Walks n All - Dog walking and home boarding
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Behaviours

When boring is good

I have been walking two reactive dogs - German Shepherds - for some weeks now and although progress has been slow and steady there is definite improvement in both of them. The first time I walked them together was the silliest I have ever felt trying to exercise animals - all hope of dignity is lost when all yo can do is hold on tight and hope they get tired before you do!

We now enjoy walks in far more calm and casual way - albeit they are for now exercised separately. However, as I have been pounding the streets and fields of their neighbourhood a thought has occurred to me which might help other who are battling with similarly reactive dogs.

Yellow Dog - will it work?

For some time now there has been a website that has been championing the use of highly visible Yellow materials (Yellow Dog UK) for dogs that are nervous, ill or difficult with other dogs. There is definitely a burning need for some sort of universally recognised symbol so that other dog owners, children and adults know whether it is safe and/or acceptable to approach another dog.  I feel so strongly about this cause that I recently sponsored the site for a year together with plenty of other like-minded businesses and dog organisations.

Flattered or embarrassed?

When owners come to collect their beloved dogs there is generally an air of unconstrained excitement on behalf of both parties - and this is the natural order of things because no matter how much we love them while they are with us the dogs must be bonded more strongly to  their family. However, there have been several occasions when this reunion has not played out the way we all expected...

We have had a young dog (no name or breed to protect the family) visiting us almost since we started business and his behaviour has been the subject of previous posts.

Once bitten...

I suppose the greatest challenge to all dog owners and carers is how best to integrate your dog with others while keeping them all happy and safe. Usually when out walking it is pretty easy to spot the body language of approaching dogs and therefore the decision on whether to call your dog(s) back is straightforward. However, as a licenced home boarder I have learned that one of the essential qualities is having eyes in the back, front and side of my head!

Two recent examples prove the point. I recognise that older, more mature dogs generally lose patience with puppies or adolescent dogs relatively quickly and so we tend to limit direct exposure to ensure there is no upset. But sometimes the speed at which incidents happen can catch out even the most hawkish of observers. Sitting at my desk working through invoices etc I quickly acquire company of several dogs - I never did understand why they appear to like to congregate by my feet! My daughter enters the room with 14 week puppy in tow. When still some distance away one of the Springers "sprung" directly at the puppy and bit him on the muzzle. To this day I have no clue what prompted him to attack - there was no immediate threat; the puppy was feet away at the time. Is there such a thing in the canine world as "getting one in first"?The second example - same protagonist - happened days later. A smaller springer was walking through the lounge when the larger Springer lunged and bit her under the eye. Again, no threat display and for the life of me I am at a loss to explain the incident. What is perhaps even stranger though was that there was never a repeat of the attack, nor growling at the other dog's approach. So maybe that is it -on bad days some dogs bite without warning, without provocation or justification -it just happens...  

Where's the "off" switch

Since starting this business it has been my immense pleasure to meet and care for a large range of dogs. But undoubtedly those that come from families where there are young children at home almost always come with real issues.  One of my very first "charges" was a very young puppy when he first came to stay and while he was a little frisky this was nothing unusual for his age. However, as he has returned to me on several occasions since it is clear that his behaviour is getting more and more frantic.

Terrier Attack

My job brings me into contact with a large number of people and dogs of all shapes and sizes. It never fails to amaze me why little dogs appear to want to kick off especially when they come into contact with larger animals.  Today I was exercising my own dog, Morgan who is the most placid, submissive dog in creation and Bramble( a labrador) who is only 10 months old and is the craziest dog around. That said, they were today totally absorbed in a game of chase and tug with a plastic "stick". Neither of my two showed any signs of aggression towards the Border who initially started barking/growling at both. Myself and the owner had a good laugh about this(?) and then went our separate ways around the field. However, on the next pass things got serious. Bramble wasn't even looking at the Border when it attacked him. Biting his throat and head. Bramble barely out of puppihood did his best to defend himself and did manage to eventually pin the other dog down. the other owner and I did try very hard to separate them - indeed the other guy picked up a pretty nasty bite for his pains - but he had to kick his dog in the end to finally break it up. Bramble is fine. He was not cut at all but I am sure he could have been traumatised had we not quickly started to play the game again.  I make a plea to owners of terriers everywhere - unless you can be totally confident that your dog is not likely to be aggressive please keep them on a lead or at least under strict control.

When it's time to leave

The wonderful thing about dog walking/boarding is the diversity of dog breeds and temperament that you meet. In a relatively short time I have looked after Weimararner, Labradoodle at one extreme of size down to cockerpoo and Lakeland Terriers at the other. Each of my dog customers bring their own special element to the mix and it now seems so strangely quiet (not that barking is allowed in the house!) when we have only 3 or 4 staying.

The issue that I find really difficult is when it comes for the dog to leave. In the vast majority of cases they spring out of the door with their owners and I can be satisfied of the job done. But occasionally, whether it is a reluctance to leave  or more specifically the knowledge that I have of the conditions which the dog faces when it returns home, I feel extremely sad at their departure. My first dog, Lady was a great "clinger" especially when we would put her into kennels - not that she didn't like them or would have a good time - it was just the "don't leave me" saga. Later today when I leave one of my dogs at his owner's house that clinging saga will be played out again. That makes me really SAD...

The power of Calm

It is always an interesting experience the first time you introduce two new dogs in your home. Generally, this is done on lead and in the relative neutrality of the garden space - just to avoid one dog from feeling trapped and therefore reacting inappropriately. This morning was the exception that proved the rule. I have an 18 month old Weimararner staying who is pretty big and very gormless - all meetings are head on - literally! Now Alfie is a regular visitor to my home and is generally a very active, excitable Cockerpoo.

Terrier terrors

There must have been a time in my life when I was not constantly trying to stop clients' terriers from tearing strips out of each other. I must board at least 20 different breeds of dog (not all at the same time I add) but it seems that only terriers (of whatever description) plan their days around putting one over on their counterparts. Take Stanley for example - beautiful animal if not the calmest dog in the world but boy, does he want to "get at" everything in sight. Fortunately, we have extremely good plans in place to prevent any incidents. And I guess life would be that bit less exciting without the terrors in my life.
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