Tuesday, December 20, 2016

End of Year Wrap Up

The last five or six weeks have been really busy with weekends filled up by competitions, shopping, physio visits and Christmas functions. I am hanging out to have a Saturday night at home! We had a really exciting and positive end to our trialling year with both Cassie and Veto doing really well at the last few trials so I am going to really look forward to getting back out there in 2017. But I am also looking forward to a break from pretty much everything for the next few weeks once we get through Christmas. 

Pappy on a mission
Flying pappy butt

We all had an awesome weekend away in Albany. Cassie has travelled so many times now that she handles it like a pro. Veto was just a little overwhelmed by his new surroundings and every time I did a lap with him at the competition grounds on the first day he’d have a heap of foam on his chin from salivating his way around the oval. He was very distracted in most of his runs and for the first time left the weavers to sniff the ground in one of his agility runs. He was still hyper-vigilant on the second day but because it was jumping classes much easier to keep his mind on the job and even managed a Q in his second Novice Jumping run. His wow moment on the weekend was when he lost a leg off the edge of the dog walk at full speed but managed to stay on and still get the contact. I was thanking my lucky stars for all the core strength training that we do. Cassie was pretty good for the most part. Day one was the best which wasn’t a surprise. I entered her in Masters so the courses were much harder than she has been doing. She tore her way around both agility runs but had off courses in both.

Three on one off...
The second day she didn’t want to run in the first jumping class but was happy enough to run in the second event. So no quallies for her but I was impressed with how she managed. The best part of Albany though was heading down to the beaches with the dogs. It is just such a beautiful place and I love spending time down there. We only had another two trials in Perth after Albany. Cassie was back to not for competition runs in Novice along with Ve who was doing them for real. Cassie was pretty amazing at both trials and in one Novice Jumping run was only about a second slower than Veto. Pretty impressive when he is over twice her size! I was watching some of her runs from earlier in the year and while there were some good ones there she was often hesitant at the first jump and took a little while to “wind up”. These last couple of months there has definitely been a new sense of confidence in her around both her warm up before going in the ring, the actual run itself and then the jackpot at the end. It feels good to have no gap between what she experiences at training and what she experiences at a trial. For her now it is a seamless concept and that I believe is what has made all the difference. I will have to be careful not to overdo it with her as I think there is the potential for her to get sick of it if we do too much so next year I will plan her trials with that in mind. The Western Classic in March and the State Agility Trial in April will certainly be my priorities with her in the New Year. 

 Veto finished the year with four Novice Jumping passes which exceeded my expectations. I would have been happy with just a couple. Lots to work on, but he was improving with each run as he grows in confidence. He came second every time to Erika’s lovely little Bee who incidentally is Veto’s half-sister with Munn’s Jock being their sire. I am really happy with his times so far especially when he is not even close to full speed on course with his average course time about 17 seconds. His agility runs have been progressively getting better. He lost a heap of confidence on the dog walk after his three feet on effort in Albany and then we have been training on some very dodgy overly bouncy dog walks that haven’t helped. At his last agility run for the year he had a fantastic run but I got a bit overzealous in trying to make sure he had a good weaver entry and instead ended up pushing him to the wrong side of the first pole. Very dumb on my behalf but it was a lovely run. His body is very much all over the place and there is a lot of work to do in strengthening his back end. He is losing all his speed going into and out of turns and doesn’t use his rear end well at all, in fact at the last trial his back end bottomed out completely on a tight turn. He has this terrible habit of sticking his back feet out when he sits (picture Donald Duck) so we’ve been working on creating better habits and holding that form when he’s doing strengthening work to make sure right muscles are developing. We are also about to start a plyometric program that has been developed by Veto’s physio that is designed to get muscles to exert maximum force in short intervals of time with the goal of increasing power and speed. So I’m really looking forward to seeing the outcome of that training on his overall agility performance.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Return of the Super Pappy

Last weekends trial would easily have to be the most successful agility trial I have had in a really, really long time.  While I am extremely pleased with Veto's progress what has me beyond excited is Miss Pappy Pants.  She had been on an agility holiday after the Nationals and then the holiday got extended when Ve hurt himself.  I've done some small bits and pieces with her but it's been very light and non-intensive.  I decided to enter her in an NFC class just to see how she was feeling about the competition ring and get some sort of idea on her head space in the trial environment.  We'd had two super training sessions the week leading up to it where she was confidence plus so I was quietly optimistic but let's face it, you never know what goes on in the mysterious mind of the papillon...  But at the trial on Saturday night she far exceeded any expectations that I had.  We did both Excellent classes and I modified the course so there were no major challenges and she could just run.  And run she did.  I would struggle to find a time when she has run faster, she was insane.  Watching her go into the ring you would not believe for a second that she'd ever had an issue.  She strutted in there like she owned the place and then blasted around like a mini sized demon.

