Tuesday, 5 September 2017

In Which Being A Dog-less Dog Lover Has Its Perks

I'll be honest. Being a dog-less dog lover -- much less dog trainer -- sucks.

But sometimes, it provides unique opportunities.

Last night, I went to obedience club, even though I wasn't rostered to teach. The other instructors often bring their own dogs to train when they aren't teaching. But, of course, I don't have a dog of my own. No matter. I could just watch a class -- there's always something to learn about teaching [humans], and training [dogs], by watching others.

But then my colleague Ryan, who was teaching last night, offered to lend me his dog, Barney, so I could participate in a class.

I felt a bit of a thrill as I took Barney and joined the line of students waiting for our instructor. (Not Ryan -- we run many different classes.) Now, I have taken Miss Ava in class before. But this felt different -- probably because I've never worked with Barney before! So I imagine the feeling was one part 'I hope I don't embarrass myself' and two parts 'hey, this is cool'.

What are we waiting for?

It turned out to be a bunch of fun! Barney is a wonderful dog. Very, very laid-back for a young labrador, and he was very responsive to me, despite the fact that, well, he doesn't know me! Even more impressive was the fact that Ryan was about 10m away, walking around and calling instructions to his class. I've seen dogs in class ignore the 50-60 other strange dogs and their handlers working around them, but lose all focus because their other human, fur-sibling or doggy friend are elsewhere on the field.

But Barney, absolutely cool dog that he is, was content just to glance over at Ryan when we took breaks. Loyal, but composed.

I may be lanky, but I'm cooler than James Dean.

It was a great night. I'm grateful to Ryan for lending him to me, to the instructors at club who trust us with crazy shenanigans, and to my classmate who always gives me great training (and teaching) advice every time we see each other.

And of course this dude, who made my night! I'm still grinning.

That's cool, you can pay me in treats.

Being dog-less in the dog industry is a weird place to be. But sometimes, cool things happen.

Monday, 4 September 2017

A Feature: In Which We Discover The Truth of Being a Café Dog

Keisha here to tell you about the life of a café dog.

Sometimes the scratches need some work...

A little to the right.

There we go.

Sometimes people want to give you hugs.

I'm so cute you can't stand it?

There, there, human.

It's a hard life, but someone's gotta do it.

Guess I can make the sacrifice.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

A Report: In Which Keisha Writes Home

You know how when you go on holiday and you arrive at your destination, you send your family a message to let them know that you've arrived safely? (One of the many wonders of technology.)

Well, our latest houseguest would like to check in with her humans from her current vacation spot at Chez Melon.

Hi guys!

It's me, Keisha.

Melon says I should tell you what I did today.

Well, I went for a walk.

Then, I had dinner.

What did I do next?

Better get comfy while I try to remember.

Then... then...


Hey, Keisha? Keisha, it's Melon. Did you have anything more to add? You awake? Keisha? Helllooo?

... hmm. Guess that's all for now, folks!

Sunday, 20 August 2017

A Visit: In Which A Rather Pleasant Houseguest Comes to Stay

Remember Apollo, the Golden Retriever who really knows how to relax?

The lifesaver float is not for him... BOL!

Well, he stayed with us again for about a week and it was great. He's an easy dog.

For one, he really knows how to relax.

No, really -- despite his size he is relaxed in the house, never counter-surfs or paws the humans.

And he's an easy walker, which is great because at ~45kgs (at a guess), he needs all the walks he can get!

Lastly, he carries his bunny everywhere, which is, quite frankly, adorable.

Come back anytime, Apollo. You're always welcome.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Flashback Friday: It's Gatsby Time!

Things are still happening around here, but we've had some technical difficulties and the human has a bit of a cold. So while those updates are still coming, I think it's time for a flashback!

Miss Gatsby is the first dog who ever boarded at my house. She's a beautiful Japanese Spitz and was just a year old when she stayed with me.

She loves the outdoors and I loved to watch her explore the yard.

She's regal

And elegant

But silly

And fun.

Happy Gech!

Most of all, she's sweet and her trust in me when she visited reminded me of what I have to contribute as a trainer and as a companion to the canines.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Mischief Monday: Shhhh...

If I stay vewwy vewwy quiet... no one will notice me under here.


Saturday, 5 August 2017

The Story Progresses: Melon Has A Graduation

A week ago, something cool happened. I became an official instructor at the Hills dog obedience club!

Yes, I've been teaching there for a few months. But I'm a full obedience class instructor now, because I finished the training course. I had a graduation and everything!

Honestly, it felt a little weird because for the other graduates, graduation night was the culmination of a year of study and teaching experience. (Also, most grads being significantly older than me, it was a brave step back into the world of study for them.)

Whereas I joined the course half-way and made up the homework in a short amount of time. Yes, I did the reading and written work. But since that was done alone at the comfort of my desk, it doesn't quite feel the same as a shared adventure with my peers.

