Monday, 31 March 2008

Request for nice weather & Update

I really wish the weather would brighten (and warm) up. Like all my friends I'm heartily sick of cleaning up the dogs after their walk. It's such a chore and it makes my back ache!

I got a cold last week and by Wednesday had completely lost my voice (much to Andy's delight). By the end of the week I still couldn't speak and was feeling yuk. We had already decided not to go to Shuttleworth. Those who know me understand how much I loathe mud and muddy dogs. It's bad enough when they're muddy at home and I've got all my facilities to clean them up but in a caravan - erm, no thanks very much. Our dogs all sleep in the caravan with us so the thought of trying to clean them up is just too awful! I heard that Sunday was a lovely day at the show but I don't regret not going as I just didn't feel like doing a lot.

On Saturday we worked all morning in the office and caught up with some applications and general paper work. Then we took the dogs for a very long and dirty walk. We just got them cleaned up and indoors before the heavens opened. The rain continued all evening and throughout the night. In the evening we watched Die Hard 4 on dvd. I love those films and this one was really good. I was a little dubious as I thought by no. 4 it might be rubbish .... it is rubbish really I suppose but just as enjoyable as the previous 3 films if you like action movies with a good dose of humour which we do.

On Sunday morning it was still raining and so I had to cancel my beginner group as the ground was just too water logged. Instead I had a doglet grooming session. Everyone had their toe nails clipped, feet trimmed and a thorough grooming. It makes such a difference for the dogs having their feet trimmed when walking on the hard surfaces in this house. They have much better grip with neatly trimmed paws, especially Abbey. Also it makes cleaning up their paws so much easier. Meanwhile Andy spent the morning in the office designing his courses for the European Open Trials in a couple of weeks. He had four courses to design and it's good that they are now done and sent off.

We took them for another long walk on Sunday afternoon and again had to spend about an hour cleaning them up (why oh why did I spend so long grooming them earlier!) We walked quite late (very nice with the extra day light) and gave them their dinner at about 5.30 pm. Then with the dogs happily tired and fed we took ourselves and Kizzy off for a visit to the OBay residence to have some puppy time.

The puppies are gorgeous, all of them including little Mouse. She is so tiny and we were told very quiet. Well that changed yesterday and she was quite vocal during our visit. Zen was very trusting of Kizzy and was happy to have her around. Kizzy is such a sweet dog and doesn't seem to pose any threat. We had lots of play and cuddles with the pups; Fat Head and Little'Un fell asleep on Andy's lap; Zest fell asleep on me and Linford walked around the sitting room having the longest pooh you can imagine with Zen following behind trying to clean up after him .... nice! Having sat on the floor for about 2 hours I had a job getting up to come home! I am so cross that I forgot to take my camera! Dennis took some photos so maybe we'll see some of them on the OBay Blog in due course.

We got home around 9.00 pm and had a late supper of mushroom pate on toast whilst we caught up with some t.v. we'd taped from the previous evening.

Then it was Monday morning ..........

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Kizzy assisting with choosing a programme to watch on t.v.

Last night we were listening to the final pieces of music in the Classic FM hall of fame and Andy was looking at the tv paper to see what we could watch afterwards. Kizzle decided to assist.

I think we can safely assume she's over her post season blues and megga sulk from wearing her purple coat all day Saturday!

Sleepy Hudsondoglets

I just had to post these pictures of my doglets. This was how they all collapsed on Saturday evening when we got home from the Easter show.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Megga update due to being a bad blogger!

Gosh it's two weeks since I updated the blog. I guess that's because we've been quite busy with one thing and other.

So here is a megga update for that period.

Visit to Terry & Jackie

A week ago Friday we went to visit Terry and Jackie for the day at their new house in Suffolk. The journey was good and we arrived with them at 10.30 am. We had a good look around their lovely new house and garden and had some coffee. After that we walked into the village to their local pub for lunch.

After lunch we took all the dogs for a nice long walk directly from their house. This was their regular walk which takes you down a lane along the river and out to the fields. We had a lovely time until we got to the top fields when the "Naughty" in Naughty Niamh re-surfaced!

