Keep safe!

Keep safe!
You are responsible for your own safety and that of your dog. The walks listed in this blog are not detailed guides. Plan your route! Click the landrover image for safety advice from Bowland Pennine MRT.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Re-learning how to train a dog

For much of the past 10 years I helped out at the volunteer run Gregson Lane dog training club, which closed due to a change in circumstances for most of us, in 2017.  During that time hundreds of dogs and their owners came through the doors and most left happy, with confident owners and dogs who were well behaved having gained their gold or platinum awards.  I rarely got involved with the puppy classes, having what I now realise is the much easier job of the bronze, silver or gold classes where most of the time the dogs have already settled down a little and owners generally have some clue as to what they are doing.  The approach to training was very much about encouraging and praising your dog, but generally ‘telling’ it what to do rather than letting it figure it out.

For the past 6 weeks I’ve attended puppy classes, reading books and watching videos of positive reinforcement training. It is different in concept.  Essentially getting your dog to figure out what you want, marking then rewarding positive behaviour.  There is no leading your dog to heel with a treat or checking on the lead.  It’s more a case of encouraging the heel with a treat dropped behind your heel and continuing to do so, on a slack lead, until he gets it.  It’s a very rewarding approach and is certainly working for most things.  Biting is still an issue but there are days when i don’t get a hard bite! Much of the time my focus has been on things which will calm him, and ditching the food bowl so I have masses of food to reward good behaviour has been a bit of a revelation.

Marley loves people. He is interested in other dogs but not had that much opportunity to properly play with dogs his own size.  I need to find more opportunities to do that I think, in part so he wears himself out a bit but more so that he learns more about ‘play’ and what’s acceptable. 

Walks have been short, much shorter than I did with Finney at the same age, as I now know that it’s not necessary or particularly good for puppies to walk too far. 5 minutes for each month of age until they are grown, a couple of times a day, is the conservative approach.  I’ve not stuck entirely to that but he’s not walked more than a mile in one go.  Mental stimulation is equally good to tire him out. 

Not been off lead yet but I bought a long line today so we will start some training on that tomorrow, maybe at the beach at St Annes if the weather is good.  I might even get my camera out again!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The first 6 weeks with Marley

To be honest the first week is a bit of a blur but I think it was good! Nights were little or broken sleep, although he did sleep better each night in his crate.  I chose to sleep on the sofa for a few days, near his crate, whilst he settled in. That also made it slightly less of an ordeal to get him out for a wee at 2am.  6 weeks later it feels like a good move....he can go 7 to 8 hours overnight without a fuss!

Week two was good. I took over the holiday shift and inbetween household jobs spent loads of time playing and a bit of early training. It was so hot though that the vigorous play was confined to early morning and evening.

Week three better still. Second set of injections in the second week involved a ring round of local vets to find one who stocked the same type of vaccination as his first. Got there in the end though and MyVets cane to the rescue. It was great to get out a week later exploring the local environment. He is so confident at home but less so out and about. I am sure it will come though.

Week four I was back at work and my better half resumed doggy daycare. Accidents became a little less frequent and he’s pretty much mastered sits, downs, paw, wait and a half decent recall. On the down side he’s a real biter. Hands and arms are covered in scratches and small bite marks. He is getting a little better but think it will be a hard task to stop him!

Week five was tougher...he continued to jump and bite more than wanted and several times was described as devil dog! We did lots of positive reinforcement training though which was good at calming him down.  Puppy classes were great too.

Week six has been better...the training is paying off!

