December 2019 Newsletter

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Park Life…
(A little rant about my dog walking experiences and owner responsibilities)

By:  Ross McCarthy MA FCFBA MBIPDT MGoDT (MT) AMBPSCA

Not all dogs are born equal.

Of course, it should go without saying that pedigree dog breeds all have innate predisposed behaviours – greater or lesser within each individual of that breed or type. For example, the Border Collie’s inherent drive to chase, the Beagles desire to scent and the Greyhounds need for speed.

Before obtaining a dog, research should have of course be conducted online, visiting breeders and owners of that breed, attending dog shows, reading books etc – not simply getting a dog based on aesthetics or some faded childhood memories of past pets that your parents did all the care for.

I live in London and walk in public parks and as you can imagine I have my share of unruly dogs running over to me and my dogs with the usual owner excuses being bellowed at me ‘It’s Ok, he’s friendly’, ‘she just wants to play’ ‘she’s only a puppy’, ‘he has selective hearing’ and all manner of other nonsense that makes ones blood pressure rise.

I’m constantly amazed that people with a tiny Yorkshire Terrier have no problem with it running over to my four dogs ‘just to play’ or because ‘he thinks he’s an Alsatian!’

All of this is very irresponsible.

However, there is another level of irresponsible that I have encountered lately – those people who decide not to opt for the trendy Cockapoo, Cavapoo and any other ‘on trend’ little pet dog that they can let run amok – those that go and get a Cane Corso, Rhodesian Ridgebeack, Japanese Akita, Boerboel, American Bulldog and such and think that they are the same as other dog breeds – like a Cocker Spaniel or a Shih-Tzu. Yes, all of those breeds have arrived in my local City parks over the past couple of years.

All dogs need obedience training – the same as all children need educating – whether you send them to school or home educate – it is the same. To fail that is grossly negligent. However, when you get a dog belonging to the ‘power’ group of dogs – including Bull Terriers, Dogue De Bordeaux, Russian Black Terrier, European Dobermans and a host of others, your responsibility to train that dog, in my view increases tenfold (that is not to excuse those of you with poorly trained dogs of other breeds and types).

Sexual Status

I keep my male dogs entire for life and neuter bitches as late as possible. My extensive research leads me to do that for the health and longevity of my dogs – whom I love and wish to keep for as long as I possibly can and in the best of health and wellness.

You should not walk a bitch when she is in season. Period.  (a seemingly accurate time to quote our American friends).

Male dogs when left entire are more likely to spar up to other entire males – to me that is a natural and normal behaviour (more prevalent in some breeds and some individuals than others) than it is to go and play and frolic with other entire dogs. There are exceptions to each and every rule – I have an entire male Rottweiler aged 9 years who will play all day with other entire dogs and is used as a stooge dog for testing dog aggression in the work that I do. However, most entire male Rottweilers are not so inclined.

If you decide, for whatever reason to keep your male entire – your responsibility for training that dog is increased again. Allowing your entire male Chihuahua to run over to an entire male Patterdale, Schnauzer or Kerry Blue Terrier could be simply disastrous (regardless of your dog being friendly and wanting to play).

I have a man in my local park who walks his dogs on a Sunday – no idea what he does the rest of the time, but periodically on a Sunday, I am walking my dogs and all of a sudden two entire male black Labradors will ‘fly’ over to me and my dogs – sometimes the owner is in sight, sometimes he is quite literally nowhere to be seen. Their intention is friendly, but considering I walk four dogs – I now have six dogs to contend with alone. Two entire male Rottweilers, two over-excited entire male Labradors, a female Rottweiler and my 16 year old female Pomeranian. To date, all has been fine – due to the training of my dogs and therefore my ability to verbally control them and then physically control the Labradors when they try to mount my dogs.

I have had verbal exchanges with the dog owner of course; which makes for a less than pleasant walk.

