I can get her to sit on the start and she maintains concentration to enable me to do a start line like I want.

If I try to analyse then I think the tug option is going from tug to dead toy and it seems to annoy her that we have had great fun tugging and then I'm taking it away??

Food makes her think of more food and there is always food of some sort in the grass at our field - treats dropped by my students, by me, by Mark, pheasant droppings, hedgehog droppings etc etc. So why bother waiting to get some from me.

Balls however are in the hands of the beholder and whilst I am holding them I have the power.

She also loves the chase at the end. I say if you throw the toy you must run so I run towards her until she gets that ball then turn and run to throw the other ball for her when she catches me.

Seesaw to target for food.

This is the first time I have put a target at the end of the seesaw. I have done targeting to my hand and a disc indoors on a low step.
She has done the seesaw several times - usually when I am moving it and have hold of the up end. She loves running up it as fast as she can to get to my face or onto my shoulders. Not what I am generally wanting for a seesaw performance so best get on with it in a more controlled way.

Her attitude is perfect for agility. I think we will have to work on this a bit to ensure she can or wants to stay on while it tips but am more than happy as this for a starting point.


Pikachu loved running along on top of the tunnel especially when I was moving it about and could balance on it with amazing dexterity. I managed to avoid her being able to get into a situation that allowed her to do this for a while. 

I had a theory that if a dog didn't do tunnels it would not be any good at agility in the long term. This theory was supported by many a dog over the years of training that were not successful at the tunnel initially then dropping out of class. 

Basically it is usually such a simple piece of equipment then if your dog can't learn it (or you can't help them do it) then they/you aren't of the right mindset. 

Hence followed a few panic stricken sessions of trying to get her to go through the tunnel instead of climbing on it. Mark thought I was worrying about nothing. I left it for a while and then did a few recalls through it with Mark's help and hadn't done much since. 

I am very happy to have my theory dispelled and pleased she now understands the correct way to do pipe tunnels.

This clip also shows me using the tug as a reward. In this sequence I was asking her to come to me not drive away and I find tugging is great for that as opposed to throwing her ball which allows her to drive away from me. 

Running Contacts (blink and you'll miss them)

Well Rhyme had running contacts for one show before they scared the bejesus out of me and I decided to ask him to stop instead. He has a lovely stop so I am going to start teaching Pikachu running confident if a stop is then required I can add one. I am trying a different method though for a variety of reasons. 

This is her first time running a plank which was a few days ago. I haven't done any more yet.

A bit much all in one session but it totally confirms we have ourselves a small agility dog to have fun with next year :) :) 

Monday, 22 August 2016

One size fits all

As a few of you may know and hopefully a few more noticed ;) I have been focussing on losing weight this year. 

Rhyme reached Grade 7 this time last year and I knew that I would have to change something in order to be competitive in qualifiers and champ classes.

On individual sequences and on his skills, Rhyme's times are up there with the best of them. One thing that holds him back is my ground speed and mental quickness for giving commands.

I realised one thing to work on was my fitness and my fitness revolved around my weight. 

It is unbelievable how much better my running is with less body to cart around.

Luckily I have Zumba with my neighbour, my Wag & Tone class and a local cycle track to take advantage of over the winter to come out super fit in the new season.

On top of that and improving Rhyme's fitness I'm hopeful that we will be having a great year in 2017.

Then I look on social media and wonder if we will still have an understandable format to compete in :(

applauded the fact the KC were giving people options on what height to run their dog on so the dogs could run at appropriate heights not entirely governed by the dogs strict height. EG a large breed could run at LHO and so minimise compression on joints due to being well, -  large, whilst smaller dogs could continue to work at full height if that suited them, dogs near retirement could enjoy a slightly longer career, young dogs coming out could start at a lower height until they got stronger and muscled up etc. Well in my eyes a load of reasons where choosing a height that was good for your own dog was good. 

However the initial outcome is a bit chaotic at shows and people are being questioned for their motives of what height they jump including discussions about winning, being beaten by dogs jumping different heights. If you are doing a combined height class and feel a need to win then it is surely your prerogative to jump the lower and quicker height. If you have a reason to jump your dog at a larger height then you may need to accept that show is not the one you might win at.

It seems the more personal choice people have the more conflict and accusations exist. It would be great if we could all just respect each others choices.(Sorry any excuse to show a clip from The Blues Brothers is a good one imo) 

For my own reasons I will mainly run Rhyme at full height and Pikachu will start out jumping LHO until we are strong enough to be contenders in qualifiers. If Rhyme goes to a show that has no qualifiers then I may even run him at LHO. He is a big dog so I can't see a reason to jump him higher than required. That said we usually go to shows that have qualifiers anyway.

It seems like I am in favour of the changes for my dogs BUT..........

my ears and my brain do not like it one little bit. Classes being called all over the place, closing this class, walking this class, graded, combined, LHO, small, medium and large. I look across to see a class being walked and think it is the class before mine only to discover it is the LHO of the class before the class before mine. By the time mine is ready for walking I've lost the plot LOL.

Would it work to just have to go through the wings/cones like a slalom event in skiing or inline skating (I didn't even know this existed as a sport)?

Just queue up and go. Depending on class numbers awards are given as first overall then grade/height splits as appropriate. Would save all the different course walking and changing. Dogs are measured on the day they compete (going under a bar like at Alton Towers etc) This would avoid the difficulties of dogs heights changing as they mature, get more muscled with competing etc. When it comes to qualifiers of the different heights dog go in their average height category. 3 to 4 different slalom courses a day.

There are a million reason's why this wouldn't work in practice. I'm sure any system based on the height category of a living being is very hard to manage fairly. You only need to look at the huge variety of classes in the para-olympics to see the difficulties of matching like for like. Even in car sports like F1 there seems to be anomalies. If you can't even ensure machines are matching then it demonstrates how hard it is to split animals with something as simple a measure of their height at a given point.

I really have no answer and am like everyone else heart broken for how this is playing out in our sport at the moment. I hope our sport can recover from all these changes and come up with rules and the application of the rules so we can again feel we, our friends and most of all our beloved dogs are being treated as fairly as they can be, given so many variables.

Deep down I am saddened as I don't think agility can ever be totally fair to every individual, there will always be benefits for some and disadvantages for others In a search for that fairness, the fun and camaraderie will be lost as each person strives to make their own dog able to compete in a level playing field that doesn't exist.

Then I look around and I know that the agility community can pull through this and we will find the best way forward to enjoy our sport at our own level whilst helping or admiring those on a different level to us.