Monday, 27 October 2008

More nice walks and a training day

Last week Bernadette came over for a walk with Zen and Pax. We went for a pub lunch first and then off to Eridge. We had a nice time and I provided the entertainment by getting my foot stuck in a really muddy puddle and almost losing my shoe. I think it was very unkind of Bernadette to roll around laughing instead of rushing to my assistance. Some friend.

Niamh is going through a bad phase of goading Poppy (she does this from time to time and then stops for a while). She wants Poppy to play with her but Poppy is far to busy sniffing or rolling around on the floor. The trouble is that Niamh then leaps around sideways, backwards (rarely forwards) and is rather a liability. She is very good with our shelties and does her utmost never to run into them but even so it can become rather tiresome. I didn't want her knocking into Zen or Pax so she had some of the walk on lead and then Zen took a turn on lead and this way everyone was happy!

The following day I went to Eridge again as I needed to take some supplies into Mum. We had a lovely walk; just me and my little three as Andy walked his own dogs that day. Here are some pictures. They aren't bad considering they were taken with my mobile as I'd forgotten my camera (again!)

On Saturday I went to a training day with Natasha Wise. It's my third one of these sessions and I really enjoyed it again. I love Natasha's enthusiasm and the ways she trains (both dogs and people.) I came away with two really useful tweaks to my training with Niamh.

The tweaks were simple but very effective:

One tip was to get rid of my steady command prior to pull throughs and just cue her with my pull through word "IN". She then understands immediately it's a pull through and looks for the second/third jump in the sequence. When I was putting in my steady word she was unsure if it was a wing wrap to begin with and wasn't actively looking for the pull through. So simple but so right. Why didn't I see this?

The other suggestion was to trust Niamh more when turning through a 90° or greater turn. I'm using the same style as Tasha, i.e. still using my lead arm but also the opposite (collect) arm in these situations. However, I tend to stop and watch Niamh respond to the cue and Tasha told me to trust her more as she fully understands the signal. In other words as I use this cue I should keep moving to where we are going and trust the cue to do its job and believe that Niamh will pick up the right signal. She did, every time and it was so much better for me to be able to keep moving rather than having to push off from a near stand still. Leah has the same problem with me when I'm doing push throughs, I tend to dog watch rather than move into the next position. When I play badminton I often shot watch rather than move back to position so I guess it's a problem I have!

I was very disappointed with myself on the contact section. We didn't do a lot of these as we'd worked hard on jumping sequences. Maybe I was brain dead by this stage but I went neutral on Niamh and she hates that. She needs me to engage with her and act happy like I normally do. Tash immediately spotted it but it was too late as I'd unsettled poor Niamh. Never mind, we'll fix that at home and/or at training tomorrow night. I am a useless and stupid dog trainer at times. For some reason I get very nervous on training days.

The training session was at Polly's and she very kindly made us all lunch of baked potato. After the session I went for a nice walk on Chobham common with Karen and Hannah. It was lovely. I had only Niamh and Zeki with me as Pops had stayed home with Andy as I thought it would be too cold for her sitting in the car. The difference with Niamh was amazing. No Poppy "sheep" to play with and she just trotted around like a normal dog. In fact she wasn't at all confident and kept coming back to me for reassurance, something she rarely if ever does. Even Karen and Hannah noticed the difference. Normally my walks are peppered with "careful" commands to make Niamh take notice of what she's doing. I didn't have to say this once. It was lovely! Zeki on the other hand was full of confidence and spent most of the time up front with Corrie or Hannah's Zazzy.

After the walk we went back to Karen's for a cup of tea and bad Karen got out a huge bag of popcorn which we couldn't stop eating!

Sunday was very wet here and so we had a really lazy day. I had lessons booked but had to cancel. Instead I finished a very good book I was reading. Then horror of horrors, we spent part of the afternoon working in the office! How sad is that.

Busy weekend (last week)

The past couple of weekends have been really busy and very enjoyable. The Saturday before last I had lessons in the morning and Andy went out for a bike ride with Dan and Michael from next door. Here they are ready for the off:

Andy & Dan

Andy, Michael & Dan

In the afternoon we took the dogs for a nice walk in Eridge Woods. I tried to take some photos but it was a bit dark so they aren't very good. We don't get to walk here as often as we used to. It was my every day walk when we lived in Tunbridge Wells and I do miss it. The dogs are always so pleased to go back there for walks. It's very different from the open fields we walk in now. I do try to walk there once a week and tie it up with a visit to Mum.

