Sunday, 26 June 2011

Tikkas growing up

Little Tikka is now 14 weeks old and is growing up fast. She has been in the displays since i got her at 7 weeks and i am very pleased with how she has worked. At many of the events there is lots of noise and distractions but she has stuck with me. Her play drive has really come on and now she loves a tennis ball which she had no interest in. She has always been a foody dog and her eyes light up when she knows there is some food on the cards.

Monday, 13 June 2011

I need a holiday !

Life has been so hectic recently as my house sale went through and that meant i had to get packing pretty quickly as they wanted to be in by the end of May. As i have been grooming at home for a number of years i also had to move the grooming salon to a unit, which means for the first time i have to drive to work. At the moment i am in a rented place until a property comes along which fits what I'm looking for. Im thinking at the moment of giving it 4 - 6 months and then perhaps settling for something different if the right property hasn't come up.
As well as the house move of course I have added to my canine crew by welcoming little Tikka. Perhaps it wasn't the best thing to do, have a pup just when i moved but its a great time of year for socialising pups as i am away doing demos at weekends. In fact Tikka has been in the demos since arriving at 7 weeks old and has proved to be a real pro. Tikka is from trialling parents so i have my fingers crossed that she will be interested in sheep. She has seen some sheep and ducks whilst being on the lead but wasn't too interested. Her training for HTM/freestyle is going well and boy aren't collies easy to train. Im not saying she does anything on command but it is easy to see how with repetition she will catch on. Her attention training has been going well and I'm very pleased with the way she has watched me during demos. From not being interested a few weeks ago in a ball she is now very interested in a tennis ball which is great for her play drive. Her food drive is very high and from day one i noticed she was mad about her food. This of course can go too far so im keeping an eye on it to make sure at this age she doesn't get too possessive about food.
The last few weeks has seen me receiving many responses to my Dog world article regarding small dogs working, the amount of freestyle in htm routines etc. I was saddened by some responses which were attacking me for writing the article even though the content of the article was made up of topics other handlers had discussed with me. Its emails like these which only serve to stop debate as newer judges are frightened of putting anything on the lists. Some judges/handlers replied to me privately as they fear if they put something on the lists they will be shouted down. If discussion about topics is to take place perhaps the members of the lists need to look at topics from all angles rather than just one.
Well that's it for the moment, i will try and keep making a blog entry but with all the things going on at the moment i seem to be running out of time each day.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Life since Crufts

In the last entry i mentioned i was on the move all was going well 8 weeks into the sale and then the buyers pulled out grrrrrr. I suppose it has to be expected as the reason they pulled out was uncertainty around husbands job. So it was back to square one but luckily in only a few days of the house going back on the market it has been sold again. Fingers crossed that this time the sale will go through ok.
It was nice to have a bit of a break in Anglesey recently at Rex and Maggies where i taught for a couple of days then had a couple of days off. The weather was nice and it was good to take the dogs on the beach although getting Whizzy and Disco groomed was a nightmare when i got home. On my way back i taught another workshop in Whitchurch and then ended up at Westlgen club judging at their show.
Since Crufts i have not been doing any training with the older dogs as they have a busy season of demos coming up. I have though been putting some work in on little Betty as she has not had as much training before Crufts. She is coming along well and i have now taught her a few more moves. I think at this point i need to extend the periods of time she works which tends to happen anyway during the summer when she is doing the demos.
Pogo excelled herself at her recent sheepdog lesson and actually almost listened to what i wanted her to do. She gets so excited when we pull up at the training venue that it often takes her a while to calm down.
It nice not to have to think about starting a new routine at the moment as i will be judging at Crufts 2012 but as many of you know that doesn't stop my brain from working. I have a germ of an idea with several possibilities which is exciting me at the moment but there is one major flaw in this idea.....i have no music !! so when i do get five minutes in between everything else i might have to look around for some relevant tracks.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Crufts !!

Apologies for not updating the blog recently but life has been rather hectic, as of course the start of March is always Crufts dog show. This year it seemed to have come round too quickly for my liking and what with other stuff going on I didn’t feel I perhaps had done enough training. Now when I say that I haven’t done enough training I probably mean I did the same amount as most people rather than a "Richard" amount. After the semi finals there is always that deliberation about how much training to do as the dogs know most of the sequences they require for the routines, so you don’t want to bore them but feel like you should be doing training.

So with my brain on "house stuff" more of that later, I arrived at Crufts on the Wednesday and managed to negotiate my painter props from the Hilton car park to the NEC main ring. All was set for the Thursday and after a couple of panic run throughs of the routines it was an early night and I was amazed that I actually slept well.

