Barking Mad Dog Weekend, Church Stretton, Shropshire

31 October to 2 November 2008

We joined a group of fellow dog lovers for the second 'Barking Mad' weekend, which included country walks, agility training, introductions to flyball, first aid talks, massage for dogs, talks on rescue, and some time to relax and get to know each other.

On the first afternoon, the group of 18 or so dogs and owners splits into two and takes to the hills

Exploring the local woods and streams - some of the dogs went paddling, but ours just settled for getting a bit muddy

Galloping cheerfully along the path and over a small bridge

George and Ellie come charging back to encourage us to catch up

The Long Mynd hotel

Still with plenty of energy, the dogs hurtle down the steep path. Back at the hotel we had a talk on first aid for dogs, followed by a group dinner.

Early the next morning, a pre-breakfast walk. There were some fantastic sculptures around the hotel grounds

The hotel from a different direction during the longer-than-planned pre-breakfast walk - the dogs enjoyed it but got very dirty doing it

The hotel and Church Stretton

However it didn't matter as we were off for our day of agility fun, where they got even dirtier. Here Ellie is getting the hang of the 'dogwalk' piece of equipment, which would eventually be placed at the top of the frames you see, making it two steepish slopes with a high walk between

Ellie concentrating as she soars smoothly over a jump

Ellie prances confidently through the rigid tunnel. She also pushed her way through the collapsible tunnel with ease, much to my surprise.

We couldn't do spaniel agility without a 'flying ears' shot!

In the afternoon there was a fun agility competition, which George came a very close second time, possibly only beaten because the stopwatch failed to work so the winning dog got a 'free' second run. Here he is with his second place rosette. Thanks for these last four photographs to Paul Howell Photography.

Back at the hotel we had an interesting session on massaging your dogs, with information about different techniques such as the Tellington T-touch. After dinner was an informative talk about Springer spaniel rescue.

The following morning was to be a short introduction to flyball, which became much longer than originally planned. We should have then had a long country walk, but as the flyball trainers were not set up when the session was originally intended to start, we did a shorter walk beforehand instead

The idea of flyball is to send your dog over the 4 jumps to an apparatus at the far end. The dog puts his paw on a release mechanism which fires a tennis ball out, which the dog catches and takes back over the jumps to his handler. There are usually 2 teams of 4 dogs competing as a relay; the first team to get all 4 dogs and tennis balls back is the winner.

After spending some time teaching the dogs to touch the target pad to release the ball, we practised sending the dogs over the jumps, first one or two, then building up to three and then all four.

Ellie enjoyed this part, though as neither or our dogs are interested in tennis balls they didn't quite get the idea of the whole game. Ellie just about learned to pick up a tennis balls, though she couldn't jump with it, but didn't seem to want to touch the target pad.

George was happy to do the jumps of course

 and to touch the target pad which he did very nicely, but had no interest in the tennis ball it produced!

But they both had great fun. After this the group broke up, and after lunch we drove to some nearby spots for Stephen and the dogs to bag a couple of Marilyns, before driving home.

A very enjoyable weekend, though slightly lacking in organisation and communication at times.


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Unless otherwise stated, all images copyright (c) Stephen and Lucy Dawson