“Everything I do is about allowing animals to be themselves” – Interview with dog behaviourist Sam Redmond

Sam Redmond is a qualified and experienced animal behaviourist based in Nantwich, Cheshire. Within her work (and at home with her own pets), Sam practices ‘Free Will Teaching’, a concept which I was introduced to by author Kathie Gregory in her book ‘A Puppy Called Wolfie’. Sam kindly agreed to tell us more about her work and explain how Free Will Teaching can be used successfully in a training environment.

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Sam at work

Hi Sam! Tell us about yourself and how you became an animal behaviourist.

“When my kids were small, I wanted to do a job that I could work around them. I had two young Labradors (litter brothers), and it didn’t work out. We felt the dogs couldn’t live together, and they were unhappy, so one was rehomed. I knew nothing about dogs at this stage and wanted to know why it hadn’t worked, so I embarked on the COAPE [Centre of Applied Pet Ethology] Advanced Diploma. Ten years later, I am running a busy practice and continually expanding my knowledge. Over the years I have been involved in many arms of the pet world, having worked with dogs, cats and horses. I have worked my way through the Talking Dogs scentwork programme, given Gundog work and working trials a go, and have been an approved trainer of assistance dogs with DOG A.I.D. I’ve also written various articles for national magazines, featured on the radio and spoken at several conferences. If that wasn’t enough, we have owned and competed event horses and still own a little Shetland Pony.”

Tell us about your other pets.

“Currently, I own Koda, an eight year old wolf lookalike, and Tipsy, a three year old Jack Russell. Both dogs have taught me a huge amount. The terrier has been the biggest challenge, as you would expect!”

Your website shows that you have a keen interest in Wolfdogs – Can you tell us a little more about that?

“After owning a Northern Inuit, I began to work with breeders of wolf lookalike dogs, on puppy rearing programmes. After some time, it was clear that the gene pool for the Northern Inuit was small, and problems were emerging. As a result, my associates moved away from the Northern Inuit and into the Wolfdog realm, which gave me ample opportunity to learn more. I have worked closely with some Wolfdog breeders and ran regular training days for new puppy owners, providing behaviour and training support. Spending time with these animals has been an amazing experience and a privilege.”

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Wolfdog puppies – Who could resist?

What services do you offer as a canine behaviourist?

“I offer one-to-one behaviour sessions, along with puppy and teenage packages and home schooling for dogs.”

Can you explain what home schooling involves?

“It’s a simple concept really. Once I have established with the client how I work, we then arrange for me to go to their home while they are at work, as often as they like, and I train their dog for them. I feed back to them via videos and spreadsheets so that they can follow up the work I do when they are at home. It works especially well for puppies as I work with them and their owners right the way through the puppy and teenage stage, guiding and advising as we go. Because I have a close relationship with the dogs, I know where they’re at, so it makes for a good partnership.”

How did you come across the concept of Free Will Teaching?

“Kathie Gregory (the founder of Free Will Teaching) and I both trained with COAPE and have known each other a long time. I knew about the work that she was doing and it appealed to me.”

How do you incorporate Free Will Teaching into your work?

“I don’t incorporate Free Will Teaching into my work, it is my work. FWT is a concept, a way of life which works independently of traditional training ideas because it’s effectively Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, i.e. working on the mind. I no longer use traditional training methods. For instance, my terrier who has been raised on FWT does not know the commands “down”, “stay”, “wait” or “leave it”, because I don’t need a specific movement. I just need her to manage herself according to the situation. If we look at the traditional “wait” as an example, I have not taught her this because I have given her other options to choose from. If she goes ahead on a walk and I’m not sure about it, I’ll say “no further” and she’ll stop there and potter about until I’ve caught up. If I move around the house, she’ll come with me or she won’t. It’s always her choice. If there’s food around which isn’t her’s, I say, “It’s not your’s, it’s mine”. If there’s a gate ahead I’ll ask her if she wants to go to the gate and meet me there – she might go on ahead or she might choose to walk with me.

She has learnt to manage her impulses, desires and frustrations by herself as I talk her through things. Nothing gets suppressed, and this is the essence of Free Will Teaching. I listen to and read what she is saying and work with it. If I ask her to “leave it” when she spots a squirrel, as many of us have been taught to do, I am not achieving anything. The desire to chase is still there, it’s not going away – she’s telling me she really needs to chase the squirrel because she is programmed to do so, and if I stop her, all I am doing is suppressing the natural instinct. Instead, I give her safe opportunities to engage in such behaviour, all the while teaching her to restrain and manage that instinct. Now when she does see a squirrel she doesn’t zone out, which means I can make suggestions to her and she listens. As she has learnt to restrain herself it’s not a big deal for her when I can’t give her the freedom to do this.

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“Psst… I know where the squirrel’s hiding!”

I recently worked with a client who had a rescue dog with dog-to-dog behavioural issues. We taught the dog that when she sees another dog, she has choices; she can cross the road, sniff, sit or stand, watch, or turn around. All choices were given language to accompany them. She now actively chooses and tells her owner if she wants to cross the road to avoid the other dog. This is what FWT is about; it’s reading and listening to what your dog is telling you he/she needs to do, and going with it, providing you have taught the dog to manage emotions and desires. A young Malamute I work with has been taught to calm himself when his arousal levels escalate. We attached the word “calm” to this emotional state and taught him how to bring himself down. My dog Koda has learned all this too, later in life.

Everything I do with animals is about allowing them to be themselves, and manage themselves within the boundaries set out.”

It has recently been announced that shock collars are to be banned in England. Are there any other changes you’d like to see in the dog training world, and do you think the industry should be regulated?

“Absolutely. The industry needs an overhaul – we need change everywhere. I’d like to see prong collars and choke chains removed too. I’d also like to see dog grooming become more flexible so that dogs aren’t tied up and forced to accept the process, and large daycare facilities and dog walkers come under regulation with a cap on the number of dogs allowed and staff embarking on studies in dog behaviour and communication.”

What is your number one piece of advice for anyone who is considering taking on a dog with potential behavioural issues?

“Read A Puppy Called Wolfie by Kathie Gregory. It will be very helpful and enlightening. Also work with a qualified behavioural specialist referred by your vet if you need further help or advice.”

