Secret Diary of a dog trainer

Secret Diary of a dog trainer
    Secret Diary of a dog trainer

    Diary of a dog trainer
    I really need some support and training with my dog,” the email began. “We have had him since he was eight weeks old, but he has started growling at dogs on walks.
    I am so embarrassed...” The email read exactly like every other email I’ve received.  It’s so hard for people to admit there’s an issue, let alone seek help. I always try to include some sympathy in my replies.
    People feel like they are the only one with the problem. No matter how many dogs we see with issues, every owner comes to us feeling isolated. Often, we’re told that they’d been berated about their dog’s issues – perhaps receiving criticism from a family member or from other dog owners on walks. It becomes such an issue that owners join the ‘midnight club’, only taking their dog out for a walk late at night or very early in the morning. Or they sleuth their way through walks each day, avoiding alleyways, narrow paths or sudden corners where they might not be able to see an
    oncoming trigger.
    It’s common for owners to disagree about the friendliness of their dogs on walks, especially if the dogs are not compatible.
    I’ve heard cases of owners being screamed at from passing cars as they struggle to control their dogs. At times, the problem creates such severe issues with neighbors that their very homes are threatened.
    However, problems can often be in the eye of the beholder. What a human being might see as an issue with a dog behavior might, in fact, be down to their own problems, and nothing to do with the dog. Never more so is this relevant than with the larger breeds, where people seem to unwittingly ‘train’ the dog to worry because they expect a big
    dog to be a threat.
    Chico the German Shepherd was the biggest member of his breed I had ever seen. A great example of these magnificent dogs, he was built like a lion. There were no other description for his gigantic mane, enormously bulky coat and huge muzzle that gaped wide as he panted with joy. He whined with anticipation as I walked into the trailer, resting his head on the stair gate as he anticipated my approach. Behind him, a chubby Pug wheezed a hearty bark as he
    danced behind Chico’s back legs.
    Little and large“He’s great with people, see!” said Jeffrey, reaching over the gate to gently push Chico back so that the gate could be opened. The bulky dog dominated the small space, hot breath and fluff surrounding us. Bert the Pug bounced up and down determinedly and I felt his solid body crash into my shins underneath. I gasped – it felt as if his skull had connected with my shin, and I hastily shifted sideways to clear the space. The wall shook slightly with the Pug’s excitement as we stepped into the small kitchenette.
    It was common for people to live in static caravan trailer parks locally. A combination of cheaper housing, a smaller size that was easier to manage, along with the beautiful landscapes made them popular for retired people to live in permanently. Built originally with the intention of becoming weekend homes, the name ‘trailer’ didn’t do justice to many of them, with their extended decking and verandas overlooking the lakes. Surrounding us, boats were moored at each deck.
    Beyond the solid exuberance of little Bert, I could see a beautiful view through the large patio doors. The water stretched away from the home, with only a few terraces overlooking the deck.
    Problem neighbors Jeffrey noticed as I admired the view. He pushed a hand through his grey-flecked hair, looking tired.
    “That’s the one who is complaining,” he gestured, waving a slim hand towards the right-hand window, a full-length
    glazed panel. From that side, another veranda was visible.
    Sturdy chairs and a table, along with a towel draped across the railings indicated that the place was occupied.
    This was the neighbor that had complained to the park management about Chico, he explained. As I had entered, the park security had needed to buzz through to check I was expected.
    Their requirements were strict, and dogs were only permitted in the community if they were quiet and under control.
    As Jeffrey sat, Chico appeared at his side, a slipper clutched gently in his mouth. He proffered it delicately. Jeffrey accepted it with a smile and a pat.
    “They can’t have dogs messing up the place, I totally get that,” Jeffrey mused, “but you saw Chico! He isn’t exactly
    dangerous.”I pulled my notes from the clipboard, flicking through the case history and the exchange of letters. Chico had been named by an anonymous neighbor as being vicious, causing the park managers to require investigation.
    “They won’t visit! Won’t come over and see he’s fine. Look at him,” Jeffrey said, hopelessly.
    He accepted another gifted shoe from the dog’s mouth. His hand fell to the German Shepherd’s fluffy head and petted it, while the giant dog sighed, his amber eyes blinking as they glanced affectionately between us hapless humans.
    Bert the Pug waddled across the room to the side window, where the sun streamed in and lowered his belly to the floor.
    His short legs splayed upwards as his barrelled chest prevented any other posture. There was no doubt who was eating more than his fair portion of dinner, I decided, as I discussed our planned assessment.
    I was to write a report for the park management, describing my views of Chico. It would be taken into account along with the complaint, and a decision would be made. Jeffrey had been advised to set up CCTV, as had his neighbor. They were permitted to film their own property, presenting it as evidence at the forthcoming hearing.
