Category Archives: Ounce’s Adventures

Fields and Woods – A variety of walks

How important is variety?

Before we moved to the wonderful Milton Keynes, we lived in Essex and I used to trudge round the same, pretty tedious walks.  It was a Country Park, with a small lake and next to some fields, but it was newly built and not very exciting.  For me, one of the best things about living where I live now is the quality of my walks (and our proximity to John Lewis!)  I now have the opportunity to walk round a large lake, beside a river, or up in the woods and on the heath.

Just as I feel passionately about being able to walk my dogs off lead for at least 90% of their walk, I really love the fact that they can experience different places to walk as well.  I think it is very stimulating for them to be exposed to different smells and varied terrain.  Of course it’s brilliant for me if it’s not too muddy, but it is much more important that they have the chance to do something different.

It was lovely to be able to take Ounce out with her cousin Bea (from the Beatrix Potter litter) and her family.  I wanted to give her the chance to go somewhere different and it was great to see her running around the fields.

It was also good to see her relaxed around other, strange dogs.  She had not met Bea or her family before the walk and was thrown straight into this new situation. As you can see here, she was quite happy to take treats from Charlotte (much tastier than mine!) and to sit nicely next to Nico.  When we got back to the house I was able to have a chat and a coffee while Ounce and Nico ran around in the garden, playing really well. I also took Ounce up to my favourite woods, on Aspley Heath, but I forgot my camera!  She enjoyed it very much, though, just like the girls do.  I can’t wait to walk them all together every day, so that she can run around with her family.  However, I know that every day I walk her separately is a day that strengthens my bond with her and improves her obedience.

It astonishes me that people walk their adult dogs on lead up in these woods.  Of course you have to be careful if you don’t know the area, as there are roads around.  But surely a bit of hard work on recall is worth it, so that your dog can enjoy running in and out of the bracken?  Yes I do know I have collies, not spaniels – it’s not always that easy!

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More training progress

Out and about – agility show

We have continued to have adventures – going to another agility show last weekend.  It’s a lovely place to take a Border Collie puppy, because there are so many collie families there, so everyone thinks Ounce is amazing!  She was pretty well-behaved on the whole, considering that it is quite a ‘full-on’ environment to be in.

Most of the time though, we just go down to the field by the lake, or along the river, wander around for a bit and then have some fun and games, before heading back up to the house.

New training to consider

I have continued to work through the list I described in an earlier post training progress @ 3 months I’ve also started to add in some additional things.  These include:

  • Formal recall.  This is where the dog is put into a sit and told to ‘wait’.  You then turn round and walk away from the dog, increasing the distance over time.  Turn to face your dog.  Wait for a second or two, to make sure that the dog is not ‘anticipating’ the recall.  Call your dog to you,  bringing your hands down between your legs, so that the dog is ‘guided’ into position.  Reward with them up against your legs, in nice and tight.  Reward from both hands, so that the dog stays central and doesn’t try to wriggle over to one side.

  • Catch.  Having seen a video of Ounce’s brother Lenny catching a ball and a treat, I realised I needed to work on this with Ounce.  Puppies can’t automatically catch and need to practice, just like us.  They learn quickly of course, especially when a treat is involved.
  • Twist.  I have been trying to teach this to Aura and Busy as well.  I was told by my agility trainer to work on ‘impulse control’ in both of them, as Busy in particular becomes EXTREMELY excited when doing agility.  At the show last weekend she was pretty hysterical in the ring and couldn’t concentrate properly.  She went under poles and past the weaves, rather than listening to my instructions.  Teaching dogs to ‘twist’, ie to spin round in a tight circle, is a great way to get them listening to you.

Impulse control is actually the main lesson your dog needs to learn.  It’s what I was talking about in my last post when describing desirable behaviour in dogs as it is the way to get our dogs to listen to us, even when something very exciting is going on nearby.  The starting point for this to be really exciting yourself, with lots of play and rewarding behaviour.  Be better than the other thing going on – very challenging I know!

Here’s a video showing our progress with a general wait, aka stay.  Again, I am working on this from the point of view of ‘formal obedience’ as I have done this training with the others.  You don’t need to be so formal about it, but having a great wait is so important; it’s worth spending a bit of time on this every day.

