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To quote Mad-Eye Moody from the Harry Potter books, ‘constant vigilance’ is most definitely what is needed this time of year, says Lez Graham
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Unless I’m teaching the instructors at the Macdonalds Crutherland House Hotel, or down at the borders with Joe Hipwell, I do pretty much all of my dog walking and training on public ground and am used to keeping an eye out for folk walking their dogs while watching videos on their mobile phones (one man was even on two phones at the same time last week), as well as dodging their errant dogs who “just want to say hello!”.
But it feels as if it doesn’t matter which way we turn at the minute, there’s a fluffy white tail being waved in our general direction, whether that’s from the bunnies or the deer, and it’s certainly making the walks a bit, shall we say, ‘interesting’.
We’d been down to Sunderland for a conference earlier in the month and the boys had gone in their usual kennels while we were away. Unfortunately, that evening, one by one the boys came down with colitis, which isn’t that unusual when dogs come back from kennels due to the excitement of being home after time away – they’re also inclined to sleep a lot for the first couple of days due to all the comings and goings that they’re not used to.
However, it didn’t settle down, not even after three days of ProMax from the vets, which is a probiotic that helps settle the digestive tract. It took a course of antibiotics and a very bland home-cooked diet of chicken, fish, veg and sweet potato to get everything back to normal. Chatting to a fellow dog walker a couple of days later, I was told that there were a few of the village dogs come down with the same thing, so I assume it was just the usual round of springtime tummy bugs combined with being away from home for a few days.
It was when the dogs were almost back to normal that it happened. I couldn’t believe it… Emrys only went and took off after a bluddy bunny. I’d taken my eyes off him for half a second to see what Spud was up to and he flushed a couple of rabbits out of a bush that I occasionally use for blind retrieves. When he went over and showed some interest in the bushes, I thought he probably thinks there’s a dummy down, or some lingering dummy smell, but no.
He put his head in one end and out shot not one but two bouncing white tails, tearing off down the field closely followed by a young Labrador. By the time I got my whistle out and in my mouth, he was easily 50 yards away. Thankfully, he stopped, not quite as quickly as I would have liked him to, but stop he did.
It was then a case of recalling him and putting the three of them in a sit/stay while I went poo picking, or rather poo hunting as I’d completely lost the place where Spud stopped!
I was going to write back to basics… again, however, I don’t think that’s the case in this instance. Rather, it’s got to be constant vigilance.
Not allowing yourself to be distracted when you know your dog has a higher-than-average prey drive and there’s a lot of prey around. Oh, that and making sure you have your whistle to hand… definitely a trainer error this time.
Lez Graham is author of The Pet Gundog series and is a canine behaviourist and gundog trainer. Training gundog trainers via the Accredited Pet Gundog Instructor programme, which is now in its sixth year, Lez also supports and mentors owners in The Pet Gundog Club.
The Pet Gundog series is available via amazon.co.uk for £19.99 Contact her via firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.thepetgundog.co.uk
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