We had just been chatting about one of Jackie's dogs taking off after a hare when Terry spotted one of their dogs doing exactly that but then in front of their dog (Biddy I think) was a red and white collie disappearing into the distance. Of course it was the Naughty Niamh. We called and called and sent Andy running off across the field. The worst thing was that the top field ran alongside a busy A road and that's where she headed. I was in my usual panic mode and kept waiting to hear a car screeching or hooting. I honestly thought I would lose her. Then Terry spotted her coming back across the middle of another field (bear in mind these fields are huge) and so he and I resumed calling and whistling. She clocked us but continued to look for the hare. By a miracle she then looked across at us and I yelled and yelled and she grudgingly came back. All the "good" traits as a dog owner then came out in me as I hugged her and walloped her all in one second! She spent the rest of the walk on an extender lead. Bad Naughty Niamh!

We cleaned up all the dogs when we got back and settled our lot down and then Jackie cooked us a lovely supper and we headed home about 7.30 pm.

It was so nice to see Terry and Jackie. We really liked their new house and garden and envy their relaxed life style!

Mid Downs

It was great to see everyone at the first show of the year. Not so great getting up early but you can't have everything.

In agility terms it wasn't very good. I got E'd in all three of my classes. The rounds weren't all over the place and in fact in each round there were some things I was happy with. The E's were the result of a silly handling mistakes on my part which caused Niamh to back jump in two of the classes and to go round the back of the weaves in another. In the weaving E I got right in her way so she had no choice other than to go round the back of the poles as I was blocking the entrance. That said, I didn't feel that we were in tune. I think this was due to coming back down to earth from our Crufts experience and also the day before (hare chasing episode). When Niamh and I have a fall out (which is pretty rare these days) it definitely seems to have a huge effect on our partnership. This carried on in to our Tuesday night training session which was awful. Quite the worst session we've ever had. We made mistakes at the simplest of sequences and then for some weird reason she started to skip a gap in the weaves. She did this continually throughout the evening always at the same place and in either direction. It was really strange I was distraught because I'd somehow broken her weaves.

I was unable to fix the problem on Wednesday due to the awful weather, it just poured down with rain all day long. However, on Thursday morning we went down to the paddock and had a play. I started by using the v-weaves with the second and third poles very slightly splayed. She was fine and so we progressed to the regular poles and she didn't miss a beat. Now I just had to hope our weaves would be OK for the Easter show!

Back to Mid Downs. Kizzy had a good airing at Mid Downs and met up with her friends. As usual she took everything in her stride although she was quite tired. We thought it could have been from her busy day in Suffolk but she is still a little quiet now and so we are thinking it could be post season blues.

Murphy and Leah did two good runs. They did get E'd but he did good start line waits and excellent contacts. Considering the noise and atmosphere inside the building we were impressed with their rounds. Andy trained Murphy on Tuesday as he wanted to run him at the Easter show, however that wasn't to be.

Easter Week

We had a very busy week in the office running up to Easter. I was busy writing up applications and doing book keeping (yuk) and Andy was trying to get several draft drawings out to clients before the holiday. We achieved about 75% of what we wanted so not too bad.

On Good Friday I did a session with my beginner group and then we had a reasonable tidy up in part of the garden. We were out there for about five hours with all the dogs, they love it when we garden! We need to focus on specific areas as it's all to easy to get carried away and start too much which you then can't finish. So, we focused on the yard where Andy keeps his building materials and mowers etc. and the small garden behind the willow tree. Andy mowed the long grass around the summer house and we cleared up lots of the dead wood that had fallen from the willow tree.

We are going to get someone in to give the willow a good prune and also do the apple tree, the climbing rose and the ivy which is going wild on the wall. Our next door neighbours Michael and Ellen came round and took away some of our compost. They are keen vegetable growers and I'm pleased that all our kitchen waste is being put to good use. We have a large composter where all the vegetable peelings etc. go but I don't have a use for the resulting compost as I just don't have the time to grow vegetables at the moment.

We were pleased with the result of our labour and finished up by tidying out the trailer and putting its cover back on. The cover sinks into the trailer when it rains (bit like an awning) so Andy decided to cover it with a half sheet of ply. He picked up the ply and turned to place it on the trailer and heard a noise in his back and couldn't move at all for about 10 minutes. It got a little bit better with the aid of ibuprofen but not much.

The magnolia in our back garden is almost out, just needs some warm sunshine to bring it out fully. We didn't get to see it last year and are really looking forward to it flowering.

