24 June 2011

Because no one likes to read blogs that don't have lots of pretty pictures.

Here's a few pics from WAO and some of the best from our sight-seeing adventures after the WAO.

The WAO Arena, bedecked with the flags of all the countries attending.

Our team hanging out at the final medal ceremonies on Sunday. We all got very tired from running so many laps!

DJ took a picture of Drifter and I with our Sunday "loot".

First day of sightseeing, we drove a loop around the Southwest area. One of the things we saw was Wells Cathedral, which is enormous and beautiful. There were lots of local students just hanging around on the massive lawn, and I just couldn't imagine sitting and looking at a place like that so often that it becomes background to you.

 This is a view from a scary open floor type metal tower atop Cheddar Gorge. We also had lunch in Cheddar and went in and toured the caves. Cheddar is a VERY dog-friendly town, and Drifter got to walk through the caves with us, which was a very different sort of experience (he was not impressed, and kept trying to drink cave-water-puddles!)

On Tuesday we drove over to Wales, and started the day by seeing Castell Koch. This isn't a large castle, and it really isn't that old either, but it was based on an original castle/fort that WAS very old, and was built to be a very rich family's living quarters, in a similar structure to the original castle floor plan, around 1900 or so. The interior is intact, and it is very lavishly stencilled, carved, and furnished. The detail in the carvings and ceiling murals was particularly exquisite!

The next thing we saw, we spent quite a bit of time at, and it was probably my favorite. It is called Caerphilly, another castle outside Cardiff in south Wales. This place is enormous, and very old. It is surrounded by water - a lake, rather than a skimpy moat. It has been partially restored over the years, but has a very time-travelling feel to it when you walk around it. What I love about places like this is that you can get a map or audioguide, but you basically just wander at will and take in the sights as you like. This particular castle is also used in a lot of films and tv shows (like a recent Doctor Who episode, yay!)

23 June 2011

I hate heat and humidity. This week is all about heat and humidity. Oh well. I am glad that I live on enough property that I can take several short walks with my dogs, rather than trying to take them for one long walk in the heat. An example of a day in my dogs' life. Today I woke up at 6:45am (so nice not to have to get up early if I don't want to). Let the dogs out to do their business while I slapped on my outside-appropriate clothes. It was already about 75F and humid, so we walked about 15minutes. When I walk our fields, my dogs usually sort of shuffle around, alternating between walking, trotting, and cantering. I don't allow them to race, as that's not the type of exercise I want during walk, and i don't want them getting all anxious and silly about going out to do it. So we putter around the fields for 15 minutes. Later in the morning we did some jump grids. I set a 4-jump bounce grid, pretty tight so it is a collection type grid. This is a muscle building grid, not an extension, or speed change grid, which is more focused on jumping skills. This grid is all about core work, and building shoulder and rear muscling as well. We do the 4-jump grid (set at 12"/20"/20"/22") 10 times with each adult dog, all of them at the same height. Strafe did maybe 4 of them set at 8/12/12/12 just for fun. Then a few hours later we did our workout with the wrist weights. These are specialized weights that velcro around the dog's wrists. The dogs walk around the living room with them (for treats) and it works just like lifting weights does for people. This is a great low-impact, muscle building exercise, but you need to be under the direction of a qualified professional to purchase them. I do these for a few minutes per adult dog. Because I just increased to a heavier weight, I am not doing any stairs or stepping over bars or Bosu ball work with the weights on. That is very hard work! Strafe gets them strapped on for just a little bit, so he gets used to the idea, but not enough to overwork his undeveloped puppy muscles too hard. When we were done that, I did the "snoopy" exercise, where you hold up diagonal legs and the dog has to stand on the remaining 2 diagonal legs for a period of time, using their core to balance. We did about 20seconds per side. Then after it rained and cooled off slightly with the clouds, we did another walk in the fields, about 20minutes this time.

Seems like a lot? It is, sort of, but the weights, core work, and jump grids don't take more than a few minutes each, and it pays off massively in the amount of strength the dogs have. I am constantly amazed by how few people really understand how to properly condition their agility (athlete!) dogs. Fetching in the backyard is not good conditioning exercise. If you must play fetch (I choose not to, though that doesn't mean I never toss them a toy in play or training!), it should be an occasional and limited activity. Going for a walk, even a short one, is much more beneficial to the dog, as he can move in natural ways and not jam shoulders/wrists/upper back while braking and turning. Allowing the dog to muddle about and move on his own is wonderful for helping them unkink and relieve stress as well.

Tomorrow we'll do some more walking, maybe practice some contacts, do some sit-ups, push-ups*, and work on the Bosu Ball...