But I'm very glad to be part of the team, excited for the opportunity to contribute and very appreciative of the warm welcome. The club has a really dedicated group of volunteers who teach and organise and do everything else that needs to run an organisation -- and all to benefit the community. So I'm proud to be part of the team, and will have lots of teaching adventures to share!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

A Shout-Out: To The Best Clients Ever

You all know how much I love my cavvies, Ava and Darcy. But it's time I told you why.

I had a difficult week last week. My anxiety triggered a depressive episode so I was missing in action for a few days. Then a client's dog dropped off for boarding turned out to be dangerous, so that had to be (carefully) managed.

Today, I pulled up outside Ava and Darcy's house. I heard barking and shook my head, thinking they had heard me. But it wasn't them, just a neighbour's dog. Sorry, Darcy.

Why do they always suspect me?

I went in, and their wagging and jumping began, but I wasn't jumped on. Ava waited quietly and Darcy wriggled and leaned on the fence, but he did very well for a 9-month old.

The pups toileted where they should and amused themselves while I cleaned, ate and took a breather. I was super impressed that they waited for an invitation before availing of my very-accessible lap when I sat in the lawn chair. That is an impressive feat for my sweet-as-pie lapdog friends!

All dogs are bred for a purpose. Ours is to sit in laps.

To further sweeten the deal, it was a good day for Ava's famous #FOMO (fear of missing out). A handful of kibble in her slow-feeder bowl kept her occupied while I took her brother out for a walk. And 'disaster Darcy' truly is a disaster no more as he walked along, politely greeted a lady who wanted to pat him and waited patiently when I 'parked' his lead under my shoe to chat to a neighbour.

It was the best tonic after a difficult week.

Yes, I'm proud of 'my' pups. But the real credit goes to the humans. Christina and Tim have done a marvellous job at raising these two dogs. They are happy, healthy, friendly and fun to be around. This is thanks to the time they've have put into them. Both working full-time with long hours, you wouldn't think they'd be able to put that work into their dogs.

But Ava and Darcy wouldn't be so good just from my training. Tim's driving the dogs to puppy school and the park, Chris getting up early to take the pups out, diligently bathing, brushing and grooming the dogs so they're used to it. Playing training games and buying endless toys. Their super-sensible attitude, trust in my dog training skills, and willingness to try my suggestions (even the weird ones!) are all what made Ava and Darcy who they are.

Don't listen to her, Darcy. We're naturally this cute.

I have the best job because of your two munchkins, guys. They do you great credit.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Selfie Sunday

Hi guys!

Today's Selfie Sunday is brought to you by Dodge the part-time Boston terrier, part-time Batman and full-time cutie.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A Happy Update: In Which Melon and Darcy Work Together

So you guys know that 8-month-old Darcy has a problem with walking on the lead*. Meaning, all he wants to do is rush over to anything and everything, be it animal (human, canine or avian), plant, rock or... plain air, as far as I can tell!

Your point?

And all I, Melon, want to do, is walk down the street without the pup running onto the road, leaping after birds or scrambling into the bush... is that too much to ask?

Hey, what's over there?

I was really beginning to think it was. So much that I suggested his humans buy some equipment to reduce his pulling (like a head halter -- not that I've ever seen a cavalier in one!).

But I also didn't want to let this defeat me. Call myself a dog trainer, and can't even teach a ~5kg puppy to walk on a lead? (Size doesn't directly affect trainability, but it does affect ability to hold onto a pulling dog!) So for the past fortnight or so I've tried to take Darcy for at least a ten to fifteen minute walk every time I visited. Why such a short walk? Because my patience for stopping and starting wears off after about ten minutes!

Seriously. Why are we stopping again?

But it turns out that patience in the form of a little each day has made a difference -- I think. I don't want to speak too soon, but I feel Darcy is finally showing some improvement in the skill of what we trainers call 'loose lead walking'. As in, he can sometimes walk down the road like a 'normal' dog...

Here's a tiny snippet of our walk today.

In the middle you see a glimpse of what our 'walks' have looked like for the past 6 months, but you can see that he can also walk much, much better too!

Walking near people, dogs or his sister are still out of the question, but hey, I'm just thrilled to see progress!

I'm proud of myself as well as this kid and can't wait to see where else we can go -- figuratively and literally!

* lead = Australian for leash, guys. Or "the string", as Darcy called it.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

The Plot Thickens: In Which The Inevitable Turns Out Differently From Expected

As a dogsitter, it was inevitable that someone was going to ask me to watch their cat.

Last week, a friend got in touch. She would be away for a few days, she said, and could I do a couple of house visits for Oliver, the 5 year old ragdoll?

But... he's a cat, I protested.

Oliver the cat stands in the doorway. He has a grey face and ears, white fur and piercing blue eyes.
Hello human.

(Don't get me wrong, I like cats. They're pretty and they're clean. But do they want to go walkies? Do they need me to throw the ball endlessly? No? Then what do they need me for?)

