If anyone had told me 3 years ago while living in central Tokyo that I would enjoy standing in the rain in the middle of a private 600 acre estate with a dog and our trainer I would’ve laughed. However, here I am rain or shine enjoying walks and training sessions with my boy, Mizu, in the English countryside and open spaces near by.
While living in Japan we talked about getting a dog when we moved back to the UK as Little Miss was envious of friends with their dogs and we often went into the pet shops for her to look at the puppies. It seems children are like elephants and don’t forget as once we found a house with a garden she asked when we could get the dog we talked about. We did our homework and researched breeds that would fit with us and tick all of the items on our wish list, given we didn’t want “a moulty dog” ,in the words of Little Miss, we were a bit limited but decided on a Portuguese Water Dog.
As a child I had a goldfish called Bubbles and a rabbit called Cotton Tail, not very imaginative but he did look a bit like Peter Rabbit, minus the blue jacket, so I had zero experience of having a dog as part of the family when we gave Little Miss a puppy for her birthday in 2017. Whereas my OH has always had a dog or dogs (one was an excellent gun dog) as have his family, so when they asked if I knew what I was letting myself in for I had absolutely no idea!
After almost a 4 hour drive home from the breeders we gave Little Miss a small fluffy puppy that was 10 weeks old, he was adorable and so cuddly it was hard not to fall in love with him and he seemed content with becoming a part of our family.
Armed with a puppy handbook and Professor Google I was as well prepared as I was for motherhood when I had Little Miss and it was similar in more ways than one…we were woken up in the early hours for the toilet, accidents around the house, a baby gate was installed and a couple of things ruined but once we had him house trained life was easier.
We enrolled on a puppy training course and once a week I took Mizu along to join five other pups, most of which were younger than him, to learn the basics. The trainer was a true dog lover and armed us with advice and tips to make life with a dog more pleasant, we passed the Kennel Club Puppy Foundation course and signed up for Bronze. It became apparent Mizu has a keen sense of smell and the smells at training would drive him crazy, it was also his downfall on the assessment. Having practiced at home I had him walking to heel, he would sit and wait, let me brush him but he failed me on the “stay” command and moved to sniff out something that had caught his attention. With the summer holidays upon us and feeling rather embarrassed we were the only ones that failed the Bronze assessment, I never went back to re-try and figured we could use what we had learned as a base to continue our own training.
All was well, we could let him off and his recall was okay the majority of the time but as he entered his rebellious teen stage at 2 years old I felt I needed some guidance. Having started clay shooting after getting Mizu and talk of going beating on local shoots with people I knew, a friend recommended Poppymead Gundogs for training and I finally got around to contacting the trainer to arrange an assessment.
At the assessment the trainer and I chatted about the training we had done to date, issues we had and what we wanted to achieve from training. I explained that Mizu is a family pet that snuggles up with us on the sofa in the evenings, so he was never intended to be trained as a working dog but if we could have him out in the field and master some of the skills of a gun dog it would be a bonus.
The trainer saw potential in Mizu and after telling me to forget everything we were taught at puppy training said we would start with the basics. He also told me I was too nice and needed to stop talking to Mizu like a person (bit hard when he keeps me company most of the day), only needed to give a command once and should reward him with my attention or another ball throw, not the treats I had in my pocket…gosh this was going to be a steep learning curve. There was also some new lingo to learn, instead of the usual “off you go” or “go on Mizu, go play” that I would say as I released him from his lead, a sit or stay command I followed the trainer’s example and now use “Get on!”
Since starting the gun dog training in November Mizu has come a long way, which makes our walks much more enjoyable, I can now go for a run and he follows close by which I wouldn’t have been able to do previously as he would’ve opted to play with other dogs along the way.
After we got to grips with the basics, we started some water retrieves in the ponds, Mizu gets so excited when he sees his dummy and water, which given he is a water dog is to be expected but after his first failed swimming attempt in the canal we weren’t sure he lived up to breed. However, he is a great swimmer now and fast when he is on a mission to retrieve his dummy or a ball.
Today was a wet miserable day to be out in the field but usually the weather is fine, last week was glorious and we were treated to a lesson in a woodland on the estate that was carpeted with bluebells, which was stunning….
I have found that like children dogs can misbehave when they want to, on Tuesday when I took him to a pond to practice his memory retrieves he was great at waiting beside me for my command to “Go back”, at which point he would dash and bound into the water but wasn’t bring the dummy back to me. I told on him at today’s lesson and the trainer thought I was lying as Mizu retrieved the dummy to me every time and a couple of times straight to my hand…very proud doggy-mummy moment.
It is so rewarding to get him out and see him enjoying the great outdoors as he should, and he has given me a reason to be out in all weather and enjoy the countryside too. I have been meaning to blog about our switch to gun dog training and after today’s successful lesson I was inspired to do it today, even Mizu took a moment to check and see what I was doing…