Sunday, 16 November 2008

Training and other things

We had a good session at training last night. We set up a pattern that we last used in 2004 and worked on weave entries as well as pull throughs and fast contact loops. Murphy was a very happy boy as Leah was back from her month away in Wales. He was rather enthusiastic to say the least. Poor Leah, I don't know how she does it but she runs Murphy in the first class, then Hex, Link and finally Herbie. It was nice to have her back at training (and Jay of course), I have missed her but don't tell her that!

I was pretty pleased with Naughty Niamh, her contacts were excellent and her weave entries pretty good. I have been working hard on getting her to continue in the weaves when I peel away or stop and she has definitely improved with this aspect of her weaves.

I had Zeki out and about during one class. She is a real handful when there are other dogs working. If I have food then it's no issue, she's totally into me (well, the food!) but if I try to use a toy then she is much more likely to watch and bark at the other dogs. She has a very strong eye. We did make some progress but not much! More of this little problem later!

Kizzy and Andy had a good training session. Their contacts have really improved and Andy now seems to be much more clear in how he wants to move these forward. He was due to attend a training day with Toni Dawkins on Saturday but unfortunately had to pull out due to a pulled muscle. He somehow managed to do this on Tuesday evening at training and so can't run much at all right now. He has had to pull out of badminton for a couple of weeks. Of course, he can still manage to ride a motorbike!!

On Friday Karen, Leah and I got together for some extra training. Leah set us some difficult exercises which highlighted all my weaknesses. We did a couple of sequences where we had to layer and also run past obstacles that the dog couldn't take. I did not achieve it with Niamh so I need to practise this more. Karen and Leah both managed to get it right with their dogs. Boo hoo, I am so useless. We also had a session on pull throughs and push throughs. This was better and I managed this reasonably well.

Karen and Leah did some training with Hex and Todd. I think they had a good time, they were both very tired after. I didn't watch them train as I had a much more important role, that of buying our lunch. One has to prioritise.

After lunch Karen gave me a lesson with Zeki. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have some video which I'll put on the blog as soon as I've edited out the really bad bits! Our ladder work was hysterical because I used a toy rather than food and we had rather too much drive and kept forgetting to trot through the rungs! Poor Karen was trying to assist me and video and typically most of the not so good bits got filmed and the better stuff not! Karen brought Sparkie down for a wander and we soon discovered that Zeki's focus was not so good when Sparkie dared to move. So, we spent some time getting Zeki to play whilst Karen and Sparkie walked and then trotted round. As mentioned earlier, she has a strong eye and I realise I am going to have to work hard to build up her focus on me in situations where there is movement and excitement. I am going to see if I can find a local obedience class for where we can start to work with other dogs around. Overall I was delighted with our training and her tugging has strenghthened enormously and more often than not I can switch between toy and food.

On Saturday I judged Tenterden agility club's competition. It was good fun with lots of nice dogs and handlers. We had a lovely buffet after the competition and I won a jump in the raffle. It's one of those portable stick in the ground types that you can pop in the car and take to shows.

Andy was pretty busy getting the land rover cleaned up ready to sell (it has gone!) and then he and Michael went out on a bike ride. We decided to sell the vehicle because it's a lot of money tied up in one car that for seven months of the year sits on the drive. Come the spring we're going to look for a cheaper tow vehicle ready for the agility season.

Today was also busy. I had my beginner group in the morning and then I took Zeki down and trained her. We worked on our open v-weaves - she's very proficient at these now and does them equally well for a toy or treat tub. I won't be doing too much more of these for a bit as I don't want to upright them any more as she's only 8.5 months old but equally I don't want to keep them wide open for much longer. Hopefully when we come back to them she will remember the process.

We moved on with our little jump and tunnel sequence and can now complete two jumps to a u-shaped tunnel and two jumps to finish. I do this from ahead, beside and behind on both hands. So far, so good. She is very keen for her toy which is a real help.

I have decided that I will do a stop dog walk. I simply don't have the kind of commitment required to achieve reliable running contacts. So I have been working on her targets and they have improved enough that I decided to start work on the down dog walk plank. I lowered it right down and just started from about a third of the way back behind the contact on lead and she pulled straight to her target. We did about five repetitions on each side and I was pleased with the result.

