Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 ANKC Nationals

It’s hard to believe that the first half of this year is gone.  Our Europe trip, WAO and the ANKC Nationals all done.  Next on the list is Cassie just days away from her first birthday! Goodness time flies.

I really enjoyed the Nationals this year although I kind of knew I would.  At almost five years old Sonic has the experience under his belt and for the last eight or nine months he has been giving me pretty solid performances at a local level.  Plus we know each other now which makes a massive difference when you’re on course with each other.  My biggest frustration was his lack of fitness and I had ongoing soreness issues with him leading up to it.  Unfortunately that was a risk I took with going to Europe just prior.

The venue of the Sydney International Equestrian Centre for the Nationals was fantastic.  I really loved running in the indoor arena although the surface was pretty hard.  Sonic handled the surface reasonably well but I noticed when I watched the videos back that he was taking more strides between jumps. Not sure if that was because of the different surface or if he was feeling sore.  One of the things top of my list to do with him now that we’re back home is to significantly improve both his and my own fitness!  As far as the Nationals go we faired pretty well, making it into both the Masters Agility and Open Jumping finals.  I had really wanted to make the Masters Jumping final too but on the more difficult courses where we had the best opportunity to be up there on time either myself or Sonic made mistakes.  But all in all I was thrilled with my boy.

Now that I’m back home chaos has once again resumed.  I have to say that I do not recommend to anyone having two dogs less than 12 months of age at home at once.  It is exhausting!  If Cassie isn’t pestering Fizz to play, Fizz is using Cassie’s tail as a tug toy or they are leaping all over the furniture.  I don’t know what I’d do without the puppy pen.  It’s the only reason I’m still sane…  In saying that I’m very thankful for the hard yards I’ve already put into Cassie as it has certainly helped me to keep control of her with such a big distraction around.  The pair of them really do enjoy each other.  No doubt they’ll be best of friends throughout their lives which is pretty sweet.

Double trouble!
Cassie’s training continues in earnest.  I’m definitely putting more work into her right now than the puppy.  I still spend most of my time working on recalls with her and now the weather has cooled and the snake threat is on hold again until spring we get to practice loads of them when I take all the dogs for a run.  I’ve put most jump work on hold other than specific one jump exercises.  She drives hard after me when she’s gone over a jump but I haven’t been happy with her drive to a jump so I've been focusing on building value for going to a jump without me belting along beside her.  I've started her running contacts work but that will be pretty slow going.  At the moment it’s all foundation work.  I've decided to wait until Cassie is about fourteen months before I start her 2x2 training.  With the running contact work just beginning I don’t want to have two big things on the go at once.  Plus it won’t hurt for her to be a little older and more physically aware.  I’m really looking forward to teaching a non-border collie 2x2’s to see how she picks it up in comparison to how Riot, Sonic and Lexi did.

It’s actually been quite fascinating for me having a papillon and a border collie puppy at the same time.  The differences in them are substantial.  Cassie is no less clever than Fizz and has taken to all her shaping training like a duck to water.  Once she understood the concept she picks up everything I teach her very quickly.  It’s more about the difference in attitude.  I’ve not even made it to crate games with Fizz as yet but she practically forces her way through crate doors in order to get in there and get the treat she’s certain I’m going to give her.  That desire took about one week of her being with us to develop.  Cassie at almost twelve months of age after having been with us for eight months and having much more reinforcement for being in a crate still does a runner if she thinks there is even a remote chance I’m thinking of putting her in either the bed time crate or the puppy pen.  She loves doing crate games though.  She was about ten months old by the time she would offer to go into the puppy pen to eat her dinner even though she was fed in there twice a day for the six months prior.  With recalls, you call Fizz and she just blindly charges over to you when at least 50% of the time Cassie will look at you as if to say “why" or "sorry, I'm busy”.  But to be honest I wouldn’t have her any other way.  I adore every last piece of fur on her body and she has taught me so much.  She is such a character and I know she is going to make a fabulous agility dog.  

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Introducing Fizz

After being home from Belgium for a week it was time to turn the house upside down again with the addition of little Fizz.

Miss Fizzy 
Fizz has been a long time coming.  I have wanted a Lexi pup for a very long time but through one thing and another it took over eighteen months to eventuate.  We had picked a particular stud dog but with her coming in season at an unexpected time it was decided to mate her to my boy Riot.  There actually isn't a big different between Riot's blood lines and the other male dog that we'd picked out but as Riot is a little "different" he wasn't my first choice as the sire.  In saying that both Riot and his sister have produced some really nice offspring including very nice agility dogs so I'm sure it will be OK.  Just me being paranoid really and so far Fizz is absolutely nothing like her father was when he was a puppy.  She's a total cuddle bunny who can't get enough of us.

