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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!

FITTINGS

I got all of my fittings at flexpvc.com:

WING DESIGN

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

CONSTRUCTION

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!

CUT YOUR PVC BEFORE CLEANING

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.

ASSEMBLE THE WINGS

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

FILL THE WINGS

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!

 

10

Hillbilly Hydrotherapy

In mid April, just two weeks prior to the AKC USA AWC Team Tryouts, Frodo and I went from being super prepared and ready to rock and roll to…rehab. Frodo suffered a traumatic tear of his CCL on a Thursday, April 13, and had a TPLO Friday, April 14.

I live way out in the country, and I'm not in to driving in to downtown anywhere to get dogs to an underwater treadmill, but I do recognize the importance and benefits to hydrotherapy, whether it be ice packs, heat packs, swimming, or walking in water (cold or warm).

If you're curious as to the rehab protocol I followed with Frodo, it's a combination of these two:

Top Dog Health – TPLO Guide – This guide is a free download, and I also get weekly emails with videos of each exercise. I'm pretty impressed with how thorough it is. It's fairly conservative, and I've been moving a little faster than this guide spells out, but then again, Frodo was in top condition prior to the injury, not overweight, and I have access to a lot of fitness equipment and information – this guide as well as the next one is clearly aimed at a pet audience. I'm sure that veterinary professionals and rehab professionals are cringing right now, but I'm ok with that – and for sure you can reserve the right to blame my use of this and other DIY resources on any rehab failures we may encounter 🙂

MedVetForPets – TPLO Guide – I can't remember how I found this one, but it's also pretty thorough, and includes more exercises with a little faster progression. I like that I can look at the two together and get a rough idea of how to proceed.

Hillbilly Hydrotherapy

That brings us to Hillbilly Hydrotherapy. With Frodo, since there was no previous ligament disease, and it was a traumatic event, his prognosis for healing is excellent. Getting back to full activity is mostly a matter of building back muscle, once the Tibia has healed. And, building back muscle to the point we were at prior to the incident will be determined by how much muscle wasting occurs while that Tibia is healing. So, I knew I wanted to get him walking in the water as soon as I could. I knew I wanted to be able to do it without driving an hour each way multiple times a week, daily if possible. With Solar, who had a soft tissue injury in 2014, I just used an inflatable above ground pool and walked in circles with him, but I didn't like how he could swing his rear out and pivot, rather than tracking with front and rear together.

When I saw this set up posted by somebody on FB, I knew I wanted to build something like it myself, with a few modifications. Here's my setup:

First, I purchased two stock tanks at my local feed store. One is an 8′ tank, and one is a 6′ tank. When these tanks are shipped from the manufacturer to the store, they're nested. So, not all 8′ tanks are actually 8′ in diameter, and not all 6′ tanks are actually 6′ in diameter. I asked for a large 8′ tank, and a small 6′ tank, and had both delivered to the house. The two together, plus shipping, set me back ~$580USD. I purchased some pipe insulation at Home Depot to put on the rims of both tanks, so that nobody would whack themselves (me or the dogs) on the edges.

I drilled two holes in the tank, using a Milwaukie Hole Dozer, 2-3/8″ in size.

2-3/8″ Hole Dozer – purchased at Home Depot, along with the appropriate bit/base.

Then, I fitted the holes with bulkhead fittings, purchased at Amazon. The fittings were also caulked with marine sealant, purchased at Home Depot.

Bulkhead fittings (2) for tank inlet and outlet. This size will work with 1.5″ PVC

Once the holes were drilled in the outer tank, I made sure that the inner tank was centered nicely, leaving a ring about 15″ wide, all the way around. I weighted the inner tank down with some pavers I had laying around, and then caulked the junction of the inner and outer tank with marine caulk & sealant.

Once the caulk cured, I poured two gallons of a substance called FlexSeal in the ring where the dogs would walk. This not only provided a rubber surface to help keep them from slipping, but it also further served to seal the junction between the inner and the outer tanks. I don't want water seeping under the inner tank, which might make it pop up and float! All the water should be contained to the ring where the dogs will walk, leaving the inner tank dry for ME to walk in!

FlexSeal liquid rubber

It took a few days for the FlexSeal to cure, but by then, I had my two tanks ready to be plumbed and connected to the filter/pump assembly, and the heater.

For a heater, I am using a spa heater that a friend sold to me, but you could easily use something like this:

A 110V spa heater – 220V will heat the water faster but will require a special circuit.

