Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Eleven Months

Ellie Close Up
Ellie was eleven months of age yesterday. There is still no sign of her first season, though we're not overly concerned.

In terms of training, things are going well. Her levels of concentration are certainly increasing, meaning that we are able to expect more and more from her in training. For example, I was taking photographs of birds yesterday, and had her laying beside me. She stayed there with a "leave" command, even though I could see that she really wanted to chase them.

We still don't have a date for her Good Citizen Bronze exam, and I'm extremely disappointed about that. It's looking more and more like she is going to be over a year old before she even gets her first test. It's crazy. If she fails then Lord knows how much longer it will take us to get a second exam. I feel that so much time is being wasted. By now, we should be working towards the silver exam.
Ellie in the Park
As the warmer months are now setting upon us, meaning that we're able to be more active with Ellie, we've started adding small portions of beef dripping to her daily food rations. This will hopefully help prevent her losing weight during the sunnier months, and provide a little extra energy for the increased play.

She's now pretty much as we'd like her to be around other dogs -- ignoring them, preferring to focus on us instead. As we take her to more places over the coming months, I expect her to get better and better around other dogs and people. Thankfully, she does seem to be getting better at not jumping up at everyone she sees, trying to get some attention from them.
Looking Up
As you might be able to see from the photo to the left, Ellie is now looking a little less "stringy" and a bit more muscular. I put this down to a combination of age and exercise. Whatever the reason, it's good to see!

There are still no bad behaviours to report. All furniture is in tact, nobody has been bitten, no running off, no nothing. How lucky are we? I suppose if she has a fault, it's that she doesn't much care for sharing our affections. She wants us all to herself. If we stroke another dog outside, she will make it very clear that she's not happy.

In other news, we have a brand new camera and so we're able to take pictures of a much better quality now, and include some fast-action shots. (Our other camera was really a very basic point and click affair with no zoom capability.)

Ellie's car sickness seems to have improved. The true test will be when we take her to Jan's Mum's, as that is a pretty long trip, and she's been sick each and every time we've taken her to date.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Waterfall

With the sun shining for a second day, we decided to take Ellie to a small village called Anwick, about 15 miles away from us. There's a gorgeous river with a really powerful waterfall, that we knew she would love. Aside from the waterfall, you can follow the river for miles, and it's a beautifully wooded area.

Unusually too, the water in the river was absolutely crystal clear. We saw a few other people with their dogs, but Ellie is really getting very good at ignoring other dogs. She still, of course, loves meeting people with a wagging tail, hoping they will stroke her.
At the entrance where we joined the river, there is an old lock. This photo shows Ellie posing by the old lock handle that would have been used to open and close the lock gates. I must say that Ellie is getting exceptionally patient with me, happily sitting for ages sometimes, while I move around to get the right shot of her.

A rare shot of Ellie and I. We both decided that we would climb upon an old fallen tree trunk, while Jan snapped away. Usually, I am the one behind the camera, so this is a rare shot.

We've also got a lot of video taken over the past two days, but I need to edit it first.

Here's a shot of Ellie playing the part of a water-baby. She's really getting a passion for water now, which I'm exceptionally pleased about. You can also see in the photo just how clear the water was. It was lovely.

As always, check out the gallery for more images. There are some really good ones from today's trip.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Down by the Trent

The weather held out long enough for us to take Ellie to a new location today. We took her to a part of the River Trent in Beeston. It's a lovely area, with a park, and plenty of access points to the river. The photo to the left was taken at the end of the park, where there's a small waterfall.
The river was quite fast-flowing today, but that didn't prevent Ellie from exploring it, and even swimming in it. This was her first proper swim. Usually, the waters we have taken her to haven't been deep enough for her to swim in.
We spent quite some time just throwing stones into the river for Ellie to try to retrieve, though we kept getting interrupted by another dog that was there with its owner. Despite its appearance, it was a pleasant enough dog though. Ellie did as she usually does, and just ignored it.
We decided today, after reviewing all of the photos that we took while there, that we need a new camera. We've now ordered a new one and so there should be a marked improvement in photo quality as of next week. The new one has a much better ISO, zoom, and features. I'm really looking forward to getting that!

There are loads more photos from the day in the gallerye.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ellie the Trophy Dog

Trophy Bitch
As you will know from past posts, Jan and I have never been under any illusions over Ellie's looks. She's not the most gorgeous looking dog in the world, and is never going to rival those cute and cuddly classic Border Collies that you see all around. Though, she more than makes up for it in her ease of training, and in the sheer lack of problems she gives us.

Given the above, it came as some surprise to us when we learned from Dawn, Ellie's past foster-carer, that she had submitted a photo of Ellie into a local competition, organised by a dog rescue centre to help raise funds, and that Ellie had subsequently won the "Helen of Troy" (Prettiest Bitch) category.

Of course, never being ones to miss an opportunity to grab a photo, we're proud to show Ellie sporting her winners rosette. Doesn't she look proud? :)

In other news, the weather is finally changing around here. Hoorah! It's been a really miserable few weeks lately, with almost constant rain and drizzle, and cold temperatures. It sucks the motivation (and the opportunity) out of life when it's that way for such long periods.

