New Year’s Resolutions 2012

Well, all the excesses of Christmas are behind us now and it’s time to square up to those New Year resolutions. For me and Susan that means eating better and losing weight. For Biggles, it’s all about not attempting to open the doggy toy cupboard himself, trashing the paintwork in the process. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, Beanie’s resolution involves being more tolerant of her brother and not flying off the handle at him, even when he’s being a bit pesky.

Yep, the Beanster has had a little fall out with Biggles again. It’s nowhere near as bad as the bust up they had in February last year, but we’ve gone back to the nothing-in-life-is-free programme for a week or two to nip it in the bud. It’s working already, but we’ve been scratching our heads trying to work out the reason for this latest “domestic”. Only a couple of things have changed recently that might be to blame:

  1. Over Christmas they’ve been spoiled for attention, and there have been some small signs of jealousy over who’s getting cuddles from whom.
  2. We’ve been giving them some short but very exciting off-lead romps

We’re leaning towards #2 being the most likely cause. When we get into the enclosure we typically play recall games rather than simply letting them do their own thing. Beanie takes these very seriously because treats are involved, whereas Biggles is mostly interested in trying to kick-off a play session.


What’s more, Biggles may now be able to run faster than his sister. In the past, she was the undisputed top athlete of the family, but now that could be changing. It’s not so apparent in chases in the garden, where Biggles still uses his one tactical brain cell to outwit Beanie rather than simply trying to out-pace her, but in a straight recall sprint, he’s now taking the lead:


In the last couple of sessions I did notice her looking a bit displeased with The Bigglet, and a day or two later this spilled over into a more serious quarrel. So for the time being the off-lead sessions are going off the menu, and both Beanie and Biggles are facing tougher austerity measures than those imposed on Greece. Much tougher. In fact any time the Greeks feel like complaining about cuts and tax rises they should think themselves lucky that they don’t have to nap in their baskets instead of on the sofa, or give a paw before coming in from the garden.



In winter weather Beanie and Biggles no longer have free access to the garden, so by way of compensation we’ve been spicing up their walks and giving them more play sessions. They’re loving it, but something we’ve been doing – possibly the “Beagle-Cross” or maybe the short off-lead recall sessions on the beach – has reawakened the mischievous gremlins within our Beagles. In the last few weeks we’ve lost a couple of pillows, a unusually high number of socks have developed unwanted ventilation holes, and some of our gloves have become fingerless.



Those photos might lead you to believe that Biggles is the naughtiest of the two, but that’s not the case; he’s just the least accomplished at scarpering from the scene of the crime before we arrive. Nope, Beanie’s the criminal mastermind! She’s smart enough to take advantage of moments of opportunity, then quickly leg it when she’s about to be discovered. For example, if we get distracted by the sound of Biggles rolling around in the corridor with a glove he’s just nicked, she’ll have her snout stuck in a cup or be pilfering stuff from my desk in a flash. Between them it sometimes feels like we’ve got a house full of Beagles instead of just two.

Beagle Chaos Composite

Three Beanies to two Biggleses. Yep, that ratio feels about right..

And yet, for all that, they can be remarkably well behaved when they want to – which is pretty much whenever there’s food at stake. Here’s a quick clip of the current breakfast time routine:

Breakfast-time discipline from Paul Roberts on Vimeo.

This short exercise is kind of a fusion of various training ideas. Obviously self-control is always a good thing for a Beagle, while hand-feeding is supposed to underline the position of the humies at the top of the pile (since they control the food). The “pushing” thing – making the dog push against a hand on the chest, comes from so-called “natural training” and is supposed to teach the dog to turn to their owner in times of excitement/stress. As a side-effect, this routine also seems to be making Beanie more accepting of cuddles and kisses, and as you can see Biggles’ tail does a fair job of sweeping the floor too.

Beagle Zen


Kibble on paws, but no-one’s snacking until they’re told. Beanie meditates on both pieces at once; Biggles is strictly a one-kibble-at-a-time boy

The two weeks of NILIF (nothing in life is free) were up some time ago but we’ve kept going with much of it, because together with the various self control exercises it’s worked wonders for bringing our two Beagles into line. We’re still hand-feeding them (it’s nice for them and us) and they still have to sit and/or perform a trick when crossing a boundary, but we are now inviting them up onto the sofa and into our bed for a cuddle.


Back in our bed on a morning, just where a Bigglet should be!

The aggression Beanie showed to Biggles seems to be thoroughly behind us now, though our boy still seems to lack confidence in some situations. We’re working to build him up, but we need to do so selectively because he is after all a Beagle boy; give him an inch and he’ll grab & tug it until it’s considerably longer, and probably full of holes.

They say it’s much easier to tell a mischievous Beagle to do something good than to stop doing something naughty, and I think that’s why the discipline of the baskets works so well. It took a bit of firm handling and patience, but now we can put a stop to lots of troublesome behavior simply by sending them to their baskets. Finally we can have TV dinners in peace, yet still invite our pups up for a cuddle when we’re ready!

The benefits of the NILIF programme have also spilled over into our agility training. Beanie is much less likely to go off on a poo hunt at the start of each session, while Biggly Boy is now able to follow commands at a greater distance and is very close to weaving unaided.


Biggles loves jumping almost as much as Beanie now!


And jumps are great for other things too :)


Beanie has her eyes fixed on the next obstacle as she slinks over the jump

The only thing that isn’t quite back on track is play between Beanie and Biggles. Having said that, they’re having lots of play sessions with us right now so maybe they don’t need to let off steam with chases and wrestling on their own. Also despite the odd clear day we’ve had a lot of rain lately, and Beagles generally don’t like getting wet. Getting smelly and disgusting: yes, getting rained on: no. Anyway, hopefully they’ll return to playing together as we head into spring and summer and they spend more time together in the garden.