Taking your dogs to work | Outdoor Instructor
A big part of my choice to work in the outdoor industry is the great joy of spending most days with my dogs.
I’ve been working in the outdoor industry for 20 years. I’ve had dogs for 10 years.
I decided the time was right to get my first dog when I had a decent wage, some security of income and a home that was right.
We rent - having dogs has affected the houses we can live in, and the deposits we’ve had to pay, every time we’ve moved.
In the summer of 2010, unbeknown to my fiance, I drove to collect a Chocolate Labrador puppy, he tumbled into our house and life hasn’t been the same since. We called him Fane.
Life and Work with a Dog
Living and working with a dog didn’t make a huge change to how we lived; I often worked from home and Fane usually came to work outdoors with me.
The fundamental things to think about if you work in the outdoors and you’re considering getting a dog are…
Can you afford to buy the dog in the first place? Can you afford good quality food, vet bills and vaccinations?
Do not buy a puppy and then leave it at home for 9 hours a day, 5 days a week. If you don’t work from home or you can’t take your dog with you to work then don’t buy a dog.
A puppy will keep you up at night and chew lots of things in your house (including walls, speaker cables and walking boots). It takes time to house train a puppy - you’re going to be cleaning up some poo and wee.
Life with Fane was bloody great; I was working at a start-up and that work could easily have become all encompassing; a chin resting on my leg and the stare from big doleful eyes distracted me often enough to make a difference.
Dog walks become important markers in the day, time to think about something different and decompress.
Fane came on every DofE expedition and day in the woods with me, he sometimes came coasteering, he always came swimming.
When he was 18 months old Fane tumbled down a cliff and came close to death, it took many weeks and lots of our savings to nurse him back to health.
10 years later I still can’t kayak past the cliffs at Kimmeridge without feeling sick.
Dogs and Adventure
If you take your dogs into an ‘adventure landscape’ you are exposing them to more risk than is normal. Being in the mountains, woods or the ocean with dogs is a part of my life but I am always very aware of potential harm, especially steep drop offs.
I think that recall is the most important thing you can train a dog, especially if you’re working alongside them in the great outdoors. A very firm ‘come here’ by command, whistle or gesture that’s obeyed quickly.
After 2 years with Fane we decided to get another dog at the same time that my wife had an operation on her jaw - she was going to be at home for most of three months and would be able to look after the pup.
We chose a Black Lab from a local breeder, Brease was leggy and chaotic - we deliberately chose the most bolshy puppy in the litter
Buying a second dog just then was a BAD idea. 2012 was a year of rapid growth, terrible weather and furious work, long days, no time off and lots of pressure. We should not have bought another dog, we should have waited at least another year.
It’s hard to be objective when you're thinking about buying a puppy, emotion takes hold but we had learnt a lesson.
In 2015 the Land & Wave AGM was in North Devon; on one fateful, slightly hungover, morning we were sat outside a cafe in Braunton and a Leonberger padded past in all his hairy, gigantic, glory - full of personality and play.
I wanted a big dog.
2 years later we drove to collect a Newfoundland puppy, the most rambunctious boy from a litter of 6. Bear was a chunky 8 kilos when we picked him up, now he weighs a 65 kilos.
He came into the woods with me a few days after we picked him up. It rained a lot - I had to wrap him in many blankets.
A big dog was more awkward to take to work. Newfoundlands love to play and charging towards a group of kids as they walk into the woods causes problems.
Even some grown ups on Stag Weekends are intimidated by Bear, he’s soft headed and ridiculous but also big and heavy.
Bear doesn’t often come coasteering - he’s too big to man-handle should I need to.
Woods and Mountains
I love working in the woods with the dogs, it adds something for both me and the clients I work with.
A day in the mountains with dogs is glorious as long as you trust them to come to heel and can keep them under close control without a lead.
We lost Fane last year, that came close to breaking me, he had personified a bit too much of my catharsis and distraction for a bit too long - I miss him.
Working as an Outdoor Instructor with Dogs
I still work in the woods or the ocean every week, my dogs still come with me.
I spend time in the office each week, the dogs are happy padding around and dozing.
As long as there are humans around then my dogs seem content.
It’s essential that clients take priority, if someone’s not comfortable then the dogs go in the pick up for a while.
I don’t take the dogs coasteering with paying clients - I don’t think the potential distraction is appropriate.
Lots of outdoor companies seem to support staff owning dogs but it’s never something I’d take for granted. If you’re working for a new company then ask before you arrive with hounds in tow.
A few more musings on adventures with dogs
Don’t expect your dogs to always be welcome on adventures with other people, some folk just aren’t comfortable around dogs, especially big ones.
If your dog is badly behaved, for whatever reason, take responsibility for it
Dogs cost money, make sure you can afford them.
We choose not to insure our dogs, but we have money set aside just in case they hurt themselves.
Take leads on every adventure, even if you think you wont need them.
Carry extra water in the car or your pack, big dogs get very thirsty.
It's a huge privilege to own a dog, many people don’t get the chance, enjoy it.