 

For more information about Sam’s work, visit www.dogtrainingnantwich.co.uk 

Sam can be contacted via email at dogtrainingnantwich@gmail.com

Or search on Facebook for ‘Sam Redmond Dog Training & Animal Behaviour’

All photographs reproduced with kind permission.

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Worzel Goes for A Walk! Will You Come Too? (Hubble & Hattie, 2018)

I first came across Worzel, the rescue dog turned Literary Lurcher, when I stumbled upon his first book a few years ago. Filled with vet visit dramas, canine pals, intolerant cats and other (often chaotic) aspects of family life with multiple pets, ‘The Quite Very Actual Adventures of Worzel Wooface‘ was a hit, not least because it was written from the perspective of Worzel himself, including his own hilarious version of the English language which soon became his ‘voice’ (see my review of the first book here).

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Since the publication of his debut novel, Worzel has been a very busy ‘boykin’. Not only did he win a Hero Award at DogFest in 2016, and took up the writing of a regular column in his local newspaper, but he also managed to find the time (in between eating a lot of shoes) to publish a further two books for adults. His first children’s book, ‘Worzel Says Hello!‘, was released in 2017 as the first book in the Hubble & Hattie Kids! range.

Worzel’s mum Catherine Pickles (who gives Worzel a little bit of help with the books), was keen to use the platform to educate the next generation of dog owners, with the aim of helping children and dogs to have “a great time together throughout their lives”. ‘Worzel Goes for a Walk! Will You Come Too?’, Worzel’s second book for small humans, tells the story of Worzel’s walk on the beach, where he meets lots of other dogs with lots of different personalities. It features more beautiful illustrations from Chantal Bourgonje which accurately reflect both canine body language and Worzel’s own cheeky character.

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With a foreword from Ian Dunbar, founder of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the book includes notes for parents and some further information about Worzel, while teaching children about responsible dog ownership within the story. Poo bags are on the list of things to take on the walk, while “bag it and bin it… Let’s keep the beach clean for everyone” reinforces the message. There’s also an emphasis on the various temperaments and requirements of other dogs who may be encountered, including the need to stop Worzel from rushing over to those who may not want to play.

Education surrounding safe interactions with dogs and responsible ownership is desperately needed for children of all ages. However, Worzel’s short stories go beyond the simple do’s and don’t’s – they foster respect for our four-legged family members.

And for this reason alone, more children’s books from our favourite Literary Lurcher are very much welcomed.

 

‘Worzel Goes for A Walk! Will You Come Too?’ – Catherine Pickles

ISBN: 978-1-787112-92-6

Hubble & Hattie, September 2018

Available from www.hubbleandhattie.com for £6.99 plus P&P.

For more information about Worzel, please click here.

To purchase Worzel’s other books, please see the Hubble & Hattie website.

Free Will Teaching: A New Approach to Dog Training Outlined in ‘A Puppy Called Wolfie’

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“Different approaches to teaching result in a mind that is more versatile, more open, and with the capacity to learn more” – Kathie Gregory

 

Puppies. Innocently adorable, until they do something we don’t approve of, like chewing our best shoes or nabbing Yorkshire puddings off our plates. At this point we have to scold them and make sure they know that they’re in the metaphorical (or literal) doghouse… right? Wrong, according to the principles of Kathie Gregory’s ‘Free Will Teaching‘, as explained in her latest book, ‘A Puppy Called Wolfie‘.

Kathie is a qualified animal behaviourist, presenter and author, who lives on a farm in North Devon with her husband. She developed the concept of Free Will Teaching (FWT) after spending her career specialising in cognitive awareness and the emotional mind. FWT does not use any rigid methods, instead allowing both teacher and learner to work at their own pace. It uses techniques that are appropriate for each situation and individual, and involves an emphasis on emotional awareness, language and the creation of independence. It also means that the animal is able to quite literally use their own free will – yes, Wolfie the Irish Wolfhound puppy, whom the book is (mostly) about, was displaying such behaviour when he decided that he rather fancied a sample of their Sunday roast!

Delve deeper into the book and it becomes apparent that FWT is not as controversial as it may initially sound. In fact, the concept makes perfect sense. For instance, it is noted that we should not give chase when a dog has run off with something he shouldn’t; offering an alternative or dropping treats nearby to distract is a much better method in order to prevent resource guarding, and not going over to the dog straight away (unless the object presents a danger) teaches him that he doesn’t need to destroy or swallow it quickly in anticipation of our approach. Kathie’s description of how Wolfie becomes accustomed to car journeys is also helpful, emphasising the need to focus on how the dog copes with each trip, rather than simply increasing the distance travelled each time. There are, however, a few elements of FWT which may not be practical for every individual; simply telling a Labrador to “hold on” before he devours the remainder of your dinner might not be totally effective, and while it is undoubtedly impressive that Wolfie “asks rather than takes”, not every dog has the capacity to do this around such high-value food.

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Wolfie teaching new puppy Remy a thing or two. Photograph copyright Kathie Gregory and reproduced with kind permission

FWT incorporates a mix of elements from various human psychotherapy approaches, with each of these outlined in the book, and consists of four stages: Subliminal, Shaping, Active, and Partnership. Kathie expertly guides the reader through how FWT operates on a day to day basis by using her own experiences with Wolfie as an example, and throughout the 12 chapters we follow Wolfie’s remarkable transformation from a tiny newborn to a gentle giant at 18 months old. Short notes from ‘Wolfie’s Diary’ are included to help chart his progress, and the beautiful photographs speak for themselves. Charming diagrams in the form of cartoon Wolfies, courtesy of popular company ‘Mighty Dog Graphics‘, aid the reader’s understanding, and additional ‘behaviour tips’ and ‘teaching tips‘ also help to condense learning.

The first chapter will be of particular interest to those who are searching for a new puppy, including useful advice and Kathie’s own shortlist of breeds. Questions such as ‘What characteristics would I find the most difficult to manage?’ are presented along with helpful prompts regarding lifestyle and suitability – essential reading for any prospective dog owner. The remainder of the book also contains vital information, from how to manage the infamous puppy ‘mad half hour’ (particularly important if the puppy in question weighs 40kg at 21 weeks), to recall, impulse control and leaving the puppy on his own for the first time. There is also a lengthy section on hormones and how these can influence behaviour at certain stages of your puppy’s development. Towards the end of the book we meet Remy the French Barbet, and Kathie includes practical guidance for introducing a second dog to the household.

