Updated: Jun 26
This is a blog that I originally wanted to do as part of a series of blogs back in December, regarding dogs of 2021 who have achieved. As usual time got away from me and I didn’t get the chance, but here I am, and it has an even better ending than I could have imagined. My delay worked out well in the end!
Early on last year I got a message from Remy’s owners regarding some walking and socialising requirements and assistance with a little problem they were having. That problem being he hated the car and refused to get in it. Whilst lockdown was on, it wasn’t a huge problem because we couldn’t go any where any way, but sooner or later we would have to get in the car, whether it be because of going for a day out, visiting relatives, a holiday, the groomers and most importantly, the vets!
It had all started when he'd had an accident and needed to visit the vets repeatedly. Remy has always known his own mind, and this was no exception. Remy had had enough and associated the car with pain, and he was not getting in the car, no way, no how!
Remy wasn’t a lockdown puppy but like most of the other dogs in the world, because he wasn’t experiencing any socialising during the first part of the pandemic and what followed, he soon became so used to being with his owners, he was struggling with other people and dogs. Which was where I came in. I stepped in to take Remy out for little walks a couple of times a week, just so he got used to being away from home without his owners and developed a little bit of independence.
Those first walks were interesting. Amongst many things, the sticks he’d find were so impressive! He wanted to say hello to everyone and to be fair he was a very popular boy, and everyone knew who he was. But through out he would not entertain getting in the car. We had to remedy this.
I started very slowly. I just introduce him to the car. I did things like walking round the car, talking in a soothing voice, and giving him high value treats (mini sausages). Remy was very keen to walk round and eat the treats but he'd still try and get away. We progressed to opening the doors and allowing him to look at the inside, sniffing, giving a treat. His owners did the same with their car. Still though, he wasn’t for getting in. Even if I threw a treat in, he would stretch his neck as long as possible to get to the treat.
We also had the added issue of his harness. Remy was Houdini and knew that he could get out of his harness so if we tried a little harder to get him in, he’d just back out! With Remy being so big there was no way we could lift him in, we had to just keep persisting, showing Remy that it wasn’t really a scary place, taking him to scary places, but a nice cosy space which took him to fun and happy places instead. The harness had to go and a new harness that was fitted correctly and fastened in two places was the answer. As soon as Remy realised he couldn’t just back out of the harness, he started to relax.
I always say you must have a correctly fitted harness. There is for a number of reasons for this. For comfort, for safety and to cause as least restriction on their body whilst we can still control them, as much and as safely as possible. A harness can act as a very comforting tool rather than a hindrance to the dog, and hug nicely to their body. So, if you have an anxious dog, especially on walks, a good fitting harness may really help your dog’s wellbeing and make for a much more pleasurable walk.
So back to Remy. I wont lie, we had to use a little bit of force to get him in the car initially. We had tried over and over again to get him in on his own fruition, but we had hit a stale mate. It was time to take the next step so Remy could see that the car wasn’t so scary after all, and he could achieve much joy. We started with just getting him in the car which meant we had to be a little bit more determined than Remy! Once in (I got in with him) me and him sat together, he was eating his mini sausages and I talked to him calmly, telling him what a good boy he was. After we had done this a few times, we then went for a little drive round the block then took him home. After a few ‘walks’ like this, we then drove somewhere, when for a little walk, got back in the car, and went home.
This went on for some time, Josh and Jess his humans doing the same as me. Before long we were going further and further, doing more and more exciting things. I won’t deny it, I was very very proud of him and didn’t think I could be more proud, but then last week Josh and Jess got married. And guess who went, by car, to the wedding? You guessed it, Remy! He even got to be the ring bearer!
And they got a beautiful photo of them together with him. (I've got a copy of this in my office on my wall reminding me of how far Remy has com).
Remy and his family have come a long way since I first met them back in February 2021. They have worked very hard and achieved so much. He understands now that the car isn’t the vehicle that takes him to pain and suffering, but that he goes places that fills him with joy. And because of this he can go to the vets again too because he recognises that the car takes him to multiple places.
Look at him here on holiday!
Remy is a big daft lovable dog who if I sit down, he insists on sitting on my knee! He still loves to find the biggest of sticks and he gets on with all his dog friends. I won’t deny he drives me mad sometimes, but he does get away with a lot with me. His recall is really good and often trots alongside me more like he is a companion on walks, rather than me taking him for a walk.
I cannot tell you how much I have gained from taking care of Remy; working with him and other dogs in this manner is the most favourite thing I do. Its what I love about my work. I learn their body language, their little issues and ways, I talk to them and work out their personalities and behaviour. It works both ways though and we teach each other a lot.