Thursday, 3 December 2015

Double Trouble

Little Betty isn't quite so little any more and at six months of age, is a very sweet natured young lady, full of energy, curiosity and fun.  We've been going to obedience school for the past couple of months and training is going pretty well in the main, the only real issue being her tendency to pull on the lead like a mini steam train.  Betty has a natural zest for life and wants to do everything at a hundred miles an hour!

So, my vision of Polly and Betty walking calmly side by side on lead walks has gone by the board for the time being and instead, I've had to make time to take Missy Steam Train on short training walks on her own, using clicker, treats, praise and fun training, to encourage her to walk at a pace I can actually keep up with! We receive odd looks from passersby as we weave through bollards, change direction unexpectedly in the middle of paths and walk in circles round trees, but who cares, Betty enjoys her local training sessions and they have started to help her focus attention on me.  She is making good progress in short puppy spurts, so with consistent training, should hopefully become easier to walk with ... eventually.  I seem to remember Polly was also very hard work in those first months, but these days is a delight to walk, so there's still hope for little sis!

Taking on a puppy has made me aware of the need to review routines regularly to make sure both dogs are provided with the training, fun and exercise they need.  It's a time consuming process and I often nod off on the sofa in the evenings because I'm so tired, but I believe the extra effort to ensure their individual needs are met is definitely worth making.  Polly and Betty have separate training classes at the moment - Betty does formal obedience training and agility work and Polly has moved on to working with a guide dog trainer, to fine tune her obedience work in real life situations. My husband and I also walk our girls together on their leads in the evening, to work on improving Betty's lead walking when she is out with Polly, then during day time I either walk both girls individually (one after the other) to give them off lead play and sniff time as well as lead walking, brave the 'splitter lead' and take them out together, or I pop them in the car and drive somewhere they can run, forget about leads and simply enjoy being sisters together.

So if you are thinking of adopting a puppy and already have an older dog, don't believe anyone who tells you two dogs are just as easy to manage as one! In my experience so far, two dogs are definitely twice as much hard work and there's no doubt in my mind they make twice as much mud and twice as much mischief!

Thankfully though, eight paws aren't just about mud and hard work.  
Double the dogs also equals double the doggy fun!!!


Thursday, 22 October 2015

Urban Training

Adding a puppy into our family has thrown up one or two behaviour issues with Polly, just to keep me on my toes!  Polly has been super with Betty from the get-go and they are the very best of playmates, but when I started walking the two girls together on their leads, Polly took it upon herself to let on-coming dogs know she was in charge and they had better back up.  She told them this by barking and lunging at them as they tried to pass us.  This is of course, unacceptable, embarrassing and a right pain in the you-know-where, so I decided to tackle things head on, by trying to change how Polly perceived the threat of on-coming dogs. I used tasty treats and a clicker to reinforce calm behaviour when dogs appeared ahead and have been gradually able to reduce the distance between any oncoming dogs and us, as Polly desensitizes.  If an exit was available nearby, I also used a 'turn' command to distract Polly so we could change direction, away from the oncoming dogs; after all, there's no point creating opportunities for potential conflict if it's not absolutely necessary.  Polly has begun to understand that I will make the decision about how we deal with dogs on our walks, not her. We have reached a stage now where, most of the time she will now look to me for treats and direction if she spies a dog ahead, so long as I time my instructions well.  This is still a work in progress, but recently we have managed to avoid conflict (thankfully!) and have even passed several dogs on our walks without incident.  So far so good!

Alongside my own efforts to train Polly out of being over protective, I decided it might also benefit us to join with a small group of owners who train in 'real life' situations.  This involves meeting at a different venue each time.  We met with them last week for the first time and were put through our obedience paces by ex-guide dog instructor Sam, in the middle of what is an extremely busy town.  I wasn't sure what to expect from Polly after her recent behavioural 'blips', but am relieved to say, she was amazing!  I really couldn't have been more proud of her as she walked up and down steep, narrow steps into dark, echoey subways closely by my side and under very steady control, then walked patiently behind the other dogs along bustling pavements without batting an eyelid at sirens, traffic noises, pelican crossing beeps, people, prams ... you name it, she encountered it! What amazed me most of all though, was when we were asked to weave in tight proximity through the line of other dogs - Polly focused completely on me and didn't attempt to engage with any of them, even though they were nose to nose with my usually dog crazy girl!  She really was a credit to her previous obedience training with Kevin.

