Oh well…

February 28, 2015 Leave a comment

I do say or write it quite a lot recently. But no, it does not make me feel better. Yes, it is life, but sometimes it does suck, and the “oh well…” will not make it better.

Today, as many of my friends are getting ready to go to Spencerville, ON,  and trial, we are getting ready to go see Krypto’s physiotherapist. I am hoping for good news. His tissue adhesion has supposedly been taken care of and I hope the exercises we have done to potentiate his hind legs muscular mass have been fruitful. I am expecting some soreness here and there, but that is normal when using a muscle that has been idle for a long time.

What will I do if I get the ok to start trialling again?

I am an adrenaline junkie. I love the thrill of running Krypto. And I miss it. However, as any addict, I now need more and more of what brings about that sensation, that thrill. I do need more challenging courses to elicit the same adrenaline rush I once used to get by running simpler courses.

I did not have fun running Krypto at the last trials we went. I was worried. I was thinking about his stutter stepping. I was asking around to my fellow competitors what they saw when he ran. I was pondering about what was going on and what I could do to “fix” it. That was not the way to run an agility course.

I want to go back in the ring, feel my heart beating fast, feel that all so familiar shortness of breath, take that usual deep breath, forget about everything but the course at hand and just do the best possible run with Krypto.

I want to go back to the sensations I felt last Summer at Nationals.

I do not want to worry about jumping style, creeping A-frame and stutter stepping anymore.

That’s why we are not trialling now, and we will not trial right away even if we get the ok from the physiotherapist. Not until I am satisfied that I have done all what I can do to improve Krypto’s jumping and A-frame performance. We may succeed or not, or not completely…but at least I will have given it my best shot.

There are hundreds of photos on the internet of border collies, and not border collies, jumping with an inverted arc. I have watched videos of border collies running in agility and now that I know what to look for I have seen flaws in jumping style in some of them, many of them. I do see the flaws also in other breeds, in friends’ and acquaintances’ dogs. I would say that it is hard to come across to an “ideal” jumping style. But so what?! Is it really so important? I think in the end our dogs will adapt to the situation at hand and do what they can with what they have: conformation, training, directions from the handler, type of course, etc.

So why am I so bothered about my own dog’s jumping ability? Why won’t I go back to trialling even if we have the ok from the physiotherapist? Why do I care about achieving a better jumping style? Why am I re-training Krypto on how to jump when some agilists do not even care? Especially considering the success we have had last year? Because I want to keep playing this game with Krypto for a long time. Because I want to become a better handler/trainer. Because I want to try help Krypto run better. And because, ultimately, I want my adrenaline rushes back.

I do not have a set date for when we’ll go back. Considering my upcoming hip replacement surgery, I would be happy to be back to business for the September trial at Guides Canins.

For now, the only thing I can say is “Oh well…”.


Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,

Ups and downs…

February 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Here we are, after a great 2014, beginning 2015 with some downs, and perhaps a few ups.

Krypto’s tissue adhesion has been taken care of and we are working on building/improving his hind legs muscular mass.

Two weeks ago we also went for a training session and a friend helped us video some grids and analyze them. I came home with a heavy heart and the realization that Krypto was using his front to power up for jumps, instead of his rear. And that his jumping arc was therefore inverted because of that. This jumping style also explains the stutter stepping and the getting lower and lower to the ground to then push up with head and neck to take the jump. This of course adds up to his propensity to take off early.

One of the things my friend mentioned  was that I should start considering the possibility of moving down to 16 specials if I do not succeed in resolving this issue.

I came home in a very blue mood, thinking of what I could do to work through this new challenge. I do not want to go to 16 specials. I like too much competing in 22 regular. And, going down to 16″ would not solve the issue.

I decided I had to put Krypto in situations that forced him to use his hind paws. And I realized that I had to go back to basics and that perhaps Linda Mecklenbourg’s book “Developing Jumping Skills” was just what we needed. And anyways, it would not hurt.

