Thursday 6th June 2019 - Why do Hoopers?
For the last four weeks Jilly has been going to Hoopers classes and she's doing very well. This week Sasha decided she would take up Hoopers as well. This is great news. For the last year Sasha hasn't shown much interest in anything until she saw Jilly training properly for Hoopers. When she joined in with the Hoopers at the training field I was delighted. Now I'm following up Jilly's formal lessons with some lessons in the garden for Sasha. At thirteen she can't manage an hour long class but she is learning very fast.
Hoopers is rapidly gaining in popularity and it's not just agility folk taking an interest. At Jilly's classes it's about half and half agility competitors and non agility people. This is great news for dogs and for handlers. At last there's a competitive sport for dogs that isn't too strenuous on their joints and as it involves a lot of distance handling it's brilliant for those handlers who are unable to run.
I'm busy making a whole new section on the website for Hoopers. Both dogs are entered for a show in July and we'll see how they get on. For now here's a little preview of the Hoopers training page. It includes a clip of Sasha learning to do a single hoop properly and a barrel. This is one of the first things a Hoopers dog learns and it's an essential part of the learning process. From here we'll build up to two and three hoops, barrels and tunnels, curves and distance work and then on to whole courses. There will be lots of distance work thrown in. Jilly's showing a lot of promise so far.
Friday 24th May 2019 - Living with epilepsy
The last few weeks have been a bit traumatic. The vets have finally decided that Jilly needs medication to bring her fits under control and so on Monday she started taking Epiphen. She has only had four fits and they are weeks apart rather than days or hours, however the thinking on epilepsy has changed.
When I was young I had an epileptic corgi and it was a little while before the vets decided to medicate. They hoped the fits might stop naturally but this didn't prove to be the case and so Corrie went on medication for the rest of her life.
Nowadays the idea is to stop any fits as soon as possible. Once they start to happen they seem to trigger more seizures and the sooner they're controlled the better for the dog. Each time a dog has a seizure it causes a very small amount of brain damage and controlling the seizures early is really important. The main thing is, once a dog gets used to the medication they can usually carry on as normal. All dogs are different though and they may react differently.
The odd lead walk doesn't do any harm
The vet told me Jilly must be lead walked at first but to be honest she appears to be coping well off the lead where it's safe to do so. She is able to run about as usual but her co-ordination isn't quite right yet. I can't throw a toy for her or she'll fall over when she tries to stop quickly. I always think the occasional lead walk is good for a dog like Jilly who spends a lot of time investigating bushes and running here there and everywhere.
A lead walk at The Eden Project. The dogs enjoy going somewhere
Tonight we're going to our Hoopers class and I'll see how Jilly gets on. So far the training has been very gentle as we're right in the beginning stages. We're still shaping going through hoops and round barrels and it's all done at a fairly slow pace while the dogs learn about the equipment.
Next week it's blood test time and hopefully we'll get back to agility very shortly. So far the worst thing has been telling other people. So much so that I've stopped mentioning it to anyone. Epilepsy is so common in dogs that just about everyone either knows someone who's dog had epilepsy or has had a dog with epilepsy. Sadly many of these people seem to think it's the right thing to do to tell me horror stories or to give me advice on how to treat my dog. Suffice to say the vet who is treating Jilly has been treating our dogs for 31 years. I trust her implicitly. She has not only treated a lot of animals with the condition she also has an epileptic cat. She is a wise woman and I know she'll look after Jilly as if she's her own dog. Here's a little video of Jilly and Sasha enjoying a run in a field at Pencarrow House. I allowed Jilly to do this because I judged it was safe to do so. A different dog may suffer more severe side effects from the medication and may need to be kept on the lead all the time at first.
The dogs having a run in a field at
Wednesday 1st May - Our first camping trip of the year
and the tent survived a gale and torrential showers
That was scary I woke up at ten past eleven on our second night to find the tent rocking all over the place, the dogs huddled up together and torrential rain lashing down. Did we get in the car for safety? No we didn't we stuck it out in the tent all night, freezing cold and blowing all over the place but with no actual damage to anything. Then Jilly went and got two more rosettes the next day and both dogs happily enjoyed a walk without a care in the world. Clever girl Jilly.
Just to make sure I get the well dones in Jilly won both novice steeplechases the day before.
Two first places in one day
You can't win them all however. By Sunday we were both tired and we made a
joint decision to have a fun day. Jilly kicked off by going shopping at
the trade stands instead of staying in the ring and then she had a lovely time
making everyone laugh in the agility ring. Her idea of doing the A-frame
was to run a little way up it, turn round and do a perfect stop on the end.
It was the look on her face that made us all laugh though including
Shirley the judge.
The thing I like about UKA shows is the relaxed atmosphere. It says it all that my dog can't tell the difference between having fun, training and a competition run. On the first day she popped the weave in the agility course. She'd done it a couple of weeks before as well so I decided to do not for competition (nfc) on the jumping course and sort the weaves out. I quickly discovered it was my fault. People told me I was slowing down and hesitating at the weave and they were right. In the ring I'd tensed up, staying alongside the weave and watching carefully. It made Jilly wonder what was wrong and she popped out at the tenth pole. I ran the nfc course as I would in training. I just said, 'Weave, weave, weave,' in a high pitched voice and ran past the weaves without slowing or hesitating. Jilly was fine. I did a rear cross and a blind pick up and the judge said she looked very good. We had no more problems with the weave after that. It's worthwhile if you go to a UKA show to do an nfc run. It gives you a chance to sort out any problems under show conditions and you can reward your dog with a toy on the course. It also helps if someone can watch your run and tell you where they think you've gone wrong.
It's always valuable to hear someone else's opinion. People watching can see a lot more than you can when you're running. You might come out of the ring thinking you've done a terrible run and yet someone watching might say, 'What a fantastic dog. It was a super weave and perfect contacts, if only I could do that.' At the weekend I heard someone say he'd had a car crash of a round and yet I'd been standing there admiring the dog and thinking what an amazing dog he was and what a lovely jumper. I told the handler as well and he said thank you. It doesn't really matter how high a grade you are either, or how experienced. You can still learn from those watching even if they haven't been doing agility as long as you. Take people's comments on board if they offer them and thank them.
The Rugby club at Roborough
One final word. If you go camping at a show do explore the local environs. We found some nice walks and I found 4 takeaways all next to each other and about three minutes walk from the showground. With a choice of Indian, Chinese, pizza and fish and chips what more could you want except sunshine.
Monday 1st April - Training with Dave Munnings
After the trauma of last week we had a lovely time on Sunday. The vets said Jilly was fine to go to her training class and they sent me away telling me to enjoy it. We were training with Dave Munnings, one of the country's top handlers. I got to meet Fame and the lovely Boost, a corgi collie cross. The two hour lesson concentrated on getting the fastest lines for your dog.
I thought we'd try this one as Jilly will happily trot round the ring and get clear rounds but we're never quite fast enough to get into the places. That needs addressing. It would be nice get placed now again. Don't get me wrong. I love playing at shows and if we go home with nothing we've still had a great time. Sometimes though I think it's better for Jilly's mental state to get a really good run and to hear everyone clapping and saying well done. I think dogs know the difference. No matter how hard you try to cover up the fact that something went wrong I think they still know. I do try not to let this happen and every run is a triumph but Jilly seems much more bouncy and excited when it's been a good one.
And so to the training class. I chose to run over medium height. At the end of April we'll be going to a 3 day UKA show where the standard height jumps will be 50cm. The 45cm medium height is the nearest to it. Apart from that I think Jilly concentrates for much longer when the jumps are lower. The spaniel half of her would still like to go and sniff and she doesn't always have that collie thing of being happy to repeat things over and over again until it's right. If she has to put more effort into the jumping she'll just go off the boil a lot quicker. She worked her little socks off for me on Sunday though and we learned a lot. One of the things I need to practice is my ketschkers. Also our wait let us down at one point. I was wearing my new go faster running trousers but oops, there wasn't a pocket for the ball. Carrying a ball in my hand can be a huge distraction for Jilly but she needs to learn how to cope with it so that I can reward her quickly at different points on the course. Anyway we learned what sort of handling suited us best and how to run like hell once the dog is committed to the obstacle. We did a lot of blinds and ketschkers and I got some tighter turns than we usually get. I love blinds. If I can run fast enough it means I don't have to twist round and risk hurting my knee. Jilly seemed absolutely fine all afternoon. When we got home she finally calmed down and went under the sofa apparently to sleep. She thought I didn't know what she was doing but I did. She had a little chew at a basket she's been working on for a few weeks before finally falling asleep.
