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Thursday, 1 September 2016

Twiggy's Trip to Europe

At the end of July Mum, Nanna Cadman and myself hopped in the van and left Cheshire to be part of Team GB at the European Open in France. Mum forgot Poppy and Paddy!  I was an only child for the week so was looking forward to ruling the roost and hogging the bed.

First stop was an overnight at Dartford ready for a short trip to Kent to meet the coach the next morning.  I was quite generous and allowed Mum about 1/3 of the bed.

The coach trip this year was like comparing nipping to Chester with driving to Orkney.  An hour into France versus driving for hours to deepest darkest Germany.  The hotel was lovely with the all important air-con, big bed for me, huge gardens to wander round and some feathery neighbours right outside the window which for some reason Mum wouldn’t let me play with.  Meanie!


The first day was a day to get our bearings, take a trip to the venue, get measured (small – like it was ever going to be any different!) and have a play over some equipment.  In Europe the jumps are slightly narrower with wings that aren’t so colourful and therefore easier to run into, lower dog walk so I run faster than Mum is used to, chain tyre which falls apart if you hit it and non slip tunnels which confused me as the whole bottom half of the tunnel is black.  Mum says I should go to Specsavers.  Not my fault I couldn’t tell where the black stops and the tunnel started!

Team day was the first day of competition.  At the EOs small and mediums run in a combined team at the appropriate height for the dog.  We were told we were running Team 10 and all teams would run consecutively with the jump heights moving up and down as appropriate for the height of the dog.  Helpfully this changed as Mum was walking the agility course but nobody knew how many small dogs were in the 9 teams before us (could be anything between 0 and 4 dogs per team).  Not exactly the easiest way to plan a warm up!  Consequently we were ringside far too early and were drenched by the time we got to play.  Not a dreadful run; we picked up 10 faults – Mum ballsed up once for 5R and I missed the dog walk.  1-1!!


 Jumping in the afternoon and I have to confess I was bad!  Mum was definitely indicating the weaves, both verbally and physically, but the tunnel was too tempting!  I was not in good books…  We made use of the facilities and went on a little walk to unwind.  It didn’t really produce the desired effect as I may have found something delightfully stinky to roll in.  Whatever it was it was suitably vile and Mum was horrified, especially as we were somewhat limited on facilities to clean up at the venue.  She got her own back when we got back to the hotel and plonked me very unceremoniously in the massive bath and blasted me within an inch of my life with the shower.  To be honest I don’t think I would ever have been allowed near her bed if she hadn’t so maybe it wasn’t a bad idea?

Individual jumping started the next morning off with yet another last minute change to the running orders.  The original plan was for the smalls to be split into 4 rotations with me running 19th in the 2nd rotation.  For reasons nobody understood we found out part way through the first rotation course walking that everything had changed and I was in fact running 3rd.  In the first rotation.  Eek!!  You really expect that an event of such importance to be well run and both mentally and physically competitors and their dogs need every detail scrutinised so they are at the peak of their performance.  We will never know if the outcome would have been different if we had been afforded that luxury.  Suffice to say we had a big fat E as Mum was just in the wrong place constantly on the course.


By the afternoon we knew what was happening and the organisation didn’t change.  We were clear, coming 34th out of 200 ish dogs, with over half of the entry being eliminated.  Mum was very happy and felt that finally we had put in a run which was much more like our normal standard.  We didn’t quite make it to the finals; just missing out.

Whilst the organisation left a lot to be desired, the standard of agility was AWESOME.  Team GB had some cracking results and we are up there with the best in the World.  The courses are a very different ‘flavour’ to those we typically see in the UK.  Not a box or pin wheel in sight.  Clever discrimination, flowing lines that allow a dog to stretch and contrary to popular belief not everything is ‘round the back’.  It’s fun to run!! 

I met lots of new friends, allowed Mum a bit of the bed and generally was the centre of attention all the time so I really enjoyed it.


Something strange happened on the way home though – Mum picked up another dog!  I’m not sure how long she’s here for but it’s looking permanent…. but that’s another story…


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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Can You Dig It Summer Show 2016

This weekend we were in Cheadle for our three day Can You Dig It Summer Show.

It takes months and months of planning and organising and weeks of heavy graft leading up to the show to make it happen. From taking entries and emailing out confirmations to mowing the grass and rolling the field. There's a lot of hard work done by a small amount of people before we even get dogs and people onto the field.


