Honour the Dog You Have

Inka

Inka waiting for me to throw his toy

Inka & I are taking a few weeks off from our classes.

The last time we were in class, without warning Inka went for one of the other dogs.  I’m not being over-dramatic and saying “he gave no warning”, while really he did and I missed it; there really was nothing, and even our very experienced training instructor said there was no warning.  Apparently that’s quite normal in rescued non-working sheepdogs – but that comes under the banner of “I don’t even want to think about it”.

So, we’re going to be seeing a qualified behaviourist in a few weeks, and in the meanwhile Inka will be having an ‘easy life’.  He’ll be starting back on Zylkene again, and we’ll do lots of training, and play lots of games at home.  I also recently treated, I suppose both of us really, to some new grooming tools, and he’s finding having his coat properly worked on a little stressful.  Up until now all I’ve used is a rubber mitt, but that wasn’t putting a dent in his shedding, so I got some Furminator brushes as well as the de-shedding tool.  His coat condition has improved so much since I eliminated corn from his diet, and I started adding salmon oil to his breakfast to support his skin & coat about a month ago, and while on the one hand the new tools are adding to this improvement, they’re also giving me an indication of how much more improvement could be made.

So I’m spending some time each night not only brushing him, but also making sure he enjoys it.  It’s probably a “girl thing” but I really enjoy grooming dogs, it’s relaxing for me, and I like to think it is (or at least it can become) relaxing for the dog too, and it can be a good bond strengthener when done correctly.

After giving Inka a toy to play with for a while a few nights ago, I spent some time grooming him, after which we had a cuddle on the floor.  As he was getting himself into just the right position for a belly rub, I think I began to realise something.  I had a lot of expectations for Inka, many because I’ve owned dogs in the past; more because of my love of training, and learning about training; and even a couple because I came home several times to find Inka on the dining room table!  Regardless of my expectations, I need to let Inka be himself, and I don’t think I was really doing that.  I need to listen to him, but also I need to remember that while he may enjoy certain situations (class, for instance) that he may not feel the same about similar situations (formal assessments, for example).

That’s not to say I’m not going to work to help him to enjoy all aspects of his life, but I’m going to be more aware of his preferences.  If he decides he doesn’t want to cope with crowds of people, then in the summertime when I go to Keswick, Inka can stay home.  I’ll miss him, and I’ll wish he could come, but I’ll also respect his needs and wants, saving taking him to popular tourist locations for quieter periods in the year, when both he and I can enjoy them.

We’ll keep you updated with how Inka & I get on, but to finish this post, I’d like to borrow something from Susan Garret‘s blog, she ends each post by saying what she’s thankful for.  Right now, I’m thankful for friends, their honesty, and openness; and for the advice and support they offer.

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