Monday, 31 August 2009

Zeki spayed :o(

The week before Burridge little Zeki was spayed. As always I dreaded this being done but I'm glad now that it's all over.

Once again I came away singing the praises of our new vet and his practice. They called me about forty minutes before Zeki was due into the surgery and I took her in at the agreed time. She was weighed and the paperwork was completed and then through we went. No pre-med instead you go through with your animal and stay with them until they fall asleep. Then it's back to the waiting room for a cup of coffee whilst surgery is undertaken. Once Zeki was fully awake I could take her home. So, we left home at 12.45 pm and were home just after 3.00 pm with a sleepy little dog. Such a stress free experience for the animals under the circumstances.

Her scar was tiny with internal dissolving stitches. She showed no interest in her wound at all and so didn't have to wear a hood of any sort. She had the rest of the day feeling woozey and was quite sleepy the following day which was good. However, the next day she was back to normal and it became quite a challenge to keep her quiet. Not a bit like Kizzy who was "traumatised" by the experience for a full two weeks afterwards!

Her first outing was later that week to Burridge show. Our parking spot was ideal to do some suitably quiet training. We were right on the edge of the parking overlooking the service road and the ring so there were lots of dogs and children running past as well as the agility action. We worked on Zeki not lunging or barking as children ran past and it was really helpful. We were behind an orange netting barrier so it meant that she was safe and I could practise things with her off lead.

Here is the poor little soul when she got home from her operation. Andy was very kind and decamped for a week to the spare room so that Zeki could sleep in her little bed next to my pillow.

That was four weeks ago last Monday and now we are going to come back to training in the hope that we will be ready for our first KC show in just two weeks' time. I can't believe the time is nearly here and am very excited. We just have to nail that dog walk!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Hug your dogs

A very short post to say hug your dogs and treasure them. Our good friend Paula has just lost her beloved little dog "Dudley". Our thoughts are with you Paula.

Burridge Show - Scared Naughty Niamh

Once more I am way behind with the blog.

To catch up in order I will begin with my trip to Burridge which I had booked for Friday and Saturday. Andy didn't come along as there was nothing for small dogs so he stayed at home and did some gardening and of course forced himself to take the bike out for a ride!

Although Burridge is no longer the same show as it was at Southsea, I still quite enjoyed it as we had a good parking spot with friends and had some fun.

Our agility though was not good. We started with a reasonable run in the jumping class apart from a mistake in the weaves. When it came to my grade 6 agility run things went downhill big time. The course started with a simple loop out to the A-Frame followed by a jump/pull through sequence. I felt at the time that Niamh stopped on the A-Frame longer than I had asked and when I got to the pull through she wasn't with me at all instead she was spook barking across to the ring rope where there were some straw bales. There was a lady with a big hat and a collie on the bales, the collie was jumping up and down from behind the bales a bit like a jack-in-the-box. I really struggled to get Niamh back to me, she kept barking and running away and then looking over at the bales. It seemed like forever before I finally caught her and managed to get her out of the ring. Needless to say I was very upset that Niamh was too scared even to come to me. I managed to get her playing with her ball outside the ring which was something positive.

I took her round to the side of the ring and she was really spooky. She was backing away from the bales and barking and when I took her closer she was sniffing them like mad and jumping away really spooked. I guess there were some very unpleasant scary smells coming from the bales. I managed to get her playing with her ball nearby but she wasn't all that happy so I decided to leave it at that until I'd given the situation more thought.

She hadn't spooked in the morning in her jumping class because the bales were not there. They arrived at lunch time. Maybe if her afternoon class had been jumping she would have been ok, stopping on the A-Frame obviously gave her time to see and smell that something was different?

When the class finished I asked the judge if I could possibly go inside the ring and just play tuggy with her. He was very kind (thank you Don) and agreed that I could do so as long as I didn't use any equipment. Fair enough of course. I didn't want to use the equipment I just wanted to take her back into the ring and get her playing with me. This we achieved so I felt a bit better.

Lucky for me my good friend and most respected dog trainer just happened to be around. Val had come along for a day out to watch Pete and Keeda run. We had a long discussion and as always Val pointed me in the right direction and helped me to decide to return the following day to try to work through the problem (I was rather upset and wasn't going to bring Niamh back the following day.) As I was leaving Val ran over to my car to tell me that she had watched another dog do a very similar thing so although I felt bad for that person it did make me feel a bit better knowing my dog wasn't the only one to be spooked by the scary bales. The following day I learned that at least three or four more dogs reacted in a similar fashion.

