It's all fun and games until someone loses a dog

It's all fun and games until someone loses a dog

Through nearly a decade at Dogs Trust it is so clear to me that reward-based training and enrichment build strong bonds that forge long and lasting relationships with our dogs and I talk about this with owners every day.

But what good is any of this if you can’t find your dog?  

In my role as Campaigns Officer at Dogs Trust I travel across the North of England to offer training, behaviour, enrichment, health and legal advice to hundreds of dog owners every week. You would be amazed by how many tell me that their dogs have checked into those most notorious of establishments, the local authority stray kennels.

May is for PLAY

After a mad March and arduous April, May is for PLAY. So let’s Catch up!

If you follow us on social media you’ll know we’ve had a busy couple of months. Did I achieve my own goal of 6 plays a day with my dogs during this time?

Sadly not.

I hit around 3, even less during maintenance week when the dogs couldn’t come in the field with us due to the weed spray and none at all when I was away on the course.

One game I can always fit in when I’m short on time is Catch. It’s genius in its simplicity and can be played any time, anywhere.

CATCH

BENEFITS

  • Focus, focus, focus!

  • I often play this at the beginning of an Enrichment Break to get dogs super focussed on me. They usually can’t catch very well at first!

  • Playing catch at the start of a session builds motivation for rewards, setting you up well for the rest of your training

  • Great for bonding with your dog as you work together as a team, you throwing and your dog catching

  • Improves coordination and precision (for you and your dog!)

  • Fun! You can’t help but get excited when your dog catches the food or toy and your dog will share your enthusiasm!

METHOD

  1. Stand a couple of feet from your dog, show them you have food or a toy in your hand and gently toss it towards them. Hopefully they’ll make a move towards it. If they don’t catch it, that’s fine! Allow them to eat the food off the ground or pick up their toy and have a play

  2. Repeat again and again. You can feed entire meals this way

  3. Gradually increase the distance from your dog.

PRO-TIP

  • Be patient - not all dogs can catch (no, really!) You should see Lao when I gently toss a piece of kibble towards him from a foot away, he pulls a face like he’s being assaulted - I might as well be throwing rocks! Fifi on the other hand is brilliant and I can stand at the other side of the room from her.

  • Your own aim is as important as your dog’s catch - try to be as precise as possible

If you’d like to know why March was mad and April arduous, read on.

Ruben and I have been backwards and forwards to Italy over the past month in the process of selling our house. We were given a date, it got pushed back, then another date, then problems with the building work (who concretes up a celling to hide the beams? and how do you get the concrete to stay in place? I thought I understood how gravity works? – there were so many questions but not enough time to answer any of them).

Meanwhile, our Dogwood clients will know that during the first week of April we were closed for a week for scheduled maintenance. Well, said scheduled maintenance had been scheduled for six months. ‘Nobody book anything for the first two weeks of April,’ I said, ‘we’re going to be busy.’ Everyone agreed.

Then back in November Black Friday happened. So I broke my own rule, booked a 6 day course and arranged to go to London the day our maintenance week was due to finish.

I squeezed in a marketing course too. In for a penny, in for a pound.

The final date came through for the sale of the house in Italy and of course it was for the first week of April. Ruben had to go without me as there was too much maintenance planned at Dogwood for us both to miss it and we were now our strongest man down - though you should see my muscles after shifting all that stone!

Were we stressed in the build up to him leaving? Indeed we were. Shattered too? You bet. Did Ruben miss his flight to Italy? Why, yes he did. Did I have to drive him to Stanstead airport because there were no flights anywhere closer and did I do the full return journey in eight hours as I had to be at Dogs Trust in the afternoon? If I don’t laugh about this I’ll cry.  

Maintenance week started. Everything had to run like a tight ship: dogs out, weed killer in, fencer, landscaper, soil, gravel, pool. Our lovely and highly recommended landscaper, David Nasseau, helpfully mentioned once the digger had gone back, ‘You should have said you needed all that moving, we could have used the digger’. ‘Sssh,’ I whispered, nervously eyeing my red-faced and plainly exhausted family who were into their thirty-sixth hour of shovelling, ‘we won’t tell them it has been invented yet.’   

My muscles ache just looking at this!

My muscles ache just looking at this!

But I think the result was worth it.

But I think the result was worth it.

Between all of this I drove to Sunderland for IMPACT (the marketing event for pet professionals), back to Dogwood on Sunday to roll my sleeves up and shovel another few tonnes of soil – giving myself a corker of a black eye in the process – then drove to London with my friend Gemma and her new adoption Freddie, a huge silky black bull breed for the 6 day Advanced Training and Behaviour course I’d booked on Black Friday.

Receiving an award at the marketing event

Receiving an award at the marketing event

6 days of tracking, advanced scentwork, Norwegian Bringsel (playing the part of the dog!), advanced clicker training, reactivity and breed specific traits, separation anxiety, resource guarding, Hoopers and Flyball... then to top it all off, a behaviour clinic with Steve Mann. Phew!

Freddie and I in London

Freddie and I in London

The 6 days were intense – long days in cold fields (you’d think I’d be used to that!) – but I loved every single minute of it and I learned so much that I can’t wait to put to good use at Dogwood.

If you would like to find out more about our services, please get in touch.

love Katie