This will be the first in a series where I will bring together all the doggy events happening in Northern Ireland that I can find for the upcoming months. There’s always lots of fun events over the summer months so hopefully you can find an event that suits you and your dog!
Saturday 15th July
Castlewellan Agricultural 50th Anniversary Show – Castlewellan
We finally booked a session at Smithvale Dog Centre for today and it was amazing! I’ve been here before to help with classes and behavioural sessions but this was the first time me and my partner had been here with Bonnie and it was so much fun! She really enjoyed having the enclosed area to run about freely and was super at the obstacles, even the ones she hadn’t tried before!
I was so proud of her as not only was she great at learning how to do the obstacles but I was also able to use a tennis ball and her tug as both a lure and reward for her. This is a huge deal for us as she came to us not knowing how to play tug and was wary of taking anything from our hands so for her to enjoy it so much is amazing. I always hoped for a tug obsessed dog and she’s slowly getting there – dragging her around with her firmly clamped down on the tug is the funnest thing ever especially considering how gingerly she used to be with her mouth!
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 Sunday we went on an adventure to Three Mile Water Park nearby with Bonnie as we have never been before. It was quite busy as it was good weather so we kept running into other people and their dogs but nothing untoward happened thankfully. We had Bonnie on the long line, as I was determined to figure out how to use it properly rather than relying on the flexi lead all the time. It went well enough, I need to hone my technique but it was a great way of giving her more freedom without worrying about her blowing off her recall or getting into trouble.
Plenty to sniff
We found a little waterfall
Having a little paddle
Recall amongst the daffodils
We definitely will be back as it was a lovely walk and Bonnie really enjoyed herself, the river is especially handy for getting any muck off her!
Most days we use Bonnie’s dinner for training whether it’s used during a walk, trick training, impulse control or for desensitisation and handling. So this week we have made some more progress on her sit pretty trick, she can now hold the position without the lure or treats being right beside her
She has also become really relaxed at getting her nails clipped and filed. She used to only tolerate it with the use of peanut butter but since we started using the “bucket game” she has learned that she’s in control of what happens so is more confident. As you can see in the video when she pulls away I stop and I only continue when she is on her side again indicating she is ready for more, she knows that I won’t continue to stress her and will only go at her pace.
Also for a giggle I began to teach her to “kiss” xD She doesn’t actually lick us when she does it, it’s just a nose target to our mouth but I thought it was cute.
On Saturday (yesterday) we went to The Ark Open Farm for a visit and it was good fun to see all the animals. I particularly enjoyed seeing the duck pond and totally fell in love with the mandarin ducks so think those are at the top of the list for when we get our house!
The baby goats were so funny
The reindeer’s antler were still covered in fur, lovely to see
Me and my wee lamb
Mandarin ducks ❤
After we came back from the farm I took Bonnie on a walk into town and because she was behaving so well and the weather was so nice I decided to stop off at the pub and have a little drink outside with her. I couldn’t believe how well she behaved, she was settled and nothing phased her – people, kids running past, skateboarders, cyclists, other dogs – that is until her enemies, the pigeons, turned up. Then it all went a bit downhill as she started fixating and whining. I was so embarrassed, not for her behaving “badly” but in case people thought I was some alcoholic making my dog so bored waiting outside a bar haha
The dog friendly rooms are all located at the rear of the hotel on the ground floor making it really easy to take your dog out to potty. The room was spacious, had a very comfortable king size bed along with a separate single bed and the bathroom was modern with a electric shower, over a bath, with good water pressure (I hate showers that just dribble). After we got settled we went out for a little exploration before dinner time.
We walked along the coast and the views were just stunning. I felt so refreshed and it was great to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and take things at a slower pace.
After our walk Bonnie was shattered and so we decided to let her sleep it off and relax while we went to have dinner. We didn’t want to push her too much as she already had a lot of excitement throughout the day.
As part of the offer we got a three course meal along with a bottle of prosecco. They had a good selection of food which would be sure to suit anyone’s tastes. For starters we had garlic sour dough and chilli nachos, mains were pork and buttermilk chicken and for desert we shared a strawberry cheesecake as we were totally stuffed by then. The food was delicious and portion sizes were generous.
After dinner we returned to the room and played around a bit with Bonnie, the floors are lovely thick carpets so you can play about and entertain your dogs without disturbing others. A few more potty walks later and it was soon time for bed. Bonnie was slightly unsettled during the night as it was all new to her but I think with some more practice she will be a seasoned traveller in no time!The next morning we took Bonnie with us to the main reception seating area to have our breakfast. There was a good selection of the usual continental breakfast items (cereals, pastries, cold meats etc.) as well as the ability to order fresh cooked breakfast items and hot drinks. We were still a bit full from our dinner the night before so we didn’t have much but what we did eat was lovely.
