Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Looking Back

And so we come to the end of 2009. There were many, many great things about 2009 but the loss of Angel earlier this month has certainly put a lot of them into perspective and changed a small part of everyone in our house.

We are slowly putting our mark on our fantastic new property. The dogs are definately so much happier living with all this space. There is no longer the pressure to keep them entertained all the time as they get so much from just being here. I think there is a new calmness to all of them.

I'll have loads to work on starting as soon as the New Year is here. Lexi is coming to stay with me for the next six months or so. We thought it would be really great to get her ready for the Nationals in 2010. She was doing so well at agility before she headed back off on maternity leave and it seemed a shame to call it quits on her agility career just yet. Having her living with us will make it much easier for me to straighten out a few of her little training issues that were bugging me when I was trialling her before. Plus I can get her really fit really quickly. I'm totally unfit right now and Sonic's fitness isn't great either so I plan on doing a couple of days of normal agility training plus a couple of nights a week down the beach jogging. Murphy and Soda won't be able to come as this won't be the usual relaxed weekend paddle, I mean running up and down the beach and getting some serious exercise. From past experience I'm well aware that it's not just the dogs that need to get fit. Running Nationals requires a lot of energy and you need to be at your peak to get through them successfully. It will be the first year in a while that I expect to be running two competitive dogs with about ten runs on each day of the Nationals.

As to Sonic's first year of agility trialling, I'm pretty happy. There has without a doubt been lots of ups and downs. He went through the levels extremely quickly. Looking back my only regret is that I probably should have just left him in Excellent until the end of the year. But on the other hand he was managing the Excellent courses really well so until you put them into Masters, you don't really know how they are going to cope. His actual performance of obstacles is going really well and he is completing the dog walk, A-frame and weavers at a very competitive speed. He has dropped over half a second on his weaver performance in the last month alone. I'm also happy with his see-saw in that he is getting really confident however I'm not sure that I truly like the performance so we'll work on that in the New Year. The biggest issue I have is Sonic's ground speed which is by far our weakest area. I do think he'll speed up between his obstacles when his confidence grows but I know that we will need to do a fair bit of work on improving his drive between obstacles when we get back to training. With the speed of some of Perth's top dogs I need to get Sonic driving out of his corners and turns much harder.

Once 2010 is with us all eyes turn to the Agility Nationals which are being held in Perth between 29th April and 2nd May. I'm really looking forward to it and for Sonic to compete at that level for the first time. I don't have huge aspirations in that he's going to be winning any finals. I think that is way too much to ask of a two and a half year old and it is just going to be too early in his agility career to be competitive with some of Australia's top dogs. It always been apparent that all the dogs from his litter are going to be late maturers in many ways. We really need much more time to develop our team work and general skills before seriously being able to hit it with the big guns. I would think that in 2012 he will be a force to be reaconed with. Doesn't mean we're not going to give it a red hot go though. It is also great to catch up with some of the interstaters that I only normally see at Nationals and I love watching dogs from all around Australia coming together to pit their skills against each other. One not so bad things about not making finals is being able to watch the other dogs without the stress of your own runs coming up. Obviously I'd still rather make finals though...

I put together some footage of some of Sonic's runs over the year, spanning Novice right through to when he first got into the Masters class. I love being able to look back on his first runs through to now and see how much he has grown and developed in the last ten months. But now it's time to say goodbye to 2009 and bring on 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Moving On


Angel - One of my favourite photos showing the joy she felt for life

There are so many things I miss about Angel. Most are only little things. The silly growling noise that Angel made when she impatiently waited for her dinner. Her favourite spot under the patio when it was treat time before I went to work. Always the first to bark when she heard me open the gate when I got home from work. If she thought a trip in the car was coming up she'd whinge and shriek in excitement. Obsessively chasing her father down the beach. Now all cherished memories.

I never would have thought that a house of four dogs would feel empty, but without her it does. I have lots of regrets and if onlys. The night we lost her it felt like the world transpired against us so that I wasn't able to protect and save her like I wanted to be able to. But with that comes the things that I know I could give her while she was with me, hopefully in some way making up for her first two years of hell. If I still lived at my old house I feel certain that she would still be with us but she loved our new house with all it's space so much and I will always smile when I remember her belting up the driveway in hot pursuit of the other dogs. Out of all my dogs I think that Sonic has missed her the most. They used to play a lot and he was very quiet for the first couple of days after she'd gone.

Agility has played a very secondary role since then. I finally loaded up Sonic's last two trials of 2009.

The first one is from ACWA's midweek trial. Sonic was totally HYPER. It was a lot more low key trial being that it was midweek and only two rings running instead of the normal four. I'd say that it felt like a normal training night for him so added to his extra enthusiasm as he is still a lot more confident at training than at a trial. He had a clear run in Masters Agility but it wasn't one of our greatest runs. The three almost off courses cost us a lot in time.... Open Agility was a lovely course and he was able to really run on. Unfortunately he went off course on the second obstacle after crossing behind me (BAD Sonic) however he was flying around, squealling as he went. Quite frankly I'd rather he run full on and make mistakes as opposed to slow and clear. It is really exciting that he is getting much more confident on the equipment.




The Doberman Club trial ended up being our last trial of the year. Once again a clear round alluded us but on the up side his obstacle performance is getting much faster on a consistent basis and he is really up and happy when in the ring. So we are still looking for an improvement in our team work on course and the handler skills but it is being a very enjoyable journey as we attempt to get there.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Angel



This afternoon I lost my little Angel.

I felt guilty after a weekend of commitments so rather than go to the agility trial tonight I decided to treat the dogs to a trip down the beach. It has been so hot all weekend it seemed the best place to be. All the dogs jumped in the car very excited at the prospect of going out. It only took fifteen minutes to get to the beach, but when I opened the back of the ute, Angel was lying down and appeared to be convulsing. I grabbed her out to see what was wrong but she was clearly struggling. We put her on Colin's lap in the front and drove to Murdoch as fast as we could. As we got closer I knew we were losing her. When we got to Murdoch we rushed her straight in but she was already blue. They tried desperately to revive her but were unable.

We've brought her home so we can bury her on the property. Tomorrow I'm going to find somewhere special just for her.

She was such a gorgeous girl. She came to me as a two year old with lots of problems after starting out as a show dog, living in kennels. She was literally scared of her own shadow. In the last seven years she had blossomed into such a lovely girl. She always carried the mental scars that had developed from those first two years, but as soon as she trusted you she was your friend for life. She did a little bit of agility which helped to build her confidence and reminded me of a ballerina as she danced around the course. But first and foremost she was our pet who loved nothing more than a cuddle and to play with the other dogs.

We will miss her so much.

RIP Angel
8/01/2000 - 13/12/2009

Monday, December 7, 2009

ADAA



Sonic & I competed in our second ADAA trial on Saturday night and once again enjoyed some lovely courses, this time courtesy of Nat Kirkwood and Tracey Harrison-Hill. I entered him in eight events for the evening but decided to withdraw him from one of the Regular Open A Jumping classes as I felt it required too much interference from me with all the changes of direction. There was absolutely nothing wrong with the course, just not what I want him running until I feel his confidence grows. All the other courses where very open and flowing with changes of direction where I could be in front, that allowed me to easily redirect him without stopping his forward momentum to do it. His rear crosses, if on a tight angle, are a bit dodgy so I’m inclined to avoid those until I can do a lot more skill work on them. They surficed for Novice and Excellent, but not really adequate for tight Masters courses.

Sonic ran on beautifully for most runs and showed me some lovely shortening of stride when asked to corner tight. His weavers were strong and I made the most of getting in front to help encourage him to drive forward. He popped out of one set when Nat came up behind him and he caught her out the corner of his eye. Obviously he wasn’t focused enough on his job at the time. I just brought him back around and redid them without any drama. In that particular run I wasn’t able to get very far in front and I did think he was slower through the weavers so clearly getting him to drive through his weavers when I’m behind him is something that we need to continue working on to improve. Other than that the main problem was dropped bars. A few of those came down when he was trying to bounce jump and just didn’t quite reach far enough. I never train him on anything other than 500mm so I have to take some responsibility for it.

