Puppy prep

As the day I pick Zebedee up draws closer I’ve been getting prepared for the addition of a new puppy in to the house. It started off with buying some second hand puppy harnesses when I saw them come up … Continue reading

New puppy

I’m so excited, I’m getting a new puppy, the next addition to my family, a liver working cocker spaniel boy! I’ve wanted a new puppy and a second dog for a while now but the timing hasn’t quite been right. … Continue reading

I have a confession to make… I use a flexi lead!

It’s true. I use a flexi lead a lot. I actually love my flexi lead. And I’m going to explain why. Flexi leads, also known as retractable leads, are long lines where the lead extends out of a plastic handle … Continue reading

A banging good rally competition

On Friday evening Dig It held its first ever Rally Show! I’ve previously taught some Rally workshops, after learning about the sport at PDTI a few years ago and then spending many hours reading the rules, trying it out and watching … Continue reading

4 great games to play with your puppy

Puppies can be hard work at times and we can get so wrapped up in training obedience and teaching rules to our puppy that we forget to have fun and build a relationship with them. With a good relationship comes … Continue reading

In my toolkit this month

Every good dog trainer has a training toolkit, be it metaphorically with different techniques and methods for training behaviours, or a physical toolkit of treats, leads, harnesses and other essential gear. At the end of each month I’m going to … Continue reading

Never have time to train your dog? I have the perfect solution!

Meal time = Training time Look at how many pieces of food there is in one serving (depending on how big your dog is of course). That’s a whole lot of treats to give, and a few treats per behaviour means … Continue reading

Pre-Puppy Checklist

So you’ve decided you want a puppy. You’ve got the time to give a new puppy, you can afford the lifelong cost, the whole family are on board and you’re ready to get one… but hold on! Now that you’re … Continue reading

So have we retired from agility?

The answer is Hell No! I’ve had so much to blog about I’m afraid letting you know about our agility training had to take a bit of a back seat! The good news is we are back at it, big … Continue reading

Adams August Bank Holiday

Our final trip to Catton Park this year. We rocked up Saturday morning late and missed walking two courses. I had the Grade 1-4 Agility and Combined 1-7 Jumping straight away. The 1-7 could have really done with a walk. I watched the Agility, exercised Guinness and went to run it.

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I had him off lead before the previous dog was over the last jump and we stayed calm and rewarded outside of the ring and then into a down and in the ring. He waited, I paused, we went. Perfect. We were running well but then he didn’t push out to a jump on a turn and came over the wrong jump. Eliminated! Onto the weaves and he did 12 beautifully. We held the dog walk contact and finish. A positive run!

I watched the Combined 1-7 Jumping for a while and we went in to run it. The course was stunning, exactly what I like to see from a 1-7. It was doable for Grade 1s but gave the Grade 7s lots of handling options and chances for them to find the fastest line. We did some lovely front cross and rear cross work, pulling off the tunnel, 180 turns, then it finished 12 weaves and jump. Into the weaves and as he was halfway through I was thinking “We’re going to do this. We’re going to show these Grade 7 dogs what we can do”. I was running for home and Guinness skipped the last weave! Damn!!! I took him back and he did 12 perfectly.

Despite high entry numbers the day was feeling quite quiet and relaxed. The weather at Catton Park changes as often as a woman’s mood and we varied between sunbathing and huddled in a jumper! Be prepared for four seasons in one day at Catton.

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Grade 1-4 Jumping next up. I pushed for distance but Guinness didn’t agree and instead pulled off a jump and took the wrong one for an elimination (again!). The rest of the run was lovely with a cheeky blind cross and I rear crossed the 12 weaves just for training purposes and he nailed them! Finally following Lou’s advice of getting something out of your run, even if you’d been eliminated.

Last up was Combined 1-3 Agility and Combined 1-3 Jumping. I concentrated on the Agility run. On a 180 turn he ran wide around the jump, then over the jump and he decided to aim for the seesaw that was miles away rather than the aframe that was right in front of us. “Where are you going?!” I laughed at him. Weirdo.

