Wednesday, January 30, 2013

LCDA's History Part 2

When Bob and Mickey Lanier joined the club, they did not even own a dog.  Mickey had met some of our members at a community event at Citadel Mall and she knew that she would soon be getting a puppy. Well, Mickey trained Miss Dixie and started to go out of town to trials. Bob was along for the ride.  He started to observe other people’s organization of their equipment.

Our club had already purchased the small trailer that we still own. However, it would not hold a dog walk or an A Frame. Bob started to look for a deal on a trailer for the club. Bob found our big trailer and bought it with his own money. He had to wait for the club to vote to buy it and to get reimbursed. It was a lot of money to our club, but Bob convinced us that if we wanted to get serious about these agility trials that we needed to get serious about equipment. He outfitted it with all of the shelving and we now looked like an agility club.

Dick and Judy Brock also joined our club during this time. The two couples became great friends and Bob and Dick began to make equipment. They made two rings of competition jumps that our club used until we moved to our training field. Then, they decided that we needed jumps that would hold up in the weather, so we switched to all PVC. These nice jumps stayed on our equipment trailer just in case we ever went back to the park for trials. The attached photo is of Miss Dixie playing on one of her Daddy’s jumps.

We are still on our journey through our early equipment years. One of the biggest changes for our club happened when Mike Adams got involved with the equipment. Since he ran a machine shop, he had the perfect resume to build equipment and he knew how to build things to precise specifications. Mike can build anything, so we nearly worked him to death. He made dog walks, A Frames, teeters, tables, and jumps. He made at least two of everything. We packed our equipment trailer full.

The only problem was, the equipment went together like a jigsaw puzzle and it all had to be completely broken down to store on the trailer. So, every time we used it, the trailer had to be unloaded, the equipment assembled, and then we had to break it back down to store it on the trailer. We used to have more fights over people showing up late or leaving early to get out of loading and unloading the trailer. The trailer was stored at Palmetto Island County Park in an overflow parking area. If you were to ask any "older" club member what their most vivid memory is, without a doubt, it would be the loading and unloading of the trailer. The attached photos show Mike Adams with Sporty and also, some of our old equipment that was very state of the art at that time.

Agility Through The Years by Lori Duncan
The sport of dog agility began in Britain in 1978 at the Crufts Dog Show. Dog agility was first introduced in the U.S. in 1986 by the U.S. Dog Agility Association (USDAA) and continues to be one of the fastest growing dog sports in the country. There are several national organizations that hold agility competitions. The two main organizations are: the USDAA and the American Kennel Club (AKC) which began holding competitions in 1994. Other organizations include CPE (Canine Performance Events), UKC (United Kennel Club), NADAC (North American Dog Agility Council), and ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America). Competitions in these organizations are open to all dogs, purebred or all-American. There are several types of courses (Standard, Jumpers, Pairs, Snooker, Gamblers, etc.) in a competition to test different skills and versatility for the dog/handler team.

I’m going to focus on USDAA agility since that is the organization that our club is affiliated with. I began agility in 1993 as a member of our club. We had home-made equipment that we stored on a trailer and hauled out to Palmetto Islands County Park (PICP) to practice. It was quite an event to actually be able to practice because of the time commitment involved with hauling the trailer, setting up, practicing, tearing down and loading the equipment, and hauling it away again. And, yes, the equipment was very HEAVY!!!! We truly have it nice at the training field in West Ashley with all the new equipment!!!

My first agility dog was an Australian Shepherd named Kiwi. She stood 17 inches at the withers and had a stocky build. The original jump heights for USDAA were 30, 24, 18, 12 inches. She had to jump 24 inches – that’s seven inches above her shoulders!!! Needless to say we had problems with knocked bars. By the end of her career, USDAA had re-evaluated the jump heights and modified them to what they are today (Kiwi jumped 22 inches). In addition, the A-frame used to be six feet, three inches high but was adapted to a range of five feet, nine inches to five feet, eleven inches and five feet, five inches to five feet, seven inches. Soon after, the USDAA began a Veterans Program which later became the Performance Program allowing dogs seven years and older to jump one jump-height lower. And now, they have added a new Veterans program that allows dogs eight years and older to jump two jump heights lower to help lengthen the careers of our great companions.

Agility Through The Years by Lori Duncan Cont.
Our training methods have drastically changed. I remember having both Kiwi and Cutter (my Boykin Spaniel) on lead and luring them over a full-height A-frame, dog-walk, and teeter. My first jumps were brooms laid across chairs in my backyard. I had an old tire swing that I had my dogs jump through. There was no foundation at all.

The difficulty of the courses has also changed over time. Kiwi was only able to weave in “heel” position. I was able to get to the Masters level, but I’m not sure I could do that today. In Starters there were rarely any crosses necessary to complete the course. My, how the times have changed!

When LCDA first held trials at PICP, we offered three runs per day (standard and two games). We later began to offer tournament events (Grand Prix, Steeplechase and DAM team). Many club members traveled together throughout the Southeast to attend agility trials and built lasting friendships along the way. I encourage you to travel to some “away” trials to feel the camaraderie within the agility community.

