May 2013 ~ Winnie getting to know her future sporting companions
Winnie and the ferret kits ~ see how clever she is to know the difference between the ferrets and the rats ~ she really is a terrier to be proud of and the time that Dave has put into her has definitely paid off.
Winnie watching and waiting for the rats to come out !
And the waiting pays off as Winnie catches her rat ......
We have been getting amongst the rats and rabbits this month, and it has been interesting to see that Winnie has forgotten almost all that she learnt last season. Hardly surprising really, as we only had a brief spell at things at the beginning of the year, so that we have had to start from scratch isn't a problem. Now she is still marking the presence of both rats and rabbits, but it's the catching that she will have to master again. Now the grain is in the rodents have followed and we have had some enjoyable days keeping their numbers in check. These three videos show one of these outings. Winnie had marked this hole amongst the hardcore on the outside of the grain store, and I entered the ferret. Now, the ferrets I keep are from a long line bred for rabbiting and for their temperaments, and not for bolting rats, and I am learning that this is not their cup of tea. Like all ferrets they are incredibly nosey, but you can see this jill of mine jump backwards when she comes face to face with this rat, which was only just inside the hole. So there was nothing for it but to dig.
But as with any skill, practice makes perfect, and we have been around the farms at least once a week, mostly at night with the lamps, and the improvement in her has been dramatic, as this next video shows. As much as anything I'm enjoying seeing her enthusiasm for the tasks now, and the careful entering she had has certainly paid off.
This will be a busy season for us as we will be continuing with the weekly ratting, and ferreting for rabbits on as many days off as possible, and I'm really looking forward to watching Winnie develop and mature.
This will be my last diary entry, though it will certainly not be the last you will see or hear of Winnie. It has been enjoyable putting these entries together, and valuable to as it has enabled me to look back over previous months and see how exactly she has come on. It has also been lovely to hear of peoples enjoyment from reading my simple notes, and the interest in Winnie has surprised me no end. My intention with these entries was to give an unbiased account of my experiences with this, a new breed to me, and if things hadn't gone well, then I would have said so. It was just my way of trying to help this breed, and the people and clubs involved in it. I've had nothing but help from all those I've spoken to regarding the breed, and what is more important, it has been truthful and extremely helpful.
So, how have I found the Sealyham? Well I am still in love with the breed. They have been a refreshing change from the full on, hyperactive breed, we use to breed and work. Winnie has settled into our home life so well she is a joy to have around. I'm enjoying the slower, more thoughtful approach to life that she, and the others I have seen, seem to have, that ability to 'turn off' when there is nothing going on, whilst still being keen and able to do as much as is required. She is very thoughtful in almost everything she does, in fact there have been moments in these past twelve months that I have been scratching my head and wondering what I have been doing wrong, and it has only been the fact that I have had the wealth of knowledge on the other end of the phone, that I've realised that most are just breed characteristics, and it is me that needs to change my ways, not Winnie. But these characteristics will not make these dogs suitable for all, especially those in need of instant results with very little input from themselves. But then that could be a good thing, as no dog does well with being left in kennels, with very little human contact, and just being expected to behave in a certain way, and none more so that the Sealyham I feel. Winnie has thrived on living in the house, going places with us and being put in and seeing a multitude of situations. Admittedly, we have let her down on a few, but it is our fault. The more time you spend with her, the more she is prepared to do for us, and what is more, enjoy doing it. But we have found that she is not really a lap dog in the sense that she will curl up on your lap, she enjoys contact with us, but it can be as little as putting her head on our feet when we are sat on the settee or some other small contact, as if she still retains her own independence.
Her temperament is wonderful, and she has yet to utter even the slightest growl or sign of aggression towards anyone, and she is very good around other dogs. This less aggressive approach to life means that they need to be entered to work properly and progressively, which dare I say it seems to be a dieing art these days, but it makes them easy to stock break and Winnie doesn't see anything as prey, more a curious interest which when reinforced with the 'NO' command, just sees her turn and walk away. This is a characteristic that will put many off the breed, and so be it, and I admit I would have been one of them ten years ago, but as I have got older I am beginning to admire the finer qualities in life, and no longer do I go out needing to catch something, more now enjoying the quality of the hunting and dog work. Don't get me wrong, Winnie can certainly catch and her prey drive is developing very well, but she is also a joy to watch, using her nose to follow a scent and the steadier approach is very much to my liking.
