A new toy and a good cause

Willow with her Sport Relief dog toys.We’ve been enjoying Sport Relief’s Top Dog daily on BBC2; it’s silly, doesn’t take itself seriously and the dogs and their owners look as if they’re having fun. As yet Willow doesn’t really watch TV although she has shown a little bit of interest in some of the episodes of Top Dog.

Given that it’s for a good cause I sent off for the special Sport Relief Dog Toy, well both of them in fact, and they arrived today. As usual with anything new Willow didn’t really know what to make of them so she settled for growling at them, then barking, then running away. She hasn’t come across squeaky toys before and that confused her further – every time I squeaked one of them she jumped in surprise.
WIllow growling at toy
Eventually she was brave enough to fully investigate, decide that they were harmless and started to play with them. A little bit of her terrier nature even came out as she played tug and then shook the toys to ‘kill’ them, however, she eventually reverted to her default setting – chewing to destruction. Time to replace the toys with a proper chew toy instead.
Willow chewing sport relief dog toy

Train Training

As a family we like to do a lot of our travelling by train; it’s less stressful, especially for me as I do almost all the driving, we can spend quality time together talking or playing card games and because we plan ahead and buy tickets in advance and have a family railcard it actually doesn’t work out that expensive. I was keen, therefore, that Willow coming into the family wouldn’t limit our ability to use the train and this weekend gave us the opportunity to test this out as we’d made plans to go down to Bath to see some folks.

Knowing that Willow is quite nervous I decided it wouldn’t be a good idea for the journey that mattered to be her first train journey so last week I took her on a ten minute train journey between two local stations and back home again. I could tell she didn’t much enjoy the experience but she managed it and was quite happy to get on and off the train. I think she felt more comfortable on the first train where the carriages had carpeted floors as she lay down and made herself comfortable. On the return journey we were in a bigger space with hard floors and as she wouldn’t settle I ended up with her sitting on my lap, one of the advantages of owning a small dog!

On Saturday morning we set off fairly early to get the 0827 from Reading to Bath. Having booked tickets in advance we had seats reserved which I hoped would be around a table. No such luck, on boarding the train we discovered we had two sets of airline seats, one in front of the other. I carried Willow onto the train, as the steps to an Intercity are really steep, and then kept her on my lap while the train was boarding. Once we were underway I put her down in the aisle between the seats, keeping her on her lead, and after sniffing around for a minute or two she lay down and settled which was promising.

The first stop was Swindon, at which point I put Willow back onto my lap to avoid being trodden on. A troop of about thirty girl guides got into our carriage and all trooped past where we were sitting to get to their seats. Not all of them saw Willow sitting on my lap but enough of them did that there was a steady chorus of ‘Aww’s as they made their way down the carriage, most of them sitting in the seats immediately behind us. As the train got underway again I put Willow down in the aisle again where she seemed quite happy to sit facing the girls, watching them all watching her and talking about how cute she was.

It takes an hour for the train to get from Reading to Bath and it seemed to go really well for Willow. We had a pleasant day in Bath – in the morning we took a short walk through town to pick up a little bit of shopping and then in the afternoon we went for a walk out along the canal towpath. Although I’m biased in thinking that Willow is a very pretty dog, she does seem to elicit a response from strangers. In a short space of time in the city we were approached by two people, the first was a lady who just wanted to stroke her and the second was a man who had previously owned a cairn terrier/chihuahua cross and thought she looked very similar.

Willow asleep on lapWe did a fair amount of walking during the day but, just to make sure, at the end of the day we walked the mile and a half back to the train station to catch the 2046 train home. This gave Willow the chance to toilet before we got on the train and she was happy to oblige. Getting on the train was a repeat of the outward journey with Willow in the aisle but the first stop at Chippenham came ten minutes into the journey. Again I put Willow on my lap so she wasn’t in the way but very quickly she seemed to go to sleep on my lap which wasn’t entirely surprising as even on a normal day she usually starts going to sleep around 8pm. This time she spent virtually the whole journey asleep on my lap which was very sweet but didn’t make for the most comfortable of journeys for me.

Shortly before we were due to arrive in Reading I put Willow back down into the aisle. I didn’t realise that the chap sitting at the table next to us had been watching because as I did so he said, “I have to ask – is that a fox?” I explained that no, she wasn’t and we had a brief conversation. He mentioned that he thought the way she’d been sitting on my lap had been very cat-like which is what confused him and then finished by saying how pretty he thought she was. That’s fine by me – you can compliment my dog as much as you like!

When we finally got off the train Willow was raring to go – as soon as we got onto the platform her tail went up in the air, her head and ears came up alert and she was tugging on the lead to get going. She set a very brisk pace to get home and was obviously very pleased to be back; she went easily into her crate to continue the sleep she’d started on the train, obviously worn out by a very successful daytrip.

Teaching a young dog new tricks.

Willow sitting.Having completed her Beginner-Improver course with Pets in Practice, Willow now understands various commands. As well as the basics of sit, lie down, come and stay, the most useful thing we have taught her is ‘Spin’ i.e. turn around in a circle on the spot. The reason this is useful is that when she comes in from the garden or a walk and is muddy we ask her to spin a few times on the doormat and it helps get her feet clean. Willow also responds pretty well to ‘leave’ and ‘wait’. The command the children love the most and show off to their friends is her ‘High Five’ which, although cute, I have yet to find a use for!

Although Willow has picked up what she’s supposed to do for most of the tricks quite easily, the one she cannot grasp is ‘Back’ – getting her to walk backwards. We’re still working on that one. The other one I’m also working on with her is how to shut an open door.

Once Willow is a year old I’m considering taking her to agility classes but in the meantime I want to keep her brain working. So I’m going to throw a question out there – what are the most useful tricks you’ve taught your dog, apart from the ones mentioned above, and why were they so useful?