Monday, December 27, 2010

Summer dayz

Another Christmas is behind us. Many hours spent cooking a magnificent roast dinner and about 10 minutes to eat the lot. Serving up took a little longer after Mum spotted a tiger snake legging it straight past our sliding doors via the back patio area. I don't know where it was going but it was in a real hurry to get there. I bought myself my own Christmas present this year in the form of a lovely new laptop which will be delivered on Thursday. Top of the range specs with a 1080 Hi-def screen, what more could a girl ask for. There was a tinge of sadness about celebrations this year being the first Christmas without my Dad.

I have two glorious weeks off work to enjoy. While the eastern states are ravaged by rain and storms we are sweltering through 40 degree days. Looking back ducted air conditioning was one of the best ideas we had in 2010 as we now sit in the house at a very comfortable 24 degrees. The dogs get all excited about going outside and then change their mind and want to come back in when they realise how unpleasant it is out there. I have the best intentions about getting some stuff done outside but I don't do manual labour in this heat so it's either going to have to cool down, or it won't get done...

The local Black Kite couple borrowing the bird path to cool down.

This morning was our first time down the beach for a while. It will be six weeks this weekend since Sonic vs the paralysis tick and the poor young boy has been going stir crazy with me restricting anything that could be considered over exertion. It was quite busy for this particular beach and plenty of "dickheads with dogs" around (otherwise known as people with out of control dogs not on lead) but luckily it was so nice in the water that every time I saw one coming we all went for a lovely swim. The only unpleasant moment was when Murphy sunk and I had to reinact a scene from Baywatch to rescue him. It was quite freaky. He was paddling away and then tried to shake his head, stopped paddling and just sunk like a stone. Luckily he was only half a metre behind me so I launched myself at him, scooped him back up to the surface and carried him back to shore. I think he was a bit shocked the poor bugger. No unchaperoned swimming for him anymore. They all had a blast swimming around though and it was great to be back down there.

Having some holiday time to pass with the crappy weather I've put together a "Highlights 2010" clip of my favourite agility runs with Sonic. It's interesting to be able to look back over the year that was in agility for us and remember the good, the bad and the if only moments. I knew that Sonic had improved a lot over the course of the year and that was brought home even more looking back at the clips. He had some nice runs in the early part of the year but they were just "nice". There wasn't the power or the energy that you start to see later on in the year. All the footage I've ended up using in the clip are from July until the last trial of the year that he did in early November.

I'm really looking forward to agility in 2011. As a three year old Sonic's best is still in front of him and I have no doubt that he will be up there with them as he grows in maturity and we grow as a team.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Land of the magic lawn

This weekend has been the first one in a long time that we did not have any plans. Absolutely none at all. It was wonderful! I was able to fit in cleaning the house, doing some Christmas shopping and planting lawn all in one weekend without stress and crazy running around involved. Did I mention how wonderful it was?

Note magic sand to the top of the photo...

I've more or less finished planting grass for the time being. We had a truck load of sand delivered last weekend which is meant to be "special grass sand". If what the delivery man told us is true we should now enter into a grass growing bonanza period. I am still very determined that I will have an agility area to use by the middle of next year.

Revegetation area/dog exclusion zone

The sand was also purchased in a last ditch attempt to help save our poor sad looking back yard lawn. It did quite well last year but after a solid twelve months of being used as a race track by the dogs there are huge patches of dead grass and very little healthy green left. We've curbed the worst of the hooning because Murphy isn't allowed to run with the others while I'm outside anymore. The poor old bugger invariably gets cleaned up by someone so if I need to go outside which is what generally triggers the game, I bring him inside.

Orchard/bird exclusion zone

Colin has been busy setting up bird netting to protect our fruit trees this year from the local wildlife. Not a single piece of fruit was had last year after the birds helped themselves so Colin was determined to beat them to it. The apple trees are absolutely covered in fruit and the peach tree is looking pretty good too.

Apple tree

Passion fruit


In between work and growing lawn I have been attempting to do some dog training. Riot is learning "sit pretty" and a few other bits and pieces for a bit of fun. As always he is such a quick learner when it comes to shaping and he really enjoys trying to figure out what it is that I want him to do. I haven't done much of anything with him for a while so it will no doubt do his brain some good. And it certainly won't hurt to work on my dog training skills.

It's hard being this good looking but someone has to do it!

Sonic's shaping is well, an interesting experience. He barks throughout each and every session. If I don't reward him immediately that he thinks he's done something clever he throws himself from a sit to a down and vise versa until he realises that I'm not going to give in. On the up side he is now offering a back up and a bow. I'm hoping that we can progress with something a little more exciting over the next couple of weeks. It's been about four weeks now since the paralysis tick incident so in another couple of weeks I'll start to exercise him properly and I'm sure he'll be very happy to have a trip down the beach. Now we just have to wait for his fur to grow back!

Maybe if I had some fur...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Road to recovery and chinese whispers

My boy is finally getting back to normal. It took a good couple of weeks where although he was bright and happy, he was still sleeping a lot and a little on the quiet side. But then last weekend he just seemed to come back alive one afternoon and has been his old self ever since. Words can't describe how relieved I am that this horrible experience has turned out OK.

This last week has seen the commencement of our new training plan courtesy of Susan Garrett. Beginning with "Its Your Choice" games and also some shaping and hand targeting. One thing I realised quite embarrassingly is that Sonic has two shaped behaviours, one being sit and the other being down... Really quite pathetic when you think about it. Clearly I was just too "agility blinded" to do any more with him when he was a puppy. The IYC game is how I'm working through his frustration issues as he'll sit and then drop and if he doesn't get rewarded he'll start barking at me. What I'm trying to achieve is a more thoughtful dog who will continue to try other things if what he offers initially isn't earning the reward. So far we've managed a stand and a back up. Not much but it's only the beginning and I'm excited to see how it all goes.

