czwartek, 29 sierpnia 2019

How we approach behaviour is an ethical stance

I watched "Dogs, Cats and Scapegoats" today - and I could write a whole post about that documentary and it's logical fallacies, but one sentence in particular caught my attention and nudged me to write a post on a subject that I was thinking about for a while now.

That sentence, said by Bernard Rollin, PhD, distinguished professor of philosophy, is:

"How you approach behaviour is an ethical stance".

Now, I need to make a disclaimer, before I continue - what follows is my view on the subject, it is what I find acceptable and ethical - am I no expert, nor I consider myself an authority on matters of ethics, dog training etc. Moreover, my stance might change over time and hopefully it will, otherwise it would mean I stopped learning. And while I do believe there is black and white distinction between the opposite ends of the dog training spectrum and approaches to dog ownership (which in itself is a controversial term), I also believe there is a lot of grey area and while there are some universal guidelines, each and every dog is different, each situation is different and all of that might determine your personal choice. 

But the reason why this sentence struck me as so true, is that I really believe your choice of training methods, your approach to the relation between yourself and your dog is an ethical stance. No more, no less. Some people claim that aversive methods don't work (while on the other hand disdainfully labelling them as "quick fix"), other people claim purely positive training doesn't work either - the truth is, dogs are wonderful creatures and are so adaptable and so forgiving, that pretty much every method can work, provided the dog can get at least some clarity what is expected of them. So yes, you can achieve results that you are looking for, with different methods. Therefore, the big question is: which methods work for your dog (and yes, that might differ depending on your dogs sensitivity, temperament, drive etc.) and which are morally acceptable for you. 

I've read really interesting post today, unfortunately only in Polish, about giving dogs choice. It started with assumption that the very term of dogs ownership is somehow outdated, and more and more people are perceiving themselves as caretakers of their pets rather than owners. Personally, I don't really see it as mutually exclusive - I am my dogs' owner in legal terms (that also means I'm legally responsible for both their well-being and for their possible misbehaviour), but that very term means an obligation to take care of them in the best possible way - in terms of meeting their needs, providing them with food, exercise, appropriate veterinary care, training, cuddles (yes, there is an emotional factor for me as well). 

But from that assumption of not really owning another living, feeling creature comes a conclusion that we need to give our dogs choice (and what follows is a list of situations in which we should do it and I generally agree with it) and this is something I've been thinking a lot about recently. And it actually determines the use of training methods. Because if I believe dogs should always have a choice, that limits my choice of methods to the ones that make my dogs happy, if I deny them choice, it means I use whatever methods I deem appropriate for getting a behaviour I want. So while I consider myself to be on the positive/ respectful end of the spectrum, I wouldn't be myself if there wasn't a BUT. 

I somehow have a hierarchy of things pertaining to dog training. Some things are important. Coming when called is the most important. Accepting touch / grooming / veterinary procedures  is important.  Resting at house is important. Loose leash walking is quite important, because few things annoy me more than a dog trying to walk me rather than the other way round (oh, they do get offleash walks every day and they are allowed to run, smell things, roll in grass etc. to their hearts' content then). Doing agility is not that important. Doing tricks is not important at all. My dogs playing with other dogs is totally not imporant - they don't like it mostly and I protect them from people and dogs who think they should. And so on. How much choice my dogs are given relies on that hierarchy.

So yes, generally I want my dogs to have a choice, first of all, out of respect - they are living, feeling, thinking beings. Secondly, I want them to feel safe and let me know if they don't want to do something. I make sure their good choices (like working with me or doing what I ask them to do) are so rewarding that if they refuse to do it, they must have a very good reason, and usually it is a physical reason and a signal we need to head to the vets asap. But sometimes their choice can be really limited: if I think the reason for not working with me is that an adolescent male would rather lick bitches' pee, sure, he can choose not to work with me, but he won't be given the option to lick the pee either (so yup, there is a choice: you either do something fun with me or you don't do anything fun at that time). Bear in mind that I believe dogs have certain needs (food, safety, play, social contact, rest, investigating the environment and so on) and before you ask anything of them, you should be sure they actually satisfy those needs on regular basis - denying them this option is an abuse as well, but sometimes I'm the one to decide when they can do it.

I also avoid using physical coertion when teaching behaviours, particularly when it concerns agility, because, well, it's just agility. I want my dog to let me know if they are afraid of let's say, see-saw - they can refuse to get on it, they can jump off it, etc. I want my dogs to let me know if they find the exercise frustrating, difficult, if they don't understand what I want from them - then it's my job to adjust, explain, make it easier. If my dog ever left, refused to work with me - that would be a wake up call and I would try really hard to understand the reason and then, give them the better reason to keep working (not the "or I make you do it" kind of reason). I do my best to prevent such situations in the first place - for instance, I teach my dogs that keeping on trying pays off really well, that generally working for me pays really well and it's really fun, I plan my sessions, I analise them and so on. 

But before you assume I'm all rainbows and unicorns, there are also some situations in which my dogs don't have a choice, same as there are situations in which my child doesn't have a choice, simply because sometimes I know better. Basically it boils down to any situation which concerns safety of my dogs, myself or any other being. Like at the vets, my dogs ultimately don't have a choice and I teach them early on to accept it. If I want to have their blood tested, the blood will be tested, even if the dog is like "naah, I don't feel like it today". If there is something painful and the vet needs to examine it, it will be examined. If my dog wanted to chase and kill another animal, I would stop that behaviour by whatever means and so on, and so on.  I always start with positive approach and 99% of time, I get what I want. But if this is something I consider very important and if I'm not able to get the result I want by solely positive approach, I would eventually use other methods as well - this is sort of last resort, I give lots of consideration if it's really necessary (what I'm writing about here is conscious decision to use an aversive method or to deny a dog a choice and not getting angry at the dog and flying off the handle - which we shouldn't, but then, let him who is without sin cast the first stone). 

