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Thinking Aloud


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Conversation starters...

It is said that Agility people may be better at navigating around a course than expressing themselves in writing but, thanks to social media, most everybody now has the chance to air their ideas and observations. This is a safe place where you can express yourself  and perhaps start a conversation about something you feel strongly agility. So put fingers to keyboard and share your thoughts. Send them to Agilitynet.

 

 

On the Day that Olympia 2020 Was Cancelled

Last weekend would have been the World Agility Championships and today we learned that there is to be no Olympia 2020. Our amazing sport is so great as it gives people things to aim for, inspire to and push themselves for. I have heard from so many agility people over the last few months that without completions their ‘mojo' is declining or they have no motivation to train etc etc.

Yes, it was to be expected. Yes, there are much worse things going on in the world and yes, our time with our dogs is not just about agility, but this does not mean you are not allowed to be disappointed.

So here is how I look at things:-

  • I love training my dogs. Competitions aside, I get such a buzz when they hit those crazy hard weave entries we set at training, they hit that perfect dog walk or I make that blind that I thought wasn't possible! I'm focusing on those moments and making a point of telling my friends and Dave about them.
     
  • Our sport keeps us around like-minded people who share our love for dogs and passion for the sport. When lockdown rules have allowed us to, we have loved having our agility family over to train together! We have pushed each other, laughed at each other and celebrated how amazing our dogs are. These sessions have left me more motivated than ever. Organise to train with friends.
     
  • I don't believe in training my dogs if I'm not In the right mood. If we are tired, grumpy and lacking drive, we are unlikely to have a productive, fun and happy session. On these days, take an extra long walk and explore new areas. I have found so many new walks through lockdown that the dogs and I have really enjoyed. You don't have to train.
     
  • If I am seeking some inspiration, I will head to YouTube and watched videos of partnerships I look up to. I have even on a few occasions watched back videos from my dogs competing last year to remind me of the buzz I get from shows. Seek inspiration from those you look up to.
     
  • This extra time that I would usually have spent at competitions has given time the time to fix or improve my dog's performances. Boffin has been on ‘operation weave exits' and Geek has been on ‘operation independence'. When shows come back, they will be stronger than before. Set yourself a challenge.
     
  • This extra time has allowed me to see more of my family and non-dog friends than ever before - socially distanced, of course. It has reminded me how important it is to keep agility in perspective and to make time for those that really matter. Remember, there is life outside of Agiity.

We are allowed to be pissed off. It's how we deal with it from there that counts!



A Word to Agility Parents
From Dawn Gilmore

Parents, let your children grow up to be agility boys and girls, because they will learn quickly and repeatedly that life isn't fair, that hard work is often trumped by Lady Luck, and that every defeat, no matter how terrible, is temporary. Let them dream big. Let them learn confidence, grace and grit. Let them build big muscles and stay fit.

Let your children grow up every weekend in a field in the middle of nowhere surrounded by tents, caravans and crazy dog folk. Let them learn that dogs need feeding, exercise and looking after, even when it's raining, even when it's frozen, even when they have a different idea for how the day should go.

Let them grow up with dogs and with good dog people, because it will teach them to be humble, to be resilient and to be brave.

Agility is a way of life for many of us and it has shaped so many of our young handlers into the people they have become today.


A moment of Disappointment
From Amanda Pigg

Okay, just one moment in amongst all the amazing stuff I have seen recently at some huge shows.

It went like this. A handler took a dog into a ring. Things went wrong very early on. At the weaves as I recall. It was the handler moaning at the dog that caught my attention. Wasn't shouting, just moaning. Let's just get this A-frame right, let's get something right. And so the dog did get it right. Lavish praise? No nothing.

Handler and dog left the ring. Handler picks up lead. Puts it on the dog. No praise verbal, food, or otherwise. 

Off walks the handler. Dog gazing up into the handler's eyes. Tail gently swaying. Nope nothing. No interaction. 

Handler stops to chat to someone they meet, moaning about the dog and still the dog gazes and wags. 

You may not have shouted or screamed at the dog, hit it or abused it.... but that dog's eyes. I just wanted to scream at you to just give your dog a hug. Time is short. Don't waste it being cross. 

I'm filled with delight when I get a ball shoved at me, no matter the run. 

Not that grade should matter but let's just say this was at the lower end.



Stop Judging Others Please
From Hannah Grantham

We are all trying our hardest in unchartered waters. None of us have had to deal with this situation before, and most of us are just treading water and trying to do our best.

Some trainers/clubs will choose to remain closed, and some people will choose or be forced to stay home... they should not be judged for that.

Some trainers/clubs are offering venue hire and 1-2-1 sessions and will not be considering group sessions at the moment. Some people will choose to hire a venue or attend a 1-2-1 to train their dog. They should not be judged for that.

Some trainers/clubs will now be thinking about or planning to reopen their group sessions. Some people will be thinking about attending group sessions.They should not be judged for that.

As long as we all understand the risk, gather information, follow official guidance and use all this to make an informed individual choice on what is best for us and our clubs, then why should we be judged for that?

If you have walked a day in someone else's shoes, experienced their life, their battles, their thoughts, then you may be able to understand just a tiny bit what they are going through and what is important to them, be that agility, family or friends etc.. but you still shouldn't judge them.

It saddens me how quick people are to judge others, and this situation has highlighted this more. Leave the judging up to our wonderful agility judges when the shows restart. (29th May 2020)

First published on Facebook


Is It Practical for Shows to Go Ahead?
From Simon Chandler, Chair of The Agility Club

I have recently read posts on FaceBook about shows cancelling and maybe going ahead. I cannot see many - if any - shows going ahead as mass gatherings will be the last thing to go.

At the moment it's the club's decision whether to cancel early or wait.

At The Agility Club, we decided to cancel early to protect the members' funds. If we had left it and booked equipment, marquees, radios, skips and everything involved in running a show, then we could had incurred major financial losses. But that was our decision, and likewise it's down to individual clubs to decide.

