A little while ago, after watching a channel 4 documentary on dogs and their secret lives, we recorded Poppy while we went out and found that she very unsettled when left on her own. She got extremely stressed and worked up and showed behaviour such as toileting indoors (once even on our bed!), pacing, panting and howling. While we are very lucky to have extremely understanding and dog loving neighbours, we knew we couldn’t go on letting Poppy be so unhappy while she was on her own. And it’s not like she’s on her own a lot or for long periods of time, but we want a happy, stress free dog. We got in touch with local dog trainers, K9 Playtime Academy Dog Training School and we haven’t looked back.
Our aim is to have a dog who isn’t really bothered if we’re there or not, so that if she needs to be left on her own for a couple of hours, she can. While we’re not quite there, we’re really close. Poppy is an excellent dog for training. She is hugely motivated by food, she’s a very quick learner and she enjoys training – she wags her tail throughout every training session! We’ve trained her to lie down on her mat, with her face on her paws and are working on getting her to lie on her side. We started by just getting her to sit on her mat and have progressed from there. We’re also working on getting her to stay on her mat while we move away. So far, we can get to the front door and have the front door open and she’ll stay on her mat. The next step is for us to go out the front door, close it and get her to stay on her mat. To make sure she doesn’t move, we’ve bought a camera that we can watch her on through our iPhone to see how she’s behaving.
The first time Poppy lay on her mat with her head on her paws, both the trainer and I very nearly cried! During training, you can see Poppy thinking really hard to work out what we want so when she does work it, it’s pretty awesome! We use a clicker throughout training and it works really well. Training sessions always leave us exhausted, but we’ve learnt so, so much and I can’t wait for the day we have a real breakthrough with Poppy and can leave her on her own without her getting stressed. We now know that if we want Poppy to behave in a certain way, we have to shape it, start small and be patient. Quite often, I’ll rush things or think we’ve pushed her too far, when we haven’t at all and I’m just being impatient. One thing is certain, and that’s Poppy will get there. It just takes a little time.
One thing our trainer recommended to us was a relaxation protocol, Champion of My Heart and it works by changing your dogs reactions to things that make them stressed, be it noise, separation anxiety or fear. It works really well and I can’t recommend it enough. Have you tried anything that’s worked particularly well for shaping your dogs behaviour? I think reward based training is always a winner – and why not? It works for me, so why wouldn’t it work for Poppy?!
I am deep into redecoration mode right now. Despite the fact that we’ve had to put on hold on decorating my study, thanks to illness, I’m still thinking and planning everything in my head and keeping an eye on Pinterest and Twitter for inspiration. I’ve followed Designer Maker shop on Twitter for a while, but had a good look at their website and oh my word, I want it all!
I love the blue in this Clifton Lampshade by Sophie Richardson. It’s lovely and bright, which would be perfect in my study as I’ve got light paint for the walls and want to add pops of colour in different areas. I can’t wait to finish my study – all my stuff is all over the place right now! When it’s finished, I can stop spending my money on paint and buy some of the gorgeous things over on the Designer Maker Shop!
A few weekends ago, we decided to take Poppy into Oxford. We generally don’t walk her in busy places very often because it’s so difficult. Poppy tends to walk with her nose and therefore walks in a zigzag style. When it’s busy, it’s a bit like wrestling a pig rather than walking a dog! But we know we need to train her to walk better in busy places so off we went. And she was a star! She was really well behaved, patient when we went into shops & walked really well on the lead.
Oxford looks beautiful at most times of the year, but especially in autumn. We parked in Norham Gardens, headed along Parks Road and into town. After a bit of a mooch about, we headed towards Jericho. We stopped off at Companion cafe on Little Clarendon Street and then headed back to the car, just in time before it started raining!
The Walk: Oxford is such a beautiful city, there are loads of places to walk. We kept to the quieter streets, due to Poppy’s zigzag walking style!
Car Park: You can park in the Westgate carpark, but it costs a fortune. We parked in Norham Gardens, which is cheaper and nicer. Plus it’s right near University Parks. It’s £3 for two hours.
Refreshments: Oxford is full of lovely cafes. We sat outside Companion in Little Clarendon Street, as the tables are under cover and it’s a nice quiet street.
Toilets: There are some scattered around, but most cafes have them if you can sneak in!
So you know when you’ve got lots of things planned and you rush around like a mad thing trying to get everything organised? Then you get sick and you can’t do anything other than sit? Well, it’s been like that this week. We’re in the middle of redecorating and have a million other things to do on our to do list, and then we both got struck down with a horrible bug. While it’s been painful and frustrating, getting time to just sit and be isn’t something we allow ourselves very often. Yesterday afternoon was spent on the sofa, under a blanket with Poppy.
While being poorly isn’t a treat, time spent doing nothing, letting your body recuperate, is always a good thing, even better if you’ve got someone to share it with. Also, Poppy makes a great nurse! Though, that’s not to say I won’t be sad when I’m feeling well again and can get on with everything that needs doing!
Last week saw the return of a TV gem – Great Interior Design Challenge. I stumbled across series 1 earlier in the year and it’s brilliant. It’s like Great British Bake Off crossed with Changing Rooms. It’s basically a number of different amateur interior designers who are given a challenge to redecorate a room, according to the client brief, and have two and a half days in which to complete the challenge.
For those of us who can remember Changing Rooms, it’s so much better than that. The aim is for the clients to be happy with the end result, rather than devastate them. (Anyone remember in Changing Rooms when they painted the floor and it wouldn’t dry?!) It’s really inspirational too. Having been in our house for nearly 5 years now, we’re still redecorating. At the moment, we’re working on my study, as my partner and I swapped rooms. Then we need to do his study, our hideously awful bedroom and the kitchen. As with everything, it’s all done on a budget, which is fun so I’m watching the #GIDC for inspiration!
A few weekends ago we headed to Shotover Country Park, which has been on my list of places to go for ages. It’s just on the outskirts of Oxford, so not far from us, but it could be a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Shotover is accessed via a windy road, one we’d never driven along before and it leads to one of the best walks we’ve been on in a while.
There’s a huge car park at the end of the road and a number of entrances you can go in, depending on where you park. I’m pretty sure we went in through the main one, which has amazing views of Oxford and the surrounding area. There’s a big notice board on the right hand side, which has maps – pick one up if this is your first visit. They’re essential. I’ve kept mine in our walk bag so it’s ready for next time. We headed out on the yellow walk, but we’ll definitely go back to sample the other two as well.
Poppy was besotted with Shotover. There were lots and lots of smells that had her nose to the ground for the whole walk. We did encounter a few horses, but Poppy is becoming more and more confident around them, which is great news. Shotover is a great place for a dog walk, what ever the weather!
The Walk: There are three different walks you can do, depending on how long you’ve got. You can find out more here. We did the yellow one it was fairly easy, though it would definitely need wellies if it’s been raining. Dogs are meant to be kept on a lead, though we encountered a number that weren’t. Grrrrr! Also, if your dog is horse sensitive, like Poppy, be aware that the Bridleway runs through the park.
Cost: Completely free!
Car Park: There’s quite a large car park for Shotover, but it does get very busy. We arrived early on a Sunday morning and it was fairly quiet. By the time we’d finished, it was fairly busy.
Refreshments: Nope, but there are a some lovely places to stop and enjoy a cup of tea from your Thermos!