Louise Minchin on puppy training

Louise Minchin

Louise Minchin - Credit: Archant

The Chester-based BBC TV presenter on the delights and challenges of puppy training. Ruby is putting Louise through her paces!

I vividly remember the chaos of going to puppy classes as a teenager with our exuberant springer spaniel, Suli. At home, she was reasonably obedient, but we knew she could do with some training, especially around other dogs. Our first class was a disaster from the moment we pushed our way through the swing doors of the village hall into puppy mayhem. As soon as she saw the others she went bananas, escaped from her lead and sprinted round in circles chasing dogs and humans, claws skittering across the Lino and tail wagging wildly. When we eventually caught her, to my huge embarrassment, she then managed to pee on the floor. I never went back again. So it was with some trepidation, I suggested to my youngest daughter Scarlett, that we take Ruby our four-month-old labrador, to obedience lessons. Her breeder gave me the number of a trainer, who did a home visit before we were allowed to start the course. I was nervous that she wouldn’t take us on, but Ruby behaved like an angel, sitting and waiting patiently for a treat and we were accepted onto the course.

The village hall looked exactly the same as the one I had been to 30 years earlier, and again the canine excitement was palpable; we could hear a cacophony of yapping from the car park. It was like the first day of a new school: everyone except us knew what they were doing and within moments had their puppies walking at heel. We didn’t even know which side Ruby should be on until we were barked an instruction. We might have been hopeless, but Ruby was brilliant and apart from leaping all over another black labrador every time he came near seemed to understand, if she did what we asked her, she would get a treat. Her enthusiasm for this labrador was explained in the tea-break when we sat on mats: we put two and two together and worked out that Albie, was in fact her brother, and they recognised each other!

This week, if it goes well, Ruby will graduate. She can now sit when told to, wait (sometimes), come when she is called, and walk to heel (mostly). There is still work to do on stopping her eating socks, but maybe we will just have to learn to be tidy or hide them.