Session 17 ...
We have, what my dear dad would have termed, 'a bit of a dichotomy' ...
On the one hand, Polly now makes me so proud with her delightful recalls during obedience sessions at school; she can 'go play' off lead with six or seven other exuberant dogs on the training field and will return to me pretty smartly each time I call her. She loves this game! She will also recall beautifully if we go woodland walking with Molly and Dudley, or out walking on our own.
However, (and this is quite a significant however) Poll's understanding seems to be that if we let her off lead at a park or playing field, she can have a lovely run in big circles, then if she spies another dog arriving on the field, 'go play' with him. Most times this isn't a problem, she'll bounce across the field to introduce herself, socialise, then return to me when called. The problem is, she has recently started to occasionally turn a deaf ear to 'Polly COME' if she is en route to a target I have failed to spot early enough. This can be tricky if for example, she spies a protective owner walking a nervy pint-sized dog on a lead, as they may not understand my sappy dappy girl will only say hello to their little darling, that she never jumps up at people and her snack preference is Bonio's rather than small canines - the Pollster is rather a daunting prospect if she's heading their way in full, glorious, goldie flight!
I am keenly aware of the potential for disaster if Polly were to inadvertently knock over a child, or race up to a less than friendly dog out for a walk on lead with his owner, so there's no doubt in my mind, we need to fix this. No matter how friendly and gentle I know she is, it simply isn't appropriate for Polly to ignore my command so she can race over to unfamiliar dogs and their owners -I think we now need to work on developing an understanding that 'come' means 'RIGHT NOW, THIS INSTANT, DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT SAY HELLO, GET YOUR BUM BACK TO MUM PRONTO' so I can be confident Polly will turn and return safely to me the moment she is called, whatever the circumstances. Tall order eh?!
I'm not sure how to go about achieving this level of recall, but needs must, so I will be Googling for tips, asking my dog owning friends and family for suggestions and of course, mentioning it to our training instructor Kevin in the hope he has a handy magic wand! I'll let you know how we progress and if you have any advice to share, please feel free to leave a comment, it will be most gratefully received ...
In 'other news', training session 17 went pretty well all told. Polly's heel work is coming along beautifully and she'll now nip 'round to heel' neatly, without me having to faff around with too much choreography. She's usually pretty focused while we toddle round the course with the other dogs, putting in sits, downs, stays, recalls etc. We're even starting to see a 'stand' emerging and we've started work to keep my big bottomed girl from swinging out her derriere to the side when she sits, proving that even sassy, shapely lasses can sit tidily!
Formal 'down staying' is still a bit of a battle, so I've decided to go right back to basics with that task and build it up gradually again with the clicker. We're practising at home each day, so I'm sure we'll get there in the end.
Agility is improving too - Polly's that is, more than mine (mind you, even I'm feeling fitter!) She enjoys agility tasks (except weave poles which seem very close together when you are a curvy big girl) and now happily runs through tunnels, jumps hurdles, long jumps, walks steadily across frames, balances on the baby seesaw and leaps through windows/tyres. It's fun to share this with her now we are both more confident, but at the moment, I feel as though I may be holding her back a wee bit, because having such a large lively dog has tweaked a weak hip joint which threatens to pop out of its socket if I twist slightly on slippery ground ... frustrating, but if I remember I'm not twenty one any more (!) and make sure I work extra hard to maintain Polly's control, we should be fine. By the way, Polly's woodland walking pal Molly the lab/husky and her owner Peter, mastered a spectacular full circuit of the agility course this week ... such a pleasure to watch what can be achieved!
Polly has plenty ahead yet to learn to develop her reliability even further, but we both thoroughly enjoy time spent training and she is undoubtedly making sound progress, which makes all the hard work (and believe me, there has been plenty of it!) completely worthwhile.