Who's the Daddy: Taking stress out of walking
Owning a sighthound with a prey drive is a lot like having a problem child – you get lots of unsolicited advice from strangers.
We’ve had our laid-back, loveable couch potato Walter for more than six years now, but his behaviour when he sees a dog he doesn’t like the look of could best be described as “reactive”, although in the days before political correctness took hold he’d be what we used to call a “short-arsed little nark”.
The problem is, the dogs he doesn’t care for much are border collies, black labradors and hysterical little spaniels with big, flappy ears. And you can’t walk 50 yards around here without seeing all three, which has led to some apocalyptic temper tantrums and major meltdowns – 19kg of muscle bound, enraged prey drive on the end of a lead is like flying a kite in a storm.
So we sought the advice of a professional dog behaviourist, who had him pegged within five minutes of meeting him for the first time, after a long Zoom call (remember them?) to get to know us a bit first.
It’s anxiety, apparently, probably after being bitten by a dog so hard a few years ago it tore a hole in his skin and nicked a muscle in his hip. After expensive surgery and three weeks in an all-in-one bodysuit (because the standard issue, stitch-protecting lampshades just slip over his narrow, bicycle seat-shaped head) it seems our boy is just getting his retaliation in first. Thing is, when you can hit your top speed of 40mph in just six strides and detect movement from half a mile away, your senses are pretty heightened. And before you know where you are, our sinewy pupper is off on one like an infected extra in 28 Days Later.
I used to pack lighter to go on holiday than I do now to take Walter for a walk. Harness, waterproof jacket, his fancy-boy lead, posh bag of treats (dried pheasant this week), muzzle and half a dozen poo bags because this lad can curl them off for England.
Progress so far has been excellent. Distraction techniques are doing the trick and walks aren’t the Krypton Factor assault course they recently were.