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!
This weekend we decided to go to a Bark in the Park event at Crawfordsburn county park and see how Bonnie would get on since she was so great at the Cancer Focus NI event at Stormont. When we arrived at the car park the place was totally packed! We drove slowly around looking for a parking spot and had to brake as a Yorkshire Terrier ran out in front of our car, some woman was unloading her car and let the dogs out with no leads on! The one we nearly ran over was zooming all over the place, the woman wasn’t even properly trying to get it back – it clearly had no recall and it flinched when she reached for it’s collar 😦 It was a bit of a nightmare and we should’ve took it as a sign of things to come!
When we arrived at the event area we immediately knew this wasn’t going to be a suitable event for Bonnie. At the event at Stormont the stalls were well spaced out and there was plenty of room to move away if Bonnie got uncomfortable but this event was soo packed. The stalls were very close, the paths were narrow, the dog show ring was absolutely dreadful and there was very little green space left clear except where we stood on the outskirts. They had opened up the centre to dogs with stalls inside which was way too close quarters for dogs to be walking through – some of the aisles between stands were about 2 people wide!
I left Bonnie with my partner to go and explore the event as there was no way I was putting her through all that stress as it was so busy and while there were a few dogs having the time of their lives (Goldens loving on all the fuss etc) many dogs were stressed out giving signals that were missed by their owners as they were so busy looking around them and not paying any attention to their dogs. Also gotta love the parents who weren’t looking after their child who ran up to Bonnie out of nowhere while she was sniffing and tried to pet her, I had to stand in front of Bonnie and tell the kid to stop. The kid just huffed and walked away, and she was still without her parents about an hour and a half later when we were leaving, unbelievable!
Although Bonnie wasn’t able to properly go into the event we used it as a training exercise and gave her loads of treats and praise for being near all the noise and commotion of the event. And she didn’t leave empty handed, although she really does not need any more treats at the minute, I bought her a loaf of frozen liver cake and some chicken hearts from the Natural Raw Feeding NI stall.
Overall it really wasn’t an event for us and I was a bit disappointed. I understand that Bonnie is quite a sensitive dog and not the ideal candidate for going to these types of busy events but I believe if it was better laid out it would’ve been more suitable and catered to more dogs especially nervous or shy dogs. I feel like too many people believe events and places like dog parks, fields and walks should only be for only overly friendly, in your face and bombproof dogs but I personally think we should be more catering to all dogs whether they are shy, dog reactive etc. As I went around the event I could see other dogs were stressed and maybe the owners weren’t aware, were busy or didn’t care as they wanted to stick around for the events but personally I couldn’t put Bonnie into that situation.
It took a lot out of Bonnie and that was with just keeping on the outskirts of the event, she slept pretty much the rest of the day! Although this event wasn’t quite for us it won’t stop us from going to future ones and keep trying as we seen with the Stormont event Bonnie can rock them as long as there is some personal space and not too packed!
On Saturday we went to a rally against BSL (Breed specific law). Recently a dog has been falsely impounded as a pitbull which is a banned breed in Northern Ireland and being threatened to be PTS as a dangerous dog, the dog in question is a staffy lab cross if I recall and is a danger to no one, it’s absolutely heartbreaking and the family are trying their best to get Hank back. If you want to find out more check out this facebook page they set up – Save Hank.
The rally was held in Belfast City Centre and I set off with Bonnie in tow, with a lot of high value treats and the expectation that we would not be able to stay long because of Bonnie being overstimulated. But again Bonnie has completely exceeded our expectations, she honestly seems like a different dog these days! She was able to walk around a crowded area without pulling towards or trying to jump on people which is seriously impressive for Bonnie as she usually wants to greet everyone to be reassured. She only got excited at people who came over to specifically greet her.
She was able to settle and just watch as the world went past without whining or getting frustrated. And seriously guys get this, I sooo wish I was able to capture it on camera but I was so busy reinforcing Bonnie, she was fantastic with the pigeons. As with most city centres there were quite a few pigeons around doing their own thing and Bonnie hates pigeons, she has huge drive to chase birds in general. Now don’t get me wrong she still wanted to chase them and would if I let her, she was pretty fixated and did try to lunge maybe two or three times but that was when they got really close, maybe 2 metres away, and suddenly flew away which activated her chase instinct. But I could give her treats – she was able to turn her head away from pigeons that were maybe only 3-5 metres away and actually eat the treats. Also no whining or barking from her! Seriously who abducted Bonnie and took her place haha.
In other news, today I decided to gear up and do a first outing with the Hurtta hiking belt and the Ruffwear palisades harness.
We went our usual route up the glen near our house and had such a lovely walk, the weather was so beautiful which was great as it had been so horrid with rain lately. She was excellent walking pasting other people and 2 dogs we encountered, and had a ball exploring and sniffing everything as usual 🙂
First impressions of the hiking belt and harness are great, so far they both get a big thumbs up from me! I can’t wait to test them out more, any excuse for more adventures with my bestie ❤
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!