Friday, 27 February 2009

A great new doggy site

Our friend and neighbour has set up a business "Dogstoppers" making some really good bespoke items for the doggy world.

We are using the 'tunnel wedgies' at club and they have really made life much easier for us. We are allowed to stake on our surface but it is extremely difficult and time-consuming. We end up with lots of bent pegs which Mac has to straighten out for us on a regular basis! Now it takes us a fraction of the time to set up our tunnels and we don't have to spend all evening re-positioning the tunnels even when they are being extensively used.

Michael is a good friend and a brilliant neighbour so I really hope this new venture is a success for him.

My dogs love it because they get to try out the new toys!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Tuesday Training

On Tuesday we set up a weave drilling sequence which we spotted in an issue of Clean Run magazine. It looked really good and there is masses to do. We managed to complete only a very small number of the various exercises and plan to set it up again in a month's time.

We worked on getting the dogs to find the weave entries independently of the handler and also on building lateral distance, leaving the dogs and handler peeling away from weaves to move into position for next obstacle. Some of us also worked on layering the tunnel when completing #6-8 (squares) in Fig.1. There are so many exercises to work on and of course at least three or four ways of tackling each individual sequence.

Most of the sequences are original but a couple we made up ourselves. Can't wait for the next session of using this pattern!

Thanks to Nancy Gyes for agreeing to me posting the sequences on the blog. I can't re-produce the actual articles from Clean Run as that would be an infringement of copyright but Nancy is happy for me to illustrate the sequence and the patterns we chose to train on.

Here are the exercises we worked on:



# 8/12 (Fig.1) and # 3/10 (Fig.2) is a table in the original sequences but we chose to substitute the table with a jump. We completed all of the exercises in the two illustrations.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Naughty Niamh

Just had to post this photo of Niamh taken by Michael in the garden last week! This is Niamh's favourite toy of the moment, it was her Christmas present and I use it at training as she sees it really well and drives over the finish line to find it! It doesn't aid my useless girly throwing though, it bounces when it lands and never finishes up anywhere near where I've aimed! Plus it hurts when it hits people doesn't it Leah, Jan, Andy et al!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Training again

Thought I'd do a post about this as a couple of people have asked me how long it has taken to get Zeki jumping at full height and the answer is not very long at all.

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I'd been for a lesson with Lesely; well that was less than a month ago and at that point Zeki was still running between wings. (I personally don't use poles on the ground because I worry about a dog turning a foot/wrist if they tread on the poles.)

The little sequences that Zeki has learnt thus far have all been taught using wings. Only in the past couple of weeks have I started putting up poles. She took this in her stride which is what I expected. She will be one year next week and so I feel it is the right time for her. That said, I don't do masses of jumping as all her training sessions are short and sweet.

With my collies I have never jumped them over full height until about a month before their first show. This is partly not to overwork a young dog but also in my experience it eliminates issues with dogs possibly running under jumps. With difficult or new sequences I always lower the poles, even for an experienced dog. With Zeki I feel it's a little different as she is very mature in a physical sense and obviously much smaller and more compact.

The stuff I'm teaching Zeki now is coming easily because we've put lots of effort into her foundation training which I really love. Our weekly class is still focused on foundation and I will keep working on this stuff with Zeki as she is learning so much by doing it. Zeki is the oldest dog in the class but we stay at the right level for the youngest dog and this really suits me because I just love doing the basics and seeing my little dog learn and improve. The agility and jumping is easy in comparison ... except for the contacts when you can't make up your mind what to do!

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Monday, 23 February 2009

More Zeki Training

I have resolved to do a little bit of training every day with Zeki. Yesterday we did a bit of everything mainly so that we could capture on film in one hit. Most days I don't go quite so mad and just pick on a couple of different things to work on.

Today I decided to work purely on cross behinds. This is obviously something that requires drive and preferably a dog happy to chase a toy.

Zeki doesn't always want to tug but this is improving and my miracle toy is helping tremendously. She has a little furry bunny bag which you can put treats in and also throw and tug. It is a fantastic toy for dogs that don't always latch straight onto traditional tug toys. Zeki is so into it that I hardly ever feed her from it. Today, for example, she had two pieces of kibble after we'd finished our session as we walked back down to the house. The rest of the time she is just chasing and tugging on it. Yippee! Michael our next door neighbour is now making a version of this toy together with other lovely toys. Hopefully his website will be ready to launch very soon!

