Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Two in One: Cute Baby and Frisbee

Here's cute baby picking up Uma's third place trophy from the qualifier on Sept. 6:


fot. Malgorzata Kalbarczyk


fot. Malgorzata Kalbarczyk

Here's Uma working on getting that big trophy:





fot. Malgorzata Kalbarczyk

Eden working hard on her 7th place finish :-)


Cute baby with handsome daddy:




Cute baby being generally cute:


Don't be fooled by cute baby Irminka wearing blue. She is a girl, I'm simply not a huge fan of pink clothing. I didn't buy anything pink for her when I was pregnant. But we have received some pink clothes and blankets as gifts from friends, so now she does own some pink stuff as well.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Uma goes silver!

Uma goes SILVER!
So I haven't been blogging much... mostly on account of not doing much doggy stuff. Agility is really still on hold, though I do practice once a week, sometimes twice if all goes well.

Anyway, Uma and Eden and I played frisbee on the first weekend of September. I entered Uma in the last disc dogging qualifying event on Saturday in Open Frisbee and Eden in the Young Dogs category. Eden was Eden and did all I could expect from her, she took a 7th out of 11, with a pretty lousy catch ratio and really wide arcs on all her returns with the frisbee. But I'm proud of her anyway, she was clearly having fun and enjoying herself and so was I. She is an aussie with all the border collie problems (low catch ratio and wide arcs) and without the border collie advantages (speed and intensity), but she has this amazing cuteness which actually encourages me to keep on working with her. And I'm not giving up on her.

Uma did well on Saturday, taking a third in the qualifier and therefore qualifying for the finals on Sunday. She had already qualified for the finals in June with Karolina, but because the two have not been training at all since that time, Karolina gave her back to me and let me compete with her. I think Uma is the only dog in the history of the DCDC Nationals to have qualified for the finals in the Open category with two different handlers. She also qualified in Toss & Fetch with Karolina.

The national finals took place on Sunday, where we did even better. On Saturday she had some 5 or 6 missed catches in each routine and on Sunday I think she had just one miss in the second freestyle.
In Toss & Fetch I jammed the first throw straight into the ground, but luckily Uma was quick enough to allow me to do 6 throws. The remaining 5 were good and she caught them beyong the 30-yard line.

This gave us a totally unexpected second place in the finals among a very talented group of dogs. This means Uma is the 2008 Reserve Polish Champion!!! How cool is that?!?!

All right, the girl who won the champonship is 14 years old, which puts our achievement in perspective, but still...
Another Aussie, Lexus, won the Saturday qualifier and came in third in the finals. Wieslaw & Lexus were really the most amazing team out there with probably the most innovative routine I've seen. I'm actually very surprised we were scored higher than they were on Sunday. Karolina and Negra had awesome freestyles and blew their toss & fetch round which put them in fourth place in the finals. But their freestyle rounds were to die for. The complete results are here: www.dogfrisbee.pl

Oh, and the weekend after that we took Eden to a herding instinct certification. This was pretty much a formality, because she works sheep on a regular basis, but she needs the certificate in order to compete in herding trials (it's a prerequisite) and I'd like to try to do a ranch trial with her next year. Of course she passed and received a very nice written description of her working style, which ended with the judge praising her stamina and fitness: "dog in excellent working shape." She was also entered in a conformation show on the same day, where she did not do anything and received a long and detailed description which ended with the conformation judge scolding her for being too lean: "chest too deep, too much tuck up, dog in too much of a working condition." Oh, I love the irony.
Not that she deserved to win anything, she has blown ALL her coat and looks kind of like a tailless rat.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Happy first Birthday Eden!

It's hard to believe but Eden just turned a year old. My little puppy is growing up. She still acts like a puppy and looks like a puppy (I constantly hear questions like "So how much more is she going to grow?") and I think she'll keep that puppish grin forever. She's a cutie and possibly the sweetest dog I've ever had. She's most certainly the most undertrained dog I've had, but hey, well... at least she's happy. Isn't she?









Friday, July 11, 2008

Here she is



The world's most beautiful baby :-)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

not dog related - -remodeling update

Totally not dog related, but have to post it somewhere. Our kitchen, a work in progress...

Here's what it used to look like when we moved in:



Here's part 1 of the demolition stage:




Then we had the wall between the kitchen and the downstairs bathroom pulled down to create a breakfast nook:



Concrete on the floor:



Floor heating has just been installed:




Floor tiles and wall tiles & paint on the walls:



Cabinets in the process of being installed. The countertop still needs to be cut and adjusted:



Here Janusz is installing the oven:



And here the row of cabinets is almost ready, there will still be one more cabinet below the green one on the right hand side. These pics are taken from the breakfast nook, which is at this point empty, we need to get a table ;-)

some book/dvd reviews

My due date has passed, but no baby yet. So I am officially 10 months pregnant ;-)However, since I have wrapped up everything at work that means I have some time to do stuff that does not require a lot of moving :-) Yep, for the first time in about a year I've had some time to read stuff that is not related to my dissertation (which, BTW, I have completed, submitted, it's over and done with and if all goes well and the reviews are favorable I should be PHinisheD in September).

