Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Where do the weeks go?

Wow, so my last post was in November!! I just never find the time to blog these days, and it has taken me being struck down with a cold and off work for two days to find the time to write this one!!
Fuze is now a whole 17 weeks old! Where does the time go? He has started becoming a young man now, as opposed to a puppy, and is developing a really cheeky and adorable personality. He is very brave and confident, with loads of attitude, but is quite sensible with it, which I am pleased about. He is definetely a comedian, and is permanantely making me laugh. His latest thing is to flip one of the lounge beds upside down, then to run around with it on his back as though he is a turtle! Very very funny, and I keep trying to get it on film, but I never seem to have my camera on me, and if I get up to fetch it then he stops and decides to follow me!

I have discovered that christmas is a really good time to socialise a puppy. Lots of parties and crowded streets of christmas shoppers to take him to. He has been to lots of different peoples houses, to the christmas markets, in lots of shops christmas shopping and loads more! Generally he has been really well behaved, although walking him through town was interesting as he felt the need to lunge and bark at peoples feet, trouser legs and shopping bags!! So we worked on keeping him calm and taking small steps with his focus on me, rather than lunging and barking, and we were making progress. I wanted to try and do this more, but the weather has not been on our side recently, with freezing hail and torrential rain on almost every single day so far in December!! He also finds children particularly strange as they squeek and move very suddenly around him, so we have done lots of trips to the garden centre (as there are children everywhere up there at christmas) and asked pretty much every child we met to give him a treat.

He even came with us to choose the tree!! :-)

The one thing I have noticed which is very different to Smudge is that Fuze is not really a massive 'people' dog. He will accept being stroked and petted, but you can see that is certainly isn't the highlight of his day!! This is an very unlike Smudge, who is everyones best friend and just adores fuss and attention. Fuze is completely different. He likes Oliver and I stroking him, and holding him, and is quite happy with us, but he isn't so keen on others. He particularly doesn't like gushy "oooooo look at the puppy" type people, which there are a surprisingly high number of!! Some people have said to me that I really need to try to change that and get him to enjoy it. One woman in the pet shop gave me a lecture on it!! lol But I ask myself why? I think they misunderstand what socialisation is for, I don't believe it is to try to change a puppies character! He just isn't that kind of dog. I agree all dogs need to be able to accept stroking and fussing, and I certainly don't want him to be people shy, but if he is stand offish in nature I am not going to try to make him something he isn't!! I would fail anyway! I am always careful not to let people overdo it with him, so it works both ways. He lets people fuss him, he may even get a biscuit for it, and in return I make sure people stop when he has had enough. This is working really well, and I think Fuze is becoming a very well rounded young man! He is absolutely perfect in my eyes and I could not have asked for a more amazing puppy.

We are still working really hard on tugging. In the house and garden we have a tug maniac, but when we are out and about he can be less keen! It takes some effort to get him interested as everything else is far more distracting. So we now take our tug on all of our walks and I try to do 5 minutes at the start, and 5 minutes at the end with him, just to get tugging in different locations. Each new place we go takes a bit of work, but we are getting there. This is something I really want to put the work into now, as I had such problems with Smudge. I did eventually get Smudge tugging, but it took a lot of work (and a lot of help from our friends!) to overcome the problem, with a lot of toys stuffed with sausages along the way!! lol Fuze is a natural toy player, so my job is far easier this time, we just need to work on the distractions and we will have it cracked.

He is loving joining in on our walks properly now, although we don't allow Mayzee and him off the lead at the same time. Mayzee is our 'sheltie exerciser' as she likes to run and run and run on a walk. Smudge likes to chase her, which is great for him, but not so good for a very young puppy!! Fuze is dying to chase Mayzee, but obviously can't be allowed to as he is far to young. She goes too far and the risk of injury is just too great. So for now we alternate between the two of them who is off lead at any one time (much to Mayzee's disgust!) As well as the injury aspect I don't really want him learning to chase mindlessly and would rather train him to recall off a chase before he is allowed to run with her. So it will be a few months yet!