After weeks of heavy rain with little let up everyone knew it was going to be muddy, and the rain continued to come down in showers on the Friday. But the ground held, although we were all resembling a slightly unglamourous spa treatment by the end of the day, and a certain instructor could be heard complaining about "trench foot". 

None the less spirits were high, the dogs and handlers safety was paramount and only a few people needed a tow or push off the field. Come to think of it... it was the same instructor complaining about trench foot who also needed a tow off the field... The rest of us found this highly amusing of course.


With the show over for one day and the remaining campers onto the field without much issue we settled down, cracked open a can of cider and successfully ordered pizza to a field in the middle of nowhere.

Saturday morning arrived and it certainly felt good to roll out of bed and straight into the show. Best commute ever. The ground had dried out slightly overnight and superhero Nick jumped in the tractor and rolled the field to help the day parking area.


There was some great competition in the rings with some cracking runs from beginners at their first ever show and some impressive handling happening in the advanced class.

Outside of the ring a tombola was being held in aid of Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, plus we donated the funds from the practise ring and the have a go flyball to the charity throughout the weekend. In the end we successfully raised £180 for Hearing Dogs! Amazing. 


Having recovered from her trench foot and getting stuck in the mud, Katie ran a Have a Go Flyball session on the Saturday and Sunday and we saw lots of people enjoying the chance to try a new sport. Katie had their dogs successfully retrieving a ball over a few jumps and even doing box turns after just a 10 minute session.


On the Friday and Saturday we ran pairs and team agility classes. Everyone was having fun with their friends and their dogs and some teams were formed from people who didn't know each other. In true Dig It spirit they all joined to have a blast with their dogs.


On Saturday night we moved the rings and secretaries marque onto fresh ground and were grateful of the help from the campers to get this done quickly. Kathryn Stickney taught some fantastic workshops, more cider was opened and chinese food was successfully delivered to a field in the middle of no where.

As it was going dark and we left for bed a slurred out-of-tune rendition of "I Will Survive" filled the campsite followed by hysterical laughter and then silence. Sounded like a good time was being had and it certainly gave a few of us a chuckle!


We were on fresh grass on Sunday and with no rain since Friday the ground held out with only minor mud issues here and there. 

Everyone was cheerful and happy and headed home after a very enjoyable weekend. The comments on our facebook page and agility group since have been overwhelming, with lots of praise to the organisers and team and thanks to the judges, ring managers and helpers who are a vital part to the running of an agility show.

It was great to have the support of Canine Magnetix and The Howl Emporium there and overall it was a brilliant weekend. Thank you to everyone who came along, competed, helped out and made the weekend what is was. 


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Do you reward your dog?

In dog training we use rewards to tell our dogs that they have done the right thing and to increase the likelihood of that particular behaviour being repeated. There are several different ways to reward your dog and your dog may prefer one or other method at any given time so it is important to discover what motivates your dog to work and what they find rewarding. Find out what makes your dog’s tail wag the most!

Food treats are a good way to reward your dog because they are immediate and innately rewarding but find out what type of food your dog likes best and bring a selection of different foods. However, quickly try to use some or all of the things below so you keep your rewards versatile.
Play is also innately rewarding so find out what type of play suits your dog and its breed and what they like to play best. Try to make the play interactive with you rather than giving them a toy to go and play with by themselves. You don’t always need a toy to play with your dog as some dogs enjoy running around and ‘being silly’ with you just as much.
Verbal praise is also be rewarding for your dog but dogs need to learn very early on that this is a good thing so spend time telling them how lovely they are and what a good girl or boy they are just before you give them a treat for dong what you want and they will soon learn to associate your praise with being a good thing.

Physical fuss for some dogs is very rewarding but remember not all dogs liked to be touched while working and sometimes there are places on their bodies they don’t enjoy being touched so find out by watching what your dog does when you fuss them. If they move away from your touch it usually means they are not really enjoying it.

There will also be lots of things in the environment your dog finds rewarding, like going for a swim, having a sniff, getting to play with a friend so make sure you build these into your reward strategy too by asking your dog for a behaviour for the reward of getting what they find rewarding.

