Easter is the start of the outdoor agility season, and as many of you headed off to shows myself and Ann took time to catch up on other things - friends; family and housework! However our Facebook page was alive with results coming in thick and fast, it was a great feeling to see how well you were all doing and to watch the videos and see all the happy handler and dog photos; you all did us proud. Really well done to Jacob and Pip on your 2nd place - Jacob has worked so hard with Pip over the last couple of months and it's great to see all that hard work paying off. Lizi and Oz managed several 1st places making their debut in grade 1; the start of a very successful agility career I think :-) Well done also to Ann-Marie and Jemma; Jackie and Izzy; Jason and Ruby; Annelies and Floyd; Alice and Jet; Elise and Darcy and Sharon and Millie who all had some amazing runs too. It's great to be at the start of the season and being able to watch so many fantastic agility partnerships on the start of their journey, it doesn't seem that long ago that me and Ann stood in a field Beverley waiting for our first ever class to begin, with me musing that wouldn't it be great if one day someone we'd taught was out there competing......
Well, I thought Grace's third show was worthy of a blog! She'd had one run at her second show which was an agility course and she was happy bumbling alongside of me carefully doing all three contacts and a variety of jumps and tunnels and finished the course nicely but with no real urgency.
So her third show came along and I walked her first class which was a huge agility course. I looked at it and felt exhausted at the thought of attempting to run Grace and wondered if her agility career could end here - we'd had a go and maybe she was quite happy living her life just being Grace!
But, I wasn't ready to give up without a fight - and I was so pleased in the end. It was a really spread out European style course which sort of traveled from one side of the ring to the other and back again, with tunnels strategically placed to help the dogs drive on, and Grace loved it. She did nearly everything I asked of her, seamlessly bypassing the middle of the course and the weaves and she finished as happy and as bouncy as how she started which is all I'm aiming for, and she actually did about 13 obstacles.
Then it was time for her jumping classes. Well - in the queue we bumped into the lovely Helen and Colin with their gorgeous greyhound cross Milo - Grace's partner in crime! They had such a lovely time playing like only sighthounds can eg pretend they aren't on leads and run round in circles at 100 mph, that we ended up causing chaos in seconds, she slipped her collar and I had to rugby tackle her to stop her doing zoomies around the rings! So when it was her turn to compete she was still a tad giddy and ended up doing zoomies anyway (video to follow!). I'd told the ring party that we couldn't do the weaves and I was taking my own line, so they kindly told the judge for me. Of course, it was pointed out to me later that I'd forgot to mention that we couldn't do jumps or tunnels either!! But to me the fact she was happy and enthusiastic is a huge step forward. Naturally I would have liked her to do one or two more jumps then she did........!!
I thought I was going to miss her last jumping class as it was at the end of the day and all my other dogs needed a walk, so the walk came first which included Grace disappearing into the woods at 100 mph - strangely followed by her partner in crime again, Milo! So by the time I got to the ring I was about the last person left to run and I thought Grace would be exhausted. It was a lovely course for her - straight up and down to tunnels and ........ she was brilliant (only those of you in the sighthound world will probably understand!) She actually drove on ahead of me. She only did about half a dozen jumps and 3 tunnels but to me it felt as great a high as though we'd won!
Loads to work on but it seems those 30 seconds at a time of training are working.
Thank you Helen for filming - I'm still grinning!
Well - what can I say! I walked her first class and really didn't like the beginning of the course. It was 3 jumps set minimum distance to each other in a star shape eg a 90 degree turn to the right after each jump, then straight into 12 weaves, a straightish run to a tunnel, and then it got really complicated after that. And it was pouring down!
So I sat her on the start line and took off her lead, walked past the first jump........... and so did Grace! She seemed so out of her depth, looked as though she'd never seen a jump in her life and couldn't understand what the judge was doing there. After what seemed like a lifetime of attempting to get her attention, she managed a couple of jumps, did about 6 weaves, ran past a few more jumps into the tunnel, missed out a couple more jumps then had a big wee in the ring!