Overall, ‘A Puppy Called Wolfie‘ is a beautiful and well-written book which should be of interest to hardcore dog lovers (Wolfhound enthusiasts will particularly enjoy it), those on the lookout for a new addition to the family, or those with an interest in behaviour principles and training, with its in-depth descriptions of the canine nervous system, hormone cycles and the socialisation period. Although Wolfhound-sized buckets of patience are required to embrace the concept of Free Will Teaching completely – it takes a special type of person to be able to refrain from exclaiming ‘NO!’ when catching a dog in the act of destroying your sofa – I have no doubt that this would ultimately pay off if your puppy develops into an adult dog who is as well balanced and confident as Wolfie.

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Lovely Wolfie – Photograph reproduced with kind permission of Kathie Gregory

 

‘A Puppy Called Wolfie – A Passion for Free Will Teaching’ by Kathie Gregory

ISBN: 978-1-787110-70-0

Hubble & Hattie, 2018

Available from www.hubbleandhattie.com for £14.99 plus P&P.

Stick up for Staffies – But help end BSL for good too

 

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The Staffordshire Bull Terrier, officially recognised by the Kennel Club in 1935 and described by the organisation as being a “wonderful family pet”, is one of the most popular breeds of dog in Britain. Long before our streets were flooded with French Bulldogs, the ever-lovable Staffie was there, providing fun and frolics for those lucky enough to share their home with one of these dogs. And despite the current trend of owning any crossbreed whose name ends in ‘-poo’, the Staffie is still a favourite choice for many.

So perhaps it is not surprising that over 160,000 UK residents have signed an online petition calling on the Government to protect the Staffordshire Bull Terrier from the horrors that is breed specific legislation (or Section 1 of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991). The petition was created in response to the submission made by controversial animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) to the EFRA inquiry into the Dangerous Dogs Act. Within their submission, PETA stated that not only did they believe that breed specific legislation should remain in place in the UK, but Staffies and American Bulldogs should be added to the legislation too, causing mass outrage and disbelief.

Many were shocked that an organisation set up to allegedly protect animals could support such a discriminatory and infamously knee-jerk law, but this is not PETA’s debut performance when it comes to supporting BSL. PETA do not oppose breed-specific laws, on the basis that such legislation ‘protects’ Pit Bull types from abuse. Could such a large organisation truly be naïve enough to believe that dog abusers would think twice about their actions simply because a dog features on a list of banned breeds? Despite what PETA believe, BSL does not prevent dog breeding either, otherwise there would not be more Pit Bull types in the country now than ever before. However, they didn’t stop there. Within their submission, PETA detailed various dog attacks, using sensationalist language which wouldn’t look out of place in a tabloid newspaper, and also quoted a report which compares Pit Bull types to Leopards.

The online petition rejecting PETA’s suggestion of adding Staffies to the Dangerous Dogs Act is due to be debated in parliament tomorrow, Monday 16th July. However, since PETA have no authority to call for such a ban on Staffies or American Bulldogs (and such a suggestion was unlikely to ever have been taken seriously by the Government, who maintain that it has no plans to add Staffies to the list of banned breeds), is it possible that this was a futile petition which has detracted much-needed attention from the inquiry itself? We can’t blame those who signed the petition – indeed, I was one of them, signing in the heat of the moment, at the peak of my rage towards PETA, while choosing to share details on the Dangerous Dogs Act inquiry instead. No, we can’t blame the thousands of dog lovers sticking up for Staffies. We just need them to be as willing to help the Staffie’s taller cousins (including the poor American Bulldog – where was their mention in the petition?).

According to the ‘publications’ page for the inquiry, just over 400 written submissions were received in total, from both major organisations and ordinary members of the public. Although this number may not truly reflect the amount of submissions received, it is clearly a very poor show in comparison to the masses of signatures on the Staffie petition. Perhaps if Staffies were mentioned in the inquiry more people would have been interested in making a submission. Or perhaps it is just simply easier to enter your name and email address for a petition (the inquiry on the other hand involved following a set of strict guidelines). As with so many causes, sadly it seems that unless we can ‘do our bit’ within the space of one minute and then return to watching the football, mindlessly scrolling through Twitter or making a cup of tea, it’s too much of an effort.

Luckily, we now have a petition too. Recently set up by Born Innocent in an attempt to get breed specific legislation as a whole debated in Parliament, this petition is for all dogs and is the only official Government petition asking for an end to BSL.

Please sign it and share widely.

Remember that 2018 is the Year of the Dog – not just the Staffie. It’s time to end BSL and introduce breed-neutral laws in order to protect both the public and our dogs; a sentiment which is echoed by so many reputable animal charities, major canine organisations and leading veterinary bodies in the UK.

 

For more details on the EFRA inquiry, including access to published submissions, please click here.

 

Edit 16/07/18 – The debate regarding Staffordshire Bull Terriers which took place this afternoon at Westminster Hall can be viewed here. From the outset of the meeting it was reiterated that the Government had no intention of banning Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and some good points were made about the flaws and welfare implications of breed specific legislation, with the majority of speakers supporting a change in the law in order to prevent dogs of sound temperament being needlessly euthanised. We await the outcome of the full EFRA inquiry.

Review: ‘Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun!’ (Hubble & Hattie, 2018)

Thanks to the indisputable growth of Instagram and Snapchat, together with our unwavering devotion to pursuing all things cute and canine (check out the ‘good boy’ hashtag if you don’t believe me – long gone are the days where pooch internet fame was reserved for the Shiba Inu alone), it’s difficult to pick up your smartphone without drowning in waves of Pugs in pirate outfits or Bulldogs in bikinis (yep, I just did a quick Google image search and was not disappointed). And whilst owners who dress up their dogs undoubtedly love their pets, it isn’t exactly… natural. Worse still are the supposedly ‘adorable’ photographs floating around of dogs being squeezed or sat on by the irritating smaller humans of the household, the whites of their eyes and stiffened posture apparently only visible to the experts who are left shaking their heads in disbelief that Mrs Bloggs yet again let her toddler climb on to the Bedlington’s back for a quick snap (of the photographic kind).

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And so the latest publication from ethical publishers Hubble and Hattie, ‘Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun!’, makes a refreshing and welcome change. The book contains 97 pages of full colour photographs (plus an extra ‘Meet the Cast’ chapter, taking it up to 112 pages in total), and there’s not an uncomfortable animal in sight. Images of Chihuahuas in teacups have been replaced with wonderful pictures which demonstrate the natural beauty and fun-loving spirit of our canine companions.

