Angus is now 15 weeks old and since the socialisation period ends roughly between 12-16 weeks we have been super busy making sure he gets plenty of positive socialisation experiences with plenty of time to rest in between.
He is doing really well and I’m so pleased that he has such a happy, confident and cheeky character. He does have the odd shy or unsure moment but I feel that for such a sensitive breed he is doing super!
I thought I would include some of the socialisation work we’ve been doing to give ideas for any other puppy owners out there. And if you don’t need any ideas then I hope you enjoy the photos and videos of a pretty cute pup (even if I do say so myself!).
During our time off earlier in the month we decided to pay a return visit to Pet & Country Dog Friendly Café and Pet Shop. It is a fairly long but lovely drive to the café with some beautiful scenery. I can never seem to capture the true beauty of it from the car, maybe next time we will stop to take some proper photos!
We had a look around the shop and then ordered a hot chocolate and a tray bake each. We had the hot chocolates the first time we came here and they were as delicious as we remembered! Bonnie settled well and the staff member who served us was lovely. We asked her to please ignore Bonnie as she can get overexcited and she listened to our request and didn’t try to make kissy noises, distract her from settling down or try to convince us it’s fine (whereas a lot of people try to interfere even after asking them not to).
Afterwards since we were already quite far from home we decided to drive a little further out to go to the seaside town of Portrush. We had a dander through town and went over to the pet shop Pets at the Port to have a little nosy. They had a pretty good selection but we just bought a Frozzy treat for Bonnie as it was quite warm out.
After Bonnie finished her treat we decided to walk further through town to the park that we had our re-enactment event at over the summer. I can’t even begin to describe how impressed and proud I was with Bonnie. She was able to walk past probably 100 people in close proximity. She walked past kids, adults, slow elderly people, people sitting outside a café and eating. And even more impressive was she did it mostly on a loose lead! This would’ve been unthinkable even a few months ago!
Bonnie being a total star
After all her good behaviour and great impulse control she was able to have a break and have a bit of fun off lead in the park. We mostly played around but did some recall training and I also did some work with “premacking” chasing birds. This meant that I asked for her to perform a cue then I would give her “permission” to go chase the pigeons nearby – the hope over time is that she will look to me for a decision when she sees a bird rather than immediately go to chase it. The great thing was after giving her access to one of her favourite things was that she actually kept coming back to re-engage with me as I was having fun with her rather than constantly restricting her.
After our fun at the park we travelled back through town to the fish shop. We bought a fish supper to share between us and went to sit down by the beach to eat it and enjoy the fresh sea breeze. I don’t think eating battered fish and chips get much better!
After I had my fill of the fish supper I thought I would leave my partner to enjoy the rest while I went down onto the beach with Bonnie. As she was behaving so well on an off lead I thought I would let her drag her leash and have a relaxing stroll along the beach with her. Unfortunately Bonnie had other ideas!
As soon as the leash hit the sand she spied a seagull and immediately took off! I hopelessly run after her shouting her name “Bonnie! Bonnie come here!” She takes absolutely no heed completely absorbed in her mission, the seagull flies off and Bonnie stops for a second. “Bonnie over here!” She spots the sea and it’s waves lapping onto the beach and sets off at full speed again. I’m still shouting and running after her – god can she run fast – terrified that she will start swimming out to sea as she loves water and swimming whereas I am the weakest swimmer you can come across!
She finally slows down tracking along the water’s edge and I get close enough to grab for her lead – got it! Then I realise the elderly man nearby was laughing his head off at the whole thing. And I look back to see my partner just calmly eating the fish supper (he said it was like having popcorn at the movies xD cheeky sod). Needless to say she stayed on lead for the rest of the time!
After all that adventure it was a long journey home and a very tired pup and 2 humans!
Last Tuesday on our time off we went on a little trip to the Valley park during the day. The last time we had visited here it was super busy as we went during the weekend so this visit was much more peaceful and relaxing.
We had a dander around the pond, checked out the little monuments around the park and just had a chilled out walk with no rushing.