After our breakfast we packed up the car, checked out and took one last walk along the coast before we had to make our way back home. It was really sad to be leaving so shortly as we were having a brilliant time but it was a great experience and I think Bonnie enjoyed it too!I absolutely loved our trip away, I highly recommend if you get a chance to go then take it! Welcoming staff, comfortable rooms, nice food, beautiful scenery and of course being dog friendly meant it was an amazing trip and I cannot wait to come back again sometime soon! Next time we will definitely stay longer as there are more dog friendly places we want to try out in the area and to soak in some more of that gorgeous scenery.
It’s all very exciting around here as Bonnie’s first “gotcha day” is tomorrow on Halloween day, it will be a year since we adopted her from Rainbow Rehoming and what a year it’s been! A post will be coming shortly about her presents/what we done on her gotcha day and another separate post with a highlight reel of some of our favourite photos/moments since she’s joined us. Can’t wait! 🙂
I’m so excited to finally share this with you guys! This past weekend we went to stay at the dog friendly hotel Inn on the Coast in Portrush (blog post coming soon!) and we decided to stop along the way at the dog friendly cafe Pet& Country in Ballymoney for some lunch.
The sign outside was a perfect description of their hospitality, they really did make us feel welcome even with Bonnie being her boisterous self.
We went in through their shop first of all to have a look about. They had a big selection of products not just for dogs but for cats, small animals and horse riding. They had some lovely products and brands that we hadn’t seen before and I was really tempted by a gorgeous pink leather collar, maybe it’ll be a Christmas present 🙂
In the end we only ended up buying a big bag of hay for our degus but I will definitely be buying more when we come back as they had some lovely unique items I haven’t seen in any other pet shops.
After purchasing the hay we went into the café which is attached onto the side of the shop. There was quite a selection of both hot and cold food and drinks which was nice as you could get a light lunch or something more filling. I ordered a sausage roll and my fiancé decided to get a barbecue chicken and bacon toastie. They were both lovely and were garnished with some tortilla chips on the side.
My favourite part of lunch was definitely the hot chocolates. They had a selection of white, plain or dark chocolate flavours which I had never heard of before. They also had lots of different flavour syrups to add so I had a plain with hazelnut flavour and my fiancé had a white with caramel flavour. They were absolutely delicious and would be perfect on a cold winters day to warm you up.
They truly are dog friendly and you could tell the staff loved dogs and didn’t just tolerate them. They were so patient with Bonnie wanting cuddles, filled up a bowl of water straight away for her and even gave her a complimentary bag of treats!
I cannot wait to get another chance to go back to browse some more in the shop, try out the different hot chocolate flavour combinations and get more practise with Bonnie settling and being calm in new places.
Stayed tuned for part two of our trip away where I’ll be posting about the dog friendly hotel Inn on the Coast 😀
I recently bought the coat that I featured in my Dog Accessories Wishlist, I was going to wait until her birthday but I got it early so I could start getting her used to it for rainy walkies. It has actually been pretty good weather recently but I’ve taken her out on a few walks wearing it and so far so good she doesn’t seem to mind it.
I’m pretty pleased with it, it has reflective strips around the edge and on the waist straps, is fleece lined but not too thick so she shouldn’t overheat and has back leg straps to help keep it in place. Updated – I have tested it thoroughly in rain now and really impressed with how much less towel drying is needed compared to when she doesn’t wear it. The only negative point so far is that it’s a bit too big in the chest for her as it slips down but that’s not the coat’s fault. She just has a slim chest so will need to put some stitches into it to make it tighter.
Also on Saturday we took a little trip to the Red Brick Coffee House after training. It’s a dog friendly café near Ballymena that allows dogs inside and outside. We decided to sit outside as Bonnie can be a bit overexcited around people, she thinks everyone loves her and wants to greet everyone, it’s been probably our worst area for training as when she does get to greet people everyone except me and my fiancé reinforces her jumping and excitement as “she’s cute” or “she’s light so it doesn’t bother me”.
We reinforced her for laying down calmly under the picnic table we sat at. Also any time she looked at other people and looked back we made sure to reward with treats. We kept the experience positive and most importantly short, she can get overstimulated easily so it’s always important for us to end an experience when she’s still on good form.
