By Tony Ellis
A guest blog by an owner of two big dogs living in Galicia, Northern Spain
I’d always wanted a big dog! When Kiko (The Belgian/German Shepherd pictured on the left) arrived at two months old, we were determined to train him well! I think we have largely succeeded in this apart from his behaviour on the lead which includes constant pulling and sudden shoulder wrenching changes of direction.
This has left us both with injuries over the years, despite our best efforts. If anyone knows a way of teaching an old dog a new trick of walking calmly and obediently, I’d love to hear it.
Some two years later.....
Our pack was completed by Iggy, a Gos d’atura we’d found abandoned in the countryside. Now these might not be the biggest dogs you have seen but together they amount to 75 Kilos of (often wilful) muscle and dog walking became even more of a challenge.
Another problem is that each has different exercise needs, Iggy likes to run and leap in wide open spaces,while Kiko is objective orientated and will chase ball, stick,pine cone as long as you are able/willing to throw them.
This is complicated by his arthritis which affects all four limbs and limits the amount of time for this type of exercise. How can we reconcile these differing needs?
Country life or City life
These days Kiko and Iggy alternate between two different lives, half in a city and half in the countryside and this means two kinds of challenge.
In the City they live in a house with no garden, just a small terrace which means walks are essential for their exercise.
Fortunately there is a pi pi can (a part of a local park which is dedicated to dogs) but we still have to get them from the house to the park. This is simple enough if Kiko wishes to walk in that direction but sometimes he wants to go somewhere else and hangs back or even sits down and refuses to move.
When we get to the park Kiko will chase a ball endlessly, while Iggy unless he finds a playful companion will simply lay down watching the world around him.
It is in the countryside which provides the best answer. Walks are off lead so that Kiko can go at his own pace while Iggy chases himself around the fields, sometimes a cooperative wild animal will lead them a chase for a minute or so.
However, Kiko still needs more strenuous exercise and for this the only solution is water, swimming builds muscle around his joints while reducing the shock of impact.
A beach works well, when it is permitted for dogs and if you can ignore the glares of disapproval (thanks to those of you who don’t clean up after your dogs!) which is why it’s fortunate to live near this little piece of paradise: one swimming after sticks and another paddling after a long run.
Bar is 100 meters away = Dog walking heaven for all parties! 🙂