Tag Archives: Heel work

Who’s a dummy??!!

5 Feb

After lots of hill walks I decided Rudy and Rio would benefit from a slower paced walk, more controlled, more confined and to them, ultimately more boring!!!! Anyway, decision made we set off for some local fields with a training dummy. For those who don’t know, a dummy is a training aid used to encourage dogs to retrieve an object and bring back to the owner. Working dogs use these weighted dummies to prepare them for when they get out in the field and have to bring back pheasants.

Training dummy

Training dummy

After the dogs had had some fun running round and doing what needs to be done, we did some heel work and general whistle recall work so there was a fighting chance they would be interested in what I wanted them to do!! The field we were in has plenty of long grass and hedgerows which both dogs love to explore!!

I called them both to me and had them sit. Rio sat and gazed at me intently his whole back end swaying as he wagged his extra long tail!!! Rudy…hmm well as usual Rudy sat slightly apart and gazed intently…into the distance!!! Clearly not impressed that his fun had been curtailed and equally determined to blank me just so I knew what crime I had committed!!!

Keen as mustard!!

Keen as mustard!!

Ok so far so good..ish!!! I had the dogs smell the dummy and said “mark”. Again Rio studied it carefully while Rudy couldn’t have cared less!! I threw the dummy into a clearing not too far away and both dogs waited for the command to retrieve. After a few moments I told them to “go back” and Rio ran straight to the dummy, picked it up and proudly ran back to me, tail wagging frantically!! Rudy had sort of mooched toward it and got side tracked and had a pee instead !!

Ok second go. Again both dogs smelled the dummy and waited as I threw it, this time a few feet further and into some longer grass. At the command Rio sprinted to the area and again found the dummy straight away, retrieved it and brought back ,if not directly to me then in my general direction!! As Rio had set off I had see Rudy out of the corner of my eye take off in completely the opposite direction!! Clearly from the look on his face this was SO DULL he took it upon himself to do his own thing!!

Rio was loving it so much I decided to just do it with him instead and let Rudy get on with it!! After a few more throws Rudy came back and joined in. I swear dogs are like kids !! Once Rudy realised he was getting no attention he wanted to play again!! I almost felt sorry for him as although he can find the dummy most times, he is slower at it than Rio!!

After about 10 minutes Rio was so over excited I called a halt to it before he spontaneously combusted on the spot!!! He wouldn’t leave my side thou as the dummy was in my pocket so we went off up the track with me walking and him doing his best kangaroo impression and yes Rudy skulked along too!!!

It was really good to see Rio doing so well and I guess I just have to accept they are different dogs and Rudy just isn’t that interested!!


You go your way and I’ll go mine!!

23 Jan

Walking Rudy and Rio yesterday in the snow through our local fields as I can’t get on to the hill, I wondered what other dogs are like on a walk? I mean my 2 run like crazy, so fast and cover so much ground so quickly and often in separate directions, it can be tricky to keep track of them both!!

Listening..for 2 seconds!!

Listening..for 2 seconds!!

The first 2 fields lead across to more open land but there is a small lane at the end that when the roads are not covered in snow would be used sporadically for local people and farmers to access their homes. So really I need to get Rudy and Rio back and either put them on their leads for a few minutes or get them listening to me and walking to heel just while we cross the lane.

They have had about a week of not too much training and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly they get out of the habit of listening to instruction!! They are so excited to be galloping round in the snow they find it really hard to calm down sufficiently to take direction and actually do as they are told!!!! I had to make them sit for a minute just to relax then we tried both walking to heel.

I knew they only had to do it for a couple of minutes but guess they didn’t so they lunged around, 1 trotting off too quickly and having to be called back into line, 1 trying to dive headfirst into the hedge after a smell etc etc etc!!! To say it was frustrating was an understatement!! We kept going though and I just wished they could be calmer and WALK not run everywhere!!!

Ring leader??!!

Ring leader??!!

We made it into the next field and I let them go again and they had a lovely time in and out of the hedgerows, tails wagging constantly!! They really are such a happy breed of dog it makes me smile every day!! At the top of this field there is again another lane and Rudy has a habit of ducking through the hedge and racing into the opposite field. Not every time, but too often for my liking so I have to keep an eye that he doesn’t shoot under there. Of course there was no traffic here either so no danger from vehicles but the dogs SHOULD listen and not do as they like!!!

Rudy shot under the hedge and Rio followed so I whistled and bellowed and they pretty much came straight back but I wondered do other peoples dogs always have to push the boundaries and do things they know are wrong?? Is it Rudy leading Rio astray? They are like 2 naughty schoolboys!!! 1 daring the other into the next misdemeanour!!!

They see fences and hedges and gates as things to be ducked under, dived through, jumped over. They are objects of fun to be enjoyed at every given opportunity, not barriers to keep them out of places!!! No Rudy and Rio never just mooch along slowly and to be honest if they ever did I would think there was something amiss!!!

Two steps forward …and 3 back!!

10 Jan

I really enjoy training Rudy and Rio and usually we get some pretty good results as their breed, Working Cocker Spaniel, are naturally intelligent and keen to take instruction.

With that in mind we were doing some more recall whistle work and heel off lead etc the other day and all was going extremely well. Both dogs had had their free run to blast off some energy at the start and were enjoying the work. Yes I thought I’ve got this sussed!!! I tried something new but it didn’t quite happen!! I don’t know if it was because I didn’t show them clearly enough what I wanted or if it will start to sink in when we try again?

Basically I asked them both to sit and then tried to make Rio wait while Rudy walked to heel with me. Hmm…Rudy happily came but so did Rio!!! So I sat him again and tried to take just Rudy but again Rio came!! His little face was a picture!! He looked quite upset at being left out!! It was pitiful!! We tried a couple more times then I let him walk with us too and he was so happy his tail wagging frantically from side to side!!!

So back to the drawing board with that one for now but usually when we come back to something they seem to remember the idea and we will probably get on better next time!!! It certainly keeps me fit having to go back and forth so many times but when the penny drops and we achieve something new, the feeling is amazing!!!

Anyway just as we were walking back along the track in the direction of the car and I was cheerfully congratulating myself on the huge improvement Rudy and Rio had shown, a pheasant screeched from miles away. I was not quite quick enough to call the dogs back and quick as a flash both had ducked under the fence and shot off across the field heading for where they thought said pheasant may be!!!

Despite me calling and whistling repeatedly they were both struck stone deaf and carried on regardless!!! There followed a period of about 3/4 minutes when I was just stuck waiting for them to come back, whistling at intervals and getting madder and madder by the minute. Then I started to get slightly concerned as I couldn’t actually see them even in the furthest hedgerow but there was no way for me to get to them so I just had to wait…and wait…and wait!!!

Sorry Mum!!!

Sorry Mum!!!

Eventually I saw Rio coming back across the field but no sign of Rudy. The next minute Rudy appeared from a completely different direction!! Both dogs were shattered and I have no idea how far they had run but suffice to say the walk ended pretty abruptly then!!!

A horrible experience and one which made me realise dogs have their own minds and their own wills and they are not always going to listen to me when their instincts take over!!

“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.
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