The fact that she doesn't moult is something that I hadn't really paid much attention to, but is a very good thing, well worth having to have her trimmed every few months, and in actual fact she isn't as demanding to keep clean and tidy as you would imagine. The one thing I do have to watch is her weight, especially just before she is trimmed. Her appetite is, well, very good to say the least, and it is a daily job to run my hands over her to gauge her weight and food needs, but she always seems to come back from the groomers needing to lose a pound or two, but then I know how she feels.
Will I be keeping with this breed for a while, well yes, a very long time. She is everything that I could have asked for, and better than I could have imagined. When the time is right I hope to breed from her to keep a pup back for myself, and so the pack will start. It is also lovely to be involved with this breed, and to feel in some small way, I may be helping it stay alive for future generations to enjoy. Being involved with this club has set me on the right road, with some wonderful people, and wonderful dogs. The breed is in need, but with the support of like minded people, through hard work and sheer determination, it has a chance. But there is still along road to travel yet. If these few entries of mine have made you more determined to get involved with the breed, or indeed, decided they are not for you, then I feel I have achieved something worthwhile. So thank you for reading my experiences over the past twelve months, but as I stated at the beginning of this article, watch this space.
We had a wonderful, and much needed, weekend away with the pack this month. I knew Winnie would be fine with the number of dogs but I was interested to see how she behaved as she was still hunting on a bit too far from me and I didn't want her taking any of the younger pack members with her. I needn't have worried though as she behaved brilliantly, and she stayed closer to me than she has done for a while now. I think part of it was slight trepidation on her part, but the way she was playing and running with the other dogs made me think it certainly wasn't a scary situation. It was also good for her to be around water again, and because it was a truly beautiful and scorching hot weekend, she managed to get a bit more than her feet wet whilst cooling off. She improved so much that she was happy to swim after me when I waded into mid stream to try for some photos of the pack, and although she didn't venture out into really deep water, it was really nice to see her relax in the water. With the sun shinning and the water level low and still, I managed to get some nice photos of the pack and individual dogs. However, I must apologise as although I took over 100 photos over the course of the weekend, it turned out once I got home and got them onto the computer that I firstly need to take that many to get the odd decent picture (I ended up with 20 odd good ones), and secondly that unintentionally I had taken multiply picture of the same dogs. Now this was not my intention and I was trying to pick nice scenes rather than dogs, so I'm sorry if you were there that weekend with your dogs but they are not in any of my pictures. I've sent the pictures to Harry and Gail so you will hopefully get to see them at some point in various formats. I did however take two of the best pictures of Winnie that I have managed to date, which now proudly have been enlarged and hang in our living room.
We have been having a few early morning and late evening walks when it has been cooler, but nothing really of any interest. All the straw is baled almost as soon as it hits the ground around us so we haven't even been able to try for the odd rat trying to scrounge a living in the fields, but they will be heading into the yards and buildings soon and our weekly trips around the farms will soon be starting, and I'm certainly looking forward to it this year.
There are times when it's good to take a step back and review things from a distance, and this happened to me this month, but I fortunately had someone guiding me to what would otherwise have been an irritating scenario for me. We have been continuing with the retrieving, and things had been going very well, but while getting some video footage she acted strangely and wouldn't go where I was trying to send her to pick up the rabbit. I was at a loss as to why as things had been going so well, so I showed the footage to my retrieving guru and he immediately told me the error I had made, and that he wasn't surprised in the slightest that Winnie had behaved in the way she had. We have progressed onto 'blind' retrieves, where she doesn't see what she is being sent for, and I had been careful to always work into the wind to give her some scent indication as to what she was going out for. This first video shows a good retrieve, although she turns to look at the camera, and this was the standard we have progressed to. We couldn't turn the camera on in time to capture me shooting the rabbit, as it makes a 'beep' and this may have startled it.
However, this second video from the evening is what caused me concern. Ill let you view it before I comment on it. Once again you don't see me actually shoot the rabbit for those possibly concerned about that.
Now as you saw, when I went to send her out for the rabbit she shot off down the hedgerow to our left instead of straight out and this was my worry. Admittedly, there wasn't a lot of wind this evening and she had to get a lot closer to the rabbit before she scents it, but I couldn't understand why she did this. On showing my friend he said that young dogs always like to work a 'line', and he starts all his Cockers down a fence or hedgerow, before progressing to open fields with a 'sheep path' or similar to give the dog something straight to work down, and only when the dog will go straight out does he feel confident to work open spaces. All Winnie had done was to pick the first line she saw and begun to work down it, so once again it was my fault (although unintentional) for progressing a little too quickly.
