Kai is ATCH!

Kai, my first Agility Trial Champion 

Kai is my second Aussie but in so many other ways he is my first, so I would like to reflect on our (agility) journey a little bit.

You know when I got my Aussies, I never actually considered doing agility with them. I couldn’t really comprehend how it could be interesting or fun to let your dog take a couple of jumps  Lol.

But hey, I enjoy doing “stuff” with my dogs, so when my dear friend Danielle asked me if I wanted to come along to a pre-agility class she was interested in joining, I thought why not. This was back in 2013, Kai was already 2.5 years old.
I wasn’t sure if I should start with Juno or Kai. I was thinking Juno because she had a more athletic build and was more (toy) driven in general. I did a couple of the pre-agility classes alternating the two. My instructor at the time,  Renee, actually saw more potential in Kai. So I continued with Kai (Juno following soon after in a separate class ).

Starting agility with Kai is possibly one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. He’s introduced me to the world of dog sports, working dogs, trialing, and with that so, so many dear new friends.

Now I feel that Kai wasn’t, or isn’t, particularly talented as an agility dog. But as the name of the book by Ryan Holiday goes, the Obstacle is the Way.
And man did we have our obstacles:
– focus for the game in trials early on
– too much handler focus, little to no obstacle focus so distance handling was a challenge
– inconsistency in contact zone performance
– knocking bars

To name a few.

Some dogs save their handlers. Kai does not.  He is relentless. One wrong action from me and he’d let me know instantly.

But… I’m so happy he did. It made me grow as a handler. And despite my flaws he continued to show so much joy and enthusiasm for the game, for playing WITH me. With ME. He allowed me to learn. I feel so blessed with his drive and trainability, allowing me to work through our obstacles together.

His focus problems have been long gone.
He has a healthy balance of handler/obstacle focus now.
He is rock solid on the dog walk contact (I still can’t quite believe it myself)
He… still knocks the occasional bar.  But his jump form has improved so much! He ran 3 of 4 jumpers clear this weekend and the ASCA weekend before that as well. I remember the struggle of getting his title in jumpers because there was always that one (or more) bar…

Sure, he is not the fastest dog on the planet. But with his 7.5+ years and his.. well.. tank build , he is still showing some good speed. In fact I think he may be getting faster This weekend after 14 (!) runs, he was still placing just behind some ridiculously fast dogs. Honestly I’m not sure how he does it, because he never looks that fast to me. 

But I’m so happy that at his age he’s still got this stamina and speed. I just love running this dog! I know at some point we’re going to have to tone it down a notch. But I think he showed me this weekend that it’s not yet time for that.

Thank you my Kaaiman Lawaaiman! To many more noisy runs!   WOOF!

 

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Let the grind begin!

Photo © Birgit Kornet

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

Juno 1st place in Agility

Kai 4th place in Jumping, next to his cousin Jessey :)

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!

 

 

 

 

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Been a while!

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Kai at his first ducks trial

Man, I’ve really been meaning to update this blog, but just haven’t had the time! I’ll just post a quick overview of our accomplishments the last couple of months.

Juno got her third and last promotion point just after my last blog post in September, so now she also competes in FCI grade 2!

Her run. She was promoted on 3x a Regular (as in not Jumping) course. Guess she got her contacts down, haha!

In September we went to JJ ranch for our first duck trials! Juno got 2 qualifying scores (second run a 3rd place) and gained her STDd title. Kai had a nice run in the morning with a qualifying score and a 3rd place but unfortunately we botched our second run. Hopefully we can finish his STDd next time!

We also did some fun cattle training. Will post some photos of that another time though!

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After that we had a bit of a break from competitions (gotta admit the weekends have been pretty packed!). We did enter the so-called TWC, Team Winter Competition, with the people from my little Wednesday training agility club. Kai in our first team and Juno in our second. While Juno had some nice clear runs, unfortunately her team didn’t place for the finals. But Kai’s team did, so we’ll be going to the finals on Feb 25th! Excited for that.

Just gotta show Juno’s two clear runs though!

Also one of Kai’s runs, unfortunately he took a jump from the wrong side but he still did a good job!

In December Kai unfortunately had to go through surgery because of bladder stones. Poor boy, the recovery of that is pretty intense! But he was up and running again a few weeks later fortunately.

January 23rd we went to the LASC agility trials in Belgium. As much as I would have loved to run both of the weekend days, I’m still very much struggling with my shin splints injury. I can just about handle 1 day running with 2 dogs, but then my shins really need time to recover. It sucks because we don’t have that many ASCA trials here, so it’d be nice to be able to make the most of it. But for now, 1 day is the max.

Anyhoo. We started the day off well with a 1st place in Open Gamblers for Kai and Juno a 4th place, both finishing their GS-O! This means that Gamblers is actually the first class where Juno and Kai are both competing at Elite level. Who would have thought?! Whaha.

