Paws Puppy Blog Part 6
Welcome back to our Paws puppy blog! I can’t believe this is our 6th blog, it feels like only yesterday we joined the Paws Team. As always, we’ve had a busy month training and getting ready for the 23/24 season. I have to keep reminding myself that it’ll be here before I know it!
A lot has changed since our last blog, but it also feels like there a fewer ‘note worthy’ achievements or problems than there usually is on our training journey. Please forgive me if this one sends you all to sleep…
If you read our last blog, you’ll know I was really struggling with my mental health and not enjoying training at all. I talked about applying less pressure on myself as well as the girls, and this is exactly what I did! We took a couple of weeks off from training, and instead explored some beautiful new adventures which was exactly what I needed to refresh and reset. I took Bramble and Gin on a hike through the Peaks, and we had the best time. Both girls were so incredibly well behaved, and I feel like I really achieved something by doing such a long walk with them by myself. Had this been a year ago, there is no way I would have considered going anywhere like that alone with two spaniels! Sadly, Saffy was still too young to trek the 8 miles, so she stayed at grandmas and enjoyed lots of cuddles, belly rubs and snuggles.
We also had lots of magical snowy adventures. This was Saffy’s first time in the snow and its always lovely to see the snow time zoomies. In typical Sassy Saffy fashion, there’s was not a single moment of hesitation when bounding into the white stuff.
When I did start training again, I went back to basics with Bramble for a week or so, and she quickly got back on track to being an angel in training. We’re making lots of progress slowly but surely, although I’m back to feeling confident that she’ll be out working her bum off this upcoming season. Sassy Saffy has also been making good progress with her training. She’s a very hard-headed little girl, so we are taking things super slow and making sure she has something down to a tee before moving on.
Shine bright like a Sapphire
I’m not sure how else to describe Saffy recently, other than she’s been mostly unproblematic. Saff is always going to be more challenging to train than Bramble because she’s much more independent and confident on her own. However, I can’t recall any horrendous training sessions when writing this so she can’t have been much of a terror. In the same breathe, there’s been nothing spectacular either, just plain and simple gradual progress.
I’ve been doing lots of mini sessions with Saffy either at home or on a small patch of land at the bottom of our estate which is great for hunting. I’ve found keeping things short and sweet works well for her; she mentally tiers easily, especially after a little bit of hunting, but she also doesn’t get as bored so quickly when we keep to 5 or 10 minutes training.
For the most part, I’ve been working on reinforcing the bits of training that we’ve been focusing on for the last couple of months. As alluded to in the intro, Saffy is incredibly independent, and I don’t want to push her too hard before I’m confident that she’s nailed the basics. We’ve continued to work on steadiness, a lot of which involves me chucking dummies to her right, left, over the head etc. and rewarding her for a stay. I’ve seen a lot of improvement in this recently, so it’s nice to know that our consistency is paying off. I’ve continued to focus on her stop whistle, which again, I’ve seen also some improvement in. I’ve made sure I’m not setting her up to fail by only practising stop when I know she’s not too distracted to miss it.
I’ve also introduced the hunt whistle to Saffy recently and started to get her to use her nose to tire her crazy little brain out. At the minute we’re still keeping it simple and I’m working on building up her excitement/ confidence to know that there’s always something to find. As soon as she here’s my pip, her heads straight up watching me to see where the goods are at so she’s already catching on quickly. Over the next couple of weeks, I want to work on her really watching where I’m guiding her so we can start to get a bit more fluidity to her hunting and build up the trust between us both.
Finally, I’ve been working on her sit stay holds and retrieves. Saff will hold anything for days, but there’s nothing she loves more than parading around with something in her mouth (usually a blanket or my tea towel). I’ve been using our Cato place board to help with getting her to sit and hold in front of me. If she sits still, she gets lots and lots of fuss before I ask her to give me the dummy. I’ve also then had the place board out when we’ve attempted a couple of retrieves and for the most part, she comes back to park her bum on the board with no parade. I feel like the place board has helped massively with Saffy’s deliveries. She knows it’s a safe space where she gets lots of cuddles if she comes back. I’m hoping by this time next month to have phased out the board and have her come straight back to me without it.