We will  meet up with the 'Real Life' group again next week, to walk along a busy main road and then into a popular park for some 'free running'.  After Poll's epic recall fail yesterday, I really don't know what to expect from her at the park, so all I can do is practice as usual on our daily walks this week and then ... it's over to you Polly Dog!

Fingers/paws crossed!

Obedience, Betty Stylie

I hope you enjoy this pic of little Betty Boo taken by our instructor Kevin during a recent class ... (thanks Kevin!)

Betty has taken to obedience school like the proverbial duck to water and especially loves the agility course. We are of course limiting jumps and avoiding the big A-frame to protect her growing joints, but she still has plenty of fun balancing on the baby see-saw/walkways and jumping through hoops/over low hurdles.  She is mastering weave poles too, but her favourite pieces of equipment are the tunnels; she learned the word 'tunnel' quickly and is always eager to show me how clever she is at racing through them!  Today she completed each circuit of agility equipment under control off lead and walked between each group of equipment on the field neatly to heel, down & sit staying when asked and recalling between tasks promptly when instructed.

Our nightly pavement lead walks have started to pay dividends in the heel walking session too.  Each evening I have been teaching Betty how not to pull like a steam train on her harness, to wait at each kerb before we cross a road, sit when asked and turn when I give her the instruction.  Incidentally, she has also learned to 'go wee' on command which is pretty darned handy, let me tell you!

I really couldn't ask any more of my five month old pup at the moment; she is a joy to train, great fun and a proper little sweetheart!


Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Recall, that old chestnut.

Despite a stinking chest cold and heavy rain, I drove my girls to a local green space today, thinking it would at least be quiet enough to allow them to run and play in the long grass.  When we arrived, there wasn't a soul to be seen, so I took the opportunity to unclip their leads and let them run and stuff their doggy noses into rabbit holes, never once taking my eyes off them.  I did of course, interrupt their fun as any responsible dog trainer should, with frequent whistle/verbal recalls and obedience commands ... which I might add, they responded promptly to.

After a while, we changed direction, just in time to spot a large lab's ears, pricked perkily in our direction through the long grass. Polly also spotted it and before I could reach for her collar, shot off at rocket speed through the grass.  Betty skipped behind, with me bringing up the rear and cursing myself as I followed in hot pursuit.  First mistake I made?  I hadn't been on my guard - the girls were recalling well and because of the awful weather, I assumed we were still alone. Second mistake I made?  I relied on my verbal command 'come', rather than remembering to blow merry hell out of my whistle straightaway.  Third mistake I made?  Miss perky eared lab was playful and eager to run with Polly, which my girl instantly deduced. I made the mistake of assuming Miss Perky Eared, off-lead lab, might at least have a sympathetic owner as I hurried towards them ... er, no. Schoolgirl error!  Miss Perky Eared lab raced merrily along the path with my two in hot pursuit, then raced back towards her owner. Great I thought, thinking my girls would at least recall from play as trained and run to me once the initial introduction had been made.  However, rather than actually return to her owner, the lab charged past him at alarmingly close quarters, with Polly in her footsteps. I bellowed at Polly, so she stopped running and returned to me (thankfully Betty had already skipped towards me and skirted round the other owner as she prefers not to get too involved with the big 'uns).  Miss Perky Eared Lab also stopped running as soon as I bellowed and returned to her owner ... at which point I was fairly and squarely told off by the exceedingly disgruntled fellow and instructed in no uncertain terms to 'get my dogs under control!'

