So much happened in 2019 – hundreds of days with happy memories. Some days of success, some days I’d rather forget. And a few days that showed me that life can be brutal and unfair. When I think about the past year, I don’t want to think about the moments I can brag about. I want to think about the moments I am thankful for. Thankful for being loved, being in love, being healthy, being able to work, being supported and surrounded by the best family, friends and dogs I can imagine.
I have no fancy new year’s resolutions this year. Life has been good to me and it’s time to give something back. Bring it on, 2020.
Three years ago my little surprise was born. I wasn’t sure if I would have a puppy until this day, I remember it like yesterday. When Jan Egil showed her picture to our friends and said «This will be our new dog».
Tvitvi was my first small dog and my first Papillon. I fell in love with her the first time I saw her. She was small, fluffy, confident, funny and biting us all the time. After some time she got also really cudely. I remember watching her while she was sleeping and even telling Jan Egil that she is just the sweetest creature on this earth.
In 2017 we travelled a lot. From Czech, Austria, Germany, France, Northern Norway. Little Tvitvi was an easy and fun traveling companion. Afraid of anything, facing every adventure together with us. She made so many friends, and I think she made quite an impression to some people too.
She was so unbelievable clever and motivated. I had so much fun training with her, I had to take myself back to do not too much. But we had so much fun together.
I remember her warm body rolled together on my lap, she always chose to sleep in contact with me.
And then on january 21. in 2018 the accident happened… I still can’t talk about this day. Only that it broke my heart. I still can’t understand why this most innocent soul had to leave us so early.
I’m thankful for all the nice memories we could share in the short time we had together. I’m forever thankful to Elli, her breeder, who gave her to me. I’m also thankful to Elli and Rebecca, the owner of Tvitivs sister Funny, for becoming my friends.
Fast as the wind, brave as a lion, beautiful like the midnight sky. I miss you. Every day. My beloved Tvitvi.
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.
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.
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. 🙂
Happy 5 months, happiest little goofball in the world!
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.
The concept of trainsmarter.no is to build a strong understanding of tasks/behaviour outside of the agility field and to transfer the skills into the agility field. You don`t need to be an agility professional with a lot of equipment for this. No agility venue, no own garden, no obstacles. All you need is a little bit of creativity and patience. You have so much time to connect the behaviour to obstacles when your pup is old enough. The goal is to minimize repetitions in training as well as physical and mental stress on your future agility partner.
One example is teaching left and right. I started teaching left/right when Kairi was 15 -16 weeks old and we are still working on it. Teaching left/right to perfection is quite a mission. That’s why I am starting when the puppy is quite «young» (15-16 weeks) and why I want to proceed in small steps.
1. Teaching the movement Kairi learned to turn left and right without any objects with 15 weeks+. I use «Twist» for turning left and «Dreh dich» for turning right – two very unlike vocals to make discrimination easier. If your dog is not offering any twisting, you can use a treat and try with luring, but take care you don’t help too much and for too long. We want the pup to figure out the task. Goal is to teach the puppy the movement of turning the head. That’s why I’m clicking the head movment, this is the keypoint of the exercise. Head turns first and the body follows. I’m starting with just one direction. After understanding the task and connecting it with the vocal, I introduce the other direction. I wouldn’t start with both directions at the same time, this makes shaping/understanding harder and the dog will focus more on luring than on thinking. I have very little video material from teaching twisting, unfortunately. But here is a short video of testing the directional cues and training with distractions.
2. Introducing an object Now the real fun begins! After teaching twisting without objects, I introduce an object to the movement. So, Kairi got already an idea how to use her body and her pretty head, and she learned to love the twists and turns. That’s when I introduced an object, in my case an empty bottle. First, I rewarded steps close to the object. Then I rewarded her passing the object, going around the object. On the next steps, I was shaping the full circle with rewarding first every nanosteps, then two, three and more and more steps. Remember that you can influence the steps of your pup by throwing the treats to the direction, you want the dog to start again . After Kairi got an idea about what I expect of her, I introduced verbals. In connection with a object, I use different vocals and not the cues for twisting. In Kairi’s case it’s «Capcap» and «Ciiiiiik» (inspired by Silvia Trkman) with a long iiiii . Again, I try to make the vocals sound different to help with discrimination. And also here, I start with one direction and add the second later. See the video below for the first steps of shaping.
3. Generalising and adding movement Take your object and move to other rooms. Use the same rooms but other objects (trees, cones, barrels). Sit, then kneel and stand and sit again. Use toys instead of food. Add slowly movement, restrain and weightshift. Do whatever you can think of to generalize the behaviour. If you have been patient enough in the previous steps and your puppy knows what to do, all of this will be a piece of cake. On the following video, you can see Kairi’s first time training left/right on the agility venue with restrain and some speed. And she just knew what to do. Nevertheless, we will use the next months to gain even more understanding, more confidence and independence. And I’m quite sure it will be as easy when moving to «real» agility obstacles, when Kairi is old enough. I am not going to use an agility wing in the next few months, but that’s ok. No stress at all. 🙂
Last weekend, we had the spontaneous opportunity to participate at the Norwegian Open workshop with Tereza Kralova and Jan Egil Eide. Norwegian Open has been cancelled due to the Norwegian dog disease as you might know. Luckily, the organisators could offer this workshop on the weekend instead of the competition. I have to admit that I wasn’t very sad about the change of plans, as I am not as glad in competitions as I am in trainings. Nevertheless am I looking forward to an amazing NO 2020. This will be next year’s agility highlight for sure.
The seminar itself was exactly what we needed. It has been a long time since we attended such an agility bootcamp. We got pushed and ran like there is no tomorrow at Tereza’s course and met some tricky challenges at Jan Egil’s training. I was definitely at my limits on saturday. Surprisinly, Livo – 9.5 years of age – was not and it is so good to see how fit such a little dog can be. I am still too slow for my 9.5 year old dog after all those years.
Looks like there will be more running training for me and rear cross training for Liv in future. We are still suffering from lazy-handler-syndrom obviously.
«Oh nooo, not another puppy online class…!» – is maybe what you are thinking. But don’t worry, it ‘s not. This blog is an invitation to follow two crazy dog ladies, their dogs and their alternative agility lifestyle… – okay, forget the ladies, this is getting even better:
An invitation to follow the journey of two puppies, Kairi and Tadaa, on their way becoming agility stars – or not, only time will tell. ✨ But you can see them growing up, learning, playing, thinking, eating poop, being kids, being naughty, being challenged, being on adventures, being normal family dogs. And most of all, being damn cute!