When we got back to the car we still had plenty of treats in our treat bag, water for us and Bonnie and we had packed some sandwiches so we thought while we’re out why not stop along at Hazelbank park to have a walk and a picnic as we had nowhere to be or no errands to run!
We love Hazelbank park, it’s situated on the banks of Belfast lough and has lovely views. It’s quickly becoming one of our favourite spots and Bonnie is getting pretty used to it so can go off lead in certain spots which is great. We had a walk around the park, met another collie and it’s owner then settled back in beside the car park to have our little picnic. After we ate I did some trick training and just playing around with Bonnie which was a blast (You can see the video over on this post).
It was such a nice outing and we really enjoyed ourselves just living in the moment and not having to worry about rushing back home to get errands or work done. We ended up being out around 3 or so hours and I was so impressed with Bonnie – she really did behave brilliantly and she had a load of fun sniffing about, exploring, training and playing. We also made sure that she had some downtime while we ate and had plenty of water but she handled it like a champ!
It was a lovely walk as the weather was perfect, it was really quiet and the views are gorgeous.
I wore the Hurtta Hiker belt and used both the Hurtta training leash (reviewed here) and a cheap 10m long line. Bonnie wore her Palisades harness without the saddlebags as it would’ve been a bit too far as we are still building up endurance on shorter walks. I also made sure to pack water (for all of us) and her water bowl for breaks as we walked.
The forest had changed a lot since I last visited – it was very overgrown, there weren’t really any streams like last time and so many trees and their roots had been overturned from the wind but it’s still a beautiful forest and it was lovely to amble about and soak it all in. She got to have plenty of time “off leash” aka dragging the long line which let us capture what I think is one of Bonnie’s best photos of her recalling xD
Hehe what a little goofball! Needless to say we were all tired out from our fun adventure and maybe next time we won’t leave it for so long!
So after the eventful start to our week we had a quiet Friday then yesterday we had a little outing to Wallace Park which we had never been to before. We didn’t have an idea of what to expect but we went with the intention of playing Pokémon Go as we walked around with Bonnie as we had heard it was a Growlithe nest! As you can see below Bonnie wasn’t the biggest fan haha
It was a lovely little park and we had no bad incidences with other dogs or their owners or children so it was quite a pleasant walk. There was a little event on and there was a small petting farm set up which had the loveliest little donkey – Bonnie was okay until she was about 5 metres away then she seen it walk and look towards her so she got a little spooked, but she recovered quickly bless her.
There was a small pond at the park and as we all know Bonnie is not a fan of birds of any type and would chase them all day long if we let her so we decided to do a bit of training around them. She did great and was able to disengage on her own even only 2 metres or so away from the ducks but I accidentally let her get too close and she stuck her head through the bars of the fence to try to get at them the cheeky little monkey!
Afterwards we stopped off at Pets at Home (yes that dreaded place I said I didn’t want to support any more) as I wanted to buy a new antler for Bonnie and I don’t know anywhere else around us that stock them. Bonnie was fixated on the animals in their enclosures as usual but was very good around the other shoppers which there was quite a few of even though we specifically went near closing time to avoid others.
Needless to say she was pooped the rest of Saturday. Today we didn’t do much out of the ordinary except I started doing some mat (tea towel actually xD) training with Bonnie. I started just by reinforcing settled behaviour on the mat such as slow breaths, leg kicked out to the side, laying on her side and resting her chin on the ground. Then I started adding small distractions like crossing my legs, drinking water, playing with my camera etc with the aim of eventually being able to use the mat in higher distraction levels such as sitting at a dog friendly café. So there we go that was our week, hopefully next week won’t be as chaotic!
This weekend we decided to go to a Bark in the Park event at Crawfordsburn county park and see how Bonnie would get on since she was so great at the Cancer Focus NI event at Stormont. When we arrived at the car park the place was totally packed! We drove slowly around looking for a parking spot and had to brake as a Yorkshire Terrier ran out in front of our car, some woman was unloading her car and let the dogs out with no leads on! The one we nearly ran over was zooming all over the place, the woman wasn’t even properly trying to get it back – it clearly had no recall and it flinched when she reached for it’s collar 😦 It was a bit of a nightmare and we should’ve took it as a sign of things to come!
