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!
I’m really excited to share one of our favourite treats and a secret weapon for high distraction training! Taggart’s Famous Liver Cake is made locally in Ballymena Northern Ireland from an innovative dog owner who practises reward based training and wanted to create a natural, healthy and high quality treat. I love that it is made locally and by a dog owner with similar ideals as regular readers will know I love to train using positive reinforcement and I’m always coming up with new things to work on with Bonnie.
The liver cake comes in 2 varieties;
Treat sized bag – cut into small chunks ready for training
Pre-sliced 1kg loaf
Both varieties are meant to be stored in the freezer until ready to defrost for use. It’s hard to miss their lovely branded freezers in store! As we like to do a lot of training with Bonnie we always have a loaf stocked in our freezer. Their products are stocked in independent pet shops and stockists can be found here.
We defrost slices in the fridge and then they can be used for up to 5 days after defrosting so is really convenient. My absolute favourite part of the loaf is once it’s defrosted it is so easy to cut up into whatever size of treats you want to use whether you want larger or smaller pieces. It’s also really easy to break up by hand when you’re on the go so really is a versatile treat!
To sum up the Taggart’s Famous Liver Cake range;
Healthy treat with good, real ingredients with no cheap junk fillers, additives or preservatives
High value treat – Bonnie loves it even in high distraction training scenarios
Soft texture which is easy for dogs to eat – great for rapid rewarding and repetitive training such as clicker training as less time is spent chewing
Get a lot of treats per loaf
Easy to cut and break into whatever size training treat you want to use
If you wanted to be picky you could say that it needs defrosted before use but I will just chuck a slice into the fridge the day before a big trip out
Overall I cannot fault the product, both me and Bonnie love it and would highly recommend!
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!
We have been off work most of this week and we have had such a blast! I wont be able to fit in all the pictures and everything that I want to include in this post but I thought I would briefly cover what adventures we had!
On Monday we didn’t do anything too special as I was still in work. On Tuesday we decided to go back to the Valley park and afterwards went to Hazelbank park which is quickly becoming one of our favourite spots! Here’s our full post on this day out.
Also on Tuesday morning I had received an email from Louis at Select Portraits (Facebook page here) asking if I would like a portrait of Bonnie which was so lovely for him to offer. I was more than thrilled to accept the offer and the finished piece is absolutely amazing – I am always in awe of artist’s skills I just can’t comprehend the time and talent that goes into such wonderful art. I will be collecting the piece tomorrow so I can’t wait to show you guys! Find the post here.
On Wednesday we decided to pay another visit to Pet & Country Dog Friendly Café and Pet Shop. Afterwards we went into Portrush to have a dander about and get some fish and chips to eat at the seafront – it was total bliss until Bonnie decided it was a bit too peaceful for her liking! Again I’ll be doing a separate post because there’s too many photos to include here!
On Thursday me and my partner went to visit my mum for half of the day (she lives 90 minutes drive away) and Bonnie got a walk with her usual walker while we were out. When we came back I fancied buying a game so we took Bonnie into Belfast city centre with us – she was fab!
On Friday we didn’t do anything special. We all had a bit of a chill out day as we were a bit tired from all our travelling which I think Bonnie appreciated as she was so sleepy and snugly all day.
On Saturday we spent a bit of time in the garden in the afternoon and finally got around to cutting the grass – this warm and wet weather means it was turning into a bit of a jungle! We even found a little frog which we transported over the wall just in case Bonnie thought about eating it!
In the evening we took Bonnie to Loughshore park and let her have a bit of fun in the shallows on her long line. We tried throwing her ball to see if she would fetch it as she had learned to do it at our visit to the hydrotherapy pool but she just chased it and then immediately dropped it! Fortunately the tide eventually brought it close enough so we could grab it but it left both me and my partner soaked! It was a really mild night though and Bonnie was having so much fun that we couldn’t take it seriously and just had a laugh 🙂
Today we haven’t made any plans yet because we are getting ready to go back to work – laundry, tidying etc. But I think a nice walk with Bonnie and chilling with some takeaway for dinner will be the perfect Sunday and the perfect end to a great week!
I am so excited to present my new and improved blog design! I have updated the background image, header image, menu options and to the side I have added a search button and a little section on me and Bonnie. The new design is best appreciated on a PC but I’m liking how it looks on mobile too. I’m using the theme Toujours and really enjoying how the blog design now feels much more personalised and “us”.
I have also tried to highlight two pages that may have not been noticed previously.
The first is the Dog Friendly Northern Ireland Map which is an interactive map of dog friendly places in Northern Ireland. I put a lot of research and time into creating this map so hopefully dog owners in Northern Ireland can plan trips out with their dogs and support local businesses that are dog friendly.
The second page is Bonnie’s Cues which covers all of the cues that Bonnie currently knows or is learning. This is to help us remember our cues, what they are used for and to track our progress in each one. It was fun writing all the cues out and realising how much she has learned, as when she first arrived home she barely knew sit or even her name!
I started off this blog on a bit of a whim but I’ve discovered how passionate I am about writing about our adventures and training progress with Bonnie. I’m so excited to continue posting about our adventures together and we have some fun posts coming up including some training videos, trips out, a very special review, some exciting news and of course Bonnie’s second gotcha day on Halloween!
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 😀