She had also started hunting on a bit too far when we were out on an ordinary walk, and I was trying to pick my spots where I could change direction quickly to make her keep an eye on me and not go off on her own. I'm loath to keep calling her back to me if she goes too far as I don't want the re-call to become a chore for her, I want it to stay exciting for her to come back to me, so a change of direction (simply walking the other way) seems to be working and she hunts on well but keeps an eye on me. She also seems to be a magnet for any wet patches, no matter where we walk, so it's a good job she doesn't mind getting muddy, nor me brushing it all out once it's dry.
Firstly, I must apologise for the lateness of these next few diary entries. I have no excuses other than I have been very busy of late, and although we have still been getting out, it has been another matter to actually sit down and put our experiences on paper. So, let's get back on track.
It is that quiet time of year for us, with us just mooching about and continuing the training. Winnie is still coming on nicely, and we have been adding new elements in to keep her mind active. Part of this has been retrieving feathered objects, leading up to birds. Up the field we have been pestered by rooks and crows, marauding the poultry feeders as soon as we leave, and even taking a few of my mother in laws ducklings, which was the final straw. I lay in wait for a few evenings with the rifle, and we suffered no more losses. I didn't want to waste any of the bodies though, so started incorporating them into our training. I went up to our local playing fields, and sent Winnie for a retrieve of her usual, and favourite, skin covered dummy. Once she had brought that back to me, I threw a rook body out into the long grass and sent her for it. Without any hesitation she went out, hunted up nicely and found and picked up the body. She then returned to me so quickly I only just managed to get a picture of her. I haven't yet tried her with a pigeon, as these can lose a lot of feathers when in the dogs mouth, and I don't want her to start spitting her retrieves out.
We have also been going out in the evening to get a few rabbits with the rifle, using Winnie to retrieve any that I shoot. It has been good for her steadiness as her lead has been attached to my belt to allow me to use both hands to shoot, and I'm glad we put in the time to get her walking at heel, and she has taken to the slow, steady, stalking pace well without pulling, and we have had a few good evenings which has kept the farmers happy and the ferrets well fed. I've not over done things and I haven't sent her for more than three retrieves on any given evening, but she is certainly getting her mouth on a few bunnies now, whilst staying calm and controlled, which will hopefully keep her keen for the ferreting later in the year.
We have been continuing with training this month, and I've tried once again to keep expanding her brain and adding slightly different elements. She has been a natural retriever since an early age, picking objects up and returning to me with them, but I'm a little reluctant to leave anything completely to nature, so we have been trying to fine tune her abilities. It culminated in a trip up to Shropshire to get some video footage of her retrieving some pests from a shoot my friend has permission on. In this we were successful, however we used my friends video camera, and although he is a wonderful dog trainer, who has working Cocker spaniels that are a joy to watch, he is no computer buff and it will be a while I feel before he is able to get the footage from the camera to the computer, and then to me. Once I have it I will get it posted onto here as we managed to get some nice footage of her retrieving to hand some squirrels and a rook. Now I was especially pleased with the rook, as she is obviously completely steady to chickens, and I wasn't sure how she would behave with having a feathered object in front of her. After a little hesitation, she happily picked it up and trotted back to me without a care. I watched her the next morning around the chickens, just in case, but she was her normal laid back self with no signs of her now considering feathered creatures as prey. Until then, here is a short clip of her in training, retrieving a rabbit skin covered dummy. Now please be aware that we have had a lot of wet weather recently, so this training session had to coincide with me spending the morning cutting the grass in the chicken pen, and Winnie decided to have a good roll in the cut grass, so the sharper eyed of you will see that she has a slight green tinge to her. It's nothing that wont wash off though.
Winnie seems to have found her voice this month, which has come as a bit of a surprise to us as Bear never makes a noise in the house so she has not been surrounded by noisy animals. It is not continuous, just a few barks when someone comes to the house or when our car pulls up outside the house, and this we can live with but we will just keep a check on it as I'm not a great lover of dogs barking at anything and everything. She has also been a little skittish towards the end of the month, so all these things could be the culmination of a change in hormones again, as it is nearly six months since she had her first seasons, so we will soon find out if she is a once or twice a year bitch.
I am also noticing that she is becoming quite a dominant bitch, but in an extremely subtle but effective manner. Helens brother has moved in with us, and has brought his young lurcher and mongrel terrier with him, and it's been interesting to see how Winnie has been around Dillon, the terrier, in the house and garden. Whilst up the field they will play together quite happily, but at home she is a lot more serious around him, carrying her tail high near him and putting her head on the back of his neck and head. All are signs of her dominance over him, and thankfully not a lot bothers Dillon and he has accepted his lower rank quite happily.