Well, I was flabbergasted and spent the whole day thinking her agility career was over before it began. But- always eager to rise to a challenge - by her second (and final) class of the day I had a plan! Just do one jump and come out of the ring and give her tons of treats. I spoke to the judge and she was happy for me to do whatever I wanted. Anyway the course was lovely and I realised there was several variations I could do at the beginning depending on what Grace was thinking. If she did manage the first jump I was going to attempt the tunnel. Well - she seemed much happier queuing - the sun was shining, people were chatting and asking about her, she was busy doing tricks and generally acting the fool and then ............ she sat beautifully on the start line and did a tiny course of two jumps, tunnel, seesaw and two more jumps which curved nicely to the finish where she got about a thousand titbits. I was over the moon. She was her normal happy bouncy self and I know I can build on this.
So - looking back I'm glad I've started 'competing' with her as I'm relaxed enough these days to let her progress at her own pace and treat each class as a training round. My aim, for however long it takes, is to make up my own small courses, gradually adding more and more obstacles, run to the finish and out of the ring as fast as possible to her treats. I'm also only entering classes where I know the judges are sympathetic to young dogs, then that way I can relax and just be happy with her.
She's done another show since and it was a lovely agility course and we vaguely followed the proper course doing all three contacts a couple of tunnels and several jumps!
So - what more could I ask of her?! I'm actually enjoying training her even more (all 30 seconds at a time!) as I know its working. There are still times when she looks at a tunnel as though she's never seen one in her life, but generally we get round small courses now, including 6 weaves. As long as I keep her happy, keep her goofing around and make everything fun and very short, I think we'll be fine.
It only seemed like yesterday when there was 5 weeks to go to Grace's first show and now there is only 5 days! And am I nervous ......no! I was 5 weeks ago, panicking because she was still only jumping medium and we hadn't really started weaving. So in my panic - for a couple of training sessions I pushed her slightly too much - which for a sighthound is so easy to do. She mastered 6 weaves so easily using the 2x2 method that I introduced another 6 far too quickly and I realised I was luring her through.
Also I filmed her doing a simple jump tunnel sequence - the whole session lasted 4 minutes, including warming up and playing with her and I realised that was 3 1/2 minutes too long! She gave me everything she could for 30 seconds (which hopefully is longer then an agility course) and switched off after that getting slower and slower.
So - my new regime began and we went back to having fun with 6 weaves. She can do these totally independently again, rewarding each set of weaves with food - she actually gobbles up the food as quickly as possible to get back into the weaves. What more could I ask for!? Once she'd done them nicely for a couple of days I've added another 2 and she's now doing 8 just as nicely.
Then each training session since (and there hasn't been many!) has only consisted of a blast round a very small sequence (and a different sequence everytime so she is always learning something new) with someone holding her at the beginning so she has to chase me. Then that was it - she'd play with me or a stolen toy (always much more exciting then her own) and come back out again later to practice smaller things eg contacts or start line waits or maybe one new handling technique - all using a clicker and food and I've realised that I actually love training her. How could I not love that daft goofy personality?!
She just needs training so differently to the collies and I need to go with what she's telling me. I have to reward so much more - basically clicking and treating everything nearly all of the time and things are starting to get better - for example - she is sort of driving onto tunnels now - what an achievement!
I do think she will always be an 'end of my fingertip dog' but who cares, she's who she is, there's 5 days to go so she's not going to actually learn anything between now and then and she can string enough obstacles together to do a small course - I think there's about 15 obstacles in the video below and ----- its the first time she's seen weaves in a course and she did them! Can't wait for her first show!
A few weeks ago it seemed I had loads of time to prepare Grace for her first show but they are galloping by quicker then ever! After what seemed like a promising couple of sequences a couple of weeks ago, when Grace was really enthusiastic we seemed to have gone off the boil a bit! I know its been my fault as I forgot the golden rule with sighthounds which is - do not repeat things more then once!! All you end up doing is getting a scornful look thrown at you which clearly says, 'I've already done it - what more do you want!'