For our other dogs agility training has pretty much completely stopped for the time being. Mainly due to the weather!! Our field is completely waterlogged at the moment, due to the sheer amount of rain we have had! Such a shame as I have had to cancel all lessons and a christmas training morning. We are hoping for dry weather over the holidays to give everything a chance to dry out. To be honest though they are all quite happy with their daily walks, a bit of trick training and lounging around the house. It is their down time!! :-)

Smudge and Mayzee have both received invitations to run at the Channel Island Dog of the Year event, which is to be held in February, so I would like a good few weeks training before that. As well as that, the team has now been selected for the World Agility Open in May 2012, and I am pleased to say that Smudge will be running in the 400 height, and Mayzee will be running in the 525 height. Two Eden dogs on the team! I am really excited about this event, and cannot wait for May to arrive. Lots of training and preparation to be done before then!!

So that is about all. We have lots planned over christmas, so I hope this cold goes. We are off to my mums for the big day, with eleven people and six dogs! No doubt Fuze will enjoy his first christmas, and all the dogs have their presents under the tree already. Have a wonderful time and happy christmas to you all!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Socialising a puppy is hard work!

Wow, so socialising a puppy is hard work!! I mean it really is sooooo difficult, having breakfast at beach cafes, going for coffees, browsing in shops.....its such a hard life!! ;-) So you get the general idea, the last few weeks have been spent socialising Fuze. We try to take him absolutely everywhere with us, and apart from the above he has been to garden centres, B&Q, taken a bus ride to town, met all manner of people and children, and generally had a great time! We try to do at least one new thing every day. Here are a few photos of what he has been up to.

He has taken most things in his stride and hasn't come up against anything scary so far. He is really very confident, although I am not taking this for granted and am making sure that I watch him carefully in case he does find anything too much. We have also been working on his training, and he now knows quite a few tricks! We did loads of work on his rear leg awareness, and the first things I taught him were all about reversing onto objects and using his back feet. Subsequently his first response to any new training game is to target objects with his back feet! Sometimes it is hilarious! He even targets other dogs with his rear feet! So to counteract that, we have started working on lots of things using his front feet now, such as wave and cross paws, and things needing all four paws, like getting in a box and crawling!

I have to admit that despite what I said in my previous post I am struggling to get him to play when we are out and about. He is just so excited by everything going on around him and I just can't get his attention on a toy!! He has a really strong tug in and about the house, so I know it is there, but the outside world is just way too exciting. I am hoping that this will improve once he gets down on the floor and can interact with everything around him more, rather than viewing the excitement of the world from in someones arms. His only other bad habit is that he likes to bark (very loudly!!) at the other dogs to try to get them to play with him! Unfortunately this has the opposite effect, as it makes them want to get away. We are working on this and trying to get him to calm down. I realised half way through last week that perhaps it was even worse as we were perhaps letting him get a bit over tired, and he was becoming wild at times! lol So I started trying to give him more time in his crate to relax and settle down, as he doesn't do that voluntarily! This seems to be working, and in the last few days he has actually settled himself down and gone to sleep without me needing to put him in bed, so I think he may be learning that resting is a good thing!!

So all in all Fuze has been having a great time. However the same cannot be said for my poor other dogs. Someone told me last Monday about a few dogs coming down with illnesses showing similar symptoms, which were very serious. So serious that one dog had died. At that stage no one was sure if they were related, so no panic, but due to having Fuze, someone very kindly warned me to be on the cautious side, and I decided to give my dogs the day off from walking on Monday, just as a precaution. Sadly, by Monday evening it became clear that they were related, as more dogs had become ill. The frustrating thing is that no one really knows what it is. Tests have come back negative for Parvo, which was suspected even though the dogs affected had been vaccinated. Good news in a way, but also bad, as that meant all dogs were at risk, and exactly what is causing the illness remains unknown. All training classes have been cancelled, and the general advice is to walk your dogs on an outgoing tide where the beach has been washed and to avoid other dogs. Obviously I am worried about all my dogs, but even more so as we have Fuze and he is so young. I made the decision that I would not walk my dogs until there had been no new cases for 2-3 days. We are now on Saturday, and up to this morning my dogs still had not been out. Sadly there were still new cases this week, and two more dogs have died. his morning I got to the stage where I felt I could not go another day without walking them, plus the conditions were in my favour, as low tide was very early morning, so I could walk on the outgoing tide, on a completely deserted beach! So the dogs did get out this morning, and tide times are similar for tomorrow so I will probably do the same then. I feel as though I am in some sort of movie about a plague! Its very frustrating, and very worrying. We just have to wait until whatever this is disappears, but I wish we knew what it was! There has been some suggestion that it is 'seasonal canine illness' and is being caused by a natural toxin found in woodlands, so walking elsewhere could be fine, but this is only a theory and I am not taking any risks!! It could well be something contagious and passed from dog to dog.  My dogs health is absolutely the most important thing to me, and I will not take any risks where they are concerned. At least I have still been able to take Fuze out as the majority of places he has been have been non doggie! Fingers crossed for good news this week..........

