Teddy returned from his first activity camp holiday earlier this week and in his overnight bag, alongside various treats and his favourite toy, was a fairly weighty school report. You’ve got to love The Dog House. When your dog stays with them, they take his or her welfare so seriously that you really need not worry.
Of course, that’s not to say I didn’t. Unlike your child’s first camp, you can’t explain to your dog as he boards the bus that he will be returning to his favourite spot on the sofa, his treats, his walks and and his pretty darn lovely day-to-day life in a matter of days. You can’t explain to your dog that this romp – with plenty of other well-cared for pups; over meadows, marshes and woodland; with warm beds to sleep in and carers to coddle, train or play fetch with – is something of a treat.
Instead you must supply him with a ‘scent of home’ (in Ted’s case a T-shirt slept in by both my husband and I – yum!) and a cheery, upbeat farewell, so as not to provoke separation anxiety. I slightly wimped out on that last one. My husband took Teddy to meet the specially adapted Dog House dog bus ferrying him to the 300 acres of Welsh farm land that was to be his home for the next 10 nights.
My husband sent a photo of the handover (I might not have womanned-up to the task, but I still wanted to see how little Ted managed). He was impressed by the positive comments from other owners dropping off their four-legged friends, noting that, “They’d all done it before and came back for more.” He also liked the way the reassuring driver tucked a pig’s ear into Teddy’s crate. So, no problems.
I logged onto the FaceBook page and waited for a picture of Teddy to appear. Within two days a photo popped up: Teddy romping along a green path, grinning for the camera. Perhaps it’s not surprising that his first stay away from the family went so very well. Before he set off, we had to fill in pages about this Mini Schnauzer’s general behaviour, diet, health and habits. We had to meet with The Dog House’s Mark Thompson for a prelimineray once-over (for them, not us – you can read about that here).
When Teddy got back we received a detailed timetable of daily activities along with that aforementioned Behaviour Report that confirmed, importantly, his Favourite Toy: Tennis Ball, and his Order of Motivation: 1. Affection 2. Games 3. Food. We had a full page on Teddy’s recall, or lack thereof (must try harder), his reluctance to walk to heel (oh dear) and his potential for chasing small animals. “He demonstrated a fair interest in most small animals, although his handler was able to distract him.” While from an early age Ted has got used to the delights of an urban environment – the Underground, the sound of a jackhammer and the lurch of a London Bus -, I never thought of introducing him to a chicken or a pig. Despite all the cute videos on Facebook showing dog/cat, dog/rabbit friendships, it’s the last thing I would do…
On the plus side, Teddy is well-mannered (doesn’t try to barge though doors first), loves a game of fetch but is also content with his own company. He has no separation anxiety, but we’re not to get complacent. For each behaviour exhibited – good and bad – the report gives tips so this handy little booklet will undoubtedly become Teddy’s personalised training manual. I’m also pleased to report that while he sought out a fellow Mini Schnauzer to pal around with, Teddy also made friends with a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever and two ‘elderly but energetic’ Border Terriers. Clearly he integrates well. So proud.