Adventure Dog In Training (with video)

Honey goes where we go.

And we go by bicycle. And sailboat.

What will it take to teach a Golden Retriever that fun adventures await if she rides in a bicycle cart or climbs aboard a sailboat?

Some special training. And lots and lots of patience.

Where the Training Began

Golden Retriever puppy playing with a soda bottle

After that bicycle ride, I could sure use a cold one.

We had been clumsily introducing Honey to the Doggy Ride bicycle cart since she was a puppy.

It sat in the corner of her exercise pen in the kitchen and I occasionally put treats in it. We used it to take her to watch the Red Bull Chariot Races. She was fine going. But coming back, she got tangled in the restraint and became very unhappy.

By the time we gave up our car, we couldn’t get her to go near the thing.

In the meantime, we also started sailing with plans to eventually go on a long cruise. Of course Honey would go with us—but we needed to make her comfortable with flapping sails, clanking halyards, a heeling boat, and boarding from a moving dock.

Honey’s First Session with a Dog Trainer

Before we ever met with our new trainer, Russ Hollier, we filled out a questionnaire asking us all about Honey’s behavior, training, habits, and how we lived together as a family.

At our first sessions together, Russ observed that Honey was:

  • eager to please
  • nervous
  • smart
  • able to put her head in the bicycle cart, but only with the promise of really stinky treats
  • fearful of walking on any strange surface, even if it didn’t move
  • highly food-motivated

He suggested we use the bicycle cart and agility equipment to build her confidence. As she made progress, we’d increase the challenge.

In the video you’re about to see, we’ve increased the challenges, yet again.

  • the bicycle cart is on a frame that lifts it closer to the height it will be when we put the wheels on
  • we modified the teeter board to make it less stable
  • we stopped bracing the wobble board with our feet so it wobbles more
  • and we introduced a new piece of equipment, a dog walk ramp

You’ll also see that I’m not a very good trainer. And I do a lot of luring. But standing and waiting for Honey to figure out what we want next so we can capture it with a click doesn’t make for good television.

So how’s she doing?

Honey’s Video Debut

Look At Her Now!

Honey has come a long way. She’s:

  • having fun
  • focused (even with Chérie barking in the peanut gallery)
  • confident
  • having fun
  • willing to try new things more quickly
  • relaxed
  • and, most importantly, having fun

I think Honey has big adventures to look forward to.

Have you used agility equipment for other reasons than to compete in agility? If you haven’t, would you?


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  1. Eeek, this is a bit scary, being up the top of the comments! What a happy girl Honey is now, it sure looks like you’re on the right track:) Love the equipment, Beryl would think I’d totally lost it if I produced a wobble board. How long have you had your trainer? He’s produced a remarkable turn around. It always helps to have a new set of experienced eyes to shed a different perspective on problems. Great video, although I did have a bit of trouble reading the dark green type on the black background, could be my computer monitor settings though? Congratulations, your hard work is really paying off now:)

    • Yay, Sue! Thanks for starting off the comments. :)

      I’m not sure how long we’ve been working with Russ. Probably about 4 months. And you have no idea how much of a turn around it is. Honey certainly didn’t look like she was having fun a short time ago.

      Sometimes she’d just shut down and walk away. We’ve had to go very slowly. But when we started the jumping, that really made a difference and she started finding the whole process more fun.

      As for Beryl and a wobble board–I’m sure she’s far too dignified to ever do something so silly. :)

  2. Way to go Honey (and Pam)!!!!!!

    She is looking really confident on all her new skills!! I know the going has been slow but I am sure it’ll be worth it when you have a happy Honey tagging along on your adventures.

    • That’s certainly what we’re hoping. She’s been a great kayak dog. I’m hoping she can enjoy sailing just as much.

  3. I so enjoyed the video. I laughed all the way through it! Honey looks so happy, maybe because you’re stuffing her face at every turn haha! That wobbly board is such a good idea too. And the bicycle cart… a BIG improvement! Well done both of you. Did Cherie look keen to learn stuff too?


      • Thank you. Thank you. And we love the music too. It’s a perfect fit for our little circus.

        Cherie has been on restricted activities since she was just spayed last week. But I’ll probably try some simple things with her this week. She’s with us for confidence-building so why not?

  4. She looks great! I always think a happy wagging tail is the most important part of training! And look at how happy Honey’s tail is!

  5. Really enjoyed your video, it was so nice to see Honey in action. She really enjoyed to work, and that she is “highly” food-motivated was definitely not an understatement. All the equipment your are using that mike made is great training for her. Have you ever seen those balance exercises with skippy-balls? Maybe something you would be interested in as well. And you are an excellent dog-trainer, Honey is proof of that.
    Hope to see more video’s soon!

  6. I love this. I love that she is having fun, while learning to be comfortable with new things, and not just to win ribbons, but so she can accompany you through life. This is what having a dog is all about – everything else is just gravy. Nicely done.

