Watching dog behaviour, when you don’t have a dog

One of my fave dog walking spots

One of my fave dog walking spots

So our new house is a ten minute walk away from a beautiful country park, with lakes, woodland, open spaces…pure dog walking perfection! (Part of me is seriously considering taking on new clients, I just feel so at home there and I’d love for a couple of dogs to benefit from it too, but we still don’t know how long we’re staying here for). Usually when I’m in that kind of environment, I’m with a dog, so my focus is on him as well as the dogs around me. Now I’m without a dog, I find myself just watching them.

Now I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve taken a break from dogs that my ‘behaviour brain’ is taking over, but I’ve started to learn again. I ‘attended’ my second webinar by Sarah Whitehead recently, and have spotted a good illustrated body language book too. Sometimes I think not having a dog makes certain theories in dog behaviour clearer, as individuals can be so complex, your judgement becomes clouded when you keep referring to a particular dog in your mind. I’ve been thinking about how anthropomorphic we are with dogs too, and trying to understand why a dog would do such a thing rather than putting my own emotions upon them. In fact it has seemed a little easier, maybe because I don’t know them? Previously when I’d take on a new dog walking client for example, I’d be watching them, figuring out how they work. So why not try and read dogs in the park? How does he greet strangers? What do his vocalisations suggest? Is he nervous? What is his tail positioning? What commands do they have in place? Any signs of aggression? What are his play patterns? I’d really recommend it, especially switching off from your own dog, as there’s such a miscellany of behaviours you might see one that your dog doesn’t express very often, or even something that your dog does all the time, you just don’t notice it anymore. I’m sure you’d be surprised and inspired in some way.

Our new Country Park

Our new Country Park

Last week I watched a pair of inseparable Labradors in utter bliss in the water, and a couple of dainty little whippets hopped past too. Some things I’ve watched frustrate me, I’ve witnessed alot of people giving their dogs a ‘yank’ to correct them or allowing them to run to the end of their flexi lead and almost choke themselves *sigh*. But the majority has been nice, and our dog owning day will come…We have however, got a new family member, who I will introduce you all to soon! You can tell by the title of this post that he isn’t a dog, but he is asleep on my desk right now…

Human why do you love to bathe so much?

House re-wire in progress!

House re-wire in progress!

So, whilst I’m staying here my mum is having her house re-wired/plastered (great timing I know!). As I write this, the light fitting in the bathroom is unfinished, meaning we have to bathe with the door open (so we can see in the dark) and a lamp.

Of course all the animals popped in and out during my bath last night, because the door was open, but Jess’ reaction was so hilarious/intriguing! Her expression was like ‘human, why are you lying in the giant scary box thing which terrifies me?!’ Perhaps I was naive in thinking ‘oh if I look like I’m enjoying myself, she might change her mind about baths…’ She did her usual sweet little head tilts at me, which are irresistible may I add! But also everything that has been there for years; the bath mat, shower curtain, toiletries, all suddenly became so fascinating! Her nose was working overtime! She was also licking everything and trying to strain her neck to reach the soapy bath water.

Then I spotted the starfish on the side, so I showed it to her, and she backed away! She was not a fan of her spiky new friend! She was intrigued though, kept creeping back in for a sniff, then jumping away. I couldn’t smell a thing on it, but I don’t have 200 million scent receptors! So I left it on the side and she suddenly became brave now that it was out of my hands, and was all over it!

Afterwards she claimed it as her own, until she tried eating it so I had to take it away… Here she is with her new five legged friend :)

Friends!

Friends!

Tragic Dogs Home Fire

My heart breaks as I write this post tonight. Last night a devastating fire tore through the Manchester branch of Manchester & Cheshire Dogs Home. Thankfully 150 dogs were saved, but the lives of around 50 dogs were cruelly taken away.

A few years ago we walked into Manchester Dogs Home and chose this beautiful face to come home with us that day. If it wasn’t for Manchester Dogs Home, we wouldn’t have this amazing dog in our lives.

dog selfie

I can still picture the kennel block like it was yesterday; one long, noisy row of kennels. The images I’ve seen are devastating, the block is completely destroyed. I can’t get over the fact that Jess was in there at some point, in the end kennel. Just waiting. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear that those poor dogs must have felt. The sounds, the smells, the smoke, the pure heat. As for the staff, they must be truly heartbroken. Working with dogs you cannot help but form an attachment to them. Luckily for me I know all of the dogs I work with have fantastic and responsible owners and a roof over their heads. In a rescue situation, you become attached in a way that you feel compelled to help these animals and that it is your duty to keep them safe. The whole situation is completely overwhelming; dogs were being tied to railings, sedated, fighting and being transported to other rescues. I don’t know how they’re going to keep track of them all.