I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm as I know how quickly it can all go tits up.  But this time around I am so much better prepared.  I will never put any pressure on her and I feel very confident now with what to do if she shows any signs of being uncomfortable or stressed.  With that in mind I'm hoping that those times will be further and further behind us.  She is entered at Albany in her normal competition classes.  Seemed silly to do NFC when we are travelling all the way down there but if she shows any stress at all we will be straight out of the ring.  Then we'll finish the year off with a couple more NFC classes.  I just wish I could bottle what I had on the weekend because it was pretty damn special.

Veto was also amazing.  He managed his first two Novice Jumping qualifiers which I was a little surprised about.  I thought it might take a bit longer to get our first passes!  What is really exciting is that he's running really good times already even though he is far from producing the sorts of speeds that I know he will be capable of.  He is trying so very hard for me and improving every run which is all I can really ask.  Lots of work to do on his turns and he's not reading them all that well just yet.  I don't think anyone would call him a natural turner but I'm sure we can make them better with more skill work.  His first ever agility run wasn't too bad at all.  He pulled out of the last half of his weavers but I'm not worried about that and I don't believe that will be an issue.  His running dog walk was really, really good for his first one in the ring.  He didn't have the greatest approach and tried very hard to adjust himself accordingly which exactly what I'd hoped to see even though it wasn't perfect.  He was driving so hard that he completely missed a 90 degree turn shortly after.  His running a-frame was lovely as was the rest of the course.  So I'm feeling very excited about his agility future and to have the two of them going so well feels like I'm being spoilt!

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Return to the Ring

Sunday was the auspicious occasion of Veto and I returning to the trial ring.  Probably the most excited I've been about going to an agility trial for a while.  But of course I haven't been to a trial other than to judge for ages anyway...  Absence has most definitely made my heart grow fonder.  It was a bit of a race against time to get him ready and I would have to say that he is still very underdone as far as skills go.  If he hadn't already been out for four months then I wouldn't have trialled him but I kind of felt that even with our skills not quite there, the ring experience won't hurt him.  He is a cautious guy in new situations and it's going to take time for him to be confident out there competing.  Funnily enough it ended up not just being his lack of skills that was the biggest problem and I made more mistakes than he did.

The weather was crap. It always is for our last day trial of the year.  Even though it's been really cool so far this spring naturally it was the hottest day it had been all October and of course dropped ten degrees the following day.  As I've learned previously Ve is not a fan of standing in the sun.  His CoolBuddy Cool Coat certainly got a good workout.  His first run was about lunchtime when I would say it was at it's hottest.  I struggled to get him focused and warmed up because I was so busy trying to keep him in the shade.  It really didn't work well, not to mention half of his very good doggy friends were entered and he really wanted to catch up with his buddies.  The course was not hard at all but a couple of 90 degree turns.  The first turn, even though I did give him a nice early cue, he totally slid over onto his left shoulder.  He very obviously lost his balance but settled for the next few jumps.  Then I gave him a stupid cue for a jump out of the tunnel which caused him to run past the next jump.  After that he had a lovely run home and he very carefully lined himself up for the tyre to make sure he got right dead centre.  Love it when he is concentrating so hard.  No bars down but I wasn't happy about his shoulder slide.  Number one, I don't know if that means he is not quite right, secondly I don't want him to injure himself again and lastly, it's like his brain and body are still way out of sync.  When I give him a verbal for a turn he just can't correlate the cue to what he needs to do to turn.

His second run was better.  I made an even bigger stuff up with his verbals.  He started off really nicely, I didn't cue him as I should have for a turn (although I don't think his skills are strong enough to have read that well anyway) and then I told him to jump when I should have given him a turn cue. So he did exactly what I asked and extended forward.  Good boy Ve.  The next jump was a spread which he didn't really want to do.  I thought at the time that it was just because he had lost momentum and was unsure but it worries me that he was sore as he was turning to the left which is the shoulder side that he slipped on earlier.  Once we got past that bit he was fine and he finished off strongly.

Overall I am so pleased with what he did, annoyed with myself for crappy handling and paranoid that he's still not quite right.  There are massive holes in our skills and we are both majorly behind in where we were pre-accident.  It feels like I've lost twelve months, not four.  But I have a plan and we'll chip away at things over the rest of the year.  I've booked him into physio this week just in case which I hadn't planned on.  Interestingly he doesn't seem to be showing any discomfort in the shoulder that he slipped on but the one that coped the tear from his accident is tighter than it should be.  We most definitely haven't worked this hard to blow it all because there is still an issue there.  So very frustrating for me and him!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Almost there

Three months on and we are getting very close to finally having Veto back to normal.  Once we arrived home from our trip away we visited Deb Nook and while things were looking overall pretty good the shoulder muscle that was torn was only extending about half way.  I suspected that scar tissue was the likely culprit and sure enough Leigh confirmed that was the issue when we visited her for Ve's physio appointment a few days later.  She worked pretty hard on the shoulder and by the end of the session there was a big improvement in his range of motion.  Still no jumping or sprinting just yet but we can at least start revisiting some foundation work from H360 and see what he remembers!  Then we go back to physio in a week to see if we can get the all clear.