Unlike Susan Salo’s puppy and foundation work, where the take off position is always set up for the dog, and where the handler’s position is not taken into consideration both for collection and extension exercises, Linda’s foundation works through all that. How to teach the proper jumping style, how to teach to collect, how to evaluate take off position and landing position, how to read the handlers positional cues.

Reading Linda’s book helped me brighten up and think that perhaps we can make it. She underlines the fact that while a dog that has only and always jumped “inverted” will unlikely learn to jump with a proper rounded/curved style, there are dogs that may switch from one style to the other depending on the handler’s cues, the course, their mood, and so on. Those dogs can be taught/reminded to jump with a proper style. And looking back at Krypto’s videos, even the ones taken two weeks ago, he does jump both inverted and curved, although I have no idea why. That was reassuring.

Another issue we have, is the early take off. Krypto really enjoys “launching”.

This is what I found about early take off, among other thoughts, in http://speedoggie.blogspot.ca/2011/10/another-way-of-looking-at-early-take.html:
“We asked Dr. Zink whether she felt that it was possible that ETS was caused or exacerbated by certain training methods and she responded that,
I do think that this is the case. And I have only come to this belief recently. With my own dog, once she was mature and I lost a little weight, I started to push her for speed. Certainly we both were capable of moving faster over the ground. But that is when she started to take off earlier. I believe that this was because she was trying harder, running faster and as a result failing to realize that she still had to collect her strides before the jump. The harder she ran the sooner she took off. By retraining her to collect her stride, her jumping problem resolved. But it took about 3 months, and still requires ongoing training to remind her to collect. “”

I know very well that Krypto has a hard time collecting. Could this be the cause of his launching? Definitely worth exploring this possibility since teaching collection is also going to teach him a nice rounded jumping style. To this end, I have started re-training his jumping style following, albeit not literally, the Linda M. method.

This is a video of Krypto jumping a single at 22″, taken yesterday. I am supposed to invite him to the jump and he has to end in heel position. His distance from the jump has to be progressively increased to 15 feet and then my distance from the jump has to be varied as well. Unfortunately I had forgotten my treats and the reward placing is not as it should be. I will not forget the treats next time we go train!

This is his striding to the spread at 22″, from the same training session:

Meanwhile we have started working on the striding for our other project: running A-frame as per Rachel Sanders’ method. From the video (see below), I realize I have rewarded some wrong passes. I am definitely the weakest link as it is very hard to see live if he actually hits the box. Next time I will put coloured wraps around Krypto’s paws and I will bring my pipe box which is better than on the ground poles, placed there because I had forgotten the pipe box. I am quite happy of how this project is coming along though.

While we work on these two projects: jumping and running A-frame, we are not trialling. I am hoping that by the fall we’ll be back. I am not sure whether Krypto’s jumping will have improved by then. I hope so.

Our 2014, from when we left the blog to December’s “revelation” and more…

January 19, 2015 1 comment

Our agility year (2014) continued pretty well as Krypto succeeded beyond my expectations. We became a better team and brought home several titles, and finally one sunny day of July, at the Ottawa Valley Border Collie Club, Krypto and I succeeded in “conquering” the last Masters Jumpers Q we needed to obtain the ATChC! Not only that, but we also earned the Bronze Award of Merit (10 Masters Standard Qs + 25 Masters Games Qs)!!

with judge Wendy Beard, showing off our ribbons

with judge Wendy Beard, showing off our ribbons

Before that “epic” day (for me), we had competed at the Quebec Regionals and with 507.95 points and a 10th place in 22 regular we had qualified for Nationals. Again, something I had only dreamed of!!

However at Regionals one thing started haunting us again, after some time we hadn’t had that issue. Krypto was stutter stepping before jumps. But, it was not consistent. Outdoors things were going better and the stutter stepping was minor. Krypto also started taking off very early on for a jump, and I started worrying. However it was hard to work on this issue since it was not always present and I could not figure out its cause.

At the Quebec Regionals.  Photo by Jacques Beauvais.

At the Quebec Regionals. Photo by Jacques Beauvais.

