The End of Winter: March & April Dig It

March and April Can You Dig It Winter Series Show bring the close of Winter and the start of the competing season.

March

Being the numptysaurus I am I haven’t made any notes about the March show, so my account is going to be very brief!

Lou was due to Judge Intermediate and Advanced Agility and I had agreed to Ring Manage for half of the day. Then when Lou was in hospital the week before the show I said I’d Judge for her. We ended up sharing it and Lou Judged Standard & Large which allowed me to run in Intermediate Agility!

I opted for NFC as always and had a bit of a mixed bag of 2 runs. I got a short wait with training and then the dog walk was fabulous! (I have re-watched the video so many times to enjoy that contact). Weaves we didn’t complete more than 10 poles on first run so left them out on the 2nd run, although I had to run him past the weaves to get to where I wanted to go and didn’t call him off them properly. A-frame, he didn’t even think about stopping! (Argh). Seesaw was fine and then finish Serpentine I was mega chuffed with! A slight threadle arm was all that I needed for the middle jump.

A quick coffee and cake break and then back onto Judging duties. It was a pleasure to watch the Advanced classes.

I got into Intermediate Jumping in the afternoon (NFC runs again) and Guinness successful weaved 6 poles 3 out of 4 times from a tunnel!  Hurrah!

I gave the Steeplechase a miss as we were both pretty knacked and pleased with what we’d done.  March Show finitè!

 

April

Phew the last of the Winter Shows and spring is definitely in the air! Lighter mornings and lighter nights! We didn’t get home until 8pm but it didn’t feel late at all with the sun only just setting.

I judged the Beginners Jumping and thoroughly enjoyed it! I was determined not to do too much up and down and although it ended up looking quite like a steeplechase, there’s not much you can do to avoid that with jumps and tunnels only.

The course seemed quite well received with only a handful of dogs Eliminated from running ahead over jumps (partly due to lack of handler communication) and there were some fast clears. I blasted Guinness round before we started and lay down a clear round in 24 seconds! (Would have been embarressing if we’d have gone wrong). Our time remained unbeaten! Zoom!
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I really noticed was how people shaped, or didn’t shape, their dogs around the top pivot. Quite a few dogs were aimed at wings and left to take the jumps straight rather than aiming for a smooth arc. It’s something I find really hard to be aware of when running with my dog so it was nice to be able to stand and watch other people and get a better idea of how the smoother handling looked.

I ran quickly out of my Judging appointment and straight in Advanced Agility on Standard for a quick NFC run. Big mistake, I shouldn’t have bothered. There were too many traps and I didn’t plan what to do so we flapped around, failed our weaves and self-released off almost every contact. Second run I had a better plan and we did much better, but our contacts were still pants. After reading an article about whether putting your dog back onto the bottom of the contact actually helps I wasn’t really sure what to do when he pinged off, and left the ring feeling a little annoyed.

No time to dwell, straight into Intermediate Jumping and I ran for competition. First run, too busy worrying about a wait, was on the wrong side of Guinness and forgot where to go. Second run, I faced him and walked backwards and he waited nicely! Annoying that it was not a confident wait but a huge bonus to our recent wait failures! Off we went, tough 270 start then straight run of a few jumps before turning into a tricky left hand weave entry (the nicer of the 2 sides though as they have a pole wrap to aim for), steadily jogging along and we got 12 weaves! Front cross and up a line then tunnel tunnel finish! AHHHH! CLEAR ROUND!! AHHHH!

Woooooop. 12 weaves. A wait. No poles. Fantastic weave entry. OMG. First competitive run of the year and everything is falling into place.

We got 3rd!!!  1 second slower than the winner which aint bad considering we’re competing against G3-5 dogs!

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Quickly into Steeplechase which I missed walking, messy run but alteast he did another wait, and then time for a burger!

I had a lovely relaxed finish with some cake, a bit of helping on tickets & leads and then packing away. Back at Dig It we were very excited to unload all of the equipment onto the field and set up the fencing!

A great finish to the winter series. I wish I could be feeling a little more confident about our competiting ability but pleased with how our weaves are and I’m feeling semi-relaxed about our waits, as they are normally better on grass.

TAG next weekend, lets see what happens!

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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!