Training with an outdoor obedience group is great for my big bouncy goldie, but only when the weather permits; unfortunately our past two sessions have been cancelled because the field wasn't safe in all the heavy rain. Hopefully we'll be back later in the week as the forecast now looks a little more promising ... fingers crossed.
Meanwhile, me 'n the Pollster certainly haven't been twiddling our paws! We've been out to local parks and playing fields whenever possible to practice our moves, so we don't get rusty.
Having fun in the park using the training lead
Rather than walking Polly to heel on her lead in our busy local park at the weekend (I've been nervous about letting her off here as it is heavily populated with dog walkers and families) I decided we'd take her up there to work with a 10 metre training lead for a change. So I gave Stuart one end to hold, clipped Polly to the other and off we went ... I found it much easier with Stuart's help as I am usually a complete klutz with the training lead when left to my own devices.
As we walked I kept my eyes open for distractions and as soon as Polly looked liked becoming fixated, called her to 'come' in my happy 'good girl Polly' voice, then rewarded her well for doing so. If she didn't come first time, Stuart gave a gentle tug on the lead to remind her of her manners, then she raced back to us for her liver cake treats. We were delighted when she needed only a couple of reminders throughout our entire walk!
Get the liver cake ready mum, I'm a-coming!
After about an hour and a half of walking and calling, we headed towards the car park, then noticed Polly stop in her tracks to watch a cute pair of Westies playing a little way off ... usually she would not be able to resist the urge to run to them, so I waited for a second to see if she'd race over and was over the moon when instead she turned and ran to me, even though I hadn't actually called her, nor had there had been any tugging on her training lead!
By the way, it wasn't all about recall training on our Mote Park walk, Polly found some lovely big puddles to play in too!
Spurred on by our training lead success at the weekend, I decided to tackle it on my own earlier today. Me 'n Polly popped along to our local playing field for a lunchtime run around and used the long lead to reinforce her recall, this time by playing 'fetch' with her squeaky ball. Usually if I throw a ball when we're out, she'll only retrieve it once or twice before losing interest, but today squeaky ball had her running back and forwards smartly for about ten solid minutes.
I've been trying to introduce Polly to the concept of dropping into a 'down' no matter what she is doing at the time, ie., running away from me, towards me, playing, walking etc etc ... she has cottoned on to this new 'game' really well at home, so I tried it out at the playing field a couple of times when she ran to fetch her ball and yes, she performed on cue!!!! We also practised sit stays, down stays and stands and with the training lead attached, I felt far more confident training by myself in a public place.
Practising her 'stand' ... clever girl Poll!
After about half an hour it started to rain, so I decided it was time to stop work and put Polly back on her 'happy at heel' harness for the walk home. Polly decided that was okay with her, just so long as she could carry the big stick she'd found all the way home!
Oh and if you are wondering how long it takes to teach an unruly goldie puppy to walk nicely to heel on a lead, I'd urge you to keep practicing because it certainly doesn't happen overnight, but it will be so well worth your effort in the long run. At eleven months of age, Polly is now as good as gold on her lead ... she walks comfortably at my pace, rarely pulls (usually only if I haven't noticed she desperately needs a wee!) waits at kerbs, sits when asked, passes people, children, bicycles, pushchairs etc with no problem and lately, has started to pass most other dogs we meet, politely and calmly too. When she was little, she used to twirl, hang, bite her lead, pull, jump up at people, slump to her belly and refuse to budge, lunge and generally make an utter pest of herself, but thankfully, after nine months of daily walks in all weathers, together with consistent obedience training, we now have a lovely polite girl and I am proud to say, walking with Polly is my absolute pleasure.