Friday, 5 April 2013

Off-lead and...under control?

Out for a stroll in Newlands
Jeepers - where did 3 months just go?? The hounds and us humans have been enjoying the sunshine so much over the last few months that we've forgotten what it's like to sit down in front of the computer for any decent length of time - we've had nothing particularly exciting to report - so our updates have been somewhat neglected. A recent flurry of hound-related activity reminded me of the blog and a rather opportune lazy Friday has given me a chance to sit down and write about our latest adventures. 

In the post on Tuesday, arrived a large A4 envelope for "Miss Mila Conner". Too thin to be a bone or a bag of dog food. Too informal to be invitation to dinner with the Prime Minister. What could it be? We got the envelope inside and Mila had a sniff (and a sneaky slobber) to see if she recognised the handwriting. There was a wee glimmer of acknowledgement before she lost interest completely and went to lie on the bed.

So, it was left to me to do the honours. Inside the envelope was two shiny certificates from Jo at Canine Solutions, who we had been going to training courses with - one for Level 2 and a BIG one for Level 3. I showed them to Mila and after she had spent some time trying to eat the smaller one, she looked at me as if to say 'Yeah, I know. It was nothing.'

Mila and I have been going to "Dog School" with Canine Solutions on and off for some time now. We have been through the Beginner's Course (Level 1), the Lead Aggression Course (Level 2) and, most recently, the Off-lead Course (Level 3). In the early days, Jo also come to visit our house and was a huge help with the settling in process and making Mila comfortable during the times we are away from home.

Mila and her Level 1 certificate
But Dog School was the best part. To start off with, we learnt basic commands like Sit, Down, Watch, Wait and Stay and practiced our on-lead walking and polite meetings. Jo was very understanding when we had to have class inside one day and Mila couldn't do her Sits and Downs on the hard wooden floor as well as she wanted to. Mila's 'Waits' were also very good, so we were allowed to do our walks without having to do a Sit to cross the road at an intersection. I think this had more to do with the fact that we didn't want to have to wait half an hour to be able to move off from the kerb - but that's neither here nor there.

Going to class once a week was also a good chance for Mila to practice being social and friendly with other dogs. During the time we were there, we learnt a lot about Mila's personality (she has a limited tolerance for excitement in other dogs and needs to be in control of a "playtime" situation to be having fun - what a madam!!) and the situations we should avoid and/or try to manage.

Mila at her final class before Christmas - much to her annoyance, the dogs had to come dressed-up

But by far and away our best achievement was getting through the Off-Lead Course (Level 3).

Anyone who has ever seen a greyhound at full speed will know that when a hound decides to go, there is no catching it. At the start of our course, Jo told us that by the end, the group would be able to walk confidently together around the field with our dogs off-lead beside us. After we had done a bit of an experiment and Mila had wandered off into the bushes to explore, suddenly gone deaf and not come back, I quietly asked Jo if maybe we were biting off more than we could chew. She was insistent that we would get there in the end - and I am rapt to say, we did!! 

Mila's (much more impressive) Level 3 certificate
Our Off-Lead work wasn't perfect, but it was pretty darn good - even if I do say so myself. At times, the bushes were too much of a temptation for young Mila and she would wander away from me to see what the plants were doing. Her 'Emergency Stop' is more of a 'Slow Down' and her 'Down Stay' is so good that she often wouldn't get up again. But she didn't run away. She didn't try to race the other dogs (much) and best of all, we PASSED!

Mila's Level 3 certificate is now pride of place on the fridge for the world to see and we need to think about whether we should enrol ourselves in agility classes. Given Mila's irrational hatred of tunnels, we might be facing an uphill battle there.