Right, lets let out the crazy dog lady side of myself!
I think my boyfriend Jack described my dog obsession the best. In his words, he says he would have always described himself as a dog person, and really thought it was near impossible to like dogs as much as him. Until he met me. Jack says I managed to play down how crazy I am about dogs when we were first getting to know each other and he feels like I gradually let it out bit by bit a few weeks at a time, until he finally realised the full extent. He also says that if I had gone in full throttle on the first date I would have probably scared him off… guilty!
The perfect day out for me is going to Dogs Trust just for a look around, and then for a walk around Roundhay park lake where I can spot more dogs, and then I would get home and watch the Dog Whisperer, Super Vet and For the love of dogs – this is not over kill to me, its a bloody delight! I regularly look at websites advertising dog shows and see which ones I can go to in my area, I booked time off work this year to attend a dog show on certain days featuring the breeds I love the most, aaaaand I genuinely cried when I found out my mum had bought me tickets to Crufts last year but it overlapped with a holiday to Italy that had already been booked.
I look on the Dogs Trust website every day and have a look at what dogs are available to adopt in Leeds – this one I don’t even know why I do it, I’m not looking to adopt a dog and neither is anyone else that I know, but I just like to see what is there… whatever.
My absolute goal is to visit the Dog Psychology Centre owned by dog psychologist Cesar Millan, in Los Angeles. Eventually I would love to own a big kennel facility, half for boarding and half for rehoming, dream big!
Although I am a bit of a crazy dog lady, its the dog training and psychology side I’m most interested in. Yes, when I see a dog I point at it and say what breed it is (it genuinely annoys me when I don’t get it right) but I’m more interested in the breed characteristics than I am how ‘cute’ they are… most of the time.
I’ve read 3 of Cesars books, any articles on him that I can find and watched his program The Dog Whisperer more times than I can count. I am such a believer of his way of training and seeing the way that dogs think – it just makes sense! He puts strong emphasis on the way a dog needs a pack, like what they have in the wild. That pack doesn’t have to be made up of dogs, your family, humans are your dogs pack – but to have a dog that respects every one in the family they need to know that they are the bottom of the pack. That doesn’t mean to say they are the least loved, or that you are mean to them or don’t give them affection, they just need to know that the boundaries you set out for them are gospel and they have to abide by those rules.
If you fail to lay down the boundaries and rules from day one you are bound to end up with a dog that doesn’t respect you, wont listen to your commands and will misbehave and try to push the limit constantly. Why? Because you aren’t being a leader, and if a dog can’t see who the leader is they feel like they have to take that role for the good of the pack. They LIKE having a leader!
We have owned dogs my whole life, but the one dog that really showed that this way works was when we had our Akita, Julie (she was already named when we got her). Julie was the best natured dog we could have ever hoped for, she was so happy all the time and great with everyone – but not so much other dogs. Akita’s are pack animals, they are closely linked back to the wolf, used to living in a tribe and were bred for hunting bears. From this the breed has widely being used as a protection dog, and for literally babysitting the children at home while their parents would go to work!
Anyone who has owned, or owns, a wolf like breed such as a husky, akita or malamute will know that reinforcing who the pack leader or alpha is, is an on going exercise throughout the life of your much loved doggy. Our Akita had a lot of respect for the children in my family, and would never try to steal food from them or push past, but thats because even the smallest children in our family were taught how to behave around the dogs – and she around them. We all made a conscious effort to maintain consistent rules for Julie, little behaviours such as making sure we were the first through a door way, and wouldn’t let her push infront. Walking/running up and down the stairs we would make sure she was slightly behind us, showing we were the leader and she was the follower – she would often try her luck at barging past us showing her dominance, but we would block her, stop, make sure she went back behind us and then continued on our way – correcting the behaviour she tried to show in the moment.
The same went for when anyone would come into the house, it is SO hard not to see your excited dog and give them attention in a high pitched voice and give them cuddles while they jump up at you trying to lick your face, but this is rewarding them for showing excited dominant behavior. When its your own dog you don’t mind it when they do this, but if they think its okay to do this to you, they will think its okay to do it when friends, family, strangers or children come into the house… not good. How many times have you tried to wrestle your excited dog off a stranger who’s come to check the boiler or a friend who has come round to see you? Its embarrassing and a complete frenzy! But it isn’t your dogs fault, they aren’t misbehaving, you have been rewarding them for showing this type of behaviour every time you come home – they don’t understand why they are suddenly being told off for it! What we would do was come into the house, greet the other members of the family first and then the dog last – once they had calmed down. Even if nobody was in the house apart from the dog, we wouldn’t show affection until the dog had calmed down, she would still be responsive and following us around looking happy to see us! But we would hold off giving affection or attention until she had stopped jumping up, barking, or nudging into us. Literally ignoring the unwanted behaviours, not shouting ‘stop’, ‘no’ or ‘down’, as that is still giving attention. This showed her that she would receive a positive reaction when she was in a calm state and not a hyperactive unstable state.
