We’re lambing and another new arrival

And we’re off…

Lambing didn’t get off to a great start; sadly we lost Big Bertha. We’ve had her many years, and she was a great character. The vet diagnosed twin lamb disease, but she didn’t make it and never gave birth.

Next came triplets, one of whom died, and then another set of triplets and another death. Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you just can’t save them!

Since then we’ve had some lovely healthy ones, so things are looking up.

Well, we have taken the plunge and got another puppy, a little girl named Tilly Rose. She is the sweetest thing, and we’ve already started clicker training her. She is responding well and should be competition for Toby in the tricks department.

Speaking of Toby, we finally got his hip scores back, and they were excellent, so we hope one day to have a litter with him and little Tilly, of course, that will depend very much on her hip scores and temperament, but both parents have all the right credentials so far.

The weather, as always, is a challenge, and now we are once again under a blanket of snow. The dogs are loving it, and luckily all the ewes are tucked up indoors with their wee ones or waiting their turn to lamb.

Lambing is coming

The sheep are getting fat…

This month has been up and down weather-wise. We’ve had snow and beautiful frosty mornings. Such a pleasure to be able to walk the dogs and come home clean. Not quite so good for the livestock as there’s no grass to eat so we have had the sheep inside for a bit of respite and a trough of oats.

On the flip side when the thaw happens we once again return to soggy ground and what seems like oceans of mud.
We have been busy preparing the barn for the lambing ewes, cleaning out pens, putting down disinfectant so that it’s all ready for them, and they could be needed as soon as 30th Jan, which is our first possible lambing date, nevertheless, it’s unlikely that any one of them will pop on that day.
Most years we have them scanned as it is so much easier when we know they are definitely pregnant and also the estimated due date.  However, this year, time just got away from us, and we didn’t get it done so it will be a bit of a guessing game. We will have to watch them all much more closely. Most of the girls look pretty fat, especially Big Bertha (pictured) but then their fleeces always make them look much larger than they really are. Last year Bertha failed to get pregnant, but we’re hoping she is in lamb this time. She only ever has a single lamb, but it’s always a whopper and gets well and truly stuck!
The biggest giveaway is when they start to bag-up (their udders fill with milk), but even that is not a reliable indicator. Some bag-up the night before and then catch you out with a surprise lambing the next morning! One thing’s for sure; we don’t want them giving birth outside on the sodden ground as the lambs wouldn’t survive long. Vigilance is key.
Our favourite bit, apart from when it’s all over, and we can get some sleep, is when they are all tucked up in their pens on a thick bed of golden straw, bellies full, snoozing peacefully waiting for the moment when it all kicks off, and chaos ensues!

It’s Christmas!

Proper snow…

It’s the first proper snowfall we’ve had for a few years, and the dogs absolutely loved it!

Although it can be a bit of a pain, one advantage of snow is that the dogs come back spotlessly clean from their walks. No need for a watering can wash twice a day!

It’s unlikely to be with us on Christmas day, regardless of how many times Bing sings about it, but wherever you are, whatever weather you have, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The Training Lines Team


 

Daisy causes us concern

Daisy perks up at the sight of a Puller…

We’ve been concerned about Daisy for several months now; she has been very reluctant to go on her twice-daily walks with the others, which was very unusual for her, preferring to stay in her favourite spot under the kitchen table.

Some days after much coaxing she would manage a lap of the field but would then hang out at the gate until it was time to go back indoors. Also when she stood up, her back legs seemed unsteady, even wobbly.

We began to fear the worst. CDRM, degenerative myelopathy which affects German Shepherds and results in them losing feeling in their back end and therefore being unable to walk on all fours. We have been through it before with our big rescue shepherd, Blitz and spent a couple of years helping him walk with a hoist made from old sweatshirts. We did build him some wheels, but he never had to use them.

Consequently, we knew the test, tuck her toes under on her back foot and wait to see if she can properly realign it. Although pretty basic and far from conclusive, she passed with flying colours.

We also reinstated the Pullers at walk time. While the field had been full of uncut hay, we stopped throwing them as it was impossible for the dogs to enjoy a good chase in the dense grass. As soon as Daisy saw the Puller come out, her enthusiasm soared. She loves her Puller!  We introduced it to her with a mild exercise routine of short runs and gentle pulls but quite honestly just carrying it around seems to give her great pleasure. She was doing much better but still stiff, so we took her to the vet and waited with bated breath for the verdict.

