Thursday, 11 October 2012

Working on stuff

I once was told by someone I know that she had overheard( don't worry it isn't as complicated as it sounds)someone saying that THAT Petnanny just lets all her dogs out of the van and they just run around and sh*t everywhere.....I remember being very upset and then I got to thinking.

Just because that is what people see doesn't mean that is what was happening.

We do indeed let dogs out of the van and sometimes most of the dogs together.  We also let them sh*t.  They definitely run.

What they didn't see was we let them out once they have fulfilled a few simple requests.  They mix, a mixture of mostly trained educated dogs with the odd uneducated one in order to learn.  They obviously don't see us picking up their poop despite it being our main occupation.  They run because they can, they stop when they are asked and so it goes on.  Oh and of course it is our own private field.

So then you get the photos.  We all have opinions on what we see even if we aren't fully aware of it.  We see a muzzle and what do you think? You see a dog ears flat to their head crouched down and what  opinion do you have?

If you see group photos do you think wild pack or fun friends?

Anyway today was a big day in my mind.  In order to walk as we do, me with my dogs, Sam with hers( they mix and are all our dogs but here I mean the ones we have on any given walk) Alex with her we need not only a degree of obedience, a modicum of manners toward each other, us and the public in all their forms.  But then don't forget we have to throw in the mix the social mix, the moods, the hormones and how they feel.  Of course Nannies also have their moods, their worries and their preferences.

Oh a forbidden subject!  Working with dogs rarely means you like every dog, every breed and every type it tends to affirm your opinion on the type of dogs you like and most definitely what you don't like....We all know my love of Flat Faced F*ckers as my friend calls them, my love of pointy hounds and of course pix n mixes.  Whilst I don't dislike Labradors I do wonder why there is such a strong following, why they are the most popular dog of the moment.  Can I hear a collection of gasps?  It is the truth yet I can also tell you I would jump into a flame or dive into a cesspit for everyone of our labs no hesitation( been there done that with Tyler the husky( cesspit) and gone into a seriously dangerous house( to save Florrie the spaniel and Geordie the cat).

What we have is a blessing.  A fenced off field, where we can test, assess and teach our charges.  It is also a place we run too when we are under the weather( therefore less able to be on guard and fully aware).

Today was such a day.  Lucy is a large lurcher found wandering down a durham main road as a pup.  We rescued her and rehomed her.  Oh she is rough, a default setting rather than learned behaviour.  She has a big gob and despite having a great temperament she hurts!  Then we have Archie he is a bit of a bully with a high drive to chase and a low desire to select his quarry.  Hunter is a young hoodlum, cheeky rude and cute as a button.  A pocket rocket whippet who grabs, tugs and generally uses his brother and anyone who will tolerate it as a real living rag toy.  Bobby is a spaniel who was always a toy guarder and a sufferer of selective hearing who unfortunately recently had a thumping form a terrier.  His temperament means he now tries to get in there first before he is hurt.  Poor lad.

So where do we start.....what do I want them to do rather than what they are doing now?

Lucy is just with us this week( the perks of being a Petnan rehomed dog) so we just wanted her to be as gentle as she could.

Archie needs to learn that bullying not only stops his games it also might just land him in trouble.

Hunter needs to not use real live dogs as ragtoys.

Bobby needs to not eat little dogs on the off chance they want to thump him.


Bobby has had a head start and we were now moving onto a non muzzle day.  We have shown him what is allowed and what isn't, loads of praise and fun for first avoiding terriers and now we have progressed to ignoring screaming yipping running terriers to actively sniffing greeting and then moving on without altercation we will have to work on coping with terriers having toys in his presence but for now we have managed other small dogs with toys with him and terrier without with great success.

The advantage of having no muzzle on means we can encourage him to say 'no booger off' to his live in pest of a brother.  Of course he is too soft so he is having to learn this in the meanwhile we physically stop hunter from grabbing by muzzling him.   We can and do stop him manually ourselves but by wearing a muzzle we can allow him to enjoy the running and interacting without him actually being able to get his adrenalin hit from grabbing and holding on( poor Bobby).  We also mix him with strong personalities that are not overreactive and willing to say ' Booger off yippet' without eating him a delicate balance needed with experienced dogs who enjoy the right kind of play.

