Saturday, 29 November 2014

Clever Jed

So much has happened this year… even the last few months… I will do a proper update soon.

But for now, this post is for Jed… Jed is not usually in the limelight… in fact for him it’s usually the opposite. So this is a ‘Jed brag’.

Jed is now 4, and Garth got him 3 years ago from Many Tears. Shortly after Garth got him, I took him to Shelley’s lifeskills classes, aptly named, for Jed, as he had none. He spent most of the hour in the class in the ‘naughty corner’ or cloakroom, where despite not being able to see any dogs, just the sound of them walking in the hall was enough to send him crazy. When it was Jed’s turn, everyone else would find a corner (or nearest exit!) so Jed could attempt to do what the rest of the class were doing. Jed wasn’t the best pupil, he usually sent all the cavaletti flying as he bulldozed through them to try and take a run up at the Labrador in the corner which was one of the nicest tempered labs I have ever known, he would knock the stools over that he was supposed to walk across, and just be a total pain (and embarrassment). I couldn’t even think about letting him off the lead as he would barely pay any attention to me for more than about 3 steps, so agility at that point wasn’t even a consideration.

 After about 6 months of attending these classes, Jed started to settle down, and was able to spend a bit more time in the hall with the other dogs, rather than spending almost the whole session in the naughty corner. I did a bit of agility training with him at home, but he was so clumsy, and very immature, oh and we never quite mastered ‘bring the toy back and give it to me’ so he either ran off with his ‘prize’ or let me take hold of it to have a mammoth tug-of-war-shake-my-arm-out-of-its-socket. Eventually we were able to join Shelley’s outdoor foundation agility classes, and by this time Jed was able to go off lead for very short periods of time, and it was actually starting to feel slightly closer to having a ‘normal’ dog.

Jed started competing in April 2013, only doing a few shows, as although 2.5 years at this point, he was still very mentally immature. He won out of grade 3 in July 2013, and then I didn’t do much more with him as I wanted to keep him in novice.

So, 2014, and he’s done a total of 10 shows, 2 of them he was only entered in 1 ABC class and most of them I only did a maximum of 2 classes until August, as his brain couldn’t cope with anything more. So out of the 10 shows, he has had 14 wins (ok, 7 of them were this weekend), won out of grade 4, 5 and 6, won at large shows such as Thames, KC Festival and Chippenham, qualified for the Crufts ABC Final and Novice Olympia (as well as the ABC Olympia semis, but as he qualified for the Novice first we had to pull out of ABC).

This weekend I wanted to see what he’d be like running indoors and also over more technical courses than he has been used to. I haven’t really felt like we have been a partnership, although Chippenham in October felt better. However as Scandal has been on rest since FCI, the little training I have done has been spent on Jed, and he has really benefitted from it, the difference in him is huge. This weekend he had had grade 1-7, 4-7, 5-7 and 6-7 classes, so a real step up for him, as apart from 1-7 ABC, I don’t think he has ever done a class with grade 6/7 in it.

The first run we did, Jed wasn’t sure, he tends to compensate for his unsure-ness by doing a jumping like a pony. But he listened, nailed a weave entry that my bum totally blocked from his view, pulled through a tiny tiny tight gap in one of the first pull through’s he has had to do in the ring, and a lovely running dogwalk 90 degree turn, and won it. So, 1st run, off to a good start :-) on the first day he won 3 agility classes and 1 jumping. I loved his jumping run, it felt like he was more settled, his head was lower (rather than prancy pony upright), he was jumping more extendedly and his weaves were awesome. And by the 3rd run I was starting to trust him more, and push him, rather than having to be so cautious. The only thing was he was back to doing slow seesaws – he finds seesaws hard, but had been a lot more confident on them, until Discover Dogs, where he got the seesaw totally wrong and ended up falling/panicking/leaping off it, so was back to doing steady-seesaws this weekend.