I’m very proud of her and all the little bits of progress she’s made, when we first got her, nearly a year ago now, she would’ve been way too overstimulated and probably wouldn’t offer the calm behaviour in that situation even for high value treats. We will definitely be doing more trips to dog friendly cafés and restaurants to help with her training, we also have our first overnight stay at a dog friendly hotel coming up on the 23rd of October, so very excited for that and I’ll definitely be doing a blog post about it!
Update – Paws 4 Swim is now closed but the pool has been relocated to Aqua Dog Hydrotherapy at Moira Road Lisburn. Also another hydrotherapy pool – Paws for a Splash has opened at the East Belfast Enterprise Park. We hope to try these out sometime soon and do reviews on them.
I had recently found Paws4Swim through their Facebook page and was really interested in trying it out with Bonnie. She is a bit fixated on the pond at the leisure centre where we walk so I was curious whether she liked swimming.
It was easy to find using Google Maps (location here) and although we arrived early we were invited on into the building. When we first entered I was really impressed by the pool, it is large, big enough to accommodate all sizes of dog, and is heated to a lovely warm temperature to make it comfortable for the dog.
We filled out a form with Bonnie’s details, took off her harness and collar, and then she got a little shower to get ready for the pool. She was given a life jacket and I was happy to see that they don’t skimp out on the dogs’ safety as they use the Ruffwear brand which is expensive but excellent quality (My Review of the Ruffwear Front Range Harness).
She was lead up the ramp to the pool and was a bit wary of entering the water first of all. But soon she was in and doing a practice lap of the pool while being held. She gave us little pleading looks to begin with as it was all so new to her but we were reassured that most dogs are like that for their first time. In no time she grew in confidence and swam unaided to chase the balls.
Unfortunately I didn’t catch her name but the staff member was really friendly, professional and did a great job acclimatising Bonnie to the water and motivating her to play fetch with the ball. I also liked that they had a wide range of toys for the dogs to play with so would cater to all tastes but Bonnie’s favourite will always be balls especially ones that squeak!
Bonnie seemed to really enjoy herself after she got acclimatised, she got lots of exercise and was a happy sleepy pup the rest of the day after an initial hyper moment when we got home (staff member said this was common especially after their first visit).
As well as providing swim sessions for fun they also provide hydrotherapy sessions for dogs recovering from injuries. Overall I think it’s a fantastic facility that provides a great service at a reasonable price. I will definitely be bringing Bonnie back here.
Beechgrove has been on the to do list for quite some time but with one thing or another it kept getting put off. Recently Bonnie’s best doggy friend Dougal suffered a bad injury which means that they can no longer meet and play together as it would worsen his condition. She really seems to miss her doggy playtime so we decided it was time to finally try out beechgrove as we don’t know many dogs around us to meet and play with.
We hopped in the car and began our drive on a suprisingly sunny Sunday afternoon. The park, which is just outside of Banbridge, was very straight forward to find and signposted from the main road. Although we did get momentarily lost as we forgot to take the A1 road and instead kept on the M1 so we got a bit side-tracked along the way. When we finally arrived we parked up and I was immediately impressed by the facilities. They have spacious parking, picnic tables, a van providing refreshments and of course the play areas.
They have four separate fully enclosed play areas and to enter these you have to go through another fenced area, kind of like an air lock, so no chance for doggies to escape and run away (although they will be having too much fun to want to try!). In each play area there are agility equipment so you can try your hand and see if your dog enjoys it. There are also benches and plenty of water buckets for the thirsty pups.
Bonnie had a ball and really enjoyed herself. In the beginning she was more interested in checking out all the humans and convincing them to pet and cuddle her. But then she enjoyed running around, chasing balls and having a good sniff of everything. She didn’t play too much with the other dogs and we decided to leave on a positive note as after around 30-40 minutes she was getting a bit tired and overwhelmed. But she did brilliantly for it being her first time and everything being new to her and was a great chance to socialise and have positive experiences around other dogs.
As well as public play days on the weekends they also offer private sessions during the week so you can book an area for yourself, which is useful if your dog isn’t comfortable with other dogs or you just want to play fetch or try the agility course in peace without your dog being distracted by others.
I would definitely come back to the public play days as long as Bonnie is happy and comfortable with it, to keep socialising her, raise her confidence and bring her out of her shell a bit. They are also opening a training centre soon and I’m pretty excited about their breed specific events. It’ll be great to socialise with other Border Collies and their owners.
Have any of you been to Beechgrove or any other dog parks?