Thursday, 29 May 2008

More Training

I picked up some really useful plastic clips to turn broomsticks into jumps while we were at Worcester the other week. Now Finns agility training kit includes flowerpots, broomsticks, electric fence posts and a wind break! The poles from the windbreak are already sharpened to a point to stick in the ground for the supports and the broomsticks rest on the clips attached to them. Electric fence posts make good weaving poles and the flowerpots with numbers painted on them mark out the course. My agility equipment now comprises of 1 home made long jump, 9 weaving poles and five jumps. I am trying to set up a different exercise every day and even with this restricted amount of equipment it is surprising how much variation can be achieved with a little thought. The main difficulty is setting everything up when there are no children around to 'help' as I have to use the communal green outside my house. There is an additional problem at the moment as we have workmen digging up the road to replace the watermains, so far we seem to be providing entertainment during their teabreak.It's all good practice in ignoring distractions. Passing neighbours like to stop and watch and comment on how good he is! (If they ever watched a show they would realise how much work we need to do), but I suppose compared to the average dog on the estate who is never trusted off the lead he is good: most of the time. Also my 2 cats Tara and Smudge like to help by providing distractions which are not always ignored.
Inbetween exercises I do a bit of obedience to give us a bit of time to get our breath back, or I'll put him in a down stay while I sort the next exercise out. I like to have a complicated bit to the exercise to make him think, followed by a simple bit so that after a period of concentration he can relax with a quick blast down a straight line and work off any frustration if he doesn't quite understand what I want him to do. Most of all I want it to be FUN.

Yesterday was quite busy workwise so it was getting late by the time we could do any training so I decided just to do obedience. For a change I thought I'd use the clicker. I've not really been a great fan of this method of training up until now, (probably because I'm not any good at it) but Finn seemed to really enjoy it, so perhaps I'd better get used to it.
I went to a clicker training day a few years ago, one of the things we had to do was split up into pairs with one of the pair being the dog and the other the handler. The dog had to work out what the handler wanted without being told. It was really hard, but it made us realise just how much we expect of our dogs when we tell them to do something in what to them is a foreign language and just how inteligent they are to actually work out what we want them to do.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Car boot sale

Well the car boot season is upon us again. I like to take Finn to our local venue to accustom him to being amongst lots of people and also to help people realise the reputation G.S.Ds have got is only deserved in the minority of cases, it's amazing the number of people who see a G.S.D. and think 'It's a wolf, I'm going to be eaten'. So with our ambassador fo the breed hat on we went to the car bootsale last Sunday. There weren't that many people, or stalls, there as it happened. A friend came with us and took the following videos of us walking round, making new friends and relaxing afterwards. Finn really loves going, it's a real social occaision for him, he really enjoys all the attention he gets . The lady in the refreshment van gave him a sausage and was impressed by how gently he took it! I think it is a vital part of a dogs training program to be exposed to as many situations as possible to enable him to become fully confidant in himself, and I take Finn everywhere I can. I'm often told he is better behaved than a lot of children, but I believe you only get back what you put in.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Finn's Second Show

We made it to Worcester for Finn's second show at the weekend, after lots of panicking about fuel prices and the state of personal finances. Incidentally I filled up at our local petrol station at £1.22 a litre, prices enroute ranged upto £1.32 a litre. How can this variation in price be justified? The round trip was 270 miles and I used just over 1/2 a tank. We went up on Friday night, camping at the venue, with other members of Cantref Gwaelod, the agility club we belong to. (There is a legend attached to the name which I will tell you another time). We had stopped at Halfway, one of our favorite stopping places, on the way and Finn had a good run in the forestry there. After putting the tent up we had a walk with Beryl and Tansy, a red merle australian shepherd, and then had dinner.

