The Story of a Wannabe Therapy Dog - Part 4

Join Xaby and Ollie Coach, Marie Collet as Xaby trains to become a Therapy Dog. Xaby is now 10 months with still a lot of growing to do. For Marie she has a lot of learning about what Xaby is telling her through his body language.

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So here we are in winter time, that seems to have come around fast!  Frosty mornings and rainy days mean a very MUDDY Xaby!!! He regularly needs a hose down and towel dry after his walks and then a good old brush when dry.  He has such a thick coat and its important to keep on top of his shedding hair as much as possible.  I have to make sure he doesn’t get tangles and it’s an opportunity to also check for ticks, fleas or any grasses that may be stuck in his fluff!  Luckily, I have found an excellent dog groomer in our village.  She is very experienced, loves dogs and her job!  I want to get him used to all aspects of a full groom which can sometimes be stressful for young pups.  This means he gets a proper full on soapy bath, hair trimmed and toe nails clipped etc.  I take him once every 4-6 weeks for the time being until he’s familiar and comfortable with her and the routine.  I’ve also invested in a grooming table, 2 brushes and an undercoat rake comb so I can keep on top of it at home as well.  Ollie and his Super Powers - Therapy dog

Xaby is now 10 months old and growing bigger and stronger by the day! His baby teeth are out and the serious chewing is kicking in.  So far, he’s been pretty good and no real damage has occurred in the house.  I make sure he has plenty of tough chew toys and bones to keep him satisfied.

I’m with him the majority of the time so he is kept busy with his training, a short walk and plenty of tennis ball throwing and chasing.  He can walk short distances on the lead without pulling unless he spots any wildlife and then he jumps about trying to get to what he thinks may potentially be a new friend!  His most favourite thing is to play fetch with tennis balls, preferably squeaky ones!!! He NEVER tires of making as much noise as possible and his jaw doesn’t seem to ache from the repetitive use, consequently tennis balls have a very short shelf life in our house! Once he’s been out and about having fun, he’s ready to chill and stretch out on the kitchen floor or lay by my feet while I’m at the computer.

Socializing pups in lockdown has been impossible and training classes have been closed.  In the summer we had a trainer come solely to work with us (all socially distanced) but unfortunately due to health problems he had to stop.  This was a real shame but we had a training program and continued to stick to it.  Xaby is now good at sit, stay, come and wait.  These are basic instructions that once mastered make his and my life much easier and builds trust between us.  It is important that he waits at the door before coming inside or out and can only do so on my command, he is not allowed to push past any human especially while going to the front door.  This goes well until a stranger knocks, at which point excitement gets the better of him and he losses all his knowledge.  This is an area to definitely work on, because of his size and strength he could easily knock a person over and cause an accident. 

Luckily before Christmas a friend recommended another trainer and he will be starting to work with us in a couple of weeks which will be great!  I’m hoping he will be able to see us through to Xabys “Therapy Dog Assessment Day” whenever that maybe.

It is a well-documented that dogs can reduce our stress, anxiety and depression, ease loneliness, encourage exercise and playfulness.  They have evolved to become acutely attuned to humans and our behaviour and emotions.  Like humans you can tell a lot about how a dog is feeling through their body language.

Body Language

Understanding as much as you can about your dog is important for good rapport and helps you to not always second guess what he’s trying to convey.  Just like humans, dogs do get into moods and will try to communicate them to you.  But it can be difficult to understand what they are saying just by looking at their body language.

The great thing about dogs and all types of dog breeds is that they WILL NOT FAKE EMOTIONS! And they will tell you what is going on.  Unlike humans who are mostly programmed to keep their emotions and feelings hidden, suppressed or in check which is the cause of so much emotional trauma and turmoil.  This is where Ollies Army come in! Ollie coaches all around the country are dedicated to helping to free emotional pain to unlock feelings and empower people of all ages to get to the root of their issues and move forward in a healthy way to a brighter future.

It’s important as a dog owner you learn their communication language and watch out to what the dog is trying to tell you.

These common signs can be broken down based on your dogs physical body.  The Tail, Eyes, Ears, Face and Stance.