*push-ups are when the dog does down-sit-down or down-stand-down

22 June 2011


Sad that I can't attend Tryouts next year, for the 3rd year in a row. I only got to go one single year, in 2009. We aced all the courses but Drifter handed me the biggest disappointment I think I've ever gotten, by knocking one single bar in every run. Handling the courses was never an issue, and our combined times were always among the top 3 or 4, he just couldn't manage to clear all the jumps. And whether it makes sense or not, they do not choose "bar knockers" for the team, even if the dog doesn't usually knock one bar on every run. They would rather take the chance on a dog who goes off course. i guess I won't understand that mind-set until I have a good long conversation with the people choosing, which will probably never happen! Needless to say though, when I do return, I hope to have a dog who not a 'bar-knocker'. i couldn't go in 2010 as I was on the IFCS Team, and that was not allowed at that point in time, and after that I decided not to continue frustrating Drifter at that height, as his toe injury got worse and he got older.

Seri, now, also won't be doing 26" due to her physical and mental issues.

Kiba, unfortunately, is too large for Medium, and too small for Large.

Anybody got a dog they want handled to Tryouts? ;) I don't want the Team choosers to forget I exist!
My strategy for now is to continue kicking butt in as many high profile events as possible so that when I do return to Tryouts, they will pay attention! Sounds good, right? Then again, kicking butt is usually my game plan anyway.

21 June 2011


So after the jump height change thing at WAO, I got to thinking about what I want to do next year regarding competing in europe with any of my dogs. Originally i had planned to get Seri qualified for AKC World Team Tryouts and possibly take her to the EO, but at this point in time I just don't think that is realistic anymore. Her wrist took abotu 4-5 days to stop hurting after the Regional, with only 4 full runs at 26". The shoulder is stiff, not sore and hasn't gone "out" in a while, but at the end of a stretch it is definitely stiffer than it should be, so she needs more stretching, strengthening, and will probably always need careful watching. She is so reckless with her body that I don't think she's going to help me out in that regard by being careful. Generally the only signs she is sore is that she starts knocking bars and missing easy weave entries...

So Seri is out for 26" altogether, is what I have decided. She will continue trialing, of course, until and unless she is no longer able to do so (we are nowhere near that point!), but she will do so at the lower jump heights, because her enormous jumping arcs put more stress on her front end at the higher heights than the lower ones. We are going to run 20" in AKC over the summer, and if she isn't significantly better by October I may not bring her to USDAA Nationals in KY. I have already pulled her from her Team. i do not have the time or money to requalify her at 22", so we will try for that next year. I have also decided I am definitely not bringing Drifter to the WAO next year. I think 9 and 1/2 years old is a bit old for such a long stressful trip. I probably won't bring him to AKC Nationals in Reno either, not because he won't qualify, and not because he can't jump 20", but because I feel like, again, that is a lot of travel and stress, and with Drifter, who has won the last 2 National events in a row, I also strongly feel like we have nothing left to prove. Winning 2 years in a row is pretty damned good, and while I know there are dogs out there who have won Nationals more than twice, I don't feel a need to do so with him. He is definitely going to USDAA in KY this October, and if the schedule is not too bad, he will run Team, GP, and Steeplechase. After that, I may qualify him in Performance 16" for 2012, but maybe not; I may just allow him to retire as soon as he completes his MACH2 (he's about halfway there).

So that leaves a gap to be filled for International competition. I really, really enjoy my now-yearly trips to Europe to compete and sight-see a bit. And I really enjoyed the WAO event, despite my anger over the ridiculous jump height waffling and breed discrimination. So my choices boil down to this - take Kiba to the WAO jumping 20.6", or take Strafe to the EO jumping 26". There are problems with both choices, of course. Kiba is a difficult travelling dog, and I would have to be creative to get her over to Europe. i think it could be done, if I think outside the box a little bit. Also, this means I have to work her back up to the higher jump heights I had "retired" her from a year ago. When I dropped her down to 16" across the board, it was because her back was getting rather tight after a long weekend at 22", because she qualifies to jump 16" in AKC anyway (and is required to at the Nationals), and also because at the higher height she sometimes does a slight stuttering behavior before jumping. So we would need some strong conditioning and jump work to do well, but I think it's definitely doable. i've run her at 20" at home a couple times this week and she did quite well. The option of taking Strafe to the EO has a few different hang-ups. I have no idea if he'll be ready for tough International courses, no idea if he'll be ready to travel overseas on a long, stressful trip. He almost certainly won't have flown cargo by then. I will have to pay for a Rabies titer at least 4 months before leaving. And then there's the fact that our EO team doesn't have any sponsorship money like the WAO team does, so the trip would be entirely on my shoulders to pay for.

Right now I am leaning towards working very hard to get Kiba on the WAO Team. She may not be as viable a Biathlon contender as Drifter, due to having to work harder over the 20.6" jumps (NOT because her competitors are bigger!), but she could potentially, easily, win the Pentathlon and aid the Team quite a bit. She is fast at any height, but fastest at 16/18". Still, she won many local classes and placed at National events at 20/22" as well, and I'm sure she's actually faster now than she was then.

