Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Agility Show of the Future

Right you've done some training and now you are off to a show.

On arrival you join the queue for day parking for vans, past the camping with tents and vans area, past the tents and cars area and the vans with big caravans, vans with medium caravans and vans with small caravans and to the left of the cars with big caravans, cars with medium caravans and cars with small caravans. On the right is the 4x4 vehicles and to the front the cars.

Once parked in your designated area you join the queue for handler assessment measurement. After answering questions about your sex, age and experience, your height, weight and fat ratio are measured. Your heart rate taken before and after a 30 sec jog on the treadmill. You are then sent to the "not bad fitness for middle aged woman experienced handler" queue. After having your length of leg measured and the colour of your eyes noted and details taken of your prescription you are sent on to the "not bad fitness for middle aged short legged brown eyed experienced woman handler" queue.

At last your dog now gets some attention. Breed, age, eye colour, coat, colour, marking, height at withers, length of back, length of leg, weight and resting heart beat measured. Heart beat measured after 30 seconds on treadmill. Muscle to fat ratio measured and pitch of bark.

Although this is all a bit stressful and time consuming it will be worth it you think as you are pointed forward to ring 329.

What there is no queue, straight in, BRILLIANT you think as you stand there on the start line facing the finishing line. No equipment either! 

OK lets go for it and as you cross the line a cheer goes up and you get given your 1st place trophy and your placement card - 
1st in the day parking with vans, not bad fitness for middle aged, short legged, brown eyed, woman, experienced handler with a tri coloured, hazel eyed, border collie, 20 inches at the withers, 16.5 inches leg, 22 inches back, well toned and high level of fitness class.

Amazing lets go celebrate with all my equally successful friends whilst my dog chills in the van.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Majority rules?

Contrary to some peoples beliefs The Kennel Club does encourage agility to look after itself! The rules we have in place have come about because of the work from people on the committee at the time proposals were made.

When I first started agility there were three grades:

  • Starter - people new to agility
  • Novice - people experienced either by winning from starters or by winning out of starters with a previous dog
  • Senior - people and dogs who had won through the grades.

It was very clear and understood. Classes were usually Starters, Novice (included Starters), Intermediate (included Novice and Senior), or just Senior.

Show organisers generally designed their schedule to give you two runs at your grade and one above. This meant you could also compete against dogs of a higher grade than you. 

It also meant you could be queueing with people working at a higher standard at you. In my opinion this gave all competitors a rounded view so that people of different levels met and could appreciate others perspective.

When the numerous grades were introduced it was probably envisaged that shows would continue to mix up the grades. However, due to show sizes and people's hunger to move up the grades things have worked out far differently. I think this is a great shame. As a result, people have very different and disjointed views on what many of us now consider to be a sport.

Everybody loves their dog and accordingly want it to do well. The common reflection of doing well seems to be winning rosettes and moving up the many grades. 

With class sizes as big as they are it can be hard for less able bodied dogs to see that "success". With the lower grades not mixing or watching the beauty of the physical prowess of the top level dogs and handlers then a distorted view of the intention of agility competitions appears to be a driving force behind many changes now being pushed for.

I am able to see top class agility at many shows and choose to go and watch it first hand at FCI. It is the people at the top that reflect to me that agility is a sport.

I do believe that every dog and handler can gain a lot of enjoyment from learning agility and spending time together, however I don't believe in changing rules to suit every dog at competitions.

The best handlers and more athletic dogs will always win however the rules are altered and that is how agility should be in my eyes - a display of athletism as well as skill.

My worry is that if it is correct that jumping a few inches higher is detrimental to dogs then surely jumping in itself is not good so why are we making dogs do it at all? 