As you saw a few weeks ago, I started by trying to stand facing Ounce and helping her to wait, giving her treats for even a few seconds’ waiting.  Here you can see that I am a bit further away, standing sideways on (so I can still see her but am not so much in her face) and waiting for a few seconds longer.  I then move to stand beside her and give her some positive reinforcement, but without releasing her.  I then walk calmly around her, so that she gets used to me moving about. Not bad eh?

Here are some targets for waiting/stays:

  • Waiting for 30 seconds to 1 minute in a sit position
  • Waiting for 1-2 minutes in a down position
  • Waiting while I am out of sight
  • Waiting while I move about, moving towards me running around in front of her shouting and waving my arms around (I know, it’s a treat in store!)
  • Waiting while I throw a ball (it’s a really tough one this)

How long before I can do these, do you think?  Of course as well as that she needs to learn to wait to cross a road, or to wait while sometime walks or cycles past.  Some people teach a wait to have their dinner, or a wait with a treat balanced on their nose – I think that’s a bit mean.

All of this helps improve focus and control.  It keeps the dog with us and not running after someone else.  Best of all, it keeps the dog happy and mentally stimulated, rather than bored, neurotic and snappy.

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Desirable Behaviour in Dogs

What do we want our dogs to be able to do?

When I walk my four adult dogs around our local parks, particularly at the weekend,  I am frequently complimented on the ‘good behaviour’ of my dogs.  I feel pretty smug, but also a bit confused, because they aren’t really doing anything.  They are off lead, running around, often fetching a ball or chasing each other.  They don’t always look where they are going and I still have to pay attention when cyclists and runners go past, as Busy in particular is often roaring around without looking who is coming.

So why are they so well behaved?  I think the main thing that distinguishes my girls from the majority of dogs that people meet, is their indifference.  They do not go rushing up to other dogs, sticking their noses where they are not wanted.  In fact they give other dogs a wide berth.  If other dogs come up to them, they will turn away, or may say quite politely “No thank you, I do not want to play with you”.  (Sunny has a nice smile she likes to do 😉 )

When we walk past people, including families with children, my dogs will never, ever, run up to people or jump up.  They might occasionally go quietly towards someone who would like to say hello to them.  They will stand to be stroked and might even lean in for a fuss.

If we see runners, or cyclists, which we usually do, my dogs will get out the way on their own.  Or they will follow my command to ‘Mind’ and then get onto the verge, beside the path, where they will wait until the path is clear.  When someone pops up unexpectedly, the dogs will ‘wait’; completely still until told ‘OK’.  If we are walking across a field and someone comes towards us they can go ‘down’ simultaneously, keeping completely still until I release them.

Impressive?  Or just good manners?  I think it is the least we should expect.  This is what I am currently working on with Ounce, when we go out for our separate walks in the afternoons.

It’s such a challenge though.  Not to train the puppy, she’s an angel.  But coping with all the idiots out there.  In the last couple of days I’ve had people letting their boisterous retriever bounce up to Ounce while she was sitting quietly at my feet.  Not surprisingly, she told him to sod off, and when I asked the owner to please call their dog off, he was so half-hearted about it that the dog took no notice at all.  I’ve also had people bending down and making a fuss of her when I am calling her away from them.  I’m happy for her to talk to people, (without jumping up) and for them to talk to her, but I also need to be able to call her away first and if they encourage her to talk to them it makes my life extra difficult.

Top tip: If you see someone with a puppy, please don’t encourage it to come and talk to you unless the owner is happy for you to do this?  And please don’t allow your big dog to jump on my puppy? Work on your recall, so that your dog is nearly as obedient as my 14 week-old pup!

Overall though, it’s going well enough.  As you can see, she is growing!  Nearly as big as Busy, who has no hair left at all!

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First Family Walk

What do you call a collection of collies?  Think I have a ‘handful’ here.  Maybe a chaos of collies?  Anyway, I decided today to take Ounce out with her family for a runaround.  As you can see they largely ignored her!  She thought it was pretty exciting, but was also able to return to me specifically – that won’t last!

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Training Progress @ 3 months

Away we go!

