For Farmers Weekly July 2015
I’ve had to give serious thought to a retirement and succession issue that I’ve been aware of for quite some time now. I’m old enough to recognise the signs and I’ve noticed some changes happening in the past year that are all pointing towards an inevitable conclusion.
It starts with being a little bit slow to get going in the morning. Next, a whole day’s work becomes a bit of a struggle and then eventually being able to do two big days, back-to-back, is almost certainly out of the question. Not being able to jump on to the quad bike with the same wee skip and a jump is another sign that the years and a lifetime of work isstarting to take taking its toll.
Yes, my nine-year-old collie dog, Alfie, is definitely showing all the signs that he is now winding down towards retirement.
He’s the third dog that I’ve owned from a puppy and, as with all the others, 10 years seems to be the limit to their working life.Alfie will hopefully get a chance to retire and spend some years pottering about until he eventually joins the others at a spot that’s reserved for him up on the hill.
Succession planning started just before Christmas and, in February, we brought home a new 10-week-old puppy from a farm just down the road. We have called him Dallas and his training has begun.
I know that if time and effort are not used in large amounts at this early stage then things are definitely not going to end well for me or the dog.Therefore, the first bit of discipline to be drilled in is for me. The puppy will need regular lessons and a lot of attention in the next few months.
Every dog is different and needs to be treated differently, but none ever benefit from being treated badly. Using an electric-shock training collar will not be one of the options in my toolbox for training young Dallas. Although I’ve always been keen to embrace new technology and modern techniques, this is one box of tricks that has no appeal for me.
Estimates suggest there are about 500,000 of these devices in circulation in the UK. They work by giving the dog an electric shock via two blunt prongs that touch the skin on the back of its neck. It can be activated at the touch of a button on a remote control device to correct behavioural problems, or it can be set automatically to stop the dog from straying a certain distance. Conditioning a dog by using pain or the threat of pain in this way cannot be justified.
I also find it very hard to believe that all of these devices are being used responsibly. Electric training collars are banned in many countries in Europe, and the Welsh Assembly took the lead in the UK when they banned them in 2010. They don’t mess about in Wales. Anyone caught ignoring the ban could certainly get a shock – up to to six months in prison or a £20,000 fine.
Alfie has worn an ordinary collar for almost nine years, but he hasn’t been tied up or shut in at night for the past six years. He’s been free to leave whenever he wanted. However, I’m fairly certain he will be waiting for me on the doorstep tomorrow morning. He’ll wag his tail and I’ll say “good morning Alfie”.
I don’t think we would have ever reached this level of understanding if I had messed with his head and given him the electric-shock treatment when he was a youngster.