Forty dogs and counting

Last week I had three new clients which meant I reached a total of forty dogs that I’ve worked with since starting my own business last year. It got me thinking about how varied they are and how they all teach me something new.

I started with dog walking while I was studying to be a dog trainer. I wanted to learn as much as possible so I specifically took on clients’ dogs that mostly couldn’t be walked as part of a larger pack walk. Or cope in doggy day care. It’s much more lucrative to walk more than one or two dogs at a time, but I wasn’t going to learn much by doing that.

Nervous and reactive dogs

I’ve found that I love working with nervous dogs, and dogs that struggle with other dogs. It means I work with quite a few rescue dogs and I love this. Patience with animals is never something I’m short of, and patience has a big role to play in helping the dogs get to know you, to trust you. And the rewards you get back are incredible. Seeing nervous or reactive dogs grow in confidence and become more playful and responsive to you (and everyday life around them) is amazing.

At the same time I’m making steady progress studying for my Advanced Diploma in Canine Behaviour. Anyone who’s studying whilst working or running a business full time, knows this is a challenge. It will probably be two years before I finish this.

Always learning

Plus I’m learning new games to play for my clients’ dogs and my own pup each week. Learning all the time is what keeps a job interesting. No matter how experienced or inexperienced you are, I think it’s essential to keep growing and learning. The field of dog training is also changing all the time as we learn more and more about how dogs’ brains work. Many training methods I see now are so out of date. I find it hard to stand back and watch people telling their dogs off for something, without giving the dog any idea what it’s supposed to do instead. Hopefully I can just quietly influence and demonstrate the power of modern, fun, games-based training. I love it when people come up to me in parks and ask about training, when they’ve seen the way a dog is ‘working’ (playing) with me.

This job is so interesting because the dogs are all different. Even dogs that are the same breed are not the same. Very early on in my training I learned that you train the dog in front of you. It’s useful to know about breed characteristics, but this only tells you part of the story.

I’d like to thank all of my clients that have trusted me with their dogs over the last ten months. I look after them as if they are my own.

Knickers to New Year resolutions – celebrate little wins all year!

Bodie has been trained to sit calmly in the car
Bodie being a calm pup in the car – definite progress!

It must be the time of year – 29th December as I’m typing this. I’m not one for New Year Resolutions. I think any time of year is a good time to change one thing. Try to do too much and put loads of pressure on a specific time of year, like New Year, and I know I’m more likely to fail. I’m a recent fan of habit stacking – change one little thing, nail that and then tackle something else.

But I do like to step back and think about progress sometimes (when I remember, or my boyfriend reminds me!). Sometimes I give myself a bit of a hard time for not making more progress with Bodie’s training. I’m always thinking ‘oh I should be working on that with him’ or ‘I should have made more progress with this…’. And then I caught myself this week and decided to celebrate all the little things that we’ve made such great progress with. The more I thought about it over the last couple of days, the more things I could think of (#prouddogmum).

We picked Bodie up from Battersea Dogs and Cats Home on the 3rd July – so he’s been with us nearly six months. And its been tough, there’s no doubt about that. He’s a very high energy Collie Lurcher Cross – so we did know what we were letting ourselves in to. But at times we have been exhausted by him – and there’s two of us. Hats off to any solo puppy/rescue/adult dog parents!

1. He used to be very scared of anyone touching his head and especially his eyes. He’d had eye infections as a puppy and had developed a real aversion to hands near his head. We can now stroke his head and get ‘sleepy dogs’ from the corners of his eyes without any stress.

2. He also struggles having his legs and paws held, but we’re making progress with gently touching and stroking them every day. We’re building up to being able to trim his nails. Lots of pavement walking in the meantime to keep them down.

3. Bodie will now hop up into the back of the car or boot and sit ready to be clipped in. Sometimes he gets a treat, sometimes he doesn’t. To start with we always needed food to lure him in with and it took a while somedays! He’s also getting pretty good at doing a sit to have the lead or long line clipped/unclipped, going in or out of park gates and the front door.

4. He used to jump up at the kitchen worktop – a classic counter surfer! He’ll now sit back and wait for something tasty to come his way. Even roast chicken and hot dogs are safe with a little supervision 🙂

5. His recall has got better. We still need to use the long line when we’re out in parks, but he is coming back to us more often than not. And that’s progress!

6. Getting his harness and collar on didn’t used to be easy. Now he’ll pop his head through the harness and stand still while we do the clips, for a piece of kibble without any fuss.

7. Bodie is noticeably calmer at home; he used to bark at noises of neighbours coming and going, passers by in the street and generally get really excited with visitors. These things still happen but not to the same level – small wins!

8. In the last month Bodie has become a lot more affectionate. He now curls up beside us and jumps up on the bed to lie with his head on one of us. It’s the best feeling in the world!

He came to us not having been treated particularly badly, but he’d been re-homed twice and had obviously missed out on a lot of early training. He’s still prone to jumping up at people (any chance to lick someone’s face) and his recall is rather iffy if there’s dogs having fun nearby. But all of that will come in time. Training should be fun and never needs to stop. But he’s just amazing as he is. Right now. And that’s what I’m celebrating.

Do you ever stop to look at the little improvements you can see – in your dog or in you? This coming year is going to be an exciting one, that much I know. If I can change my life so much in the last nine months, what can I do in the next year – who knows!

I hope you had some fun and rest this Christmas. I look forward to sharing 2020 in some way with you.

If you haven’t found it already, I have a free group on Facebook – Pup Talk, for on-line training games, tips and canine enrichment ideas. And a friendly community of dog-minded people. Follow this link and click on the ‘Join group’ button.

Getting to know a nervous Cocker Spaniel puppy

Roman is a puppy who’s a bit nervous of new people but loves dogs. I wanted to get him out walking as soon as possible but he was too nervous to come straight to me. Reggie the Working Cocker helped me get Cocker Spaniel Roman out for a our first mini pack walk. Dogs know what dogs need 😍🐕😍🐶

Continue reading Getting to know a nervous Cocker Spaniel puppy