Supporting agility dogs with specialist lifetime cover

;

The all or nothing dog...

When Glynis Smith got into agility, her aim was to socialise her Sheltie Sam. Steady and reliable, he wasn't fast but he was accurate, and he only needed one more win to reach Grade 6 before he retired. But, as we all know, once you've started agility, you can become addicted, and Glynis longed for something a little faster. She never knew what she was in for when she got Dixie.

I had been considering the possibility of getting another pup for a while and, after speaking to a breeder at a show, my name was third on a list for a male Sheltie/Collie cross whose elder sister was already showing promise. I was disappointed when there were only two males in the litter, but found out, when they were seven weeks old, that a female was available. It was Dixie who was destined to be my all or nothing dog.

Hurricane Dixie
The first few weeks were horrendous. I'd be walking the garden for hours at all times of the day and night to get her to perform, but no, the rug in front of the fire was much nicer. It had been scrubbed so many times that I replaced it when she was six months old.

She was never still. The house was strewn with toys, chewed socks, post, shoes and any clothing she could find. Anything she came across was fair game. It was at this point that I worried I had taken on too much and was just too old and less able to cope with this Duracell pup. To be honest, I don't think I felt so tired after giving birth to either of my children.

After four months, however, things started to fall into place. Dixie could be left during the day with no issues, and the rug was no longer a toilet. She slept all night.

But calm isn't a word you can actually put into a sentence about Dixie. Even when she's asleep, she's up and moving to another spot every 20 minutes. Hence, when she was 18 months old, I had to ban the dogs from my bed at night. I was simply exhausted.

Starting training
We ventured to puppy classes where she excelled at everything, learning quickly and being the demonstration dog for the rest of the group.

It was at this point, I started to take her in a soft crate to watch the dogs in Sam's training class.

Big mistake.

She could open the zip. I had to sit holding the zipper and drip feed her treats to try to keep her calm. Unsurprisingly that didn't work. We had to use a normal crate to keep her in but calm was missing - and still is as many folk who know her can confirm.

Born to run
Dixie really took to agility. She's fast, sometimes accurate - definitely not steady and reliable like Sam but, oh my word, she is fun.

On the 10th July, 2016, I tentatively paid my entry fees to run her at a Beachside show. This would be her first time in the ring. She was amazing - four runs, five faults in each. She was responsive, listened to every word I said, followed my body movements - and there's a lot of body to follow - and wowed the spectators. One of the Beachside ladies even made a comment on Facebook about my amazing pup.

But that was it.

By the time Dixie turned two, she had decided that this agility game was so much fun that she just didn't have time to wait for me. She would self-release, usually before I could even get to the first jump. For four years now, I have thrown most runs, patiently putting her back on that start line, where she will wait, release on her cue and run a clear round after already being E'd.

Fast forward
Now she is six years old, and we frequent the world of competitive agility most weekends. And every weekend we come away with an E for every run - big fat Es but with some amazing work. If they gave a rosette for every E, I could decorate my house and have plenty left over.

Between 2016 and 2017, she managed enough KC Jumping wins to go to Grade 4. She's still there!

At this point, I would just like to mention that Dixie has been hampered by a very accident-prone handler. Broken ankles followed by reconstructive surgery, smashed metatarsals and torn muscles, have resulted in me being housebound for approximately three years And, of course, there was also Covid!

So far in 2021, she's had one clear round at UKA which was the result of a re-run. I can only assume she waited because she already thought she'd had enough fun at the start in the first run.

She also has a little quirk of putting in an extra jump for good measure and, if things go wrong, she will take any jump trying to get the right one. I have to call her in and settle her.

Don't get me wrong
She will have the odd clear round, especially if it begins with four jumps to a tunnel, which ideal for both of us. She will work well at a distance on the right course, once winning a Steeplechase at an independent show in 14.9 seconds... not too shabby!

In the whole of 2019, she managed three KC wins - one with 5 faults - so she needs two more wins for Grade 5.

She has, however, made it to the league finals at T & A in every one of her competing years, just managing a handful of clears in the preceding 12 months to scrape in at 5th place. We've never won. We have always been E'd, but we get a lovely rosette for attending! When the league winners and finalist presentations were going ahead in 2019, there was an announcement over the tannoy that we had managed to get to jump 11 before being E'd. This in itself was such an achievement. And if we ever manage a clear round the clapping and cheering is such a lift to both of us.

Keeping positive
Until the last couple of years I would leave shows very disappointed. It would get worse when I thought about the other dogs we'd trained with - younger than her - and some already at Grade 7. I had this amazing dog, but I couldn't seem to get her around a course.

In training she has a rock solid wait and usually doesn't put a paw wrong but, in the ring, she's an independent, deaf, single-minded, speed freak. Trainers and judges alike are astounded by the way she can do the complete opposite of what I'm asking even though I'm in the right place, giving the correct command and using the necessary body language. Recently I tried to turn her left after an A-frame. We were still clear with three jumps to go. I said left, my body turned left, my dog turned right and took a tunnel.

Many KC judges have spoken to me about this wonderful, stunning, amazing little dog who will go far once I have her undivided attention. She'll be seven in January and I'm still waiting.

We travel to many shows, the furthest being 63 miles away. We like to vary our pickup points for our Es. After all, variety is the spice of life so they say.

A glimmer of hope
As I sit here, I'm thinking about the last couple of weeks at Dogs In Need, T & A Independent and Agility Ability KC shows. You can probably guess the outcome.