The hardest thing with all of this is having the courage to stop doing all the stuff that you have been doing in the past. We are all very, very good at going to seminars and saying that's the way I'm going to do it now and then two weeks later it all seems too hard so you go right back to what you were doing before the seminar. I was chatting to Tracey last night who was part of the WA contingent at the SG seminar and she was telling me about what she's been working on with her young dog Taz since she returned. Tracey was saying that she's done hardly any equipment since and has been focusing on a few particular issues that Taz has and specifically tailoring her training for that. After seeing Taz run last night all I can say is WOW. Taz looked confident and probably the most full on I've ever seen her on course. That for me is incredibly inspirational to see someone make a decision with their dog training and then work so hard to achieve what they want. I know that Tracey will be the first to admit that she still has a long way to go but if that is what she's getting already then it will all be well worth it.

Grass in October

Grass now - ok not much but we're getting there!

I'm also please to announce that lovely little Hotnote Electric Dreams aka "Sage" finished her Agility Champion title fittingly at the last trial of the year last night. Sage is now the first official Agility Champion bred by Hotnote kennels. Sage is very closely related to my beautiful Soda and is the spitting image on the agility course. For me watching Sage is like watching Soda all over again. I run Sage's sister Lexi for Leanne Irvine who has the Hotnote prefix and if the pup I get from Lexi is anything like Sage and Soda I will very happy indeed.

Speaking of puppies there appears to have been an interesting Chinese whisper travelling around which has unfortunately caused some upset. Along the lines of I hate working border collies and would never have a working border collie puppy. Interesting considering I have a working bc who I love more than life itself. Anyone who knows me well knows that I have strong feelings and opinions on the importance of genetic testing and hip/elbow scoring of border collies when breeding. This bears absolutely no relation to whether I like a dog who is being bred from. At this point on my dog training path I would choose not to take on a pup who's parents have not had genetic testing and hip scoring done. This is a blanket statement which applies to show lined and working lined border collies however currently this testing is predominately done by show border collie breeders. When I am ready for my next working bc pup (another 2 - 3 years away yet!) because I absolutely want another one, it will definitely be something that influences my choice of where I get it from. The End.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bad decisions and regrets

I've decided that I don't like northern NSW anymore, I don't care how green and picturesque it is. I also hate paralysis ticks, particularly the little bastard that hitched a one way ride to WA attached to Sonic. Quite honestly I wish I'd never gone to the wet, humid, crappy place.

Last Saturday afternoon I noticed that Sonic was favouring a back leg about lunchtime. At the time I thought it may just have been because he had been overcompensating with his sore front shoulder from earlier in the week. As the afternoon went on he didn't seem "right" to me and his back end was definitely not as it should be. I did another tick check just in case because I knew there was the possibility that he had picked one up while we were away even though we had treated them as instructed before we left and regularly checked them while we were there. I still couldn't find anything so I just kept him inside with me to keep him quiet. A bit later I had a text message from Steve and Nicola and when I called they told me that Kyte had been taken to Murdoch Emergency Vet Centre after Nicola found two paralysis ticks on him. He had been showing similar symptoms to Sonic before they checked him and found the ticks. We still couldn't find any on Sonic but I just wasn't willing to risk it so off the Murdoch Sonic went too. By that time of the evening he was noticeably quiet so I was pretty sure that something serious was going down.

Sonic's recovery pen - otherwise known as the Taj Mahal

Once we got him to Murdoch they took him straight in and started treatment for paralysis tick. The vets were also unable to find a tick on him after an initial check but as his symptoms were the same as Kyte's they had to assume that was the cause. It was incredibly hard to leave without him but I knew that it was our only option if Sonic was to survive. By the time we got home I was exhausted but all I could think about was if he was going to be OK and if we'd gotten him to Murdoch in time. The vets had told me that no news was good news so when the phone rang in the morning my heart almost worked it's own way out of my chest. Sonic wasn't in good shape but he'd made it through the night. One of the vets had worked in NSW's so had seen many previous cases of paralysis tick in dogs so she was on top of the treatment required. They decided to shave him to see if that helped find the tick however the only obvious sign that was found was a lump and red mark on one of his front legs.

Somebody stole my fur!

Sunday sucked. Sonic had quite bad paralysis in his back end and no gag reflex so he was unable to eat. The vets were pretty confident that he wouldn't be coming home for a few days and were unsure how long it would take him to recover. I just had to wait and see if he got worse or better. Not a fun day at all.

Monday I had to go to work and eventually built up the courage to ring Murdoch and find out how he had gone through the night. I expected her to say that he would have to stay in longer but the vet was very happy to tell me that she had come in to find a very bright and happy boy who had even managed to eat a small amount. It was likely that he could come home that afternoon. I shed tears of relief after that phone call and my day became a whole lot better. I stopped on the way home from work to get him and he was a happy boy indeed when I went out the back to collect him. I was met with much squeaking of joy and licks.

So he has been home since and is going very well. The paralysis toxin stays in the body for at least two weeks so he has to stay quiet as there is the potential for heart failure which can be caused by over exertion. I also have to be careful of aspiration pneumonia so he's being hand fed to stop him from inhaling his food (literally). Now that he's feeling better keeping him quiet is challenging. He is full of beans and has resorted to laps of the house with toy to entertain himself. Not sure what he'll be like come this time next week. There will be no agility for Sonic until next year. I just can't take the risk that his body isn't ready for the sake of the two unimportant trials that remain. Although he'd probably go faster as with no fur he'll be super aerodynamic! His skinny little tail looks like it could take an eye out.

