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Friday, 31 May 2013

A P.Dizzy Update

You can forget your P.Diddy - this is the latest update of PD Izzy aka the new P.Dizzy!! #p.dizzy

Here's our previous 2 Blogs about P.Dizzy in case you missed them . . .
Welcome PD Izzy
A Week With Izzy

We're now just over 3 weeks into having Izzy and things have progressed really well over the course of the past few weeks. Compared to where we were when we picked her up, we're a million miles ahead, but compared to where Sear was at the same age, we're a million miles behind.

Sear & Izzy

However, I always say that every dog is totally different. For us, this is not a race to get the quickest trained Police Dog or have a dog performing every exercise as quickly as possible. It's all about building the right foundations to help make Izzy into a strong, confident & reliable Police Dog - whether that be her starting a course at 10 months or 2 years old. The most important thing is that she's ready when she's ready.

Lots of people have asked me how long we've got Izzy for & it's really difficult to say. I'm hoping that by the time we get married in April she'll be up to speed & ready for a course if she was needed. But if not, it's not a problem, we'll have her until she's ready.

I must admit over the time we've had Izzy I've been left scratching my head at times. I've been stood in the middle of the field in the park, my hands on my hips just looking into the sky searching for ideas! I've packed up our kit in the middle of a session & headed home wondering where on earth we're going to go or what on earth we're going to do next.

Are you talking to me?????

But . . . she is exactly the reason we'd decided not to have another GSD pup. We've always had GSD's, by & large, we really know what you get with them. So having Izzy has been absolutely brilliant. I love a challenge & it's the only way you learn things & improve. I've really had to think outside of the box with Izzy. Although the overall principles are the same, there's had to be a fair bit of variation in what we're doing with her. So I've loved every minute of it . . . . honestly!

Like I said, we're progressing. Slowly but surely we're seeing signs of improvement & there are little glimpses in her that actually give me confidence that she has in fact 'got a bit about her'.


I think having Bandit before her also impacts my thoughts too. They couldn't be any more different! The first thing Bandit did when he got into our house was to jump onto the sofa & then give a little grumble at me when I told him to get down. Izzy on the other hand jumped on the sofa, lay down & closed her eyes!! Bandit was a million miles an hour in everything he did, yet Izzy is a very thoughtful dog & generally pretty chilled out at home. She does have her #izzypop moments though. She's like a bottle of pop sometimes, all calm & then all of a sudden.......BANG......she's fizzing over the edges!

I always find it really hard not to compare dogs. I find myself thinking - Sear did this, Bandit did that etc etc. To be fair to myself, I think it's hard not to compare dogs.

So over the past few weeks we've just been building a bond, working on a solid foundation of basic obedience work - sits, downs, stands, stays, recalls - and really working on building her toy drive. That's all we've done - no tracking, no property searches etc. Just the basic blocks, all of which will be needed when we move onto more 'Police Dog' type work.

We've done lots of environmental work & also built up her stamina & fitness over the time too.

One of things that was really nice during Puppy Day last weekend, was the number of people who said things like "she's all into you isn't she". It's what we've worked on the most & one of the things I believe is the most important factor in any kind of dog training - the bond. We've developed a really great bond. She's such a lovely little dog generally & probably one of the most affectionate & loving pups we've had. So having that bond has really given us the foundation of our work with her. It's always nice when people notice subtle things like that, very often people just take things like that for granted.

Obedience wise she's really really good. We've done everything with food for this work. Every reward has been a food reward when we're working on our obedience. I'm really pleased with her obedience & we've just started putting the groundwork in for some heel work positions now too. I can't fault any of her obedience stuff at the moment. The next development of her obedience work will be to start putting distance control into her, so we'll gradually increase the distance between us & the dog when giving her commands.

Her toy drive has come on leaps & bounds (quite literally!!). The first day I had Izzy I threw a toy for her and she just looked at me like I was round the bend. I must admit I did actually say to Sarah...."what on earth have we done...." haha!

Chasing after her Kong
In the park now she'll come & try to mug the ball from my pocket. She's getting much better, however there are days she'll lose a bit of interest in her toys when we're out. She's a really 'sniffy' dog & loves to go off exploring following a scent - very Beagle like! Hopefully a sign that she'll be a great tracking dog . . .

We've used a couple of ways to bring out her toy drive.

We don't allow the pups access to toys generally unless they are interacting in a game with us. We've had to take that a little further with Izzy. We use her crate & her kennel a lot. She gets 'time out' sessions where she'll spend time in her crate/kennel for a bit, then when she comes out it's a very short, quick & high energy game with her toy. After we've finished she's back in her crate/kennel. We do lots of repetitions of this throughout the day & you really do notice a difference in her when we do this. We don't do this every day though - she does get time to just be a young dog & mess about!

We've now found her favourite toys too - we use a puppy Kong & the Kong Squeez Ball. We alternate between the two toys while we're out & we'll very often play the 'two toy game of fetch'.

