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!


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:

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

When should you start and finish dog training classes?

Six years ago, when I first adopted Polly and she had reached about six months of age, I decided she was becoming a bit of a handful, so would benefit from puppy training classes. I had a vague notion of signing up for a course that would last a few weeks and hopefully teach her the basics of polite behaviour.

Joining a class went against every grain of my rather introverted being and it took me weeks to summon up the courage to make that all-important first call to a trainer. Eventually I did manage to pick up the 'phone, meet the trainer and book a class, but my next hurdle was to turn up for that first class. Even now, I still remember the knot in my stomach that morning (and for several months of mornings afterwards!) If you have read my earlier posts, you will know just how daunting the prospect of working my dog, in a group of seemingly far more knowledgeable owners, actually was for me. Six years later though, I am so glad I scraped up just enough courage to begin my dog training journey.

And what a journey it has been ... far more of a rollercoaster than a smooth ride, that's for sure!  There have been highs and occasionally crushing lows, but for every low, there has always been an ultimate reward in the form of better understanding between me and my dogs. I think I have probably laughed more in those six years of obedience training classes, than I have since I was a child and sometimes I have cried ... yes, genuine tears of frustration. It sounds silly I know, they are just dogs right?! Well, as a matter of fact no, they are not 'just dogs', my girls are my most loyal friends and as they trust me, more than anyone else in the whole wide world, to do my utmost to keep them safe and teach them how to behave appropriately in our harsh world of human expectation, I have always taken that responsibility to heart.  When one of my girls has reacted badly in a class for example, I naturally assumed I must have failed somewhere in her training and when things didn't go well, the hardest thing was to dust myself down, pick myself up and not give up, whenever my natural instinct was to hide under a rock and never return to a class ... ever again! 

For the first few months, learning to train Polly effectively was both physically and mentally exhausting. She was a determined girl, large, very strong and with the inherent Golden stubborn streak running through her veins. I felt hugely inadequate against my class peers, who, it seemed to me, had effortlessly obedient dogs. As I watched them trotting neatly alongside their handlers while Polly hauled me like an inconvenient sack of potatoes, from one end of a heel walking course to the other, I felt clumsy, exasperated and horribly out of my depth. 

I am not sure what kept me going back in those days ... sheer bloody-mindedness probably! I was determined not to be beaten, so between classes, I practised what I had learned every day and read all I could find, to better educate myself regarding the mysteries of the canine mind and how to make training a more fun, productive process. Slowly but surely, Polly and I began to work out how to co-operate with one another ... and we gradually began to actually enjoy training together. It was a slow process and growing my confidence as a dog handler took time and huge effort, but by some miracle, it did grow, as did my dog's confidence in me.

By the time Polly was two, I had become sufficiently confident in my training skills to adopt a second Golden Retriever and found I was actually looking forward to training a puppy again. Little Betty joined us at seven weeks of age and I am certain, had a much easier time learning how to become a polite girl, because by then, quite simply, I had become a much better teacher.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and when I look back at my original plan to join a dog training class for a few weeks, to achieve a polite puppy, I have a wry smile to myself and find myself shaking my head. Silly woman, how little you knew then! 

My sweet Betty is now almost four years old and thankfully, a joy to train. She and six year old Polly are often complemented on their behaviour when we are out and about together (always such a proud moment!) so, I suppose, that if I had wanted to, we could probably have retired gracefully from obedience training classes some time ago ... but ... and for me, this is a big 'but' ... my girls still LOVE their classes! They thoroughly enjoy performing the skills they have learned and since we have moved on to taking part in training classes in real life situations around the local area, their confidence and focus within the wider world, has improved even further. Even though both my dogs are now well trained, I still believe classes enrich both their lives and mine and as far as I am concerned, that is plenty good enough reason for us to continue to take part each week. 

All things considered, I would say that during my years of dog training, the most important lesson I have learned since first adopting Polly, is that training is not a ten week puppy course, it is a way of life!


The gist of this rather long blog post is that, if you are struggling to make the call to book a training class for your dog, bear in mind, most of us have suffered exactly the same insecurities at one time, or another. Please don't allow your own worries to prevent you from being the best owner you can be for your dog. Find a good, positive obedience training class, then make that call ... 

Finally, a few tips to make those dog training classes a little less daunting! 

1. Go prepared. You will be told what equipment (if any) you need to take with you, but most importantly, don't forget the training treat bag! The 'bumbag' type is most useful as you'll need a bag you can dip into easily. (Don't put your treats in clingfilm/plastic bags etc in your pocket, you won't be able to access them fast enough for positive reinforcement rewards.)

2. A clicker is a handy training tool - it may be a good idea to look into clicker training and check to see if your instructor supports it. It's not essential, but it can help with training.

2. It's a good idea to take a bottle of water and a bowl for your dog to drink from after the class.

3. Remember to take poo bags and something to take them home in (I use a 'Dicky Bag').

4. Leave your dignity at home. I can't tell you how many times I have slipped on a field and ended up on my bum! Be able to laugh at yourself, it will help I promise!

