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Agility

Epic is back in agility

Epic is finally back in agility trials, almost ten months after his caudal cruciate ligament tear at the beginning of February. His recovery has gone great, but I’ve progressed slowly through the summer and fall. He’s eight years old now and recovery and rehab can be slower than in a younger dog. We’ve mostly worked on walks in the woods, strengthening exercises and some jump grids. I’ve been afraid of letting him go back to “real” agility but finally decided that I just had to do it and entered him in a competition. We ran three jumping courses on Saturday and it felt so much better than I expected! After the first run, I could relax and just enjoy the moment. Epic was so incredibly happy to be back in competition – it was stunning to see how he really enjoyed everything about it.

The first run. He dropped a bar and then took an off-course jump.

The second run was my favorite. He took the wrong tunnel entry on #4 – I did suspect that what works for Bud doesn’t for Epic right now. He turned into me when I was behind instead of staying on the narrow, straight line to the left tunnel entry. The rest of the run was really nice. I love how he nailed the independent part into the weaves.

The third run was clean, but I think he lost some time in the last tunnel. It’s almost not discernible in the video, but in real life, I felt that he got stuck and I had time to think all kinds of terrible thoughts on how he would come out of it on three legs, or not come out at all…

Bud also competed and won the first class. We had so much fun and I’m looking forward to competing again on Sunday!

 

Course Design Trend #2: Tunnel/Backside Jump Discrimination

The second trend that we saw quite a lot of at Norwegian Open is the discrimination between a tunnel straight ahead and a backside jump close to the tunnel entry. It’s not the first time we’ve encountered this during 2018 and it’s been one of my focuses in training all year. If you’ve been to a handling seminar with me this year, you’ve probably seen it too. There were a few discriminations like this in Nicolas Renaud’s world championship courses for medium dogs. I couldn’t find the course maps from NO that I was thinking of, but here are Renaud’s courses from AWC.

This jumping course started with a discrimination between the backside jump of 3 and tunnel #11. More teams than I would have thought fell in that trap and were eliminated at the beginning of the run.

This epic final course for medium dogs had a difficult discrimination after the dogwalk. These types of discriminations are so much more difficult when you have to run fast as a handler and keep moving without showing deceleration. We saw some very impressive handling and verbal control in this course, but also a lot of dogs choosing to go straight into the tunnel. At Norwegian Open, we had a similar sequence in Vittorio Pappavero’s A3 course on Sunday. Unfortunately, I haven’t found the course map. Bud and I nailed the discrimination and handling, but unfortunately, he went back onto the dogwalk when he came out of the tunnel, like many other dogs.

Some examples from NO that I’ve tried to recreate:

This situation from a jumping course gave us some trouble. We were clean in this run but lost a lot of time around this discrimination. Bud was looking at the off-course tunnel and I got scared and slowed down to get him to the correct jump, which put me behind for the next obstacle where I had to pull him off another tunnel and into the weaves because I was behind and not clear. I think we’ve trained on this a lot, but obviously not enough. I tried to cue the backside before Bud even took off at 12, and told him even before that that he wouldn’t be going straight into the tunnel – he needs very early information – but he still looked at it. We’ve done a lot of training on verbal discrimination, but what I think is missing is me running fast towards the tunnel and him coming with more speed than when we’re training on just a few obstacles.

This start was tricky! Not so much because of the discrimination at 5 – although I saw quite a few dogs take the tunnel – but because it was difficult to make it to #5 at all as a handler. Rear crossing #4 is very difficult as it turns the dog to the wrong side of #5. Getting two blind crosses in between 2-3 and 3-4 was doable, but difficult to get right as the dog came so fast over the long jump. I decided to run this sequence with dog on left all the way from 1-5 and just stay ahead and be in serpentine position at the landing side of 3. I think it worked really well, but he touched the end of the long jump and was faulted as it fell down. We really need to train (soft) long jumps!

How do you feel about this challenge? How do you train it?  

Course Design Trend #1: Layering the dogwalk

One course design trend that kept popping up at Norwegian Open was the tunnel under the dogwalk leading to a jump that the dog had to find on his own. A surprising number of dogs had trouble with finding the jump and ran past it or took another jump. Here are some examples from NO:

Jocke Tangfelt’s open agility course for large dogs were one of my favorites to run. The ending was tricky for a lot of dogs. They’d either run past #20 or take the wall jump instead. I was confident that Bud would do it nicely, and he did. Partly because he is good at finding jumps and listening to his “jump” cue, and partly because I was placed well. Trusting the A-frame contact means that I could just run and be in a good position for the ending.