Sunday, and he won 2 more agility’s and 1 jumping. He also nailed every weave entry and got a couple of pretty testing ones, so I was really pleased with that, think it’s the first difficult ones he has had to do in the ring. Plus I was running him like I would want to run him in G7, leaving him to do stuff and racing him, which was so much fun, and I really enjoyed running him. So Jed is now G7, and next year can enter champ. I am not under any illusions that he will set the champ-world alight, in fact he will probably only do a couple, under judges who set courses that I think will suit him. But to think that 3 years ago he wasn’t able to work in a calm pet-type environment without losing his head, and now this weekend has managed to keep his head in a far more exciting atmosphere, just makes me very happy :-) 

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Dania Cup part 2... The competition

We took Scandal and Fire-work with us, Fire for the socialisation, new experiences, and also because she is such a happy puppy to have around. Scandal I entered in the grade 3 and open classes. We had deliberated about bringing Jed but in the end decided against it for a number of reasons, mainly that I wanted to concentrate on Scandal with it being so close to EO. In FCI, there are 3 grades, and UK grade 6-7 dogs go into grade 3. Each day we had a grade 3 agility and jumping class plus an open. There were 5 open classes over the week, and they then take your best 2 agility rounds and best jumping round, to calculate the top 30 large dogs to go through to the finals at the end of the week. There were about 270 dogs in the large height.

The show had some really great judges from all over the world, including 2 of the EO judges, Tamas Traj and Veronika Herendy, plus both world championship judges Jozef van Eester and Jos Thines, so I wanted to get some experience running their courses.

After the first three open rounds Scandal was lying in 1st place on the leader board, with a 2nd (clear) and 37th (5 faults) in her 2 agilitys, and a 6th in the jumping. On the 5th day, Scandal won the agility class meaning her results were 1st, 2nd and 6th, giving her a total score of 9 (the lower the score the better). This meant we’d be running last in Saturday’s finals. 

The Finals - I really liked the course, there was a handly bit after the aframe and I wasn't sure which way to run after the aframe - take the long but safer route back to the tunnel entrance, or send her to the tunnel and run in the opposite direction. After watching a few of the larges run, I decided I would do the latter. It worked, and was definitely quicker. Really pleased with her weave entry in this, and her stop-dogwalk too. We won it by 0.3secs, the dog that came 2nd in the finals was Marje's Susi from Estonia. At EO 2013 in the finals they were only 0.2s off the winners Jaanita with a dropped bar, refusal, and not pushing on the final stretch, so it was pretty cool to be  faster than them :-)

I was really pleased to get a clear and a place under each of the EO/FCI judges. 2nd and 1st under Jozef and Jos, and 1st and 5th under Tamas and Veronika. We also came away with a number of things to train and practice in the run up to FCI. I was very happy that Scandal was 100% on her contacts, and weaves were 94% perfect (1 missed weave entry due to my handling, out of 18 runs).

The courses differ in FCI, mainly I think they are able to test speed and control at the same time, better than we do over here. One thing I took from it is that they LOVE running, and really attack courses.
Below is the video of some of my favourite runs…

Thank you to Dennis Bay for all the photos, it is lovely to have them all to look back over :-)

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Dania Cup part 1

At the beginning of July we left for Denmark, to compete in the week long competition out there, Dania Cup. Dania Cup is a well-known international agility show, with competitors from the USA, Japan, Norway, Estonia, Germany, Finland, and more.

Travelling over there we took the Eurotunnel and drove through the night. Although most people thought we were crazy, this actually worked really well as we missed ALL the traffic and it was a really good journey (well, as much as sitting still for 12 hours can be good). Fire travelled like a little angel and we didn’t hear a peep out of her. Except on the way back, she seemed to be wide awake about an hour in to the journey. I thought she was chewing her kong, so just smiled and carried on re-watching Scandal’s runs on the video. Turned round to admire my two lovely dogs and the puppy was busy pulling down the insulation in the van NOOOOOO. Naughty puppy. A couple of firm ‘No’s’ and she soon settled down… and then 5 minutes started chewing a hole in the vet bed (to go with the squirrel size hole she put in Scandal’s special Union Jack vet bed).
Pic by Dennis Bay

One of the things that FCI people take very seriously is the 'day tenting'. The competitors are allowed onsite to camp from the Saturday. They are not allowed to put up a day tent before 3pm. The day tents are where many of the competitors spend most of the day, with their dogs in puppy pens or cages. At 3pm there is a big race to get the perfect spot. The pitches are all marked out and pretty much all the tents are the same type. It is definitely good if there is a rain shower, or if you want some shade, as you can still watch the rings. You can probably just about make out the large white gazebos towards the main buildings. These are used as shade for the dogs before they run - a really good idea.