Regardless, off we went to our greatest agility adventure: the AAC 2014 National Agility Championships, that were held in Sussex, NB. I still remember discussing things with our trainer/coach/instructor/friend J.L. and telling her the same thing I had told her about my strategy for Regionals. I was going to give it all and push our limit. We’ll go for it. Playing conservatively when there were other 96 dogs in our category was really not an option. And I remember her agreeing with me.

So off we went, with a friend and her dog. And we had the grandest of times! We ran our heart out, we rose to 11th place after day one, then an unfortunate run under the downpour and my mistake brought us down to 33rd place after day two, but we managed to keep our cool and to climb back 6 places to finish 27th out of 97 dogs! And we even brought home a 7th place ribbon in Gamblers. I was on cloud none, and thinking of it, I still am. That was the most amazing competition ever. Before our first run I could barely breath! I had so much adrenaline running in my system that I had a hard time sleeping even if we were waking up every day at the crack of dawn! I learnt so much and I am so so proud of what we accomplished for our first time playing with the “big” dogs!

7th place Gambler 1

7th place Gambler 1

Once back home, things started deteriorating. Krypto’s stutter stepping, almost absent at Nationals (although I think it cost us a clean Standard 1 and 5 points in Standard 2), came back with a vengeance. Not only that. After an accident with a small non-breakaway tire, Krypto started refusing this obstacle. I spent lots of time training him, reading jumping books by Linda Mecklenburg, Chris Zink, Susan Salo and Suzanne Clothier. I started thinking that what was gong on was due to lack of confidence. But our trainer convinced me to go see a canine rehab therapist. And what she found was amazing! 
Krypto’s neutering scar, which is a tad different and a bit bigger than a normal one as he had an undescended testicle, has adhered to the underlying tissues, e.g. the fasciae. This is exerting a pull on his muscles and is causing a lot of discomfort, and a tightness in Krypto’s left psoas. The pull has gotten worse over the years as has the tightness and the pain.
This could be the reason why Krypto takes lots of small steps instead of a couple of nice strides before jumping, why he has started tucking his back paws under his back when jumping while he used to extend his paws backwards, and also why he tries to avoid certain obstacles…He may be trying to protect his leg while still doing what he loves to do.
Of course this is not necessarily the only cause of what he does, but may certainly be a contributing factor.

Krypto underwent therapy, the adhesion is almost completely gone, and last Saturday we went for the first training session since we have found out about this injury. I must admit that I was very concerned about not seeing any improvement, especially since after over a year of jumping the way he did, he may have created a habit that may be difficult to break.

We did extension grids, set points and speed circles. Krypto was extending beautifully doing grid work, but he kept tucking his back paws under while doing the speed circle…until we were almost done and he started extending his back paws back while jumping! Now, this may not mean much, but I am really hopeful that he may have understood that his muscles do not hurt anymore and it is ok to kick his paws back!

And this is it, in short, what we have done since our last post. In the next months we’ll keep working on Krypto’s jumping skills and try to break his bad habits. Until then, no trials for us…

Two to go!

March 29, 2014 1 comment

Last night Krypto and I went to Dream Fields for a “self-serve” evening trial. Which means that the volunteers are the competitors. So we build, we run our dog, then we do ring steward duties and so on. It was games night, 2 Masters Gamblers, 2 Masters Snookers, and 2 Masters Jumpers. While I wanted to do well in all classes, my main goal was to succeed in jumpers, since we needed 4 Qs to get our MJDC (Masters Jumpers Dog of Canada) and also our ATChC (Agility Trial Champion of Canada).