Sunday 31st March - Going through the mill
What an awful week we've had. Last Sunday Jilly went lame after crashing into a jump at our club match. She's been running so well and she had a nice clear in the steeplechase. The lameness didn't last long and by the next day she was charging around as usual. Then on Tuesday disaster struck.
As I had my evening meal Jilly suddenly sat up and growled and then she wobbled and went stiff before collapsing in a fit. I rushed her down to the vet where they gave her a thorough examination and took full bloods. Two vets looked at her. There was no obvious cause for the fit. In the night she fitted again but this time it wasn't quite so bad. I administered Diazepam.
It took until Thursday afternoon for the blood results to come back and they were clear. The vets could find nothing wrong and Jilly seems fine in herself. They think it's possible that she'd picked up something on a walk and eaten it. The advice is to carry on as normal. The vets agreed that we should go for normal walks and enjoy our agility training. They wished me luck for today.
A few days later and the dogs are helping me take the club's new Hoopers tunnels out to the training field. We're delighted with these. This inspired me to go home and make us some hoops to play with in the garden.
This afternoon we have a special training session with Dave Munnings who is one of the country's top handlers and trainers. Am I scared? Of course I'm scared. I'm desperately hoping that all is well and that Jilly won't have any more seizures but it's a waiting game. If it had been left to me I would have wrapped her in cotton wool and mollycoddled her for the next month but the vets said otherwise.
I will put instructions for the hoops on the site when we've recovered a bit. They're so easy to make and much better than the original one I made.
Monday 18th March - Getting Great Focus in the Ring with Wag It Games training
This morning I was sent a brilliant document from our Wag It Games trainer Melissa Chapman. Jilly has returned to Wag It Games after a break and we've had a bit of a struggle with focus. This document is very timely and although it's about video trialling for Wag It Games a lot of it can be applied to agility dogs and their handlers. When we compete at a video trial Jilly is expected to focus for around 2 minutes as we complete the course. This is much longer than an agility dog is expected to focus but we still manage to achieve good results. Jilly won her last video trial in February with a score 114 points out of a possible 115. Here we are working hard in the the club training field towards our skilled shadow skills title.
Wag It Games is growing in popularity in the UK and people from different parts of the country are now training and taking part in the video trials. It's an excellent way to teach your dog to focus and to improve your performance in the agility ring.
Our trainer is called Melissa Chapman and she runs her training classes from Par in Cornwall. Here's a link to the document she sent me and also a link to her website.
Melissa's website: ABC for Pets
Monday 3rd February 2019 - Weaves That Wow and a Dodgy Wait
I'm posting this as it's a perfect illustration of what happens when you don't maintain criteria. We're doing an exercise from a book I've bought from Clean Run called 'Weaves that Wow'. As you can see in the video below Jilly gets up from the wait at the start and takes a step forward and I let her go. The next time I ask her to wait we've had it. I didn't maintain criteria and the wait has gone to pot. I have to give Jilly the choice of waiting or not waiting. If she doesn't wait nothing happens. If she does wait she do the exercise and she gets to play with her ball. It's better than nagging and getting cross and the wait becomes much more reliable. The second time around she wants to move but this time I've stopped and I'm watching her properly. She understands that she gets to play when she waits for the magic word 'go'. (The video opens in YouTube in a new window)
Then we go off and play Wag It Games.
Saturday 2nd February 2019 - Fun in the snow
We don't get a lot of snow in Cornwall so when it happens it's quite exciting, unless you have to go somewhere in it of course. We were snowed in for a day so we played games in the garden, then we did some training indoors.
Jilly will be resuming Wag It Games next week and she is entered in a shadows skill trial at skilled level. Time to practice all the exercises then so this is what we did indoors. Sasha joined in as well. Later we went down the lane to our little plot and Jilly wanted to do some jumping. She would! I let her go over a small jump in the snow. She seemed to have better grip than she does in the mud. To my amazement Sasha also wanted to go over the jump. It's the first time she's shown any interest in going over any kind of jump for six months.
It's not often we can't go for a walk because of the weather but it really doesn't do the dogs any harm. In our case it just meant that both dogs thought they needed more exercise. That was easily remedied by running up and down the stairs barking for half the night because they thought there was a mouse in the kitchen. There probably was but it wouldn't find any food. I carefully put edible things away out of the reach of mouse jaws. No-one eats my chocolate biscuits except me.
Having welcomed the snow and had fun in it I want it all to go. We were entered in a show in Devon on Sunday but it has had to be cancelled due to pack ice and snow. I know how much work goes into the organisation of shows, all the working out and checking of schedules and ring plans and arranging equipment and helpers and a ton of other jobs.
I hope everyone is keeping safe and warm. Roll on the spring.
Wednesday 2nd January 2019 - New Year Hoopers Fun
Happy new year everyone. We’re having a lot of fun with Hoopers. I put some hoops up in the training field on New Year’s day to see if it was something Sasha might enjoy. Sasha retired last year and has shown absolutely no interest in doing anything since then except going for a walk, eating and barking.
I made the course very simple as neither dog has had any real training where Hoopers is concerned. Making things easy will give them confidence and they'll have every chance of getting it right. We’ve done the odd have-a-go Hoopers and I’ve put a couple of hoops in the garden now and again but we haven’t done any training apart from that. Here’s how we got on. As you'll see in the video below Jilly didn't do the last hoop on the first few go's but after a few repetitions she soon got the idea. Sasha was keen to watch Jilly’s progress and she even had a little go herself. I think she enjoyed it. I used food at first with Sasha, not because she trains better with food but because she had put her toy down somewhere in the field and then couldn't find it. Sasha thinks I'm a bottomless pit of toys and when she puts her toy down she either pinches Jilly's or looks at me to provide another one. We eventually found her toy lurking by the shed so she did her last run for this rather than for food.
Hoopers has really taken off in the UK and several agility shows are including have-a-go Hoopers rings. My Club, which is Cornwall Agility Club, had a Hoopers ring at both of our shows last year. It proved so popular that this year we will be running a have-a-go ring on one day and a proper Hoopers competition on the next day. The competition will be run under Hooperholics rules.
Hooperholics has been set up by Angela Lucas and if you'd like to find out more and find out about the rules do have a look at her website. It's called Hooperholics South UK
Monday 17th December - Our last run of the year
Here's our last run of 2018, the most difficult year of my life. It's the grade 1 to 3 steeplechase at the Roseland Dog Training Club Christmas match. I'm delighted to say we had a perfect wait at the start and a nice run over a course that was perfect for the last run of the day. Here's hoping next year will see us go from strength to strength and recover some of our equilibrium.
And at the prize giving we were really pleased to find we'd come third.
Sunday 25th November - We did it. We got our wait at the Start
Hurrah! After about two or three years of attempting to run with Jilly from the start we have started to retrain her to wait on the startline. This can be really difficult with a serial wait breaker and a dog that gets up the second you move away from her side. We actually managed three startline waits at my dog club's match on 18th November and I was delighted.
Here's a video of the steeplechase that a friend took on his phone. I didn't realise Jilly had knocked the first pole and I thought we'd gone clear. As you can see there's still some work to do on the wait. Jilly wants to get up and go and I have to tell her not to move. She didn't actually go until I said, 'Go'. On this run I started her while I was still on the move. I vary my body language so that she takes the verbal cue instead of anticipating my body language. She also tried to break the wait on the other runs but as we've had absolutely no wait at all this is a huge improvement. When our wait is rock solid I will write a little ebook on how we did it. I used target mats and shaping for Jilly and this has suited her best.
Friday 9th November - Weaving in the ring from failure to success
With two small changes we have at last found a cure for not-weaving-in-the-ring-itis. That’s all it took to stop Jilly from running past the weave every single time to going into the weave nearly all of the time. I hope it is a cure because at the end of last year I was in despair and I had joined that ever present band of handlers who come out of the ring saying,
‘We missed the weave and I can’t understand it. She does it in training every time and she’s perfect but as soon as she gets in the ring she won’t weave.’ Well, I’m delighted to say that after making just those small changes Jilly is weaving well in the ring. Alright she’s not always a hundred per cent perfect but I’m not going in the ring worrying about it any more and most of the time she’s weaving like a good ‘un.
So what’s changed? What did I do to get Jilly weaving again? The first thing I did was to get her checked by the vet. Jilly and Sasha both have check ups every six months and they love going to the vet. They get lots of fuss and sweeties and it’s only occasionally that something nasty happens to them. Jilly was fine physically and showed no hesitation weaving in training so I asked a very good trainer and handler what I was doing wrong and I got some really good advice.
