Jilly's Blog is now morphing into the dog blog
Earlier entries for Jilly's blog can be found here. It includes lots of training notes.
Training Notes and ideas for puppy training and puppy equipment can be found in Jilly's training pages
Wednesday 19th July - Off we go to Wag It Games - No Need For Speed
It was our first day at a new class and Jilly was really keen. We'd decided to have a go at Wag It Games. We both like any sort of new training and when the class started our first task was to do the box walk. It looked easy. Well it would if you've never done it before. All Jilly had to do was to walk along a series of plastic boxes stepping into and out of each one. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. Ahem, not for an agility dog. Yes, I know, 'Go' usually means take off like a bat out of hell and don't stop till you get to the end but in this case it didn't work. The boxes slipped and Jilly couldn't step into each one at all. Whoops!
We had to slow down and take it calm and easy and concentrate on accuracy rather than speed. Something we've failed to do in agility so far and it's costing us dear. We're collecting e's like there's no tomorrow and there has to be a reason.
In agility people watching can say what went wrong at the point we were e'd but not where we've gone wrong for the whole year. And then I spoke to someone who said she thought we concentrating on speed rather than accuracy and as a result we were making mistakes.
'It's happening all the time,' she said, 'lots of people are going for speed but it doesn't always work.'
It was definitely food for thought and so I looked at the results from a few shows held earlier in 2017 and sure enough I wasn't the only one collecting e's and faults. On one day at a show there were 21 classes and in 10 of those classes there were people who were placed with faults as there weren't enough clears. It certainly did look as if some of us might be trying to go a bit too fast.
Maybe that sounds a bit simplistic and maybe I'm wrong but I've decided to spend some time training for accuracy rather than speed and the Wag It Games are an ideal place to start.
We had a lot more tasks in the Wag It Games 'no need for speed class.' These included putting a toy in a basket, circling round a cone, sending to a mat, pushing a plastic cylinder along the floor, and stepping up and down on a platform. Each one needed to be carefully thought out and executed and Jilly turned out to be quite good at using her brain once she'd got over the idea of rushing everything in these exercises.
Many thanks to our brilliant trainer Melissa Chapman for the videos.
Wag It Games covers a huge range of tasks and games designed to keep dogs happy and to keep humans occupied keeping their dogs happy.
There are many exercises to learn in the 'No need for speed' section using hoops, tunnels, gym balls and cones and much more equipment but we just started with the basics and Jilly loved it. Some of the exercises were similar to those we do when starting agility but there's no harm in repeating the exercises throughout a dog's working life.
Wag It Games also satisfies my need to be making something or inventing something all the time. The cylinder that has to be pushed along, for instance is made from plastic drainpipe so it's going to be 'Wey hey, Freecycle here I come with another want.'
Monday 19th June - When is it too hot to go to a show?
When it was like it was yesterday, round about 27C. As luck would have it though, there was a little gentle breeze on an otherwise scorching day. The dogs were cool enough in the shaded car with the tailgate and windows open. They had plenty to drink and the shading was moved to keep the sun off them. They were actually cooler than they are at home on a hot day but the biggest problem was they couldn't get out of the car and go for regular walks as it was just too darned hot.
Jilly was fine over her first two courses but on the third one near the end of the day she developed a peculiar jumping style. Either the sun was coming from a direction that made it more difficult for her to judge the poles or she was suffering from the day in the car. Either way we won't do it again.
Sasha was fine. She would have loved to jump in and out of the car all day and go for walks but she couldn't. She loved her any size run but I can't say the same for her poor human. We had four jumps at the start and then a straight tunnel, oh dear. Sasha went off like a bat out of hell and as soon as she bolted out of the tunnel she looked round for further directions. Poor dog. All she saw was her human still staggering drunkenly past jump 2 and wondering what sort of direction to give her. Shouting 'go on' was no good because she was facing completely the wrong way. On reflection 'Hang on and wait for me,' might have been better. In the absence of any direction whatsoever Sasha used her initiative and went round and did the tunnel again. She belted round the rest of the course at about 90 miles an hour completely unaware that the human had cocked it up again and oblivious to the hot weather. She loved it.
