Why of course – how could I talk about anything else!  This is our training, and it’s easily becoming our lives.

I’ve started to realise that in everything we do, be it training, walking, playing, tugging, waiting, we must all be happy and joyful.  Yes, I know how bizarre that sounds – I knew that already!  But I think I’d become so focused on Inka and what he could and couldn’t do and how to manage him so we can do what’s needed, and some of what I’d like to do, I think I’d lost sight of what it’s really all about – fun!
Thanks to Starr and Recallers though, it’s starting to come back for me, and I hope I can bring it to Inka too.

We’re all starting to train in a more effective, and efficient way; I’m learning to actually record-keep for our training sessions, rather than just having a pretty training journal which is more ornament than use, and make ‘mental notes’, which I promptly forget; and I no longer bumble through training sessions, jolting from one exercise to another.  I have a plan (the critical core) and I stick to it!

For someone with OCD in being organised, I sure wasn’t applying it to my dog training!

Recallers proper only started yesterday, but between settling into the community, the pre-course and critical core games, and being excited to begin “real training”, the two weeks since I signed up have flown by.

Here’s a few clips I put together from a video I took this the weekend of Inka & I playing one of the games.  Inka already had a sort-of recall (we’ve not worked on it much lately) so we progressed this quickly from our garden, to the street in front of our house (on a long line), and I thought this would be a good third location for us, as this is somewhere Inka & I have worked before and he has a history of paying attention here.

You can see the speed he’s coming back to me with already, and as I’ve said on the Recallers forum, I’m starting to have the sort of problem I like having, see if you can spot it!

And yes, this is even before the course has really started!  So to the person who found my blog by Googling “do you get money worth susan garrett recallers” – my answer is: absolutely!


A New Addition


Over the Christmas period, Scott & I decided to do a good deed.  We offered our home – temporarily – to a dog from the rescue that we got Inka from – Morgans Dog Rescue.  Sasha came into our home, and very quickly made her way into our hearts, especially Inka’s.  It didn’t take long for us to decide that we wanted to keep her, and our landlord and landlady have been kind enough to agree that we can have two dogs.

Sasha is now called Starr, and in some ways it feels like she has already been here a lot longer than the two and a bit weeks that she’s spent with us; but then she reminds us that she’s only been with us a short time – the muddy paw prints all over the washing machine are a testament to that!

Inka & Starr

It Takes a Village to Raise a Child…

They say “it takes a village to raise a child”, and whoever ‘they’ are, they weren’t far off the mark.  I can say with certainty that in our case, it’s true; although by child I mean Inka, and by village I mean trained professionals.

Inka’s currently  half way through his sixth week on painkillers for a soft tissue problem.

When he first came home, I took him to the vets for a general check-over, and I mentioned to the vet we saw that his hips were visibly uneven (easily by a good inch or more), and he was rather stiff through his rear end.  The vet checked the range of movement of his hips and said it was nothing to worry about.  Given that Inka’s half collie, and collies grow hind-end first, I put it to the back of my mind thinking that perhaps he would grow into his wonky hips, and they’d be wonky no more.


Inka, before his pain management and restricted exercise regime started

Fast forward almost twelve months, and his hips and gait have improved somewhat; but I’m still having to lift him into the car – he won’t jump in.  In twelve months, Inka had jumped into the car a total of three times, the last one being almost seven weeks ago.  After jumping in the boot, eating a really nommy extra special treat, and jumping out again I put him back in the house while I nipped out.  Less than an hour later I returned home, and thought we’d brush up on his “puppy positions”.

His sit was perfect, his stand was good, brilliant sit again, then I asked for a down…nothing, I asked again…still nothing, I lured him into the down, then another sit, then I tried the down again.  No movement on his voice cue, I moved to lure him, he dipped his head, I tried again and he didn’t move.  I cued a stand, rewarded him, finished our session and began to think.  We were indoors with no distractions, and he’d trained that exercise in that exact location only days earlier without a problem…why wouldn’t he lay down??

