Monday, 25 July 2011

interview with a PRO: Polona Bonač

I am proud to write that came the day to present one of the most beautiful memodog blog interviews.
Another girl from Slovenia...She won the European Open in 2007 and she's a all around trainer. She trains with her dogs every sport from agility to IPO. She also teach agility, puppy classes, obedience classes and rally obedience at KD Agility Ilirija.
Polona is also a “master” of Mudi and Croatian Sheepdogs.
She's the demonstration that with so much efforts can be reached any goal.

Polona and the warm up questions...

The last time you were in a Luna Park?
It was few years ago in Belgium. I was there with my friends for agility competition (what else... ;), and we had decided to have some fun one evening. I have very vivid memories about that Luna Park, mainly because my stomach was really upset by the end of the whole thing... But it was fun nevertheless.

You spend the weekends for cleaning home or to put into practice what you have learned with your dogs doing a competition?
That one is easy – definitely competition. And in case I have a weekend free, loong walks or a trip to the sea-side. And if the weather is bad, there is nothing better than being a complete couch-potato. Cleaning comes very low on my list of things to do...

The last famous person you've met?
Uf, I don’t know if I have ever met someone really famous. I remember that one time, when I was still in elementary school, I was walking down the street in Ljubljana and I saw a front man of a very popular Slovenian band (Gregor Skočir from Big Foot Mama). I got very excited, and my eyes were on him the whole time. Not a smart thing to do, especially if you are as clumsy as I am. I trip and I fell down right in front of him. He was not impressed by that I must say, so we never got to actually meet. :)

Well, never mind .Though I like to do these types of questions. Let's move to something more serious ...

Could you tell our readers a little about yourself
My name is Polona Bonač, I am 26 years old and I am a dogoholic, therefore interested in pretty much anything you can do together with your dog. Besides training my dogs and teaching both obedience and agility I am also a licensed helper, which is something I really enjoy, but I don’t do often enough... But I am also a student at Faculty of Sports (have to pay back my debts), and a big fan of theatre.
Since I spend the majority of time with my 4-legged gang, they deserve an introduction as well. After long struggle, my parents gave up and bought me my first dog Toby the Gordon Setter. He is now almost 14 years old and still every bit as goofy as when he was a puppy. He is a big sweetheart, but not so much a working dog, so eventually he got some company. First of all little Šja the Mudi. My genius sweet little dog. One in a million. Then came Šaj the Croatian Sheepdog, the dog with a big smile and even bigger heart. The dog that stole my heart and got me addicted to this breed. I guess it would be enough to stop with this number, but being rational was never my thing, so another CS joined my pack – Kiša the trouble maker. Or at least that is what she used to be. Now she is my multipractic, workaholic and definitely the best mannered dog of my pack. And there is Mjav the cat who is as spoiled as it gets.

When did you realize that train the dogs will be your future?
Well, to be honest, I didn`t really think about it a lot. I was simply spending more in more time training dogs, so I had less and less time to do anything else. That has changed a bit now, as I am studying again, and actually loving it this time. So at the moment I don`t know much about my future, but I since old habits die hard...

Slovenia is a small country but have so many people who already are at the top in dog sports ,expecially in agility. What do you think these results are from?
I think it is a must to first mention Silvia Trkman at this point. She is a brilliant trainer and left a huge impact on not only Slovenian agility but worldwide as well. But of course there are other things as well – one being that we have a lot of young, very enthusiastic people in dog sports, who really devote endless amounts of time and effort in training their dogs.

What does it mean to you to work with dogs like Croatian shepherd and Mudi?
Well, I lost a significant amount of nerves, and developed a hearing impairment, but other than that... No seriously, I don`t think about that at all. I simply love the breed (both of them), and I still haven’t got to a point where I would actually be able to get another breed, only to have a better chance in training this or that. As much as it can be annoying, I have become an addict of their explosive nature and endless enthusiasm for just about anything you can think of.

photo by Iztok Noč

Tell us about your experience at the Croatian Working Sheepdog Championship 2009?
There are no words to describe just how much I loved that championship. It was absolutely perfect. The organisators worked very hard to make this a memorable experience for all the participants, but even if they wouldn`t – seeing most of working CS at the same place at the same time, seeing them compete in 6 different disciplines (agility, obedience, tracking, herding, protection, search and rescue), and seeing as many as 50 dogs on thow in the end – not something you can forget. I have competed with both my CS, Kiša was the only dog who competed in all 6 working disciplines, and Šaj was competing in 3 + dog show. It was quite a challenge, since we were totally out of training – I have just recovered from a serious illness, but nevertheless we have achieved some nice results. But this championship was not about results at all. It was a tribute to a little black dog with the biggest heart that can do it all. A tribute to two great dogs Cita – Drava Certisa, and Miška Certisa who put Croatian Sheepdog as a breed to a map, and also produced many great working dogs.
Although the championship was not so much about results, I have to mention one. My pretty, cocky Šaj managed to won BOB at specialty show. It was definitely the most unexpected thing that has ever happen to me. Ok, I must admit I think Šaj is the most beautiful dog on the planet, and god knows she thinks so, but honestly, not many other people do. But on that day she charmed the judge as well... I am not all that into shows, but winning a specialty show in their native country, with as many as cca 50 dogs participating... well, that is something even for me.

