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Breed Notes - 30 May 2011
Congratulations to Maggie Spencer who has recently qualified out of Novice with Gracie, at an Obedience show in Aylesbury, under Judge Donna Bastin. Maggie has been training very hard as Gracie had a grand litter of puppies six months ago, and getting back into training mode isn’t that easy. Extra meals and laying about can become a habit! (I’m talking about the dog)

Actually, on the subject of Gracie we had a visit from one of this litter, a dog puppy called Jazz , who lives fairly locally. It was good to have Jazz out in the garden with both his grandmothers. Orchid, mother of Isa, who liked the youngster, and Whistle the mother of Gracie, who went and sat in the van – well away from the pup. Some things don’t change.

Something else now, entirely different. Is it me or is everything getting “dumbed down” nowadays? I have received an e mail concerning the three jumps required in all the Working Trials competitions. A petition is being organised to persuade the KC to set up a survey of the dangers and affect of the 3 jumps used in the agility part of working trials. I think that it could be a useful contribution to knowledge about the sport, but I have a concern that the emphasis in the petition is very much on injury (actual or potential) and long-term damage done to competing dogs. For me, this survey should be more neutral in its approach, and at least include as mandatory evidence from the full range of competitors, not only those with bad experiences, in which group I would include vets and chiropractors, whose source material is inevitably and probably exclusively those dogs that have suffered. Perhaps it would be a good exercise to put in place an annual survey/return from all working triallists, on the physical state of all their dogs (including those retired), so that a proper picture could be drawn up after a few years, and the evidence would be actual, rather than anecdotal or selective.

From the point of view of our breed, it would be fair to say that in general, retirement from working trials is hastened by the agility section. Certainly, both of ours have failed that section consistently first, and still happily track, search, sendaway, “sit” and “stay” at home (Limerick can do the last one in her sleep still, at nearly 13!!). I expect that their motherhood also has an influence here. From chatting to owners of other breeds, the heavier dogs do have a shorter working trials life than do border collies. I wonder, too, why the jumps are the size they are……are there specific reasons, or were the heights and length chosen arbitrarily? And why are the jumps the same for all grades of competition, when all the other disciplines get progressively more difficult ? I will try to find out.
One thing I would say. Our girls only tackle the clear jump without any encouragement, leaping gates etc at will. The scale is available in the paddock, but I have never caught them doing it on their own. I think that they may do a broad leap over a stream for example…..on second thoughts, they would probably play in the water instead!!.... I for one have found teaching the Scale exercise particularly difficult (apart from Orchid when I had professional help, with Wendy Beasley) but with straw bales and treating this exercise like a special game the dogs do actually learn to enjoy it. The reward is a hard-boiled egg, and that just makes it special. If you want to try this yourselves, keeping chickens makes a good starting point.

Elaine Betts

elaine@pineshovawarts.co.uk.

This article was posted on: 30-May-11