I had been looking for a really thorough running contact program for Eden. I started out wanting her to do a 2 on/2off, but after putting quite some effort into it I just don't think she has the speed and impetus to be successful with the method I used for Uma. The basic problem turned out to be her slowing down on the descent ramp, a problem which I easily solved with Uma by upping the motivator used to reward the dog in the 2 on/2off, that is switching from treats to a game of tug. With Eden, well, the promise of a game of tug does not cause her to lengthen her stride. Noth that she doesn't like tug. She just doesn't see the point in running full speed for her game of tug.

So after some deliberation I ordered Ali Roukas Canova's Running Contacts DVD. And... I love it :-) The biggest problem I've encountered so far with all running contact methods is that they were somehow incomplete. It seemed to me that they all skipped some basic step. Or, as I think is the case with Silvia Trkman's method (or the renditions of her explaining the method that I've seen on tape, as I haven't had the pleasure of working with her)they are too mechanical and don't allow the dog to completely understand the task, to think it through. Ali's method is very detailed, thorough and it just makes sense.

In summary, she does two things at the same time and completely independent of each other:

a) she teaches the dog long striding on contact obstacles (yeah!) by using a hoop to go under, a toy reward at the end and restrained recalls toward the toy. She is, however, very much aware of the fact that if the hoop was to go off, the dog would be very likely to jump off the yellow. So the hoops are just an element of the method, something of a management tool, while the most significant part requires quite a lot of thinking on the part of the dog. of course, she starts out with a low dogwalk and increases the height gradually.

b) Simultaneously with the hoop stuff she teaches the dog to touch a touch board with two front paws. The secret is TWO front paws, as it makes it much easier to distinguish a correct performance from an incorrect one when two paws are the criterion. She teaches a kind of "pounce" on the baord, by holding it in her lap as she is squatting down on the ground. Another ingredient which, I think, adds to the success of this method is NOT transferring the touch board to the contact obstacle quickly. In fact, she uses the touch board as an obstacle in itself while working simple jump/tunnel sequences. Again, what I have found a problem with attempting to teach running contacts to students was the transition from the board on the ground to the board on the contact onbstacle.

I still need to view the DVD again, think about it etc. but I feel encouraged to just try the entire method, section by section.

I also ordered Linda Mecklenburg's book on jumping, because I loved her articles in Clean Run, but missed quite a few of them. I also love it, though the one thing I wonder about is whether the fact that she teaches everything when the dog is NOT excited and with minimum speed involved will not hamper Eden's speed on course even further. It's one thing to work with a naturally fast border collie, but with Eden I do have to worry about getting the maximum speed out of her. But again something I'll have to chew on.

Oh, and a little video of Eden doing frisbee from last week:


Karolina tries to squeeze in a practice session with Uma every week, which keeps me motivated to work with Eden. I am 39 weeks pregnant in the video, so all that can happen is I might induce labor. Which would ba a GOOD thing at this point :-)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

8 months and 2 years....

A friend once told me that pregnancy lasts 8 months and 2 years. Well, I am into the 2 years part now. 39 weeks, to be precise. I am really tired, heavy, huge and uncomfortable.
So basically, forgive the blogging hiatus.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dog Chow Disc Cup 2008

As I'd mentioned before Karolina had been practicing with Uma for a disc-dogging competition. The competition was this weekend in Wroclaw (very looooooong drive from Warsaw). I was, of course, worried sick about Uma, since, as we'd calculated, she'd never spent a night alone (without me or Janusz being there) in her life. The dogs always go on holidays with us and the only times she gets to stay with Janusz is when I'm away at a conference. But, to make a long story short, Uma clearly didn't miss me one bit and handled the situation like a pro.

Uma was initially entered in the Starters division, but at the last moment Karolina decided to move her up to the Open Division. There was also a separate Toss&Fetch event, which they entered as well. There were 27 dogs entered in Open and 47 in T&F, but there were quite a few no-shows. All in all, they were OUTSTANDING, placing 2nd in Open Frisbee and 9th in T&F. Since this was a qualifying event for the Dog Chow Disc Cup Finals (the Polish National Championships) and the top 3 dogs in Open earn a place in the Finals, they have already secured themselves a spot in the finals. Pretty awesome for a debut. I admit I was not counting on them doing so well after training together for such a short time. It would have been sufficient if they just had fun and did their thing. The Q was the icing on the cake, so to put it.

