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


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


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


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!