Well, it was far from conclusive, but her hips and back legs are a little stiff with arthritis, so she is now on pain relief, and we are supplementing her raw diet with vitamins.

She does seem a lot better and is now one of the first at the door once again at walk time. We are continuing with the mild Puller exercises, and she looks happier in herself.  We will keep watch on her and take whatever steps necessary to keep her comfortable and enjoying life to the full.

Toby’s Fetch n Treat fun

Toby has a crack at the Fetch n Treat

Since Toby Pup started returning his feeding bowl to us every day, which we developed into a fun game with all of the dogs’ bowls, we often try out different things to see how he gets on.

We thought he might like to give the All For Paws Fetch n Treat a go.

The Fetch n Treat is a simple mechanical toy that requires a dog to drop a tennis ball into a hole at the top. The tennis ball travels down the chute and rolls out of the bottom of the toy, and as it does so it trips a lever which causes treats to fall out too!

As Toby loves toys AND treats, it’s no surprise that the Fetch n Treat is a big hit!

We tend to use Pet Munchies treats in most situations. For this toy, we cut a Lamb Stix treat along the length and then sliced it into tiny pieces.  We felt that these small pieces would work better in the mechanism, and so it proved.

The first step was to encourage him to drop the ball in the right place. As he knows the ‘give’ command (most of the time), we encouraged him into position and said ‘give’ while he was above the Fetch n Treat, and with some minor deflection, it went in. After 3 or 4 goes, we saw the lightbulb moment in his face, and off he went. Such fun to watch!

Heres Toby in action!

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Making Kefir

We get to grips with fermenting

When we had Betsy the milking goat, we began making Kefir as we had so much milk and we needed to find ways to use it!

It’s rumoured to be fantastic for gut health, containing a friendly probiotic and it’s so simple to make. You end up with a tart, slightly fizzy drink within 24 hours. Once you’ve bought your original Kefir grains, you can carry on making it forever, needing nothing else but fresh milk. And the grains multiply so you could potentially provide all your friends and family with their own supply.

On the TV this week, there was a programme called Save Money, Good Health and we were amused to see a section on making your own Kefir. At least they confirmed that it was indeed good for you as we have become quite addicted to it now! The trouble is, after losing the milking goat, we now have to buy milk, so it’s not quite so convenient any more.

In other news, Toby reached the grand old age of 1 year and we took him to the vet for hip and elbow scoring. We are now awaiting the results.

He has been as busy as ever learning new tricks and road testing products. See his latest Tobeo, showing how it’s done with the Fetch and Treat.

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The weather gets the better of us

We’re all feeling rather soggy…

We live in Scotland, we expect rain, but do we really have to have it every single day? It feels like it’s not stopped for months now.  A few weeks ago we suddenly had a morning of sunshine and in a panic, we cut the grass. Of course the rain wasn’t gone for long and it came back with a vengeance.  The grass lay on the ground sopping wet and getting trampled by happy dogs who were delighted that they now had a clear view of the swallows right across the field and maybe a sporting chance of catching them!

A few weeks on and we had another morning of sunshine, panic again, turn the grass to fluff it up and let it dry out a bit, and then in the afternoon, out with the baler, avoiding the really boggy areas so we didn’t get stuck.

We were quite pleased after a couple of hours when we had 150 bales, that was until we tried to lift them.  Each one was weighed down with water and extemely heavy.  It was also getting dark but we had to get them under cover. We soldiered on in the pitch black until we had them all under a tarpaulin and then crawled off to bed.

Each day if there is a glimpse of the sun, we uncover them. Of course once we turn our backs the rain starts and we have to rush out to wrestle with the soaking wet and flapping tarpaulin. It is highly unlikely that they will be edible so we shall just have to bite the bullet and buy some in. Somebody out there must have had more luck with the weather than us!