Izzy's 'old' favourite toy

The very subtle difference with the way in which we throw her toys has made a HUGE difference in her interest in the toys. Instead of throwing them over arm across the field, we now crouch down & fizz the ball across the floor.

Izzy's chase drive is really high so when the toy is fizzing & bouncing across the floor it really helps to bring out her chase instinct to chase after the toy. It's the very subtle & small tweaks to things that make big differences. It's always important to watch & learn about what & how your dog likes to play. You wouldn't believe the difference something as simple as this has made to Izzy.

The other thing that has been great for developing her drive is the flirt pole we purchased. It's a horse lunge whip with a piece of sheepskin tied to it. It's been a brilliant tool for developing Izzy's chase drive. We can flip the sheepskin around whilst not letting Izzy catch it & then every now & again we'll let her win it. Again building her chase drive & frustration when she can't catch the sheepskin have really developed her.

Overall we've been delighted with Izzy's progression. There's still a long way to go, but every day we see signs of things developing & the 'lightbulb' finally being switched on in her head. We encourage & reward even the tiniest of things - whether it's barking at a plastic bag in the park, watching the postman out of the window, giving a little bark at something whilst she's sat in her car crate etc. We always look for & reward anything that builds her confidence.

We continue to progress, develop & enjoy working with Izzy. She's a great little dog & we've loved having her! Slowley but surely we're making progress & that's all you can ask for.

I can't finish the Blog without mentioning 'that train incident' from last week......

Those of you who follow Izzy on Twitter will know that we've also been doing lots & lots of environmental work. So last week we teamed up with the Safer Travel Team who very kindly let us tag along with them so we could hop on & off buses, trains & the Metro in Birmingham.

We were at Birmingham New Street & Ben very kindly arranged for us to get on & off some trains as Izzy was a little nervous about the step from the platform onto the train. There was one said Virgin train which we were told had around 4 minutes until it departed, so we asked the staff if we could go through one door, walk through a carriage & get off through the door at the end of the carriage.

So we hop on the train, are half way down the carriage when . . . .the doors shut!! We're stuck behind someone sorting his bags out on the train so we turn round to get off through the door we came through. However as we head back to the door, the train starts to pull off!!

Stuck on the train

We're now stuck on a train . . . . . fortunately it was heading to London so the next stop was Birmingham International & we could get off & hop back onto a train back into New Street. Luckily it wasn't a non stop train!!

And finally, during the unplanned stop at Birmingham International we came across this great idea from the wonderful Virgin Trains. So it's a big thank you from us to Virgin Trains for being thoughtful to our 4 legged friends. If only more companies had such an approach to responsible owners & well behaved dogs!

Special mention to Virgin Trains!

Friday, 10 May 2013

A Week With Izzy

So it’s been a week since we picked up little Izzy from the Dog Training Centre & brought her over to ‘Puppy Towers’.

People often say “I wish my dog could talk to me”, however if you really get to understand & read your dog, it’s amazing just what they CAN tell you. Dogs unfortunately dog speak English, so it’s up to us as owners to learn to read our dog’s language – not for us to expect our dogs to learn to speak English.

A dog can tell you so much if you just spend the time communicating with them in their own way. Reactions, body language, facial expressions, tail positions are just a few of the ways your dog communicates with you. Take the time to learn a bit of dog language - you'd be surprised what you can find out.

For the past week we’ve just spent time learning about Izzy & letting her get used to her new surroundings. Through her reactions & interactions to various things, we’ve built up our own synopsis of Izzy’s background, her strengths & weaknesses and what she does & doesn’t like. It's been fairly revealing to say the least.

The biggest & most important thing with any dog or puppy is building a bond. It is without doubt one of the most crucial things you need to do with your dog. All we've done this past week is keep telling her & showing her how wonderful she is. We're always engaging her, praising her & playing with her to really build a solid bond between us.

She’s settled in really really well. We couldn’t have asked for any more with the way she’s settled into our home life. She settles down well, has reasonably good doggy ‘manners’, is good when you’re eating & barring one little accident in the house she’s toilet trained. So far, so good.

I expect a lot from our pups in all different kinds of ways, no more so than them understanding that there’s a time & a place for running around like a loony. At 9pm while we’re sat in the lounge, it’s time for the dogs to chill out too. It’s something Bandit always struggled to grasp! Izzy has been a real dream in the house in terms of being fairly well settled.

We’ve spent a bit of time getting her introduced to the world of clicker training. I'm a MASSIVE advocate of clicker training & it forms the basis of pretty much everything we do with our pups. So for the past week we’ve done a little bit of very basic training like sits, downs, stays & in the past day or so we’ve been working on the stand. She’s got a great sit, her down is getting better & her stay is OK too. They’re all improving day by day.

We’ve worked really hard on a whistle recall, it’s probably 85% of the way there now. So she’s done really well in the past week.

That’s the only real bit of ‘training’ we’ve done. They are the very crucial parts of any kind of training - it's exactly the same as when we spent our first week with Bandit

Out & about she’s very aloof – almost very Beagle like at the moment!! She sniffs absolutely everything & is quite happy to wander off on her own. Thankfully the whistle recall is getting better & she comes bombing back when she hears it.