The major drawback was the weather, there was a heatwave passing through Poland on the weekend and Karolina decided to pull her labrador Negra from the third round, as she was worried about Negra overheating herself.

I really wish I could have been there (too long a drive, too hot, too dangerous for the baby), but I am really excited about how well Uma did, about how much fun the girls had and about how much fun all my friends had and how well they did. The disc-dogging competitions are dominated by border collies, but they 2 Polish Aussies entered in this one did so well! Uma was second in Open and Lexus, a beautiful, black tri was first in Starters.

The results are here: http://www.discbusters.com/disc_cup_07_2ls.html
and I'm sure there will be pics and films soon.

EDIT
Yes, there are some pictures and film clips!

These two awesome pics are by Lukasz Kowa:






Here's a clip of Uma's first freestyle:




It looks like there's only ONE missed disc at the most there. That is pretty amazing!

And here's a link to both the freestyles and the toss & fetch. The second freestyle was much worse with regards to catch-ratio:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3YEpHVm8q0

And a link to Karolina and Negra's first freestyle (she pulled her from the second). The first one was AWESOME:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvM13ZSX3L4


EDIT: Forgot to mention that Karolina and Uma also won the BEST FREESTYLE award. Way to go!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

weekend attractions

There's really been a lot going on... Really. The demolition works on the house are continuing and although the guys are really working hard, it's obvious that it will all take longer than expected. We're willing to make some sacrifices, divide the entire undertaking into stages and such, but we really want to have a bathroom, a kitchen and a bedroom ready in about a month. So keep your fingers crossed.
Since uploading photos on blogger is quite a chore andd they're totally NOT agility related I have some pics here if anyone's interested:
http://s83.photobucket.com/albums/j312/youstinker/demolka/

In general the panelling is gone, the floors are gone, the heating pipes have been replaced and the water pipes have all been replaced. The walls which we planned to demolish have been demolished by now. BUT we still need drywall, floors (though I'm willing to go with carpeting in the living room for a while instead fo the hardwood I had planned) and well, a kitchen and a bathroom. The construction team has increased in size to 5 guys this week, because we really want them to speed up.

As for the weekend, I had entered Uma in agility on Saturday, because it was almost in our backyard. The judge was someone I'd sworn I'd never show under, after the trial in Bydgoszcz last September. He does not have a clue about course flow and such, is very inconsistent with his calls etc. There were only two runs planned, jumpers and standard. We off-coursed rather quickly on the jumpers and did very well in standard A2 (one of the nastiest A2 courses I've seen) up until the penultimate obstacle, which Uma backjumped (not that it was her fault). The A1 course was very easy (no weaves, no teeter) and there were quite a few clean runs there, including several by some good friends. The A0 courses were easy which was nice, because the three girls from our club for whom it was a debut trial did well and felt encouraged.

As for me... I want to be able to RUN!

Here's Uma in the weaves:

photo taken by Joasia&Junka



On Sunday I entered Uma in an obedience trial, which is not something I usually do. In fact, it was her first official trial in Poland. She has her American CD and 1 CDX leg, so she's got some experience, but FCI rules are completely different. She was entered in the "0" class here, because that's where all dogs have to start and she placed third with a score of 96/100. I am tempted to enter her in class 1 some time soon, but it looks like there's nothing coming up. I have a video of her run. Yeah, I know, the "0" class IS very easy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

demolition continues

The renovation project has reached new and unexpected heights. At this point we have no water and no heating and I'm staying with my mother until that changes. My four dogs and her two cats in a condo on the ninth story of a high-rise. Cool, huh?
Well, there's even more cool stuff. The drywall people who started work last week did not show up for work this Monday. They dodged Janusz's phone calls and we finally called from my cell, because they don't know the number. So well.. no good explanation, just: "something came up, we won't make it this week at all." We panicked for some thirty minutes, discussed our options (what guarantee do we have that they'll actually show up next week?) and decided to search for a new team for drywalling and floors, since we're so short on time. And amazingly, we did manage to find a team willing to start next Monday. That still adds another week-long delay to the schedule, but these guys seems a lot more responsible.

Agilitywise, not that much going on, I'm doing some simple sequencing with Eden and she's doing not bad at all. I'd like her to be faster, but it's not that she's not trying, she's just who she is. However, her front crosses are coming along nicely, we're doing some back crosses on tunnels (nothing yet on jumps), working on turns etc. I did a couple of sessions on the dogwalk and yhm... I have to figure out the bumper thing. Either she slows down before the stop, or she keeps her stride (as the bumpers suggest), but doesn't get the stop. I would like for her to jump into position and freeze, just like Uma does.
I have a taped and timed session of Uma's dogwalks, where our average speed is about 1.7s. I know Silvia Trkman has 1.3-1.4 dogwalks, so that still leaves room for improvement for Uma. But I can't complain, I think what we have is pretty nice. That is unless I mess up in competition, which I sometimes do.