'When you’re training always carry a toy and reward every good weave straight away with the toy. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a sequence just throw the toy and reward as soon as you get a good weave.’ This turned out to be excellent advice. Jilly loves going after her toy and instead of just doing the weave in training she began to look forward to it when she knew she would get her toy.
Jilly loves toys and there's a whole
bucket full of
The other thing I changed was the way I said, ‘Weave.’ With Sasha I never needed to do any more than to wave vaguely in the direction of the weave and say, ‘Weave,’ in a quiet voice. She always found the right entry from any angle and weaved all the poles right to the end. She spoiled me! With Jilly you can’t be quiet or vague and you can’t shout things at her or she’ll just go off looking stressed and start sniffing.
I did notice that she often seemed a bit confused if I told her to weave even if I used strong hand signals, so I started to wonder if it was the word, weave, or the way I said that was causing the problem. She can sometimes confuse words with each other. I can’t say, ‘Stand,’ for instance because she confuses it with, ‘Down,’ and there have been one or two other words that she’s got confused. I decided to change the single word, ‘Weave,’ to ‘We, we, we, weave,’ said very quickly and joy of joys it seemed to work. As soon as I changed the instruction Jilly was happier.
I’ve always thought that words and the way you say them are very important to dogs. Like a lot of other words if ‘Weave,’ is said in a firm tone it can sound quite scolding whereas, ‘We, we, we, weave,’ sounds lighter and happier. I’ve noticed this with other things.
Many years ago I remember standing in for a trainer and taking an obedience class. Not one of the dogs was able to retrieve a dumbbell. I noticed that every single handler shouted ‘HOLD’ at their dog to get them to hold the toy as they presented it. I stopped the class and asked all of the handlers to shout ‘HOLD,’ in unison. This they did and it made quite a horrible racket. Then I asked them to shout ‘NO’ in unison and again there was a horrible racket. Then I asked them to shout, ‘HOLD, NO, HOLD, NO,’ and watched their faces as it dawned on them that the dogs were unable to distinguish, ‘Hold and no.’ Both words had a similar tone and they both sounded angry and discouraging. We changed the word to, ‘Carry,’ which is lighter and happier and soon all of the dogs had made progress with their retrieve.
Jilly loves a bit of cheerleading and encouragement so using happy words is perfect for her. When I used this approach in the ring she went straight into the weave and did it in every class. I also praise her in the ring for every good weave. It’s a funny thing but I’ve noticed a few other spaniel handlers running round the ring singing like demented banshees. It doesn’t matter. If it works and it makes the dog happy then do it. Happy weaving.
Here's a couple of little videos for you
Knee pain. Hands up all those who have ever had a dodgy knee. I know lots of us older handlers actually hobble round the ring rather than run and knee braces are very much in evidence at shows. It's a sad fact that once you get past fifty your knees can start to degenerate. Some would go as far as to say that everyone gets a certain amount of arthritis as they get older.
Unfortunately us agility people are taking part in an impact sport. Every time we pound round the ring we make a the problem a little worse until one day the knee gives up the struggle and you finally go to the doctor. Yes that includes me.
The consultation went something like this.
Doctor: Is that painful
Doctor: It's arthritis. Take some Ibuprofen.
Me: I'm allergic to it. My face swells up.
Doctor: Take some Paracetamol then. I'll give you a prescription.
Me: But I want to know what's actually wrong with my knee and what's going on.
Doctor: Oh really? I'll order an xray then. It should take about 10 days. Here's your prescription.
And that was it. A quick prod and a packet of Paracetamol which turned out to have the added bonus codeine. The information on the pack said don't take them and drive so now they're in the medicine cabinet unopened.
I should have been a bit more savvy really. There are lots of 'should haves' that I didn't do and I've listed them below. You never know, they might help someone else with a dodgy knee.
I should have
...asked for help sooner.
...referred myself to the physiotherapy department at the local hospital when it first started hurting. Yes, you can do this. If you can find the website of your local hospital and navigate to the physiotherapy department you may well find a self referral form. I did. This is for dodgy knees and some other musculoskeletal bits that are wearing out. They may not let you refer yourself for other conditions.
...stuck to my diet and gone on losing weight until I was a lot thinner. A seventy seven kilo body on sixty four kilo knees doesn't work when you get older.
...walked into the minor injuries unit and asked them to look at the knee when I hurt it. It would almost certainly have been xrayed there and then. As it is I have to wait ten days for an appointment.
So what does this mean for agility?
Well, the doctor said whatever I do I musn't give it up. At the moment I can't run but I have a show in less than two weeks. I have several options. One of them is not going to the show. What? That's unthinkable. So what can I do? I have a strategy. Jilly's wait is getting really good in training. She's also going on at a distance more than she used to. Given a good wait at the start and some possible slow running from me we might just be able to manage. We will do some more training this week (no I don't give up) and we'll see how we get on.
Meanwhile the beach is currently a good option for walkies as it's much flatter than our normal hike over the downs.
Just a final note. Lots of people told me about RICE (rest, ice,
compression, elevation). In my particular case this is out of the
Wednesday 23rd October - It's always the handler, never the dog. Really?
My view is that a trainer who tells you that is starting you off on a road to disappointment and self blame. It’s not exactly encouraging is it? Every time something goes wrong it’s your fault and even if you can’t see what went wrong the trainer’s telling you, ‘It’s always the handler,’ or, ‘you trained the dog.’ Please people don’t beat yourself up over it. It isn’t always your fault and it isn’t always the dog’s fault either.
If you go to an agility show you’ll probably notice that a fairly large percentage of the competing dogs are border collies or working sheepdogs as the Kennel Club calls them. They’re fast and intelligent and built for the job they need to do. They can turn on a sixpence and they love to work, work, work. That’s a fairly typical working sheepdog. Not all are like that but if you’re competing you probably know the sort of dog I mean.
The average working sheepdog is actually bred for working sheep and cattle or anything else that might need rounding up. They need a good deal of stamina for this job but on a lot of farms they aren’t working all the time. To be honest farm stock don’t need moving all day every day and sometimes a dog is limited to bringing in the milking herd twice a day but I digress. If you’ve ever lived on a farm and got to know the working sheepdogs you might also have heard the farmer or one of the men saying how clever the dog has been that day.
‘There was a cow right down the bottom of the field and I couldn’t see it. Completely hidden it was. I kept calling Bob to come back and bring ‘em in but he ignored me. See he knew the cow was there and he went and fetched it. Didn’t need any instruction from me. He knew what to do’
Now I’ve heard this sort of tale a few times. The shepherd or cowman has done his damndest to send the dog one way but the dog knows best. Hang on. Isn’t that familiar? There you are in the ring with a working sheepdog and you’re doing your damndest to send the dog one way but he knows best. See what I mean?
There is something actually in genes of the working sheepdog that sometimes means he knows best and will ignore all attempts to make him think otherwise. Please don’t blame yourself for this and please don’t blame the dog. It happens and there is no blame so don’t beat yourself up. I believe the same is true of any dog that’s bred for a purpose. Beagles have a great deal of trouble listening to a handler and spaniels just have to sniff and follow a trail. Well you are seeking out the prey aren’t you when you go in the ring and race around hollering and whooping? I could go on and on but I’ll leave it to you to think about what your dog is bred for and to forgive yourself and your dog if a ‘mistake’ happens. In the dog’s eyes it isn’t a mistake it’s doing what he was bred for and it isn't your fault either.
Well, I did my best to get Jilly to do a startline wait but the weather
scuppered my attempts. Also I have spent several days working out the best
way to train Jilly, what does she understand best? It's not an easy ride
with a dog that wants to get up as soon as you move but we're getting there. I
want Jilly to prove her wait at three different training locations away from
home before I try it in the ring.
Saturday 29th September - Ready for measuring?
It's not long now until the Kennel Club decides whether to accept the Agility Liaison Council's recommendation to introduce a new measured fourth height, the intermediate height. Like lots of other dogs Jilly will fall into this category so that if the rules are changed she will have to be measured into the height at some point.
When Jilly was a puppy I taught her to stand still while a measuring hoop was put over her back. Even so, when it came to being measured she was quite wriggly but the hoop came off the floor and put her into the large category. Now she might have to be measured again. I made a 'hoop' out of bits of pipe and fittings that are always lurking somewhere in the garden shed. It's easy enough to make something like this just for the purposes of teaching your dog to stand still and get used to a hoop.
Some dogs are really confident like Jilly and will be quite happy to have bits of plastic shoved on their bodies as long as there's food and a toy involved. In Jilly's case the toy was a distraction. She needs to stand still with distractions around her as this is what will happen when she's measured.
