|Bits||Kennel Club||Entering Shows||Agility Fun||Breeds||Names|
I wrote this article in 2013 when Jilly was still very small and I've decided to update it. I'm amazed at the things we bought for her and the things we really didn't need. It's now 2020 and in the light of this I've updated the page further down so that you can see what we really needed and you can look pictures of lovely puppies on the way. Here goes.
How much do you need to spend on a puppy?
In our case quite a lot but then I did save up for the spending spree and the Council Tax was less than I expected. To be honest I haven't added up the exact cost and it's probably best not to . Now, down to business.
Our new little puppy is called Jilly. At the time of writing (2013) we haven't collected her from the breeder. We're parents in waiting.
Here's Jilly's litter mates at three and a half weeks old. They're springer collie crosses from an accidental mating. Gorgeous aren't they? Mum had ten puppies and the vet has advised that the first ones have to go at six weeks as Mum is struggling a bit. Mum is feeding them regularly at this age although they have already started to eat solids.
And here they all are again at five and a half weeks. Mum is hardly feeding them at all now and they are eating good quality puppy food damped down with a little warm water. Their poo is bigger and they're much more inquisitive. The first one will soon be leaving. Mum has found it very hard to feed ten puppies and have them around her all the time so the vet has said a couple of them need to go early.
Here's Jilly at five and half weeks. She looks a little dear and has already gone right off the cutie scale. She has no idea of the massive amount of preparation we have done in order to look after her properly. In the lower picture Jilly is the one in front sniffing the ground.
And so to prepare for a new puppy. I haven't had such a small puppy of my own since I was a child but I have had experience of looking after working sheepdog puppies on a farm and I know what they can get up to. I also know how big the hole has to be for them to escape and it's surprisingly small!
If you weren't thinking of getting a puppy but this page has made you broody have a look at this.
Here's what we've bought for the new puppy (so far!)
As you probably know, getting a puppy isn't cheap. I needed to save up quite a bit before I went looking and I looked around on the internet for lists of things you need for new puppies. Some of it may not be necessary but if you haven't got it you're bound to need it. Here's some useful puppy items that I've picked up at a reasonable cost.
I earned some extra income to buy all this and buy the puppy too! I did it all on the internet and it's very useful if you have time but no money.
I bought two pillows and a blanket from Asda for less than £6. You can always go to charity shops for bits of bedding.
I bought this from Petplanet in their sale. It will double up as a cage for indoors and I can use it to take Jilly along to Sasha's rally obedience classes. One pillow just fits inside nicely. I paid £14.99
Kong Teething Stick
This came from petplanet as well. It will give Jilly something to chew on. I bought it from Petplanet for £3.99.
This keeps puppies dry if there's a little accident. It's easy to wash and dry. I paid £3.39.
Small dog bed
This is for daytime use. Puppies are active for a little while but then they suddenly go off to sleep and they need a nice warm little bed to snuggle in for a nap. I paid £5.
This will keep Jilly safe if we go out of the room. It will also be a little haven for her and it will give Sasha a rest from time to time. When it outlives it's usefulness I'll put it round the flower bed to stop the dogs digging up cat poo and eating it. I paid £13.99
Self heating pad
Puppies need to be kept warm and it isn't always easy to fill a hot water bottle. The pad will warm up with Jilly's own body heat and then stay warm. I bought a medium sized one from Amazon for £9.99.
I've been buying these as I come across them. Our local pet shop has a bargain bin so I bought a couple of little things to keep Jilly amused. She'll soon grow out of them!
Collar and Lead
Measure the puppy's neck for a collar and buy one a bit bigger. I bought the collar in our local garden centre for £1 and a training lead in Pets at Home for £3.
Any little non chewable bowl will do until puppy gets older. I already had a little Beko bowl which will be perfect for Jilly.
It doesn't end there!
No it doesn't. We also have to stock up on puppy food and treats and make sure the garden is secure. We'll also need carpet deodorant and carpet cleaner plus a goodly supply of newspapers for toilet training.
There's also the Kennel Club registration. Jilly will be registered on the Kennel Club Activity register. This costs £15 and I shall do it straight away so that the breeder can sign the forms. If you don't know who bred your dog he or she will be registered as parents unknown. I'm sure it won't stop there. As Jilly grows up she'll need more adult things and a bigger bed!
Jilly will be deflead and wormed when we pick her up but all puppies need to be booked in for their vaccinations when they are eight weeks old. Hopefully Jilly will see our favourite vet Nicky. Nicky breeds the most adorable chocolate labradors so we may linger a little longer than strictly necessary if she gets to see her.
Jilly will also be booked into the vets' puppy classes. These are intended to educate puppy owners and to help puppies to get to know each other and have a little play with dogs they don't know. It will also help the puppies to get used to going to the vet so that they won't need to be dragged in when they're older.
When Jilly is a little older she will go to local puppy classes to help her grow into a well behaved sociable dog that likes other dogs and people.
Pre agility training
Can't do anything with a puppy? Oh yes you can! Jilly's "training" will start as soon as she's settled in with us. She'll learn to walk on different surfaces and will have clambering exercises. Puppy's need exercise other than walking in a straight line to help their limbs to develop and become flexible. Jilly will also play on the wobble board to get her used to things that move under her feet and stop her being afraid of the see-saw when she grows up. She'll use a cardboard box for a tunnel and when she's old enough she'll chase toys through padded jump wings.
I have already asked if she can go to a special pre agility class in September when she'll be 7 months old!
There's nothing like being prepared. When Jilly comes home I'll publish an entertaining diary of progress and that should be great fun.
Here is the 2019 Update and a look back at how totally daft I was
Ha ha. After getting a puppy I had no time for earning money on the internet and hence no money either especially after Jilly ate the carpet and we had to replace the entire floor covering.
We didn't need two pillows. They were too big for a small puppy.
Jilly took one look at the dog carrier and said, 'You've got be kidding.' She hated the thing and refused to travel in it. We did manage to get her home in it but once she came out that was it. I tried transporting her to puppy classes in it but I couldn't stand the screams and eventually gave up.
I think the Kong teething stick was the one thing Jilly failed to chew. She chewed all the furniture and every lead and harness. She ate the carpet and wrecked the garden. She chewed just about everything in the house including a rare book that I was hoping to sell for £200. The one thing she didn't chew was the Kong teething stick.
The Vetbed was very good, nice and comfy and warm. The thing was though Jilly never ever wet her bed. She preferred to do it on the carpet that she was so busy chewing during the day. We did eventually manage to housetrain her.
As for the little bed Jilly fitted in it quite nicely for about two weeks but she liked our bed best.
I could weep at my naivety over the playpen. Little haven my foot. This was another thing Jilly refused to have anything to do with. As a playpen it was a total waste of money. I did manage to protect the flower bed for a short time but as Jilly grew she found out she could climb onto a bench and jump into the pen.
Oh dear a self heating pad. Someone really should have come and saved me from myself. If Jilly felt in the slightest bit cold she simply snuggled up to us on the sofa or on our bed.
The toys were actually quite a good investment although I seemed to have to replace them at an alarming rate. The same thing happened with the collar and lead and the harnesses. It was fascinating to watch such a small puppy go chomp chomp with the rows of little needles they call teeth. I never realised they could go through a harness in approximately two bites. Luckily I was able to buy replacement harnesses for £2 each. Thinking about it I should just have gone direct to the wholesaler.