So, two years of hard work and a zillion positive off lead experiences, wiped out in a matter of seconds.  Interestingly, in hindsight, the lab's owner never once called his own dog back to him, despite the fact she was also having a whale of a time and wasn't exactly what you might call 'in control' either.  However, I took my dressing down on the chin because my girls should not have run over to his dog in the fist place without permission (in an ideal world).  Regrettably I have yet to discover the training technique which guarantees the obedience of two playful young Goldies when invited to play by another sociable, off lead dog, but the bottom line is, my girls approached his dog initially and although his dog was friendly, the owner was far from it.

For those who read my blog regularly, you will know how much store I set by a sound recall and how hard I have worked for the past two years to achieve it with Polly, whilst also working to socialise and exercise her appropriately.  You will also know I have put my heart and soul into our training and that I would never willingly allow a situation to arise where my dog might offend anyone.  I hope you also understand that I am always kind and as helpful as possible towards other owners of overly sociable dogs, who struggle to find a perfect quiet place to work on their obedience and safety training and who might sometimes interfere with our walk.  In my defence, I would like it known I work really hard to balance training, exercise needs and other owners' entitlement to enjoy walks and I constantly review my dogs' training needs as well as my own.  Each day I take my girls to carefully selected spaces, where we train on every single walk, without fail. I do my utmost to ensure they are polite and responsive at all times.  However, I think it only fair to say that although they are clever and well behaved almost all of the time, they are dogs, not robots and as such are full of fun and instinctive canine curiosity ...

I wish I could have explained all that to the other owner, but given the circumstances, it seemed more appropriate to let him believe I'm a sloppy, irresponsible dog owner, clip my girls' leads on, mutter an embarrassed apology and slink quietly away ... with my tail between my legs.


Tuesday, 1 September 2015

A new term, a new pupil!

Betty starts obedience school next week as she will be four months old. I can't quite believe it has come round so quickly!  It has been lovely to watch her personality unfolding as her confidence develops.  She is a completely different character from big sis Polly, she is calm and a gentle little soul, always eager to please.  Polly was far more excitable as a puppy and much more determined to have her own way, so a bit more of a handful!  Betty's sweet nature has made early training at home straightforward and I am happy to say, her lovely, happy go lucky personality, complements my Polly's character beautifully.

Watching the boats at the Lock

Recently, we've been taking the girls out and about to build Betty's confidence by sharing a range of new experiences before she starts school.  So far she has coped pretty well with the big wide world and has even overcome her dislike of car travel.  Mind you, she wasn't at all keen on the big black motorbike parked against a kerb the other day, but I guess to a little pup, those mechanical beasties can look pretty scary!

Polly and Betty have become great friends in the eight weeks since she came to live with us and it feels as though she has always been here.  According to my husband who wakes earlier than I do, the girls even spend every night together snuggled in Polly's big bed!

Polly has made teaching Betty the basics much easier than they might otherwise have been; I often see Betty looking to her big sister and copying her when she doesn't quite understand what I have asked of her.  There's no doubt in my mind, Polly is a far better qualified teacher than I am.  That said, I am taking Betty to school on her own, to ensure she learns how to become an independent young lady in her own right and not too dependent on big sis for confidence.

Time to start on the real work now!
Good luck little Bets!


Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Miss Betty Boo

My favourite kinda Sunday ... we took a walk down to the ancient megalith at Kits Coty with our girls at the weekend and it was so peaceful!

Betty, now 14 weeks old, has settled in beautifully and is fast becoming a superb companion dog.  She is a busy little pup, always sniffing, playing, exploring and stealing slippers.  She is also wonderfully obedient and eager to please, so  long may that continue!  I am constantly enchanted by how quick to learn and affectionate my new puppy girl is, completely true to the wonderfully 'biddable' reputation earned by this fabulous breed.  

Polly is proving herself to be an excellent big sister to Betty and a surprisingly calm teacher too.  We have started work on basic obedience training both in the garden and also on our daily walks and it seems that both girls appear to be learning from one another.  Polly taught Betty how to sit and lay down when asked and how to walk in a reasonably straight line on the lead without tripping Mum over, whereas Betty taught Polly to speed up her recall if she wants to share Mum's tasty treats!

