Daisy Peel

Author Archives: Daisy Peel

Daisy has been on the forefront of the trend of online agility education, and her Online Classroom is one of the leading sources for those seeking to improve the quality of their participation in the sport from afar. Her instruction, whether online or in person, is widely sought after as some of the best instruction available for those at any level, with any type of dog.

Building your own PVC wing jumps

So, you'd like to build your own PVC wing jumps, and you'd like them to look a little bit fancier than the standard rectangular or square design? Several years ago, I built an entire set of PVC wing jumps – I wanted them to look like European style wing jumps. I made one for each country I've been to in the course of my dog agility travels, which was more than enough for a complete set! Over the years I've seen many others adopt my design and build some gorgeous wing jumps. If you'd like to build your own, here's how!


I got all of my fittings at flexpvc.com:


Each wing requires the following:

PVC Wing Design

  • 27″ Upright
  • 25″ Angled Wing Piece
  • 17″ Wing Bottom Piece
  • 8″ Outside Wing Edge
  • 8″ Feet (x2)
  • 4″ Top Piece

And requires the following fittings:

  • 1 x PVC Wye
  • 1 x 45-degree Elbow
  • 1 x 90-degree Elbow
  • 1 x 4-way PVC Connector
  • 1 x inside cap for the top
  • 2 x outside caps for the feet

All the pieces are 1.25″ in diameter/size


Get Some PVC, Fittings, and Jump Cup Strips:

I suggest you make a spreadsheet so you can calculate how many fittings you’ll need, and how much PVC you’ll need. Each piece of PVC I got was 10′, so I wanted to figure out how to use as much of a 10′ piece as possible with as little waste as possible, even if it meant mixing and matching what pieces I cut out of each 10′ length. Again, spreadsheets are your friend here. Once I realized I could dye the fittings as well as the pipe, and that there were colored jump cup strips…I went a little crazy. But it’s fun!

You’re also going to want to figure out what colors of jumps you want, fittings you want, and jump cup strips you want. Yep, you can get jump cup strips in colors to, CHECK IT OUT. 


Clip and Go Jump Cup Strips

You'll also need a way to attach the jump cup strips to your wings. I used these handy little fasteners:

Xmas tree fasteners for attaching jump cup strips

You’re going to want to clean the writing off the PVC. Acetone (a nasty solvent that you should take the necessary precautions with) works best, along with some steel wool.  Use clean steel wool or you’ll end up just getting ink all over a clean piece of PVC. Make sure you do this in a well ventilated area and don't let the acetone get on anything other than the PVC!


Measure and cut the PVC – it’s much much easier to clean small pieces of PVC than long ones. AND, you may find you don’t care to clean it at all – if there’s writing on a foot piece, just rotate that piece so the writing faces the ground. If there’s writing on an upright piece and you’re going to put a jump cup strip there anyway, just rotate it so the strip covers the writing.


Be ready to work quickly here as PVC cement bonds FAST. Carefully swab a bit of PVC cement (another nasty chemical) on the inside of one fitting at a time, and fit the pipe in to the PVC the way you want it to sit. Be careful – PVC Cement will start to lift the dye out of the PVC you just so carefully stained, so you don’t want drips!

Keep working til you’ve got your jump all assembled:

PVC Wings – painted and waiting to be filled

Before you drill the holes to push the fasteners through your jump cup strips and in to the uprights, make sure that a jump bar of your chosen diameter sits at the right height! Then, drill and fasten your jump cup strips in.

Completed wings waiting to be filled


I wanted something pretty, and paintable to fill my wings with.

I settled on a PVC mesh material. It’s a screen mesh, and comes in different colors and widths. Perfect! I ordered it HERE.

I figured that with mesh in these colors, along with some spray paint (that sticks to PVC!), I’d be set for my flag/country jumps. I used a piece of cardboard as a template, and cut out the wing shapes. Once I cut out the wing shapes, I used a lighter to burn the edges just slightly, to keep them from fraying.