Loving time with him though. Reminds me of Finney in lots of ways, all good, but he has his own character of course. Hope one day he will enjoy the moors and coastline of Lancashire as much as he did.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Hello Marley

Last week Marley, an 8 week old Springer, joined the family. He really is a bundle of joy despite the needle teeth and sleepless nights.  I think Finney would be happy that the empty sadness we felt when we lost him has been replaced by love for life and hope for another lifetime of adventures. I can’t put in to words how sad the past 4 months has been but I knew that the only way that sadness would be beaten was to welcome a new pup in to our lives.  The best advice I took was to accept that the hole in your heart left when you lose your best friend will never go but your love for the other things in your life will grow, if you let it, so the hole feels smaller. I can’t wait to show Marley some of our favourite places.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Thank you for the memories

The saying goes that only one thing in life is inevitable, that one day it will end. We were blessed to have such an amazing and loving dog and he has been our world for nearly 12 years. I think I captured most of the highs and lows of our journey together. When I started this blog to see what ‘blogs’ were about all those years ago I had no idea what a treasure it would be. I did wonder a few times what I’d write for the last post. I think the following says it all “Thank you for the memories Finney.”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Gentle walks around South Ribble

The West Pennine Moors and huge expanses of Lancashire’s sandy beaches are starting to feel like a distant memory these days. We a lucky though to have plenty of nice gentle walks nearby which the dog copes with just fine, although I think I know where he’d rather be.

A walk down up and down the road these days can take half an hour, with his head in the grass sniffing every tuft.  Not the most exciting walk for me but he seems to enjoy it and is full of joy when he realises he doesn’t have to go in the car (he’s never been a fan). Such a familiar walk does give me a chance to judge how he’s doing in terms of eyesight and general health. He steps on and off curbs with no problem in daylight, but it’s harder at night. Having said that, he is far more confident than he was and bight walks are not so different to how they were thus time last year.  I don’t think he can see far, he doesn’t tend to react to dogs on the other side of the road but will acknowledge them when we walk past.  His sight is still good enough to get by day to day without bumping in to things, so doing well!

Longton Brickcroft has been our most visited spot in the past few months. The wide flat paths and plenty of sights, sounds and smells to stimulate the senses have been great.  Worden Park also remains a favourite and he has an occasional run (scamper might be a better word) off lead when it’s quiet. Up to about 30 feet away he can see me I think but further than that I probably blend in with the surroundings.  His ball is still very much the toy of choice but I am pretty cautious and we want no more sprains or torn ligaments.

In terms of general health we’ve had ups and downs. He lost his hearing completely after a nasty ear infection but happily and amazingly it has come back to some extent.  His skin has at the same time flared up at times and despite various antibiotics it’s still not great, but nowhere near as bad as the weepy sores he had a few years ago.  The main problem with antibiotics has been an upset stomach in the past week or so, we he’s off them now as I couldn’t stop him being sick and he lost his appetite , which is just unheard of!  All in all though he’s doing ok, and this morning did actually eat all his food with enthusiasm.

Looking forward to a few nice walks over the New Year, maybe back in the Lakes. A few weeks ago we had Friars Crag all to ourselves, which was pretty special.  I’ll be stunned if that happens again!

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

So that was summer

Autum is well and truely here. The nights are drawing in, the rain keeps falling and the first of the autumn storms have already visited us. Summer, albeit without too much sunshine, feels as if it was a bonus this year. Four months or so after cataract surgery I’ve no regrets. He continues to get by ok and in good light is very happy. In the dark or poor light he still gets around ok with the occasional bump. It’s a far far better position than we were in back in May. Walking wise we’ve not done a huge amount. Most walks these days are local, with Worden Park our destination of choice. The wide spaces and good paths are pretty much perfect. I’ve let him off lead from time to time when it’s quiet but have to make sure he stays reasonably close so he can still find me without heading off in the wrong direction. I’ve bought a fantastic 8m long flexi lead, for parks and countryside not pavements, which has made walking a bit less stressful and definitely safer. I’m more concerned that he might hurt his eyes if he headed in to bushes or reacted if surprised by another dog than I am about him runnng off.

Whilst we’ve avoided sandy beaches for obvious reasons it didn’t stop a 2 week holiday in Cornwall last month which was wonderful. I’d not thought we’d get back there but happily we did, taking in some short coastpath walks, plenty of pubs and fishing villages. As usual he obsessed about pasty crumbs and the smells of fish and chips.

