Thursday, December 24, 2015

Birthday Boy

Veto is now officially a big boy having his first birthday on the 23rd!  I am so happy with him and I feel pretty lucky that it has all worked out so well so far.  It was always going to be a bit risky going for lines that have limited health testing and an interesting combination of structure with the working cattle lines and ISDS working sheep lines.  Looking at him as a 12 month old he is shaping up better than I hoped as an overall type with really nice structure.  He has a massive stride, is extremely powerful and has a really nice temperament.  The only thing I could have done with less of is his barking.  When he wants something (which is often) he barks till he gets it (not that often which means the barking goes on and on and on).  He has the girliest bark ever and it drives us nuts.

12 months
8 weeks
 Training is continuing on nicely.  He's starting to show me a great understanding of his verbals and I was super surprised when I could put out toys as a distraction, give a verbal turn cue and have him  respond to the verbal instead of ignoring me and going for the toy!  For a while there I really didn't think that would ever happen... I don't think I could be happier with his progress on the handling side of things.  Over the next few weeks I have some pretty challenging handling work lined up over a couple of jumps so I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes.  I've decided not to put the jumps up to full height quickly, rather I'll just leave them around 300/400 for a while and then slowly raise them up over the next couple of months.  He is jumping nicely over that height and is rare for him to knock anything which is a good sign.

I have started teaching him a proper 2o2o, as in building a solid foundation complete with proofing etc so I have it as a behaviour I can use as soon as he's ready to start trialling.  I don't want him to just have a running contact and then if it falls to pieces in the ring (which I suspect may happen) then have to rush to teach a stop.  I like the idea of having both anyway and no matter what he ends up doing in the ring I think that teaching him to run to begin with was the right thing to do just because of his personality.  At this stage I don't plan on starting weaves with him until February or March.

Ve got to see sheep for the first time a couple of weekends ago at Simon Leaning's property in Mt Helena.  He was a bit unsure to begin with but settled into it pretty well for his first go.  I will definitely take him out again a few times over summer.  He needs something apart from agility to give him that overall physical and mental work out.  Not to mention it is so much fun watching them do what they were bred for.

The gang - Christmas 2015
I'm so excited with the way that Cassie and I finished our trialling year.  I entered her in two more NFC runs and she probably did the best jumping run so far.  It was flawless and less than a second slower than the very speedy border collie that won the class.  In agility she started off a bit hesitant but flew once she hit her stride.  I'm feeling pretty positive about our trialling year in 2016 and just hope I can continue to keep her happy.  The plan is to enter her in some Masters classes in the New Year and see what happens.  I will be continuing to train her over summer as she has had a very light year and build our handling skills so she is ready for some harder handling challenges.  How awesome will it be to have two dogs competing by mid 2016!  First time for a long time that has happened.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Eleven Months

Month eleven was a touch crazier than normal with the big W day thrown in for some extra excitement!  After a bit of stress leading up as is the way with these events, we enjoyed an amazing day with our friends and family.  Life post wedding has everything pretty much back to normal now.  We decided that a honeymoon can wait till next year when I have long service leave due to make it a big one.

Wedding day - photo by Mike Kelly
Veto and I are still merrily working our way through H360 and the base handling maneuvers from Blueprint.  For the most part when I introduce a new skill I use a jump bump rather than a jump bar so we can focus on handling but I'm finding that I can use a jump bar on 300 now and it is not causing him any particular issues and he is rarely knocking it.  I've been trying to vary things a bit to keep it interesting so we'll do a few days on something a bit more complex as in back sides, threadles etc but then we'll do some straight forward extension and collection work so he can blast around a bit.  While he can be a typical young adolescent male and be a bit of a buffoon, he's not actually a silly dog if that makes any sense.  He approaches his training with thoughtfulness and picks up things very quickly which is making teaching him handling a really fun experience.  I never find that he struggles to learn anything and I've had no feelings of frustration with lack of progress due to him just not listening or being a dickhead. 

Handsome boy
His running dog walk is continuing to be a really interesting experience...he has done some amazing work, but then we can have days where our success rate is barely 50%.  So at the moment we are bouncing between more challenging work and bringing it back to make sure he has at least an 80% success rate.  He isn't a dog who does well with lots of failure so to keep him up and confident it is really important that he is chalking up plenty of success.  So as soon as I think he has had too many failures I will just make it easier.  There is plenty of time in front of us before he'll be trialing so we'll keep pottering away and see what happens.  The dog walk is still only a few feet off the ground so I might start raising it over the next month provided his success rate stays high enough and see where that takes us.