So I got up early on Saturday and off we went again. I had a plan and was most annoyed when I got there to discover I had left all the chopped up sausage at home in the fridge. Luckily Karen came to the rescue with a large lump of cheddar cheese! As soon as I arrived I got Niamh out and took her round to the bales. Again she spooked but I persisted until she calmed down a little bit and then when she put her nose to the bale without barking or spooking I clicked and rewarded with a lump of cheese. After that we were away and within five minutes Niamh was jumping on the bales and offering her full repertoire of tricks.

The first class on was the pairs and Leah and I were first to run. Karen, Jenny and Hannah went and sat on the bales just in case Niamh spooked again. We decided that should she do this it would be good to have some friendly faces there to allay her fears. As it happened she didn't even glance at the bales. Leah was supportive and told me not to worry what happened, just to make sure Niamh had a good time. I ran second so that Niamh would get wound up by watching Herbie run. That certainly worked and she went off really happy and did a lovely clear round and played like mad at the end. I was very relieved.

I was still anxious about her next class as it was an agility round and I thought she might have time to stop and worry to I made up my mind that I would do very fast releases on the contacts. We had to wait all day long for the next class which was the Olympia qualifier. It was my last chance for Olympia this year but to be honest I wasn't unduly concerned about qualifying, my main aim was to have a happy dog. Before Niamh's run I again took her round to the bales to do some tricks. To my dismay there was a lady sat on them with a huge male boxer dog. Niamh hates boxer dogs. Yikes, that wasn't good. I decided to approach the lady and share my concerns with her. She was so obliging and said she would move right away when she saw me join the queue on the other side of the ring. She was true to her word and I am really grateful to her. Meantime, I took Niamh to the other end of the bales and just played around with the cheese again. She was desperate to jump on the bales and show me how clever she was! What a wonderful tool the clicker is. I know this result could be achieved using just words and a reward but there is no doubt that the clicker is a very fast way of reaching a goal (obviously if you have a clicker minded dog!)

So, we entered the ring with me being very determined not to show Niamh that I was the slightest bit anxious. Well, she worked like a dream and but for a really poor decision on my part I think she would possibly have qualified for the semi-final. So, no Olympia for us this year, very disappointing but much more important I had a happy dog who was completely back to normal thanks to a clicker, a pound of cheese and some help from my friends!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

UKA Nationals Week

I'm almost up to date with the blog but not quite!

I don't think we've ever had such a busy time with just a few days between Lune/Barrow and Denmark and then again just a few days between Denmark and the UKA Nationals in Tewkesbury. Although I am sad not to be going to Dogs in Need this year, I am also relieved as we really need some time at home to sort the garden and re-charge our batteries!

We had a really nice weekend at the Agility Club Show. I didn't do awfully well with Niamh but Andy and Kizzy won the small pairs with Louise and Smudge with a really good round and then Andy came 5th in the Olympia qualifier, missing out on a semi-final place by just one. Bit disappointing.

We tootled straight off to Tewkesbury on the Sunday evening as it would have been silly to go all the way home just to come back past Newbury the following day. The organisers kindly let us on early provided we help set up a ring on the Monday.

We had some nice weather but also some very wet spells. Andy spent quite a bit of time helping to tow caravans out of a very flooded area of the show ground. We were very lucky with our camping spot but it wasn't much fun for the dogs as the garden was sodden and so we had to shuffle them between the car and caravan. I wasn't overly impressed with the venue as there was so little space to exercise the non-competing dogs which is always a disappointment. I know it's hard for shows to find venues so I won't go on about it.

Our dogs performed brilliantly with Kizzy and Niamh winning lots of classes. Niamh moved up into championship level in the performance league. She still has a few points to gain to move up in steeplechase. Kizzy is 3 points away from championship performance and 13 in steeplechase. Niamh was a star and did two really good rounds in the UKA Nationals heats which gave her 7th place in the finals line up. Kizzy was going well in her second round having got a clear in the first but then did a "mother flicker" away from Andy off the dog walk for some reason. I am allowed to use the term "mother flicker" as it was a UKA show we were at!