For those who would like shows to go ahead, there are countless things that maybe you haven't thought of. Firstly, yes certain aspects of 2m social could be controlled, but the show starts before people even arrive.

Setting up
Shows are generally run by a small loyal committee who, along with a a few helpers, set the show up. Will those who want shows to go ahead step up and help set up rings, camping, sort out trophies and rosettes whilst maintaining 2m? When the equipment arrives who is going to help set it up. Putting up A-frames potentially takes four people to set it up. Difficult to maintain 2m distance. Seesaws similar. Score tents don't go up themselves so normally it's down to the usual suspects to do these tasks. Will clubs get more people to help setting up. And then the perennial problem of breaking rings and equipment down. Will more people stay and help?

When the show day arrives, car parking would need to be policed more stringently, maintaining a safe gap between cars which could be impacted by space.

Onto the rings
Whilst maintaining a 2m gap around the rings can be controlled. Walking courses is harder so more time and more control measures would need to be taken, with maybe a time limit of five minutes to walk a course which, watching some people, is certainly not enough.

Tablets and score pads are going to be shared around so will need to be constantly cleansed. During the show, how are toilets - whether they be portaloos or purpose-built loos - going to be constantly cleaned. How many people would want to be sure they have been cleaned before you use them.

Ring parties are hard enough to get under perfect conditions but, in the current climate, how many of you are willing to pick up poles etc.

Importantly as somebody who provides First Aid cover at shows, how do I treat somebody who needs it. Accidents do happen so how do I treat somebody who has a possible broken leg/ankle from a distance or, if god forbid, it's more serious like serious bleeding, heart attack/stroke what do first aiders do.

Lastly, proper risk assessments with more measures being put in place are going to be needed. Are insurance companies going to insure clubs unless there are more stringent hygiene measures put in place. Potentially these measures could be financially prohibitive for some clubs, and they may risk running a show without insurance.

I'm not being a killjoy as I'd love to get back training and competing along with everyone else but, as somebody whose club runs one of the biggest shows of the year, I'm trying to point out the logistical and health issues to people who think it's so easy to organise a show.

First published on Facebook  (28th April 2020)


 


Someone Out There
Adapted by Sophie Hudson from cromwellandlucy

Somewhere right now there is a handler gutted that their season is over before it's even begun.

All their hopes and dreams on hold with the future so uncertain.

There are people wondering when they will see their fellow agility handlers, their weekend adventures all cancelled, no dates in the diary.

There is a dog owner struggling to find the hours in the day to simply exercise and stimulate their dog whilst working overtime in an essential role.

There is a handler with their own field and equipment, disappointed that all their training and competitions are cancelled.

There is a handler without any where to train, wondering how they are going to stay on top of their dogs skills.

There are self-employed trainers, dog walkers and host venues, trying their best to make ends meet as the lockdown means they can't work and any potential clients for online opportunities are running out of money.

There are vets risking their health because they refuse to compromise animal welfare.

There are people feeling guilty for training because the hoards have called them 'selfish,' despite it being the only way to keep them mentally 'okay.'

There is a handler feeling deflated and low, because they have chosen not to train as they don't want to break legislation to get to their training venue.

And somewhere out there is a little girl, stuck inside, looking at Crufts videos on YouTube wishing she could run her friend's dog at weekly training as she doesn't have her own dog, but all lessons are cancelled.

Everyone's problems are relative. Make the best of what you've got and be grateful for it because the likelihood is... someone out there will be wishing they have what you've got.

Stay safe, be kind.

First published on Facebook  (April 2020)


Perennial Starter Writes Again
From Sally Jones

Sitting in the sun yesterday afternoon, we could have been forgiven for believing the world was normal. The birds were singing, the daffodils were doing yellow, the grass was looking more green than brown and the lads from the farm opposite were screaming around the fields on their off-road bikes. A rural idyll, as long as you had a set of ear plugs and a high tolerance for petrol fumes.

Whilst enjoying the view, I wondered how long it would be before I became thoroughly sick of it. After all, agility folk are almost nomadic for part of the year and aren't used to spending every day of every week at home. Until now.

Looking at our campervan parked on the drive, I hatched a plan. You can all join in if you like. In order to ring the changes, why not sleep in your caravan, camper or tent? Then, when you wake up in the morning, you can draw back the curtains and see a totally different view of your next door neighbour. If that becomes old, try making up the bed the other way around so you are rotated through 180 degrees and you get yet another new view. Once that novelty has worn off, why not turn the van around on your drive so it's pointing the other way? Endless opportunities for mixing it up - well not strictly true, probably only a couple of versions are realistic for most driveways. I suppose the ingenious amongst you could enlarge a photo of your favourite show ground and put it behind the curtains for a nice surprise in the morning.

If you have the space, you could even set up your garden and put your fairy lights out. No worries about them draining your battery as this particular venue has electric hook-up. It also has way better toilets. Set your alarm for 5am and make sure you use the dog bark ring tone. From experience that tends to be the time that someone's yappy dog decides it needs to start the dawn chorus, so it will add to the authenticity of the experience. Reset the alarm for 6am and fall into the deepest possible sleep so that when the alarm goes off you either sleep through it or wake up with such a start you bang your head on the bunk above you.

Next, breakfast.
Leave the kettle boiling whilst you stand outside in your dressing gown watching the dogs be very confused as to why they're in the drive and, when you go back in, you will have created your own sauna. You may also have woken some neighbours thinking the sound of the kettle was their car alarm going off. If that's the case, give them a cheery wave. I'm sure they'll appreciate it.

Dogs need feeding and exercising and you'll need to pick up and drop it in the black bin liner that is always already full. Then it's bacon sandwich time. It's important that you eat this whilst standing up and staring into the distance. After all, you are normally waiting for the judge to finish tweaking and announce that the course is ready for walking. It's always a stressful time. After all, you want to be in the first wave of people to rush onto the course. But you can't do that if you still have food in your hand. But rushing your weekend treat isn't top of your priority list. It's a delicate balancing act of watching the judge's body language and trying to lip-read what they're saying with pacing yourself so that the last morsel passes over your palette just as the ring-manager raises the walkie talkie to announce, 'Yyou may walk the course.'

