I’ve often wondered what it must be like to be married to a professional chef. I’ve decided, with no empirical or even anecdotal evidence to support the assumption, that professional chefs fall in to one of two categories when it comes to cooking at home:
1.That’s what I do at work. Don’t want to see or smell any cooking utensils, let’s have Cornflakes for dinner.
2. I have some exciting new ideas I’d like to try out. Here, sample my amazing, restaurant quality cuisine.
The reason I’ve often had these thoughts is because, as someone who used to train dogs for a living, it goes without saying that the standard of my own dog’s public and private behaviour will always be subject to close scrutiny by friends, family and acquaintances, says Ryan O’Meara.
Here’s the big admission.
I’ve got a hell of a soft spot for unruly dogs. Proper naughty ones.
I’m chef number one.
I used to get a secret kick if one of my own dogs did something genuinely rebellious and disobedient. If I’d say “stay”, turn round and see my dog had not only not done as asked, but had proceeded to try and steal a plate of biscuits from the other side of the room.
There, it’s in the open.
After spending a day gaining behavioural compliance from a steady stream of great dogs, I’d ‘relax’ by watching my own dog test the limits.
Why would I make such an admission?
Well, we’ve recently welcomed a new puppy in to our home along with an adult rescue dog, joining 9 year old Mia who’s been firmly entrenched in her position as ‘the puppy’ for, oh, I’d say, the last 9 years.
The thing is, with proper puppies. You know, the eight week old sort, you do have to set up boundaries, rules and encourage desirable behaviour. Relentless aren’t they, pups? They keep going for hours and hours. It’s easy to forget just how much of a challenge a new puppy can be.
Now, I’m a person who’s seen many puppies in my life. I have no qualms in admitting that little puppies don’t quite melt my heart in the same way as they often do for other folks. In fact, given how I used to have to earn a living training a dog, an eight week old puppy is to a dog trainer what preparing the ingredients is to a chef with the notable exception that most professional chefs aren’t actually going to sample their own hard work, someone else is paying for that privilege.
With a puppy you know full well that the early lessons they learn are important. Vital, in fact, because the experiences they have will often shape them as adults. Their exposure to certain situations needs to be carefully stage managed. In fact, you spend your day making sure you follow certain rules. Don’t use their name in a negative way. Don’t over-use their name and make them bored of hearing it. Don’t let them chew through the household electrical cables. Don’t let them constantly harass the dog(s) who already live with you.
It’s tiring, challenging and along with the undoubted fun and frolics that come with the little bundles of fluffy joy, there’s definitely stress. Stress that is absolutely no different to an experienced owner used to training dogs to a high standard to a novice owner worried that they might be committing some dreadful mistakes that will result in their playful, nippy puppy turning in to a bitey, dangerous adult.
All this serves to remind us that taking on a puppy is a real challenge. A commitment that starts out hard and often gets harder with all the bumps in the road.
This is why, in 2015, I’m going to – repeatedly – ask the following question:
If we have a completely unregulated, over supply of new puppies year after year, is it any real wonder our shelters are full to bursting point and generally perceived standards of responsible dog ownerships are declining?
I feel very lucky that, through experience and being prepared to research, my wife and I both have the ability to discern a good breeder from a not so good one. Our last two puppies have been from the same breeder. A not uncommon scenario – after all, if you liked one dog, you’re likely to go back again when the time comes.
The problem we have in the UK is that, in my view, irresponsible, over supply is not only tolerated, it’s downright encouraged. Encouraged because it’s so easy. Breed puppies, stick ’em on the Internet, wait for the sales to come in. Sound far fetched? Well it’s not. This is happening every day all over the UK.
If we want to do something, as a society, to improve dog ownership standards, to take a bite out of the shameful welfare crisis we find ourselves in then we need to start at the beginning of the chain. We need proper regulation when it comes to the production and supply of dogs. If we carry on as we are, things will get even worse.
You’ll be hearing more from me on this subject.
In the meantime, here’s my new puppy, Christopher, followed by a video that you might relate to (I know I did!).