His focus can still be all over the place.  Keeping him with me when I train at the Dogs West grounds is a challenge and I have to manage his environment if there is any hope of doing off leash work.  I probably spend more time working on rewards for him making good choices than anything else.  As I have all the equipment at home it's not really that big a deal if he can't do any "agility" so focus work is always my biggest goal when I'm out.  And of course plenty of recallers games get thrown in.  When we do manage to get on a little sequence way up the back away from everything he is great.  His drive is everything I hoped for and he is clearly enjoying it.  So even though its slow going there is plenty to look forward to as he does mature which I'm assuming will happen eventually, if I'm lucky...

Cassie's progress is going surprisingly well.  So far she has happily run at every trial we have done (although has only been a few) and last trial I did the full course in both classes albeit still as not for competition.  I have contemplated entering her normally but our handling is so out of sync, and well pretty crap basically, that I don't want to ruin it by overwhelming her on a complex course she's not ready for.  So I'm sticking to my plan of NFC in the lower classes for the rest of the year and then putting her back in masters next year.  As Veto goes through H360 I'm doing the same exercises with Cassie which will hopefully put her back on track for the New Year.  We both also need a lot of fitness work to get us back in shape as well so that will definitely be on the agenda for next year!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ten Months

Veto has hit double digits and is turning into a really stunning looking young dog.  He has even grown into those ginormous ears...  He is getting more powerful and driven as he gains confidence.  He has been elevated to almost grown up status which means he can have free time in the house now with the other dogs.  He loses his shit on occasion when his brain explodes with excitement and we need to have a chat about chilling out but overall he's way better at putting his sensible boy shoes on.

Training is continuing to be lots of fun.  He used to get bored doing wraps but now he loves them and fights me to drive round the traffic cones.  I love his understanding of wraps and I'm working hard on maintaining that lovely flexibility.  I'm mixing things up by doing some H360 work interchanged with grid work.  I wanted to spend some time focusing on grids to teach him to think about his striding and figuring out how many strides to put between jump bumps, an important skill to have.  Dog walk work is continuing along nicely.  We have good and bad sessions but overall I'm still happy with how he is progressing.  The dog walk is nice and low, probably only a foot off the ground so no danger if he does come off and it will stay about that height until he is 12 months old.  So far I love his turns.  I only hope I can keep them... shortly will be time to start proofing the performance before the dog walk goes up.

I'm trying not to only focus on agility stuff even though sometimes its hard not to, so with the addition of a FitBone and more FitPaws bits and pieces we are working on building strength as well as working through the Recallers program.  So plenty to do over the next couple of months before he reaches his first birthday.

Cassie's progress is still moving in the right direction.  We did another NFC run a couple of weeks ago and in both runs I did 7 - 8 obstacles with her with no problems what so ever.  She still manages to freak me out on the start line with an expression on her face that leaves me totally guessing as to what may unfold.  But for both her runs once she took off she was flying and did everything I asked.  So we will continue forward on this path and stay optimistic about our chances to make the Nationals next year.  We have I think three trials left this year so some more opportunities for NFC before it gets a bit more serious next year.  Lots of work to do over summer!  

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Nine Months

Veto has grown up a lot in the last month.  It's surprised me how much he's changed actually and how much he's matured.  When we have our little training sessions I feel like we are becoming a team as opposed to me rudely interrupting his fun time with his buddies.  There is a new sense of us working together which is really quite nice!  It's not always perfect and he's still just a baby but it's nice to start feeling like a team.   He's become much easier to manage around the house and slightly less likely to throw himself on the other dogs.  He still can't resist socks and slippers and of course toilet rolls if the toilet door is left open.  Mostly he's thinks he's clever and retrieves them to you but sometimes it's more of a stealth maneuver and he disappears with his prize to a quiet spot.  Fortunately just the one sock casualty so far.

The warmer weather and snakes on the move means that we aren't using the property for exercise anymore this year.  So his morning workout is now training time which is what it was before he needed the extra exercise, just that it's more likely to be running contact training or handling training rather than body awareness which we now do in the evenings.  I'm really pleased with how he is picking up handling and having the H360 exercises to do is brilliant.  We just use wings with a jump bump instead of an upright and a traffic cone either side.  He struggled a bit initially as he didn't really get the wrap thing and was quickly bored with it but now he is wrapping beautifully.  I'm also really happy with his turns and at this stage he's nice and tight and really light on his feet.  So we'll keep fingers crossed that we can maintain that once he starts jumping.  Right now it's all about him learning extension and collection.  He has also decided that balls are his thing.  He is quite happy to tug and will tug on pretty much anything but he really loves chasing balls.  I get way better drive out of his turns when I use one so happy to stick with that if that is what he likes!

