Fred, chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy posing in a wool scarf / Perfect cocker spaniel book and dog blog / cocker puppy tips, advice, how to hand-strip cocker spaniel, cocker spaniel diet, training, best foods (C) Natalia Ashton

Fred. In a scarf.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the boys. So today is all about Fred. In a scarf.

I believe this sort of diary post isn’t something of public interest, but I love this photo so much and I will never forget how we took it.

Initially, I wanted to photograph them together. But Fred, who has never worn any fashion gear before, really wanted a portrait. I wrapped him in my scarf thinking that the boy will protest or run away to play with it.

I was wrong. Fred was a pro! I think he actually felt proud sitting and posing for me. The camera clicked and clicked and clicked, but my beautiful spaniel stayed there motionless until I was happy with the shot.

He is fabulous. Just fabulous. And I love him to bits.

 

Photo credit: Fred photographed by me

 

Fred, my chocolate and tan english cocker spaniel pup / Perfect cocker spaniel blog & book / English cocker spaniel grooming, training, advice, health, puppy tips / Natalia Ashton (C)

The world according to Fred

Fred fascinates me… Watching him is like getting through a mind-boggling puzzle where every little step in the right direction feels like a huge victory. Fred isn’t the easiest pup, he is… complicated. And I love it about my boy. He teaches me “stuff” about myself and I learn to see the world “according to Fred” in return.

Oh, the world… I think, in Fred’s mind the world is a very, very smelly place indeed. And that’s what makes it so captivating for him. The boy’s sense of smell is nothing I’ve ever seen in any of my dogs before. It’s like his brain is wired to follow the scent in the most sophisticated manner.

Fred sees through his olfactory. At home the pup loves to sit in the middle of the garden, nose into the sky – soaking up the scents and watching, observing, learning…

Every time we are off for a walk he runs out of the house and knows that a bird is hiding in a nearby hedge, somebody he likes recently walked down the street, the dog he isn’t keen on – has been for a walk already, some cat will soon appear from around the corner, the bunnies are hopping through the field and a family of daft pheasants has just been out for their wonky promenade.

We often let him lead otherwise he gets a little bored with the rest of the “pack”. We are too ordinary, even Coop… Once done, Fred glances back at me waiting for a praise and a little treat, which he’s been aware of (obviously!) since it got hidden in my pocket.

And then we smile at each other and continue our journey through the world that, according to Fred, is filled with a rainbow of smells.

 

Photo source: taken by me

 

 

Cooper and Fred featured in Country Life October 23 issue / Britain's naughtiest dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel blog and book

My guys made it to Country Life mag

Long time ago, somewhere in the midst of summer, I shared a little story about Cooper and Fred on the Country Life’s Instagram. Shared and forgot for it was in the midst of summer and how can one remember a little message when surrounded by fragrant flowers, mesmerising butterflies, endless fields and the sun that fills the entire horizon.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the mag yesterday and saw our names in it! They published the story on-line, too. Coop didn’t win it, no. He was chosen as the Highly commended, which I think would please him immensely regardless.

I loved the article. It was such a beautiful humorous read accompanied by the most charming illustrations by John Holder.

And the boys look amazing on-line… The Country Life team featured two of my most favourite photos that I’ve taken this year.

Cooper & Fred, Perfect cocker spaniel cockers on Country Life magazine website / britain's naughtiest dogs 2019 by Victoria Marsden / Natalia Ashton / english cocker spaniel humour, advice, tips, history, puppy first year, grooming and more, book and blog
So many things to be grateful for. Feeling like a proud happy mummy right now.

Photo source: cover of the Country Life October 23 2019 issue via Country Life

Natalia, Cooper & Fred, two english cocker spaniels / lessons our dogs could teach us / all about English cocker spaniels / puppy tips (c) Perfect cocker spaniel / photo by Elizabeth Clark Pinkfeet photography

Cocker spaniel habits we should adopt

I am grateful to my dogs for many things in life. I feel like they taught me a lot, helped me find my true self and even inspired my book. My spaniels are my life and I adore watching the boys every day, sharing their discoveries, little joys and moments of happy madness. Dogs have their ways of being here, creating their own world and travelling through it next to their beloved companions – us. And I think we can pick up a few habits from our beautiful cocker spaniels because it can transform our life – and the future as the time goes by, too…

Wake up with a smile. Because good vibes start with a simple stretch of a few facial muscles.

Kiss often! Kissing boosts dopamine and endorphins (for happiness), oxytocin (for emotional attachment), reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormones), cholesterol and blood pressure, and strengthens the immune system.

Be outdoorsy! Get out early, breathe in fresh air, dip your paws feet into the morning dew and run away from hustle and bustle of reality, mobile devices and city noise. “Walking is the man’s best medicine” – sharing it with the man’s best friend is as perfect as it can get.

