Ynys Mon (Anglesey)

Ash and I set off on Thursday evening for a long weekend camping, with the added luxury of a day of Agility! I’d been recommended the Anglesey show and it was a perfect opportunity to have a nice weekend in the tent as well as get to a new, quiet show.

_DSC0001We’d chosen a campsite about half an hour away from the show and set of at 7.30am to arrive nicely for 8am. It was blowing a gail! We had lovely sunshine on Friday but came back from a walk to find our tent sideways, practically flat on the floor (it was a miracle how no poles snapped).  It was no different at the showground, if anything I think it was windier,  however the rain was holding off and we quickly got started with G1-2 Agility first up.

I considered this my most important class and I opted to run start. All started well and I pulled off a nice rear cross on the a frame with strong contacts. A tricky round-the-back from the dogwalk while calling away from the tunnel and then three jumps diagonal to rear cross the seesaw (mind your chin) then another round-the-back into the weaves. Yes, he’d done the weaves, then across a box and ARGHHHH!! He turned left in the box toward me and took the wrong jump. Nooooo. Even the judge looked gutted for me. A nice 270 and finish.

Man!! I thought we had it in the bag. He drove into the weaves so nicely and did 6 lovely, we were on for a winner. But I was holding back from the weaves to ensure I didn’t rush him and I ended up so far behind! Never mind. I am so so pleased, that is the best run we have had at a competition for a while, lovely contacts, nice handling (if I do say so myself), only slips up were we got a little stuck on the diagonal and he turned the wrong way from the seesaw, but overall very good. Plus no knocked poles!

A long break now as the next two runs weren’t until after lunch. The day got a little slow and we were very glad of the company and hospitality of Kev, Adele and Avril. We settled down in the car for lunch of homemade ham & cheese butties and chips! Nom.

1908013_10154145813590578_7007415439657938295_nG1-3 Jumping next and I choked down a miss-timed brew and only managed to walk half of it before they were calling to clear the course. Damn. I went away and quickly drew the course (a technique I’m really getting along with) and studied it on paper. Into the ring and I got Guinness tugging outside of the queue and then kept it up nicely before our run. We went for a wait, nervously, and managed a step away before he leapt up and I ran for it. Some nice rear crosses, although he went off course a little and I needed to spin him around to get back on track. Not knowing if we’d been marked for a refusal I ran on, second to last was the weaves and we powered over the finish! Had we been given a refusal?? I looked at Ash and Kev who raised their arms and said “Ah what happened to the weaves!”.  “What did happen at the weaves?! Did he mark our refusal?!” I said. No refusal but apparently Guinness missed his last weave! Aw. I hadn’t even noticed. Gutted.

We had all got so excited, another fantastic run yet a fall at the second to last “hurdle” again. Gutted. Phew! This was exciting. It was really feeling like the final Agility was going to be ours.

As we walked the Combined 1-3 Agility the heavens opened! With the wind blowing even stronger the rain came sideways and we were soaked through in no time. It didn’t last long and luckily went off just before our run. At lunchtime they had finally decided to take out the dogwalk, a sensible decision, but it left the course lacking a little imagination in places… jump, a frame, jump, wing wrap, a frame, jump.

The queue was a bit manic with everyone trying to get their run done to go home. It was far from relaxing. The person queuing in front of me and I spread out and took the queue in a wide circle to keep some distance from the ring, but then the person queuing behind ended up in front of me, which left Guinness surrounded by three dogs. As we entered the ring I had Guinness tugging on his lead nicely which is a great achievement, but as I unclipped his lead a spark of nerves struck me and I grabbed his collar. I don’t know what came over me, despite the queue we were on track to go for our wait but this run was “important” and I didn’t want to risk a Guinness-bog-off-special. As I grabbed his collar Guinness tried to make a runner and freaked out on me (he isn’t a fan of sudden collar grabs) and after a quick pause we set off and knocked the first pole. The rest of the run went in the same style, but I managed to get my head back on as we reached the seesaw and held his contact. I was impressed to see he stayed on it (totally expected him to break) and then nice 6 weaves at speed followed. Always taking positives, we also did a lovely wing wrap, but other than that a potty run!

