Thursday, 21 July 2016

Betty's Real Life Training

We are having a mini heatwave here in the UK this week.  The pavements have been unbearably hot, so I've been keeping my girls as cool as possible by walking them 'out of hours' and staying in grassed areas.  With her heavy double coat, poor Polly really doesn't cope well with the heat, preferring to stay indoors and sleep the heat away on the cool of our kitchen floor.  Betty, on the other hand, would dash around all day long if allowed, so keeping her occupied is more of a challenge ... that said, she spent ages yesterday trying to nose a little fly around my grandson's paddling pool, it kept her interested for quite some time!

I had booked a morning 'Real Life' training session for Betty yesterday, which still went ahead as it was overcast, with a bit of a welcome breeze. It took place in our lovely local park and we spent the first half of the session working our dogs on their leads against the distractions of the park, with lots of walking to heel politely, sitting on command, staying when told, meeting dogs politely whilst on lead and working in very close proximity to other dogs both on and off their leads.  It's extremely useful training for Betty and I'm very pleased with how she is coming along.  Keeping Betty's focus when distraction levels are high and the environment so exciting, is an excellent challenge for both of us.

Our instructor works us hard and rewards the dogs well for their hard work by giving them a lovely group run afterwards (and practising recalls). They had so much fun tearing round bushes and trees, up steep banks, along grassed areas and then, the best treat of all, a splash in the lake!  Betty used to be fearful of water, but with a group of pals to play with (a bouncy lab, a lively spaniel, a nervous mini dachshund, a handsome wire haired terrier and a shy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in this particular group) she had the most wonderful time chasing with them through the water.

Betty's next 'Real Life' training session will be in town, so no group run that day, but we will be tackling lifts ... that should be interesting! Polly also joins 'Real Life' training groups regularly, in fact she had a lovely session at another little country park across town on Wednesday, performing the obedience exercises well, making friends quickly and enjoying a lively run with a cheeky little Cocker Spaniel who took a particular shine to her. I have found it to be invaluable to be able to walk Polly with a wide variety of breeds of dogs, all sizes, all ages, all energy levels ... doing this regularly has given her more confidence when she meets unfamiliar dogs and as a result, she is much calmer with them now than she used to be.

It's great fun training in 'Real Life' situations and so useful for making sure your dog is safe around other dogs in the real world. I heartily recommend booking some classes, if you there is an instructor in your locality who offers this service.


Friday, 8 July 2016

Stand to attention!

We may have finished at our old obedience school, but we do still practice obedience training each day.  Today we are celebrating Betty's formal 'stand at a distance'.  This has been a long time coming and a challenge teach my fidgety miss, but I am delighted to say, she can now 'stand' from a sit and a down, to both verbal command and hand signal, without leaping forward excitedly each time.




Training my girls together has been challenging and sometimes a bit chaotic, but very satisfying when everything comes together. Polly learned these commands a long time ago and is always happy to perform for a clicker, but it's taken Betty a while to settle into the 'stay' element as she only has two settings, 'on at full playful burst', or 'off and sound asleep'!

So well done Betty for at last mastering your sit, down stay and stand at a distance ... and well done Polly for managing to stay calm and focused as little sister bounced around you throughout the past year, while she gradually learned her own obedience skills!

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Beach babes, dining out, sheep and cows

We wondered how little Betty, only a year old, would cope on her first holiday away from home, but we needn't have worried, Miss Boo travelled well, settled well and holidayed well!

The drive to Devon took six hours with our girls travelling on the rear seat of the car, safely secured in their safety harnesses. We stopped three times along the way for wee breaks, snacks and leg stretches and they were as good as gold, snoozing between breaks and whilst awake, cheerfully watching the world fly past through the car windows ... it made me wonder what on earth they must make of it all!

On arrival at our East Devon holiday home, we were met by a welcoming committee of thirteen curious cows at the bottom of the garden, with only a low wire fence between us ... there were also hundreds of sheep in the field!  'Good job I packed the long lines' I thought, making a grab for them before my girls had an opportunity to race to the fence to create countryside chaos!

