One thing I have learnt from a life around dogs is, take each day as it comes, don’t worry about your past or future because today is a present. Live in the moment.
17th September 2017
Earlier in the year I was asked to be a judge at the Colchester Free family fun festival dog show, which is a free to enter fun day for adults, children and also their dogs.
The categories for the show were: Most elegant, best sausage catcher, best young handler, cutest pup or dog, Best heel on or off lead, waggiest tail and then the winners went through to best in show competition to find the over all winner.
It’s so lovely to see the owners arrive with their dogs full of smiles and waggy tails as they register for their event and the dogs start to meet other dogs around them, some with a sniff, some with a growl & some with a bounciness to make Tigger look like couch potato!
The anticipation of the owners as they enter the ring, each person rightly knowing their dog is the winner, as they see them in their lives as perfect, so why wouldn’t they win!
Then it was time for Ella, my daughter and I to judge. We saw all sorts of breeds parade before us in each category and fell in love with all of them, We saw tiny pomeranians alongside huge greyhounds & Mastiffs next to cockerpoo’s. The dogs stood and walked around the show ring with confidence all mingling extremely well. After each category had been judged, the winners went straight into the best in show finale at the end of the day.
We had 4 finalists arrive for judgement, they stepped inside the show ring, did a walk for the audience watching on to see and study the breeds of Working Cocker spaniel, Puppy Labrador, Staffordshire Bull terrier & and a huge Mastiff.
After a long deliberation between Ella & myself we decided on the 4th place winner- Cocker Spaniel, the 3rd place winner – Pup Labrador, the 2nd place winner Staffie, and the winner of 2017 show -A Mastiff called Boris!!
I loved the day, being around and seeing all the dogs and how people interact with their beloved pet and how they let them behave around others.
The outstanding moment for me was watching Boris the mastiff and his handler, a 4 year old little girl! She was an absolute natural with this animal that stood head and shoulders above her.
It made me reflect on our behaviour with our pets. People who are nervous of their dog meeting another dog for fear of a fight or bad interaction, tend to walk nervously with their dog on a short tight lead with no room for the dog to sniff or interact, this feeds down the lead to tell the dog “oh I had better look after my owner as they are nervous out here” and results in an aggressive or barking dog.
But this little girl had no fear, she didn’t know or care she was tiny against the beast she was walking. She had a confidence and natural ability with that dog that I rarely see in adults. At one point when she was walking around the show ring with Boris, he pulled away slightly & she counteracted by letting him know she was in charge with a gentle tug on the lead and a firm but kind “come Boris”. It not only melted my heart seeing such a primal love between animal and human but I understood even more that a loving, respectful and trusting relationship with our dogs is built on the leader( the owner) being confident and reflecting that down the lead to the dog. A loving balance between the two brings harmony and a joy between pet and owner.
Dogs act upon a fight or flight train of thought, so if we restrict them on the lead and don’t let them meet other dogs naturally, with a nose to nose, moving to a nose to bum greeting, we stop them and the next action maybe to either want to square up to the dog or try to pull away( fight or flight). So next time you are on a walk try and relax, think like a child, relax about any situation you might think may happen( it probably won’t!), relax the lead, let your dog know everything is alright, not by verbal reassurance but relaxed, happy , loving leadership.
until next time…
10th September 2017
“All we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
Many years ago I was in New York on a mission trip to learn about children’s work. We went to observe and serve a man and his team running a kids church as they weekly reached 20,000+ children with sidewalk church entertainment and a massive mega kids church on Saturdays, bussing children in from their neighbourhoods. It was an incredible week as we watched this huge organisation bring fun and hope to many many families with little else in their lives.
The one man who had set this up over the years was Bill Wilson, He had been deserted as a child on a street corner and his mother never returned, he was taken in by a christian family and years later he wanted to give back to the kids of New York as he knew what it was like to be in a desperate situation. Bill went through so many challenges as he began and continued to grow his church, he was shot in the face, beaten many times and suffered ill health.
But one thing kept him going – His vision. His driven enthusiasm and ONE vision to see what he had in mind come to pass. His single vision consumed him and drove him to achieve his dream of reaching children with the love of the gospel.
The trouble with life nowadays is we get so busy with various challenges, hobbies and our jobs, our visions get watered down until they fade away and we settle for the norm.
If we look at driven individuals who had only one goal and were enthusiastic to the point of never giving up, they generally have made it to see their dream a reality. Richard Branson,Karen Brady, Mo Farah, Cesar Millan and even Donald Trump are a few who come to mind.