Disappointing end! Ah well. As I drove away I was kicking myself. I am in such a rush to win out of Grade 1 I am sacrificing my waits. Something that is much more important! I’m rushing toward a short-term goal and spoiling the long term goal. I think I’m ashamed to be in Grade 1, especially as I have started teaching classes, yet I am confident in my teaching and handling ability, plus it is only a matter of time before we get that first win. If I look at my true feelings I am more ashamed about becoming someone without a wait than I am of being in Grade 1… so I need to get a grip and sort myself out!

Off to Holyhead, we finished the day with takeaway pizza and a visit to South Stack.

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The whole weekend was very enjoyable. We had a lovely walk through Newborough Forest and a visit to the beach on Friday and a cup of tea by the seaside and a pit-stop at Snugbury’s on the way home today.

The Anglesey Show is a lovely, quiet, two ring show in a nice venue. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of friendly faces and it felt geared towards the lower grade dogs. With Beacon being the main show this weekend it certainly seemed that the more relaxed handlers had chosen this show. Plus I hear it was just as windy back home and no one can control the weather.

 

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TAG Easter Saturday

Today I was at TAG. My first outdoor show of the season.

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5.30am we were up and making scrambled egg for me (on toast) and for Guinness’ breakfast. I’ve been pondering a lot about what to do with Guinness’ meal on show mornings, he often has a bad first run and especially if he hasn’t done a poo, but on the other hand they do need some energy food. A recent discussion on facebook brought up the method of feeding high protein food such as scrambled egg and as I love it too I thought it was a jolly good idea. So with breakfast and poo’s done before we left we set off in search of unknown territory, West Midlands Show Ground!

I arrived before 8am (shock horror) and had plenty of time to get my bearings and walk my course. First up, Grade 1-3 Agility, although a long wait until our running order. I walked into the ring and my stomach fell, first hurdle, a tyre! We have not seen a tyre for over 12 months and the last time we did one in training Guinness ran smack into the bottom of the loop and head-butted it to the floor. He then jumped through it afterwards, but still a concern.

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We got there towards the end of the class and had a nice short queue which Guinness happily tugged in! I decided to run start him to help him through the tyre (plus I wasn’t confident with our wait anyway) and I revved him up, aimed him in the right direction and hoped for the best! Hurrah we got through and onto the Aframe. Jumps, seesaw then pull off the tunnel for 180 jumps. A lot of people chose to handle it differently to me, pulling the dog back onto themselves, off their natural path, and I was really pleased with my decision. A blind cross while he was in the tunnel and then dog walk, a tight right angle from the contact down three jumps and then another tight 90 degree angle into the weave. No chance we were getting it, refusal. Second entry and good weaves until pole 11! Too late I’d started running on and we’d had a pole down so time to finish. 2 poles knocked on the 270 boxwork and finish.

It felt like such a messy round, but not too bad. Lovely Ella happened to be watching and videoed us. Watching back it looks a lot more successful than it felt! Of course lots of little things to improve but I am generally pleased with our contacts, handling and overall performance.

A huge break until our next runs and I was given a very appreciated seat, coffee and company from Lou and Deb. G1-2 Agility was set up before lunch and I walked it then sat in the sun with Guinness to eat my sandwiches.

G1-2 Agility was a lovely course, all on one side and very fast and flowing. Jump jump seesaw, I went for another running start, tunnel dog walk tunnel and I saw the judge raise him arm to fault us as we left the dog walk for the tunnel. “What?!” I thought. Guinness never gets faulted on contacts, even when he self-releases his 2 on 2 off he has normally gotten into position. Tunnel to weaves is often a challenge but the weaves were a lovely distance away so I could collect Guinness and send him. Yes! He nailed the entry but then popped out about halfway through and then again at number 11. We carried on for a tight 90 degree and then a 180 and as I stopped still in the middle of the 180 he pulled through the gap to me. Douche, my bad really, second attempt and I kept moving and he turned nicely. Aframe and I held his contact. I expected him to run off and I made it very obvious that I was stopping and expected him to do so also and he stopped nicely! A nano-second passed and then I released and we continued across a box to finish.