I put on my best training head to teach my 'townie' girls how to behave politely with their new farm neighbours.  It was a challenge at first because the girls were rather excited at the prospect of having an enormous field full of new pals to chase along the fence, but being bright girls, they cottoned on quickly and within a couple of days were behaving calmly enough for me to remove the long lines and allow them to play freely in the garden while I kept a sharp eye on them.  It didn't take long for us all to relax and in fact it wasn't a cow or a sheep which caused a problem in the end, it was a tiny brown rabbit!  On our last day, Betty spotted the little mite and hurled herself through the dense 10ft tall hedging at the front of the property, to give chase.  Fortunately clever bunny won the race and the road the other side of the hedge was quiet that early in the morning, so she was quickly called back to heel and frog-marched back to the garden - yet again, I thank my lucky stars for recall training!

Speaking of recall training, what an absolute joy it has been to allow my girls to explore the local 'dog friendly' beaches each day, safe in the knowledge they would return at the beep of a whistle.  Betty had her first experience of the seaside and after an initial jaw drop at the magnitude of everything, followed big sis's lead and enjoyed an inaugural dip of her paws.  She and Polly had so much fun exploring the shoreline together and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed watching them.

Not only have the girls visited beaches, hiked scenic hills and learned how to behave on country roads with no pavements, they have also promenaded obediently along the seafront with us on their leads, sat politely outside seafront cafes whenever we stopped for a sandwich or an ice-cream (yes they were paid for their good behaviour with the end of our ice-cream cones!) They even came to dine with us at the local thirteenth century pub, where they settled quietly as we tucked into a first class meal of seabass for me, ribeye steak for him and 'Bonios' under the table for Polly and Betty.

Our week away has been relaxing, great fun with the girls and joy of joys, even helped Betty learn not to pull on the lead so hard. Since returning home, I've been able to ditch the head harness and walk my little steam train on a 'Perfect Fit' harness, the same as Polly, which is a big step forward for us!  

As for Polly, she's been so well behaved while we've been away and has worn a big soppy grin on her face all week, there's no doubt in my mind, Poll LOVES going on holiday and now that little sis can come too, it's even better!

We've received many compliments regarding Polly and Betty's standard of behaviour during our holiday and I don't mind admitting, I've been very proud to walk them each day ... it is always a real pleasure to have them complimented.

Well done girls. You make me a very proud goldie mum.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Here comes Summer

Polly and Betty are enjoying their Summer walks, bouncing through as much long grass as they can find and generally making the most of outdoors, now the warmer, drier (yay!) weather has at last arrived.  Betty's obedience training is coming along well and her tendency to pull is on the decline (hallelujah!) She's loving her 'Real Life' classes (as is Polly) and I must admit to a sneaking pride whenever I take her out and about, because she is so eager to show how well behaved she can be - owner heaven!  Just in case I am in danger of sounding a little too pleased with myself, you may be delighted to hear my clever little girl has recently also learnt how to roll in fox poo .... urgh!

As for big sis Polly, she's three and a half now and has settled beautifully.  For a while last year, she went through a phase of being a bit grumpy with other dogs if she was lead walking with little sis (I think she thought she needed to guard me and Betty) but with plenty of consistent training around other lots of different dogs (our Real Life training classes have been a terrific help in this respect) she's much improved and now able to say hello to oncoming dogs in a calm and friendly manner again. She's also much calmer with other dogs generally when she plays off lead now. I can't recommend consistent, targeted training highly enough, as it really can pay dividends when you stick with it and make an effort to look at life through your dog's eyes.

We'll be heading off to Devon for a holiday with our girls this Summer ... can't wait!

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

A Golden smile!

Me 'n Polly have been to an agility training session today, 'down on't' farm' ... which meant, not only weaves, jumps, seesaw etc, but also horses, peacocks, geese and chickens! Poll did really well on the agility equipment and seemed to enjoy it.  She also remained completely calm when I took her to meet the horses, which amazed me as she's usually overly excited by them (anyone who has read this blog from the beginning, will recall the time she was off lead and met a large horse in the woods ... rather a tense situation to say the least!)  Our training group buddies today were, one massive great Dane, an enormous Irish Wolfhound, a stressy Weimaraner, a Giant Schnauzer, a Wire Haired Terrier and a teeny tiny Dachsund ... definitely what you might call an eclectic bunch!

It's been a good few days for Polly, as my grown up daughter came home to stay for the weekend. Polly was delighted to have 'her' Fay back home (so was I!) and glued herself to Fay's side.  Just look at this photo snapped on our Sunday walk ... I don't think Polly could look any more delighted if she tried!!!

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Happy Birthday Betty Boo!