I shan't stay at show again in boiling hot weather. We'll do a couple of runs and go home. That's enough for us.
Friday 16th June - A tale of two agility dogs and three cars
What sort of car is best for agility dogs? Ha ha ha ha ha. In our case one that goes.
A few weeks ago we said goodbye to our beloved gold Berlingo. It had served us well for nine years and was perfect for two dogs and all our stuff. We had Sasha's big cage in the back and Jilly sat in the space between the cage and the tailgate guard. Brilliant. The poor old car was starting to fall to pieces though. I mean bits were literally dropping off. I'd had to bolt a hose on to stop a fearful rattling and a friendly mechanic managed to fix up the oil filter that was hanging down somewhere near the road. It had been welded and fixed and welded and fixed but when the whole instrument cluster failed and we couldn't buy a new one that was it. The Berlingo had to go. Someone bought it for carrying bales of hay round their farm. We still had the little Fiat Panda though.
The Panda was ok for space with the rear seat rest taken out. I checked it was ok with the insurance company first. They get the hump if you modify your car and don't tell them. There wasn't room for a cage and another dog in the back so Jilly and Sasha had to sit together. They aren't too keen on this at shows as Sasha gets a bit excited and jumps all over Jilly and Jilly ends up biting her. If you have a little Panda and two dogs it can work. I was able to put Sasha in the back and Jilly in the front when we got to the show and all was fine. Our trouble was the little Panda wasn't fine. It wasn't very old and had only done 20000 miles. Never be fooled by low mileage though. Our brakes seized because the car wasn't used enough and after spending £500 getting them fixed and putting new tyres on all round we thought we were okay right? Wrong!
The little Panda soon started overheating. The garage had said the thermostat was probably faulty but when they looked at it properly they decided it was more likely the water pump. An overnight pressure test however gave the worst possible news. Water was going into the engine and the car had a cracked cylinder head. The likely cost of repair could be around £1500. We left the car with them and they took it to the local action room for us where it was sold.
Meanwhile we had actually bought a Kangoo to replace the Berlingo. (I hope you're keeping up with this. Our breakdown company isn't. The man on the phone seems to be having a breakdown every time we ring.) I'd gone to buy a bag of kindling at the time and came back with a car.
I'd left the Panda at the garage but now that it was sold we only had the Kangoo and it was doing strange things. The doors locked and unlocked by themselves and within a few days the engine management light refused to go out and the car was a bit difficult to start. If you're thinking of buying a Kangoo spacewise it's great. I could put Sasha's big cage at the back and Jilly sat between the cage and the seats. The Kangoo doesn't have all the bits of storage space that the Berlingo does and be warned. If you have a tailgate guard that fits a Berlingo it won't fit a Kangoo. Our car was a 1.5 diesel and it was so economical we thought the fuel guage was stuck. It still locked and unlocked the doors though and that light that wouldn't go out.
We took it back to the garage for repair and for a few days it was fine. Then the problems started again so we took it a back a second time. This time it was in the car hospital for a couple of days and when we got it back it was fine for a whole week before we heard the dreaded clunk clunk of the doors locking and unlocking. A couple of days later the wretched computer shouted 'something wrong, something wrong.' This time we took it back and left it there.
As luck would have it we'd been driving down our road just before we took the Kangoo back when we noticed a neighbour had a 'for sale' notice on a car. The neighbour is a mechanic. We stopped and looked at it and it was perfect for us for the time being. It's a Mitsubishi Space Star. It was elderly but it was cheap and within a couple of days it was mine. I can get Jilly's cage in the back and there's plenty of room for Sasha between the cage and the front seats.
So what now? What's the best car for agility dogs? Well, we couldn't fault the Berlingo. We know loads of agility people who have them and they hang onto them. They're fantastic if you have two or three collies although I do know someone who used to put four dogs in the back of theirs and they were fine. Ours wasn't all that cheap to run. The road tax was £240 a year and it wasn't particularly economical on fuel. Would we have another one? You bet. If I can find one anywhere for sale it's mine. It's got my name on it.
Another car that agility people love is the Skoda Roomster. These cars are really spacious but very economical at the same time.