Thursday morning dawned and after some breakfast I took the two dogs over to the main ring benches and had to leave them there while going to do a training display to open the good citizen ring. I have to say at this point that I don’t think I could have coped for the four days on my own so I am indebted to Penny and Jean who help me by staying with dogs or pushing trolleys etc - a BIG THANK YOU to you both. So after the training display with my group of handlers I rushed back to the main ring and got changed for Whizzys combine harvester routine. I was glad that Whizzy was first as I seem to relax a bit more with her and as I had only entered her in the finals for experience so I wanted us both to enjoy it as I felt there was no pressure on us. I thought that the big ring might suit her as she has a long stride and during the performance the bigger area allowed me to flow with her better. I had also taken note of her enthusiasm in the ring at the last few shows so had given her a bit more work before going into the ring just so she perhaps was not quite so manic. Well I could not have been more pleased with the way she worked and I have to say I quite enjoyed it myself.

Then it was a quick change into the painter outfit as Pogo was last in the running order. As each team went in I fully expected some to beat Whizzys score and some did come close but I was very surprised that her score remained in the lead until dog ten. Of course dog ten was Pogo so as I walked into the ring I knew one of my dogs had won the final. I have waited a few years to perform this painter routine as I knew it could be good but needed to make sure Pogo could cope with it before I brought it out. Now I’m not going to say that it all went totally to plan but the majority did and some bits I managed to cover. Overall I was very pleased with how it went and this time unlike the semis I managed to get the ending correct. When the score came in I was over the moon that I had succeeded in getting first and second in the UK freestyle final. This meant it was the second year running Pogo had won it and the third time I have won it : )

Later that day I was meant to work Pogo again in the winners spot but knowing my dog it was too much to ask her to work the next two days in competition as well as this second performance. Those who know Pogo know she has not got the most drive in the world and last year when she did the same it was a mistake on my part to do this second performance as it had an effect on her next two days routines. So instead of working Pogo I worked Whizzy who did well but perhaps not as on form as she had been in the morning. It’s a lot to ask the dogs to do complex routines twice in one day and personally I prefer to leave my dogs doing one routine a day as the second one never goes as well.

After the excitement of the first day it was time for Pogo to compete in the HTM final on the Friday. If you have watched the routine you will know she was shaking her head during the routine which was due to me : ( Just before I went into the ring I pulled some liver cake apart and some crumbs landed on her head and perhaps down her ear. I knew as soon as I saw them fall that I was going to have a problem and sure enough halfway through the routine I nearly stopped. After one good shake she seemed better so I carried on and the resulting score was good enough to take her into second.

The international competition was on the Saturday and as we had won on the Thursday we had to represent England in this compeititons. There were entries from Slovenia, Denmark, Belgium etc so no pressure for us! After a dodgy start when Pogo looked around she got into her flow and the routine went well, almost a little better than the Thursday. At the end of the competition I was over the moon she had added the international to her wins.

Crufts is always hectic for me as not only do I have the finals but three training displays with my dogs or volunteer handlers in the Good cits ring. I have to thank all my handlers for coming along and doing a brilliant job during the four days especially Lucy who got landed to do the commentary a couple of times as I was down in the main hall. As well as these training demos I also did an hour long training master class on the Samsung stand on Friday and Sunday which went very well according to the organisers.

So that was another Crufts over with, at the moment I’m thinking this might be Pogos last Crufts as I don’t often keep dragging my dogs out again and again preferring to retire them when they are on a high. Especially as I am judging next year plus have other young dogs coming up. Not that Pogo will retire as she is an essential part of the K9 Freestyle display so will still be working in that but from my point of view I don’t have to worry about her display work interfering with her competition work.

As I mentioned earlier it looks like I might be on the move, having lived in Southampton all my life it has and still is scary to move to a totally different place. At the moment I have my fingers crossed that everything is going ok with the house sale/purchase but who knows so I will post more when there is some concrete facts.

Finally can I just say a huge thanks to everyone who has emailed, facebooked or sent cards congratulating us on our Crufts wins it is lovely to hear such nice comments about the routines and the enjoyment that have bought to people watching.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