This afternoon Michael came round and helped me get my new PINK laptop sorted out with the software I need. It's very nice and this is my first blog entry using it!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Niamh's new coat

A few people have asked me about Niamh's new coat, including Char. Here are the details, I think they are really brilliant. I have admired them for some time as Leah has them for Herbie and Link.

Quite apart from the quality of the coat, the biggest plus is that they are easy to put on and off and sit like a second skin on the dog. This is very important for a dog as 'panicky' as Niamh.

I think Tia would love one of these Char!

It's pouring down

What a miserable Monday. It rained here most of yesterday but uckily I was away at a training day and we had only about half an hour's rain right at the end of the session. I was very cold when I got home but luckily Andy had the wood burner alight so I could warm up. Poor Andy couldn't take his new toy out for a ride as it was so wet here.

It rained all night long and we woke up to torrential rain this morning. It is still pouring down now (5.30 pm). I went into Tunbridge Wells at lunch time to get my hair cut and the roads were flooding then. I noticed the lake forming in the big field next to us so we're keeping our fingers crossed that the ditches keep flowing and that the culvert under the road doesn't block up. I keep checking that the back lawn isn't forming a puddle as that was the first sign of the flood we had back in February. The weather forecast is better for the rest of the week so hopefully it'll dry up a bit.

I really couldn't face walking the dogs today so instead they have all been groomed and I've done some clicker training with each of mine. I have started to teach a new trick to Zeki and Niamh (to jump through my arms). It's only just started and Zeki is picking it up quite quickly. I have them sitting at my side and form a circle with my arms which they have to jump through. It's a bit risky with Niamh as she tends to batter me as she lunges through. In addition I started to teach Niamh to about turn and offer me a back paw and I also progressed Zeki's roll over and sit up and beg. All are coming along nicely.

I even did some clicker bits with Poppy. She isn't clicker trained like my others but I have played around with it from time to time and she does have a basic understanding. Today we worked on getting her to make eye contact with me rather than looking at her treat pot. She picked this up really quickly and then we finished by getting her to touch her nose to an upturned box of tissues. She really enjoyed it and is now fast asleep under my desk.

I was entered at North Downs show on Saturday but decided not to go. I really am not a fan of indoor shows. I hate the noise and the lack of space. That said, North Downs has a very nice venue and is one of the better indoor events. I'm glad I didn't go as I had a nice relaxing day at home and did a few bits of training with my girls and then took all the dogs out for a really long walk .... and got absolutely soaked!

Strictly Come Dancing, my favourite t.v. show is now half way through. I am cross that John Sarjeant is still in the competition. He is a very nice man but he is a useless dancer and the stupid public keep voting him in. It isn't a "nicest person" competition; it's a dance competition and by keeping him in better dancers are being evicted. Grrrhhh, it makes me very cross.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The new addition to the family

Ha, got you there! It's not another doglet but a new toy for Andy. For some reason the nice blue, perfectly fine motorcycle sitting in the garage isn't good enough. So after deep and lengthy discussion (read into that what you will) a new motorcycle will be taking up residence in my grooming room - i.e. the garage. I hope it doesn't take up too much more space than the current resident. You can read about the new arrival here.

The positive side of this purchase is that it buys me one heck of a lot of credit. See charter below (click to enlarge.)

The charter states: "exemption from all derogatory comments with regard to purchase of canine merchandise"

So, I have started in the way that I mean to continue. This week's purchases for my little doglets:

Niamh modelling her new Obtrack Skrylle Dog Coat

Niamh modelling her new Rogz Chocolate & Pink Harness (every day walks)

Zeki modelling her new ID disc. It's pink to match her new pink collar which Karen bought her. This means Kizzy can have her little purple disc back for her purple collar (also bought by Karen). Zeki has been borrowing the disc until we sorted out her own pink one! She is also wearing her new Rogz pink harness but you can only see a tiny bit of it. It is very smart.