Princess Pappy
In the meantime I've signed up for the "Get In Shape! Iliopsoas and Shoulder Strengthening" online course which is run by Leslie Eide from Seattle USA.  Leslie is a vet who specialises in rehab and sports medicine.  It was perfect timing for me to start Veto when we got back from holidays and to make sure he is as strong as he can be as we get back into agility.  We've made a good start with the physio work we've been doing but I'll feel a lot more confident about doing agility with him knowing that he is muscled up in all the right places.

Sonic & Veto
The time out for Veto has definitely made a difference to our relationship and makes the last three months of no agility actually worth it.  Now that he's allowed off lead again he is a very different dog to what he was before.  He checks in all the time when we are walking and comes back when he's called when I need him to go back on lead.  Before he was too busy obsessing over what Sonic was doing to even think about listening to anything I had to say.  He's a lot more relaxed in general as well which is no doubt helped by the fact that he can do a lot more exercise now so is feeling calmer and more mentally satisfied.  I'm sure that there is an element of maturity that is helping, he's 21 months now so a little bit older and wiser.  Colin has also been working really hard with Fizz and getting her to tune in when she's off lead and not just blindly racing around.  Because she is more settled and spends her time checking in with Colin I'm sure helps Veto to be calmer.  He's always been easily led....so our daily walks around the property are becoming almost civilised!

We had a great holiday and one of the more relaxing breaks I've had.  Singapore we were busy because we were doing a lot of sight seeing and hitting the tourist trail.  But Ko Samui was another story entirely and some days all we did was read our books, go for a swim and have a cocktail.  It felt strangely weird to not do anything but we enjoyed it while it lasted because you are always keenly aware that it's over so quickly.  Not to mention how nice it was to be warm.  Once we arrived the jeans went away and it was bathers, shorts and singlets every day.  But I'm glad to be back even though that also means I'm back at work.  I'm so ready to get back into agility with the dogs and really, really looking forward to trialling again.  This time I will try very hard not to break him though...

Thursday, August 25, 2016


It’s been eight weeks since the big stack and it feels like it’s been a really, really long time. We are making progress in the right direction even though we did have a set back with one of his shoulders. Thanks to Pam I found an amazing physio in Leigh from Animal Physio Perth. As soon as she put her hands on him she told me that his shoulder muscle was torn along with a very sore back and hindquarters. After treating him she put him on a strict rehab program which basically decreased everything we were doing, some very low impact strengthening exercises and no stretches at all. He was frustrated and struggling with the lack of exercise and I could feel every bit of that frustration which was essentially then radiating off both of us. The amount of management required to stop a nineteen month old working border collie from going insane from boredom and lack of exercise is seriously exhausting. In saying that there have been some positives. He has learned to become calmer and his reactive moments are getting fewer. We have developed our relationship beyond it mostly being training time into time that we just hang out. There are some things he did that bugged me a bit and I think most have disappeared because I’ve spent more time focusing on those things rather than it coming second to fitness work or agility training. It doesn't mean that he suddenly has become an angel but he has matured over the last couple of months and has become far better at relaxing and chilling out.

Veto @ twenty months
If I thought Ve hurting himself was crappy, things got even more challenging a few weeks later when my Mum became unwell and I had to rush her to Emergency at St John of God in Murdoch. She was so sick she couldn’t keep either food or liquid down. They admitted her immediately and she spent the next two weeks there being treated for a serious lung infection. So my days became pattern of sleep, work, exercise dogs, rehab for Veto, feed dogs, visit Mum in hospital, dinner, sleep and repeat. It was utterly exhausting and I was hugely relieved when Mum had recovered and the doctors would finally let her come home so everyone’s lives could get back to some sort of normal.

Full moon at home
Ve has improved enough now that he can have a few on normal length leash walks every day. He has muscled up really nicely, especially through his core with the strengthening work and Leigh thinks that he can probably start some fitness work in another couple of weeks. We head off on our belated honeymoon this weekend and we’ll be away for two weeks so I’m hoping that when we get back, if Leigh gives us the all clear, we can start the process of getting him agility fit again and get back into it. It would be nice to have him back in the ring in October sometime but it will depend on how quickly things progress. It is a totally different process getting an experienced dog back into the ring as opposed to a total novice. I ruled out any thoughts of entering the Perth Royal Show a while ago which will be the first time I haven’t done the Royal in probably 15 years or so. Even if he was doing well in training I don’t want his first time back in the ring to be in an environment that he isn’t familiar with (not to mention highly stressful), on equipment he doesn’t know all of which has lots of potential stressors attached to it.
Everyone loves the food man...

Right now I’m looking forward to two weeks overseas with a few days in Singapore followed by eight nights on the resort island of Ko Samui as our belated honeymoon. Lots of chill out time with no responsibilities! A very rare thing. Not to mention I get to wear shorts and t-shirts which is also a rare thing at the moment in Perth because it has been an unusually long, cold and wet winter. Hopefully by the time we get back Perth might have warmed up a bit. But I have to say it's been so nice to enjoy the property again this winter. I never get tired of getting home from work and enjoying what we have here.

