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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Progress at Leadchanges, HelpX experience and Sulky Training (Driving Dogs!)

Ehud from HelpX who did a great job on weeding and
strimming our work area ready for the kennel, agility
and dog run area to go up
Lots has happened since the last update!  The first and good news is that things are really changing and the place is starting to come together.  The playground/agility area is looking like what it is supposed to now (!) and the fences for the kennels and runs are up.  There are still bits of tidying up to do but it is looking like the facility I want it to be now.  Our HelpX helper, Ehud from Isreal, was with us for a week and really got on top of all the strimming and weeding, so that made a huge difference.

It was wonderful meeting someone from a completely different country and learning about the history and culture.  Ehud was particularly great as he is a tour guide there and very knowledgeable.  I would thoroughly recommend anyone who would like some help

Kaishi after her swim in the lake - she found some lovely
soft ash to lie in!
around their home, farm, garden or a project, to join HelpX.  You provide food and accommodation in return for work - usually around 4 or 6 hours per day - and some time off during the week.  You get to meet great people, make new friends and learn lots from them.  You can usually check out their different skills as well - so you might want someone who is good at carpentry, or good with animals and there is a way you can track these helpers down on the site.  You can invite them to come to you and they might look out for you on the website also and ask if you are needing help.  The site is easy to use and you can include lots of detail and photos.  Check out

Ehud was a real "fish" and spent most of his

The agility/play area coming along nicely - the bridge
and tunnel are under construction here.  You don't need
to make huge expensive investments to create a fun
obstacle course for your dog but it does need to be
spare time in the pool, at our little river pools or in the lake when we went walking with the dogs.  For those who love to swim, this is a great place to do it with lots of different swimming options!  It inspired us to go swimming in the lake the following week and it was wonderful to actually swim next to the dogs!  We are going to have our next HelpX visitor in August - a Spanish lady who is going to come and help with painting our shed along with doing a language exchange.  She is working on her English (although it seems excellent!) and will help us by talking in Spanish.  It's a fabulous way for anyone learning a language to have "private" conversational practice!

The tunnel/bridge with the added ability that I can keep
the tunnel out of the sun when not in use, the hoop, jumps
weaving poles and in the background the fenced
runs for guest dogs.   Each will have their own lying
platform, shade area and play sand as well as a raised
kennel with raised bed.
With the kennel and agility area we are so nearly finished but having trouble finding the right kennels.  We found one that was sustainably produced, raised off the ground and good for both cold and hot weather, but it was too small - even the largest size!  The quotes we have received are outrageously expensive and to make them ourselves will take Michael away from the work he needs to do.  We have finally tracked down a place not so far away and hope they might be able to help.  If they can they will receive a huge mention on here!  The obstacles are almost finished and the playground looks good and you can see some of this in the photos.  We had a wonderful meeting with the Axarquia rescue group - Diane and Sam came to visit and they are wonderful and friendly ladies and I hope very much to give them lots of help and support, help raise some funds with the sulky (eventually) and the workshops and also with behaviour issues.  I have three people I'm chatting to about doing a case study - for Unit 14 of my Diploma with the BCCS (British College of Canine Studies - and a new foster dog will come to live with us from Friday via Axarquia Animal Rescue  Her name is Betsey and she is like a long legged Jack Russell.  It seems like she is a Ratonero Bedeguero Andaluz - a dog of medium size, measuring between 34.9–43 cm at the withers and with an appearance very similar to that of the Jack Russell Terrier.  This has led to the breed being called the Spanish Jack Russell.  They are apparently agile dogs with a lean and athletic build so we could be in for some fun!!  I know Ndzilo loved her JR friend in RSA so I'm hoping Betsey will fit right in here too.  From Wikipedia:

The Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz (Andalusian wine-cellar rat-hunting dog) is a Spanish breed of dog of the terrier type. Its name reflects its main occupation: hunting rats and mice hidden between barrels in the wineries of Andalusia in Spain. It was recognised as an indigenous Spanish breed in 2000 by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and by the Spanish Kennel Club, the Real Sociedad Canina de España.[1]