Not a recent purchase I know, but I thought I'd put a picture on the blog of Niamh wearing her agility harness. This is really good for Niamh at shows because it comes off easily and she is much less nervous when wearing it. She is hardly ever aggressive towards other dogs since I started using the harnesses instead of head collars. She obviously feels more confident and in control. You can buy labels for the harnesses. You just pick from a drop down list on the web site. Niamh had "Girl Power" and "Monster".

As a surprise, Michael our next door neighbour who is very talented and does lots of stuff, he's amazing actually, made bespoke labels for Niamh's harness. One of his skills is industrial type sewing (car upholstery etc).

Now it's official, she really is NAUGHTY NIAMH! I was right all along!
I have more to spend as I haven't yet bought anything of substance for Poppy. I am looking at new beds. Watch this space!

Lastly (for now), the charter states: "Daily early morning tea with newspaper, mobile (and laptop when available.)"

So sometime next week, this will be arriving - yes it's a pink laptop. This means I can sit in bed and catch up with my various forum visits and blogging when my tea is brought to me each morning !

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Spot the difference

I've been meaning to post these two pictures of Kizzy and Zeki for a while. Spot the difference!

Photo 1

Photo 2

Aren't they gorgeous!

More Zeki training

Yesterday I decided to try to put my new contact theory into practise. I had a very clear plan in my head of exactly what training I wanted to do with Zeki not just on the dogwalk plank but a couple of other things as well. My plan was to do some plank work and some startline waits.

As usual nothing went to plan but we had a great session!

I started off with some flat work using my little marker cones. We have a variety of flat work exercises we do using the cones and I'm building up the distance that Zeki has to go to the cones without me. I set out two cones about 7-8 metres apart and we work lines to and around each cone.

First of all we do what I call natural turns which means Zeki has to stay on my designated lead arm and follow my natural shoulder turn taking in a cone at each end. We do this on both lead arms.

Next we practise our front cross flat work. This means Zeki has to start off on one lead arm and go around the cone still working off that same lead arm; as she rounds the cone I pick her up on the other arm (i.e. turning into her) and cross to the second cone on a diagonal line and repeat the exercise on the opposite arm.

Then we work on our rear cross flat work. Here we start for example on the left lead arm and approach a cone which is slightly to our left. I ask Zeki to turn "left" and she rounds the cone away from me. I turn the same direction as Zeki and pick her up on the right arm. We approach the second cone again on a diagonal and I ask her to turn "right" and so forth.

She really enjoys these exercises which I originally taught using clicker and food but for which we now use a thrown toy as reward.

Lastly an exercise I've been doing since she was tiny, I send Zeki to a single cone and she has to run round it and come back to me. For this exercise I am stationary; I set her up on my chosen side and expect her to round the cone in a natural turn, i.e. if she starts on my left arm then I expect her to run round the cone clockwise. I then turn and receive/reward her on the same side and throw the toy forward. I do the exercise this way to build her understanding of not crossing in front or behind me, i.e. she stays on the arm I've requested unless I give her a signal to do otherwise.

After this we progressed onto some straight lines through wings. Following on from my session with Karen the other week, I built back to three wings where I would throw her toy through the wings and then restrain her and let her fly up the wings by herself to get her toy. I then run and and we have a good game of tuggy. I will build this up so that I can run up either side of the wings (at the moment I just following her through the middle.) I am making sure I don't run until she is about to pounce on her toy in order to encourage her to drive up there by herself. I will mix this up more once she really understands her job.

Then for the first time we used just one set of wings to practise our wing wraps. I did these on natural side (with me pivoting), i.e. if she was on my right I asked her to turn right. Next I will do this exercise with a front cross collection and lastly with a rear cross. I don't think it will be too much hard work to move to the cross behind version as she already has very good idea from her flat work with the cones. I was very impressed with her wing wraps. She understood to go past the wing (probably from having run through them and having done the cone work) and as soon as I cued her left or right round she came and I threw her toy as reward.