I'm looking forward to the next few months and how he comes along.  He won't start jump training until he's 12 months old which isn't all that far away is exciting to have a young dog and see their potential developing. And he's become such a nice dog to train that the whole process becomes so enjoyable.  What agility is all about.

We had the Royal Show last weekend and had a fun couple of days.  My decision to retire Sonic from agility was confirmed as a good one after running him in the teams.  He had a couple of lovely clear runs in jumping but slipped a couple of time on lines that were very gentle turns and no reason for him to slip.  In general the amount of warm up/cool down and stress involved worrying about soreness not really worth it.  Sonic will still have a great life as one of the gang filled with running around, swimming and being a nut bag.  It just won't involve any agility anymore.

Donut girl...
 Cassie's training is still ticking along nicely.  I'm pleased to see that by not rewarding her in the ring at training I'm now getting a much more similar responses to what I get at a trial.  She seems comfortable with the game and it will be interesting to see the progression over the next few months.  My plan is to finish the year off with short NFC runs and then as soon as we kick off in 2016 I'll try a few proper runs and see what we have.  There is just no way of predicting what may unfold when dealing with the mysterious mind of the papillon.  But we are probably closer to success than what we have been so far.  I feel like everything else has been a band-aid and although has helped to work through ring stress never really dealt with the lack of reinforcement in the ring that seems to be the biggest issue plaguing us.  So Nationals for her next year is a 50 -50 proposition at this stage.  I guess I'll know more once we get through the early trials.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Eight months

Veto has hit month eight and in the meantime Cassie has turned four and Sonic has turned eight.  My "little" boy has shot up big time and is now resembling a Shetland pony.  It will be touch and go if he ends up in 500 or 600.  It would be weird being in 600 but it's getting pretty competitive these days so it doesn't bother me which ever height he ends up in.  I just expected that he would be in 500 and am still a bit surprised just how quickly he's grown.  There is more and more to like about him.  I absolutely love his temperament, he is such a friendly, happy boy who loves everyone.  Possibly sometimes a little too much... He's not a screaming, crazy idiot.  He tends to get more serious than anything when he's over aroused.  Although he still does the odd really stupid thing as youngsters are want to do.  I make sure we get time together with just the two of us every day, ideally taking him for a run by himself.  It's taken a bit of time but I'm starting to see a good relationship developing between us where he really wants to do stuff with me, rather than doing it because I'm asking.  The biggest challenge with him is just how much exercise he needs.  You expect a working border collie to need a lot of exercise but he is above and beyond what I've experienced before.  And if he doesn't get enough he turns into an out of control wild animal who destroys everything in his path.  I'm very relieved that I waited until we had five acres before I got him.  Goodness knows how I would have managed him in suburbia.  I shudder at the thought...

Nothing startling happening on the training front and more of the same really.  His body awareness is great and he loves his tricks.  He is just starting to be able to hold himself up when doing sit pretties after a few months of working on it.  I'm happy with the progression of his running contact work so I don't think it will be too long before I move on from the carpet and set up some planks on the ground.  I've started doing a very small amount of grid work using jump bumps to see how he goes.  I don't want to get caught up with speed only and getting him to charge around uprights without giving any thought to what he's doing with this legs.  So far he seems to be a fairly natural jumper and confident with his body.  He still has a time limit on his sessions and if I try and push him beyond that he will lose focus and switch off.  It's actually not a bad thing as it certainly stops you from over doing it with them.  Every now and again I'll see if he can handle more but for now he's not really ready.  Overall he's doing a pretty good job when I have him out in the agility area.  There are a lot of distractions with the bush just on the other side filled with bandicoots, rabbits just begging to be chased!  Which is pretty much every puppies idea of an awesome time.  Cassie was about 18 months old before I could have her off lead out there so all in all he's doing pretty well.

