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“A” Grade students…or Class clowns??!!!

8 Jan

For the past couple of days I have concentrated on quality walks rather than quantity. We have walked locally around Winchcombe and Sudeley Castle and incorporated lots of simple training . We usually start the walk with Rudy and Rio off the lead in the field so they can do what comes naturally!!! When they have had about 20 minutes free running and covering the ground like their lives depend on it, I rein them in a bit and calm them down enough to be able to concentrate!!!

Fun time

Fun time

We did lots of heel work off lead sometimes with one dog either side of me and sometimes with them both on one side. They are surprisingly good at this..I say surprisingly,  as regular readers will know what terrors they can be for pulling while ON the lead!!!

Rudy was positively angelic tip toeing along practically against my leg while Rio took advantage of being on the outside and managed to sneak ahead by a couple of paces!!! I’m sure passers by would think I had tourettes as I hiss, click my fingers, tut, growl and mutter at the dogs to keep them sharp and listening to me!!! I figure if I keep nagging them vocally it will become “white noise” and they will become immune to it so I try to vary things and it does actually seem to work.

I see their ears twitch when I hiss and they slow down and come back into line with each other and me. Every time I stop I ask them to sit. This always starts in the same vein…I stop. They stop. I say “sit”. They stay standing. I say “sit” again. They remain standing. I hiss/ tut/growl/stamp my wellie etc and finally the penny drops and they sit, albeit begrudgingly!!!

After a while this process speeds up and usually one or other will get really quick and sit as soon as asked while the other will take the view that they are safe for an extra nano second to stand and look longingly into the vast empty field next to us!!!

When we have done enough of the heel work Rudy and Rio get to charge about like mad things again interspersed with whistle recall work which they love!!! They can be running full tilt along the track side by side seeing who can run fastest ( Rudy!!) and I give 2 blows of the whistle and they turn together, in synch as if attached at the hip and come running back  towards me at the same speed, waiting to see if I am going to ask them to stop or send them past me.

A couple of sessions of this and we resume some heel work or some sit and waits.  Depending how much time we have after doing the sit and waits together  I try to get them to use their brain even more by asking them to both sit and wait then calling them to me separately. This can be fairly hit and miss!!! Usually they both still come together so I have to take them both back and sit them and not go as far away before telling one to wait and calling the other to me.

You have to see the funny side as I call Rudy who is vacantly looking around and Rio who is hovering just above the ground desperate for the command to come!! I call Rudy and Rio comes and vice versa!!! Eventually if we get one right we celebrate… me with a woop woop and them with a bark!!!

I really enjoy trying to teach them new things but have learnt little and often is the best approach and if you don’t expect too much you won’t be disappointed!!!!

All that training's hard work!!

All that training’s hard work!!


Do the stomp!!!!

19 Dec
Waiting for instruction

Waiting for instruction

This  is part 4 of the training I did in the summer with Jeremy Organ, Spaniel specialist. As usual things don’t always go according to plan!!!  Well how boring would that be???!!!

Rudy, Rio and I have been frantically practising all our heel work since our last lesson with Jeremy. We were determined to impress!!! Rudy and Rio walked like angels into the paddock and Rudy even managed not to pee on Jeremy’s best plant as we went through the gate!!! They then sat and waited with me while Jeremy went off to get a dummy to practise some retrieving work.
We then walked (calmly and without pulling me over) into the surrounding fields which were sectioned off with electric fence. Jeremy assured me it was turned off but still I thought it only fair to let him go first!!!
He took Rio and I set Rudy up for a retrieve. Jeremy made a weird noise to get Rudy’s attention and threw the dummy. Rudy waited then I gave him the command to fetch said dummy. Hmm well…..that was the plan but Rudy just fancied a little mooch about in the hedgerow having a good sniff!!!  I called him back and set him up again wondering if he was just being a  bit dim or actually just not interested? It would appear the latter was true!!! Little so and so just put his head down and did his best bloodhound impression hoovering the edge of the field!!!!
Jeremy put him back on his lead and he had to sit and watch Rio who was actually really good!!! Again the same thing. Rio had to sit and wait while Jeremy threw the dummy, then I sent him to retrieve it. Rio loved it and happily brought the dummy straight back to me and let me take it off him without a struggle!! We did a few more and then set off into a huge field to practise their recall work.
I let the dogs off  1 at a time to show Jeremy what their recall was coming on like with the whistle. They were both good individually but not perfect . We let them both off together and Jeremy was quite surprised with the speed they run at!!! Then I had to recall them both together with the whistle and they were good. However when they didn’t come straight back one time Jeremy started growling things at them and they soon shot back to me!!!

Rio poised!!

Rio poised!!