They love to play together and even though she is still very small, Betty isn't in the least bit overwhelmed by her big sister ... in fact Betty is usually the instigator of  wrestling matches and daft games of 'bitey face'.

We are having so much fun now that Betty is old enough to come out on short walks with us.  It is a true joy to watch her and Polly dashing around so playfully together in the late Summer sunshine.

Welcome to our family little Betty Boo ... and by the way, where have you hidden my slipper this time?!

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Mix and Match Walkies

On Sunday we popped Polly and Betty into the car to drive and drove to what we call 'Big Field', where they had an absolute blast indulging their inner goldie by romping through the long grass.

As Betty is only just coming up to fourteen weeks old, we are of course making sure she doesn't overdo her walks, so rather than walk to the field as we usually do with Polly, we drive and let Betty set the play pace once we're there.  Polly is having so much extra exercise with the little sister puppy play, she doesn't mind a shorter walk because it's so much more fun than walking on her own!  Polly still has a longer individual walk with me each day and Betty also has a mini daily lead walk to teach her the basics of heel walking and obedience ... (she's doing really well!)

With the mix of individual and joint walks for both dogs, dog walking is currently a bit of a shift system but at least a routine is beginning to fall into place ... and I am having so much fun watching them explore the big wide world together!


Monday, 10 August 2015

Puppy Steps

Little Betty has quickly become one of the family.  She's bright, funny, affectionate and keeps us very entertained. She and Polly are now firm friends, spending much of their day playing tug and bitey face together, then snuggling together when they're worn out; they really are a daft pair, great fun to watch. Betty has without doubt, reinvigorated Polly's inner puppy!

As she's now completed her course of inoculations, we decided to try Betty on her first short walk along the road to our local playing field yesterday and I am happy to say, she had a lovely time! She wasn't in the least bit concerned about the big wide world, taking everything in her rather bouncy stride, tail wagging excitedly and daft grin on her face the whole time. 

Luckily the playing field was completely empty when we arrived, so our girls had a chance to play chase together and we had a perfect opportunity to practice a few recalls with them; I've decided it's best to start recall training as early as possible this time!  Betty's recall was super speedy and Polly, keen not to be shown up by her baby sister, paid close attention and raced back when called too ... not quite as quickly as 'Betty-come-come' though!


So that's the first lead walk done and dusted and I was delighted with how well it went. The spot of lead training I've been doing in the garden to help Betty acclimatize to wearing harness and lead, paid off.  I have absolutely no idea how I will manage walking both girls together on my own in the future (given that I have never walked two dogs together before!) but as I don't plan to attempt that until Betty is used to walking on a lead and ready to take longer walks, I won't be worrying about it just yet. Hopefully I will work out a practical walking schedule for both girls in due course, but meanwhile, when Dad's home to help us, we'll weave in a short daily play walk for both girls to enjoy together and Polly will of course, continue her usual daily walks with me.

Small steps and a new learning curve, but I'm sure we'll gradually sort everything out and have plenty of fun along the way!


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Settling in..

There's hardly been a spare moment to write since little Miss Betty arrived two weeks ago, but I am pleased to report, she has settled in well and made good friends with big sis Polly.

Polly is proving herself to be tolerant and an excellent teacher for her cheeky little sister. After the initial excitement of Betty's arrival, the only flashpoint came a couple of days later, when Betty tried to steal Polly's new bone and a grumpy Polly gave a fierce growl, scaring Betty enough to run behind my legs yelping and trembling. No grudges were held though and the very next day, Polly allowed Betty to share that self same bone ... dogs eh?! 

Since Betty has been made aware Polly is boss, she has been happy to follow Poll's lead and Polly has been happy to teach little sis the ropes. Speaking of which, I used fleecy tug ropes to encourage my girls to play together from day one - they worked really well to keep them both connected  enough to learn about each other and how to give and take, without allowing play to escalate out of hand. Now if I say 'go get your tug' to Polly, she dashes off to collect one, then takes it to Betty to invite her to join in a game ... it's lovely to watch!