Paint whatever design you want on your pieces of mesh fabric.  After the paint dries, put grommets in at each corner, and drilled holes in the PVC strategically so you can thread a zip tie through and attach the wings. Each wing has four grommets in it, and for each grommet, a hole was drilled in to the PVC fitting so a zip tie could hold the wing mesh in place – with the exception of the zip tie that is underneath the bottom of the jump cup strip (look at Colombia below, you’ll see what I mean).

Below are some images of the jumps I made. I hope you enjoy them, and that you can come up with your own creative ideas! All in all, the costs were a little tricky to track, but I’m pretty sure that each jump cost me less than $50 all told. I like to putter, so the distraction the building of them has provided me has been well worth it. They’re sturdy enough that they don’t tip over as easily as my other jumps, BUT, if the dogs hit them they WILL fall away, which is an important plus in my mind.

Have you built wing jumps using this design? Send me photos of your wing jumps to include on this page!



Loss Aversion…huh…what is it good for?

This content originally appeared in The Agility Challenge as one of my weekly newsletters – but it's an important enough topic that I wanted to share it with everybody!

Download this audio file for later

When I started the Agility Challenge this year, I wanted to center the philosophy and approach around K. Anders Ericsson's ideas presented in Peak: The New Science of Expertise, with respect to mindfulness and purposeful practice. Another great book I've enjoyed in the past year or so is called Top Dog: The Science of Winning And Losing. One of the topics that I enjoyed from that book was the concept of playing to win, vs. playing not to lose.

When you go to a competition, are you playing to win, or are you playing not to lose?

Now, some of you are going to say, “oh, I just want to have fun with my dog,” and to that, I say, 95% of the time, nonsense. Not that I don't think you want to have fun with your dog – that's IMPLIED. Without the fun, your dog isn't going to want to play the game with you. But, we all know you can “just have fun with your dog” in your backyard. We ALSO all know that the SOCIAL aspect of the game can be met without paying the money to step in to the ring. If you just wanted to play with your dog, you probably wouldn't enter it in competitions, which can be a pretty costly enterprise, once you add everything up. If you just wanted to socialize, you could just go and volunteer; much less expensive and arguably just as satisfying, socially.

So, let's just get that out of the way right up front. Everybody wants to have fun with their dog, but I'll wager that just about NOBODY who is at a competition JUST wants to have fun with their dog (of course there are always exceptions, but fewer than we'd like to imagine). If you're stepping in to the ring at a competition, or a trial, or a test, or whatever you want to call it, you're there for something more. It's totally ok to admit that, and I'm going to argue that it's a bit unhealthy to DENY that. I'm going to go even further out on my limb and say that I'm pretty sure that the reason that some of us say “oh, I just want to have FUN with my dog” is that we're putting up a safeguard in case of failure. “Oh, I didn't really care about that Q, I just want to have fun with my dog.” Poppycock, I say!

So, you're at a competition. You've paid the money – for the entry, the fuel, maybe a hotel. This is a big deal. You could do well (fun!), or you could crash and burn (fun?). Your dog could win it all (fun!) or poop in the ring (fun?). You're there for MORE than JUST fun – enjoyment being a necessary part of the equation. Or, maybe, satisfaction, or getting closer to a goal…similar to “fun” but not quite the same, but even so, worth chasing AND implied in all of those is that you're doing your best to make sure your dog enjoys the endeavor as a game, even if you're deadly serious about it (or wanting to get a title, or qualify for a big event, etc.). Now, are you going to play to win, or play not to lose?

Depending on where you are in the world, or where you're at in your agility journey, your answer may differ. If you're in the USA, it's more likely that you're going to play not to lose. You go in to the ring with a Q (qualifying score), and your goal is to keep that qualifying score, for a clean round. If you're in a European country, it's more likely that you're playing to win. You go in to the ring aware of who else is at the competition, and there's no prize for clean rounds. There are no titles. Bear in mind, this is a generality; the rules differ slightly from country to country, but on the wholethere is far less emphasis on clear rounds, and on their accumulation resulting in titles earned, than there is on winning rounds, and on their accumulation resulting in advancement to the next level.

