Hello Again!

Needless to say this blog had taken a bit of a back seat but I’m going to do my best to get back to blogging with a focus on the reasons why I started this blog. I want to share more about local products, places, services and events as well as sharing training progress and tips.

So thought I would share a little catch up with what’s happening. Lots of exciting stuff and I hope to share some of the upcoming events and news with you guys.

Angus will be 6 months tomorrow on the 13th July and he has gone from a little cute pup to a handsome teenage doggy.

He attended his first dog show in May and although he didn’t compete, we met up with his father, it was so lovely to see him again.

Bonnie is getting on great, she has really taken on the big sis role and loves to play with Angus.

I’ve been helping out at dog and puppy training classes recently and even got to help teach a class with another assistant while the trainer was away at the IMDT conference.

I will be attending a Suzanne Clothier Seminar on 15th July. The seminar covers Relationship Centred Training and also Enriched Puppy Protocol. I’m super excited for a day of learning and can’t wait to see what new info and ideas I will take away from the seminar.

I will be taking a Practical Dog Training course with the same tutors that held the previous training course I completed. This is a 4 week course and will involve practical training with a local animal rescue centre’s dogs. I’m looking forward to gaining more experience with working with other dogs and it will be nice for the rescue dogs to get some extra enrichment and training too.

In August I will be attending a Tellington TTouch Workshop held by Jetta Reis. It will be really interesting to see the techniques and how I can apply them to my own dogs.

I am also doing the couch to 5k program as I entered the Waggy Races which is a 5k race where you run with your dog. I’ve entered with Bonnie and I’m hoping I can progress enough to jog the full 5k but we will see how my training goes!

Lots of exciting stuff ahead so hopefully I can share these with you guys!


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Exciting News!

As you know from our blog posts I am really interested in all aspects of dog training whether it’s useful things such as loose lead walking, fun tricks to build your bond, behaviour modification to increase confidence and many other useful applications. I find dog behaviour and training utterly fascinating and I’m always trying to better myself to give Bonnie the best life I can. As my first dog Bonnie wasn’t necessarily the easiest dog I could’ve asked for but in return she has taught me first hand how to be a better dog owner and trainer which I am so grateful for!

So onto the exciting news – I have enrolled for a 10 week course “Better Dog Training and Behaviour Through Better Understanding” which is an accredited course to the OCNNI Level 3 (equivalent to an A Level) run by two respected Northern Ireland trainers Robin Bates and Sandra Gilliland.  It will look at all training methods to research and analyse but we will be using only positive training techniques practically which is the training method I prefer to use.

The course not only covers theory lessons and discussions but also covers practical sessions including running a class and creating a behavioural rehabilitation program. I am seriously so excited! I don’t know if I will ever get the opportunity to work with dogs in the future ( I do hope I can though!) but if I ever get the chance this will help begin my journey and if not it just means I personally have a better understanding for Bonnie and any dogs or foster dogs we have in future!

We have received the recommended reading list below so I’m going to try to start swotting up before the course starts on Monday 3rd October!

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Bonnie helping me swot up – reading In Defence of Dogs

Recommended Reading List

  • Life Skills for Puppies: Helen Zulch and Daniel Mills
  • Dogs that Bite and Fight; David Ryan – Ordered
  • Choosing The Right Dog For You: Gwen Bailey
  • The APBC Book of Companion Animal Behaviour 3rd Edition: Edited by David Appleby.
  • How to Behave So your Dog Behaves: Dr Sophia Yin, DVM,MS – Ordered
  • Dogs: Raymond Coppinger and Laura Coppinger
  • Excel-Erated Learning: Pamela J. Reid Ph.D.
  • Don’t Shoot the Dog. Karen Pryor – Ordered and arrived
  • Genetics and the Social Behaviour of the dog: Scott and Fuller.
  • In Defence of Dogs: John Bradshaw. – Already have and currently reading
  • Decoding Your dog Debra Horwitz DVM and John Cirribassi DVM
  • Other end of the leash: Patricia J. McConnell. – Already have and read
  • How Dogs Learn: Mary R. Burch and Jon S. Bailey

In addition I ordered BAT 2.0 by Grisha Stewart as I have been wanting to learn more about BAT for a while now.

