sobota, 17 czerwca 2017

AWC qualis

Polish AWC qualis have finished. This year we had three qualis weekends, starting middle of May and then roughly every two weeks, with three excellent judges: Esa Muottka from Finland, Petr Dostal from Czech Republic and finally Alen Marekovic from Croatia. I think they really built perfect courses for the qualis: difficult enough to require independence and good obstacle understanding, but at the same time fluent and fast. So usually there was enough experienced and fast dogs who managed to run clean for the speed to count too (I really hate when some judges build the courses which are pretty much impossible to run with a fast dog, no matter how good and well-trained... but that was not the case here) and I really enjoyed running them. The competition was awesome this year: already after first two qualis there were many dogs who fulfilled most of the qualifying criteria, so everybody had to fight till the very last run. 

I couldn't be happier with my dogs (and actually a bit with myself as well) - Brava did 11 clean runs out of 12 (just one run with an unfortunate bar), winning both the individual ranking and teams and setting time of reference for medium class in 9 of her runs. Brego was incredible - thanks to our greatest physiotherapist Aneta Bocheńska he was in top shape, did 9 clean runs out of 12, one with a bar and one with a refusal plus an elimination in the very last run :D, thus winning the team large ranking amongst really really great large dogs - I don't think we ever had so many awesome large dogs before. It is a dream come true for me to qualify with two dogs again (I only did it once in 2011, Sunday's last and Brava's first AWC...) and especially with Brego. I really hope we can mantain this consistency for the AWC and as artificial grass is the best surface for him I hope he will be even faster there :). 

Evo also qualified for team medium - he is still not in perfect shape after his finger injury, but seems he is actually getting better and better and was running faster on the last quali than on first. We also must find a way for him to lose a bit of weight, but since he is the type of dog who gets fatter just breathing near the food plus he manages to steal something at least once a week, that's not gonna be easy :P. 

So, videos from the second and third qualis (sorry, no videos from the first one):

wtorek, 13 czerwca 2017

Love your dogs

Fot. Reni Janicka Rene Studio

Today I've read a story about someone I don't know and I don't even know the name of, who lost yet another young dog in suspicious circumstances, in a sense people know that this person has not been satisfied with that dog as an agility prospect and some time later, that dog is gone. Gone as in put to sleep, not gone as in rehomed. I guess all of us have heard rumours of that kind about this or that succesful agility competitor / trainer etc. - they they "went through" many dogs before they actually found the one that was good enough. Now, I know from experience that rumours can be vicious and they can also be totally untrue and I am fortunate enough not to know personally any person who actually did that - so, without finger pointing, because it's not about that. 

I've been thinking for a while about how much pressure and expectations we're placing on our dogs. A student of mine recently wrote a blog post about internet pressure to be perfect, which basically causes people to hide their problems or lie about them. We are creating a virtual version of ourselves and our dogs, hiding behind a couple of minutes videos with last radio hit for soundtrack, picking out carefully the good moments to present to the world. Our dogs need to be perfect, we need to be perfect, as there are evil tongues just waiting to babble about how horrible our new puppy is (totally freaking out / aggressive / lacking drive / unfocused), how horrible we are to our dogs, how we ruin our dogs health by doing things too early or how we fail to train them the right things at the right time or how we overtrain or... That's one side of this story and it might somehow contribute to this phenomenon of dogs changing homes or worse, dogs being put to sleep, just because they didn't rise to expectations as performance tools. 

But hear me out. The thing is, the succesful dogs might give you those 5-minutes of fame in our small and not so important agility (or other canine performance sports) world. I can tell you firsthand that even the biggest success is overshadowed and forgotten sooner or later. 

It is not that which defines you. It is not that that teaches you the most. 

It is those difficult dogs, it is you not rising to the occasion, it is you failing your dog that teaches you the most if your eyes and mind are open wide enough to see  and accept that. 

People who remember me running with Vigo can attest to the fact how badly trained he was, that he was not ready for competing when I actually started competing with him, that sometimes I looked as if I might kill him, that it took us YEARS and four dozens of crappy runs before we managed to progress from A2 to A3 and that was only because back then you could progress from A1 to A2 with runs with one fault and also, I swear, because the judge had a leg injury, so couldn't put a dogwalk in a course, hence we didn't get that dammed jumped dogwalk contact fault, the other time it was raining cats and dogs and the judge actually didn't see the jumped contact and that last one was just pure luck with our luck-or-no-luck flying running contacts :D. 