I've still got Jilly's little Beko bowl somewhere.
Digging back in my memory I'm sure my mother fed our puppies from an old tin plate. I don't ever remember us getting anything special although the dogs always had their own beds and that was it. We had brushes and combs for them but no cages or pens or Vetbeds or self heating pads.
I did take Jilly to lots of training classes and I still do. They cost a small fortune.
It's probably best not to add up the cost of a puppy but you do need to be prepared to keep spending. When Jilly was still very small she got hold of one of Bernie's heart pills. I didn't know how much she'd ingested but she was down at the vets quicker than you can say 'OH MY GOD.' They kept her in all day and gave her an injection that made her sick (£100 then and probably more than that now.) They said she was very good and she was fine when she came home but we had yet another dent in the bank balance.
Here we are at six years old. Jilly and Sasha are with their friend Shadow. Sadly Bernie is no longer with us having slipped away peacefully last year. If you're wondering if it's worth it and would I do it all again the answer's 'Yes, I'd do it in a heartbeat.'
Keeping Up With the dog when you're old and fat
I keep hearing people say they can't keep up with the dog. Now that we have bigger spacings, the courses are too big and too spaced out and the dog runs too fast.
I can only tell you how I get round this with my dog but it seems to work. Jilly isn't a great speed merchant who streaks round the ring at a hundred miles an hour but she's not slow either. She doesn't wait for me and I don't wait for her.
Seventy years old and overweight so shift the weight
That's me! Age is just a number though. There's nothing I can do about it. The weight I can do something about. Eating smaller portions is key and cutting down on the cake helps too. The weight is coming off and if I just up the exercise a bit I shall be like a nymph in no time. I thank God every day that I can still run and that my body hasn't broken down. Here's my home gym.
Left to right: Pedalling machine £10 from ebay, stepper running thingy £5 from the Hospice charity shop, 1.5kg weights £1 from the Hospice charity shop. Slippers £7 from ASDA.
Running an average fast intermediate dog and getting ahead
My approach is that by using certain techniques I know can easily get ahead of Jilly on most courses. I am not going to get left behind and I don't ever walk a course and think I can't run that fast. We definitely need positive thinking at our age or we're dead in the water.
So how to get round it? The first thing I've done is to train a wait at the start. It took a lot of hard work as Jilly is a serial wait breaker but if I can do it with her then I'm sure lots of other dogs can be trained. I trained in lots of different places. Out on a walk....
.... in the club training field.
..at a friend's house
If you get a course like this with a fast start and you really can't run much at all then train a longer lead out. Shadow is a hundred miles an hour sort of dog but with this great wait Bryan is able to get almost all the way to jump 3 before releasing him and will easily get to the tunnel exit in the corner.
So that's strategy two. Here's a couple more ideas.
Teach your dog to fly on into tunnels
I love tunnels. I know that by sending Jilly into them ahead of me I can easily get ahead of her. I've had to train this but if you want to get ahead of your dog I'd say it was a key thing to train. This course was widely spaced out but sending Jilly on means I can easily get to the jump on the far side ahead of her. I had a really gammy knee on this run as well so it was more of a hobble round the course. I'm amazed we came fourth.
Now I'm behind
and now I'm ahead
The weave is also a great place to catch up with your dog as well and I'm currently working on training great entries and exits so that I can overtake Jilly in the weave and get ahead.
Train a great send on to the end of a line of jumps.
This is easier said than done with some dogs. With Jilly I use the word 'Drive' to send her on to the finish ahead of me. I often see courses where the last few jumps would mean a lot of fast running if you tried to keep up with the dog. At seventy I am not going to keep up with Jilly so she has to do the last bit on her own. It's easy to train. Just use the word 'drive' as you throw a toy and then start using 'drive' before you throw the toy. I also use a dead toy and race Jilly towards it. When she'd learned to 'drive' I sent her on over one jump then two then three then four. On the course below the judge said, 'Good dog' when Jilly overtook me and went on over five jumps to the end.
So there's a few stategies for the oldies amongst us. They're working for
me and I'm sure you can think of some more. As the brilliant Mo Farah
said, 'Don't dream about winning, train for it.'
I hope you've enjoyed this page. I really feel us oldies should stick together sometimes and show the youngsters we can move a bit or at least give the illusion of moving a bit faster than they thought possible.
The best way to get started in agility is to contact a local agility club. They will tell you about any classes they have on offer. If they don't run their own classes they will usually be able to recommend someone who runs classes in the area. Even if you don't want to compete it's really best to find someone who is running classes that include people who are competing. They will have standard Kennel Club equipment that's built to last and to take several hundred dogs running over it in the course of a weekend. They will also have the knowledge to pass on to beginners and they will be safety conscious. At my classes most of us compete but there are people who have no interest in going to shows. They just love the training. There is also the added bonus that you make new friends and get right into the thick of things.
Cornwall Agility Club members working on the jumps
If you want to find a club the Kennel Club has a club finder page on their website. You can put your location in and bring up the contact details for all the Kennel Club registered clubs in your county.
Be a bit careful about joining classes that are advertised as fun classes. Sadly I've seen some people rent a piece of land and buy cheap equipment that's downright dangerous. They let anybody come along to have a go and have little or no idea of safety.
Can any dog do agility?
Yes, any dog can do agility but not all dogs are able to compete. Agility isn't restricted to any particular breed and at a show you'll find a great variety of breeds from small to large.
This lovely photo is from
Photos of class and is
Agility has repeated impact exercise and sharp turns so any dog for which this isn't recommended would be better off doing something like hoopers. Some of the heavier breeds may not be able to cope and may cause damage if they do agility on a long term basis. Having said that there are videos on YouTube of just about any breed doing agility so it's up to you and your vet to make a judgement. Not all dogs are typical of their breed. Agility Bits has a useful dog breeds directory with lots of comments from people about the breeds they own and train for agility.
One other thing to think about is your dog's weight. If you are inclined to overfeed and your dog is on the podgy side then work on getting the weight off before starting agility. You can always do pre agility training or flatwork to help your dog get slim and this will stand you in good stead when you start agility properly.
What age can my dog start doing agility?
If you have a puppy they can start the learning process straight away. They need to be socialised with other puppies and you can do this at puppy classes. Our vet runs puppy parties and the little ones can go along as soon as they've had their first vaccinations.
Jilly loved her puppy classes at the vet's surgery and she learned to go through a tunnel
At around 14 weeks they're ready to go on to the next stage of learning and a good local puppy class will be a great help. Here they can learn some basic obedience. At around 6 or 7 months they can do a little foundation for agility. Some trainers run special foundation courses for baby dogs where they learn to balance on wobble boards and walk on different surfaces etc. Don't be tempted to jump puppies at this age or use jump wings for wing wraps. If you're doing a foundation class the trainer will advise when to start jumping. People usually start their young dogs at around 12 months but larger breeds such as retrievers may need to be older than this before doing any impact work and sharp turns.
At 14 months Jilly is going over medium height jumps and
is learning her contacts.
