Category Archives: Dogs

New journey: dog trainer education

A rare update from my corner of the Internet: some things have changed here (others stay the same). I’ve started on a new chapter of my life, let’s call it “becoming a dog trainer”.

I’m currently studying for a Certificate IV in Companion Animal Services, which is a government accredited dog trainer/pet professional education here in Australia. The version of it that I am doing takes two and a half years part time, and takes place mainly online. The offline elements comprise two seminars, and work experience with animal training and class teaching.

(The study does not free me from needing work in the meanwhile, but it sounds better than “unemployed” and gives a focus and vision for the future)

The Plan with it has two versions: Continue reading


The Camp Dog and the Poundie

Buying a Rescue Dog in Australia

Our dogs Spirit* and Nala* are my third and fourth dogs, first dogs in Australia, and first ever rescue dogs.

The choice to buy rescue dogs was really a no-brainer. Dog breeding/selling in Australia is a haphazard industry which permits dog breeding in large scale kennel facilities (as opposed to a family setting, which is the proper setting for production of family dogs) and puppy sale in pet stores, resulting in a large volume of low quality dogs being distributed via pet stores and newspaper ads on an ongoing basis. Buying from any of the commercial dog distribution channels in Australia is a bit like playing Russian Roulette with dog ownership.

And don’t even get me started on the systematic degeneration of dog breeds by the pure breed industry. No inbred pedigrees with deform anatomy and hereditary diseases for us, thank you. Just a dog!

The rescue dog option

A dog purchased from a dog rescue organisation may originate from the same type of conditions and haphazard breeding, but usually comes with lifetime take-back guarantee, behavioural evaluation and adjustment by passionate, experienced handlers, and plenty of support if needed. It also feels lovely to offer a good home to a homeless dog, especially considering the large numbers of dogs in need of a new home at any time.

PetRescue is Australia’s major pet rehoming web service that enables pet rescue organisations to advertise their available animals (mainly dogs) to potential adopters in a neat, informative, attractive manner. The Rescue organisations act as a protecting buffer between shelters and adopters of homeless dogs. They select and save dogs and cats from shelters and place them in foster care where the dogs are trained and their behaviour observed in a normal family environment.

The less lucky dogs that aren’t bailed out by rescue organisations can be purchased directly from the shelters. That route to pet adoption is shorter, cheaper and more unpredictable.

So, a rescue dog is typically a dog that started out as a normal puppy, probably bred commercially, which then lost its home and ended up in a shelter. That’s definitely the case for the vast majority of rescue dogs in all the major towns and the cities.

Outside the metropolitan areas there’s another large group of unwanted dogs; unlike the puppy mill dogs and shelter dogs they roam around freely and interact with people and other dogs, largely left to fend for themselves. They are an integral part of the communities they live in, but where their populations are not in check they are starving and struggle with parasites, and their numbers, condition and prevalence everywhere is a health problem for the people they live around as well as themselves. I am talking about the Australian Camp Dogs.

The Camp Dog

Our dog Spirit* started her life as a camp dog in a remote aboriginal village in the Northern Territory. Spirit’s home town looks something like this:

yuendumu arial

Source: – article by Philippa Nicole Barr.

and is located near the the Central Australian Desert. Continue reading

Good things about having dogs


Spirit’s and ‘Nala’s puppyhood in the old flat shortly after we added Nala to our little pack


I don’t know where to begin when talking about how good it is to have dogs, but I have long wanted to write about it and recently got extra inspired after reading A Kindred Soul by Musings of an Aspie.

We have 2 dogs. In line with the policies of this blog, they’ll have Internet pseudo-names and will be known as ‘Spirit’ and ‘Nala’ online. Spirit because she is a free spirit, and Nala (named after Simba’s girlfriend in The Lion King) because there is something lion-like gracious, majestic and childish about Nala and the way she moves.

What the dogs do to the house*

The dogs spread a happy & easy going vibe in the house, so we look extra forward to being home when we’re out … not to mention the cheering, tail-wagging welcome committee that greets us when we open the door. The dogs are great fun on an everyday basis; and a play or cuddle with the dogs can lift almost any heavy mood.

Most of all, the dogs have transformed our home into a little community. We are not just a married couple any more, we are a little tribe with a culture that we shape, but which also shapes us and which’ evolution is not fully under our control. I guess having dogs is somewhat akin to having kids in that regard.

The dogs are therapeutic

Whenever I’m feeling down, I can easily make the dogs happy, and that tends to lift my mood too. Sometimes all the way up from ‘tired and de-motivated’ to ‘having fun’.

When I feel nerve-wrecked and overloaded (or whenever Nala needs a hug), Nala will lean on me and/or rest her body on my chest. Although it sometimes feel like my ribs are slowly bending and it is hard to breathe, Nala’s warm heavy softness and trust is one of the most soothing sensations I know when I’m stressed, anxious or in sensory overload mode – just the right impact at the right time. And she is always around, with her unconditional support and strong but simple needs.

I also learn a lot from observing the dogs and their pack dynamics every day. I learn about social dynamics and political games (dog politics is mainly about bones, but still), perspective taking, care and responsibility, about their unique personalities, about being open to another species’ very different type of mental operative system, about conflict management and many other things.

And the dogs keep us/me physically fit. And safe too… protecting the house against real and imaginary enemies.

Dogs are routine animals

All that said, one of the key aspects of having dogs has to do with rules, everyday structure and routines. Dogs cherish and need daily routines such as walks, feeding rituals, training, and just all the little things we do at certain times and which they know will happen. Routines and predictability give dogs a sense of knowing the world they live in and be prepared for what will happen. Dogs thrive when they know precisely what to do, and carry out the same sequences day after day with the same persons. Carrying out routines together is a bonding kind of communication; it conveys that ‘we are together’, ‘we belong here’.

It isn’t necessary to be as rules-oriented as I am with dogs and some may find it a bit extreme, but I like to have many little scripts for longer activities, such as walks, that break the activity into small steps and mark how far along we are in the process and what will happen next. It helps the dogs to know what to do (even if they sometimes do the opposite!), and it helps me to control two dogs that are actually so strong that they can pull me over the ground ‘like a sled’ if they forget I am there.

Below is an example of a sequence of little scripts embedded in a daily routine; namely the morning run on a route via bush firetracks. It may be boring to read, but it is fun to do due to the dogs’ infectious enthusiasm for every step in the process.
Continue reading