While jumpers used to be easy peasy for us in starters and not that hard in advanced, as we hit masters we started having to cope with much more handling, a lot less straight lines, and a lot more movement required to me. And we had a lot of difficulty, until we started getting better at it, and we had the odd jump bar down. And then of course we had the big debacle of last Sunday’s trial, when Krypto messed up even the easiest of lead outs, one that he can normally do blindfolded, so to speak – it turns out he needed to pee and of course he could not both hold the pee and think (I had brought him out to pee before our run and he had repeatedly refused)…

Friday night was our night. After a successful Gamblers run, a nQ in the other Gambler caused by my inability to blurt out a “mememe” at a very critical moment, and a nQ in the first snooker due to some missed weaves in the opening, we got a shot at Masters Snookers 2, which led to the two jumpers runs. There we did not Q because the judge called a refusal at #6 in the closing. How he could possible see Krypto’s back paws from where he stood is a mystery to me, and some people that were watching us did not understand why we were whistled out…Truth is Krypto turned his head to look at me, but I believe he did not move his back paws. But, I am not 100% sure because he is so fast, and I am running him, and it is hard to be certain about such a detail. Anyways, we had a little conversation with the judge, who had no clue why he called us out, and we did not have a chance to get a re-run on that (I think we deserved it but…), which is probably better because I then had time to focus on our jumpers runs. They were two relatively flowy courses, with quite a bit of handling, but definitely feasible. So when I went in to run the first one, I just focused on it, and on Krypto. And we nailed it! As we nailed the second one!

Wow! Before last night we were so far from the ATChC. And now we are so close it is scary!! I never would have thought I could get a ATChC with one of my dogs. It has always looked like something so far away and unattainable, and I have always watched in awe the people and dogs that succeeded in earning it! And now, we are there. Almost!!!

That is all the positive. Let’s talk about the negative.

I am far too late too many times with my commands. And sometimes I do not say them clearly enough.  This is why Krypto sometimes turns to look at me. Every time that he turns his head and he stutter steps because he needs direction and I am late, we not only loose time. We also risk a refusal.

And, we have once more the creeping down the A-frame. This issue has been plaguing us since the very beginning. Whatever I did, or did not do, has definitely left a mark on Krypto. However, I had already decided to go back, once more, to square one, and start over again. I have an idea of what to do, I read books and watched DVDs, and I have observed Krypto. And I have a plan. I will take it easy. Slow and easy (the approach, not the A-frame performance!). What really worries me is that at the last two trials (5 days apart) Krypto’s A-frame was terrible. He would just stop above the contact zone, and not come down. He has never stopped there, that high, before. Also, before he would not be consistent in his creeping. He would have some good ones, and some bad ones. And just the week before, in training, his A-frame was very good, he had stopped creeping down. He was not the fastest, but he was definitely coming down easily. I am now wondering whether he is hurting. This is definitely the first thing I need to rule out before doing some more training. The plan is to get him to see a massage therapist or his chiropractor to see if there is anything wrong. At the next trial things will depend on whether he is ok or not. Sure thing is that there is no point in me trying to have him repeat the obstacle if he is hurting. And even if he is ok, then it is clear that he doesn’t understand what I want. So why asking him to repeat it? So perhaps the best course of action is just avoid that obstacle and burn some runs…at least for the trials runs I cannot get out of…And start over once more!!!




Last agility trial of the year.

November 26, 2013 2 comments

And agility year 2013 ended for Krypto and me last week-end at Absolute Agility (AARF).

I had entered only four events, two masters standard, one masters jumpers and one masters snooker, but I ended up adding two masters gamblers at the very last minute, the morning of the trial, since we were going to stay there the whole day anyways…

I have been repeating to myself over and over that when I am at a trial, I have to note, even if succinctly, what goes wrong, and also what goes well, so that I can use it to plan our next training session. Well, hopefully next year it will happen…

Masters Standard (3) and Masters Gamblers (2)

Masters Standard 3 and Masters Gambler 2

Masters Standard 3 and Masters Gambler 2

Since I did not note what happened in Masters Standard 3, I have no recollection of what went wrong. I remember we knocked a bar, but I bet we also had an off course. But where?!!! Bad bad me!!!

