Puppy Socialisation

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!).

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How cute are the pair of them in their coats ūüėä #raindoesntstopus #bordercollie #roughcollie #puppy

A post shared by Angus and Bonnie (@angus_and_bonnie_collies_ni) on

We have been having so much fun raising and socialising a puppy right from the start and look forward to many more fun and positive outings with him ūüėÄ


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Smithvale Dog Centre Visit

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!

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Bonnie and Water

As many other dog owners can probably relate Bonnie hates getting bathed but she¬†loves to have a little swim in rivers and streams. She also doesn’t care at all about rain no matter how heavy it is!

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Drowned rat – please let me out already!
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Little paddle in the river

But one thing Bonnie has always had an issue with is the sea. The sight and sound of waves (especially noisy crashing waves on a windy day) would absolutely drive her mad. She would lunge, whine, bark and we couldn’t get her attention whatsoever! I had always envisioned taking my dog to the beach way back before we adopted Bonnie so I was quite disheartened.

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First beach outing was a total disaster – was our fault as we had her only about 2 weeks here and hadn’t a clue

We went to the beach maybe 3 times in the first year with her before we had all but given up hope. Instead we concentrated on getting her confident and focused in other scenarios and in the past several months it has really started to pay dividends especially as my own learning has progressed and skills improved.

Back in September on our trip to Portrush¬†it was the first time she had been to a beach in ages, and if you have read that post you’ll remember how she embarrassed me on that beach! But hey at least I was able to get her back, I don’t think there would’ve been a chance earlier on in our training.

Since then though we have been going from strength to strength and have had 2 really successful beach trips – one in November and one at the start of this month. I uploaded the video below to our Facebook page showing the before (October 2015 and before we really hit our groove with training) and the after (November 16)

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Bonnie – a beach dog after all?

Our recent beach trip was the best yet and I was so so proud of her. She was able to be off lead without chasing the waves, chasing the other dogs and their balls or running away. She was able to focus, play with her ball and even stopped when I called her name as she was thinking of chasing the other dog. Also just before the video starts she was enthusiastically chewing on a bit of seaweed which I was able to get her to drop without any force and also could pick up her ball while she was playing with it to continue our play – these successes mean a lot to us as she used to resource guard food and toys, so lots of wins for us!

I really am so pleased with how well Bonnie is doing these days and I’m glad our hard work is paying off!

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As long as you’re by my side ‚̧

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2017 is here!

Hope you all had a lovely holiday period and we wish you and your family all the best in 2017.

We had a peaceful and quiet break which we mostly spent catching up on bits around the house and taking it easy. Bonnie enjoyed the fuss of Christmas presents as well as walkies, treats and naps!

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The snake was a clear winner from her gifts
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Hazelbank at the shore
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Fun and games at Hazelbank
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Our feathered friend
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Brown’s bay beach

Even the degus joined in on the festivities and had their Christmas hazelnut treat!

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For the new year I’m not one to make resolutions but I do like to set some general goals and also find it fun to look back on what I thought my priorities were in previous years and see how that has changed or if it has stayed relevant. So in no particular order here are my goals for 2017;

  • Continue training and socialisation with Bonnie
  • Continue learning about dog behaviour and training through self learning and possibly attend any local lectures, seminars etc
  • Add a pup to our family¬†and raise it to the best of our ability
  • Be more adventurous – visit new places, try new foods, recipes and restaurants rather than sticking to old familiar, try new things in general
  • Live a healthier life – more water, veg, fruit and exercise, less processed and junk food

Do you have any goals or ambitions for this year? No matter what hope 2017 treats you well!

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Bonnie preparing herself for the adventure filled year ahead!

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Dog Behaviour Class 4

Class learning

Again we covered two topics in this class;

Motivational Techniques

This covered motivation methods of training dogs, looking at the different motivations of dogs including physical, behavioural, play etc. We also looked at different breeds and dog groups Рwhat they were breed for, what motivates them, common issues and things to be aware of or look out for.

Dog Training

This covered what is dog training, why do we do it or need to do it, what are the benefits, what are the most important behaviours to train.

Assignment progress

First assignment was handed in on time woo hoo!

The third assignment is due in on 31st October – yes we still have class on Halloween night! I’ve got about half of it done so will be finished in time for Monday!

The second assignment is due in on 7th November and that will be started once I finish the third assignment.

Reading list progress

Dogs That Bite and Fight – still in progress!