Because I am training by myself most of the time, I have to either run with Zeki or do a startline. She is very good at her startlines so I do use them frequently. I was very strict with myself today and didn't do a huge long lead out (one of my major faults with all of my dogs - see Olympia video with Niamh for proof of this!!) So once I released her I let her overtake me so she had to drive up the line by herself. To start with I stayed on the side I set off from and she took the natural end of the tunnel. Then I put a cross behind in before the last jump and this was enough to take her to the other end of the tunnel. This is the first time we've done this exercise using a tunnel. We did the exercise on both sides and she was fantastic. I threw her toy as she drove out of the tunnel each time. I was very happy with two aspects of this exercise: one was the drive that she had up to the tunnel regardless of whether I stayed on the original side or put in the cross behind and the other was the way she naturally stayed on line or turned depending on whether or not I put in the rear cross. I didn't have to use any verbal cues at all, she did it all on body language. This suits me!

That said, I think I will have to teach her a command to turn away from me on either side. I don't want to use left and right as those are her wing wrap commands so I will probably start to teach her "back" and "out" for this purpose.

To finish with I started building up lateral distance for the same exercises and yippee, she didn't run out of a single jump. I do use my arms to support (excellent Greg Derrett terminology) obstacles that I'm working wide of and I did so today. I experimented once by dropping my arm at one point and sure enough she reacted and shot inside the jump. I will continue to do this as it's how I work all my dogs and I don't want things to be too different with Zeki as my brain will explode or is that implode!!

So this is what we worked on:

When I came back in I decided to teach Naughty Niamh a new trick. More of that later when I do an update on Niamh. She hasn't featured much on the blog since Olympia but I have been working hard with her too.

That's it for now as the doglets want their dinner!

Tired, happy dogs ... the best sight in the world!

We did some nice walks at the weekend and also some training so our girls were very tired.

Poppy is particularly worn out as she has occupied Zeki's space in our agility foundation class for the past two weeks. I can't tell you how much I have enjoyed this. Poppy still has huge amounts of drive and a desire to learn new things at almost 12. She has so enjoyed the experience and although I'm looking forward to getting back to the class with Zeki, part of me will feel very sad that I can't also do it with Poppy.

It has made me think that I will probably do something in the garden in the spring time and invite a few like-minded friends with their older dogs. It would be something along the lines of the foundation class with cones and wobble boards and other interactive objects.

Here are some pictures of my sleepy girls plus Kizzy. I'm not sure why I didn't take shots of Murphy and Becky ..... I will remember to next time they are looking cute.

Dear little Poppy: tired, satisfied and fast asleep

Princess Kizzy resting: this is quite usual for Kizzy regardless of whether she has had any exercise or training!!

A rare sight: My beautiful little Zeki looking (and acting) tired. Make the most of this!

And finally, my gorgeous Naughty Niamh snuggled on her own special sofa
thoroughly satisfied after a nice walk. Niamh is the most 'satisfied' dog I've ever owned. Once she's had her walk or some training or preferably both, she snuggles down for a really good sleep. This always makes me feel good as I love to see a well satisfied, appreciative dog.

Catching up with other news

Because I have been so bad at keeping my blog up to date just lately I haven't even posted some of the pictures I took from the floods a couple of weeks back. Just as the snow melted so the rain came and the river and fields were very flooded. We were quite worried after our near miss with the floods last February but it didn't get any where near as bad for us even though we learned that the river was at its highest for nine years. Those floods we had a year ago must have been partially due to the blocked culvert down the road - well, that's what we're hoping anyway.

Here are some pictures of the floods from a couple of weeks ago today.