Some dogs, like Sasha, are really scared of anything like this and it takes a bit of time and patience to teach them to accept the hoop. I made a little video of Jilly and Sasha practising their measuring. Both dogs had a go although Sasha doesn't need to be remeasured. In the days when she was young all dogs had to be measured even if they were large. At the time of writing obviously large dogs don't need a measure but if this changes then it's as well to get them used to a measuring hoop before the day.
Sasha needs lots of encouragement with the hoop. She's highly suspicious of it. Jilly just wants food. If I needed to train Sasha to accept the hoop I would have to spend several sessions with her just getting her to run through it. If I wanted to place it on her back and she was still scared of it I would take it to pieces and just put a straight piece of pipe over her back to start with. Here's the video. Just click anywhere on the picture. Have fun.
When a dog is measured for real it has to be on a hard level standing. There will be two measurers but if your dog is nervous and they are using measuring hoops you will be allowed to place the hoop over your dog yourself although the measurer may need to position it if your dog is borderline. At UKA shows they use a measuring stick to make a more accurate measurement. They call it an exact measurement but with a living animal nothing is ever exact is it? Jilly measured 479mm at her first UKA measure and 471mm at the second one. Now I'm sure she didn't shrink.
Monday 17th September - Hoopers fun at the Cornwall Agility Club show
The Hoopers ring turned out to be very popular at the show this weekend. Sasha even managed to overcome her fear of the road that runs past the showground and get round the course I'd put up without any mistakes. Jilly was quite naughty and although she did some good bits she kept running towards the barrier fence to see if the lady watching still had the tennis ball she'd spotted earlier.
Hoopers is rapidly gaining in popularity in the UK and it's the perfect complement to an agility show. There so many people saying they had dogs that had had to give up jumping but were able to run about normally otherwise. Hoopers is perfect for them. There is no strain on the joints and the dog feels as if it's working again. It was really uplifting to see some of the older dogs come to life in the Hoopers ring.
I put up an easy course with the hoops fairly close together. I only had the use of two agility tunnels but on the Sunday Christine and Margaret ran the ring and they brought along proper Hoopers sized tunnels. These are 80cm in diameter and only 1.5 metres long. They timed people's runs and gave a score and the club gave them a big box of rosettes to give out. They also used some pop up garden bags to act as 'barrels' which the dogs have to run around. Jilly decided the barrels must have something to do with food and had to investigate them just in case. One little border terrier jumped right on top of the 'barrel'.
We charged £1 a go and the money raised is helping to pay for the hoops and the
rosettes and to buy some more equipment. We're hoping to buy some tunnels if we
can raise enough money. Normally in Hoopers there's no such thing as a
clear round, you just run for a score. On my course I let people
have a little practice go first and then run for a rosette.
If you look in the background you can see how close the road is. Some of the more nervous dogs didn't want to run towards the road so next time I'll move the ring as far back from it as I can. There is a high strong fence around the showground so the dogs are quite safe.
Next year our club is hoping to run a Hoopers competition alongside the show. This will be a proper competition for anyone who wants to enter. We are waiting to see how much interest there is in the first Hoopers show being held in Devon in October before we make the final decision. As with any show we will need lots of help and most of this will be concentrated on the agility rings. This is a permanent problem for anyone running shows. We need lots of manpower and womanpower and we will need some non agility people to commit to helping at the Hoopers show for it to be able to go ahead. I hope we can make it happen. It's such fun and the dogs love it so much.
Saturday 1st September - Seeds, seeds and more seeds
You take them out all clean and nicely brushed and they come back looking like this. Well, Jilly did anyway. She has that difficult spaniel coat that matts in about 5 seconds flat and picks up seeds for a pastime.
You can spend hours picking them out individually or you can take up the various suggestions for seed removal. I was advised to cut them out or use baby oil, peg them up out of the way, use a fine toothed comb or put plastic bags over them. What I actually did was to get out the anti tangle grooming spray and use an ordinary comb to ease them out. The spray makes the fine hairs a little more slippery so that the seeds come out easily.
Sasha remained seed free with her much easier to manage collie coat. She thought the whole business was hilarious.
Both Groomers and Christies do a wide range of detangle sprays.
Saturday 1st September - Painful knees and a load of shoes
OK everyone of a certain age gets a bit of knee trouble. This summer my right knee has been complaining every time I go faster than a walk and quite often it's been complaining even when I just walk. I've tried knee supports, acu patches, feeze gel, exercises to build up the knees, meditation, rest, exercise and giving the knee a good telling off. Then one day the sole peeled off my trail running shoes.
It didn't mess about it came right off. My other shoes were becoming rather well ventilated and in a sudden fit of clearing things out I realised I'd thrown away my other trail running shoes and the dog walking shoes as well. I didn't have much left to put on my feet and I was competing in two days time.
Off I went to town and failed to find anything in Sports Direct. The nearest thing to a running shoe was in Trespass but I managed to get some dog walking shoes in Shoe Zone. So what has this got to do with my knee? Well, I'm coming to that.
In desperation I dug out my old hockey shoes and put some memory foam inners in them. They would do for Sunday. On Monday I would have to wear ordinary trainers. The grass would be dry by then so they should be ok. Guess what? As soon as I ran in my old hockey shoes again I realised my knee wasn't as painful as it had been in the trail runners. Result!
These are the hockey shoes. They're rather worse for wear and no longer waterproof but the soles are good. They're are Grays G9000. Off I trotted round the ring and when I came out I got into conversation with another knee sufferer. She told me that she'd been advised not to wear shoes with a lot of traction. Trail runners are of course designed to have lots of grip. They're also designed for people who want to run in a straight line and not hop all over the place in a wet field after a daft dog. Hockey shoes are designed for that sort of thing. They allow lots of movement in all directions which trail runners don't. In other words they're putting much less strain on your knees. The other thing I did was to put some good inners in them. Mine are memory foam and they give a great bit of cushioning. It's all less impact on the knees.
The next day I made sure I wore shoes with plenty of movement and good insoles and then I followed it up with buying more hockey shoes. My knee hasn't looked back since. It's got better and better.
Now I know hockey shoes a pretty damned expensive and I don't have a great deal of money coming in. I did what most hard up people do and checked out ebay. Here I found some lovely Dita used hockey shoes for £3 and another pair of brand new Ditas for £15. (I'm still waiting for those to arrive.) A friend donated some shoes that were good for dog walking and I bought a big pile of insoles from ebay as well. I now have a passable collection of agility and dog walking shoes plus lovely leather walking boots for the winter and my knee has stopped hurting! After looking at the picture below I suddenly realised why mother called me frumpy at the grand old age of seven and later gave up on me as a complete eccentric.
The height of fashion.
Wednesday 8th August - We get a measured fourth height for KC shows
This is the UKA 500mm height for Standard dogs
The minutes of the July ALC meeting are out and they have recommended that we have a measured fourth height for the smaller large dogs like Jilly.
a. Hurdle – The height of the hurdle must be
The top bar or plank All bars, planks and fillers must be easily displaced by the dog. The inner upright of the wings must be a minimum of 900mm with no unnecessary protrusions. A wall should have displaceable units on the top. The height of hurdles in special classes may be lower than those listed above, but the height(s) must be included in the schedule.
H(1)(B)2 Height Limit for Dogs
2. Height Limit for Dogs
a. Large Dogs – For dogs measuring over 430mm (1ft 5ins) 500mm at the withers.
b. Intermediate Dogs – For dogs measuring over 430mm and measuring 500mm or under at the withers.
c. Medium Dogs – For dogs measuring over 350mm (1ft 1.75ins) and measuring 430mm (1ft 5ins) or under at the withers.
d. Small Dogs – For dogs measuring 350mm (1ft 1.75ins) or under at the withers.
This is brilliant news for the smaller dogs. I've seen too many little dogs struggling over 650mm and some of these have been asked more than once to get a remeasure as the judge is unsure that they should be in the large category.
It also means that I shall start training Jilly to stand still while a measuring hoop is placed over her withers so she can be properly measured into her new height.
Many thanks to Fiona Hulse who started the whole discussion and submitted the first proposal for a measured fourth height back in 2008.
Sunday 5th August - Anxiously awaiting the minutes of the Kennel Club meeting
With so much to discuss and possibly change it's no wonder the minutes of the Kennel Club Agility Liaison Council haven't been published yet. For those of you who are new to agility this is the council that discusses everything agility from jump heights to handler grading and everything in between.
The meetings are held twice a year and they're made up of representatives from all over the country. They usually have a huge agenda with all the proposals from clubs and individuals and also lots of discussion items. They listen to reports from the various panels such as the equipment panel and they decide whether they think any rule changes should be made.
The council themselves can't change the rules, they can only advise the Kennel Club but generally if they have accepted that a rule change needs to be made the Kennel Club will review and accept their findings.