In Germany, for example, where I've competed several times at local shows, including at the A1 level with Chispa (their novice level), there's no official recognition for anything other than winning; winning counts toward advancement. Further, at A1, only agility runs count. Jumping is often an ‘open' jumping class, combining levels A1 and A2. You might get a prize for winning, but it's not as fancy as the prize for winning agility (with contacts) and it doesn't count for anything other than personal satisfaction (and experience).

Sit back and think on those differences for a few minutes.

For those of you in a European country doing FCI agility, how would your handling and mindset change if you moved to the USA, where winning was of no consequence most of the time, and instead, keeping a clean round that you started off with was the goal? Are you currently looking at standard course time as your goal, or are you looking at how close you can get to the top time on any given day as a goal? Do you think you would feel more or less free to “just have fun” with your dog on course if you didn't have to think about winning to advance? Is it truly hopeless if you know your dog isn't as fast as the top dogs?

For those of you in the USA, how would your handling and mindset change if you moved to Europe, where you were faced with the notion that you HAD to win to advance, and that there are plenty of handler/dog teams who never advance beyond level A2? No MACH, or ADCH, or C-ATCH. Are you currently looking at standard course time as your goal, or are you looking at how close you can get to the top time on any given day as a goal? Do you think you would feel more or less free to “just have fun” with your dog on course if you didn't have to think about running clean to advance?


Would you take more risks if you knew that just having a clear round didn't count for anything, but that you had to be as fast and efficient as possible?


The authors of Top Dog discuss the idea of playing to win vs. playing not to lose throughout their book. Here are some of the points they make:

  • Bronson (one of the authors) says “risk-taking is a crucial quality of competitiveness.” Science shows that “if you focus on the odds, you tend not to take the risk,” he says. How does that play in to USA agility?
  • In addition to that, the book states that women tend to be really good at assessing their own odds, while “men are good at ignoring the odds.” This can be a good thing, though, Bronson says: “There's times in our life that ignoring the odds is crucial.”
  • Also, author Merryman points to women's skills at “careful risk analysis and ability to judge really well” as a blessing and a curse. She says that while they are assets on Wall Street, for example, those skills could also work against women. While men can tend to be overconfident, women “will apply that same careful risk analysis to her own work,” she says. “Rather than overselling herself, she's underselling herself.”
  • Bronson says research has shown that at a younger age, women handle competition better than men, especially at elite schools. “Kids keep score,” he points out. “They're very conscious of how they rank versus other people around them, boys especially so.” And “whether girls are on top or in the middle or slightly below,” he says, “they do terrific in elite schools.” Boys, however, struggle if they are not on top. “Being a little fish in a big pond is a particularly bad experience for them,” he says. “Girls can handle it.”
  • Merryman also says “There isn't an ideal type of competitor.” “Po and I write about how people can be playing to win or playing not to lose.”

Merryman goes on to say that the difference is that playing to win means focusing on success, whereas playing not to lose focuses on preventing mistakes. “I think it's easy to switch into that playing-not-to-lose mentality,” Merryman says, “but if you want to grow, if you want to challenge yourself, if you want to innovate, you have to force yourself to be playing to win.”

OK, well, that's all pretty interesting, isn't it? But, at the end of the day, let's be honest, although we are at a competition and we might be ubercompetitive, there are plenty of us who AREN'T. Even in Europe, where winning is much more heavily emphasized, not everybody is interested in making it to the top. That's totally fine! One of the big takeaways should be the last line in the above paragraph. If you want to challenge yourself, you have to force yourself to be playing to win.

Even MORE important, I think, is to consider which mindset might be more fun for your DOG, and which mindset might therefore be more fun for YOU as well. What are the ramifications for how you interact with your dog during training, during class, and during a competition, at all stages, if you're “playing to win” vs. “playing not to lose”? If you're operating under the assumptions that your dog is more likely to go faster if:

  • He's well trained
  • He's well rewarded
  • He's highly praised
  • He's having FUN

How does that factor in to a mindset of “playing to win”? If you take a good hard look and decide that yea, you are at least, some of the time, “playing not to lose,” how is that affecting your training, your creativity, your handling, your strategy, and the FUN you are having (or not) with your dog?

