This week we tried something new with Margot – a session of gun dog training. On two separate occasions, two different people had recommended this local training club, saying that it had been brilliant for their dog’s behaviour, and more importantly, their dogs had absolutely loved it. My contact with this club beforehand was really positive. The lady I sent my email query to was certain that it would be exactly what our young pup needed to help with her recall, her retrieval and her interaction with other dogs.
As you will discover below, our pup was not in the same league as the other ‘novice / beginners’ and we did well to stick out the whole hour. The actual training was top-notch. But it did make me realise that we have a lot of work to do with Margot as regards socialising with other dogs and her recall when there are lots of distractions around.
Gun Dog Training
We mentioned that we were intending to try out this training to the lovely Alice, our favourite veterinary nurse we saw for the monthly weigh in (14.85kg currently if you’re interested). She agreed that it should help with Margot’s interaction with other dogs as well as her general (dis)obedience and recall. A word of warning though: they wouldn’t like her harness and would be encouraging a slip lead instead. Also, there could be some waiting around during the session as the groups might be on the large size.
We arrived with an open mind, but soon feeling like fish out of water compared with the other dogs, who instantly appeared better behaved. Our nervousness didn’t improve when the trainers looked perplexed that we had chosen this session, suggesting that the puppy classes might have been better. One of them told me that I’d need to get hold of a slip lead as soon as I’d filled in the form…
The website had encouraged youngsters to take part in the training, which meant dragging P out of bed earlier than she’d liked on a Sunday morning. However, only one handler was allowed with each dog in the group. P and I watched from the side, the cold biting into our hands with each minute that passed.
To begin with, Margot was at her most excitable. With the first task walking her on a lead weaving in and out of the other dogs and their owners in the group, it was clear to everyone that we were in the wrong class. P was very embarrassed, J was very frustrated and I tried to help by swapping over and trying to be the handler every so often.
It wasn’t all a complete disaster though…
The teacher of our group was really impressed with Margot’s retrieval, said that her recall was pretty good for six months old and he couldn’t believe how nothing phased her when everyone watched her jump all over another Lab three times her size. He did say that he thought the puppy classes might be more suitable to reinforce the basics and asked us to contact the lady in charge again for further advice. (She was on holiday this week.) We shall have a think where to go next. The training was excellent in terms of waiting control and recall, but it’s fair to say that it was a tough hour or so. (It was so stressful I forgot to take any photos too!)
Monday was the start of another week. On our jaunt around the local common, Margot and I met a very friendly dog walker with his cocker spaniel called Patch, aged 11 months. I took her off the lead so that she could have the freedom to do what she always wants to do: run around and play. The two of them got on like a house on fire. And my little win occurred when Margot came back to me when I called her even whilst she was mid-play. This lovely gent suggested I practise off lead recall in a fenced-off area of open land not far away from the common. I hadn’t known of its existence before so we checked it out on the way home.
When I am on my own, I am less confident than J and very nervous about letting Margot off the lead. But this area was perfect for us both. She stayed pretty close to me but was able to explore.
I managed to take some photos of our pup running back to me when I called her. This was a very proud moment for me. Hopefully with practice this will continually improve.
Puppy Play Date
As Margot had got on so well with Patch, we agreed to meet the following day for another run around in that open area. You would have thought that the half hour of chasing, running around and jumping over each other would have tired them out, Margot especially, but she continued to try and gain his attention when we were back on the common.
When I expressed my delight at our pup trotting sensibly alongside Patch when we were walking at heel next to the road, I definitely had spoken too soon. It didn’t last as long as I’d have liked. But baby steps in the right direction and all that.
I am being allowed a bit more freedom out on our walks at the moment. I really like being able to go and sniff in lots of different areas, but I always keep one eye on my owner and stay quite close. Whenever she throws her arms out to the side, I know it means to run on over, which I can do at high speed. I always get a tasty treat too so it’s worth stretching my legs just for that.
Next week… any signs of that first season yet (at almost seven months old)?
Please feel free to leave a comment, share and spread the word.