Petr Pupík’s open agility course for large dogs had two instances of layering the dogwalk that caused trouble for dogs and handlers. Many dogs ran past #12 or #21. I’m still very sad that we had so many mistakes in this run that I didn’t get to run it properly. We had a misunderstanding before the weaves (costing time) and then three bars down, which just made me give up at the end so that I sent Bud into the wrong tunnel. I wish I had another chance at it because I really loved the course. Number #12 was very nice though.

This third example is also from Petr Pupík, but for small dogs so I didn’t run it. It looks like #13 after the tunnel under the dogwalk is a big challenge and I’d love to run this course as well. Having an independent seesaw and being able to send the dog through the tunnels from a distance seems to be an advantage, as well as being able to handle 13-14 while staying on the exit side of the weaves. I’d love to see a video of someone executing this nicely! To me, it’s not so much about being able to run as it is a challenge in training and independence.

Teaching the dog a good jump cue and making sure it’s working at a distance is one big part of managing these kinds of courses. It’s also important that the dog knows when to come out of a tunnel looking ahead and when to come out looking for the handler. It’s good to get the dog used to that you’re sometimes on the other side of a dogwalk or set of weaves, but mostly it’s about that very basic training that you can do with one tunnel and one jump.

Norwegian Open 2018

We’re back from six days in Norway. It’s been rough finding energy for a huge trial like this right after AWC in Sweden, but I’m so happy that I went. NO is probably the best competition we enter in a year. The organizers go out of their way to find the best judges, use high-quality obstacles and get the best competitors to come. The arena is also one of the very best to run in. It fits four big rings and the footing is perfect for agility. This year we saw competitors from all over the world thanks to it being close to AWC in both time and space.

We kicked our week off on Wednesday by running in a workshop with agility superstars Tereza Kralova and Max Sprintz. We had a few sessions with each of them and although it’s a bit short time to really get to understand their way of training and handling, it’s a great way to get tuned up before an event like this. I felt like I hadn’t run Bud on courses in a long time, and the workshop really helped us get used to the footing, the obstacles and each other. Here are some clips from the training:

We got to sleep in on Thursday and went on a walk in the forest with our friends. It was a perfect fall day and we had the forest to ourselves, Much needed recovery time for us all. We didn’t have to be in the arena until evening, where we had two open runs. Open classes are unofficial and open to dogs of all levels. These are the classes where you collect points for the big final on Sunday, and there were six of them during NO. We also ran four official classes on Saturday and Sunday (J3 + A3). I’m very pleased with Bud’s and my performance on almost every course. The courses were generally hard and required independence, discrimination, obstacle skills and fast running. We nailed almost every difficult handling part and I felt like he really understood my cues and that I could just run as fast as I can without having to wait and help him.

Although we had some bars down – something that has been our big problem in the past 6 months – I felt like he really tried and he jumped some very difficult sequences without touching a single bar. He’s really making progress and I think this year has been a year where he’s been figuring out his jumping. He’s only three years old and has added speed considerably. It’s like we’ve been through every type of knocked bar there is this summer. Sometimes it’s been S-turns, sometimes wraps from the backside, sometimes fast and almost straight lines, sometimes the first jump… This weekend it was the long jump that caused us the most problems. I don’t think he’s been faulted on the long jump before, but he is mostly running in the Swedish large category, so it’s usually shorter. Didn’t have any problems at tryouts or championships before though. This weekend he did have problems. We had faults on the long jump in three runs. The long jump used was the Smart-99 soft long jump, and it’s the first time we’ve tried it. He has jumped the Galican version with no issues. Twice, he just touched the last section and dropped it. Once, he really took off too early and made a mess out of it. I wish I had a soft long jump to train on – partly to get him used to it, but even more to make training more safe for him.

We also had some weave entry issues. This is a hard nut to crack as he is usually very good on the second try but seems to get too frustrated/excited to do it right the first time. We’ve been focusing a lot on weaves this summer and it’s something that I’ll have to keep working on until he’s doing it as nicely in competition as he is in training. Generally, I feel like we’re so very close to being able to handle almost any course. But considering that there’s always that small mistake that keeps us away from the podium, I also feel like we’re very far from it. I’m excited about next season and I have a lot on my list of things to train better. Here’s a video from some of our runs:

I found some common threads in the courses set by some of the worlds most appreciated judges. I’ll get back to that topic later this week. Until then: Can you guess which two common challenges I noted and will write about?