Even if your goals ARE title driven, how can the mindset of “playing to win” rather than “playing not to lose” affect your approach in a positive way?

Have you had runs where you're aware that you're playing to win? Have you had runs where you're aware that you're playing not to lose? What were the differences you noticed in your own mindset, ability to execute, overall performances? What were the differences you may have noticed in your dog's enjoyment, or efficiency, or overall performance?


Performance vs. Outcome Oriented Goals and why the difference matters

This content originally appeared as a weekly newsletter in The Agility Challenge – but it's important enough, especially at this time of year, that I wanted to share it with everybody! You won't be able to comment as directed (that was only for Agility Challenge Members), but, I hope that it gets you thinking about what you envision for yourself and for your dogs for 2019!

Download the video

Download the audio file

What are YOUR thoughts on how the idea of performance vs. outcome oriented goals applies to you and your dog? I hope this gets you thinking about how performance goals AND outcome oriented goals have a place in your planning for what's to come in 2019!

Podcast 21: How Chispa Got To The USA (importing a puppy)

Chispa in her sherpa bag, waiting for a cookie

Chispa in her sherpa bag in 2016, waiting for a cookie


I've had several people ask me about the process of importing a puppy here to the USA. The Centers for Disease Control has stated HERE that in order for a dog to be imported into the USA as a pet, meaning, not intended for resale or commercial purposes, the following must be true:

  • The puppy has to have been vaccinated for rabies at least 30-days prior to arrival in the USA OR
  • The puppy has to have lived for a minimum of six months or since birth in a rabies free country.

If your puppy isn't from a rabies free country, then this means you have to WAIT until the puppy is old enough for a rabies vaccine, PLUS an additional 30-days. In Chispa's case, she came from Germany, which is on the list of rabies free countries, and travelled through The Netherlands (also on the list), and departed from AMS airport, in The Netherlands. So, all good from that perspective. Taco, my sheltie, came from Spain in 2018, and Spain is also a rabies free country by the CDC definition. So, all good there as well.

Of course, if you read the FAQ HEREyou'll see a lot of “mights” and “mays”. Basically, this means that if you are in a bad mood, or if the Customs and Border Patrol officer is in a bad mood, or inclined to show his/her authority, you may still have difficulty bringing your puppy in once you've arrived at your USA destination. In MY case, with Chispa, the border patrol officer, despite being shown printouts of all of the laws and regulations, which I'd printed out for just this reason, didn't understand the meaning of the regulations he was supposed to uphold, and put his foot down on making me sign a dog confinement agreement. Of course HE said it was for the good of MY puppy, that the government didn't want my puppy to die from exposure to rabies carried by a USA animal, but, sorry, that's hogwash. The confinement agreement is CLEARLY intended to protect USA animals from outside sources (and since when has the government cared about MY puppy over protecting its own interests? Right, guys).

So, I signed a confinement agreement. And after about 12 hours in a sherpa bag, Chispa desperately needed to get out and potty and poop (yep, she held it ALL that time). You can draw your own conclusions.

With Taco, I also had printouts from the CDC website, including an updated page that clearly stated that dogs who have lived in a rabies free country for a minimum of six months OR since birth did NOT need a confinement agreement. The CBP agent agreed with me after conferring with another agent, and Taco and I were on ourway.

All in all, bringing a puppy home from Europe was really not any more eventful than bringing a puppy home from any location. Then again, I've traveled overseas with dogs over a dozen times, maybe getting close to TWO dozen now, and so although there's always SOME sort of drama associated with the bureaucracy that needs to exert its will with the paper stamping business, I'm pretty comfortable with the process as a whole. The rules are pretty clear, but like anything, it comes down to knowing your rights, knowing your responsibilities, being cordial to those who hold the pen/stamp/power, and hoping that they're having a good day themselves.

Of course, that's just the paperwork/legal side of things. What about the trip?

Chispa had never been in a crate or a sherpa bag prior to me getting her, so I booked the flight home such that we'd have 48 hours before needing to get on a plane. This gave her some time to bond with me, get over the trauma of leaving her litter, and also gave me some time to work on getting her comfortable in her sherpa. I made sure to have some pee pads with me for the trip, and you can see one on the floor of her bag in the picture above.