The recalls (which are first in the clip) are the slowest:



In general I have tons of clips with various stuff. Here's a bit of Eden doing sequencing:


Here's something really cool. Uma and Karolina have practiced disc-dogging for a total of three times so far and here's a clip (taken by me, posted by Karolina) of their third session. Yeah, it's still not what it could be, but it's so nice to see how they're becoming a team and having fun together:



And here's a bit of Eden disc-dogging. She takes off way too late on the overs and in general does not have a nice jumping style. However, my floaters for the overs are also pretty horrible in this video (and I had felt so confident about them!), so I guess we jusst need to get our act together. She won't be a star, but she's enjoying herself and I'm finding working with her quite pleasant. So why not:


I also have sheepherding clips for all the dogs, but I'll save the for another update :-)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

disc-dogging

A friend of mine offered to take Uma to a frisbee competition in June, which is a very cool thing, because a) Uma loves frisbee and b) June won't be a good month for frisbee competitions for me. Uma already has some experience with disc-dogging, but since I'm left-handed and Karolina is right-handed they need to practice a bit too get their act together. I have a couple of pics from last week's session, taken by Lukasz Kowa. As you can see, I'm also playing around with Eden.



So far it looks like she does NOT have Uma catching abilities and she clearly is not as powerful a jumper. I am not asking her to jump higher than just over my leg, like in this pic (so some 10 inches maybe), but she is still consistently taking off way too late, no matter when the disc is released. I am going to try to think of some ideas for getting her to take off earlier, but what I'll also do is get her preliminarily x-rayed as soon as she turns a year old, for the sake of making sure that it's not a physical problem. Maybe she's just not a bouncy Aussie and that's it.

Mostly we do a lot of rollers:



And here's Uma, I really like this pic:

especially the fact that you can see her slobber as she's opening her mouth to catch the disc. Dammit, she's a cool dog.

Meanwhile I've started Eden on the A-frame with stride regulators, hoping for a running contact. I still have to experiment with the placement of the bumpers a little bit, since I at first placed them too high, but it is looking promising. I do need to get this flimed, since it's important info for my training. She's actually pretty nice on the downside and the problem seems to be a lack of good drive on the upside, for which I guess I need to practice the "ready, steady, go" game, which is not something I've done with her yet (though I should have). Same goes for dogwalk, stride regulators on the descent ramp seem to be doing the trick, she is cantering over the center plank and I want more speed on the ascent ramp now.

What I do have filmed is parts of a nice herding session with Eden. She's overflanking, especially on the come-bye side, but she's covering nicely and not getting in their butts too much. The barking is driving me crazy, but supposedly it will go away. We'll see. Her breeder told me to work her on some less dog-broke sheep and I am planning to do just that, very soon :-)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

congrats to myself and Uma :-)

OK, this is kind of funny. The rules for qualifying for the WC in Poland are somewhat complicated and involve a series of three two-day trials. The trial this weekend in Plock was one of them. The only one I am attending this year and only for one day (we're taking childbirth classes on Saturdays).
And, if I'm not mistaken (the rules are very complicated), it turns out Uma's Open Agility run was the fastest run of all the jump heights (34.41s), which means she earned herself 5 points towards qualifying for the Worlds. And admittedly, it is kind of ironic that she earned those points based on speed with an almost immobile handler, who is 7 months pregnant :-)

Monday, April 7, 2008

trial in Plock

We spent one day a-trialling in Plock. It was cold, rainy, I didn't get was I was looking for (a clean run in standard A2), but it was a good day all in all. I got to have some fun with my dog, socialize with friends and turned in decent runs, though it's really hard to call them runs, maybe something closer to walks, or wobbles.

Here are two of Uma's runs. This is A2 standard, where she popped out of the weaves (yes, I know I could have avoided that back cross on the weaves):



And her Agility Open run where she missed a contact zone. In our defense, it was raining hard, I did some stupid things, I was slipping, she was slipping and well, shit happens. But other than that I think it's a decent run, though a couple of wide turns in the opening:



The runs were filmed by Toska, who is the owner of this awesome blue merle pup, who quickly became Eden's best friend (actually, Eden has tons of best friends):









And here's a cleaner version of Eden playing ball with me during the trial:


These pics were taken by Marysia Pajzderska, owner of Una, who turned in a beautiful and very fast clean run in A1. The blue merle Aussie is Aquilonis Livin' La Vida Loca, who is half Mistretta and on the other side if a Jack (War Drum of Imagineer) granddaughter.