The 1 time Rio didn’t come back to me  immediately, I had to stamp over to him growling “What do u think u are doing??” etc etc in a stroppy tone, obviously that came quite easily, and then put him back on lead walking backwards and jerking the lead while using the whistle to make him realise exactly what I was asking. Which was fine until my foot went down a rabbit hole and I fell straight back like a tree being felled!!! Rio very helpfully came and trod on my face to make sure I was ok!!!!! And Jeremy tried not to laugh too much!!!
We decided to call it a day at that point after I staggered to my feet and I have been sent away with my “homework”, to practise both heel work and recall.

Dogging in…

17 Dec
Sarah's dogs cooling off earlier in the year

Sarah’s dogs cooling off earlier in the year

A couple of months ago I was invited to go ” Dogging in” with a friend. I’m sure some of you will think this is rather risque subject to blog about but when you read on you will understand!!
Dogging in is the practise of using trained dogs, usually spaniels, to flush pheasants from the hedgerows surrounding fields to be ready for a days shooting.
Needless to say I didn’t take Rudy and Rio with me as they have not been trained to do this and I could only imagine the chaos that could have ensued if I had!!!
I arrived at Sarah’s farm at the pre arranged time to find her waiting in a small 4 wheel drive sort of buggy!! Her 2 Springer Spaniels, Purdey (8) and Jura (4) were in the back of the buggy along with her tiny terrier Lily!!  I think Lily has secret ambitions to be a field dog and there was no way she was going to be left behind!!!
So we set off around the fields with the dogs excitedly waiting in the back for Sarah’s command. When we arrived at our first destination Sarah told them to “get on”. The dogs leapt from the back of the buggy and started to systematically search the hedgerow and bushes for birds. Their sense of smell is amazing and soon pheasants were flying out in front of us!! Purdey and Jura have been trained by Sarah for just this job and they love it!! You can see they are in their element and know exactly what they need to do!!

Purdey doing what Springers do best!!!

Purdey doing what Springers do best!!!

Sarah and I drove round the edge of the fields as the dogs did all the hard work, they must cover miles each day!! When the field was covered the dogs jumped back into the buggy and we set off down roads and tracks to the next destination. Again the command was given and the dogs flew from the buggy and immediately set off, tails wagging, heads down with little Lily chasing after them as fast as her legs would carry her!!! She actually found a couple of stragglers that had hidden from the spaniels!!
As the morning progressed I was so impressed with the dogs. They have been trained so well, they know exactly what is being asked of them. They never jump out of the buggy until told to do so and however far away they are they always come straight back to a whistle from Sarah to continue the job!! Amazing !!
It certainly was a fantastic morning and made me want to do more and more training with Rudy and Rio!! I think it’s addictive and the more you do and achieve with your dog the more you want to try!!!  There are so many simple things that you can do , most of the time we just need to be shown how to train the dog!!
Sarah’s dog Jura recently had pups and she has kept 2!!! Greedy I think!!! Anyway these pups are her third generation and she has already started training them on a daily basis. They walk to heel happily both on and off the lead at just a few months old and will be well on their way to becoming really useful working dogs in the not too distant future!!!

The Hover Sit

12 Dec

Now for part 3 of the training sessions I had with Jeremy Organ. You may recall last time’s lesson had ended really well and we were all fired up with enthusiasm!!!

Well….things hadn’t gone entirely to plan!! Read on to find out why!!!

Well with some trepidation Rudy, Rio and I  approached training this week!!! The” heel” work  we had tried so hard to master had gone to pot with both boys together and even separately sometimes!! They had certainly become …shall we say “rebellious” ??  There are many other words I have used mostly under my breath with them but I don’t think they are for public consumption!!!
Jeremy saw the problem immediately and took charge and gave them both what for!! He was very strict especially with Rudy who was doing his whole looking anywhere but at you routine!! It’s a bit like if I can’t see you ,you can’t see me!!! I clearly remember the children doing the very same thing when they were younger!!!

La la la can't see you!!

La la la can’t see you!!

Jeremy did lots of heel work separately then with both dogs  together and sharpened everything up loads, i.e when u stop the dog should stop immediately and sit immediately and wait for the command to heel . Both Rudy and Rio were quite slow to start with and took some persuading but soon improved no end!!
They have perfected what can only be described as the “hover sit”. The dog looks like he is going to sit and starts to lower the back end to the ground, but never quite puts his weight down!! He just hovers in mid air!! In a sitting position just not actually sitting!!! This hover sit is usually accompanied by the look off into the middle distance in the vain hope you will look away too and they can get away with it!!
Jeremy then did some heel work where he dropped the lead across Rudy’s back and carried walking on as if still holding  it and as Rudy had not been aware of pressure from the lead anyway because  he was walking  properly, he didn’t notice the difference and happily continued to walk to heel and sit when Jeremy stopped!!
Jeremy then took both Rudy and Rio  together and Rudy broke ranks and came running back towards me with Jeremy sprinting after him!! What a sight to behold!!! He then started  again and  both dogs walked beautifully alongside him without leads!! Hmm methinks that could take a lot of practise!!!
I am amazed that such simple concepts can work and I live in hope that one day Rudy and Rio will walk like angels on their leads!!! snap
It rained the whole time and we were there an hour and 20 minutes and I LOVED it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I now have to practise all of the above as much as possible and go back in 2 weeks again.