Outside of class learning

As it’s that time of the year where there can be a lot of fireworks you will see a lot of advice trying to be helpful where it states to ignore the dog when it is afraid in case it reinforces and validates the dog fear. Well no need to worry about feeling¬†mean while¬†ignoring your dog during fireworks or thunder – you cannot reinforce fear! Only behaviours can be reinforced, in fact positive interaction and conditioning can change a fearful response to a happier emotion! Check out the useful links below which will explain it much better than I can.

http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/you-cant-reinforce-fear-dogs-and-thunderstorms

http://www.patriciamcconnell.com/theotherendoftheleash/reinforcing-fear-ii-thunder-phobia-iii

And on a lighter note look how adorable this little Lemur is getting weighed!


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Dog Behaviour Class 3

Class learning

Again we covered two topics in this class;

Learning Theory

This covered all the scientific theory behind learning and methods of training such as classical and operant conditioning, desensitisation, reinforcement schedules, extinction etc. Some people might find it a bit dry but I am utterly fascinated by it!

Puppy problems

This covered¬†training specific to puppies such as nipping, mouthing, house training etc. I personally found this very useful as obviously we adopted Bonnie as an adult so we have no experience with puppies. I’d love to get a puppy in future either from a rescue or from a proper reputable breeder (not a puppy farm or backyard breeder) so that we can have that experience of socialising and raising a puppy.

Assignment progress

First assignment is nearly done so that will be finished in time for hand in this Monday.

The second assignment is due in on 7th November and that will be started once I finish the first assignment.

The third assignment has been given out this¬†week for hand in on 14th November. This assignment isn’t another 1000 word easy thank god! Instead we have to define different examples of the four types of operant conditioning.

Reading list progress

Dogs That Bite and Fight – in progress, really insightful book around aggression that isn’t really covered in detail in other books

Outside of class learning

I am only including one link in this section for this week because this really¬†and¬†truly spoke to me and I think every dog owner should read it, especially for any owners of nervous dogs. Remember “Pavlov is always on your shoulder!”

The Rational Participant by Denise Fenzi

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My motivation for learning to understand dogs better ‚̧

Hope this week is treating you guys well so far and catch up soon!


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Dog Behaviour Class 2

I was gutted to miss out on our week in review post this week as we had a little streak going but things have been hectic around here. I’m not letting any more posts slip behind schedule though so here is my update on the dog behaviour course!

I’m going to format these posts a bit better so it’s easier for me to track progress etc so here we go.

Class learning

Again we covered two topics in this class;

Canine Life Stages and Learning

This covered the importance of socialisation (defined as learning how to recognise and interact with the species with which it cohabits – kids, adults, other dogs, cats, livestock etc) and habituation (defined as becoming accustomed to environment stimuli – household noises, traffic, fireworks, surfaces etc). It also defined the different development and life stages for a dog including the importance and effects of socialisation, habituation and potential problems at each stage.

Learn to Earn training program

This covered the training protocols for the learn to earn program. This program is recommended for dogs with poor impulse control that may excessively bark, jump, mouth or dogs that are quite “pushy” for attention or are a bit over the top in general. It is a program where the dog must earn all its rewards so that it can develop impulse control and realise that patience and behaving calm is what gains access to things it likes such as food, throwing a ball, releasing through a door, getting to greet and play with other dogs, getting stroked etc.

Assignment progress

I still haven’t completed the first assignment. I have done most of my research and background reading and will be hopefully get it finished this week.¬†It is taking me longer than expected due to being quite busy with work¬†and also due to making sure I¬†put enough time and care into¬†research and compiling the references for the essay.

A second assignment¬†has also been handed out¬†which is due on¬†7th November. This is another 1000 word essay based on the importance of socialisation and whether socialisation is necessary only at the “critical socialisation window”. I’ll need to pick up the pace to make sure I’m not too pressed for time!

Reading list progress

In Defence of Dogs – done, fantastic in-depth read, actually re-reading for assignment 1

How to Behave So Your Dog Behaves – in progress, great practical easy to read book

Dogs That Bite and Fight – in progress, really insightful book around aggression that isn’t really covered in detail in other books

The Other End of The Leash – done and really enjoyed it but could do with re-reading as it was a long time ago!

Outside of class learning

I follow quite a lot of facebook pages, groups and subscribe to channels on youtube pertaining to dogs so I usually come across a few interesting videos or resources so I thought having these grouped here would be great for future use or if anyone else finds them interesting or informative!

I finished watching the following 2 part series this week and I really like how it shows that even inexperienced trainers can train their own dog to do something quite impressive¬†through the power of positive reinforcement! I also like how they cover dog body language and signals which is important in respecting our dog’s emotional state.

This short video from Chirag Patel is a great reminder to be aware of our dog’s true feelings about¬†being petted and stroked, and to ensure our dog is enjoying it or help them form positive associations to truly enjoy it rather than just tolerate it for our sake.

