Friday, 7 February 2020

Capturing the moment..

It has been a while since we did any agility classes, but we always keep our eyes open for agility fun on walks because Polly, now almost 7 years old and Betty, almost 5, still both really enjoy it. Last weekend this orchard fence offered a perfect opportunity for a little synchronised 'over' between sisters ... 


 ... and by some miracle, I managed to capture it in focus, on my camera! 

Whoo hoo!

:-)

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Bouncing into 2020!

It has been a while since I last posted, so I thought I would share a few recent photographs of Polly and Betty today...


Unfortunately, Polly received an injury to her foot (a bite by a very grumpy German Shepherd, who took us by surprise when he stuck his head under a gate and by some fluke, succeeded in sinking his gnashers into poor Poll's paw, resulting in general anaesthetic, deep sutres and a huge hole in our bank account right before Christmas. The owner has duly been asked to secure her boundary so this can't happen again!) Poor Polly was out of action for about three weeks over the Christmas hols, but I am happy to report, is now back up to full steam, running around in the mud, like the proverbial puppy again.  

Note to self: always expect the unexpected!


I don't mind admitting, my energy levels are not at their best during the dark days of January, but it's not possible to hibernate with two eager goldens to entertain, so we make the most of our walks every day and by the time our walk is over and I am back home with a cuppa in my hand, I am always grateful for that walk, even on the days I think I might have preferred to stay on the couch.


Months of rain has been tiresome, but my girls never minded it. I tried to keep them clean by putting them in their raincoats now and again, but they only rolled in the mud even more when they wore them. Incidentally, in the pic above I think they were a bit confused by the fallen tree after the Storm Brendan had swept through!


We have enjoyed a rare sunshine walk and my goodness, what a boost to the energy levels the sunshine is, in fact, all three of us had a decided spring in our step on the day above.


One of our favourite walks at this time of year, is on a huge area of scrubland. Here the girls can bounce their way across tussocks of grass and brambles, stick their noses down rabbit holes and generally indulge in a jolly good blast together!


It's a great area for recall practice - both Polly and Betty love a good game or chasing back for sausage as soon as Mum blows her whistle. That said, my husband took them out here this morning and reported that the surprise distraction of a cat at the far end of the field had them racing in the opposite direction for a moment ... tut tut girls!!!


It has been a joy to see my big girl Polly back up to full speed after her miserable Christmas nursing that poorly paw. The vet did a great job and even though she is now almost seven, it seems no-one has mentioned this to Polly yet ... she really couldn't care less and was just delighted to be declared fit enough to bounce on this field again!


Recently we were walking on this field and I lost my mobile phone here. I heard a dog barking frantically on the other side of a railway track, so went hacking through brambles to see what the trouble was. I eventually spotted the little dog and it was clear he needed assistance, but sadly, I couldn't help as I was on the wrong side of the tracks ... somehow, in the process, I lost track of my phone and despite several walks in the area, failed to find it among the brambles, bracken and long grass... it really was a needle in a haystack situation! As for the little dog, after making local enquiries, I had to assume he was part of a group that live on the traveller's site beyond the railway track and he had probably escaped, then made his way back to them again. I do hope he's okay.



I hope you have enjoyed these photographs, they are a few of my recent favourites of the girls, taken on my new mobile phone camera (a Samsung Galaxy S10+). I am very pleased with the results so far and am taking great care to remember to zip this one safely into my coat pocket on walks!!!


I notice there are tiny hints of Spring now beginning to show on our walks. Snowdrops, little buds and occasional bursts of warmer sunshine are hinting of better days to come, so my fingers are well and truly crossed that the worst of the wet Winter weather is at last nearing an end. We are so looking forward to brighter days and drier walks in 2020!

:-)

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Duffed Up

Unfortunately, my poor Polly was proper 'duffed up' by a rather fierce Weimeraner in her training class yesterday. The Weimeraner has a history of aggressive, stressy behaviour and has tried his luck with Polly before, but Polly dealt with it calmly and sensibly at the time and since then they have been okay together in class. Unfortunately, after returning to our obedience class after a long break, the Weimeraner reverted to his old anti-social behaviour and once again, turned on Polly. Thankfully no real harm was done, despite poor Poll's fur flying.  After some very firm shouts from myself and the instructor, the dogs were quickly parted and a rather shaken Polly returned to me.  I reassurred her, then checked her over.  She wasn't physically damaged thank goodness, so we continued with the class and despite having a huge park to run in, Poll stayed close by my side, keeping a steely eye on her attacker from a distance.