I have to say I do really enjoy handling an ADAA course. They are generally much more naturally open and flowing than a lot of what we see in ANKC. So often a Masters ANKC course includes a lot of pulling and pushing to get your dog around as opposed to natural bends that simply require a well placed front cross or serpentine. Speaking of serpentines I made a big botch of one in the last class that I ran Sonic in. I got him to come around onto the jump without any problems but Sonic continued on straight past me to go to a tunnel. By the time I got him to turn back he had put himself back behind the bar and back jumped it. At the time I thought that Sonic had missed my cue, but when I watched the video back I can clearly see that my cue for him to turn after the serpentine was soooo late that he had every right to think that his next obstacle was the tunnel in front of him, not the one to our right. Very BAD handler! He did some cracking weavers on the run home though so was far from a complete disaster.

We have a midweek trial this week for ACWA. They are valiantly trying to help raise funds for the National Agility Trial that is being held in Perth in 2010. It will feel weird going to a trial after work instead of training but I am looking forward to it. Then this weekend is going to be very busy. We have our two last ANKC agility trials for the year on Saturday and Sunday night and then Riot has in store appearances at the new Better Pets and Gardens store in Myaree on both those days. Riot hasn’t done any in stores for a while so will have to dust off his backpack and spruce him up to mingle with his adoring public!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Mmmmm...

What can I say about mine and Sonic’s “attempt” at agility at last weekend’s trial? Cause it was a bit of a disaster to say the least. I finally forced myself to watch the video a couple of nights ago. I spent the first viewing cringing constantly. After I’d settled down from the initial visual trauma I was actually able to find some positive aspects from our runs. Firstly I think his weavers are getting faster. Secondly, he does have stretches on a course when he is really driving hard. Thirdly, the speed on four out of the six contact obstacles was pretty good.

So where are we going wrong at this point in time? He is as a general rule, training OK. I’ve been working pretty hard on improving his weaver entries and increasing his speed on the dog walk. I’ve had varying success with both. I’m being very picky with what performance I reward on his dog walk in that unless it’s fast we try again. If he gives me a good one he gets a high value reward. His weaver entries seem to fluctuate. His weakest side is near side entries where if he’s on a diagonal line he will often go into the second entry. Then I’ve been racing him through them to build some speed, which I think is working. One thing I do want to try is restrained recalls through the weavers.

I’ve been attempting to do a fair amount of jump drill work to build on our handling skills. He does have a pretty sound understanding of all the handling manoeuvres but as the sequences have gotten harder he has definitely struggled more and we make a lot more mistakes. I suspect that would be mainly attributed to more choice of obstacles and far less margin for error.

So, the million dollar question, how do we manage all this to get Sonic through this stage as unscathed as possible? The last thing I want to do is upset him and turn him off agility. One of the things I love about him is his love for agility and the joy in him when we are working together. I have contemplated pulling out of the Masters classes for a while. I have already entered the few remaining trials for this year, plus one is an ADAA event where he is only eligible for the less complicated classes so I will finish the year off as is. But next year perhaps entering Excellent and Open classes in the Not for Competition category may be the way to go until I can see that he is getting around a whole course full of confidence. Then put him back into Masters when he’s ready.

I think back to my first two dogs, Murphy and Soda. Both were very successful agility dogs, Soda in particular. I had no idea what I was doing so their training was pretty average and our poorly trained contacts haunted me their entire careers. It took me over a year to title both of them in Novice and another year and a half to get their Excellent titles. By the time they made it to Masters both were confident in the ring and we had a pretty good understanding of each other. In fact it wasn’t until Soda was five that she started winning on a regular basis. Poor Sonic made it to Masters within four months of entering his first trial. I thought because he had done it so easily that he would adapt to Masters really quickly, but that’s not the case at all. He is the youngest dog in the Masters class by about six months. I’m starting to believe that a dogs maturity plays a really big part in being a successful agility dog and we are so far from that right now it’s not even a blip on the horizon. I thought that as he ran in more Masters classes he would gain confidence but that is definitely not happening and clearly I made a wrong choice in what was best for him. So time to try something new!

Monday, November 16, 2009

To China and Back Again

I swear I blink and I missed my holiday. After a day back at work it feels like I never left! However I do have some amazing memories that will stay with me and we had a fantastic time. China was like being on a different universe with the difference in culture. The comparison to living on 5 acres of land as opposed to the incredible high density housing that surrounded us in Shenzen and Chengdu (which has a population of over 11 million people) was extreme to say the least. It was pretty cool going out to these fantastic restaurants for dinner and being where there are hundreds of shops open late every night but on the down side I don’t enjoy not being able to see the sun through the haze of smog that covers the entire city and beyond. I could never live there. The traffic was insane with those ridiculous bikes with the little engines on them that you can’t hear absolutely everywhere. The first time you knew that they were close was when you were just about to get hit by one. I will certainly never moan about Perth traffic again. It was funny tonight that on TV the Today Tonight program was talking about how rude/inconsiderate Perth drivers are these days. I felt like calling them and telling them to go to China for a different perspective... My brother is the exact opposite though. He has lived in China for about ten years now and could never move back to Perth and the quiet life.


Two hours out of Chengdu and the smog doesn't get any better

Naturally I missed all of my furry family. There was a certain small enjoyment had in having no dependants for a couple of weeks but then I got to a point where I missed having a wet nose in my face waking me up in the morning. By the time we got home I couldn’t wait to go and pick them all up. Colin and I needed some padding to help cope with five over excited border collies bouncing off us in pure unrestrained joy but it was so great to have them back again. Kenny was a little more controlled but I was still met with a happy meow when I called his name to let him know I'd come to get him.


At the Panda Sanctuary

Last Saturday night was a trial run by the West Coast Rottweiler Club. I entered Sonic but I knew that our runs could be a bit dodgy with Sonic having been in kennels for the couple of weeks beforehand. As it happened it wasn’t all bad. Our first run was Masters Agility and his best run of the night. He was a little unsure of himself and a touch sticky on his contacts, but overall a solid run. He was only three seconds behind first place so considering that I stopped him on all his contacts it was a very good effort. In Open Jumping he was going well and made a really hard weaver entry but then popped out after the fourth pole. Masters Jumping was a really challenging course that I managed to get lost on. After coming around a corner I just could not pick the line that I needed. I actually managed to save us from a refusal and kept going but unfortunately he didn’t push out to a jump further on so we still managed to get a refusal. Open Agility was our last run and also our weakest. I felt that he was unfocused and a little tired so I just tried to make the best of it and keep him happy. He really hasn’t done a lot of agility lately so I think he is probably a bit agility unfit and lacks some confidence on the equipment.

The break I’ve had however has left me feeling fresh and ready to get some enthusiasm back into my agility. Tonight after work Sonic and I did some circle work out the back and then did some weaver entries. Both of us were revved up and had some real fun mucking around. I haven’t enjoyed it that much in ages.



Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Old, Frail, Infirm and Just Plain Uncoordinated...

So we know that the Noodle is deaf as a post and now it would appear that Kenneth the Karate Kat is as blind as a bat. He probably lost his sight a while ago but because we’d been in the same house for five years he knew exactly where everything was. Now Kenny’s in a new house things aren’t quite so easy for him. Mind you it is remarkable how well an animal can get around without having any sight. Our first tip off was a few too many bumps into the coffee table, an inability to find his way back into the house if we let him go for a walk outside and consistently running into his dinner bowl at dinner time. It's still hard to come to terms with the fact that my beautiful animals are getting old.