She has also been involved in a photo shoot, as we were asked if she could be the mascot on the new website for the pet shop where Helen works. I hope you don't mind me putting the link up here for you to see, www.shipstonpetshop.co.uk and also a couple of photos that weren't used but I thought were nice ones of her anyway.
April has been pretty hectic, as we have had three visits to a chicken farm when the free range sheds have been moved. Winnie has seen a lot of rats caught, we ended up with 1,224 from the three visits, and although starting slowly on the first couple of trips she came to life on the third trip and joined in like an old pro and her tally is now over 50. The sheds are good for a pup as they have plenty of opportunities, but at times the hustle and bustle, noise, and, at times, sheer chaos of these trips can be daunting. Also, with so many rats about, there is of course a lot of scent which can be confusing for a young dog, so I wasn't expecting too much from her regarding marking. All we did was let Winnie off the lead and she could then choose for herself when and where she wanted to join in. It was very entertaining watching my little bundle of fluff running round catching the rats as they fled, and by the end of the third trip she was marking well and more than holding her own amongst the other dogs. The action is very quick, and the light is not fantastic under the sheds, but a friend managed to get this picture of Winnie in action, closing in on an escaping rat !
We also had a very nice day out with Harry, Gail, Alison, James and Mark, and of course the dogs, on a river near Harry. I thought Winnie would be fine with the number of dogs, but I was interested to see how she behaved around dogs that worked more slowly than the pack she is normally out with. She settled in well I thought, and mixed in with the pack as if she had always been with them. She stopped when they did, came back with them, and generally behaved herself very well. She was however slightly unsure of being next to a river, but then we don't do much near water, so just her acceptance of it was enough for me on the day. We both had a lovely time, and I will have more confidence in both of us on the next trip out with the pack.
We have also been continuing the obedience training with her, and she is improving nicely. Hopefully this is a short video of how she is coming on, although it has proven more difficult to get both her and me in it, and be able to hear me giving the commands and her reacting to them. So this, unfortunately, is the best we managed to get. It shows her on a voice recall, then a click of the fingers recall, and then walking to heel. I am pleased how she is enthusiastic about the recalls, but you can tell from her body language that she would prefer not to be walking at heel. We will continue training, and I may even add a few more elements, although I don't want to run before we can walk, and I must get the basics set first.
This month we have encountered, and overcome, a problem within a matter of days. It was an oversight of mine in Winnie' development that literally startled us both and made me address the problem. The problem was load noises, or more specifically, bangs. We had gone up the field, as we do everyday to feed, when all of a sudden a bird scaring banger went off in the next field. We all jumped as we weren't aware of it being there, but it had terrified Winnie. She came racing back to me with a terrified look on her face and not knowing what to do with herself. Now, I am a firm believer in not making a 'mountain out of a molehill' with regards dog training, so I offered her a few reassuring words, a quick stroke, and then went about our normal routine. As they tend to do, the banger went off in sets of three bursts, and then nothing for fifteen or so minutes, and although Winnie wasn't happy about the next few she heard that day her reaction was much better than when she heard the initial bang. It also helped me, and her, that we were now hearing it on a daily basis, and it seemed that once she realised that it wasn't going to hurt her, and that life carried on regardless of the noise, she completely excepted it and now doesn't even flinch or react when it goes off. This has pleased me as a 'gun shy' dog (for want of a better description) is no joke and I've seen brash, bold dogs turn into screaming, cowering wrecks when we have been out and one of these bangers has gone off. I will have to introduce it carefully, but it also makes me think I may be able to use Winnie on the very odd occasion we go out with the guns. Now I am not a shooting orientated person, but just now and then we will have a wonder round with the shotguns, having our own little rough shoot, and if Winnie will accept the noise, she will be ideal for the job of flushing game for us as she doesn't hunt too far in front
We stopped ferreting a few weeks back, and unfortunately this seems to have coincided with her marking developing incredibly well, and of course, I have no ferrets with me to honour her mark and produce a result for her. I now find that when we are out walking she will catch a scent, follow it back to the bury, and stand staring into the hole. She will give me the occasional sideways glance as if to say 'Well come on then, there's one in here', but I can do nothing to help her other than some very gentle words of encouragement. And I do mean gentle, as I once went a bit over the top which ended up with her scratching and whimpering trying to get down the hole. Now this is not behaviour I want to encourage as when we ferret, silence is everything, and I don't want her letting the rabbits know we are above ground. However, and this is causing me headaches trying to think of a solution, I don't want to discourage her from marking, but I have nowhere devoid of rabbits to take her on exercise, so she is indicating their presence on every walk without seeing a 'proper' reward. Only last night we went on a little stroll which ended with her circling a large bramble bush a few times before freezing and staring into it. On investigation, I saw two rabbit holes in the middle of it, and again offered gentle, verbal reward, but again it wasn't as good for her as seeing a rabbit bolt or get netted. I am loath to over encourage as I don't want her to develop into a false marker, that indicates at ever hole knowing she will get some praise, but until I can come up with a solution for this I'll have to carry on as I am doing.