    “I have to ask...” I began, curious about the urgency of the situation when my query about the cause of the complaint was answered. The little Pug shot into the air, screeching and choking as he hurled himself into the pane of glass facing the neighbor’s vista.
    Chico lifted his head in surprise, stretching his enormous body as he padded across to the other dog. The Pug’s rage continued unabated, as he cannoned repeatedly into the hairy legs of the German Shepherd Dog. Chico held a bemused expression. He stood, gazing through the glass.
    I could hear shouting and looked across at Jeffrey.“That’ll be my lovely neighbor,” he drawled. “He just stands there,
    yelling. I am sure he starts Bert off on purpose.” I was dying to peek at the cause of the Pug’s excitement but didn’t want to inflame an already difficult situation. However, I was a little concerned about Bert. He appeared to be in such apoplexy that I feared he’d stop breathing, such was his incessant barking.
    Building tension I quietly called him to me, wafting a treat. His bulging eyes rolled sideways momentarily, then refocused through the glass. I reached a little closer, his initial response emboldening my tactical offer somewhat. Finally, Bert could no longer resist the pungent fishy aroma of the treat I held, and he disengaged, snuffling his way over to me, his breathing still heavy at his recent exuberance.
    Chico, on the other hand, was standing patiently by the glass, disinterested in the food and not really focusing on the outside noise.
    I sat back down in the low chair, and as I did so, Chico appeared in front of me. Another slipper hung in his mouth, and he offered it to me daintily. How could I not accept such a delightful gift? It was so rare for another dog not to join in with any form of barking, that I marveled at Chico’s laid-back demeanor.
    Not for him the emotional rollercoaster experienced by the Berts of this world.
    As I left that day, I noticed a small, bald, muscular man on the neighboring veranda. I tried not to look, but my company logoed van had given the game away.
    “Bloody massive thing!” the man yelled across to me. “Big dogs like that shouldn’t be allowed around people. They are wolves, you know. Wolves!” I smiled at him, not wanting to make things any worse. “Don’t know why you’re smirking, love,” he continued. “You might think you’re all ‘clever clever’ but we will see what the park management says. They’ll chuck him out if I have anything to do with it. I’ve got cameras, you know.”I felt a hot surge of anger. The man’s tan was deep and clearly apparent on his shirtless torso, too-tight shorts, and flip-flops. He clearly enjoyed the outdoor living the park offered. Still, I resolved not to answer. I turned to the back of my van, opening the tailgate to deposit my heavy bag and change my boots. I balanced delicately on the edge of the car, shaking my boot off and felt my sock decide to descend, too. There are few feelings more irritating than a sock sliding down, so I stuck my hand into the boot to retrieve it. I struggled, wiggling my fingers frantically for what seemed like an age of frustration when suddenly, a tanned face came straight into mine. It was the neighbor, his fuming expression glaring threateningly. “You... you PEOPLE!” he began, as I recoiled in shock, one-legged as I was, banging my head on the
    car door.
    At that moment, Jeffrey’s trailer door opened and he peered out. Bert, a fat bullet, fired out from the doorway, screaming furiously in his non-stop bark tone. He catapulted down the steps, leaping across the short driveway and hurled himself at the neighbor.
    “Crack!” the Pug’s head cannoned into his shin. The neighbor clutched at his leg in pain, doubling over. Bert
    launched again.“Smack!” the barrelled dog’s head connected with his forehead. The man straightened, gasping.
    He slid back in sheer amazement at the tiny wrecking ball of fury, tripping backward out of his flip-flops. The man sat down heavily in the dust.
    Bert’s coup de grâce was a four-footed punch into the man’s naked midriff. The gent scrambled backward on all fours like an upside-down spider, his flip-flops abandoned.

    Pride before a fall
    From behind the van, I saw the enormous Chico padding down the steps, Jeffrey behind him, calling wildly to Bert.
    Bert ignored him, dancing around the hapless fallen fellow.
    Chico continued his approach and the neighbor’s face turned into a rictus of horror at the oncoming lion-dog. I figured that this was the end. There was no way the park management wouldn’t get to hear of this.
    His mouth opened in a silent scream and his hands raised to ward off the massive dog, who at this point was displaying as
    much aggression as a Yorkshire pudding.
    Chico casually stalked across the gap, scooped up a flip-flop, and plonked it into the man’s face. There was a pause. The chap wordlessly took it, whereupon Chico fetched the next shoe and again, pushed it delicately at him.
    Once again, the man accepted the gift. The GSD turned, his nonchalant air continuing as he plodded back up the steps and into the trailer once more, followed by a harassed-looking Jeffrey and a highly frustrated Bert.
    And above us all, the CCTV camera light continued to flash.
    @Posted by
    writer and blogger, founder of Our Dogs Are Loved .

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