Juno on the A-frame. Photo © Birgit Kornet
So it’s been a while since I updated this blog, but that’s not for lack of activity!
Just this weekend both Juno and Kai got the last Qs they needed for their final elite titles in ASCA agility. So they’re both now JS-E, RS-E and our hard earned GS-E. ;) Now the real grind for the points needed for ATCH (Agility Trial Champion) can begin.
I’ve been having problems with my chronic shin splints injury, preventing me from running both dogs fully during ASCA weekends. My shins just couldn’t handle it. Because of this, I had made the decision a while ago to only try to get one of my dogs to ATCH. Not because I want to single one out but because I had to. Running both at half pace wasn’t really an option with the limited amount of trials here in Europe and my dogs already being 5 & 6 years old (yeah, I started agility late). So I decided to focus on Kai, for several reasons but mostly because Juno has difficulty with distance handling so I didn’t think she’d be able to get all the Gamblers Qs she’d need. Plus Juno is already 6.5 and with only so many trials a year, I really wasn’t sure she’d be able to finish before she retires. You just don’t know what will happen and how long your dog will be able to run agility.
So earlier this year, as Juno finished her JS-E and RS-E, I stopped entering her for these classes to save my shins from hurting. It sucked!! I hated doing that! I love running with Juno! She’s not the fastest but she’s a pretty stable dog to run and that’s actually quite nice when you’re trying to go for ATCH! But yeah those Gamblers, and her age, and having to choose…
Of course I’ve been trying for over a year to get my shins cured, which has proven hard. My legs and feet are just wonky and can’t take much, haha. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. I recently got a referral to a sports fysiotherapist as well as a podiatrist who’s gotten me corrective orthopedic soles for my shoes. It really makes a world of difference! :D
Last weekend I entered for two days of ASCA agility, first time with my new soles. I entered for 10 runs a day (Kai 6, Juno 4, so 2x 10), to see how my shins would hold up. If they did then next trials I would try to go for full, 2x 12.
Well, today is the day after the 2x 10. During the weekend itself I had no pain whatsoever, already a huge improvement over earlier trials. This morning I had a little bit of muscle pain in my shins as I got up, but that disappeared as soon as I started moving around again. So overall I’m super pleased. In October I will try and see how 2x 12 goes again. And then maybe… maybe I’ll be able to keep running Juno as well. Because honestly, she’s grown so much the past year, she’s actually not all that bad with distance handling anymore. :) In fact, right now she’s a Q ahead of Kai with Gamblers, haha. 9 to go, Juno!!
Both Kai and Juno already have a whopping 5Q towards the 200Q needed for Regular and Kai has 10Q towards the 100Q for Jumpers. And Juno 10Q towards the 100Q for Gamblers. (Writing this down mostly as a note to myself).
That’s as far as ASCA agility goes!
Regarding FCI agility, we’re nearing the end of our first season in grade 2. Kai started really well early this season but after that we started messing up a lot and missed out on points. Juno has again been quite steady and reliable in her runs, often gathering some points, so she may have a chance at getting promoted to Grade 3. Honestly I would prefer to keep both of them in Grade 2 for another year, but we’ll see how things pan out.
And a little bit of an odd duck.. in June we had a special Aussie Agility competition, organised by the Dutch Australian Shepherd Club, ASCN. It was a weird day, but Juno got a 1st place in Agility and Kai a 4th place in Jumping! It was a really fun day and I’m looking forward to the next time ASCN organises something like this.
Juno 1st place in Agility
Kai 4th place in Jumping, next to his cousin Jessey :)
And last but not least… herding!
Oh yeah, we actually moved houses 3 months ago. Together with my busy weekends often filled with agility competitions, I’ve not been able to do herding training for about half a year. We started again 2 weeks ago. And boy did we miss it, and did it feel good!
I’ve been working with Kai on the drive for a while now. We got some good progress but it really showed that he didn’t have a good understanding of the flanking commands. He knew them in relationship to me and my position, not to the stock. So if I moved away from the stock, he’d get confused. So we went back to basics a while ago and focused on getting him a clear understanding of the come bye and away. He did pick up on that and I was happy to see 2 weeks ago that after a half year break, he still knew the flanks. :)
I really hope we can continue working on a reliable drive now. I’m hoping that next year we’re ready to compete in Open Sheep and finish that last leg that he needs for his Started Ducks and also continue on to Open Ducks. And perhaps we’ll even try our hand at Started Cattle? He showed some nice stuff last year during a training round with cattle, but unfortunately I can’t train it anywhere around me.
Juno’s been making progress in her own way. Juno often short-circuits when she loses control over her stock (or thinks she will) and becomes uncontrollable herself. When she’s calm, she’s really quite a nice worker and she’s becoming increasingly responsive to me. The flank commands really triggered her into racing / panic mode, and it sometimes still does, but I can often prevent it or get her out of it. So where we used to fight each other a lot, we’re really starting to work together as a team more now.
Juno is not and will never be an easy dog for herding. She has instinct but had some serious issues with handling pressure. And then there’s her panic mode when she loses control which really, really doesn’t help. But, we’ve come a long way, and I’m pretty proud of that. :) I have no real end goal with her, I’ll just see where the future takes us. I feel that if we can keep the panic mode at bay and continue to work on our teamwork, she might actually pick up the actual herding stuff a lot faster than Kai. But… we’ll see. Either way, as long as we’re both having fun and the stock is being treated with respect, I’m happy. :)
I’ll see if I can post some video and photo material later, that I’ve gathered over the past months!