Friday, May 29, 2009

Two Years

Two Years Today
It's official, Ellie is two years of age today! Yes, that timid wee puppy has grown and we've purchased her a new bandana to mark the occasion! I've wanted one for her for ages, but Jan wasn't so keen. I won, for a change!

So where are we at two years of age?

I have noticed quite a shift in the past three months. It's not a huge shift, but it's a shift regardless. Ellie seems a little more bouncy, a little more willing to test limits, and has more prolonged bouts of energetic enthusiasm. If you didn't know her, you'd still think she has low motivation and low energy (particularly for a Border Collie), but I, as her everyday walker and trainer, can see the differences. If I had to put a figure to it, I would say that she's about 20% more energetic, responsive, and 'buzzy' than she was about three months ago. On a good day, that can be raised to about 33%.

She still gets on with other dogs, though, as we planned and wanted, she doesn't really mix with other dogs as such when walking. The home-boarding has really helped her become more accepting of other dogs, and to this date, we've only had to turn away one dog. That was because Ellie was entering into her phantom pregnancy, thus elevating her hormone levels and making her far less tolerant of the visiting dog. When dogs do visit, she likes those dogs which leave her alone, but is capable of issuing a growl, or even a quick reprimanding nip, if the visiting dog doesn't stop pestering her, or behaves a little too energetically around her. Like many young Border Collies, she can tend to fixate on moving dogs, giving them the 'collie eye' and trying to force their path. I think she thinks they must be sheep!

She now weighs 14.2kg, which, as you might expect, is at the lower-end of the Border Collie weight range for bitches. (12-19kg), and is still on a Burns dry food diet.

With regards to training, she's now getting to the point where higher energy activities are becoming more commonplace, such as repeatedly jumping over my arms in a circle, or 'relaying' where I run and she has to run along at my side and place the ball into my outstretched hand. She seems to particularly like this activity.

She still isn't a food-motivated dog, preferring instead to work for her beloved tennis ball. Ideally she would have been spayed by now, but this time, her phantom pregnancy got in the way of the ideal time to have it done. So, once again, we'll need to wait until after her next season.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beware the Doodles...

Cleo & Ceasar
I hope that I don't upset anyone when I say that I don't naturally gravitate towards Jack Russell Terriers (JRTs). I think we all have our own preferences when it comes to dogs, and that is what makes dogs such a success - there really is a breed for everyone. I just happen not to be a natural 'small dog' person.

Given the above, you can imagine that I wasn't particularly looking forward to home-boarding not one, but two JRTs (Ceasar and Cleo) at the same time. Don't get me wrong, you only have to spend ten minutes in my company to see that I love all dogs and communicate with them far more happily and confidently than I do with humans, but again, we all have our natural choices and JRTs just haven't featured on my radar before.

Well, they've been and gone, and do you know, I loved every minute of having them here. Everything about their visit just went so well. Their owners, Max and Becky, were two of the most down-to-earth, warm, and friendly people that I think we've ever met. (Jan and Max seemed to be in iPhone heaven together, while Becky and I were left to do the adult stuff.)

We realised that their dogs featured centrally in their lives and that they had the same loose regard for canine rules and regulations as we have. The dogs can sleep on the bed, jump on the furniture, etc. What's important is that the dogs feel part of the 'family'. Obedience has its place, of course, but let's not forget, our dogs are first and foremost, bringers of huge joy and happiness. Being allowed on the sofa and bed from time to time seems a small price to pay for that.

For two dogs that live together, they are quite different to one another in personality. Ceasar is the more confident and out-going, while Cleo is the more reserved. She's still confident, but just seems to appreciate and be happy with her own company. Suffice to say that Ceasar staged a silent revolution and stole my heart in just a few hours. It wasn't long before he was falling asleep on my knee at the computer desk, and on the second night, he went to sleep with me on the bed. Resistance was futile, he was such a charmer. Cleo was happy to come and get some attention from time to time, but was happier still for Ceasar to hog the limelight.