I am currently walking Ounce daily for 15-20 minutes.  I am supposed to take her out twice a day but I’m ashamed to say that I rarely manage that, although I do try to provide additional experiences, such as visiting family.

I make sure that the walks we do are different from day to day.  So we sometimes walk on lead from the house for 5 minutes, then round the field by the lake off lead, then back up to the house.  On other days we hop in the car and drive round the corner, so that we can do the whole walk off lead.  Or we might go in a different direction, so that we are closer to the lake and the trees.  I plan to gradually increase the variety of walks we do, but it’s a challenge when the time is so short.

I walk her in the afternoon, before they have their dinner, so that she is hungry for treats!  Each day I mentally run through the ‘programme’ of activities we might cover.  This includes:

  • Walking on lead
  • Walking off lead, letting her wander away from me and have a good sniff
  • Recall x 10-20, making sure she comes back during the walk, not just at the end

  • Sit x 5
  • Down x 5-10
  • Play tuggie with toy
  • Chase after toy
  • Fetch toy, with recall

  • Ignore a person walking past, while watching me and having treats
  • Say hello to a person walking past, without jumping up

  • Wait practise.  This is quite a tricky one, as you can see in the video.  You have to start right by the puppy and only move away bit by bit.  I stepped in to feed her after a few seconds, before she got bored.  I should have ended it there, because as you can see she then did get bored.  I tried not to ‘reward the fail’ but to make her do a tiny bit more before I rewarded again.  I didn’t do a very good job!

I’m pleased to say we are managing to work through all these elements.  The other day I was feeling smug and getting ready to head back, when a man appeared round the corner, running flat out.  Ounce first of all turned and barked at him “what are you doing you maniac?”  Then she set off after him, running full pelt, hard on his heels.

There was no way I was going to catch her.  I called her in a variety of tones, starting with a firm voice, but remembering to switch to ‘Excito-mode’ – more of a high-pitched squeal.  After only about 10 seconds, she came hurtling round the corner back to me.  Phew!  Good test of her recall – passed.

Finally, just before putting her back on lead, I did a couple more practice ‘downs’.  Because I’ve been doing this for a few weeks now, I am starting to say ‘down’ (trying to be consistent in the tone of voice I use and being firm without sounding too scary) then waiting to see if she knows what that means.  She does!  Yesterday she looked up at me and flopped down, without me moving my hand down to her nose to bring her into position.  Hurray!  Only another few hundred more times and she might do it most of the time on voice command alone…

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Visiting Family

Seeing the Rellies

On Monday we had so much fun.  Ounce and I travelled to Surrey and met up with Nicole and her dogs, including Ounce’s dad, Sox and her half-brother Dreamer.  The two pups got on straight away and had a wonderful time running around together.  They are just two weeks apart in age, so it is lovely for them.  Clever Sox produced a second litter just like the first one, same colour mix, same number of pups and very similar to look at – just that Dreamer has matching eyes, unlike Lenny!

Before we left, we decided to go for a ‘family photo’.  Easier said than done, as you can see!  They do look great though, don’t they?

After that we went round the corner to my friend Jane’s.  She has three of my pups, one from each of Sunny’s three litters.

This is Nell, Luna’s sister.  They are so alike, it is really quite hard for us to tell them apart, even after 7 years!  Their ears are set slightly differently, but that’s about it.  Luna and Nell don’t like each other much, typical sisters!

Lyra was the only girl in Sunny’s second litter.  We toyed with calling them ‘Snow White and the seven dwarves’ but decided that Sneezy, Sleepy, Grumpy and Dopey were not the best names for beautiful puppies!  Have a look at the Litters page to see what we did call them.  Lyra is a beautiful girl, so like her mum.

Jumble is Busy’s brother.  He is such a happy boy; he really loves life and his family. He has such a sweet nature.  I am lucky to be able to see these pups regularly and they are lucky to have such a brilliant home and loving family.

Ounce really enjoyed seeing everyone and of course being made a fuss of by all the people. She plonked herself on my goddaughter Alice’s lap, making herself completely at home.  She was very tired after all her adventures!

Here’s a tiny clip of the pups at play

Chewing, weeing, biting – a puppy’s endearing habits

How do we stop all the bad behaviour?