Great new too for Nicola with Kyte able to go home on Tuesday afternoon. They were lucky boys indeed.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The green green fields of NSW

Jody, Tracey, me, "Lucky Phil" our waiter, Penny, Sue & Nicola attending our nightly dinner party

I have indeed returned from the mystical land of NSW where it rains daily and there are endless hills of lush green grass as far as the eye can see. My sneakers smell like a swamp from walking through water logged grass every day. It felt somewhat like a parallel universe coming from the rain starved city of Perth. You notice it even more in the plane over NSW which is very green and WA which is a decidedly brown colour.

The green machine - definately not recommended for four wheel driving

The resort where we stayed was lovely and couldn't have been more dog friendly. The dogs could stay in the rooms, run free on the property and sit with you in the restaurant while having dinner. The drive out there was unexpectedly challenging with a few kilometers of winding hillside dirt roads with hairpin corners and sheer drops off the side to navigate. We also encountered an array of wildlife including an echidna that apparently you should avoid, not because they are endangered but because they really wreck your car tyres if you run them over. I'm not sure that a Commodore wagon was the best choice of hire car and was filthy dirty by the time we made it to the resort. Luckily all the rain washed most of the dirt off as I was pretty sure I was going to have a hard time convincing the hire car company that it had never left a bitumen road.

We had originally booked into one of the rooms in the "bunkhouse" for the duration of our stay not realising quite what that entaled (picture a box with four bunk beds in it and you'd be close). Call me soft but dorm style accomodation which may have seemed quite acceptable when I was 15 on school camp, is not quite so much fun as a almost 40 year old. We swiftly moved to a much more comfortable resort room for the remainder of our stay.

2 x 2 Session with Susan

Sonic and Kyte travelled well although I think Kyte was a bit freaked out by his first plane ride. Sonic handled it like a seasoned performer given that this was his third time in the air. Up until now Sonic has never been a big fan of Kyte as Kyte is a very "I love everyone" type of individual and Sonic, well isn't. However in the face of "it's Kyte or your on your own", Sonic decided that Kyte was his very bestest friend in the whole world and gave him loves and licks at every opportunity. Other than Kyte chewing his way out of his soft crate on the last night of his stay to raid a bag of apples and museli bars the two boys were brilliantly well behaved and I think Sonic would love to always have four women fussing over him.

Sonic slumming it in the resort room

The Susan Garrett seminar was full on. The more I understand her methods the more I like them and I felt very inspired to become a significantly better dog trainer at the end of every day. I wrote copious pages of notes to try and suck up as much information as I could. Some aspects of the seminar were a little frustrating. I felt surprised that some of the people who I'd seen at the Lynda Orton Hill seminar back in February appeared no further along with their training than what they were then. I'm pretty sure that Susan was surprised too and unfortunately I think she adjusted the content to match the lowest skill level. At this point in time you have to wonder if seminars like these are better split into ability levels as it's not fair to have new people rushed in their learning but it's also not fair for those who are more experienced to be held back by novice trainers. I don't want to miss going to big name overseas agility trainers because the seminar content is the same every time you go because many of the participants don't bother to actually do the work in between the visits.

Horse riding in the green fields of Upper Monkerai NSW on my trusty steed "Princess"

I would also have loved to have delved into the nitty gritty of dog training so much deeper. We ultimately only spent half a day on contacts and realistically all of us from WA would have been happy to spend three days on the subject to really understand the information that had been presented to us. However I did still come away with a lot of things to work on with Sonic and a much better plan of action for when my new puppy eventually joins the house. There are things that I won't retrain Sonic to do at this stage but things like start lines can be significantly improved and I have a better idea on how I can work to improve his drive in between obstacles.

Nicola riding Brandy

I very much enjoyed our handling working spot. Sonic went sore in a shoulder on the Sunday so I thought for a while I wouldn't be able to work with him. Luckily one of the attendees was a vet and prescribed him a short course of an anti-inflammatory which worked immediately and Sonic has been fine since. I don't know that he felt 100% on the day and certainly didn't stretch out like he normally would however at no point did I feel that he was compromised. As always he worked his little heart out and seemed to really enjoy himself. We all got some really great information on improving rear crosses and getting tighter turns from our dogs.

More green fields

Really the next thing I have to do is sit down and actually plot a plan of action. Decide exactly what my goal is and then work out how to achieve it using the information that I have been provided. I'm convinced that we leave way to much to chance here at the moment and I firmly believe that it's not about if your dog happens to have "it", it's what you do with what they have that decides if your dog can be great.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Highs and lows

It's been another very sad week for agility in WA. Tracey Wansbrough had to say farewell to Jake her best mate of 17 years and Jody Bronovich lost her beautiful Tivy unexpectedly at only four years of age. One a star of the past and one a star of the future who have both left very big holes in their owners hearts.

Trialling is still a mixed bag for Sonic and I. We can't seem to get a clear round to save ourselves. He's flying around courses and it's awesome to see him put his head down and drive hard towards tunnels. It's taken a lot of work but I can see the benefits starting to appear from all the reinforcement work I do at training. In a weird turn of events Sonic "flicked away" from me in both Masters Agility and Masters Jumping last Saturday night. Both times I presented him with a very obvious shoulder rotation around a corner and both times he's gone in the total opposite direction. I've never purposely trained anything even remotely close to that. I've even gone out of my way to never do that type of thing in open class for distance challenges but somehow it's snuck in from somewhere! I certainly have a pretty good idea what I'll be training this week...

