Our final training session of the year (fifteenth so far) was quite a lively one with some dogs pushing control boundaries and their owners' power of recall, to the limit. Thankfully, even with distractions, Polly returned to me reasonably smartly when called - she has definitely turned a corner with recall and this has given me much more confidence when we are out walking, which of course, means far more fun for Polly!
There are of course, still training issues to be conquered, very few of which are created by Polly these days. Learning how to become a dog trainer this year has been a labour of love and not without its challenges, this week's example being an instruction processing blip on my part, whilst heel walking around a simple rectangular course. I'm honestly not sure why I found myself walking in the opposite direction to all the other heel walkers, nor indeed why I cut halfway across the course, rather than following the poles around the perimeter (and no it wasn't because it was pointing uphill!) All I can say in my defence is that I was concentrating so hard on what Polly and I needed to do, I missed some of the instructions and didn't see all the poles! Taking in information whilst trotting with a dog and making sure you've imparted the correct instruction and praise to her, ain't always easy, that's for sure! Thankfully, everyone in our group is very supportive and we've now reached a comfortable stage of being able to share a laugh!
With a single exception at the end of our agility session when Polly couldn't resist the urge to nip over quickly to say hello to her pal Dudley, she tried very hard to please throughout. The final formal 'down stays' at the end of each session are still a challenge for her, but we stuck with it and eventually she managed to settle, despite cars passing, dogs running, owners shouting and aircraft flying overhead. The most important criteria for me this week, was that Polly stayed where I asked and although she sat up a few times, she didn't attempt to leave her post or break loose. Small steps, but there's no doubt in my mind, she is keen to learn and eager to please.
Committing to join a dog obedience class has been a big step for me this year as I've never been much of a 'joiner' and am not very brave at putting myself in unfamiliar situations. However, as the owner of a large dog, I knew it was going to be an important step to take and was determined to help Polly become a polite dog, to give her the best chance in life. To say training has been time consuming, hard work and frustrating at times, would be a fair assessment, but learning together has also been rewarding and in the main, fun too.
Polly is an absolute joy now thanks to her training at school, which I have tried hard to back up at home. I was thrilled recently, to be told how polite she is by strangers we met on our walks ... the ultimate proof training really does work! Me 'n Poll understand each far better than we did to start with and what we don't understand, we try hard to work out between us ... we work as a team these days. She has become an important member of our family and on a very personal note, has brought sunshine and laughter back into my world after I lost my Dad unexpectedly, three years ago.
At the end of our 2013 training sessions, I would like to say I am entirely grateful to Kevin our instructor, for his patience, wisdom and sense of humour (!) and also to the members of our group for their generous support and friendship each week. Polly and I are looking foward to returning to school in the New Year, to polish and develop our skills further.
About four months ago, I asked for a polite friendly dog and now I couldn't be more proud to tell you, that is exactly what Polly has achieved.
Good girl Poll xxx