My first trial was an “away” trial because LCDA wasn’t holding trials yet. Kathy Cole, LCDA founding member, drove with me to Florida in 1994. We were surprised and thrilled when we both qualified in our first runs! It was crazy though, because we drove all the way to Florida for a two-day AKC trial and only got one run per day. In the early days of AKC, they only offered standard courses. The next AKC trial I attended we also qualified and Kiwi and I became the first dog/handler team to earn an agility title in the Charleston area.

It’s now common-place to have at least five runs per day in USDAA and two to four runs per day in AKC. More runs equals more fun!!!

“The real joy is in the privilege and ability to step to the start line with your dog by your side, not in crossing the finish line victorious over others.” ~ Gail Storm

To be continued...

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

LCDA's History Part 1

Low Country Dog Agility Club was founded on February 10th, 1993. The Charter members were Bill Farmer, Mary Evans, Kathy Cole, Margie Connell, Cynthia and Hugh King, Phyllis Maclendon, and Doug and Judy Trumbel.

In the beginning, we were very much an obedience club that had agility as part of its name. As Mary Evans recalls “I showed in obedience, and conformation, and then one day a friend said something about us getting together to talk about a new up and coming dog sport, called agility. I asked what is that. They knew about as much about agility as I did, but said it was kind of like horses jumping hurdles. I said sounds like fun, so off I go to our first meeting. There were about 6 of us.  That is when the fun began. We would meet at someone’s home about once a month to talk about agility, and forming our club, and we decided on the name Low Country Dog Agility Club.”

As Mary recalls, I (Wanda) sometimes talk to people about how poor we were. We were so poor that we would have to bring our own drink to the meetings. Of course we had no equipment, knew nothing about building it, but found some information on the USDAA web site.  Equipment in those days was rustic. Over time, the equipment got better as more building plans became available. All of the equipment was homemade. There was no place to buy equipment, other than tunnels. Some of the equipment was so heavy you had to be young and stupid to move it around.

The club’s first major purchase was an open trailer that we covered with a blue tarp. It was stored in overflow parking at Palmetto Island County Park. Before we acquired the trailer, everyone that wanted to play agility would show up and bring their homemade toys and we would set them up together in an open field at the park. That was the beginning of a very close relationship that was formed with Palmetto Island County Park.  The below picture shows a typical setup. In the far distance is Mary Evans green pickup truck with our open trailer attached.


Remember that we wanted to be an agility club and we needed money. So, we turned to what we knew and we taught obedience classes to fund our agility habit. That story will be told another day. You would think with all of those obedience people, that our dogs would have had recalls. Well, we use to chase them through the woods at Palmetto Islands. We needed a fence. With the money that we made, we talked the park manager at Palmetto Islands County Park into letting us pay for a chain length fence. The fence measured about 30 X 120 and it was located at the end of the overflow parking lot.

We paid for the fence and some of our club members built baby equipment to go in the fenced in area. Let me make it very clear…we donated it. We had no rights to it at all. It became the first dog park in the Charleston County Parks system. We lovingly referred to it as the fenced in area. Hugh and Cynthia King were very instrumental in helping the club acquire the fencing and the equipment. When we had classes at the park, you had to stay in the fenced in area until your dog would not run away. It was a special day when you graduated to being able to train in the open field.

The following is Courtney Holscher’s recollection of training in the fenced in area. “Our class met on Saturday mornings and there were only four dogs total in the class; two poodles, a really overweight mixed breed dog, and Sandy. Elaine Magliacane was the instructor. Training methods were much different then as we didn’t have access to adjustable equipment, and the goal was just to get the dog to go over the equipment. We didn’t have targets (I don’t remember ever hearing about any type of contact training until at least a year later with Bud Houston) or any way to train weaves other than luring around straight poles. All of the equipment we used was in the dog park area of Palmetto Island County Park and was permanently set up. Being in a public park, we were not allowed to prevent people using the dog park from coming in while we were having class. So it occasionally happened that we had dog park dogs running all around while we were trying to have class."

The below photos show a very young Courtney Holscher training Sandy on leash in the fenced in area.

Several people have been very instrumental in the development of LCDA into the club that it is today. It was about 1998 that Elaine Magliacane moved to Charleston. Elaine was from Atlanta and had been very active in an agility club in that area. She had put agility titles on a dog. She also had competed in a variety of dog sports. We thought she hung the moon. Elaine is quite a character. She is a little gruff on the outside but has a heart of gold. She and her future husband Ron would drive up on Saturday morning in their pickup truck which would be filled with her own personal agility equipment. At that time, we were not allowed to use the club equipment that was stored on the open trailer for class. She taught 3 levels of agility on Saturday morning with her own equipment. She would sit in a beach chair with a diet coke and a cigarette and tell everyone what to do. If she got up out of that chair, either you or your dog was in trouble. Serving as our club's training director; Elaine set a path for us to develop an agility training program. It was Elaine that pushed for us to use club equipment to train on. She also campaigned for the club to spend the money to have a seminar. Elaine helped us to organize our early agility trials. She told us what to do and we did it. She was a computer programmer by day and she developed our club's first website. That is why we are proud to have Elaine Magliacane as a lifetime member.  Below is a picture of Elaine.

