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Agility

Agility World Championships 2011 – Lievin, France

Gill : 18 October 2011 7:28 am : Agility, Dogs in the News, Videos

The Agility World Championships have come and gone and the South African team did really well. Congratulations to everyone who took part. You can be proud of yourselves and your dogs. For the dogs to perform so exceptionally after the long flight and in the indoor environment is a real achievement. The SA Team spent some time competing in Germany before making their way to France.

Here’s Chinzi competing at Ratingen, Germany.

I didn’t do a post at the time because all the Agility fans where following the live streaming and you certainly can’t beat that for being up to date. Special mention must be made of Annaret and Chinzi who came 10th overall in large and our Medium team coming 7th out of 28 teams. Awesome guys.

It was tough deciding which clip to include in the post! With the list including the likes of Susan Garrett, Lee Gibson, and Sylia Trkman you can imagine. They’re all such inspiring handlers. You tube contributor Agilika has 244 videos to choose from. Make sure you have uncapped access before dipping in :)

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Teaching Gugs to “Go Go!”

Kath Fraser : 6 September 2011 7:17 am : Agility

A very important skill for any agility dog is to be able to run ahead of the handler negotiating and focusing on the obstacles with confidence and enthusiasm. This enables the dog and handler team to be faster and safer as dogs can run at top speed without waiting for their handlers to catch up and co-ordinate their striding independently which prevents the possibility of many injuries.

Many dogs struggle with this skill, in my opinion, because handlers move with their dogs during foundation training and therefore the handler’s movement becomes part of the dogs learning. This can be prevented by mostly eliminating handler movement during early foundation training.

This becomes more logistically possible when rewards are placed ahead of the dog away from the handler. This not only helps the dog to focus forward on the obstacles but they also learn that it becomes more rewarding to work ahead of you as that is where they get rewarded. Make sense?

So this is how you get started

Playing the “Ready go” Game

Ready?

Step one: Hold your dog on a flat collar/harness and tease them with their favourite toy, at the same time holding them back

Step two: Throw the toy one metre in front of them (this distance can be gradually increased). You can chant “ready” in a voice of anticipation as you encourage/allow them to pull against their collar towards the toy.

Step three: Release to the toy only when he is facing the toy with enthusiasm. Play a game of tug when he reaches the toy.

Step four: Once he starts to understand the game and is darting to the toy every time start to say “go” as he leaps forward.

Go!

Another tip is to use the environment to reward this behaviour, for e.g. play the “ready go” game in the forest where there are squirrels to chase or on the beach when there are birds to stalk.

Good Luck!

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International Agility Workshop – Cape Town 2012

Gill : 31 August 2011 6:00 am : Agility, Announcements

In March 2010, Kath from Jump Agility Dogs arranged for Toni Dawkins and Anne Harmes to come to South Africa and hold agility workshops for the local addicts.

Anne and Toni with their agility dogs

Anne and Toni

In January 2011 she did it again by inviting Lee Gibson, also from the UK. Before Lee left Cape Town to present workshops in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg he said he’d definately be back.

Lee Gibson Workshop 2010

Lee Gibson Workshop 2010

We were pleased to hear that he will be and … that we don’t need to wait very long! Lee Gibson and Lucy Osborne will be in Cape Town in January 2012 and the list of workshops to be presented is amazing. Everything sounds so interesting it makes it really hard to choose.

Download the updated 2012 international workshop schedule here.

Lucy’s boy goes by the name of Ben Bombastic Mr Fantastic. With a dog who goes by that name, her classes are bound to be interesting. Can’t wait.

If you haven’t booked yet, there are only a few spaces left, so book quickly if you don’t want to miss out.

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Agility – Premacking

Kath Fraser : 28 June 2011 5:00 am : Agility

Go Go Gugs

“Premacking”

Huh?!

The Premack Principle, named after David Premack, is one of the most simple and powerful tools for teaching dogs, especially in agility. The learning principle states that a stronger response will reinforce a weaker one, more simply put, a behavior that your dog loves, (such as chasing squirrels), can be used to reward a less enjoyable behavior, (coming to you when there are squirrels to chase!). It’s important to remember that you need to have taught your dog to come to you before you can apply the principle. Eventually the weaker response will be as strong as the reward.

To illustrate the concept with my own dog Gugs I have chosen one training goal that I am currently working on.

Goal: Pay attention to me (when I ask for it) when other dogs are running and playing around her.

Reward: Running or playing with other dogs.

