For the Beagle that has everything

We’ve been racking our brains to find the perfect Christmas pressie for Beanie and Biggles and we think we’ve done it! It’s a two part pressie and I’m embarrassed to admit that we got a bit excited and let them play with the first half. It was a big hit.

Beanie and Biggles favorite thing in all the world is chasing. Last year we got them a portable lure and whilst they think that’s the bee’s knees it’s not suitable for smaller spaces. We wanted something that was as much fun as chasing a lure but that could eventually be used as a super exciting reward to make sports like agility more fun. Currently we use food rewards but the problem with that is that scraps of food found on the ground, in other peoples pockets or on stalls at an agility competition are every bit as appealing and we tend to lose control if there’s nosh within a 2 mile radius! We want something super-exciting that the pups know they won’t find anywhere except with us.

So, back to the pressie. The first part sounds a bit strange – it’s a lunge whip. The type they use for training horses. It’s a long, flexible pole with a ‘rope’ attached to the end. It cost about £5. Now it might not sound like fun but attach a rope to the end and wiggle it about a bit and you’ll be any Beagle’s best friend.

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Here it is in action:

And some piccies:

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The second part of the pressie is something a bit nicer than an old rag to chase and kill. A JML ‘crazy critter’ fox and racoon as advertised on TV:

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fox

These are just perfect for attaching to lunge whip – they’re all slinky and fluffy with squeakers in the head and tail that’ll make lots of lovely noise when the critters are being killed.

Anything that’s been attached to the lunge whip becomes exciting in it’s own right so in time I’m guessing that we’ll be able to stuff a ‘crazy critter’ in our jackets and whip it out at the end of an agility run to drive our pups wild with excitement.

Help! The Green Witch Pooped My Party!

Today at the St. Andrews Hospice Charity Show Beanie & Biggles finally got a chance to show the world their mad agility skillz.

The show was held in a well lit barn roomy enough to house two agility rings and a row of stalls selling various money-raising items. The barn only had one entrance/exit, but as it was permanently open we decided that our two would-be escapees should wear their Retreiva tracking collars. As it turned out we didn’t have to use them as all the action stayed safely within the barn, though not necessarily in the right part of the barn.. but I’m getting ahead of myself.

When we first arrived, we felt a bit of culture shock. One ring was set out with a course containing purely jumps, while the other had a mixture of jumps and “contact” equipment (A-frame, dog walk and see-saw). Different grades and sizes of dogs were set to run at different times in each of the rings but there didn’t seem to be a schedule to follow, and everyone but us seemed to know what they were doing. Fortunately everyone we asked for guidance was happy to help and before long we were queuing up for our first attempt at the jumps-only course. Susan was handling Beanie, and I had my hands full with the Biggly Boy. Originally the plan had been for Susan to run both our two, but coping with two dogs at radically different ability levels is a strain, and she eventually talked me into giving it a go. I’m really glad she did because one of the rewards of agility of training is a stronger bond with your dog. Although I love Beanie to bits, I’ve often felt closer to my little boy; that’s increased over the last month or so and in his own way Biggles has reciprocated. When I go for a shower, he usually camps out on the bed to keep me company. When I sit on the sofa, Biggles often chooses to cuddle up to me rather than Susan. When I’m doing a bit of DIY, I can always count on my four-pawed assistant to help me botch the job, and last night he even trashed the external drive sitting on my computer desk. But I digress.. back to the agility!

Susan and Beanie went first. There were lots of distractions in the barn, and Susan wafted a chunk of chicken underneath Beanie’s nose to get her focused. It seemed to work, but almost as soon as Susan gave the “go” command, Beanie headed out of the ring. By the time Susan caught up with her, Beanie was frenziedly digging through the contents of a rubbish bag to the side of one of the stalls. Just to be clear, Beanie didn’t merely have her head stuck in the bag, she was fully in the bag, in fact she was virtually wearing the damn thing, and when Susan extracted her she had a bunch of wrappers and other junk hanging from her mouth. Not the best of starts, but then in training sessions Beanie often needs to do a thorough exploration of her surroundings before she’ll settle and give her full concentration to the agility.

Me and the boy were next, and I wasn’t feeling too hopeful. The course seemed very complicated, and I decided just to ignore the sequence numbers by the jumps and make up our own mini-course. Sadly even that fell by the wayside when we actually got started, along with all the handling instruction I’ve had over the last few weeks. Biggles went over some of the jumps and round the others, but he stuck with me and that in itself was a victory worth celebrating!

Our next performance was to be in the mixed equipment ring, and again Susan and Beanie went first. This time Beanie was looking very focused, and when the “go” command was given she bounded over the first three jumps like a champ! Susan gave the command “right” for the first turn and Beanie responded immediately.. by turning left, sprinting out of her ring, straight through the other ring and up to the stall she’d visited earlier. She didn’t concern herself with the rubbish this time though; she went straight to the back of the table and positioned herself for a shock-and-awe raid of the seller’s goods, which, it turned out, included every kind of smelly dog cake you could imagine. Sardine cake, trout cake, kipper cake – it was all there, ready to be speed-swallowed by our thieving little girl! Looking at the video, it’s like she’d actually planned to do that right from the start – her attention was on Susan completely right up to the turning point.

As you’ll see, her devious plan was scuppered by a life-form she’d never encountered before – a green witch. The witch grabbed her, picked her up and handed her over to Susan. What a party pooper!

Now it was Biggles’ turn. The mixed-equipment course was longer but much simpler than the jumps-only course, and after Biggles’ initial performance I felt that we might actually be able to muddle our way through it. I was mentally rehearsing the turns as I led him up to the starting position but I needn’t have bothered, because the moment I said “go”, his nose hit the floor, he locked onto Beanie’s trail and sprinted off towards the stall with all the tasties. It was an impressive demonstration of his scenting abilities because he followed Beanie’s route pawstep for pawstep, but he wasn’t quite as fast as the Beanster and was quickly apprehended (albeit by a different witch).

Beanie was allowed a second go at the course, but it had about the same low level of agility content as the first, save for a brief weave round a guy who tried (and failed miserably) to block Beanie on her way to the kipper cake. At this point we knew that any further attempts would end the same way, and said our goodbyes. I have to concede that Collies – along with just about every other breed of dog that doesn’t begin with “b” and end in “eagle” – may have an edge in the agility ring, but our two certainly provided the most entertaining performances of the day!

Here are the edited highlights of our first agility show:

Notice how Beanie keeps scanning the contents of the stall even while she’s being carried past it – casing the joint for a future repeat raid! Yep, our girl truly is a criminal mastermind.

Our Beaglets had been very well rewarded for their little raid on the doggy treat stall and we didn’t want them thinking the objective of an agility competition was to counter surf all of the stalls. We’d set out with a freshly roasted chicken, venison, sausages and cheese to reward them well if they did anything right. Most of that was still in our treat pouches so we decided to set up a course as soon as we got home so that we could reward them well for doing things properly. The agility show had clearly taught them something because we’ve never seen them so focused and keen to do agility. Take a look at the clip of their first and only run. Needless to say we quit while we were ahead and gave them the biggest reward ever – the entire contents of the treat bags.