A very wet April has made way for some lovely warm (today, even hot) weather, giving the dogs the opportunity to spend the afternoons in the orchard. It's far cooler there than in the yard, and they can lie around under the trees and relax. Well, some of them relax. The young dogs are happy to rush about whatever the temperature, it seems.
I love this photo of Dulcie and her sister Gloria. It doesn't seem to matter how many other dogs there are to play with, even when littermates have been living separately for some months, there's a special bond between them that makes a littermate the best playmate.
Of course we join in too, kicking and throwing balls, and being at the other end of a tug-of-war. We encourage all our dogs to play with toys, with us, and with each other, from the earliest age. It doesn't seem to make a difference to their work drive, or to the quality of their work, provided we keep to the same rule as any pet owner - the game must be on our terms, and end when we say so.
We believe that playing's an essential part of the young dog's mental and physical development, as well as being a great way of bonding with a new or young dog, and helping the dog to find its place in the dog pack. In this photo Meg, a young bitch who's been with us for about 6 months, and Pip, a slightly older but more recent newcomer, are taking leading roles in a game of football (beakball, more like). Although it's often noisy, and sometimes rowdy, the dogs can really let off steam this way, and when it's all over the rivalry's put aside while they cool down together. What a life!