All in all, a good summer. I hope autumn and winter continue to be happy and maybe we’ll even get back to Cornwall next year!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Brothers Water - Miles Without Stiles

After another checkup at Vet Vision in Penrith a short walk was in order so I decided to check out one of the Miles Without Stiles walks. Given these are intended to be accessible for most, with (clearly) no stiles and good solid paths, they are pretty much ideal for a short walk with a dog who is still finding his way or less mobile.

We parked at the Cow Bridge car park and followed a good path down to the shore where the dog had a little paddle, on the flexi lead of course. It's in these unfamiliar surroundings that I get the best sense  of how good or bad his sight is. He can follow a path well but his near sight is poor, so he fails to spot rocks jutting out of the water for example. The same challenge applies to rough paths, where he doesn't pick up small obstacles.  Sometimes it's as if he loses me visually if there is a lot in the background behind or beside me, but he soon picks me up. I feel fine with him off lead in a big wide park field but not in this kind of environment.

As far as walks go it's lovely, with fine views up towards Kirkstone and across the water. Once we reached the farm we were joined by an aging farm border collie, who seemed to enjoy hiding behind various objects before jumping out and barking at us. I was a bit uncomfortable with this but to be fair I think he was just toying with us and it was his patch!

Back again to Penrith in three weeks time as the pressure is high (29) in his right eye, which also has a bit of a scratch that needs to heal. Back on more drops, which is a disappointment, but of course worth it to reduce any risk of longer term issues. Fingers crossed all will be fine.

I'll certainly look for another Miles Without Stiles walk for our next visit.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Soaked on Jeffrey Hill

After the trials of the past few months I thought we'd have a stroll on Jeffrey Hill this afternoon. There were plenty of dogs on leads signs around, and even more sheep!  Sadly the heavens opened pretty much as soon as we left the car.  What in the past had been a gentle stroll up to the trig was tortuous in the rain, and sodden underfoot, so quickly defeated we just mooched around a while getting drenched, before heading back to the car and a blast of the heater on full.  If anything, a lesson that even the gentlest walk can be tough in certain circumstances, and I think I'll now stick to the park in the rain!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Gregson Lane Dog Training Club has now closed

After many years Gregson Lane Dog Training Club has now closed.  Thank you to all the wonderful people and their dogs who have attended over the years, and to the volunteers that made it happen. It was the place that we took our pup 11 years ago, and never left.

If you are looking for alternatives I suggest asking your vet, fellow dog owners or the various local Facebook groups that exist. The Chorley area has a particularly good one if you search for it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

A happy dog friendly holiday in Northumberland

We have just returned from a fantastically dog friendly week in Northumberland. Sadly no beaches for us yet as sand and eye surgery don't mix, but it was wonderful all the same. We stayed in a small village called Lucker, close to Bamburgh.  It's a strange place at first sight as almost all of the village consists of holiday cottages, property bond apartments and a holiday park, all owned by a handful of property companies.  Stablewood Cottages, with whom we stayed, also run the village pub and a bistro across the road.

For us it was pretty much perfect. The property (The Old Mill) had been recently renovated and was superb.  Three floors meant lots of exercise for the dogs leg, which was good.  Away from the coast meant no problems with sand in his eyes too.  The Apple Tree pub, also dog friendly, was excellent as was sitting outside its sister establishment, the Apple Core.  

Excellent pubs abound on the Northumberland coast.  The Joiners Arms, Jolly Fisherman (for a drink) and White Swan all met with our, and the dogs, approval.  Mid week we had to make a trip back to Penrith for a checkup with the vets and found another gem, the Carts Bog Inn, just off the A69 near Hexham.  

We didn't get up to much walking other than round the village.  Craster to Dunstanburgh castle was a real hit though, as was a stroll round Bamburgh. I didn't care too much for Seahouses but can see the attraction of the boats out to the Farne Islands.  One day we'll be back to do that.

Hopefully we are now over the worst of his recent trials and tribulations.  The crate and pen were packed away today, together with the cone of shame.  We have a clear kitchen for the first time since February.  Here's hoping for an uneventful and fun summer!