Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Recently I opened up my big mouth again on the NADAC list about something I find irritating. In my usual fashion, my delivery was pretty direct and apparently offensive to some people. It's not the first time that's happened, and knowing my personality, it probably won't be the last. ;o)

I sent off another e-mail (that is awaiting approval via the normal NADAC moderating system) apologizing for the way I delivered my message and explained some of the reasoning behind what I posted. I thought maybe the subject would make a good blog post.

I am an easily irritated person, I will admit. And possibly quite a few people find ME irritating. lol When it comes to things that irritate me in agility, I have to stand up and admit that the reason these things irritate me is because I used to do them. Yes, almost every single one of the things people do that catch my attention are things that I, myself, used to do before someone told me otherwise. My irritation mostly lies with the fact that nobody has sat that person down yet to teach them a better way to do things. Maybe these "irritating" things work well for that team -- but if that's the case, I don't tend to notice it. I notice when teams are struggling with the same problem trial after trial -- Problems that I used to have with my own dogs until those habits were pointed out to me.

The question posed on the NADAC list was, "What do I name the hoop?" What a silly question, I thought -- First of all, if you are going to name it why not just say, "hoop?" Although I will say that hearing people "HOOPHOOPHOOPHOOP" around a course is more than an irritant; it's downright annoying.

My response contained the same message as several others that replied -- Why name them at all? My mistake was coming out and admitting that it irritated me to hear people naming every obstacle on course. I feel that the dogs get so used to us jabbering away at them on course that they start to tune us out. When we run into situations where they MUST listen to us (OMG, do not go in that tunnel!) they don't hear the frantic screams of, "Nooo!!" because they are so used to what you are saying having no real relevance to them (and hey, let's be honest -- your feet were totally pointing to the tunnel).

I used to jabber at my dogs. Not so much obstacle names (although I certainly did that in the beginning, too!), but lots of cheer leading and other mindless directional babble. It *really* added to Kaiser's stress levels. When someone pointed this out to me I took it to heart and really made an effort to not talk so much. I still have my moments where I revert back to cheer leading (I just can't help myself if they are slooooow), but overall I really do try to keep my trap shut. I don't think I have ever hooted out, "Hoop!" on course, either, and I hope I never do.

Another thing I find irritating (because I used to do it) is the endless use of HERE!!!!!!! on course. Gah!!!! There are some people that I think say "Here" at least 100 times on one course. Generally they do this as their dog is heading off in the wrong direction, when it's far too late. And because they overuse this word to oblivion, the dog has learned that it has little to no value. As a result you have a dog looking at a tunnel, you cry out, "here! here! here!" and they respond with, "Yup, I'll be right with you as soon as I take this tunnel."

It was my lesson with Debbie Erb up in Eau Claire that pointed out just how useless this word is as a cue. They hear it and it has no meaning. What does have meaning to a dog? Their name! Do not most dogs hear their name and snap to look at you? (If they don't, maybe you should spend some time playing the name game where you say their name and stuff food in their mouth.) When I need to get my dog's attention on course, I use their name, not "here." Since I started doing this their focus on me went WAY UP and our off courses and call-offs went WAY DOWN. It was so simple, but it was something I never knew until it was pointed out to me.

Recently my friend, Rich, asked me why I clap my hands so much while running my dogs. Uh..... I didn't have an answer for this. I knew I did it because often times my hands would sting terribly after a run (especially with Kaiser!). He asked me if I did that when I ran them at home and I had to admit that no, I don't clap my hands at home. Hmm. Could I possibly be adding to my dogs' stress levels by doing something different at trials than at training? Duh. Since then I have made a concerted effort to STOP CLAPPING on course. Stop clapping in the weaves, stop clapping on turns, stop clapping to try to "speed them up." And you know what, I think they are happier! I think it makes them faster and their turns are better now that I'm directing them rather than clapping. Go figure. I have caught myself once or twice since then and gave myself a mental slap on the wrist. As with all habits, I'm sure it will take time and effort to stop it completely -- but at least I'm aware of it now!

I train alone and I know a lot of bad habits creep into my routine. Some things I do because I was never taught otherwise. I always appreciate it when someone takes the time to point these things out to me so that I can make improvements -- even better when these tidbits are free from friends or off an agility list. ;o) So while I admit that my delivery could use improvement, if the message made an impact on at least one person then I made my point.

One more irritant from NADAC trials (lol). DO A FRONT CROSS. Thank you, that is all.

Missy's ears are doing strange and endearing things these days. Quite frequently they both stand forward with a floppy tip at the top. It is precious and I wish they'd stay that way, but she quite frequently folds her ears backwards and then they fall. I remember how Secret's ears did so many wonky things and changed daily through her teething period, so it's hard to say how Missy's ears will end up. I think she would look darling with prick or slightly tipped ears, though.

Missy's video has over 250 views on YouTube over the last 24 hours. Sadly, I never heard back from either of her potential adopters after I sent them the new video link. :o( I receive nothing but wonderful feedback from every person who sees the video. Every person who meets Missy proclaims what a wonderful puppy she is and how lucky someone will be to adopt her. Yet here she sits in foster care. We're coming up on six weeks now! For a wee puppy that is smart and adorable!

