‘Always be ready with an apology’

Wise words indeed, spoken by my Twitter chum Ted and Mum too, when I asked for any lessons/hints/tips that people had learned since getting a dog.

Mum has learned a fair few things too since I came along in 2013, so we thought we’d share some of them before opening up the floor to all the sage advice we got from our tweeting pals.

Wilson standing on fallen tree

I jumped up here myself – gave mum a bit of a surprise!

Here we go…in no particular order…and bear in mind that these our just our opinions and it’s perfectly acceptable not to agree with them.

  1. It’s ok for a dog not to be ‘perfect’. Of course in an ideal world all dogs would be well socialised, get on with one another, and be fine with people of all ages. But in this utopia, we’d all be able to leave our doors unlocked without some scrote nicking our stuff, or walk home in ‘provocative’ attire (you too boys, if you want!) without fear of being molested. In the real world though, some dogs are reactive…for any number of reasons. There’s a really good newsletter by Woody’s Paws4Thought on its Facebook page called ‘The fear of the dog walk’ on a similar issue. Definitely worth a read – because reactive dogs have every right to be exercised in an appropriate public space as non-reactive ones.
  2. Just because you own a dog, doesn’t make you a pleasant person. There are some right miserable folk out there who will ignore a cheery ‘Morning!’ or not even acknowledge when mum’s kept me under control so they can walk past without issue. We hope these people tread dog poo into their carpets.
  3. Don’t underestimate the importance of those first few months with your puppy. Get them used to as much as possible, both inside and outside of the home. Cafes, public transport, other animals, young people, old people – if they’re likely to come across a situation as an adult dog, do your best to acclimatise them to it as a pup.
  4. Mental stimulation is as important as physical stimulation. I loved my search dog training and I miss working the old grey matter. Mum tries to keep my mind active on walks by hiding from me when I’m not looking, hiding my ball, placing treats that I have to sniff out etc. She’ll also recall me even if there’s no need – always good to keep me sharp with that command – or get me to ‘stay’ while she walks around and about for a while, sometimes for several minutes or even out of sight. I think this is when she eats a sneaky bacon buttie.
  5. Get your puppy used to any other pets you have asap. When I arrived, mum still had George the tabby cat. She did some research which indicated that the ‘easy does it’ approach would be the best one, taking it in tiny steps to introduce the new pet to the established one. Nope. We tried that – frustration all round. Ultimately, George and I had to be kept separate until the tabby lad went OTRB in 2015. If mum were ever in a similar situation she’d let the cat and dog get on with it – and within a short while she’s pretty sure the feline would establish itself as The One To Be Obeyed and the canine would forever more show due respect and deference (thanks to a few timely swipes from those pussy claws).
  6. Appreciation of local surroundings – our local country park is a regular walk for us and it’s a real gem. Prior to getting me she’d run around it a few times (a very few times) but she now knows it pretty well and we’ve spent many a pleasant hour meandering around. Similarly, we’ve discovered some wonderful walks within a 10 mile radius of home, not to mention other areas of Hampshire that are further afield. Step forward Spearywell Wood, Micheldever Wood (simply stunning in bluebell season) and Havant Thicket – all locations we discovered thanks to Hampshire Search & Rescue Dogs, as they’re all team training sites. Mum is also thinking of joining (whisper it) The Ramblers – nothing like other people’s knowledge of the countryside to open up new places to take me for a walk.
Wilson by pond

This was taken at Havant Thicket – we did a three hour walk there the other day, and we’d never have known about it had we not joined HSAR Dogs

So, that’s our list for now. What wise words did my Twitter chums come up with?

Dogs teach you to be more dog – i.e. to live in the moment and to focus on what’s happening right now. Also to appreciate being outdoors in our beautiful countryside. Danielle H

Having a dog means you have to get out and about, which is good for everyone involved. Jo W

Labs will always find muddy water. KateT

It teaches you to be more organised. Walks, wees, food, sleep, vets etc. Wendy

Never leave the house without at least three poop bags and a few treats. Mrs LH

Dog = mud. Oppo

They don’t stay long enough and are true friends. Neko

Wilson in a stream

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll have seen the video for this – I was very intent on finding something in this stream!

Getting out in all weathers, spending more money on wellies, walking boots, waterproof clothing…tennis balls, than having a nice normal wardrobe. Trish Gray

Dogs are a babe magnet. Gary Silvester

Always be ready with an apology. Never underestimate the good a doggo walk does for the human too. Never think one poo bag will be enough. Ted and Mum too

I have learnt that I never ever get the bathroom to myself without my big fat Wilson head making an appearance. Lynnette jk
(To clarify, Lynnette also has a dog called Wilson – I’m not in the habit of visiting other ladies to watch them answer the call of nature in their own homes).

You are a lucky puppy. Eileen Payne
(Yes. Yes I am).

One pooch is just never enough. Christine

Going out makes you feel better. Even if you don’t enjoy tramping round in the mud, wind and rain, then stopping feels good! The Opinionated Imp

Wilson in Micheldever Wood

This one was taken in Micheldever Wood – definitely worth a visit in bluebell season, it’s the quintessential English bluebell wood

Pet insurance. I have never had to worry about the cost of a major vet bill. My babies are worth every penny. They have complete coverage and I never have to think twice about ensuring they get the vet care they need. Bugfishez

Unconditional love for many years. Marlene Edgar

Always greet you, the walks out in the fresh air and the companionship. Marian T1 D & Lucy

Life’s too short. Who cares where the dog sleeps? Throws everywhere. I’m happy, mum’s happy. Minnie da Minx!

So there you have it – has anyone got any others to add to the mix? Comment below.

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