Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Photo an hour - November 2016

Saturday 19th November was the date set for this month's Photo an Hour project. It's organised by Jane and Louisa, you'll be able to see more details on their blogs, as well as details as to how to sign up for reminders if you'd like to join in.
10am - Saturday is lie in day, by the time we were up and about the early morning frost had cleared.
11am - Nice cup of tea!
Noon - Car loaded and on our way to puppy school
1pm - Puppy school tea break
2pm - Home and Barney's giving his toy pterodactyl some grief
3pm - a cold miserable day calls for an easy lunch
4pm - And a lit fire
5pm - Barney had raided a piece of wood from the bottom of the wood pile causing a landslide, a quick fix to stop our death wish puppy was required!
6pm - We've bought a new XBox, the set up took a little while!
7pm - Is Strictly time!
8pm - A sleepy puppy
9pm - Let's give Tomb Raider a go!
10pm - Catching up on I'm a Celebrity, Andrew's guilty pleasure
11pm - Bed time

Monday, 21 November 2016

Janet's Puppy Skool Fun Dog Show

A couple of weekends ago our puppy school held a fun dog show in aid of Children in Need. We hadn't actually considered going but after an unusual spell of good behaviour from Barney, we thought we could actually attend without worrying too much about him running amok. 

By the time we got there, we thought we might have made a huge error of judgement, he was so excited to be going to school on a Sunday that he pulled all the way there and when he was met by the sight of new dogs, he could hardly contain himself. We decided to enter him immediately into the 'fastest recall over obstacles' course, in the hope that it would burn off some energy. We paid our £2 which entitled him to two attempts at the course. He'd already done the course in class and loves it, he's like a tiny furry rocket. He wasn't too fast the first time as I think he struggled to control his legs in his over-excitement, but had a fast, clear run at second attempt.
Too fast for Andrew's shutter speed!
Final obstacle!

He was pretty fast, but unfortunately he wasn't a winner when results were announced later. He was still over-excited, so we decided to find a spot to sit in, distracting him with food, until the main classes started. Luckily we didn't have to wait long.

The first class was waggiest tail. Anyone who's ever met Barney will understand that I thought we might be in with a chance. He's a happy little pup, his tail wags pretty constantly and rotates like a helicopter blade when he's excited. I actually worry when his tail is still. We paid our class entry fee and took to the ring. The biggest challenge was to get far enough from other dogs to stop him jumping up. Once we did that I just had a keep the tail going, which wasn't difficult. I was so pleased when we were announced as winners, even if we did have a huge bag of dog food to juggle for the rest of the event!
We won!
Our prize, dog food!
Next was friendliest dog, we entered again, but were skipped over in the judging when all the dogs were shuffled around to make a bit more room. It was probably for the best, we didn't want Barney getting a big head!

We took a seat and decided to sit out the other classes of dog the judges would most like to take home and best trick. I'm glad we didn't enter the best trick class, Barney would have been entirely outclassed, some of the tricks were incredibly complicated. We did however decide to have a go at fun agility against the clock. Barney loves agility but as I tend to do it with him at puppy school, Andrew decided to do it on this occasion. Normally I encourage Barney around the equipment with treats, not Andrew. He decided to lead by example. When I looked over to see him leaping over hurdles I couldn't stop laughing, I'm just glad he didn't give the tunnel a go. Barney didn't have an entirely clear round, took two attempts to do the tunnel and baulked at the larger A frame, but when we got the results, we'd come second in the puppy category. Good work boys!!
Look at the concentration on that face!
Mum doesn't normally do the jumps with me...
Our prize, more food!
After that, we felt we'd earned a cup of tea and piece of cake whilst we watched the sit and stay classes. If you've read this blog before, you'll know that's not one of Barney's strengths. I can't wait until Barney is calm enough to be able to just sit and wait without steam coming out of his ears from the effort!

