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Monday, 28 February 2011

I have forgotten how to run Lily!!

My last blog talked about how different dogs are and how they all have different buttons to push to get the best out of them. They are all so different to train and run and my god didn't that show this weekend!!
Lily has done nothing since Olympia in December apart from a small indoor show for fun in January. She then had her spey operation so I havent done any training with her until last week. A few short sessions in our field over medium jumps, and 5 mins with Fiona at her field on Friday, didn't prepare me for Mark Lakers training on Saturday. I was rubbish!! My timing was out, my body language was crap and I felt like a total idiot. I couldn't even complete a course to start with. Lily is extremely fit and well, and very hyper now she is back training, and having spent the last few months concentrating on training Twiggy I was totally thrown by her speed and enthusiasm. Poor Lily was flying round, growling with excitement and I just couldn't keep up so looked more like a grade 1 handler than a grade 6.
I can't blame Lily for being so keen and happy, and in fact that was the only positive thing I could take out of the lesson was how well she looked. I was deflated. I love training with Mark but he must have thought I was a right muppet. Sorry Lily, I must work harder and hopefully we will get back in tune over the next month.
Twiggy on the other hand was vastly different to the last time we tried a workshop. 2 hours of focus, not worried about the other dogs or being in that draughty barn even playing tuggy while the rain hammered down on the tin roof, without any worries at all. Off lead and happy, a completely different attitude, looking confident and even barking with excitement! Still a long way to go, but the progress is easy to see.
I only got to see the last 30 minutes of Fern & Coves group, but he looked really good in a grade 3/4 group and Fern was really happy with his work. A few stalky moments when the excitement almost got too much but nothing to write home about. Cant wait to see him at his first show in 4 weeks time. Fern also ran Olli in my group with Lily, and although he too was a bit over enthusiastic, he did some nice work and certainly has the potential to go far this season.
So I need to work harder on changing my hat depending on the dog by my side. They are all very different, and as they all give 100% for me its only fair I give the same back.
Today I tried again with Twiggys 2 x 2 weaving and miracles do happen. She got it!! 4 poles and almost a wiggle from Twiggy. Eureka!!!!! Finally it looks like she may be able to weave after all. 
I do love how my dogs keep me on my toes!! Never a dull moment. :-)

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Dogs are all so different.

Its been an interesting week, especially observing and taking notice of how different all our dogs are. I don't mean to look at, but their different attitudes to work and the relationships we have.
Lily I have always felt a magical bond with. She wasn't an easy dog to train, purely because she was nervous.....no petrified of other dogs anywhere near her, and she didn't start training until she was 18 months old. Purely by chance, a poster in our local country store caught my eye and so we started agility. Although I had played at agility with our old sprollie and collie 10 years previous,  I never took it very seriously, and we only did a few shows, and stayed in Elementary! Working with Lily and her guts and determination to please me, was addictive, hence the position we are in now, 7 dogs, a kitted out van, caravan and our whole summer travelling around the country competing, and a very sad bank balance! 
Lily wants to learn, and wants to do right by me, so after a slow start she learnt everything methodically and with such trust in me she has been, and always will be a joy. The most genuine dog I have ever known.
Olli spaniel came along, bred on the farm by our neighbours, and after weeks of watching them grow, and deciding which bitch I was going to have, the noisy chubby boy, was determined to be mine, so he chose me. Originally I had no thoughts of him doing agility, he was going to be my gundog, and would take over from my ageing gundog Becki, but then I thought it would be more worthwhile travelling with 2 dogs to compete, so his training started around 6 months. His attitude and ability to learn, was noticeably different to Lils. 
Olli is a very devoted loyal dog, but he almost worked for fun and for his own pleasure, not quite so much purely for me. He also learnt by the "light bulb" method. I could try different ways, different approaches to training him certain things, and appear to be getting nowhere when suddenly he would say "Oh I get it now!! You want me to do this!" and from that day on, he would get it!! 
Then there,s Twiggy. Rescue collie, scared of everything, unsocialised, and 9 months old when I got her. So I found myself again with a young adult rather than a puppy to start training, and this one with a lot of issues to cope with. 8 months on and she is a challenge, but an exciting one. Her confidence is growing daily, and she has learnt very quickly most of the basics of agility. She has bonded with me from the start, and is the most loving, cuddly mad collie, but her attitude to work is more difficult to assess. Yes she will jump full height, at full speed, and her contacts are coming on very well, but she still almost gives the impression that she is doing it cos its fun, but not 100% sure why, and can easily be distracted as she is still a worrier, so needs a lot of encouragement.
I am waffling, but what I am trying to say is how every dog needs a different approach to training. Although I tend to follow the method I like, which is taken from 3 or 4 good trainers, you cant look at all dogs the same, especially if they are not bred purely for agility, from real agility lines.
Lily is intelligent, but a working sheep dog, so none of it came naturally to her it just happened because of her need to please me.
Olli is bred from a line of proven gundogs, so again agility was not in his blood, but as long as he is having fun, he will learn things.....eventually!
Twiggy is from unknown breeding, and had a rubbish start before the Mitchells rescued her, so her training is challenging and delicate in some ways, as she is still easily upset.
Not 1 of my dogs has been bred for, or started training from a pup for agility, yet Lily is Grade 6, Olli is Grade 5 and Twiggy I am sure is going to be pretty damn good, even if it takes a year or so.
Which brings me to Cove. Not mine but Ferns, and he is bred for agility. His lines are pretty impressive, and Fern had him from 6 weeks old. From the day he arrived training started, and from just a few months old he was starting to focus on other dogs doing courses, and squealing with excitement. There has never been a doubt he will be good. Its in his genes and it shows. His whole approach to it is different to any of the others, being focused, clever and learning every new thing within a very short time scale. He looks the part.
Lily will work sheep at the drop of a hat, she was bred to.
Olli will retrieve game birds or rabbits without hesitation, he was bred to.
Twiggy will.........chase most things, amuse herself for hours, god knows what she was bred to do! 
Cove will run an agility course with style, and could go all the way to the top, he was bred to.They are all so different to handle, but are and will be top agility dogs.