The reps themselves also hold their own meetings and invite anyone who competes at agility or who has a connection with agility to come along and give their views on the agenda. If you're at a show during the summer you may well find that a meeting is being held when all the rings close. Do go along if you can. Agility needs the competitors to help shape it's future and to tweak the rules.
This is just a very brief outline of how the rules are made. You can find out more on the Kennel Club website and find out who your local representative is. You can also read the latest agend and the minutes from the meetings. Click the link here
Friday 3rd August - Back to training with rear crosses
After two weeks of the most devastating sadness I decided the dogs needed a break. They are grieving too and they need something to do that will divert them for a little while. I decided to reinforce some rear cross training with Jilly.
With all the new style European handling and all the turns we’re learning, rear crosses seem to have slipped from favour. In fact sometimes I feel as if they’re absolutely frowned upon. If you’re a faster and more agile handler it seems to make more sense to be ahead of the dog all the time. It looks so smooth and easy when a long legged athlete is zooming round the ring putting in blinds and nifty front crosses with ease. It probably is for them. If you’re less agile this just isn’t going to be possible. This is where the rear cross comes into it’s own.
I’ve been to training classes in the past where the young trainer has insisted that I run the way I’ve been told and not the way that’s comfortable for me. In most cases, after a huge effort, I’ve managed to do it but it hasn’t been comfortable and my body is telling me so. My body is 70 years old, the trainer’s is less than 30. There has to be a difference.
The rear cross needs some training however. Many dogs will spin if you suddenly disappear behind them, and some may go off course altogether. At one time people used to teach this on the ground by asking the dog to stay and then walking behind them. Any kind of spin or turning the wrong way was not rewarded. The dog turning it’s head towards you without spinning got the reward. This didn’t work for me and it’s now regarded as the old fashioned method.
Teaching Jilly the rear cross
When we do a rear cross Jilly is expecting to turn and it can be really useful if you want a dog to turn when there’s a tempting tunnel straight ahead or a straight line of jumps. The important thing for me is to look at the line I need to take to get Jilly to turn to the left without spinning. The best line for me is to run from the right hand side of the first jump wing to the left hand side of the jump at 2. It needs to be completely diagonal. If I run towards 2 in a straight line and suddenly veer to the left Jilly is going to spin. Let’s go and set it up.
I really don't have a lot of room on the Plot but we managed to do some
passable rear crosses without spinning. I started with crossing
behind jump 2 and then we tried it starting at jump 1. To go to
the right it was easier to set up jumps 2 and 3 at 180 degrees to each
other. (video opens in a new window)
Wednesday 25th July - Sad News
On 21st July my beloved husband of 47 years died in hospital. We are in bits. We miss him so much, his silly sense of humour, his lively chatter, his outgoing personality and even his moaning. I would give the world to hear him yell, 'Pat' one more time.
Bernie loved the dogs and they adored him. He always wanted to come for walks with them but in the last 18 months it became increasingly difficult as he became more disabled. On the last day of June he was rushed to hospital with what they thought was a kidney infection but what was actually a burst appendix and peritonitis. Sadly he suffered a stroke in the hospital and then sepsis and septic shock. He was too weak to fight back. He didn't want to leave but I had to let him go.
As I sat with him I told him he was at Pencarrow where we loved to walk the dogs. I said it was a lovely sunny day, we were walking in the field and the dogs were playing. We would soon have a cup of tea and something to eat but if he found a nice place to stop on the way it was ok for him to go. I would be alright and I'd see him in a little while. It was so peaceful. I loved him so much words aren't enough for this.
Saturday 3rd March - First place and a title for Jilly
Jilly now has a novice shadow skills title with Wag It Games. In the February video trial she had a perfect score and tied with one other person for first place. She now has five qualifying scores and this entitles her to a standard novice title. In the five trials she gained three first places and two second places. Well done Jilly.
For the next trial we'll start working towards a champion novice title. This will give us time to learn the skills we need to do the next level up which is the skilled level.
Sasha also does a few Wag It Games classes but she finds sitting a bit difficult if it keeps being repeated. She loves dog ball and if we get to be good enough we'll do a dog ball trial. She doesn't want to retire yet as there's still lots of fun to be had with Wag It and any size agility.
Wednesday 7th February - Happy Birthday Jilly
Five years old today and it doesn't seem five minutes since she was a little
'After that we went to one of our favourite places, Lanhydrock. There are loads of big fields for us to run in. It's great fun and we always take our toys.'
'After we got home we had a little rest and our dinner and then I went to Wag It
Games. I wanted to play with all the toys in the toy box and they wouldn't
let me. One of the games was getting in a cardboard box and then doing
tricks. I sat down and then stood up, gave a paw and did a bow. Then
we had to practice our shadow skills. I only need to get one more
qualifying score in shadow skills and I get a novice title.'
Friday 12th January 2018 - A Good Start to the New Year
It was so cold at the UKA show on Sunday but the sun shone and the weather stayed fine all day. What lovely judges to stand there for hours watching us go round their courses. They must have been freezing. I know the organisers needed some time to thaw out when they finally crawled home.
Jilly did very well after her Christmas excesses. She came fourth in the Beginners Jumping class and third in the Beginners Steeplechase. We only need one point now to go up to novice in the steeplechase programme. We don't have many UKA shows within reach of us and we had a couple of years where we didn't compete at all at these shows. We are so fortunate to have another show organised by the same people in April. It's in Devon but not too far for most of us in Cornwall.
Sasha didn't have a class at this show but she did an anysize class the week before and came home with a clear round rosette.
Now it's an odd thing but my dogs seem to know about posing with their trophies and rosettes and neither of them likes to be left out. Last year I had to explain to Jilly that she didn't get a rosette at the show and Sasha did so she couldn't be in the photo. She looked completely crestfallen. This year both dogs will pose even if one of them hasn't won anything.
Tuesday 5th December - Jilly does it again at Wag It Games
The Wag It Games novice shadow skills video trial results are out and Jilly Won. She is turning out to be awesome at this game. To get a qualifying score you need to score 80 or more out of 100. You can add a bonus exercise at the end to gain a higher score. In this trial Jilly scored 106 out of a possible 115.
To get a Shadow Skills video title you need five qualifying scores. We now have three and hope to gain the next two next year.
For this trial we got together with some other Wag It Games people in the area and we hired an indoor riding school. Here we can film each other and we can also set up a little practice course. Some of the Wag It Class who hadn't entered the trial were able to come and have a try out on the day so we were able to make a bit of an occasion of it.
Tuesday 31st October - Jilly has another brag
Jilly has won the October video trial for Wag It Games. We need three more
qualifying scores to get a Novice shadow skills title. Clever girl Jilly.
In the video trials each dog starts with 100 points and then points are deducted for things like a tight lead. The dog and handler does a set course which you can download and practice beforehand. At the end of the course you can do a bonus exercise for 5, 10 or 15 points depending on the skill level you choose. We chose the most difficult and gained the perfect score of 115 points. The placing actually doesn't matter as the point of the trial is to gain a qualifying score of 80 towards your title.
I've often thought something like this would be wonderful for agility. It's something that can be done away from a competitive environment and if a few people who are training wanted to do it then the trainer could use one class to put up a set course in the training field and judge it for points towards a title.
The benefits of doing something like this is that people who are unable to travel very far to shows or who don't compete for any other reason can work towards a goal and improve their training along the way.
People who do compete would benefit enormously. There's nothing like being given a course plan and seeing what you have to achieve to make you train all the elements and get them right. If you know someone's going to judge you then you want to do the very best you can. This can only benefit agility in general. I'd love to see the Kennel Club develop a non competitive side to agility that isn't totally focused on winning all the time. (I can hear people saying we've got the warrant for that but we haven't. The agility warrant is for people who go to shows and gain points in a completely competitive environment.)
Back to Wag it Games...
Jilly couldn't do heelwork on the right before we started the Wag It Games video trials. She also struggled with the idea of the loose lead on the left or right and she didn't have much idea of the heel position.
There's nothing like a trial for making you focus on the training needed to achieve this. Hence our perfect score.
Monday 30th October - Jilly wants to brag
She won her steeplechase at the weekend. Clever girl Jilly.
Jilly would just like to have a little brag that she won a lovely rosette and trophy in the beginners steeplechase on Saturday at the Paws UKA show. It's a shame we don't have a video of the winning run. I told her we can show people what fun we had finishing another course after we'd been E'd. She wanted to know why I was making funny noises and I said I was trying to whoop and make it fun but I was out of breath. She doesn't know anything about E's so please don't tell her.
