Friday 10 December 2010

Snow, glorious snow ...

What a fabulous start to December. The snow dropped in November has been added to and we've had some glorious weather to go with it. Perfect weather for dogs and photographs. The collies get very excited when they see me put on my boats and coat ... then I grab my camera. I'm sure I hear them do a collective groan!

This is a photo out-take. I've managed to capture three of them with their eyes firmly closed ... wonder if this was a plan on their part.

The Arctic Fox shows off her athleticism and style whilst on the run ...

Her brother, the New Boy, slowly walking up onto someone ...

A snowy Fairfield Horseshoe in the distance ...

With the views down the valley being equally stunning ...

Womble Bum loves balls ... tennis, rubber, snow - she doesn't mind which. We've had many play sessions.

Whilst the Cafe Latte Girl and Handsome Lad take up their game of 'striking a pose' ...

Then they all rush off ...

into the sunset ...

A glorious week was had by us all in South Lakes!

Tuesday 30 November 2010

Sun, Snow and ....

dogs of course!

Snow arrived in South Lakes over the weekend, a light covering Saturday followed by a heavy fall later that evening. Snow, accompanied by blue skies and sunshine ... perfect weather to get out with the dogs and camera.

Our search and rescue pup was visiting for the weekend, so throw her into the mix and we've pretty much had a perfect weekend. The dogs have been doing their usual thing in the snow and I've been doing my usual thing of photographing them.

Womble Bum does a fine impersonation of a wolf ...

and loves playing the clown ...

Some of the views and lighting have been stunning. This is a shot down the Lyth Valley towards Morecambe Bay taken just after a snow shower, with the cloud just starting to clear and the sun coming out ...

The Arctic Fox set perfectly against a backdrop of the Coniston range of mountains ...

The Handsome Lad and Cafe Latte Girl working (or should I say 'walking') together ...

The New Boy surveying his surroundings ...

The New Boy photographed with his daughter - one of the sensational six pack of pups - our weekend visitor ...

and pup with her mother, the very stylish Cafe Latte Girl ...

Here's hoping for more snow!

Monday 22 November 2010

The truth behind ... The Collie Walk

Little did I know when I posted our video The Collie Walk on last week's blog that so many people would view it. OK, so we haven't attained mega star status but 14,000 views in one week is pretty good going for a small, unplanned video captured whilst playing in a field with the dogs.

I have enjoyed looking at the comments on the various forums. However, questions have been raised, was the behaviour in the video cued? Was it a planned event with helpers? Even some doubt as to whether the behaviour should be permitted as it may result in bad feeling between the dogs. So, time to set the record straight ...

The Collie Walk was completely unplanned. A glorious day in a field, just me the dogs and camera. I’m still learning the video part of the camera - hence all the zooming in and out! If you watch the video it does become apparent where the focus of each of the dogs lies.

The senior dog is Womble Bum, she’s the one in a down closest to me. Her focus has always been on me unless there have been more interesting things to focus on ... a leaf blowing by in the wind, a blade of grass, a tennis ball ... you get the gist.

Next dog to come along was Handsome Lad, he’s the second dog to start ‘The Walk’. Watch carefully and you will see that he is clearly focusing on Womble Bum - a quick sideways glance to his left, well that's towards the flock of 35 Herdwick sheep in the next field!

Then came the third dog, Cafe Latte Girl. Something very special from a very early age, introduced to sheep at 10-weeks of age - it became very apparent then that she was incredibly stylish. Since that early introduction she has ‘worked’ the dogs when not working sheep. There is a 10 month gap between Handsome Lad and Cafe Latte Girl so it’s quite natural for her to focus on him.

So where do the two Highland Hooligans, that’s the New Boy and Arctic Fox, come in? Well, Arctic Fox was the fourth dog on the scene, when she arrived Cafe Latte Girl decided she’d play surrogate Mum, so Arctic Fox has her focus set on Cafe Latte Girl - you’ll spot the pattern that’s developed!

The Arctic Fox doesn’t tend to do ‘The Walk’ too often, though she can. She much prefers to run around the field hanging off CLGs collar.

The New Boy, fifth dog to arrive earlier this year, and the one who prompted the blogging, walks up beautifully on sheep, but he’s been a working lad from a young age and is quite clear with the boundaries!

That’s the explanation behind the focus, now what’s actually going on in the video?

