Dog wearing Christmas hat

Spaying, Deer Training and Christmas at Willow's!

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As promised, here is the update on Willow, by Abigail Hutton-Tufano.
Hands down, THE most stressful months so far with Willow!
It all started with her being booked in for her spay surgery at the beginning of November. We decided to go for the full-spay, mainly because we spoke to a few other owners who had the same procedure done at our Vets and had all had positive outcomes. Willow went bounding in with her medical onesie and comfort blanket in an ‘overnight’ bag, even though she would only be in for a few hours, we wanted to make sure she had something with our scent on.
Cut to four hours later when we went to pick her up and she looked like a different dog. She was drawn and whimpering and basically all over the place. The surgery had gone well but the anaesthetic had really affected her and she just wasn’t herself. She wobbled about the house when we got in and couldn't seem to get comfortable. She also couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed upstairs (because we didn’t want her to rip her stitches or do too much) so that first night was much harder than I anticipated.
On the plus side she hadn’t gone off her food (at all!) which apparently is one of the potential side effects and she would only be allowed to do short lead walks for the next 2 weeks. Oh my word, that is easier than it sounds! By day five she was climbing the walls and we were running out of games/tricks/toy selections fast!!! The entertainment level was at maximum and we were all exhausted just keeping her from being bored, but two weeks on, her stitches were taken out and it’s healed beautifully and you wouldn’t even know she had surgery as you can barely see the scar and Willow is back to her bonkers best!
However, on our first walk off the lead in Richmond Park, we had a really frightening experience!
As we entered our usual side gate straight into the park, I took Willow off the lead and off she bounded into the bushes like she usually does, however, this time she didn’t come back when I recalled her. There she was, quietly sitting watching 3 massive stags who were also just standing there eating the bush……my eyes were on stalks!
I called her again because I was worried she would get hurt, but Willow seemed to think these were 3 big dogs she could hang out with. She wasn’t aggressive or barking, just fascinated by them. They clearly had enough of her staring and trotted off and Willow started trotting off with them, luckily for me it was only about 20 yards and she came across some other dogs and obviously realised that they weren’t in fact dogs but something else and when I caught up with her, she was rolling in a bush with a dog pal.
Still that was enough of a fright for me, so I got home and called the only person I know that would be able to help me in this situation and I needed an expert in canine behaviour, so I called Kirsten Dillon (A.Dip CBM BVBA PACT KSA AABP ABTC.) She met me a few weeks later in Richmond Park and we started on deer training.
First up she taught me how to make Willow do an ‘emergency stop’ by putting my hand up and shouting stop and throwing the treat behind her so that she doesn’t move forward, a few goes of this and with some practice at home, Willow has nailed this command.
Second was to create a noise that wasn’t a recall but almost in an ‘emergency’ situation where I see Willow could potentially be in danger or if I needed her attention and needed to break her stare or what she’s doing. I make the noise, I turn away from where she is and I throw some food on the floor. Willow has been amazing with it and although typically we didn’t see any deer that day, I’ve actually had to use the noise on a couple of occasions since when she’s not seen a herd in the bushes that I could see and another time whilst playing with a whippet, the whippet ran off into the deer pen and the noise brought Willow (and the whippet straight back) the owner’s were massively grateful and I felt so proud of Willow!
We need of course to keep practising as we want Willow to be able to be an assistance dog and so we have a long way to go, but she’s getting there.
Finally, Christmas at our house. She wasn’t even bothered by our faux fir tree (we’ve had for the last 3 years made out of recycled plastic) or the baubles or lights, but she did become very interested in our ‘elf on the shelf’ and at one point, she went to pick it up, much to the horror of Monty who pointed out that no one is allowed to touch the elf otherwise we won’t get any Christmas presents, so once she was told to leave it, she hasn’t bothered with any of the decorations.
We haven’t of course left any presents out under the tree as I think that would be one temptation too far at the moment, even for a well-trained teenager like Willow…….
Have an amazing Christmas and Happy New Year!
By Abigail Hutton-Tufano