The next thought that pops into my head after all this, is that I am planning to bring a single dog to Reno next spring for AKC Nationals. I am pretty sure it won't be Drifter. I had originally thought maybe Seri, even at 20", but I'm still not sure if she can keep her head in the game consistently enough to drum up 6 QQ's between now and November. So again, that leaves Kiba - she already has, I believe, 3 QQ's for this year (maybe 4), so it would be easy to finish qualifying her. And if my plan for flying her to Belgium seems viable by practicing similar situations, then why not fly her to Reno too? I would definitely need a packable soft crate for the rental car that blocks her view out the windows, but other than that, she should survive reasonably well - it should actually be much easier on her than a 3 or 4 day drive!

So in order to get started on this new plan, I have entered Kiba in a 3-day AKC trial in August at 20". I will try to get good video of as many of her runs as I can, and then I will take a good long look at it and see how she does, and also check her constantly for signs of soreness or tightness. We will spend September at 20" as well, before dropping back down for USDAA Nationals P16".

Kiba at 22" back in 2008, showing her occasional tendency to arc too early

Kiba at the same trial, with an appropriate takeoff spot this time

Kiba over 16" at AKC Nationals a few months ago.

Of course there are plenty of pictures of Kiba at 16" taking off too early as wel, and in fact she gets away with it at 16" because the jumps are easy for her and so she doesn't tend to have that slight hesitation/stutter. I'm not entirely convinced that 20" is perfect for her, however I am pretty convinced that 20" won't hurt her.

20 June 2011

WAO jump height update

I have continued to correspond sporadically with the US based board member regarding the WAO's proposed jump height change. She indicated that they already knew the US and Canada competitors would have a problem with the change. Supposedly europeans are being supportive of it. I find this difficult to believe - I know some europeans read this blog, so I've decided to post here again.

The conclusion I've come to is that they don't want to raise the cutoff for the 400mm height any more than they have, because they are trying to keep small border collies out of that height class. They don't want to become the same as Medium FCI, where, in their view, tiny border collies are supposedly becoming the rule (in truth, only 7 of the 79 Medium Individual dogs were BC's or Kelpies, that's only 8.9%). So rather than raise the cutoff for 400mm so that it's the same as Medium FCI, they raised it slightly, so that larger shelties and mudis and such can compete, but leaving that last cm or so in the next largest height (the new 525mm), because they believe that's where the smallest border collies are. However, in order to cater to these Medium border collies, they have to lower the upper end of the height division, because of course dogs who are Medium in europe are not used to competing against dogs who are usually classified as Large at FCI.

In my view this whole debacle boils down to our new height classes of Small, Medium, Medium-BorderCollies, and Large! That's just silly! I believe many european handlers are not speaking up because quite simply, they are so used to the 650mm height that they don't have strong feelings either way about it. And that's fine, but if they don't care, then why should we continue forcing all average height border collies to be considered Large? I know LOTS of 19-19.5" (485-500mm) border collies who are not very good at jumping the full 26"/650mm height. Or their owners don't want to choose that height. In the US, we have a choice. In europe, there is no choice. But just becuase there isn't currently any choice, doesn't mean a new organization with a stated goal of being "for all dogs", shouldn't create a new choice. I would bet money it woudl catch on. I've long thought it strange that FCI has 2 small divisions and only one large. There is a jump height  missing in FCI, and it is 550mm, right in the middle between Medium and Large! I don't expect it to start anytime soon, but if WAO starts with a 3rd height that SPLITS the Large dog class in 2, I believe it will catch on. Because let's face it, the Large dog class is a large class! It needs to be split off!

And breed discrimination is just STUPID. Agility is a sport. It shouldn't matter what type of dog it is, if the handler is good, and they train well and run fast, they should welcome all competition. I do.

Consider AKC Nationals here in the US. There is a 16" height class where dogs all the way up to 18" tall can compete. This includes a lot of small border collies. Including my Kiba! But who has won the National at that height the last 3 years in a row? Non border collies who are, in fact, 400mm or less tall! Being a border collies does not guarantee anything.

ETA: if you're interested in sending the WAO an email regarding the proposed change, send your email to both Monica and Greg. If you live in Europe or have competed in FCI or the EO, I think it will be especially meaningful, as they seem to be under the impression that if you have competed at these events, you prefer these jump heights and don't care about having new ones.

19 June 2011

NE Regional videos

A few videos, anyway. I already posted Drifter's GP Final. So here's Seri's 2 best runs - the first one she isn't sure she can make a turn on the wet grass, downhill, to her bad direction. And the 2nd she just hit the broad jump.

And 3 of Miss Consistent's runs from the Regional. I only just realized Kiba won all 4 major classes she ran at the trial - both rounds of PSJ and both rounds of PGP. What a great little dog! She's so easy, I forget how fast she is!

