Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Formal Training - Week Four

Last night, Ellie attended her weekly training class. Though it's supposed to be geared towards the Bronze award for the Kennel Club Bronze Good Citizen award, which gives quite rigid objectives, the training is really quite varied. So much so, that it's sometimes hard to see the relevancy. However, it is an opportunity for Ellie to mix with other dogs in a controlled environment, learn new things, and just have some fun. After all, all training is relevant when you think about it.

As per usual, we started by practising some of the basics, such as sit/stay and down/stay.

Christina, the instructor, clearly gears towards obedience and this is reflected in both her style of teaching, and in what she teaches. She is strict, and to be honest, we wouldn't want it any other way.

After warm-ups, we performed some close heel work, having Ellie come through a narrow gap between my leg and the wall and finishing with her head at my hip. This way, Ellie doesn't have opportunity to drift outwards, as the wall and the leg prevents it, and also serves to guide her into position.

Christina commented how good Ellie was at the above and I had remembered that we did it last week, yet the other people didn't remember or didn't bother practising. We practise religiously. In fact, there's little point in attending training classes if you don't follow through at home. Classes can only teach you methods. You still have to go home and practise the methods taught.

For the first time, Ellie got to perform a full agility circuit. She did all of this with ease, even jumping through a hoop which she has never experienced before. She was so excited and loved the praise that she received from Christina for her efforts.

The Ridgeback that accosted her last week was bounding around all over the place, but Ellie didn't mind at all as she had received the brunt of the Ridgeback's enthusiasm last week.

We then did some walking on a loose lead, with Christina giving commands every so often. A bit like traffic lights. Green = walk, Red = Stop and sit, Amber = Stop and down etc. Christina varied this so you never knew what was coming next. Ellie did splendidly, as this is something we have done with her since the very first day she ever went out on a leash.

We asked Christina about Ellie's slight problem of backing away when it's time for the lead to be put on after play in the field. And Ellie's lapse in concentration over the last few days when we've tried to do training with her in the house. Christina's first words were... "she's 5 months old now, believe me I nearly got rid of my collie between the ages of 5 months to 9 months". Apparently this is the time when they start showing a bit of puppy power! "Bear with it and relax and she'll come through the other end fine and dandy as long as we remain consistent.", she added.

Regardless, she advised that we just walk away if she won't come knowing the leash is going back on. Ellie is still at the age where she will think "Oooh, better catch him up", and so we should capitalise on that before it runs out. I think she's just getting wise to the fact that the leash going on means the play stops. Maybe I should just start taking it off again and playing some more, and keep doing that, so she doesn't associate the leash going on with the fun ending.

Overall, a really good class, and one that Ellie really enjoyed. She does love her agility!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Twenty-Two Weeks

At twenty-two weeks of age, it's now been ten weeks since we took ownership of Ellie, our Border Collie. As she continues to mature, she reveals more and more facets of her personality to us.

She has a placid nature, even nervous at times. She is a battery of energy, love, and affection, and never ceases to be ready for a little love and attention. Our trainer has constantly reminded us that Border Collies can be a little timid, particularly bitches, and we have to be especially mindful of this during training.
With many dogs, you can be quite robust if needed. With a Border Collie, they often can't take it. It's almost as though they take their mistakes personally. With Ellie, we have to train with an upbeat attitude at all times, even when she gets it wrong. if we were to mark an incorrect behaviour too harshly, she would almost cower and then refuse to perform any further. She is, it's fair to say, a little more timid that I would have liked, but she's still small, still young, and the world is still a very scary place to her. Anything can change yet, as she experiences more and more of the world, and grows in confidence. We continue to open her up to new experiences as much as we can.

Her toiletting is 100% reliable now. When she wants to go, she will tap the patio-window with her front paw, or if we miss that cue, she will whine at the door. Sometimes, however, she will put that intelligence to mishievious use, and just paw the door because she wants to go out and catch leaves; knowing, it seems, that we have little choice but to open the door for her, or risk a soiled carpet.

We're not yet seeing any of the infamous nipping traits that are synonymous with Border Collies. She isn't showing any desire to chase the ankles of anyone, nor chase any traffic. She will chase her ball and her frisbee, but that is to be expected, given that we use that as part of her play. Her jump is remarkable. Even though we don't go out of our way to encourage it, she seems to love doing it, and we can't stop her. She's quite remarkable at catching and jumping at the same time.

