Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Polly's end of term progress report

Thankfully Polly has never counter surfed, stolen from the kitchen bin,  or guarded food, toys or treats.  I trained her not to pester us when we eat from lap trays or at the table, so she could remain in the same room as us while we ate and I also trained her to sit patiently on her mat while I prepare her food, waiting for her release signal before she eats her own dinner.  She doesn't jump at guests, barge through doorways, chew belongings, jump on beds/couches, or make a fuss when she's left alone if we go shopping ... and when the postman knocks, Polls hops onto the lounge footstool and waits there until I return from answering the door.

Polly is now 17 months old and as a result of all the consistent, fun training, has become the gentle, polite girl at home, I had hoped for.

Sounds too good to be true eh?  Well, not quite!  She is very good, but she's still young and of course, always learning ... 

My sociable girl is usually fairly excited when guests arrive as she loves meeting people, but rather than the crazy 'mad dog dash' she used to deploy, will now allow guests to enter the house and after a few seconds of sheer waggy tailed joy, is happy to sit beside me, so we can chat over a cuppa ... in fact, she settles pretty quickly these days and can be trusted to behave well with guests of all ages, both in our house and garden.

To progress her training, I am currently teaching her to 'down stay' in the hallway with the front door wide open, with the aim of allowing me to move freely in and out of the house while she waits for me.  So far this is going very well but I always make sure I cast a careful eye in the street first, checking for the cheeky little tabby cat who lives across the road ... that little fellow could easily prove a temptation too far for Polly!

And on the subject of cats, I am relieved to at last be able to report, that nine times out of ten these days, Polly will respond to my firm 'leave it' command if either Daisy or Puddle (our cats) dare cross her path.  I doubt my dog and cats will ever be good friends, but Polly does at least understand that chasing those curious creatures is not permitted.  The cats are definitely more relaxed with Polly now they know they rule our family roost.

When we are out and about, Polly walks to heel well on her collar/lead (we've been phasing out her harness everywhere but school recently) and her recall has improved to the point where I allow her free running time most days, if there are no other dogs in the vicinity.  Because she is still so excited to play with other dogs (and very boisterous) I am always anxious about letting her off lead if I spy other dogs in the area.  Yesterday though, I let her go in the woods and a couple of little terrier dogs appeared around a corner unexpectedly - Polly took a few forward steps to say hello, quickly realised they weren't welcoming (yappy little critters!) and returned to me to have her lead put on when I called her ... that was a big step forward for us, as it has taken Polly a while to learn to read other dogs' body language.

We have always done quite a bit of pavement walking mixed with woods, fields and playing fields each day - covering as many heel walking and recall bases as I can think of locally.  Polly is now very good at walking in heavy traffic, waits at kerbs, passes prams, scooters, families etc and after lots of clicker training during her younger puppy phase, stopped trying to chase vehicles many months ago.  Heel walking practice has been hard work and is on-going, but completely worth it.

 The most tricky issues we now have to contend with are Polly's belly flop when she's on the lead and calling her away from other dogs when she's off lead (as mentioned earlier).  If we're facing oncoming dogs on a path, she will sometimes drop to her belly as they approach, refusing point blank to budge until they reach her.  She may then decide to introduce herself with a cheeky lunge, or decide to be very gentle and stay where she is while the other dog says hello nose to nose - she can be a little unpredictable in this respect and I'm not exactly sure what her criteria for the lunge is ...  I have been checking out golden retriever forums and it appears this belly flop is quite a common behaviour.  I am currently trying to build Polly's 'watch me' command, so we can turn and change walking direction whenever this situation arises - progress is gradual though, it's proving quite a tough nut to crack!  Ultimately I hope we will be able to calmly pass other dogs while Poll is on the lead. 

As Polly matures, I notice her trying harder and harder to understand what I ask of her.  In fact I think it's fair to say, she is eager to please almost all of the time.  My Polly puppy has grown into a gentle, playful, affectionate, clever, sociable, polite, cheeky and above all, fun girl and although at 17 months of age, she may still have one or two tiddly personality crumples to iron out, it's only fair to face facts - don't we all?!!!

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