I recently met with a prospective client and her dog and after carefully assessing the dog's temperament and behaviour, I declined to accept him into one of my K9 Expeditions hiking groups. It made me realize that I have another very important point to add to my post about selecting a dog walker or doggie daycare (
). How does the walker or daycare provider determine which dogs are accepted into their care or which ones are not accepted?
Finn and Stan are two young boys who love playing with each other. They play pretty rough but each one backs off when the other indicates it's time for a time out! These two are a good fit for each other but there are many dogs, both male and female, who would not be a good fit for the style of play these boys engage in.
When I was developing my business plan for
, I created a list of criteria against which to assess each dog wanting to join my hiking groups. I take the safety of the dogs in my care, as well as all dogs and people we encounter on the trail, very seriously. It is my responsibility to make sure that we all come home safe, happy and tired and by assessing each prospective canine hiker carefully, I strive to predict as accurately as possible how the dog might react in various situations. If the predicted reactions are not desired, for the safety of the dog being assessed, my group of dogs and the others we meet on the trail, he unfortunately will not be accepted into my hiking groups.
Stevie the puppy, Stanley the adolescent and Bayliss the senior. Individual dogs who hike as part of a group must be respectful and comfortable with dogs at various life stages if the group, like this one, is comprised of dogs of varying ages.This is an important factor when I consider a potential canine hiker's fit for a hiking group.
Below I have shared a portion of the check list that I use in determining if a dog will join one of my canine hiking groups. While it is not a complete list of the assessment criteria I use, and many of these are quite specific to the activity the dogs will be part of with me, it should give dog owners a sense of the kind of questions they should be asking a prospective dog walker or daycare provider to guage their comfort level in how the walker or daycare provider determines which dogs will be accepted or rejected.
Canine Hiker Assessment Check List:
- Does the dog have the physical ability to safely navigate distance and challenging terrain
- Dog's response to me
- When I provide praise
- When I recall the dog
- Dog's reaction to other dogs:
- While playing
- Intact dogs
- Specific breeds
- If toys are part of the play
- Around food or treats
- Dog's reaction to people/strangers:
- Around other dogs
- Around food/treats
- Dog's reaction to other animals (e.g. horses, farm animals, wildlife)
- Any past dog-on-dog aggression?
- Any past dog-on-human aggression?
- Dog's recall ability
- Low distractions
- Moderate distractions
- High distractions
- Dog's reaction to sudden noises
- Any fear issues (e.g. thunder/lightening, loud noises, trains, etc.)
- Leash manners
This is just a portion of my complete list of assessment criteria. By obtaining as much detail as possible about the prospective canine hiker, I am able to assess the dog's appropriateness for: 1) the activity we are engaging in, hiking through forests and natural areas; 2) the group of dogs he will be joining and; 3) managing the many unknown scenarios and distractions we face each time we embark on a hike. Some of these criteria rule a dog out immediately whereas others may be managed. For example, if the dog fails on recall ability, I am happy to work with the owner and dog to improve the dog's recall so that he can join our hikes. However, if the dog is aggressive in any way, to either dogs or humans, the dog will not be accepted.
Stanley's recall is excellent, even if he is in the middle of chasing a squirrel up a tree.
A reliable recall is so critical in keeping the dogs safe.
While I did reject the prospective client's dog after our meeting, I provided her with some advice on how to move forward and improve those aspects of her dog's behaviour that need work. I suggested to her that she attend classes at a reputable training school, and not just one six or eight week session, rather ongoing training with her dog. Not only will training contribute to changing the behavioural issues her dog exhibits, but it will also help her develop a stronger bond with her dog and improve his response to her. I hope she follows through!