Quite how we are going to recreate course walking, I haven't worked out yet. It's the antithesis of social distancing best of times, so perhaps we need to use our imagination and do shadow handling manoeuvres whilst avoiding imaginary people so that the neighbour you woke earlier thinks you are a karate novice having a seizure.

The noise of an agility show should be quite easy to replicate. Either make a recording of your dogs barking and play it on a loop or replay a video of one of your rounds at a show and turn it way, way up so that you, and the dogs, can hear the tunnel and the seesaw and the WEAVEWEAVEWEAVE command. That should get them going. If you have WiFi connection in your drive, you could be doing this on FaceTime or similar with friends. That would ensure that dogs up and down the country and indeed all over the world could bark excitedly and annoy far more neighbours than normal.

Of course, the benefit of being on your drive means that you didn't have to pretend you were working at your screen whereas you were really waiting for the camping to open for Thames or KCIAF. If you miss that kind of excitement, why not try to secure a home delivery spot from one of the supermarkets. They are all fully booked for up to three weeks but every day another day gets added. Can you be one of the first to nab a spot? It certainly got my adrenaline going but I'm proud to say I am getting a delivery on April 13th. That was better than getting a clear round, believe me!

I hope you all find something wonderful in today. The weather is certainly helping.

Stay at home!

First published in Agility Eye  (April 2020)



30 Years Down the Road to Crufts

From Greg Derrett

This week marked my 30th consecutive year running at Crufts, a record I'm very proud to have achieved after setting the goal back in 2008. After winning the singles that year with GT, I was very close to calling it a day but, at the time. I was lucky enough to be training a former Olympic athlete who had started Agility.

I gained a lot of crucial advice on mental game strategy but the best piece of advice he gave me was to set a long-term future goal - one that wasn't specifically about winning but would keep me focused on staying in the sport and persevering with every dog, even on the days when you do want to give up. And one that was going to be a challenge to achieve but essentially I could control.

12 years later and eight more Crufts titles to my name, the goal is achieved and, if he's reading this, thank you.

I've run in some truly remarkable teams over the three decades and enjoyed winning and losing with all of those great handlers and dogs. Some of those wins rank above many of the individual achievements.

If today turns out to be my last day at Crufts, I'll look back with no regrets but thankful to the eight amazing dogs I've been lucky enough to run with over 30 years.

First published on Facebook  (March 2020)




So What Do You Guys Struggle With?
From Shellie Smith

I have been doing agility for over 10 years with my terriers so I am quite experienced!!!.. nothing prepaired me for my young, fast and very powerful collie who is called River!

I adore the bones of that dog. but I sometimes feel I don't do him justice as, at the moment, a lot of the times I don't get things right. I feel like a brand new handler and not the experienced one I actually am, especially my command giving and timing. My instructor is awesome and totally encouraging, and we have produced this speed demon!

However, I have to stop kicking myself up the backside as I have forgotten how far I have come with this lad. Last season was his first out. I didn't go out there to win or get a clear round, but to get bits right - and a lot of the time he did. There were some awesome bits - and some not so! He got a 3rd place.

So far this season, I have done one show, and he has exceeded all my expectations and already got a 3rd place. I'd set my self a target of getting his contacts and weave entry and anything else on top of that is a bonus, and he did that in every run he did. I have a long way to go with him yet and I am learning every step of the way and we are teaching each other on our agility journey.

So I guess what I am saying , don't beat yourself up if it goes wrong. Look at the bigger picture and pick a target. If you exceed that, then it's a bonus and a massive confidence boost! And before you know it the magic happens!


 
Photo: Sean Cameron Photographic

Olympia Reflections
From Simon Chandler

Having got back from my judging appointment at Olympia, it's time for some reflections. Firstly huge thank you to the Kennel Club for entrusting me with this hugely prestigious honour. It's something that will live with me forever and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

But my judging was tarnished on Saturday when I missed a brick coming out of the wall which had a huge knock on effect for two people. I have gone over it in my mind time and time again, watched videos and I just did not see the brick falling. I am human, and I made a mistake which will never leave me.

However how bad I felt though it cannot begin to be as bad as Nicola Wildman did having the 1st place taken off of her after being paraded around Olympia as the winner and on such a high. Then young Megan Hunt was told she had won. What went through her mind I wouldn't know.

But these two young ladies showed Sportsmanship I couldn't even begin to explain, they humbled me and yes the three of us cried tears, but ladies you have my utmost respect and my gratitude for how you handled a horrible situation, you both are first class examples of human beings and hope you have a Happy Christmas and I send you my love😥😥😥💕💕and thank you to all who gave and sent me messages of support.
On a happier note I loved the rest of my Olympia Experience, the atmosphere is unbelievable, the noise in the afternoon is loud but the evening crowds take it up a few decibels more. 😊😊 to be in the middle and watch some wonderful partnerships cope with the pressure was something to behold.

I was very pleased with how my courses ran. I wanted to have a mixture of technique and a fast flowing feel with the crowd getting involved at the end and I hope I achieved that.

So many thanks to give - Robyn, Rob, Alex, Gina, Amanda, Mike and Warren from First Contact (Hail Caesar) and Arthur for keeping me calm when I was fretting. Laura your organisation was faultless, Only when people have seen behind the scenes would they understand the intense pressure you are under to produce and produce you did. Thank you for your support. Paul and Kate thank you and you know why.

Congratulations to all the winners. You delivered under the highest pressure and deserved all your success. Also congratulations to everybody who took part. You made the event what it was and embraced my courses.

Finally thanks to Karen staying behind to look after dogs except for one day when Pete Catt helped and she came up to be with me.

So would I do it again? Too Bloody right I would. It was an amazing experience - good and bad, so I wish you all a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year especially to two wonderful ladies, Nicola and Megan.

