The Daily Telegraph - Saturday



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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