Author Cheryl Murphy, a professional photographer, was keen to capture this spirit, which is so often suppressed – how often do we truly let our dogs behave like dogs? Moreover, how often do we actually stop and appreciate the wonders of their body language and the incredible variation between breeds? Murphy states that the book is intended to be “a true celebration of what it is to be a dog“, with her images providing a window into those brief moments which are so often missed by distracted owners having a quick gossip with their fellow walkers, oblivious to the complex non-verbal communication happening right before their eyes.

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The photographs are organised into six chapters, such as ‘Making a Splash’, which includes some impressive water shots, and ‘On the Ball’ (quite a few of the dogs featured within the book are apparently ball crazy). Another feel-good aspect of the book is the obvious absence of overweight Labs – these are all clearly active animals who appear to be very happy not to have to settle for the couch potato lifestyle. Some readers will possibly be able to relate to the ‘messy’ pictures (why are the lightest of Golden Retrievers always the most determined to immerse themselves in giant muddy puddles?).

Each photograph is accompanied by an amusing caption. Admittedly, some are funnier than others, but who needs incredible jokes when the pictures speak for themselves? The ‘Meet the Cast’ chapter at the end of the book is a lovely touch, and it’s good to see that some of the stars are rescue dogs. The ‘cast’ descriptions are hilarious and likely to sound familiar to anyone owned by a dog; Margot the five month old Cockapoo had her owners trained in under three months and Charlie the Golden Retriever is a master underwear thief, while Diva the wolf hybrid clearly lives up to her name and generously allows her owner to occupy a corner of the bed.

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Being a Retriever owner for the last twenty years, it’s perhaps not surprising that Murphy’s book features a lot of Goldies. There’s definitely a distinct lack of bull breeds, unless you include little Cleo the Frenchie, but this is not intended to be a replacement for the Kennel Club’s Illustrated Breed Standards. My only true criticism is that the book is simply not long enough. The concept would lend itself well to a lengthier version with each chapter dedicated to an individual breed or even group; maybe showing the French Bulldog (now the UK’s most popular breed) as anything other than the perfectly pampered pooch would be the ideal antidote to any hashtag or celebrity craze. They are still dogs, after all.

In short, canine fans will enjoy ‘Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun!’, a book which achieves its aim of showcasing dogs behaving naturally, free of clothes and cues, and having great fun in the process.

And you can give me that over a Bulldog in a bikini any day.

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‘Dogs Just Wanna Have Fun! – Picture This: Dogs at Play’ by Cheryl Murphy

Hubble & Hattie, June 2018

ISBN: 978-1-787112-01-8

This book can be purchased directly from the publisher, Hubble & Hattie, at www.hubbleandhattie.com for £12.99 plus P&P.

Canine Aggression (Hubble & Hattie, 2018) – Book Review

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“Living with a dog who doesn’t like their own kind can be isolating.”

Anyone who has ever struggled with a dog exhibiting aggressive behavioural tendencies towards other dogs will be able to identify and empathise with the plight of author Tracey McLennan.

Canine Aggression – Rehabilitating an Aggressive Dog with Kindness and Compassion‘ tells the story of Calgacus, a brindle Bullmastiff named after a Celtic warrior. Calgacus shows signs of behavioural problems from an early age, with first-time dog owner Tracey finding herself lumbered with a deer-chasing, slobbery, over-enthusiastic and Spaniel-hating ‘bully’. Although at times it would undoubtedly have been very tempting to throw in the drool-soaked towel, instead Tracey and Calgacus embark on a learning journey together; but not before she has to replace two chewed sofas and four destroyed armchairs.

Things take a more sinister turn when Calgacus violently attacks a friend’s dog. This causes much anxiety for Tracey, who struggles to take Calgacus on walks and stops attending his usual training classes due to the apparent stress it causes him. After contacting a dog behaviourist for advice and receiving no response, Tracey attends a different training class on the recommendation of a veterinary nurse at her practice. Again, this is not a good outcome for the pair, with a rather bizarre reaction from the instructor after Calgacus slobbers on his trousers.

After initially dismissing the concept of ‘Tellington TTouch‘ after seeing it on a television programme, Tracey later revisits the method (consisting of a number of exercises, including massaging the dog’s skin in circular movements and agitating the joints between the vertebrae), in order to help Calgacus overcome his problems. Tracey believes that TTouch made a major difference to Calcagus’ behaviour, so much so that she trained to become a TTouch practitioner herself. She also begins to recognise calming signals in Calgacus when he encounters another dog, such as sniffing the grass, turning away his head or deliberately moving away, using the clicker method to reward such behaviour. Eventually, Calgacus arrives at the stage where he is ready to be reunited with Monty, the dog he so viciously attacked. The reunion is a success and Calgacus continues to make enormous progress.

“With some dogs, the behaviour that is so problematic for people is an attempt at communication…”

It is emphasised throughout the book that Tracey struggled not only with Calgacus’ behavioural problems, but also with sourcing useful and accurate information about how to deal with these problems. She notes that the UK dog training industry is unregulated, meaning that it is possible to end up with an instructor who may actually exacerbate the issue due to a lack of knowledge of how the canine brain works, and touches on the concept of ‘dominance theory’ which is now widely regarded as outdated and inaccurate. What is refreshing about the book is that Tracey is not ashamed to admit that she herself often got it wrong due to her own lack of experience (and would not recommend a Bullmastiff for a first-time dog owner). However, there is no questioning Tracey’s commitment to saving Calgacus from euthanasia, and it is surely a testament to their bond that Calgacus was transformed from a troubled Bullmastiff who could not be in the same room as other dogs to one who happily performed Heelwork to Music routines and passed with an A grade in Gundog-style retrieving.

‘Canine Aggression’ will be of interest to those dealing with aggressive or difficult dogs, whether that be in a rescue environment or at home. However, as Tracey points out, no two dogs are the same, so the path she chose with Calgacus may not be effective for every case – although the book does contain more general training information useful for all dog owners, such as an overview of operant conditioning and its potential pitfalls. Arguably, the book may have benefited from an alternative main title, such as ‘Saving Calgacus’, as its current name suggests that the book is a type of textbook resource or training guide, which it is not (although, as we learn, training manuals aren’t always helpful), and it is worth noting that Calgacus is not aggressive towards people. While there are some lovely photographs on the back cover, I would have liked to have seen some images of Calgacus and Tracey’s other dogs within the book itself in order to help break up the 35 short sections in which it is divided.