  After giving the situation much thought on my return home, I decided to change group so Polly and I can hopefully train without such worry in future.  It was horrible to have Polly attacked in this way and to see her noticeably shaken up afterwards, so of course, I don't want that to happen again. 

I will now have to do my best to regain Polly's sense of happy confidence out on walks and keep a close eye to make sure she feels safe with other dogs. In my experience, what may seem merely an unpleasant isolated incident between dogs, can potentially generate unwanted, unpredictable behaviours in the future with a sensitive dog such as a Golden. It is possible I may need to rebuild aspects of training I have worked hard on with my lovely girl for years, to reinstate her confidence and trust in other dogs.

In my view, dog training should be fun and as my job is to keep my girls safe and happy, I felt I'd let my girl down by inadvertently putting her into a situation with a dog neither of us completely trusted. Rather than continue with that particular group, we'll simply cut our losses and join another group, to continue our training fun with hopefully, friendlier dogs. Polly loves her group training classes, so we won't give up entirely.


After six plus years of training classes with my girls among many, many other dogs of all breeds, sizes and characters, naturally we have experienced both ups and downs in classes along the way. The one thing I have learned above all, is to take ownership when things aren't working for the benefit of my dog. Training classes should be fun and beneficial for your dog and when the mix isn't quite right in a group, sadly things do have the potential to go wrong.  If that happens, personally I believe it is time to make changes for your dog. Unfortunately, not all classes will work postively for you, as fine tuning a group of dogs to work and play together is a tough job for any instructor, no matter how experienced. I like and respect our instructor very much, but am no longer confident for Polly within this particular group of dogs, so as I see it, it makes sense for us to move on (we are staying with our instructor, just changing groups).

... after all, Polly is six and a half now and should be enjoying a more peaceful middle-age!

:-)

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Betty's 'Real Life' Training

If you look closely, you might just about see Betty racing into the distance on our training walk this morning...


The handsome fellow in the foreground is one of Betty's 'Real Life' training class pals.  We were out first thing this morning with our group, training in a beautiful local nature reserve, made even more lovely by the fabulous autumn colour on display (not to mention so much more fun than training in a village hall or on a boring field!)

The dogs worked really hard on obedience skills today, practising polite lead walking along a noisy road before even entering the nature reserve, then focusing on maintaining a series of challenging 'sit stays' against the almost overwhelming distractions of the nature reserve.  By the time the group was eventually allowed a free run, all five dogs were well ready to rampage!  Betty flew threw the trees, tore up and down steep brambly banks and chased excitedly around with her new pal Charlie, a sweet little chocolate cockerpoo. I don't mind admitting, there would have been a time when this harem-scarem, out of sight running, would make me anxious but not today, because despite her high levels of excitement, Betty checked in with me regularly and happily raced back for her recalls and a treat or two.

I am so pleased with Betty's progress in exciting environments. When we first began 'Real Life' training a couple of years ago, I could barely get Betty to put her bum onto the ground in a sit because her excitement/stress levels were so high, let alone get her to sit and stay off lead until released for play. Now she sits politely waiting for her release cue before charging off to play, giving me the opportunity to release her safely and calmly and also to call her back quickly if needed. She also checks in regularly while she is off lead, making sure she knows where I am and most importantly of all, she pays close attention to the whistle and recalls promptly.

I love seeing my girls having fun so much on their walks as it is an absolute joy to watch them running at pelt in a natural environment. Needless to say, off lead runs should always be undertaken as safely as possible. I highly recommend training classes/group walks as a great way to achieve the level of cooperation and understanding, essential for keeping your dog safe off lead.  They are great for socialising dogs (and their owners) too!

