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The Story of a Wannabe Therapy Dog – Part 3

Join Xaby and Ollie Coach, Marie Collet as Xaby trains to become a Therapy Dog. Since our last installment Xaby has been very lucky to have gone on his first holiday.

The summer season was busy for Xaby, it was his first time on holiday and he had two!!! What a spoilt pup, and of course we got to go along and enjoy the fun with him. It was a win win for all the family!

Our first trip was in early August, and we had a wonderful time!  We took a motor home up to the Highlands of Scotland, which is just beautiful. Luckily the weather was exceedingly kind to us.  He learnt how to swim in Lochs and the sea and met lots of new canine buddies.  He also made friends with lots of children too, all adding to his training, and he definitely passed the friendly and gentle test.  One afternoon there were three children taking it in turns to brush him and pet him, which he LOVED!!!    

The first night getting him settled down to sleep in the motor home was quite interesting.  He had never been in such close proximity to us at bed time, but he was so tired from the days fun that he snuggled down and slept pretty much the whole way through the night until 7/8am.  He woke refreshed and ready for more action!

The second trip was to Devon in September and even though the weather wasn’t quite so good we still had mostly sunny days and were able to BBQ in the evenings and dodge a few rain showers.  We weren’t quite as close to the water at this campsite and there weren’t any sandy beaches nearby. The walks and cliffs were beautiful, the weather at times bracing but all good for a glowing complexion, red nose and it certainly blew the cobwebs away!  Us humans were able to go kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming in the sea which was very refreshing indeed!

Xaby was put into many different situations during our trips and learnt new skills.  All in all, for a young pup of his age he coped well while being in a completely different environment. Of course, all the time he is growing and moving through different stages of his development.

It is important to learn as much as you can with regard to age appropriate behaviour and the development stages of your pup. This is what I can expect now and be ready for in the future with Xaby:

4 to 8 Months

Play Instinct Period and Flight Instinct Period – Puppy may wander and ignore you.  It is very important that you keep him on a lead!  The way that you handle the pup at this time determines if he will come to you when called.  At about 4 and a half months, the puppy loses his milk teeth and gets his adult ones coming through.  That’s when he begins SERIOUS CHEWING! A dog’s teeth don’t set in his jaw until between 6-10 months.  During this time, the puppy has a physical need to exercise his mouth by CHEWING!  I’ve found that natural Hide chews and Bully chews are great for satisfying the seemingly never-ending chew fest! Ps don’t worry if you see spots of blood on their gums or baby teeth laying around the floor, it goes with the territory. 

6 to 14 Months

Second Fear Imprint Period (the First Fear Imprint Period happens between 8 to 10/11 weeks) or Fear of New Situations Period – He again shows fear of new situations and even familiar situations just like he did initially at 8 weeks.  He may be reluctant to approach someone or something new.  It is important that you are patient and act very matter of fact in these situations.  Never force the dog to face the situation.  DO NOT comfort or talk in soothing tones as the puppy will interpret such responses as praise for being frightened.  A crate can help here, if the pup is used to it, he will feel it’s a safe secure place for him to be, he may hide under a table or go to a room in the house to get away from whatever’s bothering him.  Training will help improve the dog’s confidence.

To date Xaby has had some weird things that make him frighten or jumpy which leads to him barking, sometimes NON-STOP!  One being the hoover (although this is commonplace with pups) and the steam iron! I think it’s the whooshing sound it makes, “oh what a shame” I think to myself, “I’ll just have to put those jobs off for a day or so”!!! But instead of doing that its important to expose him to the noises for short periods of time and then build it up. One day I heard incessant, very loud barking that went on an age and it was clear he wasn’t going to stop so I decided to investigate what was causing all the excitement! The culprits were two metal door stops, that live in the hallway.  One in the shape of three ducks and the other has a variety of animals all stacked upon each other, a cow, sheep, pig, duck and a cockerel, he was pawing at them and pushing them around the floor as if they were his enemy and he wasn’t looking like giving up easily.  I decided to take them away from the hallway for the time being and then slowly introduced them back again.  I even put them, one at a time, in his crate with him hoping they could become friends! I did this for a few days and eventually he got used to them and the barking stopped!  I’ll wait with interest to see what other little quirky things he’ll take a dislike to in the future and use the same technique to get him slowly accustomed.

A dog’s diet is important for good health, strong teeth, coat and general well being.  Dogs are omnivores, meaning they can eat meat or plant-based food.  In fact, most dog kibble is a combination of meat protein and vegetable matter.  Xabys diet comprises of a variety of foods, minced lamb/chicken, beef, and some salmon plus his dry kibble which is measured out in the morn and left for him to graze throughout the day.  Of course, there’s always a full water bowl for him to wash it all down with.  Dogs can become quickly dehydrated even more so in the summer months so easy access to a few water bowls around the house is a good idea. 

One way you can enrich your dogs’ diet is by adding extra fruits and vegetables to their normal food bowl or by giving them as special treats.  This can be especially beneficial for dogs suffering from weight problems or diseases, like diabetes.  Your canine companion can enjoy the taste and nutritional benefits of a large variety of different fruits and vegetables as long as you don’t exceed the quantities and its not used as their only source of food.

 Ideas for healthy fruits and vegetable for dogs – (this list is specifically for German Shepherds so you must investigate for your own breed just in case):

Apples, Bananas and Watermelon, Blueberries – make tasty treats for your dog. You MUST take out any SEEDS or PITS from fresh fruit like apricots, nectarines, peaches, and plums etc as these contain CYANIDE which is TOXIC to your dog.  Also, the PITS are a CHOKING hazard and can cause blockages in your dogs’ intestine if swallowed.

Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Carrot, Cabbage, Celery, Green Beans, Parsnips – these are packed with goodness and different nutrients, but some may cause GAS so to give the offending veg in moderation.

Fruit and Veg that is an ABSOLUTE NO – Garlic, Onions, Shallots, Leeks and Chives, Rhubarb leaves, Raw or green Potato, Mushrooms, Avocado, Nuts, unripe Tomatoes, Grapes, Raisins, Figs, Dates, Chocolate.

If you are unsure do not risk it, call your vet and get the go ahead first just to be on the safe side.

I will keep you posted in the next instalment on Xaby’s training and development over the next few months. I have a trainer coming to assess his progress. It will be helpful to see how far we’ve come and how far we are from our end goal…Therapy dog!! Hopefully we can take him on another trip before Christmas for more adventures and experiences.

Marie Collett, Ollie Coach

My husband and I live on a farm in the Fens and we have three grown boys.  My intention for the past few years has been to open up my home as a day centre for children of varying ages and abilities for them to get the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from life in the open countryside for both their emotional and physical wellbeing.  So, I trained to be an “Ollie Coach” so that I could help the children be all they can be.  I also wanted to introduce a therapy dog into the equation to help me in my quest and bring some extra joy, comfort and unconditional love to the venture.

To get in contact with Marie, email

To find out more about Ollie and his Super Powers and how to become an Ollie Coach go to

Caroline Chipper

Caroline Chipper


Co founder of Subconquest Ltd, that trades as Ollie and his Super Powers. My many years of commercial experience is being put to good use managing the business side of Ollie, including working with our Ollie Coaches, and managing our contracts. In everything we do its about making a difference to those we work with. To find out more go to