On the evening prior to the morning of the flight, she had her last drink of water and her last bite to eat. She'd get some treats during the flight, but I wanted to make sure her bladder was empty. Yes, it's a long time for a little puppy to go without food or water, but a healthy puppy can stand that if it's a one-time thing. Shoot, probably lots of wild dogs/coyotes/wolves as puppies go far longer without food or water and are just fine. In any case. I made sure I had a little bullystick for her to chew on in her crate, and a little puppy kong, and some cream cheese to stuff in it. And, the day prior to the flight, Anna and Chispa and I walked around Enschede, Netherlands, Chispa in her Sherpa, getting used to the jostling. She seemed happy to look out at the world from the bag as long as she was on my shoulder and as long as I was moving. We took her to a restaurant for dinner the evening prior to the flight, and she sat in her bag quietly under the table while Anna and I ate, and while I waited for a phone call from USA Team Coach Nancy Gyes (hoping for that call, which I GOT!!)…the call that every team member hopeful anxiously waits for.

The hardest part of the trip really was the END. Chispa had to be in the bag, while I got antsier and antsier, standing in line for passport control. I knew she had to pee and poop. And I knew she'd fuss if I was standing still. And sure enough that's what happened. And the line took FOREVER. Double forever. And the CBP Officer, as expected, didn't understand the regulations, even though I showed him page after page after page. So I had to sign a confinement agreement. And now she is here with me, and although she seems to want to chomp on EVERYTHING, she clearly does not have rabies, is at no risk for communicating rabies, and is incredibly unlikely to CONTRACT rabies. All's well that ends well 🙂

Taco was just about as easy. His breeder was kind enough to give him cookies for going in to a sherpa bag before I took possession of him. When I arrived in Madrid, the breeder met me, with Taco, handed him over, as well as his paperwork, harness and leash, and some food and a toy, and we were on our way. I spent the night in a hotel room with Taco, and the next morning, we turned around and headed home. He also was able to hold it until we got to Atlanta, and, once through customs, he happily pottied and was fine for the rest of the trip back to Portland.

Do your homework, and be prepared for the worst, but also, know that it CAN work out!

I hope this helps you out if you're considering bringing home a puppy from Europe!

One year later

Fall Farm Dog

Going back and reviewing my videos, it seems that this time last year I was playing around with a mat as a foot target for the running dogwalk training. Here we are, a year later, doing some sequencing on the contacts. Nothing too fancy, other than working on dogwalk–>weaves, which is more of a weave pole problem than a dogwalk problem (although both have to be solid to pass muster!).

Timing obstacles doesn't really do much in the real world but it does provide a way to compare our progress to where we were at a past point in time, where we are compared to other dogs, etc. Having a 1.2 second dogwalk is kinda fun to brag on, but it doesn't really matter too much if we can't put it in sequence. Even so – brag: this first one clocked in at 1.18 even with a crummy approach by yours truly. Second one, best I can tell (based on head coming up at the end, it's pointed away): 1.18 again. Third, to the weaves: 1.84. Fourth: 1.82. Finally, 1.82. It's interesting to note the speed change when the weaves were put at the end of the dogwalk vs earlier, when it was just a jump, which she's more familiar with as an after-dw obstacle.

Bits and pieces, bits and pieces.

Age appropriate sequencing

Last Friday, before preparations for our first ever USDAA trial and 4th Oktoberfest trial went into hyperdrive, I managed to sneak some time in to finish up some pinwheel sequences with Chispa, as well as some contact training. No, she can't do fancy turns and such after the dogwalk or aframe yet. She can't even do those fancy turns and such PERIOD, let alone after a running contact. While I've started to work on landing side approaches with Chispa in bits and pieces, fancy stuff is nowhere near ready for sequencing. When I say “started to work on” I mean I've gone up to a jump set low, with some bacon and a clicker in hand, and have introduced the concept to her. I'm not keen on wild repetition with any behavior to start out with. I'd much rather teach it like a trick, let the dog think about it, puzzle it out, have fun solving a problem, get lots of cookies, and THEN when there is some fluency starting to develop, keep expanding the boundaries of the behavior. Crawl, walk, trot, run. There's an order to it.