This week is going to be very exciting with Sonic and I heading off to NSW for the Susan Garrett seminar. We fly out on Thursday to Sydney and then drive up to Upper Monkerai which is apparently 2 1/2 hours north. Friday will be a day to relax and enjoy the property where we are staying and then Saturday it all starts. The property itself looks amazing and Sonic is going to love it. Sonic and I have a working spot in the handling basics class which is quite fitting given our current state of play. It's all happening over 5 days. I love travelling away for seminars like this as there's nothing quite like immersing yourself in your hobby without the distractions of home. Sonic is such a good boy when we travel too which makes it all the more fun. Driving through Sydney should be interesting...hopefully the GPS behaves itself and doesn't send us on some random adventure!

I'm still obsessively grass planting pretty much every day. Every day I have to go out there to see if it's grown a little more. I'm very determined to have at least half the area usable by mid next year in time for my new puppy.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reasons to like computer games!

How do you entertain overseas family members who come to stay? Send them out to weed your new agility training area…

In actual fact I would never dream of asking my sister in law to spend her holiday weeding. My brother and his teenage sons incessant use of his X-Box drove her to it! Like me Lisa finds the mind numbing effects of computer games less than entertaining. The stupid thing drove me nuts too but I would have spent time weeding in preparation for grass planting whether an X-Box was involved or not. It was very fortuitous though as we ended up weeding a space that was more than twice the size of what I had already managed to do prior to their arrival. She was like a human weeding machine!

With the addition of reticulation courtesy of Colin and his magic box of plastic bits my agility area is starting to become a reality. Grass runner planting has commenced and every day after work I’m adding a bit more. We have an area at the back of our garden that is full of overgrown grass runners so I’m just pulling them up and transplanting. It takes time but it will save heaps of money. I did the same thing for the dog pen and that now has the most magnificent area of grass you could ever hope to see. It helps that we don’t have dogs in there yet, but every time I look at it I still feel proud that I contributed to its creation.

Since I last blogged Sonic and I have done another couple of trials. One of which was the games classes at the Royal Show. To make a change from the first weekend at the Royal Sonic and I were actually successful, as opposed to lots of near misses. We ended up winning the Excellent Snooker class and placed third in Excellent Gamblers, just 2 points away from first place. It was a good day, Sonic was focused and I handled him well which equalled great team work and success.

Last weekend saw the GSDA Western Challenge Agility Trial. I have good memories of this event as Soda won the Masters Jumping class (her specialty event) a couple of times back in her hey day. The special thing about this trial is that you get really beautiful jarrah wood trophies. It is rare these days to get any trophy at all let alone one that is made of proper wood and not cheap plastic! Back then it used to be run on the main arena at the Canine to give it an even greater sense of occasion.

Both the masters courses required lots of control with off course choices for dogs everywhere and plenty of tight turns required. All in all I thought Sonic and I made a pretty good job of both of them. In agility I shoulder pulled to bring Sonic inside the next jump in preparation for a rear cross. Unfortunately I pulled too hard and he interpreted it as a turn and then went back up the dog walk instead of ahead of me to the jump. The rest of the course was clear. In jumping I turned early for a tight front cross and Sonic quite rightly came off the jump completely. I’m happy that I tried to change my timing as it’s clear that I need to, I’m just going to have to accept that I may pull him off jumps from time to time if I get it wrong. I’d still rather that than being late all the time like I have been. After that happened he completely blew me off when I did a pull through and ended up heading into the wrong tunnel entry so I’m going to say that we both screwed up… The positives from the run was that he was turning brilliantly tight yet still driving out of the turns.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Good the Bad and the Extremely Ugly

Last weekend saw the whirlwind that is the Perth Royal Show descend with the usual series of "if only's" muttered after most classes that I ran with Sonic. I'm the first to admit that there is a lot to be happy about with his performances in general but still feel frustration when he blows me off on course. I absolutely have to take some of the blame. My inability to execute a front cross even remotely close to when I should be still eludes me. I will no doubt continue to suffer the consequences of Sonic doing off courses until I am blessed with far improved timing.

Sonic's speed is still climbing. Out of 18 qualifiers in the Masters Jumping class he came fourth which was even more impressive given that my handling wasn't anything to be smiling about and I got in his way more than once. He ran a fantastic Masters Agility course and if I hadn't gotten out of position over the end sequence of jumps I'm sure he would have gone clear. As it was I got behind him and then it turned into a big fat mess. I was pretty disappointed with that one after spending the first two thirds of the course demonstrating his wonderful independant contacts and some great focus.

I do seriously need to sort out my late front cross timing. What I'm doing is not working and even though I plan to move early it's not happening the way I want it to. I'm going to have to focus on rotating at least a stride further out than what I am now. Maybe that will minimise the lag time between my brain thinking "move" and my body actually doing it! It also has a lot to do with my paranoia of turning early and dumbing them down. The other weirdo thing that I need to work on with Sonic is the table. We blew Open Agility with him walking around the back of it again before he'd get on it. I've been racking my brain trying to figure out why his table performance has suddenly changed but I'm none the wiser at this stage. I spent a little time working on it after he ran around the table at the Gosnells trial but he still did it at the Royal. Luckily we rarely see the table in Masters but I don't want the times that I do to be a problem.

Some good news on my agility training area at home. We have planted our first grass runners and put in the first bits of reticulation to get it going. It's not a big area yet, it only gives me enough space for a set of weavers, an A-Frame or a couple of jumps, but it's a start and hopefully we'll keep chipping away until it's finished.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Over Enthusiasm?