After that great start, unfortunately tiredness of a long busy week caught up with me. Such a shame! But I became sloppy and made some stupid handling decisions. Juno still got a 5Q in Regular Elite, meaning she’s 25Q into her Regular Open. One more decent run should do it! Kai also got a 5Q in Regular Open. He now has 15Q for his Regular Open.

I’ve made a mental note to train more, more, more tunnels next to contacts with him…!! He loves his tunnels too much, haha! Such a shame. Have to admit Juno did great on that part, though!

And then I was out of juice :) Juno ran some nice Jumpers Elite runs, but took a jump too much as I didn’t indicate a turn well enough. Similar thing with the second run. Sorry to let you down Juno!

Kai was, as usual, on FIRE for the jumpers. Can’t complain about the speed! The bars though… ;) Haha. One bar in one run and 2 bars in the other. Again mostly due to my handling. I get so rushed with him and if my handling is not smooth, he’ll drop bars. So we still stand at a whopping 0Q towards his Jumpers Open, hahaha. One day, my sweet Kaaiman!

Next ASCA agility trials will be soon though, early March! Looking forward to it. Reporting back then! ;)

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LASC Agility trials 5th September & Agility competition KC de Kempen 13th September

Photo by Bart Meeuwsen

Photo by Bart Meeuwsen

September is kinda crazy as far as competitions go. Don’t get me wrong, I love competing, but it’s not my intention to do it every week. However, that’s what’s happening this month. ;) I have a couple of goals I’m shooting for:

  • Attend as many ASCA agility trials as I can. They’re sort of rare here, and with my shin splints injury I can’t allow to go for a full weekend with 2 dogs. So I want to make it a priority to go to at least 1 day whenever there’s a trial.
  • Attend the ASCA herding trials when we’re ready for it. I think (hope…) we are, and they’re rarer still.
  • Get Juno promoted to FCI Grade 2 before the next season start. This would simply be very convenient, so I don’t have two dogs in different grades. I think she can do it… if I stop making these tiny mistakes. :) For FCI grade 1 competitions, there is a lot of choice. So I prefer to stick to the competition that are one hour’s drive away or less.

So in September there happen to be 2 FCI Grade 1 competitions that are nice and close to where I live, there’s the ASCA agility trials in Belgium, and the ASCA herding trials here in Holland. So yeah, loaded month. Fun but tiring. After this month we’ll take it easier. :)

So we had the LASC agility trials 1.5 weeks ago. I entered Kai in Regular Open. With 2 qualifying runs and 2x a 3rd place he finished his RS-N title so now he is Home of the Braves First Glory STDs RS-N JS-N GS-N. He also got his first 10Q for his RS-O. Unfortunately he knocked a bar in each of his Jumpers Open rounds. He had 2nd fastest time with an average of 5.76 m/s (a personal record!) in the second round, so that was a real shame! Ah well, better luck next time.

Then we had Open Gamblers. The Gamblers rounds scare me because we train very little distance handling and equipment discrimination here. :) The first round was too hard for us, but the second round we qualified with a nice 3rd place. So Kai’s got his first 10Q towards his GS-O. :)

Of course Juno was with us as well. Juno’s Open Regular runs were a little more chaotic than I’d like, but we still qualified for both with 2x a 7th place, so that’s 20Q towards her RS-O. I liked the Jumpers Elite run, they were a nice challenge. Unfortunately I made a handling mistake in one, so she took the tunnel when she shouldn’t have (my plan was bad, to be honest) and I think she knocked a bar in the other. It was pissing down with rain, we were absolutely soaked haha. Juno hates the rain but she still gave it her all, only to walk out of the ring grumpily after we finished. ;) Lol. Open Gamblers I dread even more with Juno because she’s a sticky dog, so I wasn’t surprised when she missed the gamble in the first round. But oh was I overjoyed when she did finish and qualify in the second round! With a 4th place even, coming in just behind Kai. I cried out in joy after she took the last needed tunnel, pulling her away from the bonus jump at the end, but I didn’t care, she did it! So Juno also has her first 10Q towards her GS-O. Proud of her. :)

Juno's prizes!

Juno’s prizes!

That’s as far as the LASC trials go! Last weekend I also went to the agility competion in Geldrop (KC de Kempen) with just Juno. As Kai’s already been promoted to grade 2. To be honest, it was so nice to run just one dog. ;)

The Games run wasn’t great, Juno missed the weave entry and tripped on the long jump. Made a mental note to put more training into the long jumps. We usually train with 4 pieces and I’ve had 2 competitions now where there have been 5 pieces, making a significantly longer jump. Kai hit them last time and Juno hit them last weekend. It’s not like they can’t make the jump, but it doesn’t help that they’re longer than they usually jump. So I’ll work on that.

Juno’s biggest best human friend Roos came over to cheer us on then, and it was noticeable because Juno then ran a clear agility round, earning her second promotion point towards Grade 2! :) Just one more to go for her now. She earned a 5th place of 73 competitors!

She ran a nice jumpers round after that, unfortunately she missed the weave entry again so one refusal but still an 8th place. Nothing to sneeze at, she did a good job!