Ahhh, when they were but babes 1997....Murphy (14 weeks) & Kenny (18 months)

Then we have the uncoordinated members of the household. Sonic, who has no excuse, (other than being young and hyperactive and never looks where he’s going) slammed into a plastic rubbish bin at training last week. I ducked/braced/grimaced for him prior to impact but it didn’t help. He kind of ricocheted back off it and as per usual form, kept right on going. Riot, who has a penchant for walking backwards and not looking where he’s going, reversed into the patio support. Unfortunately for him, they are metal and I suspect a rather large headache followed. He was quite dazed afterwards. Not to be left out, Noodle bounced backwards (as she likes to do, much to my ongoing distress) and straight into the very same metal patio support, very hard. You rarely hear her so much as wince, but she cried while her front leg dangled uselessly underneath her. I had a major freak out moment but after carrying her inside and icing her shoulder, she seemed to be OK. Then lastly, the poor Murphster (the most uncoordinated of the lot) copped it. Not his fault, his body just doesn’t quite work the way it used to. Following another incident of not looking where he’s going, Sonic ran straight into the poor old bugger who happened to be standing in front of another metal patio post. Murph’s legs went straight out from underneath him and straight into the pole. He was Ok though, just a little sore. I’ve been contemplating taping old pillows around the posts so they’re padded like football goal posts seeing as my dogs don't want to look after themselves.


Murphy ( at 5 months of age) with his best mate "da Noodle" Soda (at 7 months of age) 1997

Agility right now is pretty quiet for us. I’ve only been to two trials since the Royal. I guess it’s a combination of being busy at the new house, being too hot or just because it’s coming to the end of the year and both Sonic and I could use a break. We have actually managed two Masters Jumping passes since he moved into the class in July. Sonic has had some really nice runs with only small errors to big disasters that were pretty rubbish from start to end. Of late our biggest break down is he isn’t reading my positional cues AT ALL... I can be standing completely stationary on course, next to the obstacle that I want to turn him onto, and he has just blasted straight past me. About three or four strides later he stops and looks at me with a “what are you doing over there” expression. I do think that if he spent more time paying attention and less giving me a mouthful of cheek, it might be working out a bit better! Masters Agility has been pretty much more of the same. Open has been a little more successful with a few passes in Agility and Jumping. Both titles shouldn’t be too far away. His contacts have been pretty good though since the Royal which I’m very happy with.


He is still my beautiful boy even with the grey eye lashes! (Murphy 2009)

So, what is the plan? The rest of this year will be a wind down for us. I go overseas on holiday at the end of this week which means I miss four trials while I’m away. Then I think there are only a few trials left to take us to the end of the year. I will probably enter them but my focus will be on confidence with him in the ring rather than worrying overly much on high level skills. He will then have about five to six weeks of no agility at all. So I would say that at the end of January it will be time to bring him back in with all eyes on preparation for the Nationals in Perth at the end of April 2010. I have to say that I am VERY glad we get six months in Masters before the Nationals. At this point we certainly need all the experience we can get!


Noodle relaxing at home in the sun 2009.

I have also been lucky enough to secure a working spot at the Lynda Orton-Hill seminar in Victoria next year. I missed the last one and I was extremely keen to make it this time round. This seminar for me will be all about improving my skills as a dog trainer. Lynda is doing some handling workshops as well but given that seminars aren’t cheap I think that focusing on dog training is the most important thing for me. In general most seminars that are organised do tend to be more handling related so it will be brilliant to just focus on how to improve my understanding of how to get the best from my dogs. In particular building contact behaviours and building drive around the course. I have SOOOO many questions to ask!


Kenny's house. Is anyone game enough to tell him it's a dog crate???

Being on 5 acres of bush does bring a few concerns about snakes. We've done what we can to make the backyard as snake proof as possible for all the dogs. Thank goodness so far we've not seen any sign of the slithery creepy suckers however our friendly neighbourhood bob-tails are a regular fixture. Appartently not to be thwarted by five border collies they make a daily pilgramige into our backyard. Angel is the only one who pays any attention to them at all with some serious attempts at rounding them up. The bob-tails don't seem to care.


A local enjoying the sun.

Now I have to show off about my NEW CAR. It is lovely and will shortly be transformed into a dog transportation vehicle. The hardest thing is controlling the lead foot...


Beauuuutiful...so shiney and new.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sonic's first Royal Show

It's been another crazy few weeks since my last post. We have now all settled into the new digs and my new internet connection is finally up and running. The dogs seem extremely happy and play endless catch me if you can games up and down our nice long rural driveway. Even Kenny the Karate Cat seems impressed with his new surroundings. I thought he'd be slinking around for weeks, hiding in dark corners, but by the first evening he was wandering around checking things out. Sonic is loving it. Every night he is curled up on his favourite lounge in front of the fire by 7pm. No more hyperactive puppy still trying to convince someone to play with him at 9pm at night!

Last weekend brought us to the 2009 Perth Royal Show. I was pretty undecided about entering this year. It can be such a pain with the yearly circus involved getting cars in and out, loading and unloading, not to mention the expense. On the plus side I always love the opportunity to watch all the other dogs competing and there is no way to replicate that type of environment. Its a small space that we have for the event, the ring ropes are always lined with masses of people with show bags, stuffed toys and it's very noisey. Bottom line is, if they can cope in that environment, they should be able to cope anywhere!

I entered Sonic in six runs over two days which kicked off with Teams Jumping, Teams Agility, then both Open Classes and both Masters Classes. We actually had quite a few agility bloopers between the two of us. Sonic managed to not hold a dog walk contact all weekend, fell off the side of the see saw, crept forward on more than one start line and missed one weaver entry. I managed to come up with some mediocre handle manouvres including a failed attempt at a serpentine that I thought I could make and didn't... However, even with all that STILL managed to get five clear rounds out of six!

My favourite class of the weekend was most definately the Masters Jumping class both to compete in and watch. The course was designed by Des Coyles from South Australia and was a nice change of pace from some of the very technical courses we have been seeing here of late. It was open and flowing but still plenty of things that could go wrong. One thing for certain was it was going to be FAST. The 600 height went first which meant seeing Domino run it. And run it he did. It was incredible to watch and I feel confident in saying that there wouldn't have been a dog in Australia that could have gotten around that course faster. It was truly jaw dropping to watch. The top 10 dogs were all within 2 seconds of each other. I am pleased to say that Sonic came in in seventh place behind Domino, Sage and Bryn, closely followed by Diva, Cuba and Smudge. All very fast dogs and I'm mighty pleased that Sonic at the tender age of 2 years old was up there with some of Perth's fastest dogs.

For the third year running, our team "The Masters & The Apprentices" took out the Jumping Teams competition. We also came second in the Agility Teams. The team this year was made up of Kriszty & Jess (who came out for a final run before "official" retirement), Simone & Cypher and me with Sonic and Riot. Terra was meant to be in the team but unfortunately has hurt her toe so Kriszty made the sensible decision to withdraw her. It meant a bit more stress for me because I had no idea how Riot was going to go. As it happened Riot did the most amazing Jumping run and although not quite as spiffy, I managed to get him round the agility run reasonabley unscathed.

I suppose I may enter again next year :-)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What is tired?

What do you get after a rather silly two year old border collie spends an afternoon on five acres of bush?



A very tired, silly border collie.

And what does that mean?



A VERY peaceful evening...

The "official" move-in day for me and the dogs (and Kenny) to Wellard is Monday. Everything is more or less packed up and ready to go. I did enter a trial tomorrow but with the double today at Gosnells and a lot still to get ready for Monday's move I've decided to give it a miss. Plus I really want to sleep in tomorrow cause I'm very tired!

Today's trial at Gosnells was interesting. All the Masters courses were quite tricky and I'm quite happy to admit, a bit too hard for Sonic at this stage. Even though he understands my body cues pretty well, there is so much choice available he isn't responding nearly as well as I'd like. As per normal our runs tended to get better as the day progressed. His first run is consistenty awful, but I think it's because he's so over excited that his brain and body are not working as one and he certainly isn't listening to me! Even though his Masters runs aren't particularly impressive at the moment he is having a blast and I think they are great experience for him. The day however did provide one saving grace with a really nice big flowing Open Agility class with a very doable distance challenge with no layering involved (hooray). With all the complicated handling required in the Masters classes it was a great opportunity to let Sonic stretch out and kick up his heels. He flew around the course full of confidence and presented me with our first win in open company beating a couple of our very competitive border collies. It was quite a surprise and a very pleasant one at that!

