Monday, 11 June 2012

The next level of training, Whistle command

As Blue has responded well to further training, we are going to take it in a different direction.

We have now acquired a "Dog whistle"

This is for the future, when we go walking in the Lake District and the Scottish Highlands, sometimes we can not see another person on our walks. The aim is to have the confidence to let Blue walk off lead, where no local restrictions might apply.

On successfully removing it from the packet, a couple of blasts on the whistle, and Blue came to find out what the noise was about, he was duly rewarded, and this was taken as an encouraging start.

In addition to the whistle we brought two new nylon Wainwright leads in olive green. One about a metre in length the other half that length. Using theses leads attached directly to his collar means he no longer needs to wear the halti collar which is becoming a distraction and irritation. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and this morning in the pouring rain, he did not kick off at all with passing motorists, people on bikes or just walking past with brollies.

While out walking this morning in the local park, he was let off lead, he strayed no further than three feet from me, so we did not get the opportunity to do a recall on command of the whistle.

Rome was not built in a day, so with patience, we will see when we get the next opportunity, until confident the opportunities will be limited.

Perhaps we will try the "sit" command, as recommended in the instruction booklet.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Fun time

After the minor blip in the week, Blue has had some great fun already this weekend.

Off lead in the park playing with his chewy toy and favourite tennis ball.

Later on it was the favouritist game Football in the garden, Blue likes to jump and catch and chase.

Come on you Blues!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Reality check, a minor bump in the road.

Oh dear, the honeymoon period took a reality check today.
(By the way the picture is of Blue at the end of a yawn, but did seem apt)

Blue has had an off day today, not sure what was the cause but it has been challenging to say the least.

As with all relationships, they say you have to take the good with the bad, today Blue showed a less than adorable side to his nature. One could look for reasons or excuses or even make some up, but a few things happened today which brought a reality check.

On his early morning walk, he had a brief opportunity to go off lead in the park and play with his tennis ball, in the distance a young Labrador was spotted off lead doing a similar play thing with his companion, not yet fully trusting Blue he was put back on his lead with some discretion, so as not to make it an issue, we carried on the rest of the walk until we left the park for a spell of road walking, which ended up with us going back into the park ten to fifteen minutes later. He was detached from his lead where he game fully played fetch with his beloved tennis ball. Returning to home for a well earned breakfast all was well in the world for me and Blue.

When I returned home from work not long after 4.00pm my wife Sue had said that Blue had seemed a bit restless during the afternoon. Suspecting he may have some business to attend to I gave up my customary tea and chat with the wife to take Blue out.

Now here is the rub, the rain was quite heavy as we made our way into the local park, Blue was very distracted by a lady crossing the park with an umbrella up to shield herself from the rain. But we moved on , he did his business which was dutifully scooped up and placed in the dogie dodo bin. We walked on and Blue started to nudge me and be a bit fussy. After a quick scan of the park, it was just me Blue and the rain, which had eased up. His lead was removed so he could go and explore or do what he wished.

All the signs had been there, but not heeded, Blue wanted to play and old game, intimidate and control, initially it was a boisterous nudge, which quickly escalated into a face to face confrontation. Verbal commands had fallen on deaf ears, he was getting bolder and bolder. Without any warning he was squirted with the water bottle, which stopped him in his tracks. Reluctantly he obeyed the command to sit when I could then reattach his lead to his collar and halti.

As no harm or damage had been done we then set off, held close by, with the lead attached we did a circuit of the park, we ended up exactly where Blue had kicked off. Now for the test, a quick scan confirmed we were alone in the park, Blue was released from his lead and did not venture too far, if only at times to fetch the treats that had been thrown by me to encourage to run and chase. The walk continued for five or so minutes, when Blue was told to sit and wait, then would come to my on command, collar attached and then our walk continued out of the park. 

Walking down the lane a car passed, and Blue launched at the car in his old manner, the bottle of water was required for a second time. Like buses they say it comes in threes. Our final leg of the walk brought us heading towards a small well behaved black dog and her owner, they have seen Blue in action before and stood just far enough away to allow us safe passage past, I don't think blue was thanking them as he struggled at his lead, hoping to meet and greet, and there it was the third time the water had to leave the bottle.

Order restored we completed the final leg of our 40 minute excursion which had been action packed.

Was it disappointing, yes, could it have been avoided yes, was there any one reason or a combination of many things, who knows.

What I do know is next time it rains and Blue is sending out signals, it is up to me to lead him on a safe passage, where he will be more relaxed and less likely to feel agitated.

After all of today's events, disappointed though I maybe to have had to use the water bottle, I still feel that progress with Blue just hit a minor bump in the road, and I look forward to our next adventure, due about 5.30am tomorrow morning.