Masters Gamblers 2 was one of those gambles that you go and give it your best shot, but you know they are going to be hard for your dog to manage. I think we had a beautiful opening, tyre-dog walk-tunnel-tunnel-spread-complete 3 obstacle mini-jump-tunnel-spread-complete 3 obstacle mini-seesaw (?!) then the buzzer went off and we tackled the odd/difficult gamble. The first two obstacles were multidirectional. So we did: dog on right, jump 2 going towards the S-F line, threadle between jump 2 and jump 1, jump 1 going towards the weaves, weaves. Up to then everything went splendidly! I am veyr very happy with the threadle, my timing was good, and Krypto’s response to my commands and his weave entry were perfect. Then I sent him to jump 4 through the space between the weaves and jump 1. Krypto never saw jump 4. As Scorch and other fast dogs … Oh well. It was a beautiful run!

Masters Snooker (1) and Masters Standard (4)

Masters Snooker 1 and Masters Standard 4

Masters Snooker 1 and Masters Standard 4

On Sunday Krypto and I were 3 Master Snookers Q away from his Masters Snooker Dog of Canada (MSDC). I went in the field and walked the course with a plan in mind. That plan was not what is written on the map above, and is not what we run. The original plan was to do the red jump below the S-F line, then 6a-6b, red marked 2 in the map, then seesaw, then red marked 4 in the map, 6b-6a, then bring Krypto to 2 for the closing. I was, however, very concerned about having to then do the 6a-6b combo in the closing, because going from the seesaw to 6a, as written, for the closing, was not going to be easy for us. As I was watching other teams run (we were very far down the running order), I decided that I “had” to change my plan. And so I did. What we ran, and I did not walk, is written down on the map above. Doing four 6 in the opening allowed me to complete the closing only up to the seesaw, and not needing to get to 6a as written on the map. And we nailed it! Funny think is, we could have done 6a, Krypto actually came through from the seesaw, following my “me-me-me” command, and I was leading him to do a “round” (back of the jump) with dog on right, when the buzzer went off. We got 42 points and our second Masters Snookers Q!!!! Two down, two to go!!!!

And then came Masters Standard 4. Three times into a straight tunnel!!! How on earth was I supposed to manage that and get down to 11-12 to help Krypto with a nasty weave entry since he is a wide jumper (for now, we are working on that!)? I led out from the middle of the tunnel, between tunnel and A-frame. I started repeating “left” as soon as Krypto had his head in the tunnel, and he came out to the left (well, I was also on his left, that was easy 🙂  ), and did the A-frame as expected. Meanwhile I was moving up, I told him “left-tunnel” which worked perfectly, then I flicked/pushed him to the tire, “8-8-8” to the jump, then “tuneel-tunnel-tunnel” and when he came out of the tunnel I had moved diagonally towards the centre of the field. Then I said “jump-left-go-la-la-la” and he breezed through 9-10-11. As expected he turned left a bit wide at 11, thus he missed the weave entry and that was it. nQ. However, we kept going. I put him back in the weaves, then seesaw, then it was supposed to be “jump-left-weave” but my mouth said “jum-right” and of course he went into the chute. No big deal, we had already lost our chance to qualify. So I put him back into jump 14 and I said “jump-left-weave-right-right-right” and he executed if perfectly, then “out-jump” for 17, which Krypto nailed like a pro, steering towards the jump since he had curved towards me when in the chute. I was at about 80 horizontal/50 vertical. The rest was a breeze.

I am so very proud of this run. Krypto managed incredibly well the first 11 obstacles, had a glitch and missed the weave entry, and then if I had blurted the correct instruction, he would have definitely finished the course breezing through the whole thing, thus with only a weave issue. I never would have thought we could do this!!! I am so so happy!! This was definitely the highlight of the day for me.

Masters Gamblers (3) and Masters Jumpers (2)

Masters Gablers 3 and Masters Jumpers 2

Masters Gablers 3 and Masters Jumpers 2

Then it was time of another gamblers run. This time we did not have a pretty opening. We did the mini twice (notice, the judge moved B to the easier opening of the tunnel), which was a no brainer, then I played a bit at the weaves/chute, we did the A-frame and something else I forgot (again, bad bad me for not taking notes), then the buzzer went off. The only problem with this gamble was the time, and flipping the dog onto the dog walk. Krypto’s “jump right” worked as expected and we nailed the gamble and earned another Master Gamblers Q.

