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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Another year ends.

It has been quite a year. So much has happened and so many memories and events to reflect on. January we started with a wall planner. Agility was now our life. February, we bought a van, my dogs "hotel on wheels", so we can travel with all the gang safely through the show season. March Lily went to Grade 5, April My brother had his first baby "Nathan" my first nephew in, May I fell in love with Twiggy, an Irish rescue collie, and we drove to Yorkshire to collect her, June Olli went to Grade 4, July My mum had a life threatening illness & life changing surgery & Lily went to Grade 6 & qualified for Olympia semis, August Fern won £200 at the Bingo at DINAS, September Cove was a year old, Lily & I won through the Olympia Semis & Olli won into Grade 5, October Olli slipped beautifully back into Gun Dog mode, and we bought Fern her first "dog" van, November Dave finally competed in his first show, and thrilled us all by focusing!  and in December, Lily & I competed without any shame at Olympia, getting just 10 faults, and Fern broke her arm!! During all these events I realised what a special group of friends had grown around me. Pat, Claire, Lolly, Sarah & Dan making me laugh and sharing so many important times with me, along with Chel & Joy, Fiona, Anne, and also the family that rescued and fostered Twiggy. Natalie Sharon Samantha & Chris Mitchell. My little Irish girl has brought us all together and i know we will be friends for a long time to come.
So many sad things have happened too. Friends dogs that have gone to Rainbow Bridge, some way to early. Other friends have lost relatives, others have become single, gone through divorce and it all makes you think how lucky you are.
We are ending 2010 with the worse bout of flu ever!! My first 2 days off work sick in over 10 years, and i have felt so low, but knowing what so many people I care about have been through, and the rubbish stuff that goes on all over the world puts it into perspective.
So thank you 2010 for what you have given me, and here's to 2011. I have a very good feeling about next year, a very good feeling indeed.
Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

What a buzz, what a year!!

Well, I don't know what to say about this weekend. On Friday we had so much blooming snow that it looked like my Olympia trip was off. I was despondent, and to be honest gutted that I may not be going. Not because I am so competitive that i had to get there at all costs, but because Rog & Fern were so excited for me, my close friends were too and Lily deserved a trip to London after her year. So change of plans, a few phone calls and we set Saturday morning to a hotel in Camberley Surrey, with not just Lily, but Olli, Cove Dave & Twiggy! Figured if we could get out of our lanes, and make it to main roads, we may have a chance, and it was definitely not going to be safe to go with our original plan of leaving at 3am Sunday morning! It was one of the scariest journeys we have made for a while. Deep snowy lanes, then only single lanes opened on the dual carriageways, the Motorways only working on about 2 lane capacity, but we made it to the hotel. Beautiful apartment, but white duvets?!!! She did know we had 5 dogs with us!!! So we were a bit on edge and after a bite to eat we decided to go to bed early, try to sleep and set alarms for 5am.
The roads this morning were not too bad, and by 7am we were in the Olympia car park. Met up with Sarah & Dan and off we went to explore. I suddenly realised that i was not nervous. Here I was with Lily, at the biggest event we had ever been too, and i was buzzing with excitement! No butterflies, no feeling sick, no jelly legs just pure excitement! 
The whole experience was incredible. So many lovely people there, some old pros and others like me, Olympia Virgins, and as I set Lily up on the start line I was grinning like a Cheshire cat. If somebody had told me a year ago that i would have a grade 6 dog and run her at Olympia finals I would have laughed. We had 10 faults, a pole at the start which a lot of dogs had, and then I almost sent her wrong way so we got 5 for a refusal on the dogwalk, but she nailed all 3 contacts, was fast and amazing through the weaves, and she loved it!! I had tears of pride when she crossed the finish. I wouldn't have been happier if we had won. Hard to understand but its true. Lily has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined when I bought her as a scruffy puppy. Anyway, next year she will be back, along with the other 4!! Team Feroda will do Olympia. What a year. What a dog.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Very short blog.

Had a fantastic weekend away with Rog in Cheltenham. 2 nights in a hotel, a day at the races and we really had fun. Didn't end up broke either!!

Now it really is countdown to Olympia, and I cant speak about it without a lump in my throat, goose bumps and my legs turning to jelly. So the next blog will be after the event. Still cant believe my Lily Fudge Cake is going, still amazed at the season we have had, and she owes me nothing, so i am just going to have fun and try my hardest not to let her down, after all she never ever lets me down.

Me & my girl :-)

Monday, 6 December 2010

Lots of dogs, helps with the sad times.