The only ‘forced’ behaviour was to put Womble Bum in a down stay when everyone else had put themselves into their own downs, quite naturally as that’s what collies do, about the field. Once she was down, the Cafe Latte Girl started walking up onto the Handsome Lad at which point I started filming - there was quite a lengthy bit of walk missed as the camera wasn’t on. When she came in behind Handsome Lad then I put a walk up cue onto him. So starts his walk up onto Womble Bum, CLG is still clearly focused on him.

The two Highland Hooligans are still on the hill, watching the others playing silly beggars.

As Handsome Lad gets closer to Womble Bum, another stay is given to her, and another ‘walk up’ to him just to bring him in a bit closer. Then the break, with a swift ‘that’ll do’, but look again, it is Womble Bum who starts the break and every one of them refers to her ... she is after all, my top dog. They all rushed around madly completely relaxed with no built up tensions and certainly no problems between them, ready to start the game all over again! I love my dogs!

Tuesday 16 November 2010

The Collie Walk

We've had some glorious weather in South Lakes over the last few days, and we've been making the most of it. There's been lots of training dogs with sheep and we've been doing some obedience training. We've let the obedience work lapse just lately but with a course looming we need to get up to scratch.

On Sunday we awoke to thick mist, which rapidly started to clear as the sun rose. In just the time it took from getting to the field gate, fetching a camera and returning, visibility had gone from just 5 metres to this ...

The depth of shadow created was just tremendous

Monday morning was very cold, with a hard frost. The view towards Morecambe Bay was fabulous
The dogs loved rooting around in the frosty grass

The afternoon gave way to play time!

Womble Bum says she's had a really good few days!

Monday 11 October 2010

Blazing the rescue trail

I've skipped time and events again, but have finally got to blog.

There’s just one of the fabulous six pack of pups remaining with me and I’ve got her for almost another three weeks yet - lots of things to see and do in that time. She’s got a super new home to go to. She’ll be joining a member of a local mountain rescue team who will train her as a search and rescue dog. The Fabulous Fearn has been re-named, but I’ll continue to refer to her as Fearn.

Breeding a litter is a very emotional process. Taking aside the things that can and do go wrong even before the mating has begun, there’s the worry about your very precious bitch - breeding always poses a risk to the bitch. The homing of the pups is also an emotional process. The saying goodbye to a pup can be fairly emotional, but that’s on the cards right from the start. A tear or two has been shed as I’ve waved goodbye to a pup, and that’s mixed in with happiness in the knowledge that I’ve placed the right pup in the right home.

Matching the right puppy to the right owner is vitally important. When a pup was booked from this litter it was made clear to prospective owners they would not be given free choice of the litter. First on the waiting list did not mean first choice of pup. If that’s not liked then people can find a pup from someone who is willing to allow them to make their own choice - many people pick the wrong pup for their personality and lifestyle and sadly many breeders allow them to do so. Even the sex of the pup cannot be guaranteed - a bitch was booked from the litter, it was obvious very early on that one of the boys was the ideal pup for them. It was explained why and they are very happy with him. Everyone has gone away with a pup they're delighted with and with a pup best suited to them.

Out of our litter of six, two owners had their pick and they were working obedience homes, experienced dog handlers who knew exactly the qualities they wanted for their next obedience champ, hopefully. However, had either of them chosen a pup I felt was not right to do the job, then they would have been steered towards another pup. As it turned out, any of these pups would have done any job ... but some were more suited to particular jobs than others.

Quite early on, two pups were selected as suitable for search and rescue, a boy who has now gone to one of the obedience handlers and the Fearn pup. A search home was booked before the pups arrived, however, that person decided they’d wait until the next litter. So a pup going spare. Sell her to the first really good, active home that comes along? No, most definitely not. She had qualities too good not to use.

A number of people wanted Fearn, she’s fabulous, there’s nothing not to want about her! People who I would normally consider to be an excellent owner, offering a wonderful home, where my pup would want for nothing and she would have a happy and active life. However, pups suited for search and rescue don’t come along in every litter, I was very lucky to have two of them. So, in Fearn’s case five homes were turned down and I started playing the waiting game.

Occasionally you might find the ideal person for your pup, who can offer the right home and lifestyle, with the right job for your pup to do, but maybe that person might need just a little bit of a nudge for them to realise the timing is actually right!

And so it is, the Fabulous Fearn is heading off in a few weeks’ time to her new home, and in the not too distant future she will start training with the mountain rescue search dogs. Gut instinct comes into this breeding lark, and gut instinct played a big part when deciding this was absolutely the right home for Fearn, and I'm confident my instinct wont fail me.