Unfortunately Juno isn’t as spectacular to watch as a faster dog like Kai, but I liked how well-tuned she was to me this weekend, with some nice tight turns and completely ignoring all the inviting tunnels that she wasn’t supposed to take. I know Juno can go much faster, she’s got a crazy turbo for which I haven’t found the button yet, haha. It sometimes feels like she constantly jumps in semi-collection to anticipate possible turns. I dunno. I also think she’s faster during training than she is on competition grounds. Ah well, everything’s a gift with Juno and I had a blast having some quality time with her. :)

Video’s of her runs below!

Juno’s agility run, clear round with promotion point and 5th place:

Juno’s jumping run, one refusal, 8th place:

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Kai promoted to Grade 2 FCI Agility!

Woohoo!

Woohoo!

I’m very pleased to announce that Kai ran another clear run last Sunday, earning him a promotion to B1! (Grade 2)

I wasn’t really expecting it as Sunday was very rainy and cold and I was messy with my handling. Perhaps because of the weather, I don’t know. Just wasn’t my day! Fortunately Kai saved me on the jumping. He did have a couple of wide turns, but he still got a 9th place of about 65 entries. Unfortunately only the last half of the run was recorded so not really worth posting.

As the B1 season is nearly over, we’ll wait for the new season next spring to start Kai in B1. For now my focus will be on getting Juno promoted as well, so hopefully I can have them both in second grade next year. It could happen soon and it could take forever. :) Fortunately we’re at the point where really small mistakes are the reason for just missing out on promotion points in most runs.

We also still have some ASCA competitions planned, and I’ll probably enter at least Kai in a team competition over winter. I’m very happy with Kai’s focus at competition ground lately, and I’d like to keep him that way. So it’s important to bring him to competitions every so often, so he continues to learn to deal with all these distractions. So that’s what we’ll do. :)

For now, we celebrate though! Kai is my first agility dog and we started competing in March, so I’m pleased and proud! Good boy Kai!

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Ducks!

Ducks!

Also I should probably mention that we’ve picked up herding again… and not just sheep! We’ve introduced my dogs to ducks. They’re both doing okay! Sure we have stuff to work on but I’m hoping we’ll be ready for started ducks soon. Perhaps even this-September-soon, but not sure I wanna rush it. We’ll see.

Kai needed a couple sessions to really understand that he’s allowed to work ducks. We used to live right across a duck pond and as a young dog he was super interested in them, but I discouraged it because I didn’t want hassle on our daily walks. So first we had to undo that damage. ;) He finds them really funny but is careful and respectful. He’s getting some nice distance on his flanks which is a feat in itself for a dog like Kai, haha. He needed some reassuring that he really just needs to walk up and not start a flank all the time, but that’s starting to hit home now.

Juno is, as always, a very serious worker. :) Her walk ups are nice and steady and she’s giving the ducks time to move out of corners well. She gets a bit crazy on the flanks, but that’s nothing new really. She also has it on sheep. Flanking really triggers her. It’s such a shame, because she can be such a calm, authorative worker too. If she doesn’t have to flank. ;) Maybe we’ll fix that one day, haha.

Thanks to my boyfriend Jamie for taking these nice shots!

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Agility competition Agility Friends Kaatsheuvel August 2

Kai during agility.. always with a smile on his face!!

Kai during agility.. always with a smile on his face!!

Finally I have some time to post the results of last weekend’s agility trial. We had a fun day with some good runs. Juno had 3x faultless weaves and Kai’s focus was on me and the course 100% despite all the audience. Also Kai got his second promotion point on the required agility (regular) course, so yes, overall I was very pleased!

5 of our 6 runs were recorded (thanks Suzanne!) so here are the videos of our runs.

We started the day well with Juno and Kai both running a faultless Games round, with Kai earning a 6th place and a nice ribbon, and Juno coming in just behind him at 8th place.

Then we went on to agility courses. We didn’t run the prettiest round with Kai but it was faultless and good for an 8th place. And of course our 2nd promotion point on the required agility course! Now he just needs one more point on either an agility or jumping round.

Unfortunately with Juno’s run, I made the same mistake at the 2nd jump after the dog walk as I did with Kai. Unfortunately for Juno it was a refusal this time :) Also she knocked a bar because I called her from behind as she was jumping. My bad, but good job Juno!

Then we had jumping left. By this time it was getting pretty hot and I was getting a little tired, resulting in silly handling mistakes. I have no video of Kai’s jumping but he ran like a champ. Unfortunately my front cross wasn’t very smooth which resulted in a knocked bar, which threw me off so I made him walk past a next jump which resulted in a disq. Ah well, overall I was VERY pleased with his performance today, so I can’t complain!

Juno also did her absolute best, weaves went well and on her difficult side too! Sure we need to work on her speed there but for now I’m very pleased with her doing correct entries and finishing them properly. As you can see on the video, I again made a poor front cross, not getting out of the way for Juno and therefore pushing her past a jump. Whilst trying to get her back she took a logical jump which resulted in a disq as well. But as I already said, she also did great that day so am a proud dog mama!

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