Angel in training
Not really much to say about Bramble other than she’s an absolute superstar in the making. Bramble is smashing everything I throw her way, she’s mastered hold, following directions for retrieves, is getting stop whistle right 90% of the time and has even turned into a confident little swimmer who likes to throw herself into water to swim after ducks (she recalls back from them don’t worry).
We’re working really hard on her hunting now. We’ve done a lot of exercises where she’s been getting used to keeping her nose down, but at the same time, glancing up to watch where I’m directing her. Now is all about building up her pace as she’s a bit of a snail hunter at the minute.
I’m confident we’ll get out beating towards the end of the year, and for that, I owe a massive thanks to Farlavale gundogs for their direction and help in harnessing Bramble’s natural talents. That said, I don’t believe she’ll be ready to start entering working tests this year (or at least not up to the standard I would want her to be), but this time next year we’ll be certainly getting our names down for some novice and maybe even open tests!
Following on from this, I helped out at a novice working test this past weekend. It was my job to put out the blinds and markers when neither the handler nor dog was looking. Following behind the judges and handlers gave me a great vantage point to watch the whole test play out and I feel like I sponged up so much information. There we’re 19 handlers/dogs who entered into the test, with three placing 1st -3rd and two receiving certificates of merit.
Having never been to a test before, I wanted to see how they worked and the calibre of dogs (and handlers) that entered. Obviously, I’m no expert, but it was very interesting to see the mistakes that the handlers made, and the way each dog responded. There we’re some brilliant handles and dogs, all of which deserved their places, but there was also a good portion of the group where I questioned why they’d entered. There were some silly mistakes made under pressure, but there were also dogs who didn’t put their nose to the floor once to hunt, and dogs that ran 100 yards in the wrong direction from the marked retrieves they were sent for. It’s safe to say I came away feeling much more confident about where Bramble is in her training.
Overall though it was a great experience and a huge learning curve. I’d definitely recommend reaching out to your local gundog clubs and asking if you can volunteer if you’re thinking of entering into working tests in the future.
Princess Gin Gin
Gin doesn’t get much of a look in with these blogs and that’s partly because she’s just an absolute angel. I also don’t intend to work or test with Gin, so the gundog training we do is just for fun and a way to keep her mind busy.
Recently though, I will shamefully admit that I’ve neglected Gin’s gundog training a little. Consequently, the princess who can do no wrong has turned into a feral little monster! Unsurprisingly she’s occasionally been seeking out her own fun and chasing scents across the farmers fields or nature reserves. So the long line came out again, but I’ve also made sure to spend some more one to one time with her so that we can do some fun bits of training.
Gin can and will retrieve anything. She can do memories the length a retriever can achieve, she’ll carry any weight I throw at her and she’ll deliver to hand with the most adorable smile on her face and waggiest tail. But by gosh does she work herself up when the dummies come out! I’ve been doing some short sessions with her, focusing on trying to calm her down when the dummy gets thrown. Over the past few days, I’ve actually been able to line her up without clinging to her collar to prevent her from bolting straight out, which is massive progress for us!
Moreover, I’ve been teaching Gin a proper ‘hold’ as well. She knows to deliver to hand, but I’ve never actually taught her to sit and hold something until I’ve asked her to release. She’s picked this up super quick at home so I can’t wait to get out and test her in the real world – everybody needs some Gin hold content in their lives!
Until next time!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed our 6th Paws Puppy blog, and a massive thank you for your support, it means the world to us. If you’ve followed us from the start thank you for sticking with us and following our journey. If your new here and this is the first blog you’ve read, welcome to our training journey, and we hope to see you next time!
As always, I also want to say a massive thank you to Paws Brooklyn for this opportunity to share our training journey with you all.
Until next time,
Nat, Gin, Bramble and Sapphire x