The river is right back down again now which is always a relief. Some of the shops were flooded at the lower end of the high street but the water receded pretty quickly. We couldn't walk the dogs over the fields for a few days as the stream which feeds into the river also broke its banks and so it was just too risky to take the dogs there. Instead we had lots of walks on the Ashdown Forest. It was very wet up there but not flooded like our fields. The dogs got pretty filthy and it is so exhausting cleaning them all up before they get back in the car. Still, the weather has improved (I hope I don't regret saying this) and for the last few walks all we've had to do is wipe slightly muddy feet. We have found a new quick way of doing this by using a very damp e-cloth and then a dry one. If they're not too muddy it saves soaking their feet and does a really good job of cleaning them up. God, what would I do without e-cloths!

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Zeki's Training

I haven't been very good at posting on the blog just lately. The usual excuses come to mind and I won't bore you with them!

Zeki has been absent from training school and obedience for the past two and a half weeks as she's been in season. I'm hoping she might be OK to return this week but we'll have to wait and see.

Being absent from school doesn't mean we've been idle though. We have two strands of training: one is to progress our agility type skills and the other is to work on our naturally excellent chasing skills; that is to say we are actually trying to tone the latter down a little! Zeki has a very strong eye and a very strong chase instinct. I've always known this but if I'm honest I've been a rather laid back about doing enough to correct it.

Several things have happened to make me work harder at this: one being Zeki joining a football match, much to my horror and great embarrassment and another having our rather weak "stays" outed in a training session at, of all places, Bernadette's. Although I was again embarrassed it was actually a good thing because it gave me a kick up the proverbial and incentivised me to work harder on these aspects of Zeki's behaviour.

During the last few weeks I have also been with Zeki to Lesley's for a lesson. We worked on her target behaviour and I came away with good ideas and feeling positive. Things go pretty well when we're on our own but as soon as distraction is involved in comes the want to chase.

The foundation class which Leah takes is wonderful training for us because it gets us doing stuff with loads of activity going on around us as well as honing some of our core skills. I thoroughly enjoy this class and really think it's fantastic grounding for young dogs.

I have also started training Zeki's weaves again. I did a tiny bit a while back but could see she was going to pick up the process quite quickly so stopped as I didn't want to upright the poles too soon. Now she is almost 12 months old (can't believe that as I write it!) so about three weeks back I started training them again. In all she's had about seven or eight sessions on the weave poles and I'm very pleased with her progress so far. We have lots more work to do on entries but she is definitely getting the idea.

We started our seesaw training for the first time last week with Bernadette and this was done table to table using squeezey cheese with sausage stuck in the end as reward. This is an excellent idea as the cheese acts as a glue to stick your main tit bit in but also acts as extra reward whilst the dog is in final position as it takes a while for them to lick it all off.

I don't have a table at home so after discussion with my seesaw mentor I progressed straight to recalling Zeki to the end of the seesaw with me lowering it whilst rewarding her and gradually building up the noise as the seesaw hits the ground. We have had three sessions of this in the garden and so far so good. In the little video below you can see our attempt, this was the third session. I have no doubt that all the work we have done on wobble boards and the stuff we did at Hannah's co-ordination and balance course help in making the seesaw a less scary piece of equipment.

I have worked very hard on Zeki's stays over the past couple of weeks. That's not to say I hadn't worked on them before I simply hadn't proofed them enough with the right distractions and in different environments. So now we work on stays with football going on; when I'm using the hose of the vacuuum; raking leaves or gravel; sweeping the back yard; working another of my dogs etc. etc. I would like to think they have improved and I've included a tiny bit of this in the video. Next time we go to Bernadette's we will try it out with Bernadette running Zen - now that's a test for any dog because Zen is so exciting.

The other thing I've been working really hard on is my own ability to remember lefts and rights. Those who know me will understand the huge challenge this is! But, I think I have cracked it. I have always tried to remember by looking at the hand with my rings or my watch but that is too slow so I had to think of something different. I started by using my contact lens method .... don't laugh please! I always put my left lens in first and so I started thinking via my eyes rather than checking my hands and this was sort of working. Then at a recent training day I attended we were discussing why is it that the majority of people appear more comfortable running sequences left to right than right to left and we concluded that it's because we are conditioned to this in the way we learn, i.e. reading from left to right. So now rather than getting stressed about thinking which is left and which is right, I simply apply my new theory, i.e. I simply relate left to the side of the page I would start reading and right to the opposite side. I don't know if this makes sense but if you can fathom my poor articulation it might help some who have a similar problem!