They have progressed to enthusiastic wrestling and games of 'bitey face' this week and I have learned that golden puppies are robust little creatures!  Betty loves to launch herself bodily at Polly and Polly obliges by rolling onto her back so little sis can jump right on top of her. It has been fascinating to watch Polly teaching Betty how to play.  Thankfully they both respond very well to being told 'enough' when I think things should calm down a bit!

Between play bouts, I've introduced a spot of clicker training to start Betty on some early obedience work.  She's a clever little cookie and picks things up fast; already she has mastered a very neat 'sit and stay' for several seconds and definitely recognises the word 'sit'.  She has also grasped 'in your bed' and 'off' (needless to say, that particular word is used frequently at the moment!)  We're currently working on 'down' - she's doing pretty well with the hand signal, staying still for a couple of seconds while I step backwards, but doesn't yet recognise the verbal command on its own;  it's very early days though.  That said, Miss Betty has already worked out that if she goes to her bed and lays very still for a while, she'll probably get half a carrot to chew on - carrot time is definitely Betty's longest 'down stay' each day! 

We've also started on heel work by getting Polly to walk slowly with me round the garden to command and encouraging Betty to walk alongside, rather than running and jumping at us ... click treat whenever she has four feet on the ground and is pointing in the right direction!  Polly is so good with her, ignoring each time her naughty little sis launches herself at her while she plods along by my side.  

Betty hated her lead at first, but thanks to the clicker, will now allow me to clip it on and off, trail it happily behind her in the garden and yesterday, even allowed me pick it up and guide her, which was a really big step forward!  By the way, after all my recall work with Polly, I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am that Betty already understands the word 'come' and responds to it speedily and enthusiastically! She loves to come to mum, so long may that last!!!!

I fully intended to crate train Betty and on the first day of her arrival, spent time introducing her to the crate by making it a happy place with treats, toys and a cloth bearing her mother dog's scent.  That night, I encouraged a sleepy Betty into her new crate and shut the door feeling very mean as she threw herself bodily at it, crying. I decided to tough it out as per the guidelines though and went to bed, hoping my poor little pup would soon settle.  Not long afterwards, the pitiful cries did indeed quiet and I drifted off to sleep. My husband woke me next morning to tell me a waggy tailed Betty and very sleepy Polly, had greeted him at the kitchen door - it seems we have a Houdini pup and she had managed to escape the crate to spend her night snuggled with big sis Polly instead!

From that night on, I decided to give up with the nasty ol' crate and all the heartache, in favour of having a contented puppy and calm bedtime routine. So I put newspaper on the floor by the back door (the breeder had already toilet trained Betty to newspaper) and set my alarm to wake at 4.00am.  In the past two weeks we have of course had a few night time accidents on the paper, but not nearly as many as I expected and it's only taken a minute or two to clean up when it has happened. By rising so early each morning, I've been able to establish a routine of going to the garden for Betty's first toilet of the day (Polly comes too, always very blearily as she's really not a morning dog!) I'm currently working on pushing the alarm clock back by roughly ten minute increments to gradually train Betty to toilet later each morning.  Last night I decided not to use newspaper and instead place Betty's bed where the newspaper used to be, in the hope it would suggest to her she needed to wait for mum to take her into the garden before toileting.  This morning we were in the garden at 4.40am for an early morning wee, with no accidents whatsoever in the kitchen overnight. Yay!  I am tired as you can probably imagine, but I think it's worth the effort and hopefully shouldn't take too much longer before Betty's morning toilet is pushed back to 6.00am ... then my husband can sort it out before he goes to work, aha!


Wednesday, 8 July 2015


We have been considering a sister for Polly for quite some time as she loves the company of other dogs, so when I heard of a half-sibling litter close to home it seemed as if fate had taken a firm hand in our decision making. Polly's Dad had been mated with a very pretty and gentle golden girl, who, by a stroke of luck, lives only a short drive away from our home.  Let's just say, one thing led to another, the decision was at last taken and Polly's puppy sister Betty will shortly be coming to live with us!

