Sunday, September 28, 2008

Catch Up, and Tests

Sorry about the lack of posts this last week - it was a bit of a shocker. I'll try to be a bit more organised in the future so I can at least post some photos if I don't have time for a 'real' post :)

Today, however, is another information post. This morning was Laura-moo's obedience trial at advanced level. The levels go beginners, intermediate, advanced, transition, and I think novice then open after that, though I could be wrong. Most people don't go beyond advanced unless they want titles, and the advantage of passing advanced if you happen to live in the A.C.T. is that registration fees for your dog are very significantly reduced.

This was Laura's first proper obedience test; beginners don't do an 'official' test, and we missed the intermediate one due to out-of-towness and did it with three others on the next normal training night. She's been to the grounds before during the day, though, so I didn't anticipate that aspect of it being much of a problem.

Overall, she did very well. I went into it with mixed expectations; on the one hand, if she's having a good day, she can be brilliant - but if she's not, she's a wretch. We didn't mind if she didn't pass, since we plan to do advanced again anyway - we don't do anywhere near enough practice to be able to keep up in transition, and if you pass advanced three times you qualify for the letters C.D. after the dog's name :)

First up was the loose-lead walking. Eh, this was so-so. She didn't yank, but she wasn't exactly with it, either. The heeling was about the same, sadly. Quite a bit of sniffing, not much eye contact... just generally distracted. She turned well, and did all of her default sits and the drop while heeling fine, but it just wasn't... snappy.

The position changes were okay. She drifted forward a little on the stand, which she always does. We've been working on not drifting so much for the stand, and while she did take a few steps, she didn't make it all the way to me, so I suppose that's something to be happy about :) And she didn't really drift at all for the drop, so that's happy :)

The stand for exam - can I just say, Wow?! She did not budge a single toenail. She was perfect. Absolutely, 100%, could not have been any better, perfect. I am SO happy about this one, so, so happy!

The recall was lovely, no comments really to make. I thought for one heart-stopping moment she was going to get distracted by a yummy smell and wander off to the side, but she came over, and all was well :)

Stays were great, though I lost marks because of the way I was standing. I usually stand with my fingers splayed, but apparently this counts as an extra signal to stay, for which they dock marks :( But I know for next time.

All in all, I was pleased with how well she performed given how distracted she was. I don't think I got a single 'look' when I asked for one *grumpgrump* and she spend ALL her spare time in the ring looking over at the other dogs... Oo, dogs I haven't MET! I MUST go play with them!

*sigh* :)

The instructor's comments were to work on keeping her attention (OH yes), and try to phase out the food, since as soon as I turned to the food, I had 100% attention. (I didn't, but the instructor seemed to think so, so yes :D). Also, I have to make sure I give her time to perform the task - which is odd, because a couple of times, I deliberately held off giving a second command and waited, and she did it. I obviously didn't wait a few times though, because I lost a few marks for the double commands I had to give for some of the drops etc.

A pass mark is 75 (out of 100) and we ended up with 81, which is not brilliant, but it's respectable, and hey, we passed! We're a third of our way to our first title :o)

Congratulations also to Abbi, who not only passed intermediate, but also tied third in her ring and has a lovely shiny yellow ribbon :) Well done!

Coming up this week: some cute puppy pictures from the day we got the monkeys :)

Friday, September 19, 2008

About That Dirt....

Recall this post, and the charming state of my dog. Recalled? Right.

So, on Tuesday I found out how the little dear *grind teeth* is managing to get so filthy without, apparently, digging up much of the garden. Apparently.

There I was, sitting on the spare bed, enjoying the sunshine while I did some homework, when I heard this strange noise. I looked out the window. Nothing.

Then it sounded again.

Imagine my surprise - and yes, I confess, absolute amusement - when I saw the paddling pool, which is currently living upside down in the corner of the yard (notionally to prevent pup from digging there - OH the IRONY), wriggling. Yes, that's right, wriggling.