I believe we have the knowledge and training techniques to ensure all our dogs learn how to jump properly and so many practioners to help us keep our dogs in tip top condition. 'Fit for purpose' is a phrase that springs to mind and although every dog can enjoy agility it does not necessarily follow that all dogs can be successful. I would look around for another hobby if my dog wasn't fit for agility.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Remember Remember

Just had time to re read some of That Winning feeling by Jane Savoie and came across a bit I'd forgotten about. Apparently our brain can't distinguish between what is real or imaginary in our memory which could explain why sometimes 2 people will remember the same event totally differently. Also our subconcious will strive to make our thoughts a reality so that if you think that you are having a bad day some how it will conspire to ensure that you do.
It also remembers all those comments we make about ourselves like the one I made today that Rhyme would do better will another handler. Shock horror what an awful thing to say. I would be very disappointed in any of my students if they said that.

Sometimes it's is a reflex dismissal because I don't know how to applaud myself. What I should have said was thank you he's a brilliant dog and together we'll do well :)

Now I need to convince my subconscious mind that it's not what I said but what I meant that matters and focus on helping that come true :)

So remember positive thinking is the way forward and practice saying the right things to get your subconscious mind to help you achieve :)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

News and Developments

Wow what an amazing time with so much going on.

The main news is Mark being appointed as International manager to Agility Team GB. It is a great opportunity for him plus he will be working hard to help the Team achieve. Those that know him understand that he doesn't do things by halves and would only take this position with the knowledge that he will be able to deliver. So watch his blog and enjoy the success of GB :)

It is also great for me - I love International competitions too so will enjoy being part of it from the sidelines.

On a less International scale Wag and Tone has been receiving great interest. I have a venue where I can give weekly classes :)

We have 2 other dog instructors from different areas who want to use the class format and exercises and a friend from The Netherlands who is coming over in the next couple of months that will launch it there. 

Sue's brilliant idea has certainly gone a long way.

The classes are aimed at pet dog owners that at the moment do nothing with their dogs. My own dogs are jumping better and have great core stability and flexibility from doing it so there will also be a market for agility dogs that can't do their usual training in bad weather.

We are going to be doing more videoing of exercises tomorrow and sorting out licensing etc meanwhile here's some of my favourites :)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Bekkis Thaumaturge aka Flint aka Fuffy

It's strange how things work out and it is interesting looking back on past blogs.

It is only 2 blogs ago I sadly wrote about Flint's sister dying and how it made me appreciate him even more. That has certainly been magnified by our visit to the vets on Tuesday which revealed that Flint probably has secondary lung cancer in both lungs that mean even if they located the primary cancer and got there would be nothing else they can do.

What a complete heartbreak. Part of the problem is that I knew he was ill and suspected something bad but there is no comfort in knowing you are right in these circumstances.

The good thing is that Flint doesn't seem to know he's ill - just an annoying cough but everything else is fine.

Initially being faced with losing him the emotion is uncontrollable tears but the vets words of a few months still were an immense comfort.

Now I am thinking how lucky I am - firstly to have shared a life with such a great dog and then to be able to ensure that I have let him know that for the last months.

We do take care of our dogs well as is noted frequently by other agility competitors but it is easy to lose focus on the older dogs when life is so busy and the young competing dogs need training. Obviously exercise, grooming and food are equally given - it is time spent with them individually that can be less.

Flint is no trouble in anyway and loves evenings watching TV so probably did not miss training time spent away from him - glad of the peace and quiet. 

I have been given an opportunity to ensure time is spent with him so that I will have no feelings of guilt when he goes. To be honest spending time on Flint is so easy. He is always bouncy and happy, glad to play with a ball or flirt with another dog - doesn't matter what sex either :) and he pricks his ears up, standing tall. He will certainly be making sure he's a stud dog in his next life :)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A ring a ring of rosettes

We've had some brilliant results at shows this year. Notably Wallingford in April & Gillingham last week. At both of these shows we did a ring party & our members all performed really well.

The question is why?

Well firstly to be scientific we would need to check the data to see if we did perform better or just that more of us were gathered together to notice how well we did :)

Also both these shows are KC shows & quite a few people compete mainly at UKA so if they'd been at KC shows all year would they have moved up the grades sooner?