Her recall is perfect so far. There hasn't been a single instance when it's failed us yet, with or without other dogs around. When I go to the bin during the day, I open the front door to place items into it, and Ellie doesn't even attempt to go out of the house. In fact, I don't even bother to check now, as I know she won't exit the house without permission. I think that has come about as a bi-product of our walk routine. I place the leash onto her. Walk her to the door, give her a "sit-wait" command. I then exit the door, give a "come" command, then a "sit/wait" again. I then secure the door, before finally giving a "heel". So, in fact, she has never once walked through the front door (or the back) without someone going out before her, and under strict control.

Her once baby teeth are now being replaced by more robust adult teeth, and so she's spending a lot of time gnawing away at bones and inviting games of 'tuggy' as we call it, with her tug toys. One actually fell out before me two nights ago, as we were playing tug. Her tug games are now becoming more adult in nature too. She will hang on to the toy more and more, and even make some quite strong pulling motions. Once or twice she has tried to turn it into a "chase me" game, but I won't oblige, forcing her to come to me to continue play.

I expected her to become more detached as she stepped ever closer to adulthood. So far, this isn't the case. She loves her hugs, she is wild about licking, and loves nothing more than to be receiving affection. Though, she's used to our pattern of living and so doesn't try to get attention at inconvenient times. For example, as I write this entry, she is laying in her crate. When we are in the kitchen (the one room she is banned from), she will play with her toys in the other room, or sit waiting in the hallway. What she won't do is constantly pester. I'm pleased about that.

She's currently walking for about two hours a day. I've started taking her across the local hills and down the country tracks. It's a lovely place and she loves it. She gets to walk all the way around it off-leash, and again, if we experience other dogs, she's just fine, and chooses to ignore them, if they allow her to. Every now and again, we will stop, I will kneel down to enjoy the scenery, and she will sit, nestling in to me as much as she can, as though to join me in enjoying the moment. It's at those times in particular that I remember why we got a dog. They complete moments that might otherwise seem incomplete.

With regards to training, she is still attending weekly training classes. She must be doing well, as Jan has been invited to become a volunteer. This will mean that she can take Ellie along to more classes, as she helps out with other instructors. That can only be a good thing. She is showing a particular passion for agility. As part of the weekly classes, the dogs are encouraged to "play" with the agility equipment. It is the one time that Ellie is completely fearless, and as fast as an Exocet. The trainer is strongly encouraging us to perform agility with her when she is old enough. We've always maintained that I would like to do competitive obedience with her, while Jan would like to do agility with her. So she'll never be short of activities.

Much of the training at the moment is based on what the classes advise us to do. So there is a lot of work involved that encourages Ellie to come in close to us, doing front-presents, and encouraging her to be at the left heel. While Ellie is keen and enthusiastic, she's not yet one for detail and will usually perform in a lazy manner. For example, with a front-present, she won't walk the last few inches to make it a proper present. Instead, she will keep a distance. When sitting to the left, she will perform a 'lazy sit' where she looks like she is going to topple over at any second. The height difference between Ellie and I is still a challenge in training, given that I am quite tall, and well, she isn't. For the most part, it's okay. But on certain exercises, such as heel-work, it can make things less fluid than is helpful for either of us.

Her sit-stay is terrible. She will sit and then almost instantly plonk herself into a laying down position. Apparently, so I'm told, this is quite common with Collies too. As the next exam doesn't stipulate whether she stays in a seated or laying position, we'll settle for either, and so, for now, I have dropped the sit-stay exercise and just ask for a stay.

Physically, she's at that peculiar stage, between puppy and adult. Her legs seem far too long for her body, and her body seems way too large for her head. It may well be that she always has long legs as that is very much a short-haired working Border Collie physique. I can't imagine that anyone, who doesn't or hasn't spent time with her, will ever class her as a beautiful dog, and I would understand their thinking. Hardly anyone ever gueses that she is a Border Collie even. But, for us at least, and to her original foster-carer who still sees her from time to time when we meet up, she is positively gorgeous. What she might lack in physical beauty, she more than makes up for in character and giving of herself. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder.