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Finally onto jumping. 4 straight jumps to a tunnel. Time to push for a real sexy wait! I walked to the second jump and glanced at him, he stood up and ran around the jump. I took him back and this time walked to number 4, paused and then released him. That’s more like it. Front cross into weaves and he missed the entrance but 2nd attempt was great and he did all 12.

A successful day of near misses! A nice early finish and a relaxing evening.

Back at it on Sunday, I really struggled with my 6am alarm clock and I missed walking my first course yet again. It was a nice, fun Grade 1-3 Agility. A lovely course with some great tunnel entrances and a male Judge in a kilt!

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We set off from another beautiful wait, and as Guinness was on the down plank of the dogwalk I could tell that he wasn’t going to stop. I didn’t want to command him to steady or stop as that is not our training, so I kept running and he flew off it and I saw the judges arm go up. I should have taken him back over but I wanted to run the course and we carried on. The rest was lovely and he drove into both tunnels with distance and I was running away shouting for him to chase me, which he loved. Gutted for the 5F but what a fun course. I checked our time afterwards and he was the 2nd fastest dog out of the 100+ Grade 1-3s, only one Grade 3 dog beating us by 2 seconds. Zoom!

We had a big break now and I watched the Adams Jumping Cup 4-7 Qualifier for a while, and was very chuffed to see a girl in a bright green hoody, the same fluorescent shade as mine! Hurrah I’m not the only one with a taste for bright green. It was fun to watch the higher graded handlers negotiating the course, but I started to feel a little disheartened after seeing quite a few people leave the ring as soon as their dog went wrong, never rewarding nor speaking to the dog. It made me a little sad about our sport. Then in another ring I saw an incident of harsh handling and from the sidelines I watched the drama that followed it. Now I was really feeling glum.

20140824_101723After lunch I had three runs bunched together. First up was the Adams Combined 1-3 Jumping Cup Qualifier. I entered this purely because it was a 1-3, not for the cup. But the idea of qualifying was quite exciting and it was a nice course. We set off but as I turned for the 180 on the third jump Guinness ran forward and over a jump. Eliminated at the third hurdle. The rest of the run was perfect, story of my weekend! I front crossed 6 weaves and we did a lovely pull in, something that we haven’t seen in a course or at training for a while so good to know we can still do them. What an almost-exciting weekend it was being! Waits were also perfect so far.

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Grade 1-2 Agility, our last chance at progression! Four jumps in a straight line then seesaw then jump, and he ran wide past the top jump rather than over it. Wtf Guinness. Into the weaves and I needed to get ahead to set the line for the next jumps, but he popped out about halfway through. Second attempt he powered through all of them and the 11 remaining obstacles of the course were done in style, of course! I held and pushed his aframe and dogwalk contacts to really make up for the mornings missed one and came out of the ring very pleased.

Last of the weekend, Grade 1-4 Jumping. As I stood in the queue I joked with the handler in front of me who was queueing without his dog, commenting that he may run better without it. I later found out that it was Ian Jackson! Oh the shame! But what a nice bloke! He heartily bantered with me without appearing to take any insult. Some people are just instantly likeable. Into our run and Guinness went 1st jump, 2nd jump, wrong end of the tunnel! And so we ended on a run that summed up our whole weekend, it was a perfect run except for that one mistake!

What a fantastic two days! The best we have had for a long time. Waits were almost perfect with only one or two niggles out of a total of 9 runs. Plus what an improvement to our weaves!

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As I got to the car to go home for the day the Jumping Cup Finals were starting in about half an hour. I wavered between going home and getting my blog writing done or staying to watch. I decided to stay, it’s not every day you get a chance to watch some of the top handlers. Laura Chudleigh and Lee Windeatt to name a few. I pulled up a chair along the picket fencing and loved every minute of it. Not just because my friend, Audra Hurst was running in the 1-3 Jumping Final. Go Audra & Cara!

Two hours later, time to go home! Feeling great!