Akina at the specialist's in Granada
Kaishi hanging out in the shade
of the tunnel!
Akina has been to see an eye specialist in Granada - an excellent and friendly vet who has given her a course of drops and eye washes.  We still have no idea how she did it, but one eye turned much darker than the other and none of the vets could find any problems.  The only thing they can think of is that it got a seed or something in it which caused and infection, but they never found it.  Various treatments did not work but it seems like we are on top of it now.  She has been amazing - vets poking her eye about, putting in many drops several times per day, putting a pressure tester right onto her eyeball and never a growl nor a shake of nervousness!  She got on and off the high table and was so good.  I am very proud of her, her patience and her trust in us.  Hopefully at the end of the course of treatment the inflammation will not return.  Her eye is likely to always be a bit darker but some of the light chestnut colour has returned.  The important thing is that she can see fine!

Building confidence - I drag the tyre first
The project for teaching the dogs to pull a sulky is coming along.  Finally after some back and forth with customs we got the harnesses that I had ordered from Chalo Sulky (take a look at the Driving Dogs tab on the website - and hitched up the tyres we had made into a drag obstacle when we were still in Chella.  With the right harness and attachments it worked perfectly as the harnesses did not slip and they kept the tyre stable.  I started just as I used to with the horses when teaching them to pull a log on a rope - dragging ropes each side and rewarding the dogs for doing well. I then progressed to dragging the tyre myself so they could get used to the sound of it bumping over different surfaces and sometimes bouncing if it got stuck on weeds or rocks.  Rewarding a praising all the way, giving them fun things to do around and through the tyres to build confidence, we progressed to pulling them.  Kaishi just loves it and is a natural and was trotting along next to me in the first few minutes, making her way with her tyres next to me all the way to our neighbour's house.  The leash was slack and she just ran with me.

Attaching the tyre to the side 'D' rings either
side of the harness "saddle".  The straps are
just like on my western saddle - front cinch
(girth) and rear cinch - for the same
purpose too!  
Akina also did well but wanted to look at the tyre much more and also did most of the first pull at the walk with a little bit of trot.  She requires more encouragement but for a dog who has always been more shy she was a superstar!  The pics here show Akina in action, as does the video clip.  I also received reins for the driving from behind part, although I still need the driving collars.  I made do with what I had and on the second day (only yesterday) I asked them to follow the bicycle while I gave the commands to "line out" (go out straight and stay straight - and also when they "whoa" to stay straight) and to go ahead and "pull".  A couple of times they got a bit distracted and also a little unsure of who was commanding - not sure if they should wait with me or go with the bicycle but they soon realised that I was really cheering them on when they got it right.  We ran around the little circuit here (not ready for gee (right) and has (left) yet as they still needed encouragement to pull) and they did follow the direction of the reins and were pulling confidently and happily with wagging tails and happy bodies.

Akina pulling her tyres
They understand the left and right commands from the bicycle and even from off leash work, but on the reins we just focused on the "pull" and encouragement to move out and ahead with the tyre.  After the short run they got an off leash quick run with Michael as a reward.  We will progress with this over time, but I really, really need to get saved up to buy the actual sulky now!!  They will move out too fast for me to keep up on foot!  I had to do very little to get them used to the harnesses because they are so used to working in their backpacks and in preparation I have been making the backpacks a little tighter around their ribs.  They wore them the first day they arrived for about 15 minutes in the house and just hanging out in them while I supervised, but seem totally comfortable and confident in them.  They see them and they know that fun is about to happen and this is an occasion where I want the dogs excited and keen - because they are going to need to run and pull!

Over time the weight increases as the dogs get stronger and they learn to pull more resistance.  I will proceed exactly the same way once I get the sulky and then you start to weight it until it is carrying the same amount of weight as the person it is going to pull.

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