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Rally-O (80)

June 8, 2010

Claire (@HaslemerePetCo) and Patch show the workshop how it's done

Me and Rory tried some Rally the other day. We are already taking agility lessons, but more of that to come… Rally is different.

Rally-o is a mix of agility and obedience. You move around a course following the instructions on cones until you finally pass through the finish. If you do an action wrong, then you get penalty points. I think you also get penalty points if you run over the ideal course time. Lowest score in the quickest time wins. You get the idea.

Now for some reason that is beyond me, there are two different ways of doing Rally, Talking Dogs and APDT. I don’t know why this surprises me… there are also two ways to do agility (Kennel Club and UKA). The two types of Rally signs are similar, sort of mean the same thing, and have a different amount of sits. (Bear with me, I only did a one day Rally workshop). The benefit of the Wagtails Canine College workshop that I attended, is that they introduce you to both types from the beginning. Personally, although this was a bit confusing at the start of the day, I think that it is better to learn the differences and the different signs from the very beginning so they become almost instinctive.

Anyway, enough about the confusing technicalities. How did we do? Well after the initial shock for Rory that he was not allowed to charge everywhere (like I said we are agility nuts at the moment) he got everything, pretty much first time. My dog is a genius: this was to be expected. Now, I, on the other hand, struggled. The signs were all new and so confused me. I gave Rory commands late, which resulted in him reacting too late. I was taking photos, which slowed us even more! In summary, Rory was brilliant, I was rubbish. Having said that, by the end of the day, with lots of instructor support, we were definitely getting there!

At the moment I crave the excitement (and the physical energy burning for Rory) that agility brings us. I can’t afford to do both at the same time so Rally will be taking a back burner for me, for the immediate future anyway. I would recommend it for those with dogs that like to think, and I can see major benefits for older dogs whose limbs won’t be up to the strains of agility. And if you want to compete, and do well, but your dog is not built for speed then Rally is more for you. How many of us are going to beat a Collie in a flat-out race?

As I write this, I can see @HaslemerePetCo and @HaslemerePets‘s Patch in my mind. (See picture above.) He loves Rally. His tail wags the whole way round. He is brilliant at it. And he is proof that everyone should give it a go. No-one could resist the chance to make their dog that happy!

Check out a video of @HaslemerePetCo and Patch doing a Rally round below:

Rory is awesome (75)

May 25, 2010

Yeah, ok, i’ll admit it, most people think their dog is the most awesome. It works the same way as everyone thinking that their friends are the best friends, that their way is the best way and that they are never wrong. I digress…

Rory is awesome, and here is why:

1) He never judges. Even when I am a mess, and wound up, and annoyed or crying. He doesn’t care. He just waits until I’m ok again and then checks to see if I want to play. Which brings me to point 2.

2) He never buys into my bullsh*t. If i’m having a hysterical breakdown, he will completely ignore me. No solid, supporting dog here. Oh no, he isn’t having any of it. He wants me to get over it and play with him.

3) He comes everywhere with me and never complains. This is just because he is awesome.

4) He makes me feel special because he stresses when I leave him, even if I leave him with someone he knows. Proper whining, crying. But only when he can still see me, randomly.

5) He has great hair. Enough said.

5) He makes me get out and do things. He is that kind of dog. You have to do things or he is bored.

6) He is a genius. After three lessons of agility we moved up – the course should be fifteen weeks. He remembers things I don’t. He can remember where he left a ball three months before. He is too clever, but that is a good thing.

7) He bounces everywhere. Kind of like tigger. It’s cute and it makes me laugh.

And he likes odd numbers, which is why i’m ending on seven. How do I know? Well I just do.

World Agility Championships 2010 (74)

May 18, 2010

 I struck it lucky last week, or more specifically two people struck out. My friend was let down by both the people who were meant to be attending the World Agility Championships with her. Such a shame. I was sad for oh, about two seconds, before I realised that the email everyone in the agility club I had received was offering us tickets. Sorry, ME(!) tickets. As long as I got back to her quickly. Oh there are definitely some benefits of getting your email to your phone!

I’m a bit of an agiity newbee, so I was really excited about going and seeing the best in the world competiting. The WAC is held every other year, in a different country each time, which is another reason to not say no… it was only a few hours from us this year, next year it could be in NZ or Oz.

Talking of NZ and Oz, they had to borrow dogs to compete with, talk about making your job five times harder! But you know what, one of the New Zealand handlers won her section with a borrowed dog so it just goes to show it can be done.

Russia pretty much swept the board. They had clear hand signals and direction, they were fast and driven.

I learnt a whole lot, and now I want to compete. Me and Rory have only had two agility lessons so far but i’m super keen. You would not believe how much a learnt about tactics and how to run a dog. And even about the different styles of training.