Tuesday 24th October - Sasha starts Wag It Games
After much consideration Sasha has decided to give up her rally class and join Wag It Games instead. It's not that she didn't like rally. She quite enjoyed bits of it but as she said, it would be fine if it wasn't for all those sits. Here's what she told me.
"When we do rally Mummy makes me sit and then we go forward just one step and I have to get up and sit down again. No sooner have I done that than she takes two steps forward and I have to get up and sit down again. Then she starts having a laugh. I get up again and she does three steps and just as I think we're going somewhere at last I have to sit down YET AGAIN. 'Listen Mother', I said to her. 'One sit is fine. Two sits is pushing it a bit but THREE. Well I ask you.' So then she asked me if I'd like to do Wag It Games instead. Games? Did I hear Games. Now you're talking.
The next Saturday afternoon we went off to the training shed where we do our rally and stuff and lovely Melissa gave me a big ball to play with. I didn't burst it and I was the bestest dog in the whole class. I pushed the ball all round the room. Jilly can't do it very well, I've seen her. I'm much better. Mummy hasn't got a video of me doing it so you'll have to look at that Silly Jilly getting it all wrong in class. This is what ball skills look like. Just remember when you watch the video I'm brilliant and Jilly's silly . You have to click on the picture to start it.'
I've started a little section on Wag It Games if you'd like to have a look.
Wednesday 19th July - Off we go to Wag It Games - No Need For Speed
It was our first day at a new class and Jilly was really keen. We'd decided to have a go at Wag It Games. We both like any sort of new training and when the class started our first task was to do the box walk. It looked easy. Well it would if you've never done it before. All Jilly had to do was to walk along a series of plastic boxes stepping into and out of each one. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Ahem, not for an agility dog. Yes, I know, 'Go' usually means take off like a bat out of hell and don't stop till you get to the end but in this case it didn't work. The boxes slipped and Jilly couldn't step into each one at all. Whoops!
We had to slow down and take it calm and easy and concentrate on accuracy rather than speed. Something we've failed to do in agility so far and it's costing us dear. We're collecting e's like there's no tomorrow and there has to be a reason.
In agility people watching can say what went wrong at the point we were e'd but not where we've gone wrong for the whole year. And then I spoke to someone who said she thought we concentrating on speed rather than accuracy and as a result we were making mistakes.
'It's happening all the time,' she said, 'lots of people are going for speed but it doesn't always work.'
It was definitely food for thought and so I looked at the results from a few shows held earlier in 2017 and sure enough I wasn't the only one collecting e's and faults. On one day at a show there were 21 classes and in 10 of those classes there were people who were placed with faults as there weren't enough clears. It certainly did look as if some of us might be trying to go a bit too fast.
Maybe that sounds a bit simplistic and maybe I'm wrong but I've decided to spend some time training for accuracy rather than speed and the Wag It Games are an ideal place to start.
We had a lot more tasks in the Wag It Games 'no need for speed class.' These included putting a toy in a basket, circling round a cone, sending to a mat, pushing a plastic cylinder along the floor, and stepping up and down on a platform. Each one needed to be carefully thought out and executed and Jilly turned out to be quite good at using her brain once she'd got over the idea of rushing everything in these exercises.
Many thanks to our brilliant trainer Melissa Chapman for the videos.
Wag It Games covers a huge range of tasks and games designed to keep dogs happy and to keep humans occupied keeping their dogs happy.
There are many exercises to learn in the 'No need for speed' section using hoops, tunnels, gym balls and cones and much more equipment but we just started with the basics and Jilly loved it. Some of the exercises were similar to those we do when starting agility but there's no harm in repeating the exercises throughout a dog's working life.
Wag It Games also satisfies my need to be making something or inventing something all the time. The cylinder that has to be pushed along, for instance is made from plastic drainpipe so it's going to be 'Wey hey, Freecycle here I come with another want.'
Monday 19th June - When is it too hot to go to a show?
Jilly was fine over her first two courses but on the third one near the end of the day she developed a peculiar jumping style. Either the sun was coming from a direction that made it more difficult for her to judge the poles or she was suffering from the day in the car. Either way we won't do it again.
Sasha was fine. She would have loved to jump in and out of the car all day and go for walks but she couldn't. She loved her any size run but I can't say the same for her poor human. We had four jumps at the start and then a straight tunnel, oh dear. Sasha went off like a bat out of hell and as soon as she bolted out of the tunnel she looked round for further directions. Poor dog. All she saw was her human still staggering drunkenly past jump 2 and wondering what sort of direction to give her. Shouting 'go on' was no good because she was facing completely the wrong way. On reflection 'Hang on and wait for me,' might have been better. In the absence of any direction whatsoever Sasha used her initiative and went round and did the tunnel again. She belted round the rest of the course at about 90 miles an hour completely unaware that the human had cocked it up again and oblivious to the hot weather. She loved it.
I shan't stay at show again in boiling hot weather. We'll do a couple of runs and go home. That's enough for us.
Friday 16th June - A tale of two agility dogs and three cars
What sort of car is best for agility dogs? Ha ha ha ha ha. In our case one that goes.
A few weeks ago we said goodbye to our beloved gold Berlingo. It had served us well for nine years and was perfect for two dogs and all our stuff. We had Sasha's big cage in the back and Jilly sat in the space between the cage and the tailgate guard. Brilliant. The poor old car was starting to fall to pieces though. I mean bits were literally dropping off. I'd had to bolt a hose on to stop a fearful rattling and a friendly mechanic managed to fix up the oil filter that was hanging down somewhere near the road. It had been welded and fixed and welded and fixed but when the whole instrument cluster failed and we couldn't buy a new one that was it. The Berlingo had to go. Someone bought it for carrying bales of hay round their farm. We still had the little Fiat Panda though.
The Panda was ok for space with the rear seat rest taken out. I checked it was ok with the insurance company first. They get the hump if you modify your car and don't tell them. There wasn't room for a cage and another dog in the back so Jilly and Sasha had to sit together. They aren't too keen on this at shows as Sasha gets a bit excited and jumps all over Jilly and Jilly ends up biting her. If you have a little Panda and two dogs it can work. I was able to put Sasha in the back and Jilly in the front when we got to the show and all was fine. Our trouble was the little Panda wasn't fine. It wasn't very old and had only done 20000 miles. Never be fooled by low mileage though. Our brakes seized because the car wasn't used enough and after spending £500 getting them fixed and putting new tyres on all round we thought we were okay right? Wrong!
The little Panda soon started overheating. The garage had said the thermostat was probably faulty but when they looked at it properly they decided it was more likely the water pump. An overnight pressure test however gave the worst possible news. Water was going into the engine and the car had a cracked cylinder head. The likely cost of repair could be around £1500. We left the car with them and they took it to the local action room for us where it was sold.
Meanwhile we had actually bought a Kangoo to replace the Berlingo. I hope you're keeping up with this. Our breakdown company isn't. The man on the phone seems to be having a breakdown every time we ring. I'd gone to buy a bag of kindling at the time and came back with a car.
I'd left the Panda at the garage but now that it was sold we only had the Kangoo and it was doing strange things. The doors locked and unlocked by themselves and within a few days the engine management light refused to go out and the car was a bit difficult to start. If you're thinking of buying a Kangoo spacewise it's great. I could put Sasha's big cage at the back and Jilly sat between the cage and the seats. The Kangoo doesn't have all the bits of storage space that the Berlingo does and be warned. If you have a tailgate guard that fits a Berlingo it won't fit a Kangoo. Our car was a 1.5 diesel and it was so economical we thought the fuel guage was stuck. It still locked and unlocked the doors though and that light that wouldn't go out.
We took it back to the garage for repair and for a few days it was fine. Then the problems started again so we took it a back a second time. This time it was in the car hospital for a couple of days and when we got it back it was fine for a whole week before we heard the dreaded clunk clunk of the doors locking and unlocking. A couple of days later the wretched computer shouted 'something wrong, something wrong.' This time we took it back and left it there.
As luck would have it we'd been driving down our road just before we took the Kangoo back when we noticed a neighbour had a 'for sale' notice on a car. The neighbour is a mechanic. We stopped and looked at it and it's perfect for us for the time being. It's a Mitsubishi Space Star. It was elderly but it was cheap and within a couple of days it was mine. I can get Jilly's cage in the back and there's plenty of room for Sasha between the cage and the front seats.
So what now? What's the best car for agility dogs? Well, we couldn't fault the Berlingo. We know loads of agility people who have them and they hang onto them. They're fantastic if you have two or three collies although I do know someone who used to put four dogs in the back of theirs and they were fine. Ours wasn't all that cheap to run. The road tax was £240 a year and it wasn't particularly economical on fuel. Would we have another one? You bet. If I can find one anywhere for sale it's mine. It's got my name on it.
