Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Ellie and Barney

Ellie and Barney II
Barney, a young black Labrador, is the latest dog to join us for a period of home-boarding, while his owners go snow-boarding in Norway. He is with us for eleven nights.

As each dog has come to stay with us, Ellie has got better and better at accepting them. Her favourite dog was Mia, but we learned that she sadly and unexpectedly passed away from a tumour last week; a great shame for all concerned. She really was the nicest dog we have home-boarded to date.

Ellie took to Mia because she was such a sedate dog, and so it's quite a surprise to see how well she is getting along with Barney. I say it's a surprise because she's not the world's biggest fan of bouncy dogs, and Barney, being a young Labrador, is just that. When we first began home-boarding, Ellie had to swiftly claim everything as hers if another dog walked anywhere near it. These days, she's really improved, particularly with Barney, it must be said. As each dog passes through, Ellie seems to become more and more relaxed. She's even given in to Barney's charms and played chase with him each day on the walks. If you know Ellie, you'll know how rare this is. She's not one for such frivolous displays of canine behaviour!

We have quite a few home-boarding dogs coming through, with some bookings up to September. I love when we get repeat bookings from past customers as that tells me we're getting things right. One dog, a small pug called Monty has been with us five times and will soon be getting his own parking space!

I love the home-boarding, really love it. Aside from the fact that I prefer and interact far better with dogs than I do people, I've learned so much about canine behaviour through home-boarding. There are so many things that we misinterpet from our dogs, particularly in terms of that dreaded word 'dominance', and aggression. I am of the opinion these days that canine aggression usually happens as a result of the humans not allowing the natural subtle flow of canine signals to happen. For example, two dogs approach each other with heckles raised and tails in the air. Many people see that as the start of an act of aggression and interrupt it. If they would only have faith in the dog's ability to complete the process, they might see that what they thought was aggression is little more than canine curiosity and greeting. In this respect, I shall never stop learning and never stop enjoying the learning process.

In terms of training, I've saved myself another chore and taught Ellie to go and collect the phone from the hallway when it rings and bring it to me. It took her two days to learn it properly, and now we're at the repeat stage so that it becomes a solidly reliable behaviour. I'm hoping to get a video together soon now that the weather is starting to improve.

On a final and quite unrelated note, I'm experimenting with Twitter. I've started using it to let Barney's owners know how things are going. If you're interested in learning just how dull my daily life is, you can read snippets from it on my Twitter.

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