17 June 2011

Drifter's GP Final

I am too lazy to edit video today, so I've uploaded the raw file directly to Blogger. Here is the lovely GP Final with faulted iffy see-saw. I am of the opinion that somewhat pushy "international" style see-saws (the dog is in control and it clearly hits the ground as the dog pushes off) should be OK. And the thing that really annoys me is that very few judges are consistent on their calls. Drifter sometimes gets called because he pushes UPWARD when he leaves. Many other dogs who leave at the exact same point but push FORWARD do not get called. Neither is more in control of the board, it just looks prettier, and that shouldn't matter. I realize that technically, USDAA rules say the board should contact the ground before the dog exits, however board contacting AS dog exits is always a grey area, and some dogs get away with it a LOT. Drifter did not, and therefore we have to run in Quarterfinals in KY. I didn't really care about winning this class, but I would've appreciated the bye into semifinals for my old dog!

USDAA Northeast Regional Wrap-up

Last weekend I was at the USDAA Northeast Regional up in Bethlehem PA. I really wish they wouldn't keep returning to an outdoor location. Even though the grass at the site is lovely, one of the rings is on a slight slope, and so when it began raining Saturday morning, we had to deal with slick grass on a slopey surface in one ring. Not ideal for any dog, but especially worrisome for my injury prone reckless dog (Seri).

I should mention that Friday I stopped at my PT, Ria's house and helped her with some computer work for her business, and got her to check my dogs. On discussion, we are pretty sure Seri's shoulder is occasionally subluxating, and that's why I am sometimes feeling that it isn't quite right when I stretch, which is usually followed by a pop. It was in when I was there, happily, and she said the muscles in and around the shoulder were in no pain, there was no tenderness or swelling, and overall it actually looked pretty good. However, considering how hard I have been working to strengthen it for the last few weeks, there was surprisingly little muscle developement. I'm not sure if that's because I was taking it easy at first, or because she is more of a long, lean muscled dog rather than a bulky type.

So Saturday morning we ran Masters Gamblers, and I took it easy with Seri, only putting her in the ring on the wet in order to practice some contacts, which went OK even though she missed an Aframe (I am afraid to practice too many with her recklessness combined with a front end weakness!). I scratched Drifter, and ran Kiba who did well. Next up was the first round of Grand Prix, which none of my dogs really needed, but because it had stopped raining and the grass seemed OK, I deemed it worth getting them in the ring to get their brains in order. Kiba ran in the flatter ring, and put in a nice solid clean run in P16". Seri and Drifter ran in the slopey ring (really it wasn't that bad, but the wet made it seem much more uphill/downhill). Seri ran first and actually missed a jump because she didn't think she could make the turn downhill on the slick grass. Otherwise she actually did OK, she stopped on her dogwalk but self-released, which I let slide (and shouldn't have, as we'll find out later). Didn't hit any bars. Drifter was slipping. He slid a little bit early on, so I figured he had the hang of it, but he slipped badly later on and smashed through a jump, at which point I left to make sure he was OK. Approaching 9yrs old isn't a good time to start crashing jumps (he was fine).

Last run of the day was Steeplechase Round 1, and of course everyone has to run that since there are no byes to Round 2. Seri was up first again, thankfully in the flatter ring. I handled very carefully, utilizing blind crosses in somewhat silly spots just to avoid facing her over a bar, and it worked - her only fault was to hit the broad jump in the closing. Drifter had a lovely run with just one bar - I was so focused on figuring out Seri's handling that I didn't spend enough time working out his, and forgot how easy it was to get ahead of him compared to her, and so I found myself accidentally converging on the triple at the end, which he knocked. Kiba had a clean run up in the much drier slopey ring, and was first place in that round.

Sunday dawned wet and misty again (sort of like England rain!). Unfortunately they had all the important 2nd round Finals in the slopey ring because that was the livestream ring. First thing was Grand Prix Finals. They started with Performance and small dogs, so Kiba was up first. She had a brilliant run and won her class. Drifter had a brilliant run *except* that he pushed his see-saw just a little farther than the judge would allow so we got a flyoff called, which was a shame because he was more than a second faster than the winning dog. Seri knocked the 2nd bar, then ran straight off her dogwalk without even hesitating, so I walked her off after the 7th obstacle. So a bye for Kiba in PGP, but the other 2 got nada.