I love this quote and feel like it’s something we should all strive towards with our dogs. There are always going to be difficult situations we get into with our dogs where we have to ask¬†them to “trust us” whether it’s navigating a particularly stressful situation out of necessity or emergency, performing first aid procedures on our dog that could be stressed and could lash out in pain, asking them to leave a really tasty looking scrap of food that is dangerous to them and so on. If we have continually built up our relationship and trust with our dogs through positive means these “deposits” add up then when we have to take out “withdrawals” in situations like I mentioned then our balance stays in the positive.

Finally some interesting research was done around children and dogs’ abilities to follow advice from adult humans. Those of you that have both young children and dogs what do you think of the research? Maybe it would be a fun experiment to try at home!

http://news.yale.edu/2016/09/26/dogs-ignore-bad-advice-humans-follow

If you made it through all of that well done (click Рtreat :)) and for your efforts have a picture of Bonnie hiding under our recliner because why not!

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Bonnie’s little dark enclosed den

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“Stay away” Accessories

We have done a lot of training with Bonnie so that she can keep her calm while out on walks as she used to be hyper vigilant, very easily over aroused and she loves to greet people. We have put in a lot of work on loose lead walking, staying calm and not having to stay on high alert outside and now in most situations she can calmly walk past people and keep her focus on me. Obviously she is still not perfect and this is ongoing training but we have encountered so many setbacks from people who just have to get involved in one way or another.

We have had people bark at us, do that tongue click thing to get Bonnie’s attention, calling to get her attention, kids at a age that really should know better and kids too young to know better bum rushing her and parents standing back and not caring to intervene. We have had people literally follow us with their off lead dogs after we have made it clear that we do not want to interact with them¬†or their dogs. We have people who will come right up to greet her and before we have a chance to get away Bonnie is now greeting them in her usual omg new person I must jump up and hug and kiss style – and they reinforce it by petting and loving on her! Of course I don’t have a chance of discouraging her or her even listening to me saying “Off ” once they are reinforcing her and I don’t want to use force to stop her in case she finds it aversive and associates strange people with bad things or even worse thinks that strangers are nicer than her apparently angry and mean mum!

But enough complaining about it this is our action plan going forward! We have got the two items below to help discourage people from getting too involved while out on our training walks (we probably won’t use them for off lead walks up the glen etc because I don’t think much will really stop owners and their off lead dogs unfortunately).

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Love that ear of hers!
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Lead slip and vest in action

We bought the lead slip from Saint Roch. I really loved the selection from this site as it had lots of different phrases to pick from which covers all types of scenarios. They also have a good range of colours to pick from but we choose the bright yellow as that stands out well and people usually associate that with a warning sign anyway and something to take note of. It has a little handle with a popper so that you can attach it to any lead that has a handle or in our case we attached it to one of the multi length attachment loop things on our training lead (review here Рwe love this lead!).

We bought the vest¬†from Ebay . The vest¬†can be customised with 6 different colours, any colour font, 7 different font types and with any wording that you want on it. It also comes in three sizes. We choose size M, colour yellow with grey writing in font 3.Stadium Font with the text “DO NOT DISTURB”. It’s quite a light material so would be perfect even in warmer weather and the reflective bands on the back, chest and edge of the vest¬†is really appreciated in the darker months. I really like that it has the writing on both sides at the back as well as on the top as it means it can be seen all around and although harnesses will cover the top message the sides can still be read clearly so is still effective.

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Without the harness covering the vest
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Photo taken with flash to show the reflective detailing

We had our first outing just earlier today with her kitted out (when we took the photos above) but¬†we didn’t get a proper chance to test it as it was pretty quiet out. I did get quite a few stares from cars as we were waiting to cross roads etc but to be honest I don’t mind because if it makes even one person¬†stop and think that¬†maybe not all dogs like to be disturbed on walks then that makes it all worthwhile, it’s all baby steps!

We did pass one man who had to walk across our path so I told Bonnie to stop and sit, body blocked just a bit in case she tried to greet him and fed her treats. The man said gooood very softly when she listened to me so I guess he was being supportive of us trying to train but it was a bit random haha I didn’t know what to think. We shall see how our future walks go with it and update later to see if it really helps or not. I have also been considering buying a¬†Julius K9 IDC harness¬†because of the adjustable labels (and because I’m totally obsessed with dog accessories xD). I am also going to be more assertive and let people know in no condition to disturb us and if they do I will simply turn and walk away rather than try to explain myself as¬†that never really works out.

Do you ever get strangers trying to call or distract your dog, or have problems with kids running up without permission? And do you have any strategies on how to deal in those scenarios? I’d love to hear what other people’s experiences are!