There was also a third run, Jumpers, which I don't have a video of yet, but which was the most eventful run of the trial for me, since on the home stretch, just beforoe the last obstacle, I slipped and fell in a rather spectacular manner. Well, it was wet, the grass was practically non-existent after a weekend of running in the rain and well.... my balance ain't so good either. So as I fell I heard a gasp of horror in the stands and everyone came up to me and started asking if I was ok. Well, I was OK, but it might have been a sign that it's time for a break. I was really hoping on doing one more trial in late April, but it looks like it may not be meant to be.
Which is why I appreciate this one even more :-)

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

some updates

I've been neglecting the blog again, mostly because I haven't been doing much agility. I have been doing a lot of herding with Eden and Malcolm, some obedience with Eden and Uma and some disc-dogging too. The downside of agility is that there is always a lot of lifting that has to happen before you can actually do anything ;-) I have set up some weaves in my backyard for Eden and have started her using slightly offset weaves + some luring. She's looking pretty good at this point and seems to be developing nice footwork. Footwork was what I was worried about the most after messing up Uma's. Uma is fast as lightning but she double-foots with 24" spacing. She single-foots nicely with tighter spacing, but here in Europe it's always 24" ;-)
I finally put Eden on the low dogwalk with a target on the ground, which she nouse touches for a 2on/2off. I had been practicing the nouse touching behavior for quite a while on stairs etc. and felt it was strong enough to use on the dogwalk now. Well, it is, but unfortunately the problem I was afraid of has popped up - that is she slows down on the descent ramp before stopping. I've been recalling her over the dogwalk to get her to lengthen her striding, but it isn't working. I think I'll try try using stride regulators (not for a running contact, but for lengthening her stride on the descent before the 2 on/2off. I don't want a running contact on the dogwalk, because I'm terrified if how easy this is to mess up with a fast dog. She's not that fast, but even now when I run alongside her she outruns me easily - that is until she gets to the descent ramp where she slows down. I would like to have the stop there (if I need it), but to have nice long striding on the descent.

I'm toying around with the idea of doing a running contact on the A-Frame, well, because it's not as long as the dogwalk, so I feel it's easier to get it done.
I've been doing a bit of sequencing on low jumps (and with tunnels). And, honestly, I'm a bit disappointed with the speed I'm getting from Eden. I'm afraid this might turn out to be a larger issue and, honestly, the think I like doing least is trying to push a dog for speed. She's a bit strange, because she really does want her ball/tug, but she doesn't get the idea that she has to go faster to get it. It's not like she's hopeless, but I would like to have a bit more going on there. She is, however, very flexible and seems to be careful with her feet, so I don't foresee many knocked bars in her future.

All in all, I think she's more into herding than anything else. Will do. Maybe she'll be a good teacher for me.
I've also beein doing some obedience work with her and she's coming along nicely, though of course, there's still a lot to be done. But I like her attitude for obedience. Here's a bit of us working on heeling together:


And she's got such a sweet smile :-)

Aussies & Agility

I've been following the results of the AKC Agility Nationals and it's been a very good year for Aussies! There were 4 Aussies in the finals of the 20" category and a few that missed it by the skin of their teeth. Lisa and Dust, my favorite team, finished 23rd out of approx. 200 dogs and deserve a huge round of applause. Lisa has some film clips on her blog and they are impressive!

Nonetheless, I have to rant a little bit about a topic I feel strongly about, that is Aussies and agility, and well... this is an agility blog so what better place ;-) And I know it's a political topic, but what the heck
The reason is that friend after friend and acquaintance after acquaintance who started out in the agility/performance world with Aussies or with something else and expressed the desire to get an Aussie as a second dog at some point is getting a border collie instead. Conversely, I also know of a few people who got Aussies for agility and are somewhat disappointed with what they have. Not that they don't love their dogs, of course, we all love our dogs to pieces. Yes, it's hard not to agree that there is a higher likelihood of getting a dog that can be highly competitive when comparing the average border collie to the average Aussie and I've been reading my Aussie and agility lists ever since I got hooked up to the internet (1998?), so I've witnessed all these arguments being rehashed, but here's my biased tak on this anyway.

I really think hardly anyone breeds Aussies for performance events like agility/frisbee/flyball. Breeders are divided into three main camps, the strictly conformation breeders (who, of course, will claim that temperament is also of primary importance for them, but suffice to say the various definitions of good temperament are not necessarily compatible), the strictly working breeders (as in working stock) and the versatility breeders (breeding for what they call "the total package"). My observations of strictly working bred dogs are non-conclusive. I've seen some that were awesome and I've seen some that basically just trotted along the course without much enthusiasm. Yes, they have been bred with emphasis on cooperating with a human, but well... chasing balls and tugging with passion are not required traits for stockdogs. So I've seen quite a few who simply run to please their owners, but would much rather be working cattle than waiting for their hot-dog tug at the end of the run. Nonetheless, I still think their structure and physical attributes are usually better for performance events than those of the typically show-bred dogs. I've seen some really enthusiastic show-bred Aussies in agility that simply lack this little edge which they would have if they had a bit less bone, a few pounds less, a bit more length of back and a bit more angulation in the rear.

