Opinion – Nigel Leaney on A Pet Subject – Canine Rebellion

Nigel Leaney is a firm advocate of rehabilitation but the only answer to his dog’s misbehaviour might be an Asbo

It has long been asserted that pets are good for your health; that stroking an obliging mutt will reduce stress and promote well-being.

I’ve often flirted with the idea of recruiting my dog, Dylan, to the onerous tasks of residential social care or animal-assisted therapy. Never mind all those courses on psychosocial interventions, I’ll just take the dog to work. However, the fact he’s something of a thug in need of an Asbo makes me hesitate. But is it his fault he was born a chocolate labrador? In the nature/nurture debate I’m definitely on the side of nature – at least in Dylan’s case. As I’ve nurtured him since he was seven weeks old what else can I do but blame it on his nature? If anyone’s to blame it’s the breeder, not me.

But, like all social care practitioners, I believe in rehabilitation. While helping to transform others perhaps this canine criminal could be rehabilitated too. An unspecified number of community hours helping others may mend his ways. Surely he’s not beyond redemption?

But I cast too dark a picture. Dylan is no evil-doer. There is not one streak of malice in him. What gets him into trouble is his sheer exuberance and unrivalled sense of humour. He’d make an excellent therapist. I defy anyone not to laugh, or at the very least crack a smile, while in his company. Going for a walk with him is a voyage of discovery and childlike wonder, re-visiting the previously commonplace through his atavistic vision.

Yet he remains contemptuous of rules and regulations. His boundaries are non-existent. As a social carer he wouldn’t last one bowl of food before being summoned before a disciplinary.

Before proceedings could begin Dylan would demand to sniff and lick the rears of his accusers, just to get the measure of them. It would be his duty to mark the office entrance with a quick spurt of pee. Who needs e-mails? But you never know who may be passing through who’d be glad to check out his news.

Final warnings wouldn’t faze him. He’s had them since he was a puppy. The more likely outcome would be dismissal. Not that Dylan would care about that either. With a volley of barks he’d be gone. Off to find a more congenial pack of playmates.

Nigel Leaney manages a mental health residential service

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