To help acclimatize Polly to the inevitable changes in our home, I have set up Betty's crate and day bed ahead of her arrival and placed her new puppy toys in her bed.  Polly has shown great interest in this activity, sniffing everything very thoroughly; interestingly though, she hasn't yet attempted to play with Betty's toys.  Polly knows I always present her with her own new toys and then give her permission to play with them and as that hasn't yet happened with these particular toys I think she has already worked out they aren't hers to play with ... she's such a clever girl.

Betty's breeder has been very welcoming and helpful, which has meant I have been able to visit several times for cuddles and to enjoy Betty's developmental progress; it has been a great opportunity for me and Betty to become accustomed to one another before she comes home and so much fun!  Our little Betty is a sweet girl, curious and playful, but so far, not overly boisterous ... in fact, I'd say she's seems a very promising little sister personality-wise, for Polly.

So, pretty soon it will be back to basic puppy training for me and as soon as she is old enough to be fully inoculated, Betty will be heading to obedience school to train to be safe and sociable, while big sister Polly enjoys a Summer respite from school and some one-to-one 'Dad' time with my  husband Stuart. 

I am so looking forward to introducing Betty to Polly. Polly has met several puppies on our walks over the past few weeks and proved herself to be surprisingly gentle with them, so I am optimistic the initial sisterly meeting will be a fun, positive experience for both dogs before the the real work begins: toilet training, lead walking, manners at home, manners with other dogs ... yep, here we go again!


Friday, 19 June 2015

Starting from scratch..

Happy to report Polly's bite wound is healing well and I am sure, given a few more weeks, will barely, if at all, be seen on her lovely face.  The incident doesn't seem to have had any adverse affect on Poll's behaviour thankfully ... she was a little subdued for a few days after it happened and slightly nervy when she spotted approaching dogs on lead walks, but that all seems to have settled and she has had some lovely happy romps with other dogs both at school and on our walks locally, including a fun run with her pal Happy, the beautiful Saluki Hound ... Polly gives it a good go, but needless to say, Happy the athletic hound always wins their races!

Last weekend Poll also had fun when my husband's ten year old Grandson came to visit, she really loves having him to stay!

They spent the entire weekend running around and playing together and I was quite amazed when on Sunday, Polly trotted along politely as Calvin rode his bicycle on our five mile walk and she didn't once attempt to chase him!

In fact, I think she's proven herself to be a very good dog this year.  There is still room for further improvement with recall work, to take my sociable girl to a more advanced response level in terms of distractions, but the recall we have achieved to-date works well for us on a daily basis.  Polly's only potential downfall is a strong desire to play with other dogs, but hopefully that will ease a little in time with the help of a little puppy sister to keep her entertained ... yes, I may well be completely bonkers, but I think Polly is now ready and I am actually looking forward to starting training all over again from scratch in a few weeks' time!

Saturday, 6 June 2015


A quick word of warning about letting your lovely goldies meet on leads: if your dog is restrained on his lead and it becomes entangled with another dog also on lead, it can quickly become a problem. My poor Polly was badly bitten last night when another goldie owner brought their dog over to 'say hello' unexpectedly, as Polly and my husband were leaving my in-laws home after a visit. Excitement escalated on the driveway, causing leads to become entangled, panic to flare and my girl to be bitten. When these things ignite it happens incredibly quickly.

Most dogs meet far better off lead than on, so please bear that in mind next time you are out walking and think it would be nice to introduce your dog to another dog on lead. My advice is always give your dogs as much space as possible when they are on lead and please don't spring a surprise introduction on an unsuspecting dog who is just going about their business quietly! When dogs are on lead they have no way of extricating themselves from situations, so rely on us to give them good guidance and keep them safe. It doesn't mean they must never meet another dog on lead as that would be impractical, but it does mean it is important to gauge things very carefully, to prevent problems arising.

Friday, 29 May 2015

A Golden Reputation

My girl, living up to the Goldie reputation for being gentle with children ...