The weather was great. Sometimes it was too hot for me, about 30-31 degrees Celsius and I was melting. It was definitely great preparation for Hungary which can get up to those temperatures too. Luckily there was a river running alongside the sports centre so after each run Scandal got to play in the river (and I managed to fall in on one of the days trying to reach her ball as she didn’t want to get out the water to give it to me). The walks were lovely too - nice and flat and woody/sheltered which was good for the dogs.

We also went to the beach, which was wonderful, apart from the dead jellyfish which I was pretty scared of. There were lots of other people in the water so I assumed the dead jellyfish were harmless, but I was still scared incase one was actually alive and tried to sting me, or the dogs.

When we got there we realised we didn’t have a UK-Euro adapter for the caravan electric hookup. Lars directed us to Bauhaus which is the Danish equivalent of B&Q. They had tons of different adapters so eventually we got the right one and hookup commenced.

We had lovely food from the town, Naestved, including a Thai which I think was one of the best I have had. Fresh strawberries every day. Ice cream – I thought I got Garth a magnum type thing after we had been to the beach (it was pretty dark in the shop) however it was actually aniseed – awful awful – don’t know how they love that stuff so much, it still turns my stomach 7 years after I last went to Denmark and got really ill on it!! We had several BBQs (thanks Bernadette and Dennis) and had also taken enough food in the caravan to last us until the Monday. I love home cooked food in the caravan, so cosy :-) Bernadette and Dennis had recommended the pastries from a shop up the road... then Bernadette offered us one from a box they had... that was it...hooked. I still crave them now :-)  

The rings start at about 7.50am for course walking, and don’t finish until about 5.30pm, with prize giving at 6. Pretty much everyone attends prize giving, and it usually takes about 1-1.5 hours. They have a mini-bar too, and most people are drinking. It’s a very social show, perhaps it’s easier as there are only 3 rings. It was definitely great socialisation for Fire-work, who thought it was great FUN :-)

Monday, 14 July 2014

The new addition

Those who know me know that I wasn’t going to get another dog for at least a couple of years. Jed has finally settled into a somewhat civilised creature (most of the time), and I was enjoying the dogs being a bit older.

And then this came along…

About 6 months old (ish) from Many Tears. I was in Swansea on Thursday at the end of May, and then popped up to MT afterwards and Natalie showed me round. We got this cute little puppy out, and played with her in one of the exercise areas, and she ran around with a tennis ball, and didn’t want to be caught.

I thought about her all the way home, all night, and the next day. We picked her up on Saturday. I don’t know why I wanted her, there was just something about her that I fell in love with. She gets on well with all the dogs, she has excellent dog greeting skills and loves playing. She also loves people although at the moment she is quite submissive when she first greets you. Jed actually likes her (an achievement in itself). In fact she and Jed are best buddies. Scandal plays with her too and is very tolerant of her, even letting her take toys out her mouth. My biggest thing was I wanted Scandal to get on with her, Scandal is very much my princess (and she knows it). Scandal now thinks her name is ‘Puppy’ as everytime I say it she flies back as she knows she can get a treat.