Andy with his three: Becky, Murphy & Princess Kizzy

Niamh waiting for action


After that we went for a visit with Mum as her nursing home is only 5 minutes' from the walk. We took Kizzy and Zeki in for a visit. They are both really good and Mum does love to see the dogs. I am pleased with Zeki's behaviour when I take her into the home. I thought she might be a little wild and noisy but she seems to understand that she needs to be calm, quiet and gentle with Mum. Kizzy has always been an angel on visits and Zeki isn't far behind her on that front. Poppy, Becky and Murphy are also very good. I haven't taken Niamh in to see Mum as she is rather a handful. The experience would be good for her but not for Mum as I'm pretty sure Niamh would spook and panic.

By the time we got home we were exhausted and couldn't be bothered to cook so instead we had a chinese takeaway and watched our favourite programme in the world "Strictly Come Dancing".

On Sunday we were up early as we were both off to do a training day for a group of people who train with a friend. We are doing a series of these sessions through the winter months. We were lucky as the weather was gorgeous and we were able to train outside in a lovely sand school. We enjoyed the session and are looking forward to the next one. It's nice to be invited back as you can get some continuity going. After the training session we were taken to one of the local pubs for a lovely late lunch.

We took all our dogs with us but they had quite a boring time in the car. We made up for it as we got home just in time to take them for a nice long walk, by the time we got back to the car it was dark but at least they were happy.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Zeki Training Update

Zeki's training is progressing pretty well. Some things I wish were better and others I'm very happy with.

I have put most effort into making sure that Zeki doesn't back off from me when I've called her in or just want to pick her up for a cuddle. She was very prone to this when I first had her (as are lots of shelties) and Bernadette advised me to work hard on this. I took this comment to heart and I'm glad I listened and worked on this area of her training. It definitely has paid off as she doesn't do this at all.

I have worked a lot on her recalls to front and both sides (still and with motion) and she's very good at these. I still tend to reward with food when out walking as I want these recalls to be the most solid for her own safety. She does a very fast and enthusiastic recall which never fails to make me smile. Yesterday it had its first real test when out walking she tore off after a squirrel in Eridge forest. I called and she turned straight round and ran full speed back to me. I was very impressed and very pleased about this as you can imagine.

At home I would think 75% of her recalls are now done for a toy reward and they are probably 90% positive. This is pretty good but I want them better!

I have also worked on her targeting but I still have much to do on this before I can start to use it for her contacts. This is fine as I don't plan on training those for a while yet. She'll be eight months old on 8th November so there's plenty of time.

I have just started working on her "stays". They're not brilliant to be honest, more work in progress! Her positions are good for toy reward and now we will go back to food to improve our stays.

The other thing I'm having to work on is stopping her from attacking brooms, vacuum hoses and the like (oh and the hose of the dog blaster!) We have stopped her attacking the upright vacuum but she still goes mad when I get the hose out. At the suggestion of Gran'Ma I am using the vacuum to proof her downs. We started this yesterday and I'm pleased to report that I can vacuum half the kitchen floor with her in a down stay. Next I have to try to get her to do a down stay whilst I use the vacuum hose but before I do this I actually want to stop her from attacking it PERIOD!

She has started to charge at Kizzy during walks and this I definitely will not tolerate. I don't allow any of my dogs to charge each other and this includes shelties! Kizzy doesn't much like it and it's starting to spoil her walks. So, we are now working on this and had some degree of success today. If that level of success continues then I'll be happy, if I think we're not making enough progress then Zeki will go back onto the extender lead in order to break the cycle of this behaviour.

Zeki's tugging has really strengthened and I'm delighted with this. It was put to the test last Friday when Karen came over for the day. We had a lovely time training our dogs and I had my first "agility" lesson with Zeki kindly facilitated by Karen. I was really surprised and pleased with how we did. Karen had us doing send aways through three sets of jump wings, Zeki would run ahead nicely to her ball and then we'd have a tug game.