Alas, by the time I (very quietly) raced out, located the camera, and inched the bathroom window open, the Dreaded Yellow Labrat had made her way out and was staring up at me with a quizzical expression as I peered out the bathroom window. And, naturally, she wouldn't do it again all afternoon.

I did, however, nearly catch her in the act.

Yes, that's right. We haven't noticed her slow destruction of the yard because she's been hiding it under the paddling pool. Here's an earlier one of her dragging it over the edge of the retaining wall so she can later wriggle under.

Whatever shall we do with her?


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thursday Night Training

So, every Thursday we go to obedience classes, and last week I thought it would be cool to post on here to keep track of how we're going. But of course, I'd already figured out my schedule, and Thursday nights didn't figure...

Tonight, I say :P to the schedule!

These posts will probably be fairly dry for those of you that aren't madly keenly insanely interested in the training of my puppykins, and for that I apologise. I'll be sure to make the other posts extra fun to make up for it! O:)

Tonight our highlight was the recall. We started the night in a circle and did some position changes at a distance (~2m), which weren't too bad. Last week, Laura was still edging forward with every change. This week she was only edging forward with most changes. There were a few moments where she definitely stayed in place, so this is good.

Then we did recalls, only this time in a circle (facing out!) rather than in a line. We braved it, and went with the group this time (have done it individually every other time), and woohoo! We were perfect! My dear Mini Sis took a video of us doing a recall last week, and as soon as I get the footage I shall post, so you can all see and cheer :o)

Static turns were reasonable, though not as snappy as she has done before. Her heel position overall was sloppy tonight - last week she was getting really good at coming and sitting /right/ next to me. Tonight, she was a bit all over the place :S

Heeling was very good the first time. She managed some beautiful left turns, and did exceptionally well with slow pace. At the end of the night though when we tried again Laura went to worms - too tired, too distracted. The last straw was when one of the kelpies crossed right over our heels, and Laura went WOO! DOG!! and that was that :|

Stand for exam with /me/ touching her is nearly feet-perfect: I can run both hands down from her head to her shoulders, feel all around her shoulders, move down her ribs and examine her haunches most times without her moving a foot. I'm not as slow or thorough or firm as a show judge, but still, I'm quite happy given that two weeks ago she wouldn't even do a stand stay while I walked in a circle around her.

With the instructor touching her she's a bit more finicky - the first two attempts she bent around in a circle and snuggled up to her *goggle eyes* Mind you, at least we are not JUMPING now. Not during class, anyway. We still do plenty of leaping on people outside of class (*ponders* though not nearly so much as she used to; I think she only jumped on other dog owners three or four times tonight during free time?). But the third time she held still while her head was patted, and the second time the instructor managed to run her hand down Laura's neck. So, good. Progress.

After there though, we feel to pieces a bit. I really struggle to get Laura's attention back on me once she's distracted; if she's concentrating, she'll do what I want perfectly, and I have no doubt that she would do excellently in the test. When she gets distracted, however, (new dog comes close, interesting smells on the ground) the only way I can get her attention back is to either run so she /has/ to come, or touch her face.

Well, not quite - 'Look' usually works. I just get frustrated when it doesn't and she ignores me.

Loose leading was okay; the lead was loose for probably 75-80% of the time, and a few times I deliberated walked close past another person to see what she'd do with the distraction.

Stays - I don't think we did a sit stay. I don't remember one, anyway. The down stay was okay; she broke once when a loud sound like a shot or a car backfiring or something rang out from the main road across the paddocks. The sound didn't bother her at all, but the next dog got a fright and jumped up... Laura nearly stayed - I thought she was going to - but then she was sniffing the wind, and stood up to follow the fun scent. Harumph.

But never mind.

All in all, she's doing reasonably well. I see a definite improvement this week on stand for exams and position changes at a distance, and she only started to flake out about 2/3s of the way through class. And really, since she doesn't get walked at the moment, I can't blame her for all the extra energy :S

For Want Of A Dog...