First seen on Agilitynet Facebook on 23rd December 2019


 
Photo: Jane Ambler

The Happy Sport

From Alan Waddington

As the 2019 outdoor season draws to a close, it is a good time to pause and reflect on issues in dog agility, proposed changes and the general feel and organisation of our sport. There have already been lots of posts about how short the summer seems to have been. I do not intend to add to the debate about changes, but rather, to reflect on AGILITY – THE HAPPY SPORT.

There has been much talk recently about Mental Health awareness. This has included primetime coverage of a 'team talk' involving prominent footballers and Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, who spoke about their issues.

Agility has always been considered a happy sport. Indeed, the Kennel Club promotes the idea of 'Fun Competition.' That does not mean that it is not competitive. Handlers are always striving for wins or points to progress to the next grade. At the peak of the sport, there is the challenge of trying to be the best in the world.

Most competitors seem to accept that they will not always win or go clear. It is a case of learning from what did not go quite right and coming out again determined to do better. For some people, not being successful is not quite that easy to manage. Over the last couple of years, I have heard an increasing number of overt criticisms about courses and judging. The same applies to ring parties and show management.

It saddens me to hear such remarks.
That is not to say that judges and ring parties always get everything right, but any suggestion that whatever went wrong, was deliberately targeted against them, has no place in our sport. When I hear such comments, I am often tempted to respond, that if they can do better, they should do some of the jobs themselves, but I resist this on the basis that the level of anger will diffuse more quickly without fuel being added to the fire.

Despite these outbursts, I still feel that Agility is a happy sport. That is not to say that everyone at a show will be happy. MIND, the mental health charity, reports that one in four people will have a mental health issue in any given year. Speaking from personal experience, as someone who receives treatment for anxiety related problems and depression, I can vouch for the fact that most of us try to hide it. People assume that I do not have depression because I am full of nervous energy when I am with other people and can be the life and soul of the party – organising the making of reindeer antlers from a pair of ladies tights and balloons at a Christmas party, springs to mind.

Most of us with anxiety and / or depression find it very difficult to initiate contact and conversation with strangers. We think it is safer to be left alone. It is easier to hide away, even though a rational part of us knows that this will exacerbate our systems. It is a real life Catch 22.

We cannot know the personal circumstances of everyone at an agility show
There is certainly no need for us to become busybodies. What I can say, with certainty, is that there will be some people who are lonely, others who are overwhelmed by coping with life and those who have recently lost loved ones. There will also be those with relationship problems, others facing health issues and those who running scared of life.

You might be thinking that it is difficult to help if we do not know who these people are. Perhaps you do not need to know. If you strike up a conversation with four people, the statistics suggest that one of them will have some mental health issue. Who knows what help that kind word or gesture may be to that individual?

All this is not just about being altruistic. I promise, that you will also feel better from making a new friend. Surely that is much better for our 'Happy Sport' than getting angry about judges, ring parties and show management.

Go on, please give it a go.



Where Am I?
From Belle MacIntosh

So I need help agility people.

I am somewhere called 'home' this weekend.

It has solid walls, indoor plumbing and a husband who is nice.

But what do I do?

Waiting for a tannoy to tell me.

I thought I might put up some weave poles and a jump and see if a can go clear.

Suggestions are welcome.


A Plea to Judges

From Mavis Sherwin on FB

Just putting something 'out there'... I notice whilst both competing and judging that alternative obstacles i.e. long jumps, tyres, rising spreads, walls etc. are not being included by many judges (apart from champ classes of course). I acknowledge there are other competitors that have expressed their views on this, too.

Don't we (as judges) owe it to competitors - including the many of us who compete - to include at least some of these obstacles in all grades of classes. It is a rarity to see more than one of these items utilised in courses, yet we are expected to negotiate tunnels three, four or more times within a course. The result is that many competitors can move up the grades without negotiating any of these (alternative) obstacles.

Come on fellow competitors / judges – give us some variety of obstacles in your courses.



Dress Code
From Simon Chandler on FB

Being unable to run gives me the opportunity to watch other rings. Over the last few weeks I have seen to me what seems to becoming an uncomfortable trend. I know the weather has been/ is hot but judges please dress a lot smarter. It's a bugbear of mine I know but we can all look smart even in nice shorts and tops. 

To me not being smart as a judge shows a lack of respect to the show and competitors and, in my opinion, also puts you on the back foot if there is an incident to deal with.

We need to stand out from the competitors, have a sense of professionalism about how we go about our judging. Yes, we need to be comfortable while standing in the ring but we can still do this whilst dressed smartly. 

Most judges are excellent, but it seems a few are letting the side down. Only my opinion but thought I'd air it.


Believe
From Linda Mecklenburg

”…if you want your young dog to become a champion, you must believe in him. You must treat him like a champion. You must make him believe he is a champion.

You cannot fret over how wide his turns are, how slow his times are, how so and so beat him etc etc. You cannot be disappointed in him. You must instil confidence. You must build trust. You must come off the course making him feel like a champion no matter what happened. Your response at the end of the run should be so positive that your dog wants to make it happen again. You must convince him he is a champion even when not doing a agility (tell him, and believe, what a great dog he is).

You must believe in your dog so he can believe in himself”

Linda Mecklenburg


Just for Fun Agility
From Jan Stubbs

I think people sometimes takes widely used and understood terms too literally. e.g. pet agility or 'fun' agility does not actually mean anything other than local, accessible, on your doorstep, pressure free classes, averaging £10 per week, with no intent to buy a tent, caravan, campervan, additional dogs, start setting off every weekend at 5am to live in a wet muddy field, nor drive 50 miles to spend £40 on a couple of hours with various trainers to perfect a weave entry or French twist.

It often is a starting point. But more often is just something different to do to get out of the house, and a nice social thing to do one evening a week with new friends and is still fun for people. But because it has to be local - and people won't or can't travel far - it is down to luck as to what, if anything, is available for people so locally. So they might he lucky or they might not.