Poor Sonic's body is pretty much stuffed so I've decided that the Royal Show will likely be his last ever agility event.  He looks amazing at the moment and since I moved him from a "premium" biscuit that was full of brewers rice, corn gluten meal and beet pulp and onto a biscuit that actually has some nutritional value he has blossomed.  However keeping him sound is another matter all together and it's all a bit too hard.  It will be nice to finish at the Royal with the teams event, he's always loved it there.  But whether he'll be sound enough is another thing as he's been showing some soreness in his shoulder at the moment.  We have a few weeks to go so I'll give him as good of a chance as I can.  Such a shame :(

I've started Cassie's ring rehab with my new and redesigned strategy.  Only one trial so far but I was happy with the result.  The first run I literally did one jump yelled "jackpot" and then we sprinted to her lead and treats.  The next run she was a lot more reluctant to come off the start line but thankfully did, ran past the second jump but then I managed to get her to do a jump tunnel combination before yelling "jackpot" and off to her lead and treats again.  My goal is to remain at one or two jumps to the reward until I can see a change in her demeanor at the start line.  When I see her keen to start and leaning forward in anticipation like she does at training then I'll know it's time to add in more.  I think a lot of people think I'm crazy letting her run out of the ring to a reward but I'm not worried at all.  Her getting her treats is contingent on her doing what I ask in the ring first.  If she took off out of the ring to get her rewards without working for them first she wouldn't get them.  And of course she already had a strong understanding of that food isn't hers because she's decided it is.  She has to earn it and can work with open food all around without any issues.  She can get distracted by it but she'll still work.  Given that the alternative is never being able to trial her again so I figure it's worth the risk!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Seven Months

Wow, another month gone...if nothing else he continues to grow! Not sure that he's gotten a lot taller but he's muscled up and is really developing in the body. He's certainly one powerful boy. There is a lot to like about him. He's very sweet and loves his cuddles. He is fantastic with other dogs and loves everyone.  I just hope that once the testosterone starts kicking in fully his lovely temperament with other dogs remains.  He has really slotted into the routine at home and is so much easier to manage now. He still has a lot of restrictions on him and not sure when he'll settle down enough to be allowed loose in the house with the other dogs but one step at a time. One day I'm sure he'll graduate off the lead!   Although I'm not sure the other dogs are in a rush for that to happen.

Training is going OK. Inside sessions are normally spot on. Outside can go either way and he can be distracted by the environment.  Sometimes we have good sessions out there and other times not so good. He is learning some really cool stuff and tricks I've never tried with my other dogs before. His rear end awareness is fantastic.  I've been doing a lot of Recallers with him as well and I'm really happy with how hard he drives after me. He's not super fast driving into a tunnel at the moment but at seven months, who cares. The Recallers game push back and jam is definitely helping so I'll keep playing with that. I don't have any specific plans time wise with all of this. We've been doing some wraps to tunnels which have been fun. His understanding of wraps is going really well. I've started some very basic running contact work and I'll just see how it develops. I've been teaching him two on two off as well so I'll decide later on which one I'll go with. Really depends if he picks up the running contact skills relatively easily or if it all goes to crap once I start to put it on a dog walk. And of course depends on my ability to train it! Nothing will be on actual equipment for a while so I shouldn't be able to mess it up too badly for now...then everything else at the moment is tricks and games. 
Veto - 7 months
Things with Cassie aren't going nearly so well.  The "not getting any reinforcement in the competition ring" is hitting us hard.  Everything works for a couple of trials and then she figures out that she's not getting any rewards in the ring for that either so it all goes to crap.  The only way I figure I will ever be able to work through this is to either be able to do NFC runs so I can reward her in the ring for a significant period of time and then randomly reward from then on.  Or I go back and expand her understanding of never getting rewarded in the ring.  As part of the Denise Fenzi "Bridging the Gap" course, we worked on doing a whole series of exercises and then being released to her reward.  So at the moment my plan is to grow that at training so that she literally never gets rewarded on the agility field.  If she does something great, she'll get a cue and we'll run to her treat bag for a reward.  I've only tried it once at training and it worked really well because she already knows the game.  And she understands the concept of working with open food around and her getting it being contingent on her earning it.  So I'm happy that the foundation of the game is well ingrained in her.  It will really be how I can transfer it to the ring.  I think it will take quite a few NFC classes where I can do a few obstacles and then leave the ring for a reward.  Then if the judge allows me to, go back into the ring and do some more so I can develop the skill in that ring environment.  I would work on it over a period of time to build duration from doing a few obstacles to doing a whole course.  Then potentially randomly releasing her from the ring to her reward at trials so she never knows when she may get her reward.  Other than that I'm totally stuck and have no idea what to do!  It's been good to have a break from it all anyway.  Sometimes you really just get sick of thinking about it!!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Six Months

This month’s Veto update starts off on a sad note with the loss of his mother Waddy’s Liz.  From what I understand their neighbour put out 1080 baits and the end result is that it caused the death of Liz.  Such tragic news and I can imagine a huge loss for Angus and Sarah to lose one of their top working dogs. 