Some things are not acceptable for me. Using a shock collar to teach puppy to sit is not acceptable (and stupid). Burning the bowl (that is feeding ONLY from hand in exchange for certain behaviours) is not acceptable for me either (well, maaaybeee it can come useful as a temporary measure in some cases). Dragging a dog that knocked down a pole back to agility field after it been yelled at and fled, is not acceptable. But then again - some behaviours are not acceptable either. Dogs do use aversives themselves (and they do is SO WELL: immediately, never dragging it on, stopping the unwanted behaviour once and for all... think of an older dog teaching a younger one not to disturb them when they are sleeping). And no, it doesn't destroy your relation forever (BTW, it is interesting how some people getting on high horse of ethics in dog training fail to represent truthfully the use of certain tools and methods).

That's my ethical stance. For now. 

sobota, 10 sierpnia 2019

Eye examination in Pyrshep on B.A.S.E. 2019

*La traduction en français se trouve en bas de la page, traduction: Virginie de Andrea

Eye testing in Pyrsheps is still not that common, not all the breeders do it and there are several reasons for that.  First of all, for now we don't really have any genetic test for the eyes diseases in our breed (apart from PRA-prcd, which however most likely is not the type of PRA that causes early vision loss in Pyrsheps - there are several forms of PRA). So the only thing we have at our disposal is ECVO test, which is only checking for clinical signs, hence it's valid for only a year (some disorders may develop later in life, what the eye test does is just saying "at the moment of the test the dog is clinically healthy"). In my opinion since it's not very expensive and it's not invasive, it's still worth doing before the dog is bred, just to minimise the chance of passing something to the offspring.
 Also, people often assume that dogs would show clear signs of  vision problems, hence they presume their dogs are healthy  - this is understandable (I would call it human-bias: vision is so important for us that we notice immedietely if something is wrong with our own sight), but not entirely true. Sight is not the main sense for the dog, they can cope really well even with significant vision loss and we actually experienced that with one of our own dogs, Flaszek. All our dogs were tested in the early spring, as soon as the idea of broader research on Pyrshep's eyes was born and that is when we learnt that Flaszek has huge lesions in his retina, one of them really close to the centre of field of vision. His left eye is normal for his age, in the right eye he most probably has like a big black spot in the centre of vision. This is most probably post-inflammatory and we'll never know what caused it, could have been even tooth infection that went unnoticed - we will re-examine him in a couple of months to make sure this is not anything progressive, but we don't think it is. We never noticed anything. Well, now that we know, we're thinking MAYBE that's the reason he's always been a bit careful in agility, like never going really full speed, even though he is the fastest of our dogs when chasing a ball in an open field. Anyway, no, we couldn't tell.

Flaszek's left, healthy eye

One of the lesions in Flaszek's right eye


Bigger lesion in Flaszek's right eye.


I was really counting on agility people being interested and open to the idea of testing and I was not disappointed - lots of people volunteered to test their dogs and it has proven to be very important already. Of course, given that the majority of the dogs tested were actually actively competing in agility, the sample was somewhat not fully representative, yet still a number of problems were caught,  fortunately most of them not causing any serious vision problems at the moment. There is a need to retest after a while to check whether they will be progressive or possibly linked with more serious issues that can develop over time. Buccal swabs were taken for the dogs, so there is also hope that some genetic component might be found, especially for one of the things observed. The full results of the study won't be available for a while yet, but I would like to share a summary written by the leading doctor conducting the test, dr Natalia Kucharczyk:


"Dear all,

Thanks to organizers and participants of BASE 2019 we were able to examine over 70 Pyrsheps.
That was an amazing opportunity to look closer at the breed.
Until now there are no publications dedicated to this breed so all we know about these dogs is from ECVO certificates. 
I did a really short summary of what we discovered and the result is surprising!

Some of lesions we found are because of age and some are probably genetic.
None of lesions (beside one cataract) cause vision problems in your dogs - at least until now. The cataract can progress to vision loss!

To share with you the results we will go through the short list:

- Cataract - 2 forms are described on the ECVO manual. Fiberglass-like cataract is the 3rd one we observed. We saw it in 12 dogs. 
Some of them will progress, some not. We need a second exam in a year (next BASE probably) to tell you how fast the cataract progresses and if it needs to be operated. 
The number is HIGH in this group although in most cases these are for now small opacities that doesn't cause vision problems. 

- Vitreous degeneration - HIGH prevalence - presumed hereditary eye disease; strands of vitreous or liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment! In most dogs it don't cause any problems but in advanced stage might cause vision problems, glaucoma, lens luxation (in predisposed dogs). 

There is also a discussion between ophthalmologists about this disease because we started to see it in YOUNG dogs. When we ask about feeding it showed up that most of those dogs are on BARF. Because it needs more data and scientific aproach then we don't want to blame BARF just like that but I would say it is interesting coincidence. 
So for sure you will all get emails with one more question about the way you feed your dogs. 

- Choroidal hypoplasia -  is characterized by inadequate development of the choroid present at birth which is nonprogressive. THIS IS THE MOST INTERESTING THING we found in your dogs. As according to ECVO it is not caused by CEA gene, we will try to look for a gene in your breed. 

