Sassy Saffy is back!
Welcome back to our Paws Puppy blog! I can’t believe that it’s only been 4 weeks since our last blog because I feel we’ve achieved so much since Saffy’s little teenage tantrum relapse. Don’t get me wrong, we still have a long way to go on our training journey and it’s not all been sunshine and rainbows, but overall, I’m over the moon at the progress we’ve made this past month.
Since our last blog, we’ve finished our mini pet gundog course and Saffy is back to off lead walks. I’m quite proud to say that she’s an incredibly well-behaved little girl on our solo walks (joint walks with her sisters is another beast I need to tackle) and we’ve had several people comment on how good she is! Going back to basics is the best thing I’ve ever done for Saffy’s training, and I can’t believe how much we’ve managed to achieve because of this.
We’ve still had a few walks where I’ve come away feeling super deflated and as though we’ve not achieved anything, but as I write this now and look back on the past 4 weeks, the positives most definitely outweigh the negatives.
In this blog, I’m going to detail what I’ve been focusing with Saffy recently and what my next steps are in her training journey. I’ll also add a little in about her big sister (big but little sister since Saffy has shot up recently and towers over poor B!) Bramble’s training as well – I hope that’s ok!
Just a good girl
I’ve still been focusing heavily on basics with Saffy because I don’t want to rush into the more complicated bits of gundog training until I’m confident she’s nailed the foundation work. If you read our last blog, I’m sure you’ll remember I was having difficulty with her engaging and doing pretty much anything I asked. However, after a few weeks of stripping everything back – lead only walks, multiple mini sessions at home and in the garden – a switch just flicked, and I got my clever little Sassy Saffy back!
Something we’ve been working hard on is off lead heelwork. Out of my three girls, Saffy is by far the best at this – she walks in line with my feet, checks in with eye contact and, for the most part, only releases when I tell her to. We’ve practised heel position a lot at home which I feel has massively helped with this. Using treats I lured her into the correct position on my left, marked it when it was right and gave her a chunk of pate. I then kept giving her treats whilst she sat in the correct position until I was ready to release her with ‘ok’. This has helped to teach her that she should only stop heeling on the release word. We then progressed to taking a few steps, treat, more steps release etc. We practise short stints of heelwork on every walk, and I’m slowly building up the distance I ask for everyday to help solidify against distractions in the real world.
I’ve also been focusing on a few small components required to piece together a successful retrieve. Firstly, we’ve practised different ways in which she approaches me when I recall her. The way that I stand lets her know exactly how I want her to sit when she comes back to me. For example, my left leg out in front and back slightly bent, means come and sit right in front of me, head up high and as close as possible. This is how I will want her to deliver dummies and game. If I stand straight with my arm out to my left, this means come and sit in heel position. Moreover, I will sometimes ask for a retrieve recall let’s call it (the first recall mentioned above), and quick run around the back on my legs to sit in heel position (essentially putting the two pieces of the puzzle together). To do this, I take a treat in both hands, swing my right around the back of my shins, when she follows, grab her attention with the treat in my left hand and ask for a sit. It’s a bit fumbly and awkward at first, but gets easier the more you practise.
On top of this, we have done a little bit of casting and dummy retrieves, although I’ve kept these bits on the lighter side since I don’t want to push too hard and fastand want to nail the bits mentioned above first. On the retrieves I have tried though, I can already tell that the different pieces we have been working on are coming together nicely. Again, this is all foundation work that I’m hoping will knit perfectly together when we start moving onto more complex training.
Side note – I’m mainly using our rabbit dummies or Bramble’s 0.5lb canvas for the bits of retrieving I do with Saffy, but above is my little super star carrying a full 1lb canvas that we won as part of our amazing Paws Brooklyn giveaway!
We’ve still been continuing with other bits such as stop whistle, sit stays, eye contact, loose lead, all of which I’m really happy with our progress on too. I haven’t introduced any new methods for these, just continuing with the bits I’ve discussed in the previous blogs to help reinforce our cues and ensure we don’t lapse on the basics again!
Just a quick note to confirm that all of the above (apart from standard recall) goes straight out of the window and Saffy’s ears turn off when she’s with her sisters. If she’s not following Gin just a little too far, then she’s jumping on Bramble’s back or handing from her ears – she has zero interest in being a good girl on joint walks!
This is something I’m on working on with her, but for now we’re keeping it to super short joint sessions at home as we would achieve absolutely nothing if I tried training them all together on walks!
I had a lot of accounts message me on insta when I posted a story about this a few weeks ago, all saying that joint training is something they really struggled with for a long time (thank you all again for yourmessages of support and advice). It’s not going to be a quick fix and I would much rather continue to work on our basic training individually until it’s ingrained in Saff, before pushing duo training sessions and potentially messing up all of our hard work!
Stealing the show
Whilst technically not a puppy anymore at 14 months, Bramble is just a baby so she’s getting a little bit of limelight too! The reason I wanted to discuss Bramble’s training a little is to show the stark contrast between the two girls and how one thing might work for one but not for another… Bramble’s training has been super focused recently. She’s an amazing little cocker with an incredible amount of potential and seriously strong working lines. Sadly, as my gundog guineapig so to speak, I made a lot of mistakes with Bramble’s training which has resulted in me unpicking months of bad habits. I also find that Bramble doesn’t learn in the same ways the I’ve taught both Saffy and Gin which means I’m trying to find new methods to help her understand what I’m asking. I’ve recently signed up Bramble to individual gundog lessons with the accredited trainers who own her sire! We had our first lesson 2 weeks ago, where we stripped it right back and focused mainly on where I was going wrong and how to rectify that. Our key points to focus on the next were:
I’m really hoping our one to one gundog lessons can help me find ways to teach Bramble and turn her into an incredible little beater! If you guys don’t mind some of Saffy’s attention being stolen, I’ll keep you updated on how I’m getting on with Baby Bramble’s training in the next blog too.
Until next time!
I really hope you’ve enjoyed our 3rd Paws Puppy blog, and a massive thank you for your support, it means the world to us.
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.
I hope you all have an amazing Christmas, and that Santa Paws spoils your fur babies.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year
Nat, Gin, Bramble and Sapphire x
All photo credits to @thespanielgirlgang