The magnolia waiting to fully flower. I'll take some pictures when it finally comes out.

The willow tree which needs a serious prune. This is part of the area we tidied on Good Friday.

Abbey sitting under the willow trees with the daffodils

The long border which we've chopped right back. It'll be interesting to see what comes up as there's loads of stuff shooting.

Easter Celebration Agility Show

The following day we were lucky to have show to go to. The Easter Celebration was going ahead despite the weather but had been moved indoors and onto the outdoor sand schools. I think all the other Easter shows in the country were cancelled so we were lucky. Although Andy was in quite a bit of pain he came along as we were ring partying on the Saturday. Again, we were very lucky as our ring was indoors. It was still very cold and we felt really sorry for the ring parties in the four outside rings. We had excellent parking inside one of the buildings which was only a short walk from our ring. All the dogs had coats on and Abbey had a bed with a heated pad and a fleecey blanket to cover her. She was like toast all day which was a relief as it was so cold.

Kizzy wasn't herself at all on Saturday. She had a bad tummy and also was in a major sulk as she had to wear her coat all day. She hates her coat but it was just too cold to be sat in the car all day without it on. We were quite worried about her as she was definitely out of sorts.

I ran Poppy in her first ever veteran class. It made me cry; of course she absolutely loved it and stormed round the course. I was so pleased when our names were called out in 3rd place, we got a nice glass trophy and an Easter egg! I wish there were more of these classes, it was so lovely to run her and be a part of her delight at participating in a competition again. I miss running Poppy so much it hurts. It even makes my eyes well up to type this.

Naughty Niamh was much better than at Mid Downs. I think we've recovered from our little set back thankfully. In her jumping class I was rather stupid and left out a jump so got E'd. On Saturday I was feeling really lacking in confidence and not looking forward to running Niamh in her other classes. I think it was a combination of feeling a bit over stretched in the G6/7 classes and also not having my lovely Poppy to run. I am lucky to have some good friends and had very positive conversations with Mand and Karen. This really helped me focus and overcome my nerves so that we actually attacked the senior Olympia class which was a G6/7 and a nice but tricky handling course. We didn't get placed but we had a good clear round which was only just off the qualifying times. In fact we could have done better had I rememered to put in the front cross after the seesaw instead of holding back and pulling Niamh into the final three jumps. Old habits die hard! I was still not that happy with our contacts but they were definitely better. Leah and Murphy did some brilliant rounds with just the odd jump falling. Contacts were great and each round had a start line wait!

When we got home we all collapsed in the warm. I think we managed to find space to sit somewhere!

On Sunday Andy stayed at home partly because of his back and partly because we decided it wasn't fair for the older dogs to have yet another day in the car in the freezing cold. It was a good decision as Sunday turned out to be even colder and we were parked in the main car park as we were just competing and not ring partying. The weather was crazy: sunshine; rain; snow; hail; sleet and some very strong winds. It was very cold and at times miserable.

Again Leah and Murphy had a nearly day with some fantastic runs. His G5/6 agility was absolutely stunning with perfect contacts a three jump recall start and just two poles down. Niamh and I didn't get clear as she took a pole out from turning too tightly and knocking the wing but her contacts were the best yet. I did a blind turn to the dog walk and that really gets her going so she ran all the way through and stopped in the sand, perfect! Her G6 jumping was a good run and we actually got placed 13th. The course was just right and really fun to run, plenty to do but not impossible. I like Mark Saunders' courses, he hits the standard spot on (IMO!)

I have much homework to do now on my start lines with Niamh. They are really bad. She hasn't actually broken one (yet) but it's coming. I had to re-set her four times in one class and three times in another. Even then she is leaning right forward with her chin almost on the ground. She is trembling on the start line and when I release her she is woofing at me. It's good because it shows that she's getting keener but I don't want to lose my start line waits. Happily we had no issues with the weaves all weekend so I'm hoping that it was just a strange glitch we experienced at training the week before. All in all I really enjoyed the Easter show and hats off to the organisers for carrying it off in really difficult conditions.

On Monday we just dossed around. The weather was awful so we lit the wood burner and chilled. I had started a sore throat at the show on Sunday and now it's turned into a horrible head cold. Today I have felt really yuk so Andy is doing dog club by himself. Leah is going to take my puppy class for me and train Mr Murf - thanks Leah!