She is still being bathed frequently, so that we can ensure that by the time she is an adult, she's fully used to the bath, to the blow-dryer, and to having her claws clipped. It's vital that we expose her to it as much as is possible at this young age. She really doesn't seem to mind it at all now. Even the blow-dryer which would once have had her jumping out of her skin. Like any dog, she looks a little sorry for herself when she's soaked to the skin, but aside from that, no issues whatsoever. She may even learn to love it at the rate she's going!

On our walks, she now spends about 75% of the time looking up at me while walking. As she is getting a little taller, it's now a little easier for me to hold a food treat behind my left leg as I walk, encouraging her into the right position. It's paying off, as her heel continues to improve enormously. A good hell is so important to me, and so it is one of our most practised exercises. It can be so hard to undo poor walking habits, and so it's best to start as you mean to go on.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Week Two of Bronze Good Citizen Training

This week was week two of Ellie's Bronze KC Good Citizen training.

Aside from the actual training, Ellie also got to play on the puppy agility equipment. This consisted of three little jumps, the tunnel, and then three more jumps. She dashed through it and loved it. Christine, as ever, is promting us to do agility, as she feels that Ellie will be very quick indeed.

As part of the training, we did some close heeling and encouraging the dog to stay close to the handler. This was done in two ways. We are now practising these new methods every day. Sometimes it's hard to tell how these things relate to the actual KC Bronze test, but you know, it wouldn't really matter even if they never did. However, we're sure it will all come good in the end.

The simple fact is, that we are working with Ellie each week, she is getting lots more experience at working with other dogs, equipment, and in different situations. And, these things will all help towards competitive obedience, which is where my interest lies. Jan is more agility focused, and I am more obedience focused. Talking of which...

We must be getting something right, as Jan has been asked if she would like to become a volunteer at the course. She has accepted, subject to getting past Christmas first, as she needs to get some exam material completed for her work. Plus her shifts are set to change afer Christmas, which will make volunteering easier.

I'm not sure but I believe that volunteers get their training free. However, more importantly, it means that Jan will be able to take Ellie along to more classes and mix her with even more dogs, as a volunteer. The volunteers assist the actual trainers.

Socialisation Walk

A few pictures from today's socialisation walk. One of the many regular walks organised by her training class. The walk was in Wilsford.

The View Ahead

Ellie puts her tail to good use -- pointing out the direction we all need to take.

A few other walkers with their dogs. The German Shepherd belongs to Sabrina, one of the training volunteers.

Sabrina's German Shepherd again, with a Border Collie.

Ellie hides in Sabrina's shadow.

Ellie, Sabrina, and her German Shepherd.

Ellie, Sabrina, and her German Shepherd.

Ellie, Sabrina, and her German Shepherd.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

At the Show...

Today, we visited the long-awaited Autumn Show at Peterborough. Aside from being a golden opportunity for Dawn, Ellie's foster-carer, to see how Ellie has been coming along, it was the best chance ever for us to expose Ellie to thousands of new sounds, sights, smells, people, and more importantly, dogs.

I'm still not sure whether Ellie was more pleased to see Dawn, or Dawn was more pleased to see Ellie, but whichever way it was, they were pleased to see one-another. Dawn attended with her friend who had a Black Labrador, Britney, I think it was called. Sorry, I can't remember!
There were dozens upon dozens of stalls at the show and I can see how easy it would be to empty a bank account there, particularly us soft dog-owners. As it was, we just purchased Ellie another new bed. (Pictured above -- click to enlarge.)

Ellie surprised me. Once she got the initial excitement over, she really did walk very well amongst the thousands of people and their dogs. Only the sound of the merry-go-round spooked her a little, but we got through that soon enough. She even managed to focus when her name was called, as well as sit when told, and perform tricks to show off to Dawn!

I'm pleased to report that there were no negative issues with meeting other dogs. In fact, it was quite the opposite. As there were dog agility displays at the show, there were, quite literally, hundreds of other dogs there, and with the exception of one dog, all seemed really well-behaved. A credit to the dog-owning community. I can only imagine that Ellie's confidence can have been positively boosted through today's experience.

After about three hours however, Ellie really began to flag and she kept looking up at me, almost asking to be carried around. At that point we decided to call it a day. She'd done really well, made us proud, and we wanted to quit on a high-note. Suffice to say that she slept like a, well, like a dog, all the way back home. It's the longest walk she's ever had I think!