Very odd today, delivering some agility equipment to a lovely couple near Salisbury who had a lovely tri collie girl. She is their only dog. As we drove away, Rog said what a lovely dog, but how strange only having one! This coming from the man who always said 2 was plenty. It made us both realise how much our assortment of dogs enrich our lives and how glad we are that we have a pack :-)
On Friday our oldest dog Becki suffered some type of siezure. She first appeared to go lame on 1 back leg, but in the space of 2 minutes had gone lame on all 4 before laying down in the snow and obviously looked very frightened. I carried her indoors and put her on her favourite chair, and after a few moments she relaxed and just went to sleep. Weird? Later that day one of my best, closest friends Jo came to stay, bringing with her JB Jasper Whippet. He is a gorgeous laid back but funny 11 month old boy, who fitted in with our lot immediately. Even Lily thought he was lovely (ok being in season may have encouraged her welcoming nature!) We had a lovely evening, laughed lots, talked dogs and drank a little too much but it was well overdue. Becki remained fine.
Saturday with a sore head, I went off with Olli to the shoot, while Fern & Jo walked the rest of the dogs and then went christmas shopping and ate too many chips and too much icecream! I was worried about Becki, and standing on a quiet hillside with Olli sat at my feet, watching those gorgeous dark brown eyes, that handsome gentle head, and the non stop waggy tail I reminisced about How Becki was the dog who taught me how to handle a gundog, how to work so closely with an animal, and how much devotion and strength, independence and love they give. I also thought about how we have such a mix of personalities in our gang, and how they have taught us so much. We dont command them, we cant make them do anything they dont want to do, if we ever try then the result will not be rewarding for them or us.
With Dave we didn't think "oh he is agressive and unpredictable, there is no hope" we decided to find ways of trying to overcome it, work with him and understand how his mind worked. With Twiggy I have learnt so much about dealing with the unknown, the weird triggers thats upset her, and I will never know why she does some of the things she does, but if I can encourage her to find fun in so many other behaviours and interactions, I hope the bad memories will fade. Lily was so nervous, so totally freaked out about other dogs in close vacinity, we never thought she would cope with the hustle & bustle of an agility show, but in 2 years she has gone to grade 6, is going to Olympia and has given me more successes than I ever dreamed possible.
Becki enjoying the fun in the snow last week.

Becki 2 weeks ago having a blast.
So it is sad to realise that Becki is probably starting the downward slope, she is growing old & tired, and her days of working and enjoying life on the farm are dwindling, but having so many other dogs that need us, will help soften the blow when the time comes. That is the only sad part of sharing you life with such wonderful animals, they are never here long enough. 

Sunday, 28 November 2010

21 days to go!

Freezing cold weather, a lot of snow and lots to do. Went shooting yesterday with Olli, but even with my thermals and 98 layers of clothing it was bitterly cold! Olli was too hyper, and after 2 drives of nothing for him to retrieve he was becoming very frustrated. I had a headache, Ferns toes were numb so for the first time ever we gave up and came home lunchtime. Not a good day.
While Fern and I were still wrapped up we decided to take the other dogs for a run, and I decided to take Twiggy with the others for the first time in weeks. I just felt that she had turned a corner so we would see what happened. Cove. Lily Dave & Twiggy, got to the field and we just let them go. I didn't even bother with the harness on Twigs, just hoping that I was right about her. They played and played in the snow, ran like nutters and then I noticed the first difference. Twigs was not chasing Lily and nipping as she always had before, but was just running around having a ball so I called her. She instantly turned and came to me!!! Played tuggy with real enthusiasm, even though the other 3 were charging around the field! I then got hold of her collar, (and she didn't flinch) and started to wind her up to go with our 3, ....2,.....1 routine. As soon as I released her she she ran in a big circle back to me and the tuggy! We all played various games, some toy rewarded and others food rewarded, and she suddenly looked so grown up. I was thrilled yet again with my little girl. I am now more fun to her than chasing and nipping the other dogs. It has been quite a week for Twiggy. :-)
Lily and I have an amazing relationship, and if I can get half as good a partnership with Twiggy, the world will be our oyster. Lily is in full season now, but this time is staying fit and well, and will be finished in perfect time for Olympia finals. Our magazine article came out this week too and my Lily was in there twice! Huge photo of her leading the page too, and a lovely write up. Can not believe Lily & me alongside the likes of Dawn Weaver in the same article!! Its surreal to me, and I am so looking forward to the whole experience now and intend to enjoy every second.

21 days and counting..................