When we arrived at the event area we immediately knew this wasn’t going to be a suitable event for Bonnie. At the event at Stormont the stalls were well spaced out and there was plenty of room to move away if Bonnie got uncomfortable but this event was soo packed. The stalls were very close, the paths were narrow, the dog show ring was absolutely dreadful and there was very little green space left clear except where we stood on the outskirts. They had opened up the centre to dogs with stalls inside which was way too close quarters for dogs to be walking through – some of the aisles between stands were about 2 people wide!
I left Bonnie with my partner to go and explore the event as there was no way I was putting her through all that stress as it was so busy and while there were a few dogs having the time of their lives (Goldens loving on all the fuss etc) many dogs were stressed out giving signals that were missed by their owners as they were so busy looking around them and not paying any attention to their dogs. Also gotta love the parents who weren’t looking after their child who ran up to Bonnie out of nowhere while she was sniffing and tried to pet her, I had to stand in front of Bonnie and tell the kid to stop. The kid just huffed and walked away, and she was still without her parents about an hour and a half later when we were leaving, unbelievable!
Although Bonnie wasn’t able to properly go into the event we used it as a training exercise and gave her loads of treats and praise for being near all the noise and commotion of the event. And she didn’t leave empty handed, although she really does not need any more treats at the minute, I bought her a loaf of frozen liver cake and some chicken hearts from the Natural Raw Feeding NI stall.
Overall it really wasn’t an event for us and I was a bit disappointed. I understand that Bonnie is quite a sensitive dog and not the ideal candidate for going to these types of busy events but I believe if it was better laid out it would’ve been more suitable and catered to more dogs especially nervous or shy dogs. I feel like too many people believe events and places like dog parks, fields and walks should only be for only overly friendly, in your face and bombproof dogs but I personally think we should be more catering to all dogs whether they are shy, dog reactive etc. As I went around the event I could see other dogs were stressed and maybe the owners weren’t aware, were busy or didn’t care as they wanted to stick around for the events but personally I couldn’t put Bonnie into that situation.
It took a lot out of Bonnie and that was with just keeping on the outskirts of the event, she slept pretty much the rest of the day! Although this event wasn’t quite for us it won’t stop us from going to future ones and keep trying as we seen with the Stormont event Bonnie can rock them as long as there is some personal space and not too packed!
On Saturday we went to a rally against BSL (Breed specific law). Recently a dog has been falsely impounded as a pitbull which is a banned breed in Northern Ireland and being threatened to be PTS as a dangerous dog, the dog in question is a staffy lab cross if I recall and is a danger to no one, it’s absolutely heartbreaking and the family are trying their best to get Hank back. If you want to find out more check out this facebook page they set up – Save Hank.
The rally was held in Belfast City Centre and I set off with Bonnie in tow, with a lot of high value treats and the expectation that we would not be able to stay long because of Bonnie being overstimulated. But again Bonnie has completely exceeded our expectations, she honestly seems like a different dog these days! She was able to walk around a crowded area without pulling towards or trying to jump on people which is seriously impressive for Bonnie as she usually wants to greet everyone to be reassured. She only got excited at people who came over to specifically greet her.
She was able to settle and just watch as the world went past without whining or getting frustrated. And seriously guys get this, I sooo wish I was able to capture it on camera but I was so busy reinforcing Bonnie, she was fantastic with the pigeons. As with most city centres there were quite a few pigeons around doing their own thing and Bonnie hates pigeons, she has huge drive to chase birds in general. Now don’t get me wrong she still wanted to chase them and would if I let her, she was pretty fixated and did try to lunge maybe two or three times but that was when they got really close, maybe 2 metres away, and suddenly flew away which activated her chase instinct. But I could give her treats – she was able to turn her head away from pigeons that were maybe only 3-5 metres away and actually eat the treats. Also no whining or barking from her! Seriously who abducted Bonnie and took her place haha.
In other news, today I decided to gear up and do a first outing with the Hurtta hiking belt and the Ruffwear palisades harness.
