The show season has now finished. It seems to be getting shorter each year. Last year we had one more show to go and Rafa won his second novice. This year wasn’t helped by my knee surgery in April. I thought the recovery time would be a few days but I had misread the information. So the boys have received very little training this year. We did manage to get to a few shows. I took my chances in the ring because I haven’t been able to train much and fast pace not at all. But both boys started to pick up some places and I told myself I would be more than happy just to get to shows and anything else would be a bonus.
It wasn’t until the middle of August that I was able to get out and train on a regular basis but even now I train very little heelwork. I managed to cope with a full day’s training which some friends had arranged with Herbie Watson, one of our top trainers. It was Herbie who suggested that I could ask a little more from Rafa. This involved concentrating on making sure Rafa kept a constant head position. Rafa being slightly built and a smoothcoat has to be so much more accurate than other dogs and just a slight change in head position can make it look as if he is losing accuracy. For the next couple of weeks we worked on it and I was able to click and treat for perfection having first ensured that Rafa started out properly.
Then at the end of August he won his first B. This came right out of the blue because I had stopped entering B. Rafa being the sensitive little soul that he is simply did not have the confidence to do sendaways under ring conditions. So we had been working on building his confidence away from the ring. But Stonehouse championship show entries closed early and we had one B left. I decided to take Rafa in and see what he made of the sendaway. In the event he did one of the best sendaways of the day and won the class. After that he just seemed to gain in confidence.
He did have a minor setback at his next show when his dumbbell dropped in a hole and I had to help him. But on his next outing he won his first A and this was from an early draw – not an easy thing to do. By now the confidence was so high that he decided he could go and socialise in stays instaed of being rooted to the spot. Then after more remedial training at home we went to Plymouth DTC’s 2 day show on Dartmoor at the beginning of October. This is one show I love to enter win or lose because there is always such a happy atmosphere and the local hotel allows us to have dogs in our rooms.
It is usually accompanied by rain which has never dampened our spirits. Dog trainers are a hardy lot if a trifle eccentric! This year however it was unseasonably baking hot and we had to do what we could to protect our dogs from the heat. It did not bother Rafa one little bit. He won A again on the first day with Roy just half a point behind him in 2nd and on day 2 he nearly did it again but a rather messy scent relegated him to 2nd with Roy again behind him. But I was more than happy with the weekend because the win meant Rafa had won out of A so no more dumbells for him. I gave the next show a miss because we had a bonus A to work and he was drawn early in B.
So that left just one more show this year. It was again on Dartmoor but the show ground conditions are not easy to cope with being irregular and on a slope. Added to which it was extremely windy which didn’t really suit either of us. But Rafa tried his best and put in a really good round. He almost managed his stays getting up to touch my hand just before the end of the exercise. In the event we finished in second place. So we have ended the season on a high. Rafa has actually only worked two B rounds but finished first and second. So I am optimistic that after a winter of building his confidence and working on his C exercises he will come out even stronger next year.
This year which started on a real downer with knee surgery followed by months of being unable to do much in the way of training has turned out to be far more successful than I had ever dared to hope. I am still not capable of containing the powerhouse that is Roy. But after saving my life he owes me nothing and as long as he enjoys himself I will continue to enjoy his company whatever he chooses to do in the ring. One thing is for sure, he has never been known to lose confidence or refuse to do any exercise and of course best of all, he has fun.
Jake is now 8 months old and his training has had to take a bit of a back seat. But he has been slowly learning his heelwork position and having fun around the shows. That is all part of his education. The kennel club accepted his name as Jabari (Arabic for fearless!) Jake. He is so like Roy in his attitude to life in general but won’t be as big although he is certainly not going to be small.
I have been trying to get Jake out on his own with a view to building his confidence around other people so he can just concentrate on whatever we happen to be ding. So when our club ran the Kennel Club good citizens tests I took Jake along so he could do something on his own for a change. He thoroughly enjoyed himself. I really didn’t expect anything from him but he gained his bronze and silver awards which was a bonus. I wouldn’t normally take part in these tests but Jake will not be ready to compete for some time and it does him good to be out and about amongst other dogs and people.
The following month I took him to a breed show. Again it was purely for the purpose of socialising him. The show Border Collie is a world apart from the working Border Collie as is the case with many breeds. I had to spend an inordinate amount of time keeping Jake’s attention and preventing him from sitting. Having never trained him for she show ring he was not keen to keep still. But he did enjoy being fed for doing very little. So it was another positive ring experience for him. Needless to say as he bears little resemblance to a show collie he was unplaced in his class.
The next few months, knee and weather permitting, I am hoping to be able to work on training for all three boys. We have already made a start. I have got together with a group of friends and we are hiring a hall occasionally so we can help each other with our training. I have decided to retrain Roy’s heelwork just as if he was a pup starting out. I am hoping this will help me to handle the power. But if it doesn’t he will still be my best boy!
Rafa is taking to his C work really well now. He was lacking confidence at first but recently a day’s training with Rob Bint helped greatly. Rafa now loves his distant control and positions on the move in heelwork. I am hoping the sessions with friends will help him gain enough confidence to be competitive.
Jake’s retrieve is coming along well and he loves doing heelwork. So perhaps late next year he too will be able to take his place in the ring. He has much more confidence than Rafa but I did discover one peculiarity. He will take off whenever he does not understand what is being asked of him. I think traditional trainers would have resorted to punishment.
I decided to ‘think outside the box’ assuming he was not deliberately playing up. He had a tendency to run whenever I changed to go right handed in heelwork. I found this out when I put a lead on so he didn’t have the option to run. So I just lured him round to the right a couple of times. After that it was as if a lightbulb had gone off in his head. He simply thought heelwork was left circles only. Now he has put it all together he is thoroughly enjoying himself. It was my fault for going on with left circles only for too long. I had not made it clear what I wanted. Dogs are funny creatures. Collies in particular have their little quirks. Once you understand them it makes life so much easier.
Unfortunately a couple of months ago we had to say goodbye to Keeta, our lovely old lady. She was sixteen years old and her kidneys had been failing. One day she made it crystal clear she had had enough so we had to make the decision to let her slip away peacefully. It is never an easy decision but it is the one last thing we can do for our dogs who give so much and yet ask so little of us in return.
I am now looking forward to the next show season when I hope to be able to get to more shows. Whatever happens I consider I have been very lucky to have such wonderful dogs. It does not happen by chance. I take great care to choose dogs from bloodlines I like and choose the pup that I can instantly bond with. It never ceases to amaze me that people choose a pup based on coat colour, markings etc. I think this makes pup selection a bit of a lottery. Without the right material how can we possibly hope to forge a successful partnership? (see my book – Your Perfect Dog – The Secrets). I am so happy that I have such wonderful dogs in my life.