Fearn started her training at the weekend when we went to watch the RAF and mountain rescue team do winch training. She is such a lucky pup, just 15 weeks and she has already had a guided tour inside a Sea King rescue helicopter. She has got to sniff all the smells inside, these she will store in her memory so next time it will be familiar to her. She’s met the RAF crew and is now familiar with the uniform they wear. Most importantly she’s sat in very close proximity to a helicopter taking off and landing three times. As much as the pups were accustomed to noises using a noise CD played from when their ears opened, including a helicopter, there is nothing better than the real experience. The noise as the engine starts up, the smell of aviation fuel, the tremendous sound as the rotor blades start up and the huge amount of air, and articles, blown around as a result of the downwash from the rotors. What did the Fabulous Fearn do whilst all this was happening? Well, apart from the initial surprise, she watched the helicopter as it came in to land and as it took off ... and she played with her tuggy the whole time.

That’s my girl.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Puppies are flying the nest ...

When the pups arrived I had every good intention of reporting on the blog once or twice weekly. Three pups have now flown the nest and two of the remaining three will follow at the weekend. I cannot believe how quickly the time has gone. It's been an incredibly enjoyable time, but also very busy. There have been many laughs, many cuddles and some tears when I've had to wave bye bye to my wonderful pups.
Now I have the good intention of selecting certain topics to blog about, such as the very important socialisation of the pups, watching them to determine their individual characters and how these are matched to prospective owners ... it's always the top priority to get the right home for the right pup and what is done with the pups before they go to their new homes to give them the very best possible start.

With that all to come, and only three puppies remaining ... I think I need to be out doing the very important job of play!

Sorry about the 'moving' camera!

Sunday 18 July 2010

Puppy World ...

three weeks on ...

Wow, I can't believe how quickly the last two weeks since the last blog has gone. There seem to have been so many developments and things going on in Puppy World. Where to start?

By the pups' two week birthday all ears and eyes were open ... they sort of looked around with a dazed look. The sort of look you get when you've woken someone from a very deep sleep. That lasted a number of days, but now at three weeks their eyes are clear and fully open. The pups can't see a lot at this stage, they will be seeing out of focus blobs! It's been very entertaining as their paw-eye co-ordination was a bit rubbish at first. You could see them sitting, looking at another pup in front, then after a little while of what looked to be intense concentration, the paw went up, a swipe at pup in front was made. Missed. Pup fell over. This happened lots.

They were wormed at two weeks old and weighing on a daily basis continues. By two weeks all were 1kg or more, by three weeks they're around the 2kg mark.

They've gone from the stage of discovering they actually have 4 legs to stand on, to wobbling around. Showing my age, but I always think of the TV advert 'weebles wobble but they don't fall down'! Well these puppies wobbled and they did fall down, lots. They graduated from standing, wobbling and falling, to standing and taking their first steps. Then they'd have a number of steps, and whilst the momentum was going, the speed increased ... they'd keep going until they stopped. The stopping process was usually determined by just how quickly they bashed into the side of the whelping box. How much can they motor at three weeks? Well, they're now in a puppy pen, when the sides are opened up they're off ... behind the sofa, under tables. They can now motor very, very nicely.

I love this stage of puppy-hood. To watch pups develop at any stage and then to continue that into learning and training as adults is wonderful, but I feel the 3-4 week stage is just magical, but so brief. This is the stage when they really start to respond to humans. "Puppies, where are those puppies" said quietly above the whelping box when they're sleeping gains an instant response. They happily come to me, tails are wagging. They've been playing with each other for a little while but now they respond to me as a human and interaction starts. They are playing with toys. The favourite at the moment is a funny little fleece dumbell, it's got heads and ears at each end with bells in the ears - they love that.

The downside of hitting the 3 1/2 week stage is the increased amount of piddling and pooing. There's lots of it. Cafe Latte Girl is doing a very good job of keeping them and their whelping box or pen clean and tidy. I sometimes wish she wouldn't. She still loves to come and give me sloppy licks on the face. Oh how I wish she wouldn't ... the breath smell is pretty unpleasant!

Since Wednesday the pups have been having one meal a day. Just puppy food soaked for an hour or so in warm water, then blended to a puree. Today, Sunday, the meals go up to two a day. Cafe Latte Girl is still doing a tremendous job of feeding them and she will continue to feed them just so long as she wants to. I don't believe in restricting Mum from feeding her pups. Why on earth would you? The puppy food given to the pups will take pressure off Mum, it would take a lot out of her to maintain the level of feeding that she's done so far.

