Tag Archives: dog agility

There’s no people like dog people

Last Saturday I (Hope) was at the AKC National Championship Dog Show. Among the people we know, there’s a saying: “A bad day at a dog show is better than a good day at work.”

I’m not entirely sure about that since I love what I do, but it was a great time. There was something for everyone who loves dogs: conformation (the beauty pageant part), Obedience, Rally Obedience, Agility, and Dock Diving, “Meet the Breeds,” and shopping. Lots and lots of shopping.

Let’s go to a show!

If you’ve never been to a dog show, take advantage if you see one in your area. It’s a world unto itself, with its own language, customs, rules, and etiquette. The most important rule is never try to engage someone who’s about to compete with their dog. They’ll be nervous, and probably seem rude. But if you wait until they come out of the ring and start by saying how much you admire their dog, your reception will be much warmer. No one can resist a complement for their “kids!”

Technically, the Agility part, where I spent most of my time, was the Invitational – the top five dogs (and one “preferred” dog) in each breed are invited to compete. The top finisher in each breed is awarded the breed medallion. 

You may know that my breed is French Bulldogs. And through the years I’ve gotten to know many other French Bulldog owners. Our dogs aren’t renowned as one of the most athletic breeds, or one of the smartest, but those of us who choose to play sports with our Frenchies have become a rather tight group. 

Cheer squad

5 dog people holding french bulldogs

There were six Frenchies slated to compete, but one, unfortunately, was unable to come at the last minute. All the rest, all five, were there for every single for everyone. Cheering, recording, sympathizing, supporting. And that’s why I love being part of dog sports. 

I was there as “kennel help.” Another Frenchie person actually brought an entire entourage of four. Two had no one helping them – except for their Frenchie “peeps” who stepped up and were there.

Meet more dog people

We’ve said it many times and will repeat it forever – dog people are among the finest on the planet. And a welcoming community as well. If you’re ever feeling the need for a home away from home – get involved with a dog club or group. 

You can start with taking a class at a local club. Finding one may be as easy as saying “Okay, Google!” Or “Hey, Siri!” Resolve to spend your time doing things you’ll enjoy with like-minded people. Resolve to have some fun with two- and four-legged friends. 

Focusing on dog fitness

Is your pup fit?

There are lots of different kinds of dog fitness, as I’ve been learning recently from my fitness coach (my sister Fran! Check out her Fitness Over 50 blog & Facebook group!).

Aspects of dog fitness:


French Bulldogs aren’t supposed to like the heat – but Teddy doesn’t worry about what he’s “supposed” to do!

One aspect of dog fitness is stamina, something I’ve had to work on with my French Bulldog, Torque. He’s the first of the three Frenchies I’ve owned who’s had an issue with heat sensitivity. I know all descriptions of the breed mention it, but he’s of mine who’s actually had it. Dax and

Teddy both adored heat and would lie out in the sun on the hottest days, with no ill effects. Silly dogs.


Another part of dog fitness is flexibility. And it’s another one that Torque isn’t great with, mostly because he’s built like a brick. We’re working on it, hoping to improve his “torquing!” Especially since he’s dipping his toes into the agility arena these days. We’ve also recently found that Booker, Fran’s Boston Terrier, isn’t as good bending to the right as he is to the left. With both of these guys we’re just doing a simple exercise, holding a treat to the side, a little further back as we see improvement, and having them turn their heads to get it. Not too much at a time – we don’t want to do any damage or give them stiff necks!

Tango, Fran’s Brussels Griffon, is possibly the bendiest dog in the world. This boy can practically fold in half. One of his nicknames is “Gumby!”


So we were really surprised when we realized that Tango doesn’t have much core strength at all. He was having trouble balancing and keeping himself upright. We were shocked!

Tango sitting on the balance disc.

It’s been a while since Tango’s done agility, so it could be his core strength has diminished without the jumping, climbing, weaving practice. But he’s still a very active nine-year-old dog, who loves doing Rally, “killing” his brother, and guarding the house with every vocal cord he has. So we want to keep our little guy in shape for as long as possible to keep him as healthy as possible.

One of the exercises Tango’s doing is sit-stand on an inflatable balance disc. This works his core as well as his legs. He’s getting better, but still falls off occasionally and has some trouble maintaining his balance in a sit. You don’t have to invest in a disc to do this – anything that’s not too firm will do, especially for our small dogs. A couch cushion on the floor would work just fine.

Tango standing on the balance disc.

Fran also has Tango spin both ways on the disc. At first, he just followed her “cookie hand” around in a circle. Again, he’s getting better, but still tumbles off the disc. (Is it really bad that it makes us laugh a little bit when he falls off?) This is another one you can do on a cushion.

Every day we try to have individual time with our dogs. Lately we’ve been playing  dog fitness games. And we love seeing them getting fitter and stronger while they play with their moms!

So tired …

Fran on Friday

031513_bkr_slpA few months ago I told you that Booker and I graduated to the Advanced Agility Competition class. We’ve been having fun in the class for sure – learning all sorts of new tricks and techniques. And while I’m not as adept as some of my classmates, I’m holding my own – most of the time!

What I didn’t mention was that the class is on Thursday at 8:30 in the evening. Most days I’d be nodding off on the couch at this time. But on Thursdays I spend almost an hour in traffic to lose sleep at agility class. Class is usually over at about 9:30, unless our amazing trainer really wants to drill home a skill, and then we’re let loose at about 10. Fortunately traffic isn’t usually as bad on the way home, so we’re home by 10 or a little later. (Chicago traffic is abominable!)

But I can’t go to bed right away – Booker is too wound up. He needs to expend lots of energy! He usually ropes Torque into wrestling with him. We let them go at it for 15 – 20 minutes and then physically separate them. Enforced quiet time follows. But then I’m too wound up to go to bed! So we’re usually really tired on Fridays!

The class is worth it, though – the skills we’re learning are invaluable!

Fun, but no ribbons

Fran on Friday

booker_teeter_041716Booker and I ran in an agility trial last weekend. It was 3 rings of fun. Lots of very talented dogs and their people. Lots of great runs and some not-so-great runs. We couldn’t complain about the courses. For the most part, everyone seemed to enjoy them. (Except for one jumpers course that big-dog people were complaining about because it was a little tight.) Booker had a great time. I would have had a better time if we had qualified in anything. We’re still searching for that last Novice Standard qualifying run to earn Booker’s title. He loves running Standard – that’s the course with the contact obstacles. The ones that the dog has to touch the yellow part at the start and finish, like the dogwalk, the teeter-totter and the A-frame. Apparently Booker feels that they just slow him down. He loves to launch himself off the obstacle just above the part that he needs to touch. I must say, though, that both days he did the teeter really well, touching the bottom and waiting for his release cue. And even though he missed it on Saturday, Booker got his dogwalk on Sunday! The A-frame, on the other hand … Just too much fun.

We’ll keep practicing. One day …