Thursday, 25 June 2009

Happy Birthday to Naughty Niamh

Happy birthday to my lovely, gorgeous, beautiful Beebie Neebs, five years old today. I just don't know where the time has gone since I collected her from Lancashire. Here is a picture of the birthday girl in the garden today along with some photos of our new fence which is underway and the lovely roses which are fully in bloom on the arch. Also a picture of Andy's new shed!

Not much time now for more updates as we're off on hols to Lune Valley & Barrow in the Lake District.

Hopefully will have lots of photos and news to report on our return.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Zeki's Training

It's ages since I did an update on Zeki's training. Things are progressing well and I feel I'm getting on top of the chasing problem. There is still one little hole in this process; if I am not either working with her or giving her a job to do then she will chase if she is not on lead.

A good example of this is how I can now do all sorts of training with her with another dog working in the same ring. If I am working on a sequence she remains focused or if I ask her to do a "stay" she will comply. However that grey bit in between where she is loose and I am not paying attention is when she will go. This was proved when I was doing a few bits and pieces with her at Boot Camp on the Monday afternoon. Leah was working with Hex and we were fine until I took a short break to answer a question from someone outside the ring. I stopped paying attention without either putting her on lead or asking her to stay. As soon as she sensed my lack of attention in her direction she was off after Hex at high speed. The plus side is that she did come back to me when called which is an improvement at least!

I also take heart from the fact that all of the above is achievable with a toy reward and no food at all!

Agility-wise she is just such fun. She works her heart out and is happy to try anything I ask of her. She learns fast and just wants to get on with things. IMO she is an obstacle-focused dog rather than handler-focused. This is wonderful but it brings its own challenges which I'm sure we'll have fun working on! She reminds me much more of Poppy and Bess, not at all like Abbey or Niamh.

We are continuing with the running A-Frame and I am still very happy with progress. I have started to teach the turns using stick in the ground poles and her directional cues. So far she is responding well and so now I have to introduce other obstacles into the process.

I am a bit stuck on the dog walk as there is still a little part of me that would really love to train her to run the dog walk also. This is definitely curbing my enthusiasm and commitment to training the stop version!

I was struggling over my turn commands but after a sleepless night after last week's training class I have finally come to a decision on what I will do. I will stick with my left and right for tight turns (e.g. wing wraps and u-turns off the A-frame). For more gentle turns I am going to use "out" to move her away from me on either side and "Zeki" for her to come towards me. There, simple really! Except ........ I am still puzzling over whether to incorporate my favourite collect and turn cue into her training but I'm not sure how that sits with her left and right cues. Oh, here I go again, too much to think about. Sometimes I long for the days when I ran the ballistic missile that was Bess. I had just one command (as we called it in those days!) - Bess. It was so easy!

Anyway, here is a very short film of Zeki's A-Frame at Boot Camp last week. On one of them you'll see how she must have mis-judged her approach as she comes over the apex at a really awful angle and throws herself into the contact area. What a good little girl!

Boot Camp

Boot Camp was incredibly hard work but lots of fun. I am so glad we put in the hours beforehand working on organisation and class structure etc - it really paid off to have everything running smoothly during the long weekend. We got lots of lovely feedback and I think everyone went home very tired and happy after a good time. We are lucky with the venue as it provides a lovely walk, a clubhouse where we could cook and eat and onsite showers and toilets. I think people enjoyed the whole experience as they could relax between and after training and take all their dogs for nice walks.

Andy and Jay were brilliant in their support of the event. They both took lots of time out to help us build the rings (including mowing the area where the rings were to be sited) and each evening they came back and built the courses for the following day. That was a blessing as after each day's Boot Camp the last thing we wanted to be doing was building courses. Thanks to them both and also to Vicky, Liza and Paula all of whom helped keep us going when we were flagging!

Here are some pictures from the Boot Camp weekend, hopefully some more to follow in due course.

Catching up on some zzzzz's

Monday, 1 June 2009


We had a lovely time at Hinckley. I really liked their new venue even though the camping was a little tight to say the least! I think perhaps someone got their tape measure in the wrong place as not only were the gaps between units rather narrow the actual roadways were too narrow. Luckily for us we have a motor mover otherwise we would not have been able to vacate our spot on Sunday afternoon. It was OK if you one or other of your immediate neighbours had managed to get out but if not there was just no swing room.

Back to the venue itself. It was set in the grounds of Stanford Hall a really elegant stately home. The ground was a little undulating and we had to use lots of blocks to level our caravan but they had made a big effort with the ground where the rings were set and it was pretty good; a few pot holes but nothing too bad. One major downside for me was the shooting that started up on Saturday and carried on for a few hours. It was very close and poor little Poppy was a complete mess. Becca gave me some lavender oil which we put on her head. This is supposed to give a calming effect. Stupidly I didn't have her anxiety tee-shirt with me. I must put that in the caravan for the summer because we often hear fireworks at various shows during the season.

We watched the champ finals which were very exciting and set on very fast courses with subtle little handling points which caught out a few. Elspeth and Leah both got into the final and did fantastic rounds. They must both be proud of themselves and their little furry friends.

Our courses were nice but all were pretty quick and in our one clear round (Crufts singles) we just didn't make the places. Rather depressing really. I chose to train my contacts in the KC Olympia qualifier (only because we'll be in Denmark at the time of that semi-final) that said I'm not sure I would have made the time if I had tried! We had a bad luck in both our grade 6 classes. On Saturday Niamh did a really lovely round in Paul Moore's G6 jumping. I really liked the course but it had a tricky ending with a run of offset jumps; Niamh tried really hard but just couldn't quite make the last obstacle which was the wall. She tried so hard to clear it but took all the bricks out. I was really disappointed until I saw her little face the other side of the wall waiting for me to come and play tuggy! Then on Sunday we had a nice G6 agility course set by Gary Doyle and I really fancied our chances on this. We started well but Niamh slipped in the middle of the weaves. I couldn't understand why she skipped during the weaves but Andy and Gary both told me afterwards that she had completely lost her footing. She did the rest of the course beautifully. Oh well.

Kizzy didn't get anywhere on Saturday with one good round but a missed A-Frame and one naughty round where she broke the startline (Andy was very good and replaced her). He then trained all of her contacts. I feel sorry for Andy because he has worked really hard over the winter to improve contact performance and in training it's looking very good. It had been looking pretty good in the competitive environment but this weekend the wheels fell off with Kizzy overstriding the contacts. I think the bit of training he did on Saturday had some effect as she did a lovely round in the KC qualifier on Sunday getting 10th place in amongst some very good competition. Her contacts were too slow as Andy worked hard to make sure she got them and that's really what made their time slower than it would otherwise have been. She motored round the rest of the course. She also did a nice round in her 6/7 jumping coming 8th. So not too bad but lots of work to do on contacts.

The other dogs had a lovely walk each day around the spacious exercise area whilst we were able to look at the gorgeous house. I did some stay training ringside with Zeki which was pretty good so I'm getting a bit more confident that she will stay with me once we start to compete!

We had a very stress free journey home. We chose the slightly longer route of the A14/Mll but it is definitely a more pleasant experience than the M1. We got home in just under three hours and then sat and watched the final of Britain's Got Talent. I am so glad that one of the male dance groups won the competition. They were both awesome.

Leah and I are getting together today to prepare all our courses for our Boot Camp which is this coming weekend. I am extremely nervous but very excited about it. She doesn't know it yet but she's also going to help me build a new course, film Zeki's A-Frame and help me with my dog walk training.