Well, that's about it - what a long update I hope I haven't bored you all to death!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Niamh's round at Crufts (from a different angle)

One more Crufts indulgence to myself. Paula filmed Niamh's round and kindly sent me the clip. It's nice to see it from a different angle.

Please ignore this post if you're bored of my Crufts experience which you probably are by now!

Niamh at Crufts

Training - difficult course for March

Last night we worked on a course that Bernadette had published on her blog a few weeks back. We are keeping up our regime of having one difficult course to work on per month. This one proved very challenging with loads to work on. The course was taken from the AKC try outs for the 2006 FCI World Championships.

Some of the "more mobile" amongst our number managed to get the two front crosses in at the two-jump sequence (#5 & 6) before the A-Frame. I was not one of them. I found the first front cross useful but then found it smoother to let Niamh take the second jump of the sequence towards me and cross behind her.

The other way that we all liked handling that same sequence was to stay top side of the two jumps; send the dog around the wing and recall over the #5 and then push our dogs over #6. This appeared to allow the handler to progress further down towards the jump/tunnel sequence after the A-Frame and get into a better position for a front cross between the jump (#8) and tunnel.

The sequence #10 - #13 was quite tough. I think we might have had it set out slightly differently from Bernadette and Lisa's attempts and also from the ACK tryout videos as it didn't work out quite the same for our attempts. See links below if you're interested in seeing this course running.

Most of us wanted to get in a front cross between #12 and #13 so that we ended up with the collapsible tunnel on our r.h.s. That said some chose to 'pull' through the box to the tunnel and their dogs were amazing they just powered out of the tunnel, took the jump and picked up the weave entry brilliantly. Me and Niamh weren't one of those clever teams, I had to get the front cross in the box. When I tried to stay top side of the tunnel she just didn't focus on the jump before the weaves, she was turning back to look for me because I was too far behind (how could that be I wonder!)

After the weaves it was easy peasy. Most of us chose to put in a front cross between #18 and #19 which enabled the handler to progress down that finishing straight.

You'll notice that there are 21 obstacles. That's because there were a couple of jump combinations within the course which are numbered 5a/5b etc. I couldn't read the numbers clearly enough on the copy of the course plan so I just cheated and numbered it 1-21!

Bernadette & Lisa running this course (from Bernadette's blog)

Two competitors at the AKC 2006 world tryouts click on Day 7/Round 5 link (from Agility in Motion)

Our puppy class (please note it's called puppy but all the dogs are well over a year old now!) managed to negotiate this pattern from #1 - 13 really well. In Kizzy's case #1 - 15 as she is weaving whereas it's still work in progress with the other youngsters in the class. Andy was really chuffed with her.

By the end of the session we were all exhausted but the consensus was that everyone really enjoyed the course and the challenges it presented.

Walking in the rain

Yesterday we went for our walk in the pouring rain. I hate walking in the rain but needs must. I like to make sure the dogs get a good walk on a Tuesday as Becky and Abbey are left at home when we go out to training. We all got togged up for the weather - here are some photos of the oldest and youngest in their wet weather gear.

We had a nice walk despite the rain but when we got to the runways we had to turn back because they were completely flooded and I had my walking shoes on so couldn't do any wading. The dogs weren't impressed as they love to play in the water. Mind you I didn't really want Abbey getting soaked bearing in mind she has just got over her bout of cystitis. They were all very wet by the end of the walk and it took a while to get them all dried out and settled in their beds when we got home. They weren't too muddy just very wet. I can't wait for the spring to arrive so that we get nice clean dog walks. It's such hard work cleaning them up in the winter and I am now officially fed up with it!

Niamh at Crufts

Here are a few pictures of our Crufts day out. In the first one Andy and Johanna were chatting and Niamh was posing. The naughty little Kizzle was pointing and barking at Niamh's tub of sausage.

If I stare long enough and bark enough somebody will give me some sausage!

A big cuddle after the event. Note new furry prong toy. That is Niamh's favourite thing and she likes to lie on the hearth rug of an evening and suckle on one of the prongs. The toy is called Prongo and she will fetch it out of her toy bucket on command. She loves Mr Prongy Dongo and now she has a nice new one!

