The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

‘WE TOOK OUR LABRADOR TO DOGGY BOOT CAMP TO CURE HIS ANXIETY’

- BY KIM O’DONNELL, 58, FROM STAFFORDSH­IRE

On Boxing Day 2018, our family set off for a walk by the canal with our dogs, Leo, a labrador, and Charley, a cocker spaniel. Suddenly, two off-lead Staffies ran out from behind a bush and attacked Leo, who was on a lead and couldn’t get away.

There was a frenzy of barking and snarling. I managed to push one dog away, but the other bit Leo on his side and then latched on to his ear and bit right through it. The howling noise he made broke our hearts. I managed to grab the collar of the dog and twisted it around until it let go. Leo was a mess and we spent the next two hours being treated by the emergency vet.

Leo’s physical scars healed, but he became scared and reactive. He jumped at noises and freaked out when he saw other dogs. He was anxious on the lead, so we avoided other dogs.

After a few months, we sought expert advice. A friend recommende­d the Naughty but Nice (NBN) dog training group on Facebook and we began implementi­ng some of the training methods, such as engagement games in the garden and loose lead walking. Leo’s confidence improved.

I then booked an NBN training camp, called

Devon Dogs, last October, which combined dog training with a week’s holiday staying at a cottage in the training academy’s grounds.

“We had two hours of training per day for five days, which helped with Leo’s reactivity and also Charley’s overexcite­ment and barking. The games, which were tailored to suit each dog, were designed to grab

Leo’s attention while others were to calm Charley down.

On our last day, we went to a nearby beach and let the dogs run free when another labrador came lolloping over at high speed. Leo was too far away for us to grab him, so I feared the worst. But astonishin­gly, the dogs greeted each other, had a sniff and then ran into the sea.

Once the lab’s owners caught up, we chatted and discovered he was a young failed guide dog. For 15 minutes, the pair chased toys that we threw into the sea for them to retrieve, playing happily together, something I never thought I’d see Leo do again.

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