Friday, 7 September 2007

Tugboat Bingley

Bingley's daily walks have so far been a pleasure, but I have to work hard at stopping him from pulling me along in tugboat style.

One of the joys of living close to both the Tyne and the coast has been having the opportunity to watch all the constantly fascinating river activity. But sadly, though we know people who are still boat builders, there's now only one actual shipyard which is still in operation. Nevertheless, over the years we've seen many astonishing developments take place on the river; and much of that activity has involved those wonderful working boats: tugs.

Bingley isn't built like a tug, but he can certainly pull like one; and even at 16.8kg(!) he can catch me off balance at times. Over the course of the week I've been trying to encourage him to walk to heel, and surprisingly I've made gradual headway towards success. Treats help! He'll do almost anything if he knows he's going to get something tasty as a reward; but even without a treat there are definitely periods when he'll trot along quite happily. Of course we aren't going far, or for that long; we're never out for more than half an hour, and less than half of that time is spent walking. Instead we spend regular periods sitting and talking about what we can see and hear (I'm sure that he understands everything I say!). There's a dual carriageway at the far side of the playing field, and we've taken strolls down there so that he can get used to traffic - not that he seems to be remotely unsettled by all the cars whizzing past; but it still seems wise to get him used to all the noise and activity of a busy road. Before long though, he'll start snuffling the pocket where I keep the treats (it didn't take him any time to figure that out!), or he'll suddenly spot something which I can never see but which he finds irresistible, and we're off again.

When I first read the advice regarding the 5 minute guideline for dog walking, I thought that it seemed a bit measly. The advice recommends no more than 5 minutes of walking for each month of the dog's age; Bingley is 3 months old but honestly, what can you do in 15 minutes? It hardly seemed worth setting out! But of course those 15 minutes of walking are just right, and although he's always reluctant to return to his own backyard (he digs his heels in at the gate and gives me a look that says 'I don't want to go back in yet, I want to play some more'), once he does come back in he's ready for a kip.

We've bought a water bowl for the backyard so he doesn't have to wait whilst I rummage for the door keys; instead he can have a well-earned drink straight away. Of course learning to use this new water bowl took a few days: it's stainless steel with a very rubbery smelling non-slip rubber base. Bingley loves to lick awful things like this, so stopping him from trying to do that was the first hurdle to overcome. Then when he looked into the bowl he could see that other dog, so he just stood there and barked at it the first few times! Now however, he's getting used to it. When we get back in from our walk he'll have a long drink whilst I unlock the door; then we'll go inside and he'll have another drink from his usual bowl; after that it's over to his bed where, once he's checked that all his toys are still in place, he'll immediately curl up and go to sleep.

Yippee, I say - and off I go for a couple of hours of freedom from puppies!

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