Living Between the Lines

“Click a Treat”

This past week has been William’s. In case anyone has yet to hear – William is our new grandson. Understandably, I have been completely addicted to news of William, photos of William and most importantly, cuddles with William.  Even though our daughter, son-in-law and William live a good hour and a half’s drive away, I have managed to see him every other day so far.

So, what will be different in the coming week? Well, I will still be addicted to all the above but the new parents will be hitting that longed for patch of normality now. That’s the time when things begin to fall into place and what was new and wonderful but exhausting, becomes the norm, still wonderful but a little less exhausting as sleep patterns emerge and daily life resumes.

They will visit us at the end of the week as a family and it is quite lucky that I have just embarked on a course of one-2-one training for Flossie that may mean she is less apt to cause havoc as they walk through the door.

Today, we had an hour’s private lesson covering ‘not jumping up’ and ‘lead walking without pulling’. The tips we were given make sense. They are all things I have read or heard in the past but seeing someone else gain control so quickly over my exuberant, 7 month old retriever was an eye opener. There is definitely a knack to this dog training lark.

Prior to the trainer arriving, I deemed it best to take both dogs for a run on the common. The morning was cold and frosty. A brilliant Autumnal sun was just rising above the trees.

Frosty Morning
Frosty Morning

 Being the only visitors on the common – no Welsh Lady, no walking sticks nor moody ladies in sight, I let Flossie off the lead. Both dogs loved racing across the vast common, Flossie evidently glad to be free of the *‘Halti’ I have recently acquired for her.

This ‘Halti’ has changed our walks. Whereas before, Flossie would lunge ahead and practically tear my arms from their sockets without warning, with the ‘Halti’ in place, she happily walks sedately by my side when we are attached. Even Welsh woman would marvel at the change it has wrought in her.


Our walk was delightful. I took time to pull out the iPhone and take a few pictures because the scenery was so breathtaking as all early frosts tend to be.

Both dogs were having fun when two more arrived. Naturally, the four took great delight in running around and I smiled at their owner as I tried to secure Flossie.

Sunrise on the Common


He was curious as to why I felt the need to put her on her lead. After all, she wasn’t running away, she wasn’t causing any trouble, she didn’t bite – I explained that I had had previous problems with people disapproving of her running about but clearly, he had no problem, so the dogs continued to run around and I continued my walk.

When the time came for her to be put on her lead, Flossie obediently sat and waited as I fastened the ‘Halti’. I bade my fellow walker goodbye and trekked off through the trees to where I had parked the car.

It made me think. Maybe I pay too much attention to the things people say sometimes. Perhaps I let them dictate to me too much. Yes, I should be wary of the infirm and the very young and very old but perhaps some of those people (the two able bodied moody women especially) should learn to be a little more tolerant.

Thus my day started well and has continued to get better. As Flossie responded to the dog trainer so well, I have been given new hope for her future.

I have this ‘clicker’ thing that I am meant to use to teach her to appreciate when she is doing well. The idea is that as she jumps (if she jumps) the victim, sorry, the visitor must turn his/her back to her and ignore her completely. As soon as Flossie has all four feet on the ground I must press the clicker and reward her with a tasty morsel.

This worked very well for the trainer. He jumped around and invited Flossie to jump up at him but then ignored her. He waited, she planted four feet on the floor and he clicked and rewarded her. After the third or fourth attempt, she didn’t jump. She just sat. Wow! (I am easily impressed where Flossie is concerned).

I wished I had had this clicker thing this morning when she bounded up the stairs, flew through my bedroom door, bounded onto the bed and refused to get down. I don’t think I reacted in quite the right manner unless yelling hysterically can be called that?

Next we went out into the road (I call it a road, it is no more than a single track lane really – if two cars want to pass, one virtually has to squeeze into a hedge). For an amazing fifteen minutes or more, the trainer walked up and down with Flossie on a lead (no Halti). With great patience he used the clicker and reward idea to teach her to walk nicely. Then I tried. Amazingly, I was able to get the same results as he did.

What black magic is this? From where comes this sudden power and understanding? I am truly gob-smacked.

Now from my reaction you may be forgiven for thinking I have no idea about dogs at all. Not so, but it has been some time since I had to train a puppy.

Armed with this amazing new knowledge I was delighted when Dave later walked in with two **builders.

Aha! Guinea pigs!

Both dogs ran to investigate and Flossie, suddenly overcome with excitement, leapt up at first one and then the other. Unfortunately, they had not been briefed and merely patted her. I on the other hand, saw this as an excellent opportunity for ‘the clicker’. Now where was it? I knew I had put it somewhere…if only I could find it. As they finally ignored her and she fell back to the ground, I could ‘click’ and reward in a timely manner. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the clicker in time and the moment was lost.

I suppose I am not quite there yet but tomorrow will see me out on the road with my clicker and treats, determined to get this dog trained!

For me, October 31st will be ‘Click a Treat’ instead of ‘Trick or Treat’.

Next week we are going to tackle ‘coming when called’ – I can’t wait!

*’Halti’ – a head collar that sits above the dog’s nose comfortably.
**Builders – were quoting us for some work

I am an Author, wife to one, mother to five and grandmother to six. I live in the English countryside in Hampshire, UK, with my husband and two dogs and am a non exec Director for Glow


  • Andrea Carlisle

    No wonder trainers are so successful. All they have to do is deal with the dog, the leash, the clicker and the treat. No surprises walking in.
    I have a feeling that clicker will become part of you. It sounds like Flossie is taking to it. This post reminds me of the happy days I spent last summer in obedience school with my exuberant former street dog, Brio. I thought she’d been running free for too long and couldn’t be trained, but it turned out she was actually eager to be trained and loved every bit of it. After all, there are treats and more treats…
    One of my favorite dog training books–well, it’s much more than that–is The Other End of the Leash. I think the author is Patricia McConnell. Wonderful book!
    Good to know that William will have well-behaved dog friends to hang with.

  • Patricia

    I think so often how I would like a dog to join me on my morning walks – and when I have spent 10 hours home alone working how nice to share the space.

    I have assisted my daughters in training 3 dogs over the past 32 years but not for a long time and they did the bulk of the work.

    This whole issue is the second reason why I hesitate in getting a dog…I think I would rather have a puppy than take on someone else’s problems to retrain?

    My first reason is that I hope I will be well enough to travel – sooner rather than later…. but dogs, pups, travel, and training all take funds….that may be my biggest issue !

    Nice pictures…oh those frosty mornings are oh so beautiful – a lovely share

  • Deb

    You are so funny. Toby will be three on Halloween, and the last year with him has been so much easier. We took him to school and worked with him, too. Granted, maybe with some inconsistencies, but we’ve tried. We have a similar collar for him, with the strap on the nose, which I love. It’s only been in the last month or so that I can take him for walks without it. I love reading your stories.

  • Katie Gates

    Those photos are so beautiful, and I admire all the discipline a human must display in order to raise a dog! No wonder I’m a “cat-person!” I’ve always claimed that people train dogs whereas cats train people. For example, my cat Vesta likes to be on my lap, and so she silently says, “Sit. Stay.” As for Lotto, he likes to catch toys, and so he has taught me to throw properly…

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