Now I have a dilemma. I have taught Zeki left and right as I have with all my dogs. However, I have huge problems remembering left and right in all walks of life. Just ask Andy, he will regale you with various tales about this, especially from situations when I've been driving and he's been directing me (or trying to!) I have used a steady command with all of my dogs and this means for them to "collect, take the obstacle in front and turn to the side I am on". If I want them to turn away from me then I will use the same command but do a sort of two arm transition move to indicate I want them to turn away (Tasha very sensibly calls this the "aeroplane" cue). If it's a really difficult turn away then I will drill myself when walking the sequence to use the correct turn command. It bears no relevance to me I just know I have to say that word at that jump.

Now, I have listened to Bernadette and I understand that little dogs are capable of turning fast without the kind of "collection" that a larger dog might need. However, I see no reason that I couldn't teach Zeki that "steady" means turn towards me and just leave out the part where I teach the stride collection. Views welcome on this and also if anyone has any wonderful methods or tricks to teach a lazy brain to compute left and right at speed. At the moment I have to check which wrist my watch is on and obviously this is just too slow!

At last we got to the plank! Things went much better than Friday. I placed the food tub much further out and let her approach the plank from front on only. She really did increase her speed and ran through every time. However (and there always is a however with me) I noticed that often she would turn and look at me as I clicked and then run on to the pot. I'm clicking as she runs the final part of the plank. This I wasn't pleased with. She definitely has "clicker means end of exercise" syndrome. So, with the advice of my super trainer I am going to do away with the click and probably the food and just reward with a thrown toy. I will say at this stage that I'm almost certainly going to train a stop and release contact but in the meantime Zeki is getting lots of confidence and speed running down the plank.

Lastly and completely unplanned I decided to introduce Zeki to the weaves. I have v-weaves and although I wouldn't teach a large dog on this type of training weave I think they can work really well for smaller dogs. I opened them right out so they were almost laying on the floor and put Zeki's food tub about 1.5 m from the end of the poles. Then I let her tow me on lead through the poles to her tub. I did this about four times on each side. She took to it really quickly. I might do them once more this week but then I think I'll leave it for a while. She's not eight months until 8/11 and I can already tell she's going to learn the process pretty fast so I don't want to go any further with this particular obstacle just yet.

All of this lasted about 50 minutes and she was still just as full of energy at the end of the session. I really enjoyed it and am now feeling incentivised to push forward with her training.

That's about it for now!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Zeki's Training - some thoughts about the dog walk

Zeki continues to make me laugh. She is such an outgoing and confident little person. She will be eight months' old on 8th November and I can't believe where the time has gone.

I have started to give real thought to Zeki's dog walk contact. I'm rather wishing I hadn't given it too much thought and just got on and trained it like I did with my other dogs because it has given me a dilemma and consequently I have been reading and re-reading different ideas on lots of different blogs and of course the web site of the wonderful Sylvia Trkman.

I had kind of thought I would train Zeki to run the dog walk down plank; partly because my target training is still not strong enough to put to the contacts and partly because I want her to run fast across the plank without thinking about stopping for the time being.

We had our first session practising last Friday and at the end of it I wasn't really very satisfied with what I'd done. She had a good time with lots of reward so no harm done but I was still not practising anything with conviction; just playing around really. I placed the plank on an old caravan step so it was some 8 inches off the ground. I then had two of her plastic cones placed either side of the entrance so she made a straight entry onto the plank. By the end of the session she was happily picking up the entrance for herself with me stood either side of the plank. However, I wasn't getting the speed that I wanted. She was very happy coming down the plank but it wasn't really fast.

So, I had a thorough read of some articles including Sylvia Trkman's ideas and now I have a plan forming. I'm going to do away with the cones and only run Zeki onto the plank from a straight entrance so that she can get up speed before she arrives on the plank. I am going to place her food pot a good deal further out than I was on Friday so she has to keep running and focusing on her pot. I will probably stick with a food pot (rather than a placed or thrown toy) whilst I work on this because I think it will be easier for her to transition to her target in due course. I will be clicking as she runs through the contact and then throwing the food out beyond her pot, i.e. she will get her reward whilst focusing forward and not looking to me.

One thing I have decided is that I'm not going to use props to achieve the running contact, I'm going to try the Sylvia Trkman method and if things go to plan then maybe I'll end up with a choice: either I can continue down the route and train full running contacts or I can bring in the target and end up with a fast run to a target.