I've been giving a bit of thought on how to help get Sonic up to Masters standard. I don't believe that running him in Masters is doing him any harm because he's having a ball everytime he's out there. I don't think that running him back at Excellent level is going to achieve anything as doing easier courses won't help him develop stronger skills. I just need to help him not get so overwhelmed by all the choices on course and focus on where I'm telling him to go. So I think grids, grids and more grids will be on the training agenda. I'm going to copy down the courses from today so I can set bits of them up at training over the next few weeks. Now I just have to hope that spring decides to finally bless us with it's presence and this awful, crappy winter weather to go away!!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sonic the feral bush dog

The process of moving down to the new house has begun. Colin has pretty much settled in now and I'll join him when the new fences go up. Its amazing being down there. There is so much space, there are birds everywhere and it's so peaceful.



The older dogs ran around a lot to begin with but by Sunday were happy to lie around the house while Colin and I unpacked boxes. NOT Sonic. Sonic is fairly calm these days around my house. He occasionally gets a bit hyper when he's running around with Riot, but generally he's happy to chill.



NOT at the new house. From the second he gets out of the car he's off and running. Nothing stops him and should anyone get in his way he simply launches himself straight over the top irrespective of what is in front of him (looking where your going is overrated anyway...) Landing on his feet is optional. I spend most of my time calling his name in exasperation as he comes flying past from any direction looking like he's going to break his neck (or someone elses) at any moment. But he does not care one hoot and I must admit that he bounces well for one so slight. So far his only apparent injury is a graze under his elbow and a chunk of fur removed where he bounced off a timber railing on one of the garden paths (Angel and I thoughtlessly got in his way).





I didn't train at all last week because of the impending move. The weather was also pretty appalling and the Dogs West grounds a lake. I wasn't too concerned about missing some training cause Sonic has been going pretty well.

We had a fundraising trial on Sunday morning and it was a fairly unpleasant day. We were lucky enough to miss most of the rain but there was an extremely cold wind blowing that went straight through you. The bottom oval was still looking like a lake so the trial was moved to the top oval. It was less sodden but because the grass is so much thinner some parts were like a skating rink. I lost count of how many competitors went arse over. Sonic's first run was Open Jumping on one of the worst parts of the ground and with the angles being quite tight I gave up trying to get Sonic around. He was clearly uncomfortable with the footing so I let him pick his own course. Masters Agility was better with Sonic getting through the hardest bits and then going past the middle of a serpentine AGAIN! Guess what I'll be working on this week. Open Agility was a text book run for a nice clear round. Masters Jumping was interesting. He missed my pull through cue and continued on to the wrong end of a tunnel early on. After that I revved him up and he handled the rest of it like a pro. It was a weird day. I wasn't really feeling 100% into it and Sonic felt a bit off. However looking back at the video we both look a lot better than I felt out there. We have a weekend off now which will good. We still have so much to do at the new house, plus get my house ready to move out of.

So my latest training list is, weavers, serpentines and start lines (little bugger was shifting the butt on the weekend. Just when you think you have something sorted...).


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Weaver wobbles

Last weekend saw our last trip to Geraldton for the year for two days of agility trialing. It was another early morning as Kriszty, Terra, Sonic and I hit the Brand Highway to try and make the first agility class by 11am. Masters Agility, which was our first event of the day appeared "interesting" on the walk through but unfortunately not in a good way. Obstacles were on angles that beared no logic and I was somewhat concerned about Sonic's first foray into the Masters Agility class. Sonic also seemed unusually quiet which I thought wasn't a good sign, but as he'd been in the car since 5.15am not that surprising. As it happened Sonic didn't do too badly but although moving out at a reasonable speed he seemed unfocused and wasn't reading my body as well as he normally would. He also seemed really unbalanced in the weavers and missed both entries on his first attempt as well as banging into a weaver on one run through.

The Masters & Open Jumping classes saw a different judge and thankfully a big improvement in the course design. Sonic had a bit of a break and seemed a bit brighter in the afternoon. I also spent some extra time warming him up to see if I could get him more focused and settled. I'm not sure if that was what helped or not but his Masters Jumping run was fantastic and if not for my poor position on the second last jump, would have been his first clear round in Masters Jumping. Time wise he was about 2 seconds off the class winner who incidently was Kriszty and Terra. Open was a really nice course also but the distance challenge involved layering so I chose to run over the line. This time Sonic was all set to nail the weaver entry but slipped as he went into them which clearly worried him so he stopped and we had to reattempt. Other than that it was a strong run.

That night we all headed off to bed nice and early and I did not hear a peep out of Sonic from 8.30pm through to 5.30am. Clearly he needed a good night sleep! We got to the trialling grounds early enough to take them for a nice walk and give them time to settle. First up again was Masters, followed by Open Agility. Sonic was "up" to say the least and after squawking like a crazy thing at the dog before us was ready and rearing to go. It was a pretty good run with our biggest problem being weavers AGAIN. Sonic totally missed the entry and took another couple of attempts to get going. Next up was Open Agility where we finally achieved our first and only clear round of the weekend. It was a good run with a tricky weaver entry, that although not perfect, we got through.

After agility it was the Masters & Open Jumping classes. We had our judge back who had an affinity for angles that should never be seen on an agility field so I was unsure how the young fella would handle things. Sonic was still nice and fresh, sitting in the car anxiously waiting his go. I was really interested to see how Sonic handled the course as there was a couple of places where he would need to go from flat out to tight turn very quickly. As it happened it was a great run. The weirdest thing was that for the second time we missed the second last jump! Unfortunately I thought he'd committed to the serpentine cue but at the last minute he went straight past. The last event of the weekend was Open Jumping and I think it was the best run of the two days. Sadly he knocked a bar.

On reflection of all the runs the biggest weakness that we had was definately the weavers. When he wasn't missing the entry he seemed unbalanced and struggled to get any rhythm. Kriszty was teasing me that Sonic hasn't been through the novice dog crappy weaver stage yet that most young dogs seem to go through so perhaps this is our time. Clearly I need to do some work with him on the weavers to help build his confidence back up. They have never been his strongest obstacle so guess I'll have to work on changing that. The only other thing that stood out for me was that he was a little unsure of following my body around the course. I could feel him as he landed after a jump shifting all over the place. I really look forward to the day when he can just check in with me briefly and know where it is that he needs to be. But I guess that's just part of the journey that we're on.

This weekend we are back to trialling at the Canine Grounds for the first time in a month. I haven't made it to training all week as Colin and I are mid move to the new house. I took all the dogs down the the property last night and they had a great time running around through the bush. They were all pretty excited. I think they are going to be pretty happy when I finally move down there for good.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Happy Birthday

Sonic is two years old today. It seems like only yesterday that I was excitedly waiting to hear if Sally had given birth. Sonic however still shows no desire to act his age, prefering to behave more like a six month old! I'm very much looking forward to what the next twelve months brings and I know that I'm going to have a whole heap of fun with him.


Photo by Star Creations (thanks Mike!)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Masters agility here we come!



I am very please to announce that Sonic achieved his last leg of Excellent Agility at the GSDA Agility trial yesterday afternoon. We started the day with a run in Masters Jumping and I was thrilled with it. He powered around the course full of confidence and the only reason he didn't go clear was me! He's been running a bit wide of my shoulder lately so I pulled my shoulder round further than normal after a rear cross. He was being so responsive that all I managed to do was pull him too far and off the jump I needed him to take. I also managed to complete ALL my front crosses LATE! One in particular cost me quite a wide turn. I really have to keep on top of those and work very hard on getting my timing right to start my turn when he's taking off for the jump, NOT when he's landed.... BAD handler.

