Guest Review by David Allin

Kobe is a 22 month old Goldador (lab x golden retriever) – a bundle of energy without an off-switch! We’ve had Kobe since he was eight weeks old and he is our first dog. Over the last year or so Kobe has become anxious around some other dogs. If he sees a dog he displays playful behaviour, but if he gets to meet the other dog it can result in a snarly, growly mess.  Because of this anxiety, we avoid other dogs as far as possible and it can make walks stressful. He is always on lead or long line.

Why Devon Dogs?

We have tried several approaches to training all of which have helped to some extent. Most recently he has done some gun dog training, which he has taken to really well and it has improved his recall no end.

But most of the training we have done focuses on embedding a skill or a discipline whereas we want to try to modify Kobe’s behaviour and for him to make good choices. I have ‘dabbled’ with Absolute Dogs courses previously and like the approach and the explanation of ‘reshaping the dogs brain’.

Devon Dogs’ option to stay and train onsite seemed like a perfect combination for Kobe’s first holiday and for us to understand more about the training approach.

Tor View Cottage

Tor View is a delightful barn conversion – just a studio, but perfectly adequate for our 4 night stay. It is relatively new and well equipped. The garden is completely fenced and secure. There is a gap of a few yards to the neighbouring property, meaning unfamiliar dogs cannot get too close. Kobe has no issues from that distance and was very keen to say hello to Billy the retriever over the fence.

Training

Training is very well organised. Movements of dogs and owners are coordinated so that there are no unwanted meetings of dogs.  We had three different trainers during our stay; Jamie, Becky and Sam – all of whom were brilliant. We used various locations for training including car park, field, cottage and moors. This really helped demonstrate how to take the games to different environments to give the dogs different types and levels of distraction.

Having someone to show you the finer details of games or the mechanics needed to deliver them most effectively was invaluable. The Absolute Dogs videos are great, but the personal touch is even better.

Outcome

Our objective was to come away from Devon Dogs with a plan on how to modify Kobe’s behaviour. We know it’s not a ten minute fix as some YouTube videos would have you believe. We know we’ve got potentially many months of working at it. But we now have that plan which for Kobe focuses on disengagement, calmness and managing his levels of excitement. And we already have achieved some quick wins.

We’ve also seen first-hand that Kobe doesn’t have to have hours of exercise each day to tire him out.  He was absolutely exhausted at Devon Dogs just through getting his brain working in different ways.  Whilst we are keen not to ‘ditch our walks’ completely, we now have alternatives to traditional walks and methods to refocus the walks when we do go out.

About the authors: David and Gill live in Hertfordshire with two grown up sons. They have been considering having a dog for many years, but busy lives didn’t permit. The change in working patterns, due to Covid and David having recently taken early retirement, has enabled them to bring Kobe into their lives.