The Peugeot partner is similar to the Berlingo and then of course there's the Fiat Doblo. I don't want another Fiat but that's my personal preference.
If you are going to buy a car for agility dogs and you want a tailgate guard bear in mind that they cost in the region of £300 each. I haven't sold the guard we had in the Berlingo. It's waiting for the next one to come along. Also bear in mind that if you have fixed cages built into the car it's a modification and you have to let the insurance company know.
Another thing to think about is a warranty. We had two months warranty on the Kangoo so the repairs were free. When it needed repairs for a third time there was no problem getting our money back. The garage took £200 off for our use for a month and they are quite within their rights to do this. It's only fair. We'd done quite a lot of mileage in it. If you buy privately you don't have so much protection.
Now, If anyone has a Berlingo for sale and lives in Cornwall do let us know. It has to be cheap and reliable.
Wednesday 7th December - The quickest exit from a dog show ever
We had only done one run at the November Dartmoor show when we got a life changing phone call that meant we had to dash away. The dogs were not impressed.
I was checking where everyone had got to in the LHO section of the grade 3 and 4 jumping and it was just about Sasha's turn to start queueing. Jilly had already had her first run over the course and although she did well she knocked a pole. I wanted to see how Sasha would do over the same course.
I was chatting to a friend and we were talking about hospitals. I was telling her how we have to take a phone everywhere and always answer every call as Bernie was on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.
'What would you do if you got the phone call here?' she asked and I said we would just have to drop everything and go. Just as I said it Bernie came into the riding school looking worried.
'I've just had a call from Derriford hospital and they think they've got a kidney for me,' he said. I knew he didn't want to go as it's a scary thing to do but I hurried him out of the riding school and back to the car.
With everyone wishing us good luck and me crying on my friend's shoulder we dropped everything and dashed off to the hospital. We were 50 miles from home but only about 25 miles from the hospital in Plymouth.
The dogs were not impressed with our rapid exit from their show but they put up with it stoically. In the late afternoon and early evening Bernie had a successful transplant and his new kidney is now working well.
To anyone in a similar situation hang on in there. A transplant is not without complications and it's early days yet. The body has to settle down to the idea that it now has a kidney and the bladder may have to be retrained to know what to do. There are endless drugs and visits to to clinics and this is very costly but worth it in the long run.
Unfortunately Bernie fell and broke his shoulder a couple of weeks after the op so he is still pretty much out of action. Nevertheless we're hoping that next year we can take the dogs on a proper holiday for the first time in four years. Who knows? We have been invited to the Isle of Harris so I'd better get the maps out and start planning.
Monday 12th September - We won out of grade 2
Hooray, we won into grade three at the weekend when Jilly won a grade two agility class. We had lots of fun, the judge was great fun and so were the ring party. Jilly got to play with her toy before and after the run and she got yummy treats and lots of praise. She achieved all of her ambitions in one go and was mighty pleased with herself. Here's her winning run.
Jilly just missed out on third place in the grade 1 and 2 jumping. She was going hell for leather round the ring but I slowed her at the jump before the weave. I know she's a very good dog but I don't want her going full pelt into the weave until she's learned how to do it at speed without slamming into it and hurting herself.
My little sweetie pie Sasha only did three runs over the weekend all at the lower height option and she loves this new game. She had clear rounds in the grade 1 and 2 jumping on both days and also a clear in the steeplechase.
Monday 12th September - How to win at agility
Your dog's ambitions are:-
To get the toy.
To get the yummy treat.
To get the toy and the yummy treat.
To have a game with the toy, eat the yummy treat and get lots of praise.
This is the be all and end all of agility and it's rather like playing on the beach or in the park.
Tuesday 6th September - What an eventful summer
We've had lots of fun over the summer and also lots of disappointment. The best bit was finding that both dogs could go over lower heights. This suits Jilly as she's quite small and it suits Sasha as she's nearly eleven years old.
In July Sasha won a lovely glass trophy and a red rosette for coming first in the jumping class.
This makes us grade two and third. We only need two more jumping wins or
one agility win to go into
Sasha in fine form winning a jumping class. She's nearly eleven and now doing LHO.
