Category Archives: Performance Events

How To Teach Weave Poles With the 2×2 Set Up

The folks who know me well, won’t hesitate to confirm, that when I want to get a project rolling or a conversation started I am sometimes willing to go “out on a limb” to get that ball rolling! With that said, I’m going out on a limb now, and I am fully confessing my ignorance about Agility training and all things related. But, what I do want, is to see us keep the ball rolling when it comes to sharing information with our audience that might encourage others to start training, or help someone who is working to train their Gordon Setter for performance competition.

Featured Image -- 1214So, I’m posting this video link knowing full well that I am going out on a limb having no Agility experience.  Along with this link then, comes my request that you, readers who are actively training, consider commenting about the effectiveness or techniques that are shown here, is this good advice, is there better advice to be found elsewhere, did this type of training help you get your Gordon Setter ready for competition?

I am also asking that you consider contributing to this cause by submitting articles, or links to articles that you believe will help others who are working with their Gordon. Many would love to see articles shared on this blog that come from you, whether you’ve written them yourself or are providing links to those written by others.   People do want to learn about Agility and Obedience competition and I hope that those of you who are actively participating with your Gordon Setter will join here in providing guidance and assistance that is truly valued by all. Don’t do it for me – I can’t possibly keep up with a Gordon in the Agility ring – do it for those who want to learn from you.

Here you go, just click this link to view the video: How To Teach Weave Poles With the 2×2 Set Up.

To send articles or suggestions you may email me at:

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photo by Susan Roy Nelson

NEWS FLASH – Gordon Setter Students & Mentors

I started a new discussion group that you may find totally useful if you’re seriously into breeding and/or competing with your Gordon Setter. Now, I realize that many of you are not on Facebook and may well have sworn never to go there BUT you don’t have to turn into a Facebook junkie, nor do you need to accumulate a slathering of friends, but you will need to set up a Facebook account in order to view and post to the group.  There are already fabulous discussions starting, questions being posed, and pictures being shared of dogs from way back, all things educational can be shared here.

Here is the link Gordon Setter Students & Mentors click here if you’d care to check it out or join the group.

Gordon Setter Students & Mentors


Welcome Gordon Setter students and mentors! This group is meant to serve as a resource and learning tool for Gordon Setter fanciers who are serious students or experienced breeder/exhibitors willing to join forces where everyone can learn about and mentor the art of breeding better Gordon Setters. A place also to fine tune our skill and expertise when competing in conformation, performance or field events. Topics might include such things as genetics, structure, pedigrees, ancestors, health, and proper care, grooming, as well as training tips pertaining to competition in conformation, performance and field events. To make the most of this forum you are encouraged to submit questions, content and photos to provide examples as well as actively participate in discussions with helpful answers and guiding principles.

Things to keep in mind:

No personal attacks, ridicule, or harassment on or about another member’s post. You will be removed from the group and blocked. We don’t always need to agree and various opinions on a topic are encouraged to promote a learning environment, however remember when you are expressing an opinion to please do so in a tactful and polite manner.

Since this group is meant to serve educational purposes only, please do not submit your win photos and brags, we do love to see those and are very happy for you, but let’s post them on other forums to maintain focus here. The same would be true of those happy Gordon photos we post just for fun.

Please focus on the positive traits of any dog pictured. If you have constructive criticism always be considerate and tactful in your comments to ensure you are providing encouragement as well as an educational experience for the student. Please do share educational articles and links to other sites that will educate and promote better breeding and competition practices.

No SPAM or ads to promote the sale of merchandise or dogs. Spammers will be removed.

No personal attacks on other members! We are here to help each other learn and we will respect everyone and treat each other with dignity because of our differences, a different view could be where a new learning begins.

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ
Photo by Bob Segal – 2015 GSCA National Specialty

Getting in the Bubble – Let Show Nerves float away!