We also bought a few raffle tickets and won a couple of prizes. 
More food!
A very smart turquoise studded leather collar from the Artful Lurcher
We entered the very last class, a version of musical chairs. When the music stops all the dogs have to sit and the slowest is eliminated. We made it to the third round before Barney's excitement got too much and he was more keen on reaching the treat in my hand than sitting. Nevertheless, he got a rosette for taking part. 
A final rosette for the day
All in all it was a great couple of hours and the event raised over £1,000 for charity. It was good to chat to other dog owners and participate in some of the classes. We've got plenty of food (we'll have to hold on to it for now, as none of it is puppy food) and a smart collar. It also meant Barney was very little trouble when we got home!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Barney the cockapoo, puppy to teenager

Barney at eight weeks, the first day we brought him home
Barney reached the grand old age of seven months last weekend and is firmly in the grip of adolescence. He's been with us five months and we haven't been aware of him growing, but looking back on old photos, we can't believe how tiny he was. He also had his first proper haircut yesterday and now looks like a proper dog (sob!) I miss him being a tiny puppy who'd follow me everywhere, but at the same time I'm glad that his training is paying off and he's slightly more controllable.
Barney last week, before haircut. I love the shaggy hound look.
Immediately post groom, where did my puppy go?!
Although he has his moments (helping himself to wood from the wood shed and digging being his current favourites), he's generally pretty good around the house. His greatest downfall is that he loves everyone. He loves meeting people and other dogs and all manners go out of the window, he just jumps all over them. We're trying to teach him some manners, but it's very much a work in progress. He's exactly the same with me, when I come home from work or come downstairs in the morning, he acts like I've been gone for months. When I've actually stayed out for an evening, he was almost apoplectic when I got home. It's nice that he's pleased to see me, but when he greets me with muddy footprints on a clean pair of jeans, I do look forward to him being a little less excited by everything.
What do you mean you didn't need me to help with gardening?
The downside of his exuberance is that he won't take no for an answer, even from other dogs. I'd assumed dogs would understand when other dogs don't want to be bothered. Not our Barney. He'll run up to other dogs, encouraging them to play with him and older dogs who really don't want to be bothered by him ignore him and then when he won't take the hint growl or snap at him. I'm worried he'll get bitten at some point which would be awful when he's such a friendly dog, but I don't know how else to get the message through to him.

The main area where we've noticed his adolescent tendencies is that he'll just ignore us if there's something more interesting he could be doing. Often we'll call him over and he'll come in his own time, taking a diversion via an interesting smell. He'll also look at you as if you're using words he has no comprehension of when you ask him to sit. The only good thing is that he absolutely loves his food and so his memory will return if you have food in your hand. The only other thing that gives away his teenage years (we'll try to ignore the bed humping), is that some days he'll want to climb onto your lap for a cuddle, the next day he can't get away soon enough. I'm hoping it's just a phase as there's nothing nicer than a sofa cuddle with a warm dog on a cold night. 
Today I fancy a cuddle
We've been taking him to puppy school since he was about ten weeks old and whilst he's not the best student, we are making progress. As long as you have food in your hand, he'll sit, lie down, give you a paw, twirl, go around your leg, pray and probably other things I've forgotten. At home he'll sit and stay when we ask him to, but ask him to do it in class and he'll sit, stay for five seconds and then obviously think, "well, if you don't need me, I've spotted something over there to sniff" and wander off. I think that one glitch may keep us in our current level of puppy school for some time. I've had sessions where I've wanted to walk out of the classes and never return, but he's been pretty good over the last couple of weeks. I just hope that continues. His recall has been patchy (again, great until he sees a dog five hundred yards away that he wants to meet), but latterly seems to be improving. Again, as long as you have food with you for him to return for. There's nothing better than a flurry of paws and ears heading straight for you when you call him. 
You just know there's food in that hand
It's really difficult to tell if he's still teething as he has a mouthful of teeth, but still has his upper puppy canines. He doesn't bite as much as he used to, now it's really just if he gets excited and it's mainly just mouthing. Another work in progress! Distraction usually works though, inserting an antler between his jaws or throwing a toy at him gives him something more suitable to chew. He's destroyed a number of soft toys and my sewing skills are finally coming into their own, but I can't resist replacing them when he's so excited running around with a cuddly toy dangling from his jaws.
How many toys do you think I can fit in my bed??
He's slept in a crate since day one, only now he has the whole crate and a large snuggly bed, rather than being restricted to a smaller area with a partition. He's a great sleeper, will lie in as long as we do at the weekend and often in the week lifts his head reluctantly when it's time to get up. We suffered awful sleep deprivation when he was first with us, it's so nice to be back to weekend lie ins.
It's exhausting being a puppy
Touch wood, he's also house trained. We thought our garden was perfect for a puppy, a good size and fully enclosed. That was until he ate the cherries from the ornamental cherry tree, and then the berries from the cherry laurel, and started thinking about the yew berries. Suffice it to say that the yew tree and cherry laurel are no longer with us! He picked up house training fairly quickly as we took him out every hour, after a few weeks once he knew why he was going out we introduced him to the dog flap. Since then he's just come and gone as he likes. We've had a handful of accidents since then, but we've blamed ourselves for most of them. He had numerous accidents in his crate though, mainly due to filling up on berries or slugs and snails before bed time. Luckily he seems to have given up on his invertebrate diet and has been clean overnight for some time. It's such a relief, my husband was a saint for the number of crate clean-ups and puppy baths that he did in the middle of the night or early morning. You live and you learn...