The interesting thing is that in Collies this anomaly shows sometimes with optic nerve coloboma or retinal detachment which cause vision problems. We didn't expect this in agility dogs so it will be really valuable to examine next time also dogs that doesn't take part in runs because we would like to know if this problem is also seen in your breed (but we coudn't catch it now).

- PRA - none, but it is said that in this breed it causes blindness before the dog is 3 years old so I didn't expect to see a dog with PRA on BASE.

- Retinoscopy (this is whether the dog is short-sighted or long-sighted, intrusion by Olga) - most of the dogs were normal around -0,5 to + 0,5. We will compare it with ETO answers. 

We found few more abnormalities related to age and few puzzles that we need to solve after recheck in a year. 
The full results will be available in the publications in the future! 

So as you can see the day was full of surprises and gave us a wide view of what is going on in eyes of working Pyrsheps.
It would be a great thing to look at them in a year and also check dogs that don't work to have a better understanding of the eye problems within the breed. 
The breed was considered "healthy" and some people assumed it didn't need eye exams, but I think after this day nobody has doubts that they are needed and there is a great value in research on your breed. 

I hope you enjoyed this day with us even though we broke the "healthy Pyrshep" image!
I want to thank you all again for a great cooperation and patience!
Special thanks to Virginie de Andrea and Olga Kwiecien for help and Radka Kopecka for organization of BASE 2019!


Hope to see you soon,
Natalia Kucharczyk"

_________________________________________________________________________________

Le contrôle des yeux chez le berger des Pyrénées n’est toujours pas une pratique courante, pas tous les éleveurs le font et il y a plusieurs raisons à cela. Tout d’abord, nous n’avons pas vraiment de test génétique pour les tares oculaires dans notre race (à l’exception du test pour la prcd-PRA qui ne couvre cependant pas toute les sortes d’APR observées chez le BP, comme dans le cas de l’APR précoce décrite par le Dr Chaudieu dans le manuel ECVO actuel). Une des seules ressources disponibles est donc le test de dépistage ECVO, c’est un examen clinique, c’est pour cette raison qu’il n’est valide qu’une année (certaines maladies sont progressives et peuvent se développer tardivement, l’examen dit en quelque sorte : « A ce moment précis le chien est cliniquement sain »). Selon moi, cette procédure n’étant ni onéreuse ni invasive, je pense qu’il vaut la peine de faire cet examen avant de faire reproduire le chien, afin de minimiser les chances de transmettre quelque chose de problématique à la progéniture.

Une autre raison est que souvent les gens ont la certitude qu’un chien ayant des problèmes de vision montrerait des signes évidents de ces problèmes et considèrent donc leur chien comme étant en bonne santé - ceci est très compréhensible. En effet, pour nous la vision est tellement importante que nous remarquons tout de suite si quelque chose ne va pas, mais ce n’est pas vrai pour les chiens. La vue n’est pas le sens principal chez le chien et ils peuvent très bien s’en sortir avec une vision limitée. Nous en avons fait l’expérience avec l’un de nos chiens : Flaszek. Tous nos chiens ont étés testés au début du printemps, lorsque l’idée d’une recherche à grande échelle sur les bergers des Pyrénées a été lancée. Nous avons appris que Flaszek a d’énormes lésions sur sa rétine, l’une d’entre elle en plein centre de sa vision. Son œil gauche, lui, est normal pour son âge, mais son œil droit a probablement un gros point noir en plein centre. Ces lésions sont très certainement le résultat d’une inflammation et nous ne saurons probablement jamais ce qui les a causées (peut-être une infection dentaire qui est passée inaperçue). - Nous allons l’examiner dans quelques temps pour voir si les lésions progressent, mais nous ne pensons pas que ce sera le cas. Nous n’avons jamais rien observé d’anormal dans son comportement. Enfin maintenant nous pensons que c’est PEUT-ÊTRE pour ça qu’il a toujours couru doucement en agility, jamais en pleine vitesse, bien que lorsqu’il s’agisse de courir après une balle dans un champ il soit le plus rapide de nos chiens.


Flaszek, oeil gauche, sain


Une des lésions dans l’oeil droit


Une lésions plus conséquente, toujours dans l’oeil droit

Je comptais vraiment sur les agilitistes d’être intéressés par l’idée de participer et de faire tester leurs chiens et je n’ai pas été déçue - beaucoup de personnes se sont portées volontaires et cela a déjà montré l’importance de faire ces tests.
Bien sûr, il est important de noter que la majorité des chiens testés étant des chiens actifs en agility, le panel n’était pas totalement représentatif (NDT nous ne nous attendions pas à trouver des problèmes véritablement handicapant car il est plus facile de les discerner sur des chiens pratiquant l’agility). Dans certains cas, il faudra aussi retester afin de voir l’évolution et ainsi savoir si ces problèmes peuvent être liés à des conditions plus sérieuses. Des prélèvements d’ADN destinés à la recherche ont également étés faits. La publication de l’étude complète va prendre du temps et ne sera pas disponible tout de suite, mais je vous partage un résumé rédigé par la responsable de l’étude, Dr Natalia Kucharczyk:
(NDT, ceci est un rapport préliminaire qui ne comporte que les observations faites lors des examens cliniques réalisés dans le cadre de la BASE et en comparaison avec les données actuelle du manuel ECVO concernant les bergers des Pyrénées)


"Merci aux organisateurs et aux participants de la BASE 2019, nous avons pu examiner plus de 70 bergers des Pyrénées, c’était une opportunité unique d’étudier la race.
Jusqu’à maintenant il n’y avait aucune publication dédiée entièrement à cette race et la majorité des informations que nous avons proviennent des certificats ECVO.
J’ai fait un bref résumé de ce que nous avons pu observer et le résultat est surprenant!