We're hoping that the weather is going to hold out until the weekend as there's a large river that we used to live nearby, that we'd like to take Ellie to. She's really starting to love water now and so we want to make the most of that.
We still don't have a new date for the KC Good Citizen exam yet, and it's starting to irritate me a little that it seems to be taking so long. We'd always planned to get Ellie at least tested (and preferably passed) before she was twelve months of age, which is why we signed up so early, and why we've worked so damned hard to get her prepared. As it is, she's approaching eleven months of age in a few days, and not a sign of the test. It's extremely disappointing, to say the least.

Yes, you could argue that the "twelve months" is an arbitrary number and that it doesn't really matter if we go over that. However, that's not the point. The point is that we make plans for our dog, and we do our bit to adhere to them.

By 12 Months: Pass KCGC Bronze Exam
By 24 Months: Pass KCGC Silver Exam
By 36 Months: Pass KCGC Gold Exam
Around 3.5 years, start looking at competitive events.

The KCGC is extremely important to us as it gives dogs a really quite solid foundation. For me, it's like ensuring that children complete their education. You want to make sure that they always have that solid foundation to fall back on.

We attend training classes week in and week out, regardless of weather or temperature, because we want to achieve our objectives. We work with Ellie daily for the same reason. It just feels, to me, that we're being let down by the training classes failure to get the exam organised. As a result of this, we're having to adjust our plans and expectations based on that and not as it should be, on Ellie's performance or results.

I've already started looking for alternative classes, but it seems that our existing trainers are the only ones in our area. So now I'm wondering if it's possible to even get your dog tested privately. There must be some way that we can get things moving in a positive direction.

Monday, April 14, 2008

New Photos

I love taking my camera on walks with me. In fact, you might say I'm a bit of a photo addict. I'm always scared of "missing that moment". However, as prolific a photographer as I might be, out of about twenty photos taken, I'm lucky if two are worth keeping once I review them for digital editing later.

This morning was a lucky morning however. Out of about twenty photos taken, I managed to retain nine which I felt were good enough to keep. Here are my favourite two of those taken:

As always, you can view all the latest Ellie photos at her Flickr page.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Monthly Social walk

As part of my volunteer role at the training centre I attend a monthly social walk, where people from the classes all get together and walk their dogs.

Today was the first time that Ellie has been on a social walk since she was attending the puppy class last summer. Ellie was marvellous. In the group were about nine other Border Collies a couple of German Shepherd Dogs, and a couple of Spaniels.

Debbie, one of the trainers who runs the walk, has four Border Collies. Ellie seemed to really take to one of them - Rosie. She had a really good run around, but returned to me to have her lead on when other passers-by came close.

At one point, Ellie got a little over excited and Diesel (another of Debbie's dogs) put her in her place quick smart. After a few minutes of looking a bit apprehensive, she soon came around and joined in the frolics again, but with a little less muster than earlier. Lesson learned I guess.

It's good that she is being taught some manners whilst around a group of dogs. It was quite a big group and there were one or two little squabbles with some of the 'pack', but the dogs did a great job of sorting themselves out without the intervention of their handlers. All in all a great afternoon.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

KCGC Bronze Training - Week 10

This week's session was about one of the best we have had. Maz had decided that day to experiment with not taking Ellie on her afternoon walk, to see if it affected her training session in the evening. This was a great decision as Ellie was bright-eyed and raring to go when we arrived at the barn.

We did the customary sit/down stay for warm-ups. We did this for two minutes, some of it where I was out of her sight. She stayed for the duration.

We then took turns at going outside and practising some heelwork on leash and then back inside to practise heelwork off-leash. Ellie did really well with both. She was attentive to me, even when I started jogging outside, she stayed at my side and didn't falter once. Each time I said 'stop', she stopped immediately, sat down, and waited for the next command. She was faultless.

Back inside, we did some send to bed practise and some send away around an object - in this instance it was a chair. Top marks for both of these.

We then started to learn how to get Ellie to stand from a sitting position on command. The idea was to get Ellie to sit in front of me and then step off with one foot as if starting to walk into her. This action causes most dogs to move back into a stand. Ellie seemed to grasp this pretty quickly, although at the beginning, I was clicking and rewarding her before she had steadied herself, thus giving her the notion that I was rewarding her for going backwards. Christina noticed this and corrected me. I think this is one of the things that she is going to perfect really quickly.

An excellent night's work. I couldn't fault Ellie at all!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Update on Toby

I received an email from Toby's new owners today, with pictures and an update on how he is getting along.

I'm pleased to report that aside from one incident of chasing cows (yes, you read it right, chasing cows), he is settling in really well, with no problems to report.

The email went as follows:

I have attached some pics of Toby, and also a short video of him and Bailey playing with the rope toy.

He is doing well and still behaving apart from one incident which was our fault really! He swam accross a stream and chased some cows which he had previously ignored. Unfortunately the farmer happened to be in the field so he was a very luck boy that Jonny swam accross and caught him.

We have chalked it up to experience and baught a 100ft training lead to practise recall around fun distractions like that. Bailey really seems to be warming to him which is nice, and everyone that has met him loves him too.

I have included some pictures below. They are not great quality but I've cleaned them up as much as I can. I guess they were taken on a mobile phone, or on a camcorder.