5. Listen carefully to the Instructor. He knows his stuff.

6. Try not to get engaged in conversation while the class is in progress ... it's too easy to miss an instruction and make yourself look silly!

7. Remember, no matter how amazing the other owners look, they all have their own worries and they all started out in exactly the same place as you.

8. Try to relax (I know, easier said than done, but you will get there!)

9. Don't expect to know everything on the first day, you will mostly likely feel like a fish out of water, but that's expected and it really does get easier with time.

10. Praise your dog enthusiastically when he gets it right and don't be shy about giving praise - make sure you let your dog know when he's doing great. Don't forget, it's a new environment for him, so he too will be anxious to begin with. The more opportunity you have to praise, the easier training will be and the faster your dog (and you!) will learn.

11. Enjoy! 


NB: I am indebted to Kevin (KS Dog Training) and Sam (Dog Behavioural Services), the two excellent obedience training instructors, who have patiently guided me through my insecurities and taught me the way forward to confidence, focus and ultimately, polite, happy dogs!

Thank you both so much, 
From me, Polly and Betty.

Wednesday, 13 March 2019

There are more things on earth and in heaven..

A strange thing happened on the 30th December 2018 ...

When Betty met her mum

There was nothing extraordinary about the weather that day and we hadn't gone anywhere special for our walk, in fact we were simply playing ball on our local playing field, which is something we often do. As we walked and played, we spotted a lovely smiley Golden heading straight towards us.  Rather than their usual exuberant greeting when meeting a new Golden Retriever, my girls said a very gentle, yet warm hello, to this beautiful newcomer in their field. Polly quickly lost interest, then drifted off to her favourite sniffy trees, but the new Golden and Betty seemed to be familiar with one another, although I was sure we hadn't met this pretty Golden before.

She was a sweet natured girl and the gentleman walking her soon approached us, so we exchanged 'hello's' and had a little chat about our dogs while our dogs hung out together. I asked how old his girl was and he told me she was eight.  While we chatted, I watched her behaviour with Betty carefully and it became clear that our dogs were unusually at ease with one another. I became curious so asked the owner the name of his dog and ... after several more detective stylie questions (!) it transpired she was my Betty's mum! I hadn't seen her since collecting Betty at seven weeks old from a village several miles away and the chap walking her was the breeder's father, so of course, I hadn't recognised him ... but there is no doubt in my mind, mum Charlie had recognised her pup, my now four year old girl, Betty!

Bye mum, see you around soon!

I was so thrilled Betty had the chance to meet her mum again and wish I'd thought to snap a couple of photos at the moment they first met each other, but only managed these two rather fuzzy pics, taken a moment before we waved cheerio and 'hope to see you again soon'.

Sadly  it isn't to be, as I have just heard that poor Charlie passed away this week, after a sudden illness.  I feel absolutely heartbroken for Charlie's owner and her family, who I know, loved their girl very much.

So, my post today, is to celebrate Betty's beautiful mum, the most gentle of Goldens, taken far too young.  I will be forever grateful to her and her owner, for giving me my little Betty Boo, who just like her mum, is the most gentle of Golden girls, loves a tummy rub, her ball ... and brings me my slipper.

Sleep tight dear sweet Charlie and thank you from the bottom of my heart, for the smiles and love your pup gives me, each and every day.


Thursday, 7 March 2019

Happy Birthday Polly

It has been an action packed, poo roll filled, barky, welly wearing, hard working and sometimes completely exasperating six years, but during that time Polly has taught me that life should always be enjoyed to the max in wide open spaces, fun can be had almost anywhere ... and loyalty and trust are almost as important as cheese and sausages. We have worked hard, played hard and snuggled together, every single day, without fail.

Polly, now aged 6

Polly at 7 weeks of age, on her first day at home.

Happy 6th Birthday to my beautiful 'Big Bird' today ... the really rather fabulous, Miss Terjack Terzi.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Heading off an altercation

Why have I opted to use a Halti Head Harness to walk my girls?

It is is a question I am often asked and at face value, a fairly straightforward one to answer. I have found that the Halti ensures good control in most lead walking situations and as far as I am concerned, good control helps keep my girls safe.

I first introduced Betty to a Halti head harness as a last ditch attempt to find something to give me a little more control of my strong willed Miss, while I was trying to teach her to loose lead walk ... a skill she still highly disapproves of! We had reached a point with her training where she was so excitable and anxious on walks (and competitive with Polly), that the strong pulling on my left shoulder was taking a physical toll. I was reluctant to use the Halti initially, but decided to try a new approach with Betty, so bought one and haven't looked back since.  Betty is now almost four years old and with consistent training and time, has recently begun to walk more calmly on her lead most of the time (not always though, as new environments still send her excitement/anxiety levels through the roof to being with). So, in summary, Betty's Halti has helped me cope with her instinctive and very strong lead pulling and in doing so, has given us an opportunity to focus properly on loose lead training, which has in turn made our walks on the lead safer and more enjoyable for both of us.

