I can’t believe that it is already half way through the show season and we are still not competitive. We did get to a couple of shows but for the last month I have been side-lined because my knee recovery has suffered a bit of a setback. At least one of the shows was the not to be missed Carmarthen weekend where a great time was had by all. This show has very quickly become one of my favourites. I couldn’t cope with the rounds so we only came away with one third place. Roy took over as he always does when he knows I can’t manage. Rafa was unfortunately disturbed in stays on the first day but managed to complete the test on the second day in spite of another crisis of confidence with his retrieve. I was very proud of him because a couple of weeks earlier he had a fright in the ring and as luck would have it this was just as he was about to retrieve. It cost us a possible win. Rafa isn’t the bravest of dogs but as he is still only 2 years old he has time on his side.
Last month I was looking at adverts for litters when one of them caught my eye. I like to know what is being bred – Border Collies of course – what else? But occasionally I find a pup bred from some of my favourite lines and if the time is right then I may just go and look. This time although the time isn’t really right I went to see a litter of pups. Bred on a farm in the Brecon Beacons you would not expect pups to have had much in the way of socialisation. But as with Rafa what you expect and the reality are not always the same. I took a friend with me and we drove through some beautiful scenery finally arriving at the farm high up on a hill miles from anywhere. We were looking at a wonderful litter of Kelpie pups which were in a pen near the door of the barn – fascinated because they had an orphan lamb for company. So we didn’t immediately notice the Collie pups in the next pen.
As we turned to look a small black and white bundle of fluff flew across the pen and latched on to me like an exocet missile. I picked him up and said ‘this is my pup’ oblivious to the fact that there were others in the pen. I don’t know if Jake chose me or I chose him but he came home that day. I always find that if I have a strong reaction I don’t ever regret it. But it wasn’t impulse. The breeding was right. Ironically, Lisa who came with me had a similar strong reaction to Jake’s brother Tip. So what had started out as a visit to look at a litter ended up with 2 pups travelling home together, throwing up all over the cage and making a racket in the process. Roy and Rafa who were in the adjacent cage were not amused.
Unfortunately when we had the pups for just a few days, Lisa was taken to hospital so Tip came to stay with us for a week. Jake was delighted to have his brother with us because the 2 really do get on famously. By now they were both seasoned travellers and came out in the car wherever we went. It has been incredibly easy socialising these pups. The work had all been done before we got them. Bred for brains they soak up training like a sponge. That does not mean that Jake will be entered at a show as soon as he is old enough. Just that he is very trainable and I will as always be taking my time.
Jake’s great grandfather is Roy’s father with other lines in common as well. So the 2 are very much alike. Jake is totally fearless which has already almost caused problems for us. So training a rock solid recall has to be a priority. The day after we got him he sneaked out of the gate and down the track where I had taken him for a short walk. We were frantically searching for him when the postman drove up and asked if we had lost something. Jake was on the back seat totally unphased by his adventure. All this happened in less than a minute. That day I taught him that as soon as he goes out of the gate he turns back to look for a treat. I am so glad he is a quick learner. I think this is one of the many reasons why Border Collies bred from working lines do not do well in a town. They need space and this is rarely available in towns.
I always take my pups along when I go to training club and to shows so that they become accustomed to their future lifestyle early. But although I train every day Jake is the first pup I have actually taken to a class. Our club runs excellent puppy classes so I thought it would be a good idea to take Jake as part of his socialisation. Too many people wrap their pups in cotton wool and never let them mix with other dogs and pups so they end up lacking in social skills. Jake is a roaring extrovert and thinks puppy classes are loads of fun. Last week he ran into the main hall and introduced himself to the beginners as well. As I said before, he is fearless! But once I produce the clicker and treats I have his full attention. He has a phenomenal attention span for such a youngster. At time of writing he is still only 15 weeks old. He is going to be a bit of a handful as he matures but that is my type of dog.
Jake has now settled in to his new lifestyle and pack. He loves to play rough games so when Tip comes to visit he is in his element. But between times Rafa is happy to oblige being just a playful youngster himself. Molly loves to play with pups and although she will flatten Jake when she has had enough he adores her and has no fear of her at all. I often think that Collies were born to play rough games – so many of them do. Roy as usual simply looks down his aristocratic nose. He takes the view that pups should be born big enough to know the rules and totally ignores them until they do. Jake once tried to hang on to Roy’s ruff. He got one of Roy’s looks – that is all it took, no noise or fuss. Roy is now allowed his peace and quiet. Molly and Rafa have to take their chances. Keeta is far too old to be bothered so she is out of bounds to Jake.
Last week we visited the Sennybridge sheepdog sales, not to buy anything, just for a day out. There were some quality animals there and the prices were ridiculously low. This week we are hoping to go to the Welsh National Sheepdog trials. It is always good to see some of the best dogs and handlers in the world doing what they do best. We have quite a few shows coming up. I am hoping that the knee exercises will allow me to be competitive again sometime soon. If not there is always next year.
In the meantime training is restricted to what I can manage. Roy loves fast pace but that is not an option right now. Still heel position is heel position so pace should not really matter. That is what I keep telling myself! Rafa is once again getting his confidence back and is starting to retrieve happily again. Unfortunately he is not a natural retriever. So if anything does happen to dent his confidence retrieve is usually the first casualty. Fortunately he has never associated retrieve with scent for some reason.
It will be good to be back at the shows again win or lose. Jake has already been to one and had the time of his life. Now he is old enough to be taken to the open shows he can be trained around the showground and learn to concentrate with all the distractions. Shows can be fun for dogs but only if they are acclimatised from an early age. For an older dog to be suddenly dragged into a place where hundreds of dogs and people are gathered can be quite traumatic. Roy and Rafa happily leap into the car on show days. I do not expect Jake the extrovert to be any different.