I'm very tired and don't want to pose in front of my beautiful blanket that Johanna bought me!

Oh alright then, as long as you're quick.

Niamh and Kizzy on the bench together.

Monday, 10 March 2008

Crufts 2008

Well, Crufts has been and gone for another year. On Friday I really wasn't sure if we were going to make it. I was still feeling unwell and Abbey was really not good at all. I took her to the vet on Friday morning and he gave her antibiotics to help with her bladder problems. We are both of the view that she has cystitis. I got home from the vet and Abbey was sick twice and then had an accident from the other end. In all cases she missed the hard floors and managed to target the rugs. It took me the whole morning to clear up and get her settled. Andy was out on site so he wasn't there to help. I felt really ill by the end of the morning.

Mac was due to look after the dogs on Saturday and we just didn't think it fair that she should have to look after Abbey if she was being sick etc. When Andy got home he rang Mac and explained the situation. In her usual unflappable way Mac said it wasn't a problem and that there was no way she wanted me to miss going to Crufts. If necessary she said she'd come and sit with Abbey all day. Thank you Mac, not sure what we'd do without you. As it happened, Abbey improved and it wasn't as bad after all. Phew!

So, once that conversation had taken place it was all systems go to get packed and ready for the early start on Saturday morning. Our event was scheduled for 10.20 am and so I wanted to be up there by 8.00 am at the latest, that meant leaving home soon after 5.30 am. We got a decent night's sleep for once as Abbey actually went right through the night without getting us up.

The journey up was good and we were parked by about 7.50 am. We found the arena and benching area without too much trouble (first time I've been to Crufts since they took the extra space). The benching area is much bigger and more peaceful for the dogs but you do feel a bit cut off from the rest of the show.

I took Niamh down to the collecting area at about 9.30 am to get her used to the atmosphere. It's a nice big area (you've probably seen it on the television as it's where they collect for Best in Show prior to the big event.) They had a practise jump set up in the collecting area and so we did some start line waits and a few jumps just to get to grips with the surface.

Niamh took it all in her stride. I was really pleased because sometimes she can fret at different situations when faced with them for the first time. However, she was great and just got straight into training mode and wanted to play and offer tricks so that gave me a lot of confidence prior to the event.

I felt quite ill on the day as my ears were hurting and my glands were swollen and painful but once in the arena good old adrenalin took over and I forgot all about it!

Kizzy came along for the day and we were lucky to be able to take her into the collecting area. In her usual fashion she just got on with it. Actually she spent most of the time barking at the dogs using the practise jump and also barking at Niamh's tub of sausage which was sitting on the floor.

Johanna came to find us and was a great support. She looked after Kizzy and Niamh when I was walking the course and kept Kizzy during the event so that Andy could go into the stands to video the competition. Johanna also gave us the lovely red "good luck" blanket which you can see in some of the photos on Niamh's bench. It's a lovely present and a lovely keepsake which I'm grateful for as you'll realise why later!

So far I didn't have any nerve janglings which was a bit of a worry as I do like a certain amount of nerves to surface before an important run. That soon ended when I went up to book in and look at the course plan pinned on the wall. As soon as I looked at the course my stomach churned and the old familiar feelings of anxiety, anticipation, fear and excitement were coming to the fore. Hurrah, things were looking up!

The course looked quite tricky in a couple of places but in fact it was gentler when set out in the arena. It was, in my opinion, a really nice course. There was plenty to work on and it certainly wasn't a blast. There were a couple of places you might come unstuck and there were choices of how to handle these sequences. Exactly what I like. Not a fast blast with no handling or thought.

We had five or six minutes to walk the course and I spent most of that time looking at the sequence from the seesaw to the jump after the weaves. I really couldn't make up my mind how to handle that sequence. In the end I made my decision and stuck to it. The only trouble was I didn't get to look at a couple of other areas which I should have paid a little more attention to.

On two turns I failed completely to break Niamh's stride and as a consequence didn't have the nice tight turns she is so capable of. My "steady" command deserted me completely! This was on the jump before the seesaw and the jump before the A-Frame. Her contacts weren't quite what I'd hoped for when I look back on the video but the main thing is I never had any doubts that she'd get them. Video is a wonderful thing because it allowed me to hear myself double commanding the A-Frame and that is what slowed her on both her contacts without a doubt. I let her down as I didn't let her get on with her job. Despite me she gave a wonderful performance and I am very very proud of her. She is such an honest dog who gives her all and doesn't question anything I ask of her. I really love her to bits.

