Friday, 10 April 2009

Rabbits are For Life, Not just For Easter

I'm sure that Dog's Trust won't mind me stealing their slogan. Rabbits are still considered okay to sell in pet shops that wouldn't touch dogs or cats (no animals should be in a pet shop where they can be an impulse purchase), and at this time of year rabbits are very much on people's minds!

Rabbits are gorgeous, fluffy creatures, but they are also smelly and stinky! Well, so would you be if you had to spend your life cooped up in a hutch that's much too small with hardly any time out of it and no cuddles.

Rabbits benefit from being in the house with people, or having a (neutered) spouse and plenty of free running time, either in a large run or in a very secure and supervised garden - don't leave them loose even if they can't get out, because foxes can get in. They are most active at dawn and dusk, which are the times most humans want to be a) asleep or b) watching telly, and are not the pet to have if you don't have time for a dog! They need as much love and friendship, cuddles as a cat or a dog and are damn miserable without it. If you already have a rabbit, why not train it?

Otherwise, stick to this guy... (which is my plan)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

X things all Dogs Deserve to be Taught

There are certain things that I think all dogs deserve to be taught - I call it X because although I have three specifics in mind I may think of more later.

As I may have mentioned I'm not a 'dog trainer' in that I don't teach dog owners to train their dogs and don't have hundreds of dogs or training hours under my belt [At the time of writing I was not dog training - just over a year later, I'm proud to say that I am now a dog trainer!]. But I have trained more than the average dog owner, and as a dog walker these are the little things that make it so much easier to manage the dogs I walk every day.

My good friend Joe, who is a dog trainer, does remind me that many of these things work for me because I am persistent and consistent and rarely let the dogs off 'just this once'. Also I haven't had many working breeds to work with, so obviously my experience isn't as broad as it could be. I am working on this! But in the meantime, here we go...

Wait at the Gate - Pause at Doors

The wait command has many uses, but waiting for permission to cross doorways and gateways I think is a biggy. It has so many uses, and could possibly save your dog from running off and getting lost, or worse, rushing an open door straight onto a main road. I use this so the dogs wait quietly while I get them in and out of crates in the car, open unfamiliar doors with unfamiliar keys, check for anything unusual (or livestock) on the other sides of gates in the parks or countryside, open the door to the postie, and open the door to strangers.

The basics are that to a dog, an open door should not be an invitation to rush through it. I teach them to wait quietly while I open the door or gate, and while some people prefer the dog to wait for them to go first, I prefer the dog to go first. Once they've gone through, they turn to check with me before continuing - this way they wait before and after going through the door, so they have two chances to get things right.

Nutmeg is my star pupil, because she's really good at this - you can see the door opening a little more each photo and she's just sitting there. I even took her lead off (it's not just photoshopped out, she really is just quietly sitting, waiting) and once released to go through she turns round (sorry for the blurred face, she's very quick!) for permission to go off. She's such a star she did this once when I opened the door to a delivery man! She knew something was going on that was exciting, but still waited!

This has to be practiced constantly, if you forget to reinforce the training, and the rewards! the dog will soon learn to forget. Here's some shots of some other dogs doing the same exercise.

Benson, the large GD X Mastiff, has been used to using his weight to get what he wants, but he learned this really quickly too!

Fred and Beauty waiting at the gate of their crates to be allowed to get out and go for their walks..

Also Inky:

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Short Week but No Break for Walker

I've reminded all my clients that it's a four day week this week, and that next week I'm off.

I won't be getting the bank holidays off, as Max is coming to stay. There's a really nice dog show down in Kent on Saturday I want to go to, which I think will be good for Max as he's a bit funny about walking on the lead - he can see lots of dogs doing it! If the weather is rubbish we'll be staying home the whole weekend, so fingers crossed for nice weather!

Next week I won't be walking, but I've got a lot of paperwork to catch up on, an essay to finish so that I can start my next course (with a different and better company), I want to observe some obedience classes, get back out to Kent to investigate crate/partition options for the van I have in mind to replace mine, and visit an accountant now we're at 'year' end. Plus I have to plan what I'm going to be doing on my stand at the Greyhound Walks dog show in a few weeks, get posters made, etc. Selling a service can lead to an empty boring stall, so I've got to get around that somehow! So no actual holiday for me.

Well, I get to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert at the theatre at the end of next week so I'm looking forward to that a huge amount!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Sporting Dogs

I can tell summer is here - or very much on the way. The dogs are cracking out their sports kits.

Here's a small sample..

Above is Max, preparing for the upcoming doggy talent show season, and below is Benson, who's just up for a game any old time!