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!
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.
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)
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!
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 – what they were breed for, what motivates them, common issues and things to be aware of or look out for.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
Recently Bonnie seems to be on a roll with training and I am so proud of how she is doing these days. She is doing great with loose lead walking, ignoring people on walks and staying calm and collected in scenarios that we would have never have dreamed of when she first came home. We’ve been trying to take more videos of Bonnie out and about so we can keep better track of her progress so I thought I would share some recent footage with you all.
We have been taking Bonnie into town at night recently to get her more used to the sights and smells of a busy town street and to do some fun “barkour”. She has been doing great with her leash walking in more distracting environments so we have even started practising off leash walking (dragging her leash) when it is quiet.
In the video below we were also doing some practise with her muzzle on as we want to eventually use the muzzle on some walks so hopefully other owners won’t let their dogs run up to Bonnie and maybe people won’t try to distract her while we are training (why do people make kissy noises when I’m trying to keep her calm walking past people!)
She is also doing great training in new environments and keeping her focus on me rather than being hyper vigilant and worrying about what’s happening around her. She is definitely more calm and starting to gain a quiet confidence as she looks to me for guidance more and more. In the video below we were at a parking spot at a park just after we had a bad run in with another dog and their owner but you can see she recovered really well and was enjoying herself as we goofed about a bit.
We have been having a lot of fun together doing tricks training and it seems to have really built our bond which is great especially after the unfortunate incident earlier in the year. I just love her enthusiasm and how she engages with me more and more even with distractions like birds nearby – like the noisy bugger in the video below! Also I love her little bark and grumbles while doing the leg weave 🙂
We have made so much progress together in the past while and I am so proud of Bonnie, she has seriously come on leaps and bounds. She is not “perfect” by any means (I’ll be doing a post soon about one area we are really struggling with!) but then who really is! The thing that matters most is she now is a more confident, engaged and happy dog that we feel comfortable being able to take more and more places so that we can keep up her socialisation and keep her mentally and physically stimulated. And going from the low earlier in the year to this high makes me not worry about if we ever hit a stumbling block again because I know that we can recover as long as we work as a team!
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.
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!
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 🙂
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 ❤
Guys I am so excited! I ordered a lot of new pet things, mostly for Bonnie but some degu goodies, from Amazon, Forthglade and Camddwr Canine. I can’t wait for all the items to arrive so I can do some posts and reviews! I bought quite a lot and it was a bit expensive but I had an amazon voucher to use, we had a bit more spare money this month as we finished saving for our new sofa (needless to say Bonnie is loving it – see below!) and we saved £80 from not continuing the agility classes xD so it wasn’t too bad in the end.
Bonnie loves her home comforts and she’s no longer wary of the sofa seats reclining!
Two of the items arrived already so I thought I would give a sneak peak of what we got!
First of all we ordered some wet food from Forthglade as Bonnie loves their food and we love that they contain only good natural ingredients. We ordered a multipack from the both the grain free range and the just 90% range. The food arrived super quick and we asked Bonnie to pose with the boxes by asking her to put her front paws up. What we didn’t expect was her to climb on top of it and perch like a little statue xD
Also we ordered an agility chute since we are going to do our own agility training at home for fun. It’s the type of tunnel with the floppy material at the end rather than the rigid tunnels, so we are teaching it in steps to keep Bonnie’s confidence high. First of all we kept the tunnel folded so it was like a hoop, then we opened it out and folded back the excess material of the chute so it was like a normal tunnel and now we are slowly unfolding the excess material so she can gain confidence pushing out through all the extra material at the chute end!
She’s loving it so far as she get’s lot of tasty treats like ham and chicken for doing “through” which is the cue we’ve started to use.
We have lots of more fun goodies ordered which should be arriving soon so I can’t wait to share them with you guys!