The next day, after talking over the situation with a trusted friend, I booked a vet appointment.  This time, the vet wasn’t happy with the way his hips moved, so booked him in for an X-ray the following morning.  Thankfully, the X-ray showed Inka’s hips to be “perfect”, and in fact what was thought to be his problem hip was actually better than his other one.  He was sent home with some painkillers, and put on restricted exercise, with advice to book a hydrotherapy session.

Since then, Inka’s been back to the vets three times, had his painkillers changed once, been for three hydrotherapy sessions, and had a chiropractic adjustment.

Seemingly, now, things are going well.  His gait has improved, his ability to listen and focus seem to have increased, his hips are level, he plays with more vigour, he seems more able to regulate his speed when walking without using the back of my knee as a buffer (almost knocking me over in the processes!), and most impressively – last night he repeatedly jumped into the boot of my car.

We’re back at the vets again later this week; I don’t know what the next step will be as he’s currently on half a painkiller every other day (down from one half every day), but I don’t doubt that it will be positive.  I’m keeping everything crossed that Inka’s days of pain and painkillers will soon be behind us, and we can get back to “real life”, and the important things it holds for us.

Morgansr Got An Inkaling

Throughout this, I’ve felt lucky to have the friends that I do – those who I can confide in, talk through my options with, and get recommendations and suggestions from.  I know Inka is thankful for all of our friends too, even if he’s not sure what they’re all doing for us!

After the Behaviourist’s Visit

After our appointment with our behaviourist on Saturday, I’m feeling really positive.

Basically Inka is fearful, has little self-control, and no off-switch.  Almost the whole time Graham was with us Inka was “on the go”, only stopping once we’d practised some ‘leave it’ (in a new way), a ‘finish’ (i.e. no more interaction), exercise, and mocked up a ‘settle’ exercise.

However, being quick to pick things up, on my return home after going into town when Graham had gone, Inka came up to the dog gate like normal, and then went and ‘settled’ on the rug and waited for me to go to him – a huge improvement on the usual “what did you buy me” as Inka tries to stick his head in the carrier bags.

We’ve been left with some exercises to work through, and some desensitisation & counter-conditioning to work on, and I’ve also been told that Control Unleashed is to be mine & Inka’s “bible” (yay!).
Things will get better.  I’m happy.  Inka’s happy.

Honour the Dog You Have


Inka waiting for me to throw his toy

Inka & I are taking a few weeks off from our classes.

The last time we were in class, without warning Inka went for one of the other dogs.  I’m not being over-dramatic and saying “he gave no warning”, while really he did and I missed it; there really was nothing, and even our very experienced training instructor said there was no warning.  Apparently that’s quite normal in rescued non-working sheepdogs – but that comes under the banner of “I don’t even want to think about it”.

So, we’re going to be seeing a qualified behaviourist in a few weeks, and in the meanwhile Inka will be having an ‘easy life’.  He’ll be starting back on Zylkene again, and we’ll do lots of training, and play lots of games at home.  I also recently treated, I suppose both of us really, to some new grooming tools, and he’s finding having his coat properly worked on a little stressful.  Up until now all I’ve used is a rubber mitt, but that wasn’t putting a dent in his shedding, so I got some Furminator brushes as well as the de-shedding tool.  His coat condition has improved so much since I eliminated corn from his diet, and I started adding salmon oil to his breakfast to support his skin & coat about a month ago, and while on the one hand the new tools are adding to this improvement, they’re also giving me an indication of how much more improvement could be made.

So I’m spending some time each night not only brushing him, but also making sure he enjoys it.  It’s probably a “girl thing” but I really enjoy grooming dogs, it’s relaxing for me, and I like to think it is (or at least it can become) relaxing for the dog too, and it can be a good bond strengthener when done correctly.

After giving Inka a toy to play with for a while a few nights ago, I spent some time grooming him, after which we had a cuddle on the floor.  As he was getting himself into just the right position for a belly rub, I think I began to realise something.  I had a lot of expectations for Inka, many because I’ve owned dogs in the past; more because of my love of training, and learning about training; and even a couple because I came home several times to find Inka on the dining room table!  Regardless of my expectations, I need to let Inka be himself, and I don’t think I was really doing that.  I need to listen to him, but also I need to remember that while he may enjoy certain situations (class, for instance) that he may not feel the same about similar situations (formal assessments, for example).