Overall, the book offers a touching and often very personal insight into Tracey and Calgacus’ journey, which prompts the reader to consider our often unrealistic expectations of dogs, the importance of treating them as individuals, and appreciate that helping a troubled animal sometimes requires a little creativity.

 

Book Information

‘Canine Aggression – Rehabilitating an Aggressive Dog with Kindness and Compassion’ (May 2018) 

ISBN: 978-1-787110-79-3 

This book can be purchased directly from the publisher, Hubble & Hattie, at www.hubbleandhattie.com for £14.99 plus P&P.

 

To read my review of another Hubble & Hattie publication, ‘Babies, Kids and Dogs’, please click here.

Crufts 2018 – Arena Guide

March is almost upon us, which can only mean one thing…

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Photo copyright Forthglade Natural Pet Food

…CRUFTS!

Over 150,000 dog lovers from across the globe are expected to descend on the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) across the four day period from Thursday 8th to Sunday 11th, enjoying all the highlights of the world’s biggest dog show. As regular visitors to Crufts will know, the event is so much more beyond the battle for the Best in Show title, with more than 550 trade stands, known as the “ultimate doggy shopping experience”, the Discover Dogs area with over 200 pedigree breeds to meet, and a variety of competitions covering everything from agility to obedience – all in addition to witnessing thousands of dogs competing for the ultimate title in the pedigree world.

Holding over 6,000 visitors, the arena (currently known as the ‘Genting Arena’) has been used at Crufts for displays, competitions, the all-important best of group judging and, of course, Best in Show, since 2007. The arena programme is a firm favourite with Crufts fans, and is now enjoyed by viewers worldwide since the introduction of the livestream.

So whether you’re gearing up for your first Crufts visit or are planning to settle down with a cup of tea and a friendly mutt on your lap to catch the agility live on YouTube, check out this guide to the unmissable arena action at Crufts 2018.

 

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Photo copyright Power Paws Agility

Crufts Classic 

Agility – Throughout the Show. Rescue Dog Agility – Day 2, 13:35

First demonstrated at Crufts in 1978, this fast-paced obstacle course has been a favourite of the Crufts visitor for 40 years. Watch top agility dogs of all shapes and sizes compete for first place as they face hurdles, tunnels, weaving poles, see-saws and more.

During last year’s rescue dog agility competition, Olly the Jack Russell caused mayhem when he decided that he fancied a different take on the course. The video of the Blue Cross terrier ‘going rogue’ in the arena went viral on the internet and has acquired over 11 million views. With Olly set to return to Crufts this year, there may well be even more canine carnage in store! Either way, be sure to join in with the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Crufts agility.

 

 

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Flyball excitement. Photo courtesy of Yours.co.uk

All-Action Highlight

Flyball – Throughout the Show. Final – Day 4, 13:20

Originating in California in the 1970s and making its debut at Crufts in 1990, flyball is arguably the most exciting dog sport on the planet. It involves two teams racing each other down a set of hurdles before triggering a pedal on the ‘flyball box’, releasing a tennis ball which the dog must carry back over the hurdles to rejoin his teammates. In typical relay fashion, each dog has to cross the finish line before the next dog can be released.

Nothing compares to the atmosphere of the arena during the flyball final. It’s loud, it’s fast, the crowd go wild, and invariably there are numerous teams sporting brightly dyed hair and pawprints on their faces. Not to be missed.

 

 

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Photo copyright Southern Golden Retriever Display Team

If you prefer a more relaxed pace…

Southern Golden Retriever Display Team – Day 3, 12:30; Day 4, 13:05

A must for Retriever fanatics, the Southern Golden Retriever Display Team first strutted their stuff at Crufts 2004 and have returned year after year with their heartwarming combination of obedience and music. Consisting of 16 Goldies, including rescues, the team trains throughout the year, whatever the weather. From their flawless arena displays it’s clear that their hard work always pays off. The team perform at shows up and down the country, including charity events, and have even appeared on Blue Peter.

 

 

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Mary Ray, a Crufts favourite. Photo courtesy of Zimbio

Fun-Filled Favourite

Heelwork to Music – Throughout the Show

In 1992, long before the advent of the TV talent show which introduced millions of viewers to the wonders of doggy dancing, Mary Ray, the UK’s leading expert on Heelwork to Music (HTM), performed at Crufts for the first time. Since then she has returned to the show each year, and her amazing routines are now an established part of the build up to Best in Show.

Throughout Crufts, visitors can experience the delights of HTM in the arena, including the finals of the ‘freestyle’ and freestyle international competitions. Expect incredible training, moving soundtracks and just the right amount of fancy dress.

 

 

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West Midlands Police Dogs at Crufts. Photo: @WMPdogs on Twitter

Canine Crime Fighters

West Midlands Police Dog Display – Day 1, 16:00; Day 3, 16:25; Day 4, 13:40

The West Midlands Police Dog Display is always a hit and definitely a personal favourite. As pointed out during last year’s show, this is not a display team – these dogs are the real deal and are all on active duty. It’s also a treat to see the upcoming ‘recruits’ in the form of the pups who are currently being looked after by volunteer puppy walkers.

If you’re visiting Crufts this year, don’t forget to visit the West Midlands Police stand in Hall 3 to get up close and personal with the team and to learn more about their heroic work.

 

 

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The E.A.S.B.T Display Team performing outside Hall 1. Photo courtesy of The Telegraph

Must See

East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier Display Team – Day 1, 11:05

The East Anglian Staffordshire Bull Terrier (E.A.S.B.T.) Display Team are kicking off the first of the arena displays in style during Thursday morning. Showing just how brilliant the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is, previous displays have featured special guests including dog lover Paul O’ Grady. The dogs themselves seem to thoroughly enjoy hurtling round the agility course and entertaining the crowd.

This year’s display includes an appearance from TV dog trainer Sian Ryan along with members of the ‘StreetVet’ team who provide support for homeless pet owners. There’s even rumours of a World Cup theme…

 

 

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Digby, star of ITV’s This Morning. Photo copyright Dogs for Good

Celebrate 30 years of life-changing partnerships

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Formerly known as Dogs for the Disabled, Dogs for Good are celebrating their 30th anniversary this year. The charity was the first in the UK to introduce assistance dogs for children with physical disabilities, and their work has been at the forefront of developing canine assistance for those with additional needs. Viewers of ITV’s This Morning may be familiar with Digby, a Dogs for Good puppy and future assistance dog who appears on the programme every week.

Providing three different services in the form of Assistance Dogs (to support those with physical disabilities and autism), Family Dogs (providing advice on how pet dogs can benefit the whole family) and Community Dogs (training activity and therapy dogs for work in schools and hospitals), Dogs for Good will be eager to showcase their amazing canines at Crufts 2018. For more information on the charity please visit them in Hall 3, stand 55a, or take a look at the Dogs for Good website.

 

 

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Wylie the Nowzad rescue dog – Scruffts winner 2014. Photo courtesy of the Daily Mail

If you’re rooting for the underdog…

Scruffts final – Day 3, 17:55

‘Scruffts’ is a dog show with a difference. Open to crossbreeds only, the grand final, otherwise known as the ‘Scruffts Family Crossbreed Dog of the Year’, takes place in the arena on Saturday evening. Over 1800 dogs have already battled it out for a place at Crufts in heats across the country with just six making it to the final, representing categories including Child’s Best Friend, Golden Oldie and Best Crossbreed Rescue.

Pictured above is Wylie, who won Scruffts back in 2014. Wylie is from Afghanistan and had suffered horrendous injuries before being rescued by the charity Nowzad. Since winning the competition Wylie found fame and there has even been a book published about his bravery.

 

 

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Britain’s Got Talent winner Ashleigh Butler started her career as a member of the Young Kennel Club and still competes at Crufts. Photo courtesy of DogCast Radio

Inspiring the next generation of handlers

International Junior Handling Competition – Day 3. Final – 17:35

For younger Crufts attendees who may be considering becoming involved in ringcraft training, the International Junior Handling competition is the ideal opportunity to be inspired. Young handlers from a variety of countries will be participating in the competition where they will be able to demonstrate not only their handling skills but also their rapport with dogs. Although the handlers will have chosen a breed, they will only have met the individual dog about an hour before entering the ring – a real test of their abilities.

For those aged 6-24 who want to learn more about the dog world, visit the Young Kennel Club (YKC) stand in Hall 3, stand 23.

 

 

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Best in Show winner 2006, Chance the Australian Shepherd. Photo courtesy of The Mirror

 Last but not least…

‘Best of Group’ Judging – Every evening 

If you’re still around in the evening and want to rest your aching feet before heading home, be sure to make your way to the arena to see which dog scoops the title of ‘Best in Group’ and goes through to compete for Best in Show. You could watch it on TV of course, but it’s never quite the same as witnessing the excitement first-hand as your favourite breed catches the eye of the judge.

Day 1: Working Group and Pastoral Group

Day 2: Terrier Group and Hound Group

Day 3: Toy Group and Utility Group

Day 4: Gundog Group (No access to the arena after 2pm without Best in Show tickets)

 

Whether you’re visiting the NEC this year or watching at home, sit back and enjoy the show!

Photocall For The Launch Of Crufts 2013

Photo courtesy of Mother Nature Network

 

Please note:

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of Crufts events; for full arena timetables please see the ‘What’s On’ section of the Crufts website. All times listed are subject to change. There is no access to the arena from 2pm onwards on Sunday (Day 4) for those without Best in Show tickets.

I am not affiliated with Crufts and any opinions expressed here do not reflect those of the Kennel Club. For official event information please see the Crufts website.

All Aboard! Introducing #Dogbus, the missing link for rescue pets

It is a sad fact that many stray dogs who find themselves in local authority shelters, or ‘pounds’, face the prospect of euthanasia simply because they have nowhere to go. Rescue groups work tirelessly to save the dogs at risk of being put to sleep, yet many of these groups face practical issues. One such issue is a lack of transport which would allow them to safely transfer the dogs into rescue placements and foster homes. Here Bark! talks to Kristyn from ‘Dogbus’ who are raising money for a dedicated animal rescue transport service.

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Kristyn and Alan the Jug

Hi, Dogbus! Can you tell us about yourselves?

“Dogbus is based in Coventry, UK and is comprised solely of volunteers who give up their time to help us get the vehicle on the road. The team consists of Monica, Tiffany, Karlyn, Gaynor, Stef, Gail and myself, not forgetting all of our wonderful supporters on Twitter and Facebook, who all strive to help us reach our target and realise the dream of having a dedicated van providing transport for pets in need.”

How did the idea of a ‘dogbus’ come about?

“Our original charity, Ani-aid Rescue and Support, was founded back in 2011 after our attention was brought to a dog, Shilton (below left), who had been abandoned. She was found tied up and had been left with horrendous injuries, and needed an operation to amputate her leg. We managed to raise the funds for the operation, and, once she recovered, we successfully found a forever home for Shilton. Soon after, we were up and running as a small rescue, taking in pets needing help and those who were waiting to be rehomed, all funded through our own pockets. We helped dogs like Toby (below middle), who needed a double hip replacement, and Scarlett (below right), who is deaf, along with many others. Sadly, Ani-aid had to close due to a lack of funds and foster homes. It was such a hard decision to make as so many pets needed our help. We decided that we still had to help the animal rescue world, and realised that transport for rescue dogs was in great demand. And so the #Dogbus fundraiser was born.”

Why is a dedicated rescue transport service needed?

“Running a very small rescue, we were constantly stuck when it came to organising transport for pets, either to our care, to other rescues, or moving them to their forever homes. Strays only have seven days to be claimed in the UK, and if a rescue placement has not been found once this time is up, the animal can face death. ‘Pound pullers’ work so hard to find these animals rescue placements, but often hit problems when it comes to getting the animal to them, and first have to raise the funds to cover the high cost of private pet transport. Sometimes there can be multiple pets needing transport out of shelters, and with no way of moving them, it’s not always a happy outcome. If only there was a vehicle that could do the transport runs and carry all of them at the same time!”

What facilities will the Dogbus include?

“The Dogbus will be a dedicated van with kennels fitted inside, catering for up to six animals at a time. It will be comfortable enough to allow the safe transportation of pets from stray kennels to their rescue placements or on to their new home. Of course, with only one van on the road it will be working very hard! It will be run by our own volunteers or even by the volunteers at the various rescues.”