Overall, it was a really good day, and well worth the price of the ticket -- £7.50. Though, having seen the dog agility displays, it's just made me more determined to hunt out other dog shows. I'm hooked.

P.S. There are no shots of the show, because idiot here forgot to take the camera. Oh, and Jan has just caught one of Ellie's puppy teeth in her hand!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

18 Weeks Picture

Just a landmark picture of Ellie at 18 weeks of age. (Click to see it much larger.)

She's a little wet in the picture, as we'd just returned from running around in the local field, where there was a lot of morning dew for Ellie to slip and slide around in.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Night of Bronze Training

Ellie attended her first night of training for the Bronze Canine Good Citizen Award last night. It is so much better than the puppy training, and the instructor, Christine, is more demanding and exacting in her requirements. Though even she deserted her usual rule for dogs, and allowed Ellie to jump about at her when they first met. Ellie seems to have a gift for getting the attention of anyone she wants. However, that out of the way, it was very quickly down to business.

There are more dogs in this class, and all of them are far more adult than Ellie, but that has never stopped her before, and it appears to make no difference now. There is also much more interaction between the dogs on this course, as that is part of the test - to be able to walk on a loose leash around other dogs and people. I'm pleased to report that she got on well with all of the other dogs.

We learned to bring her in to a sitting position, between the legs, which we are naming "pull-in", as it is like pulling the dog in with both hands, only by using food as a lure. This will, apparently, prove to be very useful later on.

We then practised stays. The Bronze requirement is that the dog can stay for one minute, and so, on this course, they train for two minutes, so that when it comes to exam time, the dog should have no problems.

When I train her to stay out on the field, I don't go by time, I go by distance, but I shall start taking my stopwatch with me. At present, in the field, I can walk away for fifteen paces and walk around in a semi-circle in front of her at that distance, without any problem whatsoever.

Ellie got to play on a full agility set last night, with the instructor telling us that you have to imagine the sand is deep water, and you have to work out how to get your dog from one end to the other without getting wet. As per usual, Ellie showed no fear, and got straight into it, including running through a full tunnel.

We can just tell that this course is going to suit Ellie down to the ground. I know all owners must believe it of their own dog, but Ellie really did perform perfectly at the class, even getting praise from the instructor, because we have taught her to automatically sit when we stop while heeling. Well, actually, she sits when we tell her "stop", but it amounts to the same thing. I taught this as I want to always to be able to stop her in an emergency. The fact that she sits is more accident than anything else. All I wanted was that she stop dead in her tracks. It was she who chose to make it a sit-stop. Fine with me...

The course is a rolling course, and goes on until the dog is ready to take the exam. As always, we'll be working with her on a daily basis to give her as much help as possible.

She finally seems to have accepted being brushed now, and doesn't try to gnaw away at the brush. This is good as it's important for the Bronze award.

Overall, a really really enjoyable course and an excellent instructor who really takes the time to look at the smallest detail. Will try to get a photo or two next time.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A Pain in the ....

Despite the heavy rainfall dripping down my face, it was a pleasant walk around the park this morning. That was until we met the dreaded Basset Hound again. I've written about it before; the owner has absolutely no control over it, and walks it around off leash. It then pesters every single dog it can, presumably because the owner is so damned boring, the dog would rather be anywhere but with him.

Anyway, this morning, enough was enough. Ellie was clearly getting stressed as she was on leash, and the Basset was bullying her. Usually I walk away but today I decided to give the owner a piece of my mind. It went something along the lines of...

Me: You know you're duty bound to keep your dog under control don't you?
Him: When did you arrive? You're a pain in the arse.
Me: I'm only a pain in the arse because you haven't taken the time to train your dog.
Him: Do you clean up after your dog? (No idea why he even asked that.)
Me: No. I don't need to, as she doesn't even soil outside of her own garden. But if she did, you bet I would, and showed him the two poop bags that I always carry around in my back pocket.
Him: Mumble
Me: Look, it's simple. Keep your dog under control, and everyone is happy.

He then walked away, with his dog finally on the leash.

This sort of guy really pisses me off. It's not the dog, it's the owner type. There was a different owner last night, with a really out of control Weimaraner, but the owner was pleasant, and asked if Ellie was okay, after Pickles, her dog, almost ran her over, at least made an effort to control her dog, and so we ended up chatting about her high-energy dog.

