Saturday, 5 January 2019

Not in the Golden Handbook

I did a ton of research before adopting Polly, my first Golden Retriever. I read that the breed is great with children (true), easy to train (debatable!) sociable, intelligent (oh yes!) and playful (oh boy are they playful!) ... but what the guide books forgot to mention was this ...

Their second most favourite pursuit in the world after eating, is to roll in stuff ... and the stinkier the better!

So, bear in mind, that the beautiful fluffy white puppy you adopt, is unlikely to stay fluffy, or white for very long. In fact you are more than likely to spend at least fifteen minutes (if not more) of every day, hosing, shampooing and drying a stinky swamp monster!


Friday, 30 November 2018

Speaking the same language

This morning I was reading a post written by a leading dog trainer, asking how many of our human words our dogs understand and it set me thinking, so I wrote a list and these are the words my girls understand and respond to (I may have missed a few). Writing them down made me realise that the words my girls have chosen to learn from me are very much out of the 'golden retriever' handbook;  i.e mostly related to fun times and food!

Anyway, if you are curious, or have nothing better to do (!) please read on ...

Sit, stand, down, stay, come, watch, wait, turn, turn left, spin, beg, dinner, hungry, biscuit, carrot, sweeties, cheese, mat, bed, off, back (for walking backwards with me - it's a cute trick!) their names, paw, up, roll over, jump, away, over, walk on, steady, slowly, jogging, get up, toy, tug, ball, catch, drop, leave, find it, bring it, teddy, tug, here, touch, go wee, kisses, over, tunnel, go to sleep (I use this instead of 'play dead') stop, car, through, come round, out, indoors, garden, heel, with me, grass (we use this to walk on the grass rather than pavement) close, speak, quiet, shake it, step, head in (to put collars on) lead on, say hello, hello, okay, cuddles, go get Dad, slipper, scratchy bum (!) tummy, feet, ears, brush, quiet, lay down time, beep beep, nice, clever and of course, GOOD GIRLS!

I wonder which words other breeds prefer to learn?!

Joking apart, when I first brought Polly home five and half years ago, I certainly never anticipated that she had the potential to understand me as well as she now does. Little sis Betty, now three and a half years old, has been equally eager to learn and even easier to train than her big sister. 

Teaching my girls and learning from them, has been a fascinating and fun journey but the most important lesson I have learned over the past five and a half years, is never underestimate your dog's potential for learning. Teach with kindness, compassion and fun and their willingness to learn your language will reward you beyond measure!


Monday, 1 October 2018

Wherever I lay my head is home

It's been quite a while since I updated Polly's Progress and of course, we now also have Betty progressing well ... which gives a bit of a clue as to why my blogging time has been considerably reduced! Yes, with two dogs to take care of, train, walk, play with, there isn't much time left for writing about it. That said, I thought I'd pop in and fire off a quick blog post, as we've just returned from a week in windy Cornwall with the family and that, of course, included our girls!

Unfortunately when I booked the holiday accommodation, I forgot about the seasonal dog ban on many of the beaches in West Cornwall, but I was determined they would have the freedom to run and play while we were away, so we drove to beautiful Holywell Bay, a dog friendly beach we visited last year and one of the most stunning beaches in Cornwall. My girls had a wonderful time racing around sand dunes and streams, although I kept a very close eye on them along the shore as the current was fierce, the surf was high and Betty is far from a good swimmer!

Needless to say, I couldn't resist a paddle with my delighted girls, so I stripped off my shoes and socks and in I went with them. Thankfully they were polite with me, so I stayed relatively dry!

Aside from fun on the beach, Polly and Betty have also hiked miles across Cornish cliffs, visited pubs, tea shops and quaint fishing villages with me and my family, ridden on the Great Western Railway to St Ives and even visited a castle, including climbing medieval spiral staircases without protest.

A visit to Pendennis Castle in Falmouth

St Ives

Wild 'n windy Porthleven

Hiking to Lands End

And I almost forgot to mention the Seal Sanctuary in Gweek! We wanted to take our grandchildren to visit so were thrilled to learn it was dog friendly. Polly and Betty walked politely on leads as we met seals, sea lions, ponies, penguins and some sheep ... (that's when you know for certain all the obedience training paid off!!!)

It bears mentioning that holidaying with dogs can be stressful for them. Long car journeys, strange destinations and unfamiliar accommodation, added to extra time spent on leads and high behaviour expectations, can be tough on them. That said, I think the benefits can be very rewarding and it's a great way to put your obedience training to the test. My girls loved being away as part of our large family group and although little Betty found the extra lead walking in new places challenging on occasion, those long walks in strange Cornish places, have noticeably helped improve her lead behaviour since our return home. The girls also enjoyed a ton of attention from admirers and family while they holidayed and had some fabulous off lead fun in places we couldn't hope to replicate where we live.