Eat at set times and never skip meals. It’s good for your body and your mind. Your cocker eats “on the dot”? Join his schedule and you are likely to trim your waste line, reduce blood pressure and improve blood sugar levels.

Appreciate the power of quality sleep. You may be tempted to stay up till midnight and maintain your energy levels with so much caffeine it can easily replace your blood, but deep inside you know it’s not brilliant. Look at your cocker – he gets up early, goes to bed on time and never says ‘no’ to daily naps. This is what makes them more productive, ready to embrace every day, process information much better, and look beautiful.

Don’t judge people – love them unconditionally regardless of their status or appearance.

Don’t be afraid to love with passion – “there is always some madness in love, but there is always some reason in madness…”

Life is all about simple things. Happiness is not about having an expensive collar with a gold tag, a huge pile of toys or a palace to live in. Don’t overcomplicate – instead enjoy living the life you’ve got and make the most of it.

Photo source: me and the boys photographed by wonderful Elizabeth Clark / Pink feet photography

 

Cooper, sable english cocker spaniel / how dogs understand our words and conversations / how to talk to your dog / Perfect cocker spaniel blog & book (C) Natalia Ashton

Conversations with my dogs

It’s been a while since it happened for the first time, but I still remember that moment clearly. A passer-by turned his head, looked at me and said “Pardon?” “Oh, I am just talking to my dog”, I said. He glanced at Oscar… his eyes travelled from the smiling face of my furry boy down and then up back to me. The man was definitely a cat person. Otherwise he’d probably join our little chat or smile back at my boy. Instead the guy rolled his eyes and walked away.

And so did we… enjoying our morning stroll and conversation. Oscar was a very good listener. Coop and Fred turned out to be the same. My little ears and confidants.

I thought about it yesterday when me and Coop went out for a little walk together. Coop is a talker. He may not speak human, but he surely compensates that minor inability with his facial expressions and certain sounds. Talking to him never feels like a one-way conversation. It’s always, always a proper chat.

How much he understands? I don’t know. He reads my emotions like a trained psychologist and interprets any gestures with an expert precision. But the words?

All my boys have a certain vocabulary. They know a bunch of words and cues. And just like all dogs they pay the most attention to the first word they hear and any new words that I suddenly use. The rest of the speech is more like a blurry noise, really. Though it doesn’t stop us enjoying our dialogues. The more time we spend together observing each other and learning our little habits, the more fulfilled our conversations become.

It’s more than words. It’s our little bauble of a world where nobody else matters. Including cat people and those who aren’t prepared to listen to a dog who always had a story to share.

Photo: Coop photographed by me

 

Life in the country, Lincolnshire / poppy field / Perfect cocker spaniel (c) blog / English cocker spaniel puppy advice and tips book for first time puppy parents / photo by Natalia Ashton

Living in a moment

This is how I want to remember September. The mellow air, the endlessness and us, walking through the fields every day. As much as we can, as far as we can manage. Living in a moment and enjoying every second of life without making plans.

I snapped this photo with my phone for the memories as we came across a bunch of poppies. The pups waited patiently while I got down to get a perfectly imperfect shot.

And then we continued walking in a middle of the vast space, just the three of us…

This week we will…

My idea of a perfect day is sticking to a schedule, following a certain routine and making sure to address certain habits of mine… Some may say it sounds like an obsessive compulsive behaviour. But I think it’s a behaviour that I’ve naturally developed because we have our boys – and the boys do love a good old routine, especially Coop.

I am also a lover of list making. I don’t get paranoid about it, but I do enjoy making a list of weekly tasks because ticking them off gives a pleasant sensation of satisfaction.

So I thought I’d try to create a post in a manner of those list and see if we can complete it by Sunday. It will be good to keep me focused – and create the best and most enjoyable week for the boys. There’s always hope and positive thinking, right?

This week I would like to…

… continue with our long walks, so at least once a day we are out there in the fields for an hour or longer (we have two walks a day whatever the weather);

… get some new toys for the pups – some of our Foxies are looking a bit too “distressed” and need updating; besides, who would not love a bunch of new toys?!

… perfect a behaviour Coop and Fred do well, but Fred could do a bit better. I choose the loose lead walking regardless of the location (both are really good, but can start pulling a little when is really excited about new places or scents);

… learn a new trick: I’ve just started teaching him “Hide”, which mean they both sit behind me (useful if we meet a strange dog or I need to keep them safe from the passing car, especially if it can splash us with dirty water);

… play “find food” sniffing game every evening – it’s one of their favourite things of all times;

… do something that makes them feel brilliant – as funny as it sounds, the boys love to post for the camera, so I would like to take them out for an individual “photoshoot”, so we can have a bit of fun;

… complete our “monthly groom” – both need a bit of a trim and Fred – a handstrip. Luckily for me, they love it;

… order some window privacy film – at the moment the pups have the full view of the street and I feel that it makes Coop anxious at times, so he ends up barking.

Photo: Cooper & Fred photographed by me