Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Plot Developments: In Which There are More Dogs Than We Ever Expected

The first thing is that I have added two new regulars to my list of dogsitting clients.

an orange pomeranian sits on green grass beside a cow toy. A brown colourbond fence in the background.

Tiger is a cute little guy who needs a bit of extra company, so I'm visiting him a couple of mornings a week. He doesn't love strangers or other dogs, but he's a very smart little guy who is a pleasure to hang out with.

a large golden retriever lies on the floor of a house, smiling at the camera. A very ratty looking orange toy lies between his paws.

Apollo is my neighbour's dog, and is by far the biggest houseguest we've had so far! Other than giving people the impression we have a lion in the house, he's a pretty chill dude. I was pleasantly surprised to find he's a calm walker, so we'll definitely be doing more walks to get some of that extra weight off him.

Didn't you say there were a lot more dogs, you ask? Yes -- I'm not done! Aside from a very short sleepover with a puppy in a few weeks, my other news is more significant in my development as a dog trainer.

I've started helping teach at the local dog training club! I'm a trainee instructor, which means I'm rostered on with an experienced instructor to teach the beginners' classes.

I've found that some of the instructors just want me to provide some one-on-one assistance to students doing the exercises, and others want me to teach the class myself while they supervise. Aside from one memorable night where I was asked to teach a class I knew nothing about, I'm enjoying both roles.

Just like Tiger loves the visits from his cow friend.

Remember my 'class instruction' exam for the dog trainers' course? Well, I could not have asked for better preparation for this role.
New pet owners? Check.
Teaching a class of humans and dogs across an open field? Check.
Ten other classes on the field at the same time, totalling about 80 dogs? Okay, maybe not so much.
But I find as long as I can keep the focus of my class, everyone else will take care of theirs. Having smelly treats to keep the dogs' attention helps...

So in conclusion -- dogs everywhere! I'm even more physically tired than I am mentally at the end of each day (excluding the days I practise driving, then I'm both!). But I'm having fun.

They say to dive right in...

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Wednesday Walks

Little brown and white cavalier puppy Darcy sits on the porch in front of a purple door.
Hello Darcy.

Close up of Darcy on the porch. His mouth is half-open, relaxed.
Ready for a walk?

Adult cavalier Ava sitting is looking upwards. She is tethered to a cafe table.
What are you looking at, Ava?

Ava sits looking directly at the camera.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Mini-Holiday: In Which Ava and Darcy Are As Sweet As Ever

A holiday is always nice, isn't it? Ava and Darcy spent the weekend with me while their humans did human things.

They were dropped off in the morning, and as I was putting things away I turned around to find this...

Both dogs in one crate looking at me

How sweet are these two?

Big and little cavaliers in one crate, wide-eyed
Who, us?

Ava and Darcy sit behind baby gate
Whatcha doin'?

Seeing how close these two are seems extra sweet to me after my most recent boarders, two dogs who were from the same household but didn't like each other very much.

Darcy and Ava sit outside behind glass door
We pooped, can we come in now?
And yes, I let them in -- they were both very good dogs all weekend. Gotta love 'em.

Friday, 17 February 2017

An Exposition: In Which Melon Waxes Lyrical on Multi-Dog Management

Hello blogfriends.

Scruffy and Charlie, my most recent boarders, have gone home. I'm pretty sure they enjoyed their holiday and I refined my skills at multi-dog management.

Scruffy and Charlie: a rare snapshot with both boys

I owe a lot of this to another little guide: P. McConnell and K. London's Feeling Outnumbered: How to Manage and Enjoy Your Multi-Dog Household. I loved its advice on body blocking, and its general approach of 'teaching every dog good manners is the key to peaceful coexistence'. Makes perfect sense to me.

Most of all, though, I think this sudden foray into multi-dog management -- with Scruffy and Charlie at home, and Ava and Darcy at work -- has made me feel like the key here is management. Don't get me wrong -- dogs do need to be trained and you can almost always teach something new to improve situations. That's why I'm a dog trainer.

But I've also realised that management can be enough.

Ava: You call this management?

With multiple dogs, your time is split between them. Add to that normal life commitments -- for example, a homework assignment to finish, another dog job, and trying to fit in driving practice -- sometimes it's just about getting the dogs fed, walked, and getting in a little mental stimulation, whether that be with toys or training.

And I feel like part of understanding management is understanding that you won't be able to treat both dogs the same. Little Darcy, being only a few months old, spends half the day in his pen, while Ava can be trusted free in the house. Scruffy has to eat outside by himself while Charlie is inside with the humans, because Charlie needs to be coaxed to eat and Scruffy will steal his food.

Dog days of summer: I shut Scruffy in so Charlie could enjoy his iceblock

You won't even be able to treat your dogs equally all of the time. Some days only Darcy gets walked, because I can only take one dog with me to the cafe, and some days only Ava gets walked, because I'm out of time. And you know what? I'm realising that's okay.

Don't get me wrong, I wish Ava and Darcy could loose-lead walk nicely right now so that I could just walk them both together, and I really, really wish Scruffy and Charlie's owner could implement some more strategies so Charlie doesn't have to live timidly in the shadow of his brother. But I'm hoping that the more dogs I work with the more skilled I will become, so that I can achieve more in the same finite amount of time. Until then, though, I'm only human, they're only dogs, and we do the best we can.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Silly Saturday

Just a silly video of Charlie the mini labradoodle to brighten up your Saturday!

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Throwback Thursday: A Piece of Serenity

It's been one of those weeks.

So here's a piece of serenity from almost six months ago; before Ava's knee surgery, before the arrival of Darcypup -- just the two of us on a quiet afternoon.


P.S. Yes, this is the dog who hates water -- think we'll make a water baby of her yet??

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Puppy Play: In Which We See Just How Much Fun Ava and Darcy Have

During Ava's year with me, I've introduced her to a few dogs. They all interacted with her differently, but I wished I knew a stable, playful dog of similar size and strength for her to really play with.

Enter Darcy.

Yes, 9 week old Darcy.

Like the old saying... it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the amount of spunk and willingness to sit on another dog's head that counts!