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My small but growing dog training library!

I am really excited but also a bit nervous – after 14 years in the school system, 4 years at University then working full time I never though I would “return to study” so this will be interesting! I’m hoping I can keep up with the assignments and perform well in addition to a normal work week, looking after Bonnie and the 3 degus and running this blog. I’m sure it will be an interesting 10 weeks anyway!


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Ballybolley Forest Hike

Back at the beginning of this blog Bonnie and I went for the first time to Ballybolley forest with the Pack of Paws Belfast Dog Walking Club (post here). As it’s fairly close by we decided another visit was long overdue!

It was a lovely walk as the weather was perfect, it was really quiet and the views are gorgeous.

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Bonnie’s favourite way to start a hike – some treats (they’re for the energy right?!)
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Struggling to untangle the long line as always!
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What next?

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.

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Me and my best buddy ❤ can see a bit of the scenery here but we didn't do it justice!
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Overturned tree roots

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

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Looks pretty normal right?
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Think again – crazy border collie coming right for you!
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And in motion!

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!


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Week in review – ‘barkour’, prizes and a runaway

This week was super long and stressful due to work so we were really glad to make it to the weekend all in one piece! During the week we didn’t have much time to go on any special adventures with Bonnie but for our walks at night we decided to take her into town for some extra stimulation and training while it was quiet out.

We did some “barkour” which is like the sport parkour but for dogs, so she got some time to go off lead and play with obstacles – jumping over, onto and crawling under things like benches etc. It’s great stimulation for her out as the town is always filled with new and exciting smells for her to sniff and combining it with the “barkour” means she comes home mentally and physically tired.

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Performing a wait on the bench
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What next?
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Hehe this is so much fun
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Woo look at her go!

 

Yesterday we went to a dog event that was held in Crawfordsburn Country Park which was the same place as the last event we went to. We went hoping that it would be a better set up and thankfully they used a different part of the park which meant it was lovely and spacious so Bonnie could get in and involved without being overwhelmed! It was such a beautiful day but it wasn’t packed so it was really relaxing and Bonnie totally rocked it.

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Lovely view
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Photogenic even while running 😀
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Taking part in a competition – look at her focus ❤

She was able to settle as we stood about and kept her calm even after a boisterous pup unsettled her (I don't think the owner was too happy as she didn't seem to understand Bonnie was teaching it some manners as it was a very rude puppy but what the owner only saw was Bonnie telling it off haha oh well). She was doing so well and since the ring wasn't too crowded we decided to enter her into two of the competitions – Most Fetching and DICE Dog's Got Talent – and she managed to come 2nd in Most Fetching and 1st in DICE Dog's Got Talent which was great fun. We left afterwards as it was too hot out to stay much longer.

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It was really nice to win the little ribbons and trophy but to be honest I was more proud of how well Bonnie did and the fact she was able to concentrate on me in a situation that would’ve been too difficult for her in the past. She was able to focus and have fun with me and besides the little shake off near the end of the video she was happy and engaged throughout. She did me proud especially because we hadn’t prepared or practised the routine (if you can even call it that haha) we performed. Also she had only just began offering the sit pretty for the pretend gun cue 2 days ago so was super impressed all around with her ❤

Today we didn't intend to go on any special adventures with Bonnie but she had a different motive! It all started pretty innocently as she was playing with a new teddy we had got at the event and we let her take it into the back garden to play with while we made dinner.

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Well as usual we look out the window every minute or so to check on Bonnie and wouldn’t you know it there isn’t a sign of her in the garden. I immediately change from my slippers into my boots, grab her collar (because god forbid she bloody would escape when she’s not wearing her collar) and run out the front door while my partner checks the back. My heart is pounding frantically thinking what if she got out to the main road and worrying because she has literally no road sense. I run around and call her name but hear and see nothing so I run back to the side of the house where my partner is.