Disappointment was to follow however. Jilly and Sasha both went down with kennel cough and we had to miss the whole of our lovely local UKA show. We'd paid for entries for the whole six days so that was an expensive business. The main thing was that the dogs were ok. Jilly coughed for a week and then the cough became more occasional. After two weeks she'd stopped coughing but we had to wait another three weeks before we could go to any Kennel Club shows. Sasha didn't have the cough so badly thank goodness and she stopped coughing several days before Jilly.
Just a reminder, as someone told me they didn't know this and their dogs had been coughing. The Kennel Club rules are that if your dog has a contagious disease or has been in contact with another dog suffering from a contagious disease you have to wait for three weeks after they've shed the infection before you can go to any Kennel Club event.
We were actually allowed back into our pet training classes two weeks after the dogs had stopped coughing but we had to wait for longer for other classes. This is dependent on the trainer and what they allow. In the event no other dog caught kennel cough thank goodness and Jilly and Sasha are fine.
Our first day back was at a fun show held by the Labrador Trust. Jilly won the waggiest tail class (she wagged everything) and Sasha had a special rosette in the veterans class.
Our first day back at an agility show was at Merton in Devon where we had a lot of fun at the Dartmoor show. Sasha had three out of three clear rounds and she won a lovely glass trophy and a rosette for coming third in the jumping class.
Jilly had a lot of fun and she won a big biscuit in a fun recall challenge. The dogs had to run between bowls of food and doggy toys. Sasha just about managed this but she stopped look at the food so she wasn't very quick.
Our next show will also be in Devon and as it goes on over two days we have rented a caravan in Devon for the weekend. I hope the weather stays good.
Just a note. If you can't afford a nice tent/caravan/campervan and all the stuff you have to buy to go with it why not make a holiday out of one particular show and stay somewhere nearby for the weekend? I know it's great to stay with all your mates at the showground but for some of us it isn't an option. That doesn't mean to say you can't enjoy a little holiday somewhere and go to your favourite show at the same time. Have fun.
Wednesday 1st June - Jilly wins an Agility Class
Yay, after a couple of months of patient training Jilly has become much more confident on the see-saw and we actually won the grade 1 agility class at Barnstaple.
We followed our trainer's advice and did as many different see-saws as possible. I also did some training at home on our garden see-saw which is about two thirds the size of a competition see-saw and Jilly seems to be feeling much better about it.
Our other problem has been getting distracted in the ring at outdoor shows. Anyone with a spaniel or a spaniel cross will know about the spaniel nose. It's into everything and they need lots of encouragement to keep them focused. Hence spaniel handlers can appear to be totally bonkers at times. We found focus gets better with practice.
Here we are with our trophy and rosette at the Barnstaple show. Well done Jilly.
It was a very hot day and so the dogs only did three of their seven runs. Sasha has a gene that makes her prone to border collie collapse and this means that she can collapse if she does too much in the heat. She's never been able to do much in the way of training but what she does she really enjoys. It's quite hard work for little Jilly over full height jumps so we pulled out of the special classes we'd entered.
Here's our winning run. (Click anywhere on the image to see it on Youtube.)
Wednesday 13th April - Fear of the see-saw revisited
Since Jilly has become a bit frightened of the see-saw I've been working hard on it. She became frightened when a light aluminium see-saw came crashing down in an indoor riding school. It tipped faster than Jilly was expecting and the noise gave her a fright. This meant that she wouldn't go anywhere near a see-saw in the following few days and we had competitions coming up.
The first thing I did to help Jilly was to refurbish our garden see-saw and put it in the garden so that she saw it every time she went out. Next I shaped an approach to the see-saw using a clicker. If Jilly went close to it I clicked and treated. When she was fully confident I clicked and treated a nose touch and finally we worked up to putting paws on the dreaded thing. When doing this kind of training you might not get results immediately. It always takes time and you can't rush things.
The next stage was to put a stool and a balance cushion under each end of the see-saw. This meant the see-saw could rock but not come crashing down or make a scary noise. I encouraged Jilly to jump on it and play the see-saw game of running backwards and forwards. She was rewarded for tipping the see-saw and eventually she go to enjoy the game. After this I could take the balance cushions away and introduce the noise element.