All aboard the Great Western Railway to St Ives

We are family

We have had a lovely time on the wild 'n windy West Coast of Cornwall and my girls have done themselves proud. They settled wherever we settled, proving that wherever mum lays her head is home!

So proud of this pair!

Happy hols Polly and Betty!

Dog tired!


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Happy 5th Birthday Polly!

Five years ago I really had no idea bringing up a Goldie pup would be such hard work, but having Polly loyally by my side every day of those five years, has made every training challenge, wet walk and bark at the postie, completely worthwhile. She has worked incredibly hard to become a good girl for me and my family and she is a super big sister to little Betty. I am immensely proud of all my very special girl has achieved and all that she has taught me. 

Wishing my beautiful bossy Big Bird a very Happy 5th Birthday today!


Wednesday, 27 September 2017

I have been obedience training with Polly in my favourite park today. The trees were beginning to turn red and gold, sun shone through the early morning mist, dew glistened on the grass ... and my beautiful girl was in fine fettle!

Although at four and a half, Polly is now a well mannered girl, we thoroughly enjoy obedience work, so continue to attend 'Real Life' classes regularly. We have worked hard to overcome the typical golden retriever stubborn streak, to build focus and most importantly of all, to create a close bond between us.  I don't mind saying, I am very proud of all Polly has achieved since we first began training together four years ago.

If you would like to know more about the trials and tribulations of training a dog, particularly a golden retriever, please take a moment to read our earlier posts and take a wander through this blog - there is plenty of information, a list of books I found helpful and many very honest accounts of the challenges Polly and I faced along the road to obedience.

I hope you can 'paws-a-while' to enjoy the read and if you are a new goldie owner, I really hope this blog helps you meet any challenges that may come your way and give you encouragement to persevere with your training. Golden Retrievers are such fabulous dogs when they trust you and are given positive, fun and enthusiastic training.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

My sweet girl

Hard to believe it has been two years since our Betty first made her way into the world, but on Monday, we celebrated her 2nd birthday.

Seven weeks old

Our Betty Boo is the sweetest natured and most gentle of girls, always so full of fun ... in fact she loves nothing more than to entertain everyone around her with daft antics!

One year old

When we first decided to adopt a second pup, we were under no illusions and knew it would be extremely hard work. The first year of training and organising routines took time, determination and much effort, often leaving me plain worn out! That said, the work has all been so worthwhile as Betty has since grown into a delightful young lady, eager to learn, even more eager to please and an absolute joy to share my days with. 

Our Betty Boo, now aged two!

So Happy Birthday to you my sweet little Betty Boo. 
There is never a day goes by that you don't make me smile and think how lucky I am to have you in my life!


Tuesday, 7 March 2017

I am so very grateful for the past four fabulous years of very special friendship with this big, beautiful, golden girl ...

Happy Birthday to my Polly. 
Best dog in the whole wide world.


Friday, 13 January 2017

Snow dogs!

It's been a good few months since I last posted on this blog, so I thought it was time I popped in to let you know Polly and Betty are both doing well and are busy enjoying life. I still obedience train daily with my girls (it's a way of life these days!) and take regular 'Real Life' training classes ... as a result, my girls are great fun to be out and about with and have grown into super family dogs, especially with my two year old grandson.

So, if you were wondering why we have been so quiet, there's no real reason, we've just been busy living life, working hard and making the most of our time together!

We have snow here in Kent today, so I took the girls onto our local field earlier (sadly it's soon to be developed into a housing estate - grrr!) and they had a high ol' time running around. It was Betty's first taste of snow and she loved it!

By the way, for the fashionistas among you, today Betty is modelling her Hurrta Slush Combat Suit, which is fab for keeping muddy slush at bay! Polly grew too porky for hers since last winter (!) so she is waiting for a new one in a larger size to arrive.  In the meantime, Poll is modelling a very smart tartan Outhwaite padded underbelly coat ... it's not quite as effective against mud and goldie rough 'n tumblin' as an all-in-one combat suit would be, but it is very good in heavy rain or snow!


Thursday, 21 July 2016

Betty's Real Life Training

We are having a mini heatwave here in the UK this week.  The pavements have been unbearably hot, so I've been keeping my girls as cool as possible by walking them 'out of hours' and staying in grassed areas.  With her heavy double coat, poor Polly really doesn't cope well with the heat, preferring to stay indoors and sleep the heat away on the cool of our kitchen floor.  Betty, on the other hand, would dash around all day long if allowed, so keeping her occupied is more of a challenge ... that said, she spent ages yesterday trying to nose a little fly around my grandson's paddling pool, it kept her interested for quite some time!