Also in my local park, is the man with the entire male Ridgeback with zero recall, the dog aggressive Akita that trails a lead when running free chasing a Frisbee or attacking other dogs, the lady with the entire male Boxer that runs over to all dogs “to play” – regardless of how far away they may be – ignoring the ‘Bruno, come here’ ‘Bruno, get here now’ requests.

Pack Drive 

My dogs are all friendly with other dogs, BUT they are Rottweilers – incredibly powerful both physically and psychologically and do not suffer fools. One could argue that me taking three Rottweilers to the park is irresponsible; perhaps it is – it is certainly not what we would advise on our dog safety workshops, but my dogs will all recall regardless of what is going on – they will not run over to other dogs or people, will down/sit and stay when instructed. However, the Rottweilers have a strong drive to guard their pack and therefore if the Akita runs over to me and attacks one of my dogs – likely the three Rottweilers would protect each other – not an image to consider for too long. That is not the case with many breeds – my German Shepherd Dogs that I owned, wouldn’t  get involved if  there was an altercation and nor would my Pomeranian (she’d still be snuffling about looking for rabbit poo to eat whilst I was being mugged!)

It’s Not as Easy as you Think!

A couple of years ago, I was walking my sixteen year old German Shepherd Dog (who was naturally  a little frail) along with a 12 week old German Shepherd Puppy (who was destined for a life in Dubai) when I saw a Chocolate Labrador hurtling towards me – luckily – I was able to intercept the Labrador en-route. I grabbed his collar and held him (amongst a vile cacophony of vocalisations from said dog) and awaited the owner to come and get him. Neither my delicate elderly dog nor my sensitive impressionable young puppy would have benefited from this crazy over excited dog invading their space; the owner berated me for holding on to her dog and creating a ‘problem’ where there was not one – he only wanted to play (again!!) The chunky Labrador would have either injured my old dog or freaked out the puppy; possibly damaging her temperament for life. When I told the owner my opinion, she said “See how you get on with training ‘that one’…it’s not as easy as you think”.

Naturally that hit a chord, I did think about giving her my business card, but after some of the descriptive words I had used in our conversation, I decided not to.

I did however signpost her to real help.

If your car fails, breaks down or is problematic – you go to a Garage for expert advice and to get it ‘fixed’ (you don’t google it or ask advice on Facebook or similar). That is sensible. If your dog will not recall (or whatever) go and see an expert and get the right help.

There is no intrinsic desire for dogs to ‘come’ when called – nor will most dogs return to call, ignoring inherent or learnt drives for a bit of chicken or a manky bit of kibble from their daily food allowance.

When it Works

Every single day, I meet a man in my local park with a Weimaraner. His dog ‘hates’ my dogs. It’s not a problem.  We see each other coming – he will recall his dog and I recall mine. We put them on leads; we then stand a moan about life and the weather, but traffic mostly (he is a London Cabbie) – we then walk on and release the dogs off lead again and say ‘see you tomorrow…have a good day!’

Just like we have Skoda’s, Ferrari’s, Landover’s, Mercedes, Hondas and a whole variation within (dependant on size, performance, budget, experience) – we have the same with dogs – we have working dogs, pet dogs, performance dogs and the unknown element (because they are animals).  One should choose a dog breed like you choose a car – practically thinking about suitability, lifestyle, environment, your experience and an array of other factors.

For that matter, we also have the same with dog trainers and behaviour practitioners…we have those that talk a strange ideology that fails most dogs, those who mean well, but can’t help and those who are really passionate about dogs, their training and their people and who will work with you tirelessly to achieve your aims even with the most hard core of dogs. One size does not fit all and if one trainer cannot help – go and get another.

There was recently a sad case on social media whereby a dachshund was killed by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Said dog was on lead and the Dachshund ran over off lead. I do not know the details and therefore cannot comment, but it highlights the needs for proper, effective recall training regardless of if your dog is friendly.

If you are unable to recall your dog from other dogs – go and seek help and stop ruining other people’s walks and putting them in awkward and dangerous positions.