But… as I got Guinness out of the car on Sunday night he was limping, not putting his back left leg on the floor until he had hopped down the length on the drive and into the back garden. On Monday he seemed fine. Late on Tuesday evening he limped. On Wednesday Lydia came to look at him. Today we went to the vets.

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A cruciate injury. Not serious… but serious enough for restricted exercise of walking only for 8 weeks, a change of diet to Hills JD and we were advised that physiotherapy would help. I asked to be referred to Physio-Vet.

As it happens Adams was our final KC show until Shrewsbury in October, but we will not be entering that. I hadn’t pre-entered UKA at Dig It next weekend but I planned to pay on the day. Now we are off agility training for 8 weeks and shows for longer.

A new chapter is now starting in our training as I look for alternatives to keep that collie brain stimulated throughout his rest period. I’ll know more once we have had our initial consultation at Physio-Vet and I will keep you all updated.

 Stay tuned!

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Dig It: Wrong Trousers

I’d got the wrong head on today. From walking the course, to warming Guinness up, to running, I don’t have the right attitude at Dig It Shows. I have great fun. But not the correct attitude for our competitions.

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The day started with Intermediate Jumping. Lydia had set out a nice course, mostly “easy” with little tweaky sections and an around-the-back from a tunnel. Ash walked Guinness while I was ring managing and then met me in the queue. Guinness was tugging nicely and continued off lead, went into a down, released the toy, and came into his start position. We raced off and I sprinted for the push round. As he came out of the tunnel I was stood at the jump leading him around in no-mans-land. It was a very “demotivating” manoeuvre. 12 weaves fabulous!! Brilliant achievement. The next jump was off to the right so it was a real tricky weave exit, especially for the dog that likes doing 11 weaves! From a wide wing wrap it was a tricky angle to the long jump and Guinness took it sideways.

Second run and Guinness wouldn’t tug. I knew this wasn’t going to go well. Into a wait, and he bogged off. Circled the first jump and came quite quickly back into position. Off we went again, this time I was supposed to be attempting to serpentine the push round, still didn’t get there or make it. However 12 weaves again! Yes! But 2/2 eliminations so far.

Onto Agility. Lou was judging and as always it was a lovely course. Plus it was nice for her to see me run after we trained on Thursday. I wasn’t sure which way round a jump to go, I’m sure I walked it one way and then ended up running it the other way. I don’t know what happened. First run and again Guinness was tugging off lead, into a down and then came into position and kept his wait. Contacts were much better than they have ever been. He still stops quite upright but then ducks into a bow and nose touch. Tunnel, jump and quickly into 6 weaves and he missed the entry. On Thursday Lou had mentioned about “Weaveweweweweweweave” fairly voice. As I ran her course off I went “weweweweweave”.

Second run and he wasn’t tugging. Uho I thought. Into a down, lead off, bye bye Guinness. It took a little longer but I stood my ground and he came back around. Better handling this time but again, two failed weaves from the tunnel, still with fairy voice. I looked at Lou, “Weave!”, nailed it, but not from the tunnel and jump.

Straight on from the weaves was a tunnel they had to avoid and instead take a jump to the left. I though that me being on the left and moving across would be enough to draw him from it, but this is tunnel-addict Guinness we are talking about! On the first run I called him late and with a paw inside he pulled off it. The second time, straight in the tunnel. Commands are needed woman! Turn left!

Disappointing. I said that I’d being doing at least one of each runs NFC today. I didn’t. I left this morning thinking I could get 5 out of 5 rosettes. There were low entries. I wanted to win. Instead I made a mess of my training opportunity.  I’m pleased with our waits (50% anyway) and out contacts and weaves also.

Steeplechase was last and again, Ash took Guinness for a walk and then I met him at the ring. He tugged and then we got into a good wait. Nice handling up until a turn and then I chose to push across a diagonal, but I didn’t commit or get ahead enough. Guinness found the jump but wasn’t sure where to go and ended up re-taking the jump.

