Tuesday, 30 March 2010

"My" new toy..

I was lucky enough to be entrusted with the university's camera to take some video of box turns for my dissertation. I was free during div.1 at Rotherdrax so unfortunately they became victim of my filming for the whole day.

The camera takes 600 frames per second and shows the videos in slow motion. It's amazing to watch, and a real eye-opener in some cases. Here is the star of the day, Super Millie from High Flyers. :)

(I say "my" new toy meaning the camera, not Millie!)

Easter so far...

Well, it's been very odd to be back at home and not at uni. I must admit I haven't done quite enough (well...any!) work so far this week. My parents have been redecorating the whole house, and I've been...ermmm...not doing much at all. It has been a welcome break from work, work, work at university though. I really must do some dissertation tomorrow.

For lent, me and my uni friends always give something up. Last year I gave up chocolate, this year I decided to give up chocolate, bread and biscuits! While I was doing this, I figured I may as well go the whole way and eat more healthily in general. After the first week it has been pretty easy and now I've lost the best part of 2stone. So, on the health-kick I appear to be on, I decided to take Jet on a run on the canal...

I went against the idea of running with her on a lead as she pulls like a small train as it is, and I could imagine the chaos. We found a relatively non-muddy bit and set off for about 15mins or so. Jet was ahead of me, going at not much more than a trot (oh the shame) and would have a sniff while I flailed miserably behind her. Anyway, she stopped to sniff and I kept going past her. Next minute...where's Jet? I soon see the crazy black thing precariously balanced on the edge, contemplating going in for a two ducks. She does keep me entertained!

We had agility in the evening, she was surprisingly a very good girly! We had a couple of mistakes but her weaves were amazing and she was listening really well. Leanne very kindly stood with some treats for her on the aframe to really drive her on...it worked very well as she flew over the apex every time and later in the session I was giving her treats on it randomly too. We also worked very briefly on her cross behinds which she is really struggling to read at the moment for some reason. We did have progress by the end of the night though and she was getting much better. I guess we'll see at Hare & Hounds.

Forgot to say in my Rotherdrax post, Jet was seen by the McTimoney Spinal Therapist, and our friend from Rotherham, Kath. She has nothing wrong with her and Kath said she was in fine shape and brilliant condition, so I was very pleased. I like having her checked at the beginning of the season, mid-season and at the end too. I know some people don't full believe in the technique, but I can't see it can do any harm, and if nothing else she gets a nice massage.


A long while back (September 2009), I wrote a review on Yumove for Agilitynet, and it has now been published on the site.

I thought I'd post the link on here, in case people haven't seen it:
Yumove Review - March 2010

Sandrine Farr also wrote a review, so Ellen combined the two of ours together, which is a brilliant idea in my opinion as you get to see too sides.

This review is truly my honest opinion, sometimes when writing something like this you feel the need to "big" a product up, but I haven't here at all. This is a product I 100% believe in, the people who make it are extremely friendly and helpful too - I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

Jet has been on Yumove since last September, and I can honestly say I have seen a huge difference in her. I hadn't even seen a problem with her in the first place! She's also on their Salmo-Pet Salmon Oil and her coat looks great. I'm very proud to say she looks in fine form right now.

Just one point though to be careful of, the tablets smell an awful lot. This makes them irresistible to some dogs, and I know of two pups that have eaten over 100 in a sitting after stealing them *cough*Jive *cough* Yogi.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Flyball Dog Fitness

Well, I said there’d be some observations.

On the BFA Webboard (and spilled over to Flyball Fever) there is a huge debate about the points system. I like points, but I don’t love them to the point of obsession. I’m not going to write about this anyway, as I think a lot has already been said and I’m totally exhausted from reading the emails. However, there was an interesting point raised about “flogging” dogs, and their fitness. Here I’m not disputing dogs being “flogged” it just made me think about general fitness.