That’s not to say I’m not going to work to help him to enjoy all aspects of his life, but I’m going to be more aware of his preferences.  If he decides he doesn’t want to cope with crowds of people, then in the summertime when I go to Keswick, Inka can stay home.  I’ll miss him, and I’ll wish he could come, but I’ll also respect his needs and wants, saving taking him to popular tourist locations for quieter periods in the year, when both he and I can enjoy them.

We’ll keep you updated with how Inka & I get on, but to finish this post, I’d like to borrow something from Susan Garret‘s blog, she ends each post by saying what she’s thankful for.  Right now, I’m thankful for friends, their honesty, and openness; and for the advice and support they offer.

Taking Stock

Inka’s been in mine & Scott’s lives for almost seven months now.  We’ve come a long way in that time, though that’s not to say we’re at our endpoint, but Inka has improved a lot.  I still remember the first few times I took him to the training centre, just to sit in on classes.  He was so anxious he froze in the car park and wouldn’t move.  Our training instructor came and took his lead from me, allowing me to walk into the centre, with Inka now following behind, probably in a bit of a “please don’t leave me!” panic.

But it worked, and needless to say, he now loves going to class – he whines in the car when we’re waiting to go inside, pulls like a steam train to get inside, then whines to get started (or get going again!), and spends the entire hour with a big grin on his face – especially during his agility classes.

He’s been on & come off Zylkene, which in itself I think was a godsend, it certainly seemed to help to take the ‘edge’ off his anxiety so that he could learn.  He’s had a session of TTouch, which also helped him a lot, I try to do touches daily, but it often turns into an as-and-when situation, because he’s still not absolutely certain about them, though we’re getting there slowly.

He’s had a ‘play date’ at a local hydrotherapy centre, which he seemed to enjoy, even though he had to be carried into the pool.  That did make me think about a lifejacket for him, but his confidence is slowly increasing around water.  Down the road from us there’s a small stream which he’ll walk through beside me (thank goodness for wellies!), and downstream where it grows a little wider and deeper he’ll cross it to retrieve a toy.

We worked hard so that the fireworks on bonfire night & new years eve wouldn’t bother him, and he slept through most of them, the loudest bang made him lift his head up, but then he put it right back down again.

He’s now confident enough to go off-lead, obviously only where it’s safe to do so, and his recall is good – if a little problematic…he comes charging back towards me, and then keeps on going!

This past Wednesday was an extra special day for Inka, not that he really noticed (though he did enjoy the food sample that arrived for him).  His Kennel Club Activity Register Certificate arrived in the post – his ‘posh’ name is ‘Morgansr Got an Inkaling’; and alongside that, Inka passed his UK APDT Good Companion course, receiving his second certificate of the day.

So, what’re our next steps?  Well, I’d love for their to be a higher level of APDT certification, but as yet there isn’t, so next week we’ll be starting classes to work towards the Kennel Club Good Citizen Bronze award; as well as carrying on his agility training.

We may do some fun classes in agility shows this year, and will hopefully start playing for real next year.  As for his Good Citizens, I’d love for him to achieve the gold award.  Who knows what we’ll do after that, but we’ll certainly have fun getting there!


Inka with his APDT Good Companion and Kennel Club Activity Register certificates

Inka with his APDT Good Companion and Kennel Club Activity Register certificates

A Little Update

I’ve been rather quiet of late, what with moving Scott & I have been very busy.  We also have a secret, and I was hoping our broadband would be up & running before now, so that I could share it with you, but sadly it’s not.

All that means though is you’ll have to put up with a short post & naff photos!

We have had, for a little over a fortnight, our very own dog!  He’s a non-working sheepdog, and though he’s rather nervous he’s settling in just fine.  You will see from the second photo that he has a Thundershirt, what you can’t see is the music he’s listening to, it’s the first volume of “Through a Dog’s Ear”; both of these have really helped him & will probably be getting a review of sorts and/or more mentions in future posts.  He is a Border Collie cross, and we think his cross is a New Zealand Huntaway, not that it really matters because he is gorgeous whatever his origins.  You will be seeing & reading a lot more about him in future posts, as we progress through his training & deal with his problems.  Say hello to Inka…



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