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Tests and trials

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?

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.

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.

Bud’s Agility Debut

The dogs and I went to Mora this weekend for agility competitions. I was just going to run Epic and Squid in class 3, but last week I asked if I could do a late entry and run Bud in jumping class 1 on Sunday morning. I feel that Bud is more than ready for class 1 handling, but he needs more work on some obstacles. My goal with him has been to be very well prepared for his first trial, so in that sense I failed. The first run of the day had both the tire and the flat tunnel in it, and I did not feel confident that he would do them on the first try if I was running normally. The tire was obstacle number two, so I could help him get that right and he did also do the flat tunnel on the first try (but with some hesitation). I guess we can consider it a good training session for the future. He dropped a bar on a tight turn out of a very fast line. I think I was a bit behind and maybe not as clear as I should have been.

The second run was with just tunnels, jumps and weaves, but with much more handling. It suited us better and I was very pleased to feel confident that I could handle him the way I would have with one of the older dogs. He was clean and fast enough to win the class! He behaved nicely before and after his runs and seemed to enjoy finally getting to run and not just watch others at a competition. Now we’ll train for another month before his next trial, where he’ll also get to try standard agility.

WAO Tryouts

Last weekend was the tryouts for the Swedish WAO (World Agility Open) team. We two jumping and two agility rounds on Saturday, and the two best results (points based on faults + time in relation to the winning round) counted in team selection. Squid and I started with a great jumping run, but unfortunately with one bar (all jumps on 65 cm which is higher than we usually compete on). Then we ran a great agility round – but with one bar again. No points for us, but we still had a chance if both afternoon runs were clean. We started with agility in the afternoon, and I opted for a very conservative run with some bigger turns to save the bars. It worked! We came second, but the dog that won was very fast (good lines, running dogwalk), so we only got 27,30 points. The winner gets 50 points, if you’re one second behind you’ll get 40 points, 2,5 seconds behind is 25 points etc. A fault added 5 seconds to your time, so there was a theoretical chance of points if you were more than 5 seconds faster than the winner. In the last run I had to go all in to set a better time, and we managed to do it! With 47,30 points in the last run, we actually won the tryouts and will be going to England in May to represent Sweden. I’m very happy that at last, luck was on our side.

On Sunday, there was a games competition just for fun. And it was a lot of fun. I love snooker, and we were the only 560 dogs that got 51 points! Squid managed to win the combined (snooker + gamblers) competition, which felt great considering we will be doing games at WAO.

I love England and hope to be able to be away for a couple of weeks so that we can combine WAO with herding and sightseeing.

Bud Update

Home again after another weekend at an agility trial. Squid won jumpers on Sunday. Epic had a really good jumpers run on Saturday, with one bar. Agility courses were not my favourite design, and the ground was muddy. Both dogs ran well on Sunday, but picked up (the same) extra jump after a tunnel. I got the chance to reward Squid for a good dogwalk performance, so I was just as happy. I really like the relaxed attitude in Sweden that allows you to reward your dog with a toy in the ring anytime you want. You can plan it, or just choose to do it when you know you’re not going to place. I keep a small toy in my pocket for those instances. I think it’s great for training, good for the dogs (instead of a disappointed handler, you can turn it to something positive), and good for Swedish agility internationally (difference between training and competing becomes less obvious for our dogs).

Wilco had two runs per day and I really felt that I figured out more on how he needs to be prepared and taken care of in that environment. He was a bit worried about other dogs (he is very friendly and seems to take it personally if other dogs are upset in any way) before our first run, and I didn’t feel connected to him. For our other runs, I made sure that he didn’t have to be as close to other dogs. I also had more exciting play with him before and after our runs. I think he ran faster than he has before. We had some really nice parts, but he didn’t have time to weave on the first try in any run… I trained weaves at home today and he was brilliant. It’ll soon come together in trials too!

We had long days at the competition, as they ran all classes and started with class 3 (Squid and Epic) and then ended with class 1 (Wilco) with class 2 in between. Bud got to come out and play/train and just hang out around the ring. He is very good at staying calm around the ring, and also very good at focusing on training with a lot of distractions. He just doesn’t seem to view it as distractions at all. I made a video of some of the training – it’s far from perfect, but some of the things we’re working on, like:

  • Self control around toys
  • Listening to cues
  • Basic handling without obstacles

I hope you enjoy it even though it’s a bit too long and things are far from perfect. If you want more clips from our training (and a nice blooper from this session, where he bites my leg, blind crosses as I scream out in pain and then steals the toy), you should check us out on Instagram (@fannyftw). Today, I posted a video from his first ever jumping session.