Polly also wears a Halti now, but for a different reason. Polly walks beautifully on the lead ... there is absolutely no tension in the lead, it has a textbook 'U' bend and she politely adjusts her pace to suit mine. She is a true joy to lead walk. So, you might ask, why the Halti? Well, I introduced it shortly after we began walking with Betty as a puppy. At that time, Polly took it upon herself to guard her baby sister and me from oncoming dogs and began to bark and lunge if dogs approached from behind or in front, especially on narrow lanes. She had never done this before and controlling a five stone lunging goldie in full furious defence mode, plus a pulling puppy was stressful to say the least! 

At first I avoided the lanes we had so happily walked along previously, but the problem occurred in other places too, so I decided I needed more control to give me a chance to retrain my overly protective Big Sis.  The Halti has been a blessing in this regard, Polly accepted it without any resistance and even seemed relieved that the job of  'Chief Protector' could now be handed back to Mum. I continued to train both dogs on their Halti's to improve their individual issues and have had a good level of success with each of them. Walks have settled down and beca
ome enjoyable for us all again.

Having explained my reasons behind the Halti choice of walking gear, I am now going to have a grumble ...

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we were walking along a lane a couple of weeks ago, when a gang of five large rowdy dogs raced head first towards us. Thanks to the Halti I managed to steer both my girls to safety on that occasion without any adverse reaction from them. Without the Halti this incident would most likely have had a very different ending.

I am always happy to stop, wait and invite other walkers to pass us and also, to give space to other dog walkers when we are out walking. Sadly this weekend, we weren't afforded the same courtesy. Whilst stopping to take a wee by a fence on a narrow lane, poor Polly found herself nose to nose with a dog who appeared unexpectedly from behind, at the far end of an extending lead and pushed her face right into Polly's. It caught Polly completely unawares and she reacted badly by giving the other dog a good telling off  and a nip on the ear for its rude approach ... upsetting for the other owner who eventually caught up with his dog.  To be honest, it was also pretty devastating for me after six committed years of obedience training with my girl and having always tried my hardest to be considerate of other dog owners on our walks. 

The day after the wee incident, would you believe Polly stopped on our next walk to toilet and another owner allowed an off lead dog to wander over 'mid-poo' to say hello! Polly was obviously wearing her Halti, was on lead AND we had walked away from the very same dog and owner on the lane a few seconds earlier to give them and us space! Some people have absolutely no awareness of, or consideration for the needs of other dogs, it seems.

So, the upshot of my Halti ramble is, please remember that dogs wear them for sensible reasons; their owners may be using them to train, to maintain good control and of course, to keep other dogs safe. When you walk your dogs off lead, or on an extending lead (I hate those as they give no control) please stay focused on of the needs of those dogs on leads/head harnesses. Leads and head harnesses restrict a dog's freedom to extract themselves from difficulties, so if your dog barges up to say hello, they may well react badly, no matter how well trained they are. Responsible owners keep their dogs on leads for your benefit, as well as their own.

No one wants to have to deal with a dog altercation on a walk; it is stressful, potentially dangerous and ruins what should be an enjoyable experience. 

I am just a owner, who enjoys training her dogs and tries to be considerate of other dog owners. For what it is worth, here are my thoughts, based on my own experiences, on how to keep your dog out of trouble on paths and lanes:

1. Give other dog walkers plenty of space.

2. Never walk past a dog walker from behind without first making them aware you are there. Check their dog is okay with dogs approaching in narrow areas, from behind.

3. Give other dog walkers time to organise their dogs, so you can all pass one another safely, especially in confined areas.

4. If your dog doesn't cope well with lead introductions, don't allow them to happen. Teach your dog to sit calmly and wait at a distance, or teach a 'turn' command to change direction and avoid head to head approaches when necessary.

5. If you do need to pass an oncoming dog walker in a narrow space, try not to walk the dogs towards one another, head to head. Curve your dog away from the oncoming dog and if possible put yourself between your dog and the oncoming dog.

6. If your dog spies an oncoming dog and goes into 'stalk' mode, stop walking and change direction. Change direction by calling your dog in a happy but firm voice, use treats if necessary but change your route and break your dog's focus on the oncoming dog in plenty of time. If necessary, call out to the other owner and ask them to stand still while you encourage your own dog away.

7. Do not allow your dog to drag you over to say hello to another dog on lead.

8. If your dog is off lead and you see a dog on lead approaching you, PUT YOUR DOG ON LEAD. 

9. If you can't recall your dog, don't allow him to walk off lead.

10. Don't be afraid to call out to another dog owner in a friendly manner, to ask them to put their dog on lead, or to stand still for a moment to give you space while you organise your own dog.

And finally, don't allow your dog to approach a dog in the middle of their toilet! You wouldn't like it if someone barged into your bathroom while you were perched on the throne and neither will a dog!!!

Safe dog walking folks!


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