7 Days Left Until Agility World Championships in Sweden

It’s so exciting that we’re finally just a week away from the event that we’ve been waiting for for so long. It’s the first FCI World Championships held in Sweden and I think it will be one of the best ever. Swedes are good at organizing and I know that the committee has put a lot of both thought and work into the event. I’m excited to once again see some of the best agility in the world, get inspired and find new challenges for my training, and to meet friends from near and far that have come together to experience the championship live.

I’ve visited many world championships. My first was in Norway in 2007 when I lived there, and it was such an amazing experience that I wanted to do it every year. My trips to the AWC has not only been an agility experience – it’s also been a way for me to discover Europe and get a few days of vacation with good food and friends. I’ve been to Finland, Austria, Germany, France, Spain, and twice to the Czech Republic. One of the things that I really love about agility is that it is such an international sport. At the AWC, you’ll find competitors and fans from countries like Japan, China, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, South Africa, Canada, the US and this year even Australia. The championship is not only big and international when it comes to competitors, it also draws more spectators than championships in other sports. There’s something very special in watching your favorite sport in an arena with thousands of other fans.

There is, however, something that makes the decision to go harder every year. It’s both time-consuming and expensive to travel to another country to experience agility and you can actually experience the championship from home. Some years I’ve stayed home and watched the live stream instead. I still take the weekend off and immerse myself completely in the competition. But I can still hang out with my dogs and do some training with them or take a walk during course building and course walk. I think this is what I’ll do next year unless I get the honor of running in the Swedish team with one of my dogs.

This year, I’ll definitely be in Kristianstad for the big event. But I’ll still be part of the live stream. I will be one of four commentators on the live stream and work every other class. It’s an important job and I’m actually quite nervous about it. I’ll try to get all the facts right, not mispronounce names terribly, and give you a feeling of excitement and drama. So if you can’t make it to Sweden this time – make sure you purchase the live stream and hang out with me next week! Here’s the link to the live stream page. And if you are coming to Kristianstad next week – please say hi! I’m looking forward to seeing both old and new friends at the event.

Agility Handling Foundations Online – Video

I’m at home for a few days in between Norway trips. Last week, Bud flew with me to Tromsø to teach for a couple of days. We had a great time. From there, we flew to Oslo and traveled south to Fredrikstad, where there was a trial with some interesting judges. Bud won A3 on Saturday and became Norwegian Agility Trial Champion. He also qualified for finals but popped out of the weaves in the final run. Tomorrow, I head for Stavanger on the Norwegian west coast. No dog with me this time, so I’ve tried to spend a lot of time training and conditioning my dogs while I’ve been home. We made a video where you can see some of the skills taught in the Agility Handling Foundations Online class starting on September 3rd. Let me know if you have any questions about the class. And please leave a comment and tell me what you’d like to see a video on next.

 

Bud – Swedish Team Champion

I’m indoors, trying to stay out of the intense heat. This summer has been exceptionally hot and dry, with only a few drops of rain in many months. It started already in May, which is early for hot and dry weather. I try to train the dogs late at night, take them for swims in the stream and dream of more reasonable weather. It’s not easy when you also hate snow and cold. Very few temperatures are nice to me. One thing I do love about summer is that I can sleep in my car when we go to competitions or other activities. I have a big car where I can fit a real bed, big dog crates and lots of other stuff. And it’s nice and cool at night. I actually sleep in it on the hottest nights at home too.

Summer also means a lot of exciting competitions. It started with the Swedish Championships a week and a half ago. Squid and Bud were qualified for the individual competition but were also stand-ins in teams with a good friend of mine. Squid had a good weekend and her jumping was really good. I’ pleased with my preparations beforehand to get her in the best shape possible. Unfortunately, she had some faults in weave entries which cost us some placements. Weaves are obviously something a dog needs to be reminded of even at almost 10 years of age. She was clean in the first qualifying round and had a weave refusal in the second. This gave her a spot in the finals, where she ran great but missed the weaves again. We ended up in 9th place, which I’m pleased with considering how little we train agility these days.

