Thursday, 2 July 2015

When it doesn't go to plan

I should probably start by saying it wasn't all bad, and the crazies and I had a lovely day out at a little local show outside Lincoln. But you know those days?

I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I have ever met. Seriously, I could get lost on a straight road with a GPS and a map. So having left loads of extra time to get to the show in time to settle the dogs and walk our first course I wasn't surprised (though was super frustrated) to get lost about 5 miles from the venue, and consequently show up as everyone else was finishing course walking. I got chance to have a quick sprint round it, so I had a vague idea where I was going, but it wan't the ideal prep. It was a shame really, as the show was lovely - aimed at babies and Grade 1 dogs, the ring was fenced and the courses were nice and flowing.

Anyway, we did the agility run, and Daisy was (predictably) a little hoodlum who picked her own course. Cybi was marginally better but got shouty with me because I was way too slow so he kept coming back to tell me I was too slow, have a bit of a bark and then run away again to find a jump to his satisfaction. So no places in that class.

In the other classes there were no eliminations as such, just 50 faults for what would be an elimination at a regular show. Daisy picked up two fourths (one in jumping, one in a special class) but the "bad dog at an agility show" award of the day has to go to Cybi (unusual as Daisy has made a clean sweep of this somewhat dubious honour so far) for his spectacular showing in the special class. Daisy got 5 faults (entirely my fault - I turned away from her too quickly as she went into the long jump, so she changed direction in mid air to come with me). Cybi racked up 189. Yep. 189 faults, including three eliminations, poles down, refusals and time faults. But he had fun...

Team Chaos redeemed themselves slightly doing a "fun obedience" class that I didn't know was going to be there, which was both novel and *absolutely brilliant*. The idea was to reward motivation and fun as well as accuracy in the obedience exercises, so the judge encouraged playing (and in fact had an exercise in the test that was just playing with your dog), as well as breaking off to reward during heelwork, lots of big circles rather than couldn't have been more perfect for both of my two if I'd been asked to design the class. So we worked two absolutely beautiful obedience rounds, which I was utterly delighted with, and as a bonus extra they placed 1st and 2nd, with Daisy coming out on top once again.

To round out the day, she also came 5th in the gundog scurry. So not a bad day on balance, albeit with some highlights and some definitely...not...

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Canicross weekender

Daisy, Cybi and I had quite the adventure over the start of Easter Weekend. We had a stab at a full weekend (well, three days) of Canicross up at Catton Hall in Derbyshire. The original plan was to have one dog in the Novice event and one in the short course each day, and perhaps switch them, but it became obvious that while I was running each of them on their own for the first time, Daisy had much more confidence than Cybi and was much more willing to charge blithely along. So she got stuck with towing me along the Novice course, while boy dog managed to get away with only having to run 1.5km per day.

Weather conditions were mixed, to say the least, but improved drastically over the weekend. And we had a really fun time. Daisy and I won the Novice run on the first day (over a shortened and, importantly, flat course) and then were emphatically beaten on days two and three. I'd love to blame the fact that our opposition was a good four inches taller (me) and probably 30kg heavier (Daisy - she is a titchy little collie, and the other dog was an incredibly handsome, huge, European-bred Dobermann)...but I fear the fault lies entirely with me, and my ability to run uphill. I'm very bad at it indeed. Daisy was fine, and did her best, but there's a limit to what she can do in the face of my inability to run fast. So training on running up hills for me, while they get to just chill - they are quick enough already!

Cybi and I won the short course, which was nice. We came out in front on each of the three days, though at least by day three Cybi was towing me - on day one he just minced his way along the path, avoiding the mud and wet spots, and generally not contributing to overall speed at all. It's one of the reasons he'd never have made it as a farm collie - he hates getting his feet wet.

Daisy giving it some beans on the left; Cybi getting the general gist but not really figuring out directions on the right...