We are still ratting with her, and this may be a way of overcoming the above problem, but I'd like her to treat, and react differently to the two species. We have caught a few this month, and she is coming on in leaps and bounds, but she is still not marking them very well. This however, could be due to the fact that we have hunted in quite heavily rat populated areas, with scent almost every where, and I've found that in situations like this it takes longer for dogs to start using their noses, as opposed to when there may be just a couple of rats under a shed, or piece of corrugated tin for example. It will certainly come with time and experience though.
The heel work and 'waiting' training is continuing well, and I'm so glad I started this with her. She will quite happily come when called and wait by my side on a single command now, and this has meant we have been able to enjoy watching the wildlife a lot more than screaming at a dog to return and constantly telling it to 'stay'. We have both been stood within twenty or so metres of herds of Fallow and pairs of Roe deer with not a noise coming from her as she sits by my feet off the lead. If she can remain this steady it will be lovely, as I've found the scent of deer excites dogs, and my old dogs were always too keen to follow it, resulting in a few 'FENTON' moments. I'm also now adding a double click of my fingers to make her return to me, which will be very useful when we are ferreting, but also it just keeps her brain working and makes her concentrate as a click is quieter and quicker than a voice command. Its work in progress at the moment but she will get there with it.
Helen is continuing to take her to work with her at least once a week, and Winnie has taken to sitting in the front window of the shop watching the world go by ( see photo below ). Thankfully no-one has come in asking if she is for sale, as she is not going anywhere, no matter what the price.
With the game shooting season coming to an end this month it is always a busy one for us as we get asked to clear pens and cover strips of rats. Winnie has been with us on each outing and has increased her tally of rats to a monstrous four, but it has pleased me more that she has accepted every situation we have put her in, and she has worked with more strange dogs than ever before. One trip of note saw us heading to Wiltshire, by kind permission of a friend, and we had a lovely day. We didn't catch large numbers but it's never really about that. It was a bitterly cold day and after we had dug a few the ferrets came into play to try and bolt some for the dogs. Now, although she has seen ferrets since we got her, mine are, according to the wife, all boring red eyed whites, whereas the ferrets used on this day were marked more like polecats, so I was interested to see how she reacted. I need not have worried as she had a very quick sniff and then completely ignored them. Bolted rats are however, not very easy for a pup to catch as they fly out of the holes knowing exactly where they are heading, and she only caught one. It was the ease at which she mingled with the pack of rather full on terriers that pleased me for the day and we went home happy.
We have also been visiting our weekly dairy farm and it is now that we are seeing the benefits of the early stock breaking as we have to get up close to both calves and adult stock alike, and I'm pleased that Winnie is not scared of them, but shows them a lot of respect, which is only sensible considering how much bigger they are than her.
We have, I must admit, been struggling with getting her out and about with strange people, but thankfully Helen came up with a solution that is working well so far. My wife works in a small pet show and has been taking her to work with her at least once a week, and she has become something of a local attraction. She now spends all day loose, and will step back from the door when anyone enters or leaves, greets people with a wag of the tail and follows everyone round the shop. Apparently the sales in treats have increased since Winnie has been 'working' there. She has only kept out of the way of two people apparently, one very load and one that went straight up and over her, but all in all it is having the desired effect of getting her more used to people. One lady even said to Helen how she had 'always wanted one of those, but isn't she so calm, quiet and not at all snappy like some of them', at which point Hel realised she was talking about another breed of terrier, but kept quiet about it.
As Winnie is getting older, and far more co-ordinated in her movements, she is wanting to do more but I'm reluctant to over do her exercise while she is still growing so I'm trying to mentally stimulate her by adding different elements into her training. She is taking to it very well and will now walk to heel off the lead and wait off the lead until given the release command of 'O.K'. Obviously I'm picking my moments on a walk to practise these, as I want her to associate nothing but good from the commands, but she is certainly bonding with me more because of this.
And to finish this month, a picture of her enjoying her favourite spot in the evenings. She has finally learnt that actually touching the glass hurts but she is still intrigued by the flames and spends hours watching them before finally falling asleep.