A real pet hate of mine is dogs that aren’t fit enough for what is being asked of them – probably to an extent in agility too. Ok, there are always going to be reasons why certain dogs aren’t fit. I can accept that sometimes dogs are recovering from injury or coming back from having litters, and sometimes there are constraints on the handler from working long hours or terrible weather (as we saw over Christmas). However it makes me really sad when dogs are expected to do a whole day’s racing when they’re nowhere near prepared for it. Sometimes there is a noticeably huge difference in times by the end of the day as dogs start to struggle, or are continually re-run. To me, not having a go at anyone, I wouldn’t like it if I was asked to run a marathon having only prepared by having a jog around the park every day. Perhaps I’m just very lucky in the fact that my Mum is in most of the day and does lots with our dogs while I’m at university – and I probably wouldn’t be saying this if my situation was different. Again, I really don’t want to seem like I’m lecturing anyone, but just sharing what I know.

Anyway, being a self confessed geek on this topic, I thought I’d take this opportunity to share what I know. I’ve spent a long time looking up different ways of keeping dogs fit and various theories on the best way to do it. I’ve referenced where I can, these aren’t all my ideas, but I apply a lot of them to our dogs. I have to say though, our dogs can still get a lot fitter, and hopefully now we’re approaching summer and I’ll be back home, I can try even more with them.

Firstly, I have to say that the texts I highly recommend are by Dr.Christine Zink. She’s written three fantastic books; “Conditioning the Canine Athlete”, “Jumping from A-Z” and “The Agility Advantage”. By no means do I agree with everything she says, but she raises some very good and interesting points. Some of what I know is from her, but there have been many contributors.

I won’t write too much, as the references and follow up links are there for you to see, but here goes:

There are four major types of exercise for the sporting dog;

1. Skill training – this is the actual training for the sport itself. For example it might be full runs or boxwork in flyball, or any form of agility

2. Strength – this isn’t weight lifting! This is exercise that involves the dog accelerating and decelerating over relatively short distances, and in some cases pushing against a force. A good example of this would be retrieving or running up hills. This may also involve exercises which they have to use their muscles when stationary or not moving much, for example playing tug, begging or crawling.

3. Endurance- this is more long term exercise and is usually when dogs travel at the same pace continually for an extended period of time. For example 20mins trotting is appropriate, as is 10minutes swimming. In her book, Zink mentions how retrieving from the water, or getting in and out often is more of a strength exercise.

4. Proprioception – this is the awareness of the body, and the position of the body in space. Some dogs don’t have a clue where their back legs are, and how to use them, so this is useful. The purpose of these exercises is to make dogs more aware of their bodies, which will really help in both agility and flyball. Exercises include walking through ladders, backing up, walking over piles of jump poles (arrange randomly and the dog walks through the gaps), and walking over various surfaces. The important thing with these is to make the dog do them SLOWLY. If not, I know Jet would quite happily try and charge through a ladder and do no end of damage to herself!

All of which are important for flyball and agility dogs, but in different proportions. Zink shows how flyball dogs need to focus on strength exercises, and similarly for agility dogs with slightly more endurance. At first, when I read this I wasn’t really convinced that flyball dogs need to focus mostly on strength. My argument being that in a day, dogs will do an awful lot of running and you want them to have stamina and I figured that meant endurance. However when speaking to my tutor (a biomechanics specialist) about all of the above, he questioned why you would want to do lots of endurance. His argument was that rather than doing flyball all day at a continuous pace (like us jogging), you want them to run their fastest and recover quickly, in order to run their fastest again. This made a lot of sense and translated to interval training in humans. In my opinion however, a mixture of interval and endurance can’t do them any harm.

Interval training, briefly is bursts of high intensity exercise with low activity or rest in between. For dogs this would involve doing strength training in blocks, and allow for recovery in between each block. For example you might ask the dog to do hill reps (release the dog to run up the hill – to someone else or a toy) 6 times and then walk around and let them recover and do more strength training once they’re recovered. You don’t have to keep the strength training the same each time; you could do 6 hill reps (recover), 10 retrieves (recover), and 10 retrieves from the water (recover). This would obviously depend on where you walk – but it’s worth bearing in mind. It takes 48hours for muscles to fully recover from this type of training, so probably better not to do it the day before a competition, or to do it every day.

One final interesting point is from Nancy Gyes, who is a founder of one of the top agility schools in the world, Power Paws, and has also represented the USA at the FCI World Championships:

“As an instructor I often see students for private consultation to fix some kind of specific problem. Often the handler is interested in having the dog perform a course or specific obstacle with more speed. I always find it shocking when I get the answer to this question, "How often every week does your dog exercise at a run?" Typical answers range from "once or twice a week in agility class and competitions", to "never, he is a couch potato."