That is all it means,



The Real Rules of Agility

From Agilitynet FB page

  1. If you really want to get better at agility, take it up at an earlier age - and grow an extra three inches of leg to run faster.

  2. An agility competition is a test of your skill against another competitor's luck.

  3. Agility is about working harmoniously with your dog around a course. On the other hand, a dog's idea of perfect harmony is chewing up a sock in the back garden.

  4. If you want to end a drought or dry spell, wear a new customised polo shirt or running shoes outside.

  5. Aggressive or untrainable dogs have perfect health, long lives and beautiful jumping action.

  6. Some talented, highly trainable dogs just sometimes can't seem to learn what a contact is in the ring or come out of the weaves at no. 10.

  7. You will run the best clear of your lives, only to be disqualified for wearing a dangly tag on the collar.

  8. Never keep more than 300 separate thoughts in your head before a run.

  9. Never keep less than another 300 separate thoughts in your head during a run.

  10. Dogs do not improve their runs because you have Doggo Parcours running shoes or sponsored Lycra leggings.

  11. If you choose a funky costume for your pairs run, everyone else will be dressed normally and you will be called crazy. If you decided to wear normal clothes, everyone else will be doing fancy dress and you will be called boring.

  12. The less skilled the handler, the more likely they are to share their critique of your run.

  13. If you are considering the services of a dog clairvoyant to help you with training, then you have reached the point of total desperation - try the new German moves!

  14. Your dog doesn't care about what your trainer said last week. It will still run exactly the same as the week before.

  15. No matter how badly you run a course, it is always possible to run a worse one.

  16. If it ain't broke, try changing your handling and it will be.

  17. Judges only suffer from temporary blindness - or kindness - when they are judging someone else's run.

  18. If you fall over in the ring, there will be someone videoing your run.

  19. If you are feeling confident before a show, then three of the Agility team GB will turn up to give their young dogs some 'experience.'

  20. Your dog will perform it's best 'round the back' ever, when you asked for a straight 'go on.'

  21. Since runs of bad competitions come in groups of three, the fourth competition is actually the beginning of the next group of three.

  22. No one cheats at agility because they all fear the wrath of the Agilitynet Facebook group!

  23. It is surprisingly easy to end a competition with perfect weaves and contacts after having been eliminated four times on jumps.

  24. The result of an expensive lesson from a top pro is that you will stop believing in that tiny piece of innate ability that was holding your handling together.

  25. Remember when buying an agility dog advertised as 'needs experienced competitive handler,' this really means 'needs the skills of Team GB just to stay in the ring.'

  26. If you think your run was better than someone else's, it probably wasn't.

  27. If you pay £600 for an agility line puppy, you will be beaten in Grade 2 by a six year old rescue dog.

  28. Clinics given by someone with an interesting accent are not necessarily superior to those given by the homegirl.

  29. If you go to the expense of buying an expensive, agility line puppy, it will have a talent for learning Obedience and no jump worth talking about.

*Stolen and edited from a dressage group 


 
Agility Secrets
From Laura Chudleigh

I feel it is my duty to give a warning to all those new to the world of agility about agility addiction. A few years back I remember being told this sport was addictive and I am sure like many others I just laughed this off as a funny idea.

I would like to put into perspective what an addiction to agility actually means should you catch this disease.

  • You will find yourself out of bed at some ungodly hour stuffing your car full of gear while the rest of the world is having a nice weekend lie-in and planning a lovely Sunday roast dinner.

  • You may find yourself taking your dogs for massage, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, laser work and water treadmills while you yourself are stiff, sore and falling apart at the seams.

  • Your social group will change to mainly other doggy friends so you can satisfy your desire to have a good old gossip about rule changes and the highs and lows of your last agility weekend.

  • You may have promised yourself you would never be seen dead in lycra sportswear, yet here you are clad in skin tight leggings waving a multi-coloured fleece pom-pom in a random field at 7.30am in the morning.

  • Portaloos which used to be reserved for those wild days at rock concerts when you were young are now the regular norm at weekends.

  • Your bank account will never be the same again.

  • You will try to come up with ways to escape weddings, anniversaries and family gatherings to go to an agility show that clashes on the calendar.

  • You will find yourself on a start line with a bounding amount of hope that this could be it... that moment to shine and 30 seconds later be saying words in your head that are unrepeatable in public.

  • You will need more storage space for all the stuff you will end up buying to aid your addition.

  • You will get wet, you will get muddy, you will get sunburn, your clothes will be covered in dog paw prints, your hair will be a mess and you will most likely smell of liver, sausage and dried fish.

  • Your diary is about 80% dog.

  • Agility will most likely influence what your next vehicle will be. It will be kitted out with crates, fans, non-spill water bowls, folding chairs and shade covers.

  • Your dreams of your perfect house will be less about inside and more about whether the garden could fit an agility course in it.

  • Your dogs will own more types of coats than you do.

  • You will become obsessed about contacts. You will think about them, watch them, talk about then, get frustrated by them and admire other people's.

  • You will learn and talk a new language. This could include phrases such as:-

  • It was a good E, not a bad E

  • Maybe I will pop in a German

  • I should get round to washing that clam

  • Not sure I can fit in a Flind there

  • I need to reinforce my wait start

  • Should I blind or front

  • Lala lala lala lala

  • It's classic displacement behaviour

  • I might attempt the hard gamble

  • That was a lovely rear

These things will not mean anything to those non-agility friends - assuming you have any left.

You will also have the best time of your life, get tons of fresh air, get fitter, meet so many new friends, feel a rollercoaster of emotions and build a bond and understanding with your dog like nothing else.

You have been warned!

For more information about the future of agility training, updated monthly, designed to suit all styles and needs. Delivered online by world class trainers direct to you, in the comfort of your home regardless of the weather, go to https://www.facebook.com/AgilitySecrets/


What's the Hurry?
From Hannah Louise Wade

I know this has been talked about over and over again but something needs to be done before a dog or a child is seriously hurt.