The first of January was a lovely day, and gave me, hopefully, a glimpse of what may lay ahead with Winnie. We were out on a lunchtime stroll on some land I don't walk very often. It is an area of large arable fields with thin hedges linking small wooded areas used by the local shoot. It is an area where you always see various species of wildlife, but they seem to use it as a means of getting to other, more thickly covered areas, rather than living there. Anyway, we had been walking for a while with Bear, as always, out in front. He paused and sniffed heavily at a spot on the ground then ran off without a care in the world. Winnie wandered over to the same spot but seemed intrigued by the smell. She circled, trying to find the line, and then went off with her nose firmly stuck to the ground. She went a few metres then looked back to see if I was following, then nose down again and away again. This was repeated once more, and then seemingly confident I was with her, she continued at her steady walk and her nose never came up from the ground. There was no casting from side to side, she had the line and she was sticking to it. Now we were within ear shot of the village church, and it had struck one o'clock just before she found the scent, but by the time we had gone through hedges, cut corners of fields and gone under fences we were approaching another farms outbuildings and I had to call her off. I checked the time and we had been tracking for twenty minutes. Now this from a pup her age was, I thought, wonderful, especially considering Bear was running about the whole time completely uninterested, but acting as a huge distraction. She not only proved she has very good olfactory senses, but more importantly, the concentration and determination to follow and trust in her nose. I will never know what it was we were tracking, and to be honest it doesn't matter to me in the slightest. I've seen dogs mark and dig through two feet of chicken muck to catch a rat that were unable to track as she did that day, and there seems to be no common denominator as to whether dogs will or wont have the ability to track. They either do or they don't, and I'm glad I've got one showing signs of being able to.
We are still ferreting, but I fear it won't be for much longer as a few doe's are already showing signs of being pregnant, and I don't like hunting when there are young about. Her marking of occupied burrows is continuing to improve steadily, and she is still very steady when the ferret is to ground.
She has also been accompanying us on a few ratting trips, and im pleased to say, she has caught her first one single handed. It was just one of those occasions you dream of with a young dog where everything fell into place, and although she did mess about a bit with it, which was what I was expecting, she did herself proud. At the moment she is still quite reluctant to mark but the hustle and bustle of a rat hunt is different from the peace and quiet of a days ferreting, and this will come with age and experience. Once again the moment was only captured on Helens camera phone so not the best picture im afraid, but I had to have something to send to Harry and Gail.
If you remember last month I wrote that she was going through a rebellious stage again, well this turned out to be hormonal, as she had her first season this month. It was not really a problem, in fact it was possibly a good thing, as it meant I had to take her out on her own (Bear obviously being an entire male who has been used at stud) and gave her some much needed time to develop into the dog she is going to be rather than one that just follows other dogs. It is something I'm going to have to do a lot more in the months ahead I think as we both seemed to enjoy the one to one contact.
December has seen the biggest change in Winnie, and all it took was a trip to the groomers for a good clip. I went in with a shaggy ball of hair, and came out with a Sealyham. I'd found a groomer locally and after quite a long call I felt happy that she would take her time with Winnie and not stress her too much, which was more important than anything on this first occasion. I'd contacted Harry and Gail as to how things should be done, and this was passed onto the groomer. The sight that greeted me when I collected her was wonderful, and I couldn't believe the difference it made to her. She was understandably far easier to clean up after a walk, but we both appreciated her not getting caught up in brambles, making walks far more enjoyable for all concerned.
We have still been doing a bit of ferreting, and she is noticeably more alert and tuned in to the events that are going on underneath her. I am still missing the odd rabbit in the nets, but she is enjoying the chase of those that do make a bid for freedom.
The stock breaking is continuing well, and the lambs that were born this month have grown up with the dogs being around, and are not scared to get up close and personal with them, especially the two pure Dorset horns.. In fact it has been good as they have added another element with their running and jumping around, and you can see Winnie itching to join in but I don't want her to associate sheep with anything fun.
I think it is her age, but she has been quite wilful again this month. She went through a similar stage a while back, but it is creeping in again. Now it is nothing serious, but enough to warrant me looking at our routine and training methods and see where I can improve things. As I say, it could just be her age, as she is approaching her 'adolescent' stage but I don't want her to pick up any bad habits now and if that means going back to basics then so be it. I've always found it a challenging time with the dogs, you feel you are getting somewhere with them, then they seem to take a step backwards, but the extra effort put in now always pays off in the end.