We see the little poop head then – she had got into the garden past the brambles and branches and across the stream and was having a wild time playing chasies with the black lab and it’s owner. I shout Bonnie twice, she turns around and spots me through the trees and thank god she starts running towards me, I keep calling and saying good girl and praising. She makes it over the stream and through the brambles and I promptly pick her up heart beating like mad, sweating and weak from worry. We make it back home and I feed her loads of high value treats hoping she remembers why to come back if it ever happens again.

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You had us worried little pup

All I can say is thank god we have worked so much on her recall and our bond in general that she was able to recall off playing with the dog and from so far away. I will definitely be upping our recall practice to include out of sight recalls as she didn’t respond to me calling her name until she was able to see me through the trees so we definitely need to work on getting Bonnie to track me from voice alone. Also needless to say she will be supervised in the garden until we get the fence fixed from where she dug out -_-

I honestly was so worried that something bad would’ve happened so I am so grateful that everything turned out okay in the end. Hopefully your weekend wasn’t as heart pounding!


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TGIF!

After an insanely long and stressful work week I think Bonnie has the right idea – catch up on snooze and ignore computers for a bit!

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We will hopefully be going on some fun adventures this weekend so we’ll update yous later but for now have a good weekend guys!


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Week in review – wasps, Pokémon & ducks Pt 2

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

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If I don’t look at it maybe it will go away!

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.

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Practising jumps with a split tree
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A wee bit unsure but doing great
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The petting farm at the event
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I’ll stay over here away from the donkey thank you!

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!

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I guess they’re not so bad from this distance
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Snuffling for treats in the long grass
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I guess they’re not so bad from here either as long as they don’t flap about or make too much noise
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See I’m still a good girl!
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Sorry mum but the temptation was too much! Silly mummy letting me get too close!
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Chilled out ducks paying no attention to the silly doggy

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.

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Bonnie’s nose pretty much doesn’t lift from the ground when we visit here
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Forging ahead – she get’s so excited in here but to be fair to her we don’t come here often and I never specifically train her in these type of environments

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!

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So if I understand this right I get treats for doing nothing?!

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Week in review – wasps, Pokémon & ducks Pt 1

I’ve only been away from blogging for 5 days but there was so many great posts to catch up on so I thought it was only right to do some catching up on my side! I have so many posts I want to write so I need to get my butt in gear but for now I thought I would fill you guys in on our kinda eventful week. I decided to put this into a two parter because it got so long!

The start of this week I began my healthy eating through My Fitness Pal (showing my support for Bonnie and her excess 2kg xD) and so far so good. I get lots of exercise from walking Bonnie, walking to and from work and going for walks at lunch but I have a terrible sweet tooth and really struggle with portion sizes so hoping I can stick to it and make some healthier choices!

Monday also brought a text message from our dog walker that Bonnie had a case of the runs so we left work early and had a lovely present to come home to! Her new tags also arrived in the post which we have attached to her red dingo and ruffwear palisades harnesses so we have the option to go collar-less but to still have tags on. They’re from Identitag, we bought Bonnie’s original tag was from here and since it has held up perfectly for coming up to 2 years in October we decided to purchase from them again. The engraving is really good, I couldn’t be bothered editing out my details so sorry no photo, but the examples on the site show the quality accurately.

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On Tuesday it was a beautiful sunny day so we had an extra long lunchtime walk up the glen, she was great on and off lead and we had such a lovely time. We also came across an apple tree that was just heaving with apples all over – it put the apple tree in our back garden to shame!

On Wednesday we received another text from our dog walker than Bonnie had been stung twice by wasps while out walking. She had pulled out the stingers and applied vinegar but informed us just in case she would require a vet visit. Honestly good dog walkers are worth their weight in gold! I immediately left and when I got home Bonnie was so distressed – she had dug up her bed, her water was everywhere and she was panting. She just kept pacing, biting at herself and shaking off. I put on some ice packs onto the areas she was stung (I could see the 2 areas as she had been biting at them) and then asked my partner’s mum to bring over some vinegar as we had none in the house and I didn’t want to leave her.

