Westminster JWW Sequences

At the 4th Westminster Agility Championship, I had the pleasure of running a wonderfully tricky and fun JWW course from UK Judge Paul Moore.  The opening sequence had several challenges, and allowed for multiple handling options.

The first challenge was the weave pole entry, and deciding which side of the weaves to handle from.  Having dog on right was clearly the best option, because of the location of the #3 wingless jump.  The most common way to do this was a front cross between 1 and 2 at the entrance of the weave poles.  The timing and position of this cross becomes critical — too late and your dog may enter at the incorrect pole.  Too early, and you may push your dog to the incorrect side of the poles.  And if you are in the wrong position, you may not give your dog room to enter the poles correctly, and force them to the wrong side.  The last is what happened when I ran Trek on this course in competition.

Alternatively, you could try crossing the end of the poles instead of the beginning.  I find this tricker, because of challenge #2 on this sequence, the off course tunnel immediately after the weaves.  If you are already handling the weaves with dog on left, then you ideally want to start to pull away or hang back from the end of the poles, so as not to drive them into the tunnel.  It is much more difficult to not accidentally indicate the off course tunnel with your body or motion if you are crossing the end of the poles.  If you choose to handle this way, you must start your cross when your dog still has 4-5 poles to go, and simply trust that your dog understand his weave training and will stay in the poles as you pull away.

To avoid the off course tunnel trap with Trek, I used a bypass cue (tapping my thigh), combined with my motion driving towards the correct obstacle, the #3 wingless jump.  This is a valuable tool that allows you to continue to move in the direction you want to go, while simultaneously telling your dog to avoid any obstacles they may see on the way.

Finally, you must avoid the off course jump between 3-4.  For dogs that do a lot of AKC, this looked very much like the typical pinwheel we see within courses.  You can indicate to your dog to not take this jump with deceleration on the takeoff side of #3, +/- another bypass cue between 3 and 4.  I elected to front cross on the landing side of 4 to drive my dog into the correct end of the #5 tunnel, but a threadle into the correct tunnel entrance is also possible there if you have difficulty making the front.

Here is Trek demoing some of these options

The other thing I really liked about this sequence is all the renumbering possibilities.  Here some other options to work on once you have this setup.


And here is Trek running some of those variations:


Posted in Agility Trialing by agilityvet. No Comments

Five Tips to Ensure an Adequate Warm Up and Cool Down When Time is Short

As a veterinarian and veteran of injuries to my own dogs, I try very hard to ensure a sufficient warm up and cool down for all my dogs at trials.  However, running 3-4 dogs within the same jump height often means my preferred pre-run routine gets compressed and modified at small shows.  Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation, or you’ve simply been the inevitable victim of random chance and ended up first dog on the gate sheet.  Here are five tips that you can use to make sure your dog is ready to run if you end up short on time.

Be prepared before the walkthru

When the countdown starts is not the time to locate #1.  Know the order of the obstacles, and have a general handling plan ready to go.  Put a “mental sticky note” on any sequences where you are considering multiple handling options, and quickly run through those choices.  Sometimes cutting short your walkthru is the best option to give your dog adequate warm up time, so be ready.

Potty your dog prior to your walkthru

This seems logical, but wasting time begging Fluffy to potty when you know you need to be headed to the ring is not a good use of your limited time.  Take time when the prior jump height is running to let your dogs do their business.

Phone a friend

If you have a friend available, ask them to hold/walk one of your dogs after your run, while you are getting the next dog out and ready to go.  If this isn’t an option, you can be walking one dog to cool down at the same time you are walking the other to warm them up.  Then in the crate for contestant #1, and a longer cool down for everyone when the class is over.

Focus on what’s important

I’m a big believer that having the blood flowing and the muscles warmed up from simply walking and jogging is more important then any static stretching you might want to do prior to a run.  My abbreviated warmup mostly consists of my dog walking/trotting/jogging for 5 minutes.  I will start in straight lines, then add circles and figure 8s in both directions.  Then while I’m next to the ring waiting for my run, I try to do active stretching exercises.  Things like spinning to the right and left, standing on hind legs reaching for a treat, and weaving between your legs.  I may or may not use the warm up jump at all, but if I do, it’s not to get my dog physically ready to go, but for handling purposes.

Know your dog

If you have a dog with a previous injury, or just have a dog who is getting older, prioritize their particular issues.  My oldest Sheltie Trip had a whiplash-type injury to her neck several years ago.  I will still do a quick massage along her neck/back, along with static stretches of her neck, before every run, while standing at the gate.  For older dogs, and dogs like Ticket with an extensive injury history, taking them outside for a 10 minute walk periodically during the trial can help prevent getting overly stiff or tight in the crate.

These are a few of the things I do to try to keep my dogs healthy and ready to run.  I’ve been at shows where I’ve had as few as 2-3 dogs between my own, so being prepared is key.  What have you done when crunched for time to help your dog perform at his best?

Posted in Agility Fitness by agilityvet. No Comments

A Comprehensive Look At Flying with your Dog

Ticket, Trek, and I recently returned from New York after competing in the 4th Westminster Agility Championship.  We had an amazing time, enjoyed the event immensely, and I was able to do a little sightseeing.  As a veterinarian, it’s hard for me to take too much time off of work, so one of the reasons I am able to travel to events like Nationals, Tryouts, and Westminster is because I am able to fly with my dogs in-cabin.  I have been flying with my dogs for several years, on several airlines, and I thought I would share a few tips that I have learned over the years.