Back to better news, and I am very excited to be able to announce that I have been appointed as team manager to organise a Jersey team to attend the World Agility Open 2012 in Belgium! A great opportunity to compete on an international scale and very exciting all round! The selection process is now underway, and hopefully the team will be announced in the first week of December. Managing the team is going to be a massive learning curve for me, however I am ready for the challenge and hope that this is going to be a great experience for all those who take part!! I have lots of plans for the coming months, so watch this space.........

Finally, a training video for Fuze - which most of you who are friends on FB will have already seen, but in case you haven't.........most of this was taken before last week, will do a new one soon!!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

An update, and exciting news!

So I have been pretty neglectful of the blog for some time now. But I am going to try my hardest to keep it up to date from now on! There is a very special reason for my new found enthusiasm to try and blog again, but first I suppose I should do a very brief round up of the year since May. All in all I am really happy with how this year has gone.

Smudge and I have been having a great time, and I am excited to see what next season brings if we can carry on with the momentum we have had this year. Notable achievements are running in the Nations Cup Team event at the KC International in August, where we won the jumping round, the agility round, and placed 1st overall! He also won into Grade 7 in the UK this year, so I am excited for when we start running together in championship classes next year. Smudge has gone from strength to strength this year, and every single time I step into the ring with him it makes me smile. We are working as such a great team at the moment!

These were Smudges winnings just from one week at KC International and DINAS. What a clever boy!
Mayzee and Oliver have also has a successful year, winning into Novice Jumping and Novice Agility in Jersey, and winning into UK Grade 4. Not bad for a beginner dog and handler. When she becomes more consistent she is going to be fab!

Even little Maisie managed to have a good year in her jumping classes :-) And she couldn't be left out of the photos! Although she doesn't do much now, when she does run, she shows the youngsters how it should be done!!

Agility has now ended for the year for us, and we have no more shows planned until February next year. I have to admit that I am looking forward to the break, and having the time to look at my training and perhaps change a few things. However this winter is not going to be quite as quiet as usual, and that is due to one very special reason……..

Introducing “Fuze” Obay The Boyz High Voltage

Yes I have a puppy! Fuze came to join our household from Obay shelties last weekend, and has already made himself quite at home!  He has a personality to die for, and is the cheekiest little man in the world. He is the sweetest puppy, who loves his toys, is dying to please and is very eager to learn with just a hint of crazyness! My kind of boy! I am so excited to see where our journey is going to take us, and for all the experiences we will have along the way. The next few weeks will be spent focusing on socialisation, and getting Fuze out and about as much as possible. So far he has taken everything in his stride, and nothing has fazed him. I try to plan at least one new experience every day, and so far we have done pet shops, garden centres, stables, a childrens party, lots of different name but a few!! I am determined to keep this up, although it is hard work!! And of course he travelled back by plane, sitting next to me on the seat. Even that didn't bother him! Here was the inside of the plane we were on - tiny!! And terrifying for me!!