Just when I thought that Sonic's broken start lines were under control out emerges Mr Over Enthusiastic... Sonic really loves his agility now. His speed is going from strength to strength along with his growing confidence. Unfortunately joy for Sonic is appearing in the form of a lot of silly barking and any semblence of a start line stay floats away over the horizon never to be recovered. I think I was lulled into a false sense of "Sonic has really settled into his agility now" after having a few trials where he really didn't put a foot wrong and I thought I only had to deal with my inept handling. But apparently not. Dodgy handling is irrelevant if I can't actually get Sonic over the first jump because he's carrying on like a nut job! My withdrawing him because he wouldn't sit and stay at the start line was met with "good decision Karen" from ring side. I obviously wasn't the only one who thought my youngster needed to realise that acting like a nut job means NO agility for Sonic. And trying to tug on your leash as you are walked back to the car after being withdrawn in disgrace from the class for acting like a clown will definitely not work. Not quite sure how he's going to handle the Royal Show this year where the excitment level is doubled with big crowds and much smaller agility ring.

If he was perfect all the time I guess it would be boring...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Great dog - very average handler

OK, its back to Sonic and agility now after boring everyone stupid with pictures of pretty flowers from my garden!

Sonic and I headed up for the Geraldton agility trials last weekend and had a really enjoyable time. We ran some very nice courses courtesy of Clive Makepeace and Jill Houston. We ended up with Q's and wins in Masters Agility, Open Agility and Novice Snooker. I actually thought all Sonic's runs were very solid. The only thing that prevented wins and Q's in Masters Jumping was yours truly with poor handling/bad timing. The things that young Sonic has to put up with... Sometimes you got it, sometimes you don't.

Today was a Dogs West Fundraiser. There was lots of sunshine out there but geez the wind was cold. The type that goes straight through you and your clothing. I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to run Sonic today. Yesterday afternoon I was about to give him a furry foot trim and noticed that one of his dew claws had split and half the nail was sticking out sideways. No doubt he'd done it during the day while doing his best impression of a dickhead charging about out the backyard, crushing my native plants. There was no way I could cut off the broken bit as it was right in the quick so I expected he would be visiting the vet today rather than agility trialling. But while we were out at dinner last night he must have knocked it off because the nail was gone by the time we got home. He appeared totally nonplussed about it so trialling we went.

First up was Masters Agility and I was all set and ready to go. While watching the dogs before me I had a sudden panic when I realised that during course walking I had somehow missed that there was a pull through between jumps 16 and 17. Not normally a big deal, Sonic knows pull throughs, but it was at one of the most critical points of the course and if you were in the wrong place you were fairly likely to put your dog back up the dog walk instead of into the tunnel. When I went up to the line I had no plan other than to just go with where Sonic landed after the pull through. As it happened we got through it. It was very messy and luck most definately played a hand but I'm not complaining! Even after stuffing around he still powered on and I want to make special mention of his dog walk too. He was miles ahead of me and just drove down into two on two off. Not quite as fast as when I'm in front but being consistent is really starting to pay off. The extra exciting thing is though that he ending up winning Masters Agility today which is the now the second week in a row. Not bad for a little fella who still has massive room for improvement.

Our big tragedy for the day was Masters Jumping. He ran an absolute cracker. It was fast and powerful but his mega stupid dodgy handler left him unsupported to go off and do a front cross and surprise, surprise he pulled off the jump *sigh*. Oh what a dork I am! He even did the most superb tight turn from a 180 after a jump. I guess Sonic will just have to hope that next week I pull my socks up or he may just give me the sack!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Spring is on its way

While most of the Perth agility community headed down to Bunbury for an agility trial, I was at home doing housey things. Not because I didn't want to do the agility trial I just love being here and it doesn't happen very often.

When I was outside in the garden I noticed for the first time this year that all our native trees have started flowering. They are all probably very confused with the endless sunny winter days and no rain. I will not pretend to be even remotely green thumbed. At my house plants tend to either survive of their own good fortune, get trambled by dogs and die or just die anyway. I have noted that native plants are impresively resiliant. I have no idea what 99% of the plants are called but they all looked so amazing with the different colours and types that I went inside and got my camera out to take some photos.

Bottle brush...? Who cares, look at that awesome bee that I managed to get in the shot!

Pretty purple flower

Pretty pink spikey type flowers

Protea (?)

Bottle brush (maybe the first one wasn't a bottle brush) otherwise known as pretty yellow and red flower

A couple of black and white fluffy flowers otherwise known as border collies

and pink/red flowers to finish off!

I love this place.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Happy Birthday Sonic!

What goes squawk, squawk, thump, squawk, squawk, thump?

A tree full of Barnaby's Black Cockatoo's having an afternoon feast perched in a banksia tree. If it wasn't for the amount of noise they made I could easily have thought it had started raining banskia cones. I definitely wouldn't recommend standing under one of the trees while they were up there without wearing some type of head protection.

Squawk, squawk...

stand clear.....thump!

Can you believe that my Little Man turned three years old today? I keep telling him he's a grown up now but I don't think he wants to grow up cause he's having so much fun being the baby of the house!

Happy birthday Sonic!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Finding some form

I think I'm starting to get my enthusiasm back for agility training now. There was even one week when I went to training both nights! It has been really nice having a break. Work has just been so full on that taking the dogs for a run around the property instead of having to rush around to get out the door and off to training has been much better for me. I'm sure the break has been pretty good for Sonic but I have noticed a couple of little holes that have appeared at trials that need a bit of extra work. Particularly after I let him run through his dog walk contact at the Cloverdale trial he seemed to think that he didn't have to stop on them anymore. But we seem to have sorted that out again now.