Exactly a year ago today, this beautiful little puppy entered into our world and came to live with us a few weeks later.  She turned out to be a clever, funny, sweet natured, oh-so-very cuddly girl, who loves munching carrots, chasing her favourite glo-ball and playing ferocious games of tug on my back lawn with her big sis Polly.

 Our first year together has been a complete joy and Betty's antics have made me laugh every single day.  She is a total sweetheart, such a gentle girl.

Happy 1st Birthday to you Betty Boo, my gorgeous Puppy Girl!


Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A walk on the town side ..

I took Betty 'Real Life' training in town with our obedience group this morning.  We tackled heavy traffic, narrow pavements, sirens, lorries, pelican crossings, a railway station, prams, walking sticks, shop doorways, a graveyard (!) and the formidable walls of Maidstone prison; in fact she coped with heaps of unfamiliar sights, sounds and situations and even visited a pet shop! I couldn't resist taking a quick pic of her doing a very smart sit stay right next to the munchie chew bars ... they were quite a temptation for such a young dog, but she was a very good girl and didn't put a paw wrong.

Training Betty to be a polite pup while we're out and about is hard work, but genuinely rewarding ... and I am proud to say she is coming along a treat!  

Good girl Betty Boo, you certainly earned your treats today!


Friday, 6 May 2016

A walk in the bluebell woods ..

And while little sis naps after her training this morning, me 'n Polly have been taking a gentle stroll through our local bluebell woods. 

 It's a warm Spring day, so this is the perfect, calm walk for my heavily coated girl and a lovely, relaxing walk for me ... I swear there's magic in those bluebells!


Work, rest and play!

Little Betty isn't so little any more.  Her first birthday is almost upon us and our year together has flown by.  I have walked miles and miles in beautiful countryside and along pavements ... basically, anywhere that will have us!  Betty and her sister Polly continue to obedience train - dog training isn't so much a hobby, as a lifestyle these days.

In fact, I've just come in from a 'Real Life' training session with Betty this morning.  We walk and train with a guide-dog instructor and a small group of friendly dogs each week.  We visit all kinds of local places to give the dogs a broad training experience. This morning Betty ran with her pals through the bluebell woods at Penenden Heath, walked to heel across the scary high level motorway bridge, tackled steep steps politely, trotted along a noisy road and practiced loads of 'sit stays' (her least favourite thing to do - she is such a fidget bum!) in close proximity with the other dogs.  She also did her bit in a synchronised group walking routine on the Heath.  Mind you, breaking Betty of her pulling habit is still an on-going battle, but I am proud to say, my cheeky Miss Boo has improved hugely of late.

I don't think a dog's life shouldn't only be about obedience and training though.  After work comes rest and play ... and boy do my two LOVE to play!

Time to put the kettle on now and find a couple of chews for my girls.  They've really earned them this week!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Reality Check!

I will be absolutely honest with you, I love both my girls and wouldn't be without them, but having a second goldie pup does change things. No matter what anyone tells you, two are not as easy as one!

Setting aside the obvious comments about finances, space and time, I'd say if you feel 'goldie broody' again, there's probably quite a bit to think about!  For a start, it's important to train your dogs individually as well as together, to allow th
em the opportunity to become well rounded dogs, ie dogs who are not too dependent on one another for confidence. Taking separate walks, as well as joint walks will become very important if pup is to learn how to cope out in the big wide world on his/her own.

To begin with, pup will need shorter walks than your older dog and rather than the long rambles through the countryside you have probably come to enjoy, pup may benefit from daily pavement walks, to practice walking to heel on her own without the older dog present ... walking two together is hard work to start with if Betty and Polly were anything to go by!  Betty never failed to try and pull forward to be 'the leader' and to begin with, I struggled to manage her on a lead if we were out walking with Polly.  After several months of hard work and loads of consistent training, I can now walk both girls together calmly on their leads but this has been a long time coming and was very tiring at times.

 Bear in mind, if they are playing off lead, two goldies who live together can become very excitable, so you will need to find local areas where they can play safely together, without making a nuisance of themselves in public. My two love a good game of chase, not to mention a wrestle!

A new pup will learn from an older dog, not only the good, also the bad!  New pup will teach your older dog a thing or two about puppy play too, so your previously polite, obedient older dog may suddenly start racing around like a puppy again!  As you can imagine, it's pretty important to have your first dog as well trained as possible before adopting a second.  