Astonishingly over £1,000,000 has been donated in just a day. You can donate here :) Literally hundreds of people surrounded the home last night, with crates, food, blankets and dog leads, and the donations continue today.

I gave each of the dogs at work an extra special squeeze today. I hope the surviving dogs can fight through the trauma.

‘All dogs go to heaven’

paws

Dog show weekend – Day one

first place dog

Sam & I have finally recovered from our super busy weekend, during which we attended two dog shows in two days! On Saturday we popped along to the Oak Road Community Festival, with the dog show hosted by Oakwood Dog Rescue. Apart from the dreadful weather, which left me with some serious panda eyes, we had a pretty great day :)

The first reason being that Sam was superbly behaved, he really did us proud! We’ve been to just one dog show before, but we didn’t enter any classes and we didn’t stay very long either. On Saturday Sam showed no bother to the thunder and lightening when we first arrived, and his calm, chilled temperament in such a busy environment was super impressive. Lots of attention and questions is nothing new to us, but he was possibly the biggest dog there, so we did alot of talking. He was also so tolerant of the excitable children, which we had to be careful of, as most of them seemed to give his head/ears a good rub, and he’s just recovered from an ear infection.

Our second reason to celebrate was that Sam came First place of course! He won the ‘Most Handsome Dog’ category. We entered this class aswell as ‘Best Rescue’ and then went through to ‘Best in Show’. Now I know it’s not quite Crufts but it was exciting nonetheless! Plus, red is most definitely his colour!

just poochie

Our friend Sara of Just Poochie & co were our saviours of the day too! She very kindly let us hide behind her stall in the rain, helped me fix my make up disaster and fed Sam all of her free samples :) We had a huge laugh too when his head disappeared into a cardboard box then popped back out with a giant biscuit in his mouth! She let him steal it, and in return I let her steal Sam and take him for a stroll :) Everyone wanted to spend time with him! 

‘Just Poochie’ sell all natural treats; hypoallergenic, holistic, gluten free, dairy free and more. They live locally to us, and of course I am all in favour of supporting local businesses. I treated Sam to some ‘Hungry Hector’ soft baked treats, one chicken, one lamb. I’ll let you know how we find them :)

Still to come… ‘Dog show weekend – Day two’!

Do you chat with dog owners of your own breed?

gsd

In fact, do you see many dog owners of your breed?

I’ve been thinking today, about how Sam doesn’t have any doggy friends of his breed, and how giddy I get when I see other German Shepherds; especially white ones. We don’t see many white Shepherds in our area very often, but when I do see one, I  do like a good chat with them. I suppose it’s the equivalent of people who have children sharing their cute ‘first steps’ stories, but for me it’s ‘oh, we have a white Shepherd too…’ Not that white Shepherds are superior to any other colour, it’s just what I’m used to seeing living with one. In fact I’m always in awe when I do see a black and tan or any other coloured Shepherd, as I forget just how beautiful they are! (Plus, the majority of Shepherds I see are much more graceful than our Sam, he’s so clumsy!).

Sam was adopted from HAWT, around 6 years ago, where he was available for re-homing with his 5 siblings. It would have been nice to have contact with his hairy brothers and sisters, but unfortunately we don’t. I have managed to spot a couple of white Shepherds whilst working, since I became a self-employed dog walker.

Recently I have actually met and spoken with two separate white German Shepherd puppies and their owners. They were of course adorable, and still had that crimpy, wild puppy hair in-between their ears, and that slouchy puppy sit. They were also both around 6 months old, which makes me ponder as to whether they are related. The first thing I noticed (which you can’t miss!) was their size. Truly huge dogs already. The second was their strength, they could pull anyone over if they wanted to. Finally, they were both such vocal dogs. These three things are Sam all-over. He stands at 29 inches to the withers and 30 inches in length, shoulder to the base of his tail. Luckily for us he’s great on the lead and a pleasure to walk; it’d be a nightmare if he pulled. Yet overall, i’d say the thing they most have in common is their vocalisations. GSD’s are a known vocal breed, and they’re a guarding dog too, equalling lots of barking. Sam also has a repertoire of sounds! Sounds when he’s playing, sounds when he’s excited, sounds when he’s uncomfortable… the list goes on! It’s interesting to make physical comparisons; for example, some white Shepherds are more cream than white or some have a black nose and others pink, like Sam. As for characteristics, I think sometimes it makes you feel a bit better when you meet a dog with similar bad habits to yours, even though it’s probably more your fault than his!

gsd

But most of all I like the fact that Sam is Sam, and you won’t ever find another :)

Our giant goofball

two dogs

Sam’s cousin Ollie came to visit recently, and I feel this photo says it all! Ollie is such a handsome dog, he has such elegance and grace and his coat has a lovely soft sheen. Sam has this huge goofy smile and a boisterous, clumsy gait. He should be in kids movies. He’s such a goofball, but he’s our goofball.