Or is it the camaraderie? We have been told on more than one occasion that we have the loveliest club members and we do agree :) They are all lovely all the time though not just when we do a ring party :)

Well I started this blog last week and now have proof that it is not just the ring party.

Three members in top three at UKA Masters this weekend and as far as I know they were not doing a ring party.

So proof - not only are they all lovely they are all brilliant too :)

Need to find a BIG venue for presentation evening to fit it all in.

Our weekend was lovely too - only one elimination from Torro with 3 clears including a 3rd place at of 6 runs. On track to become a course conquerer. 

2 clears from Rhyme (3rd place in both - agility and slightly held contacts) some lovely jumping runs with a couple of baby mistakes so well on track to be top agility dog.

Mark and Devo had a great time too - 2nd in jumping and a brilliant run in another class where the timing didn't work that all considered a winning one. Mark didn't mind having another go but it wasn't as good as the first and they had a pole down. We won't mention the run where I didn't press the record button until he'd finished either.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Blood is thicker than Water

 It is a strange and lovely thing that often happens when people have dogs from the same litter that they are then like family.

Although all my dogs family are lovely people anyway I probably would not feel such a bond of friendship if they didn't own my dogs litter mates.

It is lovely sharing all their joys & successes as they grow, seeing their photos etc.

What is not so lovely is when they get older & we are faced with those Rainbow Bridge moments that slap you in the face with reminders of your own dogs age and the shortening of your time left with them. Memories of the early days together make you appreciate the lose of your dogs sibling more than usual even if you don't see them regularly.

My heart goes out to Janet on losing Lucy-fur'  as we called her. Such a great dog, sister to my Flint. She will be missed xxx

We do know our dogs are old from 12 onwards and have time to start preparing for that horrible day.

Luckily none of our dogs brothers & sisters have died young before so it is hard to put into words the emotions felt on hearing the shocking news of the loss for Matt Rouse of Devo's brother Riot due to a road accident at the age of 4.

Matt had pick of litter. The pups were born in his home and he had plenty of time to enjoy & play with them. Riot was a stunning looking black & white and although we wanted a tri colour we would have been happy to have Riot. It didn't come down to looks though, Matt chose on personality - Riot was his doggy soul mate. 

We have not seen much of them lately and can only assume from their results that their relationship has only deepened over the years.

Heartbreak does not even begin to describe what he must be feeling.

Matt & Lauren have a lot of support around them & we've sent our love too. Hopefully it will help in some way. I'm not sure how I'll hide my tears when I next see them though. 

Giving all our dogs special attention today especially Devo.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Auf Weidersen Pet

Just back from Germany where we had a holiday and competed in The Border Collie Classic an Annual International Competition just for Border Collies.

The current FCI champion & last years FCI champion were there as well as other top world handlers.

There were also quite a few people like us who were there as a holiday & to try their luck against the best.

I love the style of the European courses we saw there & in Denmark last year. 

They are not all big gaps (maximum distance apart 7m) or go round the back as some judges here seem to try do. Yes there were a couple of go rounds but in flowing interesting ways not off a straight line that only Bolt could hope to get to. There are lots of choices of what a dog can do & good handling, training  & partnership shows through. A late command or poor understanding & you're out. Placement of obstacles also mean you might have to think hard & be sharp to make the direction clear to your dog.

Late commands got me every time with Torro - there were quite a few people watching us as I ran one in front of Lisa Frick & Hoss, the general comment was Torro was "frigging fast'. I really wanted to have another go on every course to sharpen up. Another few weeks & I think we would have got some clears :)
We got round the team final with only a jump down in a cracking time. Mark got clear with Devo & if we'd had a couple of other good dogs in our multi national team we would have done ok.

One of the other dogs was Rhyme - did his best but tunnel wrapped around an Aframe  choice has not been in his training yet, although he did a brilliant weave entry from a tunnel at an angle that many more experienced dogs missed :) So we were disqualified.

The other team member was from Croatia & I think he'd gone back there as he didn't show :(

Last year at Dania everything was announced in English first & then in Danish so it was easier to keep track of things.

