The Keystone kids

The kids prove to be very agile

When the sun finally fought its way out from behind the clouds and the rain stopped, we took the dogwalk out into the field for the dogs to do some training.

Daisy was the star, showing the other two how it should be done, before they all raced off for a well deserved game.

For a bit of fun we put it in the field where the kids were enjoying some fresh air with their mothers and it was an instant hit!  We couldn’t keep them off it.

You can see their antics in the video below.

Jack seems distracted…

Jack seems distracted in a clicker training session

During an impromptu clicker training session with Jack in the field, teaching him to go around a pole in the ground, we noticed that he seemed to be a little bit distracted and kept wandering off unexpectedly.

Whilst it is true that he does have quite a short attention span, we were near a livestock pen at the time and at first we assumed that he was more interested in the livestock than us. In fact, the real reason was completely different.

This is what happens:

Please excuse the poor sound quality.

Jack likes working for treats but he really responds to praise and attention too, so we try to use a combination of both to keep him interested.

We noticed that he would only wander off after we verbally praised him and gave him a rub. At some point in the past, we have inadvertantly taught him that the praise and belly rub marks the end of the session. Rather than being distracted, he is simply heading home because he thinks it’s all over.

We may need to fade that behaviour if we intend work with him for more than 30 seconds at a time…

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Daisy and Archie with the Puller

Daisy and Archie play with the Puller exercise toy

Here we have Daisy and Archie playing with the Puller Exercise Toy for Dogs.

The Puller has been designed with exercise and stimulation in mind, and just 3 simple exercises – running, jumping, and pulling – over 20 minutes will provide a workout for all of your dog’s muscle groups, and is the equivalent of 5km of intensive running. Perfect if you like to keep your dogs in tip top condition.

This video shows the Standard size, which should be suitable for most dogs, but Mini and Maxi sizes are also available.

Today though, we are taking advantage of another feature of the Puller – it is great fun to use!

Daisy and Archie certainly love them!

Kidding about

We relax into kidding

After the stress, lack of sleep and vets visits that accompanied this year’s lambing, we were pleasantly surprised by the lack of fuss over kidding.

Firstly, we knew the exact date that the goats had visited the billy so the due date wasn’t guess work, and secondly they usually get on with it on their own.

Even so, we were taken somewhat by surprise when Lulu kidded 3 days early.  She wasn’t interested in her food in the morning so we knew something was up.  By 11.00am she was laying down pushing and making a hell of a racket (sheep rarely make much noise at all).  Not long after that, she popped out two kids, one of each and was soon cleaning them up.  She had plenty of milk and was happy to let them feed.

A few days later, Betsy started, again a day or two earlier than planned but she followed a very similar pattern, giving birth to another boy and girl and requiring no assistance from us.

When the kids were just a few days old we took them to the vets for disbudding so they won’t be sporting horns like their mothers.  All four recovered quickly from their ordeal and are growing rapidly into cheeky little minxes that you have to keep your eyes on as they are constantly on the lookout for trouble!

Our other goat, Lily, also visited the billy but some time after the first two, so she missed out on being scanned.  If she is pregnant, she will be due in early June so we are looking forward to that and after the recent successful experiences, very relaxed about it.

Daisy tries a Slow Feeding Bowl

We change Daisy’s bowl to a Slow Feeder

Daisy is a very fast eater, and tends to bolt her food down at an alarming rate, so although her mealtimes are usually without incident, we decided to change her to a ‘slow bowl’ to help reduce the risk of health related problems. Bloat, for example.

Although there are a number of circumstances that might lead to bloat, many of which may not be fully understood, this is a fairly easy change to make.  We also modified our routine a little some time ago to allow more time between feeding and exercise.

There are several slow bowls available, but we decided on the Trixie Labyrinth Feeder.

See how she got on…

Geraldine

We say farewell to an old friend

Back in 2005 we went out to collect a second hand chest freezer and came home with 3 sheep and 2 pigs!

One of those sheep was Geraldine, a real character.  Having never owned sheep before, she taught us a lot and gave us our first ever lambs.  It wasn’t long before we were hooked on the woolly beasts and built up our own little flock.

She had been hand-reared so she was pretty tame and would go anywhere in pursuit of a bucket, so if we wanted to move them about, we would use her to lead the way.  The others, would always follow.

She got into so many scrapes, like the time we found her stuck in a drainage ditch.  She squashed out of a small gap in the fence, in search of greener pastures.  We hauled her out and soaking wet, she laid on the ground.  The only way we could move her was in the bucket of a tractor.  Unfortunately, on the way back to the shed, the tractor got stuck in mud, so we had to abandon it and wheel her in a barrow!

With careful nursing, she recovered.

Another time, we went out one morning and found her flat on her back with her legs in the air.  We thought she was dead, but no, not Geraldine.  Once again the wheel barrow came out and we tucked her up in a warm pen and nursed her back from the brink.  She had twin lamb disease.

Then there was the huge abcess that came up on her face.  She received plenty of tlc until she recovered.

At the end of last year, we decided not to breed from her again, so she didn’t go in with the tup.  We thought she had earned her retirement.

Sadly, a couple of weeks ago, despite more careful nursing, we lost her.  It was very upsetting as we had all been through so much together.