The other good thing is that he seems happy to be left alone, we've only ever left him for a maximum of four or five hours and that's infrequently, but when we come home he runs over to greet us and then does a dramatic stretch, looking as if he's just woken up. Even in the daytime he'll potter around and do his own thing, just coming through occasionally to check up on us before returning to do something more interesting.  

All in all though, we seem to be bringing up a happy, healthy confident dog. He even won dog with the waggiest tail at a dog show last weekend. The judges said he was the clear winner, he was wagging even before the judging started. He's great company and makes me laugh on a daily basis. What more could I ask for??

Friday, 11 November 2016

A (dog) walk in the park - Coate Water Country Park

Coate Water Park
Coate Water Park is in the south-east of Swindon, its most recognisable feature is probably the diving board pictured above. Coate Water was originally a feeder reservoir for the Wilts and Berks canal but later became a pleasure park, hence the diving board. It's no longer in use (except for by birds) but has been given listed status.

There is still plenty do see and do there. As well as the 70 acre lake, there is a pitch and putt course, a model railway, a splash park and plenty of opportunities for bird watching and nature spotting. They have recently started to charge for parking, it costs £1 for two hours' parking and £2 for all day, which doesn't seem too bad. 

It's a perfect spot for a good walk, we normally do a route around the lake, but there are other paths you can take. The area obviously gets less busy the further away from the entrance you get, so Barney was able to have a good run off lead. 

As you can see, we visited on a fairly grey day, but it's a good spot to visit whatever time of year. Be prepared for it to be very busy in the summer, though.
Autumn leaves being shed rapidly
I can no longer deny that Barney needs a haircut!
I love Autumn
How long does the lake look?!
Good boy, Barney!

Friday, 4 November 2016

A (dog) walk in the park - Lydiard Park

Lydiard Park
To me Lydiard Park is a green oasis on the edge of Swindon. There is plenty to explore with the Grade I listed Lydiard House, the church and a walled garden as well as 260 acres of parkland. I have to be honest, we've been less frequent visitors since they started charging for parking, but it won't be long until Barney will be old enough to walk there from home. For now though, it costs £2 for two hours' parking and £4 for all day. Additional charges apply for visiting the house or walled garden, but you can explore the parkland for free. There are two cafes (the ice cream is amazing on a sunny day), toilets and Jungle Parc, a high wire course.

As well as introducing parking charges, they've also changed their rules relating to dogs. Between April and September, dogs need to be on leads in the busiest areas of the park. I went last week and lots of owners were making the most of being able to let their dogs run free. 

Although the Park is very busy in the summer, the parking areas are extended accordingly, so there is always somewhere to park. Our usual walk is around the lake and across the grass in front of the house. As it's such a large area, even if the car park is busy, you can walk freely without having to weave between other walkers. 