Spring is on its way

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Best Laid Plans

And so I returned from the Nationals all excited and ready to hit the agility ring with Veto.  I had about four weeks before his first trial so I set up a couple of novice jumping sequences at home to work on and I was feeling that we were as prepared as we could be for our first time in the ring.  It was really nice to feel excited about trialling rather than anxious as I can feel with Cassie not knowing if she will run or not.  It felt quite weird warming Ve up for his turn.  The Novice Jumping course was one of the easiest I’ve seen and a nice way to get started.  He ran pretty much as I thought he would.  Not overly fast but confident and forward striding.  He listened to me beautifully, so much so that when I gave him a jump cue on a slight bend to a jump he took me completely literally and drove forward and straight past the jump I wanted him to take!  He also knocked the back of the spread when he took off a little too early and didn’t quite have the height he needed to clear it.  Which was funny when for some jumps he was jumping so high he could have made it over a 700mm height jump.  But all in all it was a great start and I couldn’t wait for the following weekend when I had entered him in Novice Agility and Jumping plus Novice Gamblers to give him some extra goes on contacts in the ring.

Veto's first agility photo!
But two days later those trialling plans came to a grinding halt when Veto managed to do himself a whole lot of damage while free running at home.  I’m still not quite sure how he managed it.  We were taking them all for a run around the property at home which we do every day.  Veto and Fizz love to chase each other through the bush and somehow Veto got a leg caught under a bush that had a small stringy branch stuck under the shrub next to it.  It looks like that has caused his whole body to flip and he’s come crashing down on his side.  I didn’t even realise what had happened until I heard him yelping in pain.  When I got to him he was on his side with one leg still stuck under the branch and the other front leg dangling in the air.  I pretty much saw the end of his agility career flash before my eyes because it really looked like he had snapped his leg.  Adrenaline promptly kicked in and my practical, sensible in a crisis side managed to calmly get him unstuck and carry my 20kg puppy back to the house which was about 200 meters away.  The poor boy was in a lot of pain as was my back the next day. 
What we are doing a lot of right now...
By the time I got him to the vet he was weight baring which was a good sign.  The vet went over him with a fine tooth comb and was happy that there wasn’t anything broken or “snapped” just lots of very painful soft tissue damage.   After a shot of morphine and an anti-inflammatory injection we came home.  I was very lucky that Deb Nook our wonderful dog acupuncturist happened to be in Perth and could fit him in on the Saturday to go over him and check how much damage there actually was and exactly what we were dealing with.  Her overall assessment was that both of his shoulders were really bad along with muscle damage to his lower back and his psoas on both sides not good.  Could have been much worse but a lot of work to do to fix him.  Two weeks down the track and two visits to Deb later with multiple daily leash walks and stretching exercises we are seeing some nice improvement and his shoulder extension is back to about 50%.  He is definitely feeling good and walking him on leash is getting harder and harder because he just wants to run.  My plan is to give him a minimum of 6 weeks off equipment to make sure all the muscles have had time to heal completely.  At about the 8 week mark Colin and I are off on an overseas holiday so it will probably end up being more like 10 weeks.  It will just depend on how he’s going as to what I do with him, if anything before we go away.  I’d like to think I can have him back for the Royal but who knows.  He’s recovery has to be the priority.

Veto's first Novice Jumping run

So we are effectively all having an “agility holiday” spending lots of time hanging out, relationship building and going for lots of walks.  He is taking it pretty well but every now and again he needs five minutes of crazy time out the back to let off some steam.  He is hanging to play tug but I just can’t let him right now which I feel very mean about but it’s all for the greater good.  I’m consoling myself with that it could have been worse.  He’s young and healthy and should heal completely with time and patience.  However there is a corner of my brain that can’t help but think it would be really, really nice at some point in the not too distant future to be able to do agility like a normal person.  It feels like that has alluded me for quite some time... 

Agility Queen

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Nationals Journey 2016

Sometimes I think you lower your expectations of how something will turn out because you don't want to be disappointed when things don't go how you wanted them to.  For me I truly believed that this years Nationals was going to be a disaster.  I don't think it was possible for Cassie and I to have had a worse lead up and it was a case of accepting that she was going to be overwhelmed and unlikely to run.  A clear round seemed an absolute impossibility so I gave it no thought at all.  I only focused on how I could make it as least overwhelming as possible for Cassie.  I couldn't say if it was my lack of expectation that made it possible to achieve something but I'm certain that my lack of pressuring her helped Cassie to feel that it was OK to give it a try.

We arrived on the Sunday before the Nationals started to find our accommodation in the little town of Carrikalinga was simply brilliant.  A gorgeous holiday house with views of the ocean and the local beach only a 10 minute walk away.  I had decided even at that early point that no matter what happened at the trial, we were going to have an amazing holiday.  Cassie was as happy as I've seen her.  Relishing being an "only" dog, waking up to her favourite "Aunties" each day, getting to run on the beach and generally getting spoilt rotten.  The Tuesday before it started we had some amazing weather to enjoy but unfortunately the weather did a turn for the worst and the next few days were pretty unpleasant.  Friday was so bad that they ended up cancelling the whole day then didn't restart the next day until lunchtime to try and give the grounds enough time to dry out.  The walkway that ran down the middle of the rings was a mud pit by lunch time on the first day.  