Izzy is the first Dutch Herder we’ve worked with, so she is a bit of an unknown quantity in many ways – especially given we’ve not had her from a 6 week old pup. She’s a LOT different to the Shepherd’s we’ve had & I have to try really really hard to stop myself comparing her to the GSD pups we’ve had previously. It's one thing I always struggle with, whenever we get a new pup - "Sear did this" "Usha did that" etc etc

A couple of things we’ve really struggled with over the past week is her playing with a toy & her environmental groundwork. She’s quite a nervy little dog & quite wary of all kinds of things. I literally had to slide her through the doors of our dog club on Tuesday! I’ve taken her round shops & the train station & she’s reasonably OK but does have a few little confidence issues in certain circumstances.

When we talked about the role of Puppy Walkers, the biggest part is making sure the pup is environmentally stable. It doesn’t matter how well the pup does in tracking, biting & obedience etc – if the pup has any environmental issues then there’s a real danger this could impact their working ability & ultimately cost them their job as a Police Dog. So we’ve got lots of work to do on her environmental development.

People very often see the end result of our pups & how well they perform when they're a bit older, but very often it's the hours, days, weeks & months of environmental work we do that goes unnoticed. We spend so much time taking our pups to different places, areas & environments. It's the most crucial thing we do with our pups. It's the most crucial thing for a puppy - whether it's a potential Police Dog or a family pet. The environmental work is the foundations for everything, because without sold environmental work, all of the other training will fall down at some point.

If you read our 'Training Phases' Blog you'll understand the work we do with our baby puppies.

Her toy playing has been a real challenge this week – I’ve literally been trying everything we have in our ‘dog toy box’ to see what she likes the best. We’ve been through lots of different things & nothing particularly stands out as her ‘favourite’ toy at the moment - other than her Tuffy Alien!! The Alien is a bit big & strange to carry to the park!

However, over the past day or two, we've had a bit of a breakthrough. She’s taken a liking to our yellow Kong Wubba. The tails bits seem to attract her to it – so hopefully we’ve got something. In fact we've had a brilliant little session this evening, where I actually saw a little bit of drive & enthusiasm coming out of her little frame.

Again, I have to hold myself back though & remind myself that it’s still really early days with her. She’s only been here a week & she’s still only a baby really - especially as Herders tend to mature later than GSD's - so I’m not panicking about her just yet. We're treating her just like one of our 6 week old puppies & starting completely from scratch.

She's a lovely little dog & has all of the genetics to (hopefully!) make her a great working dog - it's just up to us to bring it out of her, instill some confidence in her & ultimately aim to making her a future Police Dog.

The challenge is well & truly on - & we're looking forward to watching her develop . . .

Friday, 3 May 2013

Welcome PD Izzy

Those who read our 'Next Chapter Blog' will know that it's been a bit of a funny time leading up to picking Izzy up. Even though Bandit has been gone for a couple of months, it's felt almost like D Day all over again - but obviously no where near as bad!!

We were only talking the other day about the really sad news of the poor pups passing away. I don't think I could have hand reared those pups because I'd have been absolutely devastated at losing them. The team who took the pups on deserve massive credit for trying to keep them alive - it really is a tough job & a job I don't think I would have done myself. Sadly nature took her cause & they didn't make it.

You get so attached to the dogs - even now, although Pace is coming up to retirement & has been a fantastic PD with some fantastic results, I still worry about his leg & his well-being - even after all these years! The next worry is whether he will be able to enjoy a long & relaxing retirement. You can't help but get attached to them. 

People always ask us "how do you give them up" & sometimes, I must admit, I do wonder what we actually put ourselves through! We're dog mad!

One of my sayings is "it's funny how things work out" & today was another one of those moments. I realised that we were saying 'goodbye' to Bandit & picking Izzy up on Bandit's birthday! It wasn't anything we'd specifically planned or even thought of. 

So Izzy has joined us today & for the next few days she'll just have the chance to settle in & get used to her new surroundings. If you follow us on Twitter you'll have seen that she's certainly made herself at home!!

We won't really do much of anything, other than bonding & building a relationship with her. The only thing I'll do training wise is start getting her working on the clicker. 

I'm not into this 'testing' of dogs - especially young dogs. To me, they are babies & for the time they are with us it's all about having fun. They go on & have a hard enough life on the streets without being pushed to the limit whilst they're young. Everything we do is all positive based & we don't put the pups under any kind of pressure. It's all about us & the pups having fun!

Izzy has come back in off a puppy walker & has been in the kennels for a few weeks, so it's a massive change for her. I haven't really seen a lot of her other than when we went upto the kennels for a couple of hours & introduced her to Taylor.

We'll see how she does over this next couple of weeks & work out her strengths, her likes & dislikes before starting to get some training into her. One thing we've found already is that she certainly likes a rest!

I'm looking forward to working with Izzy, it'll be a nice change having a Dutchie, so we'll get to make our own minds up about them.