Wednesday, July 26, 2017

16 months - Official UKI Debut

A few weeks ago Kenna had her official UKI trial debut. UKI allows dogs to compete in 2 events, Nursery Agility and Speedstakes, starting at the age of 15 months. I don't think Q's in Nursery count for anything, but Speedstakes does. No Q's for Kenna, just a couple of little mistakes, but I was very happy with how she ran. She was fast, focused, and very responsive. She is such a good little puppy for just 16 months old! I can't wait for September when she gets to start AAC and CKC!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Regionals 2017

Kili and I participated in the 2017 AAC Alberta/Northwest Territories Regionals in June. You will remember that last year at her very first Regionals she blew me away and placed 3rd. This year we stepped it up a notch... literally! Right into second place!

We started with warm up day on Thursday. This is when we all arrive and get our tents set up. This year the competition was in Edmonton, so we didn't have to drive or stay at a hotel which was nice. You can also do warm up runs where you just get to do whatever you want with the equipment, and can use a toy reward. And there's also 2 rounds of Steeplechase. The Steeplechase runs are normal AAC sanctioned runs, so you can count them towards your titles if you Q. Kili Q'd both of her rounds, finishing her Master Steeplechase title (requires 10 Q's) and was also one of the fastest combined times so she qualified for the Steeplechase final on Sunday afternoon. Keep an eye out for the bird that made an appearance in our first Steeplechase! That was exciting... but not for me! The Steeplechase final was the very last event to be run on Sunday, and everyone (human and dogs) was exhausted. Poor Kili was SO tired. It was her 10th run over 4 hot days and she was not really on the ball. However, she gave me everything she had left and she finished third!

I was really happy with how we ran overall. We had some missteps, and Kili was Kili, which is always interesting, but I felt like we were really on as a team for pretty much the entire weekend. She was listening and I was hopefully being a good handler for her. I struggled a bit this year with expectations. Last year was very stress free because I didn't expect us to do much except hopefully have some good runs... and she went and placed 3rd! I had anxiety about "what if we don't do as well this year?" and I found it affecting my enjoyment of the trial. I reminded myself that Kili has already proven herself, and no one really cares where she places, so neither should I. And although I had to give myself that pep talk before every run (I'm a competitive person, what can I say?), and I wasn't completely without nerves, it did help and I found myself much more free to enjoy myself. Side benefit: I run better when I'm not nervous!

One of my goals from last year was to do better in Gamble. I think we did achieve that goal, but I was still a bit disappointed as I think we could have done better. The first Gamble was our very first run of Regionals on Friday and she came out absolutely wild. When she's wild she can't hit weave pole entries. If she'd been a bit more settled, we definitely would have had that Gamble. Oh well. More stuff to work on!

Sadly, I made a last minute decision not to attend Nationals again this year, despite it being close by in BC. I am also playing competitive Ultimate Frisbee this year and I have several trips to attend for that, as well as a trip home. Nationals ended up being at the bottom of the totem pole and I decided to cut it to conserve money. Also, I found out that it was being run on sand, and Kili can be such a princess about sand. I was concerned about spending the time and money to go and her not running properly because of the footing. It is sad though, because this is the last year for Kili to be competitive as the jump heights are changing as of January 1st and she'll be competing against large border collies. I'm okay with that though. This dog has absolutely nothing left to prove to me. She has attained all of the career goals I set, and shattered any other expectations I had of her. I'm happy to just go along for the ride and see what else she plans to achieve!

Here's Kili with all of her swag! Where will I put it all!?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Kili - First UKI trial

Kili also attended the UKI trial last weekend. We struggled a bit with the footing in the barn. We do trial at this barn a lot and generally don't have any trouble, however sometimes the footing can be a bit softer and fluffier, and Kili absolutely hates this. I have no idea why, but it's very demotivating for her and she'll be slow, she'll pop her weave poles, etc. It is incredibly annoying, especially since there doesn't seem to be any way to train through it. I also find it particularly annoying because she LOVES to run in sand otherwise. If you take her to the beach she'll run like a demon. At our one practice barn that is VERY sandy, she'll muddle through practice, but then when we turn the dogs loose to run while we clean up... she will gallop around like mad. I have just come to accept that she is a princess and there's not much I can do about it except try to cheer lead her through, so you can hear me talking and yelling a lot more than usual in these runs.

