I’ve wanted to start this blog for over a year, but life got in the way. Two weeks ago we welcomed a new family member, Grace, and I thought now is a good time to start documenting our experiences of keeping two dogs busy.
Two weeks in, I have realised how much work I have done with Nell over the past 4 years, and how much I have learned about dog minds through her. And yet, with a puppy I am starting from scratch because I need to teach her everything about the world. A lot of my expectations of what is easy for an adult dog are being challenged and I need to take a step back to figure out how exactly do I nurture Grace to be the dog I want to share the next 15 years of my life with.
I met Nell when she was 2.5 years and, quite frankly, a bit of a nightmare. My husband had done a good job with the puppy training basics and she was a confident and stable dog, but she had bad manners in public and didn’t know how to control herself, which resulted in a lot of tension. That tension, in turn, made everything worse because Nell could sense it and the trust between her and my husband was fragile.
When I started to share my daily life with Nell in a small London flat, she got on all of our nerves so I decided to wonder what is WRONG with this dog. After researching working cocker spaniels, I understood that a lot of things that annoyed us about Nell were things that she was genetically wired to do: she was intense outside because of her hunting drive, destructive because she was bored, and followed us around in the house because she has been bred to be the hunter’s close companion and tune into their emotions, gestures and facial expressions.
Most importantly, I understood that she needed a JOB.
As one website put it, the clue is in the name: if you don’t give a working cocker a job, they will become self-employed and it won’t be work that you want them to do.
That’s how I started my journey of learning about canine mental enrichment, and learning about how to give this active dog of ours the life that made her happy. Over the past 4 years I have bought over 50 activity toys and learned a lot about the different ways to entertain a busy doggy mind.
Every dog is different, so finding the right thing is likely to mean trial and error and in this blog I want to share some of our experiences so that others can benefit from them. What works or us may not work for you, or the other way around so please feel free to comment.
Elina, Nell & Grace
Nell, 7 years