This week Ounce has had lots of fun – we went to an agility show!  Sadly I was too busy paying attention to my puppy and all the admiration she was getting to take any pictures – will try and remember for the next time.

Here a picture of her cousin Aura, with her rosette and trophy, after winning a grade 3 class.  She is in grade 4 now!

Agility is all about having fun with your dogs.  They get so excited when they are there and they really love doing it.  My last run of the weekend was completely rubbish, but Aura came out smiling so widely – she had had the best time!  I look forward to training Ounce, but we won’t start for another 9 months.  Meanwhile there is work to be done..

Chewing

Puppies chew things – everyone knows that.  But why do they do it and how do we stop them?  They do it because they need to get rid of their baby teeth and grow in their adult teeth.  Just like babies, this process is lengthy and can be sore.  So they go through periods where they will chew anything they can get their teeth into!  Like this coaster, left on a side table.

Prevention is definitely better than cure.  Here are my top tips:

Keep puppy safe.  Do not leave your puppy unsupervised unless they are in a safe place; a run or a crate.  Of course this is easier said than done.  We don’t want them to be ‘cooped up’ if we can avoid it.

A crate like this one is ideal.  Puppies like going in their bed, especially if you give them a treat every time you shut them into it and feed them inside it as well.

Provide plenty of toys to keep them occupied.  These will get chewed, but it is better that they chew these rather than your house!

Kong chews are invaluable for keeping your puppy entertained while you are away from them.  If you fill it with treats and freeze it, this will keep your pup busy for quite a while!  It is also good for when they are teething.

Weeing – the nightmares of toilet training

Another massive challenge with puppies – how do you stop them weeing everywhere?  I know perfectly well that if I pay attention to Ounce and take her outside regularly, especially after she has woken up, she will go in the garden, not in the house.  Hmm, well it’s a good theory.  The frustrating thing is that she does know, she just forgets.  So even if I leave the door open so that she can go into the garden when she wants to, she can’t really be bothered.

I am now trying to make it clear to her that going in the garden = success!  Lots of praise and cuddles.  Going in the house = BAD!  I am not happy and get pretty grumpy about it.  I don’t smack her, or ‘rub her nose in it’ but I do make sure she knows that is not what is expected.

Yesterday we had a first – a wee on the walk!  Don’t be surprised if your puppy does not go to the toilet on their walks for quite a long time.  There is just too much excitement out there.

Biting – the game of ‘snap-snap’

I call this game ‘snap-snap’ for obvious reasons.  If you have more than one dog, chances are you will have seen this.  It’s a lovely game and so nice to see the dogs enjoying each other’s company.

However, if you don’t have another dog willing to play this game, your puppy will try to play snap-snap with you!  As you can see, it is really just ‘mouthing’ without real biting, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.  So it needs to be managed.  Again, toys can come in handy, as playing ‘tuggy’ with the pup can be equally stimulating and helps you bond with your puppy, without hurting.  Be aware of what your puppy wants to do and teach them that some playtime is really fun, but it must be on your terms.  Dogs say ‘no’ to each other by moving away, or yelping – you can do the same.

What do you think?

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Tasty Treats to use in Training

We went to the pub!  It was such a lovely weekend, we decided to take Ounce out for a drink.  I knew there would be lots of people and some dogs around and I wanted to see how she would cope.  Of course everyone thought she was very special.  She enjoys the attention and really ‘sucks up’ to people, but I was pleased that she didn’t really jump up much.

She was also very polite with a dog who came over to say hello. I managed to distract her while one family walked past nearby, but she also ran over to people and struggled to come away – definitely something I shall be working on.

I have started to teach her to ‘wait’ which is the preparation for longer stays.  At the moment this is simply getting her to sit still beside me for a few seconds.  It’s hard work to even do that.

I used tiny lumps of cheese yesterday as her reward – it’s important to keep mixing it up and making sure that she has plenty of motivation for doing something.

This video clip is simply to reinforce what I was saying about the length of the walk.  Someone said it seemed a bit ridiculous to only walk her for 15 minutes when she runs around in the garden for hours each day.  Watch this bit of play with Busy.  They are really running about, but then she stops.  She lies down, to catch her breath.  Busy immediately stops playing with her and leaves her to recover.