We are also focusing on teaching him puppy tricks, which we both really enjoy doing. I am amazed by how quickly Fuze picks things up. He is so keen to learn, and will throw out all sorts of behaviours to try to earn the reward. So far we have been doing a few short sessions a day working on going out around a cone (he prefers going to the left, so I have been a mean owner and have been working more on going to the right!), the elephant trick, shaking a paw (something which Johanna taught him when he was just 7 weeks old!), a spot of skateboarding, a bit on the balance disk, kicking his back feet and the basics like sit! All great fun!! We try to take our clicker training ‘on the road’ as it were, and have started to do quick five minute sessions in lots of different places, so that he gets used to working with different distractions and in new enviroments, and even then he is really focused on what he is doing. He is a super puppy!!

Right now he has a really good drive to play with toys, and I am keen to keep that going, so we play lots and lots of games. Having learnt my lesson with Smudge, I really would like to be able to switch between toy and food as a reward with Fuze, so I am working hard on keeping both high value. This is easier said than done with me, as I have to admit I am a natural ‘feeder’!! Bernadette had advised us to start and finish each play session with a game, right from the start, and for the first few days this was hard!! Fuze just did not want to play with toys when the food had been out!! But in the last day or so we have made a real breakthrough, and he now goes wild for his toy at the end. He even seems to enjoy it more than the food, which is definite progress!! I have even started calling him away from distractions (such as other dogs at the agilty field) and rewarding this with a game of tug, and he is really keen!! I am not taking it for granted though, and am trying to build the drive for his toys even more.

So there we are, mammoth update done. I am going to try to keep this updated with Fuze’s progress, as a couple of people have asked me to, and I do find it interesting, and sometimes actually helpful to put down what I am doing with him in words. I had almost forgotten just what hard work a puppy is, and I have to admit that he is exhausting, but already he is so rewarding, and I feel very lucky that he is mine. I just look at his little face and it makes me smile. I am very excited to see how he grows and what we will learn together!!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A busy few weeks!! Update No 1!

So finally I get time to update the blog! It has been a whirlwind few weeks! Firstly we had the Jersey Agility Festival. I always love this show, as it is close to home, so no long travelling involved and is three days long. There are normally European judges, meaning interesting courses, and it attracts lots of European and UK competitors. I particularly like watching the French handlers as they really get into the spirit of things. This year we had Amy and her mum Lynne come to stay with their dogs, so we had a household of seven dogs for the weekend!

The festival turned out to be a real ‘team sheltie’ affair, with shelties taking most of the wins in the small and medium classes. Over the course of three days we had some really interesting courses. Smudge had 5 wins and 5 second places, which was enough to qualify him for the small Jersey European Agility Dog of the Year Final, held on the last day of the Festival.

I was hoping for a tough course in the final, and was fairly certain we would get one as most of the qualifiers had been tough! Unfortunately when the final course was set up, it was a runners course!! Lots of long straight lines are my worst nightmare!! All weekend we had been so close in time to another dog who I knew would probably take the advantage over a course like that, especially as the handler had legs the length of tree trunks! So I gave it absolutely everything and ran like crazy!! Unfortunately it just wasn’t quite enough, and we eventually finished runner up, just 300th’s of a second behind the winner. Damn those long runs! Lol I need to get sprint training!! For some reason I cannot upload my videos to blogger at the moment, but I hope to have them up shortly.

The shelties also did well in the team events, and Smudge and Taz won the pairs by a massive 44 seconds!

We also ran in the Nations Cup event as ‘Rest of the World’ with Amy and Taz and Roger and Troy (‘Team Sheltie’ as we personally liked to be called) and won both the qualifier and the Nations cup final with ease. The sheltie flag was really flying!!

Mayzee had a mixed weekend. As I have mentioned before she has flashes of brilliance….and never more so than this weekend! Day one was a bit of a disaster, with a concentration level of zero! However she seemed to get better with each day, and by the end of the Festival had picked up 4 placings. Oliver has been working really hard on trying to give her a consistent ‘pre run’ routine, starting from the minute she gets out of the car, and it really seems to work with her. She is definitely an up hill struggle, but I think it will pay off, and indeed it has started to already………

I am really glad that Amy and Tazz also had a good weekend, with Tazz winning the Medium Dog Final!

Prize giving each day included European drinks (I particularly liked Spanish day – Sangria…yum!) but it was the French who showed they truly know how to party! Goodness they enjoy their agility, and the celebrations afterwards!