With many nationalities there and most people can understand English it possibly would have been a good idea this weekend but no everything was in German & there were a few complaints. We were lucky as Ian Watts was judging there and a few other people we have met on our travels and they kept us up with the programme :)

Our dogs did GB proud as although Mark & Devo were the only one of us to get 2 clears 

Friday, 3 August 2012

Everyone's a Winner

Everyone's a winner - but are they and should they be?

Mark and I had an interesting conversation about the word winner - to me in a competition context a winner is the person who wins the class. To Mark a winner is somebody who has won - could be the class or it could be because they had achieved a goal or target.

There is a great difference as in a class of 240 dogs there are 239 people that aren't going to win. Winning creates a good feeling that motivates us to work hard to achieve that emotion again. So to create hard working motivated handlers we need to have more winners. I don't know of any other sport that has such a high number of losers.

We are going to Germany soon for the Border Collie Classic and I would be very surprised to have any more that 3 rings. Our friends on the Continent are amazed by our class sizes. They have more opportunity to be winners more regularly. 

But if everyone could win more easily then the standard at the top would get worse wouldn't it? Well in Europe they have to be successful in the higher grade or they move back down the following year. This maintains the standard.

Meanwhile what can we do to help agility people in the UK from feeling demotivated or turning into people that constantly moan - course times are too tight, courses are too hard, classes are too big etc because they are lacking in the winners euphoria? We need to make ourselves feel like winners due to achievements we have instead of actually coming 1st. 

Goal setting is an excellent way to see how well you are doing. It can take a while to perfect the skill as often it is easy to set targets that are too easy and then to choose one's that are too hard. The more process driven they are the better. Outcome (winning the class) related can be powerful either to the addition to your winning experiences or detrimental towards gradual improvements.

Goal setting was amazing for the Flint days and the early days with Torro. Now I have hard work to do to realign my aims for Torro to be realistic to our show performances. In training he is utterly brilliant (and I'm pretty decent too). In the ring I have somehow lost that winning feeling and struggle to achieve even a non-elimination especially in Champ classes where all I want is anything but that. He has qualified for the Power & Speed final which was not on my list of goals and also one ticket final which is. So work to be do there I think.

Meanwhile Rhyme has surpassed each and every goal I have set him so far this year. Mine you he is such hard work in the queue I feel like a winner just by being able to get him to the start line, have a solid wait and stay with me all the way round.

It's great that shows are back to normal and I am so looking forward to the KC Festival and The Border Collie Classic.

I am also very happy to realise that all the people that have 1 to 1's with me have either won. moved up a grade or qualified for a final this year so far. That certainly makes me feel good and very proud of them.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Everything happens for a reason

It always seems that however bad things appear for me they always work out for the best.

The bad weather and our policy of not going to as many shows has resulted in no shows for us since the Saturday of Lansdown. It seems an age away and loads of missed opportunities.

The upshot of it is that we have been able to spend time with family and friends and paint our equipment up the field and most importantly I have now got my contacts sorted with Rhyme :)

I had entered agility classes thinking that if I wasn't ready I wouldn't do them but then because I had entered we did them even though we weren't really doing them consistently :(

Having the time off has enabled us to develop a contact method that we both understand reliably so we're now set to go.

With Agility Club this weekend, KC Festival in 3 weeks and then off to The Border Collie Classic in Germany we have some exciting times ahead :)

Meanwhile UpAndOver members that have managed to get to some shows have had some brilliant results the most notable in terms of places is Emma & Star winning up to Grade 4 and Linda & Pip winning up to Grade 2. 

Great achievement too for Dee & Maloney getting 3rd in Grade 1-2 combined and Sandra with Kip getting a 3rd in Grade 3 having just moved up. Sue & Poppy is continuing to do well in Grade 5 having had inspiration from beating myself and Torro is the circular KO at the Hawk Conservancy Demo (I'm not sore about it or anything LOL). I'm sure I've forgotten some others - they really are a great bunch and do very well while having a great time and supporting each other. 