Oliver's human assured me that cats are low-maintenance and that I would be up to the task.
I agreed, and listened to instructions about how to feed the cat and clean the litter box.

As it turned out, Oliver did have other uses for me.

Isn't he a total ham?

When I arrived he would come right up to me and rub against me, headbutt me and jump up practically into my lap when I sat on the couch.

He actually wanted to cuddle!

I was touched that this animal trusted me so implicitly -- it reminded me of Avapup. I guess animals are kind of amazing like that, whether canine, feline or otherwise.

Now -- a question for my readers who are cat people. Is sweet Oliver unusually friendly for a cat, or is the 'aloof' thing just a stereotype? Is your cat this physically affectionate?

And what is the universe trying to tell me by giving me a cat... that acts like a dog?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Guest Post: The Trouble With Walking Humans

Hi guys. Darcy here!

It's nice to be back on the blog.

But the thing is -- I have this problem.

See, my sister said that training humans can be hard. But then, she said that I could do a good job if I was con...sistent? Basically, I have to be responsible and keep doing the same thing over and over until they work out what they're meant to do. That doesn't sound too hard.

But no one told me how hard it is to walk a human!

First, you have to have them on a string, because otherwise they don't follow you.

If it weren't for the string, who knows where the human would end up!

But then once you're outside, they don't seem to know what to do. You know how it is, right? There are people to get pats from, birdies to chase, all kinds of tasty things to grab and sooo many smells to sniff!

Must. Catch. Birdies.


But the human just can't keep up. Like, whenever I leap for a birdie, she always stops before I can catch it! (I guess humans tire easily.) Sometimes she even turns around to go in the other direction... even though I'm all ready to meet the people coming towards us! Sigh.

And that's not all. Whenever there's the good smells, the ones that need a whole minute to appreciate (you know the ones), she can't seem to wait, and tries to hurry me along! Can you believe it? I guess patience is hard for humans.

My sister did tell me humans can be kind of slow, but I dunno how she managed to train them because we pups never go walking together anymore. I dunno why. Maybe because the humans are too clumsy to keep the strings from tangling up when I jump on Ava? They seem to get all flustered every time I tackle her!

Don't get me wrong, humans are fun and I know I have a big responsibility to teach them right. But man, it's hard work!

Help a pup out -- do you have any tips on walking humans?

Darcy xx

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Conflict Arises: In Which Scruffy Finds Himself in Bootcamp and Melon Thinks the Universe Knows More Than It Tells

Why do things never turn out like we expect?

I had Scruffy and Charlie booked in to stay with me for a couple of weeks around Easter. They last had a very smooth stay in January, so we assumed it would be pretty routine.

Left, a cream mini labradoodle stands on the grass. Right, a tricolour wire fox terrier stands on the pavers of the backyard.
Charlie (L) and Scruffy (R)

This was not to be. Just before their owner went away, I was told that I would be left with only Scruffy, as a trainer had advised that the dogs sleep separately. I was puzzled, but confirmed the boarding.

I've mentioned the issues between these two dogs before, and my hopes for some professional intervention. Due to personal reasons, I had made the decision last year to give their owner some referrals rather than take the job myself.

Then, less than a week before Scruffy and Charlie were to be dropped off, the dogs were at a different groomer from usual. While there, Scruffy attacked Charlie and left him with puncture wounds. The vet who treated Charlie referred their owner to a professional dog trainer.

Here's the cool part. The professional trainer, through a stroke of luck, turned out to be one of my teachers from technical college. So while I was thrilled to have Scruffy and Charlie in such good hands, he seemed pleased to hear that I was the dog-sitter who would be watching Scruffy while their human is away.

So while Charlie is resting up at home with a family member, I've got this dude with me.

Scruffy is scruffy looking with fur standing in all directions, one ear up and one ear down. His tongue is out in a relaxed expression, lead dangling out of frame.
Scruffy doing a Sit-Stay at the shops

As instructed by my teacher, Scruffy and I are working on basic obedience, crate training and treating some mild separation anxiety. He whines when left alone, presumably because he's never been truly alone before -- he and Charlie were always kept together.

A post shared by Melon (@melondious) on

It's not 'my job' to train Scruffy, but I am taking this opportunity to learn from my mentor. I'd also like to help out this owner, as long as she is dedicated to putting in the work to keep Scruffy. (If he is not safe around Charlie after this training, I believe Scruffy will be re-homed.)

Fingers crossed for good results!

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Tiger and Cow: A Love Story

As a petsitter / dog trainer, I am in the unique position of having many dogs go through my home / care, rather than just one.

And we know that every dog is different, with their own likes and dislikes, and all sorts of fun personality quirks.

That’s why, in my household, this plant will forever be known as Gatsby’s Bush.

I just loved to look out my window and see her balancing like a sphinx on the round bush (top left).

And then -- there's Tiger’s Cow.

Allow me to present: Tiger and Cow: A Love Story.