UPEPO DIARIES- STORIES FROM AN ADOPTER
Part 3 – Ongoing Training
At first Upepo was nervous of cars, bikes, loud noises and people, and hated leaving the sanctity of our grounds, but by taking her out of the compound for short intervals on a harness once she had settled in, and again by giving her lots of cheese treats while out walking, she’s now the one pulling me along. Even matatus no longer scare her.
It’s not all been an easy ride however. With her new-found confidence, other behaviours we don’t like emerged. She jumps up, and thinks the sofas are hers to climb onto (not good with wet, mud caked paws), but we are trying to teach her she only gets attention from us if she’s sitting – or has four feet on the ground. This is definitely work in progress.
Her mouthing too hurts more now she has real teeth. She has lots of energy and nips when she wants to play or get our attention. We have realised the worst thing to do is to scream and wave the nipped body part around – because she thinks that’s a continuation of the game. So, I’ve told the children to try (as hard as it is) not to yell and to stand still, to turn away and to wrap their arms around themselves. When she’s calm – they pet her. She doesn’t get any attention or rewards from us for behaviours we don’t like.
The next stop with Upepo was to get her sterilised. I don’t want to add to the problem of unwanted pets in Nairobi by having puppies. Fonzie is also sterilised, but I’ve heard other dogs can easily find a way in to the compound if a bitch on heat is inside.
Equally as worrying is the number of dogs that go missing in Nairobi. They’re then used for breeding or as bounty to claim the ‘reward’. As a precaution I’ve had her dog tag engraved with the words ‘I’ve been sterilised’ along with my phone number, just in case any unsavoury type thinks she’d work in their puppy mill.
Upepo has been a lot of hard work, but with consistent training she’s turning into a wonderful pet. We adore her and the whole experience has been extremely fulfilling. I know we have given a loving home to a dog who would otherwise have had an awful life on the streets and we now can’t imagine being here – or anywhere else in the world for that matter – without her.
My one bit of advice to anyone thinking of getting a dog is to make sure that you get a great trainer who uses positive reinforcement. It works wonders – and your dog will love you all the more for it. A dog that is fearful of you – or anyone else – is not a happy dog. Oh – and make sure you train the whole family – you will all reap the rewards, I promise.