Monday, 3 April 2017

The day Brian pulled me into a bog, and I knew something needed to change

Morning all!

Laura here, stealing the weekly blogspot from Morag, to offer some thoughts from a bit of a different perspective.

Brian and I had a bit of a disastrous walk this week (for me anyway; he had a lovely time!).  For those who don’t know,  I spent most of last year looking for the right dog to come and live with us and eventually we found Brian (or maybe Brian found us?) just before Christmas.  I grew up with dogs, but that was a while ago and I've never had my own dog.

So, we’re still getting used to each other, and sometimes it really, really shows.

Take this week, for example.  One of the things we have learnt about Brian in the few months that he has been living with us is that he really, really likes bunnies.  He likes bunnies in the way that makes him lose his brain, forget that we exist and desperately strain against the lead.

In retrospect, therefore, taking him for a walk in a bunny-zone around dusk may not have been my wisest life choice.

Imagine this situation – we’re in an open green space.  It’s a little bit damp, but pretty solid underfoot, except for a few particularly boggy areas that never really dry out, no matter the time of year (can you guess where this story is going?).  The sun is setting, colouring the whole area in this deep, burnt orange.  Brian is on his long line, because we’re still working on his reliable recall, and he’s having a lovely romp around. 

Then he smells the bunnies....

Brian heads for the trees with laser focus, pulling me behind him.  He skirts one of those perpetually boggy spaces, and then turns a sharp left.

The mud is cold and sticky and it stinksI’m covered from shoulder to foot and it’s soaking through all my layers, I have splashes all over my glasses so I can’t see properly, Brian is so focused on the bunnies that he hasn’t even noticed and, off to my right, I can see someone standing and watching me fail to walk my dog.

All I can think, having scrambled out of the mud pit to stand there filthy and dripping and smelly, is “we should have spent more time working on getting focus back”.

Does that sound familiar?  Do you ever feel like there are so many things you want to work on with your dog but, between work and family and all the other commitments you have, it gets hard to find enough time to do everything?  Do you ever find that you’re making huge progress in one area (Brian’s settle is getting so good) but going backwards in another?

My plan is, well, to make a more detailed plan for our training.  We’re pretty bad in my house for doing ad hoc training (“I’m going to do some training with Brian, what shall we work on?”) and that means we neglect some things and focus too much on others.  As there are two of us working with him, we double that risk (“ah, Laura will have worked on recall, I’ll just work on settle”).  So, I think there needs to be a timetable!  We’ll probably fail to stick to it all the time – life gets in the way, after all – but at least this way we’ll know when we’ve missed things.

I’m open to suggestions though.  Let me know - how do you fit in all the essential training?  What approaches have worked (or haven’t worked!)?  It’d be great to draw up a list that we can share with everyone so that we can all find the best training strategies that fit for our dogs and our lives.

Fingers crossed for a super-organised week!


PS here's a quick and easy way to make sure you cover the main priorities each week when you're training

PPS Coming to weekly classes is a great incentive to get that homework done, and we have a couple of places available on our Adult Foundations class starting next Monday (10th April) at Tockwith, 7.15pm. Working on reliable recalls, focus and attention, loose lead walking and dealing with real life distractions.

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