Belfast Telegraph

What it takes to be top dog

By Gail Walker

No doubt there are mutts all across the province literally jumping through their hoops as young owners seek to emulate the success of Pudsey and owner Ashleigh Butler on Britain's Got Talent.

Gone are the old days when being able to fetch a newspaper or proffer the old paw for a handshake elicited awestruck oohs and ahhs.

Happily, some things never change such as how one bribes, sorry, trains a dog. Revealing the secret of her success with Pudsey, Ashleigh admitted: "You need a lot of food."

As a child, I'd a dog, Bert, who'd do anything for a Ginger Snap. Or a Digestive. Indeed, I recall long afternoons playing Horse of the Year show (I know, I know) with him and his father Prince, taking them over eight jumps time and again.

The last hurdle - a plank stretching between two stepladders - was the trickiest and went up a rung with every successfully completed round. I can see Bert yet, stuffed to the gills with biscuits, groaning as he rose magnificently through the air for one last Ginger Snap.

Before you email to tell me how cruel this was, let me assure you that Bert, a raging egomaniac, took no hurt whatsoever. He soon let us know in no uncertain terms when he'd had enough of any play.

Which reminds me ... another time we tied him and Prince to opposite ends of one rope and took them down the fields, laughing hysterically as they tried to pull each other in different directions.

Up ahead of them, my 10- year-old brother laughed hardest of all ... until the pair began to run towards him, the rope taut between them, about one foot high and drawing ever closer.

I can see him yet, wild-eyed with alarm, repeatedly leaping in the air, trying to time his jump with the rapidly advancing rope. Revenge? Who knows ...? But talented dogs? You should see what some humans can do when they really have to.

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