04 December 2010

Let me tell you a story...

Back in February 2005, Drifter was 2 years old, Freeze was about to turn 6. I was still working on many things with Drifter, but Freeze required little to no maintenance training - she was soft and had jumping issues, so was already backing down and Drifter was filling the shoes of being my "main dog". I have a habit of browsing border collie breeders' websites online, I have done this for a long time; it keeps me updated on who's doing what in border collie land. Well I found a breeder who had a leftover puppy that was related to some dogs I know. These dogs are pretty good at agility, but not over the top. Since I had Drifter who was a very driven, pushy young dog, I thought it might be nice to have a pup that was not over the top, even though the video showing the 12-week old pup described her as "a fireball". Well after a bit of thought, even though I wasn't even looking for a puppy, I decided to get this little fireball of a pup. So after calling the breeder and arranging for shipping, little Kiba came home to me. She was small, even at 12 weeks when I got her, but I figured she was just slow to mature. I hadn't had a BC puppy younger than 4 months, so didn't really realize just how small she was.

Kiba definitely had some drive. She loved to play, and was a natural born fetching dog. Drifter hated fetching, and much prefers to watch others do it. However, when I began to train Kiba to do agility, I ran into some problems. She wasn't running full speed, and she was very afraid to do things wrong. I train my dogs in a manner that asks them to problem solve and come up with answers on their own, and Kiba just couldn't handle being asked to do this if it involved being wrong at ALL. I remember training weave entries, and if I even looked at her funny, she ran back to my back door and flipped upside down and refused to come back. I did not ever YELL at Kiba, but I did not want to repeat the mistakes I'd made with Freeze, who was also soft, so I was determined that Kiba would at least learn to work through her mistakes. This meant I still had to communicate that she had made a mistake, just that I would do so gently, and afterward I would ask her to do a behavior she could perform easily. Kiba was the first and only dog I've ever shown at 15 months old, because I felt that the exciting environment of trials would help her kick up her speed a notch. I also felt that with her small size and lack of growth (she was the same height at 6 months that she is now - just under 18") I could be sure her growth plates were closed around a year. I rushed her contact training to get her into the ring, and I jumped her at her 16" height. I ran her in about 3 or 4 trials in the spring of 2006 at 15-17 months old, did a few USDAA trials over the summer, and she did indeed get excited and begin to speed up. At that point I was focusing on Drifter's career and felt that Kiba needed some retraining for her increasing drive levels. So I gave her some time off from trialing. She began to really pick up speed and that following winter she won her first local Grand Prix, surprising even me. I had thought for sure she'd never be THAT fast. I took her to USDAA Nationals in 2007, and she managed to get through all the DAM Team classes without a single E, a great accomplishment for a not-quite-3-year old dog. Here's a pic from that first trip to Scottsdale, Kiba demonstrating her signature Flying Squirrel technique over the aframe.

In 2008 I learned the AKC Nationals would be on the East Coast in 2009, so I re-entered the world of AKC and Kiba went from being in Open in March, to qualifying for Nationals by early November, with a fairly limited number of shows. She was so consistent that she had 6 QQ's, but still didn't have her MX or MXJ yet - when she Q'ed, she QQ'ed. At Nationals in '09 I ran her at 20" and she was in the top 10 going into the Finals, where her brain promptly exploded and she flew off the see-saw, missed her aframe contact, and knocked at least one bar, BUT she stayed on course through the tough tunnel/dogwalk discrimination that many good dogs were lost to, and she had the 2nd fastest time in 20". Not bad for a midget, especially a midget's first time at Nationals jumping in a category that included dogs up to 22" tall. After realizing I could not hope to catch the time of dogs 4" taller than her, I decided to let her jump 16", and she really began to shine. As the year of 2009 wore on, she split her trials between 16" in AKC and 22" in USDAA, culminating in making Steeplechase Finals and ending up 8th with a clear round. That Final round was an odd experience for me. When Drifter makes a Final, and I run clear with a great run, I expect to either win or be close to doing so, but with Kiba I felt that at 22" the jumps were just too big, and even though she had a GREAT run, I would be lucky to get placement ribbon, and so I was pleased with her 8th place finish. Also as this year went on, Kiba began to have recurring back soreness that would migrate up and down her back. She is a little thing, and she doesn't move well. In the winter between 2009 and 2010 I decided to move her to Performance 16" in USDAA. I was beginning to see some stutter step striding at 22", and just didn't like her not being at her best. The thing that told me I was doing the right thing for sure was AKC Nationals in 2010, this past spring. She was jumping 16", and after 3 days on the hard dirt of Tulsa, her back was doing very well. She made Challenger round, but due to a missed aframe contact in the Standard run on Saturday she did not make Finals. Due to her funny movement I was never able to get her to run the aframe properly, but because her behavior is FAST and she hits the yellow much more often than she misses, I have decided not to add a firm behavior to it.

Kiba's first trip to USDAA Nationals as a P16" dog went well, and she placed and won many classes, making all 3 Finals, PSJ, PVP, and PGP. Due to a wide corner she placed 3rd in PGP, but I'm happy to have a dog who stays sound AND can be in the top placements when she has a great run. Her speed is much higher at 16" and because she is so small she is still jumping - this is the height she belongs at - 22" is just not a fair height for her.

Kiba yesterday-

Kiba is a weird dog - she has many not-so-endearing habits like squealing at the ceiling when someone walks around upstairs, and not the sturdiest of dogs either, but I'm glad I have her. I have a feeling she'll retire somewhat early due to her on-again off-again back soreness and poor movement. She's a bit straight front and rear, and runs all on her forehand, so a traumatic front end injury could easily end her career. But at 16" she seems to be holding up well, and she may compete a few years past Drifter's planned retirement in 2012. I hope to some day be able to win a Final with her, or maybe add a NAC to her name! Right now her accomplishments read as follows:
2008 1st Place Team Relay
2008 2nd Overall DAM Team at USDAA Nationals (out of 200)
2008 went from Open to 6QQ's in about 14 trials.
2009 3rd Overall DAM Team
2009 8th Place Steeplechase Finals
2009 AKC National Finalist
2010 AKC Challenger Round participant
2010 AKC Nationals, placed in ISC JWW and Hybrid Rds
2010 USDAA Nationals 3rd place PGP Finals 16"
2010 USDAA Nationals won or placed in several individual classes at P16"
So all this rambling and bragging is to say,
Can't believe you're six already, now please stop staring at the ceiling and whining about the monsters in the kitchen.

1 comment:

Greg S said...

Great story about little Kiba!