Sunday, November 25, 2007

Six Months

It's incredible to believe that Ellie is already six months old today. That means that we have had her for some 14 weeks total, as we got her at 12 weeks of age.

It's a bizarre feeling. It feels that we have owned her for years in the sense that she's now such an integral part of the family. Yet, she seems to have grown so fast too. In that sense, it seems like we've had her about six weeks.
She has now finished this season of her formal training classes. They will resume early in the new year. At the end of the current season, we are proud to report that Ellie won a prize for maintaining the longest "stay". Not bad for being the youngest dog in the class too.

Physically, after last month's apparent growing season, she seems to have slowed down again. She still looks quite puppy in her features to me. Though I think that is partly because she has short hair, and so her legs look really long.

A few weeks back, we ceased to feed her food from the bowl. She now earns her food throughout the day. We measure out her daiy ration in the morning, and then carry some with us all day long. This enables us to train her at purely random times, and be sure that we're not over-feeding her with treats.

It also means that she is far more attentive to us, as we are the source of food, literally. I maintain that, in terms of her training, it is the best thing we have done. It's brought her progress on in leaps and bounds.

Our early concerns about her behaviour around other dogs are now gone. She is perfectly fine with others - to a point. She is perfectly happy to ignore other dogs, and that is her preference in fact. However, some dogs don't allow her to do that, and they constantly try to get her attention. She will tolerate this for a few minutes. If they persist however, she will give out a cautionary nip. But it's certainly nothing that causes me concern. If the other dog behaves well, then it's not an issue.

During these darker days, we've had to cut her walks down to twice a day, or else she wouldn't get enough rest between walks, and nor would we. It's really muddy on the farm fields but does she care? Does she hell. She's happy as a pig in er, a pig-pen.

She loves to chase her favourite tennis-ball across the fields and get as dirty as possible. She walks the fields off-leash and has never once given us cause for concern. In fact, her recall is one of her strongest skills, along with her loose-leash walking.

We asked for a dog that would never get bored of walking or training, and that is most certainly what we go. A round of applause to Dawn, the initial foster-carer for Ellie, for perfectly matching dog to family.

Her list of skills is now at the following: (All are over 75% successful.)

Front (Come and sit in front of legs.)
In (Come and sit next to left leg.)
Finish (Walk around back of legs and sit next to left leg.)
Up (Climb on table, etc.)
Off (Jump off table, etc.)
Kiss (Lick face)
Shake (Shake paw)
Go to bed (Goes to lay on own bed.)
Shut the door (Closes the living room door.)
"In Your Tin" (Goes into crate.)
Spin (Chases tail in clock-wise direction.)
Get the post (Fetches mail from doormat and brings to hand.)
Watch (Looks in face)

She is currently learning to stand on all four paws without moving. That is taking some doing, but as always, we'll get there. None of her behaviours are to competitive obedience standard yet, but damn, considering she has been with us for just 14 weeks, she is good - damned good! She still needs the hand-signal for most behaviours, but this will improve as she gets older. She's certainly doing better than we had anticipated at this stage.

Two weeks ago, we tested her on Sue Ailsby's levels - level one - and she passed with flying colours. We're now working towards level two.

In addition to her behaviours, she has learned to bath well and accept the blow-dryer. She has perfect door manners when going for walks, will stand perfectly to be stroked, have her paws checked, and her ears, eyes, and teeth checked, and doesn't try to force herself through doors before us. Better still, she has yet to chew a single thing that doesn't belong to her. We keep waiting for this infamous Border Collie bad-behaviour that so many websites and books refer to, but so far, we're just not seeing it - at all. Of course, there's still plenty of time...

Personality wise, Ellie is an extremely loving dog, and I mean extremely. She absolutely loves to cuddle in and fall to sleep on me, and to be honest with you, we love it too. She will jump on the sofa with me each evening for a brush, but always falls asleep once the brush goes over the back of her neck.

She's still quite timid, but this is improving as each week passes. So far, she's not as zany as I've seen some Border Collies. She's quite placid, takes her time, and rarely gets over-excited - unless she's playing with her favourite tennis ball. But even then, the second we say "that's it", she instantly calms as she knows that indicates the end of play.
The older she gets, the more indepedent she gets. There are several times that she will just go place herself in her crate during the day or during the evening. She doesn't seem to insist on following us from room to room either.

All in all, we don't have a single thing to complain about with Ellie, and here's hoping that the next six months are every bit as good as the first.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Formal Training Class - Week Five

As we were waiting for the instructor to arrive, once again, Ellie was accosted by the Ridgeback dog, which attends the same class. It isn't strictly an aggressive dog, though that depends on how you define aggressive of course, but it is most certainly out of control. Neither of its two owners are able to place any degree of control over it. You would think that, knowing this, the owners would take greater care, but no. Once again, we ended up with their dog running around us and entangling leashes. It's very annoying, because the owners should take more care.
After the usual warm-ups of sit-stay and down-stay, we introduced a new behaviour, having the dog walk around an object. In this case, a road traffic cone. Again, I have to say, Ellie just instantly grasped the concept and had no problems with it. I can't imagine why, because we haven't done this with her before.

We then practised the "go to bed" command. This was incredibly easy for Ellie, as we've actually been practising this for a few days at home now too. Though it didn't help that Christina gave us a sand coloured blanket on a sand floor! :)

Christina, the instructor, mentioned that Anna, the instructor for the previous puppy training course we attended, had been asking how we were getting on. Christina mentioned that we're top of the class. Yay for Ellie!

Christina then reminded Jan that the post for a training volunteer was still open for her, and she was eager for Jan to fill it, as they have a very busy year ahead, with demonstrations and exhibitions. Jan will be filling the post after Christmas.

As is usual, we finished off with some agility! Yay! Ellie loves her agility. As per usual, the loved the tunnel work and the jumps. This week however, the dogs had to jump onto a table after leaving the weave poles, and lay down on it.

Again, Ellie instinctively seemed to know what was needed of her, and needed very little prompting at all. We can't explain why this is, and if we could, we'd bottle it and sell it. It's like having a magic dog!

It was nice to hear Christina telling the other dog owners how much effort and hard work Ellie was doing at home between classes. I guess that means we're getting it right.

As always, we're especially proud of her, and thank our lucky stars that we found her. We were and are incredibly lucky.