Thursday, 25 November 2010

We have turned a corner

I have heard people say that it takes up to 6 months for a rescue dog with baggage, to really settle into a new home. I always thought that seemed a long time, but I now believe they have a point. 
Although Twiggy latched on to me from day 1, she has continued to have her issues. Fear of going through doorways if anyone near it, fear of collars, harnesses and leads, clicking noises, and a real wariness of people. I have trained her since she arrived, and she is obviously extremely bright, but would learn tricks and behaviours that were close to me ie: hand touches, lefts, rights but as soon as we tried any distance work, ie: waits, recalls she would go into panic mode. For a month or so now I have been doing a lot more work with her alone, walking her alone, and also having her work for her food so I have every coat pocket bearing liver or chicken. It is all the stuff that we do with puppies from the start, and that is how I have had to treat Twiggy. She is about 14 months now but in her behaviour and attitude more like 6 - 8 months. I feel quite silly sometimes telling people the new thing she has just learned, and then realising their dogs did that much younger, but Twiggy lost the first 6 months of her life.
 Twiggy has been with me 6 months this week, and whether its true what they say about settling in period, or whether its the way I changed some training methods, or a combination of both, she has suddenly started to blossom. Small successes have become a regular occurrence over the past couple of weeks.
When the other dogs are off doing things in the field, or at a show, she has started to turn to me, grab the tuggy and want me to play with her. She then went up a gear in the new behaviours stakes and has learnt to offer 2 on 2 off position on various boxes, washing basket, stairs etc. I introduced the contact trainer and not only did she get straight into position, she now runs straight to it when I let her out, and when all my Agility nuts are screaming from their crates, or kennels she still focuses on me and the job. Today for the first time ever, I took her out to our favourite 15 acre field, and let her off, but to work. Armed with a good toy and her favourite toy, plus a lot of sausages I started. First we did circle work, fast and slow, both ways and she was with me all the way. 
Then we did send ahead to dead toy, from restrain and from a wait and she was like a rocket! Straight back to me every time. I then did some wait to recall, actually now getting about 10 yards from her and again perfect. Not once did she go off focus, or worry about me getting hold of her to do the restrains. We finished with a 5 min chill out wander along the field before she sat for me to put her lead on. She sat for me to put her lead on!!!! Without flinching!!! That brought tears to me eyes!!!
That all may seem like nothing special for a 14 month old collie to people who have trained for years and had their dogs from puppies, but to me it is bloody incredible! I skipped back home this morning, with a very happy Twiggy by my side. I have a feeling my Irish Secret has settled in.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Great weekend and now the countdown begins!

Saturday shooting with Olli was a bit slow. Not his fault but it was the "estate" meet, so basically not our usual guns but the "toffs" and their children shooting for a day. Actually they were all extremely polite and with real manners which is always a pleasant change, but all their tweed, flash cars, personalised number plates and private education didn't improve their ability to hit a cows arse with a banjo!! Poor Olli was frustrated as he watched bird after bird sail overhead and keep flying, even though 50 shots went off!! It was a giggle tho, and he ended up with a bag of 9. 
Sunday we took part in our first agility club match. It was my last chance to run Lily indoors and with a crowd before Olympia, and another chance for Fern to run Dave. Lily was awesome, but is so fit, focused and fast now I had a job to be in the right place at the right time! However she won the jumping class by over a second, and was fastest in 2 other classes, but spectacularly took a pole in each as she tried too hard, and I wasn't quick enough with my cues. Olli had some great runs, and was 4th and 6th over the day. Dave was totally too hyped up on his first run, and Fern became very tense, so he didn't even take the first jump, just ran around the ring, so Fern picked him up and took him straight out. Its the only way. Thanks to Sarah, I did ask the show organiser if we could run Dave in 1 of the later classes, with the other ring on pause, and she was happy to do that. This time, fern brought him straight in, and he managed an almost perfect round, just 5 faults on Daves part. Its never going to be easy but we know we will get there.

So now that's it. Working this weekend, works party the following weekend, Cheltenham races the weekend after that and then Olympia. I am now more excited than nervous, because I have an amazing dog who may actually be capable of an upset, especially if I can keep focused too!! Don't discount my £50 farm collie. She has set her sights high :-)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Bit of a week.

