Monday, 19 September 2011

Somersaults and Backflips .

           I am often asked for advice on lead training puppies and , indeed , there are a variety of methods . Dogs are so diverse in character that what works for one will not necessarily work with another .

            Over the years we have had puppies that took to being on a lead straight away , but usually it becomes a battle of wills and sometimes every trick in the book has to be tried before the battle is won ; hopefully by you , not the puppy !!

             However , our third Afghan , Tarquin defied every trick . Right from the moment we brought him home at 3 months old , it was obvious that he was going to be nothing like our two other Afghans , Cleo and Cassie . He was more stubborn , defiant , awkward , funny , loving and adorable than any Afghan I have ever known . He didnt have a bad bone in his body , but naughty ? Oh my , he was naughty !!

             He attached himself to me from the first day and became my shadow and very much  "my " dog . And I , in turn , loved him to bits . He was such a beautiful boy , thick gold coat and jet black  "mask". He was royally bred and carefully reared , my future show-dog .

             Now show-dogs need to be trained early so that when they go into the show ring everything is second nature to them . They need to be at ease in their surroundings and know what is expected of them . Puppies are not meant to be too regimented but they do need to be able to move freely and naturally round the ring on a loose lead .  Show-dogs should not be stressed and neither should their handlers !

             So , with all this in mind I began to train him straight away . His first show would be just after he was 6 months old , so I had three whole months to turn a raw puppy into a confident show-dog  . Easy !!!

             Well , right from the start Tarquin hated the lead . I mean  "really " hated it . He screamed and flung himself into the air  , landing on his back with a thump . He foamed at the mouth and made himself sick  and sat rigidly in one place and was pulled along on his bottom like a stuffed toy . He was very strong , even at 3 months old and he resisted my efforts vigorously , even pulling me over at times .

              This went on for weeks . I bribed , I coaxed , I struggled to lift him and carried him away from the house , thinking he would walk back towards home . I took Cleo or Cassie out with him ,  thinking he might walk if he had company . But nothing worked . Every day I tried and every day I was in tears , tears of frustration and tears of despair as the date of his first show crept ever nearer . Hubby tried too  and had the same results , the same screams , somersaults and backflips , the same gagging and the same failure . Thank goodness we had no neighbours nearby , we  would surely have been reported for cruelty as Tarquins shrieks were so blood curdling and yet we never ever laid a hand on him , I would never condone anything like that . Although my patience was being severely tested !!

              One day hubby came in to find me in floods of tears . This time I hadn't even tried the training . I just couldn't face  it anymore . My  beautiful boy had broken my spirit , I was throwing in the towel , I'd had enough  ! Hubby tried to cheer me up and said he would have another try , he could see I was very upset . So , out of the door he went , with Tarquin already trying the choking / screaming tactics .  I went and washed my face and pulled myself together . I knew they would be back in a few minutes , with Tarquin looking triumphant and hubby looking dejected . Thats how it always ended .

              Minutes ticked by and they did not return . I noticed they had been gone for half an hour ! I went outside and there was no sign of them , either on the drive or in the road that ran along the side of the river . Another half an hour passed and I was panic-stricken  . Perhaps they had been hit by a car ; there were no pavements on these narrow country roads . Or perhaps hubby had killed Tarquin , in frustration  and  didn't dare come back and tell me . Maybe Tarquin had snapped the lead and run off , never to be seen again . My imagination ran riot and I felt sick . I couldn't hear the sounds of a screaming , gagging puppy , just the soft sound of birdsong and the distant splash of the river .  I had no way to contact hubby as this was the early 80s and mobile phones were not so popular  as nowadays , so I worried myself sick and wondered where the hell they were .

               I had no idea  in which direction they had gone but I couldn't wait any longer and decided to walk up the road towards Alford and see if I could find them . I had just set out when round the bend , in the distance , I saw my husband  strolling along in the sunshine and alongside him was my lovely golden boy , trotting along happily  like he had been doing it for years . I couldn't believe my eyes and ran to meet them  . Tarquin looked up at me as though to say    " Look at me Mum  " and  continued on , striding out , head held high and tail wagging  . I slowly took the lead from my husbands hand   and we all walked home .

              Hubby told me that when they first set off Tarquin had been doing the usual frothing at the mouth and flinging himself about in protest , but hubby had been loath to return as he knew I was so upset . So he had kept walking and a few seconds later he felt the lead go slack and looked down to see Tarquin walking along quite normally . Poor hubby was so surprised that he had just kept going , not daring to stop or turn round , in case the spell was broken . They had walked  a mile and a half before he dared attempt to turn towards home !!

              He swears that Tarquin must have just decided that he had enough of all the resistance and was now ready to go for a proper walk !!

               It was a week before his first show .................................................... !


  1. oh WOW!!!!!! im glad Tarquin got the idea, but wow talk about close to the wire!!!! I felt exhausted for you, reading this, and I know how it feels when a dog really doesn't do what you want them to, even after coaxing. So, how did Tarquin get on??? did he win? :) Lovely blog post, as ever!!!

  2. Fab blog, as always, He sounds like he was a special doggie xx

  3. Tarquin sounds fabulous!! He sounds like that "one off" dog you get, i love him and not met him, please can we have more Tarquin stories :)) Paula x