:-)

Friday, 11 October 2019

Lead etiquette

I was reading an online forum post yesterday, written by an owner of a young Golden puppy, she was asking for advice on dog lead etiquette after her poor pup had been bitten by an off lead dog on their walk. It put me in mind of when Polly was younger and bitten whilst on the lead and how that has since affected her lead behaviour in certain situations, so I thought I'd share my thoughts and experiences here, in the help they might help anyone else with similar issues as I know firsthand how a flare up on lead can easily knock both the dog's and the owner's confidence. 


The following tips are based on my own experience with Polly and the work we have done and continue to do, to help us cope better with lead walks. There will of course be other views on how best to cope with lead situations. I think it is a case of getting to know your own dog's potential responses to other dogs as well as you possibly can, building a strong bond with your dog and having the confidence to protect your dog adequately.


The following are my preferred methods of dealing with on lead situations:

Meets on lead can be fraught with potential problems as not all owners have good control of their dogs, some dogs are walked off lead and have little or no recall and not all dogs react well on a lead, causing them to be unpredictable when in close proximity to your dog. Bear in mind, being on lead puts your dog at a distinct disadvantage in confrontational situations as his option to take flight has been removed. 

Here are a couple of simple pointers I use for lead walking: I keep the lead as loose as possible and resist the temptation to pull tight if there is a dog ahead, to avoid giving my dogs the message there may be a problem looming they need to deal with. Secondly, if I do need to pass an oncoming dog, I give as much space as possible by curving away from the oncoming dog and owner as this is read as a non-threatening approach by most dogs. If you can't achieve a good space to pass, teach your pup to turn with you and walk back towards a wider space to allow safe passing. 

My girls have been taught to sit and wait for the other dog to pass quietly as this shows the other dog they don't wish to interact, however, bear in mind, this is a big ask for some dogs as it may make them feel vulnerable. In an ideal situation, my preference is to keep moving forward if there is sufficient space to do so safely, using an encouraging voice, loose lead, treats if necessary and putting myself between the dogs where possible. I also always say a friendly but brisk hello ahead of passing, so that my dogs hear I am in control on their behalf, relaxed and have decided it is safe to move forward.

I taught Polly and Betty a verbal 'walk on' instruction so they know not to greet without my permission whilst working, ie lead walking. I found obedience classes really helpful for this.

I think most dog walkers are far too polite when an off lead, oncoming dog suddenly appears on a path ahead. In the past I know I tried to pass loose dogs while Polly was politely on her lead. I kept my fingers crossed and reluctantly trusted owners who called out 'he's fine, don't worry!' It was rarely the best course of action in hindsight and often made my girl anxious to be faced with a potentially unpredictable dogs in narrow spaces such lanes, for example. Consequently, she would occasionally decide to lunge and bark, to tell the dog it needed to back off , which wasn't much fun for either of us. As my awareness and handling confidence improved, I learned it hadn't been fair of me to leave the decision to Polly; after all, I was her handler, her owner and therefore, should also be her protector. My advice now (hard learned!) is never be afraid to call out to request that an owner put their dog back onto the lead. If that owner refuses, stop calmly in your tracks, encourage your dog into a turn (better still, teach it as a verbal cue), then quietly retrace your steps away from that owner and their dog ... it may add a few more minutes to your walk, but far more importantly, it may also protect your dog from suffering a confrontation with an off lead, out of control dog, which puts both you and your dog at serious risk of injury.

If an approaching dog is off lead while yours is on lead but approaching calmly and slowly, you could try stopping where you are and giving it a moment to decide to return to his owner .. don't make eye contact, just show you don't intend moving towards him. Usually this will result in off lead dog stopping his approach, not always, but if he isn't racing up to you initially, just heading your way, it may work.

Always give the owner enough time to lead up before you begin moving forward.

Next scenario: when an on lead dog is heading your way and your own dog is off lead, what do you do? In my view dogs shouldn't be walked off lead unless they have a solid recall and owner can turn them quickly when necessary but many owners believe it is okay to walk their dogs off lead with minimal or no recall training. I know, go figure! So, most sensible dog owners will tell you, it is polite to put your dog back on lead if another dog on lead is being walked towards you as you really can't tell whether a leaded dog is likely to react to your dog being off leash, or how your own dog will react, so why risk a confrontation? If you want your dog to enjoy off lead fun (and they should!) work hard to train a good recall - being able to call him back to you safely and quickly will be the best thing you ever teach.