Squid and Wilco winning

August has been very busy for us! Thomas has been travelling around Denmark, Norway, and Sweden teaching (and last week hunting with Pax, Alot and Kat). I’ve been on a 10 day road trip around the south of Sweden with Squid, Epic, Wilco and Bud. We started in Kungsbacka with agility trials. It’s unusual to be able to compete at all levels in the same competition, so I combined visiting my parents with my first trial with all three dogs. Wilco did mostly well in his four runs. One jumpers class with just one bar. In agility class, he ran past the dogwalk on the first try in both runs. We also had some weave refusals. He needs much more training before he’ll be ready to perform consistently, but he seems to learn good things from every run, so I think it’s nice to let him play too. Epic ran well, but had bars fall in all four runs. Squid had a great weekend. She ran clean in both agility runs, placing first on Saturday and third on Sunday (very slow seesaw where she didn’t respond to my release). She had one bar in jumpers on Saturday, but set the fastest time. On Sunday she surprisingly missed the weave entry. Here’s a video of three of her runs:

We stayed on the road the next week – training agility and/or herding every day and meeting new and old friends on the way. The weather was great and we learned new things. On the weekend, Wilco was entered in four class 1 runs per day. The first day, he seemed very tired and slightly distracted. Maybe a week on the road had taken his toll on him? We decided to sleep in on Sunday and missed our first run. He ran great in the first agility run – nailed both weaves and the dogwalk on the first try. His seesaw is not that great yet, so he ran past it on the first try. He ended up fifth with a refusal. The jumpers course was easy and fast, and he did great! I did not expect him to win (there are so many very fast dogs in class 1!), but he did. First clean run and first win!

We really have a lot of training to do still, and I don’t expect him to be competitive right now. He’s still very much figuring things out and learning to use his body. The most important thing is that he is having fun when we go to trials, and that he is learning good things. I love that he is so friendly to everybody, and that he doesn’t get wound up by watching other dogs run. I was not happy about the runs where he seemed tired and distracted (the last run on Sunday was unfortunately a bit like that too – he didn’t want to play afterwards). This was a new experience for us, and I need to have a better plan if it happens again. Bringing a toy in the ring and rewarding something simple might be a better idea, but mostly I need to make sure that he is rested and ready.

Wilco’s Agility Debut

Wilco turned 18 months a week ago, and he is starting to become an agility dog. I have been moving very slowly with him, since he’s been very immature in both body and mind. I waited and waited for him to feel mature enough to do contacts and weaves, but then at 16 months I decided to just try it anyway. I was not planning to do any trials with him until next year, but then things went well and I felt like it might be fun and good for him to get out and do some trials. It was a little crazy, but I entered him in 8 class 1 runs on the weekend just after his 18 month birthday.

He does not know everything he needs to know to be successful and consistent in competition. He just learned how to weave, and needs a lot more confidence, understanding and experience on that. His seesaw wasn’t finished, and he hadn’t seen a flat tunnel more than twice in his life. I was not planning on winning any ribbons – just having fun and giving my young dog the best possible experience in a trial situation. And WOW – we did have a lot of fun! I can’t remember when I had so much fun at a trial before.

Wilco really tried his best. He seemed to learn things from every run and improved a lot. He was happy and I was happy. He is such an easy dog to manage outside the ring. Friendly with everybody, calm and not at all interested in other dogs running agility. He just wanted to have fun with me. He ran past the dogwalk on the first attempt on both days, but was happy to take it on the second run of the day. He hit all his down contacts on both dogwalk and a-frame. He did have trouble with weaves on the first day, but on the fourth run he got it right on the first try. On the second day, he surprised me by not making a single mistake in weaves. He even ran one standard agility run with only one mistake – a dropped bar between seesaw and weaves.

Bud came along and got to train and socialise around the agility ring. He was also very, very relaxed and well behaved. I love my boys!

Here’s a video with some clips from Wilco’s first weekend of competing:

All three dogs (Squid, Epic and Wilco) will be competing this weekend. Two runs each both days. It will be intense, but fun!

Elite Obedience with Squid

Squid has finally started her career in elite obedience (highest level in FCI). I’m very happy to be competing in obedience again and look forward to many years of perfecting our performance. Our first competitions were two weeks ago. I was brave and entered us in the international, world team tryout trial, indoors in Kungsör. We had some really good exercises, but also some mistakes and bad luck. On Saturday, we failed the send to box because Squid slipped on the floor when I cued “stand” in the box. She fell into a down, and then sat up in confusion as I started to walk towards her. On Sunday, I think she was very unfortunate when she kicked one of the scent articles, and happened to get it in her mouth as she went for the correct one. It fell out after a short while, but the exercise is still failed. Here are some highlights from the competitions. Unfortunately, my camera was out of memory for the last part, so I didn’t get the very good recall and send to square on film:

Last weekend, we went to a regular elite competition, and had a good run. 293,5 points and our first “excellent” score towards the championship title. I’d planned for three more competitions this month, but Squid just came into heat and we have to cancel those trials.

If you’re interested in the way we’re training obedience, you should check out our Foundation Class Online. We’re still on the first lesson, so you can join us and easily catch up if you want to learn more.