We didn't have a dedicated circuit for a 220V heater, so we're using a 110V heater for now, til we bring out an electrician to update the circuit in the garage (yes, this is in my garage). It doesn't get the water HOT, just 65-70 degrees, which is still pretty good, and frankly, as the weather gets warmer, I don't think the dogs will mind cool water.

The pump I'm using is for an Intex pool – it's a pump/sand filter combination. Also purchased off Amazon.

Intex pumps come with their own flexible tubing, which is stupid. The piece of tubing connecting the pump and the filter I left, but since I wanted to use 1.5″ PVC for the connection from the tank to the pump, and then from the filter to the heater, and then from the heater back to the tank, I had to do a little converting to get the intex pipe converted over to 1.5″ pipe. Thank you, internet:

I love YouTube for stuff like this. So, the water gets sucked out of the tank, travels to the pump via 1.5″ pipe, travels to the filter from the pump using the existing flexible tubing, then from the filter to the heater using 1.5″ pipe, and then from the heater back to the tank.

There are ball valve joints on the outside of each of the bulkhead fittings, so I can close things off if I need to drain the tank or disconnect anything. There's also a 90-degree elbow on the inside of the bulkhead where the water comes back in to the tank, and it's not glued – this way I can rotate it to change the direction of the current in the tank, depending on which direction the dogs are walking:

So, there you have it, Hillbilly Hydrotherapy. Since my tank is against a wall in my garage, there's a backsplash between it and the wall to keep water out of the outlet on said wall. It's just a 4×8′ piece of material from Home Depot that's flexible and designed for bathrooms or something like that. I just wandered til I found what I wanted. Nope, that's a lie. George had it laying around for another project, and I appropriated it.

I do have to lift Frodo in and out of the tank, but he doesn't really seem to mind so much. I suppose I could get even fancier and make a ramp of some sort, or even a door, if I wanted to pump all the water out and in each time. Lifting isn't too bad, though. Here it is, Hillbilly Hydrotherapy in action:

For now, I'm planning on leaving it set up in my garage indefinitely. It doesn't take up any usable space, really, and it's a heck of a lot better than driving anywhere. (UPDATE: As of now, 2019, my stock tanks are sitting outside as defunct raincatchers, and I hope I never need them again!).

Altogether, this cost me less than $1000. And, you know, if I do take it apart, I've got a couple of tanks that I can turn in to ponds, or flower pots or something…

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On disappointment

This past weekend, Frodo and I headed to Perry, Georgia for the 2017 AKC Agility National Championships. As in the past when I've gone to Crufts, the NAC follows almost immediately after. This year, NAC marked the end of a 2.5 week stay in Germany, followed by Crufts, and then, Perry, GA. Frodo and I have come a long way since our first AKC Nationals together, in Reno, NV, back in 2015. We weren't much of a team, although we did manage to have a good run in I think Jumpers with Weaves. We didn't know each other very well, and I was still deeply disappointed to have lost Solar as my running mate when he was still arguably in his prime.

I didn't go to AKC NAC in 2016, for various reasons, but I'd been looking forward to the event this past weekend, because at this point, Frodo and I are a good working team. We still have places to go with respect to our development, we're not finished growing yet as a team, but we're a pretty smoothly functioning team at this point nonetheless.

I'm fairly objective about our odds most of the time, and in my mind, our odds this year were pretty good, given the data that I had going in to the event. And at the event, in the International Sweepstakes Round, we put down a great run, coming in third by just a few fractions of a second. I'd wanted to do well, although winning would have meant turning down a spot to go to the European Open in Italy. Why turn it down? Last year at the European Open, Frodo had a hard time with the crowds ringside – he's much better at big stadium style events where there's more distance between the noisy crowd and the ring. So, while it's possible he'd be better this year, I didn't feel like it was in line with my goals. In any case, ISC was perfect – we did really well, but we didn't win, and so I didn't have to say no, which is chronically difficult for me.

In our first NAC run, jumpers, we had a solid run, and came in first place. I probably could have cleaned up a corner here or there, but it was a solid run. In round two, we had a solid run going, and Frodo slipped trying to take off for a jump. I felt pretty bad for him, he really does try very hard to keep the bars up, and I can't even remember when the last one he dropped was. But, mistakes happen. The rest of the run was a little wobbly, as I was thrown off by the dropped bar. In any case, that ended my plans for making it to the Finals by just having three clear rounds.

