Friday, 25 April 2014

Signs that Alice is looking to me for direction

Out on our morning walk recently Comet went off in one direction and Daisy hung behind sniffing something out in the long grass. Alice was off the lead but made no attempt to run off towards Comet, nor towards Daisy. I didn't say anything to her just watched her reactions. She kept looking towards Comet and then towards Daisy, clearly not sure what to do other than stick with me. She eventually stopped, looked around, and sat down - without any word from me. She clearly couldn't decide what to do. She had that look that said she was about to run off to one of them but when I said "heel" she just trotted over to me. A few months back and there would have been no question she would have been off chasing after one of them rather than trotting alongside me. I think this is a sign of real progress in getting her to focus on me rather than on anything and everything that is going on around her... small steps!

Friday, 25 April

More interesting interaction between the dogs this morning. Comet is doing a great job of chasing Alice and making her stop chasing Daisy. I understand now that if Daisy doesn''t want to be chased she wouldn't run so I don't try to stop them anymore. But directly Comet spots the chase has started, wherever he is, he's off after them. He doesn't stop until his caught her somehow - usually by grabbing her coat, or if she's slowed down he grabs her leg. He always has a very self-satisfied look on his face and a very bouncy, happy, walk back to me after his succeeded in stopping her and calming her down. Alice always has a go at him when he tries to stop her, but he doesn't over-react. He just keeps snapping, turns his side towards her until he's decided she's stopped, and then trots away. Alice always stands still for a few seconds and then usually comes trotting back to me. It's fascinating watching him as I can't tell when Alice has submitted but obviously Comet knows the signs. I'm really grateful to Jim for showing me how to watch their behaviour more closely so as to understand what's going on. Good boy Comet!!!

Here's a slightly longer video. You can see that Alice is the fastest but Comet doesn't give up. In this one he manages to eventually slow Alice down enough for her not to get so frantic about chasing Daisy. I think he's going to be a help in getting Alice's prey and chase instincts under more control ... hopefully!

Easter Monday - Burkham Woods

Lovely SLR walk at Burkham Woods. Some people and dogs I'd not met before which was good, including India. It was interesting to watch her behaviour with other dogs... a strong dominance streak but her tail got hurt at one point and she cried and cried and ran straight back to Nicola for reassurance and comfort. Since meeting with Jim I've found I'm watching dog behaviour much more carefully now and feel I'm getting better at understanding what is going on.

Alice did her usual chasing Daisy, and Comet intervened, as usual, but they soon stopped and joined in with the other dogs. Daisy mixes with the other dogs very well and loves to run and explore with them, but I never see her getting involved if there are any spats. She somehow manages to spot what's about to happen and keep out of the way. Comet doesn't want to get involved but he's often picked on. He gives some yelps and runs back to me and then it's all forgotten and he runs off with the other dogs again, but tends to keep fairly close to me throughout the walks. Alice loves to be with the other dogs and if any of the dogs kick-off she will run forwards with the pack. She's careful to not get involved but she still wants to be up front seeing what's happening. Like Comet, she usually gets picked on at some point but immediately submits and runs back to me for reassurance and then is off again.

I'm hoping to go for more walks at Burkham so that we can join Nicola and her pack again and see how Alice interacts with India, who won't stand for any nonsense from Alice. Hopefully next time Daisy will resist dunking her nose in the mud!!!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Sunday, 13 April

Busy weekend: drove down to Alresford on Friday to pick up Barney a 7 month old Lurcher who was coming into SLR for fostering. I had to take him to the Newbury Dog Show the next day and hand him over to Phillipa who was keeping him for the night, and pick up Sam another young Lurcher who needed transporting to South Mimms.  I really liked Barney. He's a lovely happy little boy and I could easily have kept him... if I didn't already have 3 dogs!

Barney was due to be fostered in Maidenhead so I offered to meet Phillipa on Sunday morning for a walk and to pick up Barney and take him to meet his new foster mum.

I met Phillipa in Tadley on a common where there were lots of dog walkers. Alice wasn't great, but I think there's some small progress with the barking. I thought it would be good for me to take here where there would be lots of other dogs - if I don't do this then I'm not going to get a chance to teach her how to behave. I think there's some progress. She's still getting agitated and barking but I'm able to temper this more now and she's not going quite so ballistic. I think it's going to be some time before she stops reacting but for now if I keep concentrating on keeping in front of her, walking at normal pace and making eye contact with her while she's trying to bark then hopefully she will get less and less agitated and eventually take no notice. It's going to be a long haul, but having to write this diary has helped me to see that there's some progress, even if it's only small steps.

Here's the lovely Bruno... makes me sigh just thinking about him. He gave me such a lovely snuggle when I was handing him over to his new foster mum. He was obviously feeling anxious and had bonded with me after just one day together and didn't like the thought of me going. I hope he's having a happy time with his new family.