Whilst CLG has been feeding her pups, her own meals have been increased. She's been having puppy food with lots of good extras such as fish, chicken, tripe, etc. Interestingly she's gone off eggs since the pups were born. Up to that point she was having 4-5 eggs a week. She's been having just as much food as she wants - she's the best judge of her requirements at this busy stage. I am thinking of buying goats before her next litter, or buy shares in a goat's milk distributor ... she's gone through gallons of the stuff. I don't feed cow's milk to the dogs, they can't digest it and with some it can cause the runs. We've enough peeing and pooing going on without the runs too! She's also having a puppy milk replacer which I got just in case there were problems when the pups were born. No such problems thankfully, but the milk replacer, NutroLac, is goat's milk based and is a powder you just whisk up with water. She loves it and I like it too, it mixes with no lumps. Excellent! Addition of the milk gives her valuable calcium. She isn't on any supplements as using a very good quality food and the milk should take care of that. If I wasn't confident in the quality of the food, then I would give her a calcium supplement. Eclampsia is a life threatening condition that anyone who breeds should be aware of. It's brought on by extremely low levels of calcium in the blood stream in lactating (nursing) bitches. It's usually combined with poor diet during the pregnancy period and particularly post-whelping. It's totally different to eclampsia in humans which is to do with pressure abnormalities during pregnancy.

Pups are having a weekly appointment with the nail clippers! The first week of clipping was really hard, their nails were so tiny. I can see them now! It's surprising how quickly they grow and just how sharp they get. By taking off the tips saves CLG's belly being scratched raw.

They have travelled out in my van many times and are wonderful travellers. There is a huge advantage of Mum being a good traveller, travelling with her they will be totally relaxed, because she is. They are listening to the noise CD three times a day. The volume is being increased just a little bit every few days. There's no rush to reach full volume. The worst thing would be to upset them by having the noises too loud, with the gradual increase and playing at times when they're sleeping, feeding or playing, ensures full volume will be reached before 8 weeks and they wont have a care in the world, whilst all the humans in the vicinity will be taking cover to avoid the noise.

The big dogs are being very good, it's been a bit tough on them as routines have inevitably changed. It's actually quite difficult to dedicate one-to-one time on a daily basis, puppy watching takes up a lot of time. They are great dogs though, and will take whatever comes. Womble Bum and Handsome Lad are doing some training, we're meant to be competing in a couple of weeks, but we'll see. Handsome Lad needs a bit more one-to-one and the Arctic Fox needs to get out to do some more of her scent work.

There will be many changes in the pups during the next week, I can't wait ...

Saturday 3 July 2010

And they call it puppy love ...

Oh I guess they’ll never know ...

The puppies were one week old this weekend. They’ve almost doubled in weight and certainly doubled in size. Time seems to have flown by and all those jobs I was determined to do in the first week, just haven’t been done! Puppies are big time wasters! If you are breeding and rearing correctly, you just have to watch them ... looking out for the pup with the best nose and so destined to do search and rescue work, the one who might be a little bit independent, the pup that likes to have its sibblings close by. All sorts of things need to be observed, that’s my excuse for puppy watching and I’m sticking with it!

The big dogs have been really good the last week or two, their routine has completely changed. They’ve had their walks reduced a bit - I am slightly concerned about meeting too many dogs in fear of bringing infection back to the puppies. Poor Cafe Latte Girl is on house arrest, I certainly don’t want her bringing infection back. I’ve been at the receiving end of what was a seemingly harmless infection and dealt with it’s devastating consequences. There’s been no training this week, oh dear ...

The pups have had busy days, they’ve probably spent 80% of the time, sleeping, the rest has been filled with feeding, they’ve been weighed on a daily basis, they’ve posed for photographs, there have been many photographs and they’ve been doing their exercises, oh and had the obligatory puppy cuddles.

On day 3 we started the Early Neurological Stimulation programme, other names it’s known by are Super Dog and Bio Sensor programmes. It’s a set of five exercises that are carried out between days 3 and 16. All exercises are done for about 3 seconds with the aim of subjecting the pups to very mild levels of stress so kicking the neurological system into action a bit earlier than would normally be expected. There’s been a huge amount of research carried out, not least of all by me (!), and the benefits include improved cardio vascular performance, stronger heart beats, stronger adrenal glands, more tolerance to stress and greater resistance to disease and enhanced performance. Only time will tell, but it’s a programme I’ve waited to use for a very long time.