Friday, 22 April 2011

Happy Easter!!!!

Well when I started the new blog, the intention was to get it more regularly updated! Ha! Clearly I am not doing very well on that score!!

Since our last post we have only really done a few local events. In April we had a show at a venue that is literally a two minute drive from our house!! It was great to be able to come home for lunch, and to be able to pop home when I wanted! Smudge was running so well this weekend. He won three out of the four classes we entered and I was so proud of him!! This is one of the runs I got on film (shame it was one where he takes a pole - which was my fault!) but I love his enthusiasm!

Mayzee unfortunately seemed to go backwards, and really struggled with confidence over the whole weekend. As soon as Mayzee feels she has gone wrong, or is unsure about exactly what is required of her, the nose goes down and the spaniel sniffing starts in earnest!! And no amount of encouragement/squeaky toys/running away/trying to play etc etc is going to get her back on task!! Training Mayzee is definitely an uphill battle, but ultimately I think it will be worthwhile.

The most important thing with her is to give her confidence, and we have been doing that by trying to always set her up for success, and never allowing her to get into the situation where she has the opportunity for go wrong. Its hard work, but the improvement in a few weeks of figuring this out has been immense. Fingers crossed the progress continues!! Mayzee is capable of being a fabulous agility dog, and there are moments when she does things that really make you smile………the potential is most definitely in there! It has been a good learning experience to start training an adult dog who had done nothing previously. It does make me appreciate the completely fresh start that you get with a puppy though!!

Finally the training field is fully useable again, so we have been back training properly for a couple of weeks now. Over the winter the equipment has been repaired, replaced and repainted, and now looks like brand new!! I would like to say that this has all been my own handywork, but I would be lying! haha!

This Easter weekend will be our last free weekend before the full competition season starts.And it is glorious weather! I am really looking forward to the next few weeks….lots of bank holidays and lots of agility!! The Jersey European Agility Festival is next weekend, and we have visitors coming to stay for that. The weekend after that will bring our first trip to the UK of the year. Exciting times ahead! Hopefully I will have time to update the blog a bit more regularly!!

Happy Easter everybody. Enjoy yourselves whatever you are doing!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Time for an update

A few pictures taken on one of the only sunny days we have had so far this year!! 

So to update, since my last posting we have been to our first show for 2011. It was great to get back in the ring, in a competition environment and see if our winter training was paying off, and what we still needed to work on! J

Smudge was a little star and won five out of the eight classes across the two days. We were running like a real team and I was really pleased that we both enjoyed it so much. His contacts on both the dog walk and a frame were gorgeous, and it seems as though the work we having been doing on these over the winter has started to pay off. On the downside, the lack of attention I have been giving to the see saw means that Smudge has now decided to try to fly each time he hits it. The height he was getting as he spring boarded of the end of it each time was really something to be seen! Lol So lots of work on the see saw over the next couple of weeks I think! I am hoping that we have plenty of time before April, when the agility season starts in full swing, to persuade him that stopping at the end might be a sensible idea.

Mayzee also took part in her first full show, and enjoyed every second. She suffers from a lack of confidence, and some rattling weaves in the first class of the weekend proved a bit too much for her, and she had weaving issues in almost every class. This was a shame as her weaving is generally pretty good! Still, we made no issue of it, and I am sure once she has been back through a couple of different sets she will be back to normal. Everything else she did really well…..nice contacts, good turns, no sniffing! and excellent responsiveness to commands. All in all a pretty good performance for her first show. The one clear round she did get was in the pairs, running with Smudge. And can you believe it, they won the class! So a red rosette on her first outing – not bad! I can’t wait to see what Mayzee will achieve when her confidence and ability grows J

Little Maisie also ran, just in the jumping classes, and even got a second place. The old girl still has it!