As we leave the events of this past spring further and further behind (remember, surgery, all that?), and Chispa seems to be continuing normally, I *am* starting to think about long term agility. Maybe we will “make it” to those green green pastures someday. Maybe meaning, maybe *I* will be the limiting factor (well, more than usual). So, with that in mind, I've started to train some of the behaviors that I anticipate Chispa *may* need in a few YEARS. I'm still not in any hurry, because I don't anticipate her needing to employ these behaviors in a sequence for…years.

But, that doesn't mean I'm endlessly wrapping my 1.5 year old puppy (yes PUPPY) or working on crazy weave pole entries. Shoot, we're working on weaving twelve poles continuously at the moment. I just don't get the idea that young dogs MUST learn these things as young dogs or they won't learn them at all. There seems to be such a rush to skip over the basics. Nothing new, I suppose, it's kind of been that way for a while. I want understanding, not rote repetition. I want a teammate, not a robot. That takes time and understanding. I feel incredibly blessed to have Frodo to remind me of that even while Chispa and I are starting out. Frodo at this point knows so MUCH, and understands so much nuance that I never directly trained…and Chispa is very, very raw, but oh so fun.

Anyway, videos below. I'm shamelessly pleased with our pinwheels, and ecstatic with our contacts. It's a moment in time, a rung on the ladder, a step on the journey, and we're not settling in to or hunkering down to stay in this moment – we're moving on the moment we've mastered a thing, but it sure feels good to have mastered that thing as a step toward other things.


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Keeping it Novice

I'm a little bewildered at all of the people I see doing crazy 1000x wrap sequences with their young/Novice dogs, when I'm just working on pinwheels with Chispa. When I'm not feeling confident, I wonder that I'm behind, that I should be doing all that crazy spinning wrapping stuff with my 18 month old puppy (yes, still a puppy). But, that lasts about a nanosecond – there's really no need to do that with her when she still barely has the forward focus to get through a Novice AKC course. It's not like our learning as a team is going to stop and I need to cram that info in NOW OR NEVER. Crawl, then walk, then trot, then run. We'll get where we get, as my skill and her ability allow for.

So, with that in mind, here are some sequences we've been working on at home recently (you'll need to be logged in and a subscriber to view, because these sequences are part of the 2017 Agility Challenge September Handling Challenge).

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Labor Day Update

Chispa's best run of the weekend was on Monday, and she really had a fire lit under her little butt:

She presents challenge I've not had to deal with for a long time – the challenges unique to a young novice dog who really wants to go FAST 🙂 The last young dog I had like that was Solar, way back in 2008. Solar and I headed in to the ring in the Fall as well, and while I have some footage of our first foray in to the ring, there are a whole lot of runs I don't have on video – runs where I left the ring when he was too nuts to concentrate, runs where I stood still and watched him take all the obstacles in the ring without me, runs where I'd ask him to sit to see if his brain was still there, only to see that his eyes were spinning in his head.

Juno was a lot less confident as a youngster. Frodo was not a confident youngster. Chipper – not a confident youngster.

…and…Chispa. She doesn't lack for confidence, and her overarousal is hard to spot, because she doesn't dance around, or bark, or show many outward signs of being SUPER ready to rock and roll. In fact, in the run above, we'd just overcome (to her) a major disaster; she pooped, had a hanger-on, and decided she could in no way walk until I pulled it out for her. Then, the run above happened – it was like I lit a firecracker in her butt.

All in all, a good weekend, and this wasn't the only thrilling run – just the most entertaining!

Baby dog sequencing

I suppose I could be setting up sequences that are more novice in nature, but Chispa is going to get plenty of that in the actual novice ring, so I've been challenging myself to run her like the novice dog she is on the sequences I've been setting up to work on with Frodo. Here's what we worked on last night:

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Jump and Dogwalk training continues

Things are chugging along with Cheeseburger – we've taken a bit of a break from sequencing in the past week or so in order to devote our training time to contacts, weaves, and jump training. Here's a bit of where we're at:

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