I was recently at a show and the speed of cars coming in and out the venue this weekend was appalling! We were parked at the gate and I've lost count how many times I had to literally scream at people to slow down and I know I am not the only one! I don't understand what is going through people's heads. They seem so desperate to get to their spot whether it's camping or day parking!

 What are we going to do?

I think clubs are going to have to start being firm and saying you speed you leave!  Come on show managers and clubs, it's time to start being aware and get firm!

You speed you leave.

From Dawn Gilmour...
Following on from this post, Gleniffer has decided to crack down on speeding vehicles. If anyone is seen speeding at Gleniffer Show in the future, their vehicle registration number will be noted and placed in the incident book. This will be sent to the KC, and a record of the vehicle will also be kept on a spreadsheet. If the same vehicle appears twice, you will not be allowed back to our shows. We will be very strict on this. 5mph is walking pace - nothing more. You have been warned. Let's hope all KC clubs join us in our bit to slow everyone down. (12/09/18)


When Judges Say No
From Beth Burton

If you have asked a judge more than once if you can put your dog back on the contacts and the judge has not verbally replied but is looking at you in away that clearly says 'No,' then, in my opinion, you either carry on or leave the ring. Surely if you have a problem with this, you should take it up with the judge at the time or speak to the Show Manager at the time, not jump on FB here or your personal page, afterwards because you didn't get what you wanted?

To me, a non-verbal answer to my first request = 'No' and the look, grumpy/cross, would mean that I am right in thinking that's a no then.

It's not the judge's fault your dog can't hold their contacts if you want them to stop on them or that you broke the rules.

Recently a friend of mine was running her dog at a show when he put himself back on the contact. Though my friend knew why she had been E'd, the judge made sure she knew the reason.  She friend appreciate this and said how lovely it was of the judge to check she knew why she had been eliminated.

Our judges give up their time so we can enjoy competing with our dogs for little to no thanks - unless we get it right on the day and are placed.

Judges, I love you all and am very grateful for what you do for us competitors.


I'm Proud
From Victoria Paine

I see so many proud posts on Facebook with a zillion rosettes from competitions, and that's really awesome. But do you know what I'm most proud about?

I'm proud that after rehoming my idiot collie from a totally unsuitable home that we've become a team - and that we are becoming an awesome team.

I'm proud that I can see where we've come from, not just in his abilities but in mine, too. And I'm excited for the journey we have ahead.

I'm proud that I've a super awesome club that grounds me, lifts me, teaches me, laughs with me and cries with me (sometimes literally). It doesn't matter if we are having a shocking run or a super awesome one, because look how far we've come and look how hard we are trying to do it right. And if that takes us all of our life, then who actually cares?

I'm proud that on my journey I've learnt how best to take care of the idiot that is now my collie and, as a result, he is fit and healthy. He jumps and runs balanced without rattling poles and  is, touch wood, generally injury free.

Because who actually cares whether we hit the top grades quickly? Because if and when we hit them we will be fit. We will be healthy and we will deserve to be there. And above all, we will have had an awesome time getting there!



What Do People Want from Our Hobby?
From Simon Chandler

Yes, of course we want our dogs to be as safe as possible. We hope that the equipment that is used is of a high standard and as uniform across the board as possible, but we have to remember a few things.

Firstly Agility is inherently dangerous. We are asking dogs to do unnatural actions, sometimes at high speeds. Accidents occasionally happen as they do in any physical activity whether it is undertaken by humans or animals. But surely we are all aware of this when we decide to partake or ask our animals to do the same.

We cannot keep trying to make changes just for the sake of it. If you want to alleviate risk, then we will have no equipment left to compete with. People wanted new distances because they didn't like seeing dogs screwing themselves into the ground trying tight turns. Now the courses are generally more flowing which, of course, is good for the dogs but that brings more speed so conversely more risk of accidents. 

I'm encouraged when I look at some courses, knowing that the judges have thought about lines etc. Of course, there will be those that maybe aren't up to what we may like, but then we have a simple solution. Either run it or don't. You have the choice.

Then, of course, we have to accept the fact that Agility is an activity that is not suitable for all breeds of dogs. If I had Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound or dog of a large size, I wouldn,t dream of doing Agility with it. There may be dogs like that that are doing it, but does it mean they should be! Let's face it... I'd like to be able to do numerous somersaults in a race with a proper tumble, but the fact that I'm built like a baby elephant and have the athletic prowess of arthritic Orang-utan would mean I'd lose. So maybe I shouldn't attempt or, if I did try, soon realise that this isn't for me.

Agility is like that for some breeds, so maybe we shouldn't be 'dumbing down' equipment and courses in the belief that it is helping certain breeds.

I'm not against anything that potentially makes it safer for me to run my super fast dog around a course but not at the detriment of making courses too easy. After all, we need to remember that the Agility competitions we enter are tests and should be treated as such. I want to test my dog against the judge, his/her course and against my fellow competitors in that test. I don't want to just run around thinking this is boring. I want to push him and show his athleticism off to others. Does this make me a selfish owner? No, I don't think it does.

We enter competitions for various reasons but just because we sometimes don't get things how we want, why should we change it to suit ourselves. We should look at the bigger, wider picture and think of others who maybe are generally happy with their lot.

I see a lot of comments that start with 'my dog isn't suited to this' and 'This doesn't suit me' or 'I can't do this because I have to run.' Add this to the already growing trend of 'judge bashing' and soon competitions will be sterile - jumps on the floor, A-frames and dogwalks six inches off the floor, no tunnels, no weaves.

So please people, let's just get on with what I believe is a great hobby and try putting a smile back on faces when we stand in the middle of a field sending our dogs over sticks.


Food for Thought
From Graham Partridge

I have just spent the day judging in Finland where they offered four runs per dog. Entry fees for first run is £12. Any other runs are £10.50 per run, so four runs = £43.50.

No trophies, no rosettes, goody bags only.

Just saying sometimes we do not appreciate how lucky we are.



Just in Case...