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Very irritated Bonnie with an ice pack
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Trying to distract her from biting herself

After applying the vinegar she started to settle down and finally have a nap, but later on once my partner got home she started to get seriously agitated again even after applying more vinegar and ice packs. We were really worried at this point and decided to double check all over her (I hadn’t been able to do this myself earlier as she was so reluctant to stay still for fussing and wasn’t taking any food – after the peanut butter in the kong above was gone she left it which is really unlike Bonnie) and found 3 more stingers, 2 in her back and 1 on her ear!

Poor pooch no wonder why she was still feeling so miserable, we quickly took them out and put vinegar on those areas. You could see the relief from her immediately and for long afterwards she lay in our arms as if to say thank you for making the pain go away – it was very sweet as if she knew exactly what we were doing as although it must’ve been painful for her she listened to me trying to calm her and keep her still while my partner extracted the stings and applied the vinegar.

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Trying to hide away from the pain – it’s one of her safe spots

For the rest of Wednesday night and all day Thursday she slept most of the time with just potty breaks and walking to the water bowl as she was still recovering from the ordeal. I am just so thankful she recovered okay, that she didn’t have an allergic reaction which would’ve definitely required a vet visit and seriously so thankful that we have such an amazing dog walker that knew exactly what to do in such a situation. So to end this post always remember Vinegar for VVasps and Bicarbonate of soda for Bees, hopefully you will never need to use this info but it’s always worth knowing!

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Recovering pooch – pretty much snoozed here all Thursday

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Amateur Photography

I was really struggling with how to introduce this blog post so I’m just going to keep it simple and let the photos do the talking! Recently I’ve been learning a bit about photography basics and how to use the manual mode on my camera (It’s a pretty basic Bridge camera – Fujifilm FinePix S4900). I’ve always used auto settings before so it’s definitely a learning curve adjusting everything manually but I’m slowly getting there and have taken some nice-ish shots that I’m pretty happy with (which I’m sure in a few months time will look super amateur to me!) so thought I would share them below.

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Little pigeon
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Cute little doggy
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Don’t like how dark this came out but it shows the grungy side of city hall I guess xD
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Spirit of Belfast – Can you believe Bonnie was able to behave here at the BSL Rally!
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Lone apple on our tree
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Trio of apples on our tree – we have so many growing this year I must put up a challenge for you guys to try to spot them all!
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And of course can’t have a post without Bonnie in it somewhere 🙂

If anyone has any tips or good resources for learning more about photography I would love to hear them! Also I have a question in case anyone could let me know – A lot of times when I take a photo it looks great on the camera viewer but looks awful when bigger on the laptop screen, like the quality is quite low and the picture has a bit of a soft effect. This happens even when the camera was held steady, there was good lighting and I used the auto focus. It doesn’t happen all the time like in the above photos so is this a case of auto focus not quite working right, dirty lens or something else I’m missing? (maybe skill? haha) Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


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A harness that fits – finally!

Wow is it hard to find a harness to fit Bonnie! We have tried a few harnesses now which I’ll go over below and then I’ll reveal Bonnie’s new daily harness! This post may be a bit long so scroll to the bottom if you want to see the new one – I may be biased but I think it’s worth the read as she’s so adorable in it! 😀

EzyDog Chest Plate Dog Harness

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We got this in Pets at Home not too long after we got Bonnie as we wanted to walk her on a harness instead of her collar. We went into store with her to try it on so we wouldn’t have to faff about with measuring her and exchanging sizes online – this was a size medium.  The harness itself if quite nice as it’s lightweight, has reflective stitching, is easy to put on and take off – put one leg into the straps then clip the neck and girth straps at the back – easy peasy, and it also comes in a range of colours and sizes. Bonnie seemed comfortable enough wearing it but the straps dug into her armpits a bit so isn’t really suitable for daily use.

Ruffwear Front Range Harness

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We then upgraded to this harness in size small and reviewed it over here. I still love the design and quality of this harness, it’s sturdy and has been through sand, water, mud, bramble, the washing machine and everything in between and has stood the test of time so far with only cosmetic wear since we got it around 15 months ago. Again the issue with this harness is how close it sits in behind her armpits – this is usually fine on a normal day but when she is wearing clothes like above or if she gets wet the harness rubs her armpits quite badly which has caused some hair loss over time. We will still probably use this from time to time when her other harnesses are wet and drying out but not for daily use so her armpit irritation won’t return.

