Sadie Puppies! 14:36

So, I'd like to show you my completely life altering distraction for the next few months!

Puppies about an hour old
Meet Chunk, Three Spot, Little One and Wide Blaze lol Four boys. To be named properly at some point in the future...

They were born on 4th September after a very long all night labour (no sleep received on Wednesday night/Thursday morning!) culminating in a c-section on Thursday morning. Had a water bag at 1:30am and no puppies followed; if it wasn't for the fact the water bag had gone it would have looked exactly like normal early labour. They are big puppies and when the vet opened her up he discovered that her uterus and abdominal muscles were all so stretched she couldn't contract enough to push them out. We had a bit of a job getting Three Spot and Little One breathing properly but got there in the end, the anaesthetic didn't help. Sadie has been fantastic throughout, she took to them straightaway and she is being a fabulous mum.

Two Day Old Puppies
(LtR: Wide Blaze on his back then Little One, Chunk and Three Spot!)
I need sleep! Three Spot is a screamer when he loses the nipple or objects to something :-P Especially at 4am...

Little One doubled his birth weight on day 8. Chunk doubled on day 9, of the other two one also doubled on day 9 and one is 8 grammes off - when I weighed them the day they were born I got those two muddled and I'm not sure which was which! - but they weighed the same on day 9. Chunk's eyes started to open yesterday, Wide Blaze's eyes are starting to open today. Won't be long until they can see and then hear :-)

Chunk at 9 days old, eyes starting to open
They are strong and healthy puppies, now 10 days old and thriving. It's been an amazing experience so far, so much better than I thought it would be. We started Early Neurological Stimulation on Day 5 (I was apprehensive about doing it so started a little late, but actually it was much easier to remember than I thought it would be and we got into a nice routine very quickly) and they have had their nails cut a few times already. Amazing how quickly they grow!

9 day old puppies at the milkbar, growing fast!
(LtR: Chunk, Wide Blaze, Three Spot and Little One!)

FAB Time at FAB Cornwall 10:42

Went down to FAB Cornwall on Sunday. Elton had two runs (Agility & Jumping) and Ria had three (Agility, Jumping & Steeplechase). I wanted to do Grand Prix rather than Steeplechase with Elton and then it went on so long I couldn't stay, so unfortunately he missed out! Decided not to run Solei as he only does steeplechase and I didn't have enough time to gather my thoughts after Ria, plus it was an entirely right sided course which isn't his strong point. I ran both Elton's courses NFC and his Agility was stunning. I was so pleased with him, wish I'd had video! He managed 12 weaves and was driving on nicely, even managed a tunnel without me having to be there! His Jumping was nice to start with, and then went pear-shaped when he decided he'd forgotten how to weave since he ran the agility lol very frustrating when (after a couple of completely failed attempts) he pops out at #11 and I want to reward because he's done so much right but can't! But so much more confident and driven, he didn't stop to look round at all.

Ria...during her agility and jumping (both NFC) spent a lot of time running round the ring with some nice bits when she was focused! Because she has come such a phenomenal way in such a short space of time (I can't believe it's barely been 4 months since she started training again) and she is very able in some ways I forget she is still very much a baby dog, although 3.5yrs. She's also at a funny stage - because she started foundation at about 8 months old and trained til she was 2, in some ways she has done a lot...but because of all the issues we had and the fact a lot of her classes were fairly unproductive, in other ways it's almost as if she never started. Anyway! For her Steeplechase - as I was going NFC anyway - I asked them if I could drop her down to small - I was fairly sure most of the reason for the largely unproductive previous runs was because at medium height she goes round half the jumps, she just hasn't got the experience and confidence yet...which then makes it all go wrong.