Last class I ran on Sunday was the Steeplechase Final. Kiba was up first again, and had another brilliant run with the exception of a quick spin on a weird handling maneuver in the corner of the ring - but because Steeplechase does not fault refusals, we only wasted a tiny bit of time, and we still won by a good margin. She has really picked up speed this last year; I think her confidence level has really come up at the lower height. Next up was Drifter, who also ran very well, although he didn't spin he did lose a bit of time in the same corner as he slowed way down to do the rear cross/flip manuever I asked for. We ended up 4th place, less than a second out of 1st, behind 3 much younger dogs, and got our bye, so I was happy with that. Seri was up last, and it really was sort of a run full of small problems. I should've walked her off for being goofy, I think, but I didn't. Also, when I got her out of the crate to warm up, she was moving stiffly up front, and Ria said her upper back was a mess and she had to mobilize it before we could warm up. So yet another issue!

So sum for the weekend: Kiba rocked it, winning PSj and PGP and getting both byes to the Semifinals. Drifter did well, getting a Steeplechase bye and almost wining GP, and Seri, well, she was Seri. What I learned about Seri was that slipping and jumping 26" did not pop her shoulder out all weekend, but it did mess up her upper back, and it also re-aggravated her bad wrist that she injured last year. Until yesterday she was off and on lame on the wrist so I've been icing it and lasering it and only leash walking her. Yesterday I allowed her off leash (she is already not allowed to run full-out on walks and she knows that), and she did very well. Ria said to give it 4 days, so in exactly that it seems back to "normal" again, so I think this is not a true reinjury, just an aggravation. What I did take away from this weekend though, is that I'm pretty sure Seri is not going to Europe. Mental issues aside, I just cannot trust all her various body parts to keep functioning painlessly, and she is so hard on herself that it's impossible to just take it easy and expect her to do the same. I pulled her out of Team classes in Kentucky at Cynosport, and will have to see how she is doing near the entry date - if she isn't completely sound I will probably leave her home. I put Drifter on Team instead, as aside from some minor weakening (which i can work on), he is holding up pretty well.

I am also seriously considering finding a way to get Kiba to Belgium for the WAO next year. I think it would be both a lot of fun, since Kiba is easier to run than Drifter - she doesn't push me all the time, she stays on the start line, and she doesn't really run her contacts - and also it might be good to show the WAO organizers that a dog doesn't necessarily have to be at the cutoff to compete in that division; that it's silly to say "all the medalists at 550 were at the cutoff because the smaller ones couldn't keep up" when the truth as I see it "all the medalists at 550 were at the ctuoff because that's a very average height for BC's and Kelpies" oh and don't forget "most dogs on the low end of the cutoff dont' want to jump 550 or 525, they want to jump FCI Medium height!"

(ETA if it isn't clear, Kiba would have to jump 20.5"/525mm if I took her to WAO, and no she is not a perfect jumper, but since we've moved her back has been doing a lot better, and I believe if I run a trial period of a few weeks at 20" in AKC and have her thoroughly checked and it goes well, that I can reasonably expect her to do 20" for a few months next spring as well. In other words, it would be a temporary bump up to a higher height, not a permanent one. Many people do this for EO and such without an issue)

14 June 2011

I'll post a more complete recap of the Regional this past weekend, but the shorter version is that Kiba won both the PGP and the PSJ Finals, Drifter got 4th in Steeplechase Final and would've won GP except he was called on a flyoff of a very borderline/iffy teeter performance. Seri, well, she was Seri. She had some good runs and some whacky ones. Ria and I discussed her shoulder and we are pretty sure it is occasionally subluxating, but it stayed in for the weekend. However she did mess up her upper back after one run, and for a few days after the trial now her bad wrist has been sore.

Here's the real reason I posted: Biathlon video from the WAO:

And this one as well - I STILL have openings for the seminar this saturday if you'd like to become more proficient at backsides and blind crosses!

09 June 2011


Seri got her Gamblers Master in the mail. I thought she only had like 3 legs in Gamblers. It's the only game she's actually in Masters for because I stopped entering the rest of them after she got her single leg in each in Advanced. She needs one more Standard to finish her AAD. I didn't even enter it this weekend. When I go to USDAA anymore, I am focused on Tournaments, and since those are usually 1 or 2 runs a day, I budget the rest of what the dog runs. Seri has had a bunch of 1-fault Adv Std runs this year, so we just haven't finished. They weren't all one bar either, we had a missed up contact on the see-saw, a table where an elbow popped up that I didn't see (and couldn't hear the stopped count over her barking), a broken pull-apart tire, and a table she slid off. . . Anyway I don't really care. My goal has been, and will continue to be, National level competition (and beyond!), and so I don't really care if she ever gets ADCH-Gold or makes Top Ten or whatever. Drifter doesn't even have a Bronze LAA yet (I never enter Pairs). I am happy with the way I enter trials right now, enough to qualify for both big National events I like to attend, and maybe qualify for a World Team along the way.