You will notice that I have chosen what I ‘want’ as my main focus and not what I ‘don’t want’. Gugs particularly struggles to respond to me when my other dog, her BEST friend, is running. As a result I have little control over Gugs when Penny is around -which is always. As you can imagine this is a huge barrier to the success of all our training so this is the step by step premack plan of action.

Step 1:

Goal: nose touch on my hand on the lead (see picture). I taught this with a clicker and some treats

Agility Prekack - Nose Toch

Gugs - Nose Touch On Hand

Reward: Run with Penny

The goal will gradually progress from a hand touch to face to face attention for an increasing length of time, off the lead. Running with Penny will gradually progress from at home in the garden to the dog club and finally on walks, when the excitement for running with Penny is at its highest.

Dog Running

Penny Running

If you’d like to try premacking a behavior with your own dog I suggest you start by teaching your dog the concept first and begin with a ‘reward’ that is slightly less irresistible than chasing squirrels. An example of how you could start is;

Goal: “Sit” quickly and pay attention

Reward: Dashing out the back door or through the kitchen door to his dinner

Remember you must have taught your dog to sit using treats as a reward before you try this. Put your hand on the door knob and wait until your dog looks up at you (probably because he is wondering why you haven’t opened the door yet) and then say “sit”. Once his bum hits the floor, say “yes” and open the door. If he doesn’t sit, walk away and try again in a few minutes.

Once you have mastered this and apply the principle to other behaviours, you will be well on your way to having a more responsive dog in any environment as he’ll begin to discover that he can have more access to the things he really enjoys if he gives you what you want first.

Written by Kath Fraser

On the 1st of July Gugs and Penny will be competing at the South African Dog Agility Association’s National Championships . If you happen to be at the Knysna Oyster Festival over that weekend, come and see the dogs in action at the Knysna High School field (next to the carnival). Download Event Schedule here.

Kath runs a small agility training club in Constantia called JUMP Agility Dogs. She offers individual and group classes from foundation to competition level. She is also available to run workshops for existing training groups wishing to find out more about agility. She can be contacted on kath@superdogs.co.za or 021 761 6219 or 082 2640553

Photo Credit for “Penny Running”: Shannon Jacoby

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Agility – Go Go Gugs!

Kath Fraser : 17 May 2011 8:20 am : Agility, Articles

Kath and her Border Collies, Penny and Gugs, are well known in agility circles. Thanks to Kath for this article and the photo’s of Penny showing us how it’s done. Over to Kath.

Most would call us barking mad!.

Penny Jumping In Fine Style

Gugs enthusiastically races through tunnels, flies over hurdles and weaves in and out of poles. At the same time I desperately try to keep up shouting, ‘go go go!’ in an attempt to make her go faster. Some would say that’s crazy. But it’s not crazy, it’s agility!

Penny Storming Through The Tunnel

Dog agility is a rapidly growing dog sport all over the world. The overall theme is for the handler to direct their dog through a series of obstacles (the course), accurately and quickly. Dogs (and handlers) of all shapes and sizes can participate and dogs of the similar height compete against each other in their own class.

Training your dog for agility is a great way to have fun with your best friend and to meet other like minded people. The only risk is that it’s hugely addictive and before you know it you’ll be completely hooked. Some of us more seasoned agility handlers are constantly seeking new ideas and training methods to improve our dogs’ skill and our handling abilities.

Penny On The Dogwalk

Gugs was found in, and named after, Guguletu in Cape Town. I drove past her one morning as she sat on the traffic circle on NY6 watching the world go by. For me, it was love at first site and as I watched her in my rearview mirror, I couldn’t resist turning around to investigate. I followed her home (as I couldn’t catch her) and negotiated with her ‘owners’ for four days before she was finally mine. She needed to be rehabilitated from a 4kg creature covered in mange and HUMAN scabies into the love of our lives. Training her so far has been some-what challenging but always such fun.

Penny Clearing The A-Frame

Future posts will document Gug’s journey to becoming the star of the show!

Written by Kath Fraser
Kath runs a small agility training club in Constantia called JUMP Agility Dogs. She offers individual and group classes from foundation to competition level. She is also available to run workshops for existing training groups wishing to find out more about agility. She can be contacted on kath@superdogs.co.za or 021 761 6219 or 082 2640553

Photo Credits: Kath and Nadine

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Agility Refocus

Gill : 25 January 2011 1:00 am : Agility, Events

Week one of the Lee Gibson Agility Workshops saw a heat wave hitting Cape Town with temperatures in the upper thirties. Despite these extreme conditions, our doggies made us proud, as always, and worked really well . The atmosphere at all the workshops was fantastic with everyone really excited and eager for new agility tips. There was something for everyone from those with puppies to the advanced handlers.