Bud and I did not have any good runs in the qualifying rounds, but he was still the hero of the championship. My good friend Sabina lost her great friend and accomplished agility dog in a terrible accident this spring. When Sabina asked if Bud wanted to take Adna’s place in the team I was happy to let her. The team is a great one with friends from our local clubs. They won “team of the year” 2017 and also won a round in the Swedish Championships last year. The team competition was very exciting until the very end, where Sabina and Bud had the chance to win it all or go home with nothing, depending on that run. They ran the difficult agility course perfectly! Nailing every contact and every tricky turn. They were clean and faster than everybody else by a lot, which won the team gold overall! I’m so happy for Bud stepping up and being his most awesome when it matters the most. We’re still so sad about Adna’s passing and somehow it felt as if she was with us, guiding Bud to do his very best (like Adna always did).

We’re now looking forward to five days of competitions on the Swedish west coast. A big competition with international judges and participants. From there, we just go home to reload and then drive to Austria for the European Open. Two weeks later we take the ferry to Finland for the Nordic Championships. I can’t wait to experience all this with my great friend Bud. We’ve got so much more to learn, but it’s exciting to know that he has the capacity for great runs where few dogs can match his times.

Judging for the first time

I’m now not only an instructor, teacher (educating new instructors for our agility clubs), competitor and author – I’m also an agility judge. I had my first official judging assignment this weekend. Bud and I took a flight up north to Luleå, where I judged all standard agility classes on Saturday, and all jumping classes on Sunday. I had so much fun and I really love creating courses and watching people run them.

Judging is also scary because it’s a huge responsibility. As a judge, I’m responsible for setting safe courses with safe equipment. This is probably the most important thing. But I’m also responsible for a big part of how enjoyable the trial is for the competitors. A judge can make all the difference when you compete. People spend a lot of time and money to go to trials, and the judge can really make or break the experience. Sometimes it feels like you wasted both your time and money because the courses don’t feel right. The judge, the equipment, and the footing is really the most important thing when I decide where to compete. I want safe AND inspiring courses.

A good course in the lower levels gives me a fair chance to show that my dog and I have the skills to get around a course at that level, while we’re having fun doing it. A good course in class 3 makes me excited and gives me butterflies because I know that we can do it, but I really need to trust my dog and my training and just run and never hesitate. With a good course, you either win or you learn, and you’re almost as happy to learn as you are to win.

I take this responsibility very seriously and I’m still very much learning. I’m really happy with a lot of my courses and my judging from this weekend, but I also learned somethings that will allow me to do better next time. Here are some examples of courses from this first weekend:

This is a jumpers course for class 1 (lowest level). My goal was to make a fast and flowy course with good lines. I also wanted to give the young dogs a chance to enter the weaves without too much speed. This course was a lot of fun to judge, as there were many different handling options that worked well. (And some that didn’t work as well…) Many were struggling with refusals on jump #3 and #4. Some of the big dogs came with so much speed from 1-2 that they couldn’t turn in time to get #3. And some saw the tunnel and just passed #4. The dry grass made it harder for the dogs to get a good grip to turn. I would have tweaked this start somewhat if I could do it over. The rest of the course worked very well. It was fast, so rear crosses on tunnels was a very good skill to have.

I was very happy with this A2 course. It tested some handling without being too difficult. I liked that handlers chose different paths on #12 – both the wrap and the S-turn worked well (if you called your dog out of the tunnel for the S).

This J3 course was the most fun to judge. I was scared as I set it up – afraid that no one would manage to get to #7 and that people would be upset. I was wrong. Most people got to #7 just fine. Some made a blind cross 5-6 and some rear crossed 6, and both options were good. There were a lot of other difficulties in this course and most importantly – you had to really run and work hard all the way. Some dogs ran past the second to last jump, which was very painful to watch if they’d been clean up to then. But everybody seemed to really enjoy the challenge and running with their dogs! No one could take it easy on this course, which was fun to watch. I loved every minute of judging this. I only wish I had gotten the chance to run it myself.

Here are the other three courses from this weekend, if you want more to look at:

Bud is going to European Open and Nordic Championships

Two weeks ago, Squid, Bud and I went to the Swedish Team Tryouts. We have one weekend with eight runs that determine who gets a spot in the Swedish team for World Championships (four spots per size), Nordic Championships (ten spots) and European Open (twelve spots for large dogs). In order to get points, you need to run clean and not more than 4,99 seconds slower than the winner of the class. The winner is awarded 50 points and all other teams get one point deducted per 0.1 seconds that they are behind the winner. One second behind the winner gives you 40 points, two and a half seconds behind gives you 25 points, etc. In order to get on the team, you need points in both jumping and agility.

