When and how do we end?

In general we read and discuss a lot how and when we should start Agility with our dogs. When it’s healthy to put that kind of pressure on a young dogs body. If you ask 50 persons about that topic I guess you will get 45 different answers. But shouldn’t we ask ourselves when and how to end an Agility dogs career too?

We know agility is an extreme sport for some dogs . Extreme movements, extreme speed, extreme pressure but also extreme fun. When I started Agility about 17 years ago preventing injuries with warm-up, cool-down, special training for building up muscles but also chiropractic treatments were no topic at all. Luckily we learned a lot in the past years. But even though we are wiser and try hard that injuries won’t happen, accidents can happen.

My thoughts about when and how to retire a dog from Agility

My Belgian Shepherd Jamjam is now 9,5 years old. She’s a quite big dog who has a lot of energy. I do run agility with her because we both love it, but how much do I love it? The whole season I was at a point where I don’t feel we need to compete but simply should enjoy it. After our national championships in June we had a long summer break. The stomache disease in Norway made it not possible to go after my plan and start competing and training again in autumn. And then we were at a routine check at my vet who is treating our dogs with chiropractics. And she told me Jammi has never been in better shape. She usually tempts to be a little stiff in the back, but I always keep a dialogue with my vet if she would recommend to stop with the sport.

So the good news. She has never been in better shape. The bad news, this really made me think. Is it still worth it? I really love Jammi. And Agility is not so important that I would risk her well being.

I already retired two dogs from Agility. My first dog Bubu had to end all kind of sports because of arthrose at a young age of seven. He made me learn the hard way. Pipi was retired in a slow way. She had her last competition when she was 9. We stopped because I was focusing on Jammi and Jan Egil, who ran some competitions with her, tried to focus on his own dog. Pipi is twelve now, happy, healthy and grumpy as always.

So how I wish to end an agility career is not because I have to, but because I want to and because it feels right.

With Jammi I feel it’s getting closer to end this chapter. I want to run some jumping courses (only suited for ponies 😉 ), maybe compete a little, but I think it’s ok to stop. We luckily have much more together than just Agility, and I hope we have many more healthy years together to enjoy all these things in life.

Competition in November since our summer break.

HalliGallis first competition

Jan Egil was going to be judging in Denmark two weeks after Halli would be old enough to compete, and my plan was longer to try if we can be ready for at least competing in jumping.

We entered anyway both, agility and jumping. I took the chance to train the competition set-up and see if he is influenced by the surroundings. I made my own little courses in the Agility runs.

One month ago I kind of got a reminder that I really need to step up Hallis slalom training if I want to get it ready. So I needed more system. Ups and downs made me almost give up, but then I changed a little in our system and suddenly he got it. A mix between understanding and learning to fail made him concentrate and understand what to do.

What I did? We trained channel since spring, he loved the speed and that he could control it himself. He early had a really nice focus forward. But as soon as I started to close the channel more and more he hurried too much. So last step was to take a part with 4 poles from the normal weaves and let him try to adapt the movement he learned to only a small part. This we did beside channel which was almost closed. After he understood 4 I tried to add two more, and two more and from 8 I went to 12 which was no problem. It seems that this last step helped him to really understand his job.

I’m really proud of Halli and what he could show at our first competition together. He is growing with each run and we both want more.

Tadaa was joining her first agility trip. She got to stay in the hall, we played and did some tricks, greeted people and she took a nap next to the ring. She’s such an easy puppy and I enjoy her funny and positive temper.

Physiotherapy

We have officially started our agility winterbreak. My dogs get an agility-free periode of 4-6 weeks each year for regeneration. But that doesn’t mean too much laziness – we will focus on muscle building, balance- and coordinationtraining and condition.

We visited Mari Westersund of atletiskhund.no in Froland yesterday and we will work together on a weekly fitness program with all three dogs. Atletisk Hund has all kind of training utilities and a dog swimming pool for safe and effective training. Liv is an active agility athlete with 9.5 years. Ginny a retired sportdog with a slight deformity in the back and little Kairi is a 5.5 months old puppy with still zero muscles. Three different dogs with different needs, that is why I am so glad to have an educated dogphysio therapist and trainer by our side who can support us with personalized training. After an analysis of both weekness and strenghts of all the dogs, all three got costumized lessons.

Liv started with balance training, squats and pushups. She got to know with the swimming pool too and we will try to teach her a nice and effective swimming style step by step.

Kairi got a short puppy session and she got introduced to the balance pads. And with Ginny we were working on hind feet awareness.

We are soooo looking forward to next week and will continue with our homeworks. I can highly recommend to get support/assistance of a professional canine dogphysio therapist/trainer for prophylaxis as well as rehabilitation. We are more motivated than ever to start the new year stronger, faster and fitter. 💪

Visit ATLETISK HUND for excellent instruction with safe tools and swimming training. Mari is hosting canine physio seminars too. Check out the facebook side (click here) for more information. 🙂

Focus – with a little help from evolution

Teaching focus is fundamental in dog training. Sometimes we need our dogs to focus on us, which is quite easy to achieve with calling them. But in some cases we want them to focus away from us. We want a dog who is focused on obstacles and understands it’s task.

Something we teach our puppies is focusing on toys (or food). We teach them not to stare at us, but focusing on an object.

Use science

So why not help ourselves with evolution? There has been behavior studies on communication between humans and dogs. For example pointing somewhere when we want the others attention going there. Tests with chimpanzees & humans and dogs & humans show that chimps don’t understand what we want to tell with pointing somewhere, but dogs do. Their attention goes to where we point. It’s really interesting that dogs can read this sign, since they can’t communicate in this way with each other. I guess that’s the reason why showing with our arms where to go is so natural for our dogs. We can adapt this behavior for tricky starts too. We teached our dogs to focus where we point on command, so if the dog should start away from us we can help us with the focus command.

Interested? Read more about this study

Kairi 4-5 months

Happy 5 months, happiest little goofball in the world!

Toys by floramicatio, treats by Zoo1 Arendal, coats by Pomppa Norge

Self control: We are still focusing a lot on self control and stays as this is the skill Livo is lacking the most haha. #traumatized

Body awareness: I have introduced the first balance exercises to Kairi because I am convinced that it is never to early to train body awareness. Proprioceptive and balance training supports the gain of a whole range of muscles, especially the autochtonous mucles in the core without adding a lot of pressure to joints and tendons. I am looking forward to work even more on this topic with the help of canine physio trainer Mari Westersund of atletiskhund.no in the next months.

Heeling: We are far away from professional dog obedience but I want Kairi to learn the basics. We started with the heeling position on the left side and will slowly build on heeling through the position. But next step is to learn the position on the right side.

And of course we are continuing with the most important: playing, socialization and walks in the forrest.