Ears up!
The boy, or should I say young man,  is now six months old.  He really pretty much looks like a grown up and although he’s still growing it has slowed down considerably.  He's 51cms at the shoulder which is 1cm taller than Sonic was at the same age.  All his health tests have now been done…drum roll….all good news!  Because of my nervousness around potential hips dysplasia and no testing behind Veto’s parents I took him to Applecross Vet so I could get the PennHip procedure done.  Although his hips aren’t perfect he is in the median border collie range and the result good enough that the likelihood of him developing HD is fairly low.  It’s not impossible but I’m happy with unlikely.  When he is two or three I’ll get standard hip x-rays done to make sure that there have been no major changes.  It’s a huge relief.  Spending the next two years putting in hundreds of hours training him only to find out his hips are bad was not in my plan.  I received his registration papers back from the Queensland Working Cattle Dog Trial Association so I sent off a DNA sample to Orivet to get his DNA testing done.  More good news with everything coming back clear and as I suspected he carries tri which is a nice bonus if I do ever decide to breed from him.

Veto - 6 months
Training is going well enough.  Now I’ve restricted our outside sessions to the puppy pen things are much easier and a lot more successful.  A clear sign that his puppy boy brain was in no way ready for the stimulus of the agility area.   His retrieve is for the most part pretty good.  Inside he will happily bring back anything that you throw for him.  Outside it’s not guaranteed but a huge improvement on what it was.  When we train outside I'm focusing on games that mean high level rewards and relationship building.  His recall when I take him out by himself is brilliant.  When I say his name the dirt will fly as he spins and comes racing straight back to me. Yay!  But when he's out with the other dogs is another story all together.  I always do some work before he's allowed off with them and I won't release him until I'm happy that he's paying attention but it can be a bit of a challenge.  I so love watching him run with Sonic.  Ve's keeping up with him now which is pretty impressive because Sonic is no slouch on the flat.  So he gets a couple of runs with them a week and the rest is just the two of us.  It is nice to hang out just the two of us.  One thing I do know is that Veto is definitely going to be a late maturer...

The emotional roller coaster that is Cassie’s agility journey continues with no sign of it changing anytime soon.  She really is a trial to trial proposition.  I have no idea until trial day what mood she is in or if she thinks she may like to do agility or not.  At the Northern Suburbs trial she just didn’t want to know about agility all day.  Although she went over the first obstacle made a bee line for the tunnel where she hid until I called her back out.  Then at the ACWA trial she was high as a kite and running like a rocket.  She was nowhere near a clear round but she seemed to be having fun and clowning around.  At Gosnells on the weekend she did a stunning jumping run with just an off course tunnel, but the agility she was over it and didn't want to run.  She is entered in a couple more ANKC trials and then I’m going to do ADAA with her for a while so I can reward in the ring as required.  It’s the only thing I can think of to do.  And of course there is never any pressure on her to run.  If she doesn’t want to run then we don’t.  At this stage Nationals next year is looking like an unlikely prospect, but I shall soldier on and see what happens.  Life wasn't meant to be easy...

I've had some really fun runs with Sonic lately.  He's still only doing one trial a month to make sure he stays sound.  More often than not he knocks a bar during his run but he always tries so hard and loves it so much.  It was quite a thrill to get a 3rd in Masters Jumping behind two of our super fast 500 dogs and beat some much younger and very fast dogs.  Not bad for a going on 8 year old with HD.  And finally we finished off our Strat Pairs Masters title with a little help from Simone and the Mighty Spryte.  Nice to get another Masters title done and dusted!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Getting High

The youngster is five months old today. He is starting to look more and more like a grown up. I measured him last week because it was obvious he had shot up a bit and he was about 48cm so still keeping up with what Sonic was at the same age. Surprisingly he hasn't really gone gangly at all. He's pretty much stayed in proportion the whole time. His registration papers arrived from the Queensland Working Cattle Dog Trial Association last week so now he is officially "Waddy's Velocity".

Training him is as usual, an up and down affair. Some days I find myself saying "wow, what a great session" and then the very next session I'm quite likely to be saying "wow...that was terrible". The success of any given training session is often contingent on my ability to keep him sub-threshold. Once the boy is over aroused I may as well find something else to do because training him is a waste of all of our time. So if I want to do some training outside with him it's best to control his activity leading up to it. Then I have separate sessions where we work on him being able to function with there are distractions going on around us. It's a slow process but he's getting better at bringing himself under control and re-focusing. It's not going to be a quick process though. Overall he is a really nice puppy. His main issue is controlling himself with his boisterousness a bit like a lethal weapon. I was worried that he wasn't getting enough of our time so now we have "Veto" time each day when all the other dogs are put outside and he gets to hang with us by himself. He's a very sweet boy but you often don't get a chance to see it because he's so busy leaping all over the place. At some point he needs to learn to co-exist with everyone minus the jumping on them, so he is also spending time on lead chilling out on a dog bed while we are watching TV.  But being only five months old, he has a fairly limited window for sitting quietly just yet... 