By Sunday morning, before round 3, I was a little angry, and a little disappointed. Not in Frodo, just disappointed with myself, and for not having done better. I tend to run a bit better when I'm a little fired up, so it worked out well for us in the third round, and Frodo and I got first again, which meant we made it to a special Challenger's Round. Winning that round meant another shot at the Finals, and again, I knew the odds were in our favor. That's not the same as saying I think I've got something in the bag, obviously. But if you know the times that you and your dog are capable of, and the times that your competition is capable of, you know if you have a shot or not.

Nothing is in the bag, though, and a miscalculation in Challengers, a mistake on my part, cost us what was a pretty nice run up to that point. Again, disappointed.

After that run, several people came up to me and said “nice run!”, which really was kind of annoying, because it was not a nice run. It was an elimination. It was a nice TRY, but it was not a nice run. And that's ok. But please, don't tell me I had a nice run when it was an elimination. Tell me it was a valiant effort, or a great try, or that it was a great run UP TO THAT POINT, but not just…nice run. I don't want to be soothed in to thinking that an elimination was a nice run, because my personal goals and standards demand more of me than that.

I debated writing about that, or about disappointment in general, because I'm not sure how it would be received amongst the USA agility population in general. I'm disappointed about the weekend, no doubt about that. Over and over, I heard people saying that they were “just happy to be here”. That's fine, and I don't begrudge people that, they SHOULD be happy to just be at NAC. But, that is not how I roll. It just isn't. I'm not *just* happy to be there. I'm there because I want to compete, and I want to try to end up on the top of the heap. Finals is not “just gravy” for me. It's what I'm aiming for. It's the meat at the end of the HUNT. And, this past weekend, Frodo and I came home from the hunt empty handed. Yes, we placed at the top of the heap in a couple rounds leading up to the Finals, but with respect to the BIG hunt, we fell short.

Now, don't get me wrong. Our performances were really good, and I am happy with them. After sleeping off the disappointment of mucking up the Challenger Round, I'm even happy with how THAT run went, ultimately. I messed it up and chose to immediately take Frodo to his leash, and his treats, and his toy, rather than finishing up the run in a fog of disappointment. Frodo never knew anything was wrong all weekend, and historically, hiding my disappointment from my dogs is not something I've always been successful at doing. I can be happy with parts of how the weekend went and still be disappointed, though!

There's nothing inherently wrong with disappointment. To gloss disappointment over in a Pollyanna “well I'm just happy to be here” way, or a “this is just gravy” way, or “this is just a game I play with my dog” way can be limiting, though, in my mind. Of course, this IS a game, but it's not JUST a game. Saying something is “only” a game or “just” a game limits its importance in our lives. There's no doubt about it that this game is basically my life. I eat, drink, sleep, and dream this game. Basketball is “just a game” as well, but my guess is that after a big loss, NBA players aren't shrugging off their loss as an “oh well, it's just a game” moment. Minimizing disappointment, or pretending that disappointment in an outcome is inappropriate because “it's just a game” prevents self-reflection. It prevents rumbling with the uncomfortable feelings of not being good enough, not being able to make it happen when it counted, wondering how things could have been prevented or improved.

So, on the two hour or so drive back to the airport, I rumbled a lot with disappointment. Again, not disappointed with Frodo. He did really well, and I couldn't have been more pleased with him. Disappointed in a couple of my handling choices. And just, disappointed in general that I didn't meet my objective. It's Monday morning, and I'm still disappointed. Last night, while deep in that stage of rumbling with my disappointment, I was questioning whether or not I should go to Tryouts at the end of April. I'm far less certain about the odds being in my favor at Tryouts than I was for NAC, and look how NAC turned out? If I couldn't ‘get ‘er done' at NAC, what makes me think I'm good enough to get the job done at Tryouts? These were the thoughts rumbling through my head while I drove and listened to music.

One of the things I am NOT disappointed in over the past weekend was that I played to win. I was pretty sure, given the data, that I could have “just run clean” in most of the rounds, and that those clean rounds would have been good enough for the Finals. But, I didn't want to play to not lose, I wanted to play to win. I watched several competitors this past weekend play to not lose, instead of playing to win. I don't want to do that any more. I really enjoyed playing to win in Germany, and at Crufts. It's what I enjoy about the bigger competitions. However, if I'm playing not to lose at smaller shows, shifting to a ‘playing to win' mindset at bigger shows is going to be that much more difficult. Sure, there's more risk involved in playing to win, or at least it feels that way, but at this point, I'd rather take the risk and fail than just play not to lose. These ideas are talked about at length in a book I read recently called Top Dog: The Science of Winning and Losing. You can click on the link to read about it if you're interested, and I highly recommend it.