Finn was really good in the tent overnight. I took his new favorite toy, a fairly lifelike mallard whose quack mercifully didn't last too long! When I woke up in the morning he was washing it. After breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon and homemade bread there were courses to walk, for those people who had entered all the classes they could. Somehow I missed entering one, so I didn't have anything to do for most of the morning, except watch. Finn found this very frustrating as he thought he could do it much better than anyone else!!! Eventually my first course was ready to walk. Oh my God, what had I let myself into I thought on the first walking,but after going round and round several times I thought Hey this is a nice course and was really looking forward to running it. About 1/2 an hour into it, long before our turn came (our running order was 194) the class had to be stopped as the judges wife had fallen in another ring and had to go to hospital, naturally the judge went with her. Another judge was found,the course altered and re walked and the class restarted. It was well after lunch when we finally got to run. Of course we were eliminated but he tried his best which is all I ask of him (apart from expecting him to enjoy himself of course). He fell off the dog walk because he didn't steady himself properly, but it didn't phase him and he went back and did it properly, even getting the contact at the end! Then went on to fly the see saw! The second class was a lot simpler and after totally demolishing the first jump and getting E'd for backjumping he did a lovely round.

The rain which had been threatening allday finally came down just as we were having a final run round the exercise field before coming home, so the tent was WET. We left the field at 5.30 and arrived home without stopping at 8.45. Apparently it had been wet all day at home!

I've just been back to the garage I filled up aat on Friday and diesel is now £1.26 thjat's 4 pence in 4 days.

Here are some early morning pictures around the showground, taken at the same venue 4 years ago when I was competing with my 2 previous dogs, Jax and Kelly.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

On Training

We were walking along a narrow path in our local woods this morning. Finn was off in front when I heard barking round the corner. Usually when people are approaching on a narrow path I get Finn to sit at the side while they pass- not everyone appreciates 7 stone of German Shepherd hurtling towards them with a little voice in the background yelling 'He IS friendly'! Finn was waiting at the side of the path with 2 collies barking their heads off at him, the owner making no attempt to control them. When I stood next to Finn waiting for her to pass the dogs were jumping all over me. The only form of 'apology' I got was 'One of them's deaf so it's no good saying anything' !!!! I don't mind dogs jumping at me, but not everyone feels the same, and I can't help what the reaction would be if it had been the other way round. Finn would probably be classed as a dangerous dog and I would be taken to court for failing to keep him under control.

On a brighter note, we went to one of our favorite beaches on our way to work this afternoon. It is situated on the estuary of the river Teifi, so there is both river and sea. Finn loves swimming and we spent quite a lot of time retrieving sticks from the river. The tide was coming in and the current was quite strong- good muscle building exercise. We walk around the headland but can't get very far because of the incoming tide. On the way back we do some training, practicing instant downs, sits and stays. As I said before it is one of our favorite dogfriendly beaches and sometimes at the end of the walk Finn is enjoying himself so much he doesn't want it to end, but today he is so focused on what we are doing he has his lead put on with no problem. In my opinion, the key to getting the best from your dog is to be the most interesting thing in his world. Not the easiest thing I admit.
When Finn was about 10 m0nths old a friend took him for a walk, he slipped his collar, instead of walking the other way and letting him come back, the friend and all the children in the road had a grand game of chase trying to catch him, the result was he thought this was a game Mum should learn to play consequently we had a period during which at the end of the walk, he would sudenly say 'You can't catch me'. At the height of this phase it could take up to 2 hours to catch him, which isn't fun after a walk of 1 1/2 hours! I must admit on this particular occaision I did everything the books tell you not to do!
To break him of the habit I went right back to basics, concentrating on sit and stay and forgetting recalls, the theory being to focus on making him proud of the things I knew he would do and not giving him the chance not to come when he was called. Recalls were done on a long tracking lead and we had a week of walks on the tracking lead. The first few walks off the lead always had a gate at the end so he could show off how clever he was sitting waiting at the gate. With patience and making lead work fun we have come through the phase and are able to enjoy our walks offlead and even have people say how good he is, if only they knew!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Finn & Friend

