Bert's happy day

by Ironmountain Large breed rescue on Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at 4:55am

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In which Bertie biscuits gets a clean bill of health, and I have my arse saved by a headcollar.

Today was ball check day for Mr Biscuits, and Preslington hound had to have some interference with her anal glands (oh deep joy) so off to the vets we went. Today we used Companion care, who did Bert's neuter and who have very charming South African vets (doesn't hurt to be easy on the eye when you're sticking your finger up a Mastiff's bum). We arrived at the last possible moment as usual so Pres wouldn't have to endure the tiny waiting room which is invariably full of dogs who "want to say hello" to other, potentially sick animals in a high stress situation. Note to Schnauzer - sniffing a Cane Corso's arse when it has a sore anal gland is suicide.

Amazingly we got in unscathed, Presley having a minor freak out at a very cheerful mongrel but otherwise uneventful. Anal glands sorted (eurgh) we moved on to Mr Biscuits who I'm pleased to announce is in fine fettle, strong heart, very fit, excellent clear lungs and generally much admired. Hurrah for Bert.

Getting out was another matter entirely, with a suitably horrendous bill for antibiotics we had to stand and pay, I handed my card to reception and as the words "I'm just going to put them in the car and nip back" fell from my lips, what should arrive but...well I don't know what the **** it was but it was tiny, wearing a full pulling harness with 2 inch spikes, a collar featuring same, and was dragging its Gorg of an owner towards us on...a chain. Not a chain leash. A chain.

Reception and I shared a glance, she (knowing Presley) immediately told him to wait where he was which, despite his immense bulk, he seemed unable to do because the dog was still pulling itself towards imminent doom. I could have held this dog with my teeth, wearing roller skates, on a downhill slope.

So Presley gives him warning number two, which, had she not been on a headcollar, would have meant that we were all lucky to be standing in a vets surgery. Bert was busy spinning round and round at my feet trying to eat some nearby cat food (still in its tin on a display). The guy stops. Phew. We turn to get past and into the car, when a great big German Shepherd decided to join in from the other end of the waiting room. That's it for Pres, its meltdown time. The arse indignity she could handle, the idiot with the mongrel on a chain, she could handle, a two-pronged display of aggression - game over. She went off like Buckaroo (Bert is still desperately trying to topple the catfood display) but because she was on a Dogmatic, she could do nothing, and I could hold both her and Bert with enough focus left to direct the situation like the drill sarge I am:

"You - turn your dog around, NOW - and stop telling it to calm down"

*spins to Gorg*

"You - Stand there...no...there...and control your dog, I'm coming past."

"Thankyou all for your co-operation, Presley is leaving the building"

Out we marched, and then back I came with enough humour to announce to the waiting room "well, you'd be in a bad mood too if a strange bloke just stuck his hand up your arse..."

I love a Dogmatic, it's a no-pain, everything to gain tool. People bang on that "my dog doesn't need it, it heels perfectly", or "it doesn't solve the problem though does it?"

Indeed, but, my dog walks to perfect heel,  she also weighs more than 2/3 of my bodyweight. Things happen out there in the big wide World that we have no control over, cars backfiring, sudden and unexpected cats, mental dogs, mental people, and vets....why vets? A big dog with the hump is likely to be muzzled during an emergency, a dog who isn't familiar with having something put over its face is not going to enjoy this. A dog who is familiar with a headcollar as something that means walkies, is going to react much more calmly, and in en emergency you need as much calm as you can muster.

An example, yesterday my worst nightmare decided to manifest itself, I am on a downhill slope, with a pushchair, Bert and Pres, no free hands for wrestling, when around the corner come FOUR off-leash Shepherds. Not one of them under any kind of control, it's a nose-to-nose confrontation. Shepherd number one immediately lunges for Pres (bert clearly escaping on eyeline alone) and the other three appear right behind. Crap. Crap crap crap. No time to engage brake on pushchair, no free hands except the one holding the leash attached to the Dogmatic, this is crisis management. Pres gives it her all in response, no Corso takes kindly to being lunged at, especially one who has her owner, the baby and the other member of her pack in-tow. Luckily for me, the headcollar means I only need that one hand to bring her straight back under control - a situation that otherwise would have me with two hands on her collar, a pushchair heading for the road, a bad back and a loose Bert.

