About Me

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My name is Lesli Hyland. In my fifty one years on this earth, my home and my heart have been graced with the company of twenty four dogs. Many came to me as seniors. All of them taught me something and helped determine the course of my life. I became a dog trainer because of them. I met my friends because of them. My husband and I are are forever bonded by our mutual connection to them. Currently, as a Dog Walker I have access to other people's dogs and I am allowed to experience their unique personalities. The dogs make me a better person by forcing me to closely examine my motivation, my actions and my choices. Everything I do affects their behavior, safety and happiness. It is an awesome responsibility. The dogs keep me honest.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Personalities vs Training

We have a very varied canine family. We have a Chihuahua, a Chi/ Rat terrier cross, a Cattle dog cross, a Farm Collie cross, a Vizsla, a Beagle and a Corgi cross.  That means we have representatives from the toy, herding, hound, terrier,  and sporting dog categories.  Those groups have very different canine personalities, due to the jobs they were designed to do.
Hounds are driven by scent.  They are single minded when it comes to food and usually good with other dogs because they hunt in packs.  They are generally happy dogs.
Terriers are rat killers so they are quick, tough and tenacious.  They can be a wee bit snarky with other dogs.
Herding dogs are smart, easy to train, quick to make decisions and can be controlling because they need to think on their own somewhat to control livestock.  They are often the "fun police" when other dogs start running or playing.
Toys are dogs that have been bred down in size to be portable companions.  They are very people oriented and can be easily spoiled.
Sporting dogs are energetic, busy dogs that enjoy an active lifestyle, working closely with people.

So how do all these different dogs co-exist in my household?  Carefully!  Obviously I have no breed requirements when I adopt or purchase a dog.  Nor does age or health deter me from adoption.  If I can help an older or medically challenged dog, I am happy to do it.   My only criteria is that everyone gets along.  That means that a dog must enjoy other dogs or be easily convinced to ignore them! 

I think my success in that avenue is due in a large part to environmental management and slow introductions when a new dog joins the group.  I do not believe in just letting dogs "work it out".  Initial interactions can leave a lasting impression that is hard to over come.  I don't see the point of forcing a dog out of their comfort zone, by allowing unstructured interactions.  Once a dog has been scared by another it is harder for them to relax in that dog's presence.I go slow, giving new and established dogs space.

I also do not let my heart over shadow my brain when it comes to keeping or adopting a dog.  I WILL NOT live in home where dogs need to be kept apart all the time or where one dog is stressed by the presence of another.  I have sent many a foster dog onto other families in spite of being very attached to the dog.  If they don't fit in, my attachment is not a valid reason to keep the dog. 

Jenny pup was one such dog.  I adored her as did Brian, but the rest of the household thought she was a real pain in the ass! :-P She was TOO MUCH puppy for my other dogs.  She is loved by her two Moms in a household with one other dog who can deal with her intensity.
Dixie was another.  Heartworm positive...raising a litter of pups...so affectionate with people...But my dogs avoided her like the plague in spite of the fact that she never displayed any overt aggression.  I listened to them and she was placed with a hound savvy owner through the shelter.
Little One was a teenie chihuahua we fostered at the same time as Lupie.  Though Lupie was really not the dog that pulled at my heart strings, she is the one we kept.  Little One was terrified of Brian. With alot of time and work we could've increased her comfort level, but in the mean time she would have been living with alot of stress. Plus, her fear of Brian really hurt Brian's feelings!  We placed her with a single Mom who had a couple other toy dogs.  She blossomed there. And Lupie blossomed here - afraid of nothing and able to hold her own in this multidog household.

Some might ask if as a dog trainer shouldn't I be able to train any dog to fit into our household?  Perhaps...but there are a lot of dogs and a lot of families out there.  I don't see the point in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Training can only take you so far.  A dog's personality is what it is.  Not all dogs get along well with each other. They are no different than human beings.  I can learn to get along with almost anyone if I have to for work or a project...but I wouldn't want to live with them!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

      "Seven dogs?!       Are you crazy?!"

My response to this common question is a demure "Seven IS alot..."

Brian usually grins proudly and says "We're DOWN to seven.  We had EIGHT until recently"

I'm glad Brian is proud of our family.  I am too!  But because of who I am and what I do, I am always thinking of public education and the welfare of our companion dogs.  I don't want people to think that having multiple dogs is easy.  It is not for everyone.  In fact it is not for most people.  Brian and I have unique jobs.  We both work primarily from home with Brian traveling only a portion of every day and my classes, private lessons and dog walks taking me away from the house for short stretches of time.  Brian can take a dog with him on his sales rounds and of course I can have 2 or 3 tag along with me as well.  Our dogs aren't home alone much and never for a full work day.   We have 5 acres, tolerant neighbors, good friends who provide pet care and we make enough money to keep us all clothed, fed and in good health! 

And not to toot my own horn...but I am a professional!  Kids don't try this at home...

Seriously, living with seven dogs does require well thought out environmental and time management.  It requires the ability to read canine body language.  It requires skill in behavior modification and general training.  And it requires the willingness to make your dogs your priority. 

We have a nice home.  We keep it clean and relatively uncluttered.  But dogs pee on the floor... they vomit and get diarrhea...they destroy things...they require crates and gates that many would find unattractive.  House Beautiful is not going to call us for a photo shoot anytime soon! 

My biggest beef with people who have multiple dogs is that I truly believe that feeding, housing and loving your dogs is not enough.  They need training, exercise, time alone with you, time away from home, mental stimulation and a chance to develop a personality away from the group.  Too many people have too many dogs to adequately meet those needs.  They all need individual attention.  That is the reason I never have  more than two youngsters at a time.  Anyone that says that they can meet the training, socialization and exercise needs of more than three dogs under two years of age is delusional. 

Our dogs are 15 1/2, 11, 9, 7, 6, 5 and 2 yrs old.  Mamacita, the 2 yr old, and Tawnie, the 7 yr old, are my competition dogs.  They are trained alot, hiked alot and go to trials.  They LOVE agility, rally and freestyle  with Mom. Tawnie recently passed her Therapy dog test.

James (9), Chalupa (5) and Cubby (6) do not require much exercise (though they still get walks in addition to having access to our big fenced yard and they come to playgroup at work). James LOVES the yard and happily spends hours wandering, sniffing and snoozing in the sun. His car sickness prevents long trips but we are working on it! Chalupa goes hiking with the big dogs sometimes and on long walks with Cubby on Flexi leashes. We do a little bit of agility and trick training.  She LOVES doing errands in the car.  Cubby was in a High School play last year - he LOVED the time alone with Mom during rehearsals and the show . I am considering therapy work for him. He will be great.

Tucker(11) has some specialized behavioral needs.  He goes to work every day with Brian to help him live comfortably with his severe separation anxiety.  He LOVES riding in the car.  He also LOVES hunting frogs at the pond and Brian is happy to take him on weekends, in addition to short walks and swims during his sales rounds.

Pogo (151/2) has different needs.  He gets confused easily.  He needs encouragement to eat.  He needs patient handling.  He is stiff and sore, so cannot travel in the car comfortably.  His exercise is slow walks on our lane and toddling around the yard.   He LOVES me and he has me, completely.  

Seven dogs IS alot, but it works for us.

Thanks to Amanda McGuire Photography for the photo!