I should say that this critique of my round comes only after viewing the video; on the day I was absolutely delighted with our performance and was and still am thrilled to bits with our 2nd place. To me my little dog was the best on the day!

This brings me to my red blanket. Thank you Johanna for this lovely pressie, I am so pleased to have it as a reminder of our wonderful day. Sadly, for the rest of us, only the winner got a piece of crystal. Really mean for a show of this magnitude. When we qualified at the KC Festival back in August of last year each height category got crystal 1st-3rd place. I think it should have been the same at the grand final of the same event but as the saying goes - there you go! Andy is going to our local jeweller to choose a piece of glassware and get Terry (the jeweller) to engrave it for us. In the meantime, my red blanket is a lovely memento!

We were so lucky to have lots of friends there watching and cheering us on (and just as many back home sending good luck texts). It really made the day special. Karen, Jan, Leah, Manda, Arthur, Michelle thanks for cheering us so loudly. I'm sorry I couldn't look round when you cheered: I'd have burst into tears with pride! Sara - not sure if you managed to get to the arena in time, I didn't see you but hope you might have made it! Nat, sorry you couldn't get to see us but your positive thoughts worked!

Andy and Johanna provided great support in the background, thanks guys for helping make mine and Naughty Niamh's day so special!

Here a little film of the day! I will post some pictures later at the moment Blogger's server is being stubborn!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Dizzier than normal

I started feeling a bit strange on Sunday and by Monday morning I was having quite a lot of dizzy spells. No funny comments.

I thought it would go away but it didn't. I did manage to train on Tuesday evening and had a really good session with 100% success on the dog walk. We trained over an FCI type course and it was challenging and fun. See below.

By yesterday morning the dizziness was worse and I was feeling quite sick. So I took Sara and Andy's advice and went to see the doctor. The doctor said that I had an inner ear infection caused by a virus and therefore nothing could make it go away other than rest and time but he did give me some tablets to counteract the dizziness in order that I could go to Crufts. To begin with he said that I shouldn't even think about travelling to Birmingham and then he saw the look on my face and decided to prescribe the tablets. What a nice doctor.

I was planning to run Niamh at Leah's club this evening. She had kindly offered me the facility after I mentioned my concern about Niamh not having done her new dog walk in a different environment. Unfortunately I'm was unable to go along as I'm trying to rest a bit to get rid of the dizziness. I think it has subsided a bit which is hopefully the tablets kicking in. I can't believe I go and get this right before Crufts, typical.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel better still and can start to get sorted and ready for Saturday. Niamh hasn't had her bath yet, she'll be well pleased when she sees that coming (not!) She also needs toe nails and feet trimmed.

I also have to take Abbey to the vet. She has started peeing a lot and only a drop or two comes out. It only started this morning. I think she might have cystitis or something similar. She gets up from her cushion and immediately wants to wee. She has had a few accidents but luckily it's only drops. I hope it's nothing more because she has been so well just lately, going on lovely long walks and with a really good appetite.

Here's Tuesday's course for anyone who might like to use it.

Kizzy had a brilliant lesson and did several sequences from the course. Andy was really pleased with her. So far we haven't done much sequencing and it's always nice to see how much they've learned in their basic training. It's good when you see that your "system" is working :)

Monday, 3 March 2008

Murphy & Leah at C-Side

On Sunday Leah collected Mr Murf at 10.00 am and off they went to Golden Cross for the day. We had a phone call late afternoon to say that Murphy had been a good boy and collected just 5 faults in each round. He also ............ wait for it .............. did two start line waits. This is a miracle. Look out Mid Downs!

Here in Leah's words is the evidence!



Pretty good for their first outing! It was really weird watching this video of Murphy out enjoying himself without his family. He didn't seem to care that we weren't there. Sob. Funny that Becca should be judging as it was through her that we got Murphy. I wonder how she felt seeing him fly round with Leah. To be fair Becca trains Joss in the same class that Leah has been running Murphy in so I guess she's got used to it!