We aren't doing anything super exciting training wise. I'm working on teaching him directionals and to understand verbal cues. Directionals take ages (plus he's a boy) so I figure the earlier we start that the better. His retrieve is pretty good now but I am trying to improve the speed with which he brings it back. I want an out to get and straight back to me and that's not always what I get, so by incorporating SG's "Cookie in a corner" game it's starting to look how I want it. His body awareness is not bad and he is probably the best at doing some of the exercises out of all of my dogs. He finally gets how to wrap. I was really surprised how long he took to understand that. I tried lots of different things to help him to understand what I wanted and for a while I was wondering if he was every going to get it. But now that he has I can even get multi-wraps from him so that's fun. I very rarely see the shut down signals from him anymore which is a relief. I can't remember the last time he left work or started scratching during a session so that has also been great to see. There is hope for us yet! 

The Cassie pants is still giving me some interesting challenges. She is so amazing at training now and couldn't be more up and keen if she was a rocket. But still the lack of confidence in the trial situation. In between things not going hugely well she has managed a couple of Q's including finishing off her Excellent Agility title. Feels like it's been a long time coming but when you consider that she was out for six months of last year and when she was trialling I missed a lot of runs with her, it probably only took 6 months in all. Some runs she is good and seems confident and happy, then other runs she wants to be anywhere but in the ring. I actually feel like I'm at a point where I need to be able to reward her in the ring in order to move forward. I've entered an ADAA trial next weekend so I can just do a few jumps and then reward her. So will see if that helps. If she doesn't want to run we just leave and I don't make a big deal about it. There is no pressure at all on her to run if she is feeling overwhelmed. It's definitely frustrating but it is what it is so all I can do is manage it and try and keep her as happy as I can.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Learning Curve

It occurred to me that I have no video of Veto other than when he first arrived, playing outside with Fizz. So time to time to rectify that! It's so nice to have something to look back on when they are grown-ups and remember what they were like as babies because they grow up way too fast. Training is an up and down affair. Every time I think I've worked through something with him and give myself a pat on the back he throws something else at me that I have to work through. Plenty of times I've questioned my ability to train a dog like him. Sonic was full on as a pup but mostly just by being an over excitable dork. Veto is not quite as silly as Sonic was (and still is...) but what Ve throws at you is a lot of dog. We are at a point where he's no longer allowed free access in the house at all. While I'm not too bothered about him playing with Fizz he is way too boisterous for Cassie to handle. The problem is that Cassie is such a bossy madam and is more than happy to start a game, but was getting hurt once he got over the top. He doesn't mean to hurt her and there is nothing malicious in it, he's just too much dog for her right now and when he gets over aroused he totally loses control. In a way it's probably a good thing that I've restricted his access because of Cassie. Otherwise it's too easy to let him run around and play with Fizz constantly. I'm not sure that is what he really needs, so the enforced restrictions are probably for the best right now anyway. I also finally measured Veto the other day out of curiosity and he’s almost exactly the same as Sonic was at this age. So I’m guessing he will end up a similar height to Sonic when he’s fully grown.

Finally I'm having some good retrieve success. It's taken a few weeks but after following Silvia Trkman's method I worked on shaping him to pick up a variety of things and put them in a container. Sure enough once he was proficient at that I put my hand out and got a toy delivered to my hand. Good boy Ve :) We are still working up to high value toys because playing with the toy has more value to him than the food, but I'm relieved that even when we are playing tug with a tug toy he is now much more inclined to bring it back to me to restart a game of tug. I've ended up doing quite a bit of ST's stuff from her Puppy DVD. Lots of easy to teach fun games that have an emphasis on body awareness. Interestingly Ve does have a tendency to shut down on me through some of the shaping sessions not unlike To was for Silvia. He can lose focus and start sniffing if he’s unsure. So it's been challenging working through that and understanding what he needs to keep him engaged. Fortunately increasing value of rewards and increasing the rate of reinforcement if he finds something difficult has worked really well. Like To was in the DVD he would start out really strong and you'd think he was all over it, but then suddenly he'd disengage and leave. It's nice when you have enough knowledge to have a quick resolution to what you are presented with each time you have a training session!