Certaines lésions observées sont dues à l’âge et certaines sont probablement génétiques.
Aucune de ces lésions ( à part pour une cataracte) ne cause de gros problème de vision - du moins pour le moment. Car les cataractes peuvent progresser vers une perte totale de la vision!

Afin de partager une partie de ces résultats avec vous, voilà un petit résumé:

- Cataracte - 2 formes étaient décrites dans le manuel ECVO (NDT 1. Anterior/posterior cortical, dogs > 3 y.o. 2. Posterior subcapsular (suture lines) in 2 y.o. dogs, maybe associated with uveal hypoplasia). Nous en avons observé une 3ème la cataracte dite « fibre de verre » (NDT il s’agit d’une traduction littérale de « Fiberglass-like cataract »). Nous avons observé 12 chiens avec de la cataracte. Certaines de ces cataractes vont progresser et d’autres non. Nous devons prévoir un deuxième examen dans une année (sûrement à la prochaine BASE) pour connaître la vitesse de progression et s’il est nécessaire d’opérer. Dans ce groupe, le nombre est élevé bien que dans la majeure partie des cas, ces petites opacités ne causent pas de problèmes de vision pour le moment

- Dégénérescence vitréenne - haute prévalence - présumé héréditaire; les modifications du vitré lié à une rupture de l’état de gel peuvent prédisposer a un décollement de la rétine! Dans la plupart des cas observés à la BASE cela ne pose pas de trop gros problèmes mais à un stade avancé cela peut causer des problèmes de vision, des glaucomes et des luxations du cristallin (dans les races prédisposées). Il y a actuellement des discussions entre ophtalmologues à ce sujet, car nous avons commencé à observer cette dégénérescence chez de jeunes chiens, lors de questions concernant l’alimentation nous avons observé qu’une grande partie de ces chiens était nourris au BARF. Mais pour le moment nous ne rendons pas le BARF responsable car nous devons recueillir plus de données à ce sujet avant d’établir des corrélations, mais la coïncidence est intéressante. (Nous allons très certainement vous poser des questions par email concernant l’alimentation de vos chiens).

- Hypoplasie choroïdienne - caractérisée par un développement inadéquat de la choroïde, présent à la naissance. EXTREMEMENT INTERESSANT, car selon ECVO il n’est pas causé par le gêne du CEA, et nous allons tenter d’identifier le gêne responsable chez le bergers des Pyrénées. Ce qui est intéressant c’est que chez les collies cette anomalie se manifeste dans certains cas avec un colobome du nerf optique ou un décollement de la rétine. Nous ne nous attendions pas à trouver cela chez des chiens pratiquants l’agility, il serait dont vraiment intéressant d’examiner des chiens ne provenant pas de la discipline afin de pouvoir éventuellement observer ce problème (car nous ne l’avons pas vu pour le moment).

- APR - aucun cas, mais celle décrite dans le manuel rendant les chiens complètement aveugles dès l’âge de 3 ans, il semblait peu probable de l’observer à la BASE.

- Retinoscopie (si le chien est myope ou hypermétrope) - tous les chiens étaient normaux, entre -0.5 et + 0.5, nous comparerons avec les réponses données concernant l’ETO (early take off).


Nous avons trouvés encore d’autres anomalies, certaines liées à l’âge et certaines plus mystérieuses qu’il sera nécessaire de revoir dans une année.

Les résultats complets seront disponibles dans le futur dans la publication prévue!

Comme vous pouvez le constater, cette journée nous a réservé un bon nombre de surprise et nous a donné une idée de ce que nous pouvions déjà trouver dans les yeux de bergers des Pyrénées «sportifs».
Il sera vraiment intéressant d’étudier la progression dans une année et il serait encore plus intéressant de voir d’autres chiens que ceux pratiquant l’agility, afin d’avoir une plus large compréhension des problèmes qui peuvent être rencontrés dans la race.
Jusqu’à maintenant il n’était pas nécessaire de faire des contrôles car la race était considérée comme « en bonne santé » mais je pense qu’il est plus facile à présent de se rendre compte de la nécessité de faire des contrôles réguliers et surtout qu’il y a vraiment un intérêt à mener des recherches sur la race.

J’espère que vous avez apprécié cette journée avec nous, même si nous avons découverts des problèmes avec certains de vos chiens. Merci à tous pour votre patience et votre coopération!

Un grand merci à Virginie de Andrea et Olga Kwiecien pour leur aide ainsi qu’à Radka Kopecka pour l’organisation de la BASE 2019!

J’espère vous revoir bientôt!»


wtorek, 6 sierpnia 2019

B.A.S.E. 2019

After extreme and difficult EO, B.A.S.E. 2019 (annual Pyrshep competition) was just pure pleasure. First of all, well, Pyrsheps :D As always, it was just lovely to see so many of them, so different yet so similar, and to meet old and new friends. The atmosphere was just awesome. 

 Family meeting: Marinka (I guess, her and mother Nany are clones so not sure), mother Nany, Puck, Zelda, father Evo. 