  7. Wow, Honey I’d making lots if progress!

  8. Amazing! I’m super excited seeing Honey sit in the bike cart! and yes, food motivated but more important, she was having fun – and you didn’t push her, you guided her to put all fours on the wobble for her treat. YESH.
    Kudos, Mike, on a very nice video with perfect music.

  9. She is just loving that, isn’t she?

  10. Great job!
    Hmmm. I wonder if ‘food motivation’ could help me get over some of my fears?? I consider myself to be pretty highly food-motivated as well, but still… the lure of a bowl of ice cream or a plate of cookies is probably not going to get me to do the things I find really scary. That Honey – she’s brave!

  11. Wow!!! I cannot believe how far Honey has come! She’s a pro in the bicycle cart. I am so impressed with that alone, but the totter and the wobble board and the ramp? How wonderful! I wish I had equipment like that to try out with Jasper. The closest thing to agility I have tried is “Paws up” on a bench. Oh. And Jasper did try the ramp at a Sheltie event recently. I was proud of him.

    Great job on the video Mike! The music choice was fantastic!

  12. After watching the video I think it looks like Honey is “having fun!” The way you describe her reminds me a lot of Linus. The main difference is Linus is not food motivated and that makes a big difference in his training. By the way, what stinky treats are you using with Honey? The treats that worked best for Linus were these really stinky Salmon treats…ick!!!

    Honey looks like she’s come a long way based on what I’ve read on your blog. I especially liked watching Cherie in the background. Great job on the video! I can’t wait to see more.

    Take care,

  13. Big smiles here! Honey looks fantastic and I can tell that she’s going to be on her way soon. Her tail is just magnificent, and she certainly looks happy!

    We have used some agility equipment with Kuster when he was little to start teaching him to walk on strange surfaces and to learn some basic commands like “on it.” It was partially for confidence and partially to give him the experience of something he hadn’t seen before.

  14. I am glad Honey is doing so well. Sometimes meeting with a trainer just once can give us the extra bump we need.

    Hmm….maybe I should look into a dog trainer to figure out why Chester and Gretel find riding the our DoggyRide so upsetting. They have NO problem getting in it or hanging out in it when it is stopped. Once it starts moving they get restless and bark though. I am guessing it is motion sickness because I can’t think of anything else it would be. If treatment for that doesn’t work though I might follow your lead and get a trainier.

    • I’ve watched many videos on YouTube of dogs in Doggy Rides. Generally, big dogs look anxious while small dogs look pretty comfortable. I suspect it’s not motion sickness per se but that the big dogs are less used to being jostled around. Many small dogs are carried in bags so they get used to that at an early age.

      Since it doesn’t appear you’ve done much carrying of Chester and Gretel, they might be having the same discomfort that big dogs do with the notion of being bounced (it’s a pretty bumpy ride compared to a car).

      I suspect that if you went back a step and took only a short ride (like 2 feet to start) and rewarded them for being calm, you’d eventually get them comfortable for a long ride.

  15. Wow I’m so impressed with how far Honey has come! I haven’t used agility equipment for training purposes but I certainly wouldn’t rule it out, if it will help my dog overcome fears or obstacles I’m all for it.

    Keep up the good work Pamela, Honey will be riding and sailing before you know it!

  16. Hey Honey, Jet here.

    Gosh, for some reason all the videos crashed today and goofed up our Google Chrome… so, I apologize, we cannot see your progress. The fact that you’re working on these skills, well, Honey you are AMAZING!

  17. I really enjoyed your video debut… very nice! :)

    Honey looks like she is having a wonderful time. She’s making such great progress!

  18. Yay Honey!! That was so fun to watch! I loved when she got a little scared and jumped away from the balance board . .but she didn’t give up – there were treats to be had! Great job – I look forward to seeing more videos!

  19. It looks like Honey is really coming along and having fun. Well done!

  20. Yay! I am so disappointed I couldn’t get to this big post until now. I am still grinning from watching Honey in action for the first time. She is just so eager to please you and get that treat. What a good girl! I love how she looks up at you. :-)

    Seeing this it’s hard to believe she was ever less confident. She seems so happy to be working with you. You both have come so far and I have no doubt you will eventually reach your goals if you keep at it.

    One of the reasons we started agility was to increase Shiva’s confidence so I definitely recommend even just basic backyard practice to anyone. There was a time even Shiva was nervous around different obstacles but you wouldn’t believe it now. At this point she sees everything new as a chance to earn a treat and sometimes it’s a challenge keeping her off of different surfaces – which is a problem all it’s own when it is a table in someone’s house.

    Also, I couldn’t resist clicking on your trainer’s website. He sounds like the perfect person for you and Honey. I am so glad you found him!

  21. Look at Honey go! I can’t believe how comfortable she looks in the cart now! She really looks happy and engaged. That’s great.

    It’s not easy to go as slow as we need to with dogs who lack confidence but the pay-off is so worth the effort. Honey has come such a long way. You should be very proud.

    PS – We still catch ourselves luring at times. Our trainer only slaps our hands when we do it with the really scary stuff which is, of course, when we’re more inclined to fall back to it. 😉


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