All said though, she came away with 2 Q's (her Jumpers run wasn't videoed), so not a bad day.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

15 months - UKI (unofficial) debut

Recently the girls and I tried out UKI agility for the first time. We already play in two other organizations (AAC and CKC) and really didn't need a third one to split our time and money to. However, I decided to sign up because they allow dogs to compete at 15 months in select classes (Speedstakes and Nursery). Unfortunately, those classes weren't offered at this trial, but they ended up offering some unofficial fun runs which was just as good. Kenna is ready to trial, she's just not old enough, and fun runs and the younger start age in UKI are great for exposing her to running in a trial environment.

Trials are a different environment from what most of us train in. There are lots of other dogs around, it's loud, it's busy, and handlers are often a bit stressed or nervous. Some dogs find this environment scary, and others might find it overly exciting. And then there are dogs that become trial-wise: they learn that at trials there are no food or toys in the ring. Many young dogs struggle at first in trials because of these reasons... they get anxious, or they get too excited to focus properly, or they just realize that it might be more fun to run around on their own since you don't have anything for them anyway. Since Kenna has all the skills she needs to start trialing, I want to start exposing her to running in trials so she learns to focus and stay with me until the end and that her reward is coming... it's just delayed a bit!

Kenna did absolutely wonderful. I was so pleased with her. I alternated taking a toy in to reward her with, and making her run the entire thing and giving a jackpot outside of the ring. This keeps her guessing for now, and I'll slowly start to phase out the toy in the ring until we never have one. She was beautifully focused, she listened very well, her contacts were perfect, her weaves were perfect. I am just so happy with her and it was so much fun to get to show her off for the first time.

Here are her runs (or portions of her runs... my videographer was a little late on a few of them!)

The other reason I signed up for UKI is because it is the only organization our friend can run her dog in. Fisher is her almost 3 year old English Setter. He developed cancer on his leg as a 3 month old puppy. He was treated with radiation several times to control it, but just before his 2nd birthday last year, it stopped responding to treatment and the leg had to be amputated. Unfortunately, this meant he was no longer allowed to run in AAC or CKC agility. Fortunately, she found out that UKI leaves this matter to the discretion of the judges. Most of the judges around here have seen Fisher run before, and they know that he is safe and not in pain. Fisher just has so much fun doing agility. He is such a joy to watch on course, and we had a great time getting to hang out at a trial again. We are joking about attending World Team tryouts next year... just show up with a greyhound and a 3-legged dog. Can you say #underdogs ? It just goes to show that ANY dog can do agility. Go Fisher!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Lure Coursing

A couple of weeks ago, I took the girls out to their very first lure coursing practice. I'm not that interested in lure coursing personally as I prefer sports that involve more training and partnership, however it is really cool to see sighthounds doing what they were bred for. And there is nothing more spectacular than a hound in full sprint.

Dogs are typically started on "straights" which is just the initial straight run from the start. This allows them to really get on the lure and stick with it. I also only wanted my girls running straights because I'm afraid they'll hurt themselves on the turns, though I'm assured that this isn't a common issue.

I was a little surprised to find that Kili had to be encouraged to chase the lure. She's probably the more prey drive of the two, and I thought she'd be really excited. As it turned out though, I don't think she really saw the plastic bags as prey (smart dog I guess!), but she did catch on after a bit of encouragement. Kenna was a rock star. She saw the bags and just went for them. At the end of the straight when the lure was dead I then recalled them back to me and was very pleased with how promptly and enthusiastically they came back.

The girls had fun, so I think I will take them to another practice sometime, but it will remain a side activity for us.

Check out the spit flying!