Well this week, Dave became an agility dog, Lily got a 4th in a Grade 6 jumping, Olli went lame, Becki has slowed down a bit more, Stan has been Stan, Cove has  grown a bit more in maturity, and Twiggy has developed more twitches again. I have decided to get her an appointment with a specialist now as its nearly 6 months since she arrived, and although she has grown, and developed into a fit young dog, she obviously has something wrong. Whether its something that she will just have all her life or whether its something we can fix, now is the time to find out. She will hate being prodded about but I will have to be there for her and make it as bearable an experience as possible. It may mean that she wont be able to compete at agility, and until I know for sure what is causing her problems I will keep her training to just basic targets, recalls, etc and continue to build our relationship. I love her so much and hate seeing her worrying with her legs so I have to do whats best for her.
Twiggy......Look into my eyes!!.....
This weekend is our last comp before Olympia, so Lily and me will then be chilling and training just our fitness for the big day. Walking, jogging and shutting out everything else so we have that bond which has taken us this far. I adore my Lily Fudge Cake. Olli is sound again so shooting Sat and comp Sunday for him, and Dave is competing again too!! Exciting but worrying times. Hopefully Twiggy will be fine, and as long as she is not in pain I will be happy, regardless of her future career! 

Monday, 15 November 2010

Dave has become an agility dog!!

Well the day arrived, Dartmoor show and Ferns first attempt at running Dave.  She couldn't sleep the night before, and I must admit I was nervous for her. I gathered all my friends to stand along the orange net fence, ready to catch him if he ran out the ring, and Fern went to the start line. First obstacle was a tyre, and we suddenly realised Dave has never done a tyre!!! Having never been in a training class, he has only trained at home and we don't have a tyre. I think the fact that it was at the beginning of the course helped, and off he went. Through the tyre, under the next jump, then jumped the 3rd, over the A frame, tunnel, next jump, seesaw..........I was holding my breath. Around 1 jump then jumped a few more over the dog walk and over the finish!!! Not once did he even falter from the task. He stayed focused, happy and I could not believe it. 2 years of hard work and dedication from Fern, and the almost deemed un trainable, unsociable terrierist completed his first course. Strangely, Dave strutted very proudly back to the van, blanking other dogs he passed. He was a big boy now, and has far more important things to think about other than chasing other dogs. Still a long way to go, but he has proved us all wrong and I couldn't be happier.
Now just to practice those tyres!!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Psychology, a dogs brain, interesting............

Well, it is always a challenge training a dog, especially a rescue dog with unknown worries, strange behaviours, and I so wish they could talk! However, I have Twiggy, who I love to bits, we all do, and she has become a very special member of our family, so I have that challenge.
She has bonded with me from day 1, is my shadow all day every day, and the most loving loyal dog, but sometimes she still gets spooked and almost goes autistic. Wont look at me in the eye, or come close to me but will keep me in her sights, and this was worrying me out on a walk. Recall was 90% perfect but if she goes into 1 of her moments, she just wouldn't come back. She wouldn't run away, but she would stay just out of reach. 
At first I thought it was just naughtiness, and a phase she was going through like most young dogs, but the more it went on the more I tried to get inside her head. I know she has a real problem having her collar or harness put on, and she often has twitches in her neck and shoulders, although these have become more infrequent, so I reverted to leaving her harness on with a short handle attached. This meant i could grab that without touching her, but still I had the problem of her coming within 6 feet of me. I had tried all the basics, all the obvious methods of training a recall, and when Twiggy went into "that" zone, nothing worked. I cleared my mind of training ways, and just observed her for a few days...... Then Eureeka!!!!! 
The one thing that would make Twiggy excited and wiggly and want nothing but cuddles was the word "HELLO". When we come in from outside, from work, when visitors arrive and we all say "Hello Twiggy" she leaps up, smiling & talking and will jump into your arms with sheer joy, so I took her out for a walk, let her off for a run, and after a short time as she went a bit zoned out, I just said "Hello Twiggy". She ran over as if she had just realised I was there!! It was like a trigger. She snapped out of spooked, unsure rescue girl and became Twiggy, Twigster the happy loving bright gorgeous collie who has enriched our lives.  A week has gone past, and every time she starts to spook, a quick "Hello" brings her straight to me smiling. Still early days, but in every other way she is so intelligent and amazing to train I just had to solve this problem. Who cares what word it took. If that's my recall it suits me just fine! So next season at Agility competitions, and you hear some woman shouting Hello, it will be me, the blonde with the gorgeous collie running towards me! :-)))

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Paparazzi & Olympia trial run! with real bits!