This months article is later than planned, but I wanted to try and get some interesting videos for you, which due to my inability to check my cameras battery levels, took longer than anticipated. We managed a ferreting trip this month, in fact two. The first trip went extremely well as Winnie marked in difficult conditions and where she marked we bolted a rabbit. It was a very windy day, and the spot I had chosen, on a slight bank under some young trees, turned out to be more challenging than I had expected. With the wind blowing up the bank, and the leafs falling from the trees at a rapid rate most of the holes had been filled with leafs, with no signs of occupancy. This did not stop us however, and I was over the moon to see Winnie pushing her head through the blockages and giving me a very slight sideways glance to let me know there was someone at home. We bolted two and caught one, which was more than enough for me as I've never been into the numbers game. The only downside for me was that I only managed to take one picture with my camera before the battery went dead on me, which was incredibly frustrating as there were some lovely opportunities for some decent pictures. All I managed from the day was a rather bad 'end of day' picture on my phone.
So with nothing to show for the trip (other than me being incredibly pleased) I went out again on my next day off, armed with a fully charged camera this time. This first video shows her trying three sets of burys, the first two she ignored whilst the third she gave a mark. Now she is still very subtle at times with her marking, especially if the occupants haven't been above ground for some time, but it was enough of a mark for me to try the ferret.
After setting the nets we settled down to wait for the bolt. Now please take into consideration that I am trying to hold a camera steady, have a gentle hand on a pup, and anticipate when and where a rabbit may bolt, so the footage may not be the best you will see, but it gives you some idea of how I do things. These next two videos show the results of the positive mark, above, and another bury she marks. Now if my ability to lay nets was better we would have had more in the bag, but as I said, I'm not about numbers and to be honest I believe a pup gets as much enjoyment from chasing a rabbit as seeing it in the net, so all in all a constructive and enjoyable day for us both.
Now, I couldn't be more happy with her, but we are having a few issues with her regarding people, but again this is down to us as much as her I feel. We have found she is very reserved, almost scared, when people approach her when she is on the lead. Now, I have realised that she normally encounters people in her comfort zone, i.e. our house or other surrounding familiar to her, and as its dark when I get home from work to walk her around the village she is not seeing enough strangers. When she does things have to be on her terms, in that she will approach people or objects when she feels comfortable, and there is no point us trying to force her as this will just put her back. So, we have to concentrate on getting her out more at weekends in the day time to experience more of what the world has to throw at her.
Now, to end on a humorous note. The dogs go to my in-laws on the days that we are both at work, and Winnie has built up a very close relationship with both of them, but especially my father in law. Now he has always allowed the dogs onto his lap after finishing his evening meal, and Winnie has been no exception, but she takes it one step further and tries to get involved in whatever is going on, and we couldn't resist this picture of her helping to do the crossword!
May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and a prosperous new year, and we will keep you up to date with Winnies progress next month.
I'm afraid October's diary will not be a particularly interesting read for you, although it has been a very informative month for us. It started well with us continuing with the stock breaking, lead training and basic obedience, which were all going well. I was still taking Winnie out every other evening for a short walk, and I was delighted to see her nose developing well as she was hunting any scent she came across, and she even started marking occupied rabbit burrows, although it was only very briefly. Of course, she had no idea what she was doing, but by just observing her when I had seen a rabbit run in to a hole, I could read her behaviour and understood her body language. She is a very easy dog to read when on a scent as she seems to extend her neck so as to push her nose as close to the ground as possible and her tail becomes more upright the stronger the scent. So with this in mind, and wanting to reinforce this marking behaviour, I decided that a ferreting trip was on the cards for her.
Now all I wanted from the day was for her to be running loose down a hedgerow that I had selected with small rabbit burrows in the hedge line, and as and when she showed this marking behaviour I would quickly place a couple of purse nets before entering the ferret. Speed would have to be of the essence as I wanted her to associate the marking with something good happening, i.e., a rabbit bolting. A couple of successful bolts were all I was after. However, things were not to go to plan. The week leading up to the proposed ferreting trip was the most testing we have had with Winnie, as she would not come to hand when called, which I found incredibly frustrating. She would come to within a couple of feet and then just look at us, even for enjoyable situations like having the lead put on her in the house for a walk, and she became hand shy. I racked my brain as to what we were doing wrong, and what may have caused this sudden change of behaviour but I was at a loss.
I decided to cancel the ferreting trip as I wanted it to be a fun exercise for myself and her, and by her not coming to hand would have upset me and caused friction in our relationship, and may even have caused her to develop bad habits which may have continued whilst she was hunting with the ferrets. It wasn't until the following week that I realised I had been a bit tense, do to with a change of location with my work, and she must have been picking up on this as we have not had any trouble since and we really seem to have turned a corner as to our relationship developing. It also made me appreciate how in tune she is with me already, even at this tender age.