On a more cheerful note, we picked up our Suffolk tup for this year and introduced him to the girls, they didn’t reject him quite as badly as last year’s tup so he must be better looking, maybe the Brad Pitt of the sheep world! We put a crayon on him so we can tell when he’s done his thing and make a note the ewe’s ear tag number. That way we will have an idea of when they are due to lamb next year. Already there are some red rumps out there so we know he’s off to a good start!

Due to the awful weather, we haven’t been able to do much tracking with Toby, so instead we’ve been working with him indoors and here’s his latest Tobeo!

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Track and train

Toby tries tracking…

We are always looking for new things for Toby to try as he likes to be busy!  A local trainer mentioned she did tracking classes and we were keen to have a go with the boy.

She came over to give us some pointers to get us started and it wasn’t long before Toby was fully engaged.  We started by stomping out a trail, dropping cocktail sausages on the way and leaving a jackpot at the end.  He loved it and couldn’t contain his excitement, and proved to be an excellent tracker.  We decided to train a few times a week, and found that in the afternoons (our designated training time) he was pacing the house and whining to get going!

Then we hit a bit of a snag.  We started off by using fields where the grass was pretty long so the trail was easy to see, both for us and him.  We added complications like curves and doubling back and also crossing tracks from previous sessions, and we were convinced that it was his nose he was using, not his eyes.

However, then we moved to a different field where the sheep had recently grazed.  The grass was shorter and there were lots of other distracting scents to throw him off.  Firstly, we could no longer see the trail we had made, so it was difficult to ensure when we backtracked we were following exactly the same route, and secondly, when we set off with him we found it harder to tell if he was following the trail correctly!

We also introduced an “article” for him to find, which might have confused him further.

We will need to take a step back and try again when the weather is better, to ensure he has a good grip on the basics (standard practice when training new skills or behaviours), otherwise he will become discouraged and frustrated.

Speaking of the weather, thanks to daily rain, we have been unable to cut the grass for haymaking and the way things are going, we could end up with none this year!

Here’s Toby in action:

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A trip to the other side

We get away…

Sadly, this month we lost our milking goat, Betsy.  One evening she had an upset tummy and the next day she was gone.  It was quite a shock for us and we are left with only two goats, neither of which are in milk.  We find ourselves running out of milk constantly as we can’t get used to buying it from the shops!

She was milked twice a day every day and therefore we could never really leave the croft for very long.  In fact we haven’t both had a night away from here for the last 13 years!

As we had relatives staying with us who could look after the dogs and keep an eye on the rest of the menagerie, we took the opportunity to snatch a few days break on the West Coast.

We stayed in a lovely B&B and spent our days sightseeing at Fort Augustus, Fort William and of course, we couldn’t miss the great glen, Glencoe. The weather wasn’t great but it didn’t rain too much and thankfully, the midges were nowhere to be seen.

Now our batteries are recharged, we are ready to tackle hay making, should the sun ever decide to return.

In the meantime Toby is reaching the adolescent ‘naughty teenager’ stage in his life, and as he is also getting bigger and heavier, it is important to try and maintain his training while he works through it.  Not easy for us, particularly as his training classes have finished and the incentive to show off his week’s work has finished with them!

Thankfully he has one particular trick to fall back on, which he perfoms twice daily at feeding time – ‘Bring da Bowl’.  Once all of the dogs have finished eating, we line the bowls up and Toby fetches them all one by one!  Here he is in action:

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Board Meeting

Our dogs take their work seriously…

Once again this year, we were the proud sponsors of Bring Your Dog to Work Day on 23rd June, in aid of two charities, All Dogs Matter and Animals Asia.  For dogs all over the country it must have been a revelation to discover where their humans disappear to every day.  Hopefully there weren’t too many mishaps and all participants arrived armed with treats, water bowls and, of course, poo bags!

For us it was business as usual, as our dogs are lucky enough to be with us at work all the time. However, we decided to have some fun by giving them all a “job” and taking taking pictures in various poses.

Daisy was our Call Manager

Archie became the Dispatch Manager

Toby began by tackling the Paperwork, but was so clever we promoted him to Presentations

Jack, although a member of the Board, already has a day job – rounding up sheep!

It was quite a training challenge persauding them to pose for the camera, but there is always a way to achieve what you want and the clicker proved a great asset.  That and some tasty treats of course!

If you have pictures of your “working dogs” we would love to see them.