Thought you might like these pictures of Finn and Smudge. They really are friends.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

All In A Days Work

Finn comes to work with me most of the time. I'm a milk recorder, which means I visit farms at milking times and take samples of each cows milk to be tested for quality. It means early morning starts and late evenings, but it also means I have the middle of the day to spend with Finn and the horses. I love my job and most of all I love the little hill farms, which are rapidly going out of business, giving over to the larger,more intensive farms. The farm I was at this morning is one of the former, all the cows are known by name and it was as I was doing the paperwork I noticed Bluebell had been sold. I found this quite sad as in all farms in childrens storybooks have a cow called Bluebell, Which got me thinking about modern childrens stories. Line no.2556 stood in the cowshed eating silage thoughtfully. The was coming today with samples from FH2806, a suitor she'd never seen nor ever would. She yawned. She might kick the, but really she had no choice in the matter. This doesn't have quite the same ring as Bluebell stood in the field grazing speculatively. Bertram the bull was waiting in the next field. Her eyes sparkled with anticipation, she might make him chase her round the field a few times, but really he had no choice in the matter.

On the way home we stopped for a walk in the Ty Canol nature reserve, a mixture of moorland, pasture and ancient oak woodland. I find it a magical place with lichen covered rocky outcrops and a carpet of bluebells. The difficult tarrain prevented it being cleared and a unique flora, rich in lichens, mosses and ferns have evolved. There are nearly 400 species of lichen growing here, almost a quarter of all British species. The woodland is managed by allowing sheep and cattle to graze here. Some trees are felled others coppiced and certain areas have grazing animals temporarily excluded allowing the woodland to regenerate naturally. It was a beautiful day, the perfect end to the walk provided by a pair of Peregrine falcons soaring over the rocky outcrops on the way back to the

Monday, 5 May 2008

Visiting Friends

Finn went to see his friend Jake today, thought you might like this video clip.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Finn's First Show

Finn is my 2 year old German Shepherd who has been my companion since he was 8 weeks old. I am totally besotted with him and would like to share his world with anyone who is interested. This is my first attempt at blogging so please be patient.
I believe every dog should have something to occupy his mind other than being just a pet, we do agility. We went to our first outdoor show yesterday, we've been to a couple of small indoor, club shows but this was THE REAL THING with not just one but EIGHT rings running at once- lots of opportunity for an adventurous pup to cause havoc! I was a bit aprehensive to say the least, in fact I nearly chickened out.
However the alarm was set for 4am and we hit the road at 5. We had a good clear journey there and arrived in plenty of time to walk the course and have a good run before it was time to start. We had 4 classes to compete in,1 jumping, 1pairs and 2 agility which include seesaws, dogwalks and A-frames, (the dogs have to go right on to the colored section of equipment and if they jump off too soon are penalised. in the case of the seesaw it has to touch the ground before they get off), as well as the usual jumps, tunnels and weaving poles. The first class was an agility one. We had a wonderful time running through the tunnel several more times than were actually required, leaping over those bright yellow bits and scattering jumps left right and centre, but we did stay in the ring we were meant to be in. The pairs were very exciting, our partner went first and I went flat on my face as Finn tried to go with her, when it was our turn we flew round after being eliminated for doing the tunnel before we were meant to! We were eliminated in our other 2 classes aswell, but he tried his best which is all you can ask for.
We have a lot to learn together, how to read each others body language and build confidence in each other. That's half the fun of it, building the relationship and learning to work as a team.
We finished before lunch and spent the afternoon relaxing round the rings watching other dogs running and then had a good walk over the mountains as a reward on the way home. I'm glad I didn't chicken out and am looking forward to the next show at Worcester in 2 weeks time. We will be camping overnight for that one.
I didn't take my camera yesterday, but here are a couple of videos from our first indoor show at Llanelli in February. As you can see we have a long way to go.