 

How is the fundraising campaign progressing so far?

“Our target is £12k, which would cover the initial cost of the van, kitting it out, pay for the insurance and get it up and running. To date we have raised £7,670 of this target. Running such a big fundraiser can be a challenge, especially as we currently don’t have a ‘product’ to show, just the idea of what the Dogbus will achieve when it becomes real. We spend a lot of time on social media updating our supporters on what we’re up to and how the fundraising is coming along.”

What sort of activities have you been involved in to raise awareness of the fundraiser?

“We have leaflets that we have been distributing in the local area to help raise the profile of our cause, and of course we have been utilising social media which is a great tool. We have been doing car boot sales and online auctions which are a vital part of our fundraising, with the car boot sales in particular really helping us to spread the message in our community. We are always on the road collecting furniture which we try to auction. We have such fantastic people supporting us and are very grateful to every single person who has donated in one way or another.”

We can’t finish the interview without mentioning the amazing Alan! Tell us more about him and the rest of the ‘doggy team’.

“Alan is the face of the #Dogbus fundraiser and has gained quite a following on Twitter! He is a four-year-old Jug (Jack Russell cross Pug), who even has his own hashtag, #Alanthejug. Along with his teammates Jake, Paddy, Rosie, Giggs, Neo and George, Alan helps to raise awareness of the #Dogbus appeal by sharing his daily activities and adventures. He is full of life and understands what it feels like to be a rescue dog, longing for a forever home. Like us, Alan wants every pet in stray kennels to be able to have the opportunity for a second chance.”

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#Alanthejug posing for a photo.

How can supporters help to raise money for the Dogbus?

“You can help us fundraise for our special cause by contacting us with your ideas. We’re open to anything (within reason!) and if we can help with any function or activity, we are very happy to provide support. We also have leaflets and donation pots which we can send out to you. And of course, we welcome all shares on social media as it helps to spread the word about what we are trying to achieve.”

Will you be recruiting more volunteers?

“Once the Dogbus is on the road, we will require dedicated volunteers to travel to the van and do the transport runs. The runs will be all over the UK so confident drivers are very welcome to apply. We hope to have teams consisting of two people who will do the transport run together, assisting each other with the safe transfer of the animals we help.

If this is something that you feel you could donate your time and energy to, we need you!”

For more information, please visit the Dogbus website.

Follow the progress of #Dogbus by joining them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at @aniaid999

Contact the team via email: info@dogbus.co.uk or telephone: 07943040970

To donate, please visit www.paypal.me/dogbus or alternatively youcaring.com/dogbus

The Year of the Dog?

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The Chinese New Year is approaching in February. Will 2018 be lucky for dogs?

The end of 2017 saw hope on the horizon for animal welfare, particularly with regards to dogs. The Government promised new legislation which would increase sentences for animal cruelty, and, thanks to the success of the ‘Lucy’s Law’ campaign, DEFRA announced plans for tighter regulations surrounding the breeding and sale of puppies. The puppy farming campaign gathered momentum throughout the year before being officially launched in Parliament during December. Although there’s still a long way to go before we can expect to see the end of puppy farming in the UK, the success of Lucy’s Law to date is encouraging for all animal campaigners. And there’s more. In early December, ‘Finn’s Law’ was introduced to Parliament. Officially known as the Service Animals (Offences) Bill, which is set to have its second reading in February, Finn’s Law would make it an offence to attack service animals, including police and assistance dogs. The proposed legislation was inspired by the bravery of police dog Finn, a German Shepherd who suffered life-threatening injuries while on duty with his handler PC Dave Wardell. So far, the bill has received unanimous backing from MPs.

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Retired police dog Finn. Photo courtesy of finnslaw.com

Breed specific legislation took a major blow in 2017, with Montreal overturning their infamous Pit Bull ban which had been introduced a little over one year ago. Repealing BSL proved to be a key issue within Montreal’s election, with the newly elected party, Projet Montréal, promising to change the legislation and removing the anti-Pit Bull measures with immediate effect – a great victory for all end BSL campaigners and a huge relief for the Montreal SPCA and all bull breed owners in the area. Elsewhere, the city of Mansfield, Ohio, removed BSL from their dangerous dog laws, while over 130 people attended a city council meeting in Lakewood to protest against the breed-specific law which was passed in 2008. Back in April, the city of Payette, Idaho, also eradicated BSL, following on from other victories in Payette County and the city of Homedale. The state of Delaware enacted new anti-bias legislation which now prevents any of its municipalities from introducing any breed specific law.

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Photo courtesy of Patrick Stewart’s official Facebook page

Here in the UK, actor and dog lover Sir Patrick Stewart was keen to voice his disdain for the Dangerous Dogs Act after discovering that his foster Pit Bull would not be allowed to enter the country. Stewart was planning on giving Ginger, who was rescued from a US dog fighting ring, a permanent home in England, but instead was forced to make the decision to give her up. Ginger’s story was covered by national newspapers and shared all over social media, including a video published by popular animal page The Dodo, helping to raise awareness of the absurdity of BSL. Stewart is a proud supporter of LA-based dog rescue ‘Wags & Walks’ who rehome a variety of bully breeds and have a very clear anti-BSL stance. Meanwhile, the RSPCA’s #endBSL petition reached 85,000 signatures in September, and a report was published in the Irish Medical Journal which demonstrated how damaging BSL can be with regards to how members of the public perceive danger from individual dogs (with the study also concluding that there were no differences in the type of bite inflicted from legislated and non-legislated breeds).

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Born Innocent’s stand at Discover Dogs 2017

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A friendly visitor to the stand

2017 was certainly very busy for Born Innocent who celebrated their first birthday back in May and worked tirelessly to spread their end-BSL message throughout the year. In addition to attending conferences, meetings with the Law Commission, events in Parliament and various seminars, the team sent representatives to plenty of local dog shows and breed rescue events up and down the country. They even had a stand at Discover Dogs, where they were able to provide advice to owners of bully breeds and educate the public about BSL (with some individuals breaking down in tears when they learnt about the horrors of our current legislation). Another highlight of the year was having their research published in The Times, with mentions of the campaign group also appearing in K9 Magazine and Dogs Today. Professor John Cooper QC, patron of Born Innocent, received an ‘Unsung Hero’ award at DogFest for his dedication to improving animal welfare and for his work at Born Innocent – a proud moment for the whole team.

