A breakthrough…again

As I have repeatedly mentioned, sorry about that, Zephs got a thing for other dogs. Or more precisely doesn’t have a thing for other dogs. Coupled with my anxiety about it all, sometimes I feel like we aren’t making any progress at all. Well, this morning, a friend of mine offered to bring along one of her dogs, who is the same age as Zeph, to go for a walk and to see how they got along. I agreed but was nervous about how Zeph would react and a little worried as my friend is quite far along in her pregnancy. I had the muzzle in the car as a back up. It has been such a long time since Zeph had other dogs around him that were friendly that I had no idea how he was going to react. I was sensible though, we went what can be a busy park, but we went to the quieter end, and I had Zephy on his halti and collar. I didn’t want to start with the muzzle etc incase it made it all worse. Well, since Zeph isn’t used to other dogs approaching us, he went mental at my friend and her dog and she was amazingly calm (just what I need) and stood back with her dog to let me calm Zeph back down. We walked a little bit next to each other to let Zeph see that Louie wasn’t going to attack him, and they calmed down. There is a small dog enclosure at the park in a quiet corner so we headed for that. We decided they were calm enough to let them off lead and almost instantly they went for each other. It was a disaster! or so I thought. I just went between them and grabbed Zeph and pushed Louie away and again we calmed them both and they were rewarded once they had sat down and relaxed. Here’s what happened next:

My friend said, just let them go and move away. I had a few tennis balls so Zeph played fetch. The two dogs although, not playing directly with each other, managed a full hour in each others company and ran about:

They even lay down near each other and I also managed to get them to sit next to each other for treats. I haven’t stopped smiling about it. A wonderful experience considering I had my doubts particularly considering how they started out. I don’t want anyone thinking I just threw them in together and left it at that. I was always close enough to break up any potential fights, there was a lot of positive reinforcement (a whole box of sausages) and both dogs were encouraged to behave and sit, return etc when they got a little too excited. It was a very calm experience over all and I cannot tell you how happy I am that Zephy managed this. Proof that he isn’t an aggressive dog, he is just anxious and scared of new dogs (which is every dog). We still have a long way to go to get him nice and chilled out around other dogs but he behaved amazingly. Even at the end of the play time, they both walked out to the cars beside each other and not a sad face at all. All waggy tails and smiley faces. We plan to meet a few more times with just the two of them. Between us we have 4 dogs and that’s just a little too much at the moment. You may recognise Louie, He is Bella’s half brother – from some of the earlier posts. Lovely dog and mad as a brush. Perfect for Zephy.

The beginning

So we started our walking with a 5 mile forest route at the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park in Argyll. There are lots of walks there, and you could spend weeks there happily. Certain areas are more popular with tourists but if you follow the road around you find plenty of car parks to start from. We chose the Leannach car park and walked from there. It was a bit of an odd day weather wise, we had showers of rain but it was warm and sunny for parts. The boys had plenty of chances to paddle in the puddles and streams to stay cool, and we didn’t see another soul. It was bliss.

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We stopped to have a little picnic at this stream under the watchful eyes of the dogs:

Don’t worry they had some of my pulled pork roll…and a few sausages I’d packed just for them. Spoiled little monkeys that they are. It was all very exhausting so we obviously had to pose for some more pictures:

By the time we made it back to the car Zephyr was thoroughly tired and had a toddleresque tandtrum in the boot:

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While we were out we decided that Echo has a resemblance to a cartoon character we both grew up. I don’t know how many of you know of “The Rescuers” particularly the film “The Rescuers Down Under” which see’s some animal trapped by a poacher and his pet a Goanna named Joanna. He resembles Joanna even more so now he has his red harness:

If you haven’t watched these films you need to. Classic Disney and you might get a better understanding of Echo.  (Don’t worry, he was lifted momentarily by the harness which is designed for lifting dogs while scrambling up hills.)

All healed and ready to go

It has been a few weeks since Zephy had the snip. He has healed up nicely with surprisingly no scar to show for it. It did begin to look a little inflammed and sore and a quick trip to the vet later we had some antibiotics and anti-inflammatorys.

The trip to the vet in itself has a wee story. So as you all know I’ve been working on Zephs on lead reactivity to other dogs. Every day I am out and we are going for it on the positive reinforcement. Well as you can imagine a trip to the vet is quite stressful. There are lots of animals, a small space and everything there is generally injured or stressed out. B came with me to help me with the big guy, knowing he’s be sore as well I figured I could use the moral support. We made it through the waiting room with only a little bit of fuss but overall he did well, even if my heart was frantically trying to keep itself beating. In the vets room he went in all waggy tailed and lay down for the vet to have a look. I always hold my dogs head’s regardless of how friendly they are being so Zeph didn’t have a chance to turn and bite if he was sore. Without any talking or reassuring or running a hand over him the vet went straight to jab at his sore bit, remember this is where his testicles where so a sensitive bit anyway! and obviously he let out a growl and did try to turn his head. As I said, I already had a hold of him and he was lying on his side so the vet was never in any danger. I replied to his growl with “you’re alright big guy, it must be sore if he’s growling at you.” The vet had her hands up about her chest as if an alligator had just tried to eat her. I tried to calm the situation a little as I let Zeph stand back up (he was now quite happy), and said “he’ll be your friend now you’ve stopped touching him.” Her response was and I kid you not from a vet! was: ” I don’t think so, I know what those kind of dogs are like.” Ben had to shove me out of the room I very nearly lamped her myself! It still has me reeling now. I said to the girls at reception (who all love Zephy and give him biscuits) that I did not under any circumstances want to see that particular vet again. In order to counteract her I have started training Zephy to wear a muzzle. Sounds harsh but again I’m making it a positive experience for him. None of the other vets have ever had a problem with Zephyr but it appears I need to protect him from trained professionals as well! I am furious that she made me feel like I was handling a dangerous dog. I’m pretty sure I would have growled at someone if they had poked at my stitches when I had surgery. My poor boy, he’s having a sh*t time with humans at the moment and all he wants is to cuddle up.

Anyway, little rant over. As I was saying he has healed nicely and now he is 2 years old (can’t believe where the time has gone), we are trying to get back into a bit of hill walking. Nothing too over the top but something a bit more exciting than the local park. Since we plan on doing a few miles at a time we bought the dogs new harnesses which lets them walk for miles without us clinging around their necks. I think they look quite good in them:

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I gave them a wee run at the rescue field to see if the new kit had plenty of freedom in it but still gave me control. The boys barely noticed they were on:

So we were ready to get going.