Training titbits

This is a subject which is discussed endlessly by everyone from new puppy owners to old hand trainers, as well as all their friends and relatives, not to mention the people in the pet shop.  Everyone has a different opinion, but here’s my take on it.

I have three types of dog training titbits: stuff I’ve cooked myself, Specs’ normal kibble and stuff bought from the shop (but don’t tell Jen!). Continue reading Training titbits

Adventures with Mary

I have just woken up from the biggest sleep. I had such a fun time yesterday, I met 100’s of people, it is exhausting being such a social butterfly.

I went for a sleepover with Mary and she took me everywhere.wet walk
We went on a walk with Poppy (Mary’s Labradoodle) round the field, it was raining so I had to wear Paris’s coat to keep me warm, I thought I looked particularly stylish in it, yellow isn’t everybody’s colour, Mary also attached a really long bit of rope to my collar, she said it was so she could catch me because I am so fast. We did tugging and sniffing, while Poppy played with her ball, Poppy seemed to be more interested in her ball than me, I can’t think why!

Next, we went to visit Mary’s neighbours, due to the amount of publicity surrounding my sleepover. I cuddled, kissed, played and did tricks- I put on quite the show.


I then went to The dog house, Seaham to watch Poppy, Magic and Luna doing some runnins, jumpins and walk over benches that were really high. It looked ever such fun, I want to be like them when I am older.

The next day started with breakfast, to get food I had to bang on a round thing, it made a funny noise and then a click would happen and a treat appeared! At first I was unsure of this game, but after the first 2 treats, I realised how fun it was, sometimes I banged it 2 or 3 times to get a click.. Mary said I was ‘being very clever’… I don’t know what else she expects from me to be honest.

I did some push ups after the drums, Mary says this is to get me ‘big and strong’ for when I am the athlete, I was born to be.. it is hard work being this good at everything you know!

The real action started at lunch time though, we went to the shops at Jesmond, there jesmond webswere metal basket things with wheels on them that people pushed, don’t tell anyone but I was a little scared of them at first, they made such a big noise. Once we found where they were stored we started doing stuff next to them, this made me feel a bit more relaxed, by the end I even went to the end of the lead to see them. I was so brave. scary trollyThere were lots of people and cars as well, they all looked a bit like my big sister Emma and her friends, Mary said they were ‘students’, all I could see was their shoes, sometimes they would bend down and tell me how cute I am, I liked those people.


Next off to Uncle Gary (an Uncle I had heard lots about, but never met) and Auntie Mary’sGary training (not bff Mary, another Mary, how confusing) house to do trainins with clicks and treats, I did all my best party tricks for him and then we met ‘The Schnauzers’, they were super fast and I played hide and seek with them, cos there were so many dens to hide in Uncle Gary’s garden. It was the bestest garden.

hide and seek

I thought we had finished, but oh no when going home (I was a bit tired, so Mary carried me) I stopped by a house with loud little people, a house with a calm person with a walking stick and some slightly bigger little people.

After a short rest, we went out the house again to pick Auntie Elizabeth and Poppy up from the hairdressers and to vote, I was told I was the youngest dog ever to visit, because I was so young they wouldn’t let me vote, so Mary did it for me, I was quite insulted… what does Mary know, that I don’t? Humph


To finish off my day, I went to school at Croft vets, where I learnt how to walk nicely on lead with my Mummy, I must admit I wasn’t quite as lively as I normally am, but Mary was in a worse state! I can’t remember the journey home, I was dreaming about what my next adventure with Mary would would be.

The Big Bally

A small sample of some of the training Mary and Jenny have been doing with Specs.  Videos are at the end of post.

Specs learns to push a big ball.

Why?  Because it’s fun.  Because the more she learns the easier she is to teach.  Because we’re planning a fitness regime for her in the future which may well require using an exercise ball.  Because body awareness is  very good for her future agility training.  Because it’s fun, did I say that already?

Our training is far from perfect.

Jenny: Lots of late clicks.  Although I think I might have got the sound out of sync.  My story, I’m sticking to it.

Mary: could have given more keep going signals.  KGS? Feedback.  Remember that game children’s game where you approach a hidden object and if you’re closer to it you’re hotter, get further away, you’re colder?  It’s like that.  KGS tells the puppy she’s getting warmer…  Can really help an inexperienced dog or a dog who’s trying really hard to work out what you’re after and not quite sure she’s on the right track.  I say things like: “Keep going,” “You’re doing it,” “That’s my girly,” that kind of thing.  With repetition the dog starts to get the idea that when she hears you say “Keep going,” it means a reward is on its way if she keeps going, then bingo!  Click/treat.

