This week we are all on holiday together and it seems as though spring is trying to springboard its way onto us. We are faced with milder temperatures, spells of sunshine, birdsong continually filling the garden and even the signs of new blooms – well, snowdrops at least. The season of spring may not have completely arrived just yet, but it is certainly spring-like a lot of the time to raise all of our spirits.
Walking with the World and his Wife (and their dogs!)
On the first weekend of the half-term holiday, we took a trip to a local stately home. The idea was to introduce Margot to the Woodland Walk, keep a low profile and hopefully spot a few snowdrops along the way – which this National Trust property is famous for.
In all of the photos above, the place looks deserted, but I can assure you that it was absolutely rammed. From the difficulty in finding a car parking space in the overflow car park, to joining the queue to enter with an excited puppy as well as meeting other people and dogs every few metres whilst walking through the woods.
It was a total disaster and we almost turned back after Margot launched herself towards yet another dog or a family pushing a pram. We felt like the worst dog owners in the world and completely judged by everyone we passed. Those people who thought she was cute and came over to pet her probably assumed they were being kind, but in essence they simply encouraged her to jump up, which is exactly what we are trying so hard to drill out of her. It was a relief to get our pup (and all of us) back into the car to be honest.
The Long Line
In our drive to improve Margot’s recall, we have invested in a 10m long line.
The following day we decided to try something different. This time we took the new 10m long line and drove to a place with large open spaces. (Last week I crossed tracks with a dog owner whose puppy was only a couple of months older than Margot and yet he was streets ahead in terms of his behaviour. He was off the lead, walking at his owner’s heel past a mother with a baby in a pram and completely under control. When I asked him his secret, all he could tell me was that his dog had been walking off a lead for months. He suggested we get hold of a long line to give Margot a bit more freedom and us the confidence to practise the recall training without the fear of her running off.)
Walking with the long line was a revelation. What a joy. Margot was able to run about and she did respond when we each called her name and gave her the command to ‘Come’. There were still lots of dogwalkers here too, but in the great open space, most kept their distance. (There were a couple of older ladies who were keen to share their experience with us. The more assertive woman had ‘always taken her dogs off the lead right from the start’, ‘never needed to use a crate’ and ‘none of her dogs had ever shown any destructive sides to their character’. Note to self – stop revealing to other dog owners that we are so new and inexperienced to avoid the advice which just ends up making us all feel bad!)
However, even with the irritating interlude, this was by far and away the most positive training experience we have had for a while and we are all really keen to do it again. I’m sure Margot is too. We do need to be careful with the long line though in terms of how quickly it can run through our fingers when she runs off. It would be prudent to wear gloves to avoid the burning sensation or the paper cuts on hands when we want to prevent her from getting away from us quickly. There’s always stepping on it I suppose…
Incidentally, I meant to mention in last week’s blog that the veterinary nurse, Alice, told us that we didn’t need to limit Margot’s walking every day. According to her, the ‘five minutes per month of their life’ is a bit old-fashioned. It isn’t the amount of walking you should be wary of, but the type of exercise. So not too much of the high impact jumping up and down, like when chasing a ball for example, as it is this that is bad for their joints when they are still growing.
Since then, we have been less worried about the amount of time on the lead during the day – although we haven’t gone mad. But we have started taking Margot for two walks each day rather than just the one. I’m not sure if it tires her out any more than before as yet. I’ll keep you posted…
One of the things P enjoys doing with Margot when she gets home from school is trying to teach her new tricks. They have both mastered the giving and receiving of the paw, even managing both paws at the same time. (I haven’t managed to get our pup to do that.)
But what I have managed to teach her is to guess which hand the treat is hiding in. Hide a treat in one of my hands. Put both closed fists behind my back. Show Margot both hands and offer her the chance to give each one a jolly good sniff. If she can touch the hand which is hiding the treat with her paw, I open up my hand and let her have it. It’s ever so sweet. She has got quite long claws though so I have to be a bit careful not to play it too many times at once for the sake of the skin on my hands.
New Meeting with Old Friends
We have met up with different friends this week, some long overdue as they were ill over Christmas, so Margot has met some new people. We are a bit more prepared in how we let her greet them for the first time, but there is still rather more jumping up than we would like.
One of my friends who came over with her twins this week I have referenced in a previous blog. R is one of my favourite dog gurus, who has been incredibly supportive since the start. She has offered so much advice over the phone and via video messages as she has always lived with dogs. Her family also invited a Golden Retriever puppy into their home just over a year ago so she remembers what it is like.
Their first meeting with Margot was completely different to anyone else who has visited our house. All three of them sat on the floor and allowed our pup to play at being a puppy with them. They had the confidence to stop her from mouthing them and the consistency to tell Margot when they weren’t happy with her jumping on them. It didn’t take long for her to calm down. And the best part – they all said how wonderful she was, how well-behaved she was for her age and how well we were doing with her. R wanted to take Margot home with them. That type of compliment was music to our ears.
Car Travel now a Breeze
They have started taking me out for longer walks and more than once a day. I love it, especially when I am allowed on the longer rein, which gives me so much more freedom to run around. I don’t know why they don’t like me eating rabbit, horse and cow poo. Can’t they smell its delicious aroma? I did cough up a bit the other day when I tried to take such a large mouthful, but what do they expect when they keep dragging me away from it all the time? I can’t help it, honestly!
I like travelling in the car now. Especially if there is someone in the back with me. It’s cosy that I can rest my front paws on their lap.
Next week… more puppy socials, recall practice and back to the working week.
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2 responses to “Dog Blog #16 – It’s February Half-term”
Lovely to meet Margot this week, we all talked about what a lovely dog she is on the way home. You’re doing a great job, keep going- I am sure you will reap the rewards in the future.
Thanks, Amy – it was lovely to see you all this week and introduce you to Margot finally. Love your comment xx