Vigo is the dog that I failed to train to reach his full potential. It is a fact, but I'm not really hard on myself about that, because well, he was not an easy dog, I had much less knowledge that I have now (but I only have it because of him), there was really noone who could help me with his kind of problems back then. I did what I could and what I knew. 

And yet, I cried because of him, I was mad at him more times that I could count, I was so helpless I did things I wouldn't do today (fortunately that was nothing so bad that would damage our relationship forever... but nothing to be proud of either).

Our success story is not about making an agility champion out of unlikely prospect. Maybe because it was more because of my shortcomings than his, so they were more difficult to overcome. Some things you can never never undo - I failed to train properly from the beginning so he was never reliable, running with him was pretty stresful for me for a long time, since I never knew what I could expect. Oh yes, we did our share of succeses eventually, but truth is, he could have been much better and could have achieved more if he had more experienced and better trainer. But he doesn't give a crap about that, so that's not important either (although we could have both been happier if that wasn't for my expectations and wanting him to be a succesful agility dog - and that matters...). 

But we do have our own bigger success story nevertheless. That I love him goes without saying, but I also like him and he likes me, and more importantly even, he trusts me. After all those years we have lots of things we enjoy together. Cuddles. Tricks. Long walks. He is able to relax now. He is not nearly as reactive as he used to be. He is the easiest dog during the walks you can imagine. We have good life together now. We've come a long way. Because of that, we have special bond that words can't really express, bond that you can only have with an old dog, as much as lovable and special all my youngs dogs are. 

So what I would like to tell people who get rid of their dogs because those dogs are not good enough... I think they deprive themselves of something really beautiful and really powerful. They damage a part of their soul beyond repair. And the only thing I wish for them is that one day they realise that and become heartbroken over what they have done to those dogs and to themselves. 

What I would like to tell everybody else, who has dogs as friends first and as agility/ sport / performance dogs second: cherish every moment. Love your dogs, especially the old ones, who have been at your side in good and bad, who taught you a great deal and yet the lesson is not over. Admit your failures - painful as it is, they are the stepping stone to anything you might be able to achieve later. Oh, and did I say it already? Love your dogs. 

 Fot. Natalia Matłosz

poniedziałek, 12 czerwca 2017

WCS seminar and meeting :)

I really love giving seminars, travelling, meeting new people and dogs - but some seminars are even more special. Like for instance, I can't hide that I like some breeds more than the others ;). Last weekend I taught at seminar for Runrunrun wockers - and a couple of other cockers. So, after more than I year I had the chance to meet all Mojo's sisters as well as a couple of her cousins and other relatives. It is really rare that you meet so many cool dogs in one place :D. And because wockers are lovely, so are the people who live with them, so we really had the nicest possible time. 

(of course, Mojo is the only serious one :D)

It is really funny how similar all Mojo's sisters are - the same body language, movement, lots of similar behaviours and faces :). Especially Yora is like a slighly bigger and a bit more hairy clone, but she screams on agility course even more than Mojo, so Mojo has to try harder. It was hillarious how they had exactly the same problems on same course :D.
It was also quite illuminating to see so many wockers together. I used to think that working strain of a cocker spaniel is pretty much the same as show line of cocker spaniel, only in a bit more sporty version, but now I think it is not so. Already with Mojo I was quite suprised with how different she is from Sunday, my first dog ever (show line ECS), but seeing more wockers and show ECS together made me realise that they are actually not like two strains of one breed but rather as two different breeds. It's still hard for me to actually express it in words and I definetely still don't know enough to write anything in stone about it, but for instance I can see that while wockers are definetely more high energy, they also actually relax better even in busy environment, are more reserved towards people (not fearful, but actually not so much interested in interaction with everybody), but more focused on their owner etc. So if you have or had a show cocker before and are thinking of getting a WCS, it is a great idea, but make sure you meet as many of them as possible, as you're getting into something new and other that you know :).

And then there was the double icing on the cake: one was meeting Brego's half brother Filou, who is also lovely, although even worse mama's boy than Brego, so wouldn't like to go with us :/

 and the other is that we had the very best photographer for the event, so let me delight you with Aart van Laar photos <3 

(my little beauty, only lacking a bit in the neck department)