Thursday, 23 September 2010
Travelling out and about in vans
Ahhh I thought it was a good time to discuss travel.
Many people, when choosing a pet care service, want to know how long their dogs will be out and where they will be. Some are concerned about their dogs being in the vehicles they are transported in for too long. So here is a list of some peoples concerns.
They will be bored.
How do I know they will be walked.
What happens if the dogs don't get on?
Are they secure?
Is it safe to keep them in in hot or severely cold weather?
What happens if there is an accident?
So I may surprise you on the boredom question and I am sure I will be providing bullets to fire to people who want to shoot me haha. You know what? In the real world dogs, like people, need to learn how to cope when they are bored, or frustrated or even angry. What we need to do is make sure it doesn't overwhelm their lives, to make sure all their needs are catered for and their wellbeing in the forefront of our care. So do our dogs get bored, I am certain there will be times they suffer from boredom, just like the dogs left at home after being walked for an hour. The difference is the other dogs sharing the van environment are also in the same situation so the dog is more likely to just settle, start dozing or even just watch the other dogs.
The other interesting thing is it teaches them to wind down. I have found with high drive dogs or young dogs that walking them then taking them home can sometimes leave them frustrated and wound up, an empty house can leave them with a bit of a vacuum after their simulating walk. Stimulating doesn't mean diving about and being wild, just the smells, sights and sounds that all walks provide. So our younger guys or hyper sensitive guys learn that after a walk there is a time spend winding down, settling and dozing.
So yes they sometimes get bored, we are nannies not dog walkers and we are heading towards a goal at all times....we aren't about exercise we are about manners, learning, long term happiness and contentment and lastly and often forgotten giving them strategies to cope in most situations.
The next question is a good one but has nothing to do with the van, it is all to do with trust and knowing your dog. Most people will genuinely know if their dogs are getting walked. What of course you never truly know is for how long and how. You can only hope, ask and check up on your walker, nanny. We try to be as transparent as we can and if this means I have to explain myself I will.
The next question is one that probably causes the most distress, what if your dog doesn't get on with their cage mate or neighbour? Of course it can happen and lets face it dogs relationships are very like our and are fluid, depending on their needs on that particular day. A different way to look at it is why would your carer risk putting dogs who really dislike each other in together? It is just not worth the consequences, stress or aggravation from a cold hearted point of view. What many people don't take into consideration is what it can be like for a steady dog to be in a cage with a playful dog. We all know the feeling of having to put up with some enthusiastic oik. Again this is down to the skill of your carer to limit anytime that a dog has to 'put up with' annoying behaviour.
Again we are in an enviable position where our guys all know each other, we know what combinations work and who likes to mix with whom, this can change and obviously things like a sore hip in an older dog can change things significantly.
So yes without doubt care has to be taken but then when doesn't there? Every moment that you have a dog in your care you are wholly responsible.
Are the dogs secure?
Mmmm now this one is one I have to weight up the risks with the benefits. If I have the dogs in the van, no matter what I can see to them and ensure they have all that they need. No matter of hold ups stop me from getting to them, to let them toilet and to have company. I can get them to the vet if ever they require it. Yet I do believe there is some inherent risk having the dogs in the van. What we do is ensure we take all possible care to ensure they are as secure as possible. We have lockable cages, we leave them so they can be watched and are well known so people inevitably know to watch for any suspicious behaviour. Just because in 12 years we have had no problems doesn't mean it can't happen. Managing even the simple things help, when the middle doors are open and the gate is locked we always ensure we have a barky dog who is willing to huff themselves up if someone takes an interest.
When we require extra ventilation we use a fantastic device called a ventlock which allows you to leave the back doors open but securely locked, you can't even hacksaw them off.
I will continue to be aware there is some risk but we take all precautions recommended by the police and am happy that the risk is minimal.
We all know now that it is simply not safe to leave dogs in vehicles in hot weather or severe cold. Our vans have both temperature controlled systems, they are able to be left
securely wide open and when the air is still we are able to take the guys back home at any time. We don't even leave the dogs and rely on the cooling system as I know nothing is infallible so by leaving the van doors open if the worst should happen the dogs are still able to lie in comfort. LAst year we had severe cold and we were all so grateful of the heaters! The guys spent less time in the van as there was more chance of people sliding into us and us getting stuck. This is why we never go over our comfortable number of dogs, we always need to be able to get to all our dogs no matter what the weather, traffic throws at us and so far we haven't failed( touching wood, suspicious moi?).
Now the dreaded one! Whilst accidents are fortunately rare they can happen and on one occasion I had to leave my van quickly ( something on the road damaged the underside of the van and I could see sparks so we got out very promptly until I could be persuaded tat there was no risk and the offending item removed), remove all the dogs and sit by the side of the road despite spending every day training for every eventuality even I was amazed when the guys settled down for a sleep whilst my doggy transport arrived. By travelling in cages we are doing all we can to provide a safe environment if an accident should happen, it if often more about planning for the worst in this 'job'. Having another van on the road certainly helps if this should happen and I have a good back up system if the worst should happen. I was once struck by a hit and run driver whilst taking the two St Bernards home, they were totally unaware of the incident( unlike me who was shaking like a leaf), I had to wait for the police and the girls dozed by the side of the road out of harms way and a lovely gentleman pulled over( the only one out of hundreds I might add) and regretfully asked if I needed a lift with the girls, he had a right to look so worried he had an immaculate Merc with pale leather seats that had clearly never even seen a dog in it's life! He was so grateful I was ok!
So I am sure I haven't covered everything at least I have hopefully tackled some of the worries people have( funnily enough I am rarely asked these questions by my customers).