Another car that agility people love is the Skoda Roomster. These cars are really spacious but very economical at the same time. I looked for a second hand one but now that I know a bit more about them I wouldn't have one. I spoke to someone who had parked a Roomster next to ours and she couldn't open the doors. They were all electronic and she couldn't get into her car. Then I read about someone who kept getting locked inside his Roomster and was unable to get out. In order to escape he had to attract the attention of a passer by. Now imagine that on a hot day with you and the dogs inside or worse you outside and the dogs inside.
The Peugeot partner is similar to the Berlingo and then of course there's the Fiat Doblo. I don't want another Fiat but that's my personal preference. It's also the preference of a few other people I've spoken to. Sorry Fiat but your cars don't seem very well made.
If you are going to buy a car for agility dogs and you want a tailgate guard bear in mind that they cost in the region of £300 each. I haven't sold the guard we had in the Berlingo. It's waiting for the next one to come along. Also bear in mind that if you have fixed cages built into the car it's a modification and you have to let the insurance company know.
Another thing to think about is a warranty. We had two months warranty on the Kangoo so the repairs were free. When it needed repairs for a third time there was no problem getting our money back. The garage took £200 off for our use for a month and they are quite within their rights to do this. It's only fair. We'd done quite a lot of mileage in it. If you buy privately you don't have so much protection.
Now, If anyone has a Berlingo for sale and lives in Cornwall do let us know. It has to be cheap and reliable.
Wednesday 7th December - The quickest exit from a dog show ever
We had only done one run at the November Dartmoor show when we got a life changing phone call that meant we had to dash away. The dogs were not impressed.
I was checking where everyone had got to in the LHO section of the grade 3 and 4 jumping and it was just about Sasha's turn to start queueing. Jilly had already had her first run over the course and although she did well she knocked a pole. I wanted to see how Sasha would do over the same course.
I was chatting to a friend and we were talking about hospitals. I was telling her how we have to take a phone everywhere and always answer every call as Bernie was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
'What would you do if you got the phone call here?' she asked and I said we would just have to drop everything and go. Just as I said it Bernie came into the riding school looking worried.
'I've just had a call from Derriford hospital and they think they've got a kidney for me,' he said. I knew he didn't want to go as it's a scary thing to do but I hurried him out of the riding school and back to the car.
With everyone wishing us good luck and me crying on my friend's shoulder we dropped everything and dashed off to the hospital. We were 50 miles from home but only about 25 miles from the hospital in Plymouth.
The dogs were not impressed with our rapid exit from their show but they put up with it stoically. In the late afternoon and early evening Bernie had a successful transplant and his new kidney is now working well.
To anyone in a similar situation hang on in there. A transplant is not without complications and it's early days yet. The body has to settle down to the idea that it now has a kidney and the bladder may have to be retrained to know what to do. There are endless drugs and visits to to clinics and this is very costly but worth it in the long run.
Unfortunately Bernie fell and broke his shoulder a couple of weeks after the op so he is still pretty much out of action. Nevertheless we're hoping that next year we can take the dogs on a proper holiday for the first time in four years. Who knows? We have been invited to the Isle of Harris so I'd better get the maps out and start planning.
Monday 12th September - We won out of grade 2
Hooray, we won into grade three at the weekend when Jilly won a grade two agility class. We had lots of fun, the judge was great fun and so were the ring party. Jilly got to play with her toy before and after the run and she got yummy treats and lots of praise. She achieved all of her ambitions in one go and was mighty pleased with herself. Here's her winning run.
Jilly just missed out on third place in the grade 1 and 2 jumping. She was going hell for leather round the ring but I slowed her at the jump before the weave. I know she's a very good dog but I don't want her going full pelt into the weave until she's learned how to do it at speed without slamming into it and hurting herself.
My little sweetie pie Sasha only did three runs over the weekend all at the lower height option and she loves this new game. She had clear rounds in the grade 1 and 2 jumping on both days and also a clear in the steeplechase.
Monday 12th September - How to win at agility
Your dog's ambitions are:-
To get the toy.
To get the yummy treat.
To get the toy and the yummy treat.
To have a game with the toy, eat the yummy treat and get lots of praise.
This is the be all and end all of agility and it's rather like playing on the beach or in the park.
Satisfy your dog's ambitions and have fun.
Tuesday 6th September - What an eventful summer
We've had lots of fun over the summer and also lots of disappointment. The best bit was finding that both dogs could go over lower heights. This suits Jilly as she's quite small and it suits Sasha as she's nearly eleven years old.
In July Sasha won a lovely glass trophy and a red rosette for coming first in the jumping class.
This makes us grade two and third. We only need two more jumping wins or
one agility win to go into
Sasha in fine form winning a jumping class. She's nearly eleven and now doing LHO.
Disappointment was to follow however. Jilly and Sasha both went down with kennel cough and we had to miss the whole of our lovely local UKA show. We'd paid for entries for the whole six days so that was an expensive business. The main thing was that the dogs were ok. Jilly coughed for a week and then the cough became more occasional. After two weeks she'd stopped coughing but we had to wait another three weeks before we could go to any Kennel Club shows. Sasha didn't have the cough so badly thank goodness and she stopped coughing several days before Jilly.
Just a reminder, as someone told me they didn't know this and their dogs had been coughing. The Kennel Club rules are that if your dog has a contagious disease or has been in contact with another dog suffering from a contagious disease you have to wait for three weeks after they've shed the infection before you can go to any Kennel Club event.
We were actually allowed back into our pet training classes two weeks after the dogs had stopped coughing but we had to wait for longer for other classes. This is dependent on the trainer and what they allow. In the event no other dog caught kennel cough thank goodness and Jilly and Sasha are fine.
Our first day back was at a fun show held by the Labrador Trust. Jilly won the waggiest tail class (she wagged everything) and Sasha had a special rosette in the veterans class.
Our first day back at an agility show was at Merton in Devon where we had a lot of fun at the Dartmoor show. Sasha had three out of three clear rounds and she won a lovely glass trophy and a rosette for coming third in the jumping class.
Jilly had a lot of fun and she won a big biscuit in a fun recall challenge. The dogs had to run between bowls of food and doggy toys. Sasha just about managed this but she stopped look at the food so she wasn't very quick.
Our next show will also be in Devon and as it goes on over two days we have rented a caravan in Devon for the weekend. I hope the weather stays good.
Just a note. If you can't afford a nice tent/caravan/campervan and all the stuff you have to buy to go with it why not make a holiday out of one particular show and stay somewhere nearby for the weekend? I know it's great to stay with all your mates at the showground but for some of us it isn't an option. That doesn't mean to say you can't enjoy a little holiday somewhere and go to your favourite show at the same time. Have fun.
Wednesday 1st June - Jilly wins an Agility Class
Yay, after a couple of months of patient training Jilly has become much more confident on the see-saw and we actually won the grade 1 agility class at Barnstaple.
We followed our trainer's advice and did as many different see-saws as possible. I also did some training at home on our garden see-saw which is about two thirds the size of a competition see-saw and Jilly seems to be feeling much better about it.
Our other problem has been getting distracted in the ring at outdoor shows. Anyone with a spaniel or a spaniel cross will know about the spaniel nose. It's into everything and they need lots of encouragement to keep them focused. Hence spaniel handlers can appear to be totally bonkers at times. We found focus gets better with practice.
Here we are with our trophy and rosette at the Barnstaple show. Well done Jilly.
It was a very hot day and so the dogs only did three of their seven runs. Sasha has a gene that makes her prone to border collie collapse and this means that she can collapse if she does too much in the heat. She's never been able to do much in the way of training and she has done agility for years, only jumping, but what she does she really enjoys. It's quite hard work for little Jilly over full height jumps so we pulled out of the special classes we'd entered.
Here's our winning run. (Click anywhere on the image to see it on Youtube.)
Wednesday 13th April - Fear of the see-saw revisited
Since Jilly has become a bit frightened of the see-saw I've been working hard on it. She became frightened when a light aluminium see-saw came crashing down in an indoor riding school. It tipped faster than Jilly was expecting and the noise gave her a fright. This meant that she wouldn't go anywhere near a see-saw in the following few days and we had competitions coming up.
The first thing I did to help Jilly was to refurbish our garden see-saw and put it in the garden so that she saw it every time she went out. Next I shaped an approach to the see-saw using a clicker. If Jilly went close to it I clicked and treated. When she was fully confident I clicked and treated a nose touch and finally we worked up to putting paws on the dreaded thing. When doing this kind of training you might not get results immediately. It always takes time and you can't rush things.