His Excellent Agility run was fantastic. His dog walk was the fastest he's done in a trial so far. I timed him from the video at 1.97secs which is right up with our best dogs. He couldn't even hold his two on two off on the end. He did stop however (just without his back legs touching the walk) and I was happy to let him go. The weaver entry was tough and he totally nailed it. It was a great run to finish off his title.

I am just so proud of him. At the tender age of 1 year and 23 months he has made it up to the big boys class. We have a long way to go but each week I see him improve a little bit more as his behaviours strengthen and grow. I can't wait for the day when I can let him run through his contacts and really see what he's got in the tank but the bigger picture is too important to me. I have no doubt that the wait will be worth it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Rain rain go away

Another trip to Geraldton was had last weekend with some positive runs and interesting learning curves involved for both Sonic and I. We had two Victorian judges in Ray Ashman and Trevor Moore alternating the Agility and Jumping classes over the two days. I really enjoyed all the courses that were set. They were challenging but not unreasonable and once again it was great to compete under some different judges. It was also Sonic’s very first attempt at Masters Jumping.

I was on the road at 5.30am on the Saturday morning, and after collecting Kriszty and Terra, arrived in Geraldton at the agility trial grounds about 10.30am. We had a pretty good run on the road and we were all feeling ready to go after getting out of the car and stretching our legs. Sonic’s agility runs on Saturday were really focused and confident and saw us achieve our only clear round for the weekend in the Excellent Agility class. On Sunday Sonic was a little distracted and although his runs weren’t bad by any stretch, he just wasn’t quite as with it as he was on Saturday. It was a shame as the Open distance challenges were very reasonable for a change instead of the “Gamble” that we often see from some of our local judges.

Just to be different Sonic’s jumping runs were better on Sunday than they were on Saturday. His Masters runs were really fun and the mistakes purely due to inexperience. Now that there are so many more jumps, naturally there are many more choices. We need to work on our grids and I need to help Sonic to understand what my body is telling him to a much finer degree. Masters means team work with a capital “T” and it takes more than 5 months of competing to develop a team with your dog on an agility course!

The other achievement for the weekend was definite reduction in Sonic’s bum sliding. I think I only saw him have one start line fidget in eight classes. Fingers crossed we have managed to eliminate that little problem.

Training of late has been a scaled down affair. I don’t know whether everyone needs a break or it’s too wet and cold for the usual suspects to want to leave the comfort of their homes. Either way with not many bodies at training means that not a lot of equipment gets put up so it is a bit restrictive on what you can work on. I’m still getting as much grid work in as possible but I’d really like to continue working on improving our contact performances too. I am sooooo looking forward to moving in to our new 5 acre property and having my own equipment to knock myself out on at home whenever I want!

Things on my radar for the next couple of months are building on his motivation so I fully intend to spend quite a bit more time doing small grids with high level reinforcement with a toy. I think it’s a tool that I'm underutilising and seeing as I have such a toy driven dog, it is important that I incorporate it to a higher degree when I’m rewarding a performance. Especially with the contacts and weavers. Then I would hope to see some more drive off the ground over a period of time as the value of the toy is transferred to those pieces of equipment. Well that’s the plan anyway... Now I just have to hope it stops raining long enough for the training grounds to dry out and to get a decent night of training in!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Finding some motivation

Well I have to admit I was a bit of whimp again this week. Tuesday was wet and yuck so my motivation to head to training was nil to zero. So the lounge won yet again... Wednesday night was cold but it was seriously time to get off my lazy butt and I headed down to at least get some agility training done. I spent most of my time working on the see saw as well as some basic grid work. I wanted to do some dog walk training but everyone wanted to pack up early so I didn't quite have time to get to it. We also spent some valuable time reinforcing startlines!

Today I went to a trial hosted by Cloverdale Canine Companions. We had a beautiful day for it and as usual for Cloverdale, the trial was well run and finished in good time. Our last few trials have been double headers so the day felt like it was over very quickly, although we had the rare addition of a games event in Snooker. I only entered the Excellent classes plus his first ever Novice Snooker class. It was an interesting day. We didn't manage any clear rounds, but once again I was really pleased with his efforts. Sonic gave me some nice drive off the ground and he looked quite confident and comfortable on all the courses. The mistakes were only minor and really just part of us getting more familiar with each other on course. I think in the future I will start to enter the Open classes. Unfortunately most of our judges love to set up layering in Open and I refuse to layer, however even if I don't like the Open challenge and run over the line to complete it, it's still an extra run under his belt that I think will only benefit him.

Now for some extra special news. We have finally purchased our very own five acre property. It has a gorgeous house on it with a really nice backyard for the dogs. The only thing that we will have to do is clear some area for my training patch as the rest of the property is bush. It's very private, with not a neighbour in site. The dogs are going to LOVE it (as will we)!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What an Excellent boy

It's been a very quiet couple of weeks for us in agility. My post last weekend about my cat probably an obvious clue! The weather has been pretty horrible here in Perth. In past years bad weather hasn't been enough to deter me from training, but this last week the decision between warm lounge vs oval and rain was an easy one. Sonic has been working pretty hard this year so having a week off from agility for him certainly isn't a bad thing anyway.

It was Gosnells Dog Clubs turn on the weekend to run a double header and I entered Sonic in all four Excellent level classes. The weather was crap with wind and rain all day. It really was quite unpleasant. Sonic and I had an OK day but the morning saw some serious arse creeping going on. However I was weak and I let it go (hanging my head in shame). The afternoon I had a bit of a think about what damage I was doing and I decided that it was time to blow runs if necessary to put a stop to it. Our first event was jumping with Sonic running the course really well, but unfortunately had one bar down. Next up we had agility with a course that was not the easiest I've seen, but Sonic actually handled it really well. I wasn't thrilled with his contacts and independance on his dog walk is something that I really want to do some work on. Unless I'm in front he is slowing down quite a lot. The refusal that he got on course however was entirely my fault. I put in a front cross before the weavers and didn't realise until it was too late I was almost on top of them when I turned. I doubt he would even have seen them let alone found the entry!

The afternoon saw our performances improve somewhat (no start line creep in jumping) with a really nice run in jumping giving us a clear round and the last leg of his Excellent Jumping title. Not a bad effort for a dog who is not quite 23 months of age. I still don't think he's ready for Masters though... Agility was also a better run in my opinion, but he did a BIG start line creep and I ended up having to go back to him four times before he stayed put. Obviously after the first time I went back to him I DQ'd us, but as it happened he did an off course. So even more pleased that I bit the bullet and didn't let him get away with blowing his criteria on the start line. His contacts were better and I felt it was the best see saw he's done so far in a competition.

So my immediate decision is what to enter him in for the next few trials. I'll be leaving him in Excellent Jumping next weekends trial. After that is Geraldton so I may put him into the Masters class to see how he fares. If he doesn't handle it well then I will do some Not For Competition runs back in Excellent until I think he's mature enough. I'm really not sure whether to run him in Masters and just let him grow in confidence with experience or if leaving him at the same level will encourage the confidence. I shall have to ponder some more.

A big thanks to Kriszty for filling in as videographer extrordanaire for the day. Colin was unable to come to the trial so it was great to still be able to get Sonic's runs on tape.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Kenny the karate kat



Hello. My name is Kenny. To people who don't know me I'm a cute and fluffy kitty cat.



I live in a house with five border collies. People who don't know me feel sorry for me. Imagine a poor little kitty cat having to put up with so many big scary dogs!



If only they knew.....WOAHA HA HA HA HA HA



In my spare time I enjoy eating, sleeping and torturing border collies. Especially when I'm really pissed off. If my human is being rude and dares to give me my dinner late, I indiscriminately bash the closest one. I love the way that they scatter like frightened rabbits when they see me coming.

OH THE POWER!



Tonight my mean and nasty human has kicked my big fat furry butt off the lounge chair. She said something about her arm going to sleep. Damn useless woman. The lounge chair arm rest is my favourite spot in winter and you need a crow bar to detach my backside from it. Normally it's the only reason that I have anything to do with my human (unless she's giving me my dinner of course). But when it's cold I pretend I actually like her by snuggling up real close so I can leech as much body warmth from her as possible. I pretend that we're bonding. Humans are so stupid!