OK,  I get that everyone else talks about “getting in the zone” and so you’re probably thinking I’m being my wonderfully bizarre self (sometimes I just need to pump myself up with happy thoughts) flipping phrases around, and meanwhile you really want to shout out “hey dummy, why are you talking about getting in the bubble, it’s supposed to be zone” – am I right? I mean, really, a bubble is mostly just hot air (if blown by mouth), which means it is hot air surrounded by soap. Yuck, hot breath and soap? Bubble? Really?bubble 1

Well, the answer is simple, I had these really neat bubble photos by Susan Roy Nelson and I wanted to share them somewhere on my blog with you. So, for purposes of this article we’re going to be talking about “getting into the bubble” because I think bubbles are pretty, they float, they make me think of lightness and air, they are calm and serene, but mostly because I have photos of bubbles to share that Susan took and they are awesomely fun! Besides, what’s a stupid zone look like anyway? A No Parking Zone? A Loading Zone? Those aren’t cute visions and the photos would be boring and  probably ugly to boot. So bubbles it is – we’ll be “getting in the bubble’ to show our dogs.

bubble5I’m no stranger to ring nerves and with just a bit of thought I can still recall the terror of my early days in the sport. Yep, it was terror I experienced back then and it felt something like a panic attack magnified by an earthquake with chasms in the earth opening all around me. You’ll never get me to believe there is anyone who has never had that rolling stomach madness – “oh my God I’m going to puke” – “just whose bright idea was this?” – “what the hell am I doing here and damn, where is that exit sign ’cause I gotta run?” scrambling through their brain in thin, never wavering, ever-increasing lines like ants racing to a picnic. And, despite my agonizing and growing panic attack my Gordon would be gazing up at me with those ever adoring eyes, drool hanging from his lip or flipped cavalierly over his muzzle , his nose and inch from my pocket just pleading with all his heart and soul for those special cookies I’d tucked in there. He didn’t care much about the ants running around in my brain. “Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn, not about your ants or your exploding brain”. That might just have been his actual thought, if dogs could have thoughts in people talk. What do dogs think I wonder? What does it sound like to them when they think a thought? Is it like the little voices I hear in my head when I’m thinking? …oh, wait, that’s another story!

Now then, what are we going to do to get the ants out of your head, and bubbles on your brain instead when you’re heading into the ring with that Gordon Setter of yours?

Well, there’s an old wives tale that’s told ’round the show ring, kind of like the tales of the wild west told ’round the campfire, that goes “if you get nervous it will travel straight down the lead to the dog”. I ask you, if our dogs are that good at reading our feelings through the lead, then how the heck is it, that my Gordon Setter, who has decided to drag me willy nilly down the street as he plunges after the streaking stray cat that ran across the road front of us, how is it that he doesn’t know that I’m mad as hell? I mean, if my feelings are traveling down the lead shouldn’t he be just a little bit frightened by the murderous feeling that erupted the instant he ripped my arm from its socket when he dove madly after the cat? See now, you’re smiling at how absurd that all sounded – that’s the bubble stuff working – focusing on the here and now – focusing on bubbles and breathing – yes breathing too – breathing is good so we’ll throw that in there for good measure.

Focus on the NOW (the bubble) and not the “WHAT IF”(that bubble popping thingamajiggy) if you want to overcome ring nerves

bubble9The “what if” thoughts are the nasty, biting, little red ant trails that got in your head. See it’s like this, you have one ant trail heading north screaming “will Gordon behave, what if he acts up?” Another ant trail heading east crossing the northbound lane that’s hollering “what if he trips me and I fall” while a third ant trail heads southwest chattering “I sure hope my underwear don’t show when I bend over in this tight skirt” and – ok – well – you get the picture, you’re head’s full of “what if” thoughts and none of them are pretty. Hey, it’s completely natural for handlers, especially new owner handlers, to feel nervous or apprehensive before going in the ring, but I can promise you for sure that even if something were to go wrong for you, it’s already happened a couple hundred million times before, and everyone before you survived to tell the tale…around the campfire, out west, if that’s your preferred story telling spot!  So let’s get out the “Brain Raid” and spray those nasty little ant trail thoughts until they’re all dead, crunchy, little bodies and your brain is free again and floating in a clear bubble.bubble8