It has been a real privilege to allow my precious Grandson his first opportunity to begin to learn about dogs.

Polly has been an absolute gem with our special little boy, sitting patiently to allow him to gently touch her fur and doing exactly as instructed whenever he is close to her.

It is clear that even at this tender age, my Grandson is learning how to be confident and respectful, thanks to his budding relationship with Polly.

Polly likes nothing better than to have my adult children and their partners visit us and I am happy to say, has accepted Toby into her world with a steadfast calm beyond her years ... and Toby loves her!

The usual 'close supervision' commonsense is always applied whenever Toby or any other of our family children visit and of course, we never take Polly's good nature for granted; to be fair to her, I watch Polly's body language carefully and ensure close proximity time with visiting youngsters, isn't too prolonged.

Incidentally, Polly's good behaviour didn't magically occur when a child first visited. Although she has always been gentle with children, she was naturally prone to excitement when younger, so to establish a reliable level of obedient, safe behaviour for our visiting youngsters, I clicker trained Polly to understand my expectation of her in those circumstances.  Poll loves clicker training, so cottoned on quickly and now, her only tiny indiscretion is to occasionally sneak a lick of Toby's cute little toes!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Kisses and Crows

As I haven't had much time to post recently, here's a little summary of how we've been getting along lately ...

Polly loves to walk with family and this year we have been able to walk for the first time with my little Grandson tucked into a sling, which was lovely!

As Polly is now very reliable at coming back to me, she enjoys plenty of off lead fun on our walks and of course, being a goldie, that usually means finding muddy puddles whenever possible.

This Spring, we've loved our bluebell walks and even walked through a field of sheep and their lambs at Hucking Woods  - on lead, of course. Polly wasn't particularly interested in the sheep, but getting her to leave their dollops of poo was a bit of a struggle, urgh yuk!

We took her to Riverside Country Park in Gillingham a couple of weeks ago and she had so much fun playing in the water. Also did her first official sea swim and retrieve - not quite the stick that was thrown, but seaweed made a fair substitute!

And on our visit to Emmetts Garden in Sevenoaks, Polly behaved beautifully on her lead as we mooched through the beautiful formal gardens, then had a whale of a time running through local woods to Toys Hill and full circle back to Emmetts Garden, in the pouring rain.

At home, we walk through our local woods, field and orchard a couple of times each day and Polly loves to say hi to all the dogs she meets.  Happily her greetings have calmed down and she can now meet and pass dogs along the lane without leaping excitedly at them.  She is still wary of dogs approaching along narrow lanes if they are coming head-on or up from behind her off lead; she sometimes deals with this by lunging (not at all dogs, some bug her, others don't!) so if I have time, we try to take swift diversionary action to avoid the situation arising.  If there's no time to turn away, I keep my clicker in my pocket ready to click and treat a sit/stay or down/stay.  Most times that works pretty well, with Polly looking to me to guide her through the situation.

I can't say Polly is perfect in obedience terms (does that ever quite happen?!) but she is doing pretty well.  We still train daily and attend obedience classes weekly, but she's certainly no obedience robot!  For example, madam loves to chase crows off the farmer's field if she has the opportunity and recently broke her sit/stay to do just that on the obedience training field ... splat in the middle of a heel work class! Also, on routes we know very well, it can take two or three calls/whistles for her to return to me if she's particularly 'busy' ... but she does at least always return within a moment or two and these days, also checks regularly to see where I am going, racing back towards me if she thinks I'm taking an unexpected turn - needless to say, I take plenty of unexpected turns! ;-)

At home Polly's pretty darn perfect. A little on the barky side in the garden but our house backs onto a lane, so I guess that's to be expected - we're working on it and she is beginning to understand she needs to stop the racket when I tell her, thankfully! Indoors she's as good as gold and I have absolutely nothing naughty to report, unless you count a few enthusiastic licks when her much-loved Auntie Fo visits, but sloppy kisses aside, I honestly can't fault her.