So, I thought the best place to be would be a collection of the random journal entries I have regarding our decision to get a dog.

Basically, what happened is thus:

The first semester of last year was hell at my husband's uni. I'm not exaggerating; at least two or three of his classmates were put onto anti-depressants because it was so terrible. I shan't go into the details, but suffice to say, my Boy was feeling pretty blue.

In keeping him company one long evening (as they all were then), I stumbled across an acquaintance's blog, where she talked about getting a new puppy, and clicker training him. Clicker training? I thought. What is this? And thus began stage one: infatuation. I devoured everything the internet had to offer about clicker training in the space of about three days, and decided that the time was right for a dog - not least of which because it would provide Boy with a loveable distraction, and a reminder that he was loveable too :)

There was never any question as to the breed: in Boy's mind, it was a lab, or it wasn't a dog. So we began looking....

A workmate of Mum's had a pedigree dog who had had puppies - and they were ten weeks old, and there was one left that the potential buyer had withdrawn from because she wanted a show dog, and his testicles hadn't fully descended. His name was Irish Creme, and I fell in love...

Thursday 7 June 2007 @ 10:03pm

Irish Creme will probably, sadly, prove too much too soon. He is an absolute DARLING, but we can't really afford him right now. He may not even be available after all; the breeder who was initially interested and who paid a deposit contacted Gai again. We'll know either way on Monday. BUT Meg, Irish Creme's mother, has had several litters in the past... and one of her previous pups is pregnant :) She's due late next week. Woo! Sooooooo, provided they check out (hip scores, eye scores, pedigrees etc), we'll aim for one of those pupples. So we get a puppy in 9 weeks time!! Yay!! Something actually exciting to look forward to!!! Whoot!!

Friday 8 June 2007 @ 10:08pm


So, we talked to Robyn tonight (the owner of Bella, daughter of Meg, mother of Irish Creme... confused yet? :D) and the puppies are due next Wednesday or Thursday. Bella's hip scores are 4 and 5. The father's name is Catraz Razz's Encore (see pictures here), hip and elbow scores all 0 (can't get any better than that!!) and his eyes are clear. Bella had an ultrasound yesterday, and she's having a small litter. The father is a chocolate lab, carrying yellow genes. The mother is yellow carrying chocolate genes. Thus, the litter (genetic probability-wise) will be half yellow and half chocolate, and they'll prob all have chocolate noses (rather than black). Nose thing is a bit of a bummer, but yellow is good. We'll probably end up getting a female, because we're both interested in breeding... So yeah.

Which just goes to show how educated I was; yellow-furred brown-skinned dogs are not permissable in the show ring, and if you wish to breed both yellows and chocolates, it's advisable to keep two distinct lines. So, it seemed we were set for a puppy in nine weeks. And then we found an ad in the paper for far less money, but still microchipped etc. We investigated, and they were pedigree pups after all. And so....

Saturday 30 June 2007 @ 7:33am


WE are getting a DOG!!

Damo's just been given 5 nights of night duty (der, as opposed to days of night duty??), and has thus agreed that we can get puppy after all. Provided it's a nice dog, that is :)


Monday 2 July 2007 @ 8:50pm

We're getting a puppy, we're getting a puppy!!

Just got off the phone from mum, who just got off the phone from the puppy man. He is too sick to drive, but his father is going to bring them down for us to look at!! Wednesday 4:15 we'll see them... and we can take them home then if we like them :)

He'll register them for us if we want, but it will take six weeks, so we'll prob get the pup and then he'll register them, and then we'll pay him for the registration. Added bonus here is that we get to choose their registered names!! Yay!!

The girls are thinking of Avantha as the registered name, so it will be Rose Delight Avantha. (Rose Delight is their kennel name, so we have to have that). Avantha is quenyan for shadows. Appropriate, since dog is black :)

I want to call ours something to do with sunshine. We're only supposed to use 10 letters after the kennel name, and sunshine is eight... We can go over a bit we think, coz the father's name is 13 letters... So, thinking of something like My Sunshine, or May Sunshine (she was born in may).

