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?