We went our usual route up the glen near our house and had such a lovely walk, the weather was so beautiful which was great as it had been so horrid with rain lately. She was excellent walking pasting other people and 2 dogs we encountered, and had a ball exploring and sniffing everything as usual 🙂
First impressions of the hiking belt and harness are great, so far they both get a big thumbs up from me! I can’t wait to test them out more, any excuse for more adventures with my bestie ❤
We have disappeared a bit from the blogging world but we have been concentrating a lot on building our bond back up with Bonnie and just having fun with her! I wanted to share how well Bonnie is getting on and that it seems what we’re doing must be working whether it’s a single factor or combination of them.
On Saturday I decided to take Bonnie up into the glen with her long line trailing behind her to give her a chance to explore and be herself as we had been doing a lot of on lead walks recently. Although we haven’t practised being off lead in a while she was fantastic! She had a blast trotting ahead, exploring and sniffing, and came back every time I called her. She was enthusiastically running to me as she knew she was getting treats and then getting to go explore again which is her highest value reward.
In the video below you can see how she is just in her element exploring and loving life, we definitely need to do this more often!
Then on Sunday we decided to try her out at the Waggy Woodland Walk in Stormont park which was a doggy event to raise money for Cancer Research NI as it’s a cause very close to my heart. We loaded up our treat bag to make sure we had enough treats to reinforce her good behaviour and came fully prepared to leave at any time if we thought Bonnie wasn’t coping well. We have also been to the park before and so we knew that there is plenty of space which we could use to increase distance if she couldn’t cope well being close to all the action.
First of all we registered and went on the 2k walk around the park then we came back to the main area where the stalls and events were happening. She totally rocked it as even though she was super excited to get attention from people (the stewards were coming around to pet her and give her treats) she started showing excellent impulse control by instead of jumping up (we told the people not to reward her while jumping which like 9/10 people followed I was so impressed!) she would sit or lie down and wiggle her whole body in excitement instead XD
She also met a few doggies that she had polite sniffs with and disengaged appropriately without much intervention on my part. I just made sure that she wanted to initiate the contact and that the other dog and owner was happy with it too. I made sure to stay relaxed and praise her for her polite interactions, I was so proud as she even sniffed a great dane which was a first for her and she wasn’t worried about his size at all!
After watching demonstrations of agility and flyball we were able to go into the ring and have a go at agility and rally obedience which was super fun! We had never done rally obedience before and the trainer walked us through it and she was really lovely, it’s a shame that her classes are so far away from us!
We purchased some treats from Pawfect Doggie Treats, we got a dried duck neck, 2 black pudding sausages, 2 venison sausages and a bag of “spaghetti” which is dried pig intestines! We also got some freebies from the events – a slip lead, a sample bag of Burns puppy food, a water bottle for each of us and some big bone biscuits for Bonnie.
We decided to leave after trying out the agility and rally obedience because we could see that she was getting tired so we didn't want to keep her out to the end of the event and potentially ruin the positive experiences she had. I was just in total awe of how she performed, she was fantastic and we went hoping for the best and believing in her but fully prepared to leave at any time even if it was just 5 minutes in but she thrived for about 3 hours in total! Don't get me wrong it was a lot of management and effort on our part as I was nearly constantly reinforcing her either with pets, praise, treats or walking away a bit from the action to give her a break and a sniff about but she was happy and wasn't showing any real signs of stress like lip licking or panting etc, she just seemed like a well rounded dog – even the dog trainer was wondering why she had a training bandanna on for 😀
Next post will be covering our first agility class so this week was very exciting for us!
This week was such a fun week for us, we had our first holiday from work since the beginning of the year and had a long weekend off. We travelled down to Dublin zoo and although we drove through really terrible weather it turned out to be warm and clear when we arrived thankfully! We really enjoyed it, some of the enclosures were really well designed, none of the animals seemed to be suffering from boredom, pacing etc and their conservation work was pretty impressive.
They had a big variety of animals, a lot of which I had never seen before. Our favourites were probably the penguins, the sea lions, the hippo in it’s swimming pool and the painted dogs.
Now onto the dog part of this blog! Since Bonnie’s training has been going so well recently we decided to take a short trip to Loughshore again and try to do some focus work to keep her from being overstimulated (she finds large open spaces especially with water nearby a bit difficult to deal with as she becomes hyper-vigilant).