I did not feel in sync with Squid. She was picking up off-course tunnels, missing weave entries and dropping some bars. We had one clean jumpers run on the first day, and that was it. Bud and I had not had a good feeling in training leading up to the tryouts. He’d been dropping more bars than usual, and my expectations were really low. Bud is just three years old and this was his first tryouts, so I was fine with that. We were just there to learn and have a good time. Tryouts are always so much fun. You get to run great courses by great judges in really good conditions. The courses this year were challenging, and a lot of really good teams didn’t get points in both jumpers and agility.

I had no luck with Bud on the first day, where we ran three jumpers courses. On the second day, we ran three agility courses. The second course had a really challenging start where very few made it to the backside jump after the first tunnel in a good way. I walked it a few different ways and had time to decide later since I was running as one of the last dogs with Bud. Since so many struggled to make it, I decided to just take it easy and threadle-rear both jumps before the A-frame. Bud can get frustrated if I rush and I thought we had a better chance of getting through it using a more defensive approach. I was really calm and not rushing at all as I gave him the three first jumps. I trusted that he would take them nicely and just worked my way forward. I then realized that I had plenty of time to make that blind, and in a split second, I decided to run for it.

I made the blind and that difficult start just felt so easy. I ran the rest of the course as calmly as possible, just trying to get us around. All bars stayed up! And when the class was finished, I realized that we’d won it by almost a second and was the fastest dog overall. I was so happy and proud that we actually could set a time like that competing with the best Swedish teams. Many of them don’t run in the same height category as Bud normally. He jumps 50 cm in normal Swedish competitions, while most of the others in tryouts normally jumps 60 cm. Therefore, we rarely get to compete on equal terms against the best dogs in Sweden. Such a thrill! I was certain that we wouldn’t be able to run the Sunday jumping run clean since we’d been so inconsistent all weekend. That last jumping run was our only chance to get on any team if we also got enough points.

I woke up on Sunday morning with a cold and a very different voice. The jumping course was a really fun one by Jan Egil Eide, requiring both running fast and trusting your dog. I ended up not being able to do either. I didn’t trust Bud in the weaves, so I got behind and had to do a rear followed by a panicked threadle-rear. And then I couldn’t run, so Bud ran the wrong way and spun before finding the last tunnel. But we got around clean! And despite those mistakes, we were fast enough to get decent points.

Suddenly, we were one of the teams with points in both jumping and agility, and everything would be decided after the last run of the day – agility. We got eliminated at the end of this challenging course, but it was also challenging for others, so it ended up not affecting our placement. At the end of the day, two clean runs (with one win) was enough to get us on the team for European Open and Nordic Championships. I’m so happy to have three championships (Swedish, Nordic, and EO) to run with my awesome badger on speed this summer! We’re still figuring out a lot of things, but we’re having so much fun together on the way to consistency and perfection.

Agility Year of 2017

We did our last agility trial for the year this Saturday. The arena is five hours away from where we live, but I don’t have many weekends to compete in the spring due to a lot of travelling and working. When we decided to pick up a new car in Gothenburg, it felt like a good idea to drive a couple of hours further south from there to do 3 x A3 with 3 dogs. Nine runs in five hours! And it went really well. Epic won his first run. Bud won his second and became Swedish Agility Trial Champion. Squid ran two clean runs and placed fourth in both.

This is a summary of our agility year:

Squid did one weekend of competition in January, but we didn’t get the result we were after even though she felt great. After that she had nine months off from agility. First, she had puppies. Then I probably let her run too much too early in the forest, and she showed some lameness and didn’t move well. It took some time to get an appointment with our physiotherapist, but we were back on track after two treatments in August and September. She hadn’t lost a lot of muscle as she was able to swim and walk on leash in the forest all summer, but I was nervous to start jumping and agility training again. It went well, and agility seems to only do her well. We entered our first competition in the beginning of November, and my dream goal for this year was to place top 5 once so that she would be eligible for Swedish Team Tryouts in May if she’s still fit then.

