Dream come true: Working with dogs – Workaway 2
For this second volunteer in Canada (my first in the Yukon), I had the chance to fulfill a dream: working with dogs. It is in Newfoundland, near the city of St John’s that I became a dog-sitter for 3 months.
In addition to taking care of the 3 cats and the dog of the Newfoundland owner, I also kept different dogs from Tuesday to Friday. I learned a lot and I wanted to share this with you because I remind you that adopting a dog is not a decision to be taken lightly.
The well-being of the dog is important.
It’s not really a fact that I’ve learned but it’s been confirmed. I can never repeat it enough, adopting an animal is not an act to be taken lightly. A dog is not a toy and won’t just stay in your apartment and rarely go out. Depending on the breeds, find out before adopting which one will suit you best, the dog will need to be fed more or less, to have exercise, to go out for 30min a day or +1h30 a day, to go grooming once or several times a year.
One thing I’ve learned is that a dog’s diet is just as important as ours. He needs diversity, he can eat very well like us (vegetables, meat…) if we get him used to it since he was a puppy.
The education is very important, the orders “sit” and “give me your paw” are not enough. It is necessary to start as soon as possible, with patience and sometimes with help. It isn’t weak to take him to a school to learn how to educate him and to educate yourself. It isn’t only him who needs to learn but you too, such as learning how to give directions, how to decipher him.
A working dog and master duo ensures the safety of the dog and other dogs and humans.
I used to look at doggie daycare differently, now I know it’s important. Your dog is like a human being or a child, he needs friends, companions. Like you, he needs to have time without you, for at least one day a week. Moreover, when you have to be away from home for a day or more, he needs, and so do you, to know the place and to be reassured that everything will go well. And sometimes if you want to leave him with your parents or friends, get him used to it as soon as he is small and on a regular basis.
Gestures to know.
You will surely meet smaller, more timid dogs, the right technique to adopt is to put yourself at his level and to cuddle him under the head. If he doesn’t come to you, don’t chase him away like don’t go to him, wait for him to come to you.
The dog’s body language says a lot about him, I learned to read and understand him to know with which other dog he could get along (low ears, wagging tail, lower back hair, posture…).
A small thing to know is how to dry his animal easier, always dry him with a towel in the direction of the hair.
Getting to know you.
In addition to learning about our canine friends, I learned about myself. I always said that I preferred dogs to children (I still do), that they were “easier” than a child, I was wrong. A dog is just as much work as a child, it’s exhausting, you have to take him out even when you don’t feel it, take his well being into account before your own. He feels your emotions, for examples if you’re stressed, he will be.
It confirms my idea that having a dog is a big deal, it requires being ready. I really want to adopt a pet, to have the happiness of sharing my daily life with one, but for now, I will wait until I have a routine, a job, an adequate housing for a harmonious canine-human home. Emotionally I am ready but my life isn’t.
The province of Newfoundland is known for the Newfoundland dog. I had the pleasure to take care of a big bear, as I liked to call him, for 3 months. I guarantee you that it is a lot of work, especially in regard to cleaning and grooming. They drool a lot, they have long fur, they take up room. But their character is equivalent to that of a big teddy bear, nice, very friendly and not very active.
(This is just one opinion given on a few Newfoundlanders I’ve met).
Working in a doggy daycare.
The work itself is surely comparable to a childcare centre. It is a lot of work, patience and learning. In the kennel where I worked, the dogs spent most of their time outside, running and playing with each other.
I worked from Tuesday to Friday, the owners would drop off their pets between 7:30am and 9am and pick them up between 4pm and 5pm. During this time, you situate the dogs in the pens according to their behaviour. Not all doggies get along, some are more dominant, more shy, smaller, more clumsy with other dogs.
The rest of the day, you make sure that they don’t run out of water, you spend some time with them being careful not to give attention to a dog where some may be jealous and dominant. And the most glamorous part of the job is picking up regular poop. For several reasons, the first: cleanliness, imagine 20 dogs a day in the same pen. The second, very seductive, some dogs roll in it.
Of course I was only there as a volunteer, I didn’t manage all the administration and payment even if I happened to play secretary on the phone or by email. Each dog daycare is different, some don’t offer outside access, some operate with a different philosophy, that’s why you have to choose one that fits you and your doggie.