TAIL - This is one of the easiest communication methods to look out for:

  1. Lowered but wagging, it can mean the pup feels playful, excited or that they acknowledge that you are the one in charge.
  2. Lowered and wagging slowly, could be they are waiting the next instruction from you.
  3. Raised but tremors, this maybe he is challenging your authority. This can happen if the dog feels they are in charge of the current situation and has authority over you!
  4. Tucked between the legs is a very common sign for the dog being afraid, scared or uncomfortable either in the situation you’re currently in or EVEN OF YOU. If you cannot discern what is causing him to be uncomfortable or your dog does this frequently, you should take them to the vet and discuss it.

      EYES - Are a bit harder to read than the tail. But dogs do show a lot of emotions through their eyes.  It’s one the main ways they communicate with you.

      1. Open wide and dog is alert trying to get your attention. Sometimes they will do this if they are challenging you and wanting you to respond to them in a FIRM fashion.
      2. If your dog squints, blinks or even winks at you. It means that he’s feeling playful.  Watch out for it being too frequent or constant as it may be indicative of an eye issue that will need vets attention.

      EARS - The ears are a little more subtle and take more time to understand.  As all dogs will use their ears differently in terms of actual communication.

      1. If ears are pulled back against the head, whether they are lightly flattened or forced downwards it means your dog is scared. Also be on the lookout for them putting only one ear down, often the left one, as this is a reaction to unfamiliar environment or people who cause fear.

      FACE – One of the most recognisable signs that you will come across in your dog:

      1. Yawning most people tend to think the dog is tired and that is the case for most of the time. But, if your dog is in a new environment or is around other dogs, be on the look out for the yawn as it can mean nervousness.  You will see this a lot more in puppies when they’re around unfamiliar dogs.
      2. Licks his face, he can either be mopping up leftovers or showing you that he is stressed or feeling pressured.
      3. Shows his teeth but doesn’t bark or snarl it is often a sign of “Territory Protection”. You generally only see this if you try to take food away from him while he’s eating or when another animal gets too close while they’re eating.

        STANCE – This one is a bit easier to work out than say the Face or Ears because you’re looking at the dogs entire body.

        1. When he exposes his belly to you, either just by laying down or rolling over, it’s a sign of trust. When you rub or pet the belly it confirms you are pleased with the dog.
        2. Often you will see dogs put their face on your knee or leg. This is a sign of them needing attention and showing you that they need you.
        3. If the dog puts his paws on your knee or leg, this a domination technique, so make sure to remove it firmly!
        4. If the dog shakes its entire body, its usually to be rid of some kind of tension. For instance, after a bath they will rid themselves of excess water.  If your dog does this a lot without some kind of irritant such as water, take them to the vet as they maybe stressed.
        5. If the dog turns his back on you and sits they are showing TRUST.

        It is extremely important to watch out for the above clues as it will help you understand and communicate with your dog better.  Dogs do have a large range of emotions and are quite capable of communicating them to you, as long as you know what to look for.

        Caring for and being around a dog can help children grow up more secure and active.  Touch and movement are two healthy ways to quickly manage stress.  Therefore, it is easy to see, if Xaby manages to become a therapy dog, he can assist me in my work to help others with emotional issues, create happiness and love wherever he goes with lots of playfulness on the way just for fun!

        Marie Collett, Ollie Coach

        My husband and I live on a farm in the Fens and we have three grown boys.  My intention for the past few years has been to open up my home as a day centre for children of varying ages and abilities for them to get the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from life in the open countryside for both their emotional and physical wellbeing.  So, I trained to be an “Ollie Coach” so that I could help the children be all they can be.  I also wanted to introduce a therapy dog into the equation to help me in my quest and bring some extra joy, comfort and unconditional love to the venture.

        To get in contact with Marie, email Marie.collett@ollieandhissuperpowers.com

        To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com

        Caroline Chipper

        Director, Subconquest Ltd - Ollie and his Super Powers

        Co founder of Subconquest Ltd, that trades as Ollie and his Super Powers. My many years of commercial experience is being put to good use managing the business side of Ollie, including working with our Ollie Coaches, and managing our contracts. In everything we do its about making a difference to those we work with. To find out more go to https://www.ollieandhissuperpowers.com/pages/about-us