Quite a few of UpAndOver members will be at the UKA Nationals and we wish them loads of luck.

Our dogs are having a real relaxing time in between training - Devo can be a little bit mischievous during the week when Mark is away and I think he misses him.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

What is Wag & Tone?

Wag & Tone has been keeping me very busy lately and it is certainly a labour of love.

My friend Sue Holstead who runs funfordogs at Pitton near Salisbury told me she thought it would be great fun to have an exercise class for dogs and owners similar to Zumba. By the time I got home I'd thought of the name, written the book and made the DVD (well the book & DVD are only in imagination at the moment but ......)

We enlisted Ruthless Ruth our fitness coach to help with development and also persuaded Amanda Sutton Animal Physio to check out the exercises.

Hours of fun have been spent coming up with exercises that would work the dog and handler to keep them toned. Our own dogs love it. Torro is jumping better and looks more agile. Rhyme likes ad libbing and creating his own bit to get more limelight LOL.

We had our first trial class a couple of weeks ago and the hour flew by. Everything ran smoothly - it is so good that it felt we had been doing it for years. We had a range of dogs from pet dogs to hard drive not easily focussed young dogs and had complete attention from them throughout the whole session.

As it was in the Equestrian Centre we were unable to do any exercises that involve lying down. That may be a good idea initially as some of the dogs may find that a bit too tempting or exciting. Dee with Maloney has enough problem with excitement issues when she's stood up :)

So next step is to document the exercises in such a way that we can pass on to others and maybe that book......

Meanwhile we are going to run 4 more classes on Thursday 6, 13, 20, & 27 September at Cholderton Equestrian Centre from 8:30 to 9:30.

We will advertise locally first then maybe Facebook and agilitynet. If you are interested let me know.

This is Rhyme showing off sit ups - not included in current circuits but you can see the fun he is having. Trail video so don't worry about the talking.

This is Sue & Dexie with another trial exercise using Toning Bones :)

And lastly Ruth - showing the professional finish to come with the lovely Zan

Monday, 2 July 2012

What about if.......?

I am known for enjoying a more technical course & my old boy Flint would be sweeping the board at the moment. Torro Laker although stunning is not as accurate and even I am starting to get a bit demoralised by regular appearances of very testing courses.

Reading a thread on the subject got me trying to think of a way forward, after all judges put time & effort into setting courses for us and in a way it is flattering that they think we can achieve something out of the complicated ones. The comments made include various thoughts about us needing to do more complex courses day to day in order to do better in International competitions and on the other hand people who just want an enjoyable weekend away with friends & dogs and only train once a week. Plus thoughts that progression through the grades is too easy so lesser capable dogs/handlers are then being destroyed by working at a level too hard for them.  

My interest is also how putting a dog in a situation it (or the handler) hasn't got the skills to cope with could effect them physically and a young dog mentally leading to injury or loss of motivation. 

 Ok what is my solution - the judges publish their courses with the schedule. 

 That way those that don't like the course style don't need to enter. Those that are challenged by it can set it up and train the dog to achieve it. Somebody mentioned we don't all have time to do loads of training so what better than to spend time training what you will be doing instead of spending time planning training around something you may never meet in a course this year. The best dogs will still win and at least we will know when we enter what kind of course we will be facing. 

This would only apply to regular classes. Courses for qualifiers or champ classes would only be put up on the day of the show. 

Some thoughts of reasons people would have doubts about this and my responses 
It would not be fair as people with their own equipment can easily set up & run all courses. 
Those people often do very well anyway as they practise more. At least you & your dog will have had a chance to know what to practice if practice time is more limited to you. 

Weather conditions etc could change in the time the schedule is published to when show is run or ring is smaller etc so judge has to change course to suit. 
These things happen & at least you've worked on things that are that judges style and it'll apply to everyone. 

I'm happy to comment on any other reasons why this wouldn't work and don't really think it would be adopted just a fun discussion to try to think of a solution. We have some great and developing judges out there who need a break but also I want to help our dogs and us get things right more often. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Good Times

Sorry for absenteeism from blog.

