Dog walking isn’t only essential for your dog’s welfare, but in my opinion, it’s essential for my welfare too.
As the entire world seems to be on lock-down, human interaction is being kept to a minimum. I’m dreadfully missing loved ones I normally see on a daily basis, which makes dealing with anxiety surrounding the enormity of this COVID-19 pandemic evermore difficult.
However, there’s a ray of sunlight amidst this global crisis – and I’m not just referring to the glorious weather we’re fortunate to be experiencing in the UK right now – and that is my gorgeous dog.
Cai has been part of my family for five years now, since he was the cutest puppy on the planet (I’m biased I know; but just look at him!).
He has been by my side through the some of the toughest times of my life; he has also been there for me to make the best times even greater.
Although he was initially destined to become a working sheepdog – to help us manage sheep at the farm we keep our horses at – that wasn’t meant to be. So, my sheep-phobic Welsh Collie cross Border Collie not only became my best friend, but actually gave me reason to keep getting out of bed no-matter how horrific life seemed; because he was not going to let me avoid walking him! I love my Cai infinitely, he truly is wonderful.
Don’t get me wrong, there are trying times too – for instance, he recently pooped on two Nurses and a Vet who tried to clip his claws (oops!). He has the most piercing bark, which he uses continuously if there are dogs on the TV (real or animated, he doesn’t discriminate). And he has the same relationship with food as any overweight human; despite my best efforts to manage a balanced diet for him, turns out one dental chew a day was enough to push his weight over the edge. Cai ended up having to go onto a strict diet and exercise regime for his own good. We’re still working on that weight loss, though 26kg down from 31kg is a fantastic feat!
Dog walking provides unlimited possibilities for adventure. Cai loves walking in the field across the road from our house every day; he enjoys a stroll around the local park; now he’s decided horses aren’t scary, he takes great delight in walking around the countryside surrounding the farm; he’s fond of forestry walks; and he adores the beach.
However, one aspect of walking Cai does not like is going out in the rain. He has a wardrobe’s worth of coats, to keep him motivated to walk in rainy or cold weather.
Whilst out walking your dog, I feel it’s important to reiterate that not all dogs are confident or friendly when approached by other dogs. Cai can become very nervous when unfamiliar dogs approach him; though if he’s chasing a ball, his focus is solely on the game of fetch – in his five years so far, he’s had three instances of loose dogs run full-force into him; each time they both rolled onto the grass, then Cai jumped up as if nothing had happened and continued to chase after his ball, leaving the other dog a little bemused. When walking with his best doggy friends Kally and Milo, Cai does get protective whilst on the lead. So far he’s only ever growled at other dogs who approach them – he’s fine off his lead – but being a collie, I am aware their behaviour can be unpredictable, so I don’t take any risks. If he’s on his own and another dog approaches him whilst he’s on his lead, he will cower and hide under my legs. Therefore, I walk him in a bright yellow lead with the word ‘NERVOUS’ in bold letters across it. That seems to have helped considerably, since fellow dog-walkers realise he’s a nervous dog and tend to put their own dog back on a lead until they’ve passed us 🙂
It goes without saying really that with dog walking there’s a lot to be mindful of. Not only being mindful of other dog owners – I’ll put Cai back on his lead immediately if another dog appears in the vicinity – but also ensuring you maintain responsibility of cleaning up after your dog. I carry doggy poop bags everywhere, and I mean everywhere. I’ve been out to posh restaurants for meals before, and accidentally dropped doggy poop bags as I’ve fumbled for something in my bag. I find them in all my coat pockets, and even once discovered some in the hood of one of my coats. There really is no excuse not to pick up after your dog – thankfully, most people do.
If you’ve been inspired to consider adding a furry friend to your family, always seek expert advice from a Vet or qualified Canine Behaviourist before embarking on the wonderfully rewarding, yet at-times challenging, adventure of caring for your own dog – responsibility akin to having a child.
It’s advisable to re-home a rescue dog if you can. Had Cai not been intended for a working life, I would searched dog re-homing centres for the new member of my family. I’ve worked in a Veterinary Hospital and have seen first-hand the dangers of puppy farming, as well as the disgusting trend of purchasing a dog breed for fashionable purposes, or to make money from indiscriminately breeding the current ‘in’ breed – owners not realising the consequences of their actions (namely brachycephalic dog breeds with shortened noses, who tend to have a plethora of health issues derived from breeding defects, such as breathing issues). If you feel a specific breed of dog would best suit your family, then please do get in touch with reputable, certified breeders – make sure you see the mother, if not also the father, of whatever puppy you’re hoping to buy.
Just to get you started, here’s a quick checklist before searching for your forever dog:
- Ensure your garden is completely secure, and large enough to incorporate space for your dog to run around/relax in the sunshine, as well as ‘do their business’ outside (also worth deciding on the best system for disposing of dog waste every day – dogs do produce a lot of it, especially as puppies!).
- Check your house is ‘dog-proof’, meaning there’s no food or potential toxic substances within reach of your dog (some dogs do learn to open cupboards, so be careful!)
- Be sure you’re able to set aside at least 1 hour a day to exercise your dog (depending on their breed, certain breeds require far more exercise than others), as well as all the time required to train and bond with your dog (there are plenty of qualified, insured dog-walkers out there to help exercise your dog if you’re stuck in work during daylight hours, especially during winter months).
- Have somewhere safe to keep everything your dog needs, such as their food/water bowls and bed; along with places to store their food, toys, bedding etc.
- Ensure they’ll have somewhere to access a constant supply of fresh, clean water and decide where and how you’d like their feeding regime set out (for example, some dogs enjoy trickle-feeding throughout the day, whereas others suit set feeding times best – always ask a Vet for advice if you’re unsure).
- Be aware that your dog will need vaccinations at the same time every year, they’ll need flea treatment every month and – depending on the type of worming treatment – standard wormer every 3 months.
- Also, make sure your car is ‘dog safe’ – whether that’s purchasing a crash-safe cage for your boot, or investing in a harness and seat-belt attachment (again, you can always seek advice from a pet professional about all of this).
- Last but not least, get your dog insured! I cannot stress enough the importance of getting your dog insured. Obviously none of us dare even think about the worst happening, though should it, insurance will help you financially so you only have to focus on dealing emotionally with whatever the situation is.
Whether you’re already fortunate enough to enjoy the companionship of an amazing dog, or you’re thinking about adding a dog to your family, or even if you just like to look at cute dog pictures, Cai and I hope you’ve enjoyed a short break from the panic-driven hysteria encompassing us all at the moment 🙂