AND, mum talked about the fact that we want to show our dog etc, and Les (dog man) says that he probably wouldn't bother showing the black one, but the yellow one is good. Of course, mum thinks this is wonderful, as they have no interest in showing etc, and we do :)

So all in all, things are good. Puppy on Wednesday... As mum says, why does everything have to happen at once?!! Damo was like - we can't get a puppy on wednesday! I don't know how to look after it!!


Oh yeah, and he brings them up as outdoor dogs once they're 4 weeks or so, so that no matter what home they go to they'll be comfortable - so no crying coz of sleeping outside :)

Which is most definitely mostly good... but a little sad too. Would have been a bit nice to have it inside. But can still have her inside during the day :)

And that was how we came to find Laura :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Kodak Moment

So, because I can't help myself (I think I'm addicted to blogging - I keep catching myself framing my thoughts in terms of blog posts!), I'll probably end up posting current things as well as the 'old' stuff until I'm caught up, which will in all likelihood mean more than two posts a week. Because, you know, I really need more things to do...

This, though, I just had to share. In fact, when I opened the door to it on Monday night, I closed the door again right away and called for Boy, because he just had to see.

This is what came galumphing up the stairs to greet me when I opened the door to take it dinner.

Dog? You call that a dog? I think it's a walking mud-bath, myself...

It was immensely funnier from my angle, opening the door to nothing, then seeing this flop up to the door, ears back in her 'I'm cute, don't harm me' expression. It is about to be less funny as I go prepare to let her inside for the night, and have to clean her off somehow...

Such is the joys of puppies. Which might mean two things, in fact. Such is the joy of having a pup, that we must clean up such messes - but such too is the joy of puppies, in that they don't care what others think, they don't mind how dirty they get, so long as they're having fun.

Of course, this can go too far - like it will in maybe a week when all the dirt is gone and she can wriggle under the back fence! But generally, I think that that is what charms us humans about dogs: their absolute inability to resist fun :)

Maybe next time it rains I'll go join her. If her attitude is anything to go by, a frolic in the mud might do wonders for the soul :)


So, even though I went through that yicky pressure-ful phase, I still have rough training notes scattered around the place, and I'd really like to collect and collate them. What better place than here? :o)

So for the next few weeks, posting will primarily be playing catch-up as I hunt down said notes and put them up here - with photos, of course!

To begin, a bit of background.

Laura, aka RoseDelight My Sunshine, was born on the 5th of May 2007 - even though her certificate says the 8th! We really couldn't afford a purebred at the time, but after watching my last dog degenerate severely from conditions that ought to have been prevented by a responsible breeder (she was a petshop pup, a rough collie), we were determined NOT to go the petshop route.

My mum and sisters were also in the market for a pup, having lost the collie a few months prior.

I had just decide that, alas, I must give up on the idea of a dog for now due to funds, when Middle Sis stumbled across an ad in the online classifieds: Labrador puppies, bargain price, but microchipped. My ears pricked up. Non-breeders don't usually chip.

We investigated, and lo-and-behold, it was indeed a legit breeder, a small family who breed their dogs purely for the pleasure of the puppies, and not in any way for profit. We were sorely tempted - but I refused to say yes to a dog without having seen it. I had no first-hand experience in judging puppies, but I'd practically memorised the breed standard and read every thing I could find on choosing puppies - what to look for in temperment, quick tests to perform, etc etc.

The breeders were marvellous. They offered to drive the puppies down to us (about a two hour trip) so that we could see them, with no obligation.

Of couse, I'm sure they figured they were pretty safe - four girls, two squiggly puppies... Are they really going to say no?

I would have, had there been anything to say no to. But my little yellow honeycake was, as near as I could guess, a pretty well-shaped dog, and even after a two hour car trip was attentive, curious and friendly. I checked out her papers, and was pleased to see that I recognised a few of the kennel names in her pedigree - of course, at the time I didn't realise quite how good they were!