Friday, June 09, 2017

NACA dog show 2017

Another Northern Alberta Canine Association (NACA) dog show is behind us. This is a large, local show that we attend every year for agility, and this year Kenna also showed in conformation. The show also hosts Rally and Obedience competitions.

I was so pleased with how Kili ran. She was listening and controlled all weekend long, but we just couldn't seem to find our lucky charms. On some very tough courses we handled all the hard stuff but struggled with minor 5-fault errors and only ended up Q'ing 2 out of 9 runs. It's almost more disappointing when we run well but can't Q. Still, I was very pleased with Kili's performance, and I got a couple of nice comments on how well she was running.

Kenna showed 3 days in a row, and sadly I can tell that her interest and comfort with showing are dwindling. She was absolutely fabulous the first day, stacking well, beautiful free stacking, super interested and attentive. There were no other greyhounds entered that day so she went to the group ring automatically. She made the first cut in group but not the second for placements. Still, that's the best we have done in the group ring! Later that day we were entered in Juvenile Sweepstakes and Kenna won Best of Opposite Sex! To get there she had to beat out 4 other 12-18 month females of various breeds, then she went into the ring with the winners of the 6-9 month and 9-12 month categories and the male winner of the 12-18 month. The 12-18 month male won the sweepstakes, and Kenna was second. Unfortunately, in sweepstakes there are no championship points awarded, however you win a portion of the entry fees. Her total earnings for the day was $91, which basically paid her full 3 days of entry fees. Yay! Unfortunately, she was not too happy about having to go back into the ring the next two days. She was a good girl and did her job, but she just lacked that happy spark that I like to see. We will go to some more handling classes and try to get her more comfortable again.

As a special treat for being so good, and having to go in the show ring while Kili got all the fun of playing agility, I convinced the hosting club to let me run Kenna for fun at the very end of the trial. The last class was Novice Jumpers, so that's the course we ran. Kenna was tired and pent up from a long day in the show ring and in her crate, and at first I don't think she knew what to make of being brought into an agility ring. She was so excited! This was also the first time she's gotten to play outdoors since last fall. And she's never seen this ring before. What a good baby dog!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Biker hounds

Kili and I added a new activity to our repertoire 2 summers ago - biking.

I hadn't had a bike in probably 10 years. I loved to bike as a kid, but I outgrew my bike when I was a teenager and didn't replace it because I had started to have a weird knee issue whenever I rode. My doctor tells me that a lot of women have irregularly shaped knee caps, so this might be the cause. When I ride a bike, if my knee doesn't straighten at the bottom of the cycle it starts to "lock". I'm not sure how else to describe it. It doesn't hurt but it is very uncomfortable and makes riding unpleasant. I would have to stop every couple of rounds and shake my knee to "loosen" it, and if I didn't it would get to a point where it couldn't get any tighter and would "crack". And then the whole thing would start again. As a result, I haven't really ridden a bike in quite a long time.

I finally bit the bullet and went down to the bike shop in town. I thought perhaps if I had a bike that was fitted to me properly, maybe my knees wouldn't be such a problem. Success! I do still feel a bit of it when I ride, especially on hills, but with the right sized bike adjusted so that my legs can totally straighten while I'm riding... I'm actually able to enjoy biking! I am so excited!

Kili and I love to go out to a big dog friendly park in Edmonton and hit the trails.

I also purchased a "Cycleash" attachment for the bike so that Kili and I can bike safely inside the city as well. She doesn't love this quite as much as she's always preferred to run at a varied pace, however she does seem to prefer jogging with the bike over jogging with me running. This may be the difference in pace since the bike is faster. Kenna also recently started joining me for jogs and bike rides, and she's really enjoying it. I am slowly trying to build endurance on both girls, though Kenna does seem to have more of a natural knack for distance. Here we are demonstrating our Cycleash attachment. In theory I can attach a second bar on the other side for a second dog, however I haven't been able to buy the arm attachment only, and anyway I'm not ready to have a dog on each side as I still check in on them a lot right now which sometimes results in the bike drifting a bit.