All About Dogs Show, Newbury 12 April 2014

I took the dogs to the dog show at Newbury along with Jaeme and Lewis (the kids who live near me). I thought there would be somewhere to put down a rug and have a base-camp, but there wasn't so we had to keep walking round. There were lots of dogs there so it wasn't a pleasant experience as Alice kept wanting to bark and even Comet started snapping at some dogs. I think it was all too much for them, and a lesson learned for me.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Manor Farm Walk - 6 April 2014

Took the dogs down to Manor Farm Country Park near Botley for an SLR walk. Romi hires the field for us to use to let all the dogs off in a secure environment. They all loved it. Both Daisy and Comet tended to stay away from the crazy chasing but they still enjoyed themselves. It was interesting watching Alice. When she initiated a chase other dogs joined in and when they did she immediately held back a bit. There was a group of dogs that were intent on chasing and it looked as though she was a bit intimidated by them when they joined in. I was expecting her to display her strong prey drive and try to bring dogs down (I had her muzzled so she couldn't actually bring them down), but although she started the chase in this way, she immediately let the others take over when the really serious chasers started. This gave me some hope that as she matures that drive will diminish and that maybe taking her for more SLR walks with a larger group of dogs will help temper the instinct as well.

It was embarrassing to see that my 3 were in every shot of someone feeding treats to dogs - Alice is at the head of the pack with the red edge to her coat. I say "my three" as I've now adopted Alice. Nearly 9 months and nobody else wanted her so she's staying, and Daisy and Comet are going to have to keep up the controlling tactics.

Saturday, 5 April 2014


We had another difficult encounter with a dog in the week during which Alice went berserk. It was along the narrow towpath again. I saw the dog coming and put her on the side away from the dog but I couldn't stop her barking. I'm not sure how I should have handled it... maybe I should have turned and walked the other way. The problem was the dog's owner was jogging so they would have caught up with us. I'll definitely try to think about doing this next time, and decided I had to just put this down to one step along the way to getting her behaviour under control.

Today was much more promising. We went for an early morning walk to Sonning Meadows, further along the River Thames, downstream from where I walk the dogs during the week. It's wide open fields with lots of room for them to run. There were quite a few dogs out but they were a long way off so I made sure they were out of sight before letting any of the dogs off the lead. Before I could do this I saw someone I regularly bump into. He has a whippet that he keeps on the lead and a Weimeraner bitch who runs free. He's really nice and very understanding of Alice's behaviour. He's seen her go berserk every time we meet him and he takes no notice. This time I positioned myself in front of Alice and bent down to make eye contact with her. I said "hey" "hey" to her every time she tried to look around me. She made some whimpering noises but there was no barking at all and no lunging at his dogs. I was able to stand near him talking, all the while watching her, without her getting agitated. He even commented how much better she was than normal. I was pleased with how she responded and especially pleased that when I let her off the lead just afterwards she didn't start frantically chasing Daisy like she did the last time I let her off just after meeting another dog. It seemed like this time the adrenaline hadn't kicked in nearly as much so when Comet chased her down she responded and stopped chasing - last time she wouldn't submit.

Here they are chasing with Comet making sure she stopped when he told her. He couldn't quite catch her but he went over to her when she attempted to chase Daisy again. It's interesting to watch his body language and her's as she responds.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014


Bit of a set-back on Saturday, but still much to learn from it.

I was picking up a pooh on a narrow section of path on the way to the open field where I let the dogs off and behind me a Staffie suddenly appeared off the lead. Alice went berserk and Comet had a bark as well. The owner had another dog on a lead and just carried on walking past without attempting to get control of his off-lead dog, giving me a dirty look as he went.

He was going in the same direction we were heading so I let them get way ahead of me and then let Daisy and Comet off, and then Alice. She immediately started chasing Daisy and when Comet chased her she wouldn't submit. She just kept on bundling with him. I got the impression that her adrenaline had been raised when she had seen the Staffie and she was too hyped to stop chasing when Comet had a go at her.

It was a nice day and being Saturday there were a number of people out walking the tow path, including dogs so I put Alice back on the lead.

There was another dog on the way back to the car, just before we got to the narrow path again and I managed to keep her relatively calm... just a few grumbles, but she was clearly still hyped up.

When I think back over how I handled it I realise I was walking much too slow on the way back and I should have been more aware of the need to walk at a brisk, normal pace. I did try to maintain eye contact and said "hey" "hey" a few times, which worked. But I think she might have been calmer if I had walked more quickly.

As for the first dog, I don't think I could have avoided Alice barking but maybe if I'd walked briskly in the opposite direction to the man and his dogs and concentrated on the heel work and praise this might have calmed her down and she wouldn't have been so hyper by the time I'd walked back to the fields again and let her off.

I'm making Alice wait a few seconds before giving her the reward and have also been doing some more "find it" work... she's almost got it.

This is the narrow path earlier in the year just before it completely flooded, looking back towards where the car is parked. The second photo is the field the path leads to where I let the dogs off the lead - the towpath is to the left. It's a great place for them to run but difficult on the narrow path if I meet anyone with a dog.