So a good start to the agility year. On a slightly less positive note, training is limited at the moment due to the weather! It has been torrential rain for what seems like weeks now, and our training venue has become completely waterlogged. I am praying for better weather so that we can get going again! Luckily we do still get to train with the local club, but it isn’t quite the same. Next Saturday we head off to the BVI and New York, and the dogs go to their holiday homes where they are always thoroughly spoilt!! I am hoping that when we get back the field will be dry and lessons can start up again. In the meantime we have spent time working on the house (which never ends!) and are currently giving our agility equipment a revamp. Well if we aren’t using it much at the moment we may as well use the time constructively! Hopefully the equipment will look sparkling new when we have finished with it!

Thought I would share these pictures of our new home, now that the downstairs inside is almost finished! We and the dogs love it!!!

Our garden is also now finished, and its lovely to look out at a garden now, instead of a swamp! The dogs can’t believe they are actually allowed out there after all this time!

Monday, 10 January 2011

New Year, New Start, New Blog!!

Wow, so it’s a year since my last post, which was even on a different blog! We had such a busy year, what with selling a house, buying a house, two house moves, setting up a new training venue and of course agility!! Add to that working for a living and just trying to find time in a day for the routine things and you can see why blogging kind of took a back seat for a while. I’m hoping that this year will be calmer (well by my standards anyway!!) and so I’m hoping I will have time to become a regular blogger once more.

So where to start? Well we have a new house! It took months and months of hard work, worrying and living out of cardboard boxes to get us here, but we finally took ownership in late November and moved in that very day. This was the second house move we have done in twelve months (third for me the in past 18 months!) and so I have now had enough of moving house to last me a lifetime!! It has been worth the effort though, and we are now quite settled. The dogs in particular love it, as we can walk directly down to the beach from the house, through the woods, and don’t even have to go in the car if we don’t want to. Just perfect for them.

We also have a new training venue, which is at a site called “The Eden Project” (no not THE Eden Project, but a riding stables by the same name J) Hence the name for the new blog!

Agility wise, 2010 was a great year, which I really enjoyed. At the moment Smudge is running really well, and we feel like a great partnership. We are loving agility and I can’t wait to get back into the ring with him this year. Our first show will be on February 5th and 6th, and I’m excited to be back competing after a three month break.

I’ve made the difficult, but entirely correct, decision to retire Maisie from agility (not jumping) altogether this season, despite her fabulous performance last year beating Smudge to Jersey Agility Dog of the Year (an event at which he is still particularly unimpressed!!) I have really started to feel her nerves on the contact obstacles, and I feel that she is doing it for me, not because she enjoys it. I never want to run a dog feeling like that, and it gives me no enjoyment whatsoever. As I know this is partly down to a medical condition, it is not going to change, no matter how much work I do with her. Having said that, she still LOVES the jumping classes (she lives for tunnels J), and I don’t feel she is ready to retire completely just yet. So for this season she will only do jumping runs, and will not train much. She gave me so much joy in her early agility days that I want to make sure she enjoys every single run she does now. And I want her to live to a healthy old age, still being the feisty terrier that she is!

And finally of course, there is Mayzee (yes confusing I know, two dogs called Maisie, albeit with different spellings – they are now know as big Mayzee and little Maisie, and actually answer to those names respectively) Mayzee had done absolutely no agility training until she started living with me around a year ago, and is an incredibly high drive springer spaniel, from really strong working lines. In fact she had done absolutely no training of any kind at all up until the start of the year, so was a little crazy to say the least! She was generally a good dog, but had never learnt that working with humans was fun or rewarding. She would come back on her terms, and would do as she was told on her terms, and certainly didn’t see the benefits of cooperating with humans! So before we could even think about agility we had an awful lot of ground work to do.

She has been fun to train, and most definitely a good learning experience for me, having never trained a spaniel before, let alone a four year old one who was set in her ways! Although obviously the principals are the same, she has presented many challenges – like how to get her nose off the floor!! Lol Mayzee has come a long way, and as a pet to live with daily is now almost perfect J, although we do occasionally have the odd relapse! She has also come a long way in her agility training, and this year will be her first full season competing (all going well!!) When I think back to this time last year, the difference in her is amazing and I can’t wait to see what she is like at the show in February! I love seeing her enjoying agility, as she has finally learnt that it is a fun game that lets her use her brain!!

So there we have it, the first post on the new blog, in the new year. Hopefully 2011 will be a great year for us all J