Tuesday, 14 April 2015

One of the family

It's been a little while since I wrote a blog post, but in the meantime, me 'n Polly have been toddling happily along together, enjoying our daily walks, obedience training and of course playtime together.  During the past two years, Polly has settled comfortably into her role as my companion and since both my kids left home, has proved herself to be the polite, happy, family dog I wished for when we invited that chunky, cheeky puppy girl into our world two years ago.

She is gentle with children, polite with visitors and never happier than when her favourite family members visit; there's no doubt Polly really loves 'her' people and is proving herself a respectful member of our family, especially with our important little people.

Gentle with my Grandson

Part of the family

I recently took Polly to visit my daughter in her new flat for the first time and am happy to report she was a very well behaved guest, even sitting patiently by the front door when she needed to let me know it was time to take her out for a wee!

Visiting Fay

Fay was delighted to have Polly visit her!  As independent as she now is, I know she really misses her special furry pal.  As you can see from the smile on Polly's face in the pic below, she was every bit as delighted to find Fay in her new home as Fay was to have her visit!

Polly loves to be included in family visits and enjoys trips in my car, so whenever she is invited and it is practical to do so, I happily take her along.  

A word to the wise when visiting with your dog: 

If this is something you would like to try with your own dog, I would respectfully suggest it is important to bear in mind that visiting as a house guest can be stressful for any dog.  Even if they are usually the most polite of dogs, it is essential to consider that asking your dog to cope with human expectation, in unfamiliar surroundings, is a very big ask!  

A few tips below:

1. I walk Polly before visiting to give her a chance to relax and toilet prior to arrival.  I also take a clicker and treats to ensure she remembers her training manners and try hard to stay focused on her needs/body language throughout our visit.  

2. If there are cats living in the house, I don't take Polly. I don't think it's fair to resident cats to have a bouncy goldie girl imposed on them.  Resident pets always have first priority.

3.  It is critically important to consider the needs of resident dogs in a home you are visiting because even the best behaved dogs may experience insecurities when their territory is 'invaded' by a guest dog.  My sister and I have found that a local walk with her resident dogs, prior to us settling down in her home for a cuppa and chinwag, usually works wonders for all concerned!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Empty Nest?

Polly's second birthday slipped past in a flurry of van loading and bedroom emptying on Saturday, as my daughter said final farewells before moving out to her first independent home. It was quite an upheaval after thirty two years at home with me and four days on, there is still packing up to be done - she has accumulated an alarming amount of 'stuff' during her years at home!  Polly took the chaos pretty much in her doggy stride, barking loudly to let us know how highly she disapproved of having to stay behind the lounge door while the van was loaded.

As soon as my daughter and her boyfriend headed up the road en route to their new flat, my husband, Polly and I, hopped into my car and nipped out to a quiet local area ... the perfect place for me to gather myself back together, while Polly, ever in the moment and completely unsentimental, busied herself exploring every rabbit hole she could stick her pretty Goldie nose into.  Oh to be a Goldie!


So now my house is tidy - give or take an array of tug robes and tatty teddy bears spread across the living room rug no matter how often I tidy them back into their box ... and it's clean, give or take the ever present silky Goldie hairs which find their way into absolutely everything ... and of course, now Fay has moved out it's also quiet ... er, give or take the sporadic bursts of Goldie barking whenever anyone has the cheek to walk along the lane behind our house, the postman knocks, or that cheeky cat from over the road waves his tail through the window (ie., every five mins - groan!) Oh and now I come to think of it, I mustn't overlook that whenever she decides I need it, a warm wet Goldie nose appears on my lap and if I slap my leg twice, it's quickly followed with two big floppy Goldie paws and a big ol' Goldie heave ho, right up onto my lap for a cuddle fest perched on my swivel chair!

So, lots of love and luck to my daughter and her fella in their first home together, a big Happy 2nd Birthday to my beautiful Pollychops and also my heartfelt thanks to my gorgeous Goldie girl, for reminding me on that my nest isn't quite as empty as I feared it might be xxx
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