A busy time

Since the semi finals life for the dogs has been fairly quiet as i always like to give them a good rest after the build up to a competition. That doesn't mean i have had a rest as Feb has seen the start of two monthly Tuesday workshops. These day long workshops are for handlers who are competing and during the day we have a mix of individual and group work. The first of this kind of workshop was at the start of Feb and i really enjoyed it as it was good to work on individual teams rather than keeping things general which you sometimes have to do with large groups.
Betty has not had that much training recently as i have had a lot of work with the two competition dogs so it has been nice to do a little more work with her. She is great fun to train but you do have to be on the ball as she does things so fast. She already has some unique moves due to her size but at the moment i am struggling to come up with anymore. Of course she can do all the basic moves like the bigger dogs but some just don't have the same impact because of her small size.
I forgot to mention in this blog that we did a performance in front of royalty at the end of January. When i say royalty it was Princess Alexandra who i think is a niece to the Queen. It was all very formal and i had to stand in line to greet her, then little Betty and Pogo had to do their thing. Luckily it went quite well and i am told the Princess really enjoyed it.
Last week i made the trip to London to see a preview of the Dogumentary or as it is now called A different breed TV show which i was filmed for last year. It is going to be shown on Sky at the start of April and i must admit to being a little worried about how it was going to look. As i watched the first half of the programme i was cringing a bit as some of the dog owning characters are certainly outgoing. Then it came to my bit which was the filming done when Whizzy competed at a show. I thought it came across OK, obviously they showed the only three people in the entire show that had funny costumes but that's what the media does. We then saw the fifth show out of the six and that was ok. There are funny moments in it and i think it will make you laugh in places if you do watch it. Not having seen all 6 programmes i don't know what the others are like but from what i have seen it appears i will not have to leave the country in embarrassment !
Not long to go to Crufts now so i really must get back into training but with lots of workshops still to teach this month it might not be that easy.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Pogo and Whizzy qualify for Crufts

The semi finals for Crufts took place on the 29th January at the KC building at Stoneleigh. As the semis got closer i was beginning to regret having to perform three routines all on one day. Life has been very busy away from dogs which is unusual for me so it had been hard to keep my brain on the job.
Pogo was first in on the day with her Great Escape heelwork routine. I chose this music as it suits her small frame and as i had found a different version i felt i could do it differently from when i have used it before. Pogo did well but i didn't feel that we were both quite on form, so i was pleased to find out that we ended up in second place.
Then it was the turn of Whizzy in the Crufts freestyle semi final. I was performing a routine she has done last year so in theory we should have known it. Well Whizzy was in turbo mode and i should have perhaps given her more work in the morning. That's the trouble when your working a new dog it takes a while to find out what is the best way to get them to perform well in the ring. Anyway it didn't go too badly and she was certainly enjoying it which is more important than anything else. She ended up third which considering she was the youngest dog in the competition and has only been competing since April 2010 i was very pleased. My main reason for working her at this level was that she would not get the opportunity to work in the main ring at Crufts for quite a while if i didn't, as i am judging Crufts again in 2012 so i thought it best to give her the experience now.
After a quick change it was time to get ready to work Pogo in the freestyle semi final. I had been concentrating a lot on this routine and have had it in my mind for a long time but wanted to wait until i felt we could do it justice. The routine seemed to go past in a flash and there were areas which were not as good as we should have been but something to work on before the final. The routine seemed to go down well with the audience and the judges as they scored us well which meant for the second year running Pogo won the Crufts semi final.
So now its a bit of a rest before getting ready for Crufts at the start of March.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Crufts semi finals on the horizon

Not long now until the Crufts semi finals on the 29th January at the Kennel Club building. I keep thinking i should be doing more training but practise seems to have gone OK and a lot of things that the dogs are doing in the routines they have been doing a while. With all the rain its not really been ideal to go out training anyway. Also due to Pogos freestyle props i think i would get very odd looks in the park if i used them so i only use them in the barn i hire for practise.

Pogos sheepdog training has unfortunately been taking a bit of back seat recently as i really felt i should concentrate on her freestyle. I have managed to do a little with the ducks but hopefully get the next month out the way with and we can get back to do some practise.

I know there are various competitors from abroad who read this blog so i thought i should make you all aware of changes in the Crufts international rules. Here is the extract which anyone who is competing at Crufts international competition needs to be made aware of. Perhaps if you know someone who is competing you can make them aware of these changes and translate them into a language they might understand better. The last thing i would want to see is someone who has made the trouble to come all the way over to the UK but gets disqualified for including one of these moves. The extract from the Crufts rules reads

The following moves are NOT permitted during any routine. If any of the following moves are used the dog and handler will be eliminated from the competition: dog doing head stand (also known as tripod); dog being held/supported above handlers shoulders whilst handler is standing; dog performing a forward or backward roll; dog balancing on handlers upturned feet and; doing performing a handstand or walking on front legs only."

This week will see me starting to teach workshops with a one day session at Findon downs club. Also i have a display to do in London where i am told there will be a VIP turning up during my display. I have not been told who this VIP is going to be so i am intrigued to find out now who it is.