This is what I got!!! The end bit was entirely my fault - I was convinced the course went round in a circle including the tunnel again (it didn't include the tunnel) so cued the tunnel which she thought about but then didn't take (apparently dog knows the course better than I do!) which meant I was further up the course than I would have been had I not cued the tunnel but didn't get the time I would have got had she taken the tunnel to move away. That then meant (esp as she patterns things VERY quickly) that due to my position she was expecting to go left again, she then corrected herself but that meant she took the penultimate jump at a very acute angle to the right - and then expected to wing wrap. Again corrected herself, but by that time I'd already thrown the toy so made her go round the last jump (having played it back in slo mo I see why - the below is where she was when I started to throw the ball. You can very much see the wing wrap she was expecting and the fact she was facing completely the wrong way as I threw! In fact having seen that still I'm impressed she managed to alter course)
Great rewarding on my part :-P One day I might get it right!
Redid that last bit (last 11 seconds of the video) and it went much better (though I still hadn't twigged the tunnel wasn't part of the course at that point!)

Yet another day I never thought I'd see! She never ceases to amaze me at the moment.

Ria's Last Chance Agility Saloon 17:56

As you have probably noticed, much of what I have written here over the past couple of years concerns Solei and Elton. Ria gets the odd mention, but is largely left out of things....this is because she is. I know I have made a few references to her behaviour in the past, but to put it mildly when I brought her home I never dreamt what lay ahead and had I known I'd probably have taken her straight back! In many ways she has been a nightmare, and for a long time I blamed myself. Over the years I have reached acceptance, and the fact that it is not something I have or haven't done. She is who she is and I love her, but she is not a dog I can fully trust in any situation, and in some situations not at all. Her biggest issue is other dogs - she is super dog reactive. She is quite a stressy dog anyway and it all stems from fear. It's all noise and bravado, but that doesn't make it any easier! I have put so much work in over the last couple of years and she is much improved, but she'll never be a model citizen. Now we have got as far as we have I can look back and be grateful for the experience she has given me, for the avenues we have been down that would have otherwise gone unexplored. For the knowledge I have gained, the understanding and the appreciation of just what it is like to have a dog like her.

I can show her, but only really at championship shows as any others are too many dogs in too small a space, and as the whole thing is somewhat stressful I don't do it often. I can't do obedience with her because to put her in stays with numerous other dogs would be too stressful for her and unfair. I stopped agility classes 18 months ago because she just wasn't coping - she was doing a lot of stress sniffing and running off and we were achieving nothing, didn't seem to be able to work through it however much I went backwards.

So there is the background!

When she turned 3 at the end of January I made the decision to give her one last chance at agility. I decided to sign up for Saturday morning classes starting at the end of April - this is with the same club she was training at before, but their Wednesday evening venue is an indoor equestrian centre and although large, I don't think it was helping. Their Saturday venue is outdoors, so more room and a different feel. I also decided to start her right back at the beginning again, joining a new foundation group. This fitted quite well as usually Saturdays are a total no go because of shows, but I am at that in between stage at the moment so I could do more Saturdays than not - and because we are both more experienced than "true" foundation dogs missing the odd week wasn't a problem. Make or break. If we were getting nowhere after a couple of months I wouldn't try again.

Her first few weeks were turbulent! I remember having a conversation with her trainers a month after she'd started and I really think she thought Ria was a lost cause. At the time, I had my doubts myself!

Just three short weeks after that I found myself at a UKA show with a spare run and no dog to use it. A friend was there, the entire show had finished bar Casual Steeplechase, all the other rings were packed up and basically everyone had gone home. There were only a couple of dogs still there, a good distance from the ring. Somehow, after a discussion between my friend and I, Ria was down to run! I figured even if all I did was take her in the ring, lead out, go back, reward and clip her lead on that would still be something. I had her off lead outside the ring and she felt good, so I decided to try a couple of obstacles (jumps were at small (she's medium) and I was running NFC with a toy!). Wow. She was amazing! Focused, fast, I didn't lose her once and there were some fantastic bits. I broke everything right down, she was only doing 2-4 obstacles at a time, and it didn't feel anything like a show but it was a moment I thought I'd never see!