But, I really am quite proud of what she's done the last two weeks - she's mastered six weaves really quickly and has even done two sets of 6 weaves straight after a tunnel. And she's touching the rubber target mat on the up contact of the dog walk nicely. It has slowed her down slightly which I didn't really want, but it's hard to know what is best to do - a slower up contact but accurate, or a hit and miss up contact with more enthusiasm. I'll just see how it goes as everything with Grace is a bit of the unknown.
We did try a little jumping sequence but it was straight after practicing the weaves and dog walk, which was my fault again as it was far too exhausting for her all in one day! We just gave up and played with a ball instead which was much more fun.
So - onwards and upwards and I must remember next week - less is more!
It's not often that I say that I'm super proud of Nancy, so I thought it warranted a whole blog post all of it's own. Nancy or Naughty Nancy as she is affectionately known, can only be described as a character. She loves everybody and is a fantastically sociable dog with other dogs; she's super smart but she is also a challenge at times. She has her own agenda, that doesn't necessarily fit with mine. Training her at agility can at times can be frustrating - she runs off with toys and won't bring them back, likes to chase birds and isn't particularly food motivated. And yet at home teaching her tricks she is fantastic and is a pleasure to train and is usually the first of my dogs to pick up new things.
I can't remember where I read it but I remember reading a training book that explained if you kept on getting the same results (which were results you weren't happy with) that you needed to change your training process as carrying on with the same processes would keep producing the same results. And I guess that summed mine and Nancy's training up to a tee. It wasn't that what I was doing was wrong as clearly I managed to train my other dogs to do agility with reasonable success, but this method of training wasn't working for Nancy. Some dogs make you think differently as a trainer, Gertie taught me a lot about clicker training and how to work through her fears and hang ups, so it was time to rethink how I was going to train Nancy.
So for starters I stopped training Nancy at agility, until I had a new training plan there was no point in carrying on with the training route we were going down. More than anything I wanted training Nancy to be fun for her and me which it wasn't. Over the last couple of weeks I've bought Nancy back to agility training, although it's not really agility training, it's doing all her favourite tricks on the agility field with maybe an odd set of weaves or contact thrown in, but mostly it's about having fun. At home I've changed how I train her too, we've added more challenge and she really has to give me her all in training. I've even noticed a difference out on walks too as she's actually coming to me wanting to engage with me instead of being the "free spirit" she was.
Having not done any real agility training with Nancy for a couple of months and then taking her to a show I wasn't expecting anything results wise, just could we take Nancy's new found enthusiasm and my new found enthusiasm for training her into the ring. Even our queuing routine was different, Nancy was watching me and offering tricks (unheard of previously) and we were able to play tug and I could get her ready for her run. Well I have to say she did 3 of the best runs she has ever done in competition and although we didn't win any competitions, it felt like we had taken major steps forward in actually becoming a partnership. Hopefully we'll keep building on that partnership now.
I was wondering recently what I’ve been playing at as Grace, my Galgo, is 18 months old and she’s barely strung two obstacles together! We’ve done loads of little bits but nothing serious as I find Grace so funny being a typical sighthound and doing whatever she pleases! I decided the best way to move forward was to give myself a challenge and enter her at the first outdoor show I’m going to in seven weeks times.
So, this weekend, she had her first proper training session. Getting friends to video you is so productive as you can see exactly what you need to work on.
The main few things that I’ve learnt from being filmed is:-
I need to run! I really thought I was running as fast as the wind with Grace streaming along behind me… yet we are both going the speed of a snail!
And secondly, in typical sighthound mantra, ‘Just because they’ve done something once doesn’t mean they will do it again!’ In the last little sequence in the video Grace had done it once so well that I wanted to film it. Second time round I must admit I did ‘expect’ her to go into the tunnels and do the wing wrap, forgetting of course, never to expect anything from a sighthound!