On the first day of competition Cassie was running in a Masters Agility and Masters Jumping class.  Our courses were lovely with plenty of interesting challenges.  On both courses she came off the start line pretty happily but could only manage a couple of jumps before heading for the nearest tunnel to hide.  As I have learned, this is Cassie's way of letting me know that she was feeling very overwhelmed.  I'd say that the whole environment was a lot for her to cope with.  My plan for each run, should she decide she couldn't do it was to run straight to the exit and get her to chase me out of the ring.  In most cases I got her to jump into my arms and then we'd head off to her food bag and get some treats.  If she hadn't tried to run at all and left the start line I may not have given her rewards but at the end of the day she was trying and I had spent a lot of time jackpotting one or two jumps off the start line with her before we'd come away.  And the only thing that mattered was having a happy pappy.

Day two Cassie was entered in one Masters Jumping class and two Masters Agility classes.  The Masters Jumping course was really nice and I would have loved to have run it.  Cassie managed three jumps this time before switching into overwhelmed zone and heading to the tunnel to hide.  The same thing happened in Masters Agility.  That course was pretty tough so even if she had run I would have been pretty surprised to have managed a Q.  You needed skills that we really didn't have.  However again Cassie did the first couple of obstacles but didn't want to come out of the tunnel which was the third obstacle.  So more getting her to chase me out of the ring and rewarding her.   I decided to scratch her from the the second Masters Agility class.  It was getting late, the grounds were getting really muddy and I wasn't sure there was a lot of point in pushing it.

Day three was the "great wash out" so we decided to head to MacLaren Vale so Colin could buy some wine and we could give ourselves a break.  It was really cold and wet so there wasn't a lot else that you could have done anyway.  Later on in the afternoon we took the dogs to the beach for a run and that was that.  On day four a decision was made to not start classes till lunchtime to try and give the grounds time to dry out a little bit.  Some rings were OK but others were very wet.  I only had the one Masters Jumping class left but it was first up in the ring when things got started.  I'm still not sure why this time was different and she decided to run.  It could have been that having the previous day away from competing allowed her stress levels to come down.  For the first time I didn't put her down in the raceway that took you into the ring, instead carrying her in and putting her down when we got to the start line.  She had been playing happily outside the ring when I found some dry grass that wasn't awash with mud so she was definitely in a good head space.  And so she ran.  It wasn't overly fast for her and on the cautious side.  She was watching me the whole time.  Ten dogs in the class went clear and to be honest I was fairly certain that her run wasn't fast enough to make the top two which is what we needed to make the final.  Then we had a nervous wait due to some timing issues and the scribe took a while to get all the dogs times into the computer.  When her time went in I was stunned to see that she had placed second, only 0.7secs behind the little papillon who had come first.  Getting that Q was brilliant enough but to also make finals was beyond amazing.

Day five was finals day and thankfully the rain was giving us a break.  I had hoped that the Masters Jumping 200 final wouldn't be on too late because I was worried that Cassie would be over it before we got to the class.  I think in the end it was on about 3pm.  I had no expectations.  There was no point building it up in my head or thinking about winning it.  That was so completely irrelevant.  The only thing worth focusing on was keeping Cassie happy, keeping a connection and giving her confidence to run with me.  I made sure I got her out with plenty of time.  She was quite happy to play outside of the ring and I was very thankful that the ring we were running in was quite dry outside so plenty of room to warm up.  I decided to follow the same formula that had worked the day before where I had her in my arms in the entry area and then put her down at the start line.  I'm not convinced that she needs to be carried into the ring as a general rule but with the entries being fenced in she did seem uncomfortable being in such an enclosed space. And of course I wanted to whatever I had to so that she would be confident enough to run.

Looking back I still can't quite believe that her run was so amazing.  We didn't win, but I would be hard pressed to find a time where winning was less relevant.  Cassie ran like her life depended on it, I could barely keep up.  In the end we got a refusal on the fifth last jump.  At the time I thought I must have pulled her off the jump but when I watched it back I don't think I handled her badly, she was just watching me and didn't really see what I was directing her to.  I would have thought that I would feel disappointed that we didn't go clear but I can't get past how thrilled I am about how she ran.  At the end of the day I know she was fast enough to win and the one thing I wanted most was to show everyone how amazing she is and I got to do that.  Those that were there got to see what a phenomenal little dog she is.  And that is enough for me.  Our journey is far from over.  My goal for the rest of the year is to build her desire on the start line.  So more NFC for us and we'll see what happens.  She will have a little bit of time away from trialling right now anyway.