Secondly, the organisers did really wonderful job - from choosing the place which allowed us to run either outside or inside depending on the weather (and also run a bit in between out and in carrying the obstacles when the it changed unexpectedly ☀️⛈️), with great inside bar with lovely Czech beer, through dedicated and capable helpers, to the very best team of judges: Alice Glocknerova (CZ) and Rene Blank (D). I even liked the fact that the barbecue on Saturday was not barbecue as the food was ready for everybody at the same time and the little starters were just SOOOOO delicious. 

Thirdly, the judges and the courses were great - and after EO 😈 I appreciated it even more. Level appropriate, fluent, challenging, fun - even getting eliminated on those courses was fun :D - it was real pleasure to walk them and to run them and after each coursewalking I just coulnd't wait to test myself on them :). 

Brego says he was awesome, I was too slow :D. 

And to make it even better, the competition was organised in four height categories - small, medium (calculated together, as there was just one small dog), and minilarge and large (again, calculated together). I ran Flaszek and Brego in minilarge category (jump heights 50 cm) and it was great - Brego had times better than the medium dogs, he's just flying on 50 cm and was really finally able to show all his power and Flaszek also broke his own speed records 🏎️.


I was running Flaszek in A1, and Brego and Brava in A3. Flaszek of course forgot all his contacts, but since we weren't really training that hard lastly, he is of course forgiven, otherwise he was super fast, did nice weaves and even in the end reached 3rd place in combined A1 category. I'm super pleased with him.




Brego was just freaking amazing, it's a pity I ruined two of his runs (once I was really out of breath and once I was just to slow and hesitated with the handling option, which resulted in elimination), but it felt great to run him again.





Brava as everybody knows already, is pyrfection, she had four clean runs, all of them on the podium, she never put a foot wrong and in the end won the whole event (you know, third time lucky so finally we managed to win the beautiful B.A.S.E. 2019 jump :D).





Last but not least, thanks to dr Natalia Kucharczyk and her collegues as well as amazing and brave Pyrshep community, we were able to do quite extensive eye testing (around 75 dogs were tested during and after the competition). The aim on the study was not only to find the common eye problems in the breed, but hopefully also help working on genetic testing for some of them - the results of the study will be published later, but we already know that it was worth doing it and that it looks promising. Since I was engaged in the project from the beginning, I would really like to thank Radka Kopecka for allowing us to do it during the competition, owners of the venue for providing the place to conduct the testing even though we have to move furniture around a bit, dr Natalia Kucharczyk to take such interest in our breed, partner in crime Virginie de Andrea for all the help and design below (it was used on the jump and leash that were drawn between the participants of the study)  and of course everybody who decided to have their dogs tested and was so cooperative and helpful. 


poniedziałek, 5 sierpnia 2019

EO 2019

Ok, so a year has passed since my last post 😮. Time sure flies, lots of things have changed, including the fact that all of a sudden we have a new dog - Evo's son and brother of Zelda. His name is Puck, which we changed to Pucek somehow and he's awesome and I'll try to write more about him soon. 

Anyway, just a couple of thoughts after EO 2019. 
Well, one thing is obvious and lots of people have said it already - something has to change. EO has become an extreme competition for everybody involved and as much as I love big events (I do), I think we are dangerously close to risking people and dogs' lives with the current formula of EO. Noone can deny the climate change anymore, end of July is extremely hot and dry year after year after year, and this time it was over 40C during day and over 30C during the night. It was just horrible - even though the organisers were AWESOME and changed the schedule completely to make it safer, it was still too hot to sleep, rest, walk or do anything. Fortunately we were able to go to the lake on Friday afternoon, which I think allowed us to survive at all. I can imagine how horrible it must be also for the judges / helpers and no wonder finding good judges for this event becomes more and more difficult as it must be a challenge to get anyone in their right mind to agree to this. 



So first of all I think EO's date has to change - my idea would be end of August, so at least the nights should be cooler, people would still have holidays and it wouldn't interfere with qualis everywhere or AWC.
Secondly, I tend to agree that maybe it should be a bit smaller.... maybe quit the team part (ok, this is a bit of bias on my part and I know lots of people would disagree, but I'm not really fond of the team final formula with huge ring and four dogs running four different courses on this crazy layout... it's super difficult to follow for once and perhaps also not the best way to prepare mentally and physically for the run) or maybe limit it to 24 teams per country... but an event lasting 5 days, if you include the vet control and training, is really taking the toll on everybody, in financial, physical and mental aspect. 

And actually one good change could be the formula of trainings. Normally it's some alloted number of minutes per country and even though there was always enough time, I've always hated it. It was always really hectic, really loud and really nervous. If you had more than one dog it got ever crazier and it was almost impossible to warm up, reward and cool down properly (which we REALLY should be doing). This year they just decided to open the training rings from 5am till 11am (which was later changed to 10am since it was already quite hot). Everybody could come whenever they wanted and have one go at the training course, although the helpers were nice enough to let you correct the mistake or repeat one obstacle as long as you didn't drill it over and over. For me it was perfect - I came with Brava first, later I could cool her down, walk her, and then I took Mojo. It was calmer, more relaxed, just freaking better in every way and I think pretty much everybody who wanted, had a go and it lasted much shorter also. 

I know introducing those changes must take a while, but it would be really great if the FCI dealt with that rather than insisting on judges using the flat tunnel or forbidding the use of safe bar for the double jump. And I really hope it happens before we have some fatality. 



Otherwise, well. As I mentioned before, the organising crew was SUPERB. Really friendly, really helpful, really going out of their way to make everybody safe in the extreme heat and working really hard. Generally the progress of the competition was very smooth, some things of course were difficult because of the last of the moment changes in schedule, but all in all I think they did a great job. 

