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…