Thursday, 26 September 2013

On the up!

Okay, so I hold my hands up, a heavy cold had that naughty little voice in my head whispering to me to cancel Polly's training session this week and through my sniffs and sneezes, I came pretty close to doing as instructed.  I know, shame on me!  But by some quirk of character, I didn't give in, nope, from somewhere contrary, I mustered enough determination to stop feeling sorry for myself and get the job done and even took Polly for her usual short walk round the block before we climbed into the car ... so yay, go me, *sniff, cough splutter*!

We were lucky with the weather again, with warm September sunshine bathing the training field ... one drop of rain and I don't think I'd have been quite so committed today, tut!  Anyway, the sun definitely helped lift my snotty mood, we had a friendly group of dogs and owners and so we set to work.

Once again, Polly was extremely eager to play with the other dogs, so the initial walk across the field wasn't relaxed because she completely forgot to walk to heel and surged ahead at breakneck speed, but once we reached the agility equipment she remembered the fun she had last week and ran through the tunnels happily ... but refused to tackle the scary collapsing tunnel.  After a couple of attempts, I took the hint and we moved onto the weaving poles, which she can manage quite well, but only when she's more interested in sausage than spaniel.  Let's just say, this was more of a spaniel day!  Next we tried jumping through windows and a hanging tyre, which she surprised me by performing well and seemed to enjoy the challenge.  A quick jump over a couple of hurdles preceded a confident walk across the small A frame, then balancing and walking over the mini-see-saw ... and when I come to think about it, despite her interest in the other dogs, she didn't run off, so yes, it was definitely a good agility session.  There's plenty of time ahead to develop a little more finesse and sort out that mean ol' collapsing tunnel.  Nice work Poll!

The group off-lead walk went okayish ... frankfurter rewards pale into insignificance when there are lovely bouncy young dogs to romp with, but there were one or two tiny glimpses of hope for us today ... nothing as aspirational as a full recall, but at least she thought to look my way a couple of times when I called her and actually came towards me part way one of those times ... tiny steps eh?!

So finally, heelin', sittin', stayin', downin' and 'comin' and yes, I can detect tiny hints of the training we enjoy at home finally rubbing off at school, whoooo!!!!!  Once again, Polly still has a long way to go to show off her skills at school, but at least I now have a well behaved, very affectionate girl at home and a friendly dog at school, which for us, is what this training lark is really all about.

So, in hindsight, I'm glad we went.  Session 5 and at last, Polly's training is on the up!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

You can talk with the animals ...

Polly is a typical retriever who likes to greet with a softie in her mouth and won't usually leave a room without one to carry.  She is a real baby when it comes to her furry friends, going to bed with 'Lambie' each night, playing 'flinging' with 'Froggy', fighting with 'Goosie' and wrestling with her latest cuddler 'Teddy'.

Playing with Teddy

Whenever I say the word 'toys', my soppy girl makes a beeline for her toy box in the lounge to choose a softie to play with on the rug ... cute, but also clever!  I am constantly amazed by her eagerness to recognise elements of human speech ... you can almost see the cogs whirring as she cocks her head, trying her utmost to work out what I'm saying.  Besides the usual 'sit', 'down', 'stay', 'heel', 'wait', type commands, all of which have accompanying visual clues in the form of hand gestures, she has also mastered words such as 'chew', 'toys', 'dinner' and 'bed', which I haven't applied visual clues to ... now that's what I call communication!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Autumn days ..

Gotta love dog walking in the early Autumn!

Polly discovered her favourite field had been freshly ploughed yesterday and it's fair to say, she was less than impressed.

She contemplated this unexpected change in her world, as she sat watching seagulls for a while ...

... and as she pondered, we breathed in the wonderfully rich earthy scent of our local English Autumn.

Then we wandered along the lane and Polly waited patiently while Dad picked some juicy blackberries from the hedgerow.

We walked a little further along the lane and needless to say, a heavily laden pear orchard proved a bit too much of a temptation for Stuart!

As Polly and Stuart walked together, I took the opportunity to play with my camera.  There is so much to enjoy at this time of year, it really is absolutely glorious outdoors.

If you look closely, you can just about see a dainty spider's web threaded through these berries ... isn't that magical!

So thank you Polly-dolly, for taking us out and about on such a lovely Sunday stroll; whatever did we do before you arrived?!

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Jumping through hoops!

We had to miss dog training for a couple of weeks, to give Polly time to convalesce after her operation.  I must admit, after the last session, I wasn't exactly eager to return this week and found myself watching weather bulletins hopefully, just in case the class might be rained off, but the rain promised to hold off until afternoon and our session was in the morning, so that was that, we had to get our act together and face that narrow country lane drive and obedience training school again!