Ears should start opening over the next few days, and in preparation for this I am now playing a noise CD, ‘Sounds for Behaviour Therapy’. The CD has sounds such as fire works, thunder, heavy rain, explosions, jet planes, trains, and many more. Starting off at a volume barely audible to myself, over the next 7 weeks the volume is gradually increased until at 8 weeks old the volume is so loud, I will find it unbearable and the pups will just be playing through it all, completely unconcerned. Womble Bum, Handsome Lad and Cafe Latte Girl were all put through this process when they were pups and are all rock solid no matter the noise as a result. The pups wont hear anything for a day or two, but I’ve started it slightly early just to get Cafe Latte Girl used to it at such a low level. It’s a few years since she had to put up with it. She is proving to be a fabulous mum, but then I knew she would be, her own mother Peg is also a super mum (pictured).

By next weekend eyes will be opening, oh dear, it wont be long before they're all grown up and they leave for their new homes ....

Saturday 26 June 2010

Oh, what a night ...

... late June back in 2010, what a very special time for me, 'cause I'll remember what a night.

OK, so a spot of altering of the Frankie Valli song, but a very memorable night has been had! Saturday 26th June 2010. The very much planned, prepared for, etc, etc, arrival of the Cafe Latte Girl's puppies has finally happened. The first pup born at 3.30am, and the sixth pup born at 8.22am. Are there more? Well, aye, we think there are!

The Cafe Latte Girl has been a fabulous first time mum, she has been extremely calm throughout. Her foetal fluids have been clear, indicating there is no puppy stress, and she’s just been a natural. So far we have 3 boys and 3 girls. How well balanced is that?

My breeder friend Sue has been sat up with me all night during the births ... shame she missed the first one!! It’s been an interesting but tiring night. The bizarre thing is we were both Twittering live broadcasts of what was happening with accompanying photos of the pups as they arrived. That caused some interest around the world with people in different time zones asking if the next pup had made an appearance. Bizarre these time zones and the world of Twitter!

As it turns out there are only the 6 pups. Whilst Sue and I felt what could have been a head to a pup, and then a distinct line as if the pup had turned, there wasn’t another one.

I had intended to wait a few weeks before taking the pups out on their first journey in a vehicle, but what the heck, they’ve been out to my Vet on day 1! Eight hours after the arrival of the sixth pup, I decided to get the Cafe Latte Girl checked, so we all arrived at the Vets at 6pm. There was a concern that if a pup was delivered during the night there might be complications, so much better safe than sorry. Expecting to just have an injection of Oxytocin to induce more contractions, she had a scan. The vet could feel the same mass Sue and I could feel but it wasn’t conclusive on the scan, so decided to x-ray her. CLG was so good, she was put onto the x-ray machine, told to stay in a flat position, sand bags placed across her shoulder and her legs and the x-ray was taken with no sedative. It confirmed that CLGs first litter was the fabulous 6.

Mum and pups travelled extremely well, in fact Mum didn’t appear to think anything much of it at all.

It’s been a long night and day, and a very happy one. Time for a well deserved nap, for everyone.

Wednesday 2 June 2010

Spot the dog ...

There’s a dog in here somewhere …

Nope can’t see her.

Let’s look a bit closer ….

Nope, still can’t see here.

A closer look might help ….

Ah, there she is!

Sunday 23 May 2010

Three years on ...

Today has been a day typical of high summer with blue skies and soaring temperatures. However, it's not high summer, though it may well turn out to be our only summer, it's May.

Three years ago I went to the bluebell wood with my breeder friend Sue, a camera crew and four 10-week old puppies where we all had a magical few hours. I helped to 'organise' puppies, whilst the camera team filmed them ... this was to be the early days in the development of the Well Balanced Pup DVD. A photograph I took of my gorgeous puppy was chosen to be the cover girl of the Well Balanced Pup DVD. Today, three years on I returned to the bluebell wood with Sue and her boy Mirk, one of the four original pups, and I took more photographs of my gorgeous girl ... Cafe Latte Girl, now expecting her own well balanced pups.

Then and now ...

Mirk became the official 'Well Balanced Pup' and as such was the first Press Dog to be invited to report at Crufts!

Litter mates ...