The result is that I feel much more confident in using the words I have taught Zeki, i.e. left and right. I can cue her in good time because the process is becoming more natural to me. I have to work at it but I figure it's good brain exercise! You see some examples in my little video!

I am still undecided about Zeki's contacts (that is A-Frame and dog walk). We have a plank on a step and at the moment we are running it out to a target pot several yards away. I mark and reward her running through and stop her if she jumps at all. It's good fun and she is very confident in this exercise. I guess we have about 85% success in terms of not jumping. However if I move forward of the contact point then that percentage drops quite dramatically. Alongside this I am continuing with her target practise and so maybe I'll pull the two together. I don't know yet! Bernadette mentions in her latest posting that she procrastinates, well I'm sorry but I'm clearly the leader in this field!

Anyway, here's our little video. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Zeki's new coat

Zeki's new coat arrived in the post today. This is a much better fit.

Now we just have to work on Andy to buy coats for his poor little doglets!

Walk in the snow

Today I ventured out for a walk with the dogs rather than just staying in the garden. It's still quite cold here but a lot of the snow has now melted. The roads are pretty clear but there's still a lot in the garden and across the fields.

I forgot how lovely and clean the dogs stay when they walk in the snow. It's wonderful. No dirty dogs to clean up. It's the first day in ages that I haven't ended up with a pile of filthy dog towels after their walk.

Some of the walking through the snow was hard going. It was quite deep in some places and less so in others. My legs ached quite a lot by the time we finished our walk. The dogs had a lovely time. About an hour after we got home and they were tucked up in their beds a couple of them cried at the back door - they needed to go out for a huge wee because they'd consumed so much snow on their walk. The guilty ones were Murphy and Zeki!

Here are some pictures:

... and a little film of the termites playing in the snow!

We are training this evening but our number is greatly reduced as a few people don't want to travel which is absolutely understandable. Some of the more local folk do want to train though so we're putting on one big class and the foundation class. If Nicole doesn't make it to that with Indy then Zeki and I will be all by ourselves. I much prefer it when the class is full as it's more interesting and much better for Zeki's ongoing education!

Monday, 2 February 2009

Smart new coats and a new kit bag for my van

My three girls have beautiful new winter jackets. I bought them from Cammddwr Canine which is run by agility friends Ann and Stuart Harmes. I love dealing with them because they are so helpful and they have really good quality gear. We bought our Hurtta wet gear from them last year and it is fantastic, the best wet gear I've ever owned. Now my three girls are just as well kitted out for cold and wet weather. Poor little Kizzle, Murphy and Becks - their Dad is too mean to buy them new coats. He would rather spend his money on bling for his Harley Davidson. How bad is that? p.s. I'm working on it though!

Here are my girls modelling their new coats, aren't they gorgeous (coats and dogs!)

Poppy, Niamh and Zeki in their new coats. I actually ordered the wrong size for Zeki so Ann is kindly sending me the next size up. Meantime the above coat has gone as a present to a certain little poodle! You can see in the above photo that Zeki's is a little too neat!

Naughty Niamh grudgingly modelling her coat

Dear little Pops all in red.

Bernadette has some really good crate kit bags that she hangs on her car cages. I was very jealous and hopefully I might be getting one or two shipped from the U.S. at some stage. Meantime I found a nice doggie kit bag in the garden centre when I was browsing for bird food etc. I bought it and hoped that Andy would be able to tie it onto my cages. I wanted a bag as it takes up less space than the box I used to carry round with my bits and pieces in.

Anyway, once again Michael to the rescue. We borrowed the idea of having clips on the kit bag and cut the clips off a shoulder strap from a spare holdall. Michael sewed them on for me et voila:


Snow Time

We have had quite a bit of snow here although not as much as some have had. It snowed quite a bit yesterday and we've had a lot more today.

I am like a child, I love snow. It is Zeki's first experience of the white stuff and she loves to play in it but mostly she likes to eat it. This is a pain because then she wants to go outside for a wee but at the same time she eats more snow and so it goes on .....

Here are some pictures and a video of our dogs in the snow!