Monday, 4 June 2012

The bond grows stronger,and the grass is cut

Although Blue our German Shepherd has taken to his new regime, he has in some ways returned to aspects of his old self.

Some behavioural traits of a typical German Shepherd dog can be seen as an early sign of defiance / challenging of leadership. In Blue's case though it is more the occasional slip into bad habits, but more so the self confident dog enjoying his life.

A challenge this week was the mowing of the lawn, before the mower was out of the shed the barking and howling will build to a crescendo, by the time the started cord was pulled on the petrol mower, we would both be wound up to fever pitch.

In the past my wife Sue, would restore peace by putting Blue in the house, having neighbours on all sides, the volume of Blue the mower and me going at it was enough to bear. So given recent successes with the drinking bottle it was time to face another challenge.

With water bottle in hand, mower was taken out of the shed, weary looks exchanged, but no dramas.

Time to start the engine, and on cue start Blue off as well, a quick squirt with the command "leave it" was enough to restore order.

As you can see below the result was instant, I mowed the lawn and the only noise was from the mower itself. If you look closely the blue drinks bottle is placed on the mower, and was not required while mowing the grass.

As Blue responded so well it was important to give him some assurance whilst still cutting the grass. Once the mowing was completed we played with his footballs his favourite game of catch and chase.

We can now be called The Lawnmower Man & his Dog Blue

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Blue goes swimming

A regular treat for our German Shepherd is to go swimming.


Blue goes for a swim at Aquadoggies in Swallowfield, an outdoor pool specifically designed for dogs.
It is run by a couple who we first meet at one of the Dog Training sessions that they run, a couple of years previous. 

When Blue was 7 months old he became lame, with a hasty trip to the vets, Blue my wife or me were not aware of how this visit to the vets would change the lives of the three of us. The vet was a young eager and keen, and his early suspicions were unfortunately proved to be correct.

Blue had loss the use of his back legs, following a night of trauma he was taken to the now renowned specialist Fitzpatrick referrals. Blue was in so much discomfort they took him in immediately, where he underwent major surgery for spinal laminectomy. This surgical procedure where a portion of the bone of a spinal vertebra is removed to allow access to the spinal canal / cord. This culminated in a three night stay were he spent time in the recovery wing.

With Blue back home with no fur down his whole back he was restricted to living in a metal crate, which he had previously been crate trained in, as a younger puppy, he began the long road to recovery.
He would return for regular check-ups, but no further surgery

Blue was now not only more precious, but needed the love and support of my wife Sue and me even more so, which was given unreservedly.

Due to this life changing operation, Blue missed out on developing from a puppy to a socialised dog, and the agility training we had hoped he could develop was advised against. As part of his rehabilitation the specialists advised that he had aqua therapy, to help not only build up his muscles but to reduce the chances of putting undue strain on his spine.

Blue did not take like a duck to water, in fact the complete opposite

Each Friday we would take him for his hydrotherapy, where the therapist would don a wet suit and enter the pool, unfortunately the pool required entry by walking up a sloped side turning left going down two steps and then straight into the pool. 
Not only was Blue apprehensive, but that strong will that he had, played a significant part in the long slow progress. After an hours drive across town, for an hour session, he probably spent a couple of minutes in the pool, even to the point a couple of packs of his favourite treats Schmackos, were the only thing which would bribe him to enter. The hydro therapist was more concerned with not stressing him and each visit a little longer or more strenuous activity was achieved. Blue was not swimming at any stage he wore a life jacket and was supported in the pool by the therapist. Blue would sometimes not enter the pool until 30 minutes after getting his toes wet.

Once the hydrotherapy sessions were concluded, we felt that it was worth finding somewhere closer by that had a more accessible pool. With patience and understanding all the boxes were ticked at Aquadoggies.

Both Andrew and Carol were qualified trainers and knew what Blue needed, coaxing with a bit of an assertive manner, once a few sessions with Andrew had passed, Carol took up the lead, no pun intended.

Blue needed a lot of coaxing to go in and began with a life jacket, with a long training lead, as his confidence grew, the lead was removed and finally the life jacket.

There has been now two and a half years of these weekly sessions, and as seen in the video he loves not only swimming, but acting partly as a tart and partly mischievous, enjoying every minute.

At the end he enjoys having a foamy shower, rinse blow dry and scented baby fresh fragrances conditioner then off home in the car for his dinner. Winter times wearing his coat

At this point we would like to make a special Thank You to
  • CS Hydrotherapy (Caroline)
  • Aquadoggies (Andrew & Carol)
  • Fitzpatrick Referrals (Guilford) (Noel Fitzpatrick, Sarah Girling, and all the Team)
  • Abbey Vets (Adrian Caunter)
  • My wife Suzanne