Weaving is usually taught at around 15 months. It's very hard on the spine and young dogs should never be asked to do repeated weaving. Contacts can be taught from about 12 months but I wouldn't run a dog at an A frame until it's a bit older. Also I wouldn't let a see-saw bang down until the dog has learned to balance on a moving surface and has got used to the sound of the see-saw hitting the ground. The Kennel Club allows dogs of 18 months to compete but many dogs are not ready for the show ring at this age. It's really hard to tell when your dog is ready. They need to be happy and confident jumping the height they are expected to jump in the ring and they need to be fully fit. If your dog is running under jumps it may not be comfortable jumping full height and may need to develop and mature a bit more.
Is my dog too old to start agility?
No. Your dog can start agility at any age providing it is fit enough to do so. If you have an older dog then you will need to do some strengthening exercises and not do too much impact at first. Both you and your dog will need to build up your fitness. Agility is a very demanding sport with repeated impact exercise for the dog plus some strenuous weaving. Older dogs will not be flexible enough at first to weave properly and you will need to work on their flexibility and core strength. If your dog is elderly it might still enjoy the learning process of agility. It wouldn't be fair to ask an elderly dog to start weaving or running over contact equipment but they can still do the tunnels and some very low jumps. If low jumps are too much they might enjoy doing some hoopers. I tend to listen to a dog's breathing as you can hear straight away if a dog is putting in too much effort. Always keep within your dog's comfort zone and never try to jump them over full height jumps until they're fully fit and flexible and can take the jumps easily. Running under jumps is often a sign that a dog isn't comfortable and also stuttering or hesitating before jumps is a sign that all is not well.
This is Sasha at the age of ten. She's still running well
and she won another
Am I too old to start agility?
Don't be silly. Put your walking stick somewhere safe and get some good shoes for running. Get yourself fitter with some walking and some weight training. If you're physically disabled then you need to work out your options. Some people compete from a wheelchair or a mobility scooter and others learn to control their dogs from a distance so that they only need to walk rather than run. There is a lady called Tuulia Liuhto who specialises in walking agility and you can find her videos on YouTube. Tuulia walks quite fast but you won't see her run.
You might also like to watch this video from Lucy Watts MBE
This Lucy's first agility lesson with her assistance dog Molly
I really don't want to compete, are you sure I shouldn't just do fun classes?
See the first answer about starting agility and fun classes. Most good trainers will welcome you into their classes even if you insist that you don't want to compete. They know that just about everyone who starts agility doesn't want to compete. Some people never go to a show. They love the training for its own sake and they have no interest in the show ring. Others get persuaded to try a little competition at a fun day and in two shakes of a lamb's tail they're hooked and want to go to every show in the country. I would say the majority of agility classes are fun classes because agility is fun. It has to be fun for the dogs or they'll give up. It has to be fun for the humans as well or they'll give up.
Clubs are great fun to belong to. I know ours is but then I'm treasurer so I might be a bit biased. Here we are having a bit of fun.
Errm, I think the hoooomans are supposed to go in the sacks.
Cheating? Me? I had a two legged sack.
I hope everyone's coping with the lockdown. I've put several vlog style videos on YouTube with updates on how we're doing. When the lockdown started we mostly stayed at home and just went out for walks locally but I went out a couple of times for essential shopping. One bonus was the weather. We spent so much time in the garden and the dogs loved it. If you click on the link you'll find my YouTube channel with all the videos.
There has been a lot of talk about taking vitamin D for immunity. There has been some research into this but the research papers haven't been peer reviewed yet. Please be careful if you're taking vitamin D as a supplement as the body doesn't get rid of the excess harmlessly and it can cause other health problems. I hope you and your doggies are all ok and I'll be putting up more videos as I make them. I don't know about you but I'm leaving this year's rosette board on the wall to remind me that we going to win some more in the not too distant future.
Now that we're not in total lockdown I'm allowed out to play in the training field again . We have some training exercises from Dave Munnings and these are really useful.
Before the training and shows and everything else was cancelled I did some useful training with Martin Reid. One thing he did recommend was to use weave pole guide wires to train really difficult weave entries. This ensures that your dog gets it right so that they can do the training successfully without anyone nagging. Martin recommended using colourless wires. I didn't have anything like that so I used a bit of white PEX pipe to try it out. Ahem. Jilly jumped it hence the transparent wires. RVA sell them.
Here's a video clip from the training class. Jilly did this well.
In the previous exercise she had to go in the tunnel. She looks at
it each time but responds to my verbal cue of 'Out' to go round the
backside of a jump. Keep safe everyone. Keep laughing and
have fun with your dogs and we'll see you at the next shows.
How to give up smoking the easy way
Seeing some people smoking recently brought back memories of when I used to smoke. I thought I would never ever give up. I knew it affected the dogs and I knew it affected my ability to run and to walk up hills but I still carried on regardless. Worst of all it affected my ability to run dogs. And then one day I stopped. I didn't mean to stop. It just sort of happened and I'm so glad it did. Here's how I did it.
If youíre a smoker you donít need me to tell you the benefits of giving up. Not least being better able to afford all those entry fees and training classes. If youíre a hardened, dyed in the wool, seasoned old smoker who finds it impossible to think about giving up then join the club. That used to be me and no-one in the world could persuade me to give up so I didnít. I never gave up. Itís just been a long time since the last cigarette. Yes, I know youíve heard it all before so Iíll be succinct and put the instructions in easy steps. You can follow them if you like and see how you get on. These are the easiest and cheapest instructions youíll ever find on not smoking.
If you are in the process of leaving it a long time between cigarettes then there will be an odd feeling of missing something. Itís almost like a bereavement but I promise that will go away. I canít pretend you wonít have a craving but itís not actually as bad as you think itís going to be. That goes away in a relatively short time. Eventually there will be a time when you donít even think about smoking and there will be a time when you donít actually miss it all that much. There wonít be any more money in your bank account because youíll probably spend it on your dogs but just think how much the dogs will appreciate it. Good luck.
I just thought I'd upload a video of my musings around growing food, Brexit, veggie gardening and the community garden.
One day I found myself sitting quietly at home with the dogs when I should have been at an agility show competing with Jilly. Sadly Sasha had suffered a vestibular attack and had to be rushed to the vet. After a thorough examination the vet offered lots of tests and I refused. I didn't want to put Sasha through all the trauma of tests and going backwards and forwards to the surgery for results and then more tests. She was 14 years old and she could barely stand. I didn't think it was fair. The vet agreed but said it was vestibular and she couldn't tell what the cause might be. She could only make an educated guess. She sent us away with some pills for the sickness and some steroids. Then it was a waiting game to see if there was any improvement. She really didn't know if this was possible but she said we must give it a try. Some dogs recover from this quite well and others will recover enough to enjoy life again.
The worst thing about having a dog is that you know when your dog first comes home with you, you not only have to look after everything in the dog's life but you also agree to take care of the dog's death. I did ask the vet if it was fair to let Sasha go on and she said she ought to be given a fighting chance as she could well improve.
Typically vestibular syndrome causes loss of balance and a marked tilt of the dog's head to one side. Sasha also had some numbness in her face which made it a bit difficult for her to eat. She was still hungry though and ate all her meals. She seemed a bit brighter in herself the next day but still very wobbly and unable to walk properly.
