Tales of Teddy

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Teddy’s Tales: Free Running

With Teddy in tow I talk to an awful lot of people. Turns out that a dog is a license to chat. About anything: from dog welfare (“I’ve spoken to complete strangers about Fudge’s bowel movements,” admits a faintly mortified friend), to divorce settlements (while going walkies, another friend was recommended a divorce lawyer). Sticking strictly to canine concerns, I regale a fellow dog walker with tales of our Tiny Terror’s tendency to go for other pups. She nods reassuringly and says socialization is key.When I tell her that although Teddy is now ready to run free (the injections have kicked in, he’s raring to go) but I am loathe to let him off-lead on the wilds of Hampstead Heath, she says walking with a pack might ease the nerves. Her Miniature Schnauzer and the two other dogs she walks seem to get on with Teddy and she suggests that one day we join them. “Don’t worry, Kipper will keep him in line,” she says of her neatly clipped 9-year-old. We meet at Kenwood. All the dogs greet each other thoroughly – not a hint of a growl – and we walk to a less beaten path. After slowly easing Teddy (me) in, she suggests I attach a very long lead (10metres – bought specifically) to give the illusion of freedom. I manage to keep Teddy’s attention focused with frequent recalls and yesterday’s roast chicken. And after another ten minutes with the lead dropped, trailing behind him in all that lovely Heath detritus, my new friend suggests I let Teddy run free. I check that I have my mobile phone (his dog tag has my number on it – and yes, I’m aware that I’m verging on the neurotic). I take a deep breath (I’m trying to channel Cesar Millan, transferring positive vibes to my dog), then I let him off. And he completely surprises me: there’s no freedom freak out. He doesn’t immediately shoot-off, but simply mooches with the other dogs, sniffing absolutely everything, seemingly aware that he is free, but keen to keep an eye on exactly where I (and the chicken) am. He has two 10-minute slots of freedom and in between, I carry the mucky pup. What with the muddy paws, it’s tempting to let him continue his fun on the ground, but the vet and Kevin-the-Trainer loom large in my mind. They were both strict about giving young pups only short bouts of exercise in order to avoid joint problems later on. As directed, we have been practicing Teddy’s recall continually since – apparently, and unsurprisingly, disobedience grows with confidence. It’s crazy fun to see him run full pelt and then thunder back for the tiniest piece of chicken. Puppy classes end next week, and I’m pleased to report that the barking and growling is subsiding as Teddy gets used to other dogs. Things are coming together and I can see a happy dog-walking future. What’s next? I fear it may be that very divisive issue: the Snip. Any thoughts?

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