I am so ready. Bring on the tests, and maybe in a couple of years we’ll be competing at the World Championships. You never do know, do you?

Timing (69)

May 3, 2010

No, this blog post is not about training. Although timing is of course a key part of that. And no, it is not about being late, although I am quite often late by a few minutes. Don’t take offence if I ever do it to you.

It is instead about Rory’s timing. When I was about to go away on holiday, the morning I was flying out, he got ill. Very, very ill in fact, all over my house. It came from both ends, all over my carpet in my front room and all over the kitchen. The house stank, I hadn’t packed and was due to be leaving him in just a few hours. It is the only time since he was a puppy that he has ever had an accident in the house, and only the second time he has been sick. Horrible, horrible timing. I could smell it from upstairs in the shower. It is worth noting that I had already been downstairs and let him out in the garden, let him do what he needed and let him back in. *sigh* But like most dog owners would be in this situation, I wasn’t mad. You can’t be when they are ill can you? When I got downstairs wrapped in my towel he had squeezed himself into the tiniest space by the sofa, with his head on his paws, looking so sad, and refused to move. He stayed there while I did a botched job of clearing up. I had to take a trip out before I came home from holiday to pick up some de-odoriser. It turns out this was really just a warm-up.

On Saturday, we were on our way back from a fairly new walk that took us about an hour and a half, when Rory stopped dead. His face disappeared into the grass. I failed to notice until I was a fair distance ahead. When I turned around I was sure he was eating something he shouldn’t be. I started yelling “LEAVE IT” across the field. He ignored me, the cricketers on the other side of the fence looked in my direction. “Will you LEAVE IT!’ I started striding in his direction… Rory started hobbling in mine. I was about twenty feet away and I could see the blood trail he was leaving in his wake. This. Was. Not. Good. Luckily we were only about a two minute walk from home, as there is no way in hell I could carry him any distance. I’ve had enough problems carrying him to and in to the car since.

We got home fairly quickly, albeit via a cricketer who wanted to tell me Rory was “a nice looking dog”. Blood everywhere. I put my canine first aid into action. I attended an Animal Aiders course only a couple of weeks ago. Could not see the wound, as Rory would not keep still, so washed out the whole pad with saline and then bandaged it. Left it for two hours, while Rory sulked in his bed. When I took it off the bleeding had stopped, but he was still non-weight bearing. Time to go the vet.

Except he’d chosen the bank holiday to hurt himself. So the vet was only open between 5-6 and, of course, additional charges applied. Carried Rory to, and then from, the car. Waiting room, blood all over clinic floor once new bandage I’d put on for travelling was taken off. (Vet was impressed i’d got it on at all.) After some difficulty it was accessed he has a puncture wound, which you could not tell if it still had anything in it. If he has not improved by tomorrow then he might need surgery. (He is looking improved thank goodness.) Antibiotic injection, painkiller injection, antibiotic tablets to take home, painkillers to take home, elizabethan plastic collar I haven’t used, vet done bandage. Thanks very much, that will be £150 please.

So, apart from the Bank Holiday fees, was there anything else bad about Rory’s timing you might be asking? Well yes. Yesterday (Sunday) me and Rory were supposed to be striding around the cross-country course at Badminton Horse Trials. Anything else? Well yes, we were meant to be attending our first Rally workshop today. That must be it? Well unfortunately no. Thursday is our first agility class.

Bloody dog.

Running post (64)

April 23, 2010

I wrote a running post, over on the other side… Live. Love. Learn. Write. and it explains what running with a Labradoodle was like today. You might want to check it out, then again you might not. Whatevs.

A dog is as intelligent as… (62)

April 21, 2010

basett hound

Image from Mollypop's flickr photostream

…a two or two and a half year old according to Stanley Coren, a leading canine researcher. I discovered this after it occurred to me earlier that although I regularly think about my sister’s parrot having the intelligence of a three year old, I never really think of the implications of Rory’s intelligence (although I regularly talk to him like an adult human).

As you would expect this intelligence differs from breed to breed, with Border Collies coming in first, Poodles in second, and German Shepherd’s in third. Dogs in the top 20% of dog intelligence will be able to understand up to 200 words. However, the average dog has the capacity to understand 165 words including signals, which isn’t too shabby. He also asserted that dogs have a basic understanding of arithmetic and would notice mistakes in simple sums.

In addition it was discovered that dogs could deliberately deceive other dogs and humans to get rewards… Don’t I know it!

You can see the article where I read about this, here at Science Daily.

Break

March 26, 2010

There will be a short break in blogging here, and over at Live. Love. Learn. Write. I may or may not get a chance to blog inbetween. Should be back blogging around the 12th Apr, sorry for the interuption, and see you very soon! 😉 xxx

Negative and positive training (53 #oneaday)

March 24, 2010

There is a whole lot of debate at the moment about positive reinforcement training, versus punitive training. I have used both, with the same dog, and thought it might be useful for me to share.