When pup joins your family, you may experience new issues with your older dog becoming possessive, or feeling they need to guard/protect you and pup on walks by barking/lunging at other dogs unacceptably.  So not only will you have a new pup to train, you may find you need to retrain your first dog too!

Our first year with two young dogs has been a challenge but I have loved it.  I am lucky in that I am at home with them all day and can give them the training, exercise and attention they both need, together and separately. I'd say if you are considering adopting a second pup, take your time to give it very serious thought and be completely honest with yourself about whether you really want your world turned upside down for the next year at least ... it's not all cosy puppy cuddles! If the answer is yes and you have the time, strength, patience, energy, space and financial wherewithal, then it will be an absolute a joy to watch your two goldies grow together.

That said, don't forget, if you are houseproud, two goldies in winter is bloomin' hard work - think mud, mud, mud, mud, and more mud!


Friday, 8 April 2016

Love is in the air!

Signed Betty up for some 'Real Life' classes with a lovely little group of similar age pups.  There is now a blossoming romance between Betty and a very handsome goldie called Monty (a slightly younger man at just 9 months of age) and let's just say, shy kisses were exchanged, followed by a jolly good chase, a gentle wrestle, more kissing and more chasing. Spring is most definitely in the air!


Oh and in case you are wondering, yes, there was plenty of great obedience work between flirtations too!  

Nice work Betty Boo.


Thursday, 7 April 2016

Little sisters ..

Little sisters can be a bit of nuisance sometimes, that's for sure.

You two do make me chuckle!


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Real Life Training

I took back-to-back 'Real Life' dog training sessions today, to give Betty and Polly the experience of busy town walking. It was Betty's first time in town, so I wasn't sure how well she would cope but she crossed a busy ring road, ignored a motorbike backfiring and sirens wailing, walked calmly through a busy shopping centre, trotted over a busy bridge with cars rushing underneath and trains passing by, stepped up steep steps (politely!) ... in fact you name it, she did it. She even went in a lift with another dog without batting an eyelid! My cheeky little pup coped brilliantly with what was a very stressful environment with unknown dogs (she hasn't walked with the group before). Since we came home, little Miss Boo, now ten months old, has been looking extremely pleased with herself! 

Polly (now three years old) also did herself proud on the town walk, walking perfectly to heel throughout and making firm friends with a miniature dachshund from her group ... she even slowed her walking pace so they could walk alongside one another! So sweet!

After three solid hours of town based dog walking today, I really need a sit down and a cuppa. Very proud of both my girls today!


Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Mission double dog walk

Mission double-dog walk accomplished, with a busy 'A road' full of fast moving scary lorries and buses, thrown in for good training measure.

We finished our walk with a lively romp on the playing fields and met four good natured little dogs, a staffie, two cockerpoos and a springer spaniel. I was absolutely soaked to the skin by the time we left, but we enjoyed our walk (mostly thanks to Betty's new Gentle Leader head harness - it doesn't make her an angel on the lead exactly, but boy does it help!) I hated the idea of using a head harness, but after struggling with my friendly little steam engine when she's walking with her sister, I caved in ... and am now glad I did, as it seems to have created a turning point for us. Betty now walks beautifully on a body harness when it's just me 'n her and the head harness helps when I walk both girls together. She's still learning and I'm sure we'll be able to ditch it soon.


Postscript ... I should mention our double dog walk success was not just due to Betty's new head harness, to be fair Polly walks beautifully to heel nowadays; she is such a good girl on her lead, no matter how hard her sister pulls. Betty Boo please watch your big sister and take note!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Rainbows and recall

Betty and Polly's joint obedience training session went pretty well all things considered. I stayed upright this week (!) and the pair of them had great fun running with their pals (and in Poll's case, chasing up and down the fence line with the red setters) and their recalls were pretty darn good, yay! Little Betty's sits 'n stays 'n downs are showing signs of cementing now and taking her round the agility course is a joy - she really loves it and works hard to be a good obedient girl for mum.

Betty training under her very own rainbow!

Polly on the other hand, trained for two and a half years, enjoyed one round of obedience and the opportunity to race over the A Frame (her fav!) then switched off in favour of sniffing rabbit poo ... they may be sisters but they definitely have different outlooks on life! 

Lovely weather today, chilly and sunny; in fact, perfect dog training weather! Both girls now fast a-kip ... must admit, I wouldn't mind joining them!
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