The following week at the FAB show I was very tempted to try running her again (rings are fenced) but ultimately wasn't brave enough! Classes continued positively on the whole, and when the next FAB show came around towards the end of July I decided I was just going to bite the bullet and go for it! I entered her for Newbie Steeplechase and Newbie Jumping, both to be run NFC with a toy.

Her first run was the jumping and on the whole it wasn't a great run - essentially because I was feeling very apprehensive and massively over handled her to "help", which kept pushing her round jumps and confusing her! That said, although she did lose connection with me a couple of times she never went running right off, and there were some lovely bits - her weaves were great.

Having survived that experience I was feeling more relaxed for the steeplechase. The route I had planned began with a straight line of four jumps, left turn to a jump and then a straight tunnel. As she'd gone round some of the jumps in the jumping (it had the same start of 4 jumps) I wanted to make sure she was successful, so although I thought she would pick up the left turn ok I decided to reward the line of straight jumps, and then reset in front of the next jump to make sure - and the part of the course after the tunnel required me to be down there to handle it. It didn't work out quite the way I had planned, but what happened was even more impressive...she was AMAZING.

So I set her up, led out and released - she jumped all four of the jumps, I rewarded - great! Then I reset her in a wait in front of the jump in front of the straight tunnel.

This is really rough and I might have missed a jump out but this was my planned course from that point. My plan was to lead out to the end of the tunnel before I released her because of handling the circle....only she decided she was so desperate to get in the tunnel she'd go round rather than over the jump. So after she'd done that twice I figured I'd just running start it because obviously time was that meant she came blasting out of the tunnel when I was still at the beginning. At which point I wished someone was videoing!

As I was right back there, I figured I'd try some verbals along with arms....she came out of the straight tunnel, I yelled left, she picked up the two jumps into the curved tunnel and then picked up the turn and correct jump after the tunnel before I was even at the end of the first tunnel. After which I'd just about caught her up to send her round to the other jump and into the curved tunnel, and then chucked her toy out so she'd drive on to the finish instead of taking the same jump again cos at that point I realised I shouldn't have stayed so far up!

So that was what, a 10 obstacle sequence, half of which was handled at a distance....and she flew, it felt absolutely amazing. The most incredible feeling in the world. And one I never thought I'd ever experience with her.

Things have been fairly quiet since as she's been in season, but she was out just in time for our agility club's annual fun day on Monday. I ran her in tunnelers and the steeplechase, and again it was breaking things down with a toy on me but I still can't believe I ran her in a venue she only goes to once a year, with dogs (some of whom she'd never met) fairly close by and she stayed with me. Even when the course meant she was running towards them! She was completely focused, showed no inclination to run off and it was just amazing, I couldn't believe how different she was to the dog I had there 12 months ago. Her tunnelers was lovely - she was completely focused and there was a particularly satisfying bit involving a stunning rear cross! Her steeplechase was rubbish, but that was purely because she jumped on medium and she shouldn't have done - bar a bit of 1 jump stuff with my stick in the ground jump in the garden she hadn't done any agility for over 3 weeks, and I'd forgotten from the FAB show she struggles with medium jumps in front of tunnels anyway because the tunnel is higher value and she just hasn't had the experience to work on it. So there was a lot of running round things but even then the only time her attention really wandered was when we went right close to where they were sitting with the timer and she ran over to say hello, but came pretty much straight back when I called her. I'd have loved to have seen her run it on small, think that could have been quite exciting - but never mind.

So yes, it's been four short months since her "last chance" back at agility and she has already achieved more than I ever dreamt of. I said I'd be happy if she could just get to the stage of running a course in class - now I can already certainly see a day that is a reality, and I can even see her competing. I'm not sure if I would ever run her in an unfenced ring, but even if she can only do FAB shows and some independents that is so much more than I ever thought she would :-)

Onwards and upwards, hopefully the future is bright!

Elton's rather good at this rally thing... 14:10

Elton did his first KC Agility show on 13th July! Only Anysize, as KC jump height is beyond him atm. There were some nice bits, but he wasn't confident enough to attempt the flat tunnel that was in the course and he found the ground hard going.