In the beginning I was introduced to the world of punitive training. I think most people are. Rory jumped and bit, which upset me a great deal. I knew he just thought he was playing, and did it when he was overexcited but that didn’t make it better. It hurt, it was ruining my relationship with him and any chance of bonding. I had a whole range of advice from flooring him (a dominance move that just made him worse) to kicking his back legs out from under him (which didn’t work, apparently a first for the trainer who suggested it). Eventually I went to someone I very much dislike and asked her advice. To her credit, considering she openly suggests using shock collars and can be vile to her own dogs, she was helpful and suggested a coke can filled with coins as noise aversion when he jumped up. This worked for a while.

But, what actually worked long-term was asking him to sit for food. I’d love to say this was instant but that is really not the case. I had to teach him to sit, wait and take treats gently when I said ‘ok’, otherwise he would just jump all over me. It took work, as most good things do, but long-term major score! *Touch wood* this is not something he does anymore. A shining example of positive training if ever there was one. I can not emphasise enough how much this changed the bonding between me and my puppy. It made a whole world of difference to our lives.

Actually, once I stopped demanding things from my dog everything improved. His recall was always subjective, depending on whether he decided the grass was greener on the other side or not. I’m not going to lie and say it’s amazing now, but it’s pretty good. Good enough that it works 80% of the time, which I think is probably higher than average for a dog walked mainly off-lead. And our bond has improved, to the point where I can’t pass him off to someone else mid-walk and leave because he will pull to get back to me, he will always follow me after saying ‘hello’ to a new dog, and despite all this he knows I am coming back and never appears to suffer separation anxiety.

I love my dog and would never dream of using extreme negative training again. Rory is who he is, and I love him for it, all bouncy four paws of him. That’s not to say I don’t yell, because I do. This applies particularly when he is rolling in something, like earlier today. But, having variations in the tone I use with him means he is very clear when it is unwanted behaviour, without any requirement for the use of a shock collar or spray. Our life together is better now. I think the only way those using punitive training methods will understand that positive reinforcement is better, is by us who have experienced both, sharing our stories. Preaching never helps. So here is my story, what’s yours?

Doggie sicky (48 #oneaday)

March 18, 2010

Rory pulled a sicky today. If he was a kid he’d be off school and milking it. About lunchtime we were out walking and he started coughing. Now i’d be thinking no big deal, but this other dog at work has been coughing too, so i’m a little concerned. But it wasn’t ‘kennel cough’ coughing. Oh no, this was a ‘I have a mini dog stuck in my throat’ coughing, which continued for about half of the walk. Then he really coughed and threw up some flemmy disgustingness. (I love my dog.)

The coughing pretty much stopped then. I started to relax a little more. Got back to the car, had him jump in, changed my shoes, looked back in the crate. He was breathing really heavily, and about three breathes at once, not a regular rise and fall like it should be. I watch for a while. Panic. Call the vet, make an appointment for this evening. Vet receptionist makes me panic more by telling me that it sounds serious and don’t I want to bring him now. I respond with a stony silence.

Fastforward a few hours. I’m at home, standing by my backdoor watching my dog intently. It’s a hard task BECAUSE HE’S RUNNING AROUND LIKE A MENTAL DOG. Clearly he has recovered from his ‘fake sick’ moment. There is no coughing or wretching, no heavy breathing despite the mad rushing about.  I’m sure he was putting it on.

I call the vet, cancel my vet appointment, hang up.

The dog looks at me… and coughs…

Crufts (46 #oneaday)

March 16, 2010

I battled with myself over watching Crufts. Should I? Shouldn’t I? Was it moral to support something that was the pinnacle of inbreeding and accentuating features that meant Pekes couldn’t breathe, and Boxers and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had epilepsy? Was it?

Originally I was shocked that the viewing had been taken over by channel four. How dare they bypass the BBC who had done the right thing by refusing to broadcast the show? Then I realised. I wanted to watch it. A whole lot. I was excited it was on and I would get to see all the different types of dogs, on screen. (I really do love dogs.) And then I knew why they had gone against the negative public opinion… because even those of us who were horrified by the issues raised by programmes such as Pedigree Dogs Exposed would still tune in. Even if it was just to see what the Kennel Club were doing to appear like they were taking action to remedy the breeding problems.

The sad truth is, that even if we think it is wrong we will be watching. A whole load of judgmental people must have been watching to be able to complain about the controversial, but not so controversial GSD winner. Whether it’s because we want to see the positive progress, or watch the fall, that i’m not sure of. But, we did tune in, and we will next year, because dog lovers are dog lovers and they want to see what happens.

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