I was so relieved we didn't have to cope with the big intact male dogs this time and pleased to discover our group would instead be made up with younger dogs and puppies.  Polly was delighted to be back at school and happily bounced across the field to tackle the agility equipment.  She was a little distracted by a handsome spaniel who slipped his lead and dashed over to introduce himself (well, who wouldn't be?) but other than that brief diversion, focused quite well on balancing on the A-frame, running through long tunnels (including the scarey flat tunnel with a little help from Kevin the instructor) weaving through poles, jumping through a tyre jump, walking across the baby seesaw and after a couple of confused attempts, even managed a little low hurdling!  We're a long way from neat and tidy yet and running around the circuit with Polly is one heck of  a shock to my otherwise sedentary system (!) but all in all, I was delighted with how well my girl coped in the agility section - go Polly!!!

Next it was time to practise lead walking; we had to walk past a variety of sitting dogs, concentrating on walking to heel, encouraging our dogs around corners, recalling and sitting them neatly to command.  Sounds easier than it actually is, believe me!  Polly's lead walking at home is not yet perfect, but is much improved, so I know she can do this when she wants to ... and today, with so many other dogs to admire, I guess she didn't really want to!  She responded in short sporadic bursts and didn't do too badly overall, but I think I need to work more on keeping her focus when there are distractions.  We've been doing lots of work with the clicker on our walks at home and as a result Polly no longer chases cars, or bicycles and will usually walk calmly past people, prams and other oncoming dogs, but at the moment, that isn't translating into school lessons.

After a quick break for a drink and a rest, we were back on the field to recall our dogs in a group 'off lead' session.  Polly loves this section and I dread it.  She bounds off excitedly with her lovely new playmates and when the instruction is given to call our dogs back, I call out among a cacophony of classmates and ... my naughty girl completely ignores me!  Apparently I need to be more 'assertive,' but as I've never really been much of a shouter, this really doesn't come easily to me.  Competing for Polly's attention with so many playful dogs on the loose, not to mention their owners too, is really tough, particularly as the most she's ever encountered on the loose in our local park has been one or two dogs.  A big group of lively young dogs is another matter entirely, so my young lady forgets all her manners. I've been working on recall recently using an Acme dog whistle on our evening walks, which Polly responds well to, so hopefully her recall will strengthen over time and she'll realise recall applies to school too!

Finally, 'down stays' ... yes, we're getting there!  Once again, the challenge was to maintain her focus with so many other dogs around, but when she realised they were all 'down staying' too, she did as asked without question.  The only slight hiccup was keeping her in position with that same cheeky spaniel dying to introduce himself to one side of her and the cutest little pint sized puppy on the other ... but with one momentary exception, stay she did!  Good girl Polly!

All in all, I can't yet say dog training day is my favourite of the week, but to rationalise, this is only our fourth session and classes have been interrupted because of bad weather and Polly's operation, so we haven't yet found our stride and are still very inexperienced.  It puts me in mind of when I learned to drive at the grand old age of forty-two ... I was terrified, then anxious, eventually began to look forward to my lessons, became more confident, passed my driving test and now, as I drive my little red Corsa around town, I wonder what I ever worried about!  Hopefully, me 'n Polly will follow a similar confidence course through dog training school!

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

When the dog knows best!

Whoever said 'there's no such thing as the wrong weather, only the wrong clothing', hasn't met my Polly.  Determined to be the honourable kind of dog owner who walks in all weathers, I bought my girl a rain mac.  We tried it out in hammering rain on a dark evening recently and let's just say, as much as I would like to be the kind of dog owner who diligently walks her dog in all weathers, her ladyship had other ideas!  Surprisingly, it wasn't the mac which offended her, she didn't seem to mind wearing that and it really did a great job of keeping her dry ... no, it was the rain Polly objected to and absolutely no amount of jollying her along would convince her a walk in driving rain was a good thing, especially when there was a comfy rug back home.  After cajoling, bribing and all but pleading with her to stop laying on the path every few moments and blatantly refusing to budge until I saw sense, we both arrived back home cold, wet and very fed-up.  

So okay Polly, I concede, walking in heavy rain is miserable - next time it pours down it'll be you, me, the rug and Corrie on TV, I promise!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Pollying around Mote Park

It's hard to believe I've been walking in Mote Park for the best part of forty years in all weathers and at all times of year, but it's true ... there really is no doubting time flies!  The park has recently undergone a significant transformation which to be honest, I was dubious about (and somewhat grumpy!) because I have always loved tramping around the muddy, slightly shambolic pathways at the less formal end of the park and couldn't see the need for change. However, now the work has been completed I will freely and happily admit, I needn't have worried, our park is still glorious and clearing some of the heavy overgrowth has opened up some splendid vistas ... not least of which is the impressive view of Mote House, thankfully no longer ramshackle and shrouded in scaffolding.  