Pfft there were my dreams of going home Grade 2 gone! I won’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed, I was. But I was pleased and having a great day! Ring experience. We said it last year and as this is the first competition away from home of the season we haven’t yet got the experience of new environments. But every show helps and Guinness was running lovely.

Speaking to Lou later on and she had seen our run from a distance and said it looked like Guinness took a very long strides off the dog walk and she wasn’t surprised he had missed it. We had been quick releasing all day and with the tunnel in sight I reckon he pulled off a very un-stylish running contact, otherwise known as not even attempted to stop despite his training! We had a great contact training session on Thursday however it is nowhere near the level of proofing that I am aiming for – gotta keep at it!

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Final class of the day Combined 1-3 Jumping. We watched as the Judge laid out his course. There was a tricky section in the middle which looked a little strange but okay, then the Judge wasn’t finished and he changed it completely to something far stranger. Gosh. I hate to be one of those people who complain about a course, especially as I know how it feels to be a Judge myself, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t good in my opinion. Sections were nice but the tunnel was a very close trap in more than one place, the long jump was set off at an odd angle, directing away from the dogs path and there was a huge space between the long jump and another jump then onto an angled jump at minimum distance, a bounce for large dogs. 180 degree pull off a flat tunnel and then flat tunnel quickly to tyre ending. Plus I wont even bother trying to explain the funny middle section.

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I put my positive head on, decided how to handle it and went for the challenge. We had a lovely time in the queue with no barking collies in sight. Guinness queued next to a male husky which I was a little concerned about (because Guinness can be a dick not because the husky was nasty) but we all kept a nice distance and Guinness stayed calm.

With nothing to loose we went into the ring tugging and I popped Guinness into a down, ready for a wait. I unclipped the lead and walked away backwards, then calmly turned away from him, silently expecting him to break. He didn’t move. Time stood still! Feeling more confident I walked a little further and then released. Ahhhh!!! Hurrah!! (I really need to man up and start pushing my dog more. So what if he breaks and we get E’d?!)

Onto the course and a nice 270 avoiding the tunnel and then into the weaves. Guinness wasn’t giving 100% and spun around in front of them but on second attempt he got in and flowed through 12 weaves in great style. Finally! Only taken 3 runs! Off onto the tricky bit and I’d opted to work it from behind, a little more risky, and I couldn’t pull him off a jump in time. Never mind we carried on and over the long jump and then he flew straight past the next jump. The 180 was superb and then he zoomed out of the flat tunnel and quickly ducked under the tyre. I’m just so grateful that he didn’t run into it! Not wanting to leave on a failure I popped him back over, and he ducked under again, then third and final attempt and he jumped through it.

Day finished! Phew. Three disastrous Eliminated but three runs with positives to take away!

A lovely first experience of TAG and West Midlands Show Ground with a stunningly sunny but cool day!

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Crufts: The Agility Experience

Crufts is an exciting time of year for all dog owners and lovers. As a competitor it is the agility that really catches my eye. Ever since I was young I watched the agility on the TV and said, “I want to do that one day”. As I’ve got older and wiser I now start to notice the slips on the carpet, the lack of rubber and the bouncy seesaw, however lets not dwell on the bad.

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Shopping is a big part of Crufts. Toys, treats, equipment and clothing. You can buy any sort of toy at Crufts! Cage balls, tennis balls, fleece, stuffed animals, fur, you name it. My ideal agility toy is something on a bungee tug that is high value. Voila, I found a tennis ball on a bungee! Perfecto. There were a few stalls selling garden agility equipment, easy put together jumps, hoops, tunnels and weaves. They’re ideal for having a bit of fun with your dog which is the perfect way to introduce agility to pet dog owners.

Health equipment is also growing in popularity and promotion of health products and activities were seen throughout the show. Hydrotherapy, herbal supplements, tablets for joints, digestion, you name it and you can find something which “helps”. Plus peanuts, balance cushions and fitpaws!

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The DogBooksOnline.co.uk store left me quite confused! There was a huge choice of agility books to buy, including course diagrams and training exercises. I really didn’t know which to choose so I played it safe and left them all!