The first run was a bit weird with a few bars and miscommunication. The following two runs felt great and she ran both clean. Her times were not as good as I’m used to, and we were only fast enough to earn a leg for nationals in the last one. I had entered all dogs in a much bigger weekend trial two weeks later, but I had some trouble leaving the farm with Thomas working away that week. I went on Sunday afternoon and Squid had one standard run. I did not expect her to place since the classes were big, but she actually place fourth and our goal for the year was met! We did three runs the weekend after and Squid ran clean and won two of them. I had some handling errors in the first two runs in our next trial, but we ran the last one clean and placed fifth. And then this Saturday we had two clean runs with fourth place and one elimination. We’ve had 13 runs since she came back in November. Eight were clean, seven of them with a leg for Swedish Nationals (we need another jumping leg to be qualified for next years National Championships) and six top 5 placements (my dream was to get one).

Results are great considering we haven’t really trained agility (right now we’re focused on conditioning and jumping skills only, the rest seems to just work), but the most important thing is that Squid is back in business! I was so afraid that the lameness that came after her puppies would be the end of our agility career. Squid turned nine this September and every run with her is a gift! She’s so happy when she gets to come along to training and trials, and when I take her out of the car and she knows it’s her turn. I’m so incredibly happy to have the privilege to compete with her and feel that she does her very best at all times. All faults are mine. Squid would have had many more clean runs if I’d done my job as well as she does hers. We’re now focusing on strength and conditioning to come back even stronger and faster during next year. I’m sure that we’ve got more to do and Squid does not in any way think that she’s old.

 

Here’s a run from Saturday:

Epic has also had a great season. We’re a good team and our runs are often very smooth. Our problem has always been dropped bars, but I think we’ve improved this year and had more runs where all bars stay up than we’ve had before. We’ve collected eight legs for Swedish Nationals and need one more in standard agility to be qualified. We also finally earned our final agility certificate, making Epic champion of both jumping and agility. We’ve actually had even more success in bigger competitions than the normal ones. I did not have any big expectations on National Team Tryouts in May, but I worked hard in preparation for it. The feeling was amazing! We’ve never had such a good weekend of trialling and those bars stayed up until the very last run. We ran clean and fast enough to earn a spot in the Swedish team for European Open and the Nordic Championships.

We made team finals at European Open and we ran our part of the final course clean! We had a great time at the Nordic Championships. We had a bar in every run, but no other faults and we placed fairly well in total. Norwegian Open in October was another great competition for us with a lot of clean runs and a ticket to the final where we also ran clean! Epic (and I) seem to run best indoors on difficult, fast courses with big distances.

Here’s the run that qualified us for NO finals:

 

Bud did his first trial about a year ago and quickly progressed to class 2 in jumping. We started 2017 with a small injury and had to get some treatment and gradual build up before competing again. We started in standard agility in May and he earned his first leg with a clean run and a win. He quickly progressed to class 3 in both jumping and agility, even though that last leg in A2 took a few tries.

We’ve had some more luck in standard agility once we got to class 3. We’ve only run one J3 clean (and won it with a certificate), while we’ve ran three A3 clean and earned the Agility Trial Championship title this Saturday. Bud does a lot of great things, but there’s often something that goes wrong in a run. If we have a great flow on course he often drops one bar, which he doesn’t often do otherwise.

Bud is somewhat a different type of dog than Squid and Epic. He is very well trained and knows a lot, but he does get easily frustrated and doesn’t cope well when something goes wrong. It might just be a little hiccup in our communication that gets him frustrated. He forces me to become a better handler – I need to run fast and trust him while still maintaining communication and clarity. Bud is still very young (turning three this Christmas) and I think our communication will grow a lot during the coming year.

I’m very happy with my decision to have Bud run the large category in Sweden. This is the first year where we have five jump heights, and dogs from 43 to 49.99 centimeter can chose to compete in large and jump 40-50 cm jumps, or to compete in extra large (where Squid and Epic compete as they are about 53 cm tall) with 50-60 cm jumps. I like that I can take it easy with preparing him for 60 cm (which he has to jump internationally) and I haven’t seen any fallout from competing on lower jumps. I even like that I have to run faster to keep up with him. We now usually train on the same height as Epic (55-60). Another benefit is that I don’t have to run all my dogs in the same class since some trials are small with maybe 30 dogs or less in XL.

Bud’s clean run and win from this Saturday:

My only wish now is that I get to continue to train and compete with three sound dogs during 2018! It’s so important to really appreciate and enjoy every training session and every run with them. My thoughts are constantly with friends who lost their dogs too early, and with those that have to end their dog’s careers early because of injuries. I promise to not take anything for granted, to tell my dogs that I love them (which actually was what I did on the start line before the run with Bud above) and to take care of them in the best way possible.