Lessons Learned.

As we are approaching week 4 of dog ownership I though a little update on how Smartie was adjusting to life with us.

For a rescue, I would imagine that depending on what history you are aware of you should introduce everything slowly and as if it was a new experience. In truth, he may have done everything before but not with you so I guess in that respect it is a new experience.

Smartie has long elegant nails and I thought a visit to the groomer might be a good way of letting him enjoy being pampered and also getting used to someone other than us touching his paws. I made the appointment and arrived on time. I bundled my little ball of energy out the car, grappling with his lead. As I swung a leg behind me to close the car door Smartie headed off with me floating behind directionless like a paper kite. The groomer met us at the door looking rather bemused as Smartie had a sniff at her, bounced at her legs once or twice and then cocked his head from side to side working out what direction he should head in. To the horse noise, the dog noise or the children squeal noise?

Just as I had gathered a modicum of decorum a puppy spaniel with the floppiest ears came racing from around the corner to meet the ‘wild dog’. I allowed the dogs to have immediate eye contact. (WRONG!) I allowed him to rear up on his hind legs. (WRONG) and then I reverted back to paper kite mode whilst a little chase ensued. (Yes I know! WRONG!)

Grooming lady was looking as though she was about to explode. I don’t think she knew quite where to begin. Thankfully she started at the dogs’ feet and explained to me how his nails were fine. If, when the dogs paw is firmly on the ground the nails don’t touch the floor then the nails are ok. She did compliment him on his long elegant toes and nails but that was where the good comments ended.

I was about to turn tail and begin the drag back to the car when a firm hand gripped mine and removed the dog leader from my hand.

I learned lots of things very quickly as the ‘matter of fact’ manner with which grooming lady had decided to use, began her speech. It seemed to me that she had so many ‘corrections’ to tell me that the best way was to say them quickly.

She informed me that as a relatively new dog owner having not had a dog for some 11 years, that I was an idiot for choosing to adopt a ‘problem’ dog. She told me that Staffies and Staffie crossbreeds where probably the highest maintenance dog on the planet. I was told that aggression could come to fore at anytime. She told me I was allowing him to be the pack leader and with that came heavy responsibility of protecting us all. This is when aggression could be shown. I understood this. The harness I was using was enabling him to pull; the leader I was using was giving him too much freedom and also allowing him to lead me where he wanted to go, again, giving way to him being pack leader. I was told that until he could walk by my side at my pace he wasn’t ready to be off the lead. She also told me that‘re-call’ was a pipe dream with a dog so easily distracted and so obviously in charge.

I sucked in my breath, had a talk to myself in my head and decided that punching the grooming lady squarely on the nose was not an option. She was deeply bereft of people skills…. The image of the nose punch went away and I replaced my facial expression with a one of acceptance. She was a dog person…. She wasn’t going to pander to my needs and treat me with kid gloves. I needed the short, sharp shock tactics.

At this point she walked up the street… with my dog. I could hear echoes of “No, no, no, no” and “Sit, Sit, Sit” and then “Stay, Stay, Stay” ….
This went on for some time. The stop/start movement, the noises, the pokes in the ribs…
“Walk on!”
I sighed as I watched the amazing transformation in what seemed like 18 hours but what was actually 50 minutes. She had him sitting and walking, staying and stopping on command.
She brought back a rather bewildered and shell-shocked looking Smartie and handed me his leash. As she told me a few other tips Smartie sat at my feet and didn’t make a move. I was no longer a directionless paper kite!
Dogs need boundaries; they look to us for direction and instruction. It is our job to make the dog feel protected and not to burden them with responsibility they could never cope with.

I offered to pay this lady for her time, it was the least I could do. She refused but she did offer her services to me later this week. She asked me to bring him over one evening and she would work with me again, this time allowing me to be the pack leader. I accepted.

When I arrived home I began to tell the extraordinary tale to my husband who responded quickly by grabbing the dog and lead and a pot full of tasty treats and went off into the garden to try out all of the new commands. Smartie excelled. The short session was brought to a close with a game of fetch.

On Sunday I had arranged to go to the RSPCA spring fair where we would be seeing all of Smarties former carers including his foster mum. I was a little anxious wondering how he would behave but showing a united front, we all got ready to go. Smartie was ready with his new half choke-chain collar and short leather leader. Packs of tasty snacks where handed out to all of the adults and we were on our way….

If I had dreamed the outcome of this outing it would have been acceptable to me, however it was not a dream. Smartie sat nicely; he was calm and happy as we chatted to the kennel carers. He wagged his tail and accepted treats. No jumping, no running off, no barking. Was this really the same Smartie that was a bundle of excited, uncontrollable energy only the day before? He had a little jump when he saw his former forster carer but we had to allow him that. She cried and cuddled him and thanked us for loving him.

This is just the beginning.

11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. pianolearner
    Apr 30, 2013 @ 10:43:39

    Lovely story. Good luck with him!


  2. daffy
    Apr 30, 2013 @ 10:49:29

    Thank you Piano learner, its going to be a slow grower this one but I will keep the updates coming. He is a delight to have. I could have opted for a easier older dog happy to lay by the fireside (which I don’t have!) but I’m keen for a challenge and with his history of abuse, he just needs a chance. I was possibly late in realising that I would need to learn as much as he does. We will see how it goes.