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Dog Behaviour Class 1

Monday was the first class of the dog behaviour course I mentioned back in my¬†Exciting News!¬† post. Although it was a long day as I left¬†the house at 8am and didn’t¬†return until 10pm it was totally worth it! I was super excited and had all my supplies and bag packed up ready to go the night before. After work I went to a coworkers house to relax for a bit and have some dinner then arrived at the class for it starting at 7.30pm.

First up in the class we received our course handbook which had all the info on the course including what topics would be covered each week and also our assignment schedule.  We also received our first assignment which is due in on week 4 (24th October). The classes were also rescheduled to start at 7pm from next week on so it means we get away a bit earlier woo hoo!

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My supplies – notebook, notepad, pens and current book I’m reading (Dogs that fight and bite)

In this class we covered two topics;

Are dogs wolves? – This covered domestication of dogs and how previous studies done on captive wolves’ behaviour are not relevant in dog training

Reading dog’s body language and signs of stress – This covered how to read dog’s body language through ears, eyes, head, body and tail, as well as stress signals. We also had a class discussion analysing¬†photo examples of body language and talking about why dogs might have difficulty reading other dogs signals or why dogs may not give adequate signals.

Both topics I have already read about myself but it was great to hear about the topics from professionals themselves and also to have the discussions with¬†the rest of the class. The first assignment is also related to the first topic of domestication of dogs and has a 1000 word limit so I’m looking forward to the weekend to get that all hammered out.

I’m so glad I went ahead with doing the course and I’m super excited to see how much I progress and learn over the next 10 weeks!


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Week in review – new phone & slow mo videos

This week I felt pretty tired, unmotivated and like I hadn’t achieved much but now looking back it was actually a pretty busy and productive week, funny how that happens! This time last week I got a new phone and I have been really enjoying using all the new functions and the camera on it, it’s definitely a big upgrade from my previous 3 year old phone and it’s nice to not have to always be bugging my partner to take photos or borrow his phone haha.

For this week’s walks we did a mixture of walking around our neighbourhood, into town, along the seafront and also to our favourite park Hazelbank to take final advantage of the summer opening hours as it now closes early at 8pm ūüė¶ As always we are continuing our loose lead training, general focus outside and muzzle training.

Nothing too out of the ordinary happened this week on walks except 1. A small grumbly match between her and an off-lead lab but it wasn’t really anything to worry about and she came away easily 2. In Hazelbank while me and Bonnie were playing off-lead another off-lead dog came out of nowhere with owners halfway across the park and started a chase game with Bonnie. Thankfully since Bonnie was already in a playful mood from playing about with me she didn’t take offence and just had a bit of fun with it, but it was really difficult to get them to stop and the other dog’s owners didn’t attempt to call it back or even walk closer to help out.

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Carrickfergus castle
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Posing outside Shake Shack – we have become slightly obsessed with their milkshakes!
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Muzzle training on our walks – not paying attention at all as there is a bird over there xD

I have been having a lot of fun with recording videos especially slow motion as it’s so fascinating to watch things slowed down! The first video is after a few attempts at¬†learning a switch sides cue while walking. And the other two are just fun slow motion videos ūüôā

We bought a frisbee this week to see how Bonnie would react and if she would like to chase it as when we first got her she didn’t really know how to play at all. As you can see below she didn’t quite get the appeal!

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After so much muzzle training recently this is what she came up with haha

Our office took part in the Macmillan Cancer coffee morning on Friday and we baked some chocolate brownies to contribute. Bonnie tried her best to convince me that she deserved a brownie too – sorry Bonnie but not a chance!

We went back to Pet Warehouse NI to buy more Nutriment as she is really getting on fab with it. We have had no upset stomachs yet since switching her over so fingers crossed! She did great in the store but we got ambushed by a man who encouraged her excitement and when we said sorry please ignore her we are training¬†rather than¬†him¬†acknowledging that¬†and backing off, he instead encouraged her jumping, petted her and asked what she was training for and asking us to clarify multiple times. God I was so mad as both me and my partner tried to make it clear that we didn’t want to be disturbed but anymore we are just going to walk the other way than try to explain ourselves. When we came home we ordered a slip lead and customised vest/jacket thing¬†to hopefully get the message across to ignore us as her little training bandanna is quite hard to notice so we will do a post on those items when they arrive.

Later that night I had a little chilled out grooming session with Bonnie (cutting her nails, trimming her hairy feet, brushing) and I thought it was adorable that she feel asleep between my legs afterwards although my legs were starting to go numb hanging off the sofa as I didn’t want to disturb her haha

Today we don’t have anything too exciting planned – we are going to have a relaxing day since tomorrow I will be starting my dog behaviour course(!) which means I have a 14hr day ahead so think I’ll need the energy for then! Hope you guys all had a great weekend and are refreshed for the week ahead!

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Looking super fit at the minute ūüôā not that you can see much because of the long fur!

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