The Shepherd owner is now looking pretty stupid with all 4 being held in two hands, I have no time for everything I'd like to say to this git, I think he already knows. But what comes out of his mouth is this "It's ok love, you can pass now"

On the same pavement, past 4 dogs who have just tried to attack her. With a pushchair. And Bert.

Again, usually my blood pressure would be through the roof by now, but because my girl was completely under control, I was calm enough to manage "I think you should cross the road first, don't you?"

Again and again this headcollar proves itself priceless, during the snow and ice, I managed walks on very slippery hills, with the pushchair, and little Bert as easily as I did earlier in the year with not one, but two massive dogs on leash (pres and Foster boy Troy). Whilst others slipped and fell, I had full control until we got through the park gates, into a nice quiet spot, and release the dogs (still wearing the Dogmatic and ignoring them totally) to play happily like the giant loons they are.

As for 'not solving the problem'. This always makes me laugh, the idea of having your dog under control is not to to be able to physically overpower it by brute strength. This is appealing to some people as it clearly taps into some kind of insecurity aqbout themsleves that they have, if they can 'win' against the dog then they are King of the Living room. Well done you.

What the Dogmatic allows (and yes there is a reason I am only mentioning one specific product here, we'll come to that later) is for you to take your dog into situations that would usually leave you flat on your arse and very sad, in the knowledge that you can calmly control your dog without injury to yourself and others. When all around me are losing their footing, my dog is still inches from my side, and going nowhere. I can then address the problems. If I don't have that control, how do I even begin to think about getting my dog used to the stimulus that's upsetting it?

Example 2. This is the story of a very lovely couple who I work with on a regular basis, they are the very proud owners of two beautiful dogs, who together weigh in excess of 13 stone. The lady of the house weighs eight stone sopping wet.

You can see the problem here yes? Even one of these dogs on their own had the capacity to pull her over when prey-drive kicked in, a random squirrel shooting out of nowhere would end up with her being dragged into the road. So how the hell was she going to control two? Both, very well-trained dogs, but when faced with something they weren't expecting they would become an uncontrollable mass. We needed to address the problem, but this was a long-term training issue and this lady was shortly to be on her own whilst her husband was working away, and I was only there for a short time. How do we get those dogs out and about and learning if every time they see said stimulus they pull this poor woman over? It was a lose-lose situation, the dogs were becoming isolated because she couldn't take them out, and she couldn't take them out to correct the isolation because she would end up in tears or worse.

It was a horrible situation.

The husband not so keen on headcollars, seeing them as a 'failure' perhaps. But for me, they turned out to be one of the biggest successes I've seen. One woman, walking two Cane Corso, past a pack of yappy dogs (I had prepped and warned the yappy dog owner beforehand) under complete control of her dogs, sending no panic down the leash, and able to issue her 'leave' command in a calm, measured voice. So slowly slowly they can start to learn, and as they learn thay can choose whether the dogs need to wear them or not, but what they now have is the option rather than a single choice.

So to Dogmatic, I only use this brand of headcollar for three reasons:

The width of it means it doesn't immediately turn into piano wire when under pressure, cutting into the dog's nose and putting pressure on the eyes, it has various sizes, not 'one garrottes all'

It can stay on whilst they play, they can open their mouths, drink, and fetch toys.

It's non punitive. No choking, pinching or pain.

I would never recommend a product that I haven't paid full RRP for myself, I have bought 4 of these and given them away to people I felt they would benefit! Dogmatic pay me no money to say this, and I receive no free product (although they have made substantial donations of product to Battersea in my name) I still use it every day with Pres and my back is a happier place to be because of it. All training aids are just that, they don't replace hard work and positive training, but they can and should allow you to have full control whilst you're doing that training. So here's the message of todays note, if it doesn't hurt, do what works.