I’ve not had any AWFUL runs today but they certainly haven’t been that productive. 12 weaves successfully twice and much better contacts is something good I suppose. Plus 3/5 off lead tugging into waits. Not bad.

Time to get my head straight at Dig It Shows. They are fun and relaxed shows that I’m always helping at or photographing. I don’t think I will ever treat them with a competitive mental attitude, and therefore I should be running NFC. We haven’t got the skills up rock to a run and win it, so I shouldn’t act like I can. Also as I’m doing more Kennel Club Shows I think I am becoming accustomed to the ups and downs of Grade 1, and perhaps the Intermediates are trickier than I thought.

As I said I’ve had a really good, fun day, but not the runs and results I hoped for.

UKA Dig It

The first of the Dig It Summer Shows is finally here! Time to start earning some points!

As it turned out this was one of those shows where we had so much fun the results did not matter at all, although it was still a slightly disappointing day.

Bright and early Ash and I rocked up just past 8am. Straight away we got set to work helping, pegging weaves and putting up the shelter, and before I knew it I’d walked the course and they were calling for the first dogs. I was straight in and with only 10 dogs in the class I gave Guinness a quick warm up and we rushed into the ring. Into a down, lead off and he broke his wait. I put him back and we set off for a messy run. One of those typical first runs of the day. Never mind.

Off into the exercise field across the lane and he had a poo. I knew it, I’d rushed him in. Scooping the poop, I looked up and he had gone. Vanished! Sh*t! (Quite literally). It was a huge field but I couldn’t see him anywhere, calling and whistling, I rushed back to the Dig It field, looking up and down the lane, and breathed a huge sigh of relief to see Ash putting him into the car. Phew. What a numpty. Luckily the little lane is quiet and he’d just run straight off to find Ash.

Time to chill out and have some breakfast.

_DSC0303I left Ash in charge of my camera which resulted in some rare (and extremely unattractive) photos of me! Doing what I do best and stuffing my face.

Quickly onto Jumping and it begun jump to 6 weaves. C’mon Guinness, we can do 6 poles easy, we have them set up in the garden. I ran start him to really drive him into the weaves “Go weave weave weave”…. he Go’d too much and entered at the 2nd gap. D’oh, come back, get in the weaves, lovely, off we go. It was quite a tight, tricky course with some knocked poles here and there but some pleasing rear crosses. Another Elimination picked up along the way.

While taking photos and watching the course later on I realised I had completely missed out a jump! I hadn’t even noticed it when I walked it. Oops! Not like me at all.

A bit of a break before steeplechase and Ash had long since abandoned me for Nick, pleased to finally have someone else at shows who was interested in something other than dogs!

Onto Steeplechase and me and Gaz set a good example of how to walk a course… stand on the edge of the ring with arms crossed. Everyone was starting to get a little silly and carrot cake for lunch was certainly boosting up my happiness scale.

_DSC0200A nice but tricky steeplechase course, I decided to test my wait and ran off three jumps ahead. Guinness jumped up and then stopped just short of the first jump but set the timer off with him nose. I released him and he ducked under. The rest of the course was so smooth and clear! Absolutely gutted!!

Power & Speed came next, my first ever games class. A great opportunity to test our contacts plus it started with a spread jump. I ran start again to help him over and he cleared it nicely. A-frame quickly to weaves was going to be tricky so I held his stop A-frame then sent him in. Yes! Nailed the entrance but popped out around pole 9. Second attempt, fail, time to get out of the ring and try to get 12 weaves out at training more often.

Second Steeplechase, another nice course with some different handling options but some tight turns. I was really pleased with my choices and Lydia and Audra both decided to handle the same way.  We hadn’t even passed each other while walking the course so I was mega chuffed with myself. Onto the course and 1 pole flew, followed by another, then 3 more, a terrible rear cross and over the line.

_DSC0359What a shamble. However he did manage to keep up three poles in a row of tricky spacing, with a bounce in the middle. If you listen closely he lets of a “huff” noise as he bounces which makes me chuckle (amongst all of the barking of course). As I came out Avril and Katie said they’d decided his downfall is that he can’t bark and jump.