Also – wing wraps – I must learn to send her and run (instead of standing there and admiring her!)
But I am really pleased that in just two days of structured training sessions, and me being so nervous and surprised that she will do anything at all that sort of resembles agility, Grace has gone from needing help to run down a line of two jumps to almost doing a little course.
I think my main aim with her is to keep her motivation up – I don’t just want her bumbling around a course, I want her to really enjoy it and find it fun – so anyone with any constructive help – please feel free to comment.
Wow, seems a slightly inadequate word to sum up the club at Bishop Burton at the end of December. We had lots of dogs and handlers making their competition debuts, several partnerships on their second or third shows and a few seasoned competitors. It was an absolutely amazing atmosphere, lots of smiling faces, people helping each other out, walking courses together and new agility competitors being shown the ropes of running a ring. I want to thank each and everyone of you for making the show such a success for our club.
I think we can all take a lesson from Jacob our youngest member when those agility rounds don't go quite as planned. It was Jacob and Pip's first show; Pip got a touch of nerves and didn't perform as well as we know he can do in training. Jacob never gave up trying to get Pip round the course and encouraged him all the way round. Jacob left the show telling Pip that he loved him and that with a bit more training that maybe Pip wouldn't be as scared next time. What a fantastic attitude for a young lad and I'm sure at your next show Jacob Pip will show everyone what a cracking dog he is and how well you've done at training him.
Although several of our other partnerships didn't manage a clear round either, you were still absolutely fantastic, I saw some amazing runs, with super handling and even better than that happy enthusiastic dogs. Those clear rounds are really not far away and for some handlers just getting your dog in the ring and working with you deserves a medal. Another one of our young partnerships deserves a mention too - Elise and Darcy. It was this pairings first show and although we still have a bit of work to do on the weaves the rest of their runs were flawless, even when it came to trickier sequences. Once Darcy's weaves are perfected they'll be no stopping this partnership, who have been an absolute pleasure to teach and the fact that Elise has put a lot of time and effort in with Darcy away from the agility field really shows.
I think the club went away from the show with an impressive haul of rosettes. Jason and Ruby were on fire at only their second show and impressively won out of grade 1, and just to prove it wasn't a fluke added another couple of wins to their tally too. Ann-Marie and Jemma added to their every expanding rosette collection with several wins. Cassie and the lovely Charlie won their agility class, taking them to Grade 5 and I saw Charlie do some lovely, fast, enthusiastic other runs too. Alice and Merlin won their agility class, taking them to Grade 4. I was a nervous "back seat driver" watching Alice's run, willing him to get his weave entry; to hit all his contacts and keep all those bars up, I needn't have worried, it was a fantastic clear run that went into the lead and there they stayed. And also a well done to my very own Hector who won two of his agility runs taking him to grade 4. Another special mention must go out to Pauline who is an inspiration to all of us, I don't think Pauline managed any clear rounds but Pauline does fantastically well running both Tia and Harry and we love having her as part of our club, showing those young whipper snappers that agility really is for everyone.
Really sorry if I've missed anybody's achievements out, I'm sure you'll give me plenty of opportunity in the future to blog about your successes. Roll on the 2016 agility season.
We've had our last Sunday's training for 2015 and have had so many lovely people thanking us for training them that this has made me reflect on the last year. This time a year ago was a bit of a low point for Julie and I as our club membership seemed to drop off, and the few that we had didn't turn up at the beginning of the year, leaving us stood there in the middle of an empty cold wet field, with no dogs to train and no money coming in! We made the best of it and trained our own dogs instead, whilst deciding what to do.
So - by spring 2015 with all guns blazing, we'd advertised and started more classes, including fun puppy classes, became more business-like, made sure people paid up front! and we've never looked back. I remember the first puppy class it was probably the wettest, coldest day of the year, I even think it snowed, yet every handler bar one are still with us today and some of them are a week away from their first ever show!