Overall she done pretty well, it was wet out so there wasn’t many people or dogs to distract her, but a bird did catch her eye which we used in our favour and treated her when she disengaged from it. She has trouble relaxing outside so in addition to loose lead walking and focus work we also practised stopping on our walk. We stood about just chatting and took a seat on a bench for a few minutes while feeding her for being calm.
On another day we took a trip to Carrickfergus Castle nearby and did some more of the same training. She did really well as although she started somewhat distracted and nervous, we had a bit of a play about at the green – running about, practising recall and a good roll in the grass later she seemed much more settled and confident.
I’m so happy that our training is coming along well now, I’m starting to feel a bit more confident in my abilities and hoping I can keep on improving in future!
On a bit of a lighter note, may I present to you the newly knighted Sir/Lady? Bonnie xD
We had so much fun posing with the sword and Bonnie is becoming so confident with long objects being held in our hands (she used to cower previously the poor thing 😦 )
She loves to do jumps with them 🙂 Hopefully some day I’ll be a good enough trainer to do proper agility with her as she seems to love our “mock” agility that we do!
This week was one of those long weeks that just dragged so I’m just glad we made it to the end in one piece!
During the week Bonnie received a parcel in the post, we had entered her into another competition over at the Support Adoption For Pets Facebook page. She didn’t win one of the main prizes which was a puzzle toy but everyone who entered won a runner up toy which was very kind of them.
The toy is hilarious looking, its like a Christmas rooster but with leopard print undies/shorts for some reason haha but Bonnie seems to like it anyway!
This week we have done a ton of training with Bonnie. First of all on the fun side of things we have continued training the “kiss” trick along with adding a hug. It’s for a bit of fun but I’m hoping it will also be useful for increasing tolerance of people being up in her face as many people hug and squeeze and kiss a dog’s heads without realising the dog is uncomfortable.
We also worked on desensitising her to the dogs next door as she has become increasingly reactive and it’s time we started working seriously on it before it gets out of hand.
As you can see in the video at the start she just wants to bolt out the door and if she was off lead she would run to the fence beside where the dogs are kept (2 big lovely German Shepherds kept in a 6×4 ft pen 24/7 😦 ) and start whining and bouncing around then run madly about the garden. I’m hoping to make enough process so that we can return to doing some fun agility in the garden.
Also during the week I walked back into town to the street where Bonnie freaked out over the pigeons for some training. There was no pigeons about but she was clearly trying to look for them so I walked her to just below her threshold, let her look down the street a bit and then clicked and treated while moving backwards so we could repeat the process. I think we will work on this a few times a week now to really try and improve her threshold.
Yesterday (Saturday) we took her to Loughshore park nearby as we went 2 weeks ago and we had a brilliant time but this visit was a total disaster. There were loads of off lead dogs, children, the dreaded birds and other distractions and she was just totally overstimulated. I tried my best to regain her attention but eventually lost my temper. I was so disappointed that I lost my temper because it did nothing to improve the situation, in fact it just made it worse so we went back to the car and left.
I never meant to purposively “flood” Bonnie but I will do my best not to in future and more importantly I will never lose my temper with her again as it’s my fault if she “misbehaves” because it means I set her up for failure whether it was accidental or not. In fact today we went back to the park again and only made it about 30ft from the car as we spent over an hour systematically desensitising and preventing her from becoming over excited. We even broke it down to turning off the engine, taking off seatbelts, opening car doors etc so that she would never become overexcited and would relax before each big step in her eyes no matter how trivial it was for us.
Whenever we finally made it out of the car she was offering loads of eye contact, brilliant behaviour and much improved body language so making that extra effort to de-escalate her excitement in the car and exiting it really made such a huge difference. We are going to continue to do this and slowly increase the distance that we can travel from the car.
I need to remember that we want to change her behaviour and most importantly her emotional response so we can have a wonderful next 10, 15, hopefully more, years together and that’s not going to change overnight or without some elbow grease or learning pains during the way. She is worth that work and effort without a doubt though ❤