From Gill Cowie

I know that the majority of us have plans in place for when illness etc strikes and our dogs need looking after but I am just rethinking the whole scenario.

I am writing out my dogs daily routine – to leave in a clear wallet that someone can take with them should the worst happen – because sometimes the unexpected does happen. You go out for the evening – and don't return, for instance, for a day or so. Although people KNOW you and your dog, trying to find everything they need – where it is etc – in a panic – it is so much easier to have it written down etc etc - peace of mind. Nuff said.



Can We Not Have Fun AND Compete?
From Rebecca Harris

Why do some talk about competing as if it is a bad thing?

On so many dog training and pet groups people say, 'I am doing agility for fun not to complete' and you sense the undertone.

Well, I do agility because my dog loves it and I do competition for me. My dog still loves it, and I love seeing him love it - we have fun! I would not train or compete if it wasn't fun for my dog. I think that is the majority of people at agility shows and attending competitive clubs (to compete more effectively) each week. Wouldn't you agree?

Note: Not downing those that do not compete - unhappy about judgemental people that take it upon themselves to judge others that compete as not possibility doing it for enjoyment with their much loved dogs.

Margaret Goyne 
I have changed over the 25-ish years since I started agility. At first not, I said, competitive till the day my extremely naughty and unreliable dog suddenly started to behave and get placed. Then, further on, thought there seemed to be little point training and not going to shows, then ended up more or less retiring as I was unable to run.

Now back to training having found a good instructor to help with distance handling, very rarely compete, do it for fun and satisfaction but still aiming for competition standard.

Leslie Van Steen-Leonard 
I was like that. I'm not someone who enjoys competition. However I do enjoy setting and achieving personal goals, so trials helped me to see how we were progressing. It took me a long time to enjoy trials, ignore the fact that it's a competition, and just treat it like a personal test of skills that is not compared or judged against others.

Penny Heal 
So many different reasons why people compete. I spend a lot of time and money training my dog in two disciplines and I absolutely love the training - we take it seriously. Competition for us is a chance to put it all together 'in the ring' and see how it goes.

After 16 years in agility and five in obedience I am finally getting to the point of view that it is just another training opportunity, but if it all comes together on the day there is no buzz like it. Rosettes and places are icing on the cake. I do want to progress though, because the challenges are different and skills need to be better the higher you go. This motivates me for training, so it is a big fun circle. Huge plus is the competition day out with atmosphere and social side. Apart from helping, which I really enjoy, who doesn't want to talk dogs all day!

Kate Lamacraft 
Love training my dogs, Love having a whole day out at competitions with my dogs, Love winning, Love getting round clear, Love getting round with faults. Just love seeing my Houndies have fab time playing agility. Agility is awesome for dogs and handlers

Jan Stubbs 
I just do it for fun cos my dog is 44cm high and we didn't get a 4th height so are seen as a bit of a joke. So I may as well laugh and just enjoy the privilege of being able to enter something at all - but just not take it all that seriously. I'd love to compete properly & fully though but we aren't meant to want to!



A Post-Valentine Thought
From Hannah Graham

There is a group of people associated with agility who never get a mention and are rarely acknowledged.

Here's to all our non-agility husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners etc. Those long suffering individuals put up with our agility addiction which usually leads to multiple dogs, a camper or caravan, dog vehicles, agility equipment everywhere and dog related everything, plus the large amount of money spent attending shows and training. Long weekends away from us or spending supporting us at shows, our chauffer's, chefs, dog sitters, walkers and grooms, they'll never run a dog, but they're willing to support us. They are the ones that pick up the pieces when everything goes wrong or are proud of us when we get it right.

Without this group of people who stand by our side, would we actually be where we are now?

I certainly appreciate mine - and never tell him enough so this weekend let's give them a bit of love.


The Cost of Training
From Dawn Gilmour

One of my friends asked 'Why do you pay so much money for your daughter to do Dog Agility?'

Well, I have a confession to make. I don't pay for my child to train her dogs.

So, if I am not paying for them to train, what am I paying for?

  • I pay for those moments when she becomes so tired she wants to quit but doesn't.

  • I pay for those days when she comes home from school and is "too tired" to go training but goes anyway.

  • I pay for her to learn to be disciplined.

  • I pay for my her to learn to take care of her body.

  • I pay for her to learn to work with others and to be good team player.

  • I pay for her to learn to deal with disappointment, when she doesn't get that clear round she hoped for, but still had to work hard in the grading.

  • I pay for her to learn to make and accomplish goals.

  • I pay for her to learn that it takes hours and hours and hours and hours of hard work and practice to create a champion, and that success does not happen overnight.

  • I pay for the opportunity she will have and will have to make life-long friendships.

  • I pay so that she can be in the arena instead of in front of a TV screen.

I could go on but, to be short, I don't pay for dog training. I pay for the opportunities that my dog provides her with to develop attributes that will serve her well throughout their lives and gives her the opportunity to bless the lives of others. From what I have seen so far. I think it is a great investment!



The Cost of Dog Agility
From Dawn Gilmour

Reading another post, it seems Agility is a very expensive hobby in other countries and especially Europe. Some handlers are paying as much as €50 to enter one dog per day.

It also appears that if you do not have a pedigree dog, then there are certain things you are excluded from like national finals. Seems we may have some issues here but. at least, we cater for all from mongrel to pedigree.



European Courses v. British Courses
From Elizabeth Saggers

I had an interesting conversation at the Kennel Club International Festival (KCIF) with one of our European judges. He told me that British courses were different.

I asked if that was a bad thing and he said 'No, just different.'

So I went on to ask how they were different and he said in his country 'We run, run, run'.'

Then I asked what about the disabled, older, less mentally able or very young handlers and was told quite simplythat they just don't do it'

I am not adverse to changes for the welfare of our dogs or improvement of our sport. I enjoy the mix of courses, some suit me some don't, but I do not want to see a situation where the agility which so many of us enjoy for a weekend away with our dogs is altered to suit what appears to be a minority.

