Oh how I prayed for a cancellation text this week ... it was cold, it was rainy, it was windy, none of which are my preferred weather conditions for dog training. However, obedience instructors are a hardy breed, so my prayed for text never arrived and reluctantly, I put my mobile 'phone away, muffled up, de-misted my car and set off for the training field with a very eager Polly Dog on the back seat.
A woodland recall in full swing - whoopee!
By the time we reached Detling Hill, my windscreen wipers were flying back and forth on overtime and I confess to coming within a hair's breadth of driving round the roundabout and straight back down the other side of the road to home. Instead, despite my overwhelming inclination to hibernate, one look into those big brown puppy dog eyes peering at me through my rear view mirror, had me turning towards the training field ...
Off lead fun - searching for squirrels
Fortunately the rain soon eased, leaving only wind and cold to contend with, so there were no excuses, I had to shape up and get on with it. I was so glad I did, because during our off-lead group walk Polly was given permission to ditch her training lead as she was responding to my recall from the group of dogs every single time ... yippeee!!!!! I was really proud of my girl; this is a massive step forward for us and has made all the training so far, worth every single frustration.
As a result, this morning, we allowed Polly to have some freedom in our local woods and she positively grinned, skipping her way through the leaves as she explored away from the path, searching for squirrels. It was such a treat to see her so happy! I recalled her several times to make sure the recall worked away from the training field and each time she raced happily back to me for a cheesy treat (mature cheddar!) She was a little harder to call back when she found new dogs to play with, but after some playtime, allowed me to take hold of her collar - not the same thing as a positive recall unfortunately, but as she clearly had no intention of running away from me, came in my direction when I called (even though she didn't formally return to me) and didn't resist having her lead clipped on after play, all in all, I wasn't overly concerned. Thank heavens for friendly dog owners! Hopefully Polly's recall will strengthen further with more practice in new situations. My ultimate goal is to have her come back to me immediately I call even if there are other dogs around, but I'm thinking that is probably still a way off for my oh-so sociable puppy girl.
Polly's obedience training isn't just about recall, although that's been my primary focus, we're also working on control with walking to heel, 'sit stays' and 'down stays'. As I've mentioned before, it seems to take Polly a little while to realise what we do at home, needs to translate into what she is being asked to do at school, but I am now beginning to see signs of her understanding what is expected of her in school too. This week Polly coped pretty well with what was asked of her generally throughout our session and when it was time to practice on the agility equipment, I noticed she was focusing on my commands more than usual and trying hard to do as I asked. She even jumped a few hurdles, rather than bulldozing her way through them! We practiced a little hurdling in the woods on our walk this morning too ... it was fun to call out 'over' and see Polly respond by eagerly leaping over a fallen tree stump ... she looked so pleased with herself!
So to conclude, at the end of our eleventh obedience training session Polly is most noticeably making sound progress, which I guess means I must also be getting better at making myself understood. There's a long way to go yet though; we still need to build on her 'stays', work towards a formal 'stand', tidy up on-lead heel work, strengthen her recall in new situations when unfamiliar dogs are around and take our off-lead heel work to the next level by transferring what she can already achieve with me on our living room rug, out onto the school training field.
I suppose I'd better toughen up (and buy some thermals!) it's likely to be a long cold winter out on that field ... brrrrr!!!!!