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Dog walking for sociability

I am delighted to hear of a gradual increase in regular dog-walking groups that are meeting simply to enjoy a walk and to socialise their dogs.

In the wintertime, Winston and I have joined a small group who walk on the beach above Denia. We are all equipped with our plastic bags and whilst we walk along the beach meeting many other people who are out enjoying walking with their dogs.

Though most will let their dogs meet with ours without any problem we still see a number of dogs showing signs of pleasure at wishing to meet and play but their owners will not let them. Some even walk off in disgust in a different direction. The problem is that many owners still misinterpret their dog’s language as aggressive or fearful so they pull hard on their leads, hide their dogs behind them so protecting them, or even resorting to picking them up.

Many times, we will say to them “Our dogs are no problem, please let them meet”. Once they have gone through the normal ritual greeting then they start to play. Winston loves any dog that will play chase with him. For him any fast dog is most welcome.

A regular comment from the dog owners is that it is lovely to see dogs playing especially when they have only just met. Many owners cannot believe their dogs only wanted to play and they agree they had always previously assumed the worst would happen. Would we all like our dogs to be able to play with one another? Would we all prefer to have our dogs willing to meet other dogs rather than showing aggression?

I know many people will not let their dogs socialise because they are trying to protect them or think they are protecting the other dogs from their own seemingly aggressive dogs. This is in fact only making problem worse like not letting children play with other children.

This is not only my observation. I meet many dog owners who tell me they too meet owners with dogs where they must often ask them to let their dog meet theirs and let them play together. You too could be pleasantly surprised at the outcome. If you are uncertain of your dog and in need of a little help then please give me a call. By letting dogs meet and play together then this is real socialisation working.

More handbags

After Winston’s find of a handbag that had lain in the woods since September I had an email the other week asking if Winston could check to see if we could find another stolen bag. The items in the bag were worthless to the bag snatcher but non-the less their loss created great inconvenience for the owner.

The thief stole the bag out of a car whilst his accomplices sat in their car asking for directions so distracting the owner. He then disappeared round the back of the building and out of sight. The car then drove off at speed to pick up their college further up the road.

I doubted the thief would have entered the car still carrying the bag so I expected him to empty the contents as he headed for the pickup point. We did thoroughly check the area but there are major road improvement works in this area and we failed to find anything. We did check further along the road just in case he had waited until he was in the car before throwing any useless contents out of the window.

At first, we only found items that had obviously been there for some time but then Winston indicated a bag I thought fitted the discription. Unfortunately, this was not the one but it did contain information as to its owner’s identity.

I telephoned her and she confirmed that thieves stole the bag last July so it has laid there for six months. I have noticed Winston ignore many bags lain by the roadside that have obviously been there for some considerable time. These are all dry and empty of any contents. I believe Winston is searching for the decomposing smell given off by any material remaining inside the bags.

The owner was delighted to have the bag returned even if in such a decayed state but it did still hold items that she had not yet been able to replace. Winston had saved another owner some inconvenience even if it was a little late. We will continue to search a little further along that stretch of the road to see if we can find the correct bag next week.

Training Collars continued

I was in the UK the other week and I visited Pets R Us where they now have large signs promoting Top Professional Tips. One I particularly pleased to notice was the advice not to use choke chains for training your dog. When I turned round and looked at the rack of various collars the choke chains were still available for sale. Please do not purchase these or any of the many variations including the spiked collars.

For those of you who remember Barbara Woodhouse she promoted a large link chain in order to try to curb the criticism of their use. She thought that a bigger chain in theory would spread the weight round the dog’s neck and so reduce the pain. The problem was it does not slide very well and had a tendency to jam. The alternative to this is what some call the jewelled collar. This thin small link chain is dangerous if used harshly.

One other problem is all varieties of chain damage the dog’s hair by trapping the hair in the links and so jerking them out by the roots.

A superior alternative is the thick rope slip lead that we began to use over 30 years ago. It acts in the same way if used like a choker and slides more easily. You will find if you use the method promoted by John Rogerson and you simply hold the lead, when the dog feels it tighten it will back up so releasing the tension. I personally use 1.5 meters of thick shock cord with two carabineers, one at either end. One end I attach to the dog’s normal collar and the other acts as a slip lead collar. Effectively the dog is wearing two types of collar at the same time. The size and weight of the carabineer always makes the lead release easily whichever side the dog is walking on.

Continuing with tips, I have sold a number of Halti collars lately and the owners are impressed with the decrease in their dogs pulling power. The problem is that for most dogs wearing something around the muzzle is a major dormancy sign from the owner as well as being a little irritating. If you remember when a pup wears a collar for the first time it will often try to scratch at it or try to remove it but in time, it accepts wearing it.

Many dogs’ owners think their dogs are showing fear of the collar as if it hurts them. Though placing the collar on your dog, their reaction may look as if something is hurting them and yet what is there to create any pain. Wearing a Halti is not painful but a problem for many owners is that once your dog learns that by rejecting it you will eventually give up trying to make them wear it. All you need is a little perseverance towards a non-pulling dog.

When I first place a Halti on a dog, I have a lead connected to the old collar and fastened the other end round my leg so the dog cannot go anywhere else. I initially place the collar round the dog’s neck without placing the muzzle section onto the dog and I set the collar to the correct size. Dog’s are use to collars so there will be no problem at this point. Once the size is correctly set it is then to place the Halti onto a dog holding the clips of the collar that go round the dog’s neck between the thumbs and first fingers. Then with the remaining fingers folded back towards me, I spread the muzzle loop as wide as possible. When fully open, slide the loop section over dogs muzzle quickly and then immediately fasten the neckband.

It is also prudent to use the optional safety strap so that the muzzle section is always attached to the dogs ordinary collar should it ever manage to back out of the Halti at any time.

Do let your dog wear it for a while around the house, praise your dog, and give titbits in order to take its mind off the collar. Your dog can still eat and drink whilst it is wearing it.

Many dogs will try to get the muzzle section off using its dewclaws so taping these up for a while will help here. Some dogs may even get the bottom loop into their jaws and chew through the webbing. If you place some knots in the safety strap, you can restrict your dog’s ability to do this.

With time, the dog will become use to it whilst you are walking with the lead attached to the ordinary collar. After it has accepted wearing it, you can change to using two leads, one attached to the old collar and a lighter lead attached to the muzzle loop. As you walk gradually, increase the use of the Halti until you can dispense with the lead attached to the normal collar.

The Halti and the other similar types of head collars do work well and you will find your dog will regulate its own walking position in order to stop the pressure around its muzzle. You do not need to do anything other than hold the end of the lead and you will find your dog will stop pulling. If your dog is pulling you on your walks a head collar is well worth thinking about.

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