Our Winter Update from Nicola and Zest

18 months is a pretty special time for an agility dog. At 18 months they become eligible to compete at Kennel Club shows. I don’t rush my dogs out there until they are ready, and although Zest can do all the equipment apart from the contacts (Dog Walk, A-Frame and See-Saw) it is the environmental distractions she struggles with, rather than the pieces of equipment themselves (check out our previous blog on recall challenges).


I decided it would be great for her to get to lots of different environments around this time, so we went to a few brilliant training days, because there is always more to learn, and some shows where you can take a toy in the ring which is brilliant for dogs low in confidence or easily distracted.


I did let her compete in one class which was just jumps and tunnels - our first ever competition round. She was amazing and WON the class! Only 0.3 of a second slower than the fastest round in any category. There is still much more speed to come, but the Active nuggets certainly helped keep energy up over a whole day of agility as this round was at 6pm. Check out our video to see what we have been up to in agility.



18 months for Zest also marked the time when she was between seasons and ready to be spayed. I sometimes think lots of owners underestimate what a major operation this is for bitches particularly. I also wish I could explain to her why I feel it is in her best interests so she can understand why she is in pain. I always want to minimise the changes around the house when I get my dog spayed to keep things as normal as possible on their return from the vets, however things like stair gates and crates can be used to minimise movements which could otherwise slow down the healing process. Over the month before she was due at the vets I do a few things:


  • Do “cone of shame training” (see previous video). My last resort if they won’t leave the wound alone.


  • I use a men’s electric razor with the safety shield still on, to mimic the vibrations and sound from a real shaver at the vets, on her legs, for when they have the cannula put in. My dog LOVES the vets because she only associates it with happy things that mean tasty meaty treats.


  • I let her wear the medical vest (which is a little more subtle then the “cone of shame” but with the same effect of preventing them annoying their wound) for short periods of time round the house e.g when doing tricks and things she enjoys like eating her Natures Menu 80% food.


  • Around 2 weeks before I introduce the crates and stair gate all open access for another week. I reward for going in the crates as often as I can.


  • 1 week before I start putting her in the crates and closing the stair gate behind me for short periods of time to get her used to the restrictions she will have after being spayed.


All of these things meant that when we got to the vets I knew my dog would be as comfortable and happy as possible on her return. The vets were even in on it, I think, as they have installed a freezer full of Nature’s Menu goodies to make her feel right at home. She is here now curled up at my feet sleeping off the operation, I know this peace won’t last very long and I have lots of tips in my next blog for how to counteract the boredom that can come when (particularly active) dogs have to go through periods of enforced rest.


Nicola and Zest

 Agility, Raw fed, Crufts, Nicola Wildman, Training