Saturday, 30 August 2014

Following a lead ..

Saturday afternoon and as husband's at the footy, me n' my Poll Monster have been at the playing fields practising obedience and playing chase together.  One thing's for sure, Polly has certainly improved my fitness since she came to live with me - I never ever ran before and now I'm running around like a twenty year old again. (Well, almost, lol!)

Practising her down stay

Lately I've been using a 15m training lead when we visit the local playing fields.  That way Poll gets to run freely when appropriate and I get to grab the end if she looks as though she's likely to get herself into mischief!  This play time system is working very well for us and gives me the confidence to allow Polly more freedom in dog and people populated areas.  

Playing 'fetch' with Dad

Naturally Polly would rather wear no lead at all, but given that she's a big, bouncy girl, prone to socialising with every man and his dog, a long lead is useful in helping to remind her to stay close.  Polly still gets to chase the birdies in big circles if the field is empty and when she recalls on cue, is always thanked with a grateful fuss and a tasty nibble of cheese, but if I need to take hold of the end of the lead, Poll can still explore, sniff and trot along at her pace, rather than mine and we can save the more formal walking for pavements. 

Down staying with mum wandering around

Yep, all things considered, using a training lead is working well for both of us!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Leave it!

I was a naughty girl, I dug a big hole in Dad's newly seeded lawn. Mum said I had to do training indoors to make amends. Here's me doing a 'leave it' ... 

I hope she hurries up with the camera, I'm starving after all that digging!

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Search and Rescue: 3 Peak Challenge

From time to time one of my four brother-in-laws manages to quietly surprise and impress me. This year is the turn of my sister Lyn's husband Chris, with his work for 'Berkshire Rescue Dogs SAR' ...

A chuckle with brother-in-law Chris on my wedding day in 2012

In September this year, seven dogs and eight human team members of Berkshire Search and Rescue Dog team will be taking a five-day break from their search volunteer work, to undertake the “3 Peak Challenge” ... and Chris will be one of the team, along with his trainee SAR dog, English Shepherd Saxon.

Ben Nevis

The challenge will take place over three of the UK’s largest mountains, Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon. In a twist to the usual '3 Peak Challenge', the team are planning to meet and train with their Mountain Rescue counterparts on each of the three peaks.

Scafell Pike

Berkshire Search and Rescue Dogs (Berkshire SAR Dogs) is a volunteer dog organisation on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to assist Search & Rescue Teams, the Police and other Emergency Services. Their primary role is to assist in locating lost or missing vulnerable people within Berkshire and its surrounding areas.

Mount Snowdon

This will be a very tough challenge for both human and canine members of the #4paws3peaks team, so please help them achieve their charity goal, by spreading the word!

Also, if you would like to offer a donation to support this team's life-saving work, it will be very gratefully received on the link below:

Chris and his trainee SAR dog Saxon

By the way, as well as training Saxon as an SAR dog, Chris also trained fully qualified SAR dog Merlin!  He writes a regular blog about his work as a 'Search and Rescue' handler, so if you would like to read more about his fascinating work with his very talented dogs, please pop over to: 

Chris and his fully qualified SAR dog Merlin

Please don't forget, the 4paws3peaks challenge takes place: 7th September 2014 from 00:00 until the 13th September 2014 00:00 

Regular updates will be made via Facebook 

and also on Twitter:

Me 'n Polly would like to take this opportunity to wish the Berkshire Search and Rescue Dogs' 4paws3peaks team, a safe, fun and successful challenge!!!!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Running true to form!

It seems my quiet word with Polly last week, may well have done the trick.  Obedience school went pretty well today and Polly noticeably turned on the charm for her heel work, tuning in to my instructions and clip clopping alongside me like a little angel ...

Miss Polly also managed to stop fidgeting for long enough to complete a full 'down stay' at distance too (and believe me, there was a time I thought that would never happen!)  We're still working towards me being 'out of sight' while her ladyship stays put, but so far, so good.

Polly has been attending school for a year now, so she's become used to Kevin's (instructor) commands and will sometimes pre-empt them.  Today, during the 'downs, sit and stays, with formal recalls' exercise, she was cheekily performing a 'down' as soon as she heard the code word 'blue'.  I pointed this out, so Kevin changed code words, making Polly listen harder (before she could get too big for her boots!)  It wasn't long ago that Poll was fairly easily distracted during this exercise and I was anxious she would run off to disturb the other dogs, but today she did everything exactly as I asked - progress indeed!