The show must go on!!

3 Dec

I’m sitting down to write this blog with the Royal Variety Performance on the TV in the background. I have seen the trailer and I know that Ashleigh and Pudsey the dog are going to be performing. It has made me wonder how on earth Ashleigh has trained Pudsey to such an amazing standard?? I mean as an average dog owner I have trained Rudy and Rio to do various things like ” sit” “down” ” wait” in the house but how on earth do you progress from there to the sort of standard Ashleigh and Pudsey have achieved??

Ashleigh and Pudsey

Ashleigh and Pudsey

It must take hours, days, weeks, even years to perfect their routines. I remember the first time I saw them perform on Britain’s Got Talent . I watched in awe as the 2 of them moved perfectly in synch , Ashleigh dressed in leopard print and Pudsey dressed…well…as himself!!! And who could forget the Mission Impossible routine??!! Amazing!!

Somehow I don’t think I will be attempting anything like that anytime soon!!! Especially with the 2 of them together!! I do try to train them together. I make them wait in a different room while I hide treats then when I call them they have to sniff round ’til they find them. It’s funny watching them crash into each other in their haste to find more than their mate!! Rio quite often runs underneath Rudy, literally, which just lifts Rudy’s back legs off the ground long enough to put him off balance, meaning Rio gets to the treat first!!

And then there was the “cupboard” incident!!! It seemed perfectly normal to me!! I had just started to whistle train Rudy and Rio, calling them in from the garden with it etc to get them used to it. So one boring evening I decided to make them sit in the hall and wait while I hid…. In the cupboard!!!  Now it’s not as mad as it might sound!!! It’s a huge walk in cupboard within the front room, not a flimsy wall mounted affair!!!

So there I was happily ensconced in the cupboard, looking round mentally planning a huge clear out and pleased to find the book I thought I had lost. After a few minutes I thought I would blow the whistle to get the dogs to find me!! However at that moment my youngest daughter came downstairs, I heard the step creak so I knew she was out there and held my breath hoping she wouldn’t ask the inevitable!!

Peep peep!!

Peep peep!!

A moment later I heard her ask incredulously  ” Mum please tell me you are NOT hiding in the cupboard?”!!! I tried really hard to keep quiet but i just couldn’t help a sort of snort escape me and Mia opened the cupboard door with a look of utter contempt on her face!!!

“What??” I asked was at that point she informed me I really should get out more!!! Hmm I think she may have a point but the dogs love it…honest!!!

Hot Stuff!!

30 Nov

Eh?? What do you mean??

This is the 2nd installment of the training lessons I had with Jeremy Organ, Spaniel Officionado and all around nice guy!! It took place back in what we Brits laughingly called our ” summer”!!! This must have been the only hot day we had this year!!!

Rudy, Rio and I  arrived a few minutes early for our second lesson so we  sat in the boot of the car (well the dogs were in the boot , I was perched precariously on the edge! )  Whilst we sat and waited for Jeremy, Rudy had a great time watching the prize chickens in their coup again but at least we had no re enactment of last time!!!!

Chicken run!!