Melissa pointed out that I should perhaps lay off on the whole Border-Staffy subject when people ask what she might be mixed with. Let them decide for themselves, but apparently I am better off sticking with, "Border Collie mix." There's total truth to this statement -- I mean, we certainly can't say for sure what she's mixed with at all. I went with B-S because so many people see it in her and *I* don't have a problem with that particular mix -- they are bred for sport, after all and for some people this would be a bonus! But I know from my experience at the shelter that there certainly *are* people who will have issues with that mix (especially pet people) and we are probably better off leaving it at BCX. Sigh. Poor Missy.

Today on our walk with her ears standing up in the wind and her tongue hanging halfway to the ground (it's in the mid-70's!!), I started to see more border collie in her. Maybe her nose is going to grow out after all. :o)


  1. Interesting post, your delivery was a bit upfront on the list but then again I think that you make a valuable point. Tell your dog where to go rather than give them one obstacle. In theory if your dog knows where they're going you'll be giving directions 1-2 obstacles ahead (sometimes 3 in the case of tunnel vacuums).

    I have seen a few folks who do over use "here", but I try not to use my dogs name on course. I know I do it anyways, especially when they get their noses in the dirt. In theory my dogs name means "come to me right now, do not pass go, do not collect tunnels, poop, dead animals, or other dog friends on the way." So I use come/here on course for my girls. Sissy gets "come" and Freya gets "here" since I trained them both differently.

    As for a front cross, yes it does have it's value but when you have those 6.5-8 yps dogs I think it's silly to try. I'm not above hauling a** to do a front cross for either of my girls but with some dogs it ain't gonna happen on a NADAC course period! I find a lot of value in switch/back with Sissy, it gets her moving. I don't find switch/back valuable with Freya, she benefits far more from a front cross.

    In the end I think all this junk comes down to you and your dog. I don't give a rip how irritating my habits are, it's my run/dog/time. I'll be as irritating as I want within course time, lol!

    Take heart with Missy and enjoy her for who she is. We too still have our foster dog Chance. It's been 3 months now bless his heart. Perhaps if he stopped starring at shadows and trying to eat cats we could find him a home ;)

  2. Re: front crosses, etc -- I have NO problem with appropriate rear crosses. There are some fast teams that use them almost exclusively and this is appropriate for these teams (although it can be argued that front crosses can be achieved with distance). My issue is with handlers who are faster than their dog, but choose to WAIT for the dog to pass to do a rear cross vs taking the initiative to cross in front of the dog. Then some of these handlers complain about not making course time. If you stay in front of your dog they tend to run faster! If your feet aren't moving, you are wasting time.

    If what a handler is doing works, then GREAT for them. But don't complain that your dog doesn't listen to you when you are a babbler, can't do distance because it gets so used to being babysat and can't make time because you are always standing there waiting for it to pass in front of you. If things aren't working, people need to investigate why rather than moaning about it and worse, blaming the dog.

    Like I said, I don't tend to notice the "irritating" things when they work for a team. They only stick out when it's obvious that the dog is stressed, unsure or unhappy.

  3. Oh gosh! This makes me miss the old UDBB days! :(

    What is a Border-Staffy?

  4. You wouldn't believe the similarities on the NADAC list at times - for real, same personality types.

    A border-staffy is a mix of border collie and staffordshire terrier. In other words, "pit bull," which is what some people may take issue with.

  5. 1. I'm the front cross queen, but I started in AKC
    2. I use here, but I have taught my dogs what it means. I hear a lot of jabbers on the couse, like the dogs really understand full sentences and dozens of words all strung together in jibberish? I think not.
    3. I call a hoop, hoop, if I need to, which is mostly in distance work, not when it's just the next thing in their path.
    4. I haven't been reading the list lately, guess I've missed out!

  6. A Staffordshire Terrier is the true name for a pit bull? I had no idea.

  7. It depends on the registry -- In AKC they are the "American Staffordshire Terrier." In UKC they are the "American Pit Bull Terrier." In the Kennel Club (UK) they are the "Staffordshire Bull Terrier." But then, of course, you have all of the OTHER breeds that commonly get referred to as pit bulls that aren't.

  8. I've been enjoying your blog! We've just recently added agility as a sport in our house for our little terrier mix.

    Regarding your foster's proposed breeds:

    Actually, the SBT is a totally different breed with a different breed standard and sizing.

    But when you are dealing with Breed Specific Legislation, the American Pit Bull Terrier, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier all get lumped under the umbrella term "pit bull".

    The APBT is recognized by the UKC and the ADBA, which is an APBT only registry. The AmStaff is recognized by the AKC. The SBT is recognized in both the AKC and the UKC.

    In many, many cases going back in pedigrees, the AmStaff and the APBT will have common grandparents and great-grand parents. It's only fairly recently, that the registries closed their stud books.

    The Staffordshire Bull Terrier may share common ancestral history with the APBT and AmStaff but they are their own breed.

    I'm not an AKC fan but their breed standard pages may help explain the difference: