Teaching People

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Dog Training

Happy Healthy Dogs

. . . . . . work better

Now before you start slinging off at me & throwing this down in disgust, a happy dog is not one with a permanent grin, it is one whose eyes are bright, clear & confident. When I say confident, that means it should be comfortable looking you in the eye, not walking around looking at the ground & everywhere else because it is so insecure, or terrified to do anything else. If the poor thing does, not only has it got a problem but so do you, because, more than likely it’s confused when given commands, gets things wrong or runs out (after stock) in a half hearted manner. A happy, confident dog is far more likely to be enthusiastic in its work & will go “that extra mile” when the going gets tough. If it is insecure is that due to its nature or how you treat it?

There are also other things to look for that indicate a happy/healthy dog; the coat is a good guide, it should be thick, shiny & feel relatively soft to touch, although there are some dogs that it is very difficult to get a shine on their coat & it may be due to the colour e.g. blue/grey. If it feels/looks dry & coarse it may indicate that a worm tablet is needed or that the diet is inadequate, or perhaps the kennels are so dirty & disgusting it can’t possibly be shiny. But if you have a very old dog, that lives in a nice clean kennel, fleas & worms taken care of & an adequate diet, then it is probably an age thing, like us, the hair thins, goes grey & is no longer “the crowning glory”.

One other thing whilst we are on “the happy dog”, when you let it off in the morning there should be a spring in its step, the tail should be carried out/up & there should be a genuine “great, a new day” attitude. Even at the busiest time of the year, providing the pads aren’t worn off their feet, dogs should start the day refreshed, if they don’t & it is not physical perhaps you need to look at nutrition, possible health problems or even another dog to ease the work load.

This in itself is an article but I will ask you to, in the mean time, not only look at your dog’s condition but also run your hands over it. Sometimes, due to the dogs coat it is hard to ascertain what is underneath that hairy mass. On a couple of occasions I have been totally horrified when I have handled someone’s long coated dog. The owner has obviously never patted the poor animal & has been oblivious to the walking skeleton underneath the round fluffy exterior. If a dog is in peak condition, you will get peak performance & it doesn’t take a science degree to work that one out. For those of you who are unsure on this, a good gauge is…

If it has a short coat, not only is it shiny but you should be able to just see a rising of the hair on the hips (not bones sticking through) & a gentle, occasional outline of the ribs as it walks (not a - count every one, all of the time, prison camp look). On the other hand if your dog has a long, dense coat you should be able to just feel the spine, hips & ribs. Please note the just, meaning slightly, barely, subtly. It is as important that your dog is neither too fat nor too thin, both of which make working stock hard & tiring for it.

It seems silly to have to say something so obvious but I have seen some terrible water containers over the years & at this time of the year it is even more important for your dogs to have plenty of good clean water available. They have been out working in the heat, often without water for long periods of time & they need to re hydrate their bodies. And please, even if it means going out of your way, allow your dogs to drink regularly throughout the day. I have seen dogs, working hard in the summer sun not getting a drink for hours because the “boss” doesn’t think about it or he doesn’t think they need it. They do!