If your dog is not running at full speed while jumping, or performing obstacles, then you need to "take it to the ground". You cannot start any kind of a program to develop quicker ground or contact speed without first beginning on the "flat".”

This is very interesting, as basically I think she’s saying if your dog doesn’t know how to run full speed on the flat, how will they do it effectively on the flyball or agility course?

The overall key principle that comes up again and again is that no two dogs are the same! Each dog is different and may need this adapting slightly differently to get a good balance between stress and inactivity. You know your dog best, but these are my ideas from being a canine conditioning geek.

The Agility Advantage – Dr.Christine Zink
Conditioning The Canine Athlete – Dr.Christine Zink
Animal Physiotherapy – McGowan, Goff and Stubbs

Saturday, 27 March 2010


I love the Drax venue, so when Rotherham was moved there I was secretly quite pleased!

Jet was in Barneys with Norah, George, Murphy and Brooke. The morning racing was rather a disaster with our team somewhat resembling something from Wacky Races! George wasn't quite right, and Norah was spinning running against the two(!) empty lanes so it was understandable really. In the end we did 18.90 (with 0.25s start, so really 18.65), so not too terrible but I know we can go much faster. Jet seemed to run really well, I was a very pleased owner! Her box was neat and tight, mainly as I was shouting her before it and she was coming back nicely. They came 3rd in the end.

I had the posh camera with me to take some high speed shooting of the box for my dissertation. Luckily I was free during div.1, so I was able to film loads of turns there. It was a good draw really as there was High Flyers and Live Wires on uprights, Rotherham and Dream Team on hybrids and finally Cleveland and Cheshire Set on boomerangs. It meant that I could compare all of the boxes pretty equally. I started off focussing on Flyers for Kristian, but then Live Wires and Rotherham asked if I'd do a few more of them too, so now I have many videos to distribute. It was amazing to watch them back and see exactly what some of the turns (that look pretty neat and fast in "real life") actually look like. Live Wires looked absolutely amazing and ran 16.70 (0.1s off the British Record), and congrats to the High Flyers too who did 17.10s (with no Badger).

I boxloaded for Chip and the Nights who came 4th, and captained Barking who came 4th as well, after a tough draw.

Finally, thanks to Sharon from High Flyers for making Jetly her supercool new pink boots! :D

Thursday, 25 March 2010


Well, it's been a while since I've written anything, and I realised that I miss reading things back. Also, lately I keep making observations and I'm dying to put it somewhere...so yes, you will suffer it.

A very quick update, when reading other people's blogs I can never be bothered to read really long posts - so perhaps I'll keep this short.

Uni is hectic, my dissertation into injuries in flyball dogs is going great though, I love it! I'm well over the word count though, but I've been able to borrow the high speed shooting SLR to capture some footage of dogs on the box. Did some playing with Jet with her, when I put the ball in I realised her turn needs some tweaking. Good job I have my expert (boxwork obsessed) sources to rely on.

Flyball wise we haven't done much, we competed at Gap Farm and Doncaster (where I was an emotional exam wreck!). We haven't trained much due to bad weather and agility, but Jet is doing well, she seems to get quicker and crazier. I've found shouting her before the box is making her turn much neater as well, so that should be interesting to see what difference it makes to her times.

Agility we have done a couple of shows, Jet has picked up a few top10s in Grade 3 with some not-so-spectacular runs. She went to Waldridge Fell with Leanne in February and apparently caused chaos - but no change there really. We've got Hare & Hounds next weekend for 4 days with loads of classes. I'm camping with Emma in our caravan, and Cat is running Jet in juniors (poor girl!).

In February I went down to Bristol for a few days (mad -me?) and stayed with Char to go to the Smart Clinic for a seminar. It was a fantastic weekend, great seminar and I got to see Nat too! Yey! Also went to Crufts for all four days (again - mad!) with Leanne, and spent a fortune.

Just broken up for Easter and in the process of renewing my passport for the Euros with Nat in July :D Very scary stuff! "Rotherdrax" this weekend!