Welcome to Big Dogs at Large! My furry family and I decided to create a one stop shop for durable gear as I have two very strong and active dogs. I’m not so much of either, and with a few months of severe health issues I started researching how I could get more active with the help of my dogs, so they could meet their daily energy needs happily.
The first thing I considered in my research was my two dogs. One is a Kelpie x Mastiff / Pitbull / Blue Heeler weighing in at 28kg who loves playing with balls more than anything ever. His name is Zap Zap Raygun. The litter of five were born Hallowe’en 2011 in Australia and were orphaned from their mum at only three days old. The owner of the mum hadn’t realised his dog was pregnant, or had given birth, or had been subsequently been picked up by the pound. My friend was this guy’s neighbour and ended up nursing all five puppies after finding out he was going to make them crab bait otherwise, and I helped her as the puppies got to three weeks as they kept chewing the bottle teets off. Zap chose me and I knew nothing of dogs. I was working with bullocks and geriatric cows at the time and living rurally so Zap was raised in a windowless cabin on a paddock. I came back to NZ in 2014 and he loves being able to swim in the sea, and play for hours without the fear of ticks.
We usually walk him off leash so he wears a collar with a tag so he looks well-loved. He really loves balls, and for the life of me I haven’t managed to get him into playing with anything else except a couple of soft toys. Three months ago my partner and I discussed getting a foster puppy from a rescue situation. That week I organised with a lady to meet a cute Staffy x Pitbull she was currently fostering.
Her name became Bam Bam Boombox (to match Zap’s unique name) as she was very strong and very uncontrolled, just like the Flintstones toddler. She had spent part of her life neglected and frustrated, and had become a mum of three pups by 12 months. Zap got along with her really well and so did we, so we took her home. The first thing she did was bowl in and jump onto our dining room table. She then peed in the middle of the floor when the need arose, and did the same to poo – she would especially aim for mats, and failing that, beds. She also choked herself when she walked and had rubbed all the fur off the area her collar goes. Seeing the difference between proper desensitization and training (even though I had no qualifications for my attempts with Zap) and zero training, made me want to cry.
Bam Bam is a really cuddly little bear who loves to play rough. She doesn’t really know how to play unless it involves chewing things or running around at top speed until she’s puffed. We’ve slowly introduced toys like balls (not tennis balls – lasts a few seconds for her!) and rope toys, which she likes slowly destroying. She has a Kong but doesn’t get into it much, and I know for next time to get the largest size I possibly can – her croc jaws are WIDE! Though she isn’t so good at toy reviews yet, by the end of the year she’ll be a star! And in the meantime I will probably be blogging about the training hitches along the way.
As I said earlier, I have no training qualifications, but after bringing her home I had vowed to become an expert, at least up until it becomes specialised knowledge. I toilet trained her with crate training, and it mostly worked – we have about a 97% success rate these days – and it kind of helps going through potty training with a four year old human. She still isn’t what I’d call leash trained – she will heel but still have no idea of what the word means, and is usually at threshold as soon as she’s on a leash, we bought her a few different styles of harnesses to try and aid the fur regrowth around the neck, and now we swear by the no-pull headcollars. Both Halti and Gentle Leader do one. For us, they’re better than a muzzle as we are able to maintain a lot more control and when held in a strict heel (when we can see another dog) she can’t lunge. Though she is a strong dog, and stubborn so she usually tries to lunge somehow anyway. Fortunately, as the headcollar is joined at the front, she does a 180 degree spin and ends up facing me looking a bit confused as to where the other dog has now gone. Usually the other dog HAS gone by now, and I am grateful when that happens.
She has a Baskerville Ultra muzzle too, and is still getting desensitized. I will only put it on her if she’s playing with another dog (usually the neighbour’s pup) and actively trying to bite. This is beyond mouthing, as she’s young at heart I don’t mind her mouthing but she has real issues when it comes to making growl sounds and trying to claw onto the other dog’s shoulders / neck. Because I know she’s actually quite sweet and nice when she’s calm I’m aware she’s stressed and frustrated. She’s never known another way and is always too flooded to learn how other dogs meet by watching as the adrenalin is everywhere.
And me? I’m Erin – I run a mobile catering company called Hungry for Raw, which raises funds for our charity promoting a plant based lifestyle. In my spare time I enjoy spending time with my family, visiting local parks and skateparks, mountain biking on relatively flat surfaces, producing music, doing charity work and cuddling everything that moves in our house. I also have a half built tiny home, get involved with Animal Rights stuff – saving hens from battery cage farms, going to protests, etc. Last year my partner and I ran a pop up Op Shop for three months and that was really fun, and gave us the start up cost to get equipment to do market stalls for Hungry for Raw. Basically my biggest geek is projects. My lifegoal for the past five years has been a sustainable sanctuary project, where both the charity and catering business can live together with cows and other rescued animals, tiny homes built onsite to rent or sell, anaerobic generators, large scale aquaponics, vertical farming systems, a five star health retreat centre and a pet friendly B&B, and a healthy bank balance to boot – as rescues or sanctuaries usually struggle financially!