It was also a big occasion for little Zeki Beeks as it was her first show. She was fantastic and didn't run out of the ring as I had feared. We actually had a dog join us in the ring when she was on the start line and she didn't budge, what a good little girl. Some of the courses although simple to the eye weren't simple at all. It's funny how some judges set up what they perceive to be straight lines but seem to have no idea of the angle of approach of the dog. Still it was all good practise. Zeki won two beginner steeplechases and came 2nd in another. She also ran in her nursery agility which was really good practise. I came away with a very positive feeling but also with a clear knowledge of the things I still need to do much work on: 1) straight lines when I have to cross behind to correct tricky angles 2) driving over the finish and 3) my damn dog walk which is so far behind it's untrue. But do you know what, I don't care because my lovely dog was a star and I am so looking forward to September when we start to compete in KC shows.

We stayed on because Niamh had reached the final and I'm glad that I did stay as she was a star. The course was very fast and I honestly thought we would be way off the pace. However she put in a great round and we came 5th overall, only 1 second behind the winner which is pretty good for us on such a fast course.

We really enjoyed the week but find the relentless pace of UKA shows too much for a full week. We had five runs per day and because classes are relatively small there is a lot of walking backwards and forwards and we were exhausted by the end of the week as were our doglets. The mud didn't help either!

Here are a couple of videos of my lovely girls (sorry none of Kizzle) and also some action shots by Dennis.

Zeki proudly displaying her first ever rosettes!

My attempt to keep that little beek quiet!

Zeki in flight and enjoying herself!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Denmark - Jutlandia Cup - The Agility

So what did we think of the agility show itself ..... we absolutely loved it. The whole feel of the show is very different from what we're used to and it takes a little getting used to running every class in strict running order. It is manageable because there were only three rings, to contemplate that in the UK would be hopeless. Everything would grind to a halt for sure. Another big difference which I loved was having a tent ringside, again this just wouldn't work in the UK due to numbers. You can see below how it works. People take all their stuff to their tent including soft crates, pens etc. for their dogs and so the dogs are with you all day which is lovely. We were very lucky that Johanna shared her red tent with us so we were well looked after.

Our doglets relaxing in their ringside tent

Kizzy doing what she does best!

Andy and Kizzy surveying a course in a ring surrounded by tents!

Tent City

We both really enjoyed the different courses that we came across. On the whole the courses seems to be more flowing but still with lots of handling rather than is sometimes the case in the UK when handling = pull throughs which are repeated time and again in the same course. We did come across a couple of pull throughs but they were used in order to test the skill and at the same time take you to the next point on the course. Sometimes I feel that we get pull throughs in UK courses just for the sake of it and once you've completed the sequence you haven't really progressed to a new and natural point on the course. Not sure if that makes sense but I know what I'm rambling about! You can see all of the courses here.

The whole approach to the competition is more structured in that there are specific times for course walking and depending on how many in a class then there will be several course walks where you are given your allotted time to walk the course depending on your running order. It does mean you're not fighting your way round the course but I'm not absolutely sure about the system as it does seem to me that you can watch a group run the course and then analyse a specific problem area that you've spotted which you might not have noticed had you walked the course without the benefit of seeing others running it. I know we have similar here with different parts of a class but the big difference here is that you're running in the same competition so it can be a big advantage to be drawn late in the running order and walk the course in one of the later groups.

All of that said it didn't help me very much (or Andy for that matter.) Both of our dogs worked really well but we had a pole down in nearly every run. Andy managed a 5th place but I am sad to say Niamh and I didn't manage a single clear round. She worked fantastically and I loved the patterns so I still enjoyed the whole experience. The ground was good to run on but it was very hot and the grass had been cut really short and was a bit slippy. Niamh lost her footing a lot more than normal and I had to change my timing on turns to stop her chinning herself all the time. I think there was just one course all week that I really made a mess of. I was actually pleased with the way we tackled the european patterns, even the opposite end of tunnels! Andy and I both competed at level 3 as you work in the equivalent class to KC grades. Grade 3 is equal to our 6/7 level.

Another big difference is that judges can run their dogs. The dress code is informal which means that provided their judging session doesn't clash with the class their dog is entered in they can dash straight from one ring to another and from role of judge to competitor all in the space of ten minutes! Andy felt very uneasy dressing so informally but he was soon persuaded it was a good thing when he got to run nearly all of Kizzy's classes. I didn't get a single run with her!