If I was out with her and she ran out of steam, what would I do?  Keep walking?  This is the difference between a structured, adult-led walk and a puppy playing, on its own terms.

Walkies! The first walk for a puppy

Puppy’s first walk – what to expect

The big day is finally here, your puppy is allowed to go for a walk!  It’s what you’ve been waiting for so eagerly.  However, be prepared to be underwhelmed; your puppy will probably hate it!  Even if you have managed to spend time around the house getting your pup familiar with your collar and lead, they still won’t want to go anywhere.  If they don’t spend the whole time sitting down and refusing to move, they will just sniff the ground and take no notice of you.

Patience is the key when training a puppy

It takes time to train a puppy – remember that every day.  Try not to expect very much at all, then everything will be a bonus.  Did you notice and admire Ounce’s bespoke lead?  Unfortunately the glitter tag and lead both weigh a ton, so she spent most of the work complaining that she couldn’t move :p

Length of Walk?

Five minutes per month of puppy’s age: An 11-week old puppy should only be out for up to 15 minutes.  That’s why we started and ended our first walk with her in the Pet Sling.

What did I do first?  Let her off the lead of course!  My sister rather anxiously asked if I wasn’t worried about her running off.  I wasn’t worried then, which isn’t to say I won’t be worried in a few weeks’ time.  I need to let her off the lead and work hard to get her paying attention to me, thinking I am really exciting and wanting to come back to me.  I will then be able to cope when she does start to realise that the world is exciting and there are other things to do.

What else did we do?

At this age, you want all your puppy’s attention on you, for some of the time.  So we practice retrieve and down.  These video clips show the initial stages of both of these activities.  With the retrieve, we want the puppy to go to the toy and sniff it.  When she does this, I make sure she knows by saying “YES!”  Then we do it again until she picks it up and brings it back to me.

Finally, we practised a bit of going into a ‘down’.  Not to be confused with ‘get down’ when they are jumping up, for which I say “off!”  Just like teaching a child to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ this is one exercise that needs to be done a million times.  To start with we use food to bring the puppy down into position, with the hand as a strong cue.  When I’ve done this a few hundred times I start to say the command at the same time.

Of course it’s not all hard work!  There must be time for play and cuddles as well.

Settling in time – bringing the new puppy home

What must your new puppy learn?

Ounce is my seventh collie, the sixth I have had as a puppy and the fourth I have bred myself.  I realised as I sent Chester off on Friday and as I’ve watched the pretty good 10 puppies and us on TV that it is a pretty daunting task, bringing a puppy home.

I receive a great deal of feedback from the new puppy owners, from the ridiculous “how do I know when my puppy is doing a wee” to the more sensible “does he always eat slowly”.  So what do I do with my new puppy?

I think the first thing is to have a bit of peace and quiet.  I work very hard on socialising my pups, so they will have met around 100 different people and been handled by most of those, in their first 8 weeks of life.  That means that life has been a bit hectic.  It’s nice to calm down and have a bit of time to ourselves.

see Equipment page for more details

It is good to get out and about too.  I’ve bought a Pet Sling Carrier this time, so that we can carry Ounce around more easily.  Although she will very quickly be too big for this, it is useful before she has her second vaccination, so that she can get out and see different places and people.  It also means she can come with us when we all go out, when she can run around for a little while, but then pop back in for a rest.

Mainly what I am doing with Ounce now though is familiarising her with our normal family life.  When we get up, what time we all eat.  She needs to cope with being left while we go off for a walk with the others and when we go shopping.  Of course we are working on toilet training (going pretty well).  We are working on her recall all day long, with me calling her to me from around the house and garden.

Ounce is learning various words, including ‘in’ (come into this room with me) ‘out’ (go out of this room – not to be confused with Ounce lol) ‘mind’ (you are in my way) ‘off’ (don’t jump up) and ‘wait’ (until I let you move).  I also have to learn her words for “I’m hungry”, “I’m bored” and of course “I need to go out”.  If I pay attention to her, we are less likely to have problems.

Finally, Ounce is encountering all sorts of strange things, including this beetle.  She ate it, in the end!