I love dogs! I like the mud, the rain and the fresh air being out with my dogs. And the simple joy of being out in the sun. I think I might have been a dog in a previous life! I also love the buzz that comes from working with a dog - the communication that goes on between my body language and verbal cues and the dog's reading of them.
I got my first 'own dog' when I was 16. We had a family dog - she was lovely - Bonnie - but she was devoted to my Mother and I really wanted that special relationship with my own dog. I had gone on about having my own dog a few times and had assumed my Mother was conveniently not listening but when one day I expressed interest in an advertisement for Manchester terrier X pups in a local paper she surprised me by saying she thought I had wanted a 'Yorkie'. I think I had only said that because they were small and wouldn't take up so much room as a bigger dog. Knowing what I know now about terriers (many years down the line) I realise of course that it really isn't about the size of dog, but the size of their personality........
Anyway, Mutley, as he would eventually become known, barked at me when I arrived, was the only pup no-one else wanted and that did it for me. He threw up all over me on the way home in the car several times and that cemented our relationship. He was mine and I was his. Years of school, having to work away and university never changed our relationship. He remained determinedly my dog. I wanted that relationship and I got it. I adored him. All boyfriends were vetted by him and my husband came to love dogs because of him. I could go on and on about Mutley but I am sure you get the idea. He lived until he was nearly nineteen and then I had to let him go. I could not imagine life without him.
Meanwhile I had married and we had another dog - yes another terrier. Rosie was a rough coat jack russell from a friend's mother in Dartmoor. She was the smallest bitch of the litter. What a character she was! She climbed (and was carried up) her first Munro (Scottish mountain) age 5 months. Although she was tiny she did not want to be carried when she was older - if Mutley could do it then so could she was her attitude! They were such good pals - she gave the then eleven year old Mutley a new lease of life. Everyone loved Rosie - and rightly so. Sadly Rosie died aged seven and the loss of her haunts me with my current dogs.
Now I have Henry, Archie and Poppy and as they have their own pages their stories can be found there.
As for dog training I have always believed that the more obedient a dog is the more freedom it can have. A dog is a physical animal - it needs to run, to flex its muscles, to experience the world around it, to play and socialise. To have a beautiful athletic animal permanently on a lead because it has never been trained to recall is, in my view, unacceptable. Other basic obedience is necessary for the dog's safety. You never know when a 'down' command or a 'wait' command will save your dog's life or prevent injury to it or something or someone else. 'Sit' is useful for good manners - in my view, very important in a dog just as it is in children. And, of course, 'heel' makes the times you have a dog on lead much more enjoyable and a dog that will walk to heel off lead is also very helpful.
I believe very strongly in boundaries for a dog in the home, car and beyond and in the interactions it has with its human family, and consistency in applying them. Dogs are not people, they are dogs. They see and interpret the world very differently from us and I believe that it is up to us to learn how they do it rather than expecting them to absorb our ways. Lots of mistakes in boundary setting are made because people do not understand the way dogs think. And bad behaviour can follow on. Boundaries can vary depending on the nature of the dog but ultimately all dogs should be at the bottom of the family heirarchy and all the humans above them - including any children. Believe it or not very few dogs want to be in control and most behavioral problems stem from a dog having too much power given to them in a home. My dogs are very happy knowing I am in charge of their pack - it means they can sit back and enjoy the show. No worries!
I also don't believe in hard and fast routine for a dog. For instance, if you always feed or walk a dog at exactly the same time, for long enough, they will expect it to be always the same. If you never change their routines, in the end you will have a dog that cannot adapt. You cannot explain to them as you can a child. So if you have to change things at all you will have a dog that cannot cope and which becomes distressed. Many puppy and dog training books advise strict routines but don't take them too literally.
There are many ways in which you can affect your dog's happiness and one way is to join a training class where you and your dog have fun together!
Clickers can help to teach basic commands in a fun way. Something I have learned is that if you teach a dog something in a fun way, if you make it fun to learn something, then the dog will learn it more quickly and remember it.
And why stop at just the basics? All kinds of behaviours can be shaped (taught) with a clicker and reward game. Any time spent with your dog in a positive learning situation is time well spent - it creates a really strong bond with you.
Not many people want to do what I do with my dogs - train for agility and compete - but most people who have decided to have a dog as part of their family want to do the right thing and have a well adjusted family pet who responds to them positively, and with whom they can enjoy walks, holidays and fun.
Training that is reward based and positively re-inforcing can help to achieve that goal.
December 2016. Archie is still going strong, Poppy and Henry have long gone (but never forgotten along with Mutley). Nellie and Deedee continue the lines and activities