Saturday Perth Training and Obedience Dog Club hosted a single trial. I started the day with a fantastic clear round in Masters Agility courtesy of Lexi. She had a really strong run including her "skying" the A-Frame which seems to have become her signature agility move. I have never made any attempt to train her flying over the A-Frame but for some reason no matter what speed she's going she just loves launching herself over the top. Sonic didn't do very well in the Masters Agility class. We had come straight from the Open Jumping class with a fairly nice run and I only had one dog to run before I had to do Masters. Even though I'd been tugging with him and playing some focus games he was completely unfocused when we got into the ring and his run was full of mistakes. It's not the first time I've found him to be really bad when we've had to go straight from one ring to another. I really don't know why and nothing I've tried seems to make any difference. Thankfully I can normally avoid having to do it and get to give him a break in the car between classes.

Sonic did however have one shining moment to finish the day in Masters Jumping with a really good run. He powered around most of the course and read my body beautifully. There were still a couple of spots where I would like to see him drive out a little harder but he is improving every week which is fantastic. He came in at second place behind one of our fastest dogs Diva. I'm thrilled with the way that he's handling courses at the moment. He is reading my body so well at the moment and I think it's all part of his confidence that the speed is slowly coming. Its so much fun running him when he's like that.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Coming to the end of an era

We had very sad news today in the WA agility community with Kriszty's Jess passing away. Jess was a one in a million and will no doubt leave a massive hole in Kriszty's life. I've had the privilege of getting to know Jess pretty well over the years with Kriszty and I becoming great friends after travelling and competing together for quite some time. There are many wonderful memories for me with Jess and my own beautiful Soda going head to head in the agility ring especially through 2003 to 2005. We also competed side by side in our agility team "The Masters & the Apprentices" with countless wins over the years.

Agility has changed in Perth, especially in the last five years or so with our top group of dogs these days being more often than not, hand picked as puppies for their potential to be good agility dogs. They are then trained from puppies with a serious attention to detail and lots of help from attending agility seminars, agility literature, the internet and DVD's that we consume. I first started teaching myself and my dogs agility in 1998 and everyone that I met got involved in agility the same way. We wanted to provide our pet dogs with some extra stimulation and have some fun with them at the same time. Over those years I witnessed some really special dogs including Rod's Bundy, Tracey's Jake, Sam's Kal, Megan's Jestah, Ash's Bailey, Mel's Max, Frank's Harley, Richard's Della and of course Kriszty and Jess, just to name a few. All great pet dogs who shone in agility. Sadly we are coming to the end of an era as not many of these dogs are alive now. There is a part of me that really misses those days especially as I watch Murphy and Soda get older and more fragile.

Jess's health hadn't been good for a while and Kriszty knew that her days with Jess were probably nearing their end, but it still doesn't make the sense of sadness and loss any less. I think WA agility is shining a little less brightly tonight with her gone. Below is a tribute I put together after Jess competed in her last Royal Show last year. I think now is a good time to watch it again and remember what a wonderful dog she truly was. RIP Jess.

Monday, July 5, 2010

My wee sidekick

Totally chuffed with Sonic's weekend performances. He just keeps increasing in speed and confidence with our teamwork on course getting better and better. I find that when I'm running him I have a big smile on my face. He only moved on one start line and I withdrew without running the course. Probably actually my fault as I didn't have him focused enough and I think the lights were on and no one was home. I did a massive lead out in Open Jumping and he held firm.

Sonic is getting really noisy on course. He barks on occasion but the squealing/squawking is increasing in volume and duration. Clearly relative to his confidence levels. As long as he's listening it doesn't bother me, in fact it just shows what a character he is.

Training will continue to focus on drive off the ground and out of corners as that is still where we lose time and I'm well aware of just what a powerful and fast little boy he is. My challenge is to get it out on the agility course.

The Murphster is going well. His balance is improving steadily. He can now look at me and walk at the same time without falling over. However he often goes sideways without warning. I need one of those bumper stickers that you see on young guys cars that says "Caution vehicle frequently sideways" to stick on his butt to warn people walking behind him. Most importantly Murphy is happy and bright and doesn't seem concerned.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Youngster & The Geriatric

Sonic has finished his Masters Agility title. Not bad for a young boy of not yet three years of age! Overall his runs over the last couple of weeks have been really good. His confidence is continuing to grow and he is reading my body extremely well. But I am still having an issue with his start lines. The first week that I kept going back and resetting him he steadily improved over the day when I think he realised that I meant it. Then at training during the week he was sitting there as still and straight as a little solder at attention. But yesterday at the trial he kept getting up again. I'll give it another few weeks before looking at plan b given that I'm trying to extinguish a behaviour which often then gets worse before it gets better. I'm just a bit worried that going back and resetting him could become rewarding in itself even though I'm being very unemotional about it. I had to blow three runs yesterday cause he just would not stay and I had to cross the start line to put him back into a stay. The next step if this doesn't work may be that I actually remove him from the ring completely if he gets up. I'm thinking it may have to be if the bottom moves he's back to the car with not so much as a 'hows your mother'.... He won't like it thats for sure, which is kind of the point I guess. We shall see.

Then last weekend the Murphster gave us a bit of a fright. I'd been at a trial all day and Colin had gone to the movies with his son. When Colin got home to let Murphy and Soda out Murphy kept collapsing. Colin rushed him to the vet and I left the trial to meet him there. All the worst scenarios were going through my head e.g. brain tumour, as I was driving there. When I arrived Murph looked really confused and was extremely unsteady on his feet. The vet gave him a good going over and diagnosed him with vestibulitis caused by a broken blood vessel in his ear. He told us it is very common in geriatric dogs. I had to cover Murphy's ears when the vet mentioned the word geriatric as I'd hate for Murph to think that the vet was referring to him. I'm fairly certain that Murphy doesn't think he's a geriatric just yet!