I love and enjoy my relationship with all my dogs. They all have so much to offer, and there is never a dull moment. And although I might 1 day actually have a puppy, from agility lines, that I chose myself, I actually think in some ways that wouldn't give me such a sense of achievement. It would be easy, and I am not one to take the easy route, if there's an interesting challenge offered. Someone once laughed in my face "You cant teach Olli to do agility, he's a gundog!" Mmmmmm, touche my friend touche.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Olli time.

Nearly 3 weeks on and Lily shows no signs of being speyed. There is not even a scar visible, and she is full of beans, and happier than ever. I took her for her first time off lead a few days ago, just Lily & me so she could take things steady but enjoy a bit of freedom. Take things easy???? Ok she didn't run around at full speed like she would if the others were out, but she was pouncing on my feet, grabbing the tuggy, and generally acting like a puppy. It was lovely, although I was still paranoid that she would do something to damage her insides, which must still be healing. That's the mistake so many people make, thinking that once the outside is all healed they can go straight back to normal, but that's not very sensible or good for the dog. She will soon be back to her winning ways, there is plenty of time.
Twiggy and me are starting to build a good partnership. What I mean is a working partnership, as there is no doubt that Twiggy and I bonded a long time ago, but building the sort of understanding that Lily & Olli have with me, takes work, patience and lots of practice. She has started to look ahead more now whilst we are training, and picking up obstacles instead of running round them. She has also started to get the whole weave idea, altho this is obviously going to be my biggest challenge. She is going to be a completely different dog to run than either of my other two. More cheeky, still a little bit of uncertainty, and much quicker so my timing is going to be tested!
Olli is my main priority this year, so I took him to a workshop on "Striding and Turns" yesterday. It was great to see a lot of people I had missed recently, but mostly it was special to spend a few hours with my boy, training together, without Lily butting in. :-) He was a good lad, tackling every exercise with that unrivalled enthusiasm, and non stop waggy tail. He didn't fail at all, and was obviously very happy to be back at it again. We both ended up drowned rats, as the rain persisted all afternoon, but it was still good fun. Home and a hot bath and roast dinner later, I settled next to Rog on the sofa to watch TV and Olli climbed up next to me, put his head on my lap and slept like a log. A couple of times he woke up, looked up at me with those stunning dark brown eyes, wagged his tail as if to say "thanks for today mum, it was great" and I stroked his gorgeous head, smiled and felt extremely lucky.
Counting the days now. Lily is now doing circle work, and has now been out with the others for a gentle run, (which she loved) the 3 of them are now getting 2 road walks a day to build up fitness, and the Team Feroda flag is on order. :-) Hurry up show season!!!!!!