Every dog is different and what your dog finds rewarding may differ from mine and even between dogs in the same household there will be differences. There may even be differences in what motivates your dog depending on the time of day, the location you are training and the mood they are in.

The important thing to observe your dog closely and watch what he really enjoys moment by moment and to try to capture and use what your dog finds motivating in your training and general life with your dog.


Friday, 1 January 2016

Set goals for 2016

No matter what type of training you do with your dog, be it agility, rally, flyball or just general pet dog obedience, it's good to set goals to give your training a direction.


If you compete in agility with your dog then you should currently be in the middle of your winter training and starting to look towards the next season of competition, therefore now is a great time to set your summer goals.

But goals mean nothing if we don't put into place a plan to achieve them.

For example, if your goal is to progress from Grade 3 to Grade 4 this season, you now need to set little steps in order to achieve this.

If your dog is missing the down dog walk contact, then put into place little goals and steps to achieve consistent contacts, which will then help you to achieve clear rounds in competition.

Plan which shows you are going to enter and get the entries sent off. Consider entering some competitions NFC to work on ring experience. Or maybe your dog is knocking poles and therefore your plan will include jump grips, workshops and fitness exercises.


Perhaps one of your goals is to teach your dog a retrieve. You can set a training plan including step by step instructions on how to achieve this. Your first step may be to book onto a workshop or research different training methods before setting out your own training plan.



Ensure that your goals are SMART:

Specific - it is clear, defined, do you understand what you are aiming for?

Measurable - how will you know when you have achieved it, can you measure how far it is from completion?

Achievable - is it achievable, can you do it?

Realistic - is it realistic, do you have the resources, knowledge and time?

Time - do you have enough time to achieve it, have you set a realistic completion date?

Talk to your instructor about your goals and they will be able to help you in classes to aim your training in order to complete them.



Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Socialisation – what does it mean?!

Puppies learn about their environment by exploring and learning which experiences were good or bad. Before a puppy is 12 weeks old they will meet new situations with curiosity, after 12 weeks old they will approach with apprehension.

Socialisation is about introducing them to all the animate things they are likely to meet during their adult life, such as other dogs, people of all varieties, sheep, cows, horses etc.

Giving your puppy lots of positive experiences when they come across different situations will help them to be calm and happy throughout their life and approach new things with confidence. With positive early experiences they are much likely to bounce back if, at a later stage in life, they meet something a little scary.

A puppy that is not introduced to a variety of experiences, or that has a negative situation, will possibly express behaviour problems in the future such as fear, anxiety and aggression. Therefore it’s vital to socialise your puppy correctly.

Gently does it

The world can be a scary place for a young puppy, plus they are not fully protected from potentially life threatening germs until they have completed their vaccination program. Therefore it is important to take care and introduce your dog to situations safely and positively in a way that does not overwhelm them.

If a puppy becomes frightened of something before 12 weeks old, it may struggle to get over that fear in later life. For example if your puppy is taken along a busy road and gets a fright that overwhelms it, it may become frightened of traffic for life, which will have a negative impact on walking and travelling with your dog.

Your puppy should not be allowed to meet unfamiliar or unknown dogs or walk on the ground along the pavement or in a park before it has completed its vaccination program. Therefore you should carry your dog out and about in your arms to give them some key socialisation opportunities. A short walk along a few quiet streets for their first trip out will give your puppy appreciation of new smells, sights and sounds. 

Gradual scale

Experiences should be built up gradually, starting with very small, gentle encounters that the puppy can cope with and then gradually increasing their exposure day by day. 

Use praise, tasty treats and fun toys to reward your puppy with each new experience.

Your puppy does not have to come into actual contact with something in order for them to socialise, it happens as soon as your puppy can hear, smell and see them. 



Things to socialise your puppy with

  • People – adults, children, babies, men, women, people wearing hats, people wearing coats, men with beards, ladies with sunglasses, etc
  • Dogs – different breeds and ages
  • Animals – horses, chickens, cows, sheep, squirrels, etc
  • Locations – the park, the woodland, the beach, etc

Remember gradual, gentle, positive experiences!

Socialising your puppy with different dogs

Puppies need to learn how to behave around other dogs. They should not engage in play with every dog they meet as some dogs, such as older dogs may find this distressful, painful or simply annoying.