Apparently there is no treatment for vestibulitis, it just resolves itself over a couple of weeks and Murphy has definately improved since diagnosed. He spent the first couple of days with his head tilted to one side and regularly careering off on an angle only to collapse in a heap. Various household items have been at risk, namely the wine rack but some body blocking has protected both dog and valuables. One week on he is still very unsteady on the pins first thing in the morning but is generally pretty good. He is his normal happy bright self which is the main thing and I'm pretty sure he's been enjoying all the extra attention he's been getting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mr Enthusiastic

The Agility Club of WA hosted their usual fantastic trial last weekend. To have a double header wrapped up by 3.30pm was pretty impressive to say the least. Its so nice to go to a trial that is run so efficiently with all the trimmings included. It was also one of the rare occasions when there were prizes for placing in classes. These days the most you often get is a ribbon or rosette with your Q card but ACWA had all sorts of dog toys, bowls, beds etc to pick from if you were in the top three. It certainly added a lot of fun to presentations.

I had a much improved trial compared with the weekend prior which started off with Lexi getting three Q's out of her first four runs and Sonic managing Q's in both of the mornings Masters events. In particular his first up run in Masters Agility was one of his best runs since he starting competing. He absolutely powered around the course and just to see how it would go I let him hit two on two off and then released him straight away. He was extremely amped and squawked and screamed the whole way round. In fact he did lots of that in all his runs over the day. Another sign of his continuing improvement was his fourth place behind three very fast dogs all of who ran through their contacts. He also beat a couple of fast dogs who normally place in front of him. So I'm feeling incredibly positive about the steady way he is growing as an agility dog and the team we are slowly becoming.

The down side to the day was his atrocious start lines again. I did quite a bit of reinforcement outside the ring but the problem is that once he gets in front of that first jump he just wants to go. I am excited that he is so keen but I'm going to have to blow a few trials trying to recover it. Unfortunately I can see no other way. The afternoon events also saw some really fluctuating focus from Sonic. He would start off great but then totally lose it halfway round the course, do a few wrong obstacles and then keep on going. We left the course on more than one occasion... I can only assume it is lack of maturity.

We have another double trial this weekend at Gosnells Dog Club. Sonic only has one more Q required for his Masters Agility title but I have a feeling most of his runs will be over before they've begun if I'm going to attempt to repair his start line! Either that or I'm going to have to invest in some super glue...

Friday, June 11, 2010

Birthday Celebrations

Did someone say it's my Burfday??

It's time to celebrate the Murphsters birthday. On 9/6/2010 he turned a big thirteen years of age (or 68 in dog years). Murphy has a pretty laid back life these days. He still loves to go for a "run" with the other dogs but really is quite happy to trot along with me. Sleeping on his favourite bed is another popular past time and after a trot around the block in the evening it is always where you'll find him. His eye sight and hearing are definately not what they were but I'm fairly sure that there is plenty that he hears but chooses not to respond to. Unfortunately he does get knocked over every now and again by the sillier dog members of the house because if they are coming at him at full speed down the track he just can't get out of the way in time. He does of course enjoy the attention and cuddles afterwards when we rush over to make sure he's OK.

Out herding in 2002

Murphy was my very first border collie. Back in 1997 when I was ready to get a pup I saw an ad in the paper for an expected litter of chocolate and white border collies. I had always loved the colour so I contacted the breeder and went over to meet her dogs. As Leanne brought each of her dogs up to the house to meet me I was impressed how wonderfully happy and friendly each one was. I really liked Murphy's mum Rosie and the father, Clancy, was a well known dog from NSW. So I put my name down for a boy and went home hoping to hear some good news very soon. When I got the phone call that Rosie had given birth to six pups, five of which were boys, I went down and picked out Murphy. My method of choosing him was very scientific. He had a cute "thumbprint" mark on the middle of his head like his mother...

Murphy at two years of age

I started out with obedience first as soon as Murphy was old enough and joined a few different clubs around Perth. Not long after I discovered agility and began Murphy and mines education on teaching the equipment and putting it all together. Back then there was pretty much no instruction available. Everyone just figured it out for themselves as best as possible. No one had heard of a "two on two off" or even a "front cross". You pretty much ran a course and hoped for the best. It wasn't until a few years later, probably early 2000 that a few people started to take note of what was happening overseas and adopted some of those training methods and styles. I worked through to CDX in obedience with Murphy. I started training both Soda and Murphy for UD but as Soda just picked it up so quickly I decided to continue with her rather than try and train both of them.

National Agility Trial 2003 Melbourne, Victoria

Murphy loved his agility. Although he won many classes over the years he was never a speed demon like Soda. Everyone knew him as "Mr Consistency" as he would get clear round after clear round. He never won as much as Soda but he had twice as many Q cards in his collection. He was a brilliant teams dog and was on the winning team for all the big events including multiple Western Classics and Royal Shows. He was also selected on the State Team for the 2005 National Agility Trial. I ended up retiring him from agility after being on the winning Royal Show Agility Team in 2007. He had tried his heart out for me that day but I could see that although his mind was willing his body wasn't holding out so well. I still did a couple of Not For Competition jumping runs over the following year with him jumping a much lower height but they were kept to a minimum. I know he would love to have continued but his long term health and well being is the only thing that is important to me. He certainly had nothing left to prove, I knew how awesome he was.