Hunters progress will be slow due to the limited days we have him and of course the sheer delight he gets from doing it.....

Lucy wore a muzzle today so she would remember to rein it in a little something she did which just goes to show how they retain training if there is something in it for them!

Archie was interesting today because he was picking up the heightened atmosphere, he was actively choosing dogs like Tips who he could bully.  His progress has been good, steady which usually means it is retained though today was a big step up and we had to step in, steady him up and let him experiment with what was allowed and what wasn't.  He is also learning that doing it slightly further away doesn't mean the rules change!  Despite what many people think not all dogs will jump in and get into trouble if there is an altercation yet I would say Archie would be one to have a sneaky dig whilst he had the chance...Makes perfect sense if you are a dog and I certainly don't hold it against him or the other dogs who are the same.

So with lines and muzzles it allows us to teach the guys, let them learn, experiment and change what they do.  I would much rather have a dog who knows what it is doing rather than one who just happens to do the right thing.

After all the work we only had to stop each dog maybe three times from rough inappropriate play, Bobby didn't need us to step in even once, he had one attempt at play with Truffle which was a little rough but every terrier interaction just made me happier as the walks progressed!

This leads me promptly to our guys the back up team.  Sirus was simply perfect for today.  He was the object of Archie's run down technique and a simple immediate emergency stop stopped all that play, he was so consistent Archie gave up and tried Lola....Lola soon dealt with that with a swift loud furious swearing session( I sometimes thing I can actually hear swear words coming out of that pretty mouth!) and he moved onto Poppy feral puppy only to be chased with a flea in his ear!  Their whole demeanour was how very dare he without any tension and a jaunt to their step.  Each and everyone of them ( sorry not Lola who has incredible self belief) glanced briefly at us for permission.

Hunter did exactly the same with the same results with all but Sirus.  Just hilarious with Poppy running past him practically wiggling her tushy at him taunting a reaction.

Soon we had a very happy bunch of dogs teaching, learning and best of all having fun with each other.

Elvis shall have his own post just in case you have fallen asleep!

The little people didn't have to work quite as hard as we have stepped up their training after noticing things had slipped and we had fallen into the trap of accepting their foibles!

Minnie was a dog we worked hard to make her an individual rather than Mickeys side kick and with her new found confidence came her own formed opinions.  This usually meant she wanted to choose if she wanted that particular walk and who she would walk with!  So we have been working on stripping everything down to basic obedience being easily achieved and any sit down protests meant hard is working and treat and she soon found out if she hurried up joined in she not only had more fun( thrashing Fluffy mostly) she also could ask for a carry which she got for trying hard.

Megan had to learn not to be a dizzy dora and we are really progressing.  In part down to her love of Breeze and his steadiness and her inability to turn down Fluffy's endless requests to play.  She has grasped the concept of staying with us, of looking up to see if there is the human she came out with once she has had a good sniff and mostly she makes the right decisions.  Sit stays have come on a treat which means we have a way of keeping her safe and I am sure soon we will be able to walk her on all walks off lead without a babysitter.

Before I sign off it is very easy to rely on keeping dogs on leads( remember leads aren't infallible) put muzzles on to get over a problem without dealing with it and use lines forever it is a lazy head in the sand kind of training.  Use them for a reason but don't use them to save on effort.  Many dogs should be muzzled for aggression and will always muzzled for aggression but with a dog in a muzzle there is a huge responsibility toward that vulnerable dog.  Lines are a wonderful device to help with recall or inhibition training again long term use means your training is working!  Flute might be the kind of hound who has to wear a tracking harness and line( holding not dragging line ) forever in high risk areas(he will chase foxes if they bolt in front of him) yet I will never stop training him.

So I hope you enjoy the photos enjoy really looking and seeing what we see, enjoying the friendships, the new introductions and the mistakes along the way.

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