Dog Blog #12 – Over Halfway Through January

January is still not my favourite month, but at least it has stopped raining. Instead we have to contend with literally freezing temperatures again but can now spend a bit more time in the garden and enjoy a dry walk or two – by sticking to the pavements and wrapping up warm with lots of layers. This week we have had our third hour-long training session with Fleur. It is fair to say that Margot was not on her best behaviour at all. Subsequently, we have lots to reinforce as far as her training is concerned. (It made me think back to a conversation I had with my brother over the Christmas period when I asked the guru how long it took him to train his dog Dexter – who is extremely well-behaved. His answer: “About two years.” I wasn’t expecting that. We’re in this for the long haul then.)

And this morning on our training walk, Margot and I crossed paths with a sweet, calm Bassett which she predictably jumped all over. I didn’t blame him for barking at her and hoped it might teach her a thing or two. I’d love to know how to encourage our pup to show better manners towards other dogs or indeed better manners all round. She gets so excited and jumpy every time. Even the very basic command ‘Sit’ goes out of the window or falls on completely deaf ears.

It’s stopped raining – Back outside

It is clear that Margot certainly feels at home in our garden when she has the chance to trot around the flowerbeds and bound across the lawn – what’s left of it anyway. With all the rain we have had, the grassy ground had become waterlogged which meant Margot would stick to the less boggy outside edges. All of the photos above see her in and around the plants in the flowerbeds. (Fortunately, the roses have had a bit of a break this week!)

As she still avoids all of muddy puddles when we walk across to the common (a feat in itself at the moment) this labradoodle demonstrates that she really doesn’t like to get her feet wet. I’m pretty sure that somebody told me once that this breed loves swimming – the oracle that is Google describes them as ‘natural swimmers’. Interesting. I guess only time will tell if our pup fits this mould or not.

It was cold back in December but this is Margot’s first experience of ice in the garden after the puddles of rain froze overnight. I’m not sure biting at it with her teeth is a sensible option, but maybe it is soothing on her gums – more about the teething situation later on. (I think she looks really big in this picture. At five months old I wonder what proportion of her adult size she has reached?)

Training Update

Our trainer Fleur was kind enough to come and see us on a Sunday last weekend for our final session so that we could all be involved again. Hugely important if consistency is the key. The first aspect of Margot’s behaviour that we touched on was her constant jumping up at the kitchen work surfaces – and us – as well as scratching at the door and whining when we are eating and we put her in the room next door. We have been trying to ignore the jumping up as much as possible by turning our backs, folding our arms and walking away, therefore not giving her any attention for the behaviour we are unhappy with. I’m still not sure that was working. Therefore, in terms of the consequence, Fleur had us try levelling up. Making sure that Margot is wearing her harness and we have a lightweight puppy lead attached, if she jumps up, she is removed out of the kitchen until she calms down. Fleur gave us a few examples of this and thought we would have to work on it for some time. (When I said before that our pup was naughty whilst Fleur was with us, there were ample opportunities to demonstrate this consequence…) We have tried it a few times and so far are not 100% convinced. I’d love to hear other people’s success stories with this aspect of training.

So, it looks as though we should have been actively crate training since the beginning too. It isn’t acceptable for Margot to scratch at the door or on the glass whilst we are eating in the kitchen and if she was secured in the crate, this problem would be solved. Here our pup demonstrated just what a quick learner she is as it took very little time to entice her in and to encourage her to lie flat. She didn’t appear distressed either when we shut the gate and pulled the two latches across. There was a little bit of whining at first when we walked away but this didn’t last long. Fleur also suggested that we put a marker down in front of the crate door which shows Margot that we are unavailable. (She recounted a story of a Labrador whose owners used the same method and even once they stopped using the crate, their dog would stay on its mat all night and not move until the marker was picked up in the morning. That level of understanding and behaviour seems off the scale to us at the moment.)

When we went outside into the garden, Fleur asked us to show her our method of walking Margot on the two-point harness. P was keen to take the lead on this and she did a great job. The trainer told us to keep the lead short and to continually praise and treat the good behaviour. If she pulls, stop and wait for her to come back.

I have to be honest and say that I prefer using the clip on the back of the harness but attaching both ends of the lead to this. It’s easier to reach initially, avoids any biting or chewing of the lead as it’s away from Margot’s mouth and I find that I have more control as I don’t have to juggle the front and back of the harness at the same time. The lead is automatically short too. In the spirit of openness, I discovered this after a frustrating case of not being able to attach one end to the front ring. You can see in the picture above that this week she has a new red harness, which fits her better as it’s not so tight around the belly. The lead has the tendency to twist, but otherwise walking her is a more positive experience. Margot will sit and wait at every kerb before crossing the road and also when I stand still to counterbalance the pulling. Next we need to work on her stubbornness at times. Small steps and all that.

J took her out for a second short walk this week when he arrived home from work. I’m still not really clear about whether our pup needs one or two walks a day. However, later that evening she was shattered, completely overtired as if she didn’t know what to do with herself. Perhaps we should stick to a bit of extra lead walking in the garden instead?

Teething / Chewing

This week we have seen actual evidence of Margot’s teething – one of her molars fell out into J’s hand and another one landed on the kitchen floor with a plink. No wonder she is continually chewing like mad. Her mouth definitely looks different and her teeth aren’t as sharp. Therefore she must have lost quite a few of her puppy teeth. Occasionally, she seems a bit bitey, but I am pleased to say that this aspect of her behaviour has definitely improved. I feel like my clothes are certainly safer than they were…

Imagine our shock then when we came back from a walk on the weekend to find that our pup had taken a chunk of plaster off the wall. Just like with children, I wondered if this was attention-seeking behaviour or simply down to boredom being on her own. J has filled the hole with Polyfilla to fix the problem – and we will continue with the crate training for when we are out of the house to ensure that Margot (and our walls) are safe. (We have also bought a second bottle of the bitter apple spray as this works as a deterrent too!)

Margot says…

‘I have the big people wrapped around my paws. When I want a treat, all I have to do is something naughty, like biting on one of the mats or jumping up at the counters. You see, all it takes is catching their attention, I stop, lie flat or sit and I am given a treat. Easy peasy. I hope they don’t catch on. I’m spending a bit more time in my crate during the day at the moment. It gives me an excuse to rest as there’s nothing else to do, which is a bit of a relief to be honest. Being out in the garden is still fun even if it is cold and the ground is very hard.’

Margot Asleep

And finally…

Final photos from this week: Foxy is now completely armless and I have been trying to train Margot to identify a specific toy from a selection on the floor and bring it to me. She takes toys out of the box to play with – if I can teach her to pick them up and put them back inside the box, that would be amazing. Next stop… Britain’s Got Talent?

Next week… who is leading who? and we will almost be into February at last.

Please feel free to comment, share and spread the word.

2 responses to “Dog Blog #12 – Over Halfway Through January”

  1. Thanks for the post, K. I think you have worked very hard to improve her manners since this update. Her behaviour is so linked to her tiredness imo. 👍


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