Dog-Handling

'Barry... come and have a look at this - you won't believe it!' 

...But that the cat 'that hates everyone' was curled up on my knee wasn't so surprising to me. I just knew that I liked pets - cats and dogs especially, but all of them more or less - and wanted to be their friends, and if I were nice enough it would happen. But it never occurred to me as a potential career move... until Cambs Dog Walks was born.

I didn't have any experience of dogs until I started walking them, but I've gained a great deal from working with them over the last five years. Dogs are some of the most rewarding pets you can hope to enjoy, but can be quite demanding too, and my position involves a lot of responsibility. It is therefore very important to me that I have a successful approach to dogs which ensures my operations run smoothly, resulting in happy, well behaved dogs, problem-free adventures, and good times for all. 

Arthur and Matilda, two of my most-loyal customers... He's low energy but affectionate and likes his comforts, whilst she's very (very) feisty. I handle each accordingly to develop our working relationship and enjoy them the most.

Successful dog-handling involves many things, and even a library of books on the subject would probably fail to describe all of it's details - each dog is individual, and must be handled as such. There are a lot of different characters in the dog world (~132 breeds!), each with their own particular needs and care requirements. However, behind this complexity is, I believe, a simple truth: Dogs like what they like, and learn how to get it. If you (as a handler) are rewarding enough for good behaviour, you will get it. This is the underpinning and centre-most tactic to all my operations as a Pet Care Professional, and it is my promise to my service users (both human and canine) that I will make it my ambition to achieve this outcome. Your dog's happiness is my foremost interest!

A variety of the dog's I have walked - I've got to know each of their characters, and learnt how to get along with them. Some are game and want high energy fun (the German shepherd, Staffy, and Collie/Springer X are good examples), whilst others could be or just are timid, and needed encouragement and handling with sensitivity (the Ridgeback, the Shelty). My experience means I am likely to have encountered a dog of similar temperament and character to yours, so am more likely to understand and handle your dog effectively, improving the quality of care that I can give.
 
In order to reward for good behaviour you must understand your dog well enough to provide that reward - is your dog a lover, player, socialiser, or foody? Most dogs are a mixture of these things, more or less. Also, can you communicate your needs to your dog, so that they can understand what they have to do to achieve a rewarding relationship with you? Of course, for all of this to be achieved (understanding, reward and communication), we must have handler motivation - that is to say, you must find the process and outcome rewarding yourself. You have to reward yourself, too! Gaining value out of your circumstances (otherwise known as 'being kind to yourself', or 'getting what you like') is possibly the motive force that makes all efforts succeed.

I like to get my dogs out to attractive locations to enjoy their walks thoroughly - my locations usually have water, woods or open spaces. 

Cambs Dog Walks walking locations are selected to (as best as is practically possible) provide the dog with their desired conditions (like water for the wet dogs, and socialising for the groupies), and, where and when appropriate, be off lead. In my five years walking I've seen one fight between dogs, but no accidents, and no lost dogs... I think the freedom and value me and my dogs have enjoyed have justified this price tag.

In most cases I've found myself popular with dogs, and that they behave well for me - I continue to see improvement in my dog's (and myself), which is acknowledged by my service users and the people I meet whilst walking. Dog handling is not a static activity, though - through their good behaviour, they are training me to be better all the time! 

Game dogs and comfort hounds - whatever your dog's character, I want to make them happy.

Every dog that I look after is a tale in progress, and every new dog teaches me something new. The journey continues...

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