I was quite disappointed with most of the courses, especially the final courses, which IMHO were either stupid (like the contact approaches in the small individual final or the turn on the spread jump) or really boring (both the medium and large final courses). There was also a fair amount of really weird judging decisions, but let's just blame it on the weather. It must be extremely hard to stay focused for so many hours, with so many dogs on the same setup, till midnight one day and from the crack of dawn on the other, in burning heat. 

The surface was simply not maintained properly, the sand was too soft and too deep in places, most dogs, especially the smaller ones, were struggling to accellerate and even to take off appropriately. Mojo felt really slow and I still think she was actually at advantage being on the large end of small category and super muscled mini pitbull. There was also huge difference in surface between the first dogs to run the course and the last ones... 



The facilities, food etc were more than ok :) (like really, for once there was enough showers!!!). 

And when it comes to our dogs... well, I'm impressed and grateful they agreed to run in those conditions, moreover, they did it with all their usual enthusiasm and really really tried as hard as they could. We have the greatest dogs on the planet, I'm super proud of them and of our runs, even the ones with mistakes. Brava finished all courses - three clean, one with weave entry mistake and the final run with a bar - she managed to qualify for the final even, which I think at her age, after a long break and among such awesome competition is a real achievement. I'm really really grateful I could run the EO final with her one last time, it felt really special. I realised when walking to the start that she has been at EO EIGHT times, and seven times she got into the final, and two times she was on the podium... it's just an incredible, one in a billion dog and I feel so privileged to have her as my teammate 💚💙❤️💛💜🧡🖤.



Mojo was 6th in agility individual small, qualifying to the final and had 5th time there (and we lost TONS of time because of my handling mistake after the weaves, so it could have been even better) - she was amazing and I found the right amount of crazy in two of our best runs (individual agility and final).




Brego, Evo and Zelda were running with Roman - for Brego it was not the right kind of surface really, but they had some great runs, Evo decided he's too old to bother with contacts anymore (and when he jumps them, he does it with style), but otherwise was crazy, fast and loud as in good old times. Zelda is waiting for imaginary puppies and also we didn't exactly do her a favour when we decided to spend last couple of weeks before EO in Scandinavia with temperatures around 18C, she doesn't cope too well with the heat at best of times and now it was even more difficult for her. She still was quite ok for her first EO and we're are looking forward to the future :). 

Some videos of Brava:

Jumping individual:

Final:



And Mojo, individual agility:


And somewhat messy, but still awesome (on Mojo's part), final:








poniedziałek, 30 lipca 2018

Best EO ever ;)

European Open 2018 in Austria, Magna Racino, was definetely one of the coolest ever and I couldn't be happier. 



It already started great with a pre-EO party at Laura's place, when I finally got to see two of my "grandpuppies" (Zookie & Aivo) and they are awesome 🧡💗💜💚💙❤️💛, plus we got to see some friends and meet some new ones. After some delicious food and ice scream we arrived at the venue, which I think is one of the best in Europe to host such an event - no problems with facilities, good bar (aperole!) and decent restaurant with a shaded terrace, lots of space, perfect surface, lots of water hoses to cool the dogs and yourself, plus there was even a nice place by the stream to walk the dogs (thanks Elisabeth for showing it to me!). 


On Thursday we had vet check, measuring for Mojo (so now very officially small) and training, which went really well for both Mojo and Brava - no problems with new frameless tyre (love it!) or anything else. Then in the evening there was opening ceremony which like for the first time ever was actually quite cool with a different song chosen for each country (we got "Do przodu, Polsko!" and Sweden got an ABBA song and so on) and beautiful horse dressage demonstration with Fresian horses and riders in historical outfits. Then we had a lovely evening with our friends and Agility Board Game. I also got to meet Mojo's family - beautiful little Rosalie and Pippi, both of them really cool and really beautiful. Obviously I also HAD to do some shopping and got a new leash and new Floramicato toy (you just can't resist, they are the funniest, most colourful and greatest toys ever and my dogs are CRAZY about them!).


On Friday we had team runs, both Brava and Mojo had clean jumpings, Brava dis in agility (but the course was... well, not my favourite type let's say) and Mojo mistake in the slalom. There was some fuckups with the results and at some point we thought our small team was third in agility, but then it turned out we weren't after all :P. Actually the results and especially live-results were the only really bad thing about the competition - they were even horribly late or incomplete or both. Anyway, I was really happy with my girls performance, especially baby Mojo for her first big event, so here are Mojo's team runs:







Brava's team jumping - same course as small and it's funny to see how much more relaxed and trusting I am when handling her in comparison to how I handle Mojo - of course it's only natural and that's the place we're gonna be with my super spaniel in 2-3 years time:



In the end Poland ended up with just one medium team in the final, despite the fact that one of large teams ended up second place in jumping also. I finished my runs quite early on, so could enjoy aperoles from the bar, great company and watching others for the rest of the day - I totally love social aspect of agility competitions 😃💛. I couldn't even feel bad about all the calories consumed as I walked over 20 km each day, so burnt all the alcohol I drank (or so I tell myself). Speaking of the social aspect - we had a family meeting with five of Brava puppies present at the EO (sadly, Daniel and Neo couldn't come even though they also qualified). The best Pyrsheps in the world for sure!

Left to right: Brie, BB, Babou (team European Open 2018 winner), Brava (EO 2018 vice champion), Brego (AWC 2017 team large winner), Zookie (EO 2016 winner, team European Open 2018 winner). 