It can be very helpful to teach pups to greet when you give permission. My girls are given a 'say hello' cue when I am happy for them to interact and they wait for that cue to be given before going in for the nose to nose greeting. This gives me time to ask an owner if they mind their dog saying hello and it also has also taught my dog that we don't have to say hello to every dog we meet on walk, we can take our time in getting to know regular, friendly dogs and their owners instead.

Important to keep in mind: Blind corners can be very tricky areas between dogs on walks, so always approach such a corner slowly, listening really carefully for oncoming activity, before exposing your own dog ... most dogs prefer to have space ahead/around them and no surprises! Corner confrontations can be unexpected and the sudden flare-up horrible to deal with, so do try to keep your dog by your side, rather than ahead of your, whenever you approaching a corner.

Ditch your mobile phone! It always amazes me how many people are completely unaware of what is happening ahead of them and their dog simply because they are engrossed in their phone screen or are wearing headphones to listen to music (please don't get me started on that one!!!) Responsible, safe dog walking either on or off lead, requires the owner's total awareness at all times.

To summarise, there is a fine line between teaching your pup how to behave socially, but also how to stay safe. They aren't always good at reading other dogs' body language to start with, so it is important that you the owner, learn as much as possible about dog body language to help you see/sense the potential for problems arising on a walk. There are some great books on this topic available - if you are interested, I have listed some of my favourites if you scroll down the right hand column of my blog.


My apologies for such a long post, but I really wish I had this information when I first started lead walking with Polly six and a half years ago, rather than having to learn the hard way.

I hope this post is helpful if you are concerned about keeping your pup safe and also, being a polite, responsible dog walker.

Wishing you and your dog, safe, fun, happy walks!

:-)

Thursday, 10 October 2019

Destination Norfolk!

I have been holidaying in Cornwall for more years than I can remember, but thanks to many local dog bans on beaches making it so much more difficult to enjoy walks with my girls these days, I reluctantly decided that this year would be the perfect time for us to enjoy a change of scenery...


I began my search for the perfect dog friendly holiday online. Google makes finding holiday properties easy, but it is a bit like being a kid in a sweetie shop, there is so much choice it is almost impossible to decide on just one! Fortunately 'Pack Holidays' in Norfolk popped up as the ideal choice for us and our arrangements quickly fell into place thanks to the excellent service provided by holiday provider Gail.  We booked Gail's 'Oak Cottage' in East Ruston and when we pulled up at the gate on the first day of our holiday, we couldn't have been happier.


Polly and Betty immediately claimed the fabulous wrap around and completely secure garden as their own. They had a wonderful time playing chase while we unloaded and explored the house ... and what a house it was! Not only was it clean, comfortable, spacious, a definite 'home-from-home', it truly was the most dog friendly property we have ever had the pleasure of staying in, with everything a dog owner could possibly need provided, including home baked doggy treats, poo bags and would you believe it, dog showers and an actual poo bin!!!


 Once unpacked, we played with the dogs and settled in the garden to watch the sunset with a glass of wine, at which point Polly decided it was time to go home ... she hopped back into the car and bluntly refused to leave the comfort of the back seat. She would not be budged! I think as far as she was concerned, we had been visiting, it had been fun, but now it was time for us all to go home and we needed reminding of that. She is so funny, not to mention clever at times!  Eventually, with a heap of cajoling and some treats, I succeeded in convincing Polly to leave the car.  From that point on, she settled down with us, set up camp at the foot of our bed each night and positioned herself with one eye fixed on the front door during waking hours ... there was no chance of any holiday intruders slipping past my girl unnoticed that's for sure!


We were delighted to discover miles of beautiful sandy dog friendly beaches so close to our holiday home and spent many fabulous hours wandering along the shoreline, enjoying a salty breeze while our girls chased excitedly through the waves and across the sand.


And yes, of course, we had a nice paddle together too!


Norfolk is famous for seals and on one of our beach days, the dogs suddenly began to pay closer attention to the waves as we strolled along, when suddenly, a curious seal popped his head out of the sea to stare back at them!  Unknown to us, he had been following my girls quite close to the surface as they ran along the beach.  It was an incredible moment! I happened to have my camera in my hand to capture what was a real holiday 'wow' moment!