Saturday I went shooting in the morning with Olli, and it was a quiet day. Although every bird that did fall his way he picked up beautifully, the weather was too nice, and the guns were not on form so he didn't have a lot to do. I left at lunchtime as we had a reporter and photographer coming to interview me for a feature about Olympia! I was so excited, and even more so when she asked if they could do a brief story on Olli and take a photo of him with a pheasant to use as a front page shot!! My boy is a "Cover boy" :-) They then took loads of photos of Lily & me in action, and I am looking forward to seeing us in print in a few weeks time.
Sunday we had a training workshop at a new indoor venue, and it was also a chance to catch up with some friends that we have been missing recently. People have changed clubs, the main season is over, so we haven't had our usual weekly get togethers and Fern & I were looking forward to it. Was amazed to be shut out of the arena when we arrived, and told that me & Sarah were not allowed in to look at the course! Seems Toni had decided that as we were both off to Olympia next month, she would give us a taste of the real thing. So we sat and looked at the course plan for 10 mins, then were allowed 2 mins to walk the course. The whole thing spooked me completely! God knows what I will be like at Earls Court, but the nerves where there and I completely buggered up the turn from fence 3 to 4, then didnt really work the whole dogwalk/tunnel trap, obstacle 9 the weaves and totally didnt give Lily a clue so she missed her entry (unheard of!!) and then the rest of the course was lovely. Lily is so  keen and so genuine, she tried her best, and if i can sort my nerves and my head out, who knows, maybe we will get a clear on 19th December! I was thrilled with her nailed contacts, all afternoon and I just love her to bits for her natural ability, and determination to do her best.
Pleased to say, all the rest of my mates messed up too and they had 10 mins to walk the course!!! It was great fun and a lovely atmosphere.
Then it was Fern & Coves turn, and his first time in a new venue. He worked really well and although he made a few mistakes, they were a combination of in experience and a strong eyed collie who kept lunging at him, nothing that wont be a distant memory to him soon. Fern was also a bit shaky to start with, as she is normally the trainer not the trainee!, but a thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all. I didn't work Twiggy, but took her in to watch for a few minutes, and she was fine. Keen to watch Cove but also managed to do a bit with me on the sidelines, so another new environment conquered. Had puppy cuddles with the gorgeous Phaze, met an amazing young working cocker, who will give medium dogs a run for their money next season, and had a lot of giggles.

This Saturday we are off to Dartmoor for our first indoor winter comp, and Daves first ever attempt! I have 100% faith in Ferns ability to work him, and 90% faith in Dave :-) There wont be a dry eye in our house if he manages to stay focused!

Friday, 5 November 2010

If you cant beat them?.........

I read quite a few blogs, mostly agility people, and a few are training people, and this months topic seems to be training and trainers, so I may as well have my 2 penneth worth, as my Gran would say!
3 years ago when I started this addictive sport of agility, I saw an advert in my local country store, made a phone call and booked to start lessons. I had never heard of the person but she offered some good advice and I had to start somewhere. Over 2 years and with 2 dogs I learnt a huge amount about positive reward based training, which has got me to Grade 6 and Olympia this year. As I am in the privileged position to have a daughter who is a natural with dogs, and is training to be a "Trainer" and now have my own agility field, I decided I would have a break from weekly lessons, save some money and train a lot more at home. I also decided to try a different trainer or 2, and have thoroughly enjoyed working with different people and trying some different methods, although I tend to only go to people that I know have similar ideas to how I want to train my dogs, and take the best bits from them all. Some of these trainers are maybe more fun than others, some are tougher than others but they are all handlers of Grade 7 dogs, and proven to be successful handlers/competitors who I admire.
I admit that some are "people" people and some are "dog" people, but if they are good at what they do and I feel like I get something out of it for me & my dogs that's what counts. Its my choice who I go to, not anyone elses. I have never been much of a follower of the in crowd, always been a bit independent, which is why some people have taken me the wrong way over the years, but my real friends know exactly the real me, and I appreciate their friendship and the support and fun we have at all the competitions through the season.
In my honest opinion, I think everyone should try a few different trainers and be willing to keep learning. If you or your favourite trainer move hundreds of miles apart for whatever reason, are you really going to travel for hours every week for a 1 hour lesson?, or just curl up in a corner and cry because you have never been to anyone else?
 I get a lot now from Fern, who seems to be a never ending supply of tips and advice, and I have to admit, her 2 dogs are trained a whole lot better than mine! She will be and already is a consistent fun trainer, and I have no doubt in years to come she will also be a top handler, but I bet there will still be people who slag her off, don't want to be trained by her, don't agree with some of her methods or just plain don't like her. I am sure people of an already good competitive standard would not expect to be trained by a young person who has yet to make her mark on the agility circuit, and is in fact a grade 1 handler, but Fern realises that, and knows she will need to prove her worth and earn peoples respect. I know she will and people will be lucky to be trained by her. I am, but then I am biased :-)
There are an awful lot of good trainers out there, and more coming through the ranks every year, so just keep an open mind, enjoy what you do and most of all enjoy working your dogs. It is fun!!!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Just dogs, aint they brilliant!!