So onto brighter matters. As I have mentioned, stock breaking is progressing well, especially as we are currently looking after some hand reared sheep for friends which are not only tame but used to dogs, which has been perfect for us. Her first introductions went well, for me, as she sat close to my side, on the lead of course, as the sheep ran over to be fed and although you could see she wasn't happy about this she didn't try and run but just watched as they surrounded us. A couple came to investigate her closely and it ended up with her licking the nose of one, before it gently butted her, which made her retreat to the safety behind my legs and she hasn't so much as looked at one since which is exactly what I was after. We have the sheep for a while yet, so she will be seeing them daily just to keep reinforcing that they are of no interest to her and not to be chased.
She has also accompanied us on three ratting trip this month, again always on the lead, but it has allowed her to soak up the atmosphere, the noise, other dogs and general hustle and bustle that goes with most trips. Again I have picked my spots and our fellow hunting companions carefully to try and make it as enjoyable for her as possible, and once again she has not let me down. Not once did she look stressed or scared by anything she saw or heard, and she has spent the trips with her ears forward and tail up the whole time. She doesn't worry about being in the company of other dogs, and her first trip she was out with eight new dogs (to her), and it is also teaching her a bit of patience as I have been putting her back in the car at times, or having Bear out for some time before her, as I do not want her to think she must always be with us and she has not made a sound when left in the car and is normally curled up asleep when I have checked on her. In fact she has taken to it so easily that on her third trip out I had to stand a long way back with her, as she was striking at any rat that came near, but she is far too young yet and she will not be allowed off the lead until she has all her adult teeth, and even then she will enter to them when she is good and ready and will just be put in a situation where she can decide as and when she wants to start.
She is still a delight in the house and has fitted into our ways and mannerism extremely well. We feel we have had her for a lot longer than we actually have, and we have to remind ourselves that she is still very much a puppy, but overall we couldn't be happier with the way our new little sporting companion is adding such a positive influence to us and our combined lives.
It was August 2008, and we were attending the West Midland Game Fair at Ragley Hall when we were initially introduced to the dogs and people of the W.S.T.C.G.B, and I did the one thing I always hate, which was falling in love with the dogs at first sight. However, I am not a compulsive person and it was to be nearly three years to the day, many hours on the phone, and many miles driven attending meets, before 'Winnie' entered our lives.
My intention is to give you a brief summary each month as to her progress with us, the highs, the lows, the good and the bad. My ways will not be every ones ways, and my intentions may vary from yours, but it will be a truthful account of the progress of a Sealyham pup and her first time Sealyham owners.
So to 'Winnie'. She was bred by Harry and Gail out of their bitch Rose, and sired by David Winsley' Ch. Davmar Duty Free. I went to view the litter at five weeks old and she stood out as being a bit of a character, and as they were otherwise an incredibly even litter, that was good enough for me. It was then just the wait until we could collect her.
The day finally came and we made the long, but very worthwhile, journey down to get her. She travelled home very well considering this was her first time in a car. She cried for the first half hour but then we never heard anything from her for the rest of the trip. This has continued, and she has yet to make any sort of mess or noise whilst being in the car. The first week flew by, even though she was waking me up to be let out at 4.30am each day, but I couldn't complain as she only made one toilet mistake this first week. Since this she has lapsed on a few occasions but nothing we can't get round. She got on immediately with our other terrier, in fact he is too good with her and is tormented for most of the day without telling her off. She was growing and eating well, and nothing seemed to faze her. She became steady with the chickens and ferrets within a matter of days, although I am always watchful and never take her for granted, even though she sees them on a daily basis.
She just seems to take everything in her stride, and if she is slightly unsure of something she will sit and watch it for a while as if working it out, and once happy with it will continue with what she is doing. Lead training took longer than I initially would have thought, but we are getting there. She is the most wilful and self assured pup we have ever owned, and I think 10 years ago I wouldn't have been ready for her ways, but now we are learning from each other and things are progressing nicely.
With her inoculations over, we have been exploring more of the great outdoors with her. Cars travelling up the road interested her for about two days, as did people approaching us, but she is improving dramatically. We also introduced her to water by taking her to a shallow ford near us on a nice hot day, and she trotted through the inch deep water without a care in the world.
We are trying to make everything she does and sees fun, and everything will have a purpose to play later on in her life. We still need to do a lot of socialising, and more around children as she hasn't seen enough of these yet, and she also has to see larger livestock, but ill let you know how she gets on with these next month.