McKinley’s West Yorkshire Holiday

by Holly Hamp // April 2018

Everyone who owns a dog knows what an important part of your world they become, but for some of us who don’t yet have a dog themselves, life can feel like it has a four-legged fluffy type hole in it.


My mum and I got a dog when I was 16, a little Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and we named him McKinley. Time went by, I moved on to college and my mum headed on up north to Harrogate and much to my dismay took McKinley up with her. Six years later I have decided to follow in her footsteps and set up a lovely life here in West Yorkshire, making it a lot easier to see my little buddy McKinley on a regular basis.  

When my mum told me that she needed a doggy sitter, I, of course, jumped at the chance to see McKinley for a whole two weeks!

When dogs come over for sleepovers there are a few things to be mindful of.

This is not their usual environment!

Ordinarily, McKinley will sleep in his bed downstairs back at my mum’s house. On McKinley’s first night at our house, he was clearly very unsettled being somewhere new and unusual. His sleep pattern was restless and he just didn’t know where to put himself. He jumped on and off the bed constantly, he barked in the middle of the night which is not usual for McKinley, I didn’t even know he knew how to bark!

At one point he went downstairs and tried to sleep but this clearly didn’t work either because soon after he came back up for comfort on our bed which we allowed because it was clear what he needed after being so restless that night.

After a terrible night’s sleep for myself, Adam and McKinley we knew we needed to come up with some solutions to help with the sleeping situation for the next night.

In the daytime, McKinley was a very happy chappy with not a care in the world. It seems that all the changes came on at night when he was being put downstairs in this new place that wasn’t his home.  

The only other teeny-weeny problem we were faced with was his loud snoring! For such a little dog McKinley sure has a noisy nose. This was something we were not going to be able to stop that’s for sure, but it did mean that he would need to be happy sleeping downstairs during his doggy holidays if we were going to get any sleep at all.

Luckily for McKinley, Adam was off work for the two weeks he was over, meaning he had plenty of time to do some work with him. The first challenge was to burn off plenty of energy and get him used to a new routine at our house and learn that being here was a good thing.

McKinley and Adam set off on a 3-mile-long walk every day, this varied from going through the woods and strolls across the neighbourhood. Now, McKinley can be a little bit of a risk taker and tends to get carried away by his nose and never-ending curiosity for the outside world, so I tend to keep him on the lead or a long line when I take him for walks in the woods. My mum, on the other hand, is quite happy to set him free in the woods nearby her home because he is familiar with the area and is happy to return to her when she calls.

This meant that McKinley was experiencing a whole different type of outdoor experience with us; it was a little bit more controlled, so this meant that we needed to train him to stop pulling on his harness!

We couldn’t blame him for pulling on the lead as it only meant that he was excited, but this excitement was his anticipation to be let off the lead to run free and chase squirrels! In this case, it wasn’t going to happen. Soon McKinley realised that he wasn’t going to be let off the lead at all during his time with us and he learnt the trick of Loose Lead Walking. We rewarded him for gently walking beside us whilst he was on the lead, we allowed him to sniff and go where he would like for a moment before he always naturally returned to walking in a calm manner.

This method of walking, for a longer period of time than he was used to on the lead, was the most useful tool to us. It gave McKinley a more enjoyable experience being walked on the lead. He wasn’t highly aroused after his walks he calmed down when he got home much quicker than I had ever seen him. We gave him a nice chew in his bed each time after he had a walk and he settled down nicely.

This lead on to the next discovery.

McKinley does love to sleep in his own bed; he just needed to learn that his bed meant good things come to him when he is in it.

Throughout the days and evenings, Adam or I would treat McKinley for going naturally to his bed, anytime we saw it happen. Sometimes he would get a larger treat and sometimes just a little bit of dry kibble, this didn’t seem to matter all that much to him, McKinley was just happy that he was getting a treat! This bed was suddenly magic and *drumroll* he startled to settle in his own bed every single night of his stay after that. 

Now we weren’t prepared at all to be training McKinley for his stay with us, it was admittedly unexpected as I thought he would be more than happy staying with Adam and I because he knows us. However, it did just prove that the things he was struggling with were easily manageable and didn’t take all that many changes or hard work to make sure he loved his stay with us.

Since McKinley has been back with my mum she has noticed a big improvement with him on his walks. He is a lot calmer and enjoys his on-lead walkies as well as his mad runabouts off the lead, which is a huge relief to my mum because she has always expressed that walking him on the lead was never an enjoyable experience. She has even told me that McKinley has been found sound asleep in his bed in the living room at the time mum goes to sleep, refusing to come up because he is so happy in his own bed.

It just goes to show, you can teach an older dog new tricks! Even at 7 years old he is still willing to learn a new routine as well as how to stop pulling on the lead.

Remember, this environment is novel to a dog-sat dog, so they need lots of reassurance. Make sure you have prepared lots of food and treats. Have their owner pack them a goodie bag full of their favourite items, like their bed, toys and blankets to make sure they are comfortable their entire stay.


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