Saturday, 20 June 2009

Anti-social Dogs

My brother owns a Staffordshire/English Bull Terrier mix, and she has had some aggressive run ins with other dogs. She was taken to a dog trainer with experience in this dog aggression, and he said most of her noise was attention seeking, but there's no doubt that she can't be trusted around other dogs. Sadly, my brother did not follow up on training, but I am of the opinion that it wouldn't take much for Gemma to be much more comfortable around other dogs.

So this morning I took her on a two hour walk with Fred. Fred has become quite an expert at dealing with his own kind, so I thought if any dog could help keep her calm, he could.

Things went really well, they walked together nicely,

when I stopped they split up so they had a comfortable space between them,

and when we saw another dog coming we moved to the side enough so that Gemma could watch the other dog without lunging and making those very perculiar staffy noises. She did trump every time another dog passed, so she is obviously feeling some stress!

I was very pleased with Gemma, she's not a bad dog, just lack of socialisation with other dogs, and the dogs who live in the house near her (she is in temp accomodation in a caravan) are all very noisy and bark a lot. So most of her dog contact is being barked and growled at from inside a house. I am not surprised she sometimes had problems.

Here she's found a stick, and is having a good chew. Fred has approached because I've stopped walking and he's trained to return to me unless told otherwise. He's stopped, and is throwing out calming signals, as he has done all of the walk when near Gemma - he's not looking at something else, he's turning his face away from Gemma, and in fact as I took the photo he turned completely sideways to her.

It just doesn't always work...

She lunged sideways out of shot, so he legged it. I think the reason she didn't accept his peace-making this time (the only time on the walk she didn't) was because she had something to protect - her stick.

My experiences with Gemma, and indeed, Fred himself when he first came to live with me, are why I am confident I can handle dogs with anti-social tendancies. Extreme aggression is a different matter, but I can refer owners on to trainers and behaviourists who are experts.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Tongue of the Month

With this hot weather I am seeing a lot of dog tongues. For those who may not know, this is aircon for dogs - wet tongue, hang out in preferred style, and pant. Try to get in a snog if possible. Dog walkers love doggy snogs.

So it is important that they can drink frequently when out for a walk in the sun, or if they have to travel in the van when its warm. They need to replenish their saliva to help keep themselves cool. Their other preferred option - paddling in muddy ponds and puddles - is not always looked on with delight by humans. Dogs see mud as their back-up aircon, but humans see it as a terrible mess on the floor/trousers/shoulders depending on the size of the dog.

Keep plenty of water around the house and in the car if travelling - I'd recommend more than one bowl in case they spill it or dig a hole in it (terrier owners will know what I mean!). Some dogs will not drink once the water goes below a certain level, so having two means they won't go without.

Now, back to the tongues, in reverse order!

Enzo - 6 month lab, a young rising star in the tongue stakes, hampered by being walked through the woods before the sun has really warmed up. Not really a contender for the TotM title at this stage.

Peanut, cute, but not really what the Judges are looking for. Also, he's sleeping on the job.

Conrad - getting to the main contenders here, nice loll * to catch a cooling breeze, but not really all the way there...

Scarlet - doing well, just look at all those bubbles! This is A Serious Cooling Tongue

Sadly though, she was beaten to the title by Benson. Who won simply because this was terrifying! I half expected to stick to the end and disappear forever.

Well done to Benson, our Tongue of the Month Champion!

And here's a quick shot of Fred, as this is a very devilish 'I'm looking forward to eating that stuffed toy' tongue.

* NOt 'LOL - Laugh Out Loud', but 'hang loosely' for those who were born post 1994.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Muliple Dog Handling

This week I have been walking four dogs during my morning walk, one was Fred, which is my maximum. I won't take out more than three 'paying customers' so if there are four, one is always Fred.

At the end of the walk, I always approach my van the same way. One dog on my right, lead in hand, and three attached, via their leads, to a lead I sling around my body and walk on my left. All walking reasonably well, no pulling, no barking - the dog on my right throws himself at the other dogs (in play) which can cause chaos, which is why he's on my right. My left hand is free to deal with anything that needs dealing with, which is usually to guide one of the dogs back to their 'place' if they've wandered off course a bit.

One day this week, I clearly heard a comment from one of the runners who gather in the car park at around the time I leave.

I don't know how you can control that many dogs like that.

Well, let me explain. This is my job. Something I do every day. It has taken time to build the small groups I go out with, and I train the dogs to behave in a way that makes walking them in a small group pleasureable and safe.

I've walked Greyhounds from a trainer's kennel, and a rescue kennel, in pairs or threes. I grew up in a house with six dogs (Mum now has seven) and my first job was at a boarding kennel at 14 where I walked dogs in pairs. I own two of my own dogs, but over the past three years often have an extra one or two here through fostering or boarding.

I was disappointed that someone watching four dogs, obviously under control, was more interested in loudly commenting that she didn't know how I could do my job, rather than observing that I could.

I wonder what she would have made of the dog walker I'd seen the week before, walking seven?

 NOTE: Since this blog post was written in 2009 I have gained experience and attended training courses and now consider one handler per four dogs a reasonable number to walk. I'll walk 6 if the extra dogs are mine.

Monday, 8 June 2009

I have finally passed my 'Pet Sitting and Dog Walking Certificate'! I started studying with the Cambridge Institute of Pet Behaviour and Care back in September, when I started the business. I wanted to have 'paper proof' of my lifetime's experiences with pets of all kinds, but as work got busier I had less time for study. I kept on with it though, on quiet weekends and during my leave when the van was off the road.

The hard work paid off, and my certificate arrived this morning!

My next goal is to qualify as a Children's Educational Speaker for the Blue Cross, hopefully aided by Beauty. After that I have two practical courses lined up for August and October and I'd like to be able to switch to Compass and do some Canine Behaviour distance learning.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Hot Weather - Plenty of Drinking Water

At the end of a walk we all go back to the van and have a drink - on really hot days we carry water as well, stopping to sip little and often. The dogs get the aquabowls, which are fantastic! I love my road refresher bestest of all for travelling in the van, but for getting water to the dogs quickly at the end of the walk, these are great. They don't need taking apart to refill, and as I got the big ones I just bring one indoors to refill every couple of days. To operate, just open the valve, stand on one end, and let the dogs at 'em.

Big or small dogs can use them with no problems - sometimes I put them on the floor of the van for the bigger dogs. They don't all appreciate it, but some do. I don't take them on a walk as they are not very comfortable to hold and it means one hand is 'wasted', I use a smaller more portable carrier.

Bit worried about Scarlet licking her lips while looking at Max...

I use my water bladder in a small backpack, attached to the back is my powermonkey explorer, which charges while in the sun and I can use it to charge my mobile phone while I'm out. I can't find the photo now, but I'm sure it can be imagined.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Home Dog Boarding in Brentwood - Peanut & Ali



They stayed for half term week while their family went and searched for the sun. We stayed home and it found us!

Ali, Beauty, Peanut, Fred, all waiting patiently for dinner.

I would recommend Linda to anybody who is looking for a holiday for their hounds. Peanut and Ali have just spent a week in the very capable hands of Linda and I think they enjoyed the lovely peace and quiet of her house (compared to mine).
Mary K, Greyhounds