We had one agility run with only 5 faults and two runs with a wait. I made up my mind on the very last run. If she broke her wait, then her lead would go on and she wouldn't get to run. I walked off, arm out, waiting to see her rush past. I reached my release point, turned my head, and there she sat, still where I'd left her, ears pricked waiting for her 'okay' like butter wouldn't melt. I was so shocked and pleased that I fluffed jump three and we were E'd, but I didn't care. It was the second wait of the day.

Life with Dixie is amazing, hectic, exciting and so much fun. I have no illusion that we'll ever gel in the ring, but I'll never give up trying. A 45 second run with my girl will always be a roller coaster ride or a complete car crash, of this I have no doubt. But in my mind, I see myself flying around on the green carpet at Crufts - but definitely without the Lycra - and Dixie taking the last jump and glory.

Right now this is merely a pipe dream but, whatever the future holds, I know I have the most loving, affectionate, happy, crazy, beautiful pup cuddling up beside me on the sofa each night, and I wouldn't change it for the world.

Epilogue
I'm not really sure how this happened but, since I wrote my story for Agilitynet, things have changed dramatically. I've not had a single broken wait in any run. We had two 2nd places at UKA, qualifying for the SWAG Steeplechase Grand Final. And at the Norfolk Autumn show, we only had two handler error Es out of six runs, a 2nd in Jumping and a 1st in Agility, leaving us to secure just one more win to Grade 5.

I'm totally amazed as is everyone who has witnessed this incredible transformation, long may it last.

Your Feedback

Lucy Fulford
This is such a great article! Having Dixie's brother, I totally understand where you are coming from with an all or nothing dog. Dixie, with her wait, Loki with his arguing at tunnels and go rounds. But, wouldn't change him for the world. You know I'm a massive fan of you and Dixie. I'm super proud of both of you. I wish I could handle Loki like you do Dixie! (12th October 2021)

Sally Pleasant 
Reading Dixie's story sounded so familiar. This is my all or nothing dog, Zebedee. Threw so many runs as he would break his wait. He only had two competitive seasons due to a toe injury for him and then my own ill health causing me to retire him from competition very early at only four years old. But in that very short time he reached grade 7. It was either E or win. Simple as that. He is an awesome dog. We still train for fun, and distance handle only now. (12th October 2021)

Tracy Down
This is Wilf, my crazy spanner. Always boom or bust, never just a clear round. We finally got it together and had 2 wins at grade 5 by the time I lost him. I used to envy those people who would go out for a nice safe clear but I really miss the adrenaline of taking of the start line and hanging in for dear life and getting that clear. (12th October 2021)

Samantha Ellis
This is Marley. She's only just starting her agility journey at one years old. We are about four months into training and she loves it! Picks commands up very quickly. She is either switched on and focused on the job at hand listening to every word I say. We have to rely on vocals as she's so fast. Or she's off saying hello to every man, woman and dog, totally switching her ears off. Definitely an all go or nothing kinda gal. Definitely a Dixie in the making. (12th October 2021)

Shirley Elkins
Love the story. Here's my ‘all or nothing' dog, Kira (aged 4.) She is fast and furious and I can't keep up. I do try, but age is catching up with me. This year up till August, she has had 14 clear rounds out of 172 runs, beat that. Her clear rounds consisted of 6 x 1st places, 5 x 2nd places and 3 x 3rd places. But I love running her and to me she is just ‘my crazy merle girl.'(12th October 2021)

Rebecca Williams
This is Mabel,. She's only three. I got a Small dog so I would be able to keep up. We mostly get Es as I struggle to get in the right place because she's sooo quick. Most runs I just hang on for dear life, hoping for the best, screaming direction from behind. It's starting to come together and when it goes right is awesome. We never come 2nd. (12th October 2021)

Lynne Humphries
My all or nothing dog. If his bottom lipped started juddering on the start line, you knew you were in for all kinds of crazy! Seriously fast but not always in the right direction. When we got it right, it felt amazing. I had to retire him during lockdown and I'm kind of missing the flying by the seat of our pants runs we used to have. (12th October 2021)

Karen Stubbs
I had an 'all or nothing' dog in Meesha, now almost 12 and retired. Her KC name totally summed her up... not for the faint hearted.  No two runs were the same. You never knew what she was going to do, but she was great fun to run. (12th October 2021)

 

Amanda Luttman
I don't have an all or nothing dog. I have a dog that is full on everything at 100mph. And when I handle right and get my timing right we can go clear. There is always a bit of luck involved. And when it goes wrong, we learn. It's never nothing. When I perceive my dogs turns right here I think all about me q'd a left, I look back at the video and see the subtle signal that wasn't quite right. And if I believe I really did get it right, then I know my training hasn't been enough. And so we go back to train it. So it's never nothing. (12th October 2021)

 

Annabelle Smith
We love watching Dixie run. When she’s clear, the whole place erupts with cheering.
(12th October 2021)

 

Jennifer Costello  
Dixie is just awesome. (12th October 2021)

About the author...
Glynis Smith
has always lived in Norfolk and has had dogs for the majority of her adult life. Dogs were - and always have been - her passion.

Due to health issues, she had to retire from work ten years ago and started agility two years later at the tender age of 53. After a few lessons, she was hooked and went on to compete with Sam and later Dixie. She tends to use a lot of distance control and hopes to continue for many years to come.

First published 10th October 2021

[bottom.htm]

© Copyright Agilitynet