Of course I followed the vet's advice and hoped that she was right and that Sasha would improve but I wouldn't let her go on and on if she wasn't able to live the normal life of a dog. That isn't fair.
Sasha at Pencarrow House the week before her attack.
Two days after Sasha's vestibular episode she seemed slightly better but I decided to ring the vet about the medication. What really worried me was the amount of steroids she was taking. Far be it for me to question the vet. I don't have her knowledge and training but what I do have is direct experience with the drug prednisolone that Sasha was taking. It's what they give kidney transplant patients. Bernie took it when he had a transplant and although the dose was gradually reduced it absolutely knocked him for six.
To give an example, when he was on the highest dose he woke up in the morning and asked me which side of the bed he was on. I had to explain to him how to turn over and put the lamp on and I had to explain that I was on his left hand side. Yes it was that bad. That was the effect of prednisolone. To make things worse he was drinking loads of fluid and he couldn't stop passing water. It was so bad that he had to be catheterised for nine months.
That morning Sasha had wet the floor for the second night running and she kept drinking. The vet had hit her with a really high dose of prednisolone. I couldn't imagine how she must be feeling but I needed advice. I rang the emergency vet and and told him my concerns. He immediately said that if Sasha was looking better then I could reduce the dose by a third. I was so relieved. I'm not in any way criticising the vet as she did a brilliant job and the dosage was absolutely right to start with. When Bernie's kidneys first failed they hit him with a massive dose of steroids to try and kick start them. The vet was hitting Sasha with a massive dose to try and stop whatever was causing the vestibular episode. It seemed to have worked but I wouldn't want her to stay on that kind of medication for any longer than absolutely necessary.
I did explain to the vet how Bernie felt on prednisolone. I'm sure she knows all about the side effects but sometimes it helps to hear a patient's story. After all, none of her patients will be able to tell her. As it turned out she was really pleased to hear about the side effects from the patient's point of view. Within a few days I could see that Sasha was gradually getting better. She was still very wobbly but she wanted to go in the garden and she was quietly getting back to her old routine again.
There was a pronounced head tilt and she couldn't walk far. I was able to take the dogs to the beach for exercise. The first day I after the attack Sasha was in a very bad state but she wobbled round the car park and then sat in the car while I walked Jilly. After a few days she was able to walk on the beach. She was wobbly and we had to go slowly but she loves the beach and seemed very happy to be there. After that I could see a small improvement every day and soon she was able to walk all round some gardens that we visit. It isn't a long walk and it's very easy on the dogs.
Within three weeks Sasha was really beginning to look like her old self. She was going for much longer walks and she was able to run a little bit. The head tilt was much better. In fact she was so good that I was able to take the dogs with me to an open day at the local agricultural merchants. Here they had lots of stalls outside and there was a pay on the day hoopers ring set up. I got someone to hold Jilly while I took Sasha in the ring. Sasha loves hoopers. She can't do a lot but she just loves to join in. Off she went when I said go and she made me run. We had a clear round and a nice rosette. I got Lara the hoopers lady to take a photo of us. I was so pleased to see Sasha getting enthusiastic again.
Vestibular disease is one of the most common neurological problems in older dogs. It typically causes loss of balance and the dog tends to fall over. In Sasha's case there was numbness and difficulty eating but no loss of apetite. Most dogs can recover but of course it all depends on the underlying condition that caused the problem. The vet thought Sasha could have inflammation in her ear or possibly a brain tumour. Since the steroids worked we think it was inflammation. The only thing you can do is to see a vet as soon as possible and get some advice and treatment for your dog. If necessary they may offer physiotherapy. There is a great support group on Facebook called 'Vestibular disease in dogs support group.' It really helps to talk to other people and share experiences. None of us like seeing our dogs get old and wobbly and talking to others will help greatly. I really thought Sasha had come to the end of the road but thankfully she recovered. I sincerely hope your dogs will do the same. Good luck and blessings to you all. xx
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 half 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 new section on the website for Hoopers. Both dogs are entered for a show in July and we'll see how they get on. In the garden Sasha is 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.
Update in 2020
I entered JIlly for some proper hoopers classes at our agility show and it was a disaster. They wouldn't let me take a toy to the ring as you do in agility. I normally take Jilly into the agility ring along with her toy and I give the lead and toy to the lead mover. Jilly knows the toy will be there at the end of the run. When we finish a run she makes a beeline for the bucket with her lead and toy and this stops her from racing out of the ring into the people gathering outside. In hoopers they wouldn't let us do that. It was banned. The dog should work without food as toys as reward. Oh dear.
I don't know about your dogs but the toy is crucial when I train agility. The dog does well, I reward straight away with a toy. It's the sort of basic training I thought everyone did. Apparently not.
In agility Jilly has to play with the toy and bring it to the ring otherwise she gets the hump. So it was when we attempted to compete at hoopers the toy had suddenly disappeared and she got the hump. I tried Sasha in one of the classes but she was too scared to move off the startline. So that was that. The end of our flirtation with hoopers I'm afraid. We still play hoopers at home and in the training field but now it's just for fun. The dogs love it and from time to time we do the odd fun run for a clear round rosette.
The first camping trip of the year, April 2019
A review of the Coleman Galileo 4 and our last ever UKA show.
The Coleman Galileo 4 survived a gale and torrential showers
It was so scary I woke up at ten past eleven on the second night of a three day show to find the tent rocking all over the place, the dogs were huddled up together and torrential rain was lashing down. Did we get in the car for safety? No we did not. I laid there wondering if the tent would actually take off but we stuck it out all night. It was freezing cold and we seemed to be blowing all over the place but in the morning there was no actual damage to anything. I looked around at our neighbours. The ten on one side had poles broken and on the other side they had food poisoning and dodgy fencing round the. I felt like the last woman standing.
I was really pleased with the Coleman tent though. Not only did it stand up to the gales but it was absolutely dry inside. We didn't get wet at all. This tent is just right for me and two dogs. It's supposed to house four people but to be honest it's too small for that. I used the inner tent for my bedroom and with me and the two dogs it was really just about big enough. I had a table and chair in the 'living room' and that was just about big enough as well. The dimensions of the tent are given below. As you can see there's enough headroom to stand up but I think four people in there would be a bit crowded. You can divide the bedroom into two but that really would be a squeeze.
I put tent carpet down on the floor but if we camp in cold weather I think I'll get some of those space sheet things to go under the carpet. It really makes a difference having something soft underfoot. I also put a footprint under the whole tent as this protects the groundsheet from being pierced by sharp stones. It's a sewn in groundsheet so it's a bit warmer than one that you clip in. The Coleman is really easy to put up by one person and someone told me they were very impressed by the speed with which I was able to take it down and pack it away. Yes, well, they didn't see the prat fall as I failed to step over the groundsheet when leaving the tent. So what about the show then?
Well, Jilly went and won two rosettes the day after the storm and both dogs happily enjoyed a walk without a care in the world. Storm, what storm? 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. (The food poisoning didn't come from any of these.) This was our last UKA show. The organisers have found it too expensive to run and there is only one other show near enough in the south west. This really won't give us any sort of chance to progress and with the reorganisation of the way classes are split and the jump heights we will never be able to get sufficient points by going to one show. It's such a shame. I loved Roborough and the way UKA was organised. It the event it was the only UKA show I able to go to all year. Onwards and upwards with the Kennel Club then.