I get it, it’s not that easy and there is no such thing as Brain Raid so how’s that going to work? You’re right, it was probably a stupid idea to use Raid. Yes, I know it’s true that no matter how much you practice outside the ring you can still get really, really nervous in the ring, and when you get nervous you change, even if it’s only fractionally, the way you do things. And when you change things up a bit, that my friends is what goes down the lead to the dog, a new and different signal, and that is what gets the dog confused about your intentions. He’s not sure anymore what you want from him, so then he behaves differently than you wanted him to, and from there the whole thing can take a downward spiral into a mixed up, jumbled up mess fulfilling your worst nightmare. What travels down the lead to the dog are your intentions, and if they are the same signals inside the ring that you gave him outside the ring you’re in the bubble. If they’re not the same signals because you’re nervous, well then you’re in trouble. Not nearly as pretty to see as a bubble.

Think about this. How many times have you seen someone outside the ring stacking or letting their dog self stack, gaiting the dog up and back, that kind of thing? Well that’s what I mean about practicing signals with a dog. Handler does this, dog does that, the world’s a happy place. And when the dog did what that handler wanted they rewarded the dog with a big hug, loads of praise or a crazy, wild, happy “atta boy”! They reward the dog with GUSTO to reinforce the good behavior! But then, the steward calls their number, that handler goes in the ring with that same dog and suddenly you can hear a pin drop around that person! No verbal words of encouragement, no sweet talking, no whispering in the dog’s ear “you’re my baby” and  no handy, dandy liver treats. Not even a pat on the head. Total silence and just physical contact from the handler via the lead. Now, since the dog doesn’t know why their handler is giving them the silent treatment nor why they put away the cookie jar, the dog can get pretty confused. These aren’t the signals he’s used to. And that is the turning point, when it starts to show in how the dog performs. Think your dog is ring smart, turning off the minute they walk in the ring? Sorry, but it may have been you who taught him to do just that.bubble

Guess what? The solution to this problem is simple! You don’t need to teach your dog new tricks, you’re going to teach yourself a few instead. Start with keeping your focus on what you need to do and stop allowing your thoughts to stray to worrying about the judge, your peers, or all the things that might go wrong. I know, I know, it sounds simpler than it is, but really it’s not that hard…just picture yourself, focus your thoughts, on being in the bubble, right then at that very moment!

bubble6No switching persona when you walk in the ring, just you, your dog, the judge – oh, and your bubble! What you do outside the ring, at class, at home, where ever and when ever you practice with your dog, well for crying out loud just continue to communicate that way with your dog in the ring, do what you do when training your dog, do the things you do to let him know he’s responding as you want, don’t change a thing (well handstands, handstands might have to be left off if you do those to reward your dog. And maybe back flips, those might look out of place in the ring also so maybe your dog can do without those happy gestures, but besides for those two things don’t change a thing). If you act the same, send the same signals and communicate with your dog the same way in the ring as you do outside of it, your dog will respond just like you expect him to – well most of the time anyway; sometimes there are butterflies to chase, birds overhead, a flipping, floating plastic bag, or some crazy good-looking bitch two rings down! But crazy, funny happenstance aside, by concentrating on being in the bubble, with that bubble being your goal and the signals you need to send for you and your dog to achieve that goal. Concentrate on your bubble and you will find that you automatically focus yourself on the task at hand rather than on those ants in your head, you’ll be “in the bubble.”  And bubbles are marvelous, and bubbles can win!

…for those moments of extreme duress

sing a little song

Tiny bubbles
In the wine
Make me happy
Make me feel fine

drink a little wine!

The End


Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Photos by Susan Roy Nelson, WY

Song lyrics – Tiny Bubbles  by Don Ho

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Are There Dog Show Bullies?

