Sad Update to my ‘Old Dog’ Story

Our lovely foster dog is not staying with us as, unfortunately, my best friend’s dog took an instant dislike to her & if he hadn’t been on the lead he would have attacked her properly, luckily he was & we could restrain him. He is a young Border Terrier who has a touch of  ‘little man syndrome’ & is adding more ‘dislikes’ to his list of; Boxers, other-short nosed dogs, toddlers & now black dogs apparently. We tried again with him muzzled but that just sent Tilly into a total barking frenzy which escalated the issue.    

 The ‘butter wouldn’t melt’ terrorist

I know that isn’t my problem & we could just stay away, but it would have become  a really big problem as I look after him sometimes & I rely on my friend to walk Tilly for me if I am working. He & Tilly get on fine & I would have lost a friend.  I would have persevered if Bella had put him in his place but she is not very assertive & she hid behind something rather than retaliate, – he would just bully her I think. 

Fortunately I have another friend who has rescued a 3 legged older spaniel in the past & looked after her ’til she died aged 16. She is now ready for another dog, met Bella, & fell in love with her. She applied to adopt  & was successful, so there is a happy ending for Bella, also for us as we will still be able to see her whenever we want, & watch her training progress. 

  
Here she is settled in her new bed in her new home. I am sure this home will be perfect for her as she will be an only dog & the family will work hard on training with her. 

Teaching An Old Dog New Tricks

We have a 2yr old Sprocker Spaniel (springer/cocker cross) called Tilly. She is a typical Spaniel: loving, loyal, curious, clever & tennis ball obsessed – no other type of ball will do! She is very obedient & has great recall, but she is also quite timid, very submissive & nervous of traffic, so hates lead walking & associates the lead with panic & fear. She has been like this since 4 months old when something spooked her – we have no idea what – & afterwards she refused to leave the driveway & panicked when we put her on a lead. 
  Tilly with her ball. 

We spent lots of time & money on building confidence through training/behaviourists/ supplements/pheromone collars etc & got to a reasonable point where she would walk but pulled like a train -desperate to get to her ‘destination’, – she was always rewarded by being let off the lead for a ‘play’ at some point on our walks. 

During last winter it was too wet to walk ‘to’ anywhere from our house – all the local parks were waterlogged, so we drove to places further afield that were less muddy. This was probably a mistake as she lost her confidence & went back to square one, refusing to lead walk from home again – very frustrating when we had worked so hard….. We had to start again with the training & we are now at the point where she will walk nicely between two  people – safety in numbers!

  Tilly happily off lead on a walk.

I belong to a Sprocker Spaniel Facebook group & recently I saw a post about an older dog needing rehoming- her family circumstances had changed & they could no longer keep her. She was nearly 8 yrs old & because of her age no one had come forward to adopt. She was calm, confident, good on a lead & very cuddly. We decided to foster her with a view to keeping her if Tilly liked her & she settled with us, as we thought that an older dog might give Tilly more confidence- 8 yrs is no age for a spaniel – they can live a long time!

  

Here she is in a great pose:)

Once we got her she settled immediately & bonded with all the humans in the house instantly, she seemed to ignore Tilly & behaved like an only dog, sleeping well &, although didn’t ‘play’, loved holding soft toys, socks, shoes etc in her mouth.

The only issue seemed to be that she didn’t respond to her name – actually she didn’t respond to anything – words, whistles etc – I wondered if she was deaf- but she could definitely hear food being prepared!! We couldn’t get her to pay attention to anything & as she is black we kept losing her in the garden when letting her out before bed, as she just seemed to ‘wander’ off in the dark, not deliberately ignoring us, but her ‘nose’ was her dominant sense & leading her astray:) 

 

Settled with a cuddly toy & fast asleep

This meant that we couldn’t let her off the lead anywhere except in the security of a garden, so we bought a really long padded lead from Clix –  (available from Amazon here) -for taking her to the park etc – but kept her on a short training lead most of the time, she didn’t seem to mind being on the lead, but out in the big wide world everything was new & exciting especially water & we nearly came a cropper a few times- she didn’t pay attention to us or high value treats at all outdoors. 

It seemed a shame that she couldn’t be allowed off-lead to use her working instincts – the complete opposite of Tilly!! So we had to find a way to train a recall – although we wondered if this would even be possible with an older dog

 She did know some commands eg ‘sit’ ‘stay’ ‘paw’ etc so we decided to build on that & with some brilliant advice we set about training.

Firstly we decided to change her name I.e. use a different ‘cue’, as we felt her name must have been over-used in the past – she didn’t even turn her head or look at us when we used it – we decided on ‘Bella’ as a suitable name & began training. Using her food as training treats, & a clicker,  we ‘clicked & treated’ for the slightest acknowledgement of us without any words, then, once we got her attention voluntarily, we started using her name before commands, eg ‘Bella sit’ etc, clicking & treating different variations of commands for a few minutes several times a day. In fact we stopped putting her food in a bowl & only rewarded her for ‘working’ so all her food came from us. She loved this ‘work’  as it was great fun – she has a typical spaniel ‘work ethic’. Within a couple of days she had learnt her new name & came in from the garden when called. Result!!

