The Golden Wonder is gold and white. Not black and white like any self respecting collie – but gold like a golden retriever. His dam is a black and white show border collie, who was shipped out to Australia to be mated to bring this unusual colour into the country. Apparently the colour is not uncommon out there. There was one golden bitch and one golden dog in the litter the rest being ‘normal’ black and whites. Not only is his colour not normal, in many ways his behaviour is not normal when compared to my other collies.

The Golden Wonder digs. Boy does he dig! I don’t know if he is influenced by the desire to get back to Australia to see his father but my word, he digs. Our lawn is covered in craters if he is left unattended out there for ten minutes.

Another thing he likes doing that my other collies do not find necessary is swimming. He will jump into any pond that is deep enough to swim in, even if it is not large enough to go far, he will just swim round in circles for the pleasure of swimming. My ‘normal’ collies will only swim if I throw something in the water for them to fetch. The first time he encountered a pond in the woods nearby it was frozen and he walked on the ice. Of course I was worried it would crack and he would fall in but before I could strip off in sub zero temperatures and rescue him he came scampering safely back. When the weather was warmer we came to the same pond and he tried to walk across it again. Of course even the Golden Wonder cannot walk on water so he swam instead. Now no matter how cold it is if he sees a span of water he has to get in it.

He screams like a girlie. It is embarrassing when he meets people; he throws his pretty little body around whilst screaming for attention and everyone says, ‘Isn’t SHE pretty.’

He does not enjoy retrieving like every other collie I have owned. Yes he has been taught to fetch – but it is not the same. This dog is not normal!

Left to his own devices on a walk he would chase rabbits, pheasants and squirrels (don’t they eat those in Australia?) so I guess he is a normal dog in many respects. I tend to discourage this predatory behaviour as it seems to me the more they do it the more they do it. A bit like the collie eye my other dogs have exhibited as puppies. I keep them otherwise engaged to avoid unwanted behaviours developing. What I do not want is a dog who breaks off half way round a track to sniff down a rabbit hole, or take off after a hare.

On the plus side, his coat seems to be Teflon coated; and for a golden dog that swims and digs this is a big plus. As soon as he is dry he looks beautiful. Everyone says I must spend hours grooming to keep him looking that clean, - but no. The dirt just seems to fall off him. Just as well really because grooming is not my forte.

Different he might be but his training is progressing. He loves his work and will do anything for a piece of kibble.

Heelwork part two

Hand target

The Golden Wonder learnt to target my hand when he was about nine weeks old (WTM May 2009) and continue touching the target until the clicker sounded. All that was necessary was for him to touch the palm of my hand on request. That is easy to teach, all you need to do is pretend to take a titbit from your pocket and click your dog as he comes to sniff your hand (click and treat in the usual way). Repeat this pretending you have something nice in your hand until he realises that touching the hand with his nose makes you click. Throw a piece of kibble to the floor to get rid of him and get ready to produce the hand target again as he returns.

I use my right hand for this exercise and the dog would be coming towards me to touch the hand.

Heelwork position touching the hand

To use the hand target for heelwork, the first thing I did was to swap hands and get the dog to touch the target facing the same way as I am facing (I don’t want him walking backwards in heelwork!). To do this, simply throw a piece of kibble to the floor as above and as he is eating it turn about and produce the left hand. Your presentation to the dog as he looks up from eating the kibble is the same as the forward facing target except that your thumb is on the inside not the outside (oh and of course he can see your bum not your face). Very quickly Golden Wonder was maintaining a hand target on my left hand side and almost looking like he was ready to do heelwork (only standing still). Before very long I could take a step forward and click him as he came with me to maintain the target. Now we could walk along with the Golden Wonder keeping his nose on my hand at arm’s length. Remember he was already used to doing something similar in the food catching exercise. All I had to do was bring my left hand onto my hip whilst he maintained the target and we were doing heelwork. Voila!

Heelwork position – no hands!

Ah, but I hear you say, this is trials not obedience – you should walk in a natural manner and swing your arms.

Ok one last bit. As ever, because we are making one thing more difficult, we should make something else easier. So stand still (stop the target from moving) and quickly move the hand target away from the hip and click simultaneously. If you are quick enough you click the dog for not following the hand but staying on the new target – that part of your hip or leg. Repeat this until he will stay in the heelwork position without the need of your hand to help him. Now you can progress to swinging your arms with your dog doing trials heelwork. Easy! Ok then it takes months and Golden Wonder is still on the hand target – but he does move beautifully and he is sooo pretty.