So, the puppy is a blank canvas, found wandering the streets of Ireland, and taken to the pound. We know nothing of her history, but some of her behaviours give us some clues as to what she has done as a puppy... i.e. been feral. When we first got her she doesn’t really acknowledge my existence for 99% of the time… and no matter what silly voices I use made a difference. Meanwhile I had the other 5 dogs glued to me all wanting a treat lol. She has definitely got a stubborn streak which she uses when she doesn’t want to do something… e.g. be put on a lead, go in her crate, come back (even when on her flexi lead… if she doesn’t want to come back she just flops down in the grass and refuses to move). I have been hand feeding all her meals, and asking her to do easy things in order to earn them (mainly come back when called). She is a very happy little dog, and is coming out of her shell more each day. Actually in the first week she had doubled in confidence and is getting more crazy each day. She is also very bright and from the little bits of training I have done with her she now offers ‘sit’, and is getting there with left, right, hand touch, jump into her bed, into the cage (she HATED the cage when we got her), paws on wobble cushion (unfortunately I have managed to pair this with ‘bite the wobble cushion’). She (like most puppies) had no manners when it comes to going through gates – all our other dogs wait fairly politely to go through it, but Puppy throws herself at it screaming. She also tries to prop herself up using Scandal’s face in order to try and get closer to me at feeding time… luckily Scandal is being very tolerant :-)

She loves toys, particularly balls. At Thames she took great delight in selecting the tennis ball from a trade stand and tried to run off with it. When she first found Scandal’s gym ball under the table there was much barking to try and make it move. She also thinks the wobble cushion is a great toy and proudly picks it up and carries it round with her, which I am trying to discourage (mainly because as soon as Scandal sees it she wants to stand on it). She was a bit scared of cars but just backed off a couple of steps then came forward again, and now she can carry on tugging or waiting for a treat rather than backing off. Loud bangs and thunder don't seem to phase her in the slightest, which is a big relief as Scandal doesn't care either, and I like it that they are both cool with it :-)

So that sums up our first month with her. A couple of weeks after we got her I had her pet passported so she could come to Denmark with us for Dania Cup. I will do a separate post on Dania soon :-)

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Pedigree Dogs Exposed

A few years ago there was a film called 'Pedigree Dogs Exposed' which exposed many of the awful problems that a lot of breeds seem to have now, particularly those bred for sought after characteristics in the show ring. I have added Jemima's blog to my blog list... I don't necessarily agree with everything she says, but I think it is brilliant that someone has challenged the Kennel Club as strongly as she has done. Agility dogs look so much healthier than many of the dogs that feature on her blog, where droopy eyelids, excess skin, and a squished face are commonplace.

Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Wednesday, 21 May 2014


These lovely pics of Scandal were taken on the weekend by Iain... thank you, I love them :-)

And one of Imogen too just coz she's gorgeous :-)

Saturday, 17 May 2014

A few months late...

My first blog post of 2014, oops. 

The year in reflection…

I had written most of this in January, and then never got round to posting it, so here goes… I have updated it a bit as it was a few months old.

2013 was one of the best years I can ever remember… although I also thought that 2012 was one of the best, so it’s definitely been getting better and better.

My main goal for 2013 was to make Scandal up to Agility Champion, which we did in June. She then won her 4th CC in July, plus a reserve CC in October, and also had numerous ‘if only’ runs which although may not have resulted in clear rounds, felt awesome running. She now has a total of 4 CC’s and 3 reserves, all gained between the age of 2 and 4 years.

Going to the European Open in July was fantastic and was such a high, I loved the atmosphere at the venue, the team spirit, the European courses and of course loved taking Scandal – she was so chilled on the coach and in my hotel room… she seemed to quite enjoy the adventure. After having Tia who spooks constantly and is scared of most things, it’s so lovely to take Scandal away and just be able to relax knowing that she can deal with pretty much anything without freaking out. Even the absolutely HUGE thunderstorm (and I mean huge… never heard anything like it) wasn’t enough to worry her, and she does pretty well to ignore me and not get my terrified-of-thunder-vibes. I love that she has such natural confidence – I see so many nervy BC’s… Scandal is definitely not one of them.