I also had my trusty dog whistle around my neck (never leave home without it!) so quickly gave that a jolly good blast and thankfully managed to recall my awestruck girls back to me to have their leads on, just to be on the safe side. It's unusual circumstances like these when all those years of obedience training really pay off.


We had such a lovely time on the beaches in Norfolk.  It was a fantastic experience for Polly and Betty to be able to run so freely through the sea and along the beaches and wonderful to see them enjoying their runs so much as sisters.  They had an absolute blast!




We also visited Felbrigg Manor and the local pub and tea shops with the girls while we were away and as usual, they were exceptionally well behaved wherever we took them ... my girls really do love a holiday!


For me a holiday these days is all about making my dogs happy because when they are happy, I am happy. I don't miss foreign holidays, hot climates, or flying, I am far happier when the car is packed full of dog paraphernalia, wellies and waterproofs and my husband and I can share fresh air, peaceful beaches and gentle waves with our girls, as a family.


Pack Holidays gave us the best dog friendly holiday we have had yet. Norfolk was beautiful, peaceful and very welcoming and we are looking forward to returning soon ... with our girls, of course.


Thank you Gail, for creating the perfect dog friendly holiday for us and making us all feel so welcome. Polly and Betty were sleepy for a week when we came home ... definitely the sign of a successful holiday!

:-)

Thursday, 8 August 2019

Castle Canines

We always enjoy a visit to beautiful Hever Castle in Edenbridge and one of my favourite times to visit is when 'Castle Canines' dog show is being hosted in the grounds. There is something completely joyous about seeing the Southern Golden Retriever Display Team strut their formation stuff to music. They always seem such happy dogs!


Naturally, we take Polly and Betty with us as they love to be involved in trips out and always enjoy a visit.


They are such good girls whenever we take them out and they love all the attention they receive from visitors, especially children. Hever Castle is a lovely 'dog friendly' place to visit, and although dogs aren't allowed inside the castle itself, well behaved dogs are very welcome to enjoy the beautiful gardens with their owners, so long as they are kept on leads.


And those gardens are breathtaking!


I especially love the Italian Gardens and the formal Rose Garden...


In fact, near to closing time, while the garden was quiet, I couldn't resist taking a few photographs of my girls posing rather regally among those gorgeous roses!


We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Hever Castle this year and after eating way too much ice-cream, mooching around fabulous gardens, seeing the many other dogs visiting and watching the Southern Golden Retrievers display team, we headed towards the lake to spend one last hour strolling right round the water along meadow flower paved pathways. It was such a pretty, peaceful walk!


Polly and Betty enjoyed their visit to Hever Castle and even though they were on leads, so didn't have a run that afternoon, they didn't seem to mind in the least. In fact, they were both very sleepy when we arrived home on Sunday evening. Visits are exciting, but tiring too!


Hever Castle is a super place to visit and we will definitely visit with our girls again!

:-)

Monday, 10 June 2019

Soggy doggy days

Saturday's walk with my dogs must rate as the soggiest for quite some time ... in fact I was soaked right through to my undies after tromping along in torrential rain with them for an hour an a half. Madness!


Thankfully Sunday's walk in Jeskyns Community Woodland (a fab country park for dogs in Gravesend, Kent) was a little drier and a whole lot more fun ...


Polly and Betty had a lovely time racing around through pretty meadows and along woody pathways in the sunshine, then finished their walk with a splash in the duck pond as rain clouds loomed on the horizon. Neither was quite brave enough to venture in for a proper swim as that meant stepping from a ledge and dropping into deeper water. Big they may be, but brave they most definitely are not!


And as if I haven't been quite wet enough already, this week has brought with it storm warnings and yet more torrential rain. As I write, rain is crashing onto the glass roof of my conservatory and my poor roses are struggling to stay upright in the garden. Not a good day for walking dogs that's for sure, but we'll don raincoats and hunt out my wellies anyway ... urgh. I don't mind admitting, soggy doggy days are not my favourites.