I'm struggling to know what to right about without bragging as everything is going brilliantly.

Club is amazing as usual and everyone is gaining much success at shows and making big steps at training too.

There has been countless move ups and people qualifying for finals already and the show season is just starting.

The UpAndOver crowd are always very friendly, helpful and positive. 

We don't always get to see them at shows. Luckily we do have other good friends to be with that are competing at the same level as us. It is good to have like minded people to discuss KC issues, the course, running contacts etc etc with. Although, there are a few people in the top level that we avoid talking to in the queue because we want to avoid being negative or focussing on the problem areas of the course so our minds don't absorb their worries. Outside the ring we can chat with them as much as we like :)  There are really only one or two that continually moan about all things that we avoid totally. 

We got sucked into the BGT voting for the first time to support Ashleigh & Pudsey although we did only vote once LOL.

At work people voiced an opinion that although they thought she was good that is wasn't really a talent. Well I suppose it isn't like the usual acts but I thought X factor was for singers. A bit harsh really but surely singing is just something you can or can't do whereas Ashleigh had to take time to train another animal to perform so surely it takes a bit more effort so is worthy of more acknowledgement.

The other acts will still get on and have a career in performing anyway whereas we all know dog training is not the easiest way to make a living.

Anyway we wish them loads of luck and hope they have a great time.

Meanwhile on my stage ie the agility circuit I glad my pupils and dogs are making the most out of their talents and winning big at their own level :)

Friday, 4 May 2012

Nemo me impune lacessit

"No one provokes me with impunity" likewise  "touch not the cat bot a glove"  (my clans motto)

What brings on this quoting of mottos you may ask - the KC Festival Nations Cup's ruling that the country you have to choose to run for is the one of your residence is what.

The first 2 KC Festivals I attended I proudly noted on the entry form to run for Scotland. My life has been in England but my parentage on both sides, my birth place, my upbringing, my heritage and my heart are all Scottish so although it may seem rude to not want to run for England V Scotland there really is no other choice for me.

I totally underestimated the pride of wearing my Scottish Bib and on the second occasion Flint and I did Scotland proud. We did the round of our lives to help Scotland gain 2nd in the Agility and 3rd overall :)

I can be very naive at times and did not fully understand that people that had travelled down from Scotland but were not in the team would not support this southern spoken sassenach and would not understand where my heart lay. I do believe that Flint and I were the right choice to gain Scotland a podium place and in my eyes I was running for MY country.

In order to not cause any bad feeling again I chose not to attend the KC Festival for a couple of years and luckily the dog I have now is not a consistent clear round dog so would not get in the team on points anyway so we have been able to go in the last couple of years. 

To be in the rules now I would have no choice and would have to select to run for England. As mentioned I have lived in England since I was a toddler so it is hard for even myself to understand why that is so totally the wrong thing for me to be doing when there is a Scottish Team :(

Other friends face similar problems and one has decided not to go this year and has been quite upset about it. She does have a French accent and gets teased endlessly for being French and now she can't even run for her country of birth at her beloved agility.

I do understand that in the past there have maybe been some dubious country choices and in other International Events some people have run for countries that they were in no way connected to. Rules are made to encourage fair play so a strict residence policy is clear to administer if unfair advantages are the reason for country choices. For me amongst others it is NOT a choice it is a feeling.

I wonder if there is some middle ground where for example the top 10 places get together with their countrymen and THEY then decide the Team they want to run for them. The Team Captain could either be the top place or someone elected from these ten. Possibly they could even chose different dogs for the agility than the jumping making it a true team competition with tactics involved. 

If this had been in place the years I ran Flint I am confident Flint would still have been chosen as he is a very special team dog and my fellow countrymen would have known I was running for our country pride. Or possibly being the meek person I am I would have been happy to stand aside to give my place to somebody who had travelled further to get the chance to represent their country than I had.

I know this is a very emotive issue for some people and I hope some happy compromise can be reached.