But whether it be family, friendship, hobbies, business, sport, writing, bringing up children, owning a pet or even doing charity work, if we have a vision and are fully enthusiastic about it we can achieve our dreams and be truly happy with life.
If we look to our dogs we again can learn so much. Dogs are naturally enthusiastic about life, they wake up each day with their one vision, to love and bring joy to their owners, whether that be in a working role or just being a home pet. A dogs enthusiasm never wavers, even when treated poorly they will still be loyal and try to make the best of the situation.
Dogs are made to seize the moment, to have a basic view on living and to use their “one vision” to bring as much joy as they can.
So in this week ahead try and live for the moment, stop, take in your surroundings,breathe, smile, wag your tail, dance & sing. Try and bring a joy to someone else, whether its buying a coffee for the next customer in a cafe, giving to charity or buying a homeless person a drink and some biscuits.
If you have a dream and vision about business, charity, running a family,writing, work, travel, training your dog, buying a treat for yourself, anything, make it your one vision, the main thing you are enthusiastic about and see it unfold and become a reality.
Bring the simplicity of life we see in our dogs into our own way of living, don’t get watered down, look to them for inspiration as they go about their mission to love and bring joy to their small world around them.
One vision brings focus , many visions brings chaos.
until next time….
We English love to greet each other.
We meet a friend or loved one with a hug or a kiss on the cheek or lips if they mean even more to us. It wasn’t always like that for us. Being the “stiff upper lip” nation of old, we used to greet with a strong handshake or even just a hello. But multiculturalism and a globalist world has made our “stiff upper lip” a bit on the floppy side nowadays! which is no bad thing, as we are now more connected to our emotional state than ever before.
So how does this relate to our dogs?
Lets set the scene; You come home from work after a long day, you open the front door and hear the thunderous footsteps of your big mastiff charging in full excitement to welcome you home. He has been waiting for this moment for hours, contemplating the noise of the car door, the key in the lock and then the creak of the door opening. Full joy ensues with jumping, wagging tail, wet sloppy kisses and even the odd nip out of pure joy. It is the welcome home most people love to see if they are pet lovers. We then fuel that fever pitched energy by squeaking to our dog in the most high pitched voice since Mickey Mouse, sending the excitement from 9 to 10 on the scale of 10!!
For many of us this is the normal daily scenario when we come home or when a visitor arrives. What we see as a beautiful welcome in fact can become damaging in the long run, not only for the dogs emotional state but also if you have visitors who are nervous or frail.
It is more damaging for a big dog to be hyper but small dogs can have the same issues but be much noisier.
A dog is always going to be over the moon that their human has returned to them, and regardless of how we receive them at the door they will still love the fact you are home.
If your dog is in the excited routine already and you are happy with that, then carry on, but if you want your dog to start to behave around the front door and be the balanced self assured dog he deserves to be, try a few new techniques.
When you arrive home, open the door and have a “no touch, no talk, no eye contact”(Cesar Millan) policy with your dog. in other words, ignore all the unwanted behaviour. If he jumps up, turn your back to him with no chat. Move into your house and put the kettle on, still ignoring your dog. His feelings will not be hurt, he is just so happy you are back in his life. When the dog realises you aren’t receiving the attention , he will calm down to a relaxed state of mind. Then you can give attention(still no high pitched squeaking though!!). Repetition and practice will make life a lot easier when a visitor comes who doesn’t want a hyper welcome. Treats can always be given for good calm behaviour too.
My plan is to help how we live with these wonderful animals and give them the chance to be all they can be without our human ways being thrust upon them as we try to anthropomorphize them.
So often we put our emotional responses onto our dogs when we could learn so much from their body language and social aspects, except the bottom sniffing, I would rather just shake hands!!
Until next time….
28th August 2017
I am very privileged to walk many different breeds of dog. The great thing they all have in common is how they live day to day. They have very different personalities, some cheeky, bouncy and fun, some more relaxed and calm, some senior and mature. But the one thing they have in common is living for the very moment they are in.
Dogs don’t make big plans for tomorrow or the future, they don’t look back in anger or past memories haunt their futures. They live in the moment that God has given them. I envy that attitude, because we humans mostly live with unforgiveness, we live with crazy plans about being rich & famous,we live stuck in our gadgets & we live with such busy agendas that we can’t see the beautiful world around us.
I work with a wonderful old girl called “Lady”
She is very much a lady, a 15 year old (I know I shouldn’t reveal a ladies age!) greyhound x Whippet. She was rescued at the age of 7 and instantly bonded with her owner. They adore each other.
Recently Lady has had a few health scares, due to her age and this week has a lump and also diagnosed with pancreatitis. Our human nature left her owner and I discussing future events should she not fair well with this condition. NOT Lady! she came back from the vets and had a restful day, which is common in older dogs, but the next day she was up and ready for her morning walk.