No problem. Didn't want to sit there anyway. My human has these lovely warm beds all over the house for me. The flea bags think they are for them but that just couldn't be possible. Everyone knows it's all about me. I'll have to whip out my special intimidation skills and drive the flea bags away.


Ha, the old brown one! He's normally off like a shot when he sees me coming.

Damn it! He's not moving.



Mmmmm. That ones not moving either. Grrrrrr!



What's going on!!!! The flea bags must fear me...



Well I'm definately not getting up there. The human calls that the "dogs" lounge. I call it the local slum. I can smell the big show-off flea bag from here. I could be on TV too if I wanted!



Blast, that young and annoying whipersnapper's not moving either. Why are my powers eluding me???



Fine. I'll let this one with the silly red pyjamas share with me. But I'm letting EVERYONE know that I'm not happy about this and I'm staying in the furthest possible corner in case I get flea bag germs!

Just wait evil flea bags. There will be retribution for this. Tomorrow, when it's not as cold and I'm not so desperate, you'd better RUN.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Finding our horsepower

The Agility Club of WA held it's double header today. We were back at the Dog's West grounds so that was a relief after last weeks distractions at Northern Suburbs. Children zipping around on scooters were no where to be seen! Sonic had some nice runs today but we only ended up with the one qualifying card.

First up we had Excellent Jumping which was a fairly reasonable course but had a couple of fairly "challenging" angles and a couple of nasty traps. Sonic made a pretty good fist of it but came unstuck at the second of the two traps, going over a jump instead of straight into a tunnel. Next up was an Excellent Agility course which was a nice open flowing course. Sonic handled it really well other than thinking the dog walk was the see saw, but unfortunately knocked a couple of bars in his haste.

The afternoon saw another tricky Excellent Jumping course with tough off entry tunnels and more tight lines. This was by far our crappiest run of the day but I did rush him into the ring after clashing with Lexi in Masters Agility. I didn't feel that he was near focused enough and to me it showed in this performance. Lastly we had our second Excellent Agility run. This was again a really nice flowing course and finally Sonic and I managed our first clear run of the day.

I came away feeling really positive about his performances today. He is definitely getting more drive off the ground and I thought he was noticeably faster in a couple of his classes. Fortunately this hasn't had any detrimental affect to his skill level (other than the arse creeping on the start line...) He is generally reading my body very well and is always tight around his corners. Sonic is also getting even more vocal as he goes around the course so quite clearly he is really enjoying himself. I still feel that he has lots more speed in him but I've always been slightly paranoid that although he is extremely high drive you never are guaranteed that the drive they have for general stuff will translate into the agility ring. I was reading Susan Garrett's blog yesterday and she actually writes about speed in your young dog. Part of her article says;

"You shouldn't want your novice dogs to be frantically grabbing obstacles, squirreling around like mad. The power and the speed will come, but the time spent working on the finesse will pay off down the road. It is far easier to teach collection and thoughtfulness to your young dog before they realize they are equipped with a 400 horsepower engine and a set of Pireili tires– then after!".

It is always a relief to me to hear someone of her calibre say that. It reassures my faith in the path I've taken with Sonic. For those of you who haven't been to Susan blog, I recommend a read.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sonic and the Scooter Child

Sonic and I had a fairly quiet time at training this last week. With the ADAA three day trial last weekend I think most people were too exhausted to head out to training and stayed home to rest instead. I managed to do one night of see saw work with Sonic and the rest of it was spent doing jump grid work. I had hoped to work more on his other contacts but unfortunately it didn't happen. I have to admit though it was nice to have a couple of early training nights. However after this weekends trials we definitely need to work on them this week...

Saturday was a double trial run by the Sheltie Club at the Canine grounds. It was magnificent weather so I was looking forward to a really nice day. Sadly it wasn't quite as good a day as I had hoped for. Sonic and I started with an Excellent Jumping run. The course was quite tight and I was interested to see how Sonic handled being able to stretch out and then collect up for a couple of tight turns. As it happened he ran really well but was unlucky to have a bar down when I front crossed (very badly I might add) on his line to get him round to an off tunnel entry. There was some bottom sliding on his start line too that needs to be addressed. I'm glad he's keen but I need to nip that stuff in the bud now. It was slack of me to not jump on him about it then and there and I'm going to have to at future trials otherwise I'm going to have crap start lines. Nothing worse than not being able to trust your dog to stay put when you lead out. The sneaky little bugger must think that I don't notice. Next up was an Excellent Agility run. This run was a bit average with Sonic managing a massive fly off on the see saw and a very average dog walk performance. His weavers on the other hand were great as was his A-Frame. I really felt the course was too hard for Excellent level. It was nested from a Masters course and in one particular part the Masters dogs really struggled to get through so it was no surprise that most of the Excellent level dogs couldn't manage. In the afternoon Sonic and I had a fantastic Excellent Jumping run for a clear round and a pretty good Excellent Agility run where I front crossed him onto a A-Frame on a ridiculous angle and needless to say he couldn't hold on and went flying off the side! The upside was that he didn't fly off the see saw.

Today was another double header, this time at Northern Suburbs Dog Club. More amazing weather was on the agenda and I was hoping for a slightly more successful day. But, it certainly wasn't looking good after the first run. Unlike most of our other trials, Northern Suburbs run their trials at a huge sporting complex in Carine. On any given weekend the place turns into sporting grand central with every sport imaginable being held on the grounds. It is also the local dog walking, child playing, bike riding and general exercising area for all the surrounding suburbs. Sonic's first run was on the closest side to one of the main walking paths and just as we were about to start there was a few loud bangs and then a child went whizzing past on a scooter. This was a little too much for Sonic's senses to handle so after the fourth jump he could go no further. With hackles up Mr Reactive started alarm barking and staring off after the scooter child. The best I could do was collect the youngster and depart the ring. Shortly after we ran Excellent Agility. Luckily the ring was further away from the path and I was able to keep him focused and calm with a nice clear round to follow.

Lunchtime saw me, frankfurters, clicker and Sonic standing by the path and some serious "look at that games" were happening with any oncoming scooter children (of which there were many). Sonic has a serious love of frankfurters so scooter children were soon forgotten. The afternoon trial was on the other side of the grassed area so although we had spectators sitting on the ground watching there was no moving objects. Sonic lapped up a really nice Excellent Jumping course with an easy clear round. Shortly after was the Excellent Agility and although I believed that we went clear, the judge gave us a penalty for a jump that she said was taken the wrong way. I am pretty positive that we did it correctly but the judges decision wins so no qually card for us. As much as it's annoying I'm in no rush to title him so I'm not really worried that we didn't get the card. However he is now sitting on four Excellent Jumping cards so if he titles at this weekends double header we may be doing Opens for a while. Sonic is not even remotely ready to tackle a Masters course.

Some other fun stuff last week was one of Riot's new commercials debuting on TV. Better Pets and Gardens had a three day "Riot" sale. Kathy their promotions manager is quite chuffed that Riot is called Riot. It has certainly helped them develop some catchy phrases for their advertising campaigns. I'm really looking forward to seeing what else they have come up with from all the footage that we got on the day of filming. Nothing like enjoying seeing the fruits of your labour.

Monday, June 1, 2009

ADAA comes to WA

This weeks training was a very focused and single minded event. I let go of any thoughts on running sequences and aimed myself and Sonic squarely at double box grids and see saw practice. I thought it went pretty well myself. I chocked up the see saw and revved the boy up for the bang game. He was growling and shrieking while throwing himself over it so I think it went pretty well. It's still going to take time for him to really get the hang of it (as seen in his agility run on the weekend) so we will spend another couple of weeks focusing on getting it right. The double box is getting really solid too and the work he did at the ADAA trial on the weekend showed that he's getting much better at reading my body and sticking tighter to me.

This leads me on to WA's first ADAA experience. Three days worth of trialing was set up although I made a decision to only compete on one day. It was nothing to do with not wanting to compete and a whole lot to do with not enough hours in the day to keep up with my current life demands. I just couldn't face three days of not seeing my house during daylight hours.