What ever happens going forward nobody can ever take away the incredible day I had flying my country's flag and making my Dad so very very proud :)

I'll just finish with a little notice one of my FB friends sent me :)

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Steeling the Limelight

I went to Wallingford show today with a goal of getting a clear round with Rhyme. 

When queuing for the class Rhyme became concerned about the noise of the seesaw. His ears were right back and his eyes were wide in alarm. I could get no calmness from him.

I decided not to run him at the time (a very big thing for me as I had booked in and was nearly at the line). As his recall took some getting I knew that the fear he was experiencing would be bigger than the strength of recall I have and he would run. Running at a big show would only become even more alarming with people trying to catch him.

I went back to the van and got Torro out and walked back up to the ring. The idea was that Torro would not show any sign of fear so would allay Rhyme's worries.

Success - I ignored Rhyme's panic and played with Torro and eventually Rhyme joined in. Luckily the other ring had finished and were walking the next class too so there was no more noise close by. He did still react to a seesaw in a ring further away.

On the start line he was totally focused and worked extremely well so the result was much better than if I had tried when he wasn't able to work. We also achieved our first clear round :)

It is hard to work through a dogs fear as it is a balancing act of increasing intensity whilst not going overboard and creating a full blown phobia.

I personally don't think saturation is a kind training method and can even result in an incurable problem. So I will be doing lots of "outside the box" games with Rhyme to create another reaction from him when he hears that kind of noise.

Noise sensitivity is a strange thing as it effects dogs so differently. I have also heard comments such as "it's in the line". Is it something that can be inherited or just the way the puppies are brought up?

Our dogs are very different with noises. 

Flint is great out and about except for air rifles which has now also gone into crow scarers and other gunfire - living on Salisbury Plain we do walk opposite a firing range. We played a bang game with him so when a gun goes off we say bang and make a game and joke of him worrying. This has worked to a good degree and he can cope with it. Inside he hates the noise of the iron and nothing on earth would ever ever make him want to be in the same room as it. Perfectly understandable LOL Conversely he loves watching action films with fighting and gunfire and explosions, the more the better. 

Kodi is not bothered by any noise in any way. He was born a couple of weeks before Nov 5 and his breeder says it is because he experienced the first lot of fireworks when still with Mum who wasn't bothered by them either.

Torro is uncomfortable with thunder and some noises but not scared. He just puts his ears back and puts on a brave face.

Devo too is unconcerned except if he notices Flint being scared which gives him a reason to herd Flint (very weird).

Rhyme has been scared of noises since a pup and his hearing seems sharper although the other dogs probably hear the same but don't react.

I do believe the more you ignore anything that worries them then the sooner they will realise it is nothing to worry about but sometimes his reaction is so strong that it is close to hysteria and he couldn't care less about whether anything else doesn't like it just that he has to escape :(

This is where some people may be encouraged to use drugs or herbal remedies and although some people have had success I have also heard that the fear,is still there but the drug inhibits the dogs ability to show a reaction. Ultimately this can cause the dog more distress.

So for me it is off to think of ways to create a new reaction to a banging metal noise to help my gorgeous boy feel happy around the rings.

Apparently Simon Cowell likes dog acts - a steel drum playing dog has got to be a first. Watch out for next year's Britain's Got Talent :) :)

Monday, 9 April 2012

Scaredy Cat

I was asked the other day if Rhyme was spooky & it reminded me that he had been and still very occasionally got worried by something.

In my mind there are 3 kinds of spooky things
1 everyday things that will cause a dog stress if not sorted  e.g  strangers approaching
2 things that will affect my dogs agility performance e.g  the seesaw moving when they are on it.
3 unusual things that they may see in strange places e.g  a cat RSPCA collecting tin that upset Devo in the vets waiting room.

It is important to me to deal with 1 & 2 by carefully thinking about why those things create a reaction and how to counteract them.

