Clean Run - November 2017 - 50

Early Takeoffs Can
Dash Dreams
By Lori Michaels

photo courtesy lori michaels

I used to joke with friends that my Sheltie Bode needed a helmet to run agility
just like his namesake Bode Miller did
when he competed in downhill skiing.
My Bode had some crashes that were as
gut-wrenching as any you would see in
skiing, but it wasn't due to lack of training or preparation.
In 2008, I was all set to take on the world
with my 2-year-old dog. I had been on
the AKC/USA World Team the previous two years with my Sheltie Skye, who
was nearing the end of his competitive career, and Bode appeared ready
to step into his place. After all, he won
the Grand Prix at the Rocky Mountain
USDAA Regionals that summer, won
or placed in the top three in numerous
classes at the USDAA Cynosport World
Games that fall, and was in all three
event finals at Cynosport. Bode and I
came in second in Steeplechase finals
by a narrow margin and missed a possible Grand Prix finals win due to a bar.
That bar, among other clues, was a sign
of things to come, but at that time Bode
was fast and fluid and I was dreaming
about what the future held for us.
We took a break from agility that winter.
Our next trial was a local USDAA show
in February of 2009. In that short period
of time, my dog had gone from being a
confident jumper to over-calculating
takeoffs and adding strides before most
jumps; often leaving early and knocking
bars. I was certain this had to be due to

an underlying physical issue and I tried to convince my veterinarian that he must have
an iliopsoas injury (although there were no obvious symptoms). We took time off and
gradually worked back into jumping.
As I slowly built Bode back up to jumping 16- and 18-inch bars, the problem resurfaced. This was before much was known about early takeoff (ETO) issues. I only knew
that I had taught him the necessary jump mechanics and felt the complications must
be a result of some hole in our training. Since he was physically sound, I concentrated
my efforts on reinforcing his desire to jump cleanly by stopping him if the bar came
down and rewarding for it staying up. Of course, this only compounded the problem.
It was heartbreaking to see such a young, talented dog struggling with something that
used to be effortless. I was frustrated that I couldn't work through this problem to
return to the level of competition we once enjoyed. I could see the hours of training
going down the drain and, to be quite honest, it affected my relationship with my dog.
When I finally learned Bode's jumping woes were caused by a vision problem and
were not correctable, I was able to appreciate the amazingly brave dog I had instead of
mourning the competitive agility dog he could have been.
With greater understanding of what was happening, I learned how to better manage it. I ran him at a lower jump height and I adapted my handling to help him by
not getting too far ahead and rushing him over the jumps. I re-aligned my thinking
to not be disappointed when a bar fell, but rather to consider if I could have done a
better job giving him information. I became aware of how some surfaces and jump
presentations magnified the problem.
Bode's jumping continued to deteriorate over the next few years. He still wanted to run
fast and had little concern for his body so he would occasionally land in the middle of
a jump and end up rolling. I gradually concluded that it was safest for him to stop competing. But we did find a way to enjoy agility together safely-even though Bode never
got to compete internationally, he was perfectly content winning the world championships of my backyard (with no bars on the jumps) for many years.
While these are lessons none of us wish to experience firsthand, Bode gave me a better
understanding of ETOs, compassion for other handlers dealing with ETO dogs, and
highlighted the importance of continuing to learn as much as we can about ETOs.
Bode made me appreciate the extreme efforts our dogs will make to please us, even
when they know they are likely to fail. Most importantly, he taught me that we often
learn the most from our dogs that win the least. D

Lori has been involved in dog sports for over 30 years, and has been an agility instructor for the last 17. She has represented the USA internationally 10 times at the FCI
Agility World Championships, World Agility Open Championships, and IFCS World Agility Championships. Lori and her Border Collie Solei have earned gold medals in
numerous individual and team events. Although she and her dogs have enjoyed success in both national and international competition, Lori has a passion for teaching
her students the necessary connection and teamwork to reach their own goals with their dogs. Lori has owned and trained multiple mix-breed rescues, Golden Retrievers,
Shetland Sheepdogs and Border Collies. Her household is currently run by three BCs: Solei, C-Ya, and Mooz.
50

Clean Run | November 17



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run - November 2017

Contents
Clean Run - November 2017 - Cover1
Clean Run - November 2017 - Cover2
Clean Run - November 2017 - Contents
Clean Run - November 2017 - 4
Clean Run - November 2017 - 5
Clean Run - November 2017 - 6
Clean Run - November 2017 - 7
Clean Run - November 2017 - 8
Clean Run - November 2017 - 9
Clean Run - November 2017 - 10
Clean Run - November 2017 - 11
Clean Run - November 2017 - 12
Clean Run - November 2017 - 13
Clean Run - November 2017 - 14
Clean Run - November 2017 - 15
Clean Run - November 2017 - 16
Clean Run - November 2017 - 17
Clean Run - November 2017 - 18
Clean Run - November 2017 - 19
Clean Run - November 2017 - 20
Clean Run - November 2017 - 21
Clean Run - November 2017 - 22
Clean Run - November 2017 - 23
Clean Run - November 2017 - 24
Clean Run - November 2017 - 25
Clean Run - November 2017 - 26
Clean Run - November 2017 - 27
Clean Run - November 2017 - 28
Clean Run - November 2017 - 29
Clean Run - November 2017 - 30
Clean Run - November 2017 - 31
Clean Run - November 2017 - 32
Clean Run - November 2017 - 33
Clean Run - November 2017 - 34
Clean Run - November 2017 - 35
Clean Run - November 2017 - 36
Clean Run - November 2017 - 37
Clean Run - November 2017 - 38
Clean Run - November 2017 - 39
Clean Run - November 2017 - 40
Clean Run - November 2017 - 41
Clean Run - November 2017 - 42
Clean Run - November 2017 - 43
Clean Run - November 2017 - 44
Clean Run - November 2017 - 45
Clean Run - November 2017 - 46
Clean Run - November 2017 - 47
Clean Run - November 2017 - 48
Clean Run - November 2017 - 49
Clean Run - November 2017 - 50
Clean Run - November 2017 - 51
Clean Run - November 2017 - 52
Clean Run - November 2017 - 53
Clean Run - November 2017 - 54
Clean Run - November 2017 - 55
Clean Run - November 2017 - 56
Clean Run - November 2017 - 57
Clean Run - November 2017 - 58
Clean Run - November 2017 - 59
Clean Run - November 2017 - 60
Clean Run - November 2017 - 61
Clean Run - November 2017 - 62
Clean Run - November 2017 - 63
Clean Run - November 2017 - 64
Clean Run - November 2017 - 65
Clean Run - November 2017 - 66
Clean Run - November 2017 - Cover3
Clean Run - November 2017 - Cover4
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