Sunday, June 9, 2013

Train, Don't Complain

(Sorry, I don't have any pictures to go along with this post, so you get one of Kaiser posing on our parade float today!)

Yesterday the online agility community blew up. Susan Garrett posted a video of her young dog, Swagger, taking a hard digger during a turn off the dog walk and then shortly thereafter having a pretty horrifying crash into a jump when his feet slipped out from under him on take-off. The reason: Rain.

The video was posted with the following intro:

Why I hate doing agility in the rain. It is just so dangerous for any dog (and handler) let alone a 2 year old that hasn't figured out different surfaces need different styles.

There were so many people who completely lambasted Susan for admitting it was dangerous and then making the decision to run Swagger anyways. Susan later chimed in to say that she had pulled her dogs from many runs that day and that this was an FEO run that she was using as a training session to get Swagger some experience running under these conditions.

This did nothing to calm the tides. I could not believe how many people were having a complete conniption about the situation. Have we really become so soft in this country that we think agility is only for pristine, climate-controlled conditions? (Well yes, okay, I admit I've become very spoiled....)

Watch agility from other countries. They are almost ALWAYS outdoors. They often get stuck running in the rain -- it seems there are several large events known for their muddy conditions. The people who just attended the WAO had to deal with wet & rainy weather in the outdoor ring. If you traveled overseas to compete in agility, would you REALLY scratch your dog because of a little rain? According to the majority of the people posting on Susan's page you'd think the answer would be yes. That's crazy.

We just got stuck running in the rain last weekend. It started raining shortly before Secret's Snooker run -- The photographer got three shots of her that day, all during that class, and her eyes are shut in all three of them. lol So while it's pretty evident that Secret doesn't wish to get rain in her eyes, she otherwise had no problems on that course (aside from dealing with her idiot handler).

I was a little more up in the air about running Luke. It had been raining for a solid two hours by that point and the ground was noticeably worked up (it didn't help that it had rained the day before as well). I did consider scratching him from the run, but I decided to go ahead and take it easy, letting him make his way around at an easier pace; not pushing like I normally would under better conditions. On that day, on that course, the dogs were FINE. It was the handlers who were noticeably having issues. I didn't see a single dog struggle with the surface in that run. A few handlers were brave enough to push themselves to get into position for the front cross (I was too worried I'd fall!), and the rest of us relied heavily on rear crosses. When the conditions call for it, you simple change your game plan.

One point that came up in this overblown thread on Susan's Facebook page was that people just don't TRAIN for running in the rain. I'm guilty of that. If the weather is less than ideal I use it as an excuse to not bother setting a drill and running the dogs.

We lucked out and got through the parade without rain today, but the skies opened while we were down at the park getting a bite to eat for lunch. I got absolutely SOAKED on the walk back to the truck (Lexie and Kaiser were in there and stayed dry). It was still raining when we got home. Luke & Secret had been home all day and were expecting to do something fun. Seeing as I was already wet and figured I couldn't get much wetter, I decided today would be a perfect opportunity to set a drill and work the dogs in the rain.

I just threw five jumps out in the yard in somewhat of a box pattern. I worked all three dogs on fast lines, turns, wraps, backsides, threadles, etc. I didn't see a single one of them slip even once and nobody seemed the least put off by the rain.

I'm glad I decided to go ahead and do this -- and I should keep it up! We don't trial outdoors much (it's simply not offered around here anymore), but I know I would feel better about running my dogs in less than perfect conditions if it was something we trained for on a regular basis.

Oh yeah, I even worked a stupid barrel into our set-up. I brought it out after Secret's first turn and just set it to make a pinwheel out of two jumps that were next to each other. The boys had no issue and drove right around it. Secret's still not sure and is hesitant going into the turn, then drives out when she realizes she was correct. Stupid barrels. We'll keep working with them, though.

We had a fun day with our visitors yesterday. Everyone got along, and I returned a completely green Westie to my parents.  :o)


  1. I think I wrote something similar a while back-about all the bitching and moaning people do about the surface, the equipment, the course, etc. Seriously people, lighten up. It's a game. With dogs. Have fun or just go home.

  2. One of the few times you'll see me side with SG :)