Jeremy came out to greet us and we decided  as it was so hot ( !! ) we would take them both through to the paddock together, so true to form they pulled a la husky through to the field with me practically horizontal behind !!
Well I did explain to Jeremy that I haven’t mastered 2 at a time yet!!! Unless it’s a 2 finger Kit Kat that is!!
Anyway we walked past a beautiful litter of 7 week old Springers Spaniels that Jeremy had bred and I thought that their training would probably start very soon!!! And how amazing they would no doubt end up..perfectly in tune with their owner, obedient and eager to please!!! At that point Rudy cocked his leg on Jeremy’s favourite tree as Rio lunged forward pulling me off balance for the hundredth time!!!
It was really hot which I’m sure had a positive effect on the dogs as they were both too hot to mess around too much!!!
We started with 1 dog each doing heel work. So I would walk forward with 1 dog and as soon as he started to pull against me I jerked the lead sharply, released and changed direction by 90 degrees. I continued  walking and every time there is tension on the lead you snatch the lead, release and change direction. The dog soon begins to grasp that if they walk calmly without pulling they are rewarded with a loose lead and no pressure. When they pull it feels uncomfortable for them and the fact that you change direction means the dogs really have to listen to you and be aware of your body language to know where you are heading and when.
Also every time you stop the dog is meant to sit immediately..something Rudy finds especially challenging!!!
Jeremy was suitably impressed with their improvement.YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  They were both really good individually so Jeremy decided the time had come to try them together!! Aarggh!!! Could I do this?? Would they go into “husky” mode? Would I fall over has been known?? I got hotter and hotter with fear and trepidation, my face ablaze , my hands clammy!!!
 However they were pretty restrained and again it all went quite well. Not as good as on their own but no Mary Poppins moments with me flying through the air, arms akimbo!!! We practised for around 10 minutes which was plenty both for Rudy and Rio and me!! I don’t know who had to concentrate more!! The dogs having to do as they were told or me having to remember a kind tone of voice and no shouting!!
We headed back into the paddock for a well earned drink ( The dogs I hasten to add, unfortunately Jeremy hadn’t chilled a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc for me!! ( selfish I thought!!)
After a short break Jeremy said we should do some recall work. He kept Rio on the lead and I let Rudy off so he was free to roam around the enclosed paddock. I then had to call him back. This started well and after quite a few successful efforts we added a new dimension. At a given point in the recall I had to try to make Rudy sit. Well I would release Rudy, let him get engrossed in sniffing around then call him. So far so good. I then bellowed ” sit” and held my hand up palm facing him ( the sit sign) and hoped for the best!! Rudy just looked slighty mystified and happily came right back to me!! Hmm this was going to be interesting!!

” SIT”…….please!!

It was a similar story with Rio although he did seem to pick things up a bit quicker and I started to feel like I was making some progress.
In between each lesson I have to practise every day which I either incorporate into our walks or in separate shorter sessions. I think this could take quite some time but it’s all good fun!!!

First training session

10 Nov
I decided earlier in the year that i needed expert guidance and help to get the most out of Rudy and Rio. I heard of Jeremy Organ form Southam, Springer Spaniel breeder, judge and all round spaniel lover. Needless to say, things didnt go according to plan, read on to find out why…..
Well the 1st lesson was good!!!
We arrived,he came out asked about dogs who were still in boot. He then said right let’s get one out and get started. I suggested Rudy first as he is more awkward!!  Rudy obliged by jumping straight out of the boot after being told to wait and kindly started to round up the guy’s prize chickens in their coup on the drive!!!
I think that set the general tone of things to come!! Of course despite me calling him he was struck temporarily deaf !!! The guy was totally unfazed though and held Rio while I got Rudy back.
So we walked..(well he walked and I of course was dragged at full sprint speed)..through to the enclosed field. We got there and Jeremy says “shall we begin with some heel work??!! I can help you sort that out!!”  I nearly kissed him but decided I would probably want to go for a return lesson so not the best idea!!  And obviously I looked very glam in the Dog Walker’s Uniform of wellies,jeans and anorak!!!!!!!!!!!!!
So he takes Rudy and starts to walk him round changing directions every time he pulls and a sharp jerk of the lead to show him what he wanted. Rude was typically quite horrified at having his Pheasant hunting interrupted with something sensible!!  Every time Jeremy stopped Rudy had to stop and sit. He found this shall we say quite challenging!!  Much growling and stamping of feet (by Jeremy) and much looking at me for help (by Rude) later he started to get the hang of it. Jeremy says Rudy is very stubborn.
However he started to look like a different dog after a while and then it was my turn. I expected it all to go horribly wrong but mostly it was really good,except I used wrong tone of voice sometimes but apparently I have a good growl!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Hmm not altogether sure that was a compliment!!!
After a while it was Rio’s turn. I told Jeremy he was completely different dog and quite biddable. So of course he dragged me through to field gagging and choking on the end of the lead too!!! Well I figure I have to give Jeremy something to work with!!!  Anyway as expected Rio picked it all up much quicker and was fairly easy,but Jeremy says obviously my biggest challenge will be walking them both properly at the same time.
I told him my dream was to have them walking on the split lead to heel. He said ok thats achievable so we will work towards that.
The lesson lasted about hour and a quarter and both beasts were shattered when we got home
After he had finished laughing at some of my mistakes he said he had really enjoyed the lesson!!  He then went on to explain he had taught two other lessons before me and was just at wilting point and wished he could just sit down with a cuppa but we were due.  However he said it had been very entertaining…not altogether sure that was a good thing either!!! But we did have a laugh and I look forward to next time.
So off home at lunchtime to practise !!!  He suggested each dog did about 15 mins as they have to really concentrate and then they can have some play time. He says it’s fine to carry on with their normal fun walks just try to incorporate some recalls etc at the same time.
Am hoping for a gold star next time (a buttercup picked from the field apparently!!) however we may end up with the dunce’s hat!!!!!
More next time x
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