I had booked a morning 'Real Life' training session for Betty yesterday, which still went ahead as it was overcast, with a bit of a welcome breeze. It took place in our lovely local park and we spent the first half of the session working our dogs on their leads against the distractions of the park, with lots of walking to heel politely, sitting on command, staying when told, meeting dogs politely whilst on lead and working in very close proximity to other dogs both on and off their leads.  It's extremely useful training for Betty and I'm very pleased with how she is coming along.  Keeping Betty's focus when distraction levels are high and the environment so exciting, is an excellent challenge for both of us.

Our instructor works us hard and rewards the dogs well for their hard work by giving them a lovely group run afterwards (and practising recalls). They had so much fun tearing round bushes and trees, up steep banks, along grassed areas and then, the best treat of all, a splash in the lake!  Betty used to be fearful of water, but with a group of pals to play with (a bouncy lab, a lively spaniel, a nervous mini dachshund, a handsome wire haired terrier and a shy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in this particular group) she had the most wonderful time chasing with them through the water.

Betty's next 'Real Life' training session will be in town, so no group run that day, but we will be tackling lifts ... that should be interesting! Polly also joins 'Real Life' training groups regularly, in fact she had a lovely session at another little country park across town on Wednesday, performing the obedience exercises well, making friends quickly and enjoying a lively run with a cheeky little Cocker Spaniel who took a particular shine to her. I have found it to be invaluable to be able to walk Polly with a wide variety of breeds of dogs, all sizes, all ages, all energy levels ... doing this regularly has given her more confidence when she meets unfamiliar dogs and as a result, she is much calmer with them now than she used to be.

It's great fun training in 'Real Life' situations and so useful for making sure your dog is safe around other dogs in the real world. I heartily recommend booking some classes, if you there is an instructor in your locality who offers this service.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Stand to attention!

We may have finished at our old obedience school, but we do still practice obedience training each day.  Today we are celebrating Betty's formal 'stand at a distance'.  This has been a long time coming and a challenge teach my fidgety miss, but I am delighted to say, she can now 'stand' from a sit and a down, to both verbal command and hand signal, without leaping forward excitedly each time.




Training my girls together has been challenging and sometimes a bit chaotic, but very satisfying when everything comes together. Polly learned these commands a long time ago and is always happy to perform for a clicker, but it's taken Betty a while to settle into the 'stay' element as she only has two settings, 'on at full playful burst', or 'off and sound asleep'!

So well done Betty for at last mastering your sit, down stay and stand at a distance ... and well done Polly for managing to stay calm and focused as little sister bounced around you throughout the past year, while she gradually learned her own obedience skills!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Beach babes, dining out, sheep and cows

We wondered how little Betty, only a year old, would cope on her first holiday away from home, but we needn't have worried, Miss Boo travelled well, settled well and holidayed well!

The drive to Devon took six hours with our girls travelling on the rear seat of the car, safely secured in their safety harnesses. We stopped three times along the way for wee breaks, snacks and leg stretches and they were as good as gold, snoozing between breaks and whilst awake, cheerfully watching the world fly past through the car windows ... it made me wonder what on earth they must make of it all!

On arrival at our East Devon holiday home, we were met by a welcoming committee of thirteen curious cows at the bottom of the garden, with only a low wire fence between us ... there were also hundreds of sheep in the field!  'Good job I packed the long lines' I thought, making a grab for them before my girls had an opportunity to race to the fence to create countryside chaos!

I put on my best training head to teach my 'townie' girls how to behave politely with their new farm neighbours.  It was a challenge at first because the girls were rather excited at the prospect of having an enormous field full of new pals to chase along the fence, but being bright girls, they cottoned on quickly and within a couple of days were behaving calmly enough for me to remove the long lines and allow them to play freely in the garden while I kept a sharp eye on them.  It didn't take long for us all to relax and in fact it wasn't a cow or a sheep which caused a problem in the end, it was a tiny brown rabbit!  On our last day, Betty spotted the little mite and hurled herself through the dense 10ft tall hedging at the front of the property, to give chase.  Fortunately clever bunny won the race and the road the other side of the hedge was quiet that early in the morning, so she was quickly called back to heel and frog-marched back to the garden - yet again, I thank my lucky stars for recall training!

Speaking of recall training, what an absolute joy it has been to allow my girls to explore the local 'dog friendly' beaches each day, safe in the knowledge they would return at the beep of a whistle.  Betty had her first experience of the seaside and after an initial jaw drop at the magnitude of everything, followed big sis's lead and enjoyed an inaugural dip of her paws.  She and Polly had so much fun exploring the shoreline together and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed watching them.

Not only have the girls visited beaches, hiked scenic hills and learned how to behave on country roads with no pavements, they have also promenaded obediently along the seafront with us on their leads, sat politely outside seafront cafes whenever we stopped for a sandwich or an ice-cream (yes they were paid for their good behaviour with the end of our ice-cream cones!) They even came to dine with us at the local thirteenth century pub, where they settled quietly as we tucked into a first class meal of seabass for me, ribeye steak for him and 'Bonios' under the table for Polly and Betty.