So-called versatility breeders would seem to be the ones to fill the gap, but I don't think they always do. At least not most. Aiming for a balancing act between working ability and good looks and an outgoing temperament does not necessarily lead to fast and driven dogs. Plus, I have the sneaky feeling that many so-called versatility breeders are really interested in conformation, but they understand it differently than the typical show-breeders and aim for getting an Aussie that looks more like the old-style Aussies. BTW I love this type of dog, I just don't think these selection criteria for breeding dogs are necessarily going to produce a good performance line. Of course, sometimes they do!

And then there's the perennial question of WHY would anyone want to focus on performance events requiring drive nad speed. Wouldn't that be in some way unethical? Aren't breeders supposed to be breeding dogs that look and behave according to the breed standard? How can you choose to reproduce an Aussie that wants her frisbee more than her sheep and claim to be preserving the breed? And the breed standard has nothing to say about weaving, catching frisbees or doing swimmer's turns on flyball boxes. It describes appearance, temperament and working ability. In fact, I've heard the accusation (many times) that the really nice agility dogs have ATYPICAL temperaments for Aussies. They're hyper, hard to live with and generally nuts. Actually, I have not found this to be true regarding the best agility Aussies I've met (or owned). Usually, if they're hyper and over the top, they're not going to be biddable enough to get the control required by sports like agility.

And then the question of is it possible to breed for traits that are required in events invented by bored middle-class city slickers? Working instinct and style are clearly inherited, as are nice heads and fluffy coats. But are speed and drive inherited traits? Not to mention things like weaving style or catch-ratio in disc-dogging ;-)
Maybe they're not, but I still think that if you breed fast and biddable to fast and biddable, you're bound too end up with more dogs that are fast and biddable than if you breed nice head to fluffy coat.
And in a way the split between conformation lines and working lines shows how differently people can understand "breeding for the standard." I'm sure responsible conformation breeders and responsible working breeders are absolutely certain that they're both working for the good of the breed and yet they end up with such totally different "products."

But because hardly anyone breeds Aussies strictly for performance events it's VERY hard to find a good one. Yes, I'm sure many pop up in all kinds of breedings, but if someone is looking specifically for an agility dog (intense toy drive, food drive, good structure, focus and biddability), then it is a lottery. And because no one breeds with non-stock performance events in mind, people looking for an Aussie for such events turn to border collies.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

the big move

We've moved. Finally! The house is huge, but it will require a lot of work to get it in shape. For a myriad of reasons, most of them financial, we have to be living here in the new house as we undertake all the renovations. There's old wood panelling on all the walls and that will have to go, the floors will have to be replaced completely, we need to install new appliances and new cabinets in the kitchen. So it's going to be quite a project. But the dogs are really enjoying the fenced in yard and the extra space inside. It would be nice if we could get most of this done by the time the baby arrives...

I have a couple of clips of Uma from Lack. One is of our unfortunate jumpers run with three bars down and the other one of a more fortunate standard run. You can really see how slippery the footing was.







And a very cool picture by Hania Gajewska:



People still usually can't tell that I'm pregnant, unless they know that is, but I feel as if my belly has doubled in size in the past week and I'm really starting to have problems with things like getting in the car and such :-) The next trial within driving distance is on the first weekend of April and I can't help but wonder if I'll actually be able to run by that time. I'm certainly not feeling very agile now, but I'll probably enter and see how it goes. I'm officially six months pregnant and the baby is due June 24th. We know the sex and have a name and all is going as well as it could be expected to :-)

Eden has just turned 7 months old, but I think there's still a long, long way to maturity. Somehow, she seems to me the most puppish of all my dogs at this age, but maybe I've simply forgotten how it used to be. She's still pretty tiny, she's shorter than Uma at the withers, so she's maybe 18 inches at the most. She'll probably go up to 18.5-19, but certainly no more than that. I've had two really large Aussie girls (Mira and Shansa were both over 21"), so I appreciate this. She is still very, very amazingly outgoing and friendly to both people and other dogs and all kinds of animals. I have yet to see her snarl or growl at anything, she's not protective about her food or toys. In general, she's just a very EASY dog. I don't know what I've done to deserve such an easy dog, I guess I should be getting progressively more difficult dogs as my experience increases but well, here's Eden and she's a lot of fun. On sheep, I'm probably able to do more with her now than with my other dogs. But it's not me, it's just Eden. She doesn't dive in, she doesn't bite, she has very natural circling, she's very easy to push out to get distance and she doesn't shut down when I put pressure on her to push her out. She actually downs when I ask her to. She has cut down on the barking, though she's still not a silent worker. She's a natural at getting sheep out of pens and she actually seems to have a somewhat natural outrun. But really the coolest part is that I don't have to balance all the time between a correction strong enough to get the dog out of trouble, but not so strong that she'd shut down. She really doesn't shut down, plus she's rarely in trouble. I do weird things, which I seen when I watch clips of us together, I'm still gree, but she still manages to get me out of these situations. And she looks very cute doing it :-)

