Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Finally the heat has arrived. We have been very lucky this year that it has waited so long to descend however we may not feel so lucky if it means we are still getting 40 degree days in April...

Never one to let a little heat slow me down I have moved my summer training sessions to early morning so that Sonic and I don't have to miss getting a work out. Mind you this only happens because I'm on holidays. Once I go back to work next week I'll have to go back to my normal evening sessions. I am extremely lucky that a good friend of mine has a magnificent 8 acre property only 5 minutes from where I live. He has spent the last few years working really hard to get a beautiful lawned surface set up to train on as well as making all of his own equipment. Like me he follows Greg Derrett's handling system so we set up a different jumping grid at each session from Greg's DVD - "Great Dog, Great Handler" and help each other work through the sequences. My partner Colin has been an absolute gem and has been filming all of these training sessions so that I can watch them back and review what I'm doing. It is not always pleasant watching but in a matter of three or four sessions I feel that my handling has improved from doing this. In the past I'd had some agility competition runs videoed with my other dogs but I've found that it's not nearly as obvious as when you are watching yourself do the same grids over and over (and over...). The fact that your not moving out of position quick enough in a front cross or hesitating too long on your pull through is immediately obvious and then the next session you can work on improving. With my own handling seeming to improve I think that Sonic has also improved heaps. He was really powering out of his turns this morning and you can see that there are less questions for him in the way he is moving. His dog walk this morning was out of sight. I had timed him at 2.2 seconds previously but this morning I clocked him at 2 seconds flat which I am pretty happy about.

Colin gave me a video editing software package as a Christmas present so I've been merrily mucking around with it over the last couple of days. Too hot to do anything outside so it's easy to justify spending the time playing with it... It's pretty full on software and at first I was contemplating whether using Windows Movie Maker was just simpler. Now that I've worked my way through a fair few of the features I'm slowly starting to work it out and after finishing my latest video that I'm currently uploading to my You Tube channel I'm glad that I've perservered. It does some really cool stuff as you will see below!

In light of Sonic's quick progression through a lot of the sequences I've been training on of late, the question arises, at what age should you start to enter agility trials with your dog? A friend of mine recently told me that she wished that she had of held off starting her youngest dog as at the tender age of two her dog is already up to the Masters classes. Being that in another month Sonic will be old enough to enter his first trial it is something that I have been giving quite a lot of thought. I haven't finished training all the agility equipment yet so naturally he won't be entered in agility for a while but he could probably do a novice jumping course with his eyes shut. So, what would I be achieving by not entering him? The trial ring is quite a different world with all the excitment and bustle that accompanies an agility trial. It is something that any dog needs to get used to as part of his training. As long as when I enter that ring for the first time I know that my dog will have no questions as he is running, because I've trained him to understand everything that he may encounter, then what am I achieving by not entering him, irrespective if he's 18 months old or 2 years old?

On a final note, it occured to me the other day that I have used quite a lot of Sam Weaver's photo's that she has so kindly taken and then forwarded on, but in my excitment of receiving them and posting them in my blogs have never given her the credit for them that Sam deserves. I have now gone through all the old photo's and made sure that Sam's name is against all the ones that she has taken. So my apologies Sam and thank you once again for all the great shots that you have taken!

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 - The year that was

As we roll into the last week of 2008 I find myself reminiscing about the year that was and all the training milestones that Sonic and I have achieved in his (almost) 17 month existence. The hours upon hours of training that as agility enthusiasts we pour into our wonderful fur kids. Being the fourth destined for serious competition agility dog in my household my expectations of performance levels are pretty high. I'm a big believer in if your going to do something, do it to the best of your ability. Some don't like the level that agility has gone to these days, however like all sports, many people are inspired to be their best. It's great to see people running dogs in agility for fun but I don't think that those who aspire to train for the ultimate dog and handler combination should be critisised for that. Personally I find watching these amazingly fast dogs run around an agility course breathtaking and I doubt I'll ever tire of it. Those magical moments when it looks like dog and handler are reading each others minds. I am privileged enough in Perth that we have a few of these combinations and I'll always be inspired by them. I really look forward to the day when Sonic and I are able to compete against them and pit our skills against theirs. And may the best team win!