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Being the Best Citizen at Crufts

My dogs and I have in theory been following the Good Citizen Dog Scheme syllabus in training classes for quite a while now, but courtesy of an extended period where I couldn’t walk without crutches, Daisy got to take a break after her Puppy class, and as a result was about ready to take her Bronze just before Crufts. Our trainer at Ashlawn suggested we might like to take the test actually at Crufts itself, as part of the demonstration of skills that goes on in the education area.
So we sent in our application, and were rather delighted to be accepted to take our test on the Thursday. The day itself didn’t get off to a flying start when: 1. we were half an hour late (despite only living down the road from the NEC) due to an accident and missing the pre-demo/test briefing and 2. while waiting in line to go in for the first demo, Daisy expressing her disapproval at the very close proximity of an absolutely enormous GSD inviting her to play and growling a bit. Cue lots of muttered discussion from the coordinators about if there was any hint of temperamental unsoundness I couldn’t be allowed to do the demo and would have to take the dog home, and my trying to suggest that she was probably just a bit intimidated by the enormous puppy that had just socked her with a dinner-plate sized foot and that she would be fine once moving.
Part of me was ready to just pack up there and then, but I plastered a smile on, and the demo proceeded without a hitch. Daisy worked beautifully, as did all the other dogs in the ring.

Then we went for a wander round the show. In retrospect, this was probably very unfair to Daisy, as she’s only a knee-height dog, but she handled the crowds and the noise and the chaos really, really well. In fact she was super interested in everything going on, especially the food stalls that had samples laid out at dog height, ready to be tried. I ended up buying her small bags of a number of things based off which treats and foods she pulled hardest to be allowed to have!

Canidae went down well
Then back to the bench (the allocated resting area for each dog) for a quick snooze (both of us), drink (both of us) and a brush over (Daisy; my hair was beyond redemption) before the next demo. By the second time in the ring, Daisy had identified that people were looking at her, and she trotted in, tail waving and really turned on the charm for the audience, little horror that she is.  She was starting to flag though, so we had a bit of a quiet time back at the bench, and a gentle stroll around the education area…where I bumped into two handlers that I had been on Young Kennel Club camps with as a 13/14 year old. Amazing how so much time has passed, and yet shared interests give you something to just pick up on, like you only saw each other last week.
Finally: the test itself. There was a larger crowd watching this than there had been earlier in the day, and a compere who was giving running commentary on each dog which ratcheted up the stress a bit. Also a very thorough, though very nice, judge. I was pretty confident, based on the two demos, that everyone in the ring (7 of us) were going to pass but you can never be completely certain! Daisy’s test started well with her heelwork and going through the gate – didn’t put a paw wrong, and really showed off in the heelwork round the outside of the ring; she trotted along like a little Arab horse, on a nice loose lead with tail waving like she was having the best time ever (though with all those people watching she probably was). Ditto all the staying away from distractions and walking in and out of other dogs (which had been a huge challenge for her in training as she wants to go and say hello to EVERYONE). For the examination of dog and grooming I had her lie down rather than stand, as she was obviously getting tired, and by the time the judge got to us to assess whether the dog was ok being brushed and looked at in her eyes, ears, mouth, feet etc, Daisy was lying with her eyes closed, practically asleep and not really responding to having her paws prodded or her tummy brushed, except to wag her tail a bit when she heard her name. Bless.
Given her tiredness, the down stay also wasn’t a challenge, and so we successful passed our Bronze Good Citizen test at Crufts. We got the standard passing rosette, and also a rather lovely Crufts 2015 souvenir one, which was a bit special.

So I’m terribly proud of my little Daisy, and we’re going onwards and upwards to the Silver test…

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Thoughts on being towed along by nutters

Daisy, Cybi and I have recently been doing some running together, as I'm so busy with rowing training, and I want to make sure they're fully exercised, and we need to fit in obedience, agility and scent work, so at least if we all run at the same time that serves two purposes.