We also went to Olympia for the 3rd time in December… a momentary lapse of concentration on my part put paid to our attempts at getting through to the finals, but WOW it felt awesome to be running Scandals, she was FLYING. Our first show of 2014 was Ribble in February, we just went up for the Olympia qualifier, the rules are different this year, only 1 semi day rather than 2 to try and qualify for, Scandal did a beautiful clear round and won the class by over half a second, so has now qualified for the semis (actually… quarters) in August. Crufts we made the champ final and came 3rd, 0.3 from 1st. That was a lot of fun :)

 Last month Scandal won the ticket at KoF. Honey also won the small ticket on same day. Judge Ian Mallabar. Last year at Woodside,  Scandal and Honey won the ticket on the same day... again under Ian Mallabar :) guess I like his courses.

Then... a few weeks ago we found out that we have made teams for European Open AND FCI World Championships. Wow... dreams, goals... amazing feeling! Vid below of champ win and some clips of our runs at tryouts... love the lyrics of the song...

In 2013 I also made up Honey to Agility Champion, and as many people know, I always said if I could make Honey up, I wouldn’t run her any more, she doesn’t really enjoy running for me in the ring, although training is a different matter and she is C-R-A-Z-Y. So Honey became the first Agility Champion spaniel in the country, and has now semi-retired from agility. Honey has run 3 shows with me this year, and won the ticket at KoF, bless her little spaniel-socks. That's it for me running her this year, although she may be making an appearance at 1 or 2 shows with a different handler later in the year...

Scandal’s puppies turned 1 year (now 19 months), and I got to see all of them last year. I see Ru, Zephyr, Coy and Rusty fairly regularly in the summer and I love watching them grow up. I have also been able to watch videos of them all training which is brill. Ru has had lots of top 10 places and I know the others will be hot on his heels. I am sad that I could not keep one but it wouldn’t have been the right time with everything that is going on here. On the plus side, Scandal is very pleased that she remains my princess.

Ricky and Tia are doing well. Ricky is now 15 and 3 months. 12 months ago when he was totally paralysed I was told that he may only have weeks or even days left, so a) for him to have recovered and be back to walking 5+ miles a day, and b) to have ‘made it’ past those initial few weeks just makes me so so grateful for the extra time that we have had together. He is such a wonderful boy and I have so much to thank him for.

Jedlar… Well, he came out, looking very immature, at the end of March/beginning of April ‘13, getting a 3rd in G3 jumping, and having oodles of fun, and looking very immature at the same time. He showed flashes of greatness and at other times looked like he had never done any training in his life… He can be a lot of fun, and often has us in hysterics with his clown antics. And of course, he does drive me nuts, I have taken him out of more classes than I have any of my other dogs put together. And then he will put together a simply brilliant run and win.  He won out of G3 at Weardale, winning the class by over a second, and then being 6 seconds faster than 3rd place. That same weekend I took him out of 3 runs that he did. I didn’t want him to win out of G3 as he is so gangly and immature, and thought that with his wide turns and stop seesaw he wouldn’t win, oops. He also qualified for the Olympia semis and was 3 obstacles from qualifying for Olympia before I pulled him past a tunnel… Because all year we had been trying to reduce his tunnel obsession, and by August he had finally learnt that ‘here’ meant ‘stay with me and don’t take any obstacles (tunnels included) unless I tell you to’ which he obediently put into practice in the semi. Another Jed-highlight was Imogen doing her first run with him at Gillingham in September and coming 9th in G4 jumping. Jed is uber polite when Imogen runs him… not sure how long that will last lol. I don’t have any big plans for Jed. Getting him in the ring was a lot more than most people thought we would achieve. He is just my ‘fun dog’ and anything we achieve along the way is the icing on the cake.

Garth started taking Jed to Lowri’s in Wales at the end of 2013, and we have now changed his diet and a few other things and have seen a lot of changes in Jed (including lovelyyyyy relaxed calm boy for the few days after he has had acupuncture). I have just started bringing him back to agility and he has matured a lot since last year, and is also becoming more thoughtful when I am working him, thinking about what I am saying rather than taking the thing he would most like to do… ‘tunnel? Did anyone say tunnel? That one right in the far corner?’ Jed has just done two runs this year, one of them he won, qualifying for the Olympia ABC semis. He has some more runs coming up at the end of May onwards... will be interesting to see how he does :)