Northeast Regional is this weekend. Team is tomorrow, but I already have Team Q's, and I didn't know how hot it was going to be (hot!), so I didn't enter it. I will head up tomorrow evening and stay in my mother's RV overnight, and we are only running Gamblers, GP, and Steeplechase. An easy day, although that's 9 runs with the 3 dogs. Hopefully we'll get some byes into semi-finals of some classes. And what we don't get, I don't really care, i will just run quarterfinals at Cynosports. The rest of my year is dedicated to AKC and Seri.

Press Release from WAO

When we first announced this event in August 2010, the WAO organizing committee made a
commitment that we would review the jump heights and the jump height cut-offs immediately
after the first event. We also said that we would continue to review them each year, and we
would tweak them as we thought necessary to get the fairest and most competitive four
divisions. We want to be flexible enough that we can take what we learn from each event and
make changes to make the next year even better. Competitors should be aware of this going
forward and anticipate that some rule changes may occur immediately after each WAO and be
effective for the following year.
Our goal in defining the jump heights and cutoffs is to look at agility from a worldwide
perspective and not with a bias toward any one country. And it’s not just about looking at how
high dogs have to jump, it’s about evaluating the range of competition within each jump
height division—in each division, you will have dogs that measure at the very bottom of the
cut-off range and dogs that measure at the upper end of the range. We believe that the changes
we put forward are good ones when looking at the sport as a whole, from an international
perspective. Dogs measuring 411mm competing against dogs measuring 499mm (dogs that
normally compete internationally at 650mm) was not fair. But we think that dogs measuring
411-440mm can be competitive against dogs up to 485mm if they are jumping 525mm. We
have also seen 486mm dogs proven that they are extremely competitive at 650, both
nationally and internationally.
We have made an error, but it’s not with our proposal itself. In our excitement with how well
the first event went, we responded too quickly to requests that we allow all three medal
winners to return to defend their titles in 2012. When we decided to make that announcement,
none of us considered that we were going to be reviewing the jump heights the following
week, and any changes we made then might impact these medalists. It was an oversight for
which we apologize. From a customer service perspective, we don’t think it’s fair to penalize
these medalists. With that in mind, we have decided to wait until after the 2012 event to make
a height cut-off change in what was the 550 division. The jump height itself, however, will
change to 525mm for the 2012 event. We still want to provide a fairer jump height for dogs
measuring over 411-440mm in the hope that these dogs will attend the event in 2012.
The changes to the jump height cut-offs for the 300 and 400mm divisions will be in effect for
the 2012 event since these do not adversely impact any returning medalist—while a returning
300mm or 400mm dog may measure down into a lower height because of the cut-off changes,
the dog has the option of running at the same height as in 2011. At the WAO, dogs are always
allowed to jump at a higher height than what they measure into. It’s only the returning 550mm
champions that present a problem. So returning 550mm medalists may choose to return as a
wildcard in their event in either the 525mm division or the 650mm division.
We also want to make all competitors aware that dogs measured at the 2011 WAO will not
need to be measured again if they return in 2012 or a subsequent year. This should eliminate
concerns for people who have dogs that are on the borderline of a jump height cutoff; you
don’t have to worry about someone getting a different measurement for your dog each year.


Here's what I get from that release: "OK, we messed up in inviting you back, but since we already did it, we'll allow you jump your comparable height. But we're still right darn it!"

I still strongly disagree. Yeah, sure, you give 17" dogs a chance at winning. And how many of those are there? And if those dogs aren't willing to compete against my dog at 21.6", implying that their dog is not as fast, then how is jumping 1" lower going to make them as fast? Whether I'm in the height or not, I hate to see any category become slower and less competitive overall, because it has been narrowed so much. And I absolutely believe that's what will happen in 2013. And now you have dogs who are 19.25" competing against 22" tall malinois and BC's. THAT's not fair because these 19.25" dogs are also jumping MUCH higher than their shoulder. 6.75" over their shoulder is a lot. As I mentioned previously, sure, a few dogs of such height can do well at 26", although in my experience they usually have shorter careers. How many 10 year old dogs did you see at FCI jumping 26"? I'll tell you because it was Strafe's great-grandmother - ONE! How many 10 year old dogs could jump 22"? Probably a lot more. Drifter is 8, another medalist was 9, these dogs have CHOSEN the WAO because they liked the idea of a competition where they are not forced to jump jumps that are so large that half the challenge or more is simply keeping the bars up (and keeping the dog uninjured). I have thought for years that FCI would be better served by splitting into 4 jump heights, as it really is patently ridiculous to lump all dogs 17" and up into the 26"/650mm height. It's basically saying "All BC's should run together". WAO is trying to accomplish fairness with 4 heights, but instead they are saying "the 17" dog is special" which makes no sense, because last time I looked around, there were a lot more 19" dogs than 17" dogs competing at the high levels of competition. Why cater to one subset? Now you've made a much larger subset unhappy with the level of THEIR competition, over larger jumps, and against larger dogs.