I didn't use any food until we had a play with the tyre. We'd only done one little session on the tyre previously and so I wanted to carry on where we'd left off. Just basic clicker work with me gradually moving further back from the tyre. To finish this, Karen held Zeki and I recalled her through the tyre on each side.

Lastly we did a bit of target practise on the ground. I use the seesaw to make a channel between me and Zeki so that she stays nice and straight. She doesn't go on the plank, we're a long way off that!

After Zeki we did some work with Todd and then Jessie and Niamh. We did quite a bit of contact proofing and weave entries with these three and it was really good fun and we both felt we'd achieved something which is an added bonus!

After our training we took the dogs for a nice long walk over the fields and then Karen set off home. All in all, a very enjoyable day!

Autumn Walks

I love walking at this time of year and we've had some lovely long walks recently. Some days it's been really warm with sunshine and I could stay out for hours with the dogs. Sadly, I usually get a little call from Andy reminding me that there are applications to be done blah blah. He's such a spoilsport.

The difference between Zeki and Kizzy are now very apparent and it isn't just in their looks. Kizzy is a very very polite sheltie; Zeki by contrast is rather a rude sheltie! She is absolutely adorable but she is quite a handful compared with her sister.

Some examples:

Kizzy doesn't bark much; Zeki is very noisy when there is action, i.e. going for her walk, playing etc.
Kizzy never pulls on her lead; Zeki pulls like a demon and wears a harness which has little or no effect other than stopping her choking.
Kizzy trots at my heels for most of her walk; Zeki is a trail blazer and is always out front with Murphy or Niamh
Kizzy never bullies the other dogs; Zeki is a little tyrant and tells everyone off, in fact she's just started charging at Kizzy so we're going to have a few words about this!
Kizzy is perfect; Zeki isn't quite perfect - yet!

I have done quite a bit lately to quieten her as we walk across the recreation ground and out to the fields. She was screaming with excitement so I spent quite a bit of time just halting until she stopped barking and sat still and then she could progress again. She learned very quickly that she didn't get what she wanted by barking. Now I usually only have to do this once as we get out of the car and she walks (well pulls me) quietly across the rec'. I have yet to solve the problem of her screaming when we arrive at the car park. Pound for pound she is as wild as Naughty Niamh. It must by me but then Poppy is perfect so maybe it's just that I've now got two very NAUGHTY dogs!

Here are some pictures of our recent walks:


The Hudsondoglets pose in the sunshine

Zeki rounding up Becky, she's probably barking as her mouth is open (it usually is!)

Leah will be pleased to see that Murphy now has pricked ears!

This makes me laugh - this is Zeki doing one of her super fast recalls (barking as usual!)

Waiting for Niamh to make a move first!

Come on, I want to get going!

The lovely autumn colours up at the farm where I walk

Zeki looking cute

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Working in the garden

After I finally got round to posting about our holiday I can update on some more recent stuff.

The leaf fall is gradually picking up pace. We're hoping to buy a heavy weight leaf picker upperer (technical term). They are very expensive and so we're going to go halves with Michael and Ellen next door. It's a good idea because it's an expensive bit of kit and something you only use for a very short period each year. We're going to store it in our mower shed and when we renew the fencing at the top of the garden we'll have a gate put in so that Michael can come and help himself to the machine when he needs it. Meantime we have to do the job manually. Look what I loaded into the barrow by mistake!

Two lesser spotted leaf-eating termites

The gardner came and pruned the rose arch and worked on the willow tree. There was a lot of dead wood and now it's looking much tidier. It will mean we don't get the constant drop of dead twigs and branches from it.

The newly pruned rose arch

Kindling wood from the willow tree pruning, those termites have escaped from the barrow!

The colours in the garden are really lovely at the moment. I love this time of year (apart from the leaves falling of course!)

The new grass is growing where the old vegetable patch used to be. It's not tough enough to use yet but hopefully it won't be too long. It will give me a much better area for my agility once it's ready to use.

A couple of weekend back Andy had a really good clear out of the green house. It was still full of junk from the last people and from when we moved in. We used it as a general storage area. It's not something I could really help with because it meant disturbing lots and lots of very large spiders and I'm not at all keen on them (that's putting it mildly.) This whole house is very spidery. I can cope with the thin harvest spiders but I really don't like the big house spiders. Zeki likes to chase and eat them if she gets the chance - YUK!