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Sleepless nights and happy moments :-)

February is never a good month. People say its the worse as all the Christmas festivities and New Yr Celebrations are over, nobody has any money left and the weather is still very unpredictable. It is a bit of a flat month, but nearly a week in and we have had some good times.
Lily has been a perfect patient since her spay operation just over a week ago. I did sleep downstairs for the first couple of nights with her, as i wanted to be with her in case of any problems, and as she normally sleeps next to my bed I felt like it was only fair to sleep next to hers. I didn't sleep much at all. Every time she moved or her breathing changed I was awake and watching her. She however slept like a baby!! Apart from a rash caused by the clippers, she has had absolutely no problems whatsoever, and has not bothered with the wound at all. She has let me check it and put cream on the rash at regular intervals, just laying down on her back, legs in the air trusting me implicitly. Stitches out this Monday and then we can start to build up her exercise over the next few weeks. Some people rush their dogs back into work, and I can not believe how quickly. Its a Hysterectomy, which when us humans have it done we are told 6 weeks rest minimum. Although dogs are very resilient compared to us feeble beings, and will do anything to please us so probably would work straight away, it is not something I agree with, and Lily will be having a gentle increase in work for the whole of February. Her first show is not until the 26th March, by which time she will be fit and raring to go.

Poppy our little foster collie, went to her new home last Saturday, and I have had regular texts and e mails almost daily since! It was a tearful farewell, but she has really found her forever home, and now called Toffee, is spending hours running on the beach, playing with her new friend Biscuit, and learning new things very quickly. I am thrilled, and admit to being slightly proud of myself. I always said I could not foster as I would never be able to part with them, and Toffee is such a special dog who fitted in with us from day 1, she just confirmed that feeling. Now I have not lost a dog but gained a friend I can smile, and Toffee will always have a little place in our hearts.

Which brings me to Twiggy. Naughty, cheeky, determined, tough and very clever. What a difference in her, and she is such a fun dog to have around. She regularly rough & tumbles with Cove, sometimes at full speed across the field, rolling Cove over in the mud often! Makes me chuckle as she runs back grinning all over her cheeky face, not a speck of dirt on her, followed by a muddy scruffy Cove! She is lightening fast. Her strange muscle spasms a distant memory now as she has developed good tone and now fully matured. She is not as easy to train as Lily or Olli, but I am enjoying the little challenges she keeps throwing at me, and when we get it right I have a feeling she will turn heads. If she doesn't get it right then she will just be my best buddy, always by my side and making me laugh, a very important special girl :-)

I decided to stop taking Olli shooting this year. He is an amazing gundog, and we have had some memorable days working together, but certain things have started to bother me about the whole shooting scene, and Olli has become a better Agility dog than gundog, so I am now going to concentrate on that. He has always played 2nd fiddle to Lily, but that is not fair to him anymore. He always gives 100% when we compete, and his enthusiasm is second to none. He ended last season winning into Grade 5. Not moving up on points but beating 100 other dogs to win the class, which is quite a feat for a large Spaniel against Collies. So I have decided Olli is my priority this season, and he has 3 ABC qualifiers as well as Novice Olympia qualifiers, so that is my goal. Yes I have goals with Lily & Twiggy, but Lily had an amazing year last year, Twiggy is still young and has a lot to learn, but Olli deserves my full commitment now. He is not the fun "extra" anymore, he is a serious and very able Agility boy.

Have had the last 2 days spending time with Fern. Mother & Daughter time, and we have had some fun and giggles, washing our vans, training the dogs, walking the dogs, and today shopping and a trip to the hairdressers. I am very lucky to have Fern, even if we have the odd disagreement, but what Mum & Daughter don't? We are so similar in our outlook on life, and with Rog backing us up we are a team. Team Feroda, and having already entered all the shows that are currently open, we are looking forward to a fun filled and hopefully successful season. We will be broke, but we'll be happy :-)
February? Taken from the Febrau, which means "cleansing" or "Purification", and the rituals undertaken before Spring. 
We are not down and miserable, we are ready for the rest of the year!!