Now to try to train a proper recall. Using an Acme dog whistle we ‘blew & treated’ using her food to establish a ‘Pavlov’s dog’  classical conditioning response to the whistle. This takes a little time & we did this over several days, indoors first, slowly increasing the distance from next to us in same room, away fromus insame room, next room, garden etc. This worked easily indoors but outdoors she was still ignoring the whistle so we pulled back to indoors extending the distance more gradually. 

At the same time we played other games outdoors – eg hooking the long line over a post & we would take turns to run away from her calling her name & ‘come’ – no whistle – this she loved, but only once she had sniffed out the whole area first! We seemed to be making good progress at least in getting her attention. The long line was 10 metres & we attached 2 extra leads so we had a line of about 15 metres to play with. During a walk along an open fenced field we dropped the lead to see what she would do – she didn’t run, just pottered along following her nose… once on a ‘trail’ though, she got faster so we had to keep up with her, as she doesnt ‘check in’, or seem to need to know where we are, this is obviously going to take alot longer than we thought as it turns out she had been let off the lead once & ran off she was never let off again.

Our best bet is probably to work on forging a stronger bond with us & Tilly -who needs to know where we are at all times – & then, hopefully, she will want to at least follow us or be around us, watch this space…….. the bond is coming.

From this …….   
……..to this in a week.

 
Bonding in Progress!

I feel this lovely dog has not had the opprtunity to learn, but has great potential, she has a brilliant ‘sit stay’ & when in ‘work’ mode is very focussed. She would make a great agility dog if in an enclosed area. I just hope its not too late to train a good recall.

Does My Butt Look Big in This??

 This was a very sad corner of my garden, I was given this water butt about 10 years ago, we connected it to the drainpipe via a diverter & then to a seep hose for the dry side of the garden.

Water butts are really expensive – even ugly ones – so I have been putting off replacing it, & spending money on other things in the garden. It’s by the back door & not something I can see all the time,  so I could ignore it, but it really spoilt the look of the patio, and, as my new mantra is – ‘if it isn’t pretty,  it isn’t staying’ – it had to go. 

So when my friends asked me what I would like for my birthday, it seemed the perfect opportunity to replace it with a prettier one. I had seen beehive shaped butts & ones made out of old barrels so that’s sort of what I had in mind. 

   
   
 

 This really great recycled copper tank looks fab too but not right for my garden. 

I trust my friends so left it upto them & this is the one they chose.  

It’s a huge 245litre  ‘terracotta look’ butt by Cascata, made right here in the UK.  It has a lovely old fashioned brass tap, a hose connector & you can even use the top as a planter like this…. 

How amazing is that I love it – a fantastic birthday present! Great design but totally practical too. 

Just for your info it’s available from various places online see here: Cascata Water Butt but the cheapest I found was £139.00 inc delivery from Internetgardener.co.uk . Cascata do a couple of different designs & sizes & they have the look of terracotta but are actually lightweight polypropylene – guaranteed not to chip, crack or fade.

It takes a little bit of time to fit all the outlets properly using the included PTFE tap on all the connections to prevent leaks, but I did it in about 15 min. 

You could have the drainpipe going directly into the top, but we already had a diverter kit which sends rainwater into the barrel until it’s full, &  then excess water goes down the pipe as normal.   

We had some old bricks leftover from a building project so we made a little platform raise it up to the right level for our diverter, & then prettied it up with a few pots. 

My butt definitely looks big but doesn’t that look better??  

It Works!!

#2 son is studying Product Design Engineering & Manufacture at Uni so we are always researching new products, & designs. Recently I came across Sugru – a flexible adhesive which sticks pretty much anything to anything – or so they say.

It was created by a product design student & is a story of creativity, innovaton, & determination taking 10 years from idea to final product – read all about it here.

  
It’s a bit like plasticine or play dough & comes in great colours or neutrals & is reasonably priced at £12.99 for 8 pieces. It is waterproof, heatproof, mouldable, flexible &, as they claim it will stick anything to anything, we decided to try this on the bottom rack of the dishwasher, where the movable plate-holder’s fixing had broken, not the end of the world, but very annoying. 

My first attempt didn’t work as I was too stingy with the product & then didnt wait long enough for it to ‘cure’, I also discovered that once opened Sugru doesnt keep!

On the second attempt we were more generous with the product & waited 48 hrs for a proper ‘cure’.

  
Not especially elegant but it works!! It has been in place for a week now & the dishwasher has been on at least once a day & it is holding up perfectly. 

What to fix next? We have a broken freezer drawer held together by gaffer tape, a box of assorted small items that need some fixing, a couple of phone charger cables……. you get the picture. What could you fix??

I’m also thinking that packs of Sugru would make great stocking fillers & secret Santa pressies, so I will be stocking up.

The company is young & has a great ethos re: fixing stuff,they have built a great social media presence, & encourage people to send in photos to their blog of ways they have used Sugru, there are masses of ideas for ways to use Sugru but the best are all collected on Pinterest  click the link & be amazed! Sugru on Pinterest 

*wanders off to find more ways to use this amazing stuff*