This View has been written by Midlothian Dog Trainer Nick McMechan.
It’s been on my mind a lot in recent weeks. I’ve kind of went down the Rabbit Hole with the Dog Bite problem in the UK right now. There’s an All-Party Parliamentary Group working on the problem with regular meetings (APDAWG). It seems that, almost every day in the News I’m reading headlines about Dog on Human attacks, with the people involved sadly being maimed or sometimes killed. It feels like the issue is worsening and any data I can find backs up my feeling. There needs to be effective and enforceable legislation change. The issue is as straightforward as its complex in some regards. I’ll explain more in a future article.
I read some jaw dropping statistics recently. Dog Ownership in the UK has increased in the last ten years from almost 8 million Dog to almost 13 million. That means there are almost as many Dogs living in the UK there are Children. Almost 13% of Dog Owners don’t think they ever need to train their Dog. That’s almost 1 in 8 Owners who think they don’t need to train their Dog – not good!
But, for the time being.
It can all be avoided.
Here are three mistakes every Dog Owner can avoid
1. Allowing your Dog to approach strange Dogs.
Stop your Dog approaching strange Dogs – today! That’s going be an unpopular opinion, I know. I was introduced to this concept many years ago. At first I didn’t like it admittedly. I had a romantic notion of taking my dog to the park and having its own doggy pals to play with. I loved this idea. Over the years my opinion and stance on this has gradually and firmly changed.
The more I work with Dogs, the more I realise the importance of this, and the problems this mistake can cause.
So, first, what happens when your dog runs up to an off leash dog.
When this happens, both endorphins and oxytocin are released as the play ensues. These are pleasure chemicals released in the brain. However, similar to Humans, they are addictive. Your dog becomes addicted to things that are not you. This may start with other dogs, and can become other things, such as rabbits, squirrels, deer, chasing children on scooters, chasing other moving vehicles. Very soon you can have an out of control dog. You can help prevent this by stopping your Dog approaching strange dogs
I’m a Dog Reactivity Specialist. I specialise in dogs who present fear based reactivity (and ‘frustrated greeters’ and aggression). One of the most common triggers of fear based reactivity is interactions with strange Dogs. Often there will be a negative interaction at some point, sometimes there are no obvious signs (to humans) and the dogs stress levels build around strange dogs. Then reactivity develops. This is when I usually help to reduce the dogs reactivity in kind and (very) effective ways. But it’s difficult to live with. You can prevent this by stopping your dog approaching strange dogs, particularly when the other dog is on leash – that is a massive No No!
If you can’t stop your dog running up to other dogs, use a long training line to prevent the interactions off leash, and of course, a leash for safety in other areas, such as roadsides. It’s vitally important your dog still gets free running exercise as this is a fundamental aspect of the needs of your dogs, so use the long training line for that
But, please, for the greater good of all dog owners, stop your dog approaching strange dogs. You may inadvertently cause reactivity in the other dog or your own.
2. Stopping Training your Dog
Dog Training shouldn’t be a one off intervention. Whatever you have learnt from your Dog Trainer, use it on an ongoing basis. Dog Training is a lifelong event, particularly Recall work.
I could write a book about the benefits of this and how to do it. But stopping at each leg of your regular dog walk and performing a quick training exercise has massive benefits you are likely unaware of. Vitally, your dog becomes more engaged in you on your walks and not on other things (see above!). The things you do on these walks can be as simple as Sit, Down, Stand or anything else you have learnt to do with your dog. The benefits are enormous. Trust in Nick, do this on at least one walk per day
3. Incorrect Socialistation
In my experience, many dog owners think dog socialisation is about dogs learning through dog to dog interactions and play. Whilst there is truth in that, most of your dog’s social skills with other dogs was learnt in the Litter.
If you are reading this and about to get a Puppy, please DO get your puppy out and about during the “critical socialisation period” of 8 to 10.5 weeks of age. Do it safely using a puppy stroller and have pet safe antiseptic to hand just in case you need to let puppy out of the stroller to do the toilet – my recommendation is a product called Leucillin.
Socialisation is mostly about your dog being calm when presented with all the things that the environment throws at them. From all different sorts of people, to all different noises, sounds, sights, etc. If your dog is calm and happy around everything it will be a pleasure to live with. If your dog shows any arousal at anything the perceive as unusual calmly move your dog way and reward your dog for engaging with you afterwards.
To the point above, about lifelong training with your dog, on your walks, you are continually imprinting on your Dog throughout its life, that everything is good in the world. You, as the owner are more important and more fun than other things. Please, keep your phone in your pocket and pay attention to your dog. Enjoy your walks and have fun with your dog!
So, here’s my advice
Allow your dog free running at least once per day every day. Active dogs will need an hour or more. Use a long training line to prevent problems if you can’t stop your dog approaching other dogs
Train your dog at least once per day, performing training exercises on your regular walk, at least once per day. Intelligent, active breeds will need more training
Make it all about you, not about other dogs. Play with your dog, have fun with your dog and enjoy your dog.
Nick specialises in Loose Leash Walking and Reactivity as well as everything you would expect from a great Dog Trainer. You can find out more here: eskvalleydogtraining.co.uk
Dalkieth Museum within the magnificent Corn Exchange building in Dalkeith.
At the heart of what was once the biggest corn exchange in Scotland, lies one of the smallest, yet most surprising museums in the country: Dalkeith Museum.
