Once I had a lead biting, twirling dervish to walk, but just look at her now!
A year of daily walks and weekly obedience school heel walking sessions, have at last turned my Polly the determined lead hater, into a refined young miss capable of trotting politely to heel, without me so much as holding her lead! She is also starting to walk neatly to heel off lead for short stretches in quiet places where there aren't too many distractions, but mostly, we practice walking with her lead looped through my belt, for safety's sake. This pic was taken recently along a quiet lane, but Polly can also walk 'hands free' along busy, lorry loaded roads too ...
I am delighted to report that during our lunchtime walk today, Polly trotted at heel along the lane home from the field completely hands free (my hands that is, lol!) I tucked her lead into my belt, told her what I wanted and she was eager to oblige. Prior to that we walked the last length of the field completely off lead with Polly walking to heel, staying close, waiting at the corner, being invited to go a little way on her own to play, then returning promptly to heel when called.
I'm starting to think the potential for walking to heel off lead may actually be a possibility for the future! I'm sure we've a long way to go before she walks like this with added distractions such as other dogs, but even so, could this is actually be a break through?!!!
Sunday afternoon hiking through the beautiful Kent countryside in the sunshine, with family and our dogs ... life really doesn't get much better than this!
Polly, enjoying her Sunday hike with Bugsy
Polly was very excited to share her Sunday with handsome buddy Bugsy ...
They loved running through the fields between Wormshill and Bredgar en route to the dog friendly 'Sun Inn', where we indulged in a very tasty roastie with home made Yorkshires, melt in your mouth beef and the best gravy I've tasted in years ... it was absolutely YUM!
All in all, we tromped almost six miles through idyllic countryside.
Gentle hills scattered with sheep ...
Before we entered the sheep field, we sent my sister Fiona ahead to gently shoo the sheep away from the stile. They were happy to lead their lambs to a quieter spot some distance from us.
Fo the sheep shifter!
We put Polly and Bugs back on leads to cross the sheep fields - Polly was far more interested in sheep poo than actual sheep and Bugsy's natural instinct is always to herd, so the leads kept them both out of trouble. Incidentally, Bugsy herds his humans and Polly too when we walk - he likes to circle us to check we all stay safely together.
Simon and Bugsy
Simon's hikes usually lead us across all manner of terrain - there's never a dull moment that's for sure! Sunday's walk led us over rickety stiles, through fields of wheat, beautiful meadow flowers, sheep and cows, into swampy woodland, along little used paths lined with stinging nettles right up to our armpits and up a couple of pretty steep hills ... believe me, we earned that roastie!
There was a brief moment of concern in the woods when my increasingly adventurous Pollster slipped through a wire fence and rather than run back to us when called, became confused, moving further away. Bugsy went off to find her, returning without luck, but after a few hairy moments of bellowing and whistling, we were relieved to spot her circling as she attempted to make her way back to us, but failed to find a route through the fence. She sussed it eventually, scooting through another gap in the old fence just in time to prevent me clambering over rusty wires to plunge through undergrowth in a desperate attempt to grab her. This teenage pup phase is certainly a challenge at times ...
Fun in the long grass
When my nerves settled (!) I let Poll run off lead with Bugsy and they had a super time playing in the long grass.
In fact, apart from the hole in the fence episode, Polly was pretty good with recalls during our walk. She is still excitable in unfamiliar surroundings, so I do have to stay alert and think ahead to ensure I am as prepared as possible to give myself time to call her back and clip the lead back on if necessary. It's not always easy to judge if we are somewhere new and needless to say, I am always anxious about stumbling across horses after the incident in Hucking Woods earlier this year! Nonetheless, to-date I have managed to allow Polly lots of off lead fun combined with controlled lead walking where appropriate and in hindsight I think it's fair to say, despite a little teenage rebellion, we're a long way forward from where we were a few months ago.
Unlike Bugsy, a lovely steady fellow of eight years, Polly isn't yet reliable enough to allow off lead all the time during our hikes. She is still mastering 'stay close' and 'wait' at corners and can be quite easily distracted, so I tend to only let her where I can see for a good distance and I intersperse our walks with regular recall practice and more recently, by using a retractable lead here and there, to remind Polly to stay close. Polly is improving and frequently glances back to check I'm keeping up with her, so I am hoping our hard earned recall will sharpen with continued practice. It seems there can be no resting on your laurels with a young dog! My girl definitely keeping me on my toes at the moment.
After a relaxing hour in the pub garden during which both dogs behaved impeccably, accepting enthusiastic attention from visiting (accompanied) children with gentle grace, we headed back through the woods and across the fields for a cuppa in Fo 'n Simon's beautiful country garden ... a perfect ending to our fab Sunday hike.