Advanced Course

Advanced Course - Lee, Kath and Penny

Before I forget, a big thank you to Lee and Kath for rescheduling the private lessons that where arranged for midday on the Wednesday. They where moved to early Thursday when we could train before the heat set it.

Lee spent ten days in Cape Town and then headed off to Port Elizabeth for the weekend and on to Johanneburg from where he’ll be heading home on the 27th . Back to temperatures in the minuses! Thankfully the weather was kinder during the second half of the workshops.

Lee is a good communicator and explained everything really well. Non-agility people will probably be thinking, what’s to explain? I know. It looks like you’re just running around with your dog but there are loads of handling skills and tips that help you finish the course more quickly and more accurately.

We get into a routine in life and often we end up going through the motions. The workshops and the people involved made me think again. Agility is a bit like computer programming. Think then do.

Our dogs are so in tune with us and respond to our body language as well as our moods and voice commands. So often, we can’t understand why we aren’t getting the required result and it’s usually because we’re doing something we’re not aware of resulting in our signals being inconsistent.

Daks has taught me such a lot. At one stage, he’d stand on the start line and ‘refuse to run’. Eventually …. eventually …. the penny dropped ! He was waiting for a specific hand signal to accompany his release command ‘Go’. I hadn’t even realised I was giving a hand signal. So, my boy whom I’d decided was incredibly stubborn, was actually just waiting for me to give him what he perceived to be his release command – Go and the hand signal. Together. Besides being bred as an independant thinker, my boy has the added challenge of being my first agility dog. I’m sure he has lots more to teach me.

Daks At Training - Doing Gridwork

Workshops like these are wonderful because they remind us to be consistent in our handling and to pay attention to our body positioning. Sometimes the simplest thing like changing the direction your shoulders are facing makes all the difference. We also often forget to view the agility course from our dogs perspectiveWhat’s in their field of vision is very different from what we see from our handling position. Add to that the angle from our added height, simply because we walk on two legs, and the course can look very different indeed. We need to give our dogs the benefit of the doubt.

They’ll always do their best and we should take the time to review a course after we’ve run it to see where we can improve our handling and minimise confusion. We expect our dogs undivided attention when training and they deserve the same from us.

Conditioned Gridwork

Conditioned Gridwork - Kathy and Jinja

If our handling is consistent and our instructions are clear, our dogs know what’s expected and they can attack the course with confidence and speed. Most importantly, they can relax and enjoy their run instead of wondering what we might want next. By informing our dogs timeously of what’s coming next, they can also adjust their stride accordingly enabling them to compete safely without risk of injury.

Like lots of things in life, the more you learn the more you realise there is to learn. Beware, if the agility bug bites, it bites!

Photo Credits: Gill

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International Handler’s Workshop – Final Programme

Gill : 12 November 2010 8:10 am : Agility, Events

We’ve just received the final programme for the Lee Gibson Workshop

International Workshop – Lee Gibson – Final Program

Related Post: International Handler’s Workshops – Agility

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International Handler’s Workshops – Agility

Gill : 11 November 2010 7:31 am : Agility, Announcements, Events

Ann and Toni with Gugs and Penny

Reunion Workshop

Lee Gibson

Reunion Workshop - Treat Time!

In March this year Kath from Jump Agility Dogs brought Toni Dawkins and Ann Harmes out from the UK to do some agility workshops in Cape Town. This was arranged to coincide with SADAA Western Province Regional Trials so the most people possible could benefit. The workshops were a great success and inspired everyone to up their game and try new techniques.

A reunion workshop was organised in September so we could go over what we’d learnt and how we’d applied what we learnt at the workshops. It was held in the indoor horse arena at SARDA (South African Riding For The Disabled) in Constantia. SARDA is also where the home of Jump Agility Dogs can be found.

We ended up being very grateful for the indoor environment as the wind came up and the rain started coming down.

The good news is that we can look forward to another visitor from the UK in January 2011. This time it’s Lee Gibson and he’ll be visiting Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg. Details still need to be confirmed but be sure to keep some time available in January if you’d like to attend.

To find out more about Lee you can visit his website Lee Gibson Training.

The flyer advertising the workshop is available to download for your convenience International Handler Workshop – Lee Gibson

Happy training!

Related Post: International Handler’s Workshop – Final Programme

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