Well Today I went picking up at the shoot with Olli, even though I have somehow torn the ligaments in my shoulder and felt like staying in bed. I took some pain killers, packed a hip flask of Apricot Brandy (purely medicinal obviously!) and off we went. 
Olli was so thrilled to be there, and he worked beautifully all day. He walks to heel, looking up at me every few yards to check in and make sure he is doing the right thing, he sits beautifully just in front of me through each drive, watching the skies and waiting to work, and when a bird falls he is on it in a flash and brings it back to my hand every time. He is a close worker and there are a couple of spaniels on our shoot, namely his Auntie and 1 of his sisters who are better at going a long distance in heavy cover to find birds. They are more independent and work alone, but then they also do their own thing a bit too much sometimes, and have some fun while their mum is frantically blowing her whistle! Olli never embarrasses me, and is so obedient when we work, my whistle normally stays tucked in my coat. So it got me thinking about all my dogs and what I get out of them.
 Olli is a keen steady gun dog, and a grade 5 agility dog. Lily is now Grade 6 agility, brilliant around stock and very loving. Twiggy is loving, brilliant with other dogs, keen to please and intelligent, and if she doesn't make it in agility it wont make her any less of a wonderful dog to own. There are so many competitive people out there, who expect only the best from their dogs all the time, and are not satisfied with 2nd place. A lot of parents are like that with their children too, always pushing them to win and berating them for anything less. Well I am not one of those people. I am not worried whether they are 1st or last, as long as we had fun doing it! Yes Lily does ridiculously wide turns sometimes, most of the time, but she loves what she does, and I love running her as she is so genuine. No Olli wont go miles away from me and hunt on his own, but he does work very hard and always retrieves every bird I send him for, and he loves his agility. All the other dogs have their faults, but its what makes them special, and I wouldn't swap any of them for the world. What I get out of my dogs is the best feeling, and whether they are superstars or the best cuddlers in the world, I couldn't wish for more. So a few photos of my lot, just doing what they do, and being happy. 
Cove saying "Hello"

Lily & Olli on their favourite place.

Twiggy helping with the gardening!

Cove relaxing whilst I cook tea.
Stanley in one of his odd positions in the sunny window.

Lily Cove & Olli having a laugh in our favourite tree.

Cove & Lily trying to look like farm dogs!

Olli retreiving a pheasant to hand.

Waiting quietly in the woods.

Dave running with the best toy!

Becki still running and happy at 13.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Olympia trial run!

Well just a quick blog to say we are off to Stretcholt tonight, a lovely huge indoor arena so we can start to prepare for Olympia. Its months since Lily has run indoors on sand, and hopefully it will start to set us both up for Decembers amazing day out!
Also we are taking Dave for his first ever run indoors, on sand, around a proper course, which will hopefully give Fern an idea how he will approach his first show in just 2 weeks!!
Exciting Evening. Olli will just be fine, fun and Olli, and starting to think about making it to grade 6!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Another succesful weekend.

Sometimes the simple things are enough.

Friday Fern and I both had the day off together, and spent the morning cleaning dogs beds, the van etc before lunch with my mum, and then an afternoon training with Dave Munnings. Just spending some time with Fern is nice, and my mum as I never see her enough really, and then training the dogs with Dave is always a pleasure. Lily & Olli were both great as always, but the pups were both fab in their own ways. Cove was fast and focused, starting to look like the pro, and coping really well in a big group, even though he couldn't help watching exciting dogs weave!! Twiggy didn't manage to join in many of the exercises as she is still a bit unsure, and not had all the foundation work that Cove has, but to play tuggy with me, do all her learnt behaviours, hand touches etc, in a new environment, floodlit outdoors, with a lot of new dogs was amazing for her.

Saturday Fern & I again, off in Sydney (Ferns truck), down to Beer with Olli to spend the day picking up pheasants. Olli had his best day ever, retrieving 17 pheasants and a pigeon, all before lunch! He worked so well, and looks so grown up now, I am always so proud of him.
This morning Fern went off to work early so Rog came to walk the dogs with me in 2 shifts, and took his camera. Such a beautiful Autumn morning, not a cloud in the sky and the dogs all having fun in the fields, sheep grazing, cows around the feeder with their calves and a few finches and sparrows munching on the berries on our Hawthorn tree. Simple things :-)

Monday, 18 October 2010

Busy weekends and dual talents!