OK, well, anyway. I mentioned to a friend, I actually strongly believe Drifter won't be attending either way because I am still seeing some odd behaviors on his dogwalk, which was so reliable the last few years that a change now seems odd, and I am thinking it is related to his toes getting sore. He has a bad toe that doesn't work anymore, and now with the heart murmur and getting older, I think doing contacts might bother his toes. They got quite sore after our practices in England where we did quite a few dogwalks to get uesd to the height, and so I am thinking our career is limited now, we will finish our MACH2, probably go to KY, and be done. But do I want to bring a different dog to WAO when they so clearly have a strange agenda in their heads, charging about changing things willy-nilly every year depending on who complained the most? I think EO and FCI need a 4th jump height, but at least they are consistent with what they have.

08 June 2011

A random collection of thoughts that I'm squishing together into a single post because i can

The backlash regarding the WAO's jump height changes continues on facebook. So far there's a LOT of negative comments, and 2 positive ones. I am not sure they will backpedal and revert to the original jump heights, but they made concede something for those of us who were supposedly invited back to defend our medals and increase the level of competition. I did think it was interesting that one of the people who was FOR the height cutoff change seemed to imply that it wasn't fair for their "National placement" earning dog of 17" or so to compete against my supposedly enormous Drifter. I'm sorry, but he is just NOT THAT BIG. When I was jumping him 26" at LOCAL AKC trials last summer, he was usually the smallest dog in a class of about 15, and he looked TINY next to the other dogs. Dogs who are successful at 26" on a National/International level are usually between 20.5 and 21.5" tall. Only an inch, you say? But that is one CRITICAL inch, and yes, of course there are exceptions, but in general, that's it. That's the magic number for 26". So, do I believe it's right for 17" dogs to compete against 19.5" dogs? Well, I don't know. It depends on each dog. I'm sure there are lots of 17" dogs who are fine jumping 22". I have one who isn't. If your dog is OK with the jump height, then you should be fine with the competition. That's what it comes down to in my mind. If my dog can jump the jumps comfortably, then you should WELCOME all competition! This IS a SPORT. My problem with jump heights only comes when I believe you are forcing a specific type of dog to jump a height that is probably inappropriate for the majority of dogs who are that size. For instance, I support raising the cutoff for the 12" height, because it is very difficult for a 12.5" dog to jump 16". The same goes for the 16" class - they raised it a bit, but I think it should go all the way up to 17". I don't think dogs under 17 will skew it much, but once you go over that, I'm sorry, that's a large dog. Not a very large large dog, but nonetheless, not a mini or midi any longer. Can a 17.5" border collie beat my 19.5" border collie over 20 or 22" jumps? Sure, why not? But you better have running contacts, because THAT'S how I usually beat the other dogs. Well, that and my handling. I do focus on driving forward. Not because he's big. And my reason for not wanting to be forced to jump 26 is because, quite simply, that is not a great height for him. I tried on and off his whole life, but what it comes down to is that he is just BETTER and more comfortable at 22". If you have a 17" border collie, and the dog is GOOD at 22", then in my not very humble opinion you should welcome the competition. If your dog is NOT good at 22", then don't try out for the team! I HAVE a dog like this! She stays home! That's OK! International level championship competition may not be for every single dog and/or handler.

Drifter at 26" last year. Maybe he isn't "struggling", but does he really look "big"?

On to different topics. Rant over. If they don't rectify the situation somehow by making some acceptable consessions, I will just go to EO. If Seri's shoulder doesn't hold up, I will take baby Strafe, who will be about 22 months old by then.

Speaking of Seri's shoulder. This week I've seen her limp for a couple steps twice. Aggravating. On stretching, initial range of motion seems good, but she gets twitchy quickly, before I am done holding the stretch, and sometimes I get a clicking or a bit of movement in the shoulder, so I have stopped stretching and working her, and she is on walks-only rest until I see Ria on Friday to find out if she's OK. I think she will still be able to run on the weekend, since she's only in a couple classes, but I will have to be very, very careful with her and watch her like a hawk. After that she has a few easy weeks of rehab and strengthening before we have some trials in AKC where she's entered at 20". We will see if jump height makes any difference with either her shoulder or her mental state in the ring.

Seri jumping 20". Looks kind of relaxed, doesn't she?

Strafe is officially over nine months old. I put him over a very low aframe in puppy class yesterday (that I teach) and he was, as always, perfect. I won't do that very often since I think aframes are pretty high impact, but I kept this to medium speed and prevented him from being crazy. His dogwalk ramp off the table is doing great too, and I'm thinking he may be tuned in enough to train him like Drifter - to turn off the end with me after running through the yellow - and not require a stop behavior in order to get his attention and a sharp turn like Seri. He is just so easy to train, I have trouble believing it. Yes, I do rave about him a bit, and no, that's not typical behavior for me. I'm just really hopeful I finally have one of those Perfect Puppies who turn into Easy Dogs who just do what you want them to, all the time, and never push you or try your boundaries or rush too much down the line and knock the bars. I can train all those things, and obviously I have in the past, sometimes multiple times, but I would just LOVE to have a dog who is ready to be serious right away. I see these dogs, but they have been elusive for me. . . and if Strafe still isn't that dog, well, then we'll push onwards and he'll still be brilliant, but possibly at a later age than I have tentatively "planned" out for him!