I had heard of Cani-cross (or cani-x) but it all seemed a bit scary - super fit people charging about with their perfectly trained sled dogs. I decided I'd bite the bullet and have a go at an event anyway - since I'm rubbish at running, I figure that getting better at it will assist my other sports. There aren't *that* many events, but I managed to find something fairly locally, run by Canicross Midlands.

So we pitched up to our first event, with my having bottled it and entered us for the short (really short! - 1.5km) distance, in a howling gale in the middle of Derbyshire. We were there early enough to watch a number of the other racers, and I was somewhat reassured to see that not everyone looked like they yomped 20 miles before breakfast every day. I was extremely reassured, as well, by just how friendly everyone was. Like, seriously "going out of the way to make sure I was ok because I was a new face" friendly. Such an incredibly refreshing change after my initial experiences with some other dog sports. The club has some kit that's available to be borrowed, and the organiser, Claire, was politely insistent that I borrowed a waist belt rather than run the dogs in my hand as we'd done at home. I wasn't entirely convinced until I gave it a The difference it makes running with the dogs pulling from hip height rather than in the hand is incredible.

 Our event was off last as we were only doing a little bit of the course, so by the time the nice weather had disappeared completely, the wind had picked up and the sleet had started we were ready for our first assault on a Canicross course. I cannot even articulate how much fun (while simultaneously painful) it is being towed around by two lunatic collies while sliding through the mud. Improved only by being pulled over on our way down a muddy bank, and then falling over Cybi when he stopped to shake the water out of his coat.

I was warned by an obedience friend that Cani Cross is addictive, and I was somewhat disbelieving....until we tried it. I'm now already the proud owner of my very own running belt (and it's a posh one!), about to fork over a large wodge of cash for running harnesses for the nutters, and we have race entries in for the end of the month and the start of April, and also for May. Rowing? What rowing? :o)

Cani Cross done properly (thanks various members of Canicross Midlands for the ok to use your pics!). Daisy, Cybi and I did not look like this....:


Sunday, 8 February 2015

Daisy's First Agility Show!

Well, we bit the bullet and Daisy and I went to our first agility show. She was, not so much!

We are very fortunate where we live that we are in easy reach of a large number of shows of all levels. Our first excursion was to a very local show, the lovely Bitz n Bobs (and show info here, but it's a closed FB group) where we had a go at "Grade 0" and opted to jump small size, while Daisy still on occasion goes under the jumps, little grot that she is.

Our first ever competitive round was a lovely, flowing, and not too challenging course, which she aced. I demolished a jump wing on the way through, so even though she went clear we didn't go clear as a team. Oops! But she loved every second of it (as did I!) and she raced round the course and listened to me the whole way round. A couple of people watching said she was looking at me a little more than would be ideal, rather than driving on, so we'll work on that in training, but at this level fortunately I can somewhat rescue that by just running really, really fast. Not a strategy I am keen to employ permanently, but it'll do while we're in training.

Daisy looking focused - not actually taken at the competition, but still an ace photo!
We also need to work on our start lines. Us and every other novice pair in the history of ever...

For our second run (the steeplechase) it was a more complicated course as it was a graded 1-7 course, but it was still lovely and flowing. She was both better and worse in her second run - better in that she looked at the jumps, with the result that she nailed a few sequences where the jumps were offset from one another (I had assumed she would run by at least one of them) but worse because she was so hysterically over excited by proceedings that getting her to wait on the start involved significant stink eye on my part, she barked her way round the course and jumped up to chew my sleeve at least once on the way round - something she hasn't done since we first started training. But as a first day out...I was incredibly proud of her, and we've got lots to build on.

Roll on the next show, when Cybi will be having a go, too. Fortunately my tolerance for embarrassment is high...although he's currently being training with my very agility-experienced housemate and as a consequence is really coming on well. Which probably means it'll be me that messes it up, rather than him...

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sniffer dog training

There's been quite a push (mainly in the States) to identify "new" dog sports or activities that the average pet owner can do with their dog. As with some of the more established sports, they seem to be largely based upon "professional" dog handling, which is then adapted, codified and turned into an activity that anyone can take part in.