When Jilly was thoroughly confident I took the stool away at one end so that Jilly would need to tip the see-saw down to the ground. Again there were lots of rewards. Finally we went over the garden see-saw as a normal see-saw. We practised on this every day and then I moved the see-saw down to our training ground and we practised down there.
Jilly had a bit of practice on the see-saw at training classes before the first outdoor show and then at the show she was able to go in the practice ring. When it came to the competition she was a bit nervous in the ring but she did do all the contact equipment. It wasn't ideal as she started to do a lot of displacement activity such as sniffing and going up to the judge with a waggy tail. 'You don't really want me to do that do you?'
The following week Jilly was showing lots of confidence in training but not in the ring. The ground conditions were pretty bad. In the photos below she tackles the see-saw but she's very low and cautious.
Our trainer has recommended trying out as many different see-saws as possible in different locations. Jilly seemed fully confident again in training indoors as so this is what we're going to do. Hopefully, if the ground conditions are better and I can run more confidently without fear of slipping, we'll beat the scary see-saw and come back fighting.
Here we are on a friend's aluminium see-saw which is quite light and tips easily. Jilly was happy to go over it this morning.
Monday 21st March - Sasha's winning and Jilly's scared
of the see-saw
as the Easter show approaches
Left: Jilly is happy on see-saw outside at a show in October last year. Is she scared of the noise indoors or is it the tipping point?
Well, it's nearly Easter and I hope everyone has honed their skills all ready for the summer season to come. We have a lovely Easter show to go to but we'll only go on Friday and Sunday. Sasha is ten years old and Jilly's a small large dog so I never give them too much to do over full height jumps. In July they'll both do the new lower height option where it's available.
Sasha has now had two wins but only one counts towards progression as the second one was scheduled as special jumping.
Jilly is going well in training but in the last two or three weeks she has developed a fear of the see-saw. This has shown itself in training classes to a small degree when she's crouched sometimes at the tipping point. The turning point came when she went over the club's new aluminium see-saw. It not only felt different it was much lighter and tipped very suddenly. It frightened several of the dogs but Jilly refused to have anything more to do with it. To add to the fear it was very loud and echoing in the riding school and I came away with one scared dog.
Since then I've worked really hard with her and hopefully I've persuaded her that the seesaw is the bees knees and the one piece of equipment she really wants to do. We've only done this in the safety of the garden and we'll find out today at training (different venue, different see-saw) whether it's worked.
If Jilly is still scared then she won't be expected to run in the agility class at Easter. If the training's worked and she's able to do the agility class then I'll write an article on how I helped her to get over her fear. Fingers crossed.
Sunday 14th February - Sasha does it again
Yes, Sasha has won her jumping class again and that makes two wins in the last month. Our clever girlie is ten years old and she still loves jumping.
She hasn't been able to do agility in her career and she can't train for a whole class as she suffers from border collie collapse and can get quite dizzy but jumping seems to be her thing. We'll let her go on for as long as she wants to and for as long as she feels fit enough to jump.
We didn't catch all of her winning run but here's a part of it.
Sunday 31st January - Sasha wins the jumping and we have a disturbed night
Does anyone else have dogs like this or is it just me?
3.30am - The morning after a show...
Sasha: I want a wee wee.
Me: Oh no, didn't you go last night?
Sasha: Yes, but I had a long drink.
Sasha: Mum, Jilly's been sick downstairs.
Me: Oh no. Are you alright Jilly?
Jilly: No of course I'm not alright. I've been sick.
Me: It looks like saliva with grass in it. What have you been eating?
Me: Yes, but why?
Jilly: The long car ride to that horrible show made me feel sick.
Me: It wasn't a horrible show. Sasha won the jumping class.
Jilly: Yeah, and don't we all know it.
Sasha: Mum Jilly's barking downstairs.
Me: Why are you barking Jilly?
Jilly: I want to go out. Sasha went out and now I want to go out.
Me: I'm worried about Jilly and I'm wake awake now would you like a cup of tea?
Bernie: Yes please. I'm awake as well.
Sasha and Jilly in unison: We want our breakfast.
Me: Jilly's in the garden chasing a mouse.