So much for wanting a smooth coat;)

06 June 2011

Well I guess Drifter's definitely retired from International competition now.

Choice taken away from me after all. The World Agility Open, according to the feedback of some very strange team managers, has decided to lower the jump height and cutoff for the 2nd highest height division. Click here for the new jump heights.

I applaud raising the cutoff for smaller dogs, as I do feel that the 300mm (12") jump height was too restrictive, and I feel that smaller dogs have a harder time with higher jumps. However, they also made the former 550mm height (about 22") much more difficult to get into, by lower the jumps to 525mm (about 20.5"), and lowering the cutoff to 485mm/19.09". That means essentially only rather small border collies will be in this jump height, and all medium and large BC's and other breeds will have to jump the standard FCI height of 650mm/26". I think this is silly. Make your event MORE inviting for small dogs, and LESS inviting for smaller big dogs. Many of the competitors at the 550mm height were over 19", and won't be able to compete at the similar height now, and instead will have to do 650 if they return. I won't be returning. This seems awfully ridiculous after they just openly invited us to return if we won a medal. Now they tell us "oh, you can come back, but you have to jump 4" higher!"

Reasoning seems to be some nonsense about how all the Europeans have to jump 26" anyway, so what's the big deal. And that it's more fair for the dogs on the lower end of the spectrum. I think that's silly because in my experience, there simply aren't all that many dogs on the lower end of the spectrum that do really well at even 20.5" jumps... so basically they are severely limiting this new 525mm division, and saying "screw you" to all of us who were on the upper end of 550 this year. Drifter will be NINE AND A HALF and no, thanks very much, we won't be returning at the higher jump height. If I'd wanted to jump that height, I would have. Or perhaps I would have gone to the EO where we already HAVE an open event with FCI oriented jump heights. Why do we need another one? This new system does not encourage the nicey-nice friendly competition they seemed to be aiming for.

We shall see what develops. There does seem to be a lot of negative backlash occurring about making one height more restrictive but the others bigger and easier. It almost seems to be sort of a "screw the north american dogs" mind set. Hmmm, and the USA DID have the most medals....

(I dont' believe it's anti-US sentiment, but it sort of ends up BEING that way, whether it was the intent or not)

03 June 2011

Well Strafe isn't really quite 9 months yet, but I decided that today was such a gorgeous day that I'd go ahead and take some nice "9 month old" photos. Strafe has, so far, been possibly the easiest puppy I've trained. He was easy to housebreak, he is easy to train and learns new things very quickly, and he has a lot of natural drive without being "over the top". I don't have to work hard to get him to play with me OR to control him, and that is a very nice sort of dog to have! With Drifter, it was all about control, with Kiba I had to build drive, and Seri started out needing some tug drive built, and then wham-o she hit a certain age and now it is ALL about control with her as well. Strafe, so far, has been a nice balance of drive and self-control. He stays easily, he can work around other dogs, and he remembers what he's learned so I don't really need to do drills all the time (something I can't stand doing!). He seems so mature sometimes I have to remind myself how young he is. I've even got next year planned out for him already, at least in a basic sense - I am planning a trip to FL and will try to get his basic AKC titles at 16/17 months old jumping 20", and then will take a month or so to bring him up to 26" in training and then jump right into USDAA and AKC Nationals qualifying. I have high  hopes and expectations for this little boy!

In the older dogs department, I am extremely pleased with the way Seri's shoulder is coming along. She is not running at the trial on Sunday (just Drifter and Kiba in very limited classes), so I have been working her very hard this week in regards to strengthening exercises. We've done a lot of walking/trotting, work on the Bosu ball, work with weighted wrist wraps (like lifting weights for dogs), walking up/down stairs with and without the weights, lots of sitting up, standing up; basically all kinds of muscular strengthening exercises that dont' involve high-impact activities. We've only done agility with jumps once, and she didnt' knock too many bars at 26", so perhaps there is hope in our future for world team tryouts or EO.  It's a very good sign that even with the extra work on her muscles, her shoulder is still stretching out nicely and there's no heat, swelling, or pain. Once in a while her wrists get a bit sore, but it seems to only be after a good agility workout, and it seems to ease relatively quickly. To that end, I have begun using wrist supports when we do a lot of jumping, contacts, or weaves. Seri is accumulating a lot of accessories, and gets a good massage/stretching session of 20minutes or so at least 2 or 3 times a week.