Thanks Leah for running him. He was a very tired boy last night and just curled up on his cushion all evening.

Niamh's foot, training and reading

Niamh went back to training last week but we didn't do any contact equipment. Her foot has healed well but you can see it was quite a deep cut. In all she had eight days off walking and obviously from training. It is completely better now and so we did some training on Sunday afternoon with Niamh and Kizzy.

I was pleased with her performance on the dog walk. She is definitely driving better to her final position without the creeping. I have to remember to fulfil my half of the contract though and let her get on with her job without turning to watch her and make sure I let her know what great job she's done. I did some run bys with fast releases and then another where I didn't release and bless her she didn't fail; she glued to the spot and earned extra sausages for that one!

Whether this works at Crufts we'll have to see. My main concern is that we haven't yet had the chance to perform the new behaviour in enough different places. I've always tried to get Niamh to as many different environments to train in the off-season because it definitely helps to strengthen her performance. So far we've managed: home; training school; Bernadette's and a training day at Polly's field. That's only two (sort of) new places because Niamh is obviously very comfortable at home and at our training school. She has also been to Bernadette's and Polly's field several times. So I guess what I'm trying to say without scaring myself too much is that she hasn't actually done her new style dog walk in a brand new environment. Oh well, I suppose Crufts is as good a place as any to try it out!

Having just finished reading Susan Garrett's book "Shaping Success" I am reminded how important this aspect of training is, i.e. habitat (environment) the "H" from her D.A.S.H. theory (the other letters standing for Desire, Accuracy and Speed).

I bought the book the week before last and am halfway through my second reading of it. It's the most enjoyable dog training book I've read. I read some of her original Buzz articles in Clean Run a long while back and found them interesting at the time. Lots of the ideas I have tried, learned second hand from various people, so it's good to read the original. I have been meaning to buy the book for ages and it's one of those that I wish I had got round to sooner. It has helped to clarify lots of things in my mind and makes me wish I had done things better with Niamh.

Word of warning though: don't read a book such as this at bed time like I've been doing. I read it for about half an hour before going to sleep, then spent the rest of the night dog training. That coupled with Abbey getting me up every night has exhausted me!

Anyway, back to actual training. Andy also did some bits with the Kizzle. He hasn't done much whilst she's been in season not because of that but because he's been struggling with a heavy work load which is being interrupted by migraines. They are getting fewer but still happening unfortunately. Kizzy hasn't been to training school as there is a male dog in her class and we didn't think it fair.

So, yesterday was her first proper training session in a while. Andy had thought hard about his last session at Bernadette's and was able to apply successfully the tweaks that Bernadette had advised. Kizzy was brilliant. She was driving down her A-Frame at a lovely speed. Andy was releasing her from different places and at least once I saw him release with no body movement at all. I am sorry I didn't capture this on video as it could well be a one off! Then we did some back chaining on the down dog walk and this ramped up her speed to her stop position nicely. The target stayed in Andy's pocket for the whole session. We didn't need it for Niamh or Kizzy so that's a result!

The other really good thing is that Kizzy is finally flipping between food and tug toy. Andy did some feeding for her A-frame (not all) and then she was released on to two jumps and a set of weaves. At the end of the sequence she was really tugging well. Andy had forgotten her duck on a rope (bad Andy) so I had to lend Niamh's knot on a rope and Kizzy didn't care she just wanted to tug; anything would have done. That's a big step and great to see. I could also see the intensity of the tug game had strengthened and she was really going for it. Excellent ..... good job!

We are going to have another session this week and I'll attempt to take some video.

I have made another promise to myself and that's to improve my start line routine with Niamh. She waits without problem (I might regret saying that come Saturday) but we drag into the ring and I pull her around on her lead and it all looks ugly. It has grown from my fear of Niamh chasing other dogs when they're working, something she has been known to do on more than one occasion! Anyway, it's work in progress. I doubt that I'll be rehearsing this aspect of our start line at Crufts!

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Poor Poppy Davies

Our good friend Sara Davies is having a really bad time of it at the moment. Her young boxer, Popy, has had to have an operation on her cruciate ligament and the recovery is a long, slow and difficult process. Some of you might remember Sara from her days in agility when she used to work her lovely dogs: Mist, Taff and then Becky.

Poppy's trauma

Wishing Poppy a full recovery.