Monday, 26 January 2015

Recall training: why?

I know I've probably become a complete recall bore, so rather than witter on yet again, about the nail biting trials of training, testing and praying for it to happen, I'm going to share a few pics snapped recently, to sum up why I think it's so important - I hope they make you smile!

For me 'n Poll, above all else, recall equals FUN!

It means the freedom to run Ferrari speed ...

To enjoy games with pals ...

To do crazy zoomies!

 And of course, to explore the big wide world in true doggie style!

Most of all though, recall means coming back to Mum when she calls ...
safe and sound.

Good girl Polly.


Friday, 16 January 2015

Training Times

Not long 'til Polly's 2nd birthday ...

So, I guess now is as good a time as any for a quick training review.

It's only when you look back and remember how hard that whirling, twirling, pulling first year was, it is possible to truly appreciate the second!

First and foremost, Polly is now the polite dog at home I had hoped for from the start.  In fact, I can't think of a single issue indoors - maybe if I was being very picky I'd say licking guests on arrival is probably unacceptable (with the fussier ones!) but we are working on that and Polly has improved her impulse control with visitors considerably.  She is a very good girl at meal times, has learned to lay on the rug while we eat from trays on our laps and also lays quietly by our feet when we eat at the table.  She settles in her bed at night without complaint, is impeccably behaved in our living areas, doesn't steal from kitchen counters, chew inappropriately, climb onto furniture, or take what doesn't belong to her.  She waits by my side at the front door if it is open without attempting to run outside and keeps me company while I cook the evening meal in the kitchen (waiting patiently in her bed for her daily carrot!) Also, she is extremely patient when I am working.  Polly never rushes to her food bowl without first being told she may go to it and is always eager to show me what a clever girl she can be.  Life at home with Polly is a real pleasure these days.

Polly has certainly come a long way since the aforementioned whirling, twirling days!  She now walks to heel politely on lead walks and follows my instructions attentively.  Despite being a very strong, large dog, I don't have any problems walking her.  In fact, the only minor issue we still haven't quite sorted out, is her belly flop if she is in a confined area such as a narrow lane, when another dog is approaching head on.  This is improving gradually and generally speaking, I tend to work round it these days by either changing direction if there's time and space, or asking Poll to sit and stay, or down and stay, until the other dog moves on.  Polly may suddenly pull towards the other dog as it passes, but most times nowadays, she remains in situe and calmly allows the other dog to sniff a hello, then pass by.  She's very good at this behaviour with small dogs, but still becomes excited if a bouncy, larger dog arrives on the scene.  The biggest improvement in this area is that Polly will now walk on with me on command once the other dog has passed by, rather than stubbornly attempting to pull me head first in their direction.  She's still not always sure of approaching dogs, but if there is space for us to curve away from them, will usually walk on with me now.

As Polly's recall is now reliable when we're out walking on our own, we enjoy bursts of off lead time each day .  Also, she will recall from play with other dogs, but that aspect of training still needs further work because more often than not, her recall from buddies tends to be when she's ready to stop play, rather than as soon as I call.  I am however, confident she will return to me.  As for not running to other dogs in the first place when off lead - very little progress there I'm afraid.  She loves to play with other dogs so much that no amount of recall training, playing, treats etc seems to be enough to stop her from dashing over to play with likely looking playmates!  That said, she has rushed part way across a field a couple of times lately, ignoring my recalls, but then dropped into a down before reaching the other dog and stayed when I've bellowed 'stay' - which has at least given me the opportunity to reach her and clip her lead back on.  This is far from cast in stone yet and definitely can't be considered an emergency recall.

So, all in all, I think it's fair to say, we have a reasonably sound recall these days, but the speed it is executed at depends very much on the circumstances involved.  We also have an emergency stop building quite well ... once again, if we're out on our own it's pretty reliable, less so though if there's a potential playmate on the horizon.  I'm thinking that somehow her natural drop to her belly before meeting another dog halfway across a field (for example) and my wish for an emergency 'stop' must somehow be able to be linked!  I'll have to think more on that.

And finally, play time!  Polly is a very sociable girl who in the early days, was prone to becoming over excited in play with other dogs, but thanks to obedience school, she has now learned how to read other dogs' body language much better and is able to play more equally with dogs of all sizes.  She also plays respectfully with me, so thankfully our wrestling and tug games on the living room rug are fun and safe!

We plan to keep on with our obedience training for the foreseeable future for two reasons: firstly, I'm hoping regular recall practice from other dogs at school will eventually make perfect in the wider world and secondly, playing with her school mates each week makes Polly a very happy goldie girl and I love to see her having fun!

So that's Polly at almost two years ... I am delighted to report she has worked hard, learned much and I am very, very, proud of her.

I wonder what 2015 will bring?!


Tuesday, 13 January 2015


Despite having a wardrobe to rival mine, there are of course Winter days when we throw caution and our cream carpets to the wind, abandon the aforementioned mud busting suits and just give Polly freedom to explore and be a happy, swampy dog ...

Polly knows the deal for these walks.  Thanks to being bathed regularly when she was a puppy and trained with treats to go upstairs carefully and get into the bath on command, now when we arrive home after either a muddy, or a poo roll walk (!) she lets me wipe her feet, then plods straight upstairs to the bathroom.  She lifts her paws so I can help her into the bath and stands patiently while I give her a nice warm hose down with the power shower.  She is very patient at bathtime and really seems to enjoy the warm water.

When we're finished, my soggy doggy hops out of the bath on command, allows me to towel dry her, then has a good ol' shake up and pushes herself head first along the hall carpet ... presumably to cover herself in her home scent and rub away the smell of all that honey and oatmeal shampoo!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Purists look away..

Purists look away now ... this brief post is for fashion forward, mud weary owners only!

Yes, I'll freely admit, we have been teased by disapproving dog owning relatives...

But I'd like to point out, their dogs aren't pale gold mud sponges!

So, not only is Polly a 'fashion forward' goldie girl, she is also taking a very practical approach to her Winter wardrobe this year ...

The Hurtta frost jacket is tough, warm, waterproof and best of all, covers most of her tummy and chest, so no need for a bath every time we tromp through the woods.

I see this company also offers a 'combat suit' onesie model which entirely covers the dog's legs ... and there's no denying, I AM sorely tempted!

Friday, 2 January 2015

A spring in his step

Polly is besotted with my sister's German Shepherd, nine year old Bugsy, so after making a bit of a play pest of herself during our New Year's Eve visit to their house, I thought it might be a good idea to invite Bugs for a New Year's Day walk to give both dogs freedom to do their doggy thing properly and socialise outdoors.

We met at Capstone Country Park in Chatham because it offers plenty of opportunities for safe off lead dog walking.

It was clear Polly and Bugsy were enjoying their first walk of 2015 together as they stayed close all the time they were off lead.

And the great thing about walking together, was that recalls were easier because as soon as one recalled for sausage treats, the other came too!

The seven year age gap means Polly occasionally needs a reminder not to be too exuberant with Bugs as he tires a little more readily than she does these days, but judging from the permanent grin fixed on his handsome face as they explored Capstone together, having such a lively young female walking companion definitely put a spring in his step!

Despite the muddy cold and damp, we thoroughly enjoyed walking with Polly and Bugsy on New Year's Day.

Here's to happy healthy dogs and exploring the great outdoors with family in 2015!

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