There was a training circuit set up which was available to all competitors to use throughout each competition day. It wasn't a proper ring, just a set aside area and people are free to use it as much as they like. The one proviso is that you cannot move the equipment, I guess to prevent people setting up sequences from the day's courses! People are very accommodating of each other when using the practise area and stand aside as soon as a new person joins the queue to use it. All very civilised.

One evening Johanna held an informal training session for young dogs and invited us to come along. It was great fun and we both taught our dogs a new trick during the session. Another good experience for Zeki working in a new space with lots of other dogs. Naturally she was the noisiest little dog there!

With my lack of results I didn't make the final but it didn't matter because it was nice to chill out and watch it from my deck chair! Andy judged the final and set a flowing course with a bit of a European flavour and some UK ideas thrown in for good measure. The course is amongst those on the website. It was an exciting final to watch and although I was happy to watch I did really wish I was having a bash at it with Niamh! p.s. Andy did wear a suit to judge the final! Certain standards have to be met!

Once the final was over our adventure was all but over, just the journey home as described in the previous post. We really did have the best time and would love to go again!

To finish this post here are some action shots of Niamh and Kizzy competing in Denmark:

This one makes me laugh, all four legs are pointing to the floor and she is shouting at me!

I love this one of her stretching out of the long jump. She looks so streamlined, agile and focused.

I think we can safely say we got that A-frame contact?

I like this series of photos below showing Niamh weaving. It really illustrates how she uses the one foot technique and is starting to use her power.

And little Kizzle in action. Not bad considering it was me taking these shots!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Denmark - Jutlandia Cup - The trip

At last I have found some time to update the blog and give an account of our fantastic trip to Denmark. We have just had the most manic month ever with Lune Valley, Denmark and UKA Nationals week. We are both exhausted and although I'm sad not be going to DIN this year (only the third one we've missed), I am also relieved as I don't think I could cope with another full week of agility. I am officially agilitied-out! Hopefully I will find some enthusiasm for the soon to be upon us KC Festival. I have just finished designing my courses, talk about leave it to the last minute!

Back to our Denmark trip then; the one part of the trip that we weren't looking forward to was the drive from Calais to Vejle in Jutland which totalled about 1000 km. Jutland forms the mainland part of Denmark as well as the northern most part of Germany. Next year the show will held on the middle island and instead of the Jutlandia Cup will be the Fionia Cup. The week long show rotates between the three segments of Denmark.

We set off really early to catch our ferry from Calais at 6.00 am on the Thursday morning. We were there in plenty of time and had a calm crossing, even so I felt sea sick despite taking Sea Legs the night before. The dogs were absolutely fine during the 90 minute crossing and when we returned to the car they greeted us with yawns and stretches, a sure sign that they'd been fast asleep.

The obligatory photos you just have to take when you're on the sea!

The receding white cliffs of Dover

I elected to do most of the driving so that Andy could keep an eye on the map even though we had borrowed Michael's Tom Tom which he'd very kindly updated with European maps. We took the direct route via Bremen but with hindsight this was the wrong choice as once we got into Germany there were hundreds of miles of roadworks which cost us a lot of time. We also got stuck in traffic at the New Elbe tunnel in Hamburg as it was rush hour by the time we hit that part of Germany. We eventually arrived at our destination at 9.00 pm absolutely exhausted. The dogs had been fantastic and slept the whole journey with just one break for a little walk. They were so chilled it was amazing, we needn't have worried about them which of course we did! Tom Tom did us proud and took us right to the venue.

As Andy was judging at the show, the committee had booked us one of the cabins in the grounds of the venue. It was very small and shall we say cosy! At first we wondered how we would cope but once we got all our stuff sorted out we actually really enjoyed the cabin. The dogs soon settled in as you will see from the photos below!

Our little cabin with our make shift dog guard!

Inside the cabin where Kizzy has made herself at home - how unusual for her (not!)

We took along each of their soft toys for the journey/night time. Niamh has 'Prongo' her favourite toy in the whole wide world. She still hasn't realised she has two: one for the caravan and one indoors. She thinks he follows her everywhere! She spends most evenings suckling on this favourite toy which she has had since a puppy.