What really caught my eye was the Halequin Agility demo on the Eukanuba stall. I arrived just in time as a lovely lady with a great dane was demonstrating wobble cushions and the exercises to do on them with your dog. She talked about muscles and strengthening exercises and was really enthusiastic about keeping dogs fit. It was brilliant to see and I hope it wasn’t just me that thought so. It’s so enlightening to see more and more health and fitness demonstrations appearing.

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I challenge you to go away from Crufts without learning something new, no matter how knowledgeable you think you are! The Kennel Club have a big activities section with a little box full of people to answer your questions on agility, as well as free handouts. The activities ring also held some agility demonstrations throughout the day.

I was most interested to see Agility1st there! Set up by former KC International Team Coach, Steve Croxford, and current KC GB Team Manager, Mark Laker, Agility1st is a training and accreditation scheme for Agility instructors and coaches. It not only offers you a chance to be recognised and proven as an agility instructor it also offers you training and improvement opportunities! This is the first Agility specific dog training scheme that I have come across and I think it is a hugely positive step forward for agility! (Unfortunately I didn’t get chance to speak to them).

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Into the main arena and this is where the magic happens! I could sit in there all day (at least until the Group judging starts perhaps). There are plenty of big competitions held at Crufts and its one of the sought after goals for many agility careers. Novice, ABC, International and Championship classes allows for a wide variety of people to get their chance in the limelight.

I really enjoyed the courses this year (apart from a few contacts-into-nowhere) and they all ran fast and flowing! There seemed to be less slips and skids than I’ve seen before (maybe due to course design or the dogs being more prepared) and there was some tight competition! The crowd love the agility and there was one person behind me in particular that was squealing, gasping and whooping! I love hearing other people’s enthusiasm. My friends and I enjoying watching the decisions made by competitors, talking about what we would have done and discussing the different international handling styles and methods. Plus the best thing is you can go home and watch all again on youtube!

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Crufts is becoming more and more diverse and I feel that the attention is starting to creep away from the show dogs a little. Of course it will always be the biggest and most prestigious dog show in the World, however you can certainly enjoy a visit even if you have grubby farm collies at home and no interest in hairspray for dogs.

I went home full of ideas for my agility classes, motivation and inspiration to work on my own training and my purse was much lighter! A great weekend!

A Day of Dog Training

Today I was at Dig It from 11am til 6pm, and it was fantastic!

This morning started with a coffee and a chat with a friend in the new seminar room above the agility arena.

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Then I moved outside into the sunshine to help with the Agility taster session. All dogs and owners that attend an Obedience course are invited to try out agility in a free taster session. Pups of all ages can come along as it is designed to be low impact with just a few jumps on the floor and the tunnel. I always enjoy seeing the owners reactions to their first go at agility and seeing how each different dog takes to it.

Lunchtime and I got Guinness out onto the field for a free run while I ate my butties and then we did a little box work and independent tunnel.  During my tunnel work I was holding Guinness’ collar saying “tunnel tunnel tunnel” and then releasing and throwing the reward onto his exit path.

It was only after I had moved away that I realised my tunnel command is “in”….  WTF Ruth?!

What a numpty!  I’ve always regretted having “in” as my command as it’s a little harsh and short and always more useful in other places. Well apparently I have done the first steps to change it.

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A quick sit down to finish my lunch in glorious sunshine (although sitting on my coat as it is still chilly and damp) and I planned my next class.

2pm I had two puppy classes to teach, covering for Katie. I really enjoy covering a class as it gives you a little bit of free rein to be naughty and have lots of fun (not that classes aren’t fun anyway). I covered this class at Week 3 and today at Week 7 so it was fantastic to revisit and see their progress.

I used some Rally exercises to improve the heelwork and we also worked on focusing when next to other dogs, recalls, leave it and stays.

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Then with an hour to kill I got Guinness back out for a little bit of contact work inside and rear crosses. His seesaw is lovely and committed however the A frame was very creepy crawly. Guinness bounces onto the bottom lovely with drive but when performing the full A frame he didn’t stop so I put him in a stay down for a minute and then retried and it was very slow and crawly. I wonder if I have knocked Guinness’ confident by “punishing”. I left the A frame alone and instead worked on jumps and tunnel with some handling.

