By Nathan Barcio
An experienced dog handler yesterday taught local children vital lessons about caring for their pets, showing them how to manage and control their dogs while keeping them happy and healthy.
Elizabeth Gonzalez has been teaching the junior dog handling course, part of the GSLA Summer Sports and Leisure programme, for the past 12 years and said it was important for young people to understand how their pets think and behave.
As the vice chairperson of the Gibraltar Kennel Club, Mrs Gonzalez has a wealth of experience gained over the course of 35 years breeding and handling dogs.
“I am trying to help young people manage their dogs as a lot more people have dogs now in Gibraltar,” she said.
“It’s important for people to handle their dogs properly because it’s easier to manage a dog at home or out in the street where there’s a lot of traffic and if they go into the country side there are dangers there.”
And she had this key advice for the summer months: “In this hot weather keep dogs indoors, do not leave them in hot cars and do not take them out into the street when it is really hot.”
The popular dog handling course teaches children a range of skills that they can learn and practice with their pets.
The children – and one or two parents too – learn how to manage their dogs and teach them obedience skills including commands such as sit, stay and retrieve.
“It’s all about good handling really,” Mrs Gonzalez said.
“How to heel, how to walk on a lead, how to cross the street and how to care for their dog, so that they have healthy teeth and a good diet.”
Mrs Gonzalez also encouraged the children to clean up after their dogs.
“We’ve given them pooper scoopers and special water bottles to pick up after their dogs as they should keep their environment clean from a young age,” she said.
And in common with most dog owners in Gibraltar, Mrs Gonzalez highlighted the shortage of areas in Gibraltar where dogs can run around.
“Gibraltar needs a dog park, or a couple,” she said.
Yesterday was the last session of the dog handling course for this year’s Summer Sports and Leisure programme.
But for children who wish to develop their skills and those of their pets, there are other opportunities throughout the year.
“There’s a big international dog show coming up in the beginning of October and there’s a junior handling competition if they want to enter, but they must have a pedigree dog to enter that,” Mrs Gonzalez said.
Nathan Barcio is a student on work experience with the Chronicle.
Pics by Johnny Bugeja