Anyway, so, what makes me think I'm good enough for Tryouts? That's kind of where I left it last night. This morning, I'm still very unsure about the odds. It feels risky. It feels like a lot of money and time for maybe no reward at all other than having taken a risk. I'd like to play to win, despite not knowing the odds. The reward, after all, is a big one. World Championships has always been my dream, my goal, ever since I started agility in 1999 and found out about it. It's not about the notoriety, and it's clearly not about the money (what money?). It's not my dream because it's easy. This dream has put me in front of more disappointment and heartache than I could have ever dreamed a passion would make possible, and yet, I persist at it.

I'm not religious, and I don't believe in karma, but for whatever reason, agility, and THIS type of agility in particular, it's in every cell of my body to want to be a part of it. I've been fortunate enough to be able to participate not one, or two, or three, but five times on that stage. Sadly, just about every time I've gotten there, I've played to not lose. Even now, holding on to the idea of playing to win is tricky for me. Our system of agility in the USA does not promote playing to win, on the whole. It promotes caution, and playing not to lose. Trying to hold on to a mindset of playing to win requires thinking outside the ring gates to some extent. Every time I've spent any amount of time in Europe or Scandinavia, it doesn't take long to get in to the playing to win mindset, and after the latest excursion, I am trying hard to hold on to that mindset with all I've got.

Back to disappointment. I am disappointed by this past weekend. But, I spent some time rumbling with it, accepting it for what it is, and looking at it. Not discounting it, not discarding it, and not plastering over it with trite and happy sayings. I'm still deeply unsure about the odds being in my favor in any way at Tryouts next month. But I can't not go. I will not accept defeat, and my bruised ego will survive. I will get up, and I will go out to my amazing arena and beat my head against those things that I know are weaknesses for Frodo and I for the next month. I will go out and work on precisely the things that make me feel uncomfortable, in an effort to knock some of those things off of that list. And I'll head to Tryouts with a foolish sense of gumption, trying my hardest to ignore the odds and focus on the rewards, because the risk, ultimately, is worth the effort.

The hunt is on.

International Course Challenge: 2-14-2017

Here's the setup, course map, and analysis for the course that we ran in class at Clear Mind Agility this week. Enjoy!

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International Course Challenge 2-3-2017

Here's the setup, course map, and analysis for the course that we ran in class at Clear Mind Agility this week. Enjoy!

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International Course Challenge, 1-23-2017

Here's the set up, course map, and analysis for the course that we ran in class at Clear Mind Agility this week. Enjoy!

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International Course Challenge, 1-1-2017

Here's the set up, course map, and analysis for the course that we ran in class at Clear Mind Agility last week. Enjoy!

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Course challenge for the week of 12-27-2016 at Clear Mind Agility

Here's the set up, course map, and analysis for the course that we ran in class at Clear Mind Agility last week of 2016. Enjoy!

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International Course Challenge – December 15, 2016

Here's the set up, course map, and analysis for the course that we ran in class at Clear Mind Agility the week of December 15, 2016. Enjoy!

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Course map with focus areas – click to enlarge

16

Vocabulary Reboot Part I: Threadles

I've been thinking a lot about threadles lately. It's something that historically, I've handled my way out of, rather than training, for the most part. I love training. I went to ALL of the Bob Bailey Chicken Camps, and I loved all of them. But for some reason, I just never viewed threadles as a training challenge. Insert maniacal laughter here.

I'm also thinking a lot about running contacts right now. Way back in 2008, when I started training Solar's running contacts, before the days of online classes, and when NObody had thought to use FOOD or a remote controlled treat dispenser to get going, I figured it out largely by myself, along with Silvia Trkman's writeup of the process she followed on her website. Her writeup was largely conceptual, and frankly, I think that was better for me to have read than a step by step process.

The concept of the process to be followed, along with my mind spinning with ideas, fresh out of Chicken Camp, meant that I really tried hard not only to be a good trainer, but also, to fully understand the concept of what I was training, as well as the ramifications of any ripples that might affect other training I was doing (there are, and JUMP training ripples in to running contacts, but, more on that later).

So, with my puppy, I expect that when she is old enough to step in to the arena to tackle an FCI style course, she will need a thorough understanding of landing side approaches.

What is a landing side approach?

First off, I think we would be wise to discontinue use of the term ‘threadle', and instead, adopt a term that more accurately describes the type of challenge a threadle represents. So, I'm no longer going to use that word (plus my autocorrect hates it). Instead, I'm going to use the term landing side approach.

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