Our week away has been relaxing, great fun with the girls and joy of joys, even helped Betty learn not to pull on the lead so hard. Since returning home, I've been able to ditch the head harness and walk my little steam train on a 'Perfect Fit' harness, the same as Polly, which is a big step forward for us!  

As for Polly, she's been so well behaved while we've been away and has worn a big soppy grin on her face all week, there's no doubt in my mind, Poll LOVES going on holiday and now that little sis can come too, it's even better!

We've received many compliments regarding Polly and Betty's standard of behaviour during our holiday and I don't mind admitting, I've been very proud to walk them each day ... it is always a real pleasure to have them complimented.

Well done girls. You make me a very proud goldie mum.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Here comes Summer

Polly and Betty are enjoying their Summer walks, bouncing through as much long grass as they can find and generally making the most of outdoors, now the warmer, drier (yay!) weather has at last arrived.  Betty's obedience training is coming along well and her tendency to pull is on the decline (hallelujah!) She's loving her 'Real Life' classes (as is Polly) and I must admit to a sneaking pride whenever I take her out and about, because she is so eager to show how well behaved she can be - owner heaven!  Just in case I am in danger of sounding a little too pleased with myself, you may be delighted to hear my clever little girl has recently also learnt how to roll in fox poo .... urgh!

As for big sis Polly, she's three and a half now and has settled beautifully.  For a while last year, she went through a phase of being a bit grumpy with other dogs if she was lead walking with little sis (I think she thought she needed to guard me and Betty) but with plenty of consistent training around other lots of different dogs (our Real Life training classes have been a terrific help in this respect) she's much improved and now able to say hello to oncoming dogs in a calm and friendly manner again. She's also much calmer with other dogs generally when she plays off lead now. I can't recommend consistent, targeted training highly enough, as it really can pay dividends when you stick with it and make an effort to look at life through your dog's eyes.

We'll be heading off to Devon for a holiday with our girls this Summer ... can't wait!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Golden smile!

Me 'n Polly have been to an agility training session today, 'down on't' farm' ... which meant, not only weaves, jumps, seesaw etc, but also horses, peacocks, geese and chickens! Poll did really well on the agility equipment and seemed to enjoy it.  She also remained completely calm when I took her to meet the horses, which amazed me as she's usually overly excited by them (anyone who has read this blog from the beginning, will recall the time she was off lead and met a large horse in the woods ... rather a tense situation to say the least!)  Our training group buddies today were, one massive great Dane, an enormous Irish Wolfhound, a stressy Weimaraner, a Giant Schnauzer, a Wire Haired Terrier and a teeny tiny Dachsund ... definitely what you might call an eclectic bunch!

It's been a good few days for Polly, as my grown up daughter came home to stay for the weekend. Polly was delighted to have 'her' Fay back home (so was I!) and glued herself to Fay's side.  Just look at this photo snapped on our Sunday walk ... I don't think Polly could look any more delighted if she tried!!!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Happy Birthday Betty Boo!

Exactly a year ago today, this beautiful little puppy entered into our world and came to live with us a few weeks later.  She turned out to be a clever, funny, sweet natured, oh-so-very cuddly girl, who loves munching carrots, chasing her favourite glo-ball and playing ferocious games of tug on my back lawn with her big sis Polly.

 Our first year together has been a complete joy and Betty's antics have made me laugh every single day.  She is a total sweetheart, such a gentle girl.

Happy 1st Birthday to you Betty Boo, my gorgeous Puppy Girl!


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A walk on the town side ..

I took Betty 'Real Life' training in town with our obedience group this morning.  We tackled heavy traffic, narrow pavements, sirens, lorries, pelican crossings, a railway station, prams, walking sticks, shop doorways, a graveyard (!) and the formidable walls of Maidstone prison; in fact she coped with heaps of unfamiliar sights, sounds and situations and even visited a pet shop! I couldn't resist taking a quick pic of her doing a very smart sit stay right next to the munchie chew bars ... they were quite a temptation for such a young dog, but she was a very good girl and didn't put a paw wrong.

Training Betty to be a polite pup while we're out and about is hard work, but genuinely rewarding ... and I am proud to say she is coming along a treat!  

Good girl Betty Boo, you certainly earned your treats today!


Friday, 6 May 2016

A walk in the bluebell woods ..

And while little sis naps after her training this morning, me 'n Polly have been taking a gentle stroll through our local bluebell woods. 

 It's a warm Spring day, so this is the perfect, calm walk for my heavily coated girl and a lovely, relaxing walk for me ... I swear there's magic in those bluebells!


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