Sonic and I have been working our backsides off on jump drills recently. Partially because I believe they are the cornerstone of skill building and partially because I want us to do well at the Greg & Laura Derrett seminar in about four weeks time! I'm a combination of excited and nervous about it being as Sonic is going to be the youngest and most inexperienced in the group that I've been put into. There may well be some things that we can't do however we'll just sit out the bits that I'm not comfortable with him doing. I have no doubt that it will be great fun though and a wonderful start to the 2009 agility year for us. The experience of Greg and Laura and the opportunity to have that imparted on us will be invaluable and I know that Sonic and I will only be the better for it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Fun photos

Sonic and his paddle pool (very popular this time of year...)

I finally got Colin's camera off of him so I could download a few photo's that he kindly took over the past couple of months. It was great to get some of him jumping. I think they are very cool and he looks like he is loving it!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

State of Excitement

Currently the favourite toy in the Phillips household!

Recently I’ve been having lots of conversations with people about over arousal in our dogs. Sonic and his siblings all have extremely high levels of arousal and are quite a handful to say the least. It is interesting that quite a few people have said to me that I must have the laid back one of the litter as Sonic is very calm and controlled when he is at agility training. This always makes me chuckle to myself as they may have a different opinion if they saw him in other situations. This morning being a prime example, when Colin and I took them down the beach for a morning run. When we arrived in the parking area at the beach and lifted the back of the wagon Sonic started screaming. I’m not talking just a little whining, I’m talking full volume hysterical screaming. If you can imagine the noise a dog may make if someone was trying to remove one of his legs without using anaesthetic you would be close. This continued while the other dogs where allowed out of the car and is also generally paired with his body shaking and trembling. I won’t let him come out of his crate until such time as he calms down. Otherwise the problem just escalates. Once he has gotten control of himself we all head down onto the beach where they all have to lie down on the sand and wait until they are given a release cue. By this stage he is normally reasonably calm and we all enjoy a fine time in the sun.
Contrary to popular belief his calmness and control at agility training can be attributed to the “Control Unleashed” work that I did with Sonic when he was a youngster, and still continue to do to this day. He did not come out of the womb this way. I spent many, many, many hours working on calmness and relaxation techniques and now follow a training protocol before all of his training sessions that allows me to get him focused and ready to work. There is the very odd occasion that I have not been able to get him to settle into whatever work I’m attempting to do with him, however it is very rare. I am extremely grateful that this book came out when it did. Trying to train him when he is over arousal would be impossible and not even worth attempting.
As we move to the end of December I have good news in that Sonic’s skills on the exercises from Greg Derrett’s “Great Dog, Great Handler” DVD is coming along extremely well. I was a bit worried last month as it was a bit of a mess, but he is really coming along now and should be getting pretty comfortable with most exercises before we get to the seminar. Even if he gets them right the first time, I normally go back and break it down to tidy up turns and build his understanding of positional cues (and improve my own handling...).
I made a decision to give away our current weaving training as it was. Susan Garrett has very conveniently brought out a DVD on weaving which is the 2 x 2 method, done over a period of 12 days. I have always liked this method and she has now refined it further than when I first tried it with Riot back in 2005. So when my DVD arrives in the mail I will get straight onto it. This means he may or may not be ready for agility at the Western Classic, however I have entered him anyway and if I don’t think he’s ready we’ll just pull him out. I am really looking forward to the day that I can compete with him but I’m not going to do it if he’s not 100% ready. He’s got a long career ahead of him and there is no rush.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Scenes from an agility field

As Colin has now become designated agility videographer I had him do some filming at training yesterday afternoon. After much fiddling on Windows Movie Maker (only getting slightly carried away with background music and effects!) I have managed to produce a quick video on Sonic's dog walk and a small jumping sequence.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Highs and lows

The highs and lows of agility training continues! I was laughing with one of the girls at an agility trial last weekend about how humbling dog training can be. Some nights I'll go to training and it will feel like Sonic and I can do no wrong. Every jump drill is spot on, weaving exercises go really well and contact training is driven and accurate. I come home thinking about how ready he is to start trialling the minute he turns eighteen months old. Then the flip side, when we have nights that nothing goes right. Last week being a prime example when Sonic and I could not even manage one of the most basic double box grid exercises. I went home thinking that we may be able to manage a novice jumping course by the time he is about five years old...