What a lovely weekend! So many good points, so many rewarding moments so will try and summarise!
Saturday, 1st day of the shooting season and time to see if Olli could remember how to be a gundog, and be quiet! He started to talk quite a bit on the last half mile of the journey to the meet, obviously whoever says dogs don't have memories ................! We stood through all the speeches, and then it was time to start work. I was slightly apprehensive as I opened the back of the truck, praying that he didn't shout the place down as he does at agility. Out stepped Olli, sniffed the air, looked at me with those gorgeous deep brown eyes and slipped into place at my side without a murmur. The perfect gentleman, silent controlled poetry in motion, and 3 hours 7 beautifully retrieved pheasants later we set off home. I don't know of any better feeling than living and working with a dog, so intelligent, so loving and loyal, but Olli is pure perfection in my eyes.

Sunday and we all got up at 4.30am! Roger had to work, and Fern, Luke & I had our last outdoor show of the season in the Wye Valley, so at 7.30 we arrived in Monmouth, -2 degrees and thick fog. However within a few hours the sun burnt through and it was a beautiful, warm autumn day, a lovely venue, good friends and 7 of the best dogs. 
Olli of course, was as vocal as ever! Out the van barking his head off, pulling on his lead and Mr Grade 5 Agility Spaniel was back. Both him & Lily did some lovely rounds, all near misses but lots of positives to take from them both. Solid contacts,  tight turns and speed and enthusiasm to name a few. Lily did probably her best G6/7 agility run yet, and was unlucky, but what a hilarious photo from that run!! Thanks to Chel & her trusty photographers. A classic one for the album. LOL!! We ended with a 4th in the brace. A great fun class to end a wonderful day. 
Twiggy was much more focused on me, playing and enjoying my company, being a real clever girl. Cove was also showing how "into" Fern he is. Still mad as a hatter by the rings but wanting to be inter-acting with Fern more than anything, and Dave looked almost normal! Mixed with people, watched the rings with excitement but not aggression, and posed for photos!
The best bacon butties, lovely coffee, great company and glorious weather. Oh and the best dogs in the world of course!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Twiggy a new approach

Well the workshops on Sunday were interesting. Twiggy didn't look really out of place among the other "posh" collies, and she gave us food for thought.
The positives.
The workshop was held in the indoor school, and a few months ago Twiggy found that pretty daunting. She wasn't really happy to play, and didn't really focus on anything, always jumpy and looking around at the slightest noise, but this time she settled pretty quickly. Played tuggy very well, i had her doing hand touches, standing on plastic barrels, an upturned paddling pool, and doing most of her new learnt behaviours fairly well. She also jumped a pin wheel (the first time we have done this) a few grids and managed quite a lot of the sequences with enthusiasm. At one point during an exercise, another young collie bitch got loose and chased her around the obstacles, and i thought this would freak her out but she didn't react so I was pleased.
The negatives.
A few times she decided to run around, ignore my calls, and went into her own world. I am not convinced that she is being "ignorant", although its a possibility, but more that she still has a flight mode where her focus goes and she looks for an escape route. Whether its because she feels pressured and cant cope, or whether it is to P*** me off and stick 2 fingers in my general direction, i really don't know, but it was a bit embarrassing and frustrating. So at the end of the session I had a brief chat to Karen as to her opinion. She has suggested that I try the "learn to earn" approach. Lets face it, I have spoilt Twiggy rotten since she arrived here, wanting to make her feel loved, secure and happy, because she is my first rescue dog I want to get it right. In a strange way she is very similar to Dave our aggressive, feisty terrier. He was spoilt as a puppy and started to take over the house, and the pack and we had to re think the whole approach with him too. Although Twiggy is not at all aggressive, she is maybe not sure of her position in the family, and being treated like a princess hasn't helped. So, learning to earn her food will hopefully build a new strength of bond between us, and hopefully a partnership. 
Today was day 1, and although her face was a picture when I fed the others in their bowls, and she didn't get any, half an hour later she was working beautifully on our walk. Heel work, sits, downs etc, all for her breakfast. Lunch time I spent 20 mins doing target work, name games, and again she was totally focused the whole time on me, and went away again to sleep peacefully while I worked in the office. Again tonight she worked so well and had such fun earning her tea she is snoring again now.
Its a long road, but an interesting one, and I have never professed to be an expert with dogs, but I do love all my dogs so much I will do whatever it takes to make them happy and secure in our family. 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Twiggys tale so far, and a bit of training.

