11052392 10153262340344407 1645156345420497664 N

Jasper – The dog that waited

by on

During my interview tour of the National Animal Welfare Trust I saw Jasper for the first time. He was pressed up against the bars, his eyes pulling me in to give him a tickle and a scratch. His unique colour, markings and his piercing eyes called to me. I read his door card and he ticked all the boxes for my first dog. As it was still an interview, I had to pull myself away from him and continue the tour. However, he stuck strongly in my mind.

I was given the job I applied for of Dog Trainer and Behaviour Coordinator at the center. I was ecstatic, my dream job straight out of university. I attended their open day a few weeks before I was due to start the job. There I saw Jasper having fun doing the agility demo with the center staff and was in awe by his potential. This is when I started to panic. These open days I used to bring people in to look at/potentially adopt a dog. What if someone put him on reserve! I had to get in there quick!

Little did I know that Jasper had been at the center since he was 9 months old. Brought in by someone that was moving abroad. Now 3 years old he was a long term resident. He had been homed once in this time but was brought back due to his ‘naughty’ behaviour. He could open doors, would steal things and wouldn’t get off the sofa when asked. This lead to him being collar shy and defensive where they had tried to drag him off the sofa.

The long-term staff loved him, he was cheeky but trainable. Some were unnerved by his intense personality and the volunteers were not allowed to walk him. I started visiting him once he was on reserve (at least 3 times before homing) and I could tell why an inexperienced dog owner would struggle with a dog like him. He was very clever, active and very cheeky, he would take any opportunity, was very impulsive and did NOT like being restrained. He could be reactive when walking past the kennels and was tricky to hold at an overweight 27kg.

On one walk he stole his own lead straight out of my hand and proceeded to run around like an idiot. On another visit he stole a radio off a member of staff and ran around the paddock having the best game of chase ever! When I introduced him to George, George wasn’t sure. He was intense, impulsive and George definitely found him unnerving. You couldn’t touch his neck and he would snap very close to your face in an overexcited manner. Regardless, I managed to persuade him! So I took him home at the end of my first week at NAWT.

Our first few days at home were trying. He would climb over the furniture, jump at the garden fence and jump over the baby gates in the house. Jasper stayed on a longline so I could manage him easily. Training games and food were key when motivating and he loved to learn! BUT he wasn’t able to settle when toys or treats where at hand, so I took to feeding him 4x per day in activity toys so his brain would be stimulated and tired, allowing him to settle himself into a nap.

All his Lifeskills where coming on really well, he was walking on a loose lead, becoming less reactive to dogs, bringing me the things he stole to swap them for a treat. My biggest need was a solid recall. We practiced this on every walk on a longline, building good habits and rewarding the fastest responses. One day George nipped to the shop whilst I took Jasper round the block for a sniff. Unfortunately Jasper did not like this separation and managed to slip his collar and harness by reversing backwards, then proceeded to run in the direction George went along a main road! I panicked and ran after him, in a few seconds my rational brain kicked in, I stopped and used my recall cue. He came back! Since then he has worn a Houdini proof 3 strap harness.

It took around 6 months to get a reliable recall on Jasper around distractions, then he was rarely on lead. 9 months later he chose his sister Brie from NAWT (that’s a story for another time). Since then he has only mellowed and now at 7 years old, I use him as my stooge when helping other people. He can still be naughty and cheeky but that’s dogs for you, they have character! This dog is my everything.