I arrived at her house and off we went to the local nature park where she met some “doggie” friends and enjoyed herself as always. The reason Lady doesn’t live in the past or the future is because she is so happy for the now, she had forgotten yesterdays vet ordeals and was ready for this day. She inspired me to write a short story whilst watching her enjoying her walk…
The Lady & the Squirrel
The squirrel stopped on the footpath, aware that he was trapped in the pinpoint stare of a predator.
He moved one foot to test whether it was worthy of making a break for it, but as he did, the elegant black and white sleek form pricked her ears up in anticipation.
He froze again, becoming a statue in order to blend his grey form into the pavement and become invisible.
Lady shifted her stance, from the graceful old girl to young pup ready to play and pounce on anything that moved. She poised herself ready in anticipation for the chase. Her mind was alert, active and sharp but her body lagged behind nowadays.
The standoff seemed to last an age but in reality was seconds of predator/prey nervousness. Suddenly the squirrel made a break for it, racing towards the huge tree ahead of him, his little heart pumping with adrenaline and fear. He made it to the base of the tree and looked back with a sense of achievement.
Lady with her wisdom and grace, knew she wouldn’t catch this one and watched him scuttle away, happy in the knowledge she had spotted this one. “There’s always another time” she thought to herself with a big panting grin.
So a lesson we can all learn from dogs is to enjoy the now. Forgive the past or people from our pasts, move away from any thoughts that taint our day we are in. Get home from work and let the day drop off your shoulders, relax and enjoy THIS moment. Each day literally is a fresh start, so whatever ailments we carry, mindsets that are fixed or attitudes. look at a dog, they carry none of it(some humans hurt their journey) they have a past but choose the now, they choose life and the simple pleasures they can take from it.
until next time…
21st August 2017
Okay, Just stop for a minute and stare at your dog. Just take the time to look deeply at this marvel of a pet that is always there around us, with unconditional loyalty and love.
We are so busy as people nowadays that we can take for granted the small things that make up our day.
When I’m out walking I see so many people walking along staring into the little screen of their mobile phone, no doubt checking their Instagram about what their favourite celebrity had for breakfast! really important stuff!
We then get home and switch the bigger screen on in the corner of our room and get lost in dramas or news for the evening, all of this is outside our own lives and personal experiences. I am guilty of this, but whilst sitting looking at one of my dogs “Rocky” I realised they don’t have anything else to do in life except wait for us as their owners to spend time with them and crave devoted time with us.
A pet doesn’t have any gadgets to distract their day, maybe their favourite squeaky toy! They just want to be next to our side cuddled up or on a walk, that to them is “living”. It’s why most homeless peoples dogs are calm and balanced.
One of my dogs “Herbie” is devoted to my wife Jackie, He lives and breathes to please her and wouldn’t care if nobody else in the world existed, He is totally and unapologetically bonded with her. When on a walk together, he will stay near her and at home he doesn’t leave her side. When she goes out to work, he waits, and waits , and waits for her return, every car engine or door slam, his little ears prick up in anticipation of his “love” returning home. Then comes the welcome upon her return!
It’s the little things in life that excite our pets, TIME is the most important little thing. Time is love, time is devotion and time is looking at the priorities of life and changing our habits to accommodate appropriate small time with the animals and people we love.
It has made me re-evaluate my time. When “Rocky” does his little bark to play ball(even at midnight!) I am going to stop worrying about what I’m watching and play with him. He is in my world, right now and it’s my duty to spend quality time with him and all my dogs instead of placing gadgets and the outside world first.
So just stop. look at your pet. Think about the small things in life they cherish and take advice from them, it may help to reduce worry, stress and normalise life in this busy, messy world we share.
until next time…
13th August 2017
How dogs say hello!
When I am out and about walking I am lucky enough to meet many different dogs and their owners. One of the things I notice the most is how we as humans expect our dogs to say “hi” just as we do.
We walk along a path and the owners are all smiles ready to speak and say hi, sometimes they hold the leash tight and tense worrying about how their dog will react to meeting another. So the humans are happy to say “good morning” and maybe say “nice weather” but the dogs are going through a totally different experience.
The dogs are approaching face to face, they are on a lead so the “fight or fright” scenario is off the table as they cant run away from the situation, so for some dogs the “fight ” scenario kicks in. Before they even get near each other they have already smelt the approaching friend or foe, dogs have 220 million scent receptors as opposed to our 5 million, so for them the air is full of delicious or obnoxious smells ( delicious to them maybe foxes poop!!)