First things first — you need to choose a bag, and determine if your dog is small enough to fit under the seat.  There are a million bags out there, in all different price ranges.  I’ve previously posted about a few different options before.  First, the Sturdibag.  The large Sturdibag is a fairly economical option for a smaller dog.  Trip and Trek are both around 13″ at the shoulders — Trek is 12 pounds, and Trip is 15 pounds.  Both easily jump in this bag, turn around, and are completely comfortable.  The bag itself if very lightweight, decreasing the weight you are lugging around the airport.  It’s fit into the smallest underseat storage areas on United, Southwest, and US Airways, and it’s flexible poles make it easy to fit and yet expand to give the dog as much room as possible.  For shorter trips with the little girls, this is my bag of choice.

There is an Extra Large version of the Sturdibag as well.  While I own one, I’ve never been brave enough to use it when flying, though I know people who have.  I’ve also known people who have been nearly turned away from the plane using this bag, so you definitely try it at your own risk.

Ticket is 15.25″ and around 20 pounds.  The Large Sturdibag is definitely a no-go for her.  So in looking around and talking to people about what they’ve used, I came across the Celltei bag.  This is a higher end bag that can be customized to suit almost anyone’s needs.  I originally bought a stock model of the Large Backpack-O-Pet, which fit Ticket perfectly despite my reservations when placing the order.  However, after all of Ticket’s knee surgeries, I decided I wanted a custom version to allow her more room in flight.  I was able to customize the bag with 3″ zippered extensions on either end, so that after takeoff, I am able to give her extra space to stretch out.  This is the bag I would recommend for medium sized dog, and the bag I would choose to use if Trek ever travels to Europe.  In the posts above that I’ve linked, I’ve taken some pictures and measurements of my dogs with the bags and listed their dimensions, to give you some comparison for your own dog.

OK, so you’ve decided your dog is small enough, and you have your bag.  You want them to be completely comfortable in this bag, so spend some time teaching them to get in and out of it.  I start by throwing treats into the back of the bag, and letting my dog get comfortable reaching in to eat them.  After multiple repetitions of this, I will hold my hand on their bum, to keep them from backing out of the bag, and apply a little pressure.  Not being able to back up, most dogs will then attempt to turn around, but with their head in the bag, this will actually result in their hind end in the bag, and their front end facing out.  BIG jackpot with lots of treats.  If they do manage to back out of the bag, just keep working at it.  It doesn’t take long for them to learn that good things happen inside that bag.  The easier it is to get your dog in the bag, and the happier they act about it, the fewer questions an airline employee is going to ask.

Your airline may limit the number of dogs allowed in cabin, so make sure you call or make a reservation online.  The airline may require a health certificate from your veterinarian.  This is always required for dogs traveling in cargo, but policies can vary for pets in cabin.  I ALWAYS have one, but I have NEVER been asked for it.  Still, I don’t take chances.  If you want to know for sure, check with your airline.  If you want to fly with more then one dog, you are going to have to phone a friend.  In general, airlines allow one pet in cabin per ticketed passenger.

So your trip is booked, and you are on your way to the airport.  I understand you want your dog to have freedom for as long as possible, but ALWAYS take your dog to the ticket counter IN THE BAG.  I really cannot emphasize this enough.  99% of the time, nobody even know I HAVE a dog in the bag until I point it out.  This is how you want it.  Your dog is an afterthought — of course they are happy, of course the bag is big enough, here’s my money, and we are on our way.  In the dozens of times we have flown, the only time an agent said anything to me was on a return trip home with Trip, when I got lackadaisical and walked her to the counter on leash.  DON’T DO IT!

No dogs to see here…

I will insert a warning here.  Unless you have a tiny toy breed dog who is inches from the top of your carrier, and you could comfortably fit 3 of them in your bag, there is always going to be some potential for an individual ticket agent to give you grief, or even prevent you from bringing your dog.  I know a dog who has flown numerous times, in the same bag, on the same airline, get turned away at the counter and not allowed to travel because the agent that day decided her dog needed to be able to completely stand in the bag.  That’s why you should do everything possible to not draw attention to your dog, and minimize questions.  But at the end of the day, there are individuals who may make your life difficult.

Your next stop will be security.  Your dog will come out of the bag, the bag will go through the x-ray scanner.  You can either walk your dog through the metal detector, or carry them.  TSA may stop you and swab your hands, checking for explosive residue.  After that, back in the bag, and on your way.  I will often allow my dog to stick their head out while we’re waiting for our flight.  Technically, your dog is required to be in the bag at all times inside the airport, and you could get a ticket for not following this rule.  This is also the case when you are on the flight.  Please don’t be the jerk who insists on taking Fluffy out and sitting them in your lap.  It’s not fair to your neighbor or the flight attendants.  You’re on a plane, and the rules exist for a reason.  Please don’t ruin it for everyone who wants to be able to travel with their dogs.

Final note — if you think your pet might need a sedative to be calm enough for travel, please rethink flying with your dog.  If you think crying babies on planes are bad, crying/barking dogs are just as bad.  If you’re not sure how your pet will do, spend your time really focusing on acclimating them to the carrier.  Feed them in it.  Take them on trips in the car, or to pet friendly stores.  If they can handle that, they can probably handle a flight.

I hope this helps anyone who has considered flying with their dog.  I have links for the Large and XL Sturdibag in my Amazon Store.  And you can see what Celltei offers here.  Do you have any questions I didn’t answer — comment below.  Enjoy your adventures!

Hiking with Trek in Colorado

Tags: ,
Posted in Agility Trialing by agilityvet. No Comments