Kizzy and her best friend 'Wilson' who sleeps with her every night.

Zeki with her bedtime toy: 'Sleepy Duck'

The venue has lots of walking straight off site so we were very lucky on that score. You could walk for miles down the long cycle track or go beyond the football fields and out into a huge forest. The dogs picked up a few ticks along the way but we had taken our little tick removers with us. Don't know how we managed without those.

We had a lovely couple of days relaxing before the show was due to begin on Monday. Johanna arrived on the Friday and a group of us scoffed pizza outside the cabins with lots of red wine. Very pleasant!

I am going to write a separate posting about the competition itself, this posting is really just about the trip. So onto another fun event. Mid week during the competition they hold a big dinner in a huge function room. We went along and had a fantastic time. I even remembered how to do a quick step but it was very difficult because I was wearing crocks and anyone who dances knows how hard it is if you can't slide your feet across the floor. Andy kept leading everyone into a silly line dance, we couldn't get him off the floor. It was a great evening and all over too quickly. We had quite a bit to drink but made sure we also guzzled loads of water so didn't get a hangover - unlike some of our new friends!

During the evening we were treated to a freestyle routine from Johanna and Soda which was first class. Soda was brilliant especially as the floor was so slippery and right in the middle of the routine she was joined by a young child. She was amazing and just took it in her stride and got on with her job.

Here are some pictures from the party night:

The stupid line dance

New friends from Denmark and Germany

Jeanette and Annette with whom we spent loads of time and became great friends. We hope they will come on a trip to the UK sometime to try out agility UK style!

Johanna and Jeanette

During the week there was a day off competition and so we took the opportunity to do a bit of sightseeing. We found an amazing beach near Fredericia, the water seems so much clearer than anything we see at home. I guess that's because the population is so much smaller than here.

So that was our trip to Denmark apart from the agility of course! We had the most wonderful time and really look forward to going back hopefully next year.

We travelled home on the Sunday morning having had the dogs flea/tic treated the day before. Our ferry was booked for 11.00 pm so hopefully we had allowed ourselves plenty of time bearing in mind the very long outward journey.

We decided to pick a slightly different route home so as to avoid the roadworks. So instead of going via Bremen we took the slightly longer route via Hannover. We made a good choice because the route was much more pleasant with lovely views of the German country side and no roadworks. Most of the journey is through Germany where there is no speed limit on the motorways unless stated so I stuck my foot down and we flew back to Calais. The only scary thing is that you can look in your mirror to overtake (bearing in mind you're doing over 100 mph) and there's nothing to see, you look again before pulling back in and there's a car right up behind you. Some of the cars travel at immense speed but you soon get used to it. We had one little mis-communication with Tom Tom and came off the motorway and ended up driving through Brugge which was very beautiful but not quite what I wanted especially when I found myself on a tram track. Luckily we escaped without harm!

We arrived back at Calais in time to catch the 6.40 pm ferry so well ahead of schedule and luckily they put us on the earlier ferry with no surcharge. The dogs sailed through the pet passport check much to my relief and soon we were heading back to Dover.

The crossing took longer than expected as there was quite a brisk south westerly and the boat took a while to get out into the channel and a few times shot up in the air and banged down on to the sea. Quite scary. The only good thing was that because it was so choppy the captain engaged the stabilisers and that made a huge difference to my journey, I didn't feel half so travel sick as on the way out when the sea was actually dead calm! We took nearly an hour docking though, first of all we had to wait outside Dover harbour to be called in as the vessels were having a problem coming alongside but eventually it was our turn and it took over half an hour for our captain to get the ferry alongside so that we could disembark. The wind really was pretty strong and causing them lots of problems.

Andy did the last leg of the drive from Dover to home and I fell fast asleep in the car having driven solidly from 7.30 am until 5.30 pm with just one short stop. Once again the dogs were angels.

When we arrived home it was so lovely to be greeted by our other three who had been delivered home by their babysitters. All our dogs had a wonderful time whilst we were away including the three that stayed at home and we are so grateful to Dennis and Bernadette for looking after Burphy (as they became known) and Dan and Mac for cossettng my precious Poppy. Here she is lounging on their (new) sofa.

We have made some lovely new friends and had the best time. Thank you to Johanna who looked after us so well as always it was great to spend time with you!