Now we are back home and back to reality most of my time is going into getting Veto ready for the ring.  I have entered him in his first class in a trial at the end of June.  Just Novice Jumping to begin with.  I always like to give them as least an overwhelming initiation as possible.  I've been getting people to stand in the middle of the sequence at training and have someone take the lead etc.  I don't think he'll have too much trouble with Novice Jumping.  He is more or less ready for agility.  I am really happy with his running dog walk and his a-frame is looking nice.  Probably the weakest thing at the moment is weaving and even that is starting to look pretty good.  I am very much looking forward to hitting the ring with him.  It's exciting to go back to trialling where it's not all about whether they are happy/overwhelmed/want to run etc, etc!  I'm expecting to have a lot of fun with him :)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sixteen Months

Another State Agility Trial is behind us and unfortunately for me it was as big of a disaster as last year for Cassie and me.  Things had been going so well with Cassie leading up to it but on the weekend she did not want to be there in any way, shape or form.  In her defence Saturday was most definitely not pappy running weather (nor person running weather for that matter…) with the day hitting a top of 33 degrees.  The following day, while humid was much better but she still wasn’t interested.  She was so not into it that any time I got her out to see what mood she was in she just turned her back on me.  Hard to be much clearer about her intentions than that!  The only saving grace for the weekend was getting to run Sue’s magnificent Border Collie Dan.  Dan may be nine years old and only coming out for some fun as his love of agility is no less than it has ever been, but he gave me one of the most fun runs I have ever had. Not only going clear but coming second by just over 0.1sec to another super dog who is probably a good six years or so younger than him.

It was hard to not feel pretty down after the weekend about where Cassie and I are at.  The State Trial was most definitely not a confidence building exercises with Nationals all of four weeks away.  Not much I can do at this point as I’m really running out of time.  So between now and when we leave I will simply strip everything back for her, make it really easy and try and re-inject some fun which we appear to have lost.  My main concern is that I’ve pushed her too quickly and overwhelmed her which is unfortunately very easy to do.  I was trying to build some skills so we’ll have some hope of tackling the Masters courses, but I’m going to have to abandon that and go back to very easy only.  When it comes down to it, I would rather her be happy and stuff every course up than for her to not want to run at all.  She sure doesn’t make it easy for me and no one will ever be able to accuse me of taking her ability for granted!  I truly cherish every good run I have with her.  I'm just so disappointed that I can't be better for her and she so deserves for everyone to see just how amazing she is.

Veto - 16 months
I am very thankful that my youngster is helping to make me feel slightly less hopeless as a dog trainer.  I am enjoying every moment of bringing him along and watching him grow in confidence and skill level.  Thanks to a timely Suprelorin implant his desire to pee on everything has definitely decreased.  While I don’t trust him completely yet and choose his off leash time carefully, I can at least now be confident enough to give it a try.  Last week for the first time ever at the Dogs West grounds I was brave enough to attempt a full sequence with him at training and was extremely surprised that he made what was well and truly masters level seem easy.  His understanding of the verbals/handling at this point is pretty good and if I ever had any doubts about committing to the H360 methodology his response to it has erased any questions I might have had around using it.

Home Agility Arena - 2016
I’m happy with his progress with both the running dog walk and running A-frame.  A bit of work still do be done on tight turns but for novice level what we have now I’m very pleased with and we'll keep working on the rest.  I have started introducing the tyre, spread and broad jump with a bit of beginning level see-saw work.  This month I also added in some compression jumps grids to see how he managed going from big strides back to small and vice-versa.  Overall I was impressed with how he managed them and I’ve not seen anything to doubt that he will be able to handle whatever he comes across.  His turning has improved out of sight.  I think most likely due to the exercise program I have all of them on now.  He used to be such a skinny little weed but the core strengthening has given him a real barrel down his middle and it’s hard not to think that it has played a big part in his improved jumping skills.   I hadn't planned it but at last weekend’s trial the opportunity arose to get him measured and he came in pretty much spot on what I thought he would be at 54cms.  Lots of people had thought he might be a 600 height dog but he is only slightly taller than Sonic who is 53cms.  So into 500 he goes.

The only thing that has defeated me so far with his training is getting Veto to single stride his weavers.  It is just not a happening thing.  But I’m fairly certain the issue is his structure which very much takes after his mother.  Being cattle lines they simply do not have the angulation that you see in the working sheep lines.  So I’m pretty sure that his inability to single stride is in direct relation to his lack of angulation.  Fortunately his bounce stride looks really comfortable and even at this early stage is a decent speed. The other day I set up 12 straight poles just to see how he went.  He managed the straight weaves really well but had to R-E-A-L-L-Y concentrate and I couldn't go in front of him or it all fell apart and he couldn't stay in them!  I'll stop being mean for a while and take it back to 8, proof some more and then work our way back up to 12.  It's another two months before he can trial so no rush with those.  Most importantly we are having an awesome time! 

Monday, March 28, 2016

Fifteen Months

This month has been as much about the return to my own conditioning program as it has been about the dogs.  Its been a while since I've been inspired enough to go running, not helped by my work running buddy thoughtlessly off on maternity leave having a child.  But she is back at work and with Nationals inching ever closer it was time to get off my butt and get active again.  Our favourite running haunt Jacob's Ladder is currently closed "for maintenance".  While I'm sure it does require some work, it's a pretty old and dodgy looking structure.  It is hard not to be suspicious that this will be the excuse that the City of Perth need to close it for good with long standing unhappy multi-million dollar apartment owning resident's nearby.  So our new destination at least for now is Kokoda Track a 150 step 62m vertical rise torture track near the Mounts Bay Road Brewery that works its way up to the top of Kings Park.  It's a 2km run from the office (which is almost twice the distance of Jacob's) and has a wonderful mismatch of stairs and steep inclines to enjoy.  My goal is to be able to run and speak for a whole masters agility course... bit of work to do just yet but I'm getting there.

