Ode to my dog Archie & why everyone (responsible) should own a dog
All of my previous articles have been based on facts and an attempt to educate and illuminate readers about dog best health practices and dog trends. At the risk of sounding sentimental, this article is about what every good dog owner experiences – a special bond between human and dog.
More so, this article reflects on the amazing things that I have experienced with my dog Archie and what responsible dog ownership is about.
Before I became a professional dog walker, I got a dog as a pet. The same reason I hear many people saying that they would not get a dog was also my reason. That is I was a renter and I wanted stability before I brought a dog into my life. Actually, I gained a wife first, and she chose the dog, but the end result is the same, a much higher appreciation of these wonderful animals.
Being a novice at dogs also helped me considerably in understanding them, because I fully immersed myself as an adult into the full dog experience, rather than just assuming I knew it all. From reading books on puppies and going to puppy school, dog obedience school and finally understanding the best ways to satisfying my dog’s breed specific needs and nutritional needs. And of course hours of active observation at dog parks.
I know that when I walk him twice a day, have a lot of off lead time for socialisation, and feed him the best diverse meat meals and dog treats that he is happiest. He is also much more rested at night, with much fewer behavioural problems and visits to the vet.
What I and many diligent owners struggle with is the thin line between treating a dog as an animal and treating them like a child. This is because many dogs present themselves as being very close to human. They can show great intelligence and many are very in tune with our emotional state. Our dog often steps between us when it senses tension or negative vibes, but it also does this when it considers we are being over friendly. Our dog will continually test us for pack leader status and that’s where setting boundaries comes into play.
Why I love dogs and my dog Archie
Understanding that he is a pack animal and what that involves as far as discipline is also vitally important in all our well being. Since gaining the privilege of ‘owning’ a dog we have discovered many great things about ourselves. I know he lives in the moment (much more than we can ever hope to do) and he also marks off time between walks with anticipation and often a not too quiet desperation. He is a much better judge of dogs and many people than most people are, based on body language and that hard to understand sixth sense ‘vibe’.
I will be the first to admit that my dog is not trained to within an inch of his life. This is not necessary through my desire to maintain his wild side, but my level of skill. However Archie is mostly at an acceptable level, for me. He is a very dominant dog, but not an aggressive dog. He is inquisitive but learning restraint. And I now know that any of the ‘good’ or ‘bad’ behavioural traits that he shows, I as an owner am mostly responsible for creating or allowing. Surely a dog left on his own with no discipline will develop some very bad habits. A dog not walked regularly, will often develop behaviours such as separation anxiety, digging, ripping apart objects, barking etc. If I have to break my dog walk routine, my dog lets me know about it with his pent up energy leading to running and barking in the house. He is my conscience.
Perhaps it is just me, but I enjoy nothing more than seeing my dog, being a real dog. I know that being a spoodle he has two water dogs and two retrievers in his genes. This means that he has a massive affinity for water and for hunting birds (The spaniel’s woodcock retrieving origins). It also means that he loves running through low grass tracking the scent of rabbits, which he could do all day. And for nature lovers, even though wild rabbits are declared as a pest and wreck havoc on our land, our spoodle like many retrievers has had the natural kill instinct inherited from the wolf bred out of him.
This retriever characteristic that is strongly bred into him really flourished a few weeks ago. I saw him scouring the landscape (hyper sniffing) for prey and he spotted a rabbit bounding out of a nearby bush. In hot pursuit the only time Archie backed off was when the rabbit could not find a hole in a fence to disappear through. My dog stopped until the rabbit began running in another direction. For my dog, even though there was no ‘catch’ this was a perfect day out. He tracked his quarry, with his pack and he got up close and personal with his adversary. This is the absolute pinnacle of joy for many of the sporting class of dogs. I am also aware that many forms of wild prey, even rabbits, can present a formidable and dangerous proposition to our heavily domesticated dog. He was never trained to hunt, and his breed was developed only to retrieve. Asking or allowing any more of such a dog is risking damage to my dog and a large vet bill. So that is why he gets such adventures in moderation.
I relish when my dog dreams and makes little yap sounds. How he hears rumbling vehicles outside and wants to investigate either because it is a threat or potential play. How he is so frantic upon our return that he has trouble sitting down for a pat and his tail does full 360 degree circles for the first few minutes that we are back. None of this would have happened if we did not choose to get a dog, and be 100% responsible for his health and mental wellbeing,
At the end of the day I know that my dog is there for me and that I am proud to share my journey through life with him. The more I learn about my dog Archie, the more I know about myself. It can seem like a big responsibly, but it is thoroughly worth it. May all other dog owners experience a similar joy of happy responsible dog ownership.