Rhyme is a strong dog that likes to be in control of the situation so anything he doesn't know and therefore control would cause a reaction. People appearing, people appearing wearing hard hats, workmen in holes and even a lady in a mobility scooter were all cause for alarm as a puppy. Luckily he is so adorable that all these people could be persuaded to spend time with us and give him treats and fuss him. Now unknown people are all desirables. I may do that differently with any other puppy and ask these people to ignore him and to give me things to give him. In that way the approach of a stranger means good things but the provider of them is still me as Rhyme's recall suffered as he thought people were rewarding.
His recall is sorted now and I do like that he loves people so much.

With more reactive dogs it can be hard to encourage the dog to take a reward and the approaching person to give it. In that case it is good to drop handfuls of treats just past the dog's nose to distract and to help the dog understand that they are not required to react to strangers.

It is key to understand your dog and how much it can cope with before introducing too much into their world. I was lucky with Rhyme that strange things all occurred when I walked out with him as a pup so it could be dealt with then. Once a dog gets older it can be much harder to address but not impossible it just takes a lot more time and well thought out plans.

Obviously strangers & strangeness is a large part of agility so careful socialisation is important to give a young dog skills in coping with adapting to their environments.

Each weekend a new challenge in a new place. For a spooky dog agility may not be all that fun after all.

I am confident that Rhyme is up to the challenge now. He has learnt to have great fun and to not worry too much about what else is happening while he is working.

To me helping dogs deal with spooking is all part of foundation training.

Particular spooks affecting agility performance are challenging and again it helps to understand what caused the fear/dislike. Rhyme has done wobble boards etc and I worked slowly in introducing the seesaw but he does not like it tipping. At the moment I am going to change tactics on it but it may be a while before I will do agility rounds. I will not force my dogs to do things they don't like and greatly admire people who make the decision not to compete with dogs that are nervous or scared of it after they have tried ways to counteract it but the dog still dislikes it.
That said I am a determined person and I confident I will find away to help him think it is a fun thing to do. 

Things like Devo's collecting box can be counterproductive to trust if you try to force them to accept something alien and they will never need to worry about again. As soon as the vets receptionist moved it out of site he settled down :)

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Compare the

I am intrigued by what attracts people to do a particular training course. Possibly because I spend quite a lot of time devising the courses I run for a particular purpose and try to use the name and write up to help people choose if it is the right course for them.

This usually does work but on recent external training courses I have found that what I had planned to do would not suit the dogs that are attending. I can adapt them and still give a good training session in their eyes. Internally I am disappointed that I have been unable to use the equipment/exercises I had planned though.

I will be doing some market research on this later in the year to ensure I word things perfectly for next year :)

Meanwhile Torro does an amazing impersonation of Sergei from the Compare the Meerkat adverts J

He really is a geeky looking dog but has the most gorgeous eyes. He is a tri colour – not a showy off kind off tri like Rhyme but a discreet tri that only his close friends get to appreciate.

I have written a lot about Rhyme in my blogs and don’t mention Torro much. It is as if Torro is private and not to be mentioned. Far from it. 

Torro is the kindest of dogs and is always a part of all we do. He is never any trouble, except for the bopping of dogs not wanting bopping and the disappearing into Tunnels on courses that I don’t want him going into!

At the weekend we visited our niece and nephew Ollie and Emeilia. Ollie is a real outdoor boy and a bit of a daredevil. He is 5 and Emilia is 2. We took the dogs out and dispite their little legs they can walk a long way:)

They don’t have pets and Mark’s brother wouldn’t really want them so we are their opportunity to socialize with dogs. Some parents approach bringing their children up as we do with our puppies with specific socialisation boxes to be ticked (or is that just our sister-in-law?)

Ollie obviously needed a dog to walk – madness giving a lively, excitable Border Collie to a non dog family five year old – recipe for disaster. Not if that Border Collie is Torro Laker. He was superb and just ran along side Ollie – no pulling or messing about. He stood still for Ollie to undo his lead to run with the others and came back to Ollie to have his lead back on for the on lead part back to the house.

We hadn’t seen Ollie or Emeilia since Mark’s birthday so they sang to him :-

Very cute if you like kids :)