The 2007 was your year? In that year you and Šja were able to put into practice to perfection all that you both have learned.
I could say so. In 2007 little Šja won medium finals at the EO. I remember I actually thought we were not even in the finals that year, because we didn`t have 2 clean runs. But she came in as a top 3 (or something) dog in one run (at that time the rules were a bit different that today), and in finals – well, everything was just right. I guess 2007 was really lucky year for me, which is not typically the case. Normally I am just doing unnecessary front crosses, falling on my head... stuff like that...
Polona Bonac Sja European Open Final
by QuiqueBaloo

photo by Iztok Noč

Working with dogs is very difficult and demanding. How much do you train per day /week ?
In the very beginning of this interview I have mentioned my awful habit of being totally disorganized. My trainings pretty much follow that concept. I try to do at least something with my dogs each day (obedience, agility, tricks, protection...), but in reality it often turns out to be – one day three different trainings, and just a long walk the next... It also depends on my goals in that period. When I am training for an IPO competition or an exam – I am mostly working my ass off. Training all three disciplines with Kiša, and another sports with Š&Š takes A LOT of time. But at this point for example, we are pretty much doing agility, 4 times per week, for an hour or something, frisbee time on Sunday, and a little bit of obedience whenever I feel like it.

photo by  Branko Šimić

How do you changes your training before a big event like the EO or the AWC?
Not much. Before the AWC I typically check the courses of the delegated judges, and see if they have a »thing« they particularly like to set, and then I train that. I am also working on Šja`s motivation a bit more than usual, because I really want her to give her best there.

How do you stay focused before a run, especially for the EuropeanOpen or at the World Championship?
Ever since I am running with more than one dog, or better to say in different categories, EO has become quite a challenge for me, so last year I was really not happy with my mental state. This year I have to plan the whole thing better – I need to know exactly which course I am going to run first, and how. AWC on the other hand is a totally different thing. I have time to do my routine before and after the course walk. And in the end, when the pressure rises, I start playing with my dogs. That always takes the pressure away.

Which competition remained more in your heart ?
Croatian Sheepdog Working Championship. By far. :)

You train your dogs in many sports. Where did you find it more difficult to train and which dog?
One thing I seriously dislike and it is therefore very difficult for me to train is tracking. I don`t know nearly enough about that and since Kiša is not a natural talent; I should be much better prepared. I did some mistakes in the beginning (and probably I am still making some), which makes my job even more difficult now. Otherwise, I have very different training problems with my dogs. Šja had some problems with motivation first, Šaj... well Šaj and I had many problems. Starting with shaping – a concept that she never really liked. Than I had to do a lot of work to get her obstacle focused in agility, and I still haven`t find the solution for her problem with bars or better to say knocking them. And I have already mentioned Kiša`s tracking problem. And I have a big problem with me, learning to throw Frisbees the way I am supposed to... So as you can see, we never run out of challenges.

Compete in IPO with a Croatian Sheepdog , is not so usual .How the other competitors look at you?
I guess they do not think of her as a real dog :) . She does however impress with her fast and energetic obedience, and those who know her better also admire the big heart in the small package.

OK , you have chosen to do so many sprot with your dogs,
you choose to mix 2on 2off and running contacts methods.
Did you always choose to do very difficult things at once? Is it to keep your mind active or is a gift of nature that you can choose a lot of thing at once and be excellent in everything that you have choosed?
Well, I started to teach Kiša 2on2off because I was actually not successful in teaching running contacts with her. But as it turned out – as soon as I stopped obsessing with a problem it got better on its own, and her running contacts were just great again. At that point I started to think I could have both. After all, dogs are so very clever...
As flattering as your question is, I don`t really consider myself gifted, maybe curious is better way to describe that. I simply would like to try as many different sports as possible, because each and every one of them gives me different thrills. Being good at it is just a nice benefit, but definitely not the goal.

Do you have any advice for who starts work with Croatian shepherd or Mudi?
Lots of patience and an ear plugs :) . There are big differences in the breed, so it is hard to give general tips, but I find it very important to know what kind of dog you are dealing with. If it is a brainiac like Šja it is important to first built drive and self-esteem, and the rest is easy. With maniacs like my Croats consistency is the key. They should learn as soon as possible, that there is only one way of having fun – your way.

photo by  Andraž Cerar

Try to answer at this question. Which rules would you change in agility?
I would definitely get rid of the up-contacts, because they are very unfair to big dogs, and then there is table – I think agility today is as far as it gets to standing still for 5 seconds, so it kind of doesn`t belong in anymore.
Also I would like to see the day when AWC would actually be more about the competitors than it is about the delegates...

Any plans for the future ?
Not many. I live day by day, but since I have just started my studies again, I definitely hope I will finish asap. And then move out of the city.

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview! Do you have anything else you would like to add?
Not much, I think I have been quite chatty so far. Thank you for the interview. It sure was a fun one!


Polona Bonač & Kiša con Maige
by kdagilityilirija

Mudi Sja - Medium Team Standard Run at World Championships
by klickerklok

Croatian Sheepdog Mawlch Shay at some recent agility competitions.
by agimanics

Croatian Sheepdog Kisha (Kiša Con Maige) at some recent agility competitions.
by agimanics


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