The only reason to alter things should be the safety or welfare of our dogs not just to suit some other form of competition. After all variety is the spice of life.


Big Distances for Small Dogs
From Lu Candy

Dear KC (Agility section) -

I know you've brought in the new distances so dogs can get enough strides in between obstacles and, therefore, put less long term strain on their bodies, but I don't see the logic as we now seem to have many 'obligatory' go round the back of's' where it looks to me like dogs are having to take off and turn almost 180 degrees from one stride.

We would not ask Olympic level hurdlers to run round and take every 3rd hurdle from the wrong side and, as far as I know, in the equestrian world no one would set that manoeuvre in a show jumping course.

Also why have we got the same distances for Small dogs as Large dogs? Surely they have a shorter stride pattern so should have relatively shorter distances.



Feeling reflective
From Beverley Kimber

The other morning on my way to a competition, I thought to myself why am I doing this. What is it about agility that I have become so addicted to>

When I look back I realise how happy I am on my training days and how much I look forward to it. I realise how much of an escape it is for me after a hard day of working hard to try and cure people's loved ones and even my loved ones from the terrible dreaded word cancer. Just running around with my dogs and having fun makes me realise just how lucky I am.

So next time when you are at show, make sure you are cheering each other on and don't slate people. You don't know their stories.

I love being around like-minded people who just enjoy the sport and being with their dogs.



Morning Star
By Sue Jones

It's 4.30 in the morning. 

My oldest dog has just asked to go outside. I get up, throw some clothes on over my pjs, collect the puppy from her crate and take them both outside. Both have wees and we come back in. Oldie goes back up to bed and I put pup back into crate.

I go upstairs and get into bed and then it starts. the screaming banshee is now fully awake and doesn't want to go back to sleep.

5.15 am

 I give up all hope of sleep and we all get up.  I feed the dogs and then decide to prepare Ingredients for the breadmaker.  I'm in the kitchen and I look to my right to see a small puppy at the back door. I grab my coat and take her back out into the garden where she immediately does a poo and a wee. What a little star!

I bring her back in.

SHE is now asleep.


New Rules for Dog Agility in Scotland FB
By Dawn Gilmour

Suggested Agility Topic Days

  • Moany Monday - a day to moan about everything and anything to do with Agility
     

  • Truthful Tuesday - a day where we all come clean about all the naughty thing we do that p**s people off
     

  • Wishful Wednesday - a day of what I would like to see that would suit me and only me
     

  • Thankful Thursday - a day to be thankful for the wonderful dogs we have, and be thankful for those that give up their time to allow us to compete and have fun
     

  • Fantastic Friday - a day of joy as we are all off to Shows and in a good mood for a change.
     

  • Silent Saturday - a day of not many posts as we are all knackered
     

  • Successful Sunday - a day of happy posts with our win outs, clear rounds, Champ wins or just having the best time ever with my friends and dogs


 
The Real Joy of Agility
Steve Seale wrote this years ago...

It is not the winning or going clear. It is not the equipment or shows. It is not hero worship or faint praise.

It is the relationship and bond between you and your dog, that individual closest of ties you build, with the simplest of looks between each of you and you both know, the unconscious communication that is second nature between you, the sense of joy in being with each other competing, training or resting. That sense of togetherness as you wait to compete and, after, walking back to the car.

If you know these things and have them with your dog, then you have won in agility regardless of rosettes and trophies.


A Message to All Show Organisers

Just to broadcast to everyone I won't be going to any shows in 2017 that don't specifically cater only for me and my dogs! This is so that all show organisers know that they need to contact me directly to discuss what I want. Otherwise that's it. I'm not coming!



Dear Weather
By Dawn Gilmour

Dear Weather -

It really is nice of you to try to average out the temperatures between Summer and Winter, however here are a few things you should know -

  • I like sun in the summer.
     

  • I love frost in the winter.
     

  • My winter duvet has not seen the light of day this year.
     

  • Agility Shows across the UK have been cancelled due to your poor judgement of what you think is best for us.
     

  • Thousands of agility handlers and their dogs have been left distraught as they have had to do housework etc. when they should have been at an agility show!
     

  • My van does not cope well with mud and there has been more than enough of it in 2016.
     

  • My thermal knickers bought especially for this year are still in the package.

Please return the weather to normal for 2017 or I may need to remove you as my friend!

Thank you in advance.



Out of the Skies
By Alan Gardner

This is a true story and a surreal moment...

I was up the field training when an airplane lands in the field. A man gets out panting and runs up to me.

'Are you okay?' I asked.

The pilot replied, 'Yes, just landed as my engine is running cold and I need to put some tape over the vent. Hope I didn't disturb dogs?

And here is the clincher...

He looks at Jaidi and says, 'I didn't know you could do agility with Bernese Mountain Dogs!'

So now people drop out of the sky to see what breed he is...


Rambling with Rebus
By Elaine Thomas

The twilight is deepening as we set off across the fields – the last remnants of the sun striking the clouds gold.

The dogs chase through the long grass – their passing leaving a smoke trail of pollen.

They barrel after the ball, so intent they don't see the fox in the hedgerow – it watches them quietly and then slips into the dense undergrowth without a trace.

My old Dalmatian Morse, slops along in the collies wake – content to watch them circle and spin. Old age has robbed him of his graceful economical trot, but on a quiet summers evening, he is quite happy to spend an hour nose down, tail ceaselessly waving, nearly but not quite keeping up.

On the horizon a jet takes off from Gatwick through the layers of gold and purple, and I wonder what holiday destination they are going to.

Rob turns his head just to check I'm there, and Morse rubs his head on my leg. I lean down to pull his ears and decide I don't want  to be anywhere else than here, in the darkening twilight with my dogs.

Five seconds later I walk into a ravenous swarm of midges – and the mood vanishes. Rebus then hurls himself into the river with no thought as to how he will get out, and eventually scrambles up the bank, showering me in smelly water, mud and pondweed.

Still, the squall of stagnant water frightens off the midges.

Smelling like the bottom of a pond, we squelch home.

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