I was sitting eating my dinner one evening when Jilly suddenly sat bolt upright and growled. She didn't look right and a minute later she wobbled across the floor and fell down with a seizure. It was terrifying. I grabbed the phone and rang the vet and she told me to turn the television off and darken the room. When Jilly came out of the seizure I took her straight down to the surgery. The vet couldn't tell me what the problem was but could only advise that I should keep an eye on her. The seizure could just be a one off and she may never have another one. She gave me some Diazepam to be administered rectally if she fitted again. That night she had a second seizure. It didn't last long as I gave her the Diazepam and it brought her round. The vet said we should leave it to see if this would be repeated.
I hoped against hope that Jilly didn't have epilepsy but a few weeks later she had another seizure and then a couple of weeks after that she fitted again and the vets finally decided that Jilly needed medication to bring her fits under control. She was prescribed Epiphen. She had only had four fits and they were 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 tiny 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. When Jilly started on the medication the vet said she needed to be lead walked at first.
The dogs are fine with lead walking but they
To be honest she appeared to be coping well off the lead where it was safe to do so. She was able to run about as usual but her co-ordination wasn't quite right. I couldn't throw a toy for her or she'd fall over when she tried 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. It reminds them that sometimes they need to be under control and not just run will all the time. My dogs really don't mind as long as we go somewhere interesting with lots of great smells.
A lead walk at The Eden Project. The dogs enjoy going somewhere
After JIlly had been on the medication for a couple of weeks or so I took her to her Hoopers class and to see how she got on. The hoopers training was been very gentle as we were right in the beginning stages. We were still shaping going through hoops and round barrels and it was all done at a fairly slow pace while the dogs learned about the equipment. Jilly was fine. She didn't wobble or fall over and she loved being back in training for something.
The following week it was blood test time and thankfully all was well. The medication was in the safe limits and Jilly seemed to be getting back to normal. Jilly's seizures completely stopped for the first eleven months. She had blood tests every three months and the medication stayed in the safe zone. Her organs were checked regularly and they seemed to be fine then one day she suddenly had another seizure and then a short seizure just a few hours later. The vet was unable to see her to do blood tests as we were right in the middle of the lockdown period of the Covid 19 pandemic. I wondered if it was possible it was due to the Millbemax wormer I'd given her but the vet wasn't sure. Once again I was asked to leave it and monitor her. Other people with epileptic dogs assured me that this was quite common. The medication they give seeks to alleviate the seizures but it won't necessarily stop them altogether.
About four weeks later Jilly had another seizure and this time the vet was able to see her for a blood test. She was still within the normal limits and after consulting with the other vets they decided to not to put her on another medication until she'd been monitored for longer and that is where we are now.
Jilly was able to go back to agility and she did very well but I think it took her a while to get used to the medication. After she'd been taking it for six months she really began to feel as if she was back to normal and she started winning again. We won three classes in as many weeks and I was delighted. We hardly seemed to have go going however when Covid 19 hit the UK and all shows were cancelled. Our rosette board was all ready and waiting to be filled for 2020 and we all had was a clear round rosette and a third place. We're hoping shows will resume later this year.
One thing I've found difficult is telling other people that Jilly is epileptic. 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 that's completely different to the advice from the vet. 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 about a week after she started medicationbecause 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
If your dog is diagnosed with epilepsy please don't despair. The dog can get back to normal and can compete at agility again. It's something you will need to live with. It's a horrible condition and I feel so sorry for the people and animals who have to cope with it. However it can be done. Hopefully as research progresses a cure will be found. There have been several explorations into surgery and I think as long as the research continues we will make progress with this disease. It would change so many people's lives.
In 2019 we were lucky enough to get a spot in a training class with 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 would happily trot round the ring and get clear rounds but she wasn't quite fast enough to get into the places. That needed 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. We had a standing ovation once and I couldn't do anything with her for the rest of the show. Good job we got a first place then.
And so to the training class. I chose to run over medium height as the Kennel Club still hadn't lowered the jumps. At the end of April we were going to a 3 day UKA show where the standard height jumps would be 50cm. The 45cm medium height was 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 if I don't get it right and she doesn't always have that collie thing of being happy to repeat things over and over again until it is 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 in the class 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 she finally fell asleep. Here's some of our training.
If you're looking for training and you can't find a class near you, Dave does online training on Facebook. The group is called Q-me Crew and it's worth checking out. Here's Jilly doing one of the sequences. We got a really wide turn at one point so I had to tighten up my front cross and make sure I was in the right place.
Getting Great Focus in the Ring with Wag It Games training
One day I was sent a brilliant document from our Wag It Games trainer Melissa Chapman. Jilly had returned to Wag It Games after a break and we'd had a bit of a struggle with focus. This document was 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 quite popular 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.
From Training to video trial
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
We have at last found a cure for
not-weaving-in-the-ring-itis. All we had to do was to make two small
changes and thatís all it took to stop Jilly from running past the
weave every single time. Now she's going into the weave nearly
all of the time but we do have the odd mishap. I hope it is a cure
because I was in despair and I had joined that ever present band of
handlers who come out of the ring saying,
So whatís 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 itís 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.
Reward straight after every weave
'When youíre training always carry a toy and reward every good weave straight away with the toy. It doesnít matter if youíre in the middle of a sequence just throw the toy and reward as soon as you get a good weave.í 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 straight away. There was a slight disadvantage though when I next competed and I couldn't carry the toy. When Jilly went into the weave straight away and completed all 12 poles I shouted, 'Yes good girl,' and got really excited as a reward. Of course Jilly stopped what she was doing, wagged her tail and went off to find her toy. 'Did you forget?' she asked as she brought her ball back to me. She actually thought she'd finished the run so I stopped it then and there and thanked the judge. If I'd taken the toy away and made her carry on it would have undone all the hard work and to Jilly's ears it did sound as if we'd finished.
Jilly loves toys and there's a whole
bucket full of
Don't shout weave
Loads of trainers have said be really firm with the weave command but I knew Jilly wouldn't be keen on me being any more emphatic. Like a lot of collies and their crosses she's quite sensitive so I looked at the way I was telling her she needed to weave.
Normally I said 'Weave' and I thought I said it quite firmly but without shouting. With Sasha I never needed to do any more than to wave vaguely in the direction of the weave and say, ĎWeave,í 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 canít be quiet or vague and you canít shout things at her or sheíll 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 canít say, ĎStand,í for instance because she confuses it with, ĎDown,í and there have been one or two other words that sheís got confused. I decided to change the single word, ĎWeave,í to ĎWe, we, we, we, weave,í said very quickly in a light voice.
Iíve always thought that words and the way you say them are very important to dogs. Like a lot of other words if ĎWeave,í is said in a firm tone it can sound quite scolding whereas, ĎWe, we, we, weave,í sounds lighter and happier. Iíve 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 ĎHOLDí 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 ĎHOLD,í in unison. This they did and it made quite a horrible racket. Then I asked them to shout ĎNOí in unison and again there was a horrible racket. Then I asked them to shout, ĎHOLD, NO, HOLD, NO,í and watched their faces as it dawned on them that the dogs were unable to distinguish, ĎHold and no.í Both words had a similar tone and they both sounded angry and discouraging. We changed the word to, ĎCarry,í which is lighter and happier and soon all of the dogs had made progress with their retrieve.