She has left behind many of her offspring, we have daughters, granddaughters and great granddaughters.  Some of them have her sassy attitude but none have as much character as her.  She was definitely a one-off.

We miss her dearly but she managed to instill in us an enduring love of sheep.

Goodbye Geraldine.

 

Director Daisy and the Dog Videocam

Daisy films an afternoon walk

The Eyenimal Dog Videocam is a small cylindrical video camera that fits onto your dog’s collar or harness, and records activities from their point of view. We tried one out with Daisy, one of our GSDs.

Once fully charged using the USB cable supplied, the camera was fitted to her collar using the bracket. This holds the camera in place but alows you to rotate it to get the best angle – a very useful feature.  The collar was tightened a little to stop it from sliding around her neck, and off we went.

Daisy’s fur could best be described at ‘medium’ in length, but it is quite thick at her neck and we found at first that it could obscure the front of the camera.

We tried various things to overcome this, the most successful of which was to use a short piece of 22mm foam pipe lagging.

It has been shaped slightly inside to keep the view clear and has a soft feel, so it doesn’t cause any discomfort but is snug enough to stay in place on the barrel of the camera. Short or close coated dogs obviously wouldn’t have this problem.

The next step was to position the camera so that it pointed where we wanted it to – forwards, and with the top of the camera actually at the top (otherwise you would end up recording upside down!).

Because we walk our dogs in the fields we use for our sheep, Daisy has a tendency to move around with her nose low to the ground, which in turn causes her to angle her neck, so it took a couple of attempts before we got the right position. The adjustment on the bracket makes this quite easy to do, and after about the third or fourth walk (checking the footage on a pc in between), we were fairly happy with it. We seemed to develop a feel for it eventually, so even if it is jogged out of place, it can be returned quickly.

Not all of the video gave us picturesque views of course, and there are definitely many sections of ‘blades of grass’ and so on, but overall the quality of the video is good and we found it immensly entertaining to watch her and our other dogs in action. We can also see how it might be quite useful in a training situation, and hope to try out the idea in future.

It isn’t just for dogs either. This camera is supplied with a cap that can accomodate the holding bracket, so you can record with it too!

We have only tried the continuous recording mode, but you can also select motion detect or stationary detect modes.

Here are some of Daisy’s highlights:

Lamb-a-lot

Sleepless nights are catching up with us

It’s that time of year again when we walk around like zombies for a month or so – lambing!  We began in early Feb and expect to keep going until mid March.

Each night, we take turns in checking the ewes every two hours.  These days it’s much easier than it used to be. Thanks to the CCTV cameras in the lambing shed we no longer have to trek down there in our PJ’s in the middle of the night, but it still takes its toll.

Every year we try to improve our procedures and this year we attended a talk by our local vets practice where we learnt how we can make some improvements.  There were also free stovies on offer after the lecture, and since we don’t get out much this was a strong inducement!

This year we only have a small flock of ewes as we sent all the troublesome ones to the mart in November.  We were hoping to have wiped out the cases of entropian (turned in eyelids) but have had two born already with this genetic condition.  They have to be injected with penicillin in the lid to puff it out and stop in rubbing on the eyeball.  A very unpleasant job.

We have had one set of triplets, first time in years, but sadly the mother is poorly so we have been nursing her and bottle feeding her lambs to take some of the pressure off.

Our biggest problem is knowing the exact date each ewe will lamb.  With the help of the scan man, we can make a good guess but sometimes this can be weeks out.  Next year it is our intention to fit the tup with a raddle ( a harness with a marking device) so that when he’s done the deed, it will leave a mark on the back of the ewe).  That way we will have a more accurate prospective lambing date.

Until that time, it’s constant watching and broken sleep!

Target Training with Daisy

We try Target Training with Daisy

In this session, we introduce Daisy to the Treat and Train (briefly) and concentrate on some basic Target Training. The Treat and Train isn’t really necessary for this, but we had it on hand. A clicker and treats would be every bit as effective.

In target training, you are teaching your dog to touch a target of your choosing – in this case a target stick – which you can then use to direct or lure them during future training situations.  Once your dog touches the target reliably, you can position that target wherever you want your dog to go.

The interesting thing about this session is how Daisy swings between good ‘touches’, and behaving as though she’s never seen the target stick before, only seconds apart.  This isn’t uncommon, and the key as always is consistency.  We are rewarded at the end when, after a pause, she realises what she needs to do and touches beautifully.  You can almost see the mental cogs turning…

See how she got on…

Archie meets the Treat and Train

We try Archie with the Treat and Train Remote Dog Trainer for the first time.

We recently introduced Archie to the Treat and Train, a treat dispensing device that can work at a distance by remote control.  Although it works up to 30 metres away, we stayed at close quarters during this session in order to aclimatise Archie with the machine.

It works on the same principle as clicker training, where the first step is to click and treat your dog ‘unprompted’ to cement the connection between the clicking sound and the treat/reward.  This link between the click and the treat is paramount to the success of clicker training, and so it is with the Treat and Train.  The only difference is that the Treat and Train beeps rather than clicks, but that’s a minor point provided you follow the same preliminary steps.

Archie does like to play games like this, so after a while we moved on to some basic targeting with a target stick. It isn’t advisable to move on too quickly in a session, and in most circumstances we would have left it with the Treat and Train only (ending on an high point), but he was happy enough to have a go.

See how we got on…