When Jack and I move in together next year, we plan to get a puppy in the spring – and I couldn’t be more excited! We have our hearts set on a Dobermann, and we have already chosen names depending on what sex we get! I say what sex we get because I am determined to choose the puppy based on its personality and energy level rather than markings or sex. Another thing I learnt from one of Cesars books, even from the same little of puppies, they will all have different energy levels and you need to choose one with a similar energy level to you, or slightly less! You need to be honest with yourself, are you a bit of a couch potato, don’t enjoy going on long walks or being too active? If so, then where is the sense in getting a bouncy Collie or an excitable Jack Russel? Your energy levels wont match and this could result in a destructive or frustrated dog, because they could get bored and have no other outlet. Equally if you are an active person who is constantly on the go, likes to go running and going on long hikes, where is the sense in buying a lazy English Bulldog, or a Pug?
Obviously those are breed stereotypes, and within any breed there will be active or lazy individuals. But if you’re choosing the dog you want from a picture you see on the internet and not by observing how the puppies behave in real life, how are you to know what your getting yourself into?
Something Cesar wrote was that often when potential buyers will go view a litter, they choose the puppy that runs straight over and starts climbing all over them, licking their faces and giving ‘affection’. They chose this puppy because they think the puppy already loves them and has chosen them. True? I know I can relate to this as I’ve heard SO many stories describing it happen exactly like that! What has actually happened there is you have chosen the puppy with the highest energy levels. If you’re a highly active family, thats great! However if you’re quite an average or low energy level family – this could be a recipe for disaster. He advised to observe the puppies, there will be some that seem a little less confident, some that are followers but still alert to whats going on, and then some that are leaders ruling the roost!
If the breeder is okay with this, Cesar has quite a good little test to see what energy levels the puppies have. He suggests getting a stool or chair – something low enough for them to jump off without hurting themselves but high enough to question it and not just step down with ease. Place a puppy on the chair, if they immediately jump down with no hesitation you probably have a puppy with high energy levels. If the puppy sits still, maybe cries, or just doesn’t have any desire to move from where its been placed then you have a low energy level puppy. If the puppy looks around the edges, they might sit down or lay down looking over the edge sniffing but then looks to you for direction, trying to work out what they should do next and doesn’t go to jump off straight away then you have a medium energy level puppy – these ones are usually quite easy to train too! When I read this little test Cesar did when he went to choose a puppy for himself it just stuck with me!
Okay, Im going to talk about the dogs in my life on another post and explaining how we came to own them, and for now I’m going to on to my ‘list’.
Its a regular phrase the people in my life hear me saying, ‘thats on my list!’ ‘they’re on my list!’, Basically a few years ago when I was figuring out what my favorite breeds are and characteristics I like, I started making a list. This list is the dog breeds I want to own in my life time. At first there were about 12 breeds on here and I was realizing that the only way I could get through it was to own 2 at a time until I die.. it isn’t very practical to live like that! Dogs become part of your family and it wasn’t right to think that as soon as one passed away I would be straight on to my next on, life doesn’t work like that. My list is now a lot smaller, as I spent time with some of the breeds, learning more about them and realising that some weren’t realistic for my life style.
My current doggy wist list is below, I even have the coat type and names for some of them!
(there are certain breeds I adore, for example the Chow Chow, however I have decided to be strict with my list and I now just admire them without wanting to own one myself… for now)
- Shar Pei – brush coat – called Belle
- German Shepherd – long haired – called Roma or Wilson
- Samoyed – Duchess
- Siberian Husky – Luna
- Boxer – Clarke or Missy
- Dobermann – Beau or Cub
- Rough Collie – Muriel, everyone laughs at me for that name! My grandma on my mothers side was a Rough Collie breeder, which is probably where I get my passion for dogs from, why I want one myself, and why I want her to be called Muriel… if I end up with a girl!
There it is! In all its glory! I’ll talk about why I love these breeds in another post too.
Love, Chelsea xxx
Do you/have you ever owned any of the breeds on my list? Have you read any of Cesar Millan’s books or watched his program? Do you believe in the ‘pack’ mentality? Are you just as crazy about dogs as I am…?