5 out of 5 glorious eliminations! The end of the show was spent filming and scribing and generally larking around while we brought the Steeplechase ring to a close.

Still finding victories somewhere, I was so chuffed with how our waits have progressed and I’m starting to feel more confident, plus I’m a lot happier with taking him back to the start if he does break.

Most importantly this show was so fun it really didn’t matter how we did in the ring, the point was that Guinness was having fun and I was having fun!

This video really sums up the atmosphere of Dig It Shows and particularly the Dig It Instructors, some of my best friends.

G1-3 Agility Training Exercise

So after TAG there was a particular section of the G1-3 Agility course that I really wanted to revisit. The seesaw, long jump, 2 jumps to tunnel sequence. I saw a lot of people handle the two jumps as a pin wheel, staying on one side to pull around the near wing and through the gap.

I prefered to handle it as two front crosses as I did, taking the dog around the far wing which stayed to their natural path and avoided the problem of pulling through the gap, however leaving the tunnel quite open.

However…  I was SOO late to front cross and it didn’t run smoothly at all.

Therefore, to work it from behind and still keep to the dogs natural line, while also pushing for tight turns… Serpentine handling!

A serpentine isn’t just three jumps in a row, it is any sequence of three obstacles.

We had a go today! (But without the long jump and tunnel). Training it up from jumps on small, and look how smooth it handles! Success! I had to pause to bring him over the second jump but I still got a good distance ahead once he was committed. However… we didn’t have the tunnel there or the long jump. By handling from behind I am leaving the tunnel wide open, but it’s doable with the right training and commands.

I think this way is quicker, however I should have timed both ways today during training! D’oh.

Woop! It’s great to take away little sections from courses and work on them. If you’re not happy with how you handled something, or you’d like to try it another way, make a note and then go and do it!

TAG Easter Saturday

Today I was at TAG. My first outdoor show of the season.

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5.30am we were up and making scrambled egg for me (on toast) and for Guinness’ breakfast. I’ve been pondering a lot about what to do with Guinness’ meal on show mornings, he often has a bad first run and especially if he hasn’t done a poo, but on the other hand they do need some energy food. A recent discussion on facebook brought up the method of feeding high protein food such as scrambled egg and as I love it too I thought it was a jolly good idea. So with breakfast and poo’s done before we left we set off in search of unknown territory, West Midlands Show Ground!

I arrived before 8am (shock horror) and had plenty of time to get my bearings and walk my course. First up, Grade 1-3 Agility, although a long wait until our running order. I walked into the ring and my stomach fell, first hurdle, a tyre! We have not seen a tyre for over 12 months and the last time we did one in training Guinness ran smack into the bottom of the loop and head-butted it to the floor. He then jumped through it afterwards, but still a concern.

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We got there towards the end of the class and had a nice short queue which Guinness happily tugged in! I decided to run start him to help him through the tyre (plus I wasn’t confident with our wait anyway) and I revved him up, aimed him in the right direction and hoped for the best! Hurrah we got through and onto the Aframe. Jumps, seesaw then pull off the tunnel for 180 jumps. A lot of people chose to handle it differently to me, pulling the dog back onto themselves, off their natural path, and I was really pleased with my decision. A blind cross while he was in the tunnel and then dog walk, a tight right angle from the contact down three jumps and then another tight 90 degree angle into the weave. No chance we were getting it, refusal. Second entry and good weaves until pole 11! Too late I’d started running on and we’d had a pole down so time to finish. 2 poles knocked on the 270 boxwork and finish.

It felt like such a messy round, but not too bad. Lovely Ella happened to be watching and videoed us. Watching back it looks a lot more successful than it felt! Of course lots of little things to improve but I am generally pleased with our contacts, handling and overall performance.

A huge break until our next runs and I was given a very appreciated seat, coffee and company from Lou and Deb. G1-2 Agility was set up before lunch and I walked it then sat in the sun with Guinness to eat my sandwiches.

