• You no longer go out to work – you run your own business from home, or you’ve taken early retirement.

    The nest is empty – the birds have flown. Maybe the whole house is empty and you’re on your own.

    Whoopee!

    Now’s your chance to do all those things you said you always wanted to do but didn’t have the time or energy for!

    We all know that

    ◆    keeping busy and useful is the way to keep fit and healthy
    ◆    nurturing someone else stops us becoming self-centred and maudlin
    ◆    we need to get out and about, to keep moving, to interact with people. Emails or one shopping trip a week are not going to cut it!

    So how about getting a dog to get you out in the day and keep you company in the long evenings?

    If you love your new-found freedom, you travel abroad, your house is perfection and you love having nobody to tidy up after any more, then probably this is not a goer for you.

    But if you love dogs, love getting out in all weathers, you welcome a new challenge, and you’re happy with committing yourself for the next 12-15 years, then go for it!

    A New Experience All Round

    • When Polly got Bertie she was very anxious about getting things right. She tended to overthink things, which was confusing for her little puppy. Dog-ownership was all new to her. A shy person, her life was quite closed in since she retired.Not any more! Bertie is now a handsome young dog she can take anywhere – and does. He happens to be the perfect match for her, being a shy and needy type of person himself.

    • Sarah, on the other hand, is an outgoing person who likes to take control. With no staff to manage any more, Jimmy was her new project. Sadly this meant trying to control her puppy’s every move. She had gates and pens and gadgets of all kinds. The result – frustration all round! Jimmy is a very busy little dog of an active breed – possibly not the best choice for a quiet household. Spending all her time trying to stop his active and enquiring mind was exhausting Sarah.

    But a few changes in her mindset made all the difference. Allowing Jimmy to be his boisterous self within safe bounds meant that she stopped trying to control him, removed all the restraints along with the frustration, and built a relationship of trust. She’s now able to enjoy her long country walks without anxiety.

    • Molly has given Jane and Rich a new focus in life. Their children live a long way away and they fretted about not seeing much of the grandchildren. Molly ensures that they go to new places and meet new people. She accompanies them to the cafe and their club nights, and because of their Milodedication to Molly’s socialisation in the early weeks she’s happy to muck in when the grandkids descend on the household.

    The joy of any relationship is learning about the other person and adapting to fit them. You’ll find, if you choose to share your life with a dog, that she brings her own personality to the party. Whatever ideas and fantasies you may be having now about your new life with your dog – remember that she’s going to have an opinion too!

    Now Where Do I Begin?

    Some quick pointers for you to get started right:

    •    Best option is a puppy under nine weeks – don’t get a puppy over this age. You will learn and grow together. Puppies have masses of energy to channel.

    •    A rescue dog: Avoid adolescents, who have been dumped because their families couldn’t handle them. Go for a mature dog – 5 and over. BUT be aware – they all come with baggage (wouldn’t you?), a lot of which will only become apparent after a couple of months. Give them a honeymoon period so if problems arise you already have a strong bond.

    •    Consider how active the dog’s breed is. Can you manage a dog who’s on the go 12 hours a day?

    •    What size dog would you like to have? If your business involves plenty of travel, a small dog may be the answer. If you want to hit the trails regularly, then a sturdier model would work better.

    Once you have chosen your new companion, you can both learn together. Dog training has changed beyond recognition in the last few years. No longer do classes resemble a military parade ground with trainers barking commands at their dog, expecting it to somehow know what they want! The best training is done through games and a relaxed attitude.

    With a bit of hunting you’ll be able to find a small class with a gentle approach which focusses on life skills (effectively that means being able to take your dog everywhere with you) and give your dog the best start possible in your new adventure together!

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    Article by: Beverley Courtney

    Beverley Courtney, author of the forthcoming book “Calm Down! Six Steps to a Relaxed, Calm and Brilliant Family Dog”, lives in Worcestershire with her four dogs, cat, hens and many tropical fish. She mainly works with puppies and “growly” dogs, always looking to build the bond between dog and owner. Get your free dog training series, Top Tips for Turning Your Wild Puppy into a Brilliant Family Dog - a step-by-step guide to changing the things you don’t like about your dog to the things you do like.

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    1. Dianne Morris says:

      Some friends filled the empty nest by training a therapy dog. A big undertaking but very gratifying. It takes a lot of research initially to be sure it works for you. http://www.assistancedogsinternational.org/standards/training-programs/

      1. beverley@brilliantfamilydog.com' Beverley Courtney says:

        Indeed – that can be an excellent idea as it’s of its nature a short-term commitment. You have to be able to part with the dog at the end of his puppy-walking period with you, though!