As soon as I changed the instruction to weave and use a nice light, 'We, we, we, we, weave,' in training Jilly was happier. She no longer looked worried and she started going into the weave every time.
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. Itís a funny thing but Iíve noticed a few other spaniel handlers running round the ring singing like demented banshees. It doesnít matter. If it works and it makes the dog happy then do it. Happy weaving.
Here's a couple of little videos for you
Weaving in class
Weaving in the ring
I'm pleased to say we've had no more problems with weaving. I've taught Jilly to let me run past the weave and do a blind pick up ahead of her. She will also ignore me when I do a rear cross and carry on weaving. I have yet to do a cartwheel when she's weaving but watch this space.
I'd just like to add an update to the weaving. Although Jilly was entering and completing the weaves well we still need to proof them with entries at different angles. I looked around for something online and I eventually bought a book through the Clean Run website called Weaves That Wow. It's an excellent book and it has loads of exercises to get your dog going into the weave from any angle. Most of the exercises only use four poles as you're training the entries and you can only do so many weaves without tiring the dog. It's also important to train the exit from the weave and to be able to run past the weave without the dog coming out. I found it a great book but there are many trainers who will give you online training on weaving. It's worthwhile investing in a good heavy weave base. Happy weaving everyone.
My view is that a trainer who tells you that is starting you off on a road to disappointment and self blame. Itís not exactly encouraging is it? Every time something goes wrong itís your fault and even if you canít see what went wrong the trainerís telling you, ĎItís always the handler, never the dog.í or, Ďyou trained the dog. Itís your fault.' Please people donít beat yourself up over it. It isnít always your fault and it isnít always the dogís fault either.
If you go to an agility show youíll probably notice that a fairly large percentage of the competing dogs are border collies or working sheepdogs as the Kennel Club calls them. Theyíre 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. Thatís a fairly typical working sheepdog. Not all are like that but if youíre competing you probably know the sort of dog I mean. They're like the ones below.
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 arenít working all the time. To be honest farm stock donít 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 youíve 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.
ĎThere was a cow right down the bottom of the field and I couldnít see it. Completely hidden it was. I kept calling Bob to come back and bring Ďem in but he ignored me. See he knew the cow was there and he went and fetched it. Didnít need any instruction from me. He knew what to doí
Now Iíve 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. Isnít that familiar? There you are in the ring with a working sheepdog and youíre 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 donít blame yourself for this and
please donít blame the dog. It happens and there is no blame so donít
beat yourself up. I believe the same is true of any dog thatís bred for
a purpose. Beagles have a great deal of trouble listening to a handler
and spaniels sometimes just have to sniff and follow a trail. Well you
are seeking out the prey arenít you when you go in the ring and race
around hollering and whooping? I could go on and on but Iíll leave it to
you to think about what your dog is bred for and to forgive yourself and
your dog if a Ďmistakeí happens. In the dogís eyes it isnít a mistake
itís doing what he was bred for and it isn't your fault either.
You train to the best of your ability but as someone once said to me,
Hurrah! After about two or three years of attempting to run with Jilly from the start I retrained 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. It took a relatively short time as well. At first I'd set myself a goal of getting the wait in six days but with the wet weather the training proved impossible. We had to extend the training period but we did it. After being in despair about of lack of a wait I was delighted when we actually managed three startline waits at a club match. Here's a video of the steeplechase complete with successful wait.
A friend took the video 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 and I sat her too close to the first jump. 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. To see how I retrained the wait at the start I wrote the following article explaining exactly how I did it.
This is the story of a serial wait breaker. It started with a few broken waits then a trail of broken waits and finally absolutely no wait at all. Itís the story of a dog that eventually would not stay put under any circumstances and in any place, not even in her own back garden where she was safe from other dogs. Every time I sat her down and told her to wait she got up as soon as I took a step away until eventually I gave up. She was running better without the wait so that was that. No more anxious waits on the start. Then I hurt my knee. Suddenly I couldnít run that fast and the wait reared its ugly head again. Now I had to train it. This is how I did it.
Now Iím not saying this is a foolproof training method. Retraining a dog is like trying to cure an ailment. Some things work quite well, some help a bit and others donít help at all. The trick to dog training is to find out what works for you and your dog and once you are successful maintain your criteria. Before we get going let's look at some of the tactics used to start a dog in competition.
There is no criticism implied here and lots of people are able to use some of these starts quite effectively. It depends on what works for you.
The snail creep
Creeping away very, slowly saying wait all the time and never taking your eye off the dog.
Beat the 'go'
This is often the follow on to the snail creep and it starts as a race. Who will get there first? Will the dog move before the 'go' or will the handler manage to get far enough away and get the 'go' in before the dog moves?
I can stop an aircraft
Backing away from the dog with both arms raised.
A head start
The handler gains a head start by taking the dog past the first jump and then sending it on to go round the front of the first jump while they run.
Run like hell
The handler just lets go at the start and runs like hell with the dog. This was my technique and it works if you're a fast runner.
The wait and walk away confidently
The dog waits until you're in position and you've given a verbal cue to go before moving off the start.
How I worked out my method
Lots of methods of teaching the wait for agility seem to involve asking the dog for a small wait and then going back to the dog and rewarding that success. My method didnít involve this and Iíll tell you why in a minute. First of all let me say I have been challenged over this by a few trainers but trust me Iíve tried all the going back to your dog to reward and it didnít work with Jilly. It probably works with other dogs but they are all different. I actually asked Jilly why it didnít work for her and she looked at me as if I was more stupid than I usually am. This is what she said.
'When we go jumping itís really, really, exciting and I canít wait to get going. I certainly canít sit there on my backside while you wander backwards and forwards looking silly.í
'But donít you want a sweetie for sitting there and waiting to go?í
'NO I donít want a flipping sweetie I want to go jumping. Why canít you humans understand that?í
But the sweetie is your reward for waiting.í
'I keep telling you, I've got all excited and I donít want a sweetie. My reward is when you say ĎGoí and we get to do some jumping.í
'Oh I see.í
I had to translate that from dog to human language but that is the essence of what she said. It threw a whole new light on everything. My plans for starting training without jumps and using the traditional methods of wait for obedience or other disciplines had just gone out of the window.
Iíd had a few reluctant waits using that method but nothing to write home about so I had to think again and wait for a lightbulb moment.
So, I thunk and I thunk and this is what came out of it.
Lightbulb moment - The Mat Game
Jillyís had a lot of success at Wag It Games and one of the games she was good at was the mat game. We start with one mat. She runs towards it lies down on it and waits until sheís told to go. Then we use two mats and she can either come back to me or go from mat one to mat two and then back to me. We can even use three mats and go from mat to mat or from mat to me and then to another mat depending on the game. What a great way to start wait training. She already knows how to wait on the mat until sheís told to go so I can use that to play wait on the start.
If your dog has never used target mats itís dead easy to teach them what to do using a method called shaping. All you need to do it to put the mat down and when the dog goes near the mat click and reward with a treat. Shaping isnít a new method. Itís taught by many trainers and I canít remember where I first learned it. Actually I can. I did it with my first dog when I was a child. I remember that I discovered if you wait for a dog to sit and then reward it will keep sitting for you, then all you have to do is add the sit and voila. Everyone thought I was mad and called me lazy. Anyway, I digress.
