Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zazzy - agility - work in progress!

I am so very pleased with Zazzy, we are both really enjoying our agility together. Because it makes me happy that she is happy, she gets more positive feedback, so she is more motivated, and this has sent our training into a positive upwards spiral. Let's see where that takes us! I have been very lucky lately. A couple of weeks ago Toni Dawkins visited, and together with Karen we had a lovely day which included a (very healthy!) picnic and some agility in the sunshine. Beep, Zazzy's old playmate, is looking really good in training, although Toni says she is still majorly shutting down at shows and has a plan to deal with that before competing with her again. We have plenty of discussions about what to do to help our girls! They are similar in so many ways. All the dogs had a play, lots of fun, and I got some really good ideas from Toni for my training (she always gives me at least one really good idea, but excelled herself this time!) She also videod a few things for me so I can see what Zazzy and I are doing, I have included a short bit although it is not one of my proudest moments! Zazzy is speeding up on the contacts, but also now coming off them sometimes. This clip shows her response to being asked to do the AF again, even though I play with her and try to keep it happy and light, on the second go she gives me accuracy but by doing a really really slow creep. Work in progress!!





This last weekend I had another very lucky break. Lincoln Agility Enthusiasts were looking for extra judges for their show as the entry was higher than expected. So I offered to judge and thus was able to take the opportunity to get up there to train with Lucy Osborne. This resulted in a fabulous long weekend! I was up before the birds Friday morning to make it up there early, to set up camp before a two hour group lesson with Lucy for grades 3 and 4. She worked us hard, long runs down a line of jumps to a tunnel and back up the dog walk for example, and really putting lots of effort into reward and praise. I was really pleased with Zazzy. The venue is really good, lots of space, large exercise areas, camping close to the rings, good facilities, good ground. Also four classes for every dog (all sizes, all grades) each day! Everyone was really nice and the atmosphere friendly. My course was more or less set up by the time I got to it, just tweaked it a bit. G1 + 2 agility course below. I really enjoyed the judging on the whole. What really saddened me were those few handlers who pointed their dogs at the wrong obstacle with poor handling, then shouted at the dogs for 'not listening' and then stomped out of the ring. Or handlers only using one command, 'No, NO, NO!!!!' Those poor dogs! It seems that well worn adage ' if it goes wrong either you handled it wrong, or trained it wrong', is not being quoted enough in some places! What was crystal clear to me at the end of the day was that the dogs in the higher grades were doing better and going faster because they were getting more praise and encouragement in the right places. One highlight for me was the allsorts class. I saw some familiar faces from Becky's age group getting some special time, and boy the delight on their faces was a joy to see as they raced round! Above all, whatever happened, whether they got the course right or wrong, there was praise and laughter for them at the end. Brilliant. My grade 4-5 jumping course was a bit more testing but lovely to watch, handled well the dogs had a lovely flow with places to open up. When I set it up I thought it looked a bit harder than I had planned, but I gave Zazzy a run round it and it felt really good, and was glad I left it as planned. (G4-5 Jumping course below)



Sunday Zazzy got to compete. We had one small thing go wrong in the first three classes but I was really pleased with the way she was going (getting eliminated for going on when I layered a jump then turned late for example, fantastic! She was pulling off fences at my slightest deceleration last year). Then, a clear!! Zazzy came third in a very fast G4 jumping (lovely trophies too!).



Monday, more training, a 1-2-1 for both Zazzy and Deece. We were all worked hard, and I was really happy with them both, they were brilliant. Deece has not done much, but he amazed me with how quickly he picked things up and moved on. Zazzy played through the entire lesson. Just fantastic, this time last year she lost interest in playing after a couple of minutes, and was completely flat after five. So I returned a tired but very very happy and proud mom. Fabulous dogs!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Blue and quiet skies



OK it's not agility, but it's a big deal to me - I'm talking about the volcanic ash cloud from eruptions in Iceland that is preventing any air traffic over us here in the UK. WOW I didn't realise what an impact it made having constant overhead aircraft noise until it is no longer there. It's wonderful!! I have been out sowing seeds in the garden, and really enjoying the new improved quiet walks, and peacefulness. No planes waking me up in the morning, I can leave my back door open and enjoy the garden. And fabulous sunshine so that I can really make the most of it while it lasts!