All in all, two of the nicest dogs we've had come to stay with us, and certainly two of the nicest owners. We have them again in September, for two weeks, and, who'd believe it, I'm actually looking forward to a JRT! :)

Tomorrow, we have the return of Monty, the black pug. He's our most frequent guest by far. I think he deserves his own parking spot by now. :)

Monday, May 18, 2009

The Busy Season

As most dog owners will tell you, this time of year is always the busiest, and it's no different in this house. The warmer weather and longer days means that we get to venture out to different places, see some shows, meet up with fellow dog-owners, and train new behaviours. It also means that, in our case, we get more dogs coming to stay as people go away on their annual holidays. Shown in the picture to the left, is our most recent visitor, Sally.
At Bourne Woods
We also met with John, Sandy, and their dog, Barney a few weeks ago. We took our dogs around the local Bourne Woods. Now, usually, I'd publish dozens upon dozens of photos from such places, wouldn't I? So why not this time? Numpty that I am, I forgot to switch on the anti-shake system on my camera. When I got home, I noticed that all of the photos were quite blurred. It still didn't occur to me what had happened, and I just presumed that, as I'd been running quite a bit, that perhaps my breathing was making more movement in the camera than usual.
The next day, the same thing happened, only that time I hadn't been doing any running. I was actually starting to question whether I was starting to get shaky hands in my old age! It was then that I noticed I hadn't turned on the anti-shake system. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Sorry John and Sandi, and of course, to Barney who did his best to show us all that he is over his fear of water.

Regardless, it was great to catch up with them. We've home-boarded Barney before. To this day, he's still the only dog that has managed to get Ellie to cave in and play with him! That's quite an achievement I can tell you!
In other news, we had to home-board Ellie over the weekend, as we went away to Jan's Mum and Dad's 50th wedding anniversary. It is the first time that she has been away from me overnight. In fact, the longest she has ever been away from me is about five hours I think. All in all, she did very well I'm told. A bit 'stressy', watching at the door but overall she coped well. When we were reunited, the first thing she did was thrust a tennis ball into my hand. I get the feeling I am little more than her personal ball-launcher. :)

This coming weekend we have two dogs being home-boarded. This will be the first time that Ellie has had to cope with two dogs. They are both JRTs, comically nicknamed 'the Doodles'. They seemed to get along on the initial visit and so it should be fine. In fact, May is pretty much fully booked with dogs! And let's not forget, it's Ellie's second birthday this month too! Wow, that has come around quickly!

In training terms, I'm currently working on the Silvia Trkman Heel method with Ellie. We're at the very first stage. She is now going around and getting clicked when she touches my leg. Though I don't yet see that she has put the two together. It seems to me that she hasn't quite registered it's the touching of my leg that is bringing the reward, not the moving around. She's also much better at going one way than the other. But we'll get there. This was always going to be a hard one to teach as Ellie gets very nervous and timid in a heel position. We've no idea why, but think it's my height. It will probably, therefore, do her good to be receiving frequent treats to be touching my leg.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Silvia Trkman Heel

Regular readers will know that I worship at the church of Silvia Trkman. I love her natural and relaxed training methods, her seemingly effortless approach to training, and how she conducts herself in terms of just getting on with training her dogs. She is confident enough not to have to join the pointless arguments over which training methods works best and which television dog trainer is best and why Ceasar Milan shouldn't be on TV (Yawn). Check any dog-training forum for endless examples of these things. I can also say, having emailed her before today, she is also extremely generous with her time and her sharing of knowledge when asked.

Such is the dedication to my genuflecting idolatry, I'm almost able to spot a Silvia Trkman influnced dog within a minute, particularly when the dog is performing heelwork. However, I've never known how she teaches her heel. Until now...

Barbie demonstrates the Silvia Trkman method with her new puppy, Tani.

And in case you are wondering why Barbie is demonstrating the method, she is taught by Silvia. Makes sense now doesn't it? :)

Friday, May 1, 2009

ICC Dogs - The Book

A wee surprise for those who attended the Belton International Horse Trials. Owing to the overwhelming (and very flattering) response to the photos that I took over the event (including offers to purchase individual prints which I am unable to provide on this occasion) I've decided to have a book printed.

Regardless of whether people who attended are interested in purchasing the book or not, I am having one printed for myself anyway as I just happen to like the photography.

The book will contain upto 80 pages and will feature the best photos that I took from the weekend. It will measure approximately 7"x7" and be hardback with a printed photo-sleeve.

Of course, there is an issue of permission to work through first. I need to obtain permission from those who will feature in it, particularly from those whose faces will feature within the pages. I will be working with Christina to find the best way to achieve this. My idea at the moment is that I will issue some release forms for people to sign at their next training class. Individuals would then need to sign them in order to grant permission for their image to be used in my book, and for them to state their understanding that they are not entitled to finanacial compensation for doing so.

Rest assured that if I do not get your permission then no photo(s) featuring your face will appear within the pages.

Naturally, I'm eager to find out the level of initial interest and so have included some images below which show exactly how the book will look. Feel free to comment or ask any questions you might have here, or email me at


Front Sleeve (Inc Spine and Inner Leaf)
Sample Book Shots
Rear Sleeve (Inc Spine and Inner Leaf)
Sample Book Shots
Sample Internal Pages

Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots
Sample Book Shots