Daisy, Cybi and I are currently taking part in a class which uses the principles of drug detection dog handling to create something that any dog can do. The class is taught by our wonderful tracking teacher and, every two weeks or so, one of my dogs and me trot off to a little village hall in the middle of nowhere to work on their ability to identify the smell of various essential oils when hidden in boxes, luggage and indoor and outdoor search areas.

It's got a lot of traction in the USA, where the discipline is known as "K9 Nosework", under the banner of the National Association of Canine Scent Work and is in the very early stages of being established over here. One of the beauties of it is that it is intensely mentally demanding, while not asking too much physically, which is great for youngsters and older dogs, or those that don't have the physique for something like working trials. Another nice thing is that the dog isn't competing against others, but against a standard, so it's a better measure of how the dog is learning and progressing.

Cybi learning how to find a scented tea bag!

We're currently working on locating basil-oil scented items from all over the house. Apparently basil oil is repellant to most dogs, but my two both keep trying to eat the items, which makes me thing they didn't get the memo on that.

Find out more about the basics here

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Weebles wobble....and apparently get carried about

Daisy and Cybi got a treat dispensing toy for Christmas which they are having a really fun time with. It's made by a company called "Ethical" under the brand Contempo, and seems to be more easily available in the USA, though we got ours from The Range here in the UK.

For those that are old enough, the thing it reminds me of the most is a "weeble". It's heavily weighted in the base, so it will rock when bumped by a nose or paw and then return to upright.

The base can be filled with treats, and there's a dial which determines how easy it is for the treats to get out of the base, and into the main part of the toy. Then there are a couple of holes in the top of the toy that let the treats out when the whole thing is rolled or tipped in the right way.

The idea is really sound, although I wouldn't let them play with it unsupervised, as the plastic is quite flimsy higher up the egg, and as quickly became obvious, the shape is very tempting to pick up and carry about. Neither of my two are really heavy chewers, but I think I'd be concerned about letting a dog with chewing tendencies play with this - too easy to get through the top.

This video (apologies for the quality - it was dark!) show Cybi getting to grips with his new toy. And also getting frustrated by his new toy and having a little temper tantrum, bless him.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

New Year, same old training

Well, it's the first day of 2015, and I'm already trying to decide which of the multiple training disciplines that the dogs are involved in we should work on this afternoon. My dogs and I are definitely overcommitted, I do know that, but it's hard to decide against any particular sport when they and I both enjoy it, and the variety keeps them interested and engaged. Plus, I guess it's me that has one eye on competing with them, and getting them to the standard they need to be at in order to do so - they don't care, as long as they are having fun. Given that, if it takes a little longer to reach the required level in each thing because they do more things then really, who cares?

The pair of them have had really quite an extended Christmas vacation with no training at all, so I'm expecting today to be an absolute disaster whatever we do. The various clubs we're part of all finished relatively early (complete with Christmas parties for most) and then unfortunately a spot of personal life drama got in the way of a smooth run up to the actual Christmas period, and completely blew out the prospect of getting anything done between Christmas and New Year. Doubly disappointing, as we were scheduled to go on a series of workshops over a day that dealt with the foundations of 2x2 weaves, crate games and beginning to put agility sequences together, that would have been perfect for my pair's experience level.

Updated: I opted for tracking training. A nice easy start back, and something that they both do enthusiastically, especially Daisy. We'll probably do a short session later on finding treats hidden in boxes and dotted around the kitchen as well, in advance of their next scent work training session on Thursday.  Still need to work on those corners though - this slightly blurry video is from their last session learning to track. Daisy has got the cornering thing somewhat better sorted than Cybi, who still seems to be working partly by sight, but they both need to get the idea embedded that they need to be paying attention for the possibility of a 90 degree bend in the scent they are following.

And it wasn't a *complete* disaster, although they have both done better in the past. I guess it's kind of like the first day back in work after a holiday, and your brain feels like cotton wool :)