I’m an average Jo and I’m worried about the future of my favorite hobby – showing and breeding dogs. I want to do something to help turn the tide of the declining number of show and trial entries, the number of purebred dogs registered, and the declining membership in our dog clubs. A decline that has sometimes been the cause of local specialty clubs that have gone extinct.

Yes, I’m just an average Jo. I get to call myself a Jo because it’s my middle name. I’ll never understand what my mother was thinking, but that’s my name.  I’m not “what’s his face” the plumber or electrician or cable guy or whoever that dude was they talked about during the last election. I’m just an average Jo who has what I think is a funny name. It was a great name back in the day, when I was learning to read and Sally was a main character in the books they taught us from.  Back then I thought I was pretty darn special. That specialness has faded though, and now I’m just an average Jo. But I’m an average Jo who has a cause that won’t make world headlines, but my cause has given me much pleasure and I’d like see it stick around for new Jo’s to enjoy.

Photo by Susan Roy Nelson
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson “Nial”

There are many and various reasons why this decline is taking place, but for today, let’s talk just about the personal enjoyment we’d like others to experience when they join our sport as opposed to the bullying that sometimes occurs. Whether we want to admit it or not, whether we believe it or not (and most who do bully others will not believe it) sometimes, just like a group of school kids, there are those in our sport who engage in bullying, and that behavior will drive the hardiest exhibitor away from our midst in a heartbeat. It adds to the declining numbers and accomplishes absolutely nothing positive.

Dog show people are a mixed bunch and I’ve met my fair share of wonderful people who are my life long friends. They’ve dried my tears, cheered me on, offered advice or consolation, they’ve been my best friends, and many of them have a wacky sense of humor that just sucks me right in! Who doesn’t love a good laugh and I have shared so very many with my doggy crowd!

I firmly believe that there are many  wonderful people involved in dog shows.  And I wonder sometimes, do we forget about those wonderful people when the stories we hear mostly pertain to bad behavior? When was the last time you heard someone spontaneously share a wonderful story about how another person helped them, encouraged them, boosted their morale etc. at the ring, at a show, in their club?  It’s easy to take those actions for granted, that people will be nice and act in a caring manner toward each other, and why shouldn’t we expect that from each other? But, the drama of a person or a group of people acting out badly is so riveting to behold, that we may lose those other acts of kindness in the shuffle. It’s like watching the News – how many good stories do you find there? What draws the masses is drama and drama we remember. As a group can we try to maintain focus on letting “the good times roll” while we police our actions for the bad behavior that turns people off from our sport?

Besides for that, do I think there are other less likeable people in the sport? Yes unfortunately, and I’d have to add that I’ve also met a few truly awful bullies among the crowd. But, and this must be said with force, they are not only the professional handlers as some might imply. Can we all agree or have we had personal experience with bullies among all ranks in the doggy crowd? Are bullies also found among the breeders, owner handlers, exhibitors, dog show superintendents, judges, vendors, the club members hosting a show, your fellow club members or the Officers & Directors of your dog club? Have you ever felt bullied and if so who was that bully, another exhibitor, a club member, a group of people? What “group” did they belong to? And, what would you tell them (or the rest of us here) about how that impacted you and whether you will continue to stay in the sport or simply walk away from it thus adding to those declining numbers that I mentioned in the beginning?

So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? Would it help if we were all more proactive, following the advice that is currently pointed toward our kids – “Stop Bullying”? Would you be willing or would you be afraid to band with the person being bullied to make the bullying behavior stop? What if that meant taking a stance against someone who, in the sport, considers themselves “important”” or is recognized as a “top dog” by virtue of being a handler, experienced breeder, or club officer?

Bullying. Where does it start? Where does it end? Do you believe it has had, or is having an impact on the decreasing numbers pertaining to our breed – Gordon Setters? Is it impacting our National club? Our Regional clubs? And if so, what would you do to put a stop to it? What needs to be changed?

The article that started this one on the topic of Bullies can be read at this link:  Are There Dog Show Bullies?

Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, suggestions and the like in the comments section. If you would prefer to withhold your name so as not to call out anyone specific, you may share by sending an email to and I will post for you without your name. That’s what we’re here for, to share and to make a difference in the sport of purebred dogs!

Sally Jo Gift  Mesa, AZ

Photos by Susan Roy Nelson, WY

Avoiding Iliopsoas Injury – Acute, stretch-induced muscle injury

I understand that participating in speed competitions with our Gordon Setters can sometimes result in injury for the dog, and that helping our dogs prevent such injury ranks very high for those engaged in trials like Agility or Flyball. There is a ton of good advice to be found on the internet and offered by your own trainers and training partners, as well as by physical therapists. I did run across this article written by Bobbie Lyons and published at  Pawsitive Performance and I thought I’d share it with you. Perhaps we can start a discussion here that will generate other great resources for everyone working and training with their Gordon Setters about how they can properly condition dogs to help prevent injury.

If you’re competing or training in any of the performance events and you know of resources that will help others avoid injury would you share them with us by making a comment on this article?

Here’s the link to the article by Bobbie Lyons – Avoiding Iliopsoas Injury – Doubles, Triples and Broad Jumps – Pawsitive Performance.

A few more resources I found on the subject:

Ilopsas Strain: the hind limb lameness you may not know about

Ilopsas Strain Revisited by Peter J. Lotsikas DVM, Diplomate ACVS and Faith M. Lotsikas DVM, CCRT

Iliopsas Muscle Tears

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Agility and Puppies

Just found an article to share with you all about starting your Gordon Setter puppy in Agility training. As with any responsible trainer the author reminds us that puppies are growing and because it’s easy to cause growth plate related injuries, cautions us not to engage in strenuous training.

Be sure to read our previous article about the puppy’s growth plates before you start any training  Mary, Mary Quite Contrary, How Does Your Gordon Grow?

Here’s the link to the article (click the bold title to go there): Agility and Puppies found on Everything Dog at Alpine Publications

Photo courtesy Linda Stebbins
Photo courtesy Linda Stebbins

Agility is an excellent way to help an active puppy burn off some energy while having fun at the same time he is building a bond with his owner. While strenuous training is not recommended, or requiring the puppy to jump at full heights, the puppy can learn a lot of the basic foundations that make up agility.

And for even more helpful tips and videos about training our Gordon Puppies for Agility click the colored title link that follows to go to another article we published written by Linda StebbinsReady Set(ter) Goooo

Feature photo of that cute Gordon Puppy by Laurie Ward


Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

Flyball is Flipping Fun!

We’re very pleased to welcome, once again, Diane Dargay as our Guest Blogger. Today she shares another great Performance Event, and judging by the look on her dog’s faces it must be a favorite of theirs as it sure looks like they’re having a blast to me. Thank you so much for sharing Flyball competition with us Diane!



Flyball is a relay race in which dogs race over a series of four hurdles to retrieve a ball from a specially designed flyball box. The dog must push on the front of the box in order to activate a trigger mechanism that releases the ball. When the ball springs out of the box, the dog catches the ball and brings it back over the four jumps to his/her handler. As the dog crosses the start/finish line, another dog races past him to repeat the same procedure. Teams of four dogs race against each other for the win. Teams consist of six dogs, but only four race at a time.

Video Link – Diane Dargay with Jackson (single dog flyball race)   This was Jackson’s first tournament setting at 15 mos old. We just practiced with the team in warmup all weekend. If you notice, at the flyball box there is a jump in front and ring gate at the side as prop to navigate his turn.

Each team brings to a tournament their own flyball box and set of balls. Balls can be any size as long as they bounce and roll and fit into the flyball box. Dogs can be of any breed and mixed breeds are welcome.

The height of the jump varies from 7″ to 14″ and is determined by the height of the smallest dog running, minus 5 inches. So, if the height of the smallest dog is 15″, the entire team would jump at 10″.

