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My World of Dogs

By Joyce Stranger
In the last ten years I have found myself called upon increasingly to help with the kind of dogs most professionals suggest ought to be put down, as they have unacceptable habits. I no longer run a dog class just one night a week, but have anything up to twenty dogs, one at a time, throughout the week for lessons, as well as a group lesson.

Training these dogs with problems requires thought, patience, and a well thought out approach if there is to be any success at all. The first step is to send the dog for examination to the vet. Trouble with ears can cause odd behaviour, so can eye problems, and of course any of the various defects such as HD may pose a training problem.

Five dogs, in thirty years, that did not respond to any form of teaching were all put to sleep, and all proved to have brain tumours. It is on these occasions that the old cliché, 'it is the owner, not the dog,' can lead to unnecessary suffering for the animal. Those asked for help diagnose an owner who does not try; they do not recognise the dog is in agony, and needs veterinary help, not training.

The second most important factor is diet. There are some that cause immense problems with very lively dogs. Diet is very individual and what suits one may not suit another.

I have had dogs brought for training with allergies to a number of different foods; liver; gluten; beef; maize. A diet change works wonders, and changes the dog from a hyperactive aggressive animal into one that is much more relaxed and biddable. I have seen this happen now more than forty times.

One needs a case history, but often with rescued dogs they come without any information. The various rescue organisations do not seem to realise that knowing the dog's past may well be of tremendous help in designing a way of overcoming a major problem.

As it is the new owner finds out the hard way that Susie is terrified of children and will bark at them if she sees them; that Sam was re-homed because he chased everything that moved; that Lottie has apparently never been house trained. Ten years ago I would not have believed half the problems that these dogs have exhibited.

Neither would I have believed how satisfying it is to overcome them, and receive a letter a year or two later to say that Ben or Sam or Donnie was best rescued dog and also won a rosette in obedience at an exemption show.

I have had some hundreds of dogs of sixty seven different breeds and many cross breeds, some with a multitude of breeds in their past. Around ten remain memorable because they were excellent dogs with show potential who had ring problems, several of which were caused by judges who handled the dog roughly and frightened it at a first show. It is necessary then to have dozens of people approach and treat it sensibly.

Continued to my world of dogs part 2