And so we brought her home, and my mum and sisters took home her sister Abbi. And let me tell you, despite the accidents on the carpet, despite the howls at night, despite the poo up all the walls at times and the complete lack of anything that resembles a backyard at either house - we haven't looked back. We love our dogs. They're here to stay :)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Last Night, In The Rain

At sixteen months, I'd have thought my dear puppykins was past keeping me up a night. Sadly, this is not the case.

Last night we had our first storm of the season (in SEPTEMBER! Since when do we have thunderstorms in SEPTEMBER?) went through the I-thought-old routine of lightning-thunder-bark, lightning-thunder-bark, Amy-gets-up-lightning-thunder-nobark-click-treat, lightning-thunder-nobark-click-treat. We went through this with the first few storms last season, especially a weird one that had no rain, very little lightning, and weird growly thunder. But she got used to thunder pretty quickly, and after the first few we had no problem. I think the two weeks in January where we had a storm every night desensitised her :) But it appears that after a year she's forgotten...


Murphy's law was very much in evidence: as soon as I'd decided she'd quietened and headed back for bed, after not barking for ten minutes she'd start up again. Or I'd get up at a crack of thunder, and there'd be no thunder for ten minutes until JUST as I was climbing back into bed. Mleph.

It also didn't help that the night was very very bright. She's always noisy for the three night around the full moon, because it's so bright she can see everything - and from our back-step-vantage-point, she has a lovely view of the surrounding four yards, replete with other dogs and many cats.

On the plus side, the storm was very pretty, and I discovered that one of the streetlights across the way shines through the kitchen window past a gum tree, making a beautiful pattern of light and shade on the kitchen wall :o) I tried to take a photo for you (yes, at 3am), but the camera's eye lets in significantly less light than my own, sadly.

So, that was my night last night, from about 1:15am until 3:30am. Who said dogs aren't good preparation for babies? :D

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Process of Growth

I realised, as I was writing the introductory post, that there is a strange correlation between learning to love my dog, and learning to love my other passion, writing.

I've known for years that I loved writing, that it was something I wanted to do, someone I wanted to be. And at the beginning of last year, I decided once and for all that writing was something I was going to do, and I got serious.

Seriously infatuated. I read - no, devoured - websites of information, joined groups, talked with people, and generally absorbed anything on the topic that I possibly could. It was fun - it was exhilarating. I was spending time doing something I loved, and I was learning.

But then came the next stage: fear. I'd learned all these things, I knew all this stuff - and now I had to put it into practice. But I had no experience, no history, no first hand knowledge of how it worked - and I got scared. Suddenly, having to put words to paper every single day became the most labourious thing I'd ever attempted. The sheer pressure of having to be Productive drove away my creativity. My right brain went into hiding, and all that was left was my left brain, beating me around the ears and generally shouting at me to Do Something, or I would Fail.

I stuck with it, though, and gradually I passed into the next stage. I learned that writing is something you do with all of your brain, and that it's okay to be lax about the boundaries sometimes, and that above all else, writing is fun. I remembered how to play with words, and rediscovered the joy that that gave me.

And in rediscovering that joy, I found my passion - awakened, returned, and stronger than ever before - refined by the fire of my fear. With this renewed passion, that dreadful P word ('productivity') was no longer an issue; the words came, and it was fun. And when they didn't come, that was okay.

This is where I am still today. There may be further stages ahead; I don't know. I haven't been walking this road for long enough to judge. But regardless, the act of passing through, of conquering that fear and reuniting both halves of my brain has made me a better, stronger, wholer person.

And I would be completely oblivious to this entire process had it not struck me last night that I have gone through this exact same process with what I fondly refer to as 'dogging'.

In May last year, I became infatuated. I read everything the net had to offer on clicker training, on puppy feeding, on exercise and health and training and care routines. My husband was going through an extremely difficult time, and I was convinced that a puppy would be something to remind him that he was still loved, that he was still respected and looked up to - that, in general, at least one small fluffy creature thought the world of him.

