Wednesday 14 December 2011

Pocket Rocket Goes ... to work sheep

Last week was the week. I'd been waiting a long time for this ... the time to introduce Pocket Rocket to sheep to see what she did!

She has been 'working' the other dogs for some time now, and a couple of weeks ago developed the most amazing outrun when they all went through a gate, going out wide and dropping at the 12 o'clock position to me. Nothing close to being the same as working sheep, but ... what she was showing me was she had some very lovely, natural moves.

At 7 months old, it was time to see what she was made of. She has seen sheep in the distance, she has seen them in my friend's yard when they've been penned to worm, etc. However, I haven't walked her close to sheep and never through sheep. Until I decided what I wanted to do with her I didn't want to put her in a position where she showed interests only for me to flatten it, or not to have interest at all only for me to worry about it!

So, off we went, the Collie Mobile loaded with doggies and accompanied by my friend Sue to Thomas Longton, a very experienced handler, trialist and trainer and very importantly, the owner of Pocket Rocket's father!

I've given up editing the footage taken on Sue's mobile, so it's pretty much in its entirity. I also gave up trying to put explanatory titles in the footage.

The first 5 minutes' of Pocket Rocket's work is not included. She started off loose outside the round pen, just left to her own devices to see what she'd do. Well, she just had a general mooch around to start with, until ... a sheep in the pen moved. Then. Well, 1 circuit of the round pen running around fast and with tail held high. Then, magic, a slower pace and tail dropped to a beautifully relaxed manner - watching a dog's tail whilst working sheep is a big indicator of whether the dog is relaxed or not.

The first words uttered by Thomas were ... "she's stylish". Result!

Thomas took her into the round pen for a couple of minutes then it was my turn. That was a surprise, I hadn't expected to handle her - in my inexperienced hands I had concerns over wrecking what might be there. Needn't have worried!

Things to look out for in the clip - she starts off working on a long line. This enables a stop if needed ... that is, if she wont stop when requested you leap on the long line! Not always easy in a rocky, slippy, muddy round pen.
  • Watch out for the set of her tail - perfect
  • The stick is used to create 'space' and the bag on the end is for a bit of noise - good to get attention when otherwise adrenalin takes over
  • I move to create a change of direction of the sheep and in Pocket Rocket
  • She's keeping well out from the sheep, nicely balancing
  • I call her in (she understandably doesn't want to come to start with) to remove the line - things go a bit hectic here for a moment or two. That's absolutely fine, remember she's 7 months old and this is her very first time, ever, with sheep.
  • Towards the end of this first clip she's encouraged to work closer in
  • After this the sheep start to stand up to her ... she moves in to them. That's very impressive, believe me it is :)
  • This move is very much encourage to build confidence - not something she was lacking particularly.

In this second video clip Thomas takes Pocket Rocket into a big field with sheep, again on the long line to start with. Not something that would normally be done at this stage of training, however, I am in the process of deciding whether to get some sheep. I have the offer of some fields for 6 months, maybe more, so it was a case of seeing what she was going to be like in the situation I may be working in a month's time.

I think given the space and the speed of the sheep she ... well, I'll let you make your mind up about how that was going to end!

So, the Pocket Rocket ... attitude, enthusiasm for life, intelligence by the bucket load and looks like workability. I wonder if there is anything she wouldn't do well ... am thinking she probably wouldn't be suitable as a pets for therapy dog - not yet awhile anyways!

Friday 14 October 2011

Pocket Rocket Goes ... caravanning!

In September, Pocket Rocket and the rest of her family went on holiday ...

 Good morning, welcome to my caravan

Would you care to come in for a guided tour?

Are you ready for me yet? ...

This is where we keep our bedding

As you can see it's very comfortable.

This is where I have my breakfast, service is a little slow this morning

Ahh, that's lovely

What's that they said on the news, didn't quite catch it, the FTSE going down?

Aye oop, what's going on outside

Meet the neighbours, morning all

This is where the big dogs have their breakfast, out in the van

and this is where the big dog's training kit is kept.
Doesn't everyone have a chest of drawers in their car?
Hang on a minute, I think that tuggy's mine

Hands off, it's definitely mine, let go

Ahh, sunshine, time to relax. Who's going for the ice cream?

Monday 22 August 2011

Puppy Play Time

Here we come

Running down the yard

We get the funniest looks from

Everyone we meet

Hey, hey we're the puppies

And people say we puppy around

But we're too busy playing

To put anybody down

OK, words pinched and modified slightly! Pocket Rocket with her new play mate.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Pocket Rocket Goes ...

... Gardening!

