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Kodi - A Complex Agility Dog

     Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover

The agility life of a complex collie...

One day Shellie Smith had a frantic phone call from a friend who knew how much she liked red collies. There was a little collie bitch who needed a home. She had been allocated to someone but had let the breeder down. At the time, Shellie owned the pup's half brother so she knew the line. What could go wrong? AhhhÖ where to start.

For updates on Kodi's progress go to Tail End

In my head I was having a thousand thoughts... my partner needed an agility dog... I already had her half-brother. Not a problem.

I picked up what I thought was a confident little reddish brown pup and brought her home. Kodi strolled into the house of five other dogs with the attitude of 'I am here, gang. What's occurring?

Yep, I thought. She was going to be just fine. She had the right attitude to be an agility dog and, if she was anything like her half-brother who is a Ferrari of the collie world, my partner is going to have such fun. A little competitive streak might probably occur in the household but nothing we couldn't handle. How wrong could I have been?

When my partner started to training Kodi all went well. Then one day I was walking the dogs and it all changed. Kodi ran into the back of my collie. It was a pure accident, but my speed freak Riko ended up with a perforated disc in his spine and had to have surgery to put it right. Unfortunately this ended his career as an agility dog.

I was heartbroken as he was only four years old. It left me with my little terrier Marli who is actually an amazing little dog, but he is getting on in age. I started to panic a little, as between us, my partner and I had half a dozen dogs and didn't feel I could get another one. My agility world was rocked. At the same time,  I wanted to support my partner in her agility career.

Kodi's initial training with my partner went really well. My lovely partner knew how much I wanted to run a collie at agility, however, and kindly passed her on to me. I was elated. Now I had a collie to train!

A massive learning curve
It was always going to take a little time for Kodi to go from my partner to me, but I was prepared for that. But, as time went on, I realised that this little girl was just a little complex than I thought. The confident pup that strolled into our house wasn't actually all that confident without her pack. She very cleverly sucked the energy and confidence from the others and tricked us into thinking that she was super confident. At training, however, when she was alone without her the back up of her pack, you could see the sheer horror on her face. She stuck to me like glue, her tail between her legs. She didn't even want to play tug.

I spent weeks trying to get her to socialise with the others, but she wasn't having any off it. I just couldn't understand why she was like this with me and not with my partner. Then it dawned on me. I was training with her brother up at the other end of the school, so she was happy. At least part of her pack was there.

I found that I had now had gone from Riko, a Mercedes of the collie world who sometimes drove me mad - if I gave him an inch he would take a mile and do what he pleased - to a complex, insecure and super sensitive girl. Three times I had to change my training techniques, and each time I learned something new that I could put into 'Agility Training Rucksack' and pull out when needed.

Kodi now has the ability to do every piece of equipment well. She isn't the fastest of dogs, but she has a fab wait which I never had with her brother. She got her contacts really quickly and she can jump full height Large, do tunnels and weave. Perfect you would think, wouldn't you?

People were constantly telling me not to worry about the speed. We could work on that and make it all better. Nope, not with Kodi. There are training nights when I literally can't get her to do three or four pieces of equipment in a row. We have even gone through the 'I can't possibly do a tunnel today as that's far too scary' stage.  At the moment, she has a see saw issue despite the fact that we have done thousands of them. Right now she can't even go near it, so we are stripping it right back.

Why I can't tell you. There just isn't an answer. I try to be patient and work with what I get at that training session. The following week she can be a trouper and blast a course away. I can only stand there and think 'Why couldn't you do that last week?'

A total U-turn
Now I am actually someone who only ever wanted to do KC shows for progression and get to the dizzy heights of Champ. By default, Kodi is in Grade 3. In reality, is she isn't a Grade 3 dog. I wouldn't possibly consider running her in a competition without a fenced ring.

Last year at Dogs In Need she panicked and ran across four rings. No one could stop her. Somehow she managed to find my tent, jumped the 4 foot fence and put herself as far in the back of the van as she could possibly go. Up to that point she was running the course really well.

I now look for shows that are fenced even if they are not KC. Her first show was Bits 'n' Bobs where she ran two courses beautifully and then for whatever reason, she freaked in the third. I took her out and gave a huge cuddle. We then we went and had a play in the exercise area and went home. I was super pleased that she managed to do two lovely courses and would have got a clear round had it not been handler error, only picking up 5 faults.

What was I going to do?
In the beginning, I was completely frantic about her behaviour. I was pulling my hair out. What was I going to do with this erratic young collie. I just didn't know what she was going to do from one training session or competition to another.

This is what I did.

I learnt from her.

Yep, that little brown collie whom I thought I was teaching was actually teaching me. A really good friend of mine who trains horses and is in our training class has seen Kodi from the start. She seen her on both her good days and bad days. One night after a particularly challenging lesson, she sent me message as she knew I was feeling a little down about it. I will never forget these words and I will build on them.

This is what she said. 'We go and buy an animal and, of course, we write a lists of hopes, but it's often not as simple as that. We don't often end up with the animal we were after, but perhaps - for whatever reason that we don't understand - we get the one we need. They teach us things that we didn't know we needed to learn and it can be them that needed someone like us.

Kodi is a very sensitive girl. Handling her has taught me things that I otherwise would never have learnt especially about myself. And I like to think that Kodi needs someone like me. Another handler/owner might never get out of her what I do.

My message to anyone out there who has similar problems is to keep going. Go over that mountain instead of around it. No doubt the journey will be harder and can be challenging, but believe me it's so much more rewarding in the end.

Tail end...

A little while back I did this write up about my Kodi and the struggles I have had with her. Since then I have so far had an amazing season with her - 8 shows with 8 places which includes a trip to the dog Vegas Final. Unfortunately I have had to withdraw as she had to have surgery for a mammory tumour which turned out not to be cancer.

Good luck to everyone who has qualified for the Final , I wish I was there but alas not this year, I have to say I made the Final with a dog that I never thought I would ever get in the ring makes me proud so plug on guys. I never gave up on her. (24th July 2019)

I wrote this piece about my young Collie Kodi for Agilitynet last year - on how spooky and difficult she has been to train as she changes the goal posts all the time, She is sensitive and reactive - not nasty but she just freaks out and runs. So I have been training with her, working with her issues with sensitivity and patience.

I am pleased to say that itís finally paying off. At training she is doing brilliant, even started to bark and be happy. She is now tugging which I couldnít get her to do.

A couple of weeks ago, I bit the bullet and entered her into Vyne Allsort special. I was a nervous wreck for sure as the rings were unfenced. I jumped her on Medium which she is comfy with. Well OMG. She only pulled out a clear round! She didnít leg it and she came back at the end of her run... but wait... we ended up with a 13th place. I could of cried. She was an amazing little brown dog! I couldnít be prouder of Little Brown Kodi de Lina.(23rd May 2018)

Then yesterday at BATS I entered her into an Anysize. Although she didnít get clear ( handler error) she didnít bugger off. She was focused and focused on me as well and she came back to me when she crossed the finish line. Mind you she didn't want the Bonio biscuit at the end. It was 'Whatís this you poisoning me with?' Yeah she is a funny girl.

About the author...
Shellie Smith has been around dogs all her life. She's had all sorts of breeds. She currently has six dogs with a seventh on the way.

She did her first dog activities with her terrier Marli, starting off with Obedience. Then she discovered Agility and Rally.

Dogs are her life and she is always up for learning about them and their behaviour. While not an expert, she is always keen to learn new things

First published 23 May 2017