Anyway, the greenhouse is now very tidy and we are using one half of it as our log store. It's much better than the old store as it's completely weather proof and it's right down by the house so you don't have to go miles up the garden in the dark hunting for logs when the basket runs out. We survived last winter using up wood we found in the garden and from trees we cut down ourselves. This year we've got two loads in and they're all stored in the greenhouse ready for the cold weather. What am I on about, we've already had the wood burner most nights over the three weeks!

The tidy greenhouse above; below the logs put to good use

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Holiday final instalment - "Bill's 60th Birthday"

Whilst we were on holiday it was Jackie's 60th birthday. Jackie is more commonly known as Bill for some reason known best to Terry. For the purpose of this entry she shall be known as Bill.

Happy 60th Birthday Jackie Bill Insull

The day started very pleasantly with Bucks Fizz and croissants in Dan & Mac's awning with the ritual present opening session. Then we all took our dogs for a walk and met up for afternoon tea and cake. Andy ate so much cake he felt sick. In the evening we went to one of our favourite pubs, The Filly Inn and Terry treated us all to a lovely dinner to celebrate Bill's birthday. Andy only had a starter because he still felt sick.

Here are some pictures of our evening:

Publish Post

Also some more pictures from our holiday courtesy of Dan & Mac's blog.

That's it then for another year. The caravan has been cleaned and put to bed for the winter.

Holiday second instalment - "Walks in the Forest"

Despite the wet weather during the first week we had some lovely walks in the forest (the main reason we choose to holiday in this lovely location.) The upside of the wet weather was that lots of lovely lakes developed. Our dogs love to play in shallow water and it cleans them up after the muddy bits.

Andy and the Hudsondoglets, minus Murphy who's probably behind the gorse bush munching horse pooh!

Zeki doing a recall at high speed

Zeki out and about

Naughty Niamh

Poppy, Murphy & Becky

Zeki posing in the heather

Kizzle posing in heather but this wind can play havoc with a girls ears!

On the Wednesday of our second week Karen and the Gang came down and we went for a nice walk at one of our favourite spots and had lunch at the Red Shoot pub. On the way back to the campsite we decided to stop for another walk and ended up doing another hour and a half. We had a total of 12 dogs on the walk and they all behaved very well - even the Naughty Niamh!

Zeki, Niamh, Poppy, Todd, Becky & Murphy

Murphy, Todd, Poppy and Jess with Sassy and Corrie in the background

Zeki, Becky & Murphy

Zeki, Todd, Niamh and Corrie

Lots of dogs!

On Friday we had a visit from Dennis and Bernadette who brought Zen with them. We went out for a walk just outside the camp site. Zen isn't too keen on water but she soon joined in the action with our lot. It was the noisiest walk I have been on. One sheltie was perfectly quiet (Kizzle of course) and two were very noisy (Zen and Zeki). I have to admit that my model was by far the loudest and most prolific barker. Oh dear, this is not the plan. My sheltie is very naughty and Andy (and Bernadette) find this amusing for some reason.

During the walk there were several occasions when I was calling Zeki whilst looking at Zen and vice versa. They are so similar it isn't true!

After the walk we were very civilised and had tea and cake before Bernadette and Dennis headed home with a very tired Zen.

Zen enjoying the water with Kizzle

Niamh, Zen and Poppy

The above picture makes me laugh - look at Kizzy and Niamh jumping the water!

Everyone having a good time!

Zen doing her utmost to get me to throw something into the water for them to chase!

Even Kizzy is getting into the act and she's normally a real whimp with water!

Zen out with the collies

We had about two days where we could sit outside the caravan and the dogs enjoyed a spell in the sunshine drying off after their walk.

Andy's three with their leads stretched to maximum - why do they always do this??

Zeki enjoys a cuddle with Mac

Niamh after her walk. I like to think she's practising her targets in her sleep! This is one of her favourite positions for a snooze.

Gorgeous little Zeki

Bookends (Poppy and Niamh)

Enjoying a rare bit of sunshine

Finally, Zeki and Andy back indoors as the rain has started again!

We enjoyed our holiday and as always it was finished far too quickly. That said I always like to get home and back into some sort of routine even if it does involve work!

One final instalment to follow - Bill's 60th birthday!