Once you start rewarding leave it a little longer until the dog puts a paw on the mat or walks over it. Be quick with the click. (I did make that up). Build this up until the dog associates going on the mat with getting a treat. Now you can wait until the dog offers a further behaviour such as waiting on the mat or sitting or lying down on the mat before you click and reward. Once the dog has learned the behaviour you just need to add a word such as, ĎMatí.
Here's a little video of us playing some mat games. I think I'm a bit slow on the clicker sometimes.
Having got to the stage where the dog is going to a mat and sitting or lying down you now want a release word. I use, Ďgoí but loads of people use, Ďokayí or something similar. It needs to be consistent. I use, Ďgoí to release from a wait on a contact so it made sense to use the same word for a release from a wait. Jilly found it easy to learn to go to the mat and sit and then go to a target such as a dead toy on the release word. Lots of people use mats to train and they are very useful if this is what your dog understands best.
Add some jump wings
Having got to this bit it was easy to ask her to sit on a mat and then add some jump wings with no poles. Soon Jilly was doing a great wait on the mat before racing between the wings to get the toy.
All we had to do then was to add poles. Easy isnít it Jilly?
ĎItís better than that daft thing you were doing before. At least I get to do something now and I donít have to sit there for hours while you do silly things like waving your arms.í
ĎHow about we try it somewhere else? Can you do that?í
ĎPiece of cake.í
ĎWhat even when there are other dogs jumping around barking?í
We tried it. We went to a friendís house complete with mat and lawnmower. His land is a bit too far from the house for an electric cable to reach and Iíve got a brilliant battery lawnmower that does the job. It took ages but with the grass cut and dogs nicely warmed up I did get a few good waits from Jilly.
Here's a video of us starting the wait training at home with jump wings. I don't always go this far away. I vary the distance and I don't always have my arm out. It's the verbal cue Jilly needs not the body language.
The most important
thing with a wait is to maintain criteria.
Here we are at the house of a friend. When training it helps to vary locations if possible. Jilly's wait here is excellent even with two other dogs barking.
Now some trainers insist on the dog sitting rigid and not moving a claw. I canít do that and Iíll tell you why. When Iím competing I donít wear my glasses and it may not be possible to see a slight movement, therefore my criteria has to be sit on the spot without getting up or wriggling forward. If the movement is so small I canít see it without my glasses itís ok. This has to be maintained. If youíre in the ring and your dog has gone you canít just pretend you said go and carry on. You have to put the dog back on the spot or youíve lost it. Mind you I agree with the Bad Dog Agility site when they say that if it happens when youíve travelled hundreds of miles to enter a big national qualifier or a final you shouldnít throw it away for the sake of criteria. Carry on and then work hard to get the wait back at the next show.
Anyway, back to Jilly. We got our waits at another location although we had to work a bit for it. Next we tried it at a couple of training locations. Again we had to work for it a bit but by maintaining strict criteria we eventually got some really good waits in training. Finally it was the biggie. Could we do it at a show and then do it again at another show? Yes we could. Jilly did some quite good waits that needed slight correction before release at the first show but the next time around her waits were perfect. She never moved a muscle.
The first wait in a show location for about three years
Proofing the wait
If youíve been having problems with the wait youíve probably come across people who train with lots of arm flapping, toy waving and other distractions. I wouldnít do this with Jilly but you may decide it would be good for you dog. I asked Jilly what she thought about it and hereís what she said.
ĎAre you seriously telling me that when we go in the ring to do some jumping youíre going to wave a toy at me and then run around flapping your arms and screaming.í
ĎWell no, not in the ring but I could do it in training just so you get used to distractions.í
ĎI donít get it. Just do what weíve got to do in the ring and get on with it. I canít be doing with you looking like a demented beetle all the time. Iíd be scared stiff wondering whatís going happen next and whether the men in white coats are coming.í
So that put the tin lid on that. There didnít seem to be any other way to proof the wait......but then......da da
It didnít actually need proofing. Iíd already built that into the training. In order to stop Jilly taking cues from my body language I varied the way I did the wait a little bit. Sometimes I walked away with my arm out and sometimes I didnít put an arm out until I got to the release spot. Sometimes I said Ďgoí while I was still walking and sometimes I didnít. I often varied the lead out as well. The only way Jilly could actually be sure it was ok to go was when I said Ďgoí so that was that. She was already listening to verbal cues rather than body language. I would suggest that if your dog is still watching your body cues rather than listening that you go back and practice some variations on body language based on what you might do in the ring.
When Iím out with Jilly we do some impromptu waits in different locations. In the photo above we're out for a walk on the downs. Sasha joins in sometimes as well but she's slightly deaf now so she has to take her cue from Jilly. Jilly watches and listens intently but she knows thereís no reward for breaking that wait. We do have a lot of fun wherever we go.
What if Jilly breaks the wait
This has happened, of course itís happened. Everyone has had a dog that breaks the wait sometimes. My reaction is always the same, a quizzical look at Jilly and a question,
Without a visual target to go back to I walk back to the wait point and I wait for Jilly to offer the right behaviour. At first I had to wait a little while.
ĎItís up to you.í
I gave her the choice to sit and wait or not to sit and wait and at first it took a little while for her to choose to go back to the right position before I left her again. Before you say,
'I couldnít do that in the ring.í
I didnít do that in the ring. I spent some time training before we even tried at a wait on the startline in the ring. Judges can be very patient but only a few are saints. I made sure that the wait was reasonably bulletproof before inflicting it on a judge. If I really struggled and couldnít get a wait at all in the ring after asking for it then Iíd leave the ring.
Giving a dog a choice is a well known training technique that many trainers use. Susan Garrett is one well known trainer who uses the technique but there are loads of videos on YouTube of different trainers showing how they do it. Our Wag It Games teacher, Melissa Chapman also teaches this and itís an extremely successful way of teaching a dog.
I think that if a dog breaks the wait you need to be fair to the dog. Is there something upsetting going on or something thatís frightening the dog. I was standing in a queue when two dogs behind us had a fight and really frightened Jilly. I took her away from the ring and went back at the end of the class but we werenít able to compete, she was still far too worried. I wouldn't expect a wait in that situation. We just did what we could to get back a bit of confidence and thanked the judge and left.
Clubs are aware of queues and queuing problems but sometimes you come across an arrangement where the dogs in the queue are too close to the dog thatís waiting on the startline. This can really unsettle a dog so I wouldnít do a big lead out with Jilly in that case.
Our last run of 2018. A perfect wait at the start and not a bad run either. We came third.
Finally, we've got our wait at the start and we have a good finish as well. Now to work on the bit in between, getting round the course. That's puzzles us a bit sometimes....happy jumping.
Training for measuring and making a measuring hoop
When the Kennel Club accepted the Agility Liaison Council's recommendation to introduce a new measured fourth height, the intermediate height I knew Jilly would need to be measured again. It can be a bit scary for some dogs when a hoop is suddenly put over their back so I made one out of pipe to get her used to it. It was quite easy to make with some bits I had lying around. I measured the pipe so that when it was put together it would measure 500mm to the underneath of the top rail. It needed to be accurate and just to make sure I erred on the side of caution and made it a millimetre or two less. You could use elbow joints at the top of the pipe but I only had T pieces to work with. I put T pieces on the bottom of the pipe so that it would stand on the ground a bit better.