So I went along on the middle of the three days. I'd entered a full days worth of events with Sonic with the intention of scratching from anything that I thought would be not right for him. But thanks to some extremely enjoyable courses set by Cathy and Mal I competed in everything but an Open Snooker class that I felt was too hard for Sonic's experience level. Sonic did have some weaver entry issues over the day, knocked a few bars (that I'm assuming was due to them being higher than he's used to) and flew off the see saw but I was really chuffed with his dog walk and a-frame and he handled beautifully. I took a different tack when getting him ready for each class by revving him right up with a tug toy. This seemed to work really well and he definately felt more focused and was driving harder around the course. He was quite vocal too so I'm assuming he was feeling pretty good about the whole thing. All in all it was a great day with all the people that I spoke to very positive about it. I have no doubt that we will see more ADAA in WA in the future.



Sonic and mines week of training will be once again focused on the see saw. It's obviously still not up to scratch until such time as he stops flying off the end of it... Although I have to say that I'd rather he powers up it and flys off rather than trit trotting up it waiting for it to tip. I'm going to move back to some of GD's other grids now. I feel like we've flogged the double box grid up to a pretty good standard so we'll do some revision on the next DVD's worth. Plus I think I'll have to do some weaver work as it was quite uncharacteristic for him to miss that many entries on the weekend. It's always something!

Monday, May 25, 2009

It's winter

Another weekend and another trial. Winter has finally arrived in Perth. It was a bit like summer to winter in 24 hours. Friday and Saturday was wet, windy and generally very unpleasant after weeks and weeks of mid to high 20's. I'm sure my garden enjoyed all the rain though. Sunday however was a magnificent winters day with beautiful afternoon warming sun on the skin. My favourite trialling weather. The trial was OK for us. Sonic got his first Excellent Agility qualifyer after a really nice run. We started the afternoon with the Excellent Jumping class. Sonic managed the first half well but unfortunately ran straight across my body to take the off course tunnel entry. Not something I was expecting but that's the joys of a novice dog for you.... As it happens he knocked the last jump after attempting to bounce from the jump before. Good on him for giving it a red hot go but he didn't get high enough out of the bounce and went straight through the bar.

Next up was Open Jumping. It was a lovely open course with lots of space between obstacles. We didn't manage a particularly good run this time round. He missed the weaver entry and then couldn't find the tunnel entry. Once again all baby dog mistakes.

Then we were onto our best class of the day. It was pretty much straight after his Open run which I think actually worked in our favour as a bit of a warm up. He handled the course really well. There was a perfect set up for him to take an off course jump but we've been working pretty hard on fixing that issue and he came around with my shoulder like a pro. His dog walk and AFrame was nicely done. His see saw was so-so. Most definately still on the list of "needs a lot of work". After his Geraldton weaver melt down he looked confident through the weavers which was a relief.

So overall I was pleased with the days events. I'm hoping that I will start to see a bit more drive off the ground from him as he gets more experience in the ring. I've had the joy of experiencing what he's capable of at some of our training sessions but I just can't seem to get him to reproduce it regularly in a trial. As everyone keeps reminding me he is just a baby, but if I want to be truly competitive with him here in Perth then I need to start seeing the power that I know is in him. I'll certainly keep breaking things down with him and keep up a nice high reinforcement rate. I also think I've neglected some of the little things, for example, speed onto the table. Something I never work on at training and I noticed that from the AFrame to the table in the agility course he was really quite slow. All those things are costing time on course and with some of the speed demons we have over here you just can't afford to throw that kind of time away. Ahhh, more things to add to my "needs a lot of work" list!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Road Trip

Sonic has now been on his first road trip for a competition following a weekend of agility at Geraldton. I feel like we had a successful weekend away but the success was definately not due to lots of qualifying cards coming our way... Sadly we managed not one single clear round thanks to a combination of bar knocking, missed weavers, see saw overzealousness and off courses.

Thankfully there were loads of positives after the weekend, not least that he travelled really well and coped without any problems in an unfamiliar environment, running over unfamiliar equipment and competing straight after spending about six hours in the car. The weavers were quite an issue and I think he only managed to do a whole set at the first attempt twice in eight events. Geraldton still have stick in the ground weavers that move around quite a lot after a couple of dogs have been through them and it is not uncommon for even the experienced masters dogs to have problems so I wasn't overly concerned. I have no doubt that those issues will resolve with time and experience.

A couple of the jumping courses were really tight with jumps all on top of each other. Keeping him close to me after he's taken an obstacle is one of the weaknesses I'm still trying to conquer so I wasn't in the least surprised when he swung away from my shoulder and took the off course jumps. We had a couple of lovely runs on an excellent agility and excellent jumping course but unfortunately bars came down. His contacts are still holding up extremely well in competitions and his dog walk is staying nice and fast which is great to see.

We have quite a few competitions coming up over May and June including our first ADAA weekend of competitions. So lots to practice and work towards. I still need to do a heap of work on the see saw but it will still be double box grid work first on the list to try and strengthen this peeling away from me problem. If we can't handle tight excellent courses then there will be no hope for us in masters!

So here are a selection of runs from the weekend.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Drills and skills


Sonic - he's a happy boy


Sonic displaying his Riot-worshipping skills


Didn't I just see this handsome face on the Garden Gurus??


Soda showing her new shaved eye punk look


Battered and bruised after surgery, but doing OK - Poor Noodle!

It's another weekend free of agility trials for me and Sonic and I'm enjoying some more time to catch up on other things. There is a trial down in Bunbury tomorrow but with the long trip to Geraldton the following weekend I elected to give it a miss. I've always really enjoyed the Bunbury trials but I'm so busy at work right now that I'm feeling rather possesive of my free time. A trip to Bunbury is a 5am to 7pm day with the 2 hour drive to get there so it makes for a very long day.

Last Thursday "The Noodle" went under the knife to have a lump in her eye removed. When we first discovered it she was on antibiotics for four weeks. They helped the inflammation go down but unfortunately the lump was still there so the vet thought it best to remove it. Soda is in great health so I felt really confident that she could handle surgery. She had bloods done and all her levels where within the normal range which was pretty good for a twelve year old. But then she's always been a tough little nut. She wasn't real happy for the first couple of days post surgery but she seems back to her normal self now. We head to the vet for a check up tomorrow so she can make sure that everything is healing as it should.

The last couple of weeks of training has been good. True to my word the double box grid has reappeared as the most important part of our evenings training. I've also put a much greater emphasis on reving Sonic up and making it super FUN! Not that it's not normally fun, but it can get a bit regimented in my quest to get his behaviours exactly how I want them. So far I've worked back through the four front cross exercises and I've been thrilled with how he's done them. It's very satisfying for me as a trainer seeing how well he understood them and how easily he did them as I haven't done any double box training in at least six months. By running faster with him he hasn't even looked like not coming around with my shoulder and doing a wrong jump. I think I do often spend time standing around on course for him as we're going around a turn so it was interesting to see the difference when I complete a front cross and then get going immediately I've turned. Something I must get into the habit of doing ALL the time.

I've been doing some contact work with him as well but it has taken a back seat to our handling work. His contacts are going well. If I rev him up too much he sometimes goes too fast to be able to hold his A-Frame which is quite funny. I've tried to include the stride regulator on the down ramp of the dog walk again to help maintain it but it's not always easy when you're training with lots of other people as I have to keep taking it down when I've finished my run. I thought I might do some weaver training in the backyard this weekend as I've been neglecting those of late. The see saw is still a work in progress but I'm happy that he's got the idea and is picking up the verbal cue. He's still not as confident as I'd like and he does it much better when he doesn't realise it's the see saw until the last minute...

Next week I'll move on to some different double box exercises. I'm determined to focus on drill work again for quite some time. It's so easy to get side tracked into running courses or sequences all the the time because that is what most people want to do and it's what gets set up at training week in week out.