But this guy, he's one of those that drives me nuts. He makes no effort to control his dog, and walks around believing that it is everyone else's fault that his dog is so much trouble. Why am I a pain in the arse, for example? I suspect it's because I won't usually stop when his dog chases Ellie, so that he can casually walk over and collect it. No, I figure, I'm not stopping our training for anyone. If his dog follows me home then it's his problem, not mine.

People like him seem to be blind to the notion that it takes just one bad experience for a puppy to be emotionally scarred for life. I work damned hard to make me the centre of Ellie's world when we're out and about in the park. She's really not bothered about playing with other dogs -- as I'm more than enough excitement for her, and besides, other dogs don't look enough like a Frisbee for her. Why should I be expected to entertain other dogs, or allow Ellie to become entertainment for other dogs.

I fear that people like him don't learn until someone stands up to them. I hope so.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Canine Good Citizen Bronze Training Starts

Just a quickie - we've heard from the training centre. Ellie will start her Kennel Club Good Citizen (Bronze) training tomorrow night. All the more to keep her brain busy!

Ellie at 18 Weeks

According to my little script, Ellie is now 18 weeks and 6 days old. So, for the sake of this first entry, I'll call it 18 weeks.

Sleeping Arrangements
Up until the past week or so, Ellie has slept on our bed with us. However, over the past few nights we noticed a change. Instead of jumping on the bed with us, she started to put herself underneath the bed and staying there.

Then, by chance, Jan left a big fluffy dressing-gown on the floor by her side of the bed. We noticed one morning that it had an Ellie sized dent in it. So, we've donated both of our dressing-gowns to her -- they are huge fluffy things -- and she sleeps on them now, by my side of the bed.

She still seems to climb up onto our bed in the middle of the night, but then she gets bored of us turning over and so jumps back down again. I predict that by the end of the next two week period, she won't be sleeping on the bed at all. More importantly, it will be her decision, which is what we wanted from the start.

The fact that she is making this decision at all, tells me that she is getting more confident about her place in the family and in general.

In the Car
She still needs lifting into the back seat of the car. Now, if you happen to throw some bacon onto the back seat, she'll zoom in on her own. Otherwise, she plays dumb and expects to be lifted in.

For short to medium journeys she is fine. Anything over and 90 minutes and she'll decorate the car in a lovely shade of vomit.

There is no doubt that she's changing now. She's starting to get a little more rebellious. Nothing major and all just tiny little things but we can feel and see the change. She is teething now, and there are small gaps where puppy teeth once sat, and so, of course, she is chewing more. Touch wood, at this stage, she still hasn't chewed a single thing that doesn't belong to her. Not a thing.

She is becoming much more curious about the world around her and this is being reflected in her training, where it is becoming increasingly hard to maintain her attention.

For a puppy, she's quite a relaxed dog. Even when we visit other people in their homes, she doesn't run about. She's quite happy to lay down and chill out on her blanket. She still tries to jump up at people, and it infuriates me at times when you ask people to ignore the dog if it jumps up, and then they go and not ignore the dog -- effectively rewarding the dog for jumping up! Of course, they think they are being kind, but they're not. They are actually confusing the dog as it is usually taught (and expects) one thing, and then that person does something else.

She has her only real "mad hour" at about 21:00 each night. She runs about the room with toys in her mouth and generally tries to make a nuisance of herself.

Toilet Training
Neither of us can recall the last time she had an accident in the house. When she needs the toilet, she will sit at the back door and either tap the glass, or just whine. Don't laugh but I am going to purchase a cheap wireless doorbell, fix it low down on the door, and train her to press the button on the switch when she wants to go out. Why not?

She is able to hold her bladder for much longer periods now. Instead of dashing out first thing in the morning, she's happy to wander about the house now for a few minutes.

General Training
Our focus at the moment is getting her attention. We were taught, at the training class, to have a distinct sound (not a word) that we can use to get her attention. For the past two days I have been walking around with a treat bag attached to me, and making a "click-click" sound with my mouth. When she looks and me and comes to me, I reward her. Of course, it's important not to hold out the treat as a lure. After a while it should become a conditioned response. To be honest, she's already pretty hot on it.