G1-2 Agility was a lovely course, all on one side and very fast and flowing. Jump jump seesaw, I went for another running start, tunnel dog walk tunnel and I saw the judge raise him arm to fault us as we left the dog walk for the tunnel. “What?!” I thought. Guinness never gets faulted on contacts, even when he self-releases his 2 on 2 off he has normally gotten into position. Tunnel to weaves is often a challenge but the weaves were a lovely distance away so I could collect Guinness and send him. Yes! He nailed the entry but then popped out about halfway through and then again at number 11. We carried on for a tight 90 degree and then a 180 and as I stopped still in the middle of the 180 he pulled through the gap to me. Douche, my bad really, second attempt and I kept moving and he turned nicely. Aframe and I held his contact. I expected him to run off and I made it very obvious that I was stopping and expected him to do so also and he stopped nicely! A nano-second passed and then I released and we continued across a box to finish.

Pfft there were my dreams of going home Grade 2 gone! I won’t lie and say I wasn’t disappointed, I was. But I was pleased and having a great day! Ring experience. We said it last year and as this is the first competition away from home of the season we haven’t yet got the experience of new environments. But every show helps and Guinness was running lovely.

Speaking to Lou later on and she had seen our run from a distance and said it looked like Guinness took a very long strides off the dog walk and she wasn’t surprised he had missed it. We had been quick releasing all day and with the tunnel in sight I reckon he pulled off a very un-stylish running contact, otherwise known as not even attempted to stop despite his training! We had a great contact training session on Thursday however it is nowhere near the level of proofing that I am aiming for – gotta keep at it!

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Final class of the day Combined 1-3 Jumping. We watched as the Judge laid out his course. There was a tricky section in the middle which looked a little strange but okay, then the Judge wasn’t finished and he changed it completely to something far stranger. Gosh. I hate to be one of those people who complain about a course, especially as I know how it feels to be a Judge myself, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t good in my opinion. Sections were nice but the tunnel was a very close trap in more than one place, the long jump was set off at an odd angle, directing away from the dogs path and there was a huge space between the long jump and another jump then onto an angled jump at minimum distance, a bounce for large dogs. 180 degree pull off a flat tunnel and then flat tunnel quickly to tyre ending. Plus I wont even bother trying to explain the funny middle section.

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I put my positive head on, decided how to handle it and went for the challenge. We had a lovely time in the queue with no barking collies in sight. Guinness queued next to a male husky which I was a little concerned about (because Guinness can be a dick not because the husky was nasty) but we all kept a nice distance and Guinness stayed calm.

With nothing to loose we went into the ring tugging and I popped Guinness into a down, ready for a wait. I unclipped the lead and walked away backwards, then calmly turned away from him, silently expecting him to break. He didn’t move. Time stood still! Feeling more confident I walked a little further and then released. Ahhhh!!! Hurrah!! (I really need to man up and start pushing my dog more. So what if he breaks and we get E’d?!)

Onto the course and a nice 270 avoiding the tunnel and then into the weaves. Guinness wasn’t giving 100% and spun around in front of them but on second attempt he got in and flowed through 12 weaves in great style. Finally! Only taken 3 runs! Off onto the tricky bit and I’d opted to work it from behind, a little more risky, and I couldn’t pull him off a jump in time. Never mind we carried on and over the long jump and then he flew straight past the next jump. The 180 was superb and then he zoomed out of the flat tunnel and quickly ducked under the tyre. I’m just so grateful that he didn’t run into it! Not wanting to leave on a failure I popped him back over, and he ducked under again, then third and final attempt and he jumped through it.

Day finished! Phew. Three disastrous Eliminated but three runs with positives to take away!

A lovely first experience of TAG and West Midlands Show Ground with a stunningly sunny but cool day!

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November & December Dig It Winter Series

I didn’t blog about November Winter Series as it all went a bit pear-shaped, plus with there being one show a month I thought it would be quite tedious to read about each one. So I’m going to combine them … Continue reading