Aggressive dogs are not tolerated and the judge has the right to eject a dog that shows any aggression toward another dog.
Teams are classified into divisions so you are racing against teams with times that are similar.  In a tournament, there will be a head judge, two box judges (one for each team) and two line judges (one for each team)  The head judge runs the entire heat. The box judges make sure the dog pushes the front of the flyball box. The line judges monitor the start/finish line and record the time of the heat.
Photo by Dargay
Photo by Dargay

Points and titles are achieved by team time. If a team runs under 24 seconds, 25 points is awarded to the four dogs that raced in that heat. Under 28 seconds, 5 points is awarded and under 32 seconds, 1 point is given. Titles start at 20 points and go to 100,000 and beyond. The maximum number of heats in a race is five. In order to receive points for a run, the dogs must run clean……which means not dropping a ball, missing a jump or hitting the start line before the previous dog comes back. If there is a fault, the dog must rerun at the end of the line or the heat will be considered a “no finish”.

Photo by Dargay
Photo by Dargay

In training, we start by teaching what we call a “swimmers turn”. This is just like you see at the Olympics…….they touch and push off with their feet. It is safer for the dog as it is a repetitive motion. This does not put stress only on the front end. Starting with a seven inch jump away from the flyball box, a treat is given once the dog jumps over. Then a treat is given once the dog jumps back. After many times of treats on both sides, we then start with only one treat after a jump and back. Now the dog has to jump and U-turn (bounce) and jump back in one motion. Once they have accomplished the bounce, then the jump is moved to the flyball box. Now the bounce is bouncing off the flyball box. After they get proficient at bouncing off, we start adding the ball on the ledge and then eventually in the hole.

1012947_928243730524014_6090674871594978242_nWhile we are training the box, we separately train the series of four jumps… jump at a time and work up to four. Then eventually put the box and the jumps together. When they are proficient at accomplishing a full run of down and coming back with the ball, we start adding distractions…i.e. other dogs, balls on the ground. They have to pay attention. We also start working on passing another dog and lineups of dogs.

Putting all the pieces together depends on the aptitude of the dog. It can take anywhere from six months to two years to completely train a dog. You also have to consider working them in a tournament setting while another team is practicing. If you dog is really ball focused, it becomes easier.

Diane Dargay, Bolivia, NC

Coursing Ability Tests – Go Gordons!!!!

Welcome Guest Blogger – Diane Dargay 

Diane tells us that she agrees wholeheartedly with Linda Stebbins who mentioned that one “needs to have a sense of humor to own this breed” (Gordon Setter). Diane does all of her own training and Flyball has been her forte for the last 16 years with Agility competition her second passion. She and her husband Bill are in their 30th year of owning Gordon Setters and she says they would not change to any other breed.

CSPN6675When I think of lure coursing “hounds” is what comes to mind, so seeing these photos and reading this article from Diane has been a great deal of fun for me, hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Be sure to send her a “thank you” for sharing her expertise with us on Coursing Ability Tests. If this entices you to get involved in Coursing Tests please be sure to share your experiences with us, the more the merrier you know!

Coursing Ability Tests

Coursing Ability tests are lure coursing trials for the non-lure coursing breeds. The course is set just like a regular lure coursing trial except the rules are different for the non-lure coursing breeds.CSPN6678

There are 2 sets of courses…….300 yards for dogs 12 inches and under and 600 yards for dogs larger than 12 inches. The lure is 3 white trash bags attached to a rope on a pulley system. The dog and handler are brought to the start line with the trash bags about 20 feet in front of the dog. The judge yells “tally ho” and the chase begins. The dog is to chase the lure through many turns at many angles until it stops at the finish line. If your dog loses sight of the lure, you may run and help him find it as many times as he needs without touching him. The person will stop the lure until the dog gets back on track and then restarts the chase. The time allotment is 2 minutes for large dogs and 1 ½ minutes for small dogs to pass.

CSPN6641It is a pass/fail system. You need 3 passes to obtain a title. Most tests are totally fenced but you would have to check with the host club. The dog must be at least 1 year of age.

Diane Dargay, Bolivia, NC

Photo by Dargay
Photo by Dargay