  3. Flighty
    Apr 30, 2013 @ 17:57:38

    A most enjoyable post. I have this image of Smartie sitting looking up at two women and thinking what the heck!
    It’s good to see that you listened to her and let her do what she did as it has clearly benefited both you and Smartie.
    It’ll go on just fine I’m sure. xx


  4. daffy
    Apr 30, 2013 @ 18:16:57

    its certainly getting better. He is desperate to please and to learn so it makes him easy to teach. David is on late shift this week so its training for 30-40 minutes every morning and then play fetch for the same. Oh Flighty I had to listen, she was trying to help and I needed help. I told my dad she was a difficult person to like and he said that many locals agreed with me… I replied that he liked her and he simply said, “She likes dogs… thats good enough for me”. He is a wise old owl sometimes. xx


  5. nikkipolani
    May 01, 2013 @ 06:05:01

    Yes, I was thinking it was wise of you to dismiss the messenger’s demeanor and accept her message — clearly it’s already benefited you and Smartie! Hey, he’s no dummy.


  6. daffy
    May 01, 2013 @ 08:20:38

    It has indeed Nikki. More tales to follow!


  7. Jenny
    May 02, 2013 @ 20:57:11

    I’m with your dad Tracey. If they like dogs, that’s all I need to know.


  8. Glo
    Jun 01, 2013 @ 21:43:09

    Hello Smartie and welcome to blogland. I’m sure you are enjoying your new family and now that you aren’t waving Daffy around like a flag or kite, I know you’ll be loved even more. Looking forward to more Smartie adventures :)


  9. Philip
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 14:24:05

    Well I am glad you are mastering your dog. I am not sure I would be as polite at the dog whisperers aggressive intervention. Our mutual friend, Jenny, who occasionally looks after Heidi and loves her, never fails to gently tells me, whenever I see her, something I do wrong as a dog owner. Most of it good advice but it always makes me feel inadequate. I know I could do better but I am not unhappy with my relationship with Heidi. We are compatible in many ways. She sleeps a lot (the benefit of a big dog). She is good with other dogs and animals except pigs, which I no longer have. She wants to be near me almost all the time.. I know I should walk her more, have a run for her, hoover her (this English expression is for your benefit) clip her nails regularly, etc. I am open to suggestions for improvement but only if it is gently delivered.


  10. daffy
    Aug 08, 2013 @ 14:52:06

    Hello Philip, I have only just seen this comment… I am so behind in the blog world but always try and make up for it is fits & starts or short attention spurts! haha
    Smartie is doing so well… we have had him for coming up to five months and you would think we had had him forever. We take him to a behaviourist every Saturday. Its not too expensive and the man we see is a no-nonsense kind of guy. He loves dogs but he relates everything back to wolves which is, I suppose the right thing to do. He has spent time with us and trained us so well we now have Smartie walking brilliantly, good recall and amazing obedience. In return all we have to do is love him and keep him healthy and happy. I would never proclaim to be a better pet owner than the next man or woman but, if ever I was asked for my opinion or for advice I would offer this….
    Dogs love us because we feed them, they respond to us because we are pretty much their only way to survive. Of course they could run off and see how much better it is but I am told dogs don’t have emotions or common sense so we should never expect them to act or think rationally. I believe that if a dog is housed, kept warm and clean, fed and healthy, then as a dog owner we have done good! However, if like me, you want to go further and let the big lump sleep on your bed at night and cuddle him like a baby…well if they don’t object I guess that is ok.
    If a dog has healthy teeth and gums that will help save a multitude of other possible problems. My dads dogs teeth were in a shocking state and so we took her to the vet for the dentistry work. It transpired that all of her stomach and bowel ailments were caused through her bad teeth. All the rubbish collecting on them was causing bacteria and then she was swallowing it. Dogs nails can cause them a problem too as they can grow quite quickly. Smarties grow like flowers in the sunshine! If they get too long she gets pain in his feet and also he struggles to walk on our hard floors and especially footpaths. I trim his nails myself… I am very careful not to go too short as the veins in the nails can cause a lot of pain if cut. I find it best to take off a tiny amount daily over two or three days. That way they stay a more manageable length for longer and make sure the dog doesn’t have any discomfort. Other than that, I would say always have your pet spayed or neutered… over here there is a definite problem with over breeding, causing the rescues to be filled to bursting with cats and dogs with no homes. At least if my boy is ‘done’ I know that if he ever got out of the house he couldn’t get any young lady dog into trouble!! ;) and add to the over-population problem. Your Heidi is gorgeous and I know from what Jenny has said in the past, she is adorable. As a big girl I doubt she would need lots and lots of exercise but I would definitely try and take her for at least two good twenty minute walks a day. My dad uses Scruff as his way of making sure he gets out and gets his exercise. At 77 he is still fairly spritely and takes Scruff for at least four good walks a day but that is because that suits him.
    I am sure the two of you rub along together nicely and I doubt you would want to see her in discomfort. Like I said, I am no expert… I have learned over years of pet owning and also from always asking for advice if ever I am unsure. I am lucky though as we have an excellent vets practice close by and it’s not too expensive in comparison to some! (Some scare me half to death with their prices!)
    I wouldn’t be without my Smartie now… he’s my everything. Funny how they get under your skin isn’t it! xx


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