And the shabby old 'Volunteers Pavilion' has been transformed from the neglected building it once was.

Of course, the park is still a dog walkers' haven, providing wide green open spaces and woodland for both walkers and their dogs to share.

Polly isn't yet ready for 'off lead' walks in such a distracting area as she's still a little too excitable to cope with free roaming dogs, children, bicycles and the like and reliably come back to us when called.  However, with training her recall is improving all the time, so I'm sure she'll eventually be able to enjoy more freedom than her mean ol' extending lead can offer.  In the meantime, she's helping Dad get fitter by making him run round the park with her!

Today I let them run off steam as I mooched behind fiddling with my new camera - no point us all getting sweaty after all, ha!

We walked with our bouncy pup at a good pace for almost an hour and a half with only a brief pitstop to take the snap above (smile for the camera Polly!) but despite all the fresh air and exercise, it was only when Polly hopped into the car for the drive home, she showed the tiniest hint of wearinness as she stretched out onto the back seat ... me 'n Stuart on the other hand, yawned the whole way way home and have yet to recover!

Perky Polly!

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

A carrot a day ..

Nom, nom, nom!

When my sister told me Polly's handsome German Shepherd pal 'Bugsy' enjoys a carrot at lunchtime every day, I thought I'd try introducing Polly to carrots too and am happy to report, she loves 'em!  Hopefully they will help keep her new grown up teeth in tip-top condition and they make a refreshing change from shop bought chews.

6 months of goldie pup!

And on the subject of Polly's gnashers, I can't tell you how relieved we are now her pointy, nippy baby teeth have been pushed out and replaced with strong adult pearly whites.  Polly's compulsion to chew everything in sight including us, seemed to disappear almost overnight when her big girl teeth made their appearance and now thankfully, she has a very gentle mouth.

At six months of age, she still enjoys a good 'ol chew, but now prefers to settle with a bone, carrot or dental chew, rather than exercise her chompers on our arms and feet!

Friday, 6 September 2013

Joshua is Missing

We just heard this beautiful goldie local boy has gone missing from his family. 

We hope Joshua finds his way safely home very soon, so we're sharing his details on Polly's blog, to help spread the word ...


DogLost LogoDogLost Logo


Cream Male Golden Retriever (Age: Adult)

Missing from Marden in Kent, TN12 (South East England area). 

Was let out of back door and hasn't been seen since. 

He was wearing a bright blue collar with a silver tag with contact details.

There is a REWARD for JOSHUA's safe return.

CONTACT: 07940 535890

Help us find JOSHUA - print this poster from:

0844 800 3220

Doglost is a FREE SERVICE run by volunteers

Reuniting Dogs with their Owners

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Click, Click!

We enjoyed the last of the Summer sunshine this morning with a lovely morning walk before breakfast, along the lane and back home along the road. Polly was a delight, walking politely to heel, sitting to meet the occasional doggy passer-by and avoiding what used to be an overwhelming temptation to introduce herself by jumping on strangers on their way to work ...

Clicker training is working miracles for my strong puppy girl (albeit ably assisted by tiny nibblets of chicken frankfurter) and I am so grateful to our instructor for introducing us to the power of that little plastic clicker!  

Our next trick is to click our way to teaching Polly how to ring a cowbell when she wants me to open the door for her.  Our lovely rustic bell arrived yesterday and already Polly has mastered 'touch' to make the bell ring to get my attention.  Next step will be to show her the bell gets the door opened ...

This slightly fuzzy 'selfie' was taken after our walk this morning on our new Lumix Fz200 camera ... it has a fun turn around LCD screen, so Polly can see her pic as it is taken. She decided she'd been such a good girl, it was time for me to allow her up onto my lap for a muddy pawed cuddle and a good tickle behind the ears!

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

It's a dog's life!

Like most Goldies, Polly loves her grub and tends to wolf her dinner quickly, so when I saw the 'Tornado' dog toy by Nina Ottosson, I couldn't resist ordering.

Fun with Nina Ottosson's 'Tornado' training toy

It's a fun, durable, doggie puzzle made from tough plastic ... you simply pop food treats into the sections, then pup has to work out how to swivel them to find her treats ... Polly absolutely loves having her breakfast in it!