Ruffwear Palisades Pack Harness

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We recently purchased the palisades backpack in our pet product haul in size small. I specifically choose the palisades pack as the packs could be removed so that the the harness could be worn by itself. I hope to do a review soon on this as so far we are loving it! It fits perfectly as all the straps are adjustable – including the length of the strap that runs from the chest to the girth which means the girth strap sits nice and far back from her armpits which is great! This is almost the perfect daily harness except it seems to really wear Bonnie out on warm days – although the fabric is pretty breathable it still covers a lot of her and seems to make her start panting much quicker so we will be saving this, and the backpack, for when it is cooler as I don’t want to risk her overheating.

Perfect Fit Harness

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We were really excited to try out the perfect fit harness as it is a modular system with separate back, chest and girth parts which should fit most dogs. It is fleece lined, has front and back attachment points, isn’t restrictive as it doesn’t cover the shoulders or the throat and is perfect for putting on nervous or sensitive dogs as it has four clips so no need to lift legs or put it over the dog’s head. The customer service was absolutely fantastic and I really liked the idea of the harness but unfortunately it didn’t work out for us. We were sent the M and L back, S and M chest and the M girth.

The M back, S chest and M girth combination fit really well around the neck and chest with some room to spare but again the straps were too close into her armpit even with the bottom strap full lengthened.

The M back, M front and M girth sat further back – I was able to fit 3-4 fingers between the harness and her armpit rather than 1 – but the neck was now too big as I could fit my whole arm through even on the tightest setting! It wouldn’t have been such a big issue for us as she isn’t really an escape artist but while using the front lead attachment it would completely twist the harness out of place. Unfortunately as the neck strap and the strap determining the length behind the armpits are the same section no combination of sizes was really going to work for us in particular so we had to return it. I cannot fault their product or service at all – it just didn’t work for us.

Red Dingo Harness

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And finally we have found Bonnie’s glass slipper with the Red Dingo harness! This is size large in the Flanno design. There are 5 sizes and tons of designs in this harness all of which feature the cute bone buckles which I love! All the straps except the back strap is adjustable so this sits nice and far back from her armpits. The front of the harness sits on the chest so doesn’t restrict the neck and the ring at the front can be used as a front attachment for a lead.

The harness goes over the dog’s head and fastens with two buckles. There is still a good bit of room left for adjustment in the girth in case she changes weight or for wearing over coats and jumpers, the neck is at it’s smallest setting but isn’t too loose and sits comfortably. I’m pretty excited that we found such a cute harness that fits Bonnie and was reasonably priced so I’m really hoping this stands up to our daily (ab)use! I’ll let you guys know how it fares in the future.


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Backyard Agility – August

Ever since we quit our agility classes, detailed over in this post, we have been doing our own little agility training at home. I am a complete amateur at agility training and we haven’t been practising much so we haven’t made great progress but I thought it would be fun to update regularly, maybe monthly, to show how we are getting on and so I can track our progress too.

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Our little setup – quite basic but we are very much beginners

We have some jumps, weave poles in the form of bamboo sticks pushed into the ground and a tunnel chute. We practised doing “rounds” over the jump which is turning to the right after the jump, “through” the tunnel chute and luring around the weaves. Afterwards I watched a video using the 2×2 method of teaching the weave so I think I will try that in future as we didn’t have much success with luring. But anyway here are some videos of our (very basic) progress:

She has made great progress with the chute as she can now run through the full length of it confidently and she’s very eager to do the jumps which I’m so happy about – perfect start stays can come later! Finally for a laugh here are some animations of very much failed attempts, this is what most of our training sessions look like as I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong!

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I may not be great at this and look and sound a bit of an eejit (irish form of idiot for those who are wondering xD) as I haven’t a clue, but we are having fun together and it’s great mental and physical stimulation for Bonnie so what more can you ask for 🙂


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