The aspect of training I was most happy with today, happened during our 'off lead group walk'.  Polly was her usual excitable self on arrival despite her pre-school walk.  She launched into lively play with young Otis (lab) and Hugo (cocker spaniel), but after one firm correction early on, I spied her running with the other dogs having fun, but leaving the rougher play to the two younger dogs.  When the boys became overly excited, she even came away when I asked her to, returning to me like a good girl while the boys were having a right old bundle on the field AND she obliged me with a very polite down stay!  As far as Polly is concerned, this is an improvement in play behaviour and one I've been praying we might eventually achieve.  I think with a little more maturity under her belt and lots more work on recalls with distraction, somewhere in the hopefully-not-too-distant-future we might achieve a reliable recall when there are other dogs in the vicinity (and a less frantic level of play in general).

Speaking of which ... 

For the second time running, we failed to achieve the agility course leader board.  Why?  Well, probably my lack of faith in being able to keep enough of Polly's focus off lead on the course without treats didn't help, but aside from that, people and other dogs are far more interesting to Poll at present.  She sat calmly by the starter pole while I unclipped her lead, thinking 'come on Poll, you can do this' - after all, she'd done pretty well on the equipment previously, even tackling the scary big seesaw with steady grace!  On my first command, Poll leapt over the hurdles, ran through the tunnel ... then continued running to the other side of the field to say hello to Otis!  Course abandoned, recalls ignored!  

Which neatly sums up why I haven't been allowing Polly to run free wherever there are unknown dogs on our daily walks, (unless she is off lead with a friend because then she's happy to run with her pal and not bother too much with other dogs).  Poll now has a good solid recall when just the two of us are out and about and she is usually good at recalling from play with other dogs on the school training field these days, but as yet, I am still not completely convinced I can trust my sociable miss not to tune me out when other dogs distract her in the real world.  And to think, one of the main reasons I chose the golden retriever breed was their reputation for being very friendly!!!! Lol!

All in all, I think it's fair to say we had a pretty good session today - definitely more fun than last week and I can definitely see progress in some of the trickier areas ... good girl Poll! :-)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Practisin' keepin' Mum happy!

Mum had a 'quiet word' with me after training today.  She reckons laying down and turning my back to her, then pretending I couldn't hear instructions when I was meant to be practisin' on the training mat, was a wee bit rude ... oh and then there was all the sniffin' when I was s'posed to be paying attention during heel work drills, apprently she wasn't too keen on that either ...

I thought I'd better remind her what a good girl I was about coming back as soon as she called at playtime and then she had to admit, my recalls were pretty damn smart today.

She said it wouldn't have been so bad all things considered, if I had just walked nicely to heel during agility practice, rather than tugging a bit, but I pointed out, I did do my down stays like a good girl while she built jumps and I didn't run off to play with anyone else this week - then she remembered my fab A frame display and how I crossed the 'steady' like an absolute superstar and how I didn't run off when I vroomed through the tunnel like a racing car ... well, she didn't really say that, but she did agree I did rather well.  Thing is, I liked doin' agility without my lead last week, but mum seemed to think I ought to keep it on this week because of new dogs in our group, especially that handsome German Shepherd Archie ... apparently he can be a little bit grumpy if you surprise him.  Mum said it's early days trusting me not to run off and spoil other dogs' fun and I told her I've outgrown all that childish nonsense, so please can we do it without the lead again soon?  She just said 'maybe', but wrinkled her nose, so I'm not sure if she really means it ...

Anyway, the upshot is, Mum says today's training at dog school wasn't my best, but it wasn't my worst either.  I couldn't really be arsed if I'm honest, besides which Mum was a bit floppy 'cos Dad's poorly neck keeps waking her up in the night.  I don't really mind tho', 'cos we went to the little nature reserve down the road this morning 'to let off steam' (whatever that means!) before school and it was so much fun runnin' and sniffin' and playin' hide 'n seek in the bushes with Mum ... seems to me it was Mum who ran out of steam today, not me!

I've promised to be a good girl at school next week and just to keep Mum happy and show her I haven't really forgotten everything she ever taught me and that I can hear her really, I did my practice on 'mat' when we came home ... 'Polly stand', Polly sit', 'Polly down', 'Polly stand', 'Polly sit', 'Polly down' ... geez it's so borringgggg!!!!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Where did all the crunchy tall corn go and what on earth are those big round monsters now on yellow field?!

It sure is confusing being a dog some days ...

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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