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Friday, 27 January 2012

Contemplating Grade 7?

I did say that I would do a blog a week and before the show season really starts, a blog per dog, and on my last blog I said the next one would be for Twiggy. Well its for Lily instead.
Twiggys will come, but last weekend I had a whole day training booked with Jo Tristram, and it was all about building partnerships with your dogs, basic handling and exercises to strengthen both your own and your dogs understanding of different manoeuvres in agility. 


Fern was on it with Cove & I took all 4 of mine, as there would be plenty of chances to change dog, and maybe use a dog on a specific exercise that I knew would benefit that individual.
Jo is a very inspiring trainer, and also straight talking, so you know what's good and what's rubbish! I really enjoy her style of teaching and always come away feeling like I have learnt something.
The first exercise was understanding start lines, and getting yourself in the best possible position as far on the course as you could, with your dog still understanding to take the obstacles before driving into you. From where we were leading out to, there was a risk of the dog taking a jump behind you, and it also needed tightness to wings so I took Lily in. It was her first group training workshop for 2 months and she was fizzing over with excitement! She has always been a genuine wonderful dog, and has done me proud as my first agility dog, but naughty habits and her wide turns had left me thinking that we would stick in Grade 6. I also stand by my comments of last year, that she owes me nothing at all as she got me to Olympia and got me to grade 6, and surpassed all my expectations, so I am happy having fun with her without any pressure. However she worked incredibly well over the first half hour, and started to tighten her turns, and her speed and drive was awesome! She had a new freshness about her. I then swapped her for Olli, who was mad and hilarious but worked really well and most of all didn't knock any poles. Then I gave George a go on a simple jump to tunnel exercise, just to give him another experience of a new environment, new training, and he was fab! Then brought Twiggy in for the half hour before lunch, and she too worked brilliantly showing no signs of the nervous girl of last season, so I have high hopes for her. 
After lunch it was trickier work, the weaves and contacts were brought in and it was course work. I decided to bring Lily back in, and push her round the turns, try new things and utilise what we had learnt in the morning. She was stunning! I made a few errors as usual,(until I had a word with myself,) but Lily was on fire. Her weaves were amazing and independent and her contacts were brilliant and rock solid. She has obviously benefited from her 6 weeks off over Christmas and was back with a vengeance, and reminding me just what a trier she is. I was on a high all afternoon and although she was not the tightest dog there, if I trust her and her knowledge more, and leave her to do things whilst I leg it to get in position, her speed in-between makes up for her slightly wide turns. The feeling of working a dog who you know is giving their absolute all for you, and loving every minute of it, is like no feeling in the world. Me & my girl had a blast, and it made me think that perhaps Grade 7 is not such a mountain to climb after all. Last year I didn't feel ready in myself as a handler for Grade 7 and Champ classes, but as this year is starting to pan out I am feeling a lot more confident and I am handling a lot better. Lily may not have started as a pup, but she is a bright dog and lets face it, if I give her the right signals at the right time, and continue to improve she is more than capable of reaching that goal. She is a dog in a million to me :-)
Its actually quite interesting watching dogs move, whether in agility or just on a run around the fields at home. Lily is very muscular and solid, and although she exudes power she is not overly flexible. She is 100% fit, and was seen by a chiropractor when she had a slight shoulder injury, who said how level and in line she was, but when you watch her she doesn't have a lot of lateral flexibility. Its just her make up, and it obviously has something to do with her struggling with tight turns. Some people can touch their toes easily, others don't come close. Watching Cove & George move, they are elastic! Bendy, flowing dogs who can turn on a sixpence with ease, and Twiggy is a light framed girl, who is not quite so flowing as the boys, but is very agile. Lily is just built differently and I will be doing a lot more warm up exercises now with her, flexing her neck & back gently, just to keep her as supple as possible. After all, she is an athlete :-)

Friday, 13 January 2012

As one madness finishes another begins!

So another Christmas has been and gone. Loads of expense, a lot of it unnecessary, too much to drink and eat and a few bizarre presents which will be left in a box or sold on Ebay!! Also a wonderful time with family and friends, and a bit of time to actually enjoy each others company, and spend loads of time with the dogs.
We had my Mums eldest dog to stay, and then out of the blue, due to bad organisation we had her 13 year old collie arrive on 2nd Jan so 10 dogs and a lot of juggling for the first week in 2012! It was ok, but it was mad in our 2 bedroom cottage, and I have never hoovered and dusted so often in my life!!
Now calm and some sort of normality has been restored,  I am excited about the new season ahead, but also that next lot of madness, trying to decided which shows to do, which ones you have to be watching the PC for 24 hrs a day to get camping, and working out which qualifiers to go for. It is just over 2 months until our first show, so I have decided to focus on 1 dog per Blog for the next few weeks. I wont leave the others out completely obviously, but I am looking at our goals and think it would be nice to watch each dogs progress, so this one is for George.
Georgie Pants (as he is affectionately known) is nearing 11 months old, and has developed into a very lovely shape, athletic, light collie. He is so neat and very flexible, so different to my 2 collie girls. His character was what had me from day 1, but it has developed even more, and he has turned into one of the nicest sweetest, funniest characters and we do have so much fun together.


 He "talks" all the time. Not barks but makes lovely quiet almost purring type noise, which build into real joyful sounds of oooooos and aaaaahhhs and you can almost hold a conversation with him! Guaranteed at least once a day, he will talk at the exact moment Rog Fern or I have said something really serious, or mundane, maybe talking about world events, and every time we collapse in fits of giggles. 
Towards the end of last year we attended a few eve classes, doing a lot of foundation work in groups, and he did very well. He was extremely chasey as a puppy, and I thought it may be a problem, so I have worked hard at building our relationship as a team, and it has paid off. Not once in a group has he embarrassed me or himself by chasing one of his exciting class mates. He still watches, and occasionally it takes all his self control, but he wants to work with me. I am thrilled with that. We started this year with a real young dog sequencing day with Anthony Clarke, and I was so excited. 
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My puppy is growing up, and the thought of starting to put together sequences was scary!! I have done a lot of basics at home, and a lot more flatwork than I have  done with my older dogs, and it shows. He was such fun, and showed such natural drive & enthusiasm, it was a brilliant start to his proper agility training. I was very proud of him :-) He was very bouncy and puppy like to start with, clearing the small jumps by quite a height, but within a short time he was lowering and producing a lovely shape over them. He is still a baby in my eyes, and a lot of people rush ahead, not allowing puppies to be puppies, so I am thrilled he enjoyed it so much and was a happy boy. He has plenty of time to develop his style and get used to how all 4 legs work!! He is such a focused boy though and the easiest dog I have ever trained. For a Mad Merle, he has been a dream so far. I keep thinking his naughty phase will start, but so far no. 
Our training diary is pretty full over the next few months and I am really looking forward to every workshop with George :-)
So, I have a couple of goals for Georgie for this year. I would like him to learn to weave well and have fast independent weaves. I would like him to continue to show his amazing understanding of 2 on 2 off contacts, developing this over the contact equipment in the next few months, and finally I would like to run him at a competition and keep that focus in such an exciting environment. He will be eligible to compete from the end of August but I will not attempt it if I dont feel he is 100% prepared.
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Exciting times ahead for certain, and I have a funny feeling Feroda George Looney could be a star one day. He already is in our eyes. :-)
Next week will be Twiggys Blog.
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