I don't think rainy days are Polly and Betty's favourite walk days either ... both my girls went to the back door this morning, took one look at the heavy rain then promptly refused to put a single paw outside. They are currently fast asleep on the living room rug, presumably with their bladders in sleep mode until the rain eases!

:-)

Thursday, 6 June 2019

D Day 75, a dog's eye view

A new experience for Betty ... watching the D Day 75 year
Commemorative flypast over our local playing field yesterday afternoon.


I wasn't sure if the noise of 35 WWII planes flying low overhead would startle her ... but no, Betty enjoyed her time playing with me on the field and simply took the D Day flypast in her doggy stride!

:-)

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

Happy 4th Birthday Betty!

Wishing my little Betty a very Happy 4th Birthday today!


I think Betty is possibly the most joyful pup on the planet. She has such an amazing zest for life and is always eager to play and cuddle. She is gentle, loyal, loving and a lovely sister to our older Golden Retriever Polly. She hears the rustle of a ginger biscuit wrapper from one end of the house to the other, brings me my slippers at dinner time and gives the softest of ear kisses when I least expect, but most need them.

Puppy Betty, 8 weeks old.

In her four fun filled years, Betty has never been grumpy and has always been the sweetest of pups with other dogs. She has very worked hard at her obedience classes and is always a good girl.


In fact, I couldn't be more proud of my little Bets! She is my self-appointed personal assistant, organising my day with a gentle nudge, or soft lick on the back of my hand whenever she thinks I ought to be doing something else. She knows my daily routines inside out and back-to-front and is always nearby, waiting for our next task. She loves her walks, runs like the wind, then flies back to me at the peep of my whistle ... (or two peeps if we are in squirrel territory!)


Miss Millechilli Princess, 

I am so very proud of you.

Happy Birthday to my sweet Betty Boo!

xxx

Monday, 15 April 2019

Heartache and Happiness

A little post to wish my sister and her husband the very best of fun times with their new addition, a very handsome German Shepherd teenager...

The smile is back on my bro-in-law's face!

Digby was collected from rescue a few days ago and I had the pleasure of meeting him in my son's garden this weekend. He was eager to meet the family (we were celebrating my son's birthday) and despite the confusion of moving from his original home, into rescue, then to foster care and back again to the noise and chaos of another rescue centre, before being adopted by my sister and Simon last Friday, he coped admirably and was a perfect gent with the party guests. After a good pace and sniff around the grass, Digby eventually settled close to his new Dad, his water bowl and his lead.

Hello Digby!

Fiona and Simon are committed GSD owners and Digby is their fourth rescue. Bugsy, their first, was my Polly's best teacher and a truly fabulous boy. He was steady, wise, gentle and a lovely family dog. Then along came Autumn, a beautiful, but anxious older girl, found in a caravan when her first owner passed away. She has come such a long way under my sister's devoted tutelage and is now the most loving, well behaved girl.  Sadly, Autumn's companion, Red, a huge handsome fella of just four years, recently passed away unexpectedly after suffering from bloat, not once, but twice. Red had been stray for quite some time before being put into rescue. He was given the very best of life during the thirteen months he shared with Fiona and Simon and wanted for absolutely nothing. Red's loss at such a young age, was completely overwhelming, but the happiness he brought back to my sister's family after the sad loss of Bugsy, will be forever treasured.

Fiona and Autumn

I was delighted for my sister and her husband when they told me they had decided to move forward from grief and wanted to offer another GSD rescue a home ... they felt their living room rug was just too empty! From the look in my sister's eye when she told me, I had a feeling we wouldn't have long to wait ... and there I was, a few days later, in the garden, saying hello to their lovely new boy, Digby!

Polly 'n her pal Bugs

Digby will have a wonderful life now. He will be properly trained and will live in beautiful countryside, with a fabulous garden to play in.  He will have a big sister GSD to keep him in line and a family full of fun and energy to play with, but above all, he will have all the love he is long overdue. 

There is no doubt Bugsy and Red have left a wonderful legacy for young Digby to enjoy!

Welcome home lad.

:-)

NB: Bloat is a life threatening condition and requires urgent treatment. If you suspect your dog has bloat, don't wait, take him to the emergency vet immediately.

For further info:




Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...