Run by Dalkeith History Society, this little beacon of knowledge strives to become “the best little museum in Midlothian” in the words of volunteer Margaret Stewart.
When one thinks of this town, most of us will immediately picture the Country Park but guess what – Dalkeith is so much more than meets the eye. For instance, the town was the final set for one of the biggest forging scandals in Scottish history.
Once the centre of a large Scottish agricultural, industrial and mining area, the museum explores the activities in Dalkeith that lay behind the foundries and factories ranging from brass and iron to flour and carpets, beer and even sausages! The exhibition is indeed, a gift that keeps on giving.
The most impressive part of the display is its insight into Dalkeith’s connection to World War One. A detailed timeline interweaves the town’s events with the bigger scheme of the events occurring at the time, becoming an eye-opening read on the town’s sacrifices and efforts.
However, the crown jewel is its impeccable 8th Battalion Royal Scots uniform. A reminder of the numerous men who gave their life, sealed in a glass case, which in my eyes, reflects Dalkeith’s heritage – one that must be admired.
A bell that once rang over the railway station sits in the middle of the display. What might appear an unusual item is a source of pride for many, as volunteer, Norma McNeill, explained, “It remained in Glasgow for years, locked up in a room, and it took considerable effort for it to be brought back to where it belongs. It is a reminder of how the town was once an essential connection point of life and work in Midlothian and beyond.”
However, the feature that propels this exhibition to unmitigated praise is not its plethora of relics but its clarity. The museum showcases hundreds of years of history in different panels, and with different exhibits, each dealing with areas ranging from education to leisure. A wealth of information even children can easily follow – a characteristic that history museums often fail to grasp.
The museum was part of the project to restore the Grade A listed Corn Exchange which was supported by Heritage Lottery Funding. It opened in 2016, yet keeping its doors open has been a difficult task. Like many others in the sector, Covid meant a significant halt in operations, pushing the museum further into the shadow cast by much better known local attractions like Rossyln Chapel or The National Mining Museum.
“Lots of people go to Dalkeith Country Park, but they don’t come out the gate! We are only five minutes walk away, and we’re the first place of interest outside the park – but very few venture out to find us!” Stewart explained.
However, far from being a knockdown, this has only motivated volunteers to try harder.
McNeill said, “We’re currently in the process of applying for accreditation with Museums Galleries Scotland and achieving that would be very important because it would give recognition within the peer group, opening up listings in museum categories, offering the possibility to borrow exhibits from other museums for inclusion in future exhibitions and, of course to help source funding. One of our main aims just now is to achieve this accreditation, which would put Dalkeith Museum, although very, very small onto the same listings as the National Museum of Scotland.”
With summer around the corner, the museum has big plans. In conjunction with Lothian Heritage Forum, it will be part of a group presence at the Dalkeith Agricultural Show to be held in Dalkeith Country Park on Saturday 8th July. All local museums will join together to increase awareness of their activities and the rich history of Midlothian.
Dalkeith is also planning a series of evening events tagged ‘A Night in the Museum’, where visitors can enjoy a more intimate, cultural, historical or musical event, accompanied by a glass of wine (or two!) in the unusual but interesting surroundings of the museum. However, the approaching Fringe Festival could become the biggest source of opportunities as Stewart explains,
“We believe it could offer a currently untapped source of visitors. As the Edinburgh Fringe grows, we have read that venues and visitors may move out of the centre of town. And, if they were doing other things around Dalkeith, then it would be important for them to know that there is a museum. We will target local bed and breakfast and hotels by giving them leaflets which hopefully will encourage people to explore the attractions locally where it may also be less expensive than Edinburgh centre.”
With a firm and admirable tone, McNeill ended the tour with a clear message, “Appreciate your heritage. Explore your heritage. Dalkeith has an amazing past. Come and have a look. Come and discover it.”
Dalkeith Museum is a remarkable attempt to fit years of history into a small space.
It is also a free admission so you will nourish your knowledge whilst not emptying your pockets! The museum is wheelchair accessible and has a lift.
Currently opening Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 11.00am until 3.00pm.
To arrange a group visit call 0131 663 4683 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For more details see www.dalkeithmuseum.co.uk
Local author Gavin de Bier has released the keenly anticipated follow up to his critically acclaimed first novel, Bobbing Heads.
Consider It Done is an unusual, gripping, fast paced thriller, and whilst linked to Bobbing Heads, it can be enjoyed without having read that book first.
Bobbing Heads was primarily set in London, whereas Consider it Done takes place in several locations, and we asked the writer, who works at Melville Golf Centre, if Midlothian features in it.
“It doesn’t, although the support I have had from Alastair McFarlane, the owner of Melville Golf Centre, my colleagues and the users along with the local community has been fantastic. I am now starting the follow up to Consider It Done and I will definitely feature Midlothian in it!”
It can sometimes be difficult for writers to produce a follow up to a successful first novel and we asked if this was the case with Consider It Done.
“No, as soon as I had finished Bobbing Heads and even before it was published, I had ideas for the next one as the characters give me energy and I didn’t want to lose any momentum.”
de Bier’s books have been compared to John Marrs, Erin Kelly, and T M Logan and we asked if he is happy with those comparisons.
“Of course! They are great writers and I am happy to be considered alongside them. Also, Waterstones compared Bobbing Heads to the Bourne Conspiracy and naturally I am happy to go along with that as well.”
Consider it Done can be purchased from Amazon HERE.