If is funny how people kept congratulating me for this run, which was really nothing special. We got only 36 points in the opening because I played around with things, and the closing was good, but for us is usually easy. I think our Snooker and Standard 4 runs were much much better. Or even Gamblers 2. But hey, I’ll take the compliment!

And last, but not least, we attempted a jumpers run. On Sunday we need 4 Masters Jumpers Q for our title (Masters Jumpers Dog of Canada). Today we still need 4!!!!

Again a straight tunnel, twice, in jumpers run! It was going to be a fast run for sure! I led out on the right of the tunnel, mid way. Everything went smoothly until I found myself above jump 9 when Krypto took jump 8. I was supposed to be below. That was the way I had walked it. I could not blurt out any directionals since I had not walked and learnt them for that particular spot!!! And despite my attempts at calling Krypto, he went for the dummy jump as if he had already decided…After that we continued nicely until we reached the very tight part 16-17-18…I do not remember what went wrong, but everything fell apart and we had an off course…Definitely that spot was very tight for us, and I need to work on handling in tight spaces…So, no matter what I had done previously during this run, we would have ineluctably failed somewhere between 16 and 19…

To sum it up, six runs, two Qs. But one that counts a lot us (the snookers), and a great (to me) standard run that made me smile the whole day.

I am very happy with what we have accomplished this year…let’s see what the next bring us!


Categories: Agility, Agility Trials

Winter training dilemma.

November 8, 2013 Leave a comment

Winter has arrived and our favourite place to play agility is closed until next May. Unfortunately, Red Gate Arena, our favourite indoor facility to do agility, closed in March of this year, and there aren’t many alternatives around. Either I do not like the footing, or the size, or both…Perhaps I am picky, but I have started considering taking a break from the sport/activity I like the most, and not train until next Spring/meltdown.

As one of my friends told me, dogs do not forget. True. It’s just that I always end up with new challenges being presented to us at each trial we go to, and I would like to work on those challenges asap. I also worry about the Regionals coming up in June and having had barely a month to get ready for the big event…

Perhaps something I have been planning with a friend will work out and we will go off to train for a few hours a couple of times a month. That would actually be awesome. And, our other training activities will be limited to a couple of fun matches (January and April), ball exercises, tricks and similar stuff, and we will play frisbee and go for long walks…



Categories: Uncategorized, Varia

Rosanne DeMascio workshop

October 14, 2013 Leave a comment

On Saturday and Sunday Krypto and I went to a couple of agility workshops organized by the Ottawa Valley Border Collie Club: Masters Handling and International Handling. Our instructor was international handler Rosanne DeMascio.

At first I did not want to attend. I did not know what Krypto and I could do at those workshops, considering that I do not run much and that we use, if not a unique, a rare handling style. As a friend of us put it, I handle Krypto “remotely”. Then my instructor and a friend convinced me to go. Their arguments were that there is always something to learn at a workshop, and that a good instructor would adapt to my limitations and give me feedback no matter what.

They were both right. We had a great time at both workshops and we came home with tips and ideas on how to improve our handling and our partnership to succeed in negotiating even international agility courses. This is a video of the two of us at the workshops:

The past two afternoons, spent with Krypto at this agility workshop, made me realize how lucky I am to have him as an agility partner. When we run an agility course, I am usually far away and cannot help him with his weave entries, discriminations and so on apart from giving him a verbal cue. He can very seldom rely on deceleration cues, feet pointing to the “future” and so on, because I am not there. Sure, he has been trained for this, but he has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, I believe more than a dog with a handler who can be there for his dog. He takes this responsibility quite seriously, one would think he knew. He works always giving me all what he has, he is always happy and very businesslike. He is a workaholic!  Sometimes I think that with a different handler the sky would be his limit. But…he has me 🙂  He does not care though, he is a happy dog whether we compete locally, play at a fun match, go for a walk or watch TV, and I am grateful I chose him almost three years ago, to come home with me and Pongo.

Categories: Agility, Varia