The Pocket Rocket

The Pocket Rocket was outside with me this morning. Whilst I was distracted doing one job she’d apparently busied herself doing another job. All had been quiet for a little while, this isn’t normal when the Pocket Rocket’s around, so I went off to investigate.

I found Pocket Rocket, she’d certainly been busy ... with a bit of gardening!

Life is never dull when there's a Pocket Rocket about!

As this is not our garden she’d decided to remodel, we both felt we’d better repair the damage. I hope the owner of the garden will agree it’s actually an improvement on what it was before.

Pocket Rocket's excavation work!

Pocket Rocket after the planting up - she doesn't look approving

Pocket Rocket says she’s available for hire should anyone wish an excavator.

Friday 5 August 2011

New Boy takes a trip to the field

It's been a hot, sunny day in South Lakes and the dogs have enjoyed a lot of out time today.

The trip to this particular field always amuses me as we always seem to have Cafe Latte Girl at the gate catch, waiting to go through the gate first. However, it's always New Boy who is first into the field. He can't be bothered to wait at the gate like everyone else, he has his own route in. I just love the way he stands in position waiting for everyone else to run through!

Monday 1 August 2011

Introducing ...

We are a little out of synch with our blog ... updates to come. 

For the moment though I would like to introduce a very special little lady called ... well, you'll see what she's called and why!

Saturday 18 June 2011

OctoPups world gets bigger ...

The OctoPups are now 6 weeks old and how they've changed since I last blogged. They've been a very busy bunch of puppies, on the go all day and every day. Lots of work and play interspersed with rest ... the rest periods are getting shorter and shorter. Sometimes it would be nice for a double dose of rest periods! 

The pups are on the go and getting out and about exploring ... lots. All are equally happy to wander off on their own or to stay with their litter mates playing.

The Pocket Rocket off on one of her many adventures
Some puppies wander into territory they're not too sure about ...

Puppy No 8 has a close encounter with Lucy the Fell Pony
The puppies had their eyes tested this week. All passed with healthy eyes ... their tails didn't stop wagging throughout the procedure.

Puppy No 7 ... the most advanced in terms of eye development
There has been an endless stream of visitors, from prospective owners to visitors coming for the priviledge of puppy cuddles to passers through who happen to fit the socialisation criteria, ie got a beard, arrives wearing a motorbike helmet. There have been many other reasons to thrust puppies upon people for the experience of being handled by different hands. Important for the pups to meet a wide range of people of different ages, shapes and sizes.

Puppy No 2 demonstrates he's cool to be handled
A hugely important part of the OctoPups education is delivered by the big dogs. This is the period when they learn their dog language. So many people sell pups at 6 weeks of age, frequently saying "Mum was attacking her babies". Mum generally isn't attacking, she is actually putting them in their place and educating them. Some people say it's to miss the so called 'fear' period ... I say forget the so called fear period, what about the huge number of dog-dog issues there are. Many of these issues would be avoided if pups were allowed to be amongst older dogs who will teach them their manners, telling them when they've pushed the boundaries and when they need to back down.

Three generations, Mum Arctic Fox with her father Handsome Lad and her daughter the Pocket Rocket

Arctic Fox is quite happy to have her father, Handsome Lad, with her and her daughter for a quiet moment. When another daughter comes in and pushes the boundaries with her grandad, he quite firmly puts her into her place. Teeth are shown, a head disappears into his mouth accompanied by a growl ... never any harm to the youngster though. She wont be so pushy next time ...

Handsome Lad putting one of his grandaughters in her place
Education comes from all of my dogs. Aunt Cafe Latte Girl has taken her duties very seriously, frequently out with Arctic Fox and her babies. Arctic Fox is very happy for her to intervene if she feels the need to do so.

Puppy No 2 being very respectful to his Aunt
We've also been continuing the routine tasks of weighing the OctoPups. We've progressed from weighing in a small bowl to a garden trug!

Puppy No 6 oblivious to the fact she's being weighed ready for worming!!
 I have now made the decision where all the puppies are going having spent the last 6 weeks watching the OctoPups, and their prospective owners when they've visited, very carefully, matching the right puppy to the right owner and home. The first decision to make was which puppy would be the search and rescue pup, we had two contenders. Puppy No 3 has been selected, he's showing tremendous air scenting ability at this tender age, together with other attributes essential for SAR work. He's going to a very experienced handler and I have no doubt that he will make a great search dog.

Puppy No 3 ... a search and rescue dog in the making

Thursday 19 May 2011

Dogs on the rocks ...