I'm sure there are plenty of people wondering why I've gone for show lines and not working lines as it's mostly the working lines that are leading the way in WA.  For me it was a very personal choice.  These blood lines go back to my beautiful girl Soda Pop where it all started for me and then subsequently produced Lexi who was a lovely little agility dog and her litter sister Sage who has won every major event in Australia during her career including an Ag Champion title.  If little Fizz is anything like Soda and Sage I'll be a very happy girl.

She has settled in really well.  To begin with she was a little cautious but now she has well and truly come out of herself.  I've done nothing with her other than play tug since she got here.  When I get back from the Nationals I'll start to introduce the usual stuff.  Its Yer Choice being pretty high on the list as she's starting to get a bit cheeky and has started trying to steal food out of the pantry if we leave the door open for more than two seconds.  But how can you tell her off when she's just so darn cute :) Fizz and Cassie get on like a house on fire.  If they had their way they would play 24/7.  They are affectionately known as double trouble...

The elder statesman and the youngster, Murphy & Fizz
This week also saw the Murphster turn fifteen years old.  He's still doing really well.  He has regular acupuncture to try and keep things from seizing up.  He has totally mellowed in his old age.  Cassie is his regular snuggle partner on the dog bed which just so cute.  I feel so lucky to still have both Murphy and Soda with me.
My beautiful old boy

Monday, June 4, 2012

WAO Belgium 2012

After finishing our tour of Europe it was time to head up to Aberdeen in Scotland to meet Laura and her dog Cody who was to be my competition dog for the World Agility Open.  It was pretty exciting now that the time had finally arrived and I was really hanging out to get back into agility.  I was certainly starting to really miss my own dogs.

Laura and her sister Pauline were awesome.  I just can't thank them enough.  They couldn't do enough for Colin and I while we were in Scotland and absolutely bent over backwards.  Cody stayed with us at our hotel so I could spend as much time as possible getting to know him.  He was such a happy little chappy and other than being food obsessed was a delight to have around.

We did attempt a trial in Scotland the weekend before WAO however we were a bit unfortunate with the weather which caused the trial to be cancelled by lunchtime.  The wind was so strong that a full size marquee was picked up and flung across the trial ground!  So in the end I was only able to get one agility run in with Cody.  That went pretty well.  He did an off course tunnel and he was somewhat over enthusiastic on his contacts but he was more than happy to run with me.   Over the next couple of days we got in as much training as we could and by the time we needed to head to Belgium we were starting to get a pretty good handle on each other.

All the Scottish team drove through the Euro Tunnel and down to Belgium but Colin and I decided to fly to Brussels via London as it seemed a long way to drive on unfamiliar roads and in a hire car.  Once we landed in Brussels we picked a hire car up from the airport.  Driving in mainland Europe was definitely not one of my most favourite memories.  The car was a manual and everything is on the opposite side.  Changing gear with your right hand just does not seem normal when it's always been the other way around!  Driving on the wrong side of the road just added insult to injury really.  There was more than one occasion when I had to yell "get on the other side of the road"...

Unfortunately Cody and I had no success at the event.  I think the occasion might have been a bit much for Cody to handle without having his real mum with him.  He certainly got better with every run that we had together but not enough for us to manage a clear round.  I can't pretend that I wasn't disappointed that things didn't go well for us.  The Friday was really hard as it seemed that nothing I did helped to make things better.  There was certainly a part of me that wanted to scream "if only you could see me with my own dog".  But by Saturday I just changed my perspective on it and I determined that I should just make the most of being at an international agility event and enjoy watching some of the best dog and handlers in the world strut their stuff.  I was also pretty proud of the Aussie team and it was thrilling to be able to applaud some fantastic runs by them all.

One of the best things about being able to go to an international event is to really see the difference between over there and agility back in Australia.  I've been watching World Champ events on DVD and internet live streams for years but there is no comparison between actually sitting there watching it live.  There were a couple of things that really stood out in the difference between us firstly being how hard they run with their dogs.  I look at video's of me running Sonic and I think that I'm running as fast as I can, but that aint running!  Some of the women I saw were not even vaguely built to run fast but they  were flying around those courses making sure they were in front of their extremely fast dogs.  It was incredibly inspirational to me and I've started running again myself in an attempt to get fit so I'm able to run a lot faster than I can now.  The second thing that stood out to me was the sheer intensity of the dogs.  It's hard to explain but it's just different than what I see here.  The dogs are just so highly driven, they aren't just running agility, they are breathing agility.  We have lots of really nice agility dogs here in Perth but there are probably only two dogs that I've ever seen that I would consider to have that much drive to do agility. It was just thrilling to watch. All of it has just given me so much inspiration to be better and push the limits in both dog training and handling.  Quite a few people there had brought young puppies with them to the event and what I found interesting was that not one of them was screaming and carrying on.  They were all just happy easy going puppies.  Not what I expected at all.