I haven't trained contacts like this before so it will be interesting to see if it works out. I hope that by training a solid behaviour with her target alongside running fast over the plank it won't be an issue to merge the two methods.

Maybe in a month's time I'll be posting on here saying it isn't working and after all I'm going back to my preferred method of back chaining (on lead) to the target!

Another weekend flies by

Well, the weekend was quite mixed. On Saturday I managed a dry lesson and as we walked back down to the house the rain started and so it continued for the whole day. It was really miserable and cold. I lit the wood burner and me and the dogs snuggled up for a day by the fire. I confess they didn't get a walk on Saturday as it was just too wet and cold. Instead we played different games indoors and I think every toy from both toy boxes was brought out and played with. Andy was rather wet and cold when he got home from helping Dennis to remove some old decking. We're going to re-use the decking outside our summer house so it wasn't just out of the kindess of his heart he was helping :)

Sunday was a much better day and Andy managed to catch up with some work which he needed to get ready for a client meeting this week. Then we tackled the attic room which had once again become a dumping ground. The room looks reasonable again now but we were reminded about how much we need to do (and spend) to get it up to a really good standard with an en-suite. We want to do it to add value plus it's such a waste of a lovely view. We don't use the room and the view is absolutely lovely, we never get to see it because we live downstairs.

The view from upstairs, not very good as it was raining. I'll try to remember to do another shot on a sunny day (whenever that might be!)

I was booked into Downland agility show today but decided not to go as there is quite a bit of kennel cough around and I think indoor shows are quite high risk, especially at this time of year. That coupled with the fact that I really don't like the venue made me decide to stay away. It's probably being over cautious but I prefer not to take the risk. I can't decide yet whether or not to go to North Downs next weekend.

As mentioned in the previous post, Kizzy was two years old on Sunday. I can't believe where the time has gone. She is still as gorgeous as ever and is the perfect little princess in all ways. As you can see not much has changed in two years!

Spring 2007

Spring 2008

I think we have a theme here!

Kizzy had lots of treats yesterday including several Burns pork scratchings, a whole digestive biscuit, special breakfast, special dinner and an extra long walk. Here is a little picture of her and Andy as we were coming to the end of the walk. The sunset was gorgeous but I'd forgotten my camera so this was the best I could do with the mobile.

Kizzy on her birthday with Andy and a lovely sunset in the background

We were out for about 2.5 hours and all the dogs including Zeki were really tired when we got home. We actually got to watch the Strictly Come Dancing result in relative peace. They woke up soon after that and out came all the toys. Here is a picture of Niamh after she had finished playing with all her favourite chewy toys and her beloved Prongo. She often sleeps like this, I cannot believe it can be comfortable with her foot tucked under in this way. She gathers all the toys around her before she goes to sleep just in case someone else might steal them whilst she's not watching.

Naughty Niamh surrounded by her toys

Both Zeki and Kizzy love the wood burner and hog the hearth when it's alight. Sometime we have to drag Zeki away as she lays right on the hearth and gets extremely hot. Poppy also loves the warmth but she gets a bit scared if a log makes a popping noise and tends to stay away. However, when we were clearing out the attic room we found Abbey's old fleece. Abbey adored the fleece and we used to put it in her bed for her to lie on. Well, I was going to take it to Oxfam but then decided I couldn't part with it so Andy suggested we lay it in front of the fire for the shelties. We put it down and Poppy got up and had a good sniff and then lay down on the fleece. It made me cry as I'm sure she could smell Abbey on there. She really does miss her old friend and it makes me so sad as Poppy is such a sweet little dog and they were so lovely together.

Little Pops fast asleep on Abbey's fleece - hopefully dreaming of one of their walks together!

"I just woke up; where am I?" Poppy with her little trademark crispy tongue!

All in all a pleasant weekend despite some grotty weather. The week ahead isn't looking brilliant apart from tomorrow (Tuesday). I love the winter but only when it's crispt and cold; not soggy and wet and cold!

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Happy Birthday Kizzy - 2 years old today

Happy Birthday to our beautiful little Kizzle

My birthday photo and look what snuck in on the act - nasty little thing!