The 'big' dogs have had a bit of a poor deal since the arrival of the Octopups, they're not getting out as much as they normally would.

Yesterday we had a visit to the vet for a check up so on the way home we called at a friend's farm, plugged the puppies in to the mains on a heat pad and all the dogs, except for Arctic Fox, went for a good walk.

Inevitably there were a couple of photo sessions during the walk - a very windy day with a very grey and menacing sky, perfect!

This rock is a favourite perch for the dogs ... so how do they get off?



Monday 16 May 2011

Invasion of the OctoPups ...

The OctoPups are now 11 days old, how time flies. The last week has been a bit of a blur, Arctic Fox has been poorly and there’s been a lot to do. She has been off her food, so preparation of lots of good, nutritious, tempting food to encourage her to eat has been called for. I can’t say that I would thank anyone for offering it me, but apart from one day, she has eaten well. A typical menu has been scrambled eggs with spinach, lightly poached liver, raw and the best minced steak, minced beef - sometimes raw, sometimes boiled - boiled chicken and fish poached in goat’s milk. Then there’s the porridge cooked in the liver and chicken juices, kibble soaked in the meat juices - she is completely refusing kibble, I guess why wouldn’t she with all the other goodies on offer? Then for pud ... natural, live yoghurt or a drink of goat’s milk.

This little OctoPup rather fancies a little of what her Mum's having
 I have become a surrogate Mum for a while. To take some of the pressure off Arctic Fox and to speed up her recovery I am bottle feeding the pups, just two meals a day, but that’s plenty for a novice. Have you ever tried to bottle feed a pup? It is not easy. 

Hungry girl
I had puppy feeding bottles, just in case, but obviously hoped that I’d never have to use them. Well, how anyone can raise healthy pups on the silly little bottles with equally silly little teats is beyond me. They spat out the narrow, pointy teats and completely refused to suck. I resorted to squirting a few drops of milk onto their tongue with a syringe ... that took forever. I have a cyber-friend who breeds so I rang her. She told me to get a baby bottle, we discussed flow rates (of which I now consider myself to be a bit of an expert!) ... this I did and hey presto the pups started to feed. Of course, feeding puppies with a bottle also requires you to ‘burp’ them too, just as you would a baby on your shoulder. Then the toileting ... they are only just becoming old enough to do this for themselves, so I had to do it for them!

Time for the weigh in
All this is taking it’s toll on me. I have had barely 10 hours sleep over the last 8 days so am walking around like a zombie (nothing new there, some might say), I have put on weight as whilst Arctic Fox has eaten very healthily, I’ve eaten any old junk ... if it take less than 2 minutes to prepare then that’s what I’ve had. I’m never entirely sure whether I’ve washed that morning and am also walking around with milk stains all down my shoulder and poo stains down my front. A lovely sight I am sure!

Meanwhile, the OctoPups are completely oblivious, a friend’s comment in an e-mail received this morning sums it up ...

“Pups of course have no idea what's going on, they just want milk and clearly have a very strong instinct for survival.”

That’s the OctoPups - fit, healthy puppies building up their strength for the many adventures that lie ahead.

Saturday 7 May 2011

Arrival of the OctoPups ...

A much anticipated arrival happened on the evening of 5th of May when Arctic Fox whelped her puppies.

She had a litter of a total of 8 fit and healthy puppies, all beautifully marked ... the OctoPups.

Arctic Fox did a tremendous job. To watch instincts kick in is truly amazing.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Spring has sprung ...

... in South Lakeland 

It's a little while since I wrote my last blog. I'm very mindful of a busy time ahead when all things are going to change for a little while. What I hadn't realised is that I had put these photos into Draft mode, just sitting waiting for some words to be attached. So here goes!

The daffodils in South Lakeland in March were tremendous, as this little woodland glade shows.

The weather was so warm for so early in the year, lots of fun to be had with dogs and cameras. 

Arctic Fox quite enjoys hiding away beneath things ... trees, beds, any sort of things. I think she thinks she can't be seen here!

Womble Bum demonstrates that her agility skills have not been forgotten!

This lovely cluster of hedgerow daffodils is along one of South Lakeland's many green lanes ...


Ever to be the one at the head of the queue ... New Boy pushes a way through, ahead of his sister and daugher 

 The Fabulous Five are once again the Sensastional Six with a weekend visit from Cafe Latte Girl and New Boy's daughter, the search pup.

The search and rescue pup is a real character ... with looks to boot!

A typical South Lakes view

The sheep have been worked, the sun is still out, what else can we do? We can play at Skyline Collie Walking!

Full colour or black and white, a sensational pack ... the Collie Crew.