From 1996-2000 our club had a group of people join that would shape its future. Wanda Usher, Mike Adams, Bob and Mickey Lanier, Caroline Hunt, Karen Denton and Elaine Hawes all joined the club over those four years. All of these people have had a profound impact on our club.

In 1997 we became affiliated with USDAA and part of our affiliation required us to put on an agility match which would qualify us to host an agility trial. To keep our affiliation, we had to have two days of trials per year. It was about that time that Wanda Usher joined the club. She remembers attending a meeting and everyone was all in a tizzy about putting on this trial. The club President, Cynthia King, approached Wanda about being the trial Chair. Wanda did not know a thing about a trial, she had never attended one, and she had only taken obedience classes. Cynthia told her that it was mostly paperwork, so Wanda agreed, but with the stipulation that she could put together her own trial committee and things would not be planned in the general meeting. During this time, Wanda would call USDAA and they would tell her what to do, but she would not understand. So she would immediately call Elaine Magliacane and ask her what they were talking about. Somehow we muddled through.  
Caroline Hunt was one of our first trial secretaries. There was no computer program and everything was hand written. 

We managed to put on a trial with equipment borrowed from club members. Mary Evans owned a teeter and an A Frame and everyone else brought their jumps etc. We had a club member’s husband make us the most beautiful dog walk we had ever seen. It was common in those days for the judges to inspect the equipment prior to the trial and write up the club for any equipment that did not meet the specifications. Our equipment people were known to have to take equipment home on Saturday night and make modifications so that it could be used on Sunday. The attached picture shows a group of us at one of our early trials. We use to wear orange vests so we could look real official. Wanda and Caroline are wearing the orange vests in the picture.

To be continued...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mattie's Mistake

If you haven't seen the website you have to check it out.  HILARIOUS!  We all know that our dogs are no angels so we have decided to post our own dog shaming photos.  First up, Ken Walker's Australian Shepherd, Mattie.

Next time your dog does something ridiculous grab that camera and snap a photo for the world to see.  It might make you feel better :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

To Train or Not To Train...

Canine conditioning and rehabilitation.  A very interesting subject and one I intended to write about after attending a seminar by Dr. Maria Glinski.  That was BEFORE my Aussie, Abby, got hurt.  This subject has a whole new meaning when you have a dog who is injured.

First, a little background.  Abby is a CRAZY Aussie (is there any other kind?).  She likes to vault off the couch at home and chase her brother, Rascal, at full speed whether we are inside or outside.  When at agility there is no off switch.  She likes to do teeter fly offs and crash into jump bars.  We have been fortunate that she has been healthy.  Before the last trial, however, she had a limp.  She recovered for the trial and I ran her with no problems.  A few weeks later she had a severe limp after a hard training session.  She wasn't painful or swollen anywhere I touched her and the limp went away.  I decided we needed to figure this thing out.  So we stopped training and tried to make her rest - eventually that meant drugging her with Benadryl in the morning to keep the couch vaulting to a minimum.  After some rest we started small frequent walks for strengthening.  After 3 weeks we have started gentle stretching to make sure it didn't worsen any possible muscle tears.  We are currently in a holding pattern until her appointment with Dr. Maria Glinski who specializes in physical therapy for animals.  

Being a physical therapy student I have my theories about what is wrong with her.  But it gets you thinking about how much stress is put on your dog during agility.  Most trainers will wait til their dog has a problem and then fix it - myself included.  This is exactly how we treat our own bodies.  We need to switch our focus to become proactive instead of reactive.  What does this mean?

1. Dynamic stretching of your dogs before exercise.  Basically this is just warming them up - do some spins, downs, etc.  Save the static stretching (holding a stretch for 20+ seconds) for after exercise.  

2. Include walks or runs as a part of your training.  Not only will it be good for your dog, but you could stand to burn some calories too :)  
***Any interesting side note: Abby's problem didn't start until I was no longer running with her because I was no longer training myself for triathlons.  Her injury may have been prevented if she had more walks or runs.***

3. Take your dog swimming!  Wag N Splash in Charleston, SC offers a facility open year round.

4. Tug with your dog - it's great for their strength.

5. Look into buying a balance ball for your dog.  It will strengthen their core and stabilizing muscles.  Their ball can double as exercise equipment for you!!  Here is my personal favorite:

6. Let them rest.  Sometimes you need to take a break from training.  All athletes have an off season.  Summer in Charleston is hot so I take it easy then.

As a final note you probably noticed little tips for training yourself as well.  Your dog is important, but remember to be proactive with your body.  You can't run your dog if you are hurt.  I do simple exercises 4-5 times a week to help with knee pain.  Keep in mind that physical therapists specialize in movement dysfunction (you can tell I'm a PT student, right?).

Happy strenghtening and stretching!

Lindsay Shuler
Rascal and Abby