When they finally arrive at a meeting point on the path, they have some idea of who they are meeting, but the best way for a dog to understand who the other one is , is by sniffing the bum. A perfect meeting would be to go past each other with a slight nose to nose and then straight to each others bums, the nose then reads the CV of the other dog, what breed they are, what they had for breakfast, where they have been, what sex they are, their favourite human & best chew toy amongst other facts!
Once this introduction has taken place, most dogs will relax and be happy to be in the presents of the other dog. As human beings we find this “meet & greet” a disgusting habit and some people say “NO!” and pull their dogs away, this can eventually lead to behaviour issues as the dog being stopped will never learn to say hello in doggie fashion and will go straight to the face, which in the dog world is aggressive.
One dog I work with is a Cocker Spaniel called “sizzles”, he is a very nervous boy and would rather have a quiet walk with no hassles. If we do meet other woofers out on a walk how he reacts is, he either sees or smells the approaching pooch and stops in his tracks, he then lets out a little whine to tell me he isn’t sure of this situation. I stop and let the other dog and owner approach, my body language and energy(I will talk about energy another time) are calm and Sizzles feels that, which helps him relax. I never make Sizzles say hello and it’s always done on the terms of the dogs. Once Sizzles has realised all is well he approaches the other dog with his usual waggy tail and happy nature, and the more he does this the more confident he is becoming each day.
I love dog behaviour and find it fascinating that a totally different species lives in harmony(most of the time) with us crazy human beings. Dogs are a miracle how they put up with us humanising them, if they could speak and comment on us, I’m sure they would say “watch and learn from us, and the world would be more balanced”….
until next time.
6th August 2017
Why a walk?
Walking is one of the most natural things we can do, it is good for our hearts, body and mind. As we walk along our thoughts become clearer(unless we are rushing to work!) and things become more balanced as our breathing and heart beat work together to regulate our movement.
I love walking Dogs, I guess that’s obvious as I set my business and life around it! But the reason I love it is because I see such a change in most of the dogs I take out. One of my happiest sounds is after the walk, let me explain…
When I arrive at certain dogs homes, they are like a coiled spring, they are so excited about what I represent, I guess it makes me popular in their eyes as I am the “fun” man!
The tail wags so hard, it makes their whole back end wiggle, they have the happiest face as some may have been alone for a few hours before I arrive and the joy often overflows into jumping up and down and not being able to stand still so I can get close to putting a lead on!
An example of this is a beautiful English Bull Terrier called Flynn. I have the pleasure to walk him twice a week. As I arrive at his house he is waiting by the back door as if to say “I know what day and time it is!”, so excited he makes a high pitched noise as his tail wags and he wants to smother me in kisses and jump ups. Being such a big strong boy I always attempt to bring calm to him before making a fuss of him, so he knows how to act to get a fuss. Then comes the collar time, trying to get it attached is a challenge through the sheer joy of knowing where he is going, but again I try and calm him until he is good to go.
We walk out to my little van, I open the back door and he gets his front paws on the back plate but that’s it I then have to get him by the back legs and lift his tense excited little body in. As I drive to the local park he sits up behind me looking out the front window with his paw on my shoulder, looking trying to recognise the land marks he recognises as we approach the treasure of the park.
I pull up, park and open the back doors. He is there waiting to jump out and sprint away on the long lead he is connected to, pulling me, it’s like trying to hold a small car back as it pulls away!
The walk is a mixture of sniffing , rolling in the long grass, more pulling, a bit of short lead walking training, wee’s, poop and just pure natural happiness at the other dogs and people he meets along the way. As we walk I see a significant change in him, the energy he started with starts to unwind and smooth out, he relaxes, takes more time to enjoy where he is, the panting is heavier as we march on.
We get back to the van and his energy is fully drained, the coiled spring is more like a slinky now! I give him a big drink of water and lift his bulky behind back into the van where instead of sitting behind me on my shoulder, he lays down in front of the fans I have on in the back and he relaxes.
The sound I mentioned at the start of my blog is this…
He is absolutely content, he has burnt off his energy and he has become a balanced, happy boy. The sound is silence, the gentle breathing as he rests in joyful memories of what has just occurred. Silence is the lovely sound of a happy dog, walked.
A good walk is the key to many many behaviour issues in our dogs, but that’s for another blog. xx
disclaimer: All my blogs are my opinion and behaviour ideas. Please consult a professional in your area if what I write raises issues for your dog or pet. It is your responsibility as an owner to handle your dog well and get help if needed. My blog is for advice, fun stories and general help. Be responsible and respectful when out with your dogs always.