 So what’s next?

2018 could be the most crucial year yet for ensuring that BSL is consigned to history. Now more than ever we need everyone’s voices to be heard. With the Government finally taking real action for dogs, it seems that there has never been a better time to lobby against breed specific legislation. Born Innocent have no intention of slowing down in 2018 – empowered by their successes of last year, they are ready to continue their work on the front line to end breed specific legislation for good. Less than a week into the new year, the team already announced exciting news of a brand new partnership with the London Fire Brigade, teaming up to assist with their education programme for 13-14 year olds. Born Innocent will be focusing their workshops on dogs, taking a proactive approach to dog bite prevention and raising awareness of dog welfare.

Will this be the year that common sense finally prevails?

With the help of dog lovers, campaigners and celebrity supporters, 2018 truly could turn out to be the ‘Year of the Dog’.

 

 

To stay updated with Born Innocent’s latest news, follow them on Facebook and Twitter @borninnocentdda. Remember to share posts and help spread the word about the failings of breed specific legislation, using the hashtag #endBSL.

For details on how to contact your local MP and DEFRA regarding the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, please see Born Innocent’s guide here.

Helping people and pets: Spotlight on The Cinnamon Trust

I have recently started volunteering with The Cinnamon Trust. The charity was founded in 1985 by Mrs Averil Jarvis, and is the only specialist charity within the UK which assists elderly and terminally ill people with looking after their pets. This may be through providing a temporary foster home for an animal whose owner has had to spend time in hospital, or long-term fostering if an owner has passed away or has moved into residential accommodation which is not pet friendly. The Cinnamon Trust also has an established network of volunteers up and down the country who are on hand to help provide practical help for pet owners on a daily basis. Dog walking for housebound owners, or those who are otherwise unable to give their pet the exercise it needs, is the task most frequently required.

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I had come across The Cinnamon Trust many years ago after visiting their stand at Crufts. The Trust’s logo is instantly recognisable, the most striking part being the bold outline of ‘Cinnamon’, a tribute to Mrs Jarvis’ beloved Corgi whom the charity is named after. For a dog lover like myself, it made perfect sense to do some further research and look into signing up as a volunteer. After looking on the ‘volunteers’ section of the website and noticing that there was a dog local to me which needed walking, I downloaded the Trust’s registration form. The Trust also require three character references to be completed by anyone who has known you for at least five years, including one in a professional capacity. Overall, registration was a quick and easy process, and I was soon sent my volunteering pack, followed by my ID badge.

I was then sent details of my first case via email, and instructed to make contact with the owners to arrange an initial meeting to discuss arrangements, and more importantly to ensure that the dog was comfortable with me. On arrival at the house of Poppy the Jack Russell, it soon became apparent that ringing the doorbell was a futile exercise, as I was given a loud greeting at the door by not one but two enthusiastic dogs – Poppy herself and younger dog Eddie, an adorable Chihuahua and complete fuss-pot. As I was invited into the living room to sit down, any ‘first case’ nerves quickly disappeared as I was given a thorough sniffing by Poppy and an even more thorough licking by Eddie. As Poppy trotted off to fetch a ball which she promptly dropped at my feet, I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief – I’d been approved. Poppy was most indignant that her owner and I were trying to have a sensible conversation, and was insistent on playing ball for the whole time we sat chatting. For a ten year old dog she certainly wasn’t lacking in energy, in typical terrier style. She repeatedly lost her ball underneath the furniture, and perhaps somewhat inevitably I ended up on my hands and knees in the middle of the living room in an attempt to locate the missing toy, with Poppy barking impatiently and an excitable Eddie jumping on and off my back. It was brilliant.

As advised within the volunteering pack, I offered to take Poppy on a short trial walk to make sure that we were both comfortable with each other outside of the house. Although I had some bribery biscuits in my pocket just in case, I needn’t have worried as Poppy was soon trotting along quite happily at my side – in fact, she was raring to go, which came as a surprise to her owner who informed me that Poppy had previously refused to walk with a different person. We exchanged telephone numbers and arranged for Poppy’s first ‘proper’ walk to take place the following Monday.

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Playful Poppy

During our first walk we didn’t venture too far from home in case of any problems, but at least she wasn’t too big to carry back if she did dig her heels in. Although she was a little hesitant at first, with some encouragement and perseverance Poppy quickly became engaged in sniffing and agreed to walk with me down the road. As we passed through the village I noticed the bright red poppies which decorated the street and smiled to myself at how apt it was that I was walking a dog named Poppy around the time of Remembrance Day. Poppy didn’t bat an eyelid as we passed a couple of spaniels, and was almost racing ahead of me as we turned back for home. She certainly looked happy enough when I dropped her off, although that may have been the relief of being back with her ‘mum’, or a result of the dog biscuit she had taken from me, rather than the exercise!

By our third walk we had established an actual route, approximately half an hour’s walk which was plenty for Poppy. Initially she was very hesitant, but with the usual encouraging voice and reassurance she soon settled into the walk. Poppy attracted a lot of elderly admirers who all smiled at her as we passed them by. By the time we reached home I realised I had forgotten my usual biscuit supply, but luckily Poppy’s mum had some to hand and all was forgiven.

Now Poppy is eager to walk and strains at the lead as we first leave the house. A lump rose in my throat when her mum told me that Poppy gets very excited when she tells her that “Grace is coming today”. Even though I’ve only been volunteering for The Cinnamon Trust for a relatively short time, I have already gained so much from the experience and it is heart-warming to know that you’re making a difference to the lives of both dog and owner, even by giving up just an hour a week.  It truly is a ‘win-win-win’ concept, with the pet owner gaining peace of mind, the pet having its welfare needs met, and the volunteer receiving some extra exercise in the process. I would encourage anyone who is also passionate about animals to consider becoming a volunteer for the charity, in order to help The Cinnamon Trust continue to meet its primary objective:

“preserving the treasured relationship between owners and their pets”.

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“Let’s go!”

For more information on The Cinnamon Trust and the services that the charity offers, please click here.

To help The Cinnamon Trust continue with their vital work, please consider becoming a member of the Trust or giving a donation. Details can be found here. Thank you.

Photographs used with the kind permission of Poppy’s family.