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…

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A sting in the tail

IMG_2752I write this blog post with great relief, as an incident that occurred two days ago could have been much worse!  At the moment I am visiting family in Rochdale, Lancashire (as I now live in Kingston upon Hull). A place that we often explore with the dogs during our trip is Hollingworth Lake, one of my favourite places, which holds some happy memories for me :)

After our leisurely evening stroll around the Lake, enjoying ice cream and watching the sunset we were just 10 minutes away from the car when disaster struck. We were passing the little wooded area in which we have ventured many times, and as usual decided to wander in. You enter via an old wooden bridge, which takes you over a narrow stream, then use another to get back across. This time however, the second bridge had been replaced with a new metal one, with gaps, meaning dogs cannot cross. My mum simply carried Shih Tzu Max across in her arms, me & cross Labrador Jess however, had to turn back. Its not a long way back, not at all, but panicking at the fact that everyone else was on the other side Jess attempted to jump across…landing in the stream instead.

This was not the problem, the water was just ankle deep, but the banks very steep, and it was that she’d landed on & disturbed a wasps nest that was the problem. As some of you may already know Jess can be nervous, nervous of new people, and new situations, so of course panic set in for the both of us. Everything happened so fast, but I can clearly remember looking down at my arms, wearing a black cardigan, and they were covered, with at least 10 buzzing yellow wasps. Next I looked down at Jess, and felt a sinking feeling as they were swarming all over her body from head to toe.

If the wasps hadn’t have been there, it’d have simply been a matter of leading her down the stream to find an easier way out. But now it was a case of getting her out as quickly as possible. This became really difficult as the wasps were stinging me, i’ve never been stung by anything before (great way to start, i know!) and I was losing footing down the banks myself. Her collar and harness were just slipping from my grasp, and I could see the worry in her eyes as she gripped her claws into the earth. We don’t know what we’d have done next if it wasn’t for a passer by who saved the day. A man and lady noticed the commotion and the gentleman managed to drag Jess out (and boy is she heavy!). They both stumbled over, and at this point I was waving my arms around and yanking off my cardigan! We are so, so grateful for his help.

I came away with five wasp stings, but we weren’t sure about Jess. On our arrival home I cleaned mine up and made a cold compress for my hand in particular, which had become quite swollen, bright red and extremely sore. I gently rubbed Jess down with a cold damp towel, and felt for any swellings, particularly around the eyes, nose and mouth, but couldn’t find anything. Wasp stings are usually harmless, unless they affect the airways, but multiple wasps stings of course means more venom and dogs can also have allergies just like us. Later, Jess’ eyebrow looked a little swollen, again we bathed it and kept a close eye on it.

Two days later and we are both fine :) If you saw the stream where all this happened you’d probably think ‘how did that cause such a drama?!’ Our lovely day definitely had a sting in the tail (and hands, eyes, arms…) but everyone is okay, and that’s the main thing :) I will also be posting some holiday snaps from the rest of the trip (with plenty of dog photos!) when we get home :)

Before our meeting with the pesky wasps!

Before our meeting with the pesky wasps!