The morning dew drops look beautiful to me today!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Courses

Here are the courses I set up at Spring at Shuttleworth. First, small grades 4-7 agility. About 90 dogs in this class. No wait was needed, but without it some handlers mis-handled jump 4 to the A-frame. It otherwise looked fun and exhilerating to run. I worried the night before that it was too straight-forward for the grade, but at the end decided it was OK! Not many people who ran down the left hand side of the dog walk managed a tidy turn away to the next jump, but it was not too hard to put a switch in before the dog walk, either by running through to the end of the tunnel, or sending the dog to the tunnel and picking it up between jump 9 and the DW. A few people sent their dogs on after the long jump instead of steadying for jump 12, and this made the weave entry harder for fast dogs.
There were about 300 dogs in the large grade 3 agility. Only one handler pre-curved jumps 1 to 2, but this made a much nicer and faster turn for the dog. This course didn't need much of a wait but without it the turn 2 to 3 could end up being quite wide. Many dogs also went straight from A-frame to tunnel if the handler hung back too much to help the dog get the contact, or missed the contact if the handler ran forward past the A-frame, so it proved a slight test of the contact training! (However, you could also cross behind the A-frame!)

Monday, April 12, 2010

First shows

It's fantastic to be going to shows again, to see everyone and catch up. Zazzy had a couple of classes on the last afternoon of the Easter Celebration show, I went along early to help on the ring and chat. Agility classes are going to be a confidence building exercise for a while (her contact criteria have changed since competing last), and we had one small (handler) error in each of the two jumping classes. Last weekend was the first outing for the caravan since last summer, to the Spring at Shuttleworth show. No tyres exploded and no wheels fell off, so I consider that a successful trip. We had sunshine!!! After a long winter of poor weather it was fantastic to get good weather for camping! I also have a very nice new chair, a lovely thoughtful gift from Karen. Here we are camped next to a field of llamas and emus.
We competed on Saturday and I judged on Sunday. Although Zazzy is happier since her op, and this makes training her so much easier and more fun, it of course hasn't worked any agility miracles. While we might never set the world on fire, I can still see lots of things we can do to improve. Meanwhile, Becky and Kaydee had a go in the allsorts class. Kaydees face was a picture when I took her lead off on the start line, she has not run in a class since 2008! She joyfully set off making me really run (medium height jumps round the edge of the ring!!). Unfortunately no video, I would love to see how she was moving. Bless her, it's a testament to her innate drive and love of the game that she won the class (150 dogs in it), leaving Becky to take third place. Come to think of it she won the last open competition she was ever entered in too.Kaydee continues to amaze me, she is such a brilliant dog. I took her to try sheep herding, and she was fantastic at that (my sister video'd a bit on her phone, will post it when I can!) I still feel sad that my dog who most wants to run and do things is stuck in a body that just isn't strong enough to do what she wants. However she is much less frustrated now that she is doing various bits and pieces.
Judging. Well I was pleased with how my two courses ran, although I had to make last minute changes as I had two tunnels in the plan but only one was available! First was small 4-7 agility, followed by large G3 agility (just under 400 dogs in total). Will post the courses tomorrow. The dogs looked good running the courses, and lots of people said they enjoyed running them. The downside was the lack of helpers at this show! Thanks to Marion who helped ever such a lot despite needing a mobility scooter to get around herself. I must have spent more than two hours trying to put my course up the evening before, a lot of that time on my own. The following morning no one turned up at all until I went to ask the organisers for help! It was a very small band of people who worked a miracle and got the ring to run smoothly through the day, some missing their own runs to do so. This problem has been discussed on the agility forum but I don't know what the answer is really. At the end of the day you pay to compete, and someone is making money out of it, but the shows cannot run without people working for free. The worst part of the day for me was at the end when I stood for an hour in the secretarys tent waiting to give my presentation; two of the trophy winners had had enough, apologised and left. Other judges seemed to come in and give their presentations reasonably quickly so it was frustrating. I was one of the last people to leave, and my poor dogs had been stuck in the van for nine hours. I was asked back to judge next year. Hmm I don't know. If no one wants to judge or help, how will shows continue?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More pics - Chobham

Happy smiley Zazzy! Zazzy has been happy and playful since her op.... that makes me so happy!


Zazzy loves playing with the water! She splashes it up with her paw then tries to catch it in her mouth!

All four are in the picture... !!!!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

About Me

My photo
For a bit about what I do for a living, see: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=AeEKryTUo-Q