It's a great spot for a dog walk though and good to visit throughout the year, it looks good whatever the season.
Can I go now, please?
I remember the days when Barney was shorter than the grass
Barney couldn't have been less interested in the swans and cygnets
Look at them though!
Autumn has arrived

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

October round up

I'm not really sure where October went, but my overall feeling is that it was a really nice month. It felt hectic at the time but looking back at my diary I'm not sure what I was busy doing!!

The next level of puppy school has felt like a challenge. Barney is one of the youngest there, so it seems a bit harsh expecting him to behave as well as some dogs who are four times as old as him. He loves other dogs and people, so preventing him from being distracted has always been a big challenge. Not wanting to tempt fate, but we may be turning a corner, he behaved pretty well at puppy school at the weekend and we went for a walk at Coate Water yesterday, and apart from almost tripping over a runner who snuck up on us, he behaved pretty perfectly. Now we just need to master the sit and stay command, which is our real nemesis. 
What do you mean I won't sit and stay?!
We've done lots of mundane bits and pieces outside; having a yew tree removed, taking out a laurel bush, and getting wood delivered for the winter. We've also both been for flu jabs and used Andrew's latest hospital appointment as an excuse for a wander around a garden centre we've not visited before. 

Work is much calmer, it's nice to reach the end of the busy season. Our latest recruitment effort was successful and we've had one new member of staff join us. Always nice to get people in before the madness hits, gives them a chance to prepare for it!

We met up with a friend for a walk around Westonbirt Arboretum a couple of weekends ago. It's always a nice place to walk around, but more so at this time of year. It's so busy that they've had to close the car parks at times over the last couple of weekends, but we were lucky. The weather wasn't the best, but the trees were stunning nonetheless and Barney enjoyed a chance to sniff around in the leaves. 
The following day Barney and I headed over to Bristol for the RSPCA Big Walkies event. It's fair to say that I was having one of those days. I was running late, then got lost on the way, left my phone in the car (which I then stressed about, it didn't help that I'd dropped it in a lake the weekend before...) and the signage wasn't clear, so I ended up not doing the walk I'd planned. That said, Barney enjoyed the walk and it was good to get out and do something. He wasn't too impressed with his bandanna though.
Can we go now??
The following weekend my parents and brother visited us. Barney was very excited and spent most of the time getting underfoot or getting told off for jumping up. I'm just grateful that he's motivated by food, give him something to chew on and he'll generally settle down and give us all a break! It doesn't sound like it, but it was actually a less stressful day than I'd anticipated!

Andrew had a family meal the following day, I stayed at home with Barney so we went for a walk to enjoy the sun at Lydiard Park. It was a beautiful day, but Barney wasn't in the mood to sit patiently whilst I took photos so he features in very few of them. I'm hoping he'll warm to being a photographic subject as he gets older!!
We were so lucky with the weather
Now onto my progress against my plans for the year...

Read sixteen books
With the arrival of Autumn, I had a real craving for spending some time in front of the fire reading. I'd had The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler on my Kindle for ages and finally read it. I really enjoyed it as I love a bit of Scandanavian crime fiction. As soon as I finished it I ordered another book by the same author, hopefully that won't hang around unread for as long! 
Find one hundred geocaches
We're still at 534 finds, 46 for the year to date. Whoops.

Meet up with an old friend
The friend we visited Westonbirt with was someone I met through work about ten years ago. I think I'm getting to the age where I think I haven't known some people long until I start to count back the years!

Blog once a month
I had an amazing lava shell massage which I blogged about here and also wrote about one of our frequent dog walking locations, Mouldon Hill, which you can read here

Watch a new film once a month
We finished the Divergent series by watching Allegiant. As a series of films I really enjoyed them, perfect for when you want something which you can settle down and watch without worrying about the plot too much. 
 Take six day trips
No progress on this one, I think this may need to wait until next year, but you never know!

My diary for November is looking fairly free, puppy school allowing, I'm looking forward to seeing what it brings me. Secretly I'm hoping for comfort food and a few naps in front of the fire with a puppy on my lap...