Socialising a puppy with another dog should start with them getting to see, smell and hear other dogs passing by. You could sit with your puppy on a bench at a quiet park and let them watch other dogs, or stand with them on the pavement as another dog walks by.

You could invite a friend and their friendly, vaccinated dog around to visit you or you could go to visit your friends. Allow your puppy to explore and greet in their own time, and if the puppy is trying to get away from the adult dog then calmly and positively separate the dogs and keep the adult dog from overwhelming the puppy, as well as interrupting the puppy if it becomes too rough or persistent with the adult dog. Interactions should be kept very short so as not to tire either dog out or allow your puppy to get too over excited.

It will benefit your relationship with your dog if your puppy is polite with other dogs and does not seek them out as a main source of fun, you should be the most fun thing in a puppies life.



Recognise when your puppy is scared

Familiarise yourself with dog body language and pay attention when your puppy looks scared. Common signs are the ears going back, the tail drooping and being tucked underneath, wide staring eyes, lip licking and the puppy may try to lean away or escape. If your puppy looks frightened then remove them from the situation.

It is misguided to think that the puppy should face their fears. Studies have shown that dogs’ fears will likely increase, making that experience worse and have a negative impact on their future experiences. Keep calm and gently remove your puppy to a familiar safe place.

Next make a plan to greatly reduce the intensity of the experience they just found frightening and on another day introduce your puppy to the lower intensity experience again with lots of reward. This may just involve showing your puppy the object from a further distance away, or muffling the sound so that it is quieter.

Socialisation continues for life

Although the key window for socialisation is before a puppy reaches 12 weeks old, this doesn’t mean it stops here. Make sure that you pair potentially new or more intense experiences with a reward to make the situation positive for your dog.

If you have acquired your dog once it is over 12 weeks old be sure to follow the socialisation guidelines above, gently introducing the dog to new animate objects and pairing these with something rewarding.

Speak to a Dig It Instructor for further advice. 

Remember…


Correct socialisation saves lives. 


The first ever Rally Competition at Dig It Dogs

Over the last few months Dig It has been holding monthly Rally-O classes, covering Level 1 to Level 3. Everyone was doing great so we decided to have a little competition for those who wanted to have a go at competing in Rally O, to put all of their hard work into practice. 



Therefore on Friday 23rd October Dig It Dog Training Club hosted their very first ever 'Have a Go Rally Competition'. It wasn't an official Kennel Club Show so judging was relaxed and it was a huge success, with 18 participants taking part in our Level 1 course, designed and judged by Julie Nelson. 

It was a fun and relaxing evening with everyone on two and four legs really enjoying themselves. All of the participants went home with a certificate for taking part and those with qualifying scores were awarded a rosette. The first five placements were given numbered rosettes.



I would like to thank Julie Nelson for designing the course and judging, Sheila and Joy for scribing and Lydia for the beautiful rosettes. I would also like to thank everyone else who attended to participate, we're looking forward to running another "have a go rally competition" in the new year, covering Level 1 and 2.

Well done to the following people who were placed:

1st - Angela Wilson with Lily
2nd - Leslie Thompson with Kibo
3rd - Angela WIlson with Willow
4th - Rachel Richards with Chip
5th - Rachel Richards with Daisy


The next Rally O Classes are to be held on 21st November and 5th December, please email enquiries@digitdogs.co.uk to book on.

To find out more about Rally visit our website here: http://www.digitdogs.co.uk/training/rally-obedience/

Tracy

Monday, 31 August 2015

British Flyball Association Championships Report

The flyball champs is the biggest competition of the year and has steadily grown over the last few years until we are now at the maximum capacity of 330 teams racing over 3 days spread over 55 divisions.

The slower teams start the racing off on the Friday and this builds until we get to division one on the Sunday when there is standing room only to view!

This year Carry on's had three teams entered meaning a team racing every day.

Fridays team was the team I thought had the best chance. They they didn't disappoint and went on to win division 43. We had some super tough racing and the last race meant the difference between winning or third place in the division.

The team consisted of three collies, two labradors and super height dog Millie (who keeps the fences low for the other dogs).


Saturday and Sundays team didn't do quite so well but worked hard to get a 3rd and a 5th.

The racing on Sunday was spectacular and we got to see the first ever run where both teams went sub 16 seconds (only three teams have done that so far) and the British and European record is currently set at 15.79 (by the team that did the 15.80 here).