Saturday was the individual runs. The agility medium course seemed a bit too easy and I was actually a little bit worried that on such speedy course 9,5 yo Brava wouldn't be competitive enough, but well, she proved me wrong, ending up on 5th place which was enough to qualify for the final. She also had a nice jumping run later, with one tiny refusal, because I was too slow :P. Mojo was again awesome, one mistake in the slalom in the jumping course and unfortunately dogwalk fault in the agility run (we sure have a list of things to train after this EO 😀), but in general I was really happy with her performance, we just had some young dog's mistakes, but she handled the heat and the atmosphere brilliantly. Other Polish competitors also had some super cool runs, so we ended up with one small, four medium and three large dogs in the individual final! Not bad at all, especially that all of them are such great and mostly quite young dogs!

Sunday came - since I was not participating in the team finals, I let myself a bit of lie-in and woke up just in time to see our medium team - three smashing clean runs and one elimination sadly - but since it's the same team that will be participating in the world championship, I'm very optimistic about their chances! My puppies made me proud again, since the medium team final was won by Austrian team with Babou and Zookie among them! 
Small individual finals was really interesting and challenging course by Svetlana Zolotnikova - I actually liked the course the best of all the final courses, it was great to watch and the winning performances of Marusa Podjed with Nai and Sandi Okanovic with Mia were really amazing! It was great to see friends on the podium again! 
Medium course was set by Wolfgang Tieber - most of it was fluent and nice, I just didn't really like the ending, since it was a bit of "who can outrun their dog" and I'm really not very fond of courses in which the dog has to push forward even though handler's body is showing a wrong line... 



There were lots of refusals or eliminations on the very last obstacle and that was not so fun to watch actually. It also happened to Magda with Mora (Brava's younger sister), who had clean and fast as crazy run until then... Otherwise I liked the fact that the course demanded the dog to be able to work independently (like the best solution on the slalom was to let the dog find the entry themselves, almost everyone who tried to help with the entry pushed the dog too much towards the tunnel, or you really had to let the dog do the "out" after the dogwalk alone if you were to make it in time to number 17). I told Brava she needs to read the numbers since and I told my body to make this last effort in horrible heat and despite my sore muscles (I walked over 20 km on each day of the competition and that's not counting the running...). Well, what can I say - she is the most amazing dog ever, she did everything I asked of her, found the weave entry alone, nailed the dogwalk contact, sent to number 18, found the tunnel after the A-frame even though I was miles away already, trying to make it around the dogwalk and cleared that double even though I was so out of breath I was not able to give the command I optimistically planned to give when coursewalking). I don't remember ever being so exhausted after a run though, I couldn't speak for like 5 minutes after. We were beaten by Daniel Schroeder with Cashew who had a smashing run 😲 and ended up being European Open 2018 vice champions - that is more than I would ever imagine this year! especially that Brava had a small injury in May, didn't run our AWC qualis at all and had very little training before (but lots of swimming, walks and conditioning instead). 

Video of the run:




In the large final Poland had amazing dogs and it was great to watch them - actually all three of them had great runs, but this time luck was not on our side - Applause dropped the first bar, Yuca had fault on up contact, Chica also one bar. But I really believe that if one year luck is not on your side, one day it will help you, so it all balances itself. In general it was fantastic to watch Polish team this year, we had some great dogs and super runs and it really made me proud. There were lots of clean runs in large final, it was great to see that so many dogs had perfect running contacts, interestingly enough there was a tie of Mona Grefenstein and Lisa Frick in the second place (maybe we need to measure even more exactly now?) and many many fantastic perfomances that made me feel inspired about what to train now. 
Big thanks to our team leader, Michał Pieniak, who stood, or rather walked constantly between four rings, in this crazy heat, carried all the water bottles, bags, hats, toys and what not between start and finish lines, measured times for fastest lines, updated all the important info by messenger for everybody, cheered and supported all of us and still managed to be calm, composed and in good humour all the time. As always, huge thanks to Roman for driving, helping ,filming and supporting me 💚💙🧡❤️💛💜🖤. 

niedziela, 25 marca 2018

On fair competition

I don't know why recently I tend to post more "philosophical" posts than "what's up with us" kind of posts. Maybe I'm getting middle-aged know-it-all :P (the change is in the "middle-age", I've always been unsufferable know-it-all, my best friend on the university told me once that she used to hate me for this and then realised she was the same 😂). Anyway, here it goes, three situations, three lessons:

1. Years and years ago on the way to my first AWC ever, we stopped on the way and I was waiting in a queue to the toilet holding someone's dog and someone from our team was walking by with their dog and said something like "ok, let's go tread on ours competition paws", which was said jokingly of course (and not actually stepping on anyone's dog) but my then-trainer got really furious about it, saying that for f.. sake, you're on the same team after all. That was lesson number one. 

2. Some years later, when Evo and Brava were already competing but still young, we went to some competition in Motesice in Slovakia and met with Martina Klimesova there and she said something like: "Oh, it's so cool that you came, I really like having some good competition in medium". That was really nice, first of all hearing from someone with much more experience and succeses that we were treated as good competition, secondly that kind of attititude that competition is good and welcome (I will elaborate later). That was lesson number 2. 

3. I already mentioned it before, but when Laura Reinhalter with Zookie got their 3rd place in EO 2017 final, I saw Werner Goltz sincerely and happily congratulating Laura on her run and looking genuinely happy about it, even though she "pushed him out of the podium". That's lesson number 3. 