Alternatively, there’s colder.  “Oh dear,” or “Whoops a daisy,” “Again!” if dog offers behaviours that are on the wrong track.  All very valuable clues, information.

I should stick to just the one positive and one negative.  KGS: “Keep going” and fail marker: “Again” are probaby my favourites.  But I’m human and the feedback seems to come out of my mouth on auto-pilot and dogs are very kind, they seem to get it, so I’ll stick to my not-quite-perfect-mash-up of feedback words.

I think you’ll agree, from start to finish of this video set (or the highlights if you’re short of time), little Specs definitely gets the hang of what we’re after.  And she appears to be enjoying herself, we certainly were.

Did we sneak in extra training sessions with the ball that aren’t on the video?  You know, I don’t think we did.  I think these were it.  Puppies are so easy.

I think also if I had been paying better attention I wouldn’t have looked for just the one behaviour with the ball.  I’d actually like her to learn to push it with her nose as well as walk it along on her back feet.  What is learned first is learned best, and you can find yourself having a bit of a battle to get your dog to stop doing that first learned, very strong behaviour.  We’ll see, eh?

So, when I’m teaching anything new, I try not to stick to the one thing.  Work on stands and downs, heels and recalls, spin one way and spin the other.  If you just spin the one way, it can become that battle to get the other.  I bet any dog trainers reading this are nodding knowingly at this point.

And actually this reporting has got me thinking again, I’d like her to learn to dribble it too and bash it with her hips, so much to teach.
Best bits?  We were nice and generous with our rewards.  Little Specs was left in little doubt that interacting with the ball is a VERY GOOD THING.  We mostly gave more that one titbit per repetition.  And we placed the rewards so they gave us good bang for our bucks.  We gave rewards on/near ball to increase her positive associations with the ball.  Or we gave them a bit away from the ball so she was placed to deliver another repetition, so she could approach it again to put her feet back on it .
But still, not perfect and I like that.  Well actually I don’t, I’d rather be perfect.  But  I’m happy to share warts and all.  Because the most important thing about training is the doing of it.  We could have done better but we enjoyed ourselves, the dog made progress, all good.  I think if we worry too much about doing it perfectly we end up not doing it at all. And as long as we to the training, the dog will learn, they’re very good at learning.  As long as we’re not abusing the dog, (please don’t), we’ll make progress.  Always, always, just do it.

Length 8:46

Session 1
Length 4:17
Approx 15 March 2015


Session 2
30 March
Length 4:53

Session 3
22 April

Session 4
3 May

Session 5
10 May
41 secs


Round Robin Recalls

Specs doing extra recall practice after her agility training, yesterday.   She almost reported on her performance herself, but there were too many long words needed and she didn’t know how to spell them, and she was too upset by the prospect of dogs having tea trays land upon them to write this herself.

At Kirkley Hall Agricultural College, Northumberland.  Their equestrian centre.  Complete with horse scents and wildlife scents and maybe even some sheep scents.  Yes, she does stop to sniff pretty frequently, she is a real dog, but none of it stopped these lovely recalls. Continue reading Round Robin Recalls

Specs Goes Walkies

Went on a walk with Mary, Jenny, Beetle and Paris.  We did runnins.  We did recalls.  We did heelins.

Mary said Sue wouldn’t approve, but I know Sue would, I love Sue.  Sue would say as long as we do Specs Only walks a lot, we can sometimes do walks with Beetle and Paris and My Brother Wilf so I can practise my recalls with other nice dogs about me.

Jenny and Mary were brave to let me off the lead, but not so brave they took the lead off completely.  Just in case, make it easier for them to catch me, just in case.  I hardly noticed, I got my runnins, I hardly noticed. Continue reading Specs Goes Walkies

Puppy worries

All owners worry about their dogs, all of us.  Although dog trainers are a little bit not-normal in what they worry about.  We’re considerably less worried than the 99% of the population who fret about dogs eating poop/sniffing or licking each others’ bits/playing tug with their leashes.  And a lot more worried about dogs who don’t come back in the park straight away and quickly.

Serious behaviour and health problems are beyond what I want to talk about here, they really are a worry.  I want to talk about the problems we’re not sure about, the things we think could get worse, the things that simply annoy us, the things that annoy us and probably shouldn’t. Continue reading Puppy worries

Specs with a big bit of seaweed

My first trip to the beach

I was supposed to be at Aunty Jen’s today, but me and mum had a special day on the beach.  Mum said she had a big decision to make. I’m not sure why that meant we had to go to the beach, but humans are funny things.

I really liked the beach. I’ve never been there before and it smelled all strange – salty and fishy and seaweedy.  And it felt really funny on  my feet.  The sand got stuck between my toes and the grass was much tougher than the grass in our garden. Continue reading My first trip to the beach