Summer News from Gelert Behaviour

I’ve been very bad at writing my newsletters since last years’ move.  All sorts of excuses including poorly dogs, learning Welsh and the growth of the Raw Feeding Veterinary Society and its new company RawSAFE which have been keeping me busy during lockdown.  No matter, I’m back at it now !

In the last month as things are returning to some normality both in the world and for me personally, I’ve had lots of time to reflect on my work.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a 3-dimensional client or dog but for someone militantly opposed to working remotely, I’m incredibly surprised to have found that the model actually works very successfully.  I would go so far as to say better in most cases, as I am getting a great deal more information back from clients and of course, that means that I can support them so much better.  It’s possible that this is because working remotely appeals to clients of a more technical mindset, but they are a pleasure to work with, whatever the reason !  Lots of questions, lots of videos of what’s happening and lots of discussions about progress, just what I love !  Helping a troubled pet is tough and having moral support along with a clear plan and sound advice is so important, it breaks my heart to hear some of the nonsense people have been told prior to finding good help (which inevitably makes matters worse for the pet and the care givers involved).

As (contrary to my expectations!) things have gone so well, I’ve made the decision to keep all first consultations online now.  Not least because my own dogs are very elderly (17, 15 and 15) and after two health scares, it’s too risky to leave them for long periods of time.  I am so fortunate to have had such incredible support from Dr Michaela Just in our two dramas !  In any case, the first consultation rarely involves hands on training.  The animals whose people find me are usually in need of help with their physical and emotional state more than learning particular skills.  The more I learn myself, the more important I feel this to be.  More on this soon, as a highly respected colleague is setting up something wonderful on this topic.

The exception to this is my voluntary work with DogAID – I love training with DogAID clients as they are so motivated.  It’s also great fun to teach people with new puppies, who of course need some important skills to have safe, happy lives with their new human families.  I just wish there was a way to get my hands on them before they have had poor advice, it would be so much easier for all concerned !

Plans for residential opportunities for people and their reactive dogs are still on hold until things become clear regarding COVID – no problem with the teaching and support, it’s the residential bit that is tricky, annoyingly.  I’ll update everyone on this as soon as there is definite information.

A thought on learning, from my personal experience of learning Welsh.  Never underestimate the value of encouragement and the opportunity to practise.  I’ve had some incredibly generous support from people in the local community patiently listening to my stumbling conversations and without exception, everyone has been patient, helpful and encouraging.  I’m very motivated and independently made the decision to learn.  Our pets are in a situation that they haven’t chosen and there are certain things which they need to learn to be happy and safe, yet often, they are things they wouldn’t necessarily choose themselves.  Would your dog choose to ignore chasing a squirrel?  Probably not, unless you’ve worked hard to make a safe alternative really valuable to them.  THEN they have a choice and choice is always important.  But we still need to ensure that they remain safe, and that’s where we need to take responsibility by using a lead or a long line until we are absolutely confident that a safe alternative will be chosen when offered.  As a vet nurse, I’ve too often seen the end products of a “fun” chase and it’s so upsetting and unnecessary.  There are enough tragedies happening unavoidably.

Finally, I’m sad to report that COVID has finished off the wonderful tiny charity Dogs Helping Kids which was doing such fantastic and important work.  The photo above is the next generation of Gelert at work (always good to plan ahead !).  Kids and dogs are an amazing combination when both are educated with consideration for the other and it’s a very sad loss.

Enjoy the fine weather which has finally arrived (thank goodness) and keep safe !