I was musing to myself the other day about how any athlete/sportsperson who reaches greatness, focus on drill type work more than anything else in their quest to be amazing in their given sport. Where I train we tend to set up what we would see at a competition every week and just run our dogs over it again and again. We may call them sequences but they'll end up being 20 odd obstacles worth, which lets be honest, is a full course. For some reason drill work is something that most people do only if nothing else is set up. We've actually just had a big name American agility person here to do a seminar so there is a little more motivation than normal to work on improving the little things. That normally only lasts for about two weeks though until everyone gets bored with it and goes back to what they were doing before (no, I absolutely did not go to big name American's seminar!) Not surprisingly the dogs performances tend to stay the same. I rarely look at a dog and handler combo and think that they've improved. It's just the same performance from training to a trial.

So I will strive to follow my own path and stick to what I believe in. Maybe it will work, maybe it won't but I have faith that Sonic and I have the potential to get there.

Monday, April 27, 2009

The real start of the journey

It's been a fortnight of trialling madness. I'm actually quite relieved that next weekend is a weekend away from the golden fields of agility. We were hit with temps over 25 degrees for both days this weekend which saw sensible investments in cool coats paying dividends. Sonic and I had some strong moments in the ring but I've also found plenty of gaps that need work. We ran in the Excellent Jumping class for the first time and managed two out of three passes.

I'm not really feeling up to deciphering every run that we did. I'm too tired. However the thing that stood out the most was probably that we need to do a lot more double box grid work. A couple of times he didn't come around with my shoulder which, if I remember correctly has been something that has been a weakness for a while. It just so happened that a couple of the courses that we ran showed that weakness up. He flicked away from me once too which mortified me a little but then that whole run was a disaster. All his start lines held up, his contacts were great (although a slower dog walk than at the States). All weavers were present and accounted for (except once when I didn't get him focused enough before we started and he went straight past the lot of them...) and no knocked bars.

I was talking to some friends over the weekend about the relationship that you have with your dog when your running agility. That feeling that you get when your dog knows exactly where your going and you know exactly where your dog is going. It's smooth, it's quick and it feels great. I'm actually there with Lexi at the moment, who is a dog that I run for a friend. I only have her twice a week to train and then on weekends when we have trials. It's taken a long time for us to get that feeling as she disappears from time to time to have puppies or when she comes in season. It does have a huge impact not having a dog with you all the time and it's a credit to Lexi that she's doing so well. This last weekend we've had round after round when her runs have been text book. I can remember a time when nothing I did with Lexi worked and every run was hit and miss. I guess that's a bit where I feel I'm at with Sonic right now. He's my baby and it's all new. We haven't figured each other out yet and we're not really comfortable with each other when we're going around the ring. Some bits feel OK and others feel messy and disjointed. Knowing how far Lexi had come has really helped me to look forward to the time that Sonic and I hit our straps and have that ultimate team combination going. As the courses get harder it feels like the reality of the trial ring has just started and my experience with Lexi has definitely served as a reminder to be patient while we're getting there.

Anyway, here are some of Sonic and mines better attempts over the course of the weekend.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ode to da very cool puppy

Being that I'm so proud of my lovely little boy and I think he's the most awesomest dog ever (not including my four other fine furkids of course), I put together clips of highlights of Sonic's passes on the fun journey to get his Novice Agility and Novice Jumping titles.

Here tis. Hope you enjoy watching as much as I enjoy running him.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

State Agility Trial 2009

This weekends State Agility trial definately had it's highs and lows for me and Sonic. The young fella has been going so well I did have pretty high expectations on having a successful States. I felt that if we had good clear runs we could very easily take out both Novice classes. Then we have reality...hahaha!

Our week prior at training was pretty good. The only groan moment being when for the first time Sonic ran up the dog walk and quite clearly thought it was the see saw. I immediately wanted to throw myself on the ground and bash my fists against it while screaming "PLEEEASE put the slats back on the dog walk". So my training strategy with the States imminent was that I didn't do the see saw all week while I worked on building his confidence up again on the dog walk. When training a novice dog for ANKC agility you have to expect that the dog walk/see saw issue will rear it's ugly head (that is if you want a fast dog walk), but it doesn't mean I have to be happy about it. However, we shall grit our teeth and work through it.

Now, back to the States. Friday night was the first lot of heats with the first seven dogs going through to the final on Saturday afternoon. My first event with Sonic was Novice Jumping and a fairly tricky course set by Mel Rhoden, but nothing that I thought would be a big problem. Unfortunately we did have problems which started before we started with Sonic getting up and coming with me when I went to leave him on the start line. I attempted to fix it but it was really just a big mess. He seemed rather overwhelmed by the occasion. So I tried to reassure him and we doddled around to see if I could give him some confidence back.

Next up was Novice Agility with a very nice course built by Jill Housten. I wasn't sure what was going to happen after our Jumping debacle, I was really just hoping that I could recover Sonic's confidence. But I needn't have worried as he ran a flawless course with his fastest dog walk yet in a competition. That gave us first place and a berth in the Novice Agility final on Saturday.

Saturday morning was day two and the second lot of heats with the top seven dogs also going through to the finals in the afternoon. First up again for me was Novice Jumping and I was looking for that clear round that would take us to a finals berth. Unfortunately it was not to be. The course was spread out with a long run up the back followed by a long run back to the other side. To control him into an off entry tunnel I needed to be where I had no hope of getting and I lost him into the off course. Looking back at the video I'm not sure how I could have cued him to let him know I needed him to slow down and pull off. I had to run up the first line to get the spread that was on a very hard angle for them to see if you didn't push them out to it. There was just no way I could get back. If I had a slower dog it wouldn't have been a problem but he was going like the clappers (which I'm not complaining about). He was quite clearly feeling confident and there'se nothing wrong with that!

Our last event from the heats was Novice Agility and as we had already qualified for the final I decided to push him a little to see if his behaviours would hold up. It was another lovely Novice Agility course, this time built by Judy Tsakalos. Once again it was a cracker of a run with a dog walk that was even faster than the day before, however unfortunately he dropped a bar following a front cross that I did. It would seem he is no longer a dropped bar virgin...

So my boy was in the Novice Agility final and I'm happy to admit was quite nervous! Mel Rhoden had built us a nice course but it was quite tight. I knew that if he went clear he should be fast enough to win so rather than push him I went for a calm, steady round that would be most likely to get me the clear that I wanted. Like the awesome dog that he is he worked beautifully and clear is what he gave me. It was the quietest round he'd run all weekend but it was clear and that's all I wanted and it was enough to claim first place and State Novice Agility winner for 2009. Whooohooo.

Congratulations to all the winners over the weekend. There was certainly many great rounds, the highlight for me being some scorching runs in the finals of Masters Jumping. Awesome stuff.

I'd like to say that the excitment of the States was enough for one weekend however I had more excitment (not the good sort though) when I got home. I had left both Soda and Angel home as it's not much fun being stuck in a car all day. I left the dog door open so they could go inside or outside as they pleased. Unfortunately it would appear that Soda couldn't wait for me to get home and give her dinner, so instead found and proceeded to inhale almost all of Colin and mines Easter egg stash (foil and all in some cases). We worked out that she would have eaten about 700g so after a panicked phone call to Kriszty and then Murdoch Vet Emergency Centre she was bundled into the car and taken to Murdoch for treatment. The vet told me that for a dog of her weight more than 100g is toxic so Soda had well and truly consumed the mother load. Following a dose of washing crystals, a massive vomit of chocolate (including wrappers), a dose of charcoal AND a large bill, Soda and I returned home. She looked briefly upset by the experience but by morning was back to her normal self, standing in the hallway at 7am this morning with her "where the hell is my breakfast" expression... Go Soda. Obviously I am grateful that it ended well. Quite clearly it could easily have killed her.

We have three trials coming up this weekend with Sonic in his first Excellent Jumping classes. Although he finished his Novice Agility title off at the States I am more than happy for him to stay in Novice for this weekend. And more time to train this damn see saw!