Veto has reached fifteen months of age and is doing some really cool stuff, but first and foremost this month feels more like it should be a celebration of Cassie.  Last month was pretty sobering with our start to the trialing year being not the greatest.  Thankfully the following weekend I was thrilled to have her happily run in events over two nights at the Western Classic and then to continue the next weekend with a super happy run in Masters Agility on a tough course which she followed up with a brilliant clear run in Masters Jumping on the same night.  Right now I'm just happy with a happy pappy on course so to get a Q is such a bonus.  I still have no idea what the future brings but we are the closest we've ever been to where I hoped we'd be leading up to a Nationals.  Having a happy miss pappy pants has always been my number one goal so now that we seem to be there I'm going to keep working away and try to build some better handling skills in to help get us round the masters courses.  Fortunately it is easier to get a fast small dog around a course than it is getting a fast border collie around and you can definitely get away with more but the masters courses can be so hard that you have to have at least some reasonable skills to get clear rounds.

In a mere month I will be able to get Veto measured and in another three months he will be old enough to trial.  All pretty exciting.  He's progressing really well on his agility path and some things I've been surprised with how well he's getting it.  The A-Frame has been pretty straight forward, I'm assuming thanks to his running dog walk training.  Buy one get one free?  He's happily weaving through 12 poles but I wasn't overly thrilled with his striding.  I am determined to not end up with another bouncer.  Rather than than cross my fingers and hope for the best I have opened them up again.  Obviously I closed them way too quickly so now that he is back to single striding on the open weavers I will very slowly this time, close them again  Plenty of time before he's in the ring so I figure I might as well try and make it the best I can. 

The only thing that I'm finding is a bit perplexing is his still lack of control when it comes to being around other dogs.  He sees another dog and just looses it.  Clearly I haven't spent nearly enough time working on that so I guess I'd better.  Otherwise I'll have a dog with a great skill level that I can't trial with because he wants to share himself with everyone.  There are plenty of games I can play it's just too easy to do other more interesting stuff and just quietly I had hoped he might grow out of it.  More fool me... in saying that, if that is the biggest issue that we have then it's probably not that bad.   

Friday, March 4, 2016

Forteen Months

The weather has been playing havoc with trying to get any decent training done for a lot of the last month.  We had apparently the biggest heatwave ever recorded with like seven days over 40 degrees or something ridiculous.  So doing anything with the dogs other than sit inside in the air conditioning was almost impossible.  But that's a Perth summer for you.  The ChillyBuddy coat (otherwise known as "The Spacesuit") I got for Veto has had a pretty good workout as the only time I could do anything with him was early in the morning before work when it was coolish but even then the sun was still blaring down on us.  It's made a huge difference and we managed to make a good start his 2 x 2 weaver training. It is really starting to feel like he is becoming an agility dog :)

His running dog walk is actually going way better than I expected.  I'm a bit worried about admitting that in case it all falls in a heap which still isn't out of the question.  He rarely misses completely but does sometimes hit higher than I'd like.  What I'm happiest about is watching him adjusting his stride over the dog walk to hit.  That has been my biggest goal and I'm really pleased to see it happening.  I had started to introduce a few handling challenges after the dog walk but I decided not to get too carried away with those until I've gone further with the H360 work.  The time will come when he needs to have challenges after the dog walk but he needs to actually learn the handling first.  So instead I'll work on proofing the running dog walk in other ways but keep the handling challenges easy.  I've abandoned his 2o2o training for now as I'm not really happy with how it was going and I couldn't seem to make it any better. I will come back to it later and have another go.  

Handling work has been interesting.  He could do most things quite well at a steady pace but as soon as you put the tunnels at each end and build speed into it everything changes.  I couldn't for the life of me get him to respond to my threadle arm after doing a tunnel and three jumps in a row to do an off entry tunnel.  He just barreled past me into the straight tunnel entry without even a glance my way.  So I ended up back chaining it from one jump.  Then when I thought I had it and he was coming off really nicely to my arm and verbal I tried to do a straight line again and he almost took my legs out from under me trying to threadle...so it was back to the drawing board!  I think we have it now though thank goodness.  I'm quite fond of my knees and would like to keep them. 

I have my A-Frame all resurfaced and ready to go and a new See-Saw base for the new 900 height.  I probably need to get onto the AF first and at least kick off that new learning curve.  Hopefully it will be less time consuming than the Dog Walk now that he understands the running contacts process but who knows.  Even if I do end up with a 2o2o on the Dog Walk I don't plan on ever having a stop on the AF. 