The next stage was to put a stool and a balance cushion under each end of the see-saw. This meant the see-saw could rock but not come crashing down or make a scary noise. I encouraged Jilly to jump on it and play the see-saw game of running backwards and forwards. She was rewarded for tipping the see-saw and eventually she go to enjoy the game. After this I could take the balance cushions away and introduce the noise element.
When Jilly was thoroughly confident I took the stool away at one end so that Jilly would need to tip the see-saw down to the ground. Again there were lots of rewards. Finally we went over the garden see-saw as a normal see-saw. We practised on this every day and then I moved the see-saw down to our training ground and we practised down there.
Jilly had a bit of practice on the see-saw at training classes before the first outdoor show and then at the show she was able to go in the practice ring. When it came to the competition she was a bit nervous in the ring but she did do all the contact equipment. It wasn't ideal as she started to do a lot of displacement activity such as sniffing and going up to the judge with a waggy tail. 'You don't really want me to do that do you?'
The following week Jilly was showing lots of confidence in training but not in the ring. The ground conditions were pretty bad. In the photos below she tackles the see-saw but she's very low and cautious.
Our trainer has recommended trying out as many different see-saws as possible in different locations. Jilly seemed fully confident again in training indoors as so this is what we're going to do. Hopefully, if the ground conditions are better and I can run more confidently without fear of slipping, we'll beat the scary see-saw and come back fighting.
Here we are on a friend's aluminium see-saw which is quite light and tips easily. Jilly was happy to go over it this morning.
Monday 21st March - Sasha's winning and Jilly's scared
of the see-saw
Left: Jilly is happy on see-saw outside at a show in October last year. Is she scared of the noise indoors or is it the tipping point?
Well, it's nearly Easter and I hope everyone has honed their skills all ready for the summer season to come. We have a lovely Easter show to go to but we'll only go on Friday and Sunday. Sasha is ten years old and Jilly's a small large dog so I never give them too much to do over full height jumps. In July they'll both do the new lower height option where it's available.
Sasha has now had two wins but only one counts towards progression as the second one was scheduled as special jumping.
Jilly is going well in training but in the last two or three weeks she has developed a fear of the see-saw. This has shown itself in training classes to a small degree when she's crouched sometimes at the tipping point. The turning point came when she went over the club's new aluminium see-saw. It not only felt different it was much lighter and tipped very suddenly. It frightened several of the dogs but Jilly refused to have anything more to do with it. To add to the fear it was very loud and echoing in the riding school and I came away with one scared dog.
Since then I've worked really hard with her and hopefully I've persuaded her that the seesaw is the bees knees and the one piece of equipment she really wants to do. We've only done this in the safety of the garden and we'll find out today at training (different venue, different see-saw) whether it's worked.
If Jilly is still scared then she won't be expected to run in the agility class at Easter. If the training's worked and she's able to do the agility class then I'll write an article on how I helped her to get over her fear. Fingers crossed.
Sunday 14th February - Sasha does it again
Yes, Sasha has won her jumping class again and that makes two wins in the last month. Our clever girlie is ten years old and she still loves jumping.
She hasn't been able to do agility in her career and she can't train for a whole class as she suffers from border collie collapse and can get quite dizzy but jumping seems to be her thing. We'll let her go on for as long as she wants to and for as long as she feels fit enough to jump but not past her eleventh birthday.
We didn't catch all of her winning run but here's a part of it.
Sunday 31st January - Sasha wins the jumping and we have a disturbed night
Does anyone else have dogs like this or is it just me?
3.30am - The morning after a show...
Sasha: I want a wee wee.
Me: Oh no, didn't you go last night?
Sasha: Yes, but I had a long drink.
Sasha: Mum, Jilly's been sick downstairs.
Me: Oh no. Are you alright Jilly?
Jilly: No of course I'm not alright. I've been sick.
Me: It looks like saliva with grass in it. What have you been eating?
Me: Yes, but why?
Jilly: The long car ride to that horrible show made me feel sick.
Me: It wasn't a horrible show. Sasha won the jumping class.
Jilly: Yeah, and don't we all know it.
Sasha: Mum Jilly's barking downstairs.
Me: Why are you barking Jilly?
Jilly: I want to go out. Sasha went out and now I want to go out.
Me: I'm worried about Jilly and I'm wake awake now would you like a cup of tea?
Bernie: Yes please. I'm awake as well.
Sasha and Jilly in unison: We want our breakfast.
Me: Jilly's in the garden chasing a mouse.
Bernie: There can't be much wrong with her if she's eaten her breakfast and gone out to chase a mouse.
Me watching Eastenders on my iplayer, Bernie watching Casualty on his iplayer. Both dogs sound asleep and dreaming, both humans wide awake. Oh and by the way Jilly is absolutely fine and Sasha did win the grade 1 and 2 jumping. She had the only clear round and she was fast as well. She also had a clear round in the grade 1 to 7 jumping. Clever girl Sasha.
Sunday 3rd January - How could mother forget?
In October we went to a an activity break where we did all sort of things apart from agility. Both dogs did some training in rally obedience and the following day there was a little competition. Both dogs did a good test and Jilly won the competition for the dogs that don't normally do rally.
Later that week they both went in for a proper rally show at level 1 and both of them gained qualifying scores for the next level. In rally all dogs start at level one regardless of experience and they need three qualifying scores under different judges to go up to level two.
In the pictures below Jilly practices her heelwork and call fronts helped by the grids laid out for us. The signs tell us what to do at each station.
The next day we did a little fun competition. Both dogs did well enough to get a qualifying score but as it was a fun day it didn't count towards progression. Jilly actually won the competition which was excellent for her as she doesn't go to rally classes. The pics below show the test under way and me and Jilly with a big red rosette. In the left hand pic I'm actually in the far ring with Sasha doing a recall while the other competitors queue up for their turn.
Rally obedience is now run by the Kennel Club and if you think you'd like to have a go you can find all the information you need on their website. Kennel Club Rally
Tuesday 29th December - Jilly's first full season of competition
As we come to the end of the year it's time to look back. Like a lot of young dogs Jilly seemed as if she would never get the hang of going into the ring and running round the course with a clear round, a few faults or a good elimination. Apart from staggering out of a Beat The Clock class with a dodgy clear we struggled through most of the summer. Then August came around and we went to a UKA show where Jilly was able to jump standard jumps and within a few days we were starting to have some success. Jilly came second in a jumping class and she won gamblers.
A couple of weeks later we went to a small show at the Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary and Jilly came second in the agility class and went on to win the jumping class.
To celebrate we adopted Eyeore the donkey.
It still took us a while to start going clear at Kennel Club heights but by the time we started competing at indoor shows Jilly was doing well over the full height jumps and she is currently in eighth place in the winter league.
Sasha's still enjoying the competition as well. She's ten years old and still loves jumping. Here she is showing off in a grade 1 to 3 jumping class. It was a shame about the pole as we had a good time.
And here's Jilly at the Kernow winter league. She came second in the agility class.
Monday 27th April - We Beat the Clock
Well that was a bit of a fun weekend. After getting lots of e's at the start of the season this year wasn't looking too promising. I know people say E is for Excellent but in our case it was E for 'Elp. Yesterday we seemed to break the chain of disasters. Sasha and Jilly both got round the jumping class with five faults each and then they both went clear in Beat the Clock.
For those of you who haven't done Beat the Clock this is a fun class where the obstacles are set out round the ring at the 'hours' of the clock. The dog starts in the middle with a tunnel and they go on to the first element at one o'clock followed by the second element at two o'clock and so on. When they've done 12 o'clock they finish on the tunnel. Each element can be made up of one or more obstacles and you can do them in any way you choose but you mustn't take any one obstacle more than once. I swore at myself when got stranded in a box and couldn't work out what to do. I thought I'd done it quietly but The ring party was in fits of giggles as they watched me trying to extricate myself. Jilly had already done 7 o'clock and was going on to 8 when I caught up with her.
Thursday 23rd April - Crossing behind
We're still busy training and we've just started the summer season on outdoor shows. Jilly can be a bit overwhelmed sometimes at shows but she does do some nice sequences sometimes and she's showing a lot of potential. Like lots of spaniels and their crosses she's a great sniffer so we have to work on getting her nose off the floor.
We're learning some of the new turns and we're attempting a different way of handling so that I'm not constantly trying to run from behind. In this little training session Jilly's learning to cross behind me. I set the jumps out like this. Jilly crosses behind me after jump 3 so that I can change from handling on left side to my right side without having to do any turns to get to jump 5. After jump 5 you can do any sequence you like to finish.
Here's a couple of photos and a video.