The following weekend we went to our third FAB show. Boys were rubbish! Solei didn't get to run at all as he had been on three legs earlier, and although I think he just trod on something and seemed fine by the time he was meant to run I didn't want to risk it, so pulled him. Elton was just having an off day, for some unknown reason. He decided he couldn't do the aframe because it was too scary, and had absolutely no idea how to stay in 12 weaves! So that was two completely rubbish NFC runs in agility and jumping. He had quite a nice steeplechase run, but a couple of blips which meant he was over time. It was the most amazing show ever for another reason, but I need to make a separate post with the background to it first!

July ended with a two day obedience show. Amazing weekend! On Saturday Elton was entered in Pre-Beginners and the Special Fun Class and Solei was entered in the Special Pre-Beginner Stakes. Elton came 2nd in Pre-Beginners and just out of the placings in the fun class, and Solei came 3rd in his class!

On Sunday there was rally as well, and both boys were entered in Level 1, Elton also being entered in Pre-Beginners obedience. I ended up arriving late and doing the obedience NFC, he was absolutely rubbish and I'm not sure why. Very distracted, knowing Elton I assume he was worrying and stressing for some reason. Working as he was, I was less than enthusiastic about the rally that afternoon! Needn't have worried...

Elton - 2nd Pre-Beginners (Saturday) and 1st Rally Level 1 Part 1 (Sunday)!
He was amazing...really focused, happy, confident, with me :-) Got a score of 206 so qualified excellent and won the class! Solei did remarkably well given it was his first experience of rally and an outdoor ring and had he not got up during the sit walk around would have qualified.
The boys with the weekends rosettes :-)
August has started with a trip to Paignton on Sunday for Elton's second KC agility show - anysize again, though two runs this time - jumping and agility. Two fabulous Es, said with all seriousness - his jumping I could have "rescued" but chose not to as he was driving ahead of me well and I felt it was more important to let him go and not interrupt his flow, especially as it was my fault anyway (As he was ahead I was driving the wrong line). His agility was so funny - the contact equipment has been a two year struggle, he has conquered the dog walk now but the a-frame is very ropey - he rarely does it first time and more often than not refuses point blank. So I was concerned about this, though pleased it was the third obstacle with a tunnel after as I could reward the a-frame with a tunnel if he did do it. He did it first time, and then a bit further down the course we ended up heading vaguely near....he ran over and decided to do the a-frame again!! I thought it was hilarious - I'd been concerned that he wouldn't do it at all and then the little brat gets us Ed because he decides it was so good the first time he wants to do it twice! Two super runs though - fairly fast, happy and confident He was actually driving ahead of me! I could not be happier if he'd come back with two 1sts, it's the best he's ever run at a show :-)  Confidence is coming! (hopefully)

Back to Paignton on Tuesday for obedience and agility with Elton and breed with Ria. Elton was lying 3rd in the obedience but I missed his stays (literally by 30 seconds, infuriating!) cos I was showing Ria - who got two 2nds to the BB & RBB so happy enough with that! - and then two nice runs where in the agility I crashed into a jump because he went round the back of a curved tunnel and threw me (too busy watching him!) and a lovely run in the jumping getting his first clear round at a KC show! I didn't feel either of his runs were quite as good as Sunday, but they were still nice and he was probably tired by then.

Then came the highlight of my month!
Elton Q & 1st place and Solei Q & 2nd place Rally Level 1 Part 1
I am so amazingly proud of my boys! 10th August and my third rally competition came along. I was really anxious about it because it had the potential to be Elton's third qualifier, and I really wanted him to qualify excellent (190+) as he already had two. Solei went in first, and put in the round of his life. He loved the venue and worked better than I thought he actually could! Not only did he get his first qualifier but it was an excellent with a score of 206. Elton (in running order 13 - lucky for some :-)) then decided his father was not going to upstage him, and also got 206 but with a faster time! That's his third excellent qualifier (205, 206, 206!) so gives him his RL1-Ex title :-D along with two wins in two weeks!