I'd like to say the Cassie journey is getting easier but that would be untrue.  We've had good training sessions and bad training sessions but overall I think that she is quite comfortable with the rewarding out of the ring game.  The trial scheduled for the end of January got cancelled due to bad weather (it rained ALL day) so our first trials ended up being on the same weekend at the end of February.  The Saturday night was hot.  Cassie was not happy all evening and I ended up scratching her for three out of the four runs she was entered in.  I could not get her to engage for love nor favourite foods.  There is obviously still stress in the trial environment for her as she is rarely like that at training.  In the end I ran her in a Masters Jumping class which was a nice open course without loads of turns and while we had an off course tunnel it was a super run and she was flying.  Sunday night we had the rescheduled trial for January and it all started off really well.  She was high and happy.  She started off slower than normal in agility but got going really nicely.  But then I left her to do the new height see-saw and she flew off the end.  Looking back I should have supported her more but she had shown no issue with it at training at all so I thought she'd be OK.  Flying off gave her a really big fright and she totally shut down.  I got her back with hand touches and she appeared physically unharmed, just rattled.  So when she reconnected with me we ran the last few jumps home to her jackpot and she seemed happy.  But later on when I went to do the Masters Jumping course with her she didn't want a bar of it and left the ring when I tried to release her off the start line.  That is the first time she's done that since I've been doing the rewarding outside the ring.  Two steps forward, three steps back but we shall persevere none the less.  At least until after the Nationals anyway.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Thirteen Months

At this point in time I've decided it really isn't a good idea to watch what other people are doing with their young dogs.  The other day Justine Davenport posted a video to celebrate her young dog Never's first birthday where she proudly showed him doing entire courses (jumps on low height of course) pretty darn well.  Veto is up to three jumps in a row...clearly we have some work to do!  lol  Around the house he is definitely growing up.  He still has moments when he is the biggest pest ever and his lack of self control drives my other boys nuts.  But he's getting better and can now at least spend time around the house with the other dogs and manage to settle.  I thought he had grown out of his shoe stealing fetish but apparently not so the pet gate remains across the door of our walk in robe.  The fetish appeared to transfer itself to the bath mat briefly but the novelty of dragging that around the house thankfully had a short lifespan.  Fortunately for the most part he steals stuff but then brings it to you so I have still had just the one sock casualty and our shoes/thongs have surprisingly survived thus far.

Ve has just gone thirteen months.  We've been happily forging ahead with the running dog walk and I think it's going OK.  I videoed a session the other other day and was a bit unhappy that I was rewarding a few that were higher than they should have been so I've put tape three quarters of the way down the contact zone so I can use it as a guide.  While I like to think that I'm getting better at being able to pick the good hits from the bad the tape makes such a difference to being able to clearly see that he has hit on or below it.  I've also started putting fluro bands on his back legs so I can see where they are.  The dog walk is now probably one height away from full height.  If he goes high and isn't rewarded he normally gives me a better one on the next try.  I guess the main thing I'm looking for is his understanding of what I want and his ability to adjust his stride over the walk to make sure he hits.  His 2o2o work is progressing in the right direction.  Still taking it slow and it's paying off as he is definitely getting more drive into position.  I'm trying to keep it really fun and using the toy more and more as his drive is way better for a toy than food.

I'm still jumping him on 300 or 400 for the most part.  I find myself feeling paranoid about doing too much jumping with the inevitable amount of drills you do as they learn the handling.  He is such a powerful boy, he really takes my breath away.  On the very first session I did with him with jumps at 500, on his second run through he bounce jumped 4.5 meters (15') without even batting an eyelid.  I can't say I'm thrilled with his turns just yet and he is not what I would call a natural turner.  Not surprising as structurally his back end is by far his weakest area.  Even when I make sure I give him plenty of notice I don't think he turns well.  So we are taking some time to work on his understanding of how to use his body when he turns.  Hopefully that will help and of course better to do it now than let the problem grow and try and fix it later when he has a history of doing it badly behind him.

While I am doing a lot of agility training with him I'm trying to keep it balanced and interesting.  We've been trying to get out to new locations regularly as well as weekly swims and free runs when we can.  It's not the same as winter when they get to free run every night on the property but it's better than nothing.  We had some nice cool weather but since then its been hot again. Veto will work quite happily when its warm and overcast but he does not like working when the sun is on him even when it's early morning.  Which is fair enough, I hate wearing black t-shirts in the sun.  I managed to find an Australian supplier of the Chillybuddy Cool Coats so I bought one of those for him.  Unlike the standard cool coat they are much more fitted with a cut that leaves the shoulders free which means he can wear it while he's working.  Hopefully it will help to make him more comfortable once he gets used to wearing it.  Any thoughts of more sheep work have gone on hold as I don't think we've had a Saturday under 30 degrees since Christmas.

Training with Cassie is going slowly but surely.  She seems happy which is the main thing.  Her sessions are always short and sweet.  I'm still focusing on skill building and team work.  We have our first trial of the year this weekend and she'll be back in Masters so will be interesting to see how she goes.  A lot will depend on the course design.  I would imagine we'll struggle at this point with anything too technical but we'll keep it fun and no pressure.  I really just want to see her happy out there.  I'm probably feeling the most confident I have been with her for quite some time.