Her skills repertoire now includes:

Rather obvious - to sit when asked.
90% reliable

Again, rather obvious, to lie down when asked. Her problem with this one is popping back up again into a sitting position. She's like a jack-in-the-box. I just keep her down longer before treating her in an effort to combat this.
75% reliable

Offering her front paw into my hand.
80% reliable

Spinning around in a clock-wise direction.
95% reliable

I offer out my hand (palm facing her) and ask her to touch it with her nose. This will come in handy later when we want to shape other behaviours.
60% reliable

Drop whatever she is holding in her mouth.
90% reliable

Ignore food, etc, if it's dropped to the floor.
99% reliable

Recall (Come)
have Ellie return to me on hearing a "come" command. She's pretty good that this because I use it all the time when we play in the field, and she loves her play to continue.
90% reliable

Stay (12 Paces)
She's bewilderingly good at this one. Even with mild distractions, I can ask her to stay, move away, walk all the way around her, and she won't budge. I even did it earlier, with a complete stranger walking up behind her. She didn't budge. As it's such an imperative command, we work on it daily while out and about walking.

Loose Leash Walking
Her strongest behaviour is still her loose-leash walking, unless there are children around, or people exciting her. Otherwise, she is an absolute pleasure to walk. We see squirrels each and every day at the moment. She's getting used to ignoring them now but she's still quite rocky with them.

With regards to training, I stumbled upon a new website the other day, with videos and instructions for teaching dog tricks. You need to join (it's free) but it really is very good. Dog Tricks Academy. Some of the lessons are missing (Level three and upward) but that's because the site is new and the guy is still adding them. Give it a look, it's time well spent. I don't think you see the lessons until you actually join, at which point you just click the "classroom" link in the header.

Formal Training
We're now waiting for a start date for the Bronze Good Citizen training and then we'll be starting Ellie on that.

Next in Training
Primarily, it's a case of continuing to strengthen her current skills.

I've just started to correct her for walking before she gets the "heel" command. As it is, she sees me step forward and then takes that as a cue to step forth from the seated position.

We need to continue to work with her focus. The world is an exciting place and we have to compete for her attention at the moment. It's hard to get a dog to respond when they're not even looking at you.

The next commands I want to work are "around" and "on your spot". Ellie will be expected to come 'around' to sit next to my left leg. It'll be a slow process as the process really consists of several small steps. The "on your spot" will be used for sending her to a small blanket we have for her. It's portable and so comes in handy when we visit other people. We can just lay it down and send her to "on your spot".

And Play Time
You'd be forgiven for thinking that it's all work and no play for Ellie. Think again. Let me tell you, she must be the envy of many dogs around where we live. We watch 95% of the dogs around here, pulling their owners around a playing field (not even the whole field at times) and that is supposed to be their exercise. Sod that. That wouldn't even benefit a cat!

Ellie goes out daily, in all weathers, at 09:00, 13:00, and 17:00. We like her to have structure and these times work well for us. When she's a little older, we may well add a 21:00, but for now, it works.

I usually take her rubber KONG Frisbee out with us, we do about five or ten minutes training on the field, then she hears the "break" command, and she's excited, ready for that Frisbee to be thrown! She is then off-leash and will happily chase the Frisbee for a good thirty minutes or so. Other dogs don't bother her when she is playing. Other dogs may approach her, but she's just not interested in them. Just how I like it actually.

I guess the point I'm making here is that because she does work quite a bit, her play is much more exciting and informal than for those dogs which do little training, and then can't be trusted off-leash, or are aggressive, etc as a result of it. I think, on balance, a dog would rather work hard and play hard, than not work enough and play rarely.

Behaviourally, I can't really say that Ellie is giving us any problems at the moment. I suppose if I had to struggle for a problem, it would be the size difference between her and I. It can make training quite challenging. Because I'm six feet tall, and she is quite a small collie, she can easily become quite intimidated if I stand over her, and so I have to remind myself of this. You can see this when I walk towards her after a "stay". I've had to learn to sort of arc around her a little.

It also means that treating doesn't go as fluidly as it could as I have to keep stooping down during some training exercise (heel work) and stopping. I think this is always going to be an issue and one that we'll just have to learn to live with, as she's never going to be a large Collie. You can just tell.