5pm and the cavalry arrived to load up for the show. An hour later we were finishing setting up at Alsager for the Can You Dig It Winter Series Show tomorrow. One of judges Lou has been rather poorly so I have stepped up to Judge the morning for her. This gives me and Guinness a different competition day, as he will be in the car all morning and then the classes we will be running in the afternoon are likely to be Beginners. Not For Competition as normal but this removes the opportunity of weaves. However it is start lines that I am struggling with more than anything and I can focus on that goal tomorrow.

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6.30pm home time!

Fantastic day! What more would you want to be doing.  I am living the dream!

January & February Dig It Winter Series

The first show of 2014 started with Dig It Winter Series.

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January

Lydia was away so I helped to run the show with a few other Dig It guys. I had a lot of fun but I was very busy in between runs. Amanda Hampson judged the Advanced and Intermediate Jumping and it was a pleasure to see and try her courses! I am continuing with NFC runs and chose to do a 9 obstacle sequence from her course. There was a flick flack/serp that didn’t quite go to plan with a tunnel drawing them away from the third jump, I couldn’t get it even with two tries. However weaves we managed 12 poles once but 3/4 times popped out at pole 10.

Amanda Hampson - Intermediate Jumping (Course Section that I ran)

Amanda Hampson – Intermediate Jumping
(Numbers not correct to full course)

In Agility I made my own course but included a nice 3 jump sequence from the judges course. Again we popped out on 10 weaves so I didn’t attempt them again. The sequence didn’t go to plan either however our contacts were good.

Watching a friend run I saw them make a handling choice different to mine that worked much better! I watched and immediately thought  “of course, why didn’t I do that!”. It seemed like such an obvious option yet I’d missed it. The same with the Jumping!

I am failing to see all of the handling options. I look with blinkers on and see one or two options, make a decision and then go for it. It’s something that I need to work on and also an ability that I want to pass to my students, so I best get better at it myself! Perhaps more time walking the course?! Or at least concentrate more while walking and broaden my mind.

Steeplechase I blasted for a run but I’d got my Dublin boots on and I tried to lazy handle/push Guinness out and i left him too far. We didn’t train track! I went off the rails.

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February

This show was a lot of fun! I had a bit of a lazy start (I was there by 8.30am nonetheless!) and had a wait until first run so I got my camera out and did some photos and filming for Dig It. There were three rings with two clubs providing ring parties so everything was well run and the rings moved quickly. Agility first and a tricky handling section with lots of options got quite a few people pondering while walking it. I made my choice and was really pleased as it worked well, flowing smoothly into the tunnel! (Hurrah my course choices are getting better perhaps). I ran for training but stuck to the course as it allowed everything I wanted to work on.

I filmed the worst of my two training runs so be open-minded when watching this, it went much better the first time…

[There is a lot to analyse and take away from that video but I wont bore you with it in this post! Important thing is the fecking weaves! Epic Guinness!]

6 weaves and we nailed the entries plus Guinness powered through them so fast he got stuck! Really impressed! Contacts were good although he released on my movement more than he should, however he had stopped so promising for competition.

Jumping was a nice up and down blasty run with 6 weaves from the tunnel. Again amazing weaves and only missed 1 out of 5.

I pushed our waits aiming to leave Guinness closer to the edge of the ring. As you can see from the video he doesn’t even think about it in the agility, as soon as the lead is off he goes. However our other runs were better with some nicer waits. I’m struggling to see how we will bridge the training-competition gap! At the moment it looks like a huge, bottomless valley.

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Steeplechase was a fun course from Becky Sargent with two tunnels next to each other. Although some say this tests nothing, as it is not obstacle discrimination, I had a lot of fun! I didn’t guide Guinness enough nor judge how long his jump is (partly due to not walking it) and and we got Eliminated when he took the furthest tunnel rather than the one closest to me. Never mind still a fun run with some good distance work and rear crosses.

Only two more shows to go and competition season is creeping closer and closer! I am hopeful that our waits outdoors will be better as Guinness was always happier on grass last year. The Dig It Club Comps start in March so I’ll be out there as soon as possible, pushing and testing our waits!

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