Anyone who knows me, can attest to the fact that I am a competitive and ambitious person. But there it goes: in order to be competitive, you need fair competition. You need someone to give you the run for your money, to really push your limits, to really work on getting the best possible line, the best turn, the best running contact. If you have good competition, you cannot allow yourself being sloppy - so simply you get better. That's first reason why competition is good for you. Second reason is that easy win does not taste as good. If you were running World Championships alone and all it took to win was to finish the run, would you still feel a champion? While I am truly happy with every good run with my dogs (there is this magic feeling of flow and connection that I always strive for and that is best part of agility for me), I have this additional pleasure coming from objective fact that it was not just my feeling that the run was good, but it was actually good enough to beat teams that I admire and respect.  And when I lose to someone because that someone was faster, had better line, chose better handling option - it's a valuable lesson. It is not a shame to lose to someone better. It is not praiseworthy if you win because there simply was not anyone else in your league. 

And seriously, if someone in your country has a great dog in the same category as you run in, be happy. That means you have someone to push you without having to go to compete abroad and that also means that potentially you  have a great teammate. Team world championship cannot be won single-handed.

 

poniedziałek, 12 marca 2018

Say yes to a wocker, but...



Some time ago I wrote an enthusiastic post about wockers and why everybody should get one. Since the popularity of the breed in agility seems to be on the rise, I feel like I need to expand a little bit. 
I still am totally in love with my own working cocker and still think that generally speaking the breed is a joy to live and to train with. However, before you jump into buying a working cocker (or any other breed for that matter), stop for a while.

First of all, well, that might sound obvious, but think if you actually like the breed for what it is for 24 hrs a day. Agility or any other performance sport is just a little part of your journey together and for the rest of the time you'll have to live with a breed with strong hunting instinct, high energy and excitability and yet tendency to be rather soft and shutting down under pressure. Best if you like the looks, the size and the character of the breed, especially that well, we might plan all we want, yet sometimes things go their own way. I admire some border collies in agility - with the right handler and trainer they come to the absolute top of the discipline and are as close to perfection as possible. Yet having met many BCs I know it's not a breed for me, not a breed that I would enjoy on everyday basis, not a breed that would pull on my heart strings. As hard as it is for me to understand, you might be a person that doesn't feel any particular personal sympathy for wockers or Pyrsheps, even though I couldn't imagine my life without them. 

Second of all, find a reputable breeder. Whenever a breed becomes popular, some people think it's an easy money and would breed without proper respect to the dogs and breed's welfare in mind. Don't choose a breeder solely on basis that this or that animal that comes from this kennel is succesful in agility, as this stems from many factors.

What a breeder can (and should) do:
- answer questions about dog's lines and pedigrees, provide factual information concerning those matters,
- show you the health results of the parents. In working cockers, genetic tests are available for several serious conditions, including prcdPRA, FN, AMS. In addition, it is recommended that the parents are also tested for slipping patellas, ED and HD as well as eye diseases (ECVO certificate) and heart conditions
- answer honestly questions about breed's characteristics, including problems that might occur,
- welcome you into their home, showing where and in what conditions all their dogs live and how their puppies are raised. Of course, it you're buying puppy from abroad, you might not be able to visit, but it shouldn't be a problem for the breeder nowadays to send you pictures and videos regularly,
- discuss with you openly and upfront the legal agreements concerning your puppy. Things like price, details of purchase contract, co-ownership etc. should be discussed before you pay any kind of advance and should never change later,
- give you full documentation of all the above (health checks, pedigree, contract in writing etc.). 

What a breeder shouldn't do (or can't possibly) do:
- guarantee 100% that the puppy will remain competely healthy and of sound temperament. Genetics is a bitch and you need not only knowledge but also huge amount of luck, especially that while we know some things are hereditary, we don't really know how they are inherited. If the breeder claims they have never bred an animal with health or temperament issues, they are either not breeding for a long time or lying. This is not to say the breeder should "wash their hands" from any responsibility, health testing of the parents and proper way of rising the puppies go a long way to ensure healthy dogs, but noone can control everything. 
- ensure the size of the puppy as an adult. Working cockers are usually medium for agility, sometimes they happen to be in small, but this is not a rule, and while there are smaller lines, noone can predict the exact size of the adult dog (same as with Pyrsheps by the way). You get small wockers out of medium parents and vice versa. Find out the healthy range of height and weight in puppies of certain age, having in mind that it can vary a lot - still, a puppy wocker should not be the size of puppy Great Dane or a chihuahua. For instance, Mojo was over 3 kg and 22 cm as a healthy, happy and plump 8 weeks old puppy and she is just over 8 kg and 34 cm as an adult, being on the smaller side of the breed. Also, size should never be the main objective of the breeding and should never come before health, good structure and sound temperament.
- the breeder cannot sell legally puppies less than 8 weeks of age by rules of most national cynological organisations,
- the breeder cannot guarantee that the puppy will become succesful agility dog. That again depends on many conditions and mainly, but not solely, you. 

What you as a buyer should do:
- ask questions. Reputable breeder has nothing to hide and will answer. 
- educate yourself. Thanks to the internet and social media it's easy nowadays to find owners of particular breed, ask their opinion, ask them to tell you about their dog, ask if they would recommend the breeder of that dog (and WHY). Of course, noone is liked by everybody, and what suits one individual, doesn't necessarily suit another. Hence, don't stop on just one opinion, whether enthusiastic or otherwise, but try to find more. 
- don't rush into any decisions. Take your time. Think. Sleep on it. Be critical. 

Picture of Mojo, because she is perfect 💚💙💛💜💗.