Veto started his journey with us being very intense and focused on me. So part of the work I've been doing with him is bringing some balance in without it going too much the other way, as in him finding everything more exciting than me... I almost had a heart attack a couple of weeks ago when for the first time I decided to take them all for a run around the property with the weather cooling off. I stupidly put him on a harness and lived to regret it within two minutes of leaving the house. He literally stood on his hind legs while galloping, his front legs waving wildly in the air and screaming at the top of his lungs. I was barely able to physically hold him. Kind of scary when he had never gone for a run with the other dogs around the fire break before so no reinforcement history for it. In the end the best I could do was get all the other dogs to lie down quietly so I could work with him. It took a while to wait him out but he finally calmed down enough and started responding to basic commands. Once I got that I let him have a run. While we were walking, any time he came up to either Colin or I he got rewarded and we made no attempt to call his name or catch him. The rest of the walk was uneventful and he slept like a log afterwards which was a nice bonus. Since then he only goes out with his little Halti on that I bought just in case I had an issue like this and he has to do some work before he's allowed off lead. I'm pretty happy that he will do a little bit of heel work and respond to commands now even when the other dogs are free but it takes varying degrees of time for him to be able to get his brain to work. Then of course for something new, his latest is to run back towards us flat out and straight into Cassie's face. Managed to stop that one pretty quickly by throwing a treat on the ground in front of him just before he got to us. That turned into running to my hand for the treat. Then I couldn't get rid of the little sucker who wanted to hang around for another treat! So overall I'm pleased with his progress and that he is choosing to come back and check in rather than spending his whole time herding the other dogs. But as is the way I’m sure it will be an up and down process for a while yet. Next will be starting to take some of this stuff away from home and see how he goes. He still needs to spend a lot more time going to new places and socialising.

Last weekend was our annual State Agility Trial. I didn’t have any idea how it would go and in particular how Cassie would cope. It ended up being more challenging in an emotional sense than any other with the news of my Grandad passing away on the Saturday night. So my struggles with Cassie felt huge at the time but on reflection (and reviewing the video) things weren’t really that bad. I just felt a bit down in general. No clean runs which added to my sense of everything going wrong but overall Cassie ran really well. She is handling the ring entrances with confidence and is showing no signs of concern when the lead steward comes over. No yawning or lip licking to be seen. The only thing that worried me a bit was that for one of the runs she wasn’t releasing with as much keenness as I’d like to see. Given that any actual release work I’ve done has been minimal in comparison to all the ring entrances it’s not surprising that there is still some work to be done there. It just means that now I will start to put more emphasis on the release at training and less on the ring entrances. And not helping things was that Cassie was pretty flat on day two. I had made sure they all had a quiet night on Saturday so she should have been well rested but I just don’t think she wanted to be there. So something else to think about in preparing her for Nationals which always run over multiple days. One step at a time!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Growing Up

Puppies truly are exhausting!  Young Veto is keeping me very busy and our previously experienced calm evenings pe-Veto gone for the time being.  My cute little sleepy puppy has been replaced by a long legged, crazy eared adolescent who has taken over the house.  The boys still dislike him but fortunately the girls are happy to contribute to his entertainment.   

Veto has really got the hang of the whole shaping thing now and is learning really quickly.  Mostly we do body awareness games, go to mat games, and recallers games.  I don't really have anything specific I'm focusing on other than him learning to wait/be released and teaching him to retrieve.  At the moment his idea of a good time with a toy is having a game for one with it, but I must admit he has over the last few days started bringing it back, albeit intermittently.  I'm working on teaching him a formal retrieve to speed things up as bunking off with a toy is right up there on my list of most annoying thing your dog can do.  However I figure that if I can teach Cassie to bring her toy back Veto should be a push over... Overall he's a really lovely dog.  There is plenty of naughtiness in him and when he's amped it's a case of baton down the hatches but I'm sure I'll have a lot of fun with him.

Things are going really well with Cassie's ring rehab.  So far we have run in two classes and both have had very successful ring entries.  The first time back in the ring was at the Western Classic where I ended up scratching her from the Masters Jumping class (the course was just not right for her) but ran her in Excellent Agility.  She has an amazing run but thanks to my lazy handling she missed a tunnel entry which gave us a refusal and then DQ.  Her start line was superb and her confidence was high.  At the next trial she was flat as a tack earlier in the evening (for reasons only known to Cassie) and nothing I did could get her engaged for her Excellent Agility class so I scratched her.  I had made a decision after finishing the Ring Confidence course that unless she is 100% with me then I'm not running her.  So it was my commitment to that decision kicking in.  After having such a flat dog I had thought there was no way she was going to be OK for Masters Jumping.  Fortunately before she was due in that ring one of the other rings finished so I was able to use the ring ropes to work on happy ring entrances.  After two or three rewards she was fired up and happy as Larry so I decided that we would give the Masters course a try.  Thank goodness we did as she was fantastic and ended up going clear and winning the class, 12 seconds clear of second place.   It certainly confirmed that the decision to scratch her from the earlier class was the right one.