I had already trained Jilly when she was a puppy but that was some time ago so she needed a little reminder. When it came to being measured as a young dog she was quite wriggly but the hoop came off the floor and put her into the large category.
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 or a toy involved. In Jilly's case the toy was a distraction but I managed to get her to stand still for a few titbits. I repeated this every so often and when it came to the actual measuring session she was fine.
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. She just wanted to join in. 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 needed lots of encouragement with the hoop. She was highly suspicious of it. Jilly just wanted food and didn't care about the hoop. If I needed to train Sasha to accept the hoop I would have to spend several sessions with her just getting her to walk through it like a hoopers hoop. 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.
OK everyone of a certain age gets a bit of knee trouble. Then one summer my right knee complained every time I went faster than a walk and quite often it was complaining at walking speed. I 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 were rather worse for wear and no longer waterproof but the soles were 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 got better and better and I'm prettyn sure the footwear helped
Now I know hockey shoes damned expensive and I don't have a great deal of money coming in so 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. 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.
An update on the knee
Some time after the shoes revelation I was running in the training field when something went snap and my knee hurt like hell. I could barely walk. There were only two of us in the field and we'd got the A frame out. Expletives deleted, I hobbled very, very, painfully whilst carrying one end of a heavy A frame but it had to be put away before I went home. I could barely walk.
The next day I had to take the dogs out so I got two walking sticks out and I drove down to the beach. Here I could let the dogs out of the car and they could run on the beach as much as they liked while I just hobbled a little way. I gave the knee a few days to recover but when it didn't get better I hobbled off to the doctor. I was in agony. He looked at my age and said,'
That'll be arthritis then.'
'No,' I said, 'I injured it running in a field.'
'It's arthritis,' the doctor said, looking a bit perplexed. 'Everyone of your age gets arthritis in their knees.'
'But I was running when it suddenly went snap. It was alright before that. Can I have an xray?'
The doctor sighed.
'Ok, I'll arrange an xray but it is arthritis. Take some Ibuprofen.'
'I'm allergic to Ibuprofen,' I said.
'Really?' The doctor frowned at me'
'Yes, my face goes all red and then it swells up.'
'Oh, in that case take some Paracetamol.'
I hobbled out of the surgery and ten days later I went for an xray. When the results went back to the doctor he said,
'It's just a bit of arthritis that's all. Carry on with the Paracetamol.'
I went home feeling really dispirited and went online to book myself an appointment at the local physiotherapy department. You can self refer these days and you don't need a doctor to do it for you. They told me it would be about four months. Four months! I was still in agony and unable to run. It hadn't got any better and the Paracetamol didn't even begin to touch the pain. In desperation I looked around for any other possible remedy and then I remembered a notice I had seen. It was outside the spiritualist church in town and it said, 'Free healing Friday afternoons.'
Now I'd never done anything like this before but when you're in real pain and no-one is able to help and your agility days are threatened believe me you'll try anything. The next Friday I took myself down to the little church and waited outside until someone called Pam came along and let me in. There was another lady with her and a very nice man called David. He was a little disabled and so I carried his bag for him. I was the only one there for healing.
I had to complete a form giving my next of kin and I had to sign to say that I had seen a doctor. Healing is not meant to be cure and a replacement for medical treatment. It's a complement to the treatment you're already receiving. Pam and David took me behind a screen and Pam put some relaxing music on which played quietly in the background. I was asked to sit on a chair and wait while Pam got herself ready. After a few minutes David sat behind me and put his hands on my waist while Pam moved her hands over different points of my upper body.
'Your husband's behind you,' she said. 'He has his hands on your shoulders and he's giving healing well.' She described Bernie to a T and I burst into tears. She had a box of tissues ready and she said healing is very emotional. She was aligning my chakras. My sacral chakra and heart chakra were badly out of alignment. This went on for a little while until at last she stood back and said she'd done all she could. Then she told me my husband loved yellow flowers and I must buy myself a bunch of yellow flowers and they would be from him. This set me off again, of course it did. Then the other lady said my husband had come in with me. He was walking behind me and looking after me.
I had no idea where I was going to buy yellow flowers. It wasn't the yellow flower season but a few days later I went into the Co-op and there in front of me was a single bunch of flowers. They were all they had left. They were yellow roses, Bernie's favourite. Of course I bought them.
Within a couple of days of the healing my knee began to get better and within a week I was running again. I've never had any trouble since. You can make your own minds up about this. It could be co-incidence but it seemed a very short time between being in agony and getting back to normal again.
So there we are. If I get a slight twinge now I go onto YouTube and listen to a guided chakra meditation. It seems to work for me. Is it a load of old cobblers? I don't know and I don't care. If it works and it's legal I'll do it.
At one time everyone used wooden contacts with rubber skins and to be honest the
equipment didn't last all that long if it had to be left outside. It seemed such
a boon when the manufacturers started making lighter aluminium contacts and all
the clubs rushed out to buy them as they would save a lot of money in the long
run. It was a great idea but unfortunately a lot of dogs were not so keen.
They were used to the very solid feel of wood beneath their paws and you could
almost see the little cogs in their brains and hear the gossip.
Jilly was no different. The first time she met the new contacts she did
some of the agility course very cautiously when it came to the see-saw it was a
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. She was scared at first but there's only so long you can hold a wee. Once she was going out to toilet and ignoring the see-saw I started retraining. First of all I shaped an approach using a clicker and toys and sweeties. If Jilly went close to the see-saw I clicked and treated. It didn't take long to associate going near the see-saw and getting fed. When she was fully confident just doing this 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. Jilly was quite quick to learn though but she had to be one hundred per cent confident before we went onto the next stage.
One day I put a stool and a balance cushion under each end of the see-saw. This meant the see-saw could rock ver slightly but not come crashing down or make a scary noise. It could only move a little bit. I encouraged Jilly to jump onto it which she did after a few games of putting paws up on it. Once she was happy on it we played the see-saw game of running backwards and forwards. She was rewarded for tipping the see-saw ever so slightly and eventually she got to enjoy the game running from one end to the other and getting rewarded every time. After this I could took one of the balance cushions away and introduce a bit more movement and a bit of noise. Then we tried it with no balance cushions and just the stools. It was still a lot of fun for Jilly.
When she 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. She really wasn't sure if something scary was going to happen again and the ground conditions were pretty bad. In the photos below you can see she tackles the see-saw but she's very low and cautious. I don't blame her. She did it and she got rewarded with loads of praise.
Then our trainer recommended trying out as many different see-saws as possible in different locations. Jilly seemed fully confident again in training indoors as so the next thing was to find people with see-saws to practice on. Social media is a boon for anyone in this situation and soon we had a few see-saws in different locations to try out.
Here we are on a friend's aluminium see-saw which is quite light and tips easily. Jilly was happy to go over it in her quiet garden.
We also used the see-saws in other friends' gardens and the club see-saw and in a fairly short time Jilly was able to regain her confidence enough to win an agility class. She gave the see-saw a dirty look after we'd come off it but she did it.