In hindsight, I was right (which is both rare and lovely :D); the husband and the dog bonded immediately and have been mutual adorers since day one - even when, on day three, Dear Husband was confronted with a bathroom smeared in sloppy puppy poo from floor to as high as the dear twat could reach :o) (Hehe, I was away at a conference that day.)

For me, however, I now realise that the process has been akin to that of writing. I had the infatuation stage, which lasted for about the first few months.

But then the fear set in. All of a sudden she was growing, and growing fast, and our training fell behind where I knew it could be, and the pressure to be Productive mounted. Again, my creative, subconscious brain rebelled, fleeing to safety, and leaving me stressed by Yet Another Thing I Had To Accomplish.

Thankfully, the groundwork had already been laid, so dear Puppykins was perfectly unphased by the sudden drop in the amount of training she received, and continued to be a well-behaved and well-adjusted baby-pie - and of course, she still had the DH :o)

I certainly didn't neglect her - she was inside almost every day, I spent time with her, I worked with her every now and then at home, and took her to training once a week at the local dog club - but the fear, the pressure was still there (especially, and in a very big way, when we began showing).

But gradually, the pressure began to ease. My other brain returned, and I realised that raising dogs is like raising children: you'll never get it perfect, but you can get it good enough, and good enough really is good enough. And so the fear has passed. I've weathered the storm, I've been watered by the rain, and I've come out the other side a stronger, wholer person.

And now, I can't wait to get home to my dog :)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Before We Begin...

After this week, I'm going to do my very best to post twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thurdays. This complements my blogging routine on my writing blog, which is Monday-Wednesday-Friday. So, if you're very keen, you can now hear from me every single weekday :o) You must be so thrilled :D

However, this week being week one, and this being a blog primarily about me and my puppy after all, I thought you might like to see a photo of my Squishyfishy. I'll be posting squillions more, of course, but I thought one to start with might be nice :)

So, this is the ratpack, my little Laura.

In't she cute? Aww....

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Beginning...

I am opening a new blog. It's something I've been meaning to do since I got Puppy, but have somehow managed to avoid.

It was the pressure, I think; the pressure of having readers, however few, who would read my goals and hold me accountable; dogging was just another area I had to be Productive in.

And fear. I realised last night how large the fear part was - because last night, I loved my dog.

Oh, of course, I'd loved her since we brought her home in July last year; but last night, I Loved her.

Somehow - I don't recall - the subject of breeding came up. I ended up on the net, googling for pictures of a whelping box to show the Boy (aka Husband), who had never seen one.

I stumbled upon a fabulous, insightful blog called Lab Tails - and my life, in a small but ever so important way, is changed.

Labradors, perhaps no more than other dogs but certainly with a unique enthusiasm, love their people. Unreservedly, unashamedly, unconditionally - and without fear.

And I realised that, although I dreamed of that magical connection between human and animal, and although it was here, within my reach, I was holding back from it.

I was scared.

I was scared, because Laura will die.

My Sunshine, I named her, in the hopes that that was what she would be - a ray of light in the greyness of our lives, hope in times of trial, warmth in the cold and the fear. And she was. She was sunshine, and she was mine...

But she was never My Sunshine.

Until last night.

Lab Tails reminded me of something very important. Dogs, no matter what they do, no matter how many mistakes they make, and no matter how many others they may hurt, never have regrets. It is not in their nature to regret actions past - and neither is it in them to worry for the future.

I will die - but Laura loves me nonetheless, with an exuberance and joy that lights up her entire body and fills it with uncontainable wriggles.

And now, her love is returned.

Hence this blog. I do now what I have always intended to do - trace my journey, track my progress, and chart my way across the known world of training, and the complete unknown of showing.

Welcome. I hope that somewhere, somehow, you too will experience that unconditionality of a dog's love - and learn to return it.