Puppy crate training

By the way, for those of you wondering about crate training, all I can say is we started well, but abandoned it after the first few months.  One poorly overnight tummy episode in a closed crate was enough to convince me it wasn't fair to put Polly through that again, so I started to leave her crate door open at night and bought her a nice squishy dog bed, thinking she would probably tiptoe out of her crate and sleep in it the moment I left the room, but would still be able to hide in her crate if she ever felt insecure ...

Night night Polly!

Silly me, I forgot there was a couch in that room too!  Polly isn't allowed on our living room couch and I am happy to say she does respect that rule, but we've had to give in and let her sleep on our other couch - there's just no other option as it's in her bedroom!  We throw over a large snuggly fleece blanket and that's where her ladyship settles for the night ... it's a dog's life eh?!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Polly's Progress

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Polly's Progress

Paula and Polly (aged 6 months)

August 2013

It was our third visit to dog training school today, but I freely confess, the drive out to the field is still more of a white knuckle ride than a delight.  Each time I pray fervently for no oncoming traffic so my little red Corsa can tackle those flint stewn lanes without being forced into the dreaded 'long winding reverse'!

Thankfully Polly has taken to the car like the proverbial duck to water, hopping onto the back seat without a moment's hesitation. She settles comfortably (wearing her 'Click Safe' car harness) with her soft black nose resting between the front seats and every so often she gives me an encouraging lick on my left arm as we drive along.

Taking part in a formal class is proving to be a very different ball game from practicing Polly's obedience skills in our back garden, or on our local daily walks.  Skills she performs easily at home, seem to disappear as if by magic when she goes to school.  Despite her initial dislike of lead walking (picture every conceivable trick in the 'Naughty Puppy Handbook' and believe me, Polly mastered them all ... her favourite, to plonk herself belly down on the ground, flatly refusing to budge!) and since Kevin (instructor) visited us at home to set me straight with some sound puppy walking/training advice, walking with my cheeky girl has become far more of a pleasure.  We've progressed from willful lead hanging and twirling, flopping to the ground and chasing cars, to earning treats by walking like a young lady at mum's side ... maybe not yet perfect, but definitely much improved and thankfully, more controlled.

Or at least, so I thought until today ...

It's the holiday season so classes are subject to change and today, Polly was tacked onto a big boys' class. Unfortunately one sniff of those testosterone fueled fellas had her all in a flutter, abandoning any modicum of doggy decorum.  To be fair to Polly, she did reasonably well with 'sits', 'downs' and 'stays' when asked, but as for 'heeling' on the lead, there wasn't a hope with a handsome bruiser strutting his stuff to her right.

I must admit, today's session was less than pleasurable for me, not least because as a 'newbie' I am still trying to grasp what is expected, also Polly hasn't yet settled into her exciting new surroundings, which makes working with her quite physically demanding (and me feel every creak of my fifty years, lol!) ... but no matter, we muddled through the hour and half required and in terms of progress, I am happy to report Polly redeemed herself with an enthusiastic attempt at running through the agility tunnels which spooked her last time ... she also executed a reasonably solid 'down stay' at the end of class, which was a great improvement on our last session.  Good girl Polly!

As for me: tired, disheveled, sweaty (sunny day!) and feeling fairly inadequate in the face of far more accomplished classmates, just about sums it up!  All in all, 'could do better,' is probably a fair assessment of my training skills at this point ...

Hopefully this old dog will soon learn a few new tricks!


September 2013

Making the decision to have our beautiful Polly spayed, wasn't taken lightly.  I researched thoroughly, discussed the matter with our vet of many years and quite simply, agonised.  The arguments on both sides of the spay equation were compelling, but the medical benefits were sufficiently significant to convince me it would be in Polly's best long-term interests to be spayed ... and as I have no intention of breeding or showing her, my primary concern will always be to keep her happy and safe.

I had several sleepless nights as the date for Polly's operation approached and to be honest, felt as though I was abandoning her as I gave up her lead to the vet and walked away.  Then I waited nervously for half past twelve to hurry up, so I could ring the surgery receptionist to ask how Polly was.  As it turned out, my anxiety was needless, Polly had sailed through surgery and would be ready to collect in a couple of hours.

Naturally my lovely bouncy girl was a little dozy and confused straight after her general anaesthetic, but by tea time had perked up considerably and even managed to eat scrambled eggs for her tea.  I must admit, I expected her recovery to be far slower, but she has shown no obvious sign of pain, had no 'accidents' with toileting and if she didn't have a little scar on her tummy, it would be impossible to know she'd ever even had surgery!  

Polly is delighted to be home and as you can see from the photograph of her playing with her Kong feeder, taken a couple of days after her operation, is completely back to her usual playful, cheeky self!
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