I'm planning on getting a clip of our work every month or so, so that I can track our progress (or lack of it). For now, I'm tempted to take her into a bigger pen:



We also still don't have internet (we should get hooked up in no more than 10 days) and I am suffering from withdrawal syndrome :-) I wrote all this at work instead of actually working :-)I am behind on all my e-mail, so please forgive me if I don't respond immediately. I'm also behind on work... Well...

Monday, February 11, 2008

trial in Lack

We went to a very nice trial in a very very nice and warm indoor arena this weekend. The footing was slippery, but most of the more experienced dogs coped well, the younger ones kept slipping and sliding out of the rinig. Uma coped pretty well, she happened to drop three bars all weekend, all on the same course, an otherwise very nicely run JWW round, where she had a speed of 4.6 m/s (that's a very good speed).
She did qualify with a first place in Standard A2, which gives her her first leg towards A3. This was a nice opening to an otherwise uneventful weekend.
I messed up most of our other runs with sloppy handling, either resulting from lack of training or inborn ineptitude. I'd love to blame my pregnancy for it, but the truth is that was not the case. Well, at least I did get some ideas for what I need to practice.

I did set up a kind of plan minimum for this year, which is to get her into A3 (so two more clean standard runs). Hopefully, this much I can do, big belly, baby and all.

I did get to meet some nice people whom I hadn't seen for a while, including a friend from Wroclaw with her 4-month old baby. The baby was awesome all weekend long, and she gave me some hope that YES, you can bring a baby to trials and everybody will survive this experience. There was also another mom with a 6-month old and the organizers even set up a separate "baby changing, breastfeeding room." I have to say I'm not going to pass up on these trials in the future even if the club doesn't get new carpeting ;-)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

some updates

I had big plans for entering Uma in tons of trials before my belly gets too big, but it seems like it's just not meant to be. First of all, it's just dead season, there's hardly anything available within driving distance. I did enter her in something last weekend, even though she had not practiced for a while because of her injury and the trial was a 6-hour drive. BUT... the car we were carpooling in to split the gas costs broke down on the way to the trial. Of course, it had to be in the middle of the night, 4.5 hours from home and 1.5 hours from our destination. I guess it had to be fate.

I am entered in something next weekend, much closer to home, but on horrible carpeting. But it should be fun anyway and I hope she can cope with the footing and I can cope with the trip. I tire pretty easily now, as I get used to the extra kilograms.

Meanwhile Eden turned 6 months old. Yes, it's amazing how time flies by. I guess by this time I feel pretty confident about knowing her, her strengths and weaknesses and such. First of all, she's an extremely EASY dog. Anything I try with her, she just does it. Anything I ask for, I get. This is really the most evident with sheep. At this point, she works very close and I'm a bit afraid to push her out more, but other than that - she just goes out there and does it. And she doesn't cause wrecks and she doesn't nip and she actually listents to me. She's an active, energetic dog, but she's not hyper or high-strung. I do complain a bit as well. I don't like the fact that she tires pretty easily and there are moments when I'd like MORE intensity, but in general I think there's good stuff there to work with in basically everything. She seems to be a truly versatile gal.

It does help that she's amazingly cute and endearing. She's little, as in short, which adds to the cuteness factor.

I have a little vid of us doing some puppy agility stuff, very low jumps and a tunnel:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Eden and sheep

Since we're having an unusually warm winter this year, I couldn't resist not letting Eden play with sheep a couple of times, just out of curiosity what she'd do. No pressure, just pure fun. I have a few pics a a film clip.


Here's the clip:

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Uma is bored.....

Uma cannot jump, play ball and do all the other things she'd really, really like to do. So to keep her occupied I've tried lots and lots of different things. Check out the movie clip I made to show off what my three-legged beast has been doing:



However, my goal is to get her to walk on her front legs, that's a Silvia Trkman trick. I can't practice it now, because it's her right front leg that's hurt, but when the stitches come out...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's resolutions

I guess my New Year's resolution should actually be to start blogging regularly. I haven't written for two months. Urgh.
A lot of stuff has happened in that time and there's probably no point in summarizing everything. I went to a pretty cool seminar with Anton Grygar (Czech National Team coach) with lots of challenging exercises and I'll try to sit down and write about that (New Year's resolution).

