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?!