Our first big Team win, "BC Bandits" Western Classic 2002
L-R Helen & Dee (RIP), me with Murphy & Soda, Rod & Bundy (RIP)

Murphy also sired a few litters of pups in his prime. One of which is Am Ch Borderfame Choc Chill (Sprint) who won extensively in the US breed show ring and then went on to be a prolific sire in the US. Sprint is stunning and was used as the foundation dog at Hot Shot Kennels.

Snoozing in the sun - VERY popular past time

Even in his twilight years Murphy is still my main man. I have no doubt that he would protect me with his life if he had to. Out of my three boys, Murphy, Riot and Sonic he is the only one who truly means business when push comes to shove. He is incredibly protective of his "pack" (even Riot who I'm sure he doesn't like all that much!) and if another dog tries to infiltrate and harass one of his pack he will deal with it very swiftly. The other two boys will stand there trying to look impressive with lots of posturing and posing but Murphy just goes over and "bang" it is dealt with, no mess, no fuss.

The gang 2005 (pre Sonic)

Hopefully with continued good health and a good lifestyle I will have him in my life for a few years to come.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Winter Blues

Training is still a slack affair. I just can’t find it in me to get really motivated about it. You know I think it’s a bit of a middle of the year winter thing. I get home from work and it’s getting dark and cold. Being home with the fire going after taking a stroll (or in Sonic’s case a screaming kamikaze hoon) around the property is just a more appealing option. I have been doing some more Crate Games work though from the comfort of my living room. I want to use Crate Games extensively with my next pup so Sonic and I have been practicing to improve some of his behaviours (like start lines – see below). When I’ve actually made it to training I’ve been playing a little with doing some quick releases with Sonic on contacts but I don’t think he’s mature enough for me to do them at a trial yet. He’ll no doubt just think it means he can quick release them all the time!

I went to an agility trial at Northern Suburbs Dog Club in Carine on Sunday which this time last year was the scene of the Sonic vs scooter child incident. This year however we were up on the footy oval which thankfully isn’t next to the bike path… The trial itself only yielded one quallie card for us but I was actually really thrilled with his performances and the one Q definitely did not reflect how well Sonic ran for me. Sonic’s confidence continues to grow and it was purely bad luck that prevented us from qualifying in both Masters Agility rounds. One was most definitely my error and the other he just didn’t read my body properly, which is still really my fault. Just watching his runs back on video I can see how much more understanding he has developed and how much more certain he is about where he is going. Plus I also think I’m handling him a lot better. It’s taken quite a while but I feel like we are starting to gel as a team and as I move around the course it feels so much smoother and flowing which I have no doubt is helping immensely. I’ve been working hard to use running front crosses in stead of stationary ones where possible which makes the flow nice and continuous. The hardest part is not falling over my own feet, or the obstacle in front of me.

However don’t let the video footage fool you, his start lines right now are BAAAD. He ran a fantastic clear round in a Master Jumping course only after he had broken his start line and gone flying over the first two obstacles. At which point I promptly stopped him and took him back to the start again. As I was walking out to position I could see that he was teetering on a knife’s edge as to whether his butt was going to stay put or not (which obviously it didn’t). In more than one class I had to go back and tell him to sit after he stood up in anticipation of being released. After I went back and made him sit in one class he then proceeded to bark at me while I walked back out to position. Can’t fault his enthusiasm but I hate not being able to put my dog on the line and being able to walk out WITHOUT worrying that he’s going to break. At training he is a perfect angel (naturally) so other than trying to break it at training to make it stronger I guess I’m going to have to persevere with not letting him get away with it by going back and resetting him when we are at trials. I’ve never had a dog that wouldn’t stay on his start line before! It’s so stupid, I’ve taught all these complex behaviours but can’t get my dog to stay…..go figure.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Down on the Ranch

Driveway to Heaven - there is a house up there somewhere!

The delights of an evening stroll. Who needs agility!

I've decided its time to stop all this crazy running around that I seem to find myself doing an aweful lot of and spend some time enjoying the beautiful property that we live on. The last couple of months have been non-stop. Between hours spent writing up a selection criteria as part of an application for a new job, preparing for the Agility Nationals, stressing out/preparing for the interview for the new job, workshops and articles for Better Pets, agility training, plus a very full work schedule. I have to say that I am really well and truly over it.

VERY happy boys

So this week, other than teaching my agility class on Tuesday night, I've been spending my evenings at home and it's been great. The property has gone green since we got our first rain, there are birds everywhere and with snakes back to hibernation land the dogs are able to really have some fun here. They certainly sleep very well at night.

"Rabbit Highway"

I love that when I get home from work I can just open the back gate and let them go for it. The boys use the firebreak as their own personal racetrack. Murphy and Soda are happy these days just to potter along at their own pace. There are always new smells near the "rabbit highway" that runs straight across the back of our property under the fence and through the grass trees. I love that the days of having to put the dogs in the car and drive somewhere to exercise them all the while worrying about whether there was going to be other dogs around and potential altercations are behind us. Everytime I start walking around the property I just exhale.

My future agility training area - just add grass

Boys on the run

Riot's new ad for the Sids for Kids campaign has hit the our TV screens on Channel 9. I actually managed to be watching when it was on for a change and I think it looks great. Riot looks fantastic and Shannon is stunning. My cameo did indeed make it to the finished product of the full ad. Not sure I needed to take up as much time as I did though and way closer up than I had in mind...Next time if I get asked if I could jump in for a quick shot I may not be quite so keen to say OK! I much prefer standing behind the camera while Riot does all the work.

Should be enough wood to get us through where's that damn chain saw?