Well I did promise to keep updating Twiggys progress, as well as Cove so here it is.
Since arriving as a frightened, quiet young dog she has really started to blossom into a character, and a very loving girl she is too. Training is slower with Twiggy than Cove, as it took a while to gain her confidence. Teaching simple things like left & right was very hard as she worried every time I moved my hand behind her head, she was also scared stiff of the clicker! Other much louder noises don't worry her at all, so all we can think is maybe the catch on the shed door she was shut behind for the first 6 months of her life, was a similar click. WAIT has been the hardest to teach. If i took one step away from her she would get up to come with me, and looked very worried. Have tried different methods and now starting to make progress, not by saying WAIT but saying 3..2..1, so if that works that will be fine.
Her recall has been almost faultless, and in foundation classes she never attempted to go anywhere but back to me every time. However we have hit a naughty teenager phase now, and in the last week she has been very stubborn and defiant in coming back to me in the fields on a walk. Frustrating but I am sure we will get there eventually. For now I will put a long line back on her, for safety more than anything. When tractors are working up and down the lanes I cant cope with the worry of Twiggy running through a gateway. Its all psychology though, because she doesn't take her eyes off me, and if i run in the opposite direction  she follows like a shot, just wont get close enough to get caught. Little madam!!
Tomorrow is our first young dog workshop and I cant wait to see how she gets on there, being the only one who hasn't been lucky enough to be loved and trained from a pup.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Winter time for training.

Its quite funny suddenly realising that we don't have to pack up and take off with the caravan again now until next March! Where does the time go and where did the season go? It doesn't seem that long ago that we put the planner on the wall and started to look forward to a lot of competitions with Lily & Olli, and now the planner is all finished, so apart from a couple of training days, a one day local winter comp, and Olympia of course, what shall we do??!!
We will start some serious training with Cove & Twiggy. I am finding it really hard not to expect Twiggy to be near the level Cove is working at. Because they are the same age, and size it is difficult to remember that Twiggy hasn't had the foundation work as a pup that Cove has had with Fern. So I am going to do 2 separate Blogs. 1 for Cove & 1 for Twiggy, and try to keep you updated with their respective progress through the winter.
This is Coves. A real credit to the work and dedication of Fern, who almost drives us mad with her constant training! Every waking minute she is training either Cove or Dave something, but it is totally paying off. 
Cove is a joy to own. This sweetest natured, comical, loving, handsome boy is a very special member of our family, and at just over a year old, well on the way to becoming an agility champ.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Last proper weekend of Agility 2010

I was really looking forward to this last weekend of Agility, although sad too as it would be the last time in our caravan, and the weekends away are really my chill time. It was fairly windy when we set up Friday afternoon but Rog stopped by between jobs and helped me set up, to save me the embarrassment of hang gliding across the show ground! Fern was still at work so at 3pm I was sat with all 7 dogs, relaxing in the garden with a beer. A nice bit of me time.
Friday evening there was a special jumping class, to win holiday vouchers and bags of food, so I entered me with Lily and Olli, and Fern to run Olli too. Both dogs had a blast, olli twice, and was amazed to find they ended with Lily 2nd, Olli with me 3rd, and Olli with Fern 4th!!!! About 40 dogs entered so they were fab results!!
Saturday Fern & I were running a ring, and although it was actually great fun and we had a great group of friends helping, it was also very tiring and apart from dashing to grab the dogs to quickly go and do a run before rushing them back to the caravan, we didn't really see them all day and I felt awfully neglectful. Anyway, Lily managed a 5th in Agility, and 10th in Grade 1-7 jumping combined. Olli then proved he is a real Agility dog, by getting 3rd in his Agility and 17th in the same 1 - 7 jumping as Lily. 
Sunday Lily went back to being a bit blonde and although her contacts and weaves were fantastic, her directional beacon failed and she got eliminated in all 3 classes. Very frustrating when you know how good she is, but she is only "human" :-) Olli on the other hand got yet another 3rd in a really tricky 4-5 Jumping, and then a 4th in the fairly tricky ABC jumping with Fern. He has become very consistent and I am almost starting to believe he could move up another grade next year.

We had a meet up with all Coves litter brothers and sisters and had a photo shoot on Sunday afternoon, then packed up for the last time and came home. 

All the dogs were great, our friends were great, a lot of good times and a lot of people we will miss through the winter, but I am already planning next years diary, which is going to be totally mad as 5 dogs will be competing!!

Just a small show in November, a few training days with top handlers and then Olympia. What a fab 2010 Team Feroda have had!!!