In Other News
I'm just in the process of ordering her a new dog bed. It's more padded than the one she has now. Much more padded in fact.

New Format

Inspired by another Ellie's Diary, about another Border Collie, named Ellie, I'm going to now change the format of this Ellie's blog, and chart her progress at various weeks.

This is because not much really changes from one day to the next now and so it will be more plentiful to write things up when there is more to say.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

And the winner is...

Ellie attended her last week of puppy training classes last night.

There was a small friendly competition, to see which dog had learned the best trick since the course started, six weeks ago. Each dog owner then had a vote. We're pleased to announce that Ellie walked away with the title (and the prizes), after completing her "spin" command, better than she had ever completed it before.

It almost seems like cheating -- having the only Border Collie in the class. They just seem to learn so damned quickly.

We'll now be preparing her to start the Bronze Canine Good Citizen course, as soon as possible.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Frisbee Number Two - Gone!

If there is one thing that Ellie loves more than chasing a ball around the park, it's chasing a frisbee around the park. Obviously she can't yet jump to catch it, but she sure can run for it!

We've been purchasing the rubber Kong Frisbees as they are kinder to Ellie's wee puppy teeth. However, there's one drawback, we keep losing them in a small ditch that is covered in nettles. So far, Jan has successfully lost one, and as of this evening, so have I!

On our morning walk a couple of days ago, I met up with another Collie (Alfie) owner. You can always tell the Collie owners -- they are the ones who have dogs fixated on a ball. Despite the fact that the owner and I were stood talking to one another, the two dogs were more than happy to ignore each other, in favour of chasing their own ball around the park. As always, I had to convince the other person that Ellie really is a Border Collie. I guess people just aren't used to seeing the short-haired variety. I had another person ask me tonight in fact!

Usually, as we play in the field on our 17:00 run, I spot a woman with a Black Labrador. I always feel for her as she clearly can't let her dog off the leash, and it drags her around like nobody's business. She always politely walks around the edge of the field, and I, sensing that she doesn't want to have to struggle with other dogs, tend to stealthily step towards the middle of the field, so that her dog doesn't try to pull so much towards Ellie. (Ellie completley ignores all dogs when she is playng.)

Tonight however, I met the woman and her dog head-on, as we were walking past the tennis-courts. She turned out to be a very nice woman, who once again had to ask what breed Ellie was. "A Border Collie", I replied, as I usually do. "She's very well trained, isn't she?", she noted. "I see you out here most days and she's incredible.". I think I almost blew her mind when I explained that Ellie was only 17 weeks old. I shall never tire of hearing people comment on her training and manners.

We work with Ellie daily and as I've said before, I for one, will never tire of training with her. It's just too rewarding to give up. I really do feel for those people who have dogs dragging them around the field. It can't be nice. That said, Ellie is only 17 weeks old and there is still plenty of time for her to show us her worst side. The best we can do is keep working with her, keep her stimulated, make ourselves the most interesting thing she knows, and hope for a little luck too.

We took her to the vet today, in order to get her weighed and just to get her used to going to the vet. She's put on just over half a kilogram in the past three weeks. I thought she might have put a little more on actually but no. I read today that the grooming parlour at the vet allows you to take the dog along to sit and watch, so that they get used to the sounds and such like. I think we'll do that next as we would like to get her groomed properly from time to time.

Her door manners are really getting good now. Whenever we walk, she has to wait at the front door when I exit, then wait for a "come" command, then come to me outside, then "sit" and "wait", as I lock the door. The reverse happens on our return. She will get a "sit" outside, then "wait", I will then enter the house, put the ball on the windowsill etc, and then invite her in. Tonight however, she excelled herself. I entered the house, walked all the way down the hallway, put my coat away, returned to the front door, and then invited her in. She did all that, even with children playing outside, making lots of exciting noise. Bless her. How can you not be impressed with that?

Her next big thing will be the East of England Autumn show. There will be lots of new people, animals, and sounds. I expect she'll get very excited for quite a while, but it's all good experience and learning for her. Her weakness, at the moment, is meeting people. She's a typical puppy and gets very excited. I'm not overly concerned about that at the moment. She's seventeen weeks old, seeing all new things, and is bound to get excited. That will lessen with age and experience. I think the show will help quite a lot actually.