As the year has progressed the club seems to have taken on a life of its own. Everyone seems to care about each other and I love hearing people laughing and chatting as they are waiting their turn, and I know next week at the show at Bishop Burton, all our 'newbies' will be looked after. We have gone from 2 classes a week to 5, and have the longest waiting list we've ever had, have outgrown our current training venue and are hard at work finding somewhere new.
Which brings me onto Julie's and I original plans which were very simple - one was to buy a full set of equipment, and the other, which was more like a dream really and only happened to other people! was to give people the proper skills to handle and compete with their dogs. As judges we would stand in the middle of a ring and see so many potentially good dogs and handlers flounder because of lack of proper training. Not that we always get everything right - nobody ever does, we just try and pass on everything we've learnt over the years - and I feel we've learnt so much ourselves the last year and are much quicker at adapting training for every dog and handler and all their individual needs. I no longer have to secretly cross my fingers when telling handlers to use this arm or that arm, or to keep still, or to run. I know what works and it's such a thrill to see the happiness on people's faces when they see what their dogs are achieving - from tiny sequences or getting the contacts right, to running a full course.
So as our club is getting even bigger and we are looking for somewhere new, and after a thought provoking moment when someone asked us what do we want, we realised our original plans have changed. Julie's and I's training and competing has become a bit static this year as we've concentrated on our club, but that is fine - its not just about us anymore. Yes, we want to be the best agility handlers we can, but we also want our friends to be the best they can be as well. We had hoped to move nearer to York so Julie doesn't have as far to travel every week, but we don't want to lose anybody, as everyone is far too important to us now, so we have made the decision to stay around Beverley/Hull. We have a few places in mind and should know by the New Year.
So - really looking forward to 2016 for us and our club members and what adventures it will bring.
Well it hardly seems like five minutes since I bought Hector home for the first time, he was that tiny that for a good couple of months he fitted in a cat carrier and yet here we were at his first ever competition, and yes I was more than a little excited. Hec learnt a lot of his agility foundations in my living room; turns were practiced round cones; waits were practiced with the carefully engineered distractions of my other dogs (well that's what I like to think of them as); his contacts were trained and proofed on a contact trainer and after finding that I had enough room for six weaves in the living room he learnt to weave there too. We supplemented that with whatever training we could squeeze in before classes started, but those 5-10 minutes each week at the agility field soon started to add up. Along with agility training, Hector learnt lots of tricks, some obedience exercises and practiced how to run as fast as he possibly could on walks and obviously get himself fit. So that was it we were ready for our first competition, Hec handled the noisy atmosphere without a care in the world; all his foundations were solid, he waited on the start line, listened to all his commands, his contacts were perfect 2 on 2 offs and he even managed to weave! We didn't manage any clear rounds mainly because we are still a new partnership and I am learning where he might need an extra bit of help but to say I am pleased with his debut is an understatement, I can't wait for his next competition.
Running five dogs in competitions was exhausting, especially when one of them is Rufus who seems to require so much more energy than anybody else! Nancy gets better with each competition, and thrives on the noisy atmosphere of indoor arenas, sadly this is the opposite to Connie who finds the whole atmosphere very stressful. Connie did a lovely run in her first jumping course but found the enclosed environment difficult to focus in for her other runs. Still we have a plan to help Connie cope inside so hopefully at Connie's next show she'll be back on form. Although Connie and Nancy are both at a similar stage in their agility careers and have trained together since they started their agility foundations, they are both very different dogs who have different needs, so need to be trained and handled differently. Please always remember that your dog is an individual and so what might be appropriate for somebody else's dog, may not be right for your dog.
I remember saying to Ann when we first started up the club, that wouldn't it be fantastic if one day we'd have handlers/dogs trained by us that were competing. Well a few of you have already made your debuts in unaffiliated shows or anysize classes, and now we have several of you entering your first grade 1 show. I guess I'd better start thinking up some new hopes/plans, as that one is firmly ticked off the list. And we've got lots more agility debuts to look forward to over the next coming season.