Uma has been broken for a while and will probably remain broken for a week or two more. She cut her pad on a glass bottle some idiot left out on the big empty field where I let all the dogs run every morning. Cut is not the right word to use, she literally slashed it. I think she must have jumped down on the piece of glass, which must have been sticking in the ground at a right angle. Anyway, lots and lots of blood, absolutely everybody was covered with blood by the time we got to the car and then by the time we got to the vet the car was soaked in blood as well. It's healing up pretty nicely, but it will still be a while before she's back to running and jumping. I really, really hate this long break, because I get a feeling that every time we take a break longer than 2 weeks, it takes me as long as the break took to get back in sync with her. There were lots of things that came up during the seminar that I'd like to work on right now, but well... I have to wait.

Eden is 5 months old by now and is a sweetheart. I really, really like her. She is usually very confident and outgoing, loves people and so far I haven't noticed an ounce of aggression in her. No growling, no resource guarding, nothing. I appreciate that. She might not have Uma's intensity, though I can see some intensity developing, but she does have something that makes working with her very easy - FOCUS. I can't say I've put much effort into developing it, she must have been born with it, but when she knows we're doing something, she does not care about other dogs, other people, space shuttles launching, whatever. She also learns quickly, often it's a couple of tries and she catches on what's expected of her. I also think we've really bonded in the past two months. Last night I was trying to comfort the dogs during the midnight fireworks (nasty). The first thing Eden did when she heard the blasts was run into her crate. But then she peeped out, saw me on the bed, ran up to me, snuggled next to me and we watched the fireworks together. That was sweet. Malcolm couldn't care less about the fireworks and Uma was concerned, though not panicking.

I've been doing little bits of agility stuff with her, but probably not as much as I should have and all very, very lighthearted and playful. We've been bouncing on the little teeter and she absolutely loves it, she offers the behavior whenever she sees the teeter. She can do tunnels and go between uprights and of course I've been doing some agility stuff on the flat - like front crosses, running beside me, stays etc. I admit it's probably around a half of what I had been doing with the older kids, but I completely don't feel the pressure to hurry up with her now. Maybe I should? ;-) I've been doing bits of frisbee stuff, catching rollers and bringing them back and little bits of obedience too.

I think she's pretty well-behaved. Ok, so she probably pulls on leash, because that's something I really suck at teaching, because I don't use leashes much, but she waits at doors, sits down for petting, waits for my OKs for most stuff. She's not a horror to have around, I can take her to friends' houses, shopping etc. and I don't end up dealing only with the puppy.

She's also very pretty, or so I think.I actually have it with all my dogs - that is I enjoy just watching them move and looking at them and admiring how pretty they are. But I think she's got that little something which makes her extra pretty :-)

The fact that she doesn't have a tail makes her move very differently from the others, she's got more "typical aussie" up and down bounce. But I have to say I enjoy the tails and I don't think I'll ever go for a tailless dog again. Not that I don't love her little butt, but there's just something missing. And I don't know, I may be misinterpreting this and may not have enough data, but I think this bouncing movement of most aussies, which they lose when you leave their tails on, is something that slows them down a bit, because there's additional vertical movement in places where there should only be horizontal movement. It's just a personal observation based on watching tailed and tailless Aussies run agility.

Now here's my plan for her contacts, which I've altered a little bit from what I did with Uma and (half-heartedly) with Mal. I started off by getting her to touch a clear piece of plexi, then asking for multiple touches. That was easy. The moment I put the plexi on the end of the stairs, Eden's nose touched the plexi, but her butt came tumbling down the stairs and ended up on the floor as well. She dilligently kept her nose on the plexi, but clearly did not understand that the rest of her body also matters in this game. So so far I've blocked the option of her butt tumbling down by putting a contraption made mostly from an ironing board which keeps her butt from falling. At the same time I am working on her hind end awareness, by teaching her to back up, do a swing finish and doing so-called "perch work" - front feet on a perch, back feet moving around the perch. I'll now be increasing the number of stairs she has to run before the stops and varing my position.

Then I'll want to do this on a dogwalk board, starting by having her jump up from the side and get into contact position and then sending her to the contact position from several feet, then increasing the distance. I do not want her running contact equipment before I have excellent brakes on her. She does not have natural brakes.

Now if anyone has gotten this far, you deserve a juicy piece of non-doggy gossip, so here goes. We're expecting a baby in late June/early July. It's something that I had wanted, though I admit that pregnancy is not all it's cracked up to be. Not to mention feelings of guilt towards Uma (whose training will be wasted for at least a while) and Eden (who deserves to be getting more out of me than she will be). We're also moving to a bigger house around March and I should be defending my doctorate around late May. So quite a lot of stuff for one year... Happy New Year everyone!