Such a relief to have some success back in the ring and have a dog who is happy and confident again.  She is still improving in leaps and bounds.  At training she is a different dog.  Not that she didn't work for me at training before doing the Fenzi School courses but it's a different attitude in her that I see now.  I never start training her until she asks me to so I have a dog who can't wait to get started and actually pushes me to get on with it.  And I never give her more energy than she gives me, so I'm not trying to "gee" her up anymore.  She isn't showing the same turn of speed in the ring that I'm getting at training but hopefully I'll start to see that soon.  I'm still working hard on our proofing exercises at training particularly with the lead steward.  Cassie seems totally non-phased by the judges presence but still needs to look when the lead steward comes to get her lead.  So at training, with the ring gates set up I've been getting people to follow us in nice and close and even leaning over Cassie to take the lead so that she is proofed against even the most obtrusive ring steward we could come across!

Our next trial is at Cloverdale next weekend.  Whether we go or not will depend on the weather as it's our first day trial for the year and at this time of year the weather could go either way.  Then after that is the States in mid-April.  I'm trying not to put too much pressure on myself with that one.  I would so dearly love for Cassie to do well and she deserves to be up there as she is such a talented little dog.  I just have to try and keep the pressure off and my mental game at the ready to make sure I continue to do a better job managing her and keeping her 100% happy!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Introducing Veto

Finally after what seems like a really, really long wait, my new border collie puppy has joined us.  I spent most of last year waiting for a litter that never eventuated after the bitch either never got pregnant or reabsorbed.  I was pretty disappointed as I am a huge fan of both the bitch and dog, however obviously it was just not meant to be.  It was fortunate that there were a few other options around with some very nice litters planned for the end of last year.  A pup from any of those litters would have been great but this time round I had my heart set on working lines with a more leggy type who was full on and ready for some fun.  And of course after waiting most of last year for a pup who never came I wasn't going to look at anything until a litter was on the ground!

Veto (8 weeks)
So on 19th February little Veto arrived.  He is a super sweet little guy who is full of life, loves people, a good cuddle.  He also loves papillon ears and tails...but can be convinced to play tug with toys instead.  He had a pretty crappy trip over from NSW between flights being cancelled and then delayed.  Note to self, next time go and get him myself!  He had a very upset tummy for days and his skin got all itchy.  So he had a trip tot he vet and came home with a months worth of antibiotics to sort things out.

Cassie and Veto (8 weeks)
The dogs have taken a bit of time to warm to him.  In fact Riot and Sonic still haven't warmed to him, but I did see Sonic wag his tail at him the other morning.  Before telling him to go away.  He's been good for Fizz and she loves playing with him.  When she's in the mood anyway!  Cassie was really not amused to begin with.  She'd prefer not to share me and my attentions.  But she does like playing with him, he just gets a little too rough for her so I have to step in every now and again to bring things to a stop.  She has enthusiastically introduced him to pappy zoomies.

Veto - ears going up (9 weeks)
 Overall he is everything I could have asked for in a puppy with all the attributes that I am looking for.  Health wise things are good from a DNA perspective with his father clear of all the standard border collie genetic problems.  I will at some point do all the DNA tests just to make sure he isn't a carrier of anything as his mum is untested.  But that doesn't really matter unless I want to breed from him.  He will be PenHipped at sixteen weeks so I can be confident that his hips are going to be OK.  I have no reason to think they won't be but after the frustration and disappointment of Sonic's hips dysplasia I want to be sure that Veto's is going to have a long and sound career with a lot less of the heartbreak.   

Cassie - apparently not amused...
For now his life is all about having fun and getting to know each other.  We have joined puppy class at the local vet to make sure he gets a nice rounded socialisation program which doesn't only involve going to agility training and trials.  I just want to make sure he can handle anything he may come across, not just the agility environment.  He has a great appetite so teaching him new stuff is easy and he tries really hard to earn his food and of course he loves his toys.  Over the years I've come to the realisation that acquiring a gifted agility dog is somewhat of a lottery.  All the planning and care taken to select a "super agility dog" when they are puppies is really all guess work and could likely make not one iota of difference.  So I'm just going to enjoy him for now and we'll see what happens!