We are into the second week of the Easter holidays now, but battling with the unpredictable weather. Most of the Easter weekend was glorious, warm enough to sit out in the garden, and spend a few hours chilling out in the sunshine with our pup. However, since the start of the week, the April showers have come back. Walking in the rain has more challenges and makes us less inclined to travel too far away from home. I hope the dry weather returns soon.
Last week I mentioned that J wanted to try training Margot with a whistle to add another weapon to his recall armoury. This is going well so far as you can read about in more detail below.
To begin with, J did some research about how to introduce the whistle. The video he watched advised taking small steps in the garden and using high-grade treats. Margot responded to the command to sit after which J gave a loud blast on the whistle before giving her a tasty treat, ones he had bought especially for this purpose. He tried this a few times for the first few days. (It didn’t seem that different to the early days when we were perfecting the sit to be honest. Apparently, the high-grade treats have to make it worthwhile for Margot to return whatever the distraction!)
Next, he began standing at the other end of the garden and blowing on the whistle. Our pup is a quick learner (and highly food-driven) so it didn’t take long for her to race across to collect her reward. J has tried this method of recall a few times when we have been out on a walk when the stakes have been higher – when a dog appears all of a sudden up ahead or we see a deer or two in the distance. So far, so good. It’s something else we need to remember to take out on a walk with us though. I haven’t tried using it yet either. I’ll keep you posted.
Out and About
On Easter Sunday we wanted to meet up with my parents and take Margot for a walk so we arranged to rendezvous at an old disused rifle range from the second world war where there are a number of tracks as well as lots of open spaces. Now a National Nature Reserve, I wasn’t surprised to see on our arrival a number of signs warning about keeping dogs under close control due to the ground nesting birds. The sign didn’t say we had to keep her on a short, static lead so J strolled on ahead and let Margot run free, but stuck to the paths.
It was a brilliant place to walk her off the lead. The tracks were wide, it wasn’t that crowded, at least to start with, even though there were a number of cars in the car park, and we were serenaded by the skylarks throughout. Our pup was very well behaved here, only jumping up at my parents a few times – and they have become very practised at turning their backs and keeping their hands in their pockets. She was able to interact with a couple of other dogs and fortunately kept away from any birds or their nests. It’s definitely a place I would like to explore again in future. There are even woods on the other side of the main road. At the moment the woodland paths look impassable without wellies though.
We stuck to the main tracks and skirted around the huge mounds. Next time we come back we should try leading Margot up to the top of these as I think it would be fun to stroll along the ridges. Amazing to think that 70 years ago this open space was used to train recruits in preparation for war.
Later in the week we took Margot on one of our favourite walks where a few years ago we set up a series of caches. (If you haven’t ever tried geocaching, check out http://www.geocaching.com for information about this fabulous outdoor treasure hunting.)
Very simply, all you need is a handheld gps device – or the geocaching app – an account you can set up for free on the website, and the desire to explore and search for caches or boxes of treasure. The gps will give you the distance and direction to the cache as the crow flies, although the app also shows you a map with footpaths so you don’t need to fight your way through brambly hedges, streams or across a field with a bull standing in the middle of it.
The caches themselves come in all shapes and sizes: old 35mm film canisters, tupperware boxes and even ammunition tins. Inside, if the container is big enough, it’s not so much treasure, but often the sorts of surprises you find inside Christmas crackers.
Over the years we have found caches in Penang, Seattle, the Isle of Wight and in our home county of Dorset. The fun is in the finding and going on a walk in order to do so. Our favourites are the ones in a series where there are a number of caches along a circular route. I’m sure Margot will become the next geohound in no time. We’ve come across a number of dogs with their owners whilst on our past geocaching adventures. Highly recommended.
I don’t know if you can pick out the two deer in one of the pictures above, but on this walk we actually spotted six. (Unless it was the same pair three times…) Mindful of a comment someone made on our local canine Facebook group about dogs chasing deer into the forest, and not coming back, we were quick to put Margot back on the lead each time we saw them. However, she didn’t seem interested in these creatures at all. There was perhaps a pointed look, but no imminent sprint.
In fact, the splooting, or lying flat out on the grass mid-walk is becoming more of a problem. None of us feels that we can drag her along, but sometimes it is almost impossible to get her up and walking again. Even with a treat. What’s that all about? I’m open to any kind of suggestions as to how we can move forward with this behaviour trait.
Our pup has never really been one for cuddles. She didn’t like being picked up when she was small and there are times when she clearly wants her own space. Recently, she has become more affectionate, lying on our feet, putting her head in a lap or allowing P to put her arm around her. We are all very pleased about this change in her behaviour at home.
That whistle sure is loud. But when he blows it, I know there is a really tasty treat coming so it is definitely worth responding. I run back as fast as my legs will carry me when I hear the toot.
We have been on some longer walks to different places with rich smells and long grass to lie in. I like the woods with the tracks and trails. The best bit is bumping into other dogs we have met before and chasing them around.
Next week… it’s back to school for P&J.
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