Bernie: There can't be much wrong with her if she's eaten her breakfast and gone out to chase a mouse.
Me watching Eastenders on my iplayer, Bernie watching Casualty on his iplayer. Both dogs sound asleep and dreaming, both humans wide awake. Oh and by the way Jilly is absolutely fine and Sasha did win the grade 1 and 2 jumping. She had the only clear round and she was fast as well. She also had a clear round in the grade 1 to 7 jumping. Clever girl Sasha.
Sunday 3rd January - How could mother forget?
In October we went to a an activity break where we did all sort of things apart from agility. Both dogs did some training in rally obedience and the following day there was a little competition. Both dogs did a good test and Jilly won the competition for the dogs that don't normally do rally.
Later that week they both went in for a proper rally show at level 1 and both of them gained qualifying scores for the next level. In rally all dogs start at level one regardless of experience and they need three qualifying scores under different judges to go up to level two.
In the pictures below Jilly practices her heelwork and call fronts helped by the grids laid out for us. The signs tell us what to do at each station.
The next day we did a little fun competition. Both dogs did well enough to get a qualifying score but as it was a fun day it didn't count towards progression. Jilly actually won the competition which was excellent for her as she doesn't go to rally classes. The pics below show the test under way and me and Jilly with a big red rosette. In the left hand pic I'm actually in the far ring with Sasha doing a recall while the other competitors queue up for their turn.
Rally obedience is now run by the Kennel Club and if you think you'd like to have a go you can find all the information you need on their website. Kennel Club Rally
Tuesday 29th December - Jilly's first full season of competition
As we come to the end of the year it's time to look back. Like a lot of young dogs Jilly seemed as if she would never get the hang of going into the ring and running round the course with a clear round, a few faults or a good elimination. Apart from staggering out of a Beat The Clock class with a dodgy clear we struggled through most of the summer. Then August came around and we went to a UKA show where Jilly was able to jump standard jumps and within a few days we were starting to have some success. Jilly came second in a jumping class and she won gamblers.
A couple of weeks later we went to a small show at the Ivybridge Donkey Sanctuary and Jilly came second in the agility class and went on to win the jumping class.
To celebrate we adopted Eyeore the donkey.
It still took us a while to start going clear at Kennel Club heights but by the time we started competing at indoor shows Jilly was doing well over the full height jumps and she is currently in eighth place in the winter league.
Sasha's still enjoying the competition as well. She's ten years old and still loves jumping. Here she is showing off in a grade 1 to 3 jumping class. It was a shame about the pole as we had a good time.
Monday 27th April - We Beat the Clock
Well that was a bit of a fun weekend. After getting lots of e's at the start of the season this year wasn't looking too promising. I know people say E is for Excellent but in our case it was E for 'Elp. Yesterday we seemed to break the chain of disasters. Sasha and Jilly both got round the jumping class with five faults each and then they both went clear in Beat the Clock.
For those of you who haven't done Beat the Clock this is a fun class where the obstacles are set out round the ring at the 'hours' of the clock. The dog starts in the middle with a tunnel and they go on to the first element at one o'clock followed by the second element at two o'clock and so on. When they've done 12 o'clock they finish on the tunnel. Each element can be made up of one or more obstacles and you can do them in any way you choose but you mustn't take any one obstacle more than once. I swore at myself when got stranded in a box and couldn't work out what to do. I thought I'd done it quietly but The ring party was in fits of giggles as they watched me trying to extricate myself. Jilly had already done 7 o'clock and was going on to 8 when I caught up with her.
Thursday 23rd April - Crossing behind
We're still busy training and we've just started the summer season on outdoor shows. Jilly can be a bit overwhelmed sometimes at shows but she does do some nice sequences sometimes and she's showing a lot of potential. Like lots of spaniels and their crosses she's a great sniffer so we have to work on getting her nose off the floor.
We're learning some of the new turns and we're attempting a